Here we are. It's the beginning of a new year and everyone is looking forward to the new race season, new goals, new adventures. Gung HO!... right? If you're taking the endurance sport plunge for the first time, may I be the first to say "WELCOME to the family"! It is within the context of training and competition that many discover how strong they are and how much they're able to grow.
May I also give you a few words of advice? Many have also entered the waters of endurance sport only to throw in the towel feeling discouraged, aimless and defeated. Why, you may ask? Here are a few of the most common mistakes made by endurance sport rookies:
1. No plan: while it's great to have excitement, enthusiasm and ambition, it's very easy for all of it to be misdirected. We're in it to be more fit, make improvements and have fun doing it. Without direction all of this will be lost. You'll more than likely, end up fatigued and disappointed with very little fitness gains to show for it. You need a short-term plan. You need a long-term plan. And you need to stick with it. When in Kona this past October for the Ironman World Championship, I went out of my way to meet as many competing athletes as I could. As a coach I was curious to find out how many of these amazing athletes had coaches of their own. Every. Single. One. It is so important as a new athlete to find someone to help you make a plan, have a blueprint, and execute it in order to succeed at the highest level.
2. Doing what everyone else is doing: this is where training plans in magazines and online drive me crazy. Most appeal to the mass population with promises like "Do your best 70.3 in 8 weeks!" or "Guaranteed to improve bike power by 20%!" Empty promises. Your fitness experiment is done with N = 1. Meaning you're an individual, and your training should be treated as such. What works for your buddy or Jan Frodeno doesn't work for you, despite what the advertisements might tell you.
3. Training too much too soon: athletes like to rush their fitness. Like everything else in life, we want it NOW! Unfortunately, reaching your peak potential takes patience. A lot of it. Instead, people like to do as much as possible as hard as possible in order to get fit fast. The #1 cause of injury in runners in training load, meaning too much running too soon. The body takes time to adapt to the training...so don't rush it! It takes years of consistent, intentional training to reach your full potential.
4. Unrealistic expectations: we don't know what our individual possibilities are. We also don't know what our realistic limits are. Do you know why? We let other people tell us what they are for us! You need to sit down & determine how much time, money, energy, perseverance, etc you are willing to sacrifice for your desired sport. But it has to be realistic and it has to be individual to you. Also, remember that success takes time. Your first marathon probably won't be your best. With each race under your belt, you gain experience, learn your body, and learn HOW to race. Set realistic goals.
5. Breaking the bank: Do you know what's cheaper than a new wheelset, carbon fibre waterbottle/waterbottle holder, and head to toe compression wear? Hardwork and consistency. You don't need to blow the family budget on your new sport. Really. Put the time and the effort in first, then see if this is something you want to invest the $$$ in.
6. Forgetting about the rest of your life... ahem - balance: When I sit down with my athletes one of the first things we discuss is how the significant others in their life support them. Or not. This is a major factor in determining what their goals are and how realistic we can be in trying to achieve them. As much as I love biking & running, without the support of my family it would be impossible. Planning, training, and learning - It all takes time & effort. And a large part of these sports we take part in are about having a great lifestyle. They need to support our life, not be relationship-breakers. So sit down with those important people in your life and figure out what can and cannot work. Work around your life schedule, not vice versa.