Autumn has become Winter, marking the beginning of base training, aka long, slow sessions in the cold, wet and dark. After Christmas and January sales I know the store will be relatively slow. So I have found some tricks to motivate me.
Getting out to train with the right mind set is key; running through the motions is an empty session. Larry Wiedel’s book ‘Serial Winner: 5 Actions to Create Your Cycle of Success’ has my mind racing firmly in the right direction. He explains how serial winners do not get to where they are by luck, compromising on quality or by winning once. They are who they are for never settling for anything but first, adapting in the face of obstacles and always seeking to improve. This mentality can motivate you to success through the slow and hard times at work too. You can read an abstract of the book on getAbstract.
Dark training rides require making yourself more visible. If you are not attached to your paint work or have a spare bike it is worth giving your bike the Halfords glow in the dark paint treatment, even if it is just on the spokes and rims. That way battery failure on lights will never be an issue.
The fun of new toys and kit is also helping me out the door. September was when I began to really take triathlon seriously. My coach Fiona Ford took two of her other coached athletes and me to Chamonix, France, for a training camp. For the other two athletes, this was their final push before heading to the World Championships in Chicago. Camp was clearly too much for my equipment as both my stop watch and wetronome bit the dust-honestly, they owed me nothing after long service. These needed replacing ASAP. Having intimate time with these three athletes meant I could benefit from their experience and knowledge of equipment. Buying tri kit can, but need not, be prohibitive. Spending money on myself is hard: in theory I could easily be convinced to get the best and most expensive available but I also loathe parting with hard earned cash.
Unanimously, I was told to consider a Garmin Forerunner. Clicking on to Wiggle my eyes jumped from their sockets at the price, so I quickly viewed run and swim specific watches. Breaking watch prices down seemed lighter on the bank card but actually together were almost exactly the same amount as the Forerunner 920XT. After agonising, I decided to invest in my future and opted for the superior 920XT. Not only was Fiona pleased with my choice but surprisingly so was my mum. They both believed I deserved to treat myself.
Over all I am pleased with the 920XT. Favourite features include run cadence monitoring, swim stroke and length count as well as swim drill logging including rest times. If used with other Garmin accessories you can even monitor distances travelled on treadmills or turbo trainers. Another great benefit is security; when used with Garmin Connect loved ones can track your training route in the dark or work out where you are whilst racing. Unlike other sports watches this one actually tells the time! That said, you are unlikely to use it as an everyday watch as it is still fairly chunky. Other improvements I look forward to are to view my total swim time alongside drill set times and have a one screen view of my heart rate with run time instead of flicking between screens. I don’t use them but VO2 max estimates are available as well as viewing e-mail text and other alerts. But you would not want the latter surely as you are totally focused on training…
For the first time, the reduced hours of sunlight which comes with Winter has really affected my energy levels. Although getting the same amount of sleep, getting up (whenever) in the morning is just plain harder right now. In need of a natural energy boost I thought I should try making these Date and Hazelnut balls from The Detox Kitchen which are a pre-, during and post-training delight. They are easily taken on a bike in foil as they are not sticky or too strong tasting so not thirst making. Rolled into smaller balls and they make a great home made chocolate truffle gift.
Dates are high in natural sugars like glucose, fructose, and sucrose, perfect for an immediate burst of energy. Date fruits are also rich in minerals like calcium, manganese, copper, and magnesium. Calcium is an essential constituent of bone and teeth, and required by the body for muscle contraction. Calcium also allows muscles to relax when not needed. This avoids muscle tension, soreness, spasm, cramps and fatigue. According to one Italian study, higher magnesium levels also increased the strength of the muscles.
The balls contain both hazelnuts and almonds. We just read why calcium is important for athletes; well, one cup of hazelnuts contains almost half of our recommended daily amount of magnesium, a mineral that regulates calcium levels in muscles. The almonds then, can top you up on important minerals such as manganese, which helps the body form strong bones and regulates blood sugar and magnesium, which is essential for organ, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and regulating blood pressure. According to the National Institutes of Health almonds are a great source of energy-encouragers riboflavin and copper. Riboflavin (also known as vitamin B2) helps produce red blood cells and release energy from the carbohydrates. All this means you will be equipped with a steady energy flow.
My favourite flavour in the recipe though is the cacao powder (richer is unprocessed or raw) which is also rich in magnesium. For those fortunate to be entering a sunny training period, a recent study by London scientists found participants who ate 20 grams of cacao for 12 weeks were able to stay in the sun for twice as long as those who did not without getting sunburned.
Salt (sodium) in the recipe helps extract zing from the cacao but is also needed for osmosis and thus water absorption. Many people try to avoid salt but salt depletion over time causes fatigue, similar symptoms to over-training.
Winter training and working through slow days at work is where the most valuable preparation is done. As Florence Welch sings in ‘Shake it Out’, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”