By Guest Writer: Brett Blanker from Zen & the Art of Triathlon
Everybody wants to improve their triathlon training and racing results. You’d think it would be easy enough. There is an unbelievable amount of great training and racing information out there for us to use; Coaches, training plans, articles, and supporting people number in the thousands, if not millions.
So why is it so hard to get faster and more injury resistant?
The real problem is that people have only too vague of an idea of what to actually improve. When goals are vague, it is human nature to wander about aimlessly until the picture is clearer. An unfortunate feature of human “intelligence” that is different from other creatures is our amazing ability to sabotage our good intentions with bad behavior, all the while convincing ourselves that we are doing the best we can when we really are not. A classic example is when we think we are eating as best we can while stuffing a bag of potato chips in our faces at three AM. There is a huge disconnect between eating like that and thinking you are doing the best you can. Seriously, that is not the best you can do, so why would you think that? The answer is the human mind is sufficiently complex to hide one obvious problem from the other part of the brain that is trying to fix it.
The best way to make a real change is to simplify the issue and attack it head on, no tricks from the complex mind allowed. You might think you are already doing this, and you might be, but you are probably not being specific enough. After you get more specific, the proper follow-through is to document how well your “fix” worked and then decide if that’s enough. To illustrate the point, here is a great method I learned from the amazing Christine Lynch, a holistic health counselor; Document how a certain food made you feel a couple of hours after you’ve eaten it. If you decide it was not a good decision, do not do it again.
So how do you get more specific about issues to change triathlon habits? It is actually quite easy. You just make a spreadsheet with four columns: “Bad Behavior”, “Correct Behavior”, “The Difference”, and “Notes.” Put the things you need to quit doing in the first column, the ideal behavior in the second, the specific actions that make the difference between the two in the third, and any notes about how things are going in the fourth.
Let us say that you want to get in more distance while swimming at the pool. You would put, “Swims too short” in column one, “Longer swims” in column two, “Quit stopping and talking to people between laps” in column three, and your experiences when trying to do this in column four. You will be absolutely blown away how strong the effect of writing down, “Quit stopping and talking to people between laps” has on yourself when presented with the situation. You might pause momentarily, but then realize that your goal and your energy is directed at stopping this behavior and you will quickly resume swimming.
The “Notes” column is important to document what worked and what did not. “Billy just wouldn’t shut up even though I told her I was not stopping!” will seed your brain with solutions for the next swim practice. With time to think between sessions, you will come up with a kind way to deal with Billy instead of being rude.
I use this technique for getting in more workouts, making workouts more effective, getting up earlier, getting more done at work, even dealing with relationships. I also keep it in Google Docs so that I can access it anywhere there is an Internet connection, reviewing it once a day. You might find this approach can make all the difference in both your training and your life!
Brett Blankner is a USAT certified triathlon coach, Ironman, ultra runner, and host of the first and longest-running triathlon podcast – Zen and the Art of Triathlon. You can find him posting workouts and motivational tweets as @ZenTriathlon on Twitter and get more information about his coaching and other triathlon news at www.ZenTriathlon.com.