My training over the last few years has involved a steep learning curve. I am far from wise or experienced, but I have learned a few things along the way.
- Swimming is hard. I’d like to say it gets easier, but so far, that hasn’t been true. You just get more skilled at recognizing all the things you’re doing wrong.
- Swimming is way more fun in a group. It is also so technically demanding I can’t imagine doing it without a coach.
- Learn how to change your tires. Seriously. The day will come when you’ll get a flat tire, and if it’s in the middle of a race, there’s a good chance the tech people will be very much like police officers: never around when you need them.
- Invest in a foam roller and a lacrosse ball, and use them both, regularly. I do my rolling nightly in front of the tv.
- I am not normally a Coke drinker, but on a long ride there is nothing quite like the drink of Coke you’ve saved for when you’re feeling sad.
- Anti-chaffing cream works. Use it.
- Invest in a comfortable saddle, even if it’s ugly. Mine is ugly. I do not care. My previous saddle used to make me cry after half an hour on the trainer. I can sit on this one for hours without any complaints. Go to a saddle guy (there is such thing) and try a bunch out. It’s worth it.
- Don’t ignore your feet. They need to be stretched and rolled and taken care of like any other part of your body.
- Invest in the occasional massage. I don’t need to explain why.
- Cycling is expensive. Of all the places where you might be tempted to cut corners, don’t cheap out on a helmet. Again, no need to explain why.
- Booties and toe covers for cold weather cycling—I can’t believe I went so long without owning these essentials. Warm feet = happy cyclist.
- Experiment with your nutrition on the bike. Nowhere is it written that you must exist solely on gels. Try dates filled with coconut oil. Try salted mini-potatoes. And (you’ll laugh, but it tastes great and it’s easy on the stomach) try baby food.
- Change only one thing on a run workout. If you’re doing hills, don’t also decide to do speed work. If you’re doing speed work, don’t also decide to do an extra-long run. This is something I’ve learned the hard way.
- Strive to be better, faster, stronger as an athlete, but also accept the athlete you are. This is a difficult balance to achieve. If anyone out there has figured out how to do it, please pass on some advice.
- Don’t cut the last few minutes, miles or laps off a workout. A big element of endurance training involves building mental toughness. Telling yourself it’s okay to quit before you’re really done won’t serve you well on race day.
- On the other hand, don’t be afraid to cut out early if something legitimately hurts. It’s not worth risking injury just to finish a workout.
My long ride this week was on the trainer. I was quite pleased with it until I remembered—I’m still missing 99km.