Sometimes too much gear is, well, too much.
It's cumbersome. It needs maintenance. It requires attention. It becomes an end in and of itself, instead of something to improve your training. In this post I am going to explore how to improve your training while reducing things to their most fundamental elements.
Can you get better by process of elimination?
Change Is Good
Anything, regardless of how good it is for you (or not) becomes "old" at some point. That new pair of running shoes? Worn out. That new running route you found last month? You know it forwards and backwards. Those one-of-a-kind swim tips you got from your instructor last season? Long gone.
Your body and your mind both adapt to change amazingly well. What was new and stimulating before is now just another plain old run—the spark, the challenge, is gone. Returning to the basics is a great way to not only focus on building critical skills you can take with you upon your return to regular training, it can also liven up a routine schedule that is lacking any return on investment.
Regardless of how fast you are, or how big your budget is, you swim/bike/run on race day. We all do. While equipment matters, making a significant difference in some cases, we are all brought to the same place on race day. We have to complete the same set of challenges in the fastest possible time to achieve.
This can be accomplished in many ways, and money certainly isn't a pre-requisite. Focus on improving your basic swim/bike/run skills instead of adding widgets and you could find yourself faster on race day with minimal expenses.
Each discipline has a core set of skills that are part of a successful training and racing experience. Some of them overlap, but most are sport specific. Don't try to hit all of them out of the park at once, but do keep them all in mind as you progress through your year.
Swimming is perhaps the most glaring offense; take a look at a pool deck during the busy hours and it's easy to identify the triathlete. He has fins, fist gloves, a pull buoy, some crazy kickboard that's not really a kick board, and maybe even a snorkel. But not just any ordinary snorkel, the one that goes right up over the front of your face so you can practice better body position...or something.
On the bike, one has to look a little more closely. We can find race wheels on the training bike, a bento box (instead of using pockets) or a front aero water bottle (instead of or in addition to using cages on the frame). More egregious offenses would be no toolkit, special brake levers added to the end of the aerobars, and the aero-helmet on a training ride.
Running is a different beast altogether. The biggest distraction I see here is music; folks just zoning out to their favorite mix or podcast. Sometimes we can find massive hydration belts, metronomes, or non-shoe shoes.
In order to get your zen on, the essentials are all you need. Your goal is to eliminate down to the least you need to actually complete the task at hand. Eliminate, test, then eliminate more.
Swimming? All you need is a swim suit and goggles. Running? Shoes and gear please. Cycling? Bike, toolkit, one water bottle, an ID and money, and some form of calories.
Necessity is the mother of all invention. Extraneous crap is typically a distraction. No toys in the pool means you have to do basic drills, or find new ways to make swimming freestyle fun. Heck, freestyle might become so boring you have to try a new stroke.
Running without headphones might just tune you into your body, your cadence, your breathing. Or help you avoid that car.
And riding your bike, just riding and not geeking, can be wicked fun and hard.
I am all for keeping things interesting, but before you add anything new, try taking something away. Your less might be more than you think.
You can learn more about Endurance Lifestyle Design and download a FREE eBook on the Endurance Lifestyle Design Blog. Patrick McCrann is one of a handful of elite triathlon and endurance sport coaches based in the US. Patrick's articles on triathlon, training and the endurance lifestyle have appeared on Xtri.com, TransitionTimes, Active.com and in Inside Triathlon magazine.