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Staying Focused In Winter- Stefan Timms

How to stay focused when your season is still months away?

By Stefan Timms

The bed is calling to you stay as the cold weather yells at you not to go outside.  Your eyes are getting heavier with each passing morning and the will to get wet is waning.  You think to yourself, “Ahhh, missing one practice won’t hurt.  The season is still months away.”
The danger is that both statements are correct.  Missing one practice rarely hurts your development or performance.  And, being January, the race season is still many months away.  However, these are mere symptoms of a larger issue that almost everyone faces in the dead of winter – a decreasing lack of desire to continue training throughout the winter.  The major causes of this issue are usually repetition and lack of competitive opportunities.
Repetition – the same pool, the same workout, the same wind trainer in the same spot in the same house, the same running routes, Monday, Tuesday, what day is it?  If someone performs any given activity over and over and over and over again, the desire to complete the given activity to a high degree of efficiency will decrease over time.  It just happens – it is not different for triathletes.  However, maintaining a solid, consistent training schedule throughout the winter will allow you to enter the season in great shape, so the need to follow a routine is important.  The trick is making the routine fun and interesting.  This can be done by not being afraid to be creative!  The winter is a fantastic time to try out different things; snow shoeing, yoga, cross-country skiing, pilates, karate, etc.  Just because your heart rate is through the roof and the lactic acid isn’t threatening to burst through your skin doesn’t mean that you are not training.  Look at the benefits of a given activity and determine if they apply to triathlon in any way.  Every so often add these activities to your routine to break up any monotony that you may be experiencing.  Another option for increasing the fun quotient of your indoor workouts is by gathering videotapes of different races and racing the athletes.  Beat Lance Armstrong up the mountain, out run Bob Kennedy on the track, out swim Thorpedo in the 800m (well, that one might be tough, but you get the idea).  At your own pace, follow the pick-ups and breakaways – go with the leaders and don’t stop until they do!
We are all triathletes.  We are in this sport to compete.  Whether that is to compete against others, or ourselves we want to compare ourselves.  Just because we are not racing a triathlon does not mean that we cannot be competitive.  Taking part in single sport races cannot only provide you with a sense of competition; it can also serve as a great workout.  Ask around the pool about any masters swim meets or go by your local running store and pick up an entry for a 5km or 10km race.  These races will allow you to compare yourself against other people of similar ability, but you need not go push yourself to your limit if you do not wish to.  Just being around the energy of a race can make for an exciting workout.  You can use the 10km as a 6km tempo run, with the first 2km as a warm up and the last 2km as a cool down.  Rather than having to go out in the rain on your own to complete a 6km tempo, the energy and atmosphere of the race will help to get you through the workout smiling.  Similar to the running race, an 800m-swim race will force you to push hard the whole time.  Adding a solid warm up and cool down will add some distance and a technical aspect to your swim workout.  One thing that many people forget is that racing makes you fit, so don’t be afraid to jump into a race or two during the winter months to keep that competitive fire burning.
If you feel as though you are losing desire through the winter months, do not fret.  You are not alone.  Losing desire is not inherently bad, but how you deal with it is an important part of your training and development as an athlete.  If you listen to your bed and to the cold air, then you have lost the battle.  Yell back that you are not that person and that you are excited to go out and challenge yourself everyday!  Now, get out there and have fun!

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