Most triathletes understand the mental aspects of their sport. Racing, particularly at longer distance events, requires a great deal of planning and focus. From training plans set in place months before race day to finding the strength to continue after 135 miles of swimming, biking, and running, triathlons place huge demands on us, mentally.
And those demands continue well after the final race of the season. In fact, the off-season can throw curve-balls requiring even more mental discipline. First, there is the post-race period. Whether on cloud nine from a major success or in the dumps because of a less than desirable outcome, we must transition to the next phase of our training intelligently. Too fast and injury is just around the corner. Too slow and the excess of winter activities can have unintended and undesirable results.
Post season training requires additional mental gymnastics as decisions are made regarding intensity, frequency, and focus of training. Which weak areas deserve extra attention? How can training sessions be completed with fewer daylight hours and two feet of snow on the ground? How much time can be taken off without negatively impacting my plans for next year?
I'm lucky enough to have a few friends working together to answer a few of these questions. We are also striving to generate some variety in our training to break up sometimes monotonous winter workouts. Each of us has at least one major event planned for 2007, and we will be getting together for training on Saturday's during the winter. Though each will work at a pace appropriate to a given program, we will work together. This will provide accountability and motivation, easing the mental drain of off-season training.
It is also a wonderful opportunity to build new friendships. Our group has only loose ties, and several of us have yet to actually meet. Completing together the off-season training and then a half IM program (full, in some cases) will certainly forge friendships that might otherwise never exist.
As you plan for the off-season and next year's races, remember to consider alternatives to the same old routine. Triathlons often take us out of our comfort zones. If we are going to "train like we race," then training must sometimes do the same.