I like to consider myself to be a 'regular exerciser'. I'm generally training 1-2 times per day and I know how to structure my training towards me end goal. I've been taking part in triathlons for 27 years, when I started you didn't wear wetsuits so things have changed a lot in that time. If I were to ask whether I've got faster in the last few years, the answer is probably no. This makes me slightly sad as I seem to be flogging myself every day of the week and probably train 20 hour per week. Maybe I'm getting a little better, but I'm hardly making remarkable jumps.
When I look around, I see a lot of people in the same boat. They train almost every day with local clubs/groups or alone and never really seem to be getting any faster each year. To some extent, this gives them something to moan about, so every cloud has a silver lining. I'm not talking about the newbies, they all improve quite quickly. I'm talking about the one's who have been doing it a few years. Why is it that they are training hard on a regular basis but getting no quicker each year?
You are what you are...
Here's the first thing to take into account, if you have been training 6 times per week, doing the same sessions for the last couple of years, you won't make progress. Once you have 'adapted' to a certain level of training, you're only going to remain at the same level by doing the same thing. It doesn't really matter if you are swimming/cycling/running REALLY HARD, if you were training REALLY HARD last year, then it's just the same. That's the sad reality of endurance sports, you can look around and see hundreds of people who are training with commitment every week of the year and have been for the last 10 years, yet they don't seem to improve year on year.
Any outsider would think that training makes you faster. If I train for a full year, I will improve 20% and then If I train for another year, I improve another 20% and it just keep going year after year. Sadly, we all know that's not true and after the initial 'novice to intermediate level' gains, you reach a plateau and stay there.
This is all very cheerful...
Isn't it. But I think it's important to understand and discuss openly this 'endurance plateau' which can be frustrating and disappointing. Every year we all think that 'this is the year' and we'll knock 2 hours off our race time. So is this achievable and if so, how?
You need to change...
Firstly, you need to change your routine and your outlook, doing the same just doesn't make the grade. We can talk about sports science and coaching until we are blue in the face but here's the 3 things you really need to know:
1. You need to train harder than last year, whether that's more volume, intensity or frequency. You might 'think' that you are training hard, but are you really? What you 'think' is hard, might be an easy week for someone else.
2. You need to make sure you're doing the right things. Lots of people do high intensity stuff when it should be low or low intensity stuff when it should be high. If you really need to ask which is most important for you, it's generally the one that you're avoiding because you don't want to do it.
3. You need to be committed and stick to it. Ideas and plans are all good and well, but you have to see them through. The excuses generally start in Feb and to be fair, sometimes the excuses for missing your training are genuine and valid. But it doesn't really matter whether they are good or bad excuses, you still missed training.
4. You need a sense of perspective. It's always good to ask, what amount of training do successful age group athletes complete? If you're setting yourself target times for events, find out who else falls within that bracket, do you train more than they do?
Getting a coach and joining a club can help you greatly, but all it will give you is a structure and a schedule. You're the only person who can answer the above questions so you are the key factor. Getting faster is bloody hard, training just isn't enough.
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