The highs and lows in a multisport athlete’s life and training are comparable to a roller-coaster: up-down, fast-slow.
We all have that moment: we question our training our goals and possibly at times the point of going for the run, cycle or swim session. We find an excuse, justify not doing it for some reason or flat out feel we don’t have the energy.
This is a normal problem. Unless you are taking something that the WADA have missed and you are currently riding a unicorn instead of a bike, good on you! For the rest of us, life gets in the way and our magical minds that got us into multisport in the first place, occasionally go on holiday.
During this time, panic and doubt tend to creep in and suddenly it’s a training apocalypse. In normal terms it’s like feeling you are going to break the scale and never be able to run again, thanks to a couple glasses of red wine or indulgent weekend of feasting. Or maybe you took three days off and think you’ve picked up 10 kilograms. Better yet, you experience nagging doubts. You ask “why do I bother,” or say “I am not getting the results I want, so it must just not be for me”.
The good news is that in most cases I find it’s quite simple to fix the problem, wake up the mind and possibly gain some extra power in the process. Overcoming your worst running-related motivation sappers, namely the time it takes to perfect your training/speed, lack of inspiration, distraction and the occasional disappointment, will set you up for reaching your long-term running goals.
Time – Rome wasn’t built in a day
To get to the speed or fitness level you want, without injury or drugs it will take time. There are no shortcuts, no quick fixes. You will not lose that pesky 30 kilogrms or shave that 15 minutes off your personal best in a week, no matter how hard you train. It is only natural to want instant results through training – we do live in the instant gratification age. Your body, however, needs time, but it is so worth it!
That terribly old cliché of good things take time, unfortunately reigns true here and good results do take time. Your body is like a sports car, although when we start out it’s more like just an engine. In some cases (like mine was) it’s an engine trapped inside a bulky container. It is important to keep in mind that it takes at least three years to develop the vehicle, or your body in this case, into a suitable running machine. Conditioning, speed work, running miles and more miles, hill training and recovery: these are some of the things that needs to be repeated over and over again to reach your desired PB. Training is an investment that will hopefully see you running and competing well into old age. The beauty of multisport is even if you don’t race Elite, the age groups and category races are just as fiercely contended
New research shows that age isn’t as big a factor as we once thought. In fact many non-elite athletes are getting faster as they get older, especially athletes who start in their 20’s and 30’s.
Inspiration – What inspires you?
This happens to be the one that trips most athletes up. When inspiration heads out the door, you end up questioning why you are bothering with training in the first place. Finding inspiration or getting your groove back is a matter of two questions: Why did I start multisport? What is my goal?
Try to recall how you felt and what inspired you when you decided to start your training journey. Remind yourself of the goal you have set for yourself and honour it. Try to visualise yourself powering through, feeling invincible. Allow yourself to swim in that feeling. Think of your family cheering you on at the finish, that medal or a cold beer that tastes even sweeter after your efforts. Whatever it is, enjoy that feeling. Recall it in your post training cool down. Hopefully you should feel refreshed and a renewed energy to make that goal a reality.
Distractions – Waiting round every corner
Life will happen. Events, friends, family, food, drinks, illness are all part of our journey. Sometimes you will stay out late with friends before that long training ride or have a three course meal, followed by some sweets and a box of biscuits. If you have a proper training plan that you stick to, things like this every now and then won’t cause too much havoc.
If you time the “indulgent feasting” right it might even give you an extra boost on that long session.
Taking a day off here and there, provided you aren’t kidding yourself and take five days off with two days on. It also won’t harm your training and plan too much. Be wary if building inertia, though. No activity for three weeks solid will start to see a decline in fitness, and nobody wants that!
Disappointment – A fact of life
Did you set your goals too high? Got sick? Did you get lost during the race? Did your training buddy opt out and now you are alone? These are all setbacks that leads to disappointment. In my sporting career I have experienced much of that.
Just last month, I got the chance to take on my first international race. The Duathlon World Champs: 10km run, 40km cycle followed by a 5km run. I had put in the miles, physically and mentally. I had studied the course and arrived a week early to get to know it intimately. I was ready and my hopes were high.
In the few days before the race I picked up some type of virus. I tried to convince myself it was hay fever, or jetlag. Come race morning, I woke up with a post nasal drip, slight fever and all round unhappy feeling. I made a decision to still go for it, but had to unfortunately adjust my expectations. Instead of knowing I was going out full tilt start to finish, I had to see what my now compromised system’s “full tilt” was. Within the first 5kms I realised I was in trouble. I pushed on with streaming eyes and nose, and a nasty cough added in for good measure. After clocking a slow (for the race at least) 36 minute 10km, less than ideal bike and forced survival of the 5km run, I eventually took 18th place. I was quite sick after crossing the finish line including a severe fever, luckily this distracted me from getting too disappointed.
For a week after the race, I was just about ready to throw in the towel, but inevitably I gained some perspective on the matter. I had a chance to reflect on how far I had come and experience the joy of being able to run, cycle and see new places. I also realized I would get another chance at the World Champs next year. I learned hard lessons, but I know next time I will be better prepared.
Every athlete realises that through one’s sporting journey, illness, injury and setbacks will happen. The upside it will give you a chance to reflect and learn, to be even stronger for your next chance.
Elite athlete or not, racing, training and all that goes with it should be fun and enjoyable. Every now and then, when it’s not your day, go for a swim, surf, hike or just chill and remember everyone goes through times like yours. Just keep your goal firmly in your sights and use those setbacks as a foundation for building experience. Take each day as it comes and your goal will keep getting closer.