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. ūüėČ

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. ūüôā

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 ūü•õ¬†
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! ūüėĀūüôĆūüŹĽ (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!) ūüėČ 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. ūüôā

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!) ūüėČ

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. ūüôā

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…. ūüėČ


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. ūüôā 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!) ūüėČ 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! ūüėČ

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… ūüôā

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! ūüôā
  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! ūüėČ
  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. ūüôā 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. ūüôā
  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. ūüôā

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.



IN FOCUS: Riding to start a conversation

The Pukaup Grand Tour¬†is a ride headed by former AFL star and PukaUp CEO Wayne Schwass. This years ride kicked off at Marvell Stadium and travels 10 days and nearly 2000km through some of Victoria’s most challenging terrain. The purpose of the tour is raise awareness and start conversations around mental health, aiming to stamp out suicide.

Alarmingly, 3,128 Australian’s took their life in 2017, the equal highest recorded rate in the past decade. That’s an average of eight Australians every day.

Puka Up is a social enterprise founded by one of Australia‚Äôs leading mental health advocates, Wayne Schwass.¬†Having battled silently with his own mental health for much of his sporting career, Wayne is now a dedicated mental health advocate, committed to raising awareness about mental health, emotional wellbeing and suicide prevention. In the Hindi language, Pukka means ‚Äėauthentic and genuine‚Äô.

‚ÄúOur vision is to make genuine conversations around mental health a part of everyday life, with the aim to eliminate suicide.”

CPC had athletes Stuart Grimsey and Aaron Mulkearns join the tour  this year, supporting the cause along with their family businesses Grimsey Wealth and Tobin Brothers Funerals.

In only it’s second year, this years tour threw challenges at everyone involved.¬†Days often started before light, ended after dark and included hills, heat, wind, rain and long rough country roads. It brought up self reflection, vulnerabilities, physical and emotional pain, but with riders having the support of each other, they all helped each other complete the 10 gruelling days and over 2000kms.

The ride not only takes a huge physical toll on each of the riders, it is emotionally just as hard for everyone involved.

We sat down with rider and athlete Stuart ‘Stu’ Grimsey to learn more about this incredible experience and what it meant to him.

What drew you to the PukaUp organisation and made you want to participate and support the 2019 PukaUp grand tour ?
Our business Grimsey Wealth is a fully integrated financial services business that specialises in medical and dental professionals. We found that through our business a large number of clients were having mental health problems and after speaking with a friend realised that Puka Up would be the perfect vehicle for our business to give back to our client base for a cause that touches so many directly or indirectly.

You had a procedure on your heart only weeks before the ride began, talk us through that and the added challenge that brought for you. 
4 weeks prior to the ride starting I had a procedure called a catheter ablation for an arrhythmia or irregular heart beat. The procedure lasted no more than 2 hours to correct the arrhythmia and a further 2 weeks of rest was required before easing back in to some light training with the 10 day ride acting as a test to see if the procedure was successful. I experienced no arrhythmia throughout the 10 day Puka Up grand tour and this had a positive impact on my confidence knowing that the arrhythmia had been cured.

You have previously ridden as a professional cyclist, riding and racing in Europe, how would you compare your time over there to the physical and emotional challenge of this charity ride?
When I was competing full time in cycling events in Europe I was at a much higher level of conditioning and was able to recover a lot quicker on a day to day basis however this coupled with the emotional fatigue made the ride extremely challenging. I found it incredibly challenging mentally being on the bike anywhere from 8 to 13 hours a day, that if I compared that to a race in Europe you’re probably looking at covering some of those distances in 4 to 6 hours and focusing on the race dynamics rather than relaxed longer base kilometre type riding.

What did you find was the biggest challenge for you over the 10 days?
Apart from being away from loved ones, the biggest challenge was making sure I stayed on top of my hydration and not over using sugary drinks, gels and energy bars to help ensure I didn’t have stomach issues.

What was the most significant point for you in the journey? Did you have a ‚Äėthis is why I am here‚Äô moment?
For me this moment came on the evening of day two of our ride into Benalla, when one of our support staff spoke of their journey and experience with mental health. A couple of days later we rode to Mount Hotham and the story from a couple of nights before stuck in my mind. After speaking to strangers at stops on our way to Mount Hotham, I soon realised that we were generating awareness and I realised how important these conversations were that Puka Up was trying to create. Not one rider had an easy day that day and it was clear how important having support around you is.

What is your biggest take away from your involvement with PukaUp that you can now take into your day to day life?
The need to continue these conversations about suicide prevention and to assist our business in creating safe environments and normalising the conversation around mental health and emotional wellbeing.

What is the main message you want to continue to share?
If someone you know is having trouble with their mental health guide them to talk to someone that they feel comfortable with whether it be a loved one, friend, colleague or your family doctor.

And the big question- would you do it again? 100% I would do it all again!

You can view some more of the incredible photos from the tour here. 

How to qualify for Ironman World Championships Kona

SO ‚Äď 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 ‚Äėif only‚Äô. 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 ‚Äėmaybe, just maybe‚Äô, no matter which side you come from, I‚Äôve 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‚Äôt 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 ‚Äď 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¬†‚Äď 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‚Äôt skip over this and just think ‚ÄėI‚Äôll train more‚Äô. 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‚Äôs 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‚Äôs vital to review your racing ‚Äď 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‚Äôt¬†just say ‚Äėoh I blew up on the run, I need to run more‚Äô. 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‚Äôt 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‚Äôt taken up spots yet, so traditionally not as many spots ‚Äėroll down‚Äô. 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 ‚Äď it‚Äôs 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¬†‚Äď 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‚Äôt ready.¬†So¬†again¬†be open and honest with your coach and be willing to ‚Äėwait it out‚Äô, 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 ‚Äď 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‚Äôt just mean saying flippantly ‚ÄúI‚Äôd love to qualify for Kona one day‚ÄĚ ‚Äď as that‚Äôs not commitment, that‚Äôs a¬†merely a¬†wish. BUT¬†if you said to me¬†‚ÄúI want to do whatever it takes to qualify for Kona in X years‚ÄĚ ‚Äď 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‚Äôs not just how hard and how long you can train for, or just nailing your favourite sessions, it‚Äôs about doing the things that you may not want to do, or don‚Äôt 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.

 

Fire up your training

You‚Äôve been training for a few years now,¬†results¬†happened¬†quickly,¬†improvements kept coming,¬†you felt¬†unstoppable, riding the high of your triathlon successes.¬†But¬†as quickly as the results came, you suddenly¬†feel like your improvements are slowly withering away and your shot at another PB seems like¬†a distant memory. You¬†keep training¬†but¬†your body¬†just doesn’t¬†seem to¬†respond like it used to. Paces seem to be faltering, or even slowing down, energy and motivation¬†wavering, race results¬†diminishing.¬†Does¬†this¬†sound¬†like you? Good news is ‚Ästyou¬†are¬†not¬†alone.¬†Most¬†athletes hit¬†a¬†plateau at some point in their training. We often see it in athletes after 2-3 years in the sport, but it can happen at any time.¬†So¬†with¬†some understanding, practical tips and know how ‚Äď you can smash¬†through¬†the plateau and be back on your way to your next PB in no time.¬†¬†

What is a training plateau? 
Firstly, to understand why you have hit a training plateau, we must understand what it is.  When you put your body under physical exertion or physical stress (training), it creates a multitude of physiological responses at a cellular level in your body. Once the body is stimulated by the stress (training) it then goes through a process of adaption to meet the demands of the stress. As adaption occurs, the body is then better equipped (adapted) to handle the training load and it therefore becomes easier (ie you become faster / stronger / more efficient).  

Training increases must then be applied to elicit further physiological responses in the body and to continue improvement. This can be done in a number or combination of ways including increases in frequency, duration and/or intensity. If not, or if you don’t allow the adaption process to occur (through over training or under recovering) then your body will undoubtably hit the dreaded training wall plateau.  

Hitting a training wall or plateau is a frustrating part of training¬†that most athletes will¬†unfortunately¬†experience at some point. The key is¬†recognising¬†it¬†and making changes so¬†you¬†don’t¬†find yourself¬†stuck there and¬†treading water¬†for too long.¬†So¬†if you are consistent with your training, but have stopped seeing the¬†results,¬†try¬†these¬†practical¬†and effective tips and training methods¬†to smash your way through that training wall plateau¬†and reap some serious results (and PB‚Äôs!) as a result.¬†¬†

1.¬†Don’t just train more
I put this first, as it’s often the ‘go to’ for athletes if they find themselves in a plateau. This can¬†often¬†be the worst thing you can do,¬†especially¬†if you have hit that wall due¬†to over training or¬†under recovering in the first place.¬†Overtraining generally leads to fatigue, injury and/or¬†underperforming, all that¬†go hand in¬†hand¬†with hitting a plateau.¬†So¬†if you find yourself in this situation, don’t immediately just train more.¬†Yes¬†it’s important to be disciplined and consistent with your training, but it’s also crucial that you pay attention and listen to your body.¬†If you have been training¬†consistently, then look at other signs and reasons as to why you have found yourself in a¬†plateau (read on).¬†More training doesn’t necessarily equate to better results.¬†¬†

2. Get the balance right
How much you train, and the type of training you do over time, along with the amount of recovery and/or the recovery methods¬†you¬†employ will all help ensure¬†your training¬†keeps¬†progressing. A¬†well-developed¬†training plan/program will incorporate frequency, intensity and duration to elicit a specific physiological response¬†at specific times in your training.¬†Training increases are needed¬†for a¬†progressive overload¬†but it is¬†the amount of overload applied to the body¬†that¬†is the key. Too much and you risk injury, illness and over training, not enough and you won’t get the physical response to improve.¬†To¬†continue to¬†see improvements, your training plan must stimulate the body at the¬†new fitness level. Adaption then takes place again¬†(the plateau)¬†and¬†so¬†the¬†process¬†then¬†continues. If you get to a point where you aren’t coming out of your plateau, then review the frequency, intensity and duration of your sessions to ensure a continued improvement.¬†Sometimes it¬†can mean¬†not¬†quite having the balance right or at the right times that sees you landing in a plateau for longer than planned.

3. Mix it up
One of the reasons¬†you¬†may have hit a plateau is¬†because¬†you are stuck in the same training routine.¬†That training routine may have worked well in the past, but it doesn’t¬†mean it is right for you now. Our bodies are very smart and extremely good at adapting to outside stress, so if you don’t mix things up, it can not¬†only¬†affect¬†your results, but it can also affect your motivation¬†too.¬†So¬†make sure you mix¬†things¬†up every now and then. It doesn’t¬†have to be¬†drastic, but¬†just by¬†changing up a block or period in our training such as¬†backing off your running and bumping up your riding can freshen up your run and boost your ride at the same time.¬†Or¬†if you are always prescribed an aerobic, high volume training¬†program, try adding some more intensity into your training. You may even want¬†to¬†try and¬†flip things around, start your build with some intensity, and then move back to aerobic and strength. Remember there is always more than one way to¬†achieve results.¬†So¬†don’t get stuck in your ways. Change it up and¬†then¬†monitor your results¬†to¬†ensure you are getting back on track.

4. Embrace recovery
If you are one of those athletes that fears taking a day off training, you are actually more susceptible to hitting the dreaded training wall plateau.
A body¬†grows and becomes stronger¬†and¬†faster AFTER it has adapted to¬†a training¬†stimuli.¬†So¬†the amount of rest and recovery you give your body is just as important as the training itself. Without sufficient recovery, over time your body won’t be able to¬†absorb the training load and make the¬†adaptations¬†to increase performance.
Think of this¬†process¬†like climbing¬†a¬†staircase. You can’t keep climbing¬†at the same rate and the same intensity forever. At some point you will need to stop and rest so you can¬†recharge and¬†keep going.¬†That’s what recovery days / sessions allow.¬†A chance¬†for your body¬†to recharge so you can then hit¬†your next sessions¬†stronger.¬†¬†So¬†if you are constantly fatigued, sore, or not hitting¬†your¬†target times or efforts in training,¬†there’s a good chance that you are simply not giving¬†your¬†body sufficient rest and recovery.¬†So¬†listen to your body and back it off a little if you need.¬†Try taking a day or two off to regain both your physical and mental strength.¬†You may just¬†be surprised with how taking¬†just¬†a few days off can actually help not hinder your training and performance.¬†So¬†don’t¬†fear recovery sessions or days. Embrace them.

5. Go hard on hard days, easy on easy days
Far too many athletes spend time in the ‘grey’ zone. Sitting in that middle ground of training. I understand it, it feels like you’ve had a good work out, but still got some left in the tank, it’s not¬†super¬†hard, but not easy¬†either.¬†But there lies¬†the problem.¬†Each type of session has a purpose¬†at specific times in¬†your training build. If you are always training in that ‘grey’ zone, you will miss the benefits of building a sounds aerobic base and therefore stunt your maximum aerobic¬†function¬†(your engine!),¬†and at the other end, you will never hit hard sessions hard enough to¬†effectively¬†improve your¬†VO2Max¬†‚Äď which is what every athlete should be¬†aiming for.¬†Plus¬†another down-side ‚Äď you are at an increased risk of¬†over training and/or under recovering.¬†¬†So¬†know and have a purpose for every session you¬†do. If the purpose is aerobic base development, train in that zone, if it’s technique, go slow and focus, if it’s VO2max¬†or speed, go hard¬†and fast.¬†Save the tempo and¬†threshold¬†training for race specific sessions when they are needed, and they certainly aren’t needed¬†in¬†every¬†session.

6. Include specific training blocks
Many athletes get stuck into the ‘3 swims, 3 rides, 3 runs’¬†routine and then find themselves stagnating in one or more of the 3 disciplines. To give your training¬†a little¬†boost,¬†while still balancing your time and recovery,¬†look at including a¬†block¬†of training which focuses on one or two¬†disciplines¬†for a specific period of time, not all three. As an example:
Plan a 6 week ‘swim’ block if you have found you aren’t making progress in your swim. You might still train 9 times a week, but the ratio may be 5 swims, 2 runs, 2 rides. Similar plans can be done for¬†the¬†bike and run.

7. Add a training spike 
If you feel like you train specifically,¬†you tried the recovery,¬†have¬†a good balance but still feel like you are in a rut, the next step might be a training spike. A training spike can often come in the form of a training camp. Training camps provide a training spike through a condensed training overload over a specific period of time ‚Äď generally from 3-5days. Your aim is to¬†overload your¬†training during that specific period, then allow¬†sufficient recovery¬†and you¬†should see the benefits a few weeks¬†later.¬†You can¬†choose to attend a specific training camp, or you can¬†simulate¬†your own at home. As an example, you might normally swim 3km on a Friday morning,¬†ride 3hours in the hills on a¬†Saturday and¬†run 1hour on¬†Sunday. A training spike over the same¬†3 day¬†period may look like the following*:

Friday AM: 3km aerobic strength based pool swim
Friday PM: 45-60min easy technique focused aerobic run
Saturday AM: 4hour aerobic strength based hills ride
Saturday LUNCH: 2km easy recovery pool swim
Saturday PM: 60-90min aerobic strength based run
SUNDAY AM: 3hour flat aerobic ride
Sunday LUNCH: 45min easy technique focused run

*Keep in mind that¬†everyone’s¬†training load and demand¬†is¬†different. Depending on the time of the year and phase in your training program, your training spike might focus on increased¬†frequency,¬†duration, intensity or a combination¬†of all three. It should also have a particular focus based on where you are at in your training¬†such as aerobic strength¬†base¬†or¬†race specific phase.

8. Plan a bi-annual /annual recovery phase
A sound training plan will build you up over time, aiming to peak you for your specific¬†key¬†race/s, then include a recovery or transition period where¬†you¬†enjoy some recovery and down time.¬†Too many athletes are frightened of having time off after a key race for fear of¬†loosing¬†the fitness they worked so hard¬†for.¬†Yes ‚Äď you will¬†see some decline in¬†fitness after a week or so, but it is necessary. If you don’t,¬†you actually run the risk of¬†under recovering.¬†The key though¬†is not stopping fully. In general, aim to move your body for fun, enjoyment and exercise ‚Äď rather than viewing it as training. Try something new, jump on a mountain bike, sign up to a yoga class, go on a¬†hike… the list is endless.¬†The movement and exercise¬†will help maintain some fitness while fast tracking your recovery.¬†Our bodies can’t be at their peak¬†year round, so take some time off after a key race to refresh physically and just as importantly mentally, and you will come back even stronger for your next race¬†or season.¬†¬†

9. Seek out a coach
When you started out in the sport, you may have¬†been training yourself,¬†joining¬†in¬†on¬†group sessions¬†or even following a template training plan. But as you progress, your training needs to progress¬†too.¬†So¬†if you are serious about¬†improving,¬†it may¬†be¬†time¬†to seek¬†additional guidance through a¬†Coach. A Coach¬†can provide¬†a¬†training program¬†that¬†is¬†periodised, with¬†specific training blocks¬†and cycles to help you get¬†the most out of your training, and also¬†leap you¬†out of¬†that¬†plateau.¬†Do¬†some¬†research¬†on Coaches¬†that¬†provide¬†individualised¬†training programs¬†designed¬†for you. It will cost you a little¬†more, but¬†don’t¬†underestimate the value a¬†personalised¬†coach¬†who¬†can add to your training and progression as an athlete.¬†

Although there can be a number of reasons for a training plateau, most of the time you can come out the other side with just a few small changes to your training, recovery or lifestyle to get you are back on your way. So instead of getting stuck behind the training plateau wall, listen to your body and make some changes to ensure you are back on your way to your next PB in no time!  

 

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.

 

 

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 ‚Äď even though you know eating better would improve your recovery and/or performance. Or training when injured for fear of¬†losing¬†fitness ‚Äď 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‚Äôt a ‚Äėswimmer‚Äô, ‚Äėrider‚Äô, ‚Äėrunner‚Äô¬†
  • 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‚Äôt ‚Äėgood‚Äô enough¬†
  • You doubt your ability and don‚Äôt believe in yourself¬†
  • You say to others how you go doesn‚Äôt matter to you to avoid disappointment¬†
  • You feel unrelenting pressure and expectations to achieve¬†
  • You often say ‚ÄėI‚Äôm ONLY doing a sprint‚Äô, or I‚Äôm ‚ÄėJUST doing the half‚Äô¬†

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.¬†‚Äúwhere¬†the mind goes the body will follow‚Ä̬†A practice I‚Äôve 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 ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to nail this session‚ÄĚ ‚Äď 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: ‚ÄúI can‚Äôt‚ÄĚ, try ‚ÄúI‚Äôm going to¬†give it my best shot‚ÄĚ
or instead of¬†‚ÄėI‚Äôm never going to be good at swimming‚Ä̬†try ‚ÄúI‚Äôm¬†making progress¬†every day‚Ä̬†

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 ‚Äď who doesn‚Äôt 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‚Äôt 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 ‚Äďnot¬†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¬†‚ÄėA‚Äô type¬†athletes have¬†incredibly high expectations of¬†themselves and their performance. However at the same time it can actually hinder an athlete‚Äôs¬†performance. Because here‚Äôs the thing, nothing¬†or no one¬†is truly ever perfect, as much as someone may try.¬†I don‚Äôt say that to stop you from¬†striving¬†for and chasing¬†your goals, or¬†be comfortable with settling¬†for ‚Äėmiddle of the pack‚Äô,¬†but at the same time¬†you don‚Äôt need to¬†drive yourself into the ground trying to achieve perfection ‚Äď because it‚Äôs 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‚Äôt quite go to plan.¬†¬†

You may also find if¬†your race isn‚Äôt going to your ‚Äėperfect plan‚Äô 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 ‚Äď and that‚Äôs 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‚Äôt ‚Äėperfect‚Äô. Those races that¬†are the ones we learn from the most.¬†¬†

5. The pressure of expectation
Pressure can manifest itself physically ‚Äď through increased adrenaline, breathing and heart rate, it can be mental¬†‚Äď either positive or negative thoughts, and/or emotional¬†‚Äď 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.