At this time of year, most of us find ourselves in the doldrums of being between race seasons. We’ve had time to get over our post race blues, and we start looking forward to the things we can improve on for next year. Whether it’s laying out plans to address a weakness, or mapping out that journey to your ‘A’ race.
Starting a new season is always a rollercoaster ride for me – it is exciting to get back into it, but I always forget how hard it is to get the ball rolling again. Whether you’ve taken a hiatus from physical activity altogether because life got in the way, or you had a couple months break? The struggle is the same, just in many different forms of internal dialogue. You all know what I’m talking about!
‘Should my legs / feet / lungs be hurting this much already?!’
‘Wait… I’ve dropped how many watts?!’
‘No actually, I’m not thirsty.. I’ve drank enough pool water’
And let’s not forget our recovery time and how long it takes before we feel it’s okay to start our next workout! Maybe we feel a bit more tired throughout the day than we should, or our joints just seem to ache a little more, or we wake up to find our legs and feet cramping up.. Yep, our hearts and head are in the right place but our bodies haven’t quite caught up yet.
All joking aside, there are always a few times at the beginning of the season where I am dismayed at how far things have degraded. Usual routes seem much harder, heart rate is higher, everything on the body seems to burn, times and splits seem so much tougher, and you wonder how on earth you’re going to get through it. Where there can be more ‘bad’ than ‘good’ workouts, and it can act as a mental obstacle early on. Negative self talk, not listening to the body, getting injured early in the season and getting discouraged are all heavy factors in limiting motivation. You get a lot more ‘I can’t’, than ‘I can’.
It’s tough to be in the moment and not make any comparisons to where you were previously in your fitness journey (I think it’s human nature). But, like all athletes new or experienced, the process is the same – we just have to remind ourselves of that. There shouldn’t be pressure this early in the season and it’s called a ‘build’ or ‘base’ for a reason.
These are a couple things I’ve found helpful to transition into my workout loads these past few weeks..
Build on the smaller steps and enjoy the small victories.
- I had never heard the term of ‘process goals’ before meeting this group, but I am loving it. Seeing only the end goal and it being far away can be overwhelming; the same holds true with the disparity in our physical and mental capabilities compared to before. But, adding small steps each day can equate to massive change. It can be as simple as working on a cleaner arm entry on your swim, or just putting in that extra 5-10 minutes on your run each time for a bigger base. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your fitness won’t be either!
Be more social!
- Doesn’t doing that progressively longer run each week with company make it seem so much easier, if you’re laughing and not focusing on how much your legs hurt? Aren’t intervals in the pool more tolerable with your lane mates pushing you? There are times or distances on the road or pool you’d just never consider doing on your own!
- Gain strength and inspiration from your team and friends. Nothing is better than watching someone have a breakthrough or sharing in each other’s successes after a hard workout.
Ease up on yourself!
- We’re all our own worst critics, and all athletes go through this acclimation period. Doubt and putting so much pressure on yourself early on won’t accomplish anything. They call it a base/prep phase for a reason, like a warm up for the season. Should you happen to have a bad workout, just remember that it’s miles ahead of doing nothing at all – it’s still putting work into the barn. I’ve had trouble starting workouts sometimes, but afterwards? Never once did I regret doing what I could. And the flip side? How many of us end up regretting not starting a workout in the first place?
It’s easy to be a little discouraged sometimes, but let’s not forget the journey or the big picture. After all, what’s the point in doing something unless you can have fun too? Take a couple steps back if you’re not feeling it, and give yourself time to do what you can when you can. A few weeks down the road you’ll see you were stronger than before, and back on track.
WRITTEN BY K.T.