This week, my tip is one that anyone who has hired me as their coach knows well: Train like you'll be racing. For most people, this means becoming comfortable with being uncomfortable.
What do I mean by this? It means considering ALL aspects of your race day. A lot of the athletes who I've worked for over the years sign up for events with one thing in mind: the glory of crossing the finish line and earning some shiny, new bling. It's only after they sign up, and perhaps even after they've started a little bit of the training, that many athletes realize that they may have bitten off a little more than they can chew at that time.
But don't despair! You can increase your chewing capacity! Talk to others who have done the race. Do your homework on researching the courses. Look at Wunderground for historical weather data for the venue so you'll have an idea of what race day weather conditions will be. And then, train for ALL of that.
So, basically: If it might rain on race day, train in the rain. If it might be cold on race day, train in the cold. If it might be hot on race day, train in the heat. If it's a flat course, train on flat terrain. If it's hilly, become best friends with hill repeats. If it's a solo athletic event, train alone, and not in groups. If it's an event long enough to require hydration and nutrition, test everything out in training and make notes on what works and what doesn't. Do specific, race-prep workouts that prepare you for how you'll be going through your race day. Will you be doing a relay race with multiple legs? Do multiple runs a day so you simulate running on tired legs. Sometimes this can be tough, especially if your goal event is a destination race in a different climate and terrain than you live in, or if you're managing your training along with a million other life details. But do your best to train like you'll be racing.
The best thing an athlete can be when they start a goal event is confident - both in themselves and in their plan. The best way to build confidence is to gain experience. And that's where solid training and a smart plan comes into play.
Does all of this seem overwhelming? This is where hiring a competent, compassionate coach to work for you and help you reach your goals might be a good idea. It's a coach's job to "see the forest through the trees" and manage the little details that keep the big picture goal in focus. You don't even necessarily need to hire a coach all the time; even one or two sessions could benefit you.
Become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Push your boundaries. Realize that you are strong, and you are worthy of setting the bar higher for yourself. And then, chase it. :D
Coach Laura Henry
Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.