New Year, New Cycle

And here we are again. The beginning of a new season. There will be hard work down the road, there will be sweat, but for now let’s take it easy and start with the right foot.

You may have just finished racing or you may have already taken some time off. You you haven’t done so (taken time off), make sure you do before jumping straight into a new routine. It is important you resume your training schedule when you feel fresh and energised, and ready to put in the effort needed. Forget to do so, and you’ll carry on fatigue from day one. And that is not what you want.

You may think you need to have a race already booked in your calendar, but that is not necessarily true. If you have signed up to an event and you feel committed to it, things will be clearer, but not necessarily easier. Hard work awaits both: those who have already signed up for a full Ironman in 2020 and those who do not have a goal yet.

The challenge will arise at some point. You will feel the inspiration and the call towards a goal. And that is when you need to be ready to accept it. Of course, you can always decide not to take in any extra stress and complication in your life, and that’s OK. Triathlon can still be a way to maintain your fitness and does not need to be projected to an event or a race.

Although I know every one of you and I’m sure that if you don’t have a goal just yet, that is just a matter of time.

Whatever the situation you’re in at the moment — already committed to a race or not — these are the five things I wanted to remind you before the beginning of the new cycle. They are not exhaustive, but lets’s start by practicing what we preach: one step at the time, little by little.

1. Feel you are really ready to start. I mentioned it before. It’s important to take time off from swim-bike-run before beginning a new cycle. I always recommend at least two weeks completely off from anything (or just stick to a light activity as an active recovery from previous races) and then continue with two weeks where you start activating your body once again — but very gently. Yet, not only the body needs rest and recovery; so does the mind too. Treat yourself, eat what makes you feel good and give you joy. Move away from any structure without guilt. It’s the time where you need to let yourself go. Just when you feel you have replenished your physical and mental tanks you are truly ready to start a new cycle again.

2. Walk in the room on tiptoes. Do not start full-on. Start little by little and see how it goes. You may have a new routine to juggle (a new job, a new house), so you need to find a new rhythm. Even the new season will affect your biology more than you think. So be aware of that and always listen to your needs and pay attention to what your body asks you. It will be easier to find your ideal workload in terms of training if you have started this way. If you start too quickly (because you feel you need to train more because you have a longer race next year), then you risk to burn out in the long term

3. Follow your own instinct and motivation. I’ve written a specific post on motivation, that you can read here. But I want to highlight once again how important is to find your own, intrinsic motivation. You can definitely follow a friend or a group of friend into your next challenge, because it is also fun and motivating to do it with a group of people. But be sure that you really want it. If you don’t, everything down the road will become more challenging: the training sessions will feel harder, finding the motivation may become trickier (it always is at some point), and you would battle your own will in order to achieve your task. You may eventually get there, but at a much higher cost than if you had decided according to your own gut and motivation.

4. Aim to improve, but 1% at the time. Triathlon is a complex discipline. It involves three different sports that need to be balanced as much as possible at the same time. Even if you don’t have a race goal for next year just yet, aim to target some specific goals you want to achieve. That can be improving your swimming technique (a major target for many, if not all), getting a better understanding of your physical capacities and nutrition plan (also very popular), or try to staying healthy and avoiding injury (almost mandatory, I have to say). In any case, do not try to improve just in one area or too much in all of them. Set small improvements you can monitor in the short and medium term. One step at the time and you will get there.

5. Be in the moment and enjoy it. This is a hobby after all. You are not a professional athlete (but even in that case is true), so you want to enjoy the lifestyle and feel good about it. There is nothing bad in taking on a challenge (setting a goal for a race or a technical improvement in one discipline), but don’t forget the bigger picture. Forget the outcome and focus on the process. This is a very inflated quote, but one that is important to remember. If you don’t enjoy the process of training every day (or almost), or you don’t find something to enjoy in those moments, it will be very hard to develop and achieve your goals. When you’re out there training, focus on that moment, and live it fully. If it’s hard to enjoy it because the session is hard, just bring your mind back to your body, breathe and relax. Limit the thoughts, focus on your body movements and use your mantras. I’m sure you’ll find the answers.