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Perspective on February’s Triathlon Training

This year is all about the swim and the run. At least that was the intention. Two months gone and I’ve not run sufficiently or shown real commitment to the pool. My focus has been making myself train not the specifics of how I use that time. One sixth of the year gone can I really make the improvements I want?

Expectations were beyond my capabilities. I assumed I’d be running well in a matter of weeks and I could quickly settle into a heavy swim schedule. Neither proved true. My calf has remained injury free, but not running for four months leaves a lot of work. Unfortunately I’ve no excuses with swimming, it’s purely motivational.

As I assess the last month I appreciate how pointless declaring a run focus is when you’re not up to the load. I’m following my guidelines: being careful in the build up, not rushing. It’s frustrating. I’ll plan a return to running. To last summer’s big mileage days and the amazing sense of effortlessness. But the progress is slow.

I plot data and watch fitness grow. Slow, creeping progress. Beyond the charts and graphs I can feel the improvements. I start to imagine the possibilities. Double my run volume next week. Back to old training levels. Fitness will rocket; I’ll be ready to really train by March. Or April. Or possibly May.

The next day there’s a twinge or a cramp. A touch of reality. I accept I’m not yet as fit as I have been. I’m being tempted to rush again. The slightest hint of last summer’s fitness and I want to chase. An occasional uncomfortable reminder of the work to be done, of my relative frailty sets me straight.

This year is all about the swim and run. I seem to forget the year in that statement. I talk long-term, but think short. Suppose I continue down the slow path I’m on. It will take a while, but by June I’ll see signs of my run form. If it takes six months to reach where I’ve been I still have six months to improve.

Before I focus, before I can effectively work towards significant improvements in any one sportI need to be fit. Until then the notion of focussed training is largely irrelevant. I am unable to sustain an individual workload sufficient to make the desired improvements. I am able to handle a workload across all three that will build fitness. It won’t take me to the next level, but it’s a stepping stone.

As February closes I’m not the runner or swimmer I wanted to be, but I am better than in January. Where I lacked motivation I find it restored. I want to train; I miss it. Not because I need to improve, but because it’s fun. This is progress on the path to a better athlete. During the winter months I feared I’d lost the hunger. It’s coming back.

I am aware of two things: my desire to train and my need to be fitter. A sports specific focus requires a fitness beyond me. I may want it, but attempting to specialise only reduces the overall work I’m doing. The focus is swim and run so I bike less. But I can’t actually swim or run more. I’m simply doing less.

So I’ll plug that gap. Specialisation will come, but for now better to train productively. If I can’t run as much as I want I’ll ride more. Build fitness where I can. It may not have been the plan, but the plan was wrong. Sticking to it slows gains. I have an opportunity to effectively use my time and improve somewhere. Triathletes always have this choice: three sports. There is always somewhere to make progress.

March becomes a month in balance. Generalised fitness growth; further preparation on the road to real improvements. I claimed no interest in this season’s race performance perhaps I should stick to that. Race for fun and variety. Train for long-term improvements. And maybe test myself in Vegas at the end of the season. Let’s go with the intent of the plan even when the details change.

I’m happy for a few months of gradual development. I’d be ecstatic if July’s performances come close to last year. It might be possible, but I’m not rushing. I have to remember the time scales that change works on. Talk long-term, think long-term and act long-term.

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