10 Tips for Transitioning Back into Training and Making This Your Greatest Year Yet!
Let’s face it – is the thought of sleeping in more appealing than your bike trainer at 5am on a Monday morning? I don’t blame you. This time of year, with the holidays behind us, and a looming race season ahead – It can be tough to make the transition from party mode back into training mode. Especially when faced with colder weather and shorter days.
That said, you probably have a late spring or early summer race on the calendar and it’s time to get back to work in preparation. It’s critical to not only build a solid training foundation and base, but to make sure you have set up goals for the season, and have taken a good look at your equipment and made necessary replacements and changes. Mental and physical preparation are the keys to laying the groundwork for a highly successful race season.
Here are 10 tips to help get you motivated and back into the swing of things:
- Sign-up for a Race and Set Season Goals. The easiest way to get your rear in gear is to set a definitive deadline by signing up for a race. Is this the year you want to do your first triathlon, half marathon, or Ironman? By setting realistic and achievable goals for the season, with definitive time frames and dates, you can then work backwards and create a training plan with a few smaller mile markers along the way to help keep you motivated and on track. If your goal is to race you first Olympic distance triathlon in July for example, however you can do little more than a doggie paddle, then signing up for swim coaching at the local pool would be a definitive first step. If your goal it to do a late fall Ironman, then a mid-summer half Ironman would be the perfect mile marker to help you focus on smaller steps to achieve your goals.
- Join a New Training Group. Mixing things up can be refreshing, challenging and fun. Join a local running club, strength or spin class at your gym, or masters swim group. The group will often motivate you and encourage you to work a bit harder than you might on your own and will provide structure and accountability by having weekly meeting times. Or, workout with a friend so that you can blend social time with your training. Win-win.
- Set-up a Routine. We are creatures of habit. And yes . . . spending more time at the local pub or pastry shop may have become your off-season routine. It’s time to create some healthy habits. Can’t get out of bed on a Monday morning? Agree to meet a friend at the gym for a swim or lifting session before work. Having a friend to workout with will make you accountable and will start the week on the right foot, leaving you feeling accomplished and energized!
- Upgrade Your Equipment. Nothing adds some pep to your step like some flashy new gear. Did you use the same running shoes all last season and all of the sudden are experiencing pain in your feet, shins, or knees? It’s very likely that our equipment needs replacing this time of year. Check your running and cycling shoes first and foremost for undue wear and tear. Even if they still ‘look’ to be in good condition, it’s likely the insoles have worn down and they are no longer providing proper support which will lead to injuries down the road. It may also be time to swap out your swim goggles, cycling equipment, and training apparel. This may be the year you upgrade your bike and some of the components. You want to make sure that you are safe and comfortable when training and it’s essential to maintain and replace equipment as needed. And of course, there’s nothing like some shiny new gear and flashy apparel to motivate you to get out the door and moving. Look fast, be fast!
- Get a Bike Fit to Recheck your Position. This critical item is often overlooked. “When we go from peak racing shape in the fall, to off-season, and then back to spring base training, our body composition, weight, and flexibility often changes. It’s important to adjust your fit to make the return to long base miles comfortable and enjoyable” advises Ivan O’Gorman, founder of IOG Bike fit and Consulting outside of Boulder, CO. Mid-season is a great time to check back in and make adjustments to your bike fit as you gain fitness and get into race shape. Summer is the time to get more aero. Not in the winter, when you are bundled up like an Eskimo anyways.
- Emphasize Your Nutrition. Feeling slow, sluggish, and lethargic? It may be those holiday cookies, drinks, and one too many peppermint mocha lattes. It’s time to adjust your nutrition from party mode to training mode. Make gradual changes and ensure you are getting the nutrition to fuel your training, leave you energized, and aid recovery. Dialing back on refined sugar and caffeine are two great ways to avoid blood sugar spikes and bonks. “Focus on simple carbohydrates right before, during, and immediately following workouts, and emphasize complex carbohydrates, healthy fats, and protein at meals. Choosing whole foods over refined ones will also go a long way to help with energy levels, fueling, and recovery” recommends Kayla Nelson, NC, of Sage Nourishment.
- Support your Increased Training with Added Recovery. Diving into training all at once – without the necessary changes in equipment, bike fit, and nutrition can be a surefire recipe for injury. To avoid undue aches and pains, make sure you up your recovery game to match the increased training load. Make sure to take a recovery drink or meal within 20-30 minutes of a hard training session. Experts recommend consuming a 3 or 4:1 ration of carbohydrates to protein to replenish glycogen stores and shuttle protein into the muscle for optimal repair and recovery. Also increase the amount of sleep you get each night by shutting down the computer or turning off the TV at a set time. Getting into a routine of going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same hour is best for your body and promotes muscular repair. Products that contain magnesium and tart-cherry, such as Nuun Rest can help the mind relax and the body unwind for a more restful night’s sleep. “Athletes should be sure to get a regular massage or use foam rollers to massage and aerate the muscles, increasing blood and oxygen flow which aids in recovery” recommends Geoff Hower, Co-owner of Fixt Movement and The Recovery Lab, a sports recovery and injury prevention center in Boulder which works with athletes and offers a variety of self-recovery tools and equipment including infrared sauna, Normatec boots, blood oxygen monitors, and inversion table, along with the ever popular ice bath.
- Watch the Ironman World Championships. Nothing like hearing Mike Reilly’s voice on a Kona re-run or Youtube video recap of another race (perhaps one you signed up for this year!) to leave you feeling motivated and inspired. I am lucky enough to race in the pro field, however am humbled and blown away whenever I see the top in our sport compete at Kona. Absolutely awe inspiring.
- Give Back and Pay it Forward. Remember where you came from when you first got into endurance sports and the people and resources that have helped you along your journey. Volunteer with a local community organization such as Athletes Serving Athletes or make one of your races a charity race, to give back to the sport and community. The gift of your time and energy to help motivate others is priceless. When I raced the Leadville 100 Mile Mountain Bike Race on behalf of First Descents, to raise funding for their outdoor programs for young cancer survivors, it was one of the best race experiences of my life. When you give positive energy, it will come back to you.
- It is all About the Baby Steps. Remember that the path to fitness is all about small, consistent, daily achievements as opposed to massive knock-it-out-of-the-park training sessions that might zap your energy for several days or leave you injured. All of the small things really add up, particularly when training for endurance sports. Seek to achieve relentless forward progress by setting up small and achievable goals and working towards them. On the days that you feel like you are floundering, or going backwards, you are really laying the foundation for great things to come. A breakthrough season doesn’t come out of nowhere. It follows several seasons of setting and building a proper foundation. There are no short cuts to success. Following each of the tips above will help to set you in motion and put the pieces in place for a highly successful race season.
Remember, you can achieve anything you put your mind to – as long as you prepare properly and set realistic and achievable goals, then take small, consistent steps towards regular mile markers. Anything is possible. Make it an incredible Year! The first step is changing your mindset, and then getting off the couch. 🙂