Posted On:
Tuesday, November 1, 2022
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: Remember The Fall

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A path covered in colorful fallen leaves flanked on both sides by trees with their leaves changing colors.

How are you feeling about endurance sports right now?

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, there is a pretty good chance that you’re feeling tired and maybe even a little burnt out when you think about endurance sports right now.  It’s Autumn, and thus it is the end of the main racing season here.  Many athletes are feeling the cumulative effects of that racing season (and the training that accompanies it) and that’s manifesting as some fatigue, boredom, or maybe even frustration.

I’ve had the great fortune to work alongside several athletes continuously for many years at a time. This means that I get to observe how all times of the year impact them and how they are feeling emotionally at given times throughout the year. Here’s an outline of an annual general trend of emotions and behaviors that I’ve observed to be true for a lot of athletes:

  • Mid-Winter: Frustrated with the weather, looking forward to race season.
  • Late Winter: Really getting frustrated with indoor training and/or the seasonal weather and itching for race season to start.
  • Early Spring: Completely chomping at the bit to race and just do something that isn’t being inside or working out in crappy weather. Considers (and often signs up) for more races than originally planned.
  • Spring/Early Summer: Has their first race, gets really excited about the season, and looks to do more races at the end of the season.
  • Summer: Enjoys racing, but is starting to find the grind of in-season training and racing to be a bit much, especially during Peak Phase.
  • Late Summer: Still enjoying racing, but starting to get tired of training.
  • Autumn/Fall: Is really feeling tired and is starting to dread training and/or the races still remaining on the calendar.
  • Late Autumn/Fall: Disengages from training - either in the form of skipping workouts entirely or by feeling miserable and/or not doing workouts quite as planned.

Do you resemble any of the above timeline? If so, I encourage you to Remember The Fall. (Aka remember what you feel like this time of year.) When we plan for future seasons, it’s important to honestly acknowledge where we are (emotionally and physically) so that we can get to where we want to go. In order to do this, you must ensure that you remember what you felt and experienced at all times of the year, especially in down times. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’ll remember; in the eternal words of Admiral Akbar, “It’s a trap!”

We make choices and plans based on what we want to do, and this depends (in no small part) on our memories and experiences. However, our memories are not to be trusted. According to Giuliana Mazzoni, a professor of physiology and neuroscience, “What is selected as a personal memory needs to fit the current idea we have of ourselves.” This need causes us to rewrite and even reinvent our own pasts. This means that by the time Spring comes, your brain - through no conscious effort that you’ll be aware of - will have forgotten how you felt in the Fall. Mazzoni goes on to say, “We often make up memories of events that never happened. Memories are very malleable, they can be distorted and changed easily.”

While this might sound crazy (there may even be a few of you reading this declaring indignantly, “That doesn’t happen to me!”), I can tell you that this definitely happens to all of us - athletes or not.  And in the athletic world, one of the times this manifests is when we’re planning ahead for future training and goals.  We simply do not accurately recall how we felt from memory alone.  And even if we’ve never had the experience of feeling burnt out, tired, or discouraged at the end of a season, our instinct is to believe that that won’t happen.  The only way athletes learn this lesson is by experiencing it, and even then, as I said, they often forget what it is really like.

Thus, we cannot rely on our memories or our brains. They simply cannot be trusted to accurately recall what happened or how we felt. So, we have to help our brains out. One of the most effective ways of doing this is to consistently log notes. This can be done in many ways, but two of the best ways I’ve encountered are either in a journal or in an online training log.

If you’ve been reading my musings for any significant amount of time, you know that I preach (perhaps ad nauseum) about how important writing things down is, especially when it comes to workouts and training. The reason I preach this is because it is so true.

It’s happened so many times in my conversations with athletes over the years: they tell me they felt a certain way about something, a certain race was on a certain date, or a certain workout/race went a certain way.  Then, I end up countering the story they’re telling me (and themselves) by reading or sharing notes that they themselves have written.  When confronted with their own notes from past workouts, races and experiences, it’s not uncommon for an athlete to say, “Really?  That’s what I said and how I felt?”

So, how are you feeling about endurance sports right now?  Are you burnt out?  Are you tired of training?  Are you dreading upcoming races (those same races that seemed like a really good idea back when you signed up for them)?  How you’re feeling could be related to the length of your season, the timing of your races, the frequency of your races, the number of races you signed up for, or to the types of goals you set (which, of course, dictates the type (volume, intensity, etc.) of training you need to do).  Try to specifically identify what is making you feel the way you are.

Then, give your future self a gift: Write it down. You can do this in a journal or online training log, or you can even do it in a letter to yourself. Whatever you choose, just be sure it’s something that you will be able to keep track of, because the way that this is effective is if you can refer back to it in the future when your brain has changed your memory of what is actually going on right now.

Remember The Fall.  In the Spring when you’re feeling pent up, ready to go, and wanting to do ALL THE THINGS(!!!!), this can serve as a very valuable reminder that the dream that seems so exciting and great in that moment may end up becoming a bit of a nightmare once you move through the season and enter Autumn.  Use what you’re experiencing and learning this year to help make your future years even brighter.

About

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.

She can be reached at laura@fullcircleendurance.com.

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