Learn from the experienced.

Posted by James Greenwood | 9:28 AM | , , , | View Comments

Endurance sports have been a part of my life for about 13 years now, and I have committed vast amounts of time and money to the pursuit of greater knowledge and improved physical performance - for both me and the athletes I work with.

In my early twenties I thought I had a pretty good handle on the "ins and outs" of training for endurance events, whether it be a half marathon or a century bike ride, I believed my knowledge was sufficient to be able to prescribe training to athletes of all levels, at a level that would see them reach their ultimate goals.

And I was right - for the most part.

Academic knowledge will get you pretty far to your achieving success and it is pretty easy to obtain: read a book or a magazine, go online to a forum or a website, or listen to a podcast.

The one source of knowledge and information I did not utilize as much as I should have, was the experience of other athletes, both Elite and non-Elite.

I am talking about those individuals who have completed several Ironmans and are still able to push their bodies to greater limits.

These athletes have so much knowledge, and more importantly experience, that I would have been a fool to continue to overlook them as a great (and free) source of information.

My belief that information and advice is not necessarily good or bad, but rather how you use it, that makes it of use or useless.

Let us say for example that you are training for your first Iron distance event (I am). You have been through the triathlon progression of sprints, OD and Half IM distance races (I have). Your training is solid and consistent (mine is ).

The jump from Half Iron race distance to the full meal deal (Iron distance) is a pretty big one. There are so many uncertainties to be faced and dealt with, both in the training and the racing, that it can, at times, becomes a little overwhelming and daunting - even the most steely of competitors.

Enter the experienced athlete.

We all know the guy or girl described above. Believe it or not, they are also only human, and I guarantee you that most of the fear, stress and anxiety you are experiencing, they have experienced, and still experience!

Do not be afraid to ask questions - as many as you can, about anything and everything you have concerns and worries about.

Understand that what they say is not necessarily law, and might go against other information you have acquired over the years. The information you obtain will give you a better idea of whether you are on the right path to reaching your goals.

They are also a fantastic source of motivation and inspiration, both of which are an essential part of getting through the hard months of training required to finish your chosen event, but also to get you through the event itself and to the finish line, alive and in one piece.

So what questions could be asked?

Well it is totally dependent on what areas of your training, race preparation and racing you are concerned about.

You might ask about pacing strategies on the bike leg of the triathlon, or perhaps the best strategy for remaining mentally focused in the last couple of hours of the run leg of the race, or what their taper week looks like.

Ask them about any "mistakes" they have made in training, in the lead up to the race and during the race itself. This will allow you to see that mistakes are actually a positive occurrence and something that should embraced and learned from. Mistakes also allow us to see that these "hard core" individuals are only human - just like us.

Perhaps your questions are equipment related or just if they know of a good place to get Sushi after the race.

If we can avoid making a few mistakes ourselves, and not having to learn a few lessons the hard way, that would be brilliant!

No matter what the event you are working toward, become an expert on all things relevant to that event.Do not pass up any opportunity to learn, whether it is from a book or another athlete.

Remember, knowledge is power, and as triathletes we all know that power is what it is all about.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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