Mark Allen: Summer Doldrums
August and September can be a double-edged sword for a lot of triathletes. Many of you will have your final big races of the year, which means you are in the best shape of the season. But the flipside of that same coin is that you are also getting closer to the day where your body will thank you for some downtime from peak training. The trick is to make sure that the real need for a break in the regiment comes after the race is completed and not before. Here are a few signs that you might be
bumping up against that line and some suggestions on what to do to make sure you do not cross it until after you have made it over your final finish line of the season.
This is one of the simplest ways to gauge if you are getting close to the need to ratchet things down for a couple of days to put energy back in the system. What I mean by inconsistency is that you might feel fantastic one day, maybe even setting PR's on a familiar loop or in the pool, but then the next you experience heaviness in your muscles or the sensation of having tons of lactate almost immediately after starting a workout even at low heart rates. This is a big signal to give some
extra attention to recovery by cutting back on intensity and volume for a couple of days (suggestions on how to do this up next).
Another level of inconsistency can be when you experience a big difference between how you are feeling and how you are performing in workouts. The edge can be closing in if you feel pretty tired, maybe even pretty unmotivated, but once you are working out you are again hitting big benchmarks that would indicate that you are in the best shape of your life.
The third area to keep tabs on is your mental attitude. You may be feeling like another time around the same circuits that you have been doing for months is going to drive you crazy and that you just don't have the interest to get out there. It might just seem like you want something new but feel like it's too late in the year to change things up enough to bring back your mental freshness. A certain amount of this is normal. You have been training and focusing for quite a while now. But your brain and your attitude need recovery just as much as your muscles.
Herein lies the catch. You can be in the best shape of your life and at the same time be close to everything just ending up flat for the remainder of the season all the way to having some serious burnout.
Cut The Fluff. Everyone has at least a few workouts each week that are not of the highest priority. Those might be easier recovery sessions or some moderate length endurance workouts that are not your key long ones that you do in each sport. They might be a higher paced tempo workout that is not quite as fast as your short true speed session, but are certainly workouts that will tire you out. These are all the fluff. For 3-7 days, cut out the fluff. Use the extra free time to rest, clear your
plate in other areas of life that might be pulling on your attention, and most of all let go of the need to train so much. Then see what happens. If you are at the beginning phases of the end of the summer doldrums, you should feel fresher and more normal for the key workouts that are still in your schedule.
If you know that the situation is running a little deeper, cut a couple of the key long workouts down or eliminate them completely. Doing half a long ride or run for one week will only help if you are feeling flat or overextended. Cut them out completely for a week if your body is screaming for the break. Do it guilt-free. You have a huge backlog of long endurance workouts stashed away in your body. If the doldrums are getting you down, it is much more important to reinvigorate your physical and mental freshness for the remaining weeks of the season than it is to try to slog through a big effort just to feel like it will make that big difference in your race.
Change It Up. Your mind might be the thing that is most stale. If so, pick one workout in each sport (at least one) during the upcoming week that you are going to do totally different than your normal routine. Maybe it's as simple as reversing the direction of a loop. It might be doing the sessions with a totally different set of training partners than your normal crew. Perhaps it's choosing terrain that has nothing to do with what will get you ready for your upcoming big race, but that you personally just love to train on. Go enjoy your favorite rather than another option that might be more in line with what you will encounter in your race. And finally, do something totally the opposite of training that helps balance out your brain. This could be going to a movie theater and watching a mindless adventure for a couple of hours.
One of the best ways to recharge your body and mind is to get some extra sleep. Sleep heals. Sleep regenerates. Sleep resets your freshness meter back to a higher point. Sleep gives that which was feeling boring a new outlook. Sleep can shift your view of life away from the summer doldrums and back to the excitement to finish off your season with a bang! Zzzzzzzz.
Off to the races!