Why you should reflect on every race
Thinking back over past race performances can only make you a better athlete, argues Professor Greg Whyte. Here's why...
As you move through race season, don’t forget to identify the strengths and weaknesses of every individual performance in order to improve your overall strategy and reduce the finish times.
Race experience leads to enhanced performance, or at least it should. And much of that experience, itself, comes from taking part in regular racing events.
Each year, our technical performance (for example, feeding and pre-race strategies and equipment) and tactical performance (positioning at the start of the swim, pacing and transition times) should improve with every race as we progress throughout the season.
But we often overlook one key aspect and forget to reflect on our achievements and progression. Reflecting on race performance in the period shortly after the big event is important as it captures the aspects of the race that went well and those that we can set aside to require improvement.
Don’t just focus on weaknesses
Granted, it can all be too easy to only reflect on those aspects of race strategy that went wrong. And yes, there is much to be gained from correcting failures in strategy (remember failure is only failure when we fail to learn), but it’s equally as important to reflect on those aspects of your strategy that went well.
When it comes to performance, the greatest gain comes from correcting the weaknesses while developing the strengths. To that end, you should make sure you spend as much time on identifying the strengths as you do the weaknesses of any performance.
Improvements in performance tend to be small, incremental changes (marginal gains) to race strategy that will often need to span over multiple races to be developed into a significant performance enhancement.
For many, the lessons learned from a race are rapidly forgotten and the cycle of learning begins again at the start of the next event. This is particularly true from season to season, year after year, where you find yourself repeatedly making the same errors in race strategy.
Take variables into account
In addition to general race strategy (those aspects of performance that occur at every race, i.e. transition strategy), there are a host of variables that are specific to certain conditions.
For example, racing in hot conditions requires a different strategy to taking part in an event in cool or wet conditions. Some of these factors may be highly irregular. The British weather is very unpredictable and it will often vary considerably across a race season.
In the case of race strategies for these irregular – sometimes once-per-season – conditions, learnings are often forgotten from season to season. The result is that the same annual errors are repeatedly made in race strategy.
So, no matter how badly or how well you performed, it is extremely important to reflect on your race performance each time.
Low effort, high reward
This is also an important aide mémoir for the future and it should be an integral part of every event you take part in.
Making notes after a race might feel a little geeky. But the creation of a permanent record of what you learned – and where you can make positive changes – can reduce errors and optimise positive aspects of performance, not just from race to race but from season to season.
Performance enhancement isn’t always about additional hours of training. Reflecting on each race is a low-effort, high-reward activity that will translate into improved race strategy and much faster times.
Top image credit: Leo Francis