After every race, there is a feeling you have on the day and a feeling that you get when view your actual life results. These don’t always match up. Sometimes you feel horrible about your race and you see that everyone suffered too and you were higher placed than you expected. Then you get happy. Other times you feel great at the finish line, but when you check the results online, your happiness turns to frustration. Regardless, we have a way of attributing our results to some immediate issues like recent fatigue or injury, lack of recent training, and/or poor fueling or hydration (but not if you used SlayRx.com products!), etc.
Results are Based on Consistent Training
Rarely, in my long time experience as an athlete and coach, will an endurance athlete look back to their Winter training when they answer why they achieved the results they did on the day. And that may be a more accurate place to start, because endurance results are not always a reflection of some particular factor or factors on the day. I posit that Winter is where your results for the current year start, and many outstanding sports scientists and athletes agree with me. This is why Winter training is so crucial and a challenge, like the USA Triathlon’s National Challenge Competition aka #USATNCC has been emphasized by many outstanding coaches, teams, and athletes like myself.
Consistency is the secret sauce pretty much everyone agrees. I believe more than anything the accumulated fitness I achieved from Winter training during the USATNCC was at the root of my success as a runner and triathlete and the success of many of my qualifiers for national and world championships and for the Boston Marathon. You want to improve your times or skills, you will need to train more consistently. Training doesn’t start when your race training plan starts. Fitness is always progressing or receding. The more “offseason” you have the less “on” your race results will be.
Problems with the Current Challenge
Unfortunately, from my standpoint, after a promising start, the USAT has not supported this challenge in the way it should. They haven’t policed it as well as it needed to be, haven’t rewarded the athletes who work their tails off for it appropriately, and haven’t shown love to the teams who made up the peak 3500 or so challenge contestants that has continued to drop off since 2015. Regardless, I think this competition is a critical component for the success for their constituency and to help athletes maximize their race results. Here are some of the major reasons, I think this challenge should be emphasized more in the future by you and your teammates.
5 Reasons why a Winter Challenge is so Valuable
- Seiler, one of the most renown sport scientists of our time, and many others including Stulberg and Magness in their book Peak Performance recognize that the bigger your aerobic foundation is, the better your performance will be. They all discuss how performance is determined by how well you can sustain focus on the periodization process. This is defined as identifying the muscles or capabilities necessary to improve, applying patterns of stress to the muscles needed for your performance, resting and recovering afterwards until the body can adapt, and repeating/progressing the process over time. Stulberg and Magness write that “Those who can figure out the right balance, however, become life-long champions.” Keeping active, as opposed to hibernating, with a Winter challenge does just that for you. It sets you up with a huge Thanksgiving cardboard plate to hold your turkey and all the trimmings you want rather than a flimsy paper plate.
- According to Alex Hutchinson in his book Endure, social aspects of a Winter Challenge improve your motivation in many cases much more than training in isolation. Talking about the challenge with your team and friends will give you a common goal and lots to discuss. It can pull you together as the phrase “misery loves miserable company” goes.
- Likewise, research also supports the beneficial impact to competition. Not only will competition bring out your best race results, it will bring out your best training periods. Having other teams and individuals pushing you daily like you do in a Winter Challenge will drive you to perform in ways you rarely would if there was nobody nipping at your heels / chasing you or that you are trying to gap so you can relax a bit.
- One of the things you can do in the Winter is make bike fit adaptations to make yourself more aerodynamic and comfortable. This will allow you to go faster with less cost on your bike on race day. What better time to work your biomechanicals over!
- Swimming improvements often come from technique improvements, not endless yards automatizing poor form. Rather than avoiding the water, you now have added incentive to practice ways too improve form.
To summarize, a Winter Challenge can be critical to your current day performance and is oft underestimated. These are some of the reasons why. If the USAT won’t step up their game, you still can find a challenge to join. We at SlayRx are looking into sponsoring a new proposed challenge. Regardless of what challenge you enter, we think you can benefit from entering one and taking it serious. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to improve!