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Doubts and Trusting Your Coaches and the Plan

March 13, 2012

Every serious athlete is familiar with the sort of self-doubts that go with a long-term training plan. Is this really working? Is this going to get me where I need to be? Training is not linear. Especially when you’re spending a year training for an event. There are always setbacks along the way. But it’s easy to turn those setbacks into huge mental walls. “Is this just an expected setback? Or does this mean I’m not doing something right?” And even if you know you’re overall making progress, it’s easy to wonder if you’re making enough progress.

I’ve been facing some of those doubts myself this past week. Especially with my swimming. Today’s swim, for example, started out well, but went downhill. My first few lengths of the pool felt decent. My stroke was a little longer and I felt like I was (almost) getting enough air. I’m still lifting my head out of the water a little too much when I breathe, but even that felt like it was getting better.

Then I tried doing some bilateral breathing. That was a mess, water up the nose when I try breathing on the left side. If I’m only breathing on my right, I have to breathe either every second or every fourth stroke. Every other stroke feels like it interrupts my stroke too much; every fourth stroke feels like I’m not getting enough air. If I could bilateral breathing, that might help. But back to the one side for now.

After more drill work, I did some more 50 yard pieces. Truth be known, I was probably at least as good as I have been. But I felt really frustrated with them today. I felt like I was going too slow and not getting full length in the water and like I was sinking every time I breathed (because I was lifting my head out of the water too much — which pushes the legs down). I need to remind myself, I’ve probably been doing all of those things before. I’m just more aware of them now. Being more aware of them, in and of itself, is some progress. It’s the first step to correcting them! And I know progress will be slow. And I know I’ve been told by several people that I might not be a great swimmer come November, but as long as I put in the hours in the pool, I have enough time to be proficient enough to just finish. And that’s my only goal for the swim: finish it!

I’ve also been hearing about friends (triathletes and runners) who are upping their endurance workouts as we approach spring, getting ready for whatever races they are doing this year. And I guess I’ve been letting some doubts slip into my own mind. Should I be doing more long endurance work? Is it really okay that I’m only doing minimal running and cycling right now? Is it really okay that I’m doing so much intensity work? Sure, my crossfit workouts are definitely improving, but it’s easy to begin to question whether that’s going to translate to endurance on the triathlon.

But I know that right now I need to trust the training plan. I need to trust my coaches. I knew going into this that our training plan was going to include less long endurance pieces and more power and intensity pieces that traditional triathlon plans. I knew going into this that I’ve done well on marathons training with only one or two runs a week, and few long runs. I knew going into this that my goals was not to be a great swimmer, just to be good enough to finish. And I also know that we will up the running and the cycling. We still have over six months before the Ironman. Even though traditional plans might call for long miles now, I know my coach would say that traditional plans result in overtraining. I’m not sure there’s any right way to train (but there’s definitely wrong ways!). I think that there are reasons for traditional plans — world champions have obviously been very successful with them. So I’m not going to say long miles now is wrong. But I think that the training plan we’re following can also work fine. I know I’ll have the endurance come November. I know it’s okay that I’m still doing a lot of short intense workouts right now, that I’m only biking to/from the gym, that I’m not running that often.

I do need to get back to the pool more. I have slipped the last couple weeks, and been making it in only twice a week or so. It’s been crunch time in my academic year, so that’s partially understandable. And sometimes life interferes. But I know right now our coach said we should really focus on our one sport that is the weakest. Which for me, right now, means getting in the pool at least four or five times a week! I’m leaving for a conference in Texas on Thursday morning. I found a YMCA near my hotel, so hopefully I can swim there (my hotel has a pool, but the photos online don’t look like it will be good for lap swimming). But whether or not I swim while at the conference, by next week I need to be really making sure I’m getting into the pool more. The training plan will work as long as I follow it. Too much doubt will just discourage me from getting in the training hours I need to get in. Trust the plan.

250 days till Ironman Arizona.

  1. Hi Jeff. I can relate to so much of what you said. I wrote a blog called Coach Knows Best and I would be so training differently were I on my own, but I have put my faith, money and trust in my coach. Sometimes I might ask her to explain her philosophy to help ease my worries. My mileage is low and our focus has been technique. Getting ready to build on that. Soon I will have a VO2 max test and then be on a HR program and I dread that because if I have to go slower than I already do I will be very concerned about how I am going to prepare to make the cut offs. My ooach has had 100 IM finishes and I have to trust she knows what she has doing. All her first timers have crossed the finish. She did remind me that the goal is not to do too much to soon as you will get burnt out. There is still plenty of time for LONG runs, bikes and swims and trust we will all be doing them before we know it. Hang in there. You sound a lot like me analyzing everything. Sometimes if you just get out there and “be” things will all come together. I suggest you go try and swim without a coach and try and relax the way you do when you jog or bike and try not to overthink. During team practice we put so much pressure on ourselves. Good luck. You are an intense mean IM machine! Beth

    • jbkosbie permalink

      I definitely have to work on just relaxing when I swim. I know my best swimming is when I can relax. But it’s so hard right now. My coach isn’t there when I swim, for better or for worse — most of my group trains at a public pool, but since I’m a grad student I can use Northwestern’s pool. Clean olympic pool that’s not too crowded in the middle of the day? Of course I’m going to be there instead of the city pool!
      I completely understand your concern on the HR training. I had a crew coach in undergrad who had us doing HR training, and I remember always thinking “but I need to go so so slow to keep my HR down where you want it.” But somehow it works out!

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