Blog by: Todd Gilmore, Ironman Coach
Ironman training in itself offers many educational lessons. These lessons are akin to a strong education or re-education on some basic life skills. Some of these skills are well and truly engrained in some, some are not. Completing an Ironman, can assist an individuals life in more ways than one through the process they go through should they have respected the distance and adhered to sound training principles.
To complete an Ironman (140.6 miles or 226 km in one day broken into a 3.8 km swim, 180 km bike & 42.2 km run), one must train for many months prior to the event. An ironman is rather unique in that it requires considerable time investment to do well. This time investment forces the athlete to create balance in ones life. Failure to balance training, work, family, spiritual or mental health will result in a stress imbalance.
Stress is manifested in all we do. Stress comes from all the above sources but should also include financial, hopes and dreams, or the anxiety of not achieving those hopes and dreams. A stress imbalance can result in over training syndromes, nutritional deficits or eating disorders, mental breakdowns, etc.. Therefore to take on an Ironman, it is a valuable lesson in project management. Project management of an athlete’s life.
You may have heard it from your coach or your 5th grade teacher. “Consistency is king.” Or as the legendary golfer Gary Player stated, “the more I practice, the luckier I get.” This was in 1962. Sports life has not changed. Or as my father liked to say, luck is not made, it is created.
Consistency in all that you do is the secret sauce to success. From the love you shed on your wife or children, or the work you do to earn a living. You get back what you put in. Fail to show up and get nothing back. However, depositing too much can be bad as well in the context of Ironman training. Ironman training can be likened to building a great pyramid. Each day add a block. But do not miss a day or you need more time to reach the pinnacle. This consistency or atomic habit, is essential in all you do.
Find your why. All you do ought to be productive, contributing to building a better you day in day out. Prime reasons many sign up for an Ironman are related to the health benefits, energy gains through training and enjoyment of the training transformation process. Oftentimes, this may not be enough. An ethos of creating a better you daily, is a big help.
A healthy and active lifestyle is one many aspire to have. This takes consistent habits. A built in desire to maintain a healthy body to “grow young”, not old.
One-way to quickly destroy the why or enjoyment of an Ironman is through external pressure to perform via clubs, training mates, or past performances. Any Ironman finish attempt ought to be placed into its context of planning, preparation, consistency and balance that went into it. Should one or more areas outweigh each other by too much, the expected result ought to be adjusted. If it is an athletes second or third or more attempt at an event, the ability to better previous years results, ought to be adjusted for factors out of your control, like weather. Satisfaction with the result can be significant if those un-controllable conditions were harsher than expected, even if the “time” was beyond plan.
Once the race is over, the context of the result ought to leave a feeling of satisfaction and not failure. It should build up the amateur athletes mental state and not tear it down. The pre-text of goals is the key to this.
Personal goal setting is tied to the why. The context of the planning and preparation is the measurement of the result when considering personal performance goals. Lofty personal performance goals are great, however as a coach, often times the athletes goals are not applicable to the training put in or the natural athletic ability of the athlete in question.
For amateur athletes, personal performance goals are great. However the only people who ought to know of them are very close mates or less even, your coach and partner. Without the outward knowledge of a goal, the club will see an xx:00:01 finish as success versus a time 2 seconds faster that was self-proclaimed. The context of the goal will frame the mindset of success or failure. We has social beings like to feel success. As such, keep your performance goals close to oneself, realistic and in context.
In Ironman, since there is a large sacrifice of training and time to succeed, a great way to add motivation is to merge the athletes training with a charitable cause. This may offer the athlete more motivation to stay consistent, follow a plan & maintain balance. An associated charitable cause may also add to the mental strength to get out of bed to train in the early morning or push on through dark moment(s) during a race.
The Value of a Reset or Offseason
For those athletes who were patient to have planned, consistently prepared and executed their race(s) well, you are to be commended. In this uncertain time with events cancelled, a reset should be considered, regardless of where you were on the path or proximity to your event. The world’s best athletes (in any sport) commonly take 2 – 3 weeks per year totally off from their sport. This is important to allow the mind and body refresh. This refresh is a productive part of all future performances and is equally important to future success. An annual reset should be planned into your schedule.
Use the current period of uncertainty, forced closures and restricted movement for a reset. Resume base work, drive metabolic efficiency into your body and practice physical movement efficiency to become a better athlete. Work on your weaknesses in the time ahead. Do those strength work outs that you have dreaded, hit them head on and defeat that tiny fear by getting stronger. Success in defeating a weakness now will help you in more areas than one.
If you are a mature athlete, greater than 40 years old. This uncertain time is a great opportunity to add to your longevity in sport. Reducing the hard work, increasing the zone 2 will help you mitigate injury and stay healthy longer. A longer period of rest beyond 2 weeks, may also contribute to a better you down the road. Should a longer period of rest be undertaken, adequate planning and time needs to be factored into your future racing plans.
Todd Gilmore, P. Eng.
Todd is an IRONMAN Certified Coach and LILA WRT Master Trainer. Professionally he is registered Professional Engineer in his home country of Canada.
Todd has been involved in endurance sports since 2009. In his first triathlon he was nearly last out of the water. He found a passion plus a cycling and running enjoyment that carries through to all he does today. Todd is an adult who learned to swim efficiently. As a child swimming was not a priority. However, through repeated practice he now completes Ironman swims in under 1:05 with a goal to improve further. Todd’s cycling passion has lead him to cycle the length of Vietnam through the inland mountainous route. His running habit is fueled by bike fitness.
In 2016, Todd adopted a novel training plan with light weight resistance training, Lila. www.lilamovetech.com is a compression garment permitting all your workouts, regardless of sport, to be conducted under light loads. By conducting your training under light load, at your speed, you become stronger and faster.
Athletically in Triathlon, Todd has won 3 smaller Triathlons in Vietnam in 2012 and 2013. 2016 was by far his best year. It did not start that way however with a DNF at his first 70.3 of the year. Patience, a plan and experience to execute a good plan, resulted in 2 Age Group wins, an Age Group Podium and Personal Best Ironman time.
The first of the 2016 wins was the Ironman 2016 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship in Cebu where Todd won the 45-49 age group. He followed this up by winning the 45- 54 Age Group at Challenge Nha Trang (Half). The peak came in Hawaii at the 2016 Ironman World Championships. Todd smashed his personal best Ironman time by 38 minutes. This resulted in a finish time of 9:56:37, on a race 115th fastest 3:21:07 marathon. (A side benefit was that this run time also qualified Todd for the 2018 Boston Marathon, in an Ironman.) Five weeks later, with a goal to return to Kona in 2017, he started Ironman Malaysia in Langkawi. Fatigue was an issue, however Personal Best Swim and Bike times with a 3:32 marathon resulted in his second sub 10 Ironman at 9:58:35 and a 3rd place in his 45-49 Age Group.
These results were a product of continuous improvement coupled to a strong plan. Todd seeks to instill this consistency, planning, patience and work ethic into his clients. Making you a better you then a better athlete.