No races? Two key things to work on!

Its been such a strange year and it is still very much uncertainty across the world. COVID-19 has affected us all this year with lockdown and one by one races being cancelled. Travel plans, training, daily life all changed and we had to adapt in these uncertain times.

For me, everything was gearing up for the 2020 European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Malmo which was scheduled for August. Despite lockdown and being restricted to going out once a day for exercise and essentials I was very much on track for this race. With my coaches we decided that with the pools shut it was a good opportunity to work even more on the bike. Although I had been training more on the bike, coach Mark Shepard said this was a great time to work more on the bike to improve. So with no swimming I did more bike sessions and also Craig Coggle, my strength coach, focused on land base workouts to keep those swim muscles going.

Despite all of this, I had a gut feeling the whole year would be a write-off – I didn’t panic because it was out of my control and the main thing was to stay safe. The European Championships had been moved a year and in the same week British Triathlon cancelled all qualifiers and National championships. As soon as I heard this Mark told me to have two weeks off and do what I fancied with no plan and all easy training – I did and really enjoyed it.

This mentally helped me so much with not knowing what was going to happen in future months; it was also time not to over train and just enjoy my hobby more and tick along.

We then ramped the training up once we came out of lockdown and focused on races towards the end of the year. I managed to race 4 times with 2 wins and a 2nd place, I also managed a PB and a course record but this was off the back of consistent training and not over doing it. It was a short season for me and now I am having a break and time out for a few weeks from training. But the key is not to get carried away with more time on your hands.

Of course no training is a waste because it has so many heath benefits so it is important to keep going and not give up. The problem is though with another lockdown in force, people will have more time on their hands. This will have a negative effect on training, with more time on your hands and if you are like me, you will want to train more and more but that’s not the way to go. The great saying is too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As a result you risk burning out, getting long term injuries and giving up with no goals. So I have two key things that you should focus on while in lockdown/winter.

Make a long term goal – this is very important in keeping you motivated. It can be anything from wanting to start running to running a marathon in a certain time. Now the key is not to over train but be patient, work towards it slowly and that way your see the progress. Have structured recovery weeks, rest days (rest means total rest) and test yourself regularly to see where you are so that you can work towards your goal. I have written it many times before that easy running means easy and can improve you a lot so don’t think that you have to run fast all the time. A well balance program has more easy sessions than tough sessions.

The second is work on something over lockdown/winter. Something that you have not focused on before. This can be a weakness of yours and you can improve a lot from working on that weakness. I improved a lot on the bike this year by working on that area. You can work on things like technique in running and swimming – this can make you more efficient and you can improve from this. Maybe you have neglected strength work and again that can make you faster but also keep the injuries away. Something I like working on during the winter is my running technique – I start doing more drills and focus on something like my arm drive. During easy runs I do a check of how I am running and seeing if I have gone back to bad habits. This doesn’t have to be a major thing it can be a little thing, but working on a weakness will give you great gains in the long term.

My conclusion is that no training is a waste but you need to be smart in your training and don’t over do it. Base training and easy training is the way forward and once you have a race that is going ahead you can ramp up the intensity. Having a long term goal will keep you motivated and training – that works for me. Always work on a weakness to improve; something people ignore and just like to stay in their comfort zones. Stay safe over this winter and keep working on your goals and move forward as we will beat this.

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