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Triathlon

My last season ended with racing at the IRONMAN 70.3 World Champs in Zell am See in Austria! What an amazing experience and a great way to finish off my first season of long course triathlon racing,

Overall it has been a fantastic year of training, racing and learning. After my big set back in February 2014, when I was hit by a car that left me with a broken shoulder and out of training for almost 6 months, I have worked my way back through hard and consistent training! Considering the circumstances I am more than happy with my achievements and the progress I have made so far. I also know there is plenty of room to improve and work on.

As I have progressed through the year I have learned a lot about myself, my body and how to connect with it to unlock your potential. Although I haven’t found the perfect approach yet,  I am surprised of what we are capable of doing and what mental boundaries and challenges we face. I think one of the most important things I have learned last season is the importance of the mental aspect in the sport of triathlon. As it is well know, mental strength is as important as physical strength when it comes to endurance sports.

Before you go into a race you set expectations and goals (usually a target race time or ranking). I think it is important to have specific goals when it comes to triathlons or life in general. On the one hand a goal can be a driving force that motivates and keeps you focused and on track. On the other hand a goal or expectation can also limit you or work against you during a race when things don’t go according to plan and you need to rethink and adjust your mindset.

When I was racing at the World Champs I faced that situation. I went into the race with high expectations of what I wanted to achieve. And I was well on track until the last part of the race – the crucial run that makes the difference. Until this point I felt really good, despite the though conditions on that day. I had no major problems but as soon as I started my run I knew immediately that it’s not going to work out as planned. That was a massive hit on my confidence, I lost trust in my capabilities, was mentally stressed and started to develop negative thoughts. The pain, tiredness, heavy legs, the heat all the negative things hit on me. I wasn’t mentally ready to deal with that and overcome these doubts and stay in the moment and develop positive thoughts!
My reaction at that point was, ” OK that’s it, your race is over, you can’t reach your goal, now just finish the run and get on with it. You at least own this to your supporters”

Pete Jacobs once wrote the following: “If you are putting expectations on yourself and during the race you don’t feel you are achieving them, there is only one way you’ll go, and that’s backwards. Staying mentally strong during a race means a clear mind free from stress, and that’s what keeps your body functioning at its best”. 

I think that’s exactly what I experienced. My mind wasn’t clear, I wasn’t in the moment and too stressed about my expectations. I am a big believer that only a clear and focused mind will allow you to perform at your very best!
After my initial disappointment, I am now very glad that I could experience that situation, I will learn from it, grow stronger and will deal with it in a better way the next time. If I face a similar situation (and I am pretty sure I will at some point) I hope that I am prepared to react in a better way.

So I am looking ahead to a very exciting next season. After a short break, I will settle my mind for the next goal, which is IRONMAN Austria in June 2016. I guess racing an Ironman distance will require even more mental focus and the right mindset to master such a race. I am very excited to take on this journey. I had a great last 12 months, with a lot of highs, great moments and important lessons learned. I can’t wait to get on my next journey, full of excitement of what is ahead of me. Keep an eye on my journal to find out more about my preparation for this race.

Be present in the moment, be mindful, relaxed and focused.

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Training

After finishing my last race end of August I decided to take a few weeks off training for a mental and physical break before I go into the next season. I wouldn’t call it an off season, as I still keep active and don’t turn into a coach potato or cookie monster eating junk food all day. It’s actually a very good time to reset your body and shift your mind a little bit away from swim, bike and run

The first 2 weeks after the race I cut back on physical training but spent some time reflecting how the season and the races went. I also started to make decisions in preparation for the upcoming new season and the races I want to do. Reflecting is definitely a good way to overcome post-race depression.

The hardest thing for sure is to let go of your peak fitness. After spending so much time and effort to reach your peak fitness it is a hard thing to do. But a few weeks of rest won’t do you any harm in the long run and the fitness will come back in no time after you start into the new training season fully recovered and rested.

To make sure I am able to gain back my fitness pretty quickly I put focus on the following things:

Strengthening the body – I do a lot of yoga and start to hit the weight room more often than usual. I use this time to improve my flexibility, balance and strength. For me this is fundamental to prevent injuries and to keep my body in good shape. I also get some massages to loosen up any stiffness or go and see a physio or chiropractitioner for a general check-up.

Nutrition – I keep fueling my body with rich and nutrient dense food. I make sure to get enough vitamins and minerals into my body. Due to the lack of physical activity gaining a bit of extra weight is normal and not of a big deal. I also use this time to get some blood tests done to see if I have any deficiencies that I need to be aware off.

Light physical activities – Apart from yoga and weight training I engage in some very light jogging and swimming once a week. This has to be very light and without any time or pace constrains. I  leave my watch and heart rate monitor at home and go out for a nice and easy jog after work, followed by a swim in the ocean. Any other light activities such as walking, riding the bike along the beach or playing golf are good too. The main thing is to move your body and get the blood flowing.

The preparation block
After a couple of weeks off from regular training, I start my preparation block which lasts for another few weeks. This is where I gradually get back into normal but easy training. The training in this block will be short and not very demanding. The aim is to start developing your aerobic endurance and speed skills again and to focus on weight training and injury prevention.

It’s also a good time to do some field tests for swim, bike and run to work out your heart rate zones and your LT (lactate threshold) which I use for setting up my workouts in the following weeks of training.

Once the Preparation block is over, I am back into full swing training where the heaving lifting starts to build a strong base fitness level.

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