Return to Racing with a Firefighter’s Mindset
In recent weeks we have seen numerous races taking place across the United States. As a coach, it has been very refreshing to be able to have the familiar pre-race conversations about race day execution and strategy. It has been far too long to not have this kind of dialogue! I am optimistic about races taking place this season but recognize there continue to be some uncertainties surrounding COVID. Will races get kicked down the road and rescheduled like we saw last year? Will they be canceled? If they do occur, what kind of race day modifications will be in place, and can my family members attend? Will there be post-race food? C’mon, we all know everyone does triathlon so they can pack away several slices of pizza at the end of a hard race.
One thing I have encouraged my athletes to do, especially when dealing with uncertainties about races, is to have a “firefighter’s mindset”. Just as firefighters do not know when the alarm will sound, we may not know exactly when we will find ourselves toeing the line at our first race back since COVID landed. It is important that we be ready to respond with confidence when we have the opportunity to be back in the mix of racing. Here are four strategies to ensure you are prepared to the best of your ability when you receive that “call” to resume racing.
- Have fun – Enjoy the training process and journey back to racing. Whether your goal is to complete your first triathlon, podium in your age group, secure a Kona slot or earn bragging rights for having faster transitions than your training partner it is important to keep the fun factor alive. Be grateful for the gift of good health and the opportunities triathlon and a healthy lifestyle afford.
- Maintain consistency – COVID or no COVID, this should be a core pillar of your triathlon training. Being consistent with a structured weekly training schedule will help build fitness, keep you motivated and ensure you have a degree of “race readiness” at your disposal. Avoid the pitfalls of panic training and hone your race-specific skills. Just as firefighters execute daily training exercises to keep their skills sharp, so should it be within the scope of your training plan.
- Gear check – Have you ever noticed how often firefighters are tending to their equipment, their trucks? They are diligent at keeping everything ready for when the emergency comes in. This translates to triathlon as well. Don’t wait until the final days before your race to practice transitions or wear your wetsuit. Now is a perfect time of year to get some reps in with your transitions. As Coach Dave often says, “Rule #1 of transition is don’t be in transition!” More than likely you probably have not had a need to wear your wetsuit for quite some time. A good reminder from Coach Jim is to soak your wetsuit in water if it has been stashed in your closet for an extended period of time. Wetsuits can act like a sponge and shrink a tad when not used on a regular basis. Wear your wetsuit for part of an upcoming swim such as the warm-up or the entire session if you prefer. This will help you remember how much you love the buoyancy it provides and gives your body a chance to remember the feel of it. It is okay to wear it in the pool and just make sure to rinse it with fresh water post-swim.
- Be flexible – As you prep for a return to racing, focus on the controllables, namely your attitude and effort. It is also a good practice to adjust race goals as needed. If your goal race is early season and you have not been able to prep as you normally would have due to COVID restrictions (pools and gyms being closed, etc.) be realistic and set goals that are achievable but will still stretch you. Set both outcome (time-based) and performance (process-based, for eg. focusing on your breathing during the swim) goals. Maintain a positive attitude with any races that get rescheduled or postponed.
On a daily basis firefighters stand at the ready. Ultimately you want to feel prepared and confident as races resume. Having a firefighter’s mentality and applying these strategies will keep you sharp and race ready for when that call comes in.
D3 Coach Brad Seng knows that challenging days and subpar workouts are inevitably a part of the triathlon landscape, as are the times when you’re feeling great and everything clicks. He believes there are lessons to be learned from experiencing both. Sometimes having to fight for a workout is just what’s needed to achieve an important breakthrough in mental conditioning.
Coach Brad’s credentials include:
- USA Triathlon Certified Level II
- USA Triathlon Certified Youth & Junior
- Training Peaks Level 2 Certified Coach
- NESTA Certified Sports Nutritionist (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association)