Coach Tip Tuesday: More Than You’re Used to Might Not Be Enough
As this racing season winds down, athletes are inevitably starting to think about next season and what goals they may want to set for themselves in the coming year. Over the years I’ve been coaching, I’ve written many posts that dive into some of the things that I encourage athletes to think about as they reflect on a season and make plans for a coming one.
While there are many articles that I’ve written that dive into this, one of the most important things is understanding that saying yes to something always means saying no to something else. Another critical piece of the puzzle is recovery (and actually carving the time for it). This week, I’m building on that body of work, and I’m sharing a truth that is extremely hard to hear, let alone accept as true:
Doing more than you’re used to might not be enough to get you where you want to go.
This can be one of the more frustrating elements of training, especially when it comes to longer events such as a long-course triathlon or marathon. It’s also a frustrating truth about training for a performance-based (read: time-based) outcome.
Athletes who are considering training for these events or for time-based goals may be willing to carve the time to do more than they’ve done in the past when it comes to training and racing. If you’ve been training for endurance sports for a while, you may already have done this yourself. When one does more than what you’re used to, it can feel like a lot. Because of this, it can feel like enough.
This can be dangerous because it can be deceptive. Just because you’re doing more than you used to - or even more than you ever had before - doesn’t mean that it’s actually enough to set you up for the highest probability of success at reaching whatever goal you’ve set for yourself.
For many goals in endurance sports, it takes what it takes. You can do it or not do it, but you cannot (read: cannot) change what it takes. What makes us better may not resemble what makes us feel better in a given moment. This is especially true if you are seeking a performance-based (time-based) outcome. So even if you are doing more than what you used to, or a lot in the grand scheme of your life and what else you have going on, if it doesn’t reach the threshold of what it actually takes, it isn’t enough. It’s as simple and as hard as that.
All of this means that (unfortunately) that athletes can be led down a false mental path of feeling like they are doing enough, when truly, they are not. It takes some very honest self-awareness to be able to independently identify this, and this can be very challenging since no one likes to admit that they might not be doing enough, especially when it comes to a very important personal goal.
How can you tell if you might not be doing enough? Here are a few ways:
Take a look at your results. Have you achieved the result(s) you wanted in racing? A desired result can be time-based, but a desired result can also be as “simple” as a race finish at a particular distance or discipline. If you’ve tried (and failed) to reach a specific goal multiple times, this could be a sign that you need to evaluate how much you’re doing.
How are you recovering from workouts and races? Are certain types of workouts consistently very challenging for you? If you are not making progress in a particular type of workout and/or your recovery is impaired after a specific type of workout, you may not be doing enough to make those gains.
As many of you have heard me say over and over again: More is not better; better is better. While more is not always necessarily better, sometimes better does come in the form of “more.” However, what “more” looks like may be surprising. Here are just some example of the “more” than may be required to reach a goal:
More attention to nutrition
More attention to hydration
More specificity in a particular area
More attention to the how you allocate/distribute your training time (this is especially true for multisport athletes)
More workouts that are uncomfortable
More attention to foundational skills
And yes, sometimes: More volume
If you ever come to the realization that what you’re doing might not actually be enough to get you where you want to go, please do not despair. You can decide whether or not you’re willing and/or able to do the “more” that applies to you and your situation. If doing more isn’t possible (or desired), then this provides you with an opportunity to dream up new goals that fit in better with what you are willing and able to do. In either situation, being self-aware (and honest enough with yourself) to acknowledge this if it’s in play for you can truly be liberating and empowering, as it can ultimately lead you to successfully reaching your goals.
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.