Friday, March 21, 2008

Getting Over the Hump: Overcoming March Malaise

What a crappy time to feel lack of motivation in training. The weather's starting to warm up; the equinox has come; we have more daylight, more warmth, less wind . . . and here we are reading blogs, putting off the inevitable swim, bike, run, weights, core, technique, drills, tempo, flexibility . . . It's all so overwhelming, and we don't want to do it anymore.

It seems to be a common problem, this time of year: I know I'm feeling it; several of the athletes I coach have mentioned it; I have a friend in Germany who just e-mailed me about the same thing--March Malaise; March Melancholy; March Mediocrity; March Don't-Make-Me.

Why is that? Like I said, it's the perfect time of year for training. We should all be chomping at our respective bits, rather than dreading the next workout!

I think it's because we've been training for several months, all in base training. We've worked our asses off since January, but have seen precious little result. Plus, the long steady work is starting to take its toll; after all, there are only so many times you can listen to your Long Run Ultra-Hardcore Superstar Like-Macca Playlist before you go a little nutty (and know exactly which song comes next).

If you're starting to feel a little lackluster in your training week, here are my ideas for putting some spark back into your schedule:
  • Throw in some intensity. Do some fartlek work in your long workouts. Fartlek means speed play. So play! Have fun with it! Include some short intervals in your tempo workouts. Add a big kick to the end of your workouts. If you've already worked through months of base work, some high-intensity training is not going to jeopardize your path to peak fitness.
  • Cross train. I know, I know; that's kind of our whole sport. I mean try something new. Find a climbing wall (or, if you are so fortunate to live in an area that has those funny things called mountains, get out and climb); take yoga or pilates; play basketball or soccer with your kids. Shake things up a little.
  • Get outside! Bonus points for going with friends.
  • Buy gear. You know that as soon as you pick up new equipment, you can't wait to try it out. It can be something small and simple (and cheap!) like new goggles, a running cap, or . . . okay, I can't think of anything small, simple, and cheap that you would need on your bike. What can I say? It's an expensive sport.
  • Reflect on your goals. This is the one that has by far been the most helpful for me. Take some time to think about what you want from this season and what it will take to get it. If you can remind yourself why you're working so hard and keep those things in front of you all the time, your motivation will strengthen. I recently finished a book that suggested writing down your goals and using a colored dot (or gold star, or anything similar) next to each goal. Let's say I place a red dot next to each goal on my goal sheet (I actually use a pocket-sized notebook for this). Then I put red dots on my toothpaste, my phone, my watch, my computer screen . . . Everywhere I look, I'm constantly reminded of my goals. Pretty soon, I think of my goals when I see a stop sign, or a red light. Even thinking about the technique gets me excited!
  • Rest. This is a big one. Don't skimp on recovery. Lack of motivation and general ennui are some of the symptoms of overtraining. Remember that it's better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained, come race day. If you've been pushing hard and your body starts to say, "Hey! I don't wanna do this!" then listen! One thing I've done in my recovery weeks is replace scheduled workouts with goal sessions; two birds with one stone (I know you triathletes love that multi-tasking stuff)!
My final recommendation would be to find a race, a local 10k or a casual weekend time trial, to get your competitive motor running and remind you why you love this sport. Because I'm pretty confident that if you didn't genuinely love this sport, you wouldn't have read this far.

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