Ah, your triathlon season is over, or almost. You get to sit down, chill out and not train hard for a while. Or at least, you have that option.
But after a couple weeks of laying on the couch and eating holiday sweets, you start to get the itch. The itch to do more. The itch to be more. More than a couch laying, TV watching blob. The inner athlete in you is crying to break out.
And you can't help it. You start looking for events. Exotic events. Local events. Challenging challenges for you to conquer. You encourage your friends to sign up. You goad your frenemies to follow your path. Before you can say, "Honey, I have a surprise for you," half of your 2017 salary is committed to race entry fees and travel expenses.
Next year is upon you.
Half the fun is signing up and making yourself commit!
As you get ready to launch into another season of endurance madness, take a little time to make a plan of attack. Today, we will create a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, Threats) analysis of your racing plans.
What are your primary strengths in racing? Ideally, your big/key races will be a play to your strengths. You sell yourself short if you make your most important race a place/situation where you historically underperform. For example, if you are not good on flat courses but excel in the hills, don't waste thousands of dollars signing up for a big, flat event. If you are able to train well in the summer heat, you can find a late summer/early fall race to deliver all the fitness.
What are you not good at? Winter and spring is likely a good time for you to get better. If you have a weak core, start a core program. If you sink like a rock, set up some swim technique lessons. If you have motivation issues, find a reliable training partner or two. While you might not be great in flat events right now, you can work on it and change it – and then spend thousands of dollars signing up for a big, flat event.
What is missing from your endurance athletic resume? What gaps are there in your experience in endurance athletics? You can view these in different fashions. While qualifying for World Championships is often a goal, it is not easy. So, what opportunities do you have or can you create to make this more achievable? Experientially, where would you like to go? You can easily tie in some endurance race with a pleasant vacation to your dream spot. What sort of event have you not done but always thought about? Make 2017 a year to accomplish one of these.
In endurance athletics, our greatest threat is typically ourselves. If you have high motivation, you run the risk of overtraining and injury. If you have low motivation, you easily slide into skipping sessions or falling off the good nutrition bandwagon. What can you do to keep yourself in line? Your spouse may be very supportive or completely indifferent. Other obvious threats are unsafe riding conditions, bad coaching, negative training partners, improper gear, not recognizing the stress work/life take on you ... and failing to plan properly.
This analysis is a nice, top-level, general way to approach a season. The reality of picking a key race and working backward from that event is the easier part. How much time you need to prepare depends on your experience, goals and lifestyle. In other words, everyone's specific approach is different.
Read more about SMART goals here; offseason strength training here; and more about season planning here.
Coach Marty Gaal, CSCS, is the head coach for One Step Beyond in Cary, North Carolina. He has worked with endurance athletes since 2002. You can read all about One Step Beyond coaches and programs at osbmultisport.com.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.