Category Archives: mental training

The road to Kona, February.

Well its around 9 months until the Ironman World Championships in Kona, about the same length as a pregnancy, and since training for Ironman is a bit like having a baby, I thought I would start a month by month account of how training is going!

Ups and downs

Its been a tough few months since November. My husband was meant to be having an operation around December time, this changed to January, which then turned into February. This has been hard on us as a family as we haven’t been able to plan too much in advance, and emotionally it has been draining. I also got ill before and after Christmas, which meant missing quite a bit of training but nothing too significant, as there is still a long way to go.

In January I also had news that my grand-dad had been put into a nursing home and was declining rapidly, so I flew over to Belfast to visit him for the day. It was good to see him, as I haven’t seen him for a long while but also I found it hard afterwards emotionally and hearing other bad news about him has been difficult, although he seems to be a bit better now.

When Patrick did finally get the date for his op they told him that they would actually be doing a different operation on him (this was on the morning of the op) so all my plans for dropping him off, going swimming, then visiting and getting my run session done went out the window, I ended up sitting in the hospital waiting room, supporting him emotionally for 7 hours instead. Then went back in the evening to visit with Milo. The  next day was spent driving to and from Carmarthen to visit him, and fitting in training around that. Not an ideal situation but I managed to do most of what I needed to do, although I was feeling tired from the driving.

The day I picked Patrick up from hospital I cut my sessions short and then got home to a sneezing child, I also started sneezing in the night and the beginnings of another cold started. The next day I was meant to do a long ride but I started up the hill from my house and wasn’t feeling great so headed back home after 10 minutes. Obviously I was feeling pretty frustrated and upset.

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A mixed bag of training 😦

On the plus side I have been putting out my best power numbers and  my swimming is better than ever before, but I always find it hard to miss sessions. I haven’t managed to finish a block of training without getting ill since November. I know it won’t impact too much in the long term as long as it isn’t too regular an occurrence, but all the same its hard to let those sessions go. We also don’t know what the future outcome of the op is. It may mean more trips to the hospital and more stress, but it could also go the other way and make things a lot better too, heres hoping for the best outcome! Patrick has been so supportive of my training and is such a huge part of me qualifying for Kona that we need to work as a team on this too.

Change, nobody said it was easy

I was in the pool today and I overheard 2 people having a conversation about somebody who they had been out on a ride with. I didn’t catch the whole of the conversation but I got the gist of it, which was as follows; The person they were riding with was trying to follow a set session and the person that they were riding with wasn’t happy about it. They just wanted to ride as they always did. As I was leaving, I started to think about why this person was unhappy or berating the other person, and it comes down to one thing, change, or fear of change.
When you hire a coach or follow a training plan you are taking the first step towards making a change. You are committing to becoming faster, and fitter, and this can scare people as it can make them look at themselves and start asking questions.

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One of the hardest things about making a change is making your environment fit that change. For example you will find it hard to eat more healthily if your cupboard is full of unhealthy food, and you will find it hard to cut back on drinking if you have a routine of going to the pub every night and drinking with your friends. You either need to replace the habit with another (better habit) or ditch the habit altogether.
The same goes for your training. If you really want to get faster and fitter then you need to follow a plan. You can’t expect to improve, by doing the same as you have always done, which brings me back to the group ride being discussed at the pool.
Group training sessions have their place, and can be incorporated into your training, especially if they are progressive and aimed at the event that you are training for. But often they are not and this is when you may need to do something different.

As far as group rides go, if you were a pure cyclist they would be a lot more useful, as you would need to ride in a group, but as a triathlete you should be aiming to sustain power without drafting, which is difficult to do in a group setting. You can try to follow a planned session but in my experience you don’t get the quality that you do when you are on your own or with someone who is a similar ability to you.

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As I said earlier to make a change you need to change your environment and this may mean ditching some of your group sessions, especially if the group is not supportive of your training goals. Its not easy, and thats why not everyone is willing to do it. You can carry on “just getting it done” as my friend at the pool advocated or you can focus on being the best that you can be, at the end of the day its your choice.

Mapping out the season

Recovery and reflection

Last year I wrote a post about the end of the season, and how it is an important time for reflection and enjoying break from structured training. You can read it here. This is a great time of year for putting things in place that will help you to achieve your goals. But before you sign up for things, have a think about what your goals are, and make sure that whatever you are doing will lead towards that goal.

This is also a time when you can assess what is going on in your life, if you have a bit more time due to reduced training. All too often we take on extra responsibilites thinking we will cope with them and that we can cram more into an already busy life, but being honest with yourself and looking at things rationally you may find that there are just not enough hours in the day to do it all. Simplifying your life is hard, as in our culture we are expected to be busy all of the time, but taking time to reflect actually helps you to become more efficient and to do a better job of things.

The seasons naturally help us, with less daylight hours there is less time to be outdoors and we can give our bodies and minds a break from the pressures of race season, and to decide what it is we truly want. When you know that then you are one step on your way to achieving it.

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Spending time with family

 

Goal setting

Deciding  on a goal and committing to it is a scary prospect, so make sure it fits in with your values and beliefs then you will have a greater chance of achieving it. Have a good think about your goal or goals and also reflect on what is important to you as an individual. It may be that your goal is incompatible with your life at the moment so you have to wait and give it time, or you may be able to commit, but with a flexible approach.

I will give you an example. Next year I am racing in Kona, this is only one of my priorities. My other priorities are; investing time into my coaching business, spending quality time with my family, supporting Patrick after he has his operation, getting The Training Barn up and running, and visiting other family members. These are some of the most important ones, and they all need to be balanced. There will be times when things are not balanced, as life does not run on a straight trajectory from A-B, but having something in mind and checking in with it every now and then, can help to focus our minds on what is important to us. At the moment Patrick doesn’t have a date for his operation, and he doesn’t know how it will affect him afterwards, so he can’t plan too much into the future. I don’t know how it will affect me either, so we need to keep communicating about this. There may be times when my priorities have to shift and I am prepared for that.

So to apply this to yourself have a good look at what you have going on in your life and anticipate any problems, times when you may need to adjust, or to let go of things in order to achieve your goals. In training we prepare for an event by adapting our bodies to the challenges of race day and we can apply this to prepare our minds in the same way.

 

Races coming up!

Things are hotting up

Its that time of year now when the first triathlons are getting underway. It may be that your goal feels like a long way off, but things start to build momentum now, and before you know it, you will be on the starting line of your main event. This is why its important to race other events, so that you can put into practice all the things you need to remember on race day. One of my mantras is “through my race I learn”, and every time I compete there is something to take away, there are always some positives and some things that could be done better. It helps to have a plan, but also to make sure that you stick to it as far as possible. Last weekend I was guilty of having a plan but neglecting to implement parts of it on race day (windproof, nutrition etc)

Doesn't matter how good your plan is if you forget to stick to it!

Doesn’t matter how good your plan is if you forget to stick to it!

After an event it is a good idea to reflect and look back at things objectively so that (hopefully) you can do better next time. This is what I have tried to do in my race report for Slateman, which you can read here. Maybe you can learn from my mistakes!

Never try, never fail…

Training for a big event is a journey, and along the way we learn a lot about ourselves. This year I have got myself a coach, having coached myself for the past few years I felt I needed a bit of a push so that I had the best chance of achieving my goals. It has been interesting, and I have definitely been pushed harder than ever before, it has also made me aware that I don’t like to fail. I like to see progress and do sessions right. However although its great when we do those “hero workouts” and we feel like we have hit all the targets, that is only part of the story.

When training for a big event you will get tired and there will be days when you don’t hit the times, or goals that you want from that session, it doesn’t mean it was wasted. There are times when you need to recover, and times when you need to accept that you are tired and you didn’t do such a great job on that session, its ok. Part of training for something big is finding out where your limits are and pushing the boundaries, and if we do it in training it gets easier in races.

There is a great article by Siri Lindley about pushing her boundaries here. I’m not advocating no recovery or digging yourself into an overtrained hole, but being aware of the fact that you are not going to smash it every day, we are human and have stuff going on in our lives that affects our training, and as a coach I always make sure I look at the whole picture, to ensure that athletes feel positive about their training.

So sometimes we will fail in training and in races, its inevitable. There are many ways that we protect ourselves from failure, some examples are shown in this article. You may identify with some of these examples, and if you do, well done for recognising it. Recognising that you have a fear is the most important step, once you know about a fear you can do something about it. Another article here deals with strategies for coping with fear of failure, and gives advice for dealing with fears. If you can implement some of these ideas in to your life and training then you will reap the rewards!

New Year, New you? Not likely!

January 2016

Cue, promises and resolutions to be made, and broken. It seems that wherever you look there is something or someone promising you a new start, and to cure all of your problems. The reality is that change generally happens slowly. If you have ever tried to follow a detox plan or give something up, it often ends in failure.

This year I would urge you to make changes that are sustainable and achievable. It may not be as dramatic as detoxing or giving things up, and may not sound as exciting, but when you look back at where you were and where you are now, you will find that exciting. Small changes over time add up to big changes in the long run, and being a little bit patient will get you results that you may not have imagined. Remember too that you don’t have to wait until a New Year to make changes, gradual adjustments happen all year round, so every day can be like a new years day with this philosophy.

Wherever You Go, There You Are…

You may have heard of this book by Jon Kabat-Zinn, about mindfulness. I love the title (which is a Confucius quote) because it speaks a truth about change, you will still be you however many changes you make. Make sure that any goals or changes ring true with you, don’t be afraid of making mistakes, and if something isn’t working out for you then in the words of Elsa “let it go”. Maybe this will be the year of letting go for you, whatever it is, I wish you a Happy New Year.

 

December 1st

It is now officially December, the countdown to Christmas has begun, and as we all know it can be a stressful time of year. There are many expectations of us from family, friends and the media. Some of these expectations are unhelpful, and it is your job to recognise when you are starting to harm yourself by taking on other peoples expectations of you.

We are bombarded with images of how Christmas “should” be, but many people do not fit in to this model, and this can make us feel isolated, or just a bit strange! It is ok to want different things at this time of year, and its up to you to decide how you want to spend your holiday time.

I would encourage you to think about your priorities . What is important to you? and what are you willing to compromise? This will allow you to make choices about the festive period that keep you and those around you happy. Throughout December I will be posting some tips on how to keep yourself content and hopefully stress free this Christmas, they will be related to nutrition, training, and family (your team!) Hope you enjoy reading, and happy 1st December.