As triathletes, especially us that consider going long, I like to think we all have an inconceivable amount of mental strength. It’s all too easy to come home from work after a long day and give that 2-hour run a miss. But these are the sessions that make us stronger, and from my perspective probably the most important, so we push through and get them done.
The reason this popped into my head you might ask? Well I was on my way home after a long day at work, to get changed and go straight back out for a long tempo run. I found the whole way home I was thinking; I would rather do some hill sprints or I would rather do a speed session, anything but the one I had been set to do.
This isn’t the first time this has happened, and I do remember when I was self-coached, picking and choosing between sessions when I was feeling tired, always opting for the ones that I was comfortable with, or that gave me the most joy. Ultimately this led to a very unbalanced training plan.
In addition, if I have a particularly big key session after work, I can often find myself stressing about it during the day However this is something I have become better at over the last few months.
So, this raised a question to me, why is it mentally easier for me to complete some sessions than others.
It is obvious that it is intrinsically linked to motivation. I recently read an article on dopamine, which suggested that Dopamine performs its tasks before we obtain rewards. Its job is therefore to encourage us to act, whether this be to achieve something good or to avoid something bad. (link at bottom of page)
Leading further on this idea, and I find that a lot of my motivation, aside from wanting to be my very best, comes from fear that if I miss a session I will pay for it both in terms of my fitness and on race day. Missing one long run in turn makes the next one harder due to the pressure I put on myself as to not fail again.
So how do I make myself do the correct session. I focus on how I will feel once the session is complete. I touched on this in one of my old blogs, differentiating between type 1 and type 2 fun. I also know I will feel guilty if I deviate away from my plan, and having a coach to which I am accountable has helped sevenfold. Oh, and completing the session gives me permission to take the cheesiest photo at the end for Instagram…
Secondly, I shall mutter the world overtraining. This is something I have struggled with in the past and I have no doubt thousands of other triathletes have too. We can become so driven, that rest days become some sort of evil thing coming to ruin our fitness, make us lazy and feel inadequate, especially when others just seem to never struggle.
Since becoming coached and having the control taken from me, I have learned to listen to my body. If I need an extra day off, or to miss one session I do (although that’s not to say I don’t feel guilty.)
Finally, nutrition. Now I have read many inspirational articles and stories about people getting fit and shedding the pounds. Being one of these people, I can honestly say the hardest bit isn’t necessarily losing the weight. More knowing how and when to stop. Training 6 days a week for long distance events requires a significant amount of fuel. This is something I have learned the hard way, and I now enjoy my training a lot more, and have much more energy for everything else in my life.
If I don’t feel like doing a certain session I start by asking myself why. There is a good chance this is because I am tired, low on calories or haven’t had adequate rest. If this I the case I look at factors that could have caused this. I have come to realise there is no point in dragging a dead body around for a few hours, may as well rest and have 100% sessions for the rest of the week.
I try to keep a training diary recording how I feel each day. That way it is easy to look back and see how different sessions and daily activities affect my moods. This is especially important as I have quite an active job, so getting enough calories in is crucial for energy sustainment.
I have a skewed idea of the word ‘lazy’. It is very easy to get lost in the world of sport and triathlon, especially when many the friends you have are also quite active. While we are always on a quest to be the best we can be. It is important to take a step back and remember there is more to life than triathlon. Many people look in awe at people that can complete an IRONMAN, remember that!
The sessions that are mentally the toughest give you massive bang for your buck on race day. After all race day will be mentally very tough and these sessions give you a massive amount of self-belief. I think one of these in my IRONMAN training was my 120-mile brick run, having done the distance previously, I had no doubt I was able to do it again on race day. After all, when the going gets tough, the tough get going!
Are there any other motivational tips you guys use in training?
As always thanks for reading and a massive thanks to Ellementri for my beautiful trisuits <3
Pocket Rocket Rach