Monday, February 1, 2016

Stop Training and Start Practicing

by Sue Aquila

A young triathlete recently reached out to me with a question about nutrition. He was gearing up for his first 70.3 in a few weeks. He mentioned that he usually fuels with water during training and was curious about what to do in his upcoming race.

I paused before I responded. I made some nutrition suggestions. What I resisted writing in my email was, "STOP TRAINING AND START PRACTICING!" When you capitalize in email it is the verbal equivalent of screaming.

If you have played any team sports in your life, you have at some time uttered a phrase that included "going to practice." Unfortunately the athlete above had forgotten how to go to practice and became a triathlete who trains.

If I had my way, at this point in the season, I would have all triathletes stop training and start practicing!

When we practice, we are implementing the skills and duplicating the fitness required for our event. This includes practicing our race pace, our nutrition and our mental strength. Too many triathletes train. When race day arrives, too much is new and unknown. Coupled with the normal race day arousal and you have a recipe for disaster.

Participants train but winners practice.

Practicing is a skill useful in all areas of your life:

  • Parenting
  • Marriage
  • Retirement Savings
  • Business
  • Health

The hard part for most people is choosing what to practice.

At home, I could practice landscaping, house cleaning and general maintenance. I could get decent at all three of those skills… well, maybe minimally competent. In business, I could excel at writing checks to vendors and filing tax forms. In retirement planning, I could review my portfolio weekly, adjust my holdings and hand write a check monthly.

I don't want to invest my time and effort in practicing things that have little value to my life. I understand those skills provide me with a great quality of life but they don't bring me joy. Time with my family, improving my health and leading my businesses bring me joy.

Outsourcing and automating the practical things give me the time to practice the things I cherish.

The hardest part about having a quality triathlon practice in your life is to know what you should be practicing. In triathlon the obvious three are swim, bike and run. The next most important components include nutrition, recovery, sleep and mental strength.

I have yet to master any of these but I know that I keep improving because I know when to train and when to practice.

What are you practicing?

[Editor's note: Sue recently went through a crash at Muncie 70.3 that left her with a fractured clavicle and broken ribs. It's worth mentioning that she's already back practicing only a few days out of surgery.]

Sue started her triathlon journey with a 50 pound weight loss and continues as a multiple Kona qualifier. In 2013, she was named the Overall Ironman All World Athlete Champion in her age group and in 2014 won her age group at Ironman Texas. As a successful entrepreneur, she believes that, “You can run your business like your training and your training like your business!” As a coach (USAT Certified), she helps athletes to develop success in all areas of their lives: family, health and work. She blogs regularly at You can find her on Twitter @fewoman.
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