The Anatomy of a Perfect Month
February sucked. It was a tough month – training wise I mean. I missed a few workouts, I was on the road for 10 days, and the quality was severely lacking. The responsibility for this falls squarely on my shoulders. Coach DeLese and Cane don’t do workouts for me, they don’t miss workouts for me, and quite frankly, life happens.
So why am I writing this? Because the calendar flipped to March, and it was perfect. For the first time in my triathlon career, I didn’t miss a workout all month. It feels incredible. But I’m not going to spend the next 900 words bragging about how awesome I am. I learned over the course of the last 31+ days how much has to go right in order to fit in every workout.
And make no mistake, I fit in every workout, but I didn’t nail every one. There are those like Friday, March 7th. I needed to leave early the next morning to go upstate for a training weekend, and I had a choice to make the night before; hop on the bike and do my prescribed hour and a half, or sack it? My thought process; I was at work at 7, already finished a midday masters swim, and arrived home after 8:30 pm. An hour and a half? No chance. So I hopped on my trainer for a little over 45 minutes and did something. We have all had those why even bother choices, and we have all made the wrong one from time to time. Those 45 minutes were the most rewarding of the month, and the following workouts fell into place after that. Well sort of, I’m writing this column after a weekend of insane rain and wind. Are you kidding New York? It finally warms up and you throw this Mother Nature curveball at us? But like the postal service, neither rain nor wind was going to keep me from finishing my perfect month, so I did, miserably.
So how does one conquer the moral high ground of training consistency? I can tell how you how I did and it starts at the top of my metaphorical triathlon circle. Coaching matters when you’re an aspiring athlete, age group or otherwise. Without Coach DeLese to write me workouts, and work within the confines of my work/life schedule, there is absolutely no chance I would be so consistent. A few lucky ones are incredible self-coachers, and I see the appeal. You can work as much or as little as you want, and no one really knows your body as well as you do right? Yes, but without the coach to hold you accountable, or work on progressions with you, improvement might not be so steady. In my experience, when I tried self-coaching, more often than not, a period of really good training would be followed by patterns of laziness. Not exactly the prescription for positive gains. As people, we’re inclined to rationalize missing a workout because of exhaustion, stress, or good old fashioned laziness. It’s amazing how good of a salesperson your brain is. An occasional smack upside the head from the person responsible for making you better helps snap you back into rhythm. Coaches DeLese and Cane play a big part in the consistency I’ve achieved lately by effectively dangling short term improvements and goals in front of me with long term perspective. Also, it’s important to understand that coaches are working to put you in a position to succeed. Heck, they are incentivized to do so, so you stay with them!
It’s not only coaching though. Also playing a role in your success is your personal culture. That culture derives from those in your life being accepting and encouraging of your habits. It means co-workers understand that you’re not drinking on a Friday night so you can hit the trainer or go to the pool. It means friends and family asking you how training/racing is going. It means teammates doing an occasional workout together, motivating you to improve. Personally, without my cousin Bridget and the City Coach teammates – all people I gush over the sport with – there is absolutely no way I would remain as enthusiastic as I do. My enthusiasm helps fuel my desire to train and get better, and that leads to consistency.
Lastly, I encourage you to ask this question. Why do you participate in triathlon? What makes you a triathlete? If you’re in the sport to get in shape, find a coach who will charge you by the hour, join a masters class to meet some people, and put a realistic plan on paper. If you’re driven to PR a certain split, race, or finish a Half/Full Ironman, you are going to need more commitment. Sounds simple right? Well, maybe, but as the season approaches, I have found myself asking what role triathlon plays in my life, and why I love it so much. The 90% threshold efforts, the long rides through the wind, and the rain soaked jackets all bring these thoughts front and center, because they call commitment into question.
Everyone asks me why I devote so much of life to triathlon. Their answer is so perfectly encompassed in my perfect month. When I started triathlon, there is zero chance I had the required commitment, time management skills, steadfastness, and attitude to make it through a perfect month of prescribed training. Triathlon helped me develop those skills, and I am a better person for it, one workout at a time.
Oh, also, the season is approaching, and I want to win, duh.