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How writing helps your training and performance

By Carl Regenauer | Jan. 26, 2021, 1:43 p.m. (ET)

person writing with a black pen in a training journal

I have read many articles on swim training, cycling, running, transitions, strength training, nutrition, and sleep. However, I haven’t read much about the benefits of writing.

I believe writing can be a key to better triathlon performance, a reduction in stress, and greater enjoyment of the sport. Thoughtful writing will help you to focus like a laser on executing the race and performing well. 

So, I've outlined four writing assignments for triathletes:

  • An equipment checklist (If you’re only going to do one, this is the one!)
  • A race day setup checklist
  • A post-race assessment for each race
  • A pre-race plan for each race

The equipment checklist

It seems like every time that I have gone to USA Triathlon Age Group National Championships, I have heard a pre-race announcement something like this, “If anyone has a spare helmet, please bring it to the entrance to the transition area.” 

Sound familiar? 

As you know, triathlon is definitely more complex than many other sports with respect to setup and gear. Even for a short event, the bare minimum might be race clothing, goggles, a bicycle, a helmet, bike shoes, and run shoes.

Beg, borrow, or steal a checklist from a friend. Modify it to suit your needs. Keep modifying it based on your experiences. Use the checklist, write everything down and assemble your items the day before the race. You don’t want to be waking up in the night wondering if you’ll be able to find something on the list in the morning.

The race setup checklist

This will help you to avoid finding surprises in transition. I suggest setting it up like a timeline from arrival at the race site to the swim start. Aircraft pilots typically use a flow of checks that they then verify by referring to their written checklist. This is a good method for experienced triathletes as it gives you two chances to get it right.

The post-race assessment

Here’s where you can really work on performance. Write down what you recall about:

  • Your pre-race activities
  • The swim
  • T1
  • The bike
  • T2
  • The run
  • Post-race activities
  • The overall experience

Make a note of what went well and what didn’t go well.  Write down the time that you left home, the time you arrived, and whether you arrived in time to avoid being rushed in the setup. Assess your tactics, pacing, fueling, and hydration.

The pre-race plan

This is where the value of the post-race assessment really shows. What problems did you encounter in your previous races? Write down how you’ll avoid them.

What things went well in the past?  Make sure you don’t change those things. 

If you’ve done this particular race before, you’ll know exactly when to leave, when to wake up, when to eat breakfast, and the best route to drive. If the race is away from home, you might even assess whether the accommodations were acceptable and should be used again. You can also remind yourself of safety hazards, that bump in the road where so many people lost their water bottles last year, or the glare from the sun on the second leg of the swim just to name a few examples. If you can scout the race course ahead of time, you can assess some of these aspects for races you’ll be doing for the first time.

If you have a solid plan and utilize your checklists well, everything will be ready and you will know when to do each activity leading up to the race. Even on the night before your ‘A’ race, you’ll sleep like a baby, that is, waking up frequently during the night and disturbing the people you’re with. Well, it is your ‘A’ race, so some nerves are likely to show up!

However, if you’re doing it right, you can limit the nerves by taking control of what you can control.

What I’ve described above is a cycle that leads from one race to the next and puts you on a path to improvement. It should also lead to having more fun on race day. After all, most of us are paying to do this sport rather than the other way around. The race day is an opportunity to see your friends and socialize, so having fun on race day should be a priority.

Carl Regenauer is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach in Saratoga Springs, New York. Find his services at T3 Coaching, LLC.