Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Training "performance"- a contradiction in terms

Most weekend warrior endurance athletes are fall somewhere right of centre on the "Type A" spectrum. We tend to be all-rounders, A-students, high achievers. We miss the simple days of school where success was measured by how well we memorised our multiplication tables or how many words we spelt correctly.

Don't deny it- you wish your boss could give you As!

It's not surprising that we turn to swimming, biking, running and competing to satisfy our Type-A urges. It's not the reason I do what I do (lots more on that here, here, and here, and on pretty much every other page of this blog) but it would be a lie to say I didn't get a buzz from going further or faster or higher or harder or just plain BETTER than before. I mostly compete with me, but I'll freely admit that going further or faster or higher or harder than other people is a motivating factor too.

PBs replace As as the new markers of success. We crave age group awards [not that there's any bloody chance of me winning one of those in NZ any time soon....] instead of the flash principal's awards they used to give out at assembly.

But we don't race enough to keep our Type A urges satisfied. Soon it's infecting our training too. And THAT, my friends, is the point of today's post. Don't you love how I took 5 paragraphs to get there?

Recently, I've observed an increasingly high number of posts dealing with people's disappointment with specific training sessions [No doubt you wouldn't need to look hard at all at this blog or my buckeye to find a fair few from me]. They tend to end with some sort of comment along these lines:

"I'm really disappointed in my performance on my long run today. I feel like a failure."

Usually, this is not because the gorilla [see this post] in question threw a giant tanty or canned their bike ride because it was a little bit windy (this happened... more than once. It seems I may have been too ashamed to blog it) or cut their 20k run down to 3 because they got scared of a big barky dog. Nope. Usually it's because they ran until they fell down but missed their goal pace. Or biked until their legs fell off but got dropped. Or swam a minute slower on this month's time trial than last month's. I do this all the time, so I'm not admonishing anyone- just examining.
I think the problem stems from treating training as something that requires "performance". It doesn't. Races require performance.

Training is the studying, racing is the exam.

The purpose of training is to GET better, not to BE better.

(image credit)

You might have mini-tests on the way- MAF tests, 5k races, Yassos. Just like the practice exams at school. But the purpose of these still isn't to perform- it's to LEARN. Is the studying/training working? Will the studying/training help my performance on the day that counts? Should I study/train more/less/differently?

I think that by keeping this in mind, I'm going to be a lot better at dealing with difficult training sessions.

I'll remind myself that that stink run is like that time I read that frustrating House of Lords decision over and over again and just couldn't grasp it. But, in the back of my brain, SOME of it's still sinking in and that ghastly run is the same. Maybe it's time for a mini break from the case/run to look out the window /sit on a park bench and watch ducklings.

"Failing" a MAF test has almost undone me twice this year. But next time, I'll remind myself (as Coach Paul has told me all along) it's like trying a practice exam and finding it difficult- you pause, make a coffee, listen to some music, and then you figure out how to tweak your study plan. It's exactly the same with the run.

I know this isn't exactly groundbreaking stuff, but I think remembering this will help me to adjust my attitude, and it might work for someone else too.


Pip said...

I identify with so much of this post it's not funny! Or perhaps it is. I guess some of us really are that predictable. I'm still trying to become comfortable with my back-of-the-pack status on the bike and hey, I've really gone a bit too hard this week and still managed to run 5k at a pretty good pace. Now, if I could just stop being so good at the study and start being good at the actual test!

Anyway, you were one of the first NZ triathletes to inspire me early on, and I still thank you for that!

Rachel Harris said...

That's awesome Kate - I like! It helps put the concept of 'training' into a whole new light. It's funny, because on reflection, while I don't do many 'races', they always turn out better than I expect. I'd beat myself up over the disappointing training days, and yet it's 'D Day' that really counts. I'm learning to trust in the master plan, and accept that not every training day is going to go swimmingly. And even elite athletes have rubbish days.

Great post!

Lucinda said...

It will make me feel so different about my training, I forget my long runs are to be slow, and the test is race day.

This post helped banish some demons, thank you!

Westy said...

Great post Kate... one of the first signs of maturing as an athlete is when you realise that training is just that - training. You don't have to have be good or bad as long as you do it.
I train with some of the guy's who'll be finishing in the top 10 in Hawaii this weekend. These guys can spend weeks having nothing but bad training days... I still remember the ride when I had to drag Dirk back home and he could barely keep my wheel... doesn't happen often though ;-)