The juggle (and real life struggle) of a working triathlete mum

Wow. It is hard to look back and believe how much my life, work and training has changed in the past 2.5years. Rewind to December 2016 (yes that seems AGES ago!) and I was standing on the podium of a Half Ironman. Then, just a few short months later I learnt I was expecting my first child. For someone who has always been very personally driven, fiercely independent, loved the flexibility to train as long as I liked, work as much as needed and sleep in whenever I chose to, I knew this was going to be a big adjustment. And adjustment it was! You can read about how I first managed this here.

Press the fast forward button and all of a sudden I have 2 children under two, I am now married (yes we managed to do this between #1 and #2), am also running my own coaching business, AND back into training myself. Phew, even I feel exhausted just writing that!

‘Ohhh 2 children under 2 – you will have your hands full!’ so many people would say to me when they found out about #2. And yep, they were right. But for me, it feels like just the right amount of full – you get very handy at wrangling a toddler in one arm, while carrying a newborn in the other. 😉

BUT – what does ‘life’ REALLY look like? It’s easy to share a glimpse of it on social media – the cute pics and vids of kids doing gorgeous and hilarious things, the snapshots that we choose to share, but as we all know, social media only shows a very small portion of what our day to day lives REALLY look like. Not the nitty gritty, the juggling act, the broken sleep, the tag teaming, or the days of exhaustion but at the same time the sense of accomplishment. You soon learn where your best windows are for working, training, resting and sleeping, and get good at having patience in getting out the door, in taking each day as it comes, and knowing that your well laid out plans may just go out the window. But that you wouldn’t change it for the world. 🙂

So this is what I wanted to share – more than just the snapshots and cute pictures,. Not to say ‘go me’, but more to say – go mums! I didn’t know many young triathlete mums before I was one myself, apart from a select few, it was like mums took a good 3-5years away from triathlon as they raised a young family, and it wasn’t until say kindergarten or school age that they thought about returning to the sport.

So now being a triathlete and a working mum myself, I have other mothers asking me how I fit everything in, how I manage to have the motivation to get up and train, to head out the door on less than optimal sleep. And even WHY?! Some people seem in awe, others look on questioning… But I wanted to share the journey to show that yeah – it is tough, and it does require a lot of juggling, but if you want it to work, you CAN make it work.

My first ride back:

My first ride back on the road post #2 (Edie) was certainly a mission to say the least. Long gone are the days of simply setting the alarm and waking when it goes off, it now requires military precision. As they say ‘where there’s a will there’s a way!‘ Soooo. To get myself out the door for my first road ride 2 months post-partum, this is what it took:

10pm last night feed + express extra milk for the morning đŸ„›Â 
10:40pm in bed asleep
3.30am bubs wakes for a feed
4.15am back into bed
5.30am alarm goes off, get myself dressed/ready
5.45am express extra milk for hubby
6.15am wake up bubs for a quick feed 
6.30am bike in the car and drive to meet others
6.55am finally on the bike! đŸ˜đŸ™ŒđŸ» (and it rained on us mind you, but I did not care one bit!)

So despite having broken sleep, despite having to get up in the middle of the night to feed, despite the logistics of having to express – all this just to get out on the road, I still view this as totally worth it! And worth it is was! Especially after being ‘confined’ to an indoor trainer for the past ~6months leading into her birth and recovering post.

SO – if you feel it’s worth it, then know that it IS possible. It may not be easy, and you may spend more time prepping than actually training, but if you have a goal, if it’s something you really want to do – for you! then do it – only you can put a value on what it means to you. What kept me going in the early days was reminding myself that it won’t always be like this, it won’t always be so time consuming. And it’s not. It does get easier.

As bubs grows and settle into their routines, you will claw back some of your time (and sleep!) and heading out the door wont feel like as much as a mission as it is in the beginning – you get better at the juggling act!

What my work / life / family dynamic looks like

What ones family dynamics looks like plays a BIG part in how you will manage your work, training (and sanity!) 😉 And keep in mind that everyone’s child/children are different. And each individual child of yours may also be different too. I can already see differences in my little ones already. They both have similar relaxed natures, my eldest inquisitive, yet slightly cautious, adventurous, but mostly knows his boundaries, he doesn’t like things out of place, has little patience, but at the same time is a determined little soul with the biggest sweetest and kindest heart and LOVES being outdoors. My youngest is already showing signs of being chilled and observant, patient and relaxed, and luckily for me (us) they were (are) both very good sleepers from the onset. Once they grew past the ‘newborn’ stage ~around 4mths, they learnt to (mostly) sleep through the night. So apart from developmental stages/ages where everything (literally!) goes out the window, I honestly couldn’t ask for better little people to fill our spaces. 🙂

BUT – if this is not you, know I hear you and I feel you. I know what sleep deprivation looks and feels like – we all go through it in the early stages, BUT turning that into months (and for some years!) is tough for anyone to manage and work around, so know your means and know your boundaries based on your own circumstances. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself if you / your bubs and your family are just not quite there yet.

Everyone’s personal situations will also be different. In our household, hubby works full time, I work part time from home and at the same time we are also both athletes training for our own individual sports and our own individual goals. I have my youngest Edie at home with me full time while working around her, and our little man Mills spends 2 days in day care and a day with his Pa. This gives me just enough relief to knuckle down with work while Edie is content or asleep.

But it is the training front that is actually the biggest juggle. Someone commented to me one day – ‘oh it must be easy being able to work from home and train when you want‘. Ummmm, no! (just a tip, never say to a working mum it must be easy, no matter the context – you will loose every time!) 😉

Early in the piece when bubs are newborns they sleep. alot. But they also feed. alot. Each of you are finding your feet and what routine works for you and your fam. When they sleep, you want to rest, or do the washing, or prep dinner….. It’s not like you have instant or infinite time to smack out a training session. Far from it. How many times I have thought – awesome, I’ve got an hour window to jump on the trainer while she’s asleep – and 15min into the session she wakes! But instead of getting frustrated, you just work around it. Sometimes your little ones need you more than other times. Just like work sometimes needs or asks more of you and you have to shift in that direction. I see motherhood as the same. It is and will be forever evolving, and will additionally change if you have outside help, if you are breast feeding, if you are working… there are so many variables.

So I just wanted to share that insight so you got a bit of a gauge of what our family dynamics looked like first – as mothers we are the first to compare ourselves to others. I didn’t write this for others to compare to, or to feel they have to strive for, but simply to document and share while hopefully allowing other (tri) athlete mums know that it is possible to raise a young family, to be a working mum while also training for triathlons (or what ever sport / activity / fitness you choose!) That yes – it is possible to put yourself first during times of the day / week and that you don’t have to feel guilty about that at all.

My working / training week

It’s certainly not perfect, and some days I can train more than others, and others I don’t get in what I had planned, but as a whole, we seem to have a pretty good balance and understanding of each others needs and what it takes to get everything done, while maintaining a happy family life. 🙂

A few people have asked whether I’m following a program. Apart from squad swimming where I have been joining Jamie Edwards and his crew from JET Coaching, no. I’m not following a program, and I train mainly solo. I have an idea in my head of what I want to achieve in a particular session / certain week, but I am flexible with it. This could mean that I may have a hill rep run planned but if my body is asking for a longer slower endurance run, then I’ll give it that. But I follow my own general coaching principles, methods and planning in my training. I’ve also been using myself as a bit of a guinea pig. I’ll test out a particular swim, bike and/or run set to see what it feels like, and use it with some of my athletes that I feel it can work for. So if you follow me on strava…. 😉


6 months post partum now, and for the last couple of months, this is what my ‘regular’ week can look like:

Monday’s and Wednesday mornings are my swim mornings – so swimming twice a week. These are probably the biggest challenges to get to at the moment. It means an early wake up to feed little miss, before I then get changed and head out the door to swim squad. Get on pool deck and do some mobility and activation work, before jumping in and then getting out to rush home to swap with hubby so he can get ready to head to work.
Should I be including an extra swim in- sure, I should/could/would, but right now, I find the balance of 2 swims enough, especially when sometimes two swims turns into only 1 swim for what ever reason. So two swims it is, and I’m just being realistic about my race goals around the swim based on how my swim progresses around this. But at the moment, after a few months back in the pool I’m just starting to feel swim fit again. Whoop!

Monday’s I will also try to include a strength and conditioning set at home during the day – mainly focused around functional movement, core stability etc, not heavy lifting, along with a walk to get the kids outside. And Wednesdays I attend a clinical pilates session after swimming. This has been fantastic returning post birth, but also a great way to learn how your body moves, it’s imbalances and working on correcting these. I highly recommend if you can fit into your training / week ! (Note this is FAR different to your standard group pilates classes)

Tuesdays have generally been brick days for me, a good way to get bang for your buck. Generally this will be in the afternoon when little miss is (hopefully) sleeping and I’ll time it for when hubby gets home to run off the bike OR I’ll run with her and the pram. 🙂 So a high intensity or strength based bike session, into an easy run off the bike. I might also include another short easy run first thing in the morning when hubby gets home from his ride and before he has to then head to work – if time / our schedules allow.

Thursdays for me have now moved into a double run day to up my run volume, but will shift back to a brick session day or separate bike and run sessions as the triathlon season comes closer. For me, I don’t run well in the mornings, I wake up stiff through my back so I find doing any quality of running in the morning tough. (Plus the winter mojo to run in the AM is severely lacking!) 😉 So instead, for these days I do an easy run loosener in the morning after hubby gets back from his morning ride, just running to feel, and then in the evening throwing in some quality such as hill strength/repeats or fartlek type session. (note this is generally my ONLY evening session) I’m not doing any speed / high intensity work in my runs at the moment, the volume seems to be working well and paces just gradually increasing based on my fitness gains from these, so I’m happy with my run progress after a slow and sluggish first few months. Patience here was definitely key!

Fridays I reserve as a ‘free’ day, or day of choice. If I feel like doing nothing, I don’t. If I feel like an easy spin, or a long walk, or some additional strength, I’ll do that. But I find it’s been great having a totally open day to do whatever I feel or whatever the day brings. Not to mention a sleep in! 😉

Weekends are where the juggle continues, with both myself and hubby working out plans on who’s riding when and where and with whom. It’s a compromise. And sucks if there is a day on the weekend when it’s terrible riding weather as it means one of us is spending time on the trainer! Given I do trainer work during the week, by the weekend I’m hanging to get on the road, so I can’t wait for more warmer and lighter days to come! So Saturdays I have generally been doing my long ride, and Sunday afternoons my long run. Long rides around ~2.5-3.5hours with slowly building run volume off the bike, and long runs now getting up around 1:15min. And each week just gradually building on the last and pulling back when I need the recovery.

When I’m training, I ensure I’m fully present. I’m focused, determined and driven to do that little bit better than last week. As you have now gathered, being a working triathlete and a mum, with a hubby who also trains, it really is a juggling act and you have to make the most of the time allowance you have. This often can mean he comes in from a session and I’m heading out for mine. A quick update on the kids as we pass each other. Some may wonder why we would choose to do this rather than just spending all our time with our little ones while they are so young, and all I can say is that we do it because we love it. It not only makes us feel good staying healthy and having goals to chase, we don’t think having kids should stop that. PLUS we can already see the influence this has on our eldest. He jumps on his bike inside all the time, he shows how he cleans it, will want to put his helmet on, even wants to put his water bottle on his bike – just to be like mum and dad. He hops on the floor and tries to do push ups, he ‘play’s with my roller, does squats and simply just loves being active with us. Children observe and learn so much, and without even teaching him, he’s understanding that being active is simply a part of life. And that there, makes my heart sing to know and see that – so why wouldn’t we want to train and chase after our our own goals?! Knowing that those traits are being learnt by the little people around us… 🙂

Things I have learnt being a working triathlete mum:

  1. Respect & appreciate your body,
    You are not just relying on your body for your sport, your baby/ child/ children/ family is also relying on you. So if ever there was a time to listen to your body, and do whats right for you and your family – then its now. Don’t ignore any signs.
  2. Being healthy is paramount,
    Above all else, it is imperative to stay strong and healthy. I don’t believe any goal should override this and especially not when you are supporting a young bubs. So don’t cut corners on your health.
  3. Consult / work with a professional,
    Make sure you get the all clear from a womens health professional/specialist. Even though you may want to get back running asap, sometimes it may be advised against it based on your personal recovery. So listen to the professionals. They are there for you, so if it means walking for another couple of weeks. Then do it – there is plenty of time to get back to running! 🙂
  4. Communication is king
    You need to have good communication. With your partner, with your coach / support team, with family… Whoever is on your ‘team’. Communicate frequently and communicate well.
  5. Start sloooowwwwllly,
    Slower than you thought was even possible. And above all else, listen to the advice from professionals.
  6. Have patience,
    For me it was 3 months of what felt like slow, heavy, awkward running before I even felt like I was running and not just plodding along. It took 3 months back in the pool after 2 years out of it to actually start to ‘feel’ the water again. It’s about having the patience to stick at it even though it’s hard and having the persistence (read stubbornness) to want to improve and be better than you were yesterday.
  7. Sleep is key – get it when you can,
    I feel very blessed. Both children learnt to sleep through the night quite early on. So from around 4mths they mostly slept through, this makes a MASSIVE difference. So if you have children that need you more at night time, keep in mind how this can impact your recovery and how your next sessions may feel. And if it means having a nap – or even just a lie down, during the day, then take it. You don’t have to be on the go all day every day. Give yourself permission to rest and recuperate – netflix is great for this just saying! 😉
  8. Don’t underestimate the toll breastfeeding takes on your body. Fuel for your bubs but also fuel for your training. And if you are unsure, seek further guidance. It can be a balancing act – especially around breastfeeding.
  9. You CAN find a way to make it happen,
    If you want to do something, or have a goal that means something to you, then you will find a way to make it happen. I won’t say it will be easy, because its not, but there can always be a way. You just have to be willing.
  10. Just as with anything in life, you learn,
    You learn to be able to carry two squirming children at once. You learn how much is too much. You learn what your body is telling you…. And you will be forever learning – and I actually love that. 🙂 So don’t be so stuck and rigid (in your often old ways) that you loose the ability to learn.
  11. Don’t feel you have to be super(hu)mum!
    There’s the saying – you can do anything, but not everything. And this is so true! If the washing has to pile up for a couple of days, then so be it. If you have to get take out one night because you didn’t have time to go to the grocery store, it’s not the end of the world! You don’t have to be on top of everything all of the time. And that’s ok!
  12. Online shopping will be your savour!
    Speaking of grocery shopping, I can’t believe I never shopped online before children. What a time saver! If you don’t already, I highly recommend you start. I now shop for my ‘staples’ online, and then just walk to our local grocer / butcher / fish monger for fresh food with the kids in tow once a week. SO much easier! Plus I find saves money by planning ahead and not getting sucked into any unnecessary purchases.
  13. Don’t be too hard on yourself.
    If you have to miss a session because you are too tired as bubs was up more than normal the previous night, then do it, but don’t feel guilty about it. If you need to cut a session short as it’s all you had time for, then by all means cut it and again, don’t feel guilty.
  14. Don’t put so much pressure on yourself,
    Set a goal, but be flexible with it. Check in every couple of months to see how you are doing / progressing. Change things up if needed. But at the same time, know that you don’t have to be 100% fit or 100% ‘ready’ for a race to be able to do one. View your first race back as your first ever race! The excitement of simply being back out racing, no pressure and simply picture that finishing line with your little one waiting there for you, that will be your biggest achievement, not the time on the clock. 🙂
  15. Be flexible,
    Some days / weeks you will feel like you are nailing it all, and others you will feel like you are just keeping your head above water. During these times you need to be flexible. Drop or switch out a session if you need to catch back up on sleep or simply to reset at home. We have a lot more variables in our lives now, that you need to be flexible, otherwise you will get to a point and you will feel like you are failing and not doing anything well.
  16. Don’t compare yourself to ‘pre-baby/ies’
    It can be easy to look back and think ‘I used to be able to do this’ or ‘I used to look like this’… but it serves no purpose. All you want to do is compare yourself today from yesterday. Not 3 years ago. Your life is vastly different now. There’s a new line in the sand. You have permission to set a new bench mark. Of course have goals, but know they don’t have to be compared to ‘before’ children.
  17. Don’t be afraid to ask for help
    As women – this can often be the hardest thing to do. And I find myself guilty of it too. We feel like we ‘should’ be able to do it all. And if we can’t we are failing (there’s that word again!) So reach out. You will be surprised how many people are willing to help if you just ask. And if someone asks – say yes!
  18. I never said it would be easy….
    It WILL be tough at times. There will be times you will feel like crying. There will be times you feel your partner doesn’t understand. There will be times when you feel in over your head. And that’s ok. Humans are emotional beings and feelings are what makes us human. So feel the emotions, acknowledge them, and then work with those around you to keep moving forward.

It’s a juggle – and at times often a struggle, I can’t deny that. Made even more challenging when your hubby is an athlete too, which means competing for training times and juggling these around children, work, daycare drop off and pick ups, feeding times, sleeping times and not to forget adult time!

But when my eldest yells with glee ‘mummy’s riding her bike!’, and waves with a big smile on his face as I head out the door, it truly melts my heart. It reminds me I’m not just doing this for me. But I’m doing this for them. Showing our two little ones that exercise is fun, and in our household, it is a part of who we are and what we do and with that, I can sleep well at night knowing that the example we are setting for the two most important humans in our lives is one we can be proud of. 🙂

Sarah xx

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Sarah qualified for the Ironman World Champs in her first Ironman attempt at Ironman Melbourne 2013 (also achieving a podium place in the same race), going on to compete in Kona that same year. Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.



How to qualify for Ironman World Championships Kona

SO – YOU WANT TO QUALIFY FOR KONA!   

The IRONMAN World Championships in Kailua-Kona. For most triathletes it’s the main event, the pinnacle of the sport, the holy grail of long course racing. And to race there is something that many triathletes dream of, to wonder what it would be like to experience the race. To line up on the shores and take those first few strokes in Kailua Bay waiting for that canon to go off. Of riding into the distant Lava fields of the Queen K, of rounding the final bends and descent down Palani drive and finally reaching the finishing chute on Alii Drive to thunderous cheers from the crowds
.  

For some, this will forever remain a dream, an ‘if only’. But for others, they have the desire to make it a reality. To do whatever it takes to experience what only a small portion of the population will ever get to. You may have been trying for a few years already, or have just had an inkling of ‘maybe, just maybe’, no matter which side you come from, I’ve set out some key areas for you to review and help you understand what it may take for you to secure one of those elusive Kona Qualifying Spots – or even if it is at all possible. So read on if you want to make that dream become reality!   

Find (the right) Coach 

Although there are many athletes who have qualified for Kona without a Coach, if you don’t want to leave things to chance then do your research and find a qualified, understanding and knowledgeable coach. A Coach is an independent sounding board, and can help keep you focused and on track, particularly in the later part of your journey. They will help you not only physically but can be invaluable mentally. So, find one that you really connect with to gain the most from your training and get the most from yourself.  The right Coach can be critical in helping you achieve your goals and finding that extra edge you may be needing – particularly if you have been close to qualifying before. Finding that last 10% of your potential can be far harder than the first 90%, so having a Coaches outside perspective who can delve deeper into your training can be the difference between heading to the Big Island, or spending another year trying.
 

Review your current training (and racing) 

Ask yourself (and your Coach) what you can do better – or different. Start by looking at all aspects of your training and analyse where you can improve. Do you need to work on technique? Overall endurance? Improve bike skills and handling? Be more consistent? Focus more on recovery or reducing stress? Spend more time in the gym? Develop your mental game? Focus on nutrition or injury prevention? There are lots of areas to review, so take the time. Don’t skip over this and just think ‘I’ll train more’. Think about how you can be a smarter more resilient athlete and be measured and focused. Be open and honest with yourself and your Coach. To improve your overall race time or ranking is not just about training more. It’s about being specific, targeted, focused diligent and patient. 

When reviewing your training, keep in mind that every athlete is individual and has different abilities to handle training loads, the number of hours we can dedicate to training, our training history, genetic make up and so much more can all vary widely from athlete to athlete. Therefore it’s important to remember not to compare yourself or your training in too much detail to your fellow competitors or training partners. What it took for one athlete to get to Kona can look vastly different to the next athlete. So focus on yourself.  

Along with reviewing your training, it’s vital to review your racing – not just to see where you can make improvements, but to understand if you are executing your race plan and racing to your potential. Are your race splits and times reflective of your training? Be objective and be critical. Don’t just say ‘oh I blew up on the run, I need to run more’. Really delve deeper to understand the physiology and psychology and why it may have occurred as there can be a vast number of reasons. Did you handle the heat? Did you need heat training? Did you over bike ? Or start out far to hard in the run? Did your mental game let you done? Did you even have a race plan? Having a clear plan going into the day can help ensure you race to your potential, but also help you evaluate post-race if things don’t go to plan. A Coach can really help with this post race analyse and then the subsequent planning.  

Choose the right race 

This shouldn’t be something that is glossed over if you are wanting to qualify for Kona. Choosing the right race for YOU can be the difference between securing a KQ spot or not. If you are serious about qualifying, then don’t just choose a race because it’s more convenient, or your friends are racing, you need to choose a race that not only plays to your strengths but negates your weaknesses, giving you the best chance possible to secure a spot. As an example if you are a strong swim / biker and can handle variable race conditions, choose a hillier more unpredictable course. If hills aren’t your friend, choose a flatter course. Don’t handle heat well? Then don’t race where it’s known to be a hot race. Choosing the right race for you requires next to no additional physical effort to implement. Just some good planning, research and understanding.  

Once you have chosen a few key races, spend the time to examine past results and researching conditions and other factors of the course. To be able to set goals and targets, it’s important to spend the time researching past results and conditions on the courses you are looking at, so you can understand the level of performance that is necessary.  

The second consideration for choosing a race is considering the number of qualifying spots on offer. In some bigger races / regional championship races, spots can be as many at 75, but most now only have 40. In some age groups this means you need to podium, in others, spots may roll down to 5 or more spots. The time of year can also have an impact. Early season races mean athletes haven’t taken up spots yet, so traditionally not as many spots ‘roll down’. The later the season goes, the more chance roll down spots come up. So worth considering the time of the season you race, and/or if you have a back up race in the same season.  

So take the time to choose your race carefully – it’s worth discussing the ins and outs with coaches / others who have more knowledge and understanding than you and can provide information or advice you may not have thought of. Plan wisely! It can pay off.  

Forward Planning 

Planning is key to success. It can come in a variety of forms and levels including your weekly training schedule, your training periods through the year, your racing season and multi-year planning.  

This planning can take place once your review has been completed and races chosen – this way you know what you have got to work with, and the time frames it may take to get there. Once you know where you are right now and where you need to be to qualify, then you can plan out the steps to get there, and the time frame it may take to achieve.  

As much as we all want results now, most of the time we need to be patient and wait for just the right time to strike. If you try and attempt a race too early, you may be hindering your chances, or even pushing back your goals if your body isn’t ready. So again be open and honest with your coach and be willing to ‘wait it out’, if that is what is needed to get you to the level that is required, rather than just shooting from the hip. Evolving as an athlete takes time, sometimes years of dedication and hard work to develop to the level required to qualify. So plan, have patience and be prepared to work hard.  

Self-belief & mental toughness 

This can be the glue that puts it all together and one of the most important ingredients for your Kona Qualifying success. You have to BELIEVE you are capable of qualifying for Kona. If you truly believe that you can qualify then you will act in ways that support that belief. Ironman racing is a mental game. You not only have to believe in yourself, you have to be just as mentally strong as you are physically. You must have a mind like a champion to be able to train like one and have the ability and mental strength to dig deep and hurt when the time counts – both in training and in racing. 

Metal strength and the ability to push through pain barriers is something that can be developed, but it ultimately comes from experience and from passion. So get your mental game as strong as your physical game. Without it, that Kona Qualifying spot may just continue to elude you. If you have reviewed your training and racing and determined this was one of the areas you need to improve, then go in search of someone that can help you. Ask your Coach, fellow athletes, look at who the pros have worked with in the past, or strategies they implement, do your research. It will be an investment well worth making.  

Commitment, consistency and discipline 

Ultimately, the quest to qualify for Kona (or any goal for that matter) comes with commitment. And that doesn’t just mean saying flippantly “I’d love to qualify for Kona one day” – as that’s not commitment, that’s a merely a wish. BUT if you said to me “I want to do whatever it takes to qualify for Kona in X years” – well now you are talking! 

So once that commitment is made it’s then up to you to focus on the consistency and be disciplined. You must be willing to make choices and sacrifices in the short term in favour of your long-term goals. Although you don’t want to make qualifying your sole priority, as there is far more to life than just triathlon, you still need to put in the work consistently and find ways to make training a priority. There’s no way around that. Whether you have natural athletic ability or not, qualifying for Kona requires a certain volume and training stress that will at times impact other areas of your life. So have discussions with those in your life this may impact and make compromises in certain areas to ensure you are giving yourself maximum opportunity to qualify while still balancing the rest of your life.  

Then ensure you have the dedication and ability to remain consistent in your training – day in, day out. It’s not just how hard and how long you can train for, or just nailing your favourite sessions, it’s about doing the things that you may not want to do, or don’t enjoy, but knowing that they all add up in the big picture and serve a purpose in reaching you goal. In other words, you have to put the work in if you want to get the results. And that takes discipline. There are no shortcuts.  

Do you feel closer to qualifying already?  

Qualifying for Kona is a big goal. Taking your dream and turning it into Ironman reality combines structured and specific training, the right planning, the right race, self belief, mental toughness, true commitment and an incredible desire.  

These concepts certainly aren’t ground breaking but putting it all together is far easier said than done. There are no short cuts. There is no single magic bullet. It’s what you are prepared to do day in day out that will add up in your journey and your quest in securing that Kona Qualifying spot.  

So embrace the journey, if you don’t succeed right away, don’t give up. Stay committed. And don’t stop believing that you can make it happen. Remember to appreciate the little moments, the accomplishments along the way. Be grateful for every experience and appreciate the process that is far more than just about qualifying and Kona itself, but how amazing the human body and the human spirit is. Qualifying may not be easy, but if it was, it wouldn’t be quite so special would it?  

 

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Sarah qualified for the Ironman World Champs in her first Ironman attempt at Ironman Melbourne 2013 (also achieving a podium place in the same race), going on to compete in Kona that same year.

Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

 

Are you sabotaging your racing success?

Why would anyone deliberately do that you may ask?
Don’t we all want to improve and get the most out of ourselves? Aren’t we all aiming to be better than we were yesterday? Heck we train every day (often twice a day), so why would we sabotage that? The problem with self-sabotage is athletes often don’t even know they are doing it. It can creep into our everyday lives, into our training and then that flows on into race day and before we know it we are sabotaging our own racing potential and success.  

So what can self-sabotage look like for athletes?
There are some more obvious ways self-sabotage manifests into our lives such as not eating as well as you know you could – even though you know eating better would improve your recovery and/or performance. Or training when injured for fear of losing fitness – even though you know a few days rest is what your body needs. These are classic signs of self-sabotage that can easily be addressed, but on top of these, there are a lot of hidden ways that you can be self-sabotaging without even realising it. Can you relate to any of the following?  

  • You tell yourself that you aren’t a ‘swimmer’, ‘rider’, ‘runner’ 
  • You worry too much about what others think of your performance 
  • Your self-worth is determined by your results and the praise you receive 
  • You tell yourself you aren’t ‘good’ enough 
  • You doubt your ability and don’t believe in yourself 
  • You say to others how you go doesn’t matter to you to avoid disappointment 
  • You feel unrelenting pressure and expectations to achieve 
  • You often say ‘I’m ONLY doing a sprint’, or I’m ‘JUST doing the half’ 

Self-sabotage is like an internal fight that is played out into your training and performances. You want to race well, yet on the start line all your fears come bubbling to the surface and you tell yourself you aren’t ready. You would like to push hard, yet you tell yourself you aren’t good enough. You line up on the start line knowing you have done the training, yet you start doubting your ability and hold back. You put high expectations on yourself, but those expectations bring about anxiety and fear. The internal struggle can be an ongoing battle, and that battle can be hindering your performance and sabotaging your racing success.  

How do we stop this subconscious self-sabotage?
The attitude, beliefs and the mindset that you take with you into training, and ultimately your racing will shape your performance and your success as an athlete. If you are able to shift your mindset, change your attitude and alter your beliefs, then you will minimise the effects of self-sabotage and reach your performance potential.  

The first step is to understand and recognise the signs of how you might be self-sabotaging through areas such as self-doubt, developing anxiety, setting high expectations, the pressures of perfectionism, worrying about what others think and many other mental self-sabotage roadblocks you could be hitting. If we can become aware of these signs and understand when and where they pop up, we can learn to shift them so they don’t negatively impact our racing.  

I have outlined my top 5 areas to help get you started in improving your mental resolve, shifting your mindset and changing your attitude to minimise the effects of self-sabotage on your performance.  

photo credit: witsup.com

1. Reframe your thinking
Our actions are inspired and driven by our thoughts. If we can work on changing the way we think, we can begin to change the actions we take. “where the mind goes the body will follow” A practice I’ve used with my athletes is applying the use of positive affirmations or motivational quotes, along with trying to change the way we word our thoughts. Without realising it, we are often using negative affirmations in our everyday lives, and these negative affirmations can then be displayed in negative habits or traits.  Both negative and positive affirmations impact the neurological functioning of the brain, so if you repeatedly think that you are not going to succeed, or you are not good enough, this is a negative affirmation, and your body will subconsciously believe what you repeatedly tell it. But if you work on filling your thoughts with positive affirmations “I’m going to nail this session” – then you are more than likely going to. So the more positive affirmation you can include in your thought patterns, the better!  

Try this:
Instead of thinking: “I can’t”, try “I’m going to give it my best shot”
or instead of ‘I’m never going to be good at swimming” try “I’m making progress every day” 

So if we can reduce the effects of our limiting beliefs by changing the way you speak to yourself through your thoughts and work on our mental resolve, then we can diminish the effects of self-sabotage and start to have a positive impact on your performance.  

2. Worrying about what others think
For a lot of athletes, a big stressor pre-race is worrying about what others will think of their performance. On one hand, this can be a positive as it can push you harder when a race starts to become tough. It also feels good when you have a great race – who doesn’t like a little pat on the back every now and then! But if you are an athlete who relies on the need to receive praise, feel accepted or liked by others through your performances, then what happens if (when) races don’t go to plan? The sheer thought of a race not going to plan and worrying about what others will think can manifest into race day anxiety. This form of race day anxiety leads to self-doubt and has negative effects on your racing. The opposite to what you had to begin with. So instead of craving the approval of others, work on understanding why it is you race, finding your internal driver –not relying on external motivators from others. This will help reduce the need for approval and improve your race day performance by racing for YOU not for others. 

3. Fear of failure
Goals are big drivers. They are what help you get out of bed in the morning and keep you going when the training gets tough. But how do you feel if you don’t quite reach your goal? Do you consider yourself a failure for not achieving?  Do you punish yourself in some way, or give up totally? We all need goals and we all want to reach them, but don’t be so hard on yourself if you don’t. Worrying too much about results or the outcomes of your races can create unnecessary pre-race anxiety in the form of fear of failure. It is this fear of failure that can lead to athletes underperforming on race day compared to how they train on a daily basis. We probably all know or have trained with athletes who train the house down, but come race day things just don’t come together for them. These athletes are often extremely critical of themselves and could be fearing failure on race day. They’ve put in the hard work in training, everyone is telling them they are going to have a great race, and so they fear what may happen if they don’t. This fear can come from a number of areas including worrying about what others think (see above) and worrying that the hard work they have put into training won’t pay off on race day (the payoff syndrome). If you feel like this is you, then it is important to determine what the underlying fear for you is, so you can learn to overcome it and reduce this form of self-sabotage.

4. Striving for perfection
Striving for perfection for some can be an advantage, these ‘A’ type athletes have incredibly high expectations of themselves and their performance. However at the same time it can actually hinder an athlete’s performance. Because here’s the thing, nothing or no one is truly ever perfect, as much as someone may try. I don’t say that to stop you from striving for and chasing your goals, or be comfortable with settling for ‘middle of the pack’, but at the same time you don’t need to drive yourself into the ground trying to achieve perfection – because it’s never going to happen.  

Why not? You ask. Because if you are one of those athletes who is a true perfectionist, you will never be truly satisfied – no matter how much you excel, or what race results you achieve, you will always be searching. You will also find you forget to take the time to recognise your performance results when you do achieve them and actually acknowledge the hard work you have put in because you will always seem to find the negatives, or find the things that didn’t quite go to plan.  

You may also find if your race isn’t going to your ‘perfect plan’ then this can demotivate you or you can become frustrated with a situation or outcome, losing sight of the process and focusing solely on the end goal – and that’s when things can stat unraveling in a race.  

So chase your goals vigorously, but hold onto them lightly. Continue to aim to improve day in day out, but remember that it is ok if every race isn’t ‘perfect’. Those races that are the ones we learn from the most.  

5. The pressure of expectation
Pressure can manifest itself physically – through increased adrenaline, breathing and heart rate, it can be mental – either positive or negative thoughts, and/or emotional – positive feelings of excitement or anticipation, or negative feelings such as anxiety and fear.   

How an athlete views a particular race in regards to pressure and expectations can often determine how an athlete performs. If you are using expectations to your advantage, you view it as a challenge. However many athletes feel expectation as pressure and therefore a threat and have a negative response or experience as a consequence. So the feeling of pressure manifests into fears of failure. And as soon as an athlete fears failure (the outcome of a race) they are already beginning to worry about meeting their own or others expectations. This causes athletes to focus on an outcome and feeling the pressure to perform, which can turn into pre-race anxiety or incites uncertainty and hesitation. All which can stop an athlete racing to their full potential.  

The good news is, for most age group athletes, the pressure and expectations comes from within, therefore if you created it, you can also dismantle it. Instead of focusing on the end goal or result, break it down and start focusing on the process. When you start to feel pressure or expectations, break it down. Focus on what you need to do in that moment, not what you want to achieve overall. If you have been working hard on your swim technique and your hard work should net a faster time, don’t think about the time, think about the technique. If your aim was to PB on the bike, don’t think about the PB, think about what you need to do in the moment to achieve that such as technique, power or your effort level.  

And ultimately in the end, remind yourself why you started in the sport in the first place. The sport hasn’t changed over the years, it’s still the same as when you started, it is you that has changed. So if you are finding you can’t escape the pressure of expectation, are worrying too much about what others are thinking and fear failure, let it all go and simply go out there and find your fun again!   

 

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

 

 

Building your winter base

How to make the most of your triathlon winter season training

Building a solid base for endurance is the key to having a strong racing season, no matter the distance you are training for. Short Course athletes require a solid base so their bodies can adapt and grow and handle the intensities that will come later in their training program. Long Course athletes require a strong aerobic base to build the engine that will carry them through their training volume and more importantly, race day. A solid base also helps you become a robust athlete, which in return helps prevent injuries, illness, inconsistency and athlete burn out.

Most athletes know that building and having a strong base is a fundamental foundation to develop on as they progress through the triathlon season. But as much as most athletes know this, they may not necessary understand why it is so important and how it can help them through their racing season.

Picture this: You trained your butt off during the off season, worked hard in every training session; you had a slight injury, but nothing that you couldn’t overcome in a few weeks. You had a few sniffles over winter (but who doesn’t right?), but ultimately you feel you are in the best shape yet as you head into the racing season. You jump straight into racing, all cylinders firing, you have a great first half of the year but then slowly you start to fade. The injury niggle pops up again, energy levels start to fade, each week it becomes harder to find motivation and each race feels harder to maintain the intensity. Slowly but gradually you start to fade until it comes to the last couple of races of the season and there’s not much left in the tank. You don’t even know how you got to that point, but you cannot wait until the end of the season so you can rest and recover. And then it hits you. You literally stop. Your body stops. Everything stops. So you have a month (or two) off until you get to a point when you feel ‘heavy’ and ‘unfit’ and decide you better get back into training. So you jump head first into your training again, playing catch up to those who maintained some consistency during their break, and so the cycle begins again
.

This scenario is one that we see often. Athletes going too hard at the start of their base build, believing more training and more intensity will get ‘better’ results. They try and keep up with others, while they lose sight of what their own goals are and they neglect that important base building phase.

Here are some of my key points on ensuring you develop a strong base to not only propel you into this coming triathlon season, but ensure you finish the season off just as strongly.

Start off fresh
A strong and robust base starts with solid rest. Every athlete needs a break from the racing season and structured training so they can repair and recharge. Ensure you have taken the time to have a few weeks off from structured training after your season/last event to rest. Use this time to do some cross training, go for a ride with friends you wouldn’t normally train with, throw a basketball around, kick the footy, and simply catch up on ‘life’. When you feel like you have had a good mental and physical rest from structured training (this timeframe can differ for each athlete), then start building structure back in a few days a week until you are ready for a fully structured program. The key is backing off enough to recover, but not so much that you completely lose fitness. So keep the body moving while it still rests.

Build back into training gradually
Sounds simple right? Yet it is often hard for athletes to grasp this concept. Building gradually into your training allows for your body to adapt to the stressors training (of any level/duration/intensity) places on the body. Base building provides a platform for building up training at a slow and safe rate, which helps decrease the likelihood of injury and burnout. Building up gradually following a carefully structured plan will ensure your body adapts, while also focusing on key fundamental including general strength, technique and form which are essential during the base training phase.

Low intensity / Aerobic Training
The building block of base training is low intensity aerobic training. Despite all the studies and despite the information now available to athletes, far too many athletes still train in the ‘grey’ zone. They spend too much time with their heart rate too high to develop their aerobic system (crucial for endurance) but then on the flip side, not hard enough to illicit improvement in their Vo2Max or speed. So they effectively waste a lot of their time training somewhere in between. Low intensity / Aerobic training doesn’t mean simply swim, ride and run slowly with no purpose or no effort. This type of training develops your aerobic capacity through building more capillaries to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. Your mitochondria (the parts of your cells that produce energy) also multiply and enlarge. And you churn out more enzymes that help turn stored fuel (ie fat) into energy. The result: over time, you will be able to train faster for longer. A great way to test this improvement is not through a time trial, but through a MAF HR test. (You can look this one up on how to conduct this test). If you are developing a sound aerobic base results might be something like:
20min run at 5km pace, ave HR 160. 6 weeks later, the same 20min run at 5km pace with an ave HR of 152. This is 8beats per minute (bpm) lower than 6 weeks ago. The athlete hasn’t needed to run any faster (although they could if they wanted), but they have become more efficient at the same pace. These types of results are what we are after in a base building phase – you want to develop a more efficient engine that is strong and ready to fire when the next phase of the program kicks in.

Consistency
If you have a coach, you would have most definitely have heard this one before. Consistency is key. The ability to string together multiple weeks and months of consistent training brings about far better (and more consistent) results at races during a season. If we compare an athlete who goes extremely hard for one or two weeks/months, but then has to have days or weeks of easier training as they recover from the hard training, then they are not building a consistently strong base. Athletes who go too hard too early are also more susceptible to illness and injury over winter, which again in turn results in inconsistent training.

In the winter season. The easier the better. The hard training will come. So keep reminding yourself that. Those athletes who have taken the time to build their base consistently over winter will be the athletes that will get the most consistent results for the season.

Remember to rest
Just because base training doesn’t include large amounts of intensity, keep in mind that rest is still an important aspect of training during this phase. It is during the rest and recovery portion of your training that the body repairs itself, adapts and becomes stronger. So ensure your base aerobic training still factors in easier days or rest days to allow your body to adapt and come back from each session/week stronger than before. This is where a well-structured training program comes into play to gain the best results from your hard work during training.
Fuel smartly (and healthily!)
So many athletes say they train so they can eat what they like. Well I’m afraid you can’t if you want to be healthy on the inside and out, recover quicker and perform at your optimum. The base building phase is one of the less intensive phases of a training program, so it’s the perfect time to develop sound, nutritional habits and you will find you might actually lose a few kg’s (not put them on which is what most athletes tend to do over winter!). During longer, lower-intensity training, the body is able to pull energy from fat stores rather than from glycogen, where higher intensity training sessions gets their fuel from. Therefore, base training can be the perfect time to become leaner and a more efficient fat burner. So ditch the packaged foods and gels over winter and fuel with real wholesome food.

Give it time
There is no magic number for how long a base-building phase should last. This is very individual for each athlete and can depend on training history, lead in time to the season/key race and more. But generally you will see this phase last from 6-12 weeks. If you have a heart-rate monitor and/or power meter you can measure more closely on when you have built up a strong base and ready to move into the next training phase.

On the bike you can measure your efficiency factor by dividing your average power of a ride by the average heart rate. The actual figure doesn’t matter, what matters is that you are seeing an upward trend of this number. Once it starts to stabilise / plateau you are ready for your next training phase. This can also be monitored on the run through MAF HR tests, or intuition. Essentially your speed/pace should continue to improve for the same (or even less) effort and your runs/rides should feel easier. When you feel like you aren’t making continued progress (give this time) then you are most likely ready for a change up in your training. Again this is where working with a Coach who can develop a program specifically for you will see better results in the long run than following a template program or group training sessions – unless you are really good at analysing numbers/data, reading your body and listening to your intuition.

Be patient
Don’t force or try and hurry your base training. Plan your season accordingly so you can have a strong base before you move into the next phase of your program. In saying this, there is nothing wrong with throwing in some short high intensity sessions. These won’t undermine your base training, but can improve some markers like Vo2Max while continuing to develop your base. But be patient. Build these in gradually so you don’t peak too early. You want to be at your peak for each of your key race/s, not just for the start of the season. And this all goes back to our initial discussion with your aim to finish off your season strong, not fizzling out before the season finishes.

So no matter what distance you plan to race this season, make sure you are starting off with a strong base before you build into the next phase of your training. This approach will safeguard you against injury, keep you healthy, help your race times come down and be a happier athlete in the process.

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.

 

 

Bike Racing Over Winter – Why All Triathletes Should Give It A Go

When heading into winter or the offseason, most triathletes will sit down and review the running calendar to see which run races they will incorporate as part of their training. But how many triathletes sit down and mull over the cycling calendar to decide which bike races they will enter? Surprisingly, or not, only a small minority.

I’m not talking about your mass group/participation rides; I’m talking about actually ‘bike racing’ – where you pin on a number, line up against pure cyclists and race for placings.

This got me thinking, and I wondered why only a small number of triathletes participate in bike racing. When I delved a little deeper, I learnt that unless a triathlete comes from a cycling background, they don’t really know a great deal about the cycling community. Triathletes may feel intimidated or don’t even know where to start, so they simply don’t even bother considering it. The thought of crashing also puts many triathletes off and can be one of the reasons many triathletes are too nervous to give bike racing a go. Along with this, many triathlon coaches aren’t involved in the cycling community either, so they don’t discuss the option of including bike racing into a triathletes training program, as they too don’t know enough about the sport to add it.

If you are looking at focusing on the bike leg over winter, I’ll show you why and how to incorporate bike racing into your training mix to help you become a stronger and more skilled cyclist, so you can transform into a stronger all round triathlete.

WHY you should incorporate bike racing into your training:

1.    Build your bike skills

In swimming, we practice and incorporate tumble turns into training even though we don’t need the specific skill in racing, but we know the benefits it offers. In cycling, developing, practising and incorporating bike skills is exactly the same. Traditionally triathletes are not known for their bike handling and skills. This is mainly because triathletes don’t see the need to learn these skills as we don’t use them in racing. However, the skills you develop in bike racing, just like the skills developed in open water swim events, help you to develop the necessary skills to become a better cyclist and bike handler overall. This is not only beneficial to you becoming faster but also helps for safety reasons too. Plus, the more skilled you are on the bike, the more confident you will be and the more you will be able to push yourself – whether when riding by yourself or in a faster group. 

2.    Race specific skills (draft legal)

Bike racing helps you develop key race specific bike skills, including drafting, bike handling, strategic racing skills and more, and the winter season is the perfect time to hone these skills against other top cyclists. It’s hard to simulate this type of racing and skills in training, so bike races, and in particular criterium racing, are the perfect way to improve these skills.

3.    Provides winter motivation

If you are a fair weather rider or sometimes struggle for motivation with getting on the bike in the dark/cold winter months, then entering some bike racing events is an excellent way to get out and get your long ride done, and keep the motivation high. Just the same as entering running events over winter, bike racing allows you to stay focused, and have something to work towards during the times when triathlon races seem so far away.

4.    Train and race with those stronger than you

To become better at something, you should train with those who are better than you. Most triathletes will consider themselves decent runners until they enter run events and run against pure runners. The same goes for cycling. Enter into a bike race or two, and you will soon learn that even the strongest triathlete riders will find it hard to compare to the strongest cyclists. This is a great way to challenge and push yourself against some of the strongest in their field and drive yourself to become stronger yourself.

5.    Changing your training stimulus

If you have been training and racing for a few years, you will probably find you go through a similar winter season year after year. Long aerobic and hilly rides, building up the duration or the elevation over the months, but essentially the same (or very similar) training stimulus each year is rolled out. There’s a great saying: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always got.” Bike racing incorporates a great mix of different training stimulus on the body’s energy systems – aerobic (sitting in the bunch), threshold (chasing a pack), VO2 (holding off a chase) strength (hills), power (sprinting to the finish). And just like any other event/race, it’s hard to simulate these top efforts in training, and so racing can give you that extra five to 10 percent you may be looking for. Changing up your training and including a different stimulus such as bike racing can provide you with the stimulus your training may just be looking for.

6.    It’s safer than you think

Yes, there are crashes in races, and you may see them happen, but it doesn’t mean you will be involved in one. I’ve raced for three years and haven’t had one crash. In general, crashes happen because an athlete takes too big of a risk (and it doesn’t come off), or because an athlete stops concentrating or isn’t aware of the other athletes. This can all happen in training too. If you’re scared of crashing, my advice is to race to your ability, know your limits, and develop the skills and confidence over time. And again, just like in swimming, position yourself in a pack where you feel comfortable. In bike racing, if you are not confident, the worst place you can sit is in the middle of the pack. So, start off by learning from the peloton on the back or side of the pack, and get a feel for the other riders and gain your confidence. Then make your way into the pack, taking turns and making moves. For my first few races, all I did was sit on the back, watch and learn. This was the best thing I could ever do to learn and stay safe!

7.    Keeping it fun

If you feel like you have started to lose your mojo on the bike, or training in general, changing things up can be a breath of fresh air. Having a new and different focus over winter can help to bring back your motivation and throwing in some bike racing may just be the catalyst you need!

HOW to include bike racing into your training:

Have I convinced you yet, to give bike racing a go this winter? Awesome! Here are some key things to get you started:

1.    Equipment: You will need a road bike – tri bikes are illegal in road races.

2.    Watch and learn: Head down to a local race to first watch a race in action. Watch how the experienced riders navigate the peloton, the lines they take, how they spend their time and energy in a pack, and how they set themselves up for attacks or the finish line sprint. Watching and learning can be one of the best ways to learn from the best.

3.    Join a cycling Club: The cycling culture and club support are fantastic, so I suggest simply finding a club close to you and enquiring with them. A list of clubs is available from your state cycling body (i.e., Cycling Victoria). Clubs are fantastic at supporting those new to the sport and can provide you with plenty of guidance and information on getting started. Note: most Clubs will have a small annual fee to join.

4.    Have the basic skills: Even though you will use racing to develop your bike skills, it is still important that you are competent and comfortable on local group/training rides first. Basic bike skills that you will need include not only having base fitness/endurance but also base bike handling skills, knowledge of pack etiquette, knowing how to draft and corner, and having rider/situational awareness – these are all essential to riding safely. In bike racing (and pack riding in general) you want smooth movements rather than sudden changes. You also want to hold a constant line through corners. If you are unsure whether your skills are up to scratch, most local cycling clubs offer bike skills courses and trials before entering a race.

5.    Get your insurance: Just like Triathlon Australia, Cycling Australia requires you to hold a license for insurance purposes to race. A great way to ‘try before you buy’ is purchasing a three-race license so you can try out a few races before signing up to an annual Cycling Australia Membership.

6.    Choose your event/s: There are a number of different types of bike racing including road races, criteriums, time trials and two to three-day tours, all of which are an excellent way to improve your skills, strength and performance on the bike. A time trial is an easy one to start with, and you may want to gravitate towards this, but really they are more like a triathlon than a bike race. Criteriums only happen over the summer season, so in winter, road races are a great place to start. Start by choosing road races on courses that are less technical until you build up your confidence. Find out what races are on in your area/state by contacting the state cycling body (Cycling Australia).

7.    Find your grade: Most races are graded A, B, C, D, etc., with grade A being the strongest, and cyclists are graded accordingly, based on previous races. If this is going to be your first bike race start in a lower grade and ease yourself into racing – you can always move up once you gain your confidence. There is nothing worse than entering a grade above your ability and getting dropped by the bunch in the first five minutes and finding yourself riding by yourself for the rest of the race.

8.    Give it a go: Once you have done your research, it’s simply about biting the bullet, entering and giving it a go!

As you sit down over winter and plan your season, throw up the idea of incorporating bike racing into your training mix. Then watch as your bike strength and endurance improves along with your enjoyment!

Written by Coach Sarah, as previously published in Australian Triathlete Magazine

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Sarah is the Director & Head Coach at Complete Per4mance Coaching. Born out of the desire and passion to not just coach but to educate athletes, Sarah shares her 10 years of coaching and racing experience, knowledge and education with athletes of all levels to help them achieve their optimal performance while maintaining a balanced, happy and healthy life.

Contact Sarah to discuss training options for you.