Trainingpeaks asked me to write an article on things to do before a workout, and I thought it was a great topic. I think a lot of athletes just jump into a workout, without proper preparation to maximize the time and investment. Here's what I wrote....
5 Things to Do Before Every Workout
Many athletes start their workout by lacing up their shoes or throwing on a helmet, and getting right into their session. Of course just getting started can be a difficult step at times, but paying attention to a few specific preparation keys before you start a workout can mean the difference between getting the training response you want and possibly taking steps backwards.
Here are five things every athlete should do in this order, before they workout, to maximize the training session.
1. Clear Your Mind
All athletes have stresses in their daily lives that have nothing to do with workouts, training, or racing. Instead, they have life, work, family and other stresses, all which can take away from the quality of a session. If an athlete comes into a session with a focus on the negatives, it can be hard to accomplish positive things.
I have seen a number of athletes quit a session that was going well, change a session entirely simply because of attitude, or fail to execute a session effectively, because they are too distracted with the other aspects of their life. Sometimes athletes want to take their aggression out in a session, which may be the exact opposite of the purpose of the session, such as a recovery spin or technical development session.
A little bit of pause to relax, clear the mind and put 100 percent mental focus into the session will get higher quality and better training response from the session.
has a plan 'till they get punched in the mouth.”
Tyson was one of the most feared fighters in the history of boxing. Yet, there
were plenty of experts in the sport who spoke of his weaknesses and how to beat
him, as though it were not that hard. Many of his opponents trained and planned to beat him according to his
weaknesses. And much like the quote above from Tyson, those plans may have been
very well devised, but once the match started and they took those first few
punches, dealing with the adversity of the match, it became a challenge to stick
to the plan.
triathlon and racing. No matter how well you plan, when you get into the big
races, against the toughest competition, your resolve and steadfastness to that
plan will be tested greatly.
Your plan better not be good, it must be great. And it should have contingencies if the punch to mouth was more than you expected.
I said something the other day to one of my athletes....
"It's hard to accomplish positive things if you are constantly focused on negatives."
So often, athletes ruin any sense of confidence in themselves, by focusing on the negatives of their performances, training, lifestyle or injuries. Many miss the enjoyment of training and improving, and most certainly the rewards of it, when they focus on all the things they can't do, or why they can't win, or do well, or stay healthy.
What is your focus on? The negatives, weaknesses and challenges? Or your approach to getting better, and excitement about improving?
I hear a lot of athletes and coaches spouting out their knowledge about training, using complex terms, or creating complicated workouts. It really doesn't need to be complicated to be successful though. If I put a list of the most important things, complicated or super-scientific training isn't listed anywhere near the top.
Things that are near the top? Consistency first, then injury prevention, recovery, diet, sleep, and progression of training load are just a few I would rank near the top, or at least well ahead of the complexity of training. I have seen plenty of athletes train in ways which go against common exercise science, but because they are consistent, and do many of these other things, are still able to do fairly well and improve.
If you're going for an Ironman World Championship, Olympic Gold Medal, or ITU WTS Championship, you need to really look at the science behind every decision you make in training and recovery. But that's a very limited group of athletes and coaches, who can control many other variables in their lives, (not having to balance a job, full-time focus on training and recovery), so it doesn't apply to most athletes.
Keep the training simple, and be consistent. Stop making it complicated, and you'll likely be successful if you are consistent in executing it.
Here's an article I wrote for TrainingPeaks on how to plan your season, simply and effectively. I think you'll find it helpful if you're looking to find that breakthrough.
Admit it. You’ve seen patterns in your training and racing, and how the results are affected. There’s a time of year you find yourself “killing it” in training and races. There are other parts of the year where you struggle, battle plateaus, mentally struggle, and can’t seem to find the magic on race day that you found in other times of the year.
Phases and Concepts
It’s time to review your planning for those seasons, (or lack of planning), and try to learn from the patterns and plan your training so you can avoid the roller coaster. Ideally, a season shouldn’t have many up and downs, but sometimes a step back at the right time, both mentally and physically, can prevent big peaks and valleys. I prefer to use three phases when planning: Transition (period of recovery between seasons), General Preparation, and Specific Preparation. These will be discussed in more detail below.
In addition to planning out your season in phases, you need to look at a two key concepts that we know about training- variance and specificity. Both are necessary in order to plan your season effectively.
If you're finding that in an Ironman you always have stomach issues you can't explain? Feeling frustrated that suddenly your nutrition plan fails you? Maybe the problem isn't your nutrition?
There is no nutritional plan on earth which will make up for poor pacing. If you push the bike, you run the risk of the stomach becoming too sensitive to handle what you put in it. Put more in your stomach, and the odds of GI distress is even greater.
If you race at a higher intensity than you train at, and then suffer stomach issues, the issue isn't the nutrition so much as it's the intensity and pacing during your race.
Many athletes think the goal is to shove as many calories in their gut as it can process. The goal should be to simply take in as much as you need to accomplish your goal. Anything more than that, and the risk of GI distress greatly increases, ESPECIALLY if the athlete is racing HARD.
If your training doesn't match your race intensity, and you are having stomach issues, look at your training and race execution, first, and then match your caloric intake and concentrations to that proper intensity.
Over the next few weeks I will begin to really break down the men's and women's pro races in Kona, from the 2015 Ironman World Championships. So let's start with today's first numbers, the top 25 men's splits by each leg, and how they break down. (Click on image to enlarge).
***Realize, this is only those who finished the race in the top 25 pro men. Athletes who DNF'ed are not listed.
Many athletes I speak with like to tell me the pace they want to hit running off the bike in an Ironman. They say things like, "I will/want to start off at 7:00 min/mile and hold on. If I feel good after halfway, I will push the second half pace." Or they will say, "I am going to push hard from the opening mile, trying to stay with my competitors or pull away from them."
There are a few problems with this approach....
- This type of thinking is entirely RESULTS based, not PROCESS based. Athletes focused on a specific pace when they start the run, put their confidence in jeopardy if they don't hit that pace. They will judge their race in that moment. Just because your legs don't give you a pace you HOPE for right away, doesn't mean you can't get it, or that you still can't run well.
- If you've ever done an Ironman, you know there are peaks and valleys of performance and how you feel. Athletes must focus on being smooth and running easy early, seeing what the body gives them, not forcing it.
- Remember, conditions can affect pacing as much as anything. Cool climates, and you can run faster. Hot climates, and you will likely run slower.
- Pacing on the bike must be executed correctly in order to have a good run. So much of your run success begins before you ever take the first step on the run course.
- Nutrition on the bike must be executed correctly in order to have a good run. So much of your run success begins before you ever take the first step on the run course. (Yes, that is the same sentence). But there is no nutritional plan that will make up for poor bike pacing for your run success.
- When athletes start their long runs in training, they rarely focus or care about what the first mile or two of the run will be paced at. They are just getting started and realize there is a lot of running to do. The same approach should happen for athletes when coming off the bike.
- Many faster athletes might think this makes sense for mid to back-of-the-packers, but not for elites or top age groupers. But actually, what tends to happen is those faster athletes are already running fairly quickly off the bike, even running relatively easy. Think about it, athletes who have a threshold pace of sub 6 mins, are easily running 7 min pace off the bike, with hardly any effort. Point? Don't rush the pace the first few miles, it will happen on its own.
- Recent studying I have done of paces for the first mile off the bike for pro men and women in Kona shows that if you run the first mile faster than 20 secs faster than the average pace you hope to REALISTICALLY run, you are likely going to pay the price. This is for the faster people, where it is especially difficult to run faster, but extrapolate it out and that means about 5% for the age grouper. Point? Don't be faster for the first mile than 5% of the average pace you realistically hope to run for the marathon, or you're committing a race suicide.
- When athletes run a marathon fresh, they can handle a little aggressive pacing early, but will still pay the price eventually if they do it too much. Now think about the difference when an athlete starts a marathon in an Ironman? They have very little reserve or leeway for early aggressive pacing, given the deficit they begin the marathon with. Add in hot and humid conditions, (like a majority of Ironman marathons are raced in), and you begin to see the need to be the best pacer in the race, to maximize potential.
Stop focusing on the pace, and more on executing good pacing!