I’ve been thinking long and hard about how I’m going to train for my races this year and I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m going to throw all conventional ideas of training plans out of the window and just trust my intuition and do whatever I feel like. Reckless, perhaps. But I suspect more exciting.
Last year I was very lucky to work with a coach and have my weekly training plans provided to me, knowing that I didn’t have to think too much and just had to follow the instructions written down. In theory, that sounds lovely and the most straight-forward way of training…you know, trusting the professionals. However I’m stubborn and difficult and whenever someone tells me to do something (even when it’s in my best interest), I tend to take great delight in doing the complete opposite. So you can see that being coached wasn’t necessarily a good match for my personality as I tend to trust myself more than I trust others, and I definitely know my limits better than anyone else. I also started really intense training at the beginning of February which left me feeling burnt out by the time my A race arrived and I found myself keeping injuries from my coach because I didn’t want her to adjust my training. I really am a nightmare. Then add to that the fact that I had 6 training sessions per week (this turned into 7 usually because I always wanted to run on my rest day) which I felt like I had to always complete, even if it meant cancelling plans with friends because I prioritised my training over them. Bad friend, I know. Although I also put off my yearly dental checkup for an entire 8 months because I couldn’t fit it in to my training schedule, so I guess I also prioritised my training over my own wellbeing too.
This year though, it makes sense to do things my way. After a bit of a setback with some health issues which has affected the quality of what I’m currently doing, I feel comfortable in trusting my gut instinct with what I should be doing and when. Of course I’ll push myself to train when I probably should be listening to my body and sitting out, but luckily I have plenty of people around me who are more than happy to give me a lecture on that when needed. And despite tears and tantrums, they usually win.
But why else will my non-training approach work better for me? Because having fun will be the number one priority.
Cycling probably became my one true love during last year’s training and whilst I always made sure I took my bike out after work on a Friday evening, it meant that I also had to do an indoor cycle once a week too – and I hate turbo-ing because, for me, my love of triathlon stems from the fact that I love to be outdoors. Slaving away in a gym? Not for me. But getting to the top of an almighty hill, taking a breath in and knowing you’ve cycled up it faster than usual? That feeling is exhilarating and makes me feel alive. I have big and heavy legs which have a lot of cycling potential, but I didn’t get to exploit them enough last year. So this year I want to be cycling more. As soon as the evenings are light enough I plan to cycle to and from work a few times each week – for my mental wellbeing as much as anything else as I know that will help me to feel calm, but is also a nice challenging route which I can extend on the way home and turn into a proper training ride. Why couldn’t I do that last year? Because I’d be cycling to work on days when I would be running or swimming too and then I’d get caught up in how many calories I would need to be consuming in order to sustain that volume of activity, and as someone who still struggles to fuel properly it just created more problems than it solved. Therefore I could only really cycle and run together on days when I actually had a brick session planned. And so I had to hold back on my cycling which made me a bit unhappy at times.
Swimming was also one of those activities that I absolutely loved but had the fun sucked out of it at various points during the year. For the most part, I was swimming before work which meant being in the pool at about 6.30am, saying a quick hello to the people in my lane, and then getting on with my sets. It was quite lonely. Now I tend to spend the majority of my swim sessions swimming with friends or people from my club, and whilst I’m not an overly social creature, the people I swim with are full of personality and we always have a fabulous time and are full of giggles (we do work hard too, I promise). Whilst I may not be working on my drills so much anymore, the work I am doing in the pool is benefiting me enormously and fits in with my ‘non-training’ perfectly. I also plan on doing more sea swimming this year because, again, that is something I really love and as I live at the beach it would be silly not to seize this opportunity.
Running was the area I struggled with the most whilst being coached last year though – I’ve been a runner for as long as I can remember and I don’t really know who I am without running (cue the violins, I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently and tears have been shed). Unfortunately my feet really started to deteriorate during the summer which meant I wasn’t hitting the times I was supposed to be hitting in my training sessions, and in one of my triathlons I even had to walk part of the run route because I was in so much pain (to be fair the night before that race my husband did have to dislocate my feet for me so I could ‘put them back together again’ so the walking was understandable…but it left me feeling like a bit of a fraud). So my feet aren’t getting any better, and I know surgery is on the horizon which means again my running will be slow this year and it’ll make me tremendously sad, but trusting my instinct and running the distances I know I can manage whilst trying to worry less about times will hopefully help to keep the fun alive and will keep me running for the entirety of the season. But you know, running whilst managing chronic pain is really not easy so I need to cut myself a bit of slack here if things don’t go to plan.
And of course, I have my new found love of Barre and am attending three classes a week. Last year I simply could not fit any exercise classes into my training plan because it was already too full. Whereas this year I know I can tailor one of my runs to run commute to Barre on a Wednesday evening, which will involve hill work on my run home too and will be great for my run fitness. I’m considering Barre to be the strength training element of my ‘non-training’ because I really do have to work hard in those classes and instantly feel the benefits, but Barre is also really useful for me to tune into my body and figure out what isn’t working in the way it should be and what needs to be stronger, which makes it the perfect accompaniment to the swim, bike and run.
Of course, even though I’m calling this a ‘non-training plan’ I do have an idea of what days I will be doing what, and actually with all of the above my entire week is taken up with training once again. However, in my head I feel a bit more comfortable with what I have come up with because I know that now it is only me who is in control of what I’m doing; I can be flexible if I want to be and in theory I will be able to prioritise other more important things over training if I need to…because, you know, missing a swim session won’t kill me. I know I will still struggle to deviate away from the routine I have in my head, but I suspect I’ll be able to figure it out and have a very happy season.
So, here’s to 2017 and the year of non-training!