Triathlon can be a long season. In fact, we really don't even have a season. Yes, the summer is when most races occur, but it is possible to race year round. And for many athletes, it is entirely possible that their last race will be nearly nine months after their first race of the year.
We all enjoy the challenge and excitement of racing; however, continuous racing and focused training can lead to waning motivation. Often, we see this lack of motivation begin to surface at precisely the wrong time: the end of the season when you want to be at your best.
Here are a few tactics to help you make the final push to your key events in the coming weeks.
Put Your Feet Up
Rest is one of the most important yet most overlooked aspects of training, especially as a goal race approaches. Many athletes feel the only way they will improve is to push every day. Always remember, however, that your easy days are just as important as your hard days. This is called the overload principle.
After a hard day at the track (overload) a day or two of relaxed recovery runs will allow your body to super-compensate from the effort you put in on your hard day.
Thus, you will be stronger and slightly better than you were prior to your hard workout. With a proper balance of overload and recovery, your fitness will improve at a steady rate. However, without enough rest you will start to fatigue. This fatigue can produce a lack of motivation, sickness or injury.
Spice It Up
Many athletes prefer a consistent, regimented training program. Indeed most triathletes must adhere to a structured training schedule to fit their workouts into an already busy day. However, knowing you will be on the track every Wednesday, rain or shine, can start to take a mental toll after a few months. You still need your hard run workout, but don't be afraid to throw in some variety.
If you do decide to skip the oval for a change of pace, don't stress about forfeiting the precision attainable at the track. If your workout calls for mile repeats, simply restructure your work intervals according to time rather than distance.
For example, if you usually hit seven-minute miles on the track, complete a series of seven-minute efforts around a park or back and forth on a trail or road. Try to cover the same distance each time so you'll know if you are keeping your pace steady.
Trim the Volume
By the end of your season, most of your endurance work has been done. The hay is in the barn, so to speak. You will need to maintain your endurance with occasional long runs, but within four to six weeks of the end of your season there is not much to be gained from maintaining high mileage in your running. Further, your intensity on your hard days should be higher, so decreasing volume is both acceptable and necessary.
Often, athletes want to try and fit in everything: long runs, lactate-threshold workouts, hills, track sessions. This is a bad idea. Rather, you want to plan out your season and have focused cycles to develop each aspect of your running. To this end, your highest volume and base mileage should be done in the off-season and early season. As you move though the summer, your volume will begin to drop and your intensity will increase. This will help to keep you healthy and motivated.
Finishing With a Bang
Ideally, your biggest race will come at the end of your season, allowing for a proper build throughout the year followed by a solid taper into your goal race.