Be more ambitious completing your plan than building it
It seems as the New Year approaches, I see elaborate plans formulated that have the secret mix of intensity and volume that will make them or their athletes super fast in the upcoming year. Discussions abound regarding anecdotal experiences about personal successes or scientific literature supporting certain protocols. And each plan and the reasons that one does the plan all likely have merit. And I certainly don’t profess to know which plan or protocol is the right one.
But, from my experience, my greatest obstacle is hardly the plan. Instead, the one ingredient that seems most important for me to remain healthy and fit while getting faster is getting out the door on a daily basis. Am I on the right protocol? Am I doing the right volume? Am I going hard enough? Those questions leak into my thoughts like everyone else, but rarely do I find that the lack of a perfect protocol is what is holding me back.
Beginning with my first Ironman in 2003, my largest triathlon gain was the result of the consistent training I completed for the 2005 race year. I ended 2004 with a dismal 2nd Ironman performance in Wisconsin, so I was motivated to improve. After a nice recovery period, I began preparing for Epic Camp Australia in Jan 2005. The advice I received from Gordo and KP was simple and good-try to increase the frequency of my training sessions in order to ready my body for the upcoming challenge. And Epic Camp was a challenge, but I attained my goal of completing every swim/bike/run session scheduled for the camp. This was wonderful preparation for the remaining year. I was thoroughly tired from camp, and having no experience of super big volume training, took a good break off from any real training. This rest period allowed my return to consistent training by mid-February. I qualified for Kona the first time at IM Brazil in May. Again, I rewarded my body 4 weeks of rest before returning to consistent training in July, which carried me to a very satisfying finish in Kona.
As I reflect on that year, the simplicity of my training plan stands out the most. After my 2 biggest events and ample recovery time, I repeated my basic week over and over again. Nothing fancy. If I felt good, I would go faster some days. But mostly I just kept completing the plan week in and week out. The plan was one that Gordo and I drew up during our stay at Jindabyne near the end of camp. The first draft was one that I authored…the final was a “red-inked” version that Gordo suggested I could complete 95% of the time. The more reasonable goal allowed me the satisfaction of completing my plan nearly every week, and feeling even better when I could add on a few hours. I realized then that my greatest barrier had nothing to do with anaerobic efforts, the amount of time spent in particular zones, or the VO2 max sessions I completed.
Usually, my success correlates with the frequency in which I get out the door. So, as I’m experiencing a bit of those winter blues and despise everyone else who seem to have the perfect plan, I remind myself to remain true to what has worked in the past:
1. Be more ambitious about completing my plan than building it.
2. Experience success below my limits before trying to push beyond them.
Best of wishes to everyone for the upcoming year.