As the triathlon and running season comes to an end, you start to think to yourself, “What am I going to do in the off season?” Before you start to make plans for next season, first you must take time to reflect on the past race season. Although it is nice to reminisce about your successes, a productive reflection process can be achieved in three easy steps. First, think of all of the feats that you accomplished and how all of your hard work paid off. Then, take a look at some things that you may want to do differently the following season. Lastly, consider the short and long-term goals that you would like to achieve.
After months and months of training you finally got to put it all together and race! Whether it was your first race or your thirtieth, all your hard work paid off. Were you 100% satisfied with your race season? For the most part there are always improvements that can be made. It could be training consistency, pacing, sleeping habits, nutrition, one of the three disciplines of triathlon, or transitions. It’s best to make a list of the improvements that you would like to make so you can reflect and make changes for the following season.
Individuals must be realistic with their short and long term goals. A short-term goal would be something that you want to achieve in the next few months or year. An example of this would be trying to increase running frequency or improve your swim stroke mechanics. A long-term goal would be something that you would like to achieve three to five years from now. An example of this would be training to compete in a marathon or Ironman triathlon. Most people lack the foresight and patience to set long-term goals, but it is important for every endurance athlete to realize that it takes thousands of hours of training for your body to be able to handle the stresses of training for long distance endurance events. Therefore, setting long-term goals is important for successful and injury free race seasons.
How exactly can athletes, especially new athletes, set realistic goals? As you look forward to your first or second season, keep this in mind as you train: long-term development and enjoyment. A lot of people have a “fast food” mentality when it comes to endurance events. This essentially means that they want to accomplish everything the sport has to offer in one or two years. Years ago after I completed my first triathlon, all I wanted to do was train for Ironman. This is very common with endurance athletes, however is not ideal. The “fast food” mentality is not the best way to approach the sport. Not only is it important to have a significant physiological and muscoskeletal foundation under your belt, but also athletes are much more susceptible to injury if they jump into training for such distances too quickly. Thus, it is important to be realistic and challenge yourself without risking injury.
I leave you with this final thought regarding the “fast food” mentality: think of triathlon as a mountain and let Ironman be the top. A less experienced hiker might choose the most direct path to the top, although rockier, more challenging and even risky. However, one with more experience will choose the longer more scenic path. This choice will take longer, but will be more enjoyable and will be more likely to be successful.
Jason Kilderry, NSCA-CPT, NSCA-CSCS, USA Level 1 Track and Field Coach, holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from AT Still University and bachelor’s degree in Health and Exercise Science from Rowan University. Jason is the owner of ETA Coach and Cythera Health. He comes highly recommended by his athletes for his help in improving their performance, health, and wellness. Jason coaches athletes who range in ability from newbies taking on their first race, to many who have qualified for various championships the Olympic Trials, Boston Marathon, New Jersey High School Meet of Champions, Ironman World Championships, Half Ironman World Championships, and the USA Triathlon National Championships. Think critically, question often, and train smart.