“Greatness is never rewarded to the stupid.” This quote was texted to me by a good friend on the heels of a discussion we had about athletes who have a bad race and decide they have to go home and train harder. It got me thinking about all of “stupid” things we do as athletes that hinder our ability to be great, or at least be the best we can be.
1. Training with insecurity
I put this one first because I believe this is the biggest impediment to improvement. Athletes who lack confidence in their training make detrimental mistakes, such as logging too many miles, going too hard, and deviating from their plan. It is the gateway to all of the other things that prevent athletes from success.
2. Never taking a rest day
Look, I hate taking a zero as much as anyone. However, rest days are imperative for mental and physical restoration. And, sometimes you just need to get other stuff done.
3. Keeping up with Joneses
Social media has given everyone the opportunity to post their workouts; pros and amateurs bombard Twitter, Facebook and blog sites with intricate tales of miles logged and meters swum. It is very intimidating realizing your competition is training 50 hours a week with a full time job and a family. My advice: cut it all in half and then lop off a few more hours. It doesn’t matter what anyone else is doing. Stick to your own plan.
4. Training beyond your means
If your goal run pace is a 7 minute mile, should you really be on the track hammering out mile repeats at 5:50? Enough said.
5. Unrealistic expectations
I would love to run a sub 2:30 marathon. How cool would that be? Alas, even if I was 10 years younger, that is not a pace I am capable of running. Athletes often have expectations that exceed their ability. Before you lambast me on this, let me explain. I am all about setting goals and reaching for the stars; it is, to me, the cornerstone of training and racing. But, we all have our limitations and those need to be recognized.
6. Doing the same thing and hoping for different results
It is easy to get stuck in a training rut. Long sessions on the weekend. Group rides on certain evenings. Long steady distance. Intervals all the time. Going too hard. Going too easy. Training that worked for you a few years ago may not work anymore. Plateaus happen. Take a close look at how you are training. There are probably ways to change things up that will boost you to the next level. You can start training with power on the bike. Running different types of intervals – how about 1K repeats instead of mile repeats? Challenge yourself in the pool by swimming in a swim meet.
7. Ignoring the little things that are really big things
Triathletes are very focused on swim, bike run. Training takes up a lot of time leaving little room for things like strength training, massage, focusing on technique and eating better. I always tell the athletes I coach, it is better to miss a recovery workout and go to the gym to lift than to skip the gym altogether. Swim, bike, run is predicated on having a healthy body and this can only be achieved by doing things that are not necessarily swim, bike, run.
8. Chasing races
You missed your goal in a race so you turn around and sign up for another. You miss your goal in that race so you turn around and sign up for another. And so on. Sometimes a bad race is just a bad race. Most of the time, though, there is a reason. Take a close look at what happened and rectify the problem before rushing into another race.
I have fallen victim to each and every one of these mistakes in my years of racing. Fortunately, I have spaced them out and not incorporated them into my regime all at once. Thankfully, the passage of time has made me a smarter athlete and less vulnerable to the blunders listed above. I hope.