Fall Training & Race Season Begins

“The biggest mistakes athletes make in training are not working hard enough on the hard workout days and working too hard on the easy workout days.” This statement was made by former pro triathlete and now endurance athlete coach Chris Hauth. It is one of the most significant lessons I learned that changed my focus when developing my workout plans and being disciplined during single workout sessions. In today’s post I’ll share my observations for things to consider as we enter the fall training and racing season.

A good place to start with anything is identifying what your goal(s) is and by when you want to accomplish. Over the last four years I have split my year into two distinct seasons consisting of run and triathlon. My run season has typically covered the months of October through February and triathlon from March to October. This year I’m adding a third element, duathlons, which is adding a new wrinkle and complexity to my goals and planning.

I have determined my goals and overall plan through next August with some room for modifications if something changes. I will have some overlap in the calendar by adding duathlons to the mix which makes this complex but everything I am doing is to support my main overall goal culminating next August. That is the USA Triathlon Sprint National Championships in Cleveland. You don’t have to go out as far as I just shared with identifying your goal(s) and/or number one race, but identify a goal or goals to accomplish and by when. Then you can begin constructing a plan of attack.

At minimum a quarterly plan is a good place to start. It feels manageable and allows you to see and feel positive change. If you are beginning, have done some planning yourself but are not confident or have experience with making your own plans, a great place to start is with a coach. I used a coach when I first started running and training for triathlons and I use them today after feeling very comfortable developing plans for my seasons and workouts. Never stop learning and at minimum consult with a coach to improve and/or get fresh ideas.

In the last week I had lunch with my swim coach and had an informal discussion with my run coach. I gained invaluable inputs as I continue to get more specific with my upcoming plans and transition from triathlon season to run season. Yes, I just had lunch with my swim coach to discuss my swim plans through next August while still in September as I’m transitioning out of triathlon season currently. We spent time reflecting on the past season, progress made, and the incredible amount of work ahead of me to meet my goals. Love it!!!

In addition to consulting with a coach, sharing best and worst practices with your friends and peers is fantastic. Ask where they have found helpful resources. My favorite resources other than my coaches – I listen to several podcasts, watch YouTube videos, and read books on the topics. Share what you find. I have a list of my favorite YouTube channels on my Get Started page. If you know me by now my favorite podcast is the Rich Roll Podcast. The Weekly Word Podcast via Chris Hauth is also another one I’ve grown attached to on this topic. The book, 80/20 Running by Matt Fitzgerald, has been a game changer for me with running and I just had 80/20 Triathlon delivered (just released) about two weeks ago. I cannot wait to dig deeper into this one.

When starting a new season, coming back off of a layoff for whatever reason, or simply transitioning from one sport to the next, it’s important to train at your current fitness level. It is very easy to injure yourself or become discouraged if you begin a training regime and find yourself not at the fitness level you may have been at some time prior. Weather can play a role in this as well.

As I found out yesterday, I ran my worst 5k time in a race in two years. Immediately as I crossed the finish line I was disappointed with my time. What happened? Several factors were in play.

  • I just completed a long triathlon season; body and mind are a bit worn
  • I am continuing to bike after the triathlon season as I will bridge into duathlon racing season starting in December for me; riding a bike as much as I do does take a toll on straight 5k run time if not tapered properly
  • I have not run a straight 5k run race since February; I was a little rusty on the execution plan during this race but overall I was happy with how I fought
  • The HEAT! It was blazing hot on this day; close to a record high

After walking away from the finish line, the disappointment in the time vanished as I know by now the factors I just outlined were in play. As I have also come to experience, I know if I am feeling bad during a race, others are suffering as well. Every racer faces the same elements on a given day so do your best on that day with any and all variables. I raced my butt off and had a good result.

How does this help me moving into run season? It just gave me a baseline where my fitness level was for a straight run race. It’s only going to get better as I begin planning and training for run races and the weather will begin getting cooler. It will get cooler, right? Knowing this I can base my workouts with this time and use heart rate as another input.

Heart rate is another huge topic on its own and certainly one you want to consult with an expert/coach. Baselines or benchmarks for your fitness level can help construct workout plans and set goals for the short, mid, and long-term. There are different tests you can do for any sport to identify fitness levels. Again consult with a coach or peer with experience to identify how to conduct and use them properly.

This will help you as you work your butt off on the hard workout days and also keep you in check to not workout to hard on the easy workout days. Recovery and active recovery are critical to allow the body a chance to rest and then take a jump forward in fitness level. As your fitness level increases you will notice that you can rebound from a really hard day much easier. You will notice this easily and it’s incredibly rewarding.

When identifying a plan and your goals for a season or year, make sure you are considering other factors as well outside of training and racing. We have personal lives and if you are not retired, the home/work life balance comes into play as well. Identify when major events may impact the training schedule and be ok with that. I use other obligations as an opportunity to rest, recharge, or workout in other cities.

I am traveling this week for work from Monday through Thursday evening. I can’t ride my bike on this trip, but I will not miss one of my run workouts and there is a pool five minutes from my hotel and work. I am substituting two bike rides with new strength workouts I’ve wanted to test and work in some much need stretching/yoga type of work.

Many times I travel to south Florida and bring my bike with me. It’s refreshing to ride and explore other areas. The biggest learning here is know that life happens and we all have to adjust to busy schedules. Try not to drop off completely but a break here and there can sometimes be beneficial for both the mind and body.

– Add Health to Your Life

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