In light of the extended lockdown, and the government asking us to stay home for a further three weeks, it seems ever so fitting to publish this article now.
Last week, I posted on social media asking for ideas for my next blog. I received a few requests, but the one that stood out the most was ‘’how am I coaching my athletes in lockdown, and how are you keeping them motivated with their events being cancelled?’’
Fortunately for me, my athletes all are well motivated anyway, but for some of the Full Distance athletes who have had lead up 70.3 events cancelled or postponed will be simply completing the distance on the exact same day in a mock event so that training peaks keep them on track for their peak events later in the year. Then the athletes who had their Full Distance events postponed have been put back into base training so that we do not have to worry about a double peak.
In the short term, some of my athletes are still awaiting new dates so they feel they have nothing to train for, so by implementing motivational strategies I have been setting some of them micro goals or personal bests to aim for, and not all of these will be the obvious FTP personal best, but other less subtle goals like increasing their range of motion, or working on running economy and pedaling techniques.
In the U.K, even though we can train outside, I have been recommending indoor training as much as possible and advising my athletes to spend their dailly exercise token by going for a nice relaxing walk. Not only does this reduce the chance of contracting Covid-19, it also reduces the chance of hospitalisation from a cycling or running injury, and this is defeating the object of lock down any way.
Ironically, I started writing this blog whilst watching World Champion Ironman, Jan Frodeno, complete an indoor full distance mock event, and personally, I am trying to stand up and move every 30 minutes or so to stop my hips from seizing up after completing my 18km long run on the treadmill on the same morning, and I also completed 160 km on the turbo trainer the following day. Even Gerrard Thomas in now on day 2/3 of doing 12 hour turbo days.
I am not expecting people to go and do what Jan Frodeno has done, and go and smash out a Full Distance event at home. I also appreciate people do not have treadmills etc, but by training as much in doors as possible, then you are not only going to be safer physically, but mentally, you are going to be in a better place come race day post Covid-19. Trust me, if you can beat the demons telling you to quit in your pain cave, you are more than likely going to able to beat them on race day (well unless you melt on race day that is, but that is a whole different blog in itself).
If you are like me, I find running on a treadmill mind numbingly boring. It is like you are in a quantum break and stuck in time. I don’t know if this is because I am literally looking at the countdown clock, if its because I am going nowhere, or if its because I love the outdoors so much? I don’t know. One thing I am looking forward to getting is my run pod though so I can connect to Zwift and make it more fun like I have on my turbo.
Nonetheless, no matter how mundane, drawn out or physically/mentally tough these sessions are, I always have the right mentality to get through them, and more importantly my events. In fact, in all the 60+ triathlons I have competed in around the World, I have only ever DNF two of them, and that is due to circumstances out of my control. I even pushed through a ruptured achilleas tendon and still come in 7th place at the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon which is not a good idea to do, but when this is the most iconic race on the planet and cost thousands to go, you can understand why.
Exactly how I like to do this is, and this isn’t a one size fits all, but I like to decompartmentalise the sessions or events which can fall into what is called imagery, and by also having an optimistic mindset throughout.
Firstly, imagery, and I apologise for getting all academic, but I am not a sports psychologist so I have returned to some books.
So, how is thinking about pole vaulting over the 3-metre bar, hitting the perfect serve, or sinking the perfect putt going to help athletes accomplish these things? Well, according to Marks (1997), it’s because we can generate information from memory that is essentially the same as the actual experience, consequently, imagining events can have an effect on our nervous system similar to that of the real, or actual experience. Then to elaborate further, Pavio (1985) proposed that imagery plays two central functions: a cognitive (thought related), function and a motivational (energising) function. The cognitive function entails using imagery to experience sports skills and statergise in advance of competition, whereas the motivational function involves using imagery to obtain goals, to cope effectively with the demands of the sport, and to also manage arousal levels.
So back to triathletes layman's terms, imagine being in swim and you are having the worst experience of your life because the water is choppy, you are getting smashed by competitors, or like when I did the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, I was shitting my pants about the fact there are great white sharks feeding off sea lions that may remotely look like myself in a black wetsuit from the murky depths of the bay. Then try and imagine transition 1, go through taking your wetsuit off, helmet on, number belt on etc etc… then when your legs are screaming at you ‘’please stop, please stop’’ then think of t2… then in the run when your quads are on fire, your diaphragm is on fire, and all you want to do is quit, then just think of that beer on the finish line, make sense? Also, if you are a competitive athlete, and if you have imagined a win before you even started, then this too can help performance. Likewise, try this during your training session, decompartmentalise each interval, segment, or milestone, actually is milestone such a thing in triathlon, no body uses miles any more do they?
we have all heard the common expression "Is the glass half empty, or half full?", well this is a proverbial phrase, generally used rhetorically to indicate that a particular situation could be a cause for pessimism (half empty) or optimism (half full), or as a general litmus test to simply determine an individual's worldview. How is this relevant to the triathlete? Well, during your 10km treadmill run, do you think ‘’sweet I have already run 5 km, and I only have 5km to go’’? Or do you think ‘’jeez, I have only ran 5 km, and I have another 5 km to go?’’ This can also be done in racing, think right, ‘’that is the swim and bike done, I only have a half marathon to go, or think “sweet, one lap down, two to go’’, not the opposite.
Even watching Jan Frodeno the other day, despite him having people around him and a full 8 hours of commentary to distract him mentally, but right at the end when he was in physiological pain, he said I only have to run the same distance as a 70.3 swim, then I have completed this thing, and its tricks like those that will not only help us get through training indoors, but also help us get through this crazy period in time.
Once again, thank you for reading my blogs, and please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions or enquiries.
Yours in health.