Sunday, January 31, 2016

Prepare to Win

Every year, thousands of triathletes come up with some wonderful goals at the beginning of a season: complete their first triathlon, set a new personal best, lose 50 pounds, make the top 50% of their USA Triathlon age-group rankings, podium at their local race, qualify for the world championships, earn an elite license or even become a national or world champion. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to define “winning” as accomplishing your goals, whatever they may be. As a coach, I have helped athletes achieve many of these, as well as seen athletes fail to complete their objectives.

The targets an athlete sets should be appropriate based on an his or her background and level of fitness. The greater the goal and the further one’s ability is from meeting that goal, the longer the timeline may need to be in able to reach said goal. If the goal is far off, it is also likely a greater amount of preparation will be required. However, what really makes the goal attainable or not is the athlete’s ability to prepare for that day when he or she has to perform.

Legendary, and sometimes infamous, college basketball coach Bobby Knight was quoted as saying: “The will to win is not nearly as important as the will to prepare to win. Everyone wants to win but not everyone wants to prepare to win.”

This quote can be implied to many area of life, but is especially true when it comes to endurance sports. With very few exemptions, athletes’ “genetic gifts” don’t just allow them to show up at a race and beat everyone else. Regardless of the amount of preparation, every athlete who ends up on top has done some serious work to get there.

What tends to drive many slow responders or triathletes with a low athletic-age crazy is when they see someone achieve outcomes they want with seemingly less work. This is where the individuality factor comes in -- the amount and type of work for each person to reach a peak level of performance can and will vary greatly. Although training will vary, what tends to stay almost constant across the spectrum of successful athletes is consistency, discipline, determination, passion and motivation. For the bulk of athletes who fall short on race day, a shortcoming in one or several of these areas is often the culprit and when it came time to execute, they were simply not ready for the challenge at hand.

I have seen some athletes hire a coach in a desperate grab for a goal. Yet, when the athlete is still not committed to doing the preparation to get the performance they desire, a coach may be of little help. Good coaches can access, direct, encourage and mentor, but they cannot force you to get out there and run when it's cold and raining. They can’t make you finish those last 6x100m swim repeats when your mind is tired and your shoulders are screaming. They can’t stop you from riding with your friends on a hammerfest when you should be doing an easy recovery effort. A perfectly written training plan becomes nothing but a worthless piece of paper if the work it contains is not completed properly.

Good or bad, it has become a bit of modern culture that if we “want” something, then we must have it now. If it takes hard work, development, commitment and most importantly, time, many of us do not exercise the patience to see the results of training come to fruition. Here at Endurance Corner, all our coaches seem to share the simple philosophy that you have to do the work!

Not everyone has to shoot for the stars, but if you do and performance is your goal, commit fully and give it your best effort. Prepare fully to reach your targets regardless of what the outcome will ultimately be. Remember, even the perfect amount of preparation and training does not guarantee success on race day. However, failing to prepare properly almost guarantees that you will fall short.

Stay the course… reach your goals… prepare to win.


Jeff got involved with the sport of triathlon after moving to the Memphis area in 2006. He works full time as an airline pilot, and is a dedicated husband and father who understands the realities of mixing training with everyday family life. He is a two-time Age-Group Sprint National Champion, 70.3 Worlds and Kona qualifier and has consistently improved year over year. He has been coaching others to achieve their goals since 2010. You can follow his training and racing blog here.
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