Have you ever wondered how some athletes post great race results time after time? Or, how is it that some people make changes in their fitness and weight and stick with a healthier way of living?
During my years of racing as an elite triathlete, there were some stretches where my race results were as ever changing as a roller coaster ride. I would frequently ask myself the question posed above. After several years of racing, and now several years of coaching, I have discovered some of the key factors that support consistency in results.
1. Find a coach or mentor.
Perhaps you’ve saved enough pennies for a fancy new super aero-bike, or purchased the latest dietary trend nutritional products to lose weight. Investing in the help of a reputable coach, whether it be a wellness coach or an athletic performance coach, may yield greater results. A good coach can steer you on an individualized, progressive program based on your needs and goals.
A coach can also act as a sounding board. Let’s say that you find out that one of your competitors has become a faster runner by completing a be-weekly workout of 30 repeat quarters on the track at 5k speed and very little rest. Will this make you a better runner? Is this something that you should be working toward? Or, is it a recipe for injury? Better ask the coach.
2. Be consistent.
Once you’ve laid out your training or fitness program with your coach, do your absolute best to be consistent with the schedule. I had my best racing streaks coming off of consistent training weeks.
With this being said, allow for some flexibility in your training plan and workouts. The program does not always go smoothly and you may not always feel “on.” Sometimes the program or the workout needs to be “tweaked” in a way that allows your body to respond in positively. For example, you may find that working with a higher volume plan for 3 weeks in a row, followed by 1 week of backing down is leaving you fatigued. Perhaps you would fare better with two weeks of higher volume followed by 1 week of backing down. Make the adjustments and keep moving forward. A coach can help with this.
3. Listen to your body.
I’ll make this one short. Trust what your body is telling you. It usually does not lie. Don’t beat yourself up over having to back off, modify a workout or head home if you are feeling totally off. You may spare yourself of injury or illness.
4. Create a network of support.
Surrounding yourself with a support network is crucial in keeping yourself motivated and accountable. Your support group may include a master’s swim team, local YMCA or Community Center exercise program, a weekly morning track workout, a Sunday walk or run with a neighbor, friends and family who love and support you etc. Surround yourself with those who want to work with you, support and believe in you. Stay away from those that feel threatened by your process, enable habits that sabotage your process or tell you that “you can’t.”
5. Ask questions.
Asking questions is a terrific method of gathering information. When I was preparing for the 1997 Hawaii Ironman, I was unsure about what to expect racing this distance at a high and hard level. So, I asked a few of my fellow competitors for some of their best tips – and they were happy to share!
There is a wealth of information available from coaches or those who have gone through the same process you are going through, and have made it to the other side. Never miss out on the opportunity to learn something that may help you improve your performance or help you in reaching your goal. All you have to do is ask.
6. Discover the “thrive level” environment.
What kind of environment can you create to help keep you relaxed prior to your race? What kind of environment do you feel comfortable in when working out?
Let’s consider the situation of traveling to a race that involve an overnight stay. Are you most comfortable staying in a hotel? Bed and Breakfast? Airbnb? Do you want to be able to cook your own meals? Who are you comfortable rooming with?
When I was racing professionally and traveling a lot, I would often opt to stay with a host family. I liked being away from the intense racing energy that was often felt when staying at one of the host hotels. I wanted to feel like I was at home. I used to get very nervous before my events, so removing myself from that energy helped to keep my anxiety at bay.
If your goal is to become more active and consistent with exercise, are you someone who is comfortable with and enjoys a group exercise setting? Do you prefer a personalized plan and to work out on your own? Are you one that prefers be outside? Are you a one on one person who may fare better working out with a friend or a personal trainer?
7. Roll with it!
Remember, often times things don’t always go as planned. For example, you may find that there are no hotel rooms left in the area where you are racing and are forced to stay in a place that does not feel as comfortable (like a gross motel room several miles away). You may show up to a group exercise class only to find that it’s been cancelled and have to workout on your own. Rather than dwell on the circumstance presented to you, roll with it. These things happen all of the time.
There is no need to tackle all of these habits at once. Consider focusing on one or two of them and go from there. Most importantly, be patient and open to stepping out of your comfort box a bit.