Fitter Not Faster

Fitness has turned around. Winter lethargy replaced by my usual appetite for training. Hours logged, miles in the bank and a big training week to finish March. We have many ways to measure training: time, distance and TSS amongst them. It’s easy to view high numbers as an indicator of success. My TSS is at its highest since September; I must be fit. It’s all down to the bike, my run and swim numbers are disappointingly low. Is that successful?

There are no prizes for the most training. On race day performance counts not the work you did to get there. I train long hours, my fitness improves and my weight drops. All positive for performance. Triathlon involves three sports, whilst I’m confident I’ll ride well what will happen either side concerns me. Training works. Time spent cycling has made me a better cyclist, but equally minimal swimming and running has resulted in declining performance.

Reviewing March’s training I’m pleased by the higher volume and quality biking. A personal bias. Improvements in fitness and body composition let me turn a blind eye to the flaws. The willingness to let running issues drag on or the ease with which I drop a swim session – these are not good training practices. I’ve overcome the inertia that held me back, but I’m a long way from being a good athlete. Training where you can best achieve results is not an excuse to neglect other areas.

Not being at your best is hard on the ego. It’s far more satisfying to successfully push through a tough ride than suffer through a steady run. When running and swimming present difficulties, cycling is the easy option. I feel like an athlete when I’m on the bike, but a casual jogger when I go for a run. The triathlon season is here, I can’t afford to neglect one sport in favour of another. Training is good, but how I train is important.

It’s time to dent my ego. I started the year writing about the challenge of finding my motivation, of simply training. I’m past that. The new challenge is much harder – doing the right training. Not the training that makes me feel good or I know I can complete, but the training that makes me a faster triathlete. I will be bike fit for my season of Ironman races, but I won’t be race fit unless I can swim and run too.

Running is frustrating. Slow and short and followed by tightness in my calf. At times recovery involves rest, but ultimately to return to running I have to run. Navigating this awkward pathway of tentative training is the only way I’ll reach previous run performances. It’s easy to put it off, to allow ‘more time to recover‘. The hard choice is to carefully plug away at unsatisfactory training till it works. Doing the training I need, when I need it, however frustrated I feel.

Swimming is frustrating. Not hampered by injury, but the limited availability of quality pool time. You don’t become a better swimmer staying dry, but rather than address these problems I avoided the pool. There are opportunities for good swim training early in the day or late in the evening. I’ve been using my success on the bike as an excuse not to take the steps to improve my swimming. The opportunity was there if I was willing to put aside my own frustrations.

It’s time to up my game. To focus on the season goals and the long term picture. Developing as a cyclist is only a part of developing as a triathlete. The same holds true of each sport; a focus in one is not an excuse for neglect in the others. Success and consistency come from doing the training you need not just the training you enjoy. A willingness to put ego aside and do what it takes to move forward.

I’ve regained my desire to train, but my work ethic needs attention. Without that willingness to do the hard graft I’ll never achieve the consistency I need for the performances I want. Sometimes training is less fun than others, sometimes it’s frustrating and sometimes sessions don’t go to plan; none of these are reasons not to do it. Without good structure I will get fitter, but I won’t necessarily get faster.