Tip of the Week: Mental Preperation

Mental preparation for your race day best

Visualization and mentally preparing before a race are a big part of success (or failure). It’s something I forget to coach on regularly, so here are my thoughts for this week (in the heart of race season)!

Your mind is very powerful and your thoughts have a direct impact on the rest of your body. When preparing for a race, focus on the short term process goals such as how you will feel in the water, what effort you want to settle into on the bike, executing your nutrition/hydration plan, and listening to your body throughout the race. In the days leading up to the race, visualize your race from start to finish. All aspects of the race need to be stated in the positive, see yourself feeling strong, racing with ease, being successful. If you visualize in the ‘what not to do’, you and your performance have a greater chance of falling under that umbrella instead. 

Here is a potential visualization for the start to your race day: I wake up feeling fresh and well rested. I eat a breakfast that will give me energy and help fuel me for success on this day. During my warmup I feel strong and powerful, I’m a race horse in the gates. When the horn sounds at the start of my wave, I immediately dive in and start swimming with powerful strokes. I am moving fast, I’m pushing water, my technique is perfect, I think about having a good catch, I can feel myself surge forward with every stroke, when I sight I am right on target to the first turn buoy, I’m working hard and feeling good, I’m the first one to the turn buoy and easily make the turn, I’m in a groove, I’m passing each buoy one by one, my stroke still feels really good, I’m catching swimmers from the wave ahead of me with ease, I send them good thoughts as I pass, I can see the swim finish banner, I’m making good progress, I’m nearly there, I swim all the way into the shore, I push up off the ground and start running out of the water, knees high, feeling fast, feeling strong, I unzip my wetsuit with ease as I run, peel it down to my waist, cap and goggles come off,… and into transition and the rest of the race. I’m visualizing every little detail (and you can get even way more detailed than this), just keep everything in the current tense as if you are experiencing it right then AND keeping it all in the positive. This visualization process could take 5’ or 50’ depending on your level of detail. It certainly doesn’t have to last as long as your race!

To help you keep your thoughts in the positive, come into each race with a list of mental cues, words or mantras you can speak to yourself when faced with adversity on race day. Some of my favorite mental cues are:
Fight, fight, fight! 
Smooth & powerful. 
You are a lean, mean, racing machine!
Focus, focus, focus. Push, push, push.
Quick feet.
This is supposed to hurt!
I am a force to be reckoned with!
You are crushing it!

I am in the best shape of my life!

I worked hard for this!
What are your favorite positive mental cues? The possibilities are endless.

It is also important, although not when visualizing, to consider all the possible things that could go wrong in a race: big waves, flat tire, switching to a duathlon, high temps, leg cramps, rain, kicked in the face, mean competitors, etc. The list is long and daunting, however, the more you can think through the possibilities, the more capable you are to create a strategy to overcome these if they actually do pop up in a race. This preparation will help keep you calm going into the race as you can both dismiss the events out of your control and have a plan of action for how to tackle each one. For example: 
Big waves: Stay calm. Think about your stroke. Take breaks if needed to get your bearings. 
Flat tire: Have all the tools you need with you and the knowledge to do this without assistance. Stay calm and go through the process of fixing your flat step by step.        
Switching to a duathlon: No biggie! You just get to run a little more than you had planned, so find your shoes and get in a little run warmup before the start.
High temps: Slow down and adjust your goals based on the conditions of the day. Hydrate more. Slow down. Hydrate more. Slow down.
Leg cramps: Take more salt! If you’ve been downing water and no electrolytes, pump the salt to see if that helps. Also, slow down to let your body recover a bit.
Rain: Keep racing and appreciate the liquid sunshine! Find the positive (it won’t be as hot!). And be a little more cautious when out on the bike.
Kicked in the face: Stop to regain composure, appreciate that your two eyes still work, fix your goggles, and keep swimming!
Mean competitors: Not everyone is 100% nice on the race course, be the person and teammate that lifts others up even if someone else is trying to bring you down with their sour attitude or overly-competitive nature. Remind yourself you are out here to have fun

Ok, so that is just a few of the possible things that could put a bump in your day. Most of these you have zero control over going into race day, but what you do have control of is how you respond to each one. If you are prepared for the possibility and ready with a positive response, you will be able to finish with a great attitude and smile on your face.

In summary, it’s really about preparation and attitude. The more prepared you are the more likely you are to have success, and, a great attitude goes a long way on race day (and in life!).

Tip of the Week: Communication

Tip of the Week: Communication is Key.

Our tip of the week is about communication!

Reality is, some people are really good at communication, and some people are not so good. It's part of our personalities, and for those in the latter category, they often have to work very hard to improve their communication skills. I recognize that communication is not easy for all of you, however, I am requesting that you work on this with me so we can best help you reach your goals this year (and beyond!). In this partnership of coach and athlete, communication is critical to the success of the athlete. We establish goals for the year, and part of our ability to achieve those goals depends on effective coach/athlete communication.

Training Peaks makes it very easy for a coach and athlete to communicate through data uploads, post workout notifications and schedule conflicts. For this last one, if you know of upcoming travel or schedule conflicts, please make a note of it in your training peaks calendar so when I’m scheduling out your next week or two, I’ll be able to work around these schedule changes. Utilizing training peaks effectively assures that we are on the same page moving forward. So if you are not already in the habit of uploading your data, making post-workout notifications when relevant, or posting your schedule conflicts, here is my official request for details.

Training Peaks updates are reviewed every few days, so there is a bit of a limiter here as I don't get through all the updates every single day. In the matter of urgent updates, please notify me via text or a phone call as I will receive these the quickest and be able to respond sooner. Email also works well, but not as quick as texting.

So what would be in the category of ‘urgent updates’?

*Getting sick- this will allow for us to have a conversation about how to adjust your plan to best help you recover

*You feel an injury coming on- depending on your potential injury, immediate modifications may need to be made to prevent further injury and/or to expedite your healing. This can also include referrals to medical professionals for evaluation.

*You are stressed at work/home and have no time to fit in your workouts- there is no one right way to success, modifications can be made to your training schedule that allow you to continue to make forward progress while not being overwhelmed from the stress of work/family/training/etc.

*Your race schedule has changed for an upcoming race- this might require a rework of your plan moving forward depending on your race goals (distance, date, travel, etc).

Let’s keep the lines of communication open! I’m not available 24/7, but will do my best to respond to your concerns in a timely manner. Thanks for working together on this!

Tip of the Week: Changing a Flat Tire

Our goal for this tip of the week is to make sure all our athletes know how to change a flat tire. If you are going to call yourself a cyclist or triathlete, you need to know how to take care of your bike, and the most basic bike maintenance is changing a flat tire. No more calls to your spouse to pick you up 30 miles from home cause you are stranded by a flat! ;)

Be prepared with all the equipment you need to fix a flat on the road:
1) Spare bike tube
2) Tire levers (2)
3) CO2 inflator
4) CO2 cartridge

Watch this Video by Trek Bicycles to walk you through the steps of fixing a flat.

For those of you in Madison, we'll have an opportunity to practice this after our Saturday bike session... so come prepared with the above equipment. For everyone else, practice this at home before hitting the outdoor riding this spring so you feel comfortable and confident in your ability to fix your own flat.

Tip of the Week: Goals!

Goal setting: making it count

Our tip of the week this week (after taking a hiatus to FL last week) is all about GOAL setting and how that helps keep our training on track. Goals are what get us up in the morning for masters swim, push hard through one more interval when we are tired, and focus on healthy eating that supports our training. Goals provide focus, guidance and motivation; encouraging us to move toward them with enthusiasm and desire. 

Personal development research and self-help theories offer an over-abundance of goal setting advice. The one thing they all agree on is that goal setting is critical to success. Without getting into all the research here, I’d like to focus on two basic categories I find most helpful when assisting athletes in setting goals.

Two basic categories:
1) Short term and long term goals
2) Process and outcome goals

Setting goals for the short term and long term can take some time, especially if you are new to endurance athletics as we don’t even know what our bodies are capable of achieving and then also what races or experiences might be available to us. The great news is that goals are amendable... you can change them to align with your direction as you grow in the sport.

Short term goals could look something like this:
1) I will drop 5 seconds in my 100 swim time over the next 2 months of training
2) I will lose these 5 holiday pounds by Easter
3) I will run a 1 minute PR this year at the Crazylegs Classic.

Notice each of these has a specific time frame for which to achieve the goal in a short team basis.

Long term goals are also time specific, however, will take longer (think years) to achieve and often encourage us to look 2-5 years down the road.

Long terms goals could look something like this:
1) I will complete my first sprint distance triathlon this year and then do that same race over the next 3 years and improve 1 minute in each discipline per year.
2) I will improve my 40K Olympic distance bike time by 2 minutes (or 30 watts) over the next year.
3) I will finish a sprint triathlon this year, an Olympic distance in 2017, a half-Ironman distance in 2018 and a full Ironman in 2019.

Process goals are designed to support both short term and long term goals, as these are both outcome goals. We can establish several process goals that if achieved, will help us achieve a bigger goal, our outcome goal. Process goals are what we focus on day in and day out that lead us toward achieving a desired outcome. Let’s consider one of our short term goals from above.

Short term + Outcome goal: 

I will run a 1’ PR this year at the Crazylegs Classic

Process goals:

I will complete all prescribed run workouts over the next 6 weeks
I will continue to work on technique/form improvements through run specific drills
I will wear my HR/GPS watch during all run sessions to make sure I am training at the right paces/zones

A couple more things on goals:

1) Goals need to be in the positive, focusing on what you want (eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day), as opposed to what you don't want (stop eating junk food).
2) Goals are YOU dependent, not other dependent. Notice not a single one of the goals I used for examples above depends on anyone else but YOU. Your main goals should be within your control. It’s fine to say “I want to place in my age group at X event”, however, if a lot of fast people show up, you might not get to achieve your goal. Instead, create a process and outcome goal for that X race that, regardless of your place, you determine if you met your goal.

I encourage you, if you haven’t done so already, to sit down (this might take a while) and write down your goals for the year (and beyond!), keeping in mind the categories and guidelines above. Once you have these established, solidify them by creating a goal poster or goal road map, putting sticky notes on your bathroom mirror, or setting up reminders in your phone to follow through on your process goals. If you do this, you will have increased motivation for your training, excitement as you witness your progress toward your goals, and a grand sense of achievement when you put in the work and see those dreams become reality on race day.

Tip of the Week: BiLateral Breathing

Bilateral breathing - essential to powerful swimming

Single sided breathing is one of the biggest mistakes triathletes make when learning to swim. It’s easy to understand as one is just trying to make it from one end of the pool to the other! However, there are multiple reasons why learning bilateral breathing will make you a faster swimmer.

The biggest issue with single side breathing is that it often leads to one side being weaker than the other which creates a host of issues. We often see the following:
A) An imbalance in the rotation of the stroke where you rotate fine to one side but then swim very flat on the other making it difficult for your recovering arm to both finish the stroke and clear the surface on recovery.
B) Increased drag on the arm that is supposed to be out front during the breath cycle. When you are breathing, you are solely focused on breathing and rarely thinking about your supporting arm which then commonly drops very deep before catching. This creates increased frontal drag and voids your opportunity to have a great catch. 
C) It creates an imbalance of strength that limits your ability to create propulsion and balance. Increasing propulsion is essential if you want to become a faster swimmer. If you breathe every 2 strokes then 50% of your strokes are limited! 

So what is bilateral breathing? It’s breathing to both sides, both right and left, most commonly in a pattern of every 3 strokes (counting each hand entry). If this is difficult, you can also try a 3-2-3-2 pattern so you are breathing more often.

Benefits to bilateral breathing in the pool:
1) It helps create a balanced stroke with symmetrical technique, equal body roll, and power production that is equivalent on both sides. 
2) You are able to watch your stroke underwater better if you aren’t breathing every stroke. If you breathe to the right every 2 strokes, you never get to watch what your left arm is doing under the water.
3) It helps keep your body more streamlined and balanced on the surface, preventing inefficiencies such as crossing your midline at any stage of your stroke, leg splay with a scissor kick, and laterally flexing your abdomen (weaving like a snake). 

Benefits to bilateral breathing in the open water:
a) A more balanced stroke is more likely to track straighter from buoy to buoy (when you no longer have a black line to follow).
b) In wavy conditions, you need to be able to breath away from a wave so you aren’t taking in water every time you try to breathe. If you are proficient at breathing to both sides, you can select to dominantly breathe to either side during open water.
c) It helps with sighting and navigating both the course and people around you as you are more aware of your surroundings. 

If you aren’t currently bilateral breathing for the majority of your pool swimming, it’s time to make a change. Focus on implementing this into your swim routine and after 4 weeks of consistent work, you’ll be well on your way to a more efficient and powerful stroke. 

Tip of the Week: Racing in HOT Weather!

TOTW: Training/Racing in the Heat, by Steve & Cindi
Summer is upon us... which means so is the heat!
As a coach, I call this the "assure athlete's they are still fit."
Simply put, you can't go as fast in 85 degrees as you can in 50 degrees. It’s physically not possible.

In the attached file, I highlight a lot of good information coming from a Runner’s World article from a few years back. In the article, it talks about what actually is causing your HR to be higher when training in the heat and physiologically what is happening in your body to cause these effects.

What this boils down to is this: You can’t run as fast in the heat as you can in cooler/more moderate temperatures. You can train yourself to adjust to the heat in preparation for a hot event, but you won’t ever adjust yourself to be able to race at the speed you did when it was cooler.

"It's generally recognized that for every 10-degree increase in air temperature above 55 degrees, there's a 1.5 percent to 3 percent increase in average finishing time for a marathon. (Translation: An extra 3 to 6 minutes for a 3:30 marathon with every 10-degree increase.)"

So when you are doing a workout and your Half Marathon pace feels like 5k pace... or when your 70.3 watts feel like threshold... or when fatigue on a workout jumps on your back... it’s not because you're not fit... it's because the heat is reducing your ability to go at the level you once did when it was 20 degrees cooler. Pushing through, or trying to push through, will only lead to exhaustion. Psychologically, this leads to frustration. The solution to this is: adjust your expectation and lower your ego. If you don’t, the heat will get you twice over because you’ll be running slower because of the heat and then be running doubly slow because you are allowing the negative self-talk to creep in, telling you that you are performing poorly or aren’t fit. Don’t let that happen, adjust your expectation.

Take note of the section on ‘dewpoint’ in the article. This is pretty fascinating stuff. 

In Kona it's 76 Degrees with a Dew Point of 70. 
In Kentucky, its 85 Degrees with a DP of 70
In Asheville, its 83 Degrees with a DP of 63
In Madison, its 75 Degrees with a DP of 59

So when you look at Kona, with a DP of 70 (high head and high humidity), that’s pretty tough conditions. It could be just like this in Door County or Racine or IMWI (and Madison 70.3!). 

In conclusion, do what you can to prepare for a variety of conditions on race day to give your body the best chance for success under a variety of conditions. And then if it is ‘one of those days’, check your ego at the door, be flexible with your goals, listen to your body, and race smart. It certainly isn’t always about times or paces, and knowing your body and what you can sustain in those conditions will give you a leg up on the competition.