If you wanted to, couldn’t you just wing it and “get by” in your next triathlon? Some racers have only one real race goal: to cross the finish line. For them, all it takes is getting in enough swimming, biking, and running to make it through the distances. But if you’re like me, the goal of adding another T-shirt to your collection won’t cut it. We want to finish strong, AND we want to get the most out of the training time we have available. This takes commitment, passion, and focused ACTION.
Getting into forward motion toward your goals is foundational to success in triathlon… or any other area of your life for that matter. Identifying your passion and getting to the real truth about yourself (and your self-imposed limitations) is hard… but it pales in comparison to taking action. You’ll need a plan of attack to make this work.
So let’s get to it.
Jay’s Six Step Process for Planning Triathlon Success
Step 1: Get Goal Clarity: If you only perform this first step you’ll be well ahead of nearly everyone else! What you want to do and why you want to do it is the centerpiece. The plan is meaningless without a clear goal. So first things first: you need to nail down your goal and you need be emotionally connected to it…the deeper the emotional connection the better your chances of accomplishing it. Again, sounds simple but it’s not easy. Say you’re passionate about taking on triathlon racing in order to be a role model for your children. Are you committed to using the time you have available? To incorporating smart training, nutrition, and recovery strategies? To race full out to your potential? Or will you skimp on your training sessions, continue to eat garbage, and struggle to finish your race by muddling through the swim or shuffling through the run? If you do the latter what are you teaching your kids? Gaining clarity, a vision of where you want to take your triathlon training and racing – and what it means to you – is job one.
Step 2: Identify The Gap: The gap refers to the space between where you are today and where you want to be (that goal you defined above). Once you know where you want to go and you understand where you’re starting from then the challenge is to close the gap. The key to gap management is to build positive momentum by measuring progress regularly (time based testing works best here). To ensure it’s positive momentum always, always, always measure backwards…measure your results based on your performance relative to your previous test and not on where you hope to be in the future (measuring forward). Measuring forward will just frustrate you…it’s like running toward the horizon…no matter how much you run you will never get there.
Step 3: ID Necessary Resources: Make a list of resources available to you so you can clearly identify any limiters you need to address. There are no rules to this list. Here are some examples:
1. Available equipment, such as an indoor bike trainer
2. Access to swimming facilities
3. Access to people/experts, such as a swimming instructor
4. Space to train or adequate training routes for cycling and running
5. Cash for race fees, lodging, and transportation (this is not a cheap sport).
Step 4: Plan for Success: Building a workable plan is more art than science. While they all have common features, to be substantive your plan must take into consideration your unique situation. If it doesn’t than it’s nothing more than just a bunch of forms, which is why canned programs often don’t work…one size does not fit all! Here are a few tips to get you started.
1. Start with the end in mind.
2. Build in key workouts and testing days first…if you need ideas canned programs are a great place to find key workouts.
3. Detail a week or two at a time...I prefer to develop one week at a time.
4. Stay flexible: Understand that no plan that covers weeks and months will survive your day-to-day life. Things happen that impact your ability to train. Expect it and adjust.
Step 5: Share the Plan: Triathlon training and racing, even if it’s a one-time thing, impacts everything (and every one) in your life. To maximize your chances of success share your plan and share it early on. Here’s why:
1. Reality check: There’s nothing like sharing your plan with people that know you well to see if they buy what you’re selling. If this triathlon thing is just a lark, they’ll bust you.
2. Avoid conflicts: Find out where your plan has to be modified to work with the schedules of family, friends, and co-workers. It’s unlikely you’ll get into trouble for things you know about ahead of time.
3. Buy-in: Getting buy-in from your peeps is extremely important if you want to be successful. Remember this is a lifestyle so what you do, what you need to do, and what you plan to do impacts everyone around you on a daily basis. Tip: Plan weekly meetings to review schedules and address any issues. Remember to let the other people talk. It’s not all about you… yet.
Step 6: Build Success Habits: While race day is the big event, your success depends on the little things you do every day that builds momentum toward race day success. Start by listing a few activities you’re going to do every week to get you on the right track. Here are a few examples:
1. Establish a set morning routine to ensure your day starts off productive (I’ve found this to be the most valuable thing you can do to jump start your training).
2. Eat a large green salad every day.
3. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks/day or eliminate it completely several days/week.
4. Plan some focused time with your family and let them pick the activity you’re going to do…really, a small price to pay for them supporting you in the weeks and months leading up to the race which will pay HUGE dividends in the end.
If you follow these six fundamental planning steps and execute on your plan you’ll make major leaps in your performance at your next race. Just like that guy who sells suits on TV, “I guarantee it!”