Friday, November 15, 2013

History Driving Improvement

The past, if you allow it, is a wonderful source of education for improving future performance. Racing triathlons, lifting weights or any exercise platform is no different. There is a wealth of knowledge, information and lessons learned if you are open to looking for them and using them to improve your performance.
When I decided to get back into shape after 20 years of couch potatoism, I elected to use endurance sports as a means to get and stay healthy.  On the day I decided to take control of my health, I made a promise to myself that I would compete against ONLY ME and no one else. Although I have a competitive streak, I vowed I would use my own performance as a bench mark against which to gage improvement. This would keep competing fun, fresh and give me a healthy perspective on life, competition and friendship.
While I still work hard and do my best to pass the next person in a race, my self-worth is not tied up in podium finishes or awards. Ironically, adopting this mentality has not only made me enjoy all aspects of training and competing, I truly believe it has made me stronger, faster and even more determined. If I get passed, I don’t get mad; I celebrate my fellow participant and work even harder to improve my own performance. I will never make the podium at an IRONMAN or REV3TRI event, but I am perfectly happy with competing and being the best I can be! 
In order to improve at whatever you do, you must have a game plan, a strategy of sorts to guide your efforts to success.  Your plan can be simple or complex, you need to do what suits you best. As with any sport or fitness routine there are a host of books, videos and other resources available to help you improve what you do. The question is; are you maximizing these resources to their fullest?
When building your plan, looking back at past performances can be a great place to begin your improvement strategy.  Before I competed in my first Ironman 70.3 event in June a friend asked me what I hoped to get out of the race. My response was to finish strong and to have a plan for how to improve in my next event before I crossed the finish line.  And that is exactly what I did. I finished my next Ironman 70.3 triathlon 24 minutes faster than my first. Letting history be my guide was crucial to my improvement.
Here are some strategies to help you learn from your experiences in order to build a plan for prime performance.
Enter each event or training session with a strategy and set your “mental recorder” to capture how you felt, what you did well, etc. Start a notebook and write down your notes on how you did and ideas for improvement as soon after completion as possible.
Be open minded in reviewing your performance but don’t be too hard on yourself.  Everyone can improve!  Review your notes and congratulate yourself on what you did well and highlight 3-5 things you want to improve upon.
With your successes and opportunities on paper, utilize the vast amount of resources available to help you improve for your next event. Build on your strengths and improve your weaknesses. Use this data to set new goals, build your training plans and develop a strategy for your next event.
There you have it. Let the past be your guide the future. If you adopt this strategy for EVERY event you do, not only will you continue to improve, you will also keep it fresh, fun and exciting.
Here is an example of how this works from my IRONMAN 70.3 Raleigh and Augusta races in 2013:

·         Have more confidence in my swim. I am good enough to do well so be less tentative but not too aggressive. Settle into my rhythm and then push the pace
·         Practice more in open water and practice stopping to tread water and site the course
·         For cold water swims where you can’t get into the water before the start, get the water on your face and in your wetsuit to take away that initial shock that can leave you breathless.
·         Need to consume more fluid, nutrition and salt sticks on the bike, especially in hard weather to alleviate cramping on the run, especially on hilly runs.
·         More long bike/run bricks make for a faster and more enjoyable run
·         For me, being a weak swimmer, push the bike and save some for the run which is my strength
·         Eat more on the run.  I don’t eat many sweet foods so two weeks out start to  consume these products in training to alleviate stomach issues
·         MORE STRENGTHING training for core and upper body.
·         Thank every volunteer, law enforcement office and fans…for without them we don’t have a venue to compete.