The transition phase from winter to pre-season is when you should take some time out to check whether or not you’re on target for your first race. Assess how much training you’ve done, measure how fast you can swim, bike and run, and jump onto the scales.
If you’ve trained as fully as possible, well done. If you haven’t, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Instead, adjust your mindset to do better over the next three months and alter your goals to make them achievable.
As much as you may regret not doing more in winter, turning the clock back is simply not an option. And besides, personal success in endurance sport is all about overcoming adversity so instead see it as a new challenge.
THE ACID TEST
Start by performing ‘acid tests’ of your fitness. A classic example would be an individual 500m pool time-trial, 20km rolling bike loop and then 4-5km run effort.
Other ‘right here, right now’ checks include sub-maximal training sessions, and measuring your body mass and brick running ability. In the meantime, here are some of the areas that often need attention…
1 Lack of Consistency
This will manifest itself in several ways: an irregular training diary, poor time-trial efforts and a tendency to push yourself in the sessions that you do manage to do.
Do controlled base and technique-building sessions 90% of the time, but include 10% faster work per week. You may find you’re a little rusty for the first month of the season, but with focused training and a few small events, you can get back on track.
2 Fitness but No Top End
You’ve trained relatively well but you’re not quite up to race speed? Fear not: the base work is in the bank. What you now need are hard interval; time trials, and races will bring your racing form on leaps and bounds.
Wait for your peak race fitness to build over the next two to four months. Don’t forget endurance sessions and technique days, but make quality work count every week.
3 Injured in One Sport
Don’t just plug away regardless. Instead, take expert advice. It can be easy to let a background goal or plan of the week push you into doing a session that will only make things worse.
Adjust your training and perhaps even your race plans if things won’t be fixed in time. There will be other races, so don’t let an inflexible attitude wreck your body.
PLANS ON PAPER
Use the spring to test your fitness, health and performance, and build a personal plan from there. Plans should be flexible, not rigid. It’s still early in the racing year so you needn’t write off the year because you’re not on a par with your age-group rival or training partner. Races stretch all the way to October in the UK and further still if you travel to sunnier climes.
By looking at the reality of your situation, you can devise a new training plan and set of racing goals. Your sessions will be more productive and you’ll see a big improvement in your performance, as well as avoid injury.