Thursday, December 17, 2009

When To Get Serious Again?

With thoughts of qualifying for Kona, doing your first Ironman, completing your first 70.3 or simply doing a triathlon many of us believe starting the training process sooner is better than later. My take on this is when you start your training depends on a number of things, and let me clarify that what I mean by 'start training' is commencing a program of structured workouts where each session has a purpose and a goal and you are following a structured periodized program.
So what might influence when you start? Firstly how long and arduous your current season was.  Ask yourself how hard and how often you raced, how long your season was from that first race in anger to the your last race of the year.  How healthy were you, meaning were you forced to take time off at all during the season due to illness/injury?  How experienced are you, do you have several years of endurance training in the bank or are you relatively new to the rigors of training for three very aerobic sports?  The last and arguably most important question is how motivated are you to get back into things mentally.  If you don't feel a fire in your belly to be out there running, swimming laps and/or riding your bike then wait until that desire returns and then start working out with some structure and not before.  I have seen many athletes burn out in my 20 years of racing, training and coaching, mostly it is mental fatigue and rarely physical!

Some guidllines I use with my athletes:
  • If your season started in April (or earlier) and finished in October/November my suggestion is you do not even consider formal, prescriptive training until January 1st.  If by the New Year you feel ready to rock then great, if not and you don't have an early season 'A' race then you can afford to leave it until February.  Now let me clarify before I move on that informal, unstructured training must still take place during this time off, it is absolutely the wrong thing to do to take time completely off!
  • If you are new to the sport (less than three seasons) then formal training is acceptable as early as November 1st provided the volume/intensity are low and the focus is on skills and limiter development.  The caveat here is mental readiness and good health as alluded to above.
  • If you have multiple years of consistent training (more than five) and your 'A' race is in July or later then in my mind their is no need to start focused training until January/February.
  • If you were ill or injured more than once in the current season and had to have a week or more of forced rest then no matter when your next 'A' race is I would not advise commencing formal training until February 1st or later.
When to start formal training is always something that should be discussed with your athletes.  Don't be afraid to force an athlete to take a break, very ofen they will thank you for it in the long run.  There will always be those anomalies out there who are able to absorb training load and simply LOVE working out, provided they exhibit good health and are injuru free I see no danger with them continuing with a prescriptive type of program year round!

That's it for now, thanks for reading.