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Ten Mistakes to Avoid

By Kristen Hislop

Spring is coming and you maybe you’ve filled your calendar with events. Here are some things to think about now to get set for a great 2013 multisport season.

Train to eat – Too many athletes start to train for the season automatically upping their calorie intake over their caloric burn. Longer workouts become an excuse to eat whatever they want. A calorie is not just a calorie. Think about fueling for your workouts. There are many diets out there that have you cleansing, eating one food, taking full food groups out of your diet or adding unnecessary or unproven supplements. While I’m not a nutritionist I can tell you to ditch the diets and fuel your body and your workouts. Think whole foods, lean proteins, good fats, and plenty of fruits and vegetables.

No pain, no gain – Why is it that too many of us push through pain only to end up with a real injury? Pay attention to how you feel in workouts. It is far better to take a day off and let your body repair itself. Four-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington said in an interview, “I think that’s also where I have an edge. I love to hurt, I love to push myself, and I love to push my limits. I have a supreme amount of confidence in my mind and in my body to carry me through.” In her book she talks about her pain threshold, which is much higher than the average human, but also talks about rest, recovery, and truly paying attention to her body.

Passing on a rest day – If only I had a dollar for every time someone said, ‘I feel guilty taking a day off.’ Yoga, and easy spin, a recovery run is working out. Adaptation happens during recovery. Why does two-time Ironman World Champion Chris McCormack stay relatively injury free? He knows how to recover and take off a day or even two a week. That means you don’t work out. Sleep allows your body to recover and rebuild. Chris rests when he feels fatigue and never skimps on recovery days. It is during recovery that your body actually gets stronger.

I have to swim in open water every chance I get – How much you swim in open water greatly depends on how comfortable you are in the water and how much speed you want to retain over the course of the season. If you are new to triathlons and open water swims then you need practice. Your goal should be to get into as many open water situations as possible. That does not mean jumping in a lake everyday. You want to swim with the sun in your eyes, in a big group, in an aggressive group, in waves, in fog, in rain, and most importantly when you doubt yourself. Always have a lifeguard or rescue personnel with you as conditions can change quickly. If you are a more seasoned swimmer and have open water experience, make sure you don’t spend too much time for the sake of open water swimming. As a coach, I give athletes specific open water speed workouts to help maintain speed if they insist on more than one open water swim per week. If your focus over the season is open water swims you might notice your swim times get slower as the summer progresses. To keep your speed make sure you have at least one pool workout with speed sets every week.

I need the newest gear and technology – While the marketing teams at Garmin, TYR, Cervelo, and others want you to think you can’t live without their newest products, you can and should. When triathlon started racers wore Speedos for the entire race, age groupers wore their running shoes for the bike and run, and heart rate monitors or GPS watches didn’t exist! You raced according to how you felt. You knew what it felt like to push and at what effort level you could race most effectively. While some of the new fangled tools are fun and helpful you should be able to race without the gadgets. Don’t let the tools control you. Regularly add a run in where you go for feel – no pace and no heart rate. Swim without a wetsuit in various water conditions. Swim without goggles in case yours get knocked off. Leave the bike computer at home and see if you know how fast you are going by feel. Fins, paddles, and pull buoys can help improve your swimming, but don’t become dependent on them. The great thing about triathlon it’s all about you and your strength; both mental and physical.

Social media competition – Kim is doing a 30K and Laurie is doing a 50K, so therefore I must do a 50-mile running race. Tammy signed up for the Wineglass Marathon and I was thinking of just the half! I want a race every weekend because other people are doing more or better. Who is the “Queen of the Mountain” for the Pinnacle Climb in Voorheesville? Molly Grygiel. “King of the Mountain” is Cameron Cogburn. There are endless ways to see what or how other people are doing. Run your own race – sign up for what is right for you and if your friends are there as well then enjoy the camaraderie. This season don’t get pressured into more that what you can do injury free, afford to do, or stay motivated for.

I pass – Have you heard that? I pass; pass on alcohol, dessert, non-athletic workouts, on socializing with friends. Across the board the 90/10 rule wins. Personally I’d be lucky with 80/20. Do the right thing, eat well and focus on workouts, 90-percent of the time. Ten-percent of the time cut some slack. Have dessert, pass on a workout, have fun with friends. Why? Because it will make you a well-rounded person and athlete, and you and those around you will be happier.

I love to climb so I am hitting the hills – What should you do? Work on your weaknesses. Why get to your nemesis this season and find it is still hard. Work now on what you like the least, what you find hardest, and you will reap great benefits this summer. Since we have three sports in triathlon you always have some place to improve!

Lofty goals – People want to qualify for a race or event that maybe really is just out of reach. Be honest and set goals that are a stretch, but attainable based on your aptitude and training. If you aren’t sure how to go about setting goals then think about meeting with a coach to plan a realistic season. Maybe you are close and just need some extra punches in your training. There are great resources in the area. Plaine and Son in Schenectady offers free classes on Tuesdays and Saturday taught by cyclists. Revolutionary Velo-Watts and Elevate Cycles, both in Clifton Park, offer power riding classes. Other spin studios cater to those training for triathlon and century rides. Run groups like Team Utopia, Albany Running Exchange, and Hudson-Mohawk Road Runners Club offer sessions that will help improve speed. Masters swim sessions can help with speed (check the December 2012 issue for swimming ideas).

Long distance goals, especially early on – Overheard at a Capital District Triathlon Club meeting; ‘I did my first sprint last year, this year is a half Ironman, and next year I am doing Ironman Lake Placid.’ There are people who do an Ironman as their first triathlon or a marathon as their first road race. What and when you do something should be based on your goals, your athletic ability and background, your focus and determination, the time you have to train, your injury history, financial situation, family situation and mental preparation. Meeting your goals in the sport can take time and practice. Those at the top of the sport have had many years even decades into it before their first wins. Too often people want to sign up for the pinnacle before putting in the practice. American marathon runner Joan Benoit Samuelson will tell runners that there is nothing wrong with running 5Ks. This is coming from the first women’s Olympic Marathon winner. Ability to be successful (meeting your goals) is easier at the shorter distances. Pick the distance/races that work for you.

Make 2013 a great season!

Kristen Hislop ( of Clifton Park is a USA Triathlon coach, Team LUNA Chix member, Leukemia & Lymphoma Team in Training coach, and personal trainer whose motto is “Do. Believe. Achieve.”