One thing I have learned over the last several years competing in run, triathlon, and duathlon races is the importance of breaking up the year in chunks both from a mental and physical perspective. Today I’ll share a few things I have learned and how I approach planning a year to protect myself from injury and burnout.
I reflect back to my first Ironman race, Augusta 70.3, in September 2016. I competed all spring and summer at local triathlon races and increased the volume of training dramatically as I approached the race. With the increase in volume for an Ironman race distance, I neglected core workouts including yoga and found myself battling significant lower back issues. I saw several doctors and physical therapists to diagnose and receive treatment for over six months. I am happy to say from that learning I do a much better job of core training including yoga to perform better and prevent injury.
In addition to the back issues I was dealing with I found myself burned out going into and after the race. I didn’t take a physical or mental break for almost a year by the time race day arrived. I was done…
Fast forward to the fall of 2018. When I determined I was going to compete in duathlon races in 2019 I started to put a plan together with a few things in mind:
- Determine my “A” (2-3 most important) races for the year
- Identify how to chunk my year around the “A” races; incorporating build phases
- Be intentional about how to incorporate mental and physical breaks
I’m a visual person so I ordered a 2×3 foot large 12 month dry erase calendar. I figured this would help me visually see how I would break up the season and allow me to plan training, races, and breaks between.
This was the first year since starting run races late in 2014 that I didn’t have a run race in my list of “A” races. There were a couple I certainly targeted to test different things but the run races this year were strictly used to help me determine pacing for the duathlon and triathlon races that would be coming.
My first “A” race was the USA Duathlon National Championship on April 14 where I raced the standard distance. I did have a prolonged training period leading up to this race but it was for a reason. Going into the year I had not raced duathlons so I needed to incorporate nuances to my training regime. I had to learn how to pace a standard distance which is double the sprint distance I usually race and learn how to race (duathlons). So this training plan segment lasted for 5 1/2 months from November to mid-April.
Knowing the length of the training segment I consciously planned for what would occur after the race. I would take a week of not having a prepared plan (blog cover photo – my weekly wall workout plan was blank for the first time and it actually felt really good to have nothing on it). I would simply do what I felt like doing for the day and if it was nothing it was nothing. I also planned to do something fun two weeks after the race I planned race the St. Anthony’s Triathlon but as a relay team. Doing this with a friend would simply be fun and a great change up to an individual race.
I also shut my swim training down the final two months prior to the Duathlon National Championship to ensure I was ready for the event. Now that it is over I will reincorporate swimming back into the plan. I will be working with a swim coach to identify specific attributes to focus on so that will give me new challenges to target.
This starts a triathlon block of training that will lead up to the second “A” race of the year, USA Triathlon National Championships August 10. After that I will do another reset week, do something fun and then switch training to the final “A” race of the year, the USA Duathlon Long Course National Championship November 11. I haven’t raced long distance in a year and a half so I’m looking forward to that challenge. It’s similar to a 70.3 Ironman but instead of the initial swim of 1.2 miles it is replaced with a 10k run, then followed by the bike leg of 56 miles, and finishes with a 13.1 mile (half marathon) run. Yoga classes will certainly be a staple workout to remain healthy for sure…
I am really excited about the plan for the year. By having the mix of type of event, chunking out the year, and doing mental and physical resets, I should remain fresh mentally while keeping my body healthy and ready to perform when race day arrives. The added benefit this year is racing duathlons for the first time so it’s an all new adventure and has been a real shot of adrenaline both mentally and physically. After the final “A” race I will consider a longer mental and physical break depending on how I start mapping out the 2020 schedule but I have time to consider that.
All this said I will keep the radar up to flex the training plan if I sense burnout, fatigue or injury but having an overall plan in place gives me confidence in what I want to accomplish.
I’m sure these concepts can be applied to anything we do as we look to accomplish multiple things in our lives at the same time. Be thoughtful in how you plan. Here are a few things to consider:
- Think of the most significant things (big rocks) you want to accomplish and be realistic with how many there are
- Reach out to others who may have expertise in how to accomplish
- Build a plan to reach the goal; ask for feedback
- After you reach or fail at your goal, reflect
- What have you learned that you can carry forward (good and bad)?
- If you have a failed attempt at a goal, separate the fail as an outcome, not a personal statement about yourself. Reference my blog, Failure, Progress & Fun at National Championships, for more – oh I fail all the time but I’m not a failure…
- Allow yourself space to breathe and reset – do something fun that is different
- Attack you next goal
- Show up everyday – enjoy and work the process, the result is an outcome of how you work the process. As Boston Marathon winner, Des Linden, says, “keep showing up.”
For more on training plans, you can read my previous blog, The Complexities of Training Plans.
– Add Health to Your Life