Indoor Training

"It's sad to see anyone inside on the trainer." That was the comment attached to an article about riding outside all winter lo...

Wednesday, December 30

Don't call it a comeback

Or why constantly looking for the athlete you were can lead to trouble...

We've all been there - a season or two removed for competion in sports for what ever reason. When it comes time to return to that sport, it's also time for the glorious comeback - reclaiming the speed, power or skill that once defined us athletically. There are plenty of stories of athletes suffering major injuries and then finding themselves at the pinnacle of their sport again. The comebacks happen, but with less frequency among the weekend warriors or life long athletes then the premier elites. One major reason is that many life long athletes don't have the resources of the elites. We don't have the ability to hop in a plane so the top surgeon can work is magic. We are usually stuck with which ever doc the insurance company will pay for. We also usually don't have unlimited access to PTs and world class gyms. It might be 24 visits and rehabbing at 24 hour fitness. So comparing our ability to mount the comeback to that of the elites is to provide false hope to how quickly and how well we might return. Another is the reasons behind the seasons off - was if for injury, family, work, or simply changing sports for a while? Each reason will have different outcome for the life long athletes a necessitate a different approach to that comeback. Someone who took a break due to injury will need a different build back to competion then someone who switched sports and is now returning to the first love. The person who backed off with family and work responsibilities might not have the time anymore to split between activities. It becomes a delicate balancing act between training and the other responsibilities.

Regardless of the reasons, one thing remains clear. We cannot compare the athlete we are now to the athlete we were. For some, that comparison will lead to injury and a false sense of how good they should be. "I could run a sub 3:00 marathon a month ten years ago - I should be able to do that now." The expectation that the history of sport will over weigh the need to a safe and steady rebuilding will lead to either physical injury or worse, mental breakdown as times that "should" be easy remain a struggle. We cannot look back at our history and jump back into the same place we left. At the same time, for some athletes looking at the past will serve to hold them back. The past doesn't reflect increased activity, weight loss or any other factors and the struggle an athlete once had to finish a 5k may no longer be an issue. 

So don't call it a Comeback. That term provided limitations on what we are capable of doing with a return to sport. Instead, it's a reboot - Version 2.0 or which ever version we are on. A new version that is built on the athletic history and new goals. With the new year just days away, what will your new version be? 

Tuesday, November 10

Consistency

After another successful outing at the 25 Hours of Frog Hollow, I took some time to look over the results and the lap times teams were riding. One thing struck me - and it's something I've noticed before in these lap style endurance races. The teams who finished on the podium, especially those on the top step, were not just the fastest. Speed helps, but it was the consistency of the riders as the race progressed that really sealed the deal. Granted, the lap times don't always tell the whole story. Someone who was riding 1:05 laps and all of a sudden has a 1:45 lap might have had a mechanical or such happen out on course. But the trends are still there. If a mechanical was the reason, the next lap usually drops back down.

Looking just at the Coed Duo, which is the class Nick and I race, the combo of speed and consistency was what won the race for us. It's easy to be fast for a few laps, but at what cost? For the top three teams, the men's first lap was all within 3 minutes, with Nick coming in at 53:18 and the third place man finishing at 56:40. The women all did the second lap and I pulled the gap out to 13 minutes. It was back down to ten minutes after the third lap as Nick settled from the start lap pace to his race pace. As Nick and I kept riding, with his next three laps within a minute of each other and my first three laps within three minutes of each other, we steadily pulled away from second and third. We focused on staying consistent with our lap times and safe out on course. We both slowed at night, with mine being a little more drastic then Nick, but there were never any huge jumps in in time. 

But here's where things get interesting. While we had broken the elastic at lap six, second and third were still within minutes of each other up through the 9th lap. Both teams were slowing dramatically at that point, with lap times jumping up by 30 minutes or more. The fast start looked like it was taking a toll on everyone. Instead of maintaining the consistent routine of alternations laps - which is actually the fastest despite the increased rest - both second and third began doubling up, or even once doing three in a row. When the men head out for two in a row, it's no longer an XC level effort. It has to become an endurance effort at that point in the race, which is automatically slower. And then if the other rider only does one lap, then the person who doubled up gets very little rest for the next effort. Any attempts at consistency are lost when the rotation is changed.

So what lessons can we learn and apply for the next event? The primary one is to stay consistent - not getting caught up in the excitement and energy of the start only to blow sky high in the pre-dawn hours. Be realistic with lap times and know some splits out on course to stay on track. While doubling up sounds attractive, it can actually be slower despite the increased rest. And the most important lesson? These are races, but trying to race for the entire 24 (or 25) hours can lead to an implosion. Keep an eye on the competition but stick to the plan. 
If you're planning on racing a 24 or 12 hour race and want advice on setting up a plan that will keep your team consistant and turning out the laps, contact me. I'd love to help you reach your goals. 

Monday, September 7

More then just Training

A lot goes into getting ready for a race of any length. Most of the focus is on the training - long days, intervals and other physically tasking workouts. That's where the majority of the time spent and it's also the easiest to talk about. People understand intervals, track workout, long rides and recovery days. Really, the training is only part of preparation for a race. There are other, less noticeable and glamorous areas that have to be addressed with just as much focus. It's the non-training basics that can make or break any race, from a 5k to a 100 mile running event, a sprint triathlon to an iron distance race, and from a 20 minute short track to a 24 hour race. Along with the training, the pre-race preparation should become part of the schedule. It's not something to ignore until the day comes to leave for the venue.

What are some of the bigger areas of pre-race preparation? Gear is one of the biggest in my mind when something as simple as the wrong socks can ruin a race. Everything should be tested and used under similar conditions to the goal race if possible. Showing up to a 100 mile mountain bike race with a rain coat that hasn't seen rain and a pack that still has the tags on it? What happens if that pack doesn't fit quite right or a sudden downpour overwhelms the lightweight coat? It could be a miserable trek to the finish line, if that far. Any gear - from a wetsuit for triathletes, hand held water bottles for runners or packs and gloves for cyclists should be thoroughly tested. Everyone says that running shoes need to be broken in before the goal race - the same goes for everything else. If you are planning on wearing a pack during a mountain bike race, I recommend wearing that same pack for all long rides and even some interval sets. Something that is comfortable at easy speeds might not be as comfortable when riding all out.

Nutrition is another area - and one that's harder to predict. Food that works great in training can be too much for the stomach to handle at speeds or the flavors can get overwhelming over the course of a long day. It's easy to say that you should train with the foods and drinks you plan to eat during a race, but that can only go so far. It's hard to carry a thermos of chicken soup for a long training ride, but that might be just the ticket when it comes to 2:00AM at a 24 hour race. I always recommend having some options on hand in case the nutrition plan isn't sitting well. The long rides and runs are when you should be testing food and drink, but you also need to try eating during longer interval workouts to see what happens and if your stomach can tolerate the food. For some races, relying on the aid stations is fine - requiring extra food and drink outside an aid station during a 5k is unlikely. But during long distance events - especially when there can be 5 hours between aid, being self sufficient is a must. Learn what you like, what you can carry and the balance between enough food for the entire race vs just that one segment.

Speaking of segments. Course knowledge is the key to a successful race. The best preparation is to incorporate some intervals and workouts on the course. For mountain biking, pre-riding can help learn the lines for the descents. For road running, the worst feeling is to have a downhill marathon with a monster hill in the middle that you haven't prepared for. Study the course profile and attempt to match the training with the course. If the goal race is a flat marathon like Chicago, then running lots of rolling trails might be fun, but not the most specific. Take the time to research the distance and times between aid station - there's no need to carry enough water for three hours when it should only take an hour to get between stations. If you can't get out to the course, utilize the information at hand and online. Compare times against people you normal race against to help set up the splits and race plan

Prepare for the races beyond just the workouts. It's a journey from that first day of training to crossing the finish line. Use all the tools at hand to make the entire journey a successful one, which means doing the research required, testing gear and food and being as prepared as possible in all aspects.

Friday, August 7

Comfort Zones

We all have them - that point where we are happiest, relaxed and just comfortable. It doesn't matter if it's in life or on the bike, we settle into those comfort zones and stay there - either not realizing that we are there or unwilling to make a change. And sometimes, that's okay. There's not always a reason to push the limits or make drastic changes. Until there is. Until there is something that makes us realize that there is a whole world out there, filled with new experiences. Then that comfort zone becomes a barrier holding you back.
 
On the bike, comfort zones tend to be speed and technically related. "I'm not fast enough to line up with those girls, I'll get my ass kicked." or "That rock garden scares me so I'm not going to sign up for that race." But wait a minute. Re-read those statements. Presented like that, the comfortable sounds like a limiter, doesn't it? Instead of just keeping us safe and happy, it's holding us back from what might be possible. What if you took the leap and tried racing in the faster group? Or signed up for a race with some technical features that scare you? You could finish last - but you also might win. Without the push of the other riders around you, without the challenge, how will you ever know what might happen? It's easy to stay safe, to stay with the group and on the trails that we know and can predict. But it only takes one breakthrough to realize that sometimes getting a good old fashioned ass-kicking can be the best thing ever. I should know - it's happened to me plenty of times! But I challenged myself, understanding that sometimes in order to win, I had to finish dead last first.
 
Challenging those comfort zones also can mean changing strategies. Are you someone who stays in the pack, waiting for the right time to make a move? Or are you someone that bolts from the gun and hangs on for as long as possible? Well, maybe tomorrow is the time to change that strategy. Break free from the predictable and do something different. If you like sitting in, then try the sprint from the gun. Or instead of charging at the start, unleash that sprint at the finish. See what happens when you push yourself in a different way. The results might be surprising.

Friday, May 1

24 Hour Race Plans

So, you've done all the intervals and training - the long rides and the night rides. The time is approaching,  the goal 24 hour race. Once the race starts, how can you ensure that you will have the best and most successful race possible under the conditions given? The answer is simple - a 24 Hour Race Plan. Not a training plan - but a race plan. A template for the race, reducing the stress, worry and possibility of things going wrong at 2:00 AM. A plan based on your goals, designed to help you and your team achieve the most number of laps possible. And this goes for more then just the mountain biking races - even runners at the 24 hour races can benefit from having a solid plan
 
Thelen Coaching provides something no other coach does - the years of experience in the pits at 24 hour races across the country. From a 24 Hour Solo National Championship to numerous duo podiums, I've proven that having a solid race plan with consistent performance can beat faster riders without a plan. Thelen Coaching now offers 24 Hour Racing Plans - ranging from the basic template that you can fill out with your team to a fully custom plan designed around your 24 hour race. The template comes with instructions and tips to help you create your plan, but no assistance with developing the plan. Custom Plans can be as simple as figuring out lap times and rider order to be the most competitive team possible to as complex as food intake, sunrise and sunset times, how long lights need to charge, and so on. It's up to you and your team which option works best for you!

Thelen Coaching 24 Hour Race Plan Template - $20, payable via PayPal. Email tracy@thelencoaching.com for more information.

Thelen Coaching Custom 24 Hour Race Plan - Starting at $40 and up, payable via PayPal, depending on how detailed you want your custom plan to be. This plan includes two phone or email consultations so that the final plan reflects your needs and your goals. Email tracy@thelencoaching.com  for more information and to initiate the process.

Friday, April 10

Stress and recovery

How many age group athletes look at the intensive training schedules and workouts of elite athletes and think "I could be that fast, if only..." If only I didn't have to work 50 hours a week, I could spend more time training. If I didn't have to deal with family responsibilities as much, I would be able to train more. That's why I'm not as fast as the other athletes I'm racing against. I don't have the time to train as much as everyone else. So we try to replicate the elite schedules the best we can, with pre-dawn swims, lunchtime runs and evening rides on the trainer after dark. Every minute of every day is planned around the workouts. The weekends come and instead of rejuvenation from the stress of the week, more stress is piled on in the form of long rides, long runs and open water swims. And even with all the training and hard workouts, the results aren't there. So instead of going back to the drawing board, the most common "fix" is to pile more and more training onto the schedule - especially for self coached athletes. Increase the yardage in the pool, more hours on the bike and more miles under the running shoes. For many athletes, the cycle continues until something breaks - either the breakthrough race or an injury. Unfortunately, it doesn't take look perusing Slowtwitch and other sites to realize the breakthrough races are few and far between and season ending injuries are very frequent.

For many, the answer to getting fitter and faster isn't more hours training - regardless of the sport. Yes, more is better - but only to a point. A new runner slowing building the mileage up from 10 miles a week to 20 miles a week will become a better runner. A cyclist gradually increasing the duration of her long rides to prepare for a century ride will arrive at the starting line ready to perform. A well trained veteran triathlete trying to cram another five hours of training into his schedule is asking for trouble. Unless there is five hours of free time in the week, something will have to give. Since work is non-negotiable for most people, those five hours are usually taken out of sleep and recovery or family time. Instead of adding five hours of training stress, the additional workouts also increase the life stress. In turn, they affect the ability to recover from the daily and weekly stresses from work, family and training. The biggest thing that athletes miss when studying the training schedules of others is what does the rest of the day look like? Is someone rolling out of bed at 5:00 for masters swim racing off to work after or heading home for a leisurely meal and nap? Is the hour lunch run an balancing act - dashing out of the office between meetings and inhaling food at a desk after the workout or is it a solid warm up, the main intervals, then a cool down followed by a healthy lunch with feet up? As for the long rides on the weekends - do they start in the dark with a cup of coffee for breakfast so not to miss a kid's soccer game or is the roll out planned for after breakfast, when the weather is nice because that's all that is planned for the day? It's the same workouts, but two very different schedules. Which athlete sounds familiar?

It isn't always training that makes someone fast; it's what they are doing when they aren't training. Training is the stress - the trigger for adaptation. Recovery allows for the body to repair and adapt to the workload. Without proper rest and recovery between workouts, there's more stress, more load but without the adaptations that create fitness and speed. For the lucky athlete who doesn't have the addition of work or family responsibilities, training is the only stress. For everyone else, the hours at work and with family compounds the stress from training, increasing the need for recovery. Trying to fit more training into the day decreases the time for available recovery and can eventually lead to the breaking point. Adding more hours to the training schedule has to be done intelligently, with a purpose for every additional workout and the ability to increase recovery if needed. Knowing yourself and having a coach who knows you as well will help with the balancing act of training volume/intensity, daily work and life responsibilities and stress and the appropriate recovery from it all.

Monday, April 6

24 Hours in the Sage

I'm happy to announce that Thelen Coaching is the official coaching partner of 24 Hours in the Sage for the 2015 race. This is one of the best 24 hour races out there, held on August 22/23 at Hartman's Rocks in Gunnison, CO. The race is based out of the Gunnison KOA, which means full access to all the amities of the campground - power for charging lights, warm showers and no pit area is more then a few minutes from the exchange tent. It also means that the entire campground is devoted to the race, with the staff serving up hot meals nearly around the clock. As for the course, it is a small sample of the fun that can be had at Hartman's Rocks. There is really something for everyone - from the technical rocks of Rocky Ridge to the sweeping, flowing fun of Sea of Sage. We've been doing the race since 2008 and it's gotten better every year.

As the official coaching partner of the race, I would like to offer all racers in both the 12 hour and the 24 hour races a discount on coaching or training plans leading up the events. Want personalized attention,data and ride analysis, and workouts based on extensive course knowledge designed to make your race better, faster or just more enjoyable? Coaching will be available to all racers at 20% off current monthly rates. Just email me (tracy@thelencoaching.com) with your team name and we can get to work. Or if all you want is a training plan for the race with tips on how to succeed at 24 or 12 hours, built around your goals - those will be offered at 15% off.  Hope to see you all at the best party at a mountain bike race!

Wednesday, February 25

Treadmill or Dreadmill - snow solutions

Winter time - the bane of most athletes because of the adverse conditions. Snow, ice, sub-freezing temperatures all make getting outside for workouts and training difficult. Cyclists don't seem to mind moving inside onto the trainer when things get sketchy and some triathletes always ride inside. But runners? Treadmills are to be reserved those days when there is no other option and given the photos circulating the internet, that rarely happens. I'll admit to having an adverse reaction to a treadmill as well, trying to avoid playing hamster at all costs. But is that always the correct response? Well, it depends. (There never is an easy answer...) What are the goals of the workout? If there's a specific time pace or interval set that needs to be hit, then perhaps the treadmill is the smartest answer. Another thing to consider is modifying the workout - hills on the trail instead of a speed workout on slick roads. There are still benefits from hills that will carry over into added strength and speed. If the road conditions are such that it's more dangerous to be outside then in, find a safer place to get the miles done. However, it the mental stress of the treadmill would lead to a less then effective workout, then find a way to get outside. 

In 2006, when I was training for the Myrtle Beach Marathon (a Feburary race) Denver got hit hard with big snow storms on back to back weekends. One of those storms dumped three feet of snow in a day. My long run was replaced by a snowshoe outing that weekend and shoveling as my strength training. And the rest of my workouts that month were moved inside at the local YMCA. With an hour limit on the treadmils during peak times, it was just enough to get in and get nine miles of quaility running - although I did try to avoid peak hours. I designed workouts that were treadmill friendly - based on time instead of miles for the repeats and hills. I even did my long runs on the treadmill - up to 24 miles one time. Once the snow started melting, I moved some of my runs back outside, but kept returning to the safety of the treadmill for the speed work. Was I worried that I wouldn't be able to handle the pounding in the road for 26.2 miles after spending most of my time on the softer treadmill deck? Yes. I had heard horror stories about people crashing and burning because they weren't ready for the pavement. Turned out that the few runs I was still able to get done outside were enought. I ran one of my fastest times (2:55) and felt great the entire time. So if a treadmill is easily accessible and there is a specific goal race in mind, I will advocate for the safety and effectiveness the machine provides. 

But if running is a mental relase and staring at walls makes the thought of the miles work instead of fun, then head outside and run. Understand that times will be slower and the phsycial effort harder.   Before you do, some things to think about for safety. Getting those fresh tracks on a few inches of snow is an amazing experience - even more so if there's more coming down. But snow can cover dangers like ice and make being aware even more important. If there is a chance of ice, I always bring my Kahtoola microspikes. There are plenty of options out there for additional traction - that's just what I prefer. The extra weight of having effective traction is far better then slipping and breaking something. And if I need traction, then it means I need to be more alert for cars. Stopping 3000 lbs on ice isn't a given - it's better for me to wait and make sure they see me and can stop. Obviously, on trails that isn't an issue, but for road runners personal awareness is vital. Another thing to consider is visibility. The standard practice is to try to wear light and bright colored clothes in the dark to make yourself more visible to other people. Well, light and bright doesn't work as well in falling snow. The light colors blend into the landscape, making you harder to see. This is one of the few times I would actually suggest running in darker colors! They stand out against the white on white world of snow and ice. As always, reflective gear and a headlight should be considered mandatory - be seen and see what you are running over. I personally like sticking to side streets during my early morning snowy runs - quieter roads mean less traffic and fewer cars. I'll still do some workouts in the snow and ice, but I'll adjust my goal pace or routes to account for conditions. If it means hills instead of sub-max intervals, that's what happens. It also means using heart rate for the intervals instead of pace - the effort level will be there even if the speed is not because of the cold or ice.

Regardless of what you choose - inside on the treadmill or outside, getting the work done is what matters. Running is running and the personal reasons and goals of each run should be what determines the location, not peer pressure from the frozen eyelash and bead selfies.

Thursday, February 12

Data vs feeling

It might seem contradictory - I've tweeted that every workout should have a purpose and athletes should be aware of the purpose prior to starting. The parameters of the workout should be clearly stated, along with the goals to be accomplished during the workout. That means the athlete needs to keep an eye or distance, pace or heart rate and power output to ensure that the workout achives the desired effect. It also means the athletes need to be aware of falling outside the ranges and when physical status might preclude an effective workout. The gadgets, toys and technology employed by both runners and cyclists now make that real time monitoring easier - and can assist the coach with providing feed back to improve performance. But I've also said that we need to unplug and leave the gadgets behind to reconnect with the world. Without numbers staring you in the face, you learn how you feel during the workout. There are no numerically imposed limitations to performance - just the feeling of working hard and pushing the limits. That sometimes dictates slowing down or allows you to reach undreamed of summits. Simply doing can also be the rejuvenation needed to inspire new goals.

So which is right? Tethered to our gadgets or flying free? As an athlete, I like having the data at my fingertips during hard workouts - but more as a guideline for performance. I also like tossing the garmin in my pocket and just riding. I get the input on how I feel during the ride, but am also to look at the data afterwards. Then I get the best of both worlds - the freedom of just doing and the information on how my body responds to the workouts. As a coach, I want my athletes to enjoy what they are doing - even doing working hard. Simply focusing on the numbers might get the desired improvement, but decrease the motivation to actually get out and do. Each person is an individual - the numbers can drive and damn at the same time. But I also need the numbers - be it pace, heart rate, RPE, distance or watts to provide the feedback each athlete requires. That's the beauty of coaching - helping athletes progress and achieve their goals no matter what the motivating factor is - numbers, experience or a combination of both. 

Wednesday, February 4

Super Half - Post Race Analysis

After a race, regardless of the outcome, it is time to sit down a look at the training - what went right, what didn't work and what needs adjusting moving forward. It's not the race report from the athlete - it's looking at the performance and how the training affected the ability to execute the plan. I've posted my race report for the Super Half on my blog like any athlete would. This is the coaching analysis - a good hard look, removed from the emotion of the race performance. For running, there are a few key things that I like looking at when reviewing a training plan - volume, intensity and frequency. Overall, the training was spot on for my goals as an athlete, but there are a few issues that will be addressed for the next running event.

Volume - volume or weekly mileage is often considered key when it comes to endurance running. As a coach, building the volume is also one of the trickier aspects. Too fast and the risk of injury greatly increases. Too slow and you might not have the base upon which to develop speed when needed. For the Super Half, I did focus mostly on getting the volume back up to about 40 miles a week. Not much but running standards, but it was also balanced out with focused cycling workouts. Instead of a run to just get the miles, I would have a bike ride scheduled. It was harder this year to get the running volume back to where I wanted it as I was starting with a much lower base. Every year removed from my marathons, I've had to work more and be more careful with building that base back up. Upon reviewing my training leading into the half marathon, I did a good job of increasing the weekly mileage slowly but steadily. I also kept the weekly mileage balance between endurance runs, speed work and long runs. The percentage of weekly mileage devoted to the long run was a little high in the peak weeks, with 35% of my mileage in the long run. Part of that is because I didn't do any recovery runs - substituting in the bike rides instead. The biggest issue with increasing the volume was the low base I was starting with and making sure that I didn't flare up the Achilles issues I'd been dealing with earlier in the year. As a coach, I will be addressing that by keeping the weekly volume higher over the course of the next season, even as I transition back to a cycling focused summer.
Intensity - Speed work. I've always said that in order to race fast, you have to be able to run fast. But in order to run fast, you must have the base of running to prepare the legs for the efforts at speed and the mechanics for running fast. There is a fine line between the two and I chose to err on the side of endurance over speed for this race. Starting with a lower base then I'd wanted meant it was harder to balance the speed workouts with the endurance work. The cycling helps with the endurance, but not with the specificity of running speed. Looking back at the training leading into the Super Half, there are definitely some things that I can address and improve upon when it comes to speed. I was only doing two speed workouts a week - one focused on threshold work and the other on top end speed. It would have been better to have two top end focused workouts and then incorporate the threshold work into one of the other runs during the week. That way the mechanics of running fast would have become smoother and I would have been prepared to run faster than goal time. With the limited running and increased cycling volume, I wasn't doing any recovery runs. Every run needed to have a specific purpose and sometimes I wasn't following that guideline. For next year, assuming that I maintain a stronger base, keeping in some top end speed workouts will help address the difficulty I had finding that extra gear.
Frequency - not only is the weekly volume important, but the number of times you are running during that week. If the miles are all contained in three or four runs, then the risk of injury is much higher. That is why most training plans specific for running events have five to six days of running built in. But with someone like me, who wants to be able to run well over the winter, but also has an early season mountain bike race, it can be harder to balance. The risk of overtraining trying to maintain the frequency in both sports is high and so the coach needs to be very aware of how the athlete is feeling and recovering from both volume and intensity. I still needed to keep quality cycling specific workouts on the training plan, even as the attention focused on the half marathon. The recovery runs that help build the weekly volume and strengthen the base were supplemented by cycling workouts instead. My running frequency going into the Super Half was generally five runs per week - one long run, two speed days and two other runs. With the cycling, there was no need for a sixth run - I was getting cardiovascular benefits from the cycling in addition to the low impact training. Overall, that frequency worked well for me and allowed me to continue with higher level cycling.
Moving forward? The focus shifts to the next race - the True Grit 50 MTB race in St George, UT. Time to start addressing the cycling aspects of my training - both physical and technical.

Monday, January 19

Balance

Balance has become a buzz word in the past few years, with everyone going on about "life-work balance" "training balance" and so on. It's easy to get caught up with the fads and the buzz words, but harder to understand what it all means. What part of our identity should we be focused on? The professional aspect, personal aspect or athletic aspect? There's no easy answer to any of those questions, but if you find yourself wondering if you are missing things in any aspect of your life, then the balance is off. If professional quality at work is suffering because of fatigue from training, then the training plan needs to be re-assessed. The same goes if you find yourself missing important family obligations for that last few miles or extra swim session. At the same time, if work responsibilities are impinging upon time with family... That's a harder one to address, but just as important. It's a personal give and take to find the balance for a fullfilling and productive life.

There is also the delicate balance between fun and function. Athletes tend to vere more toward the functional side of workouts - loosing sight of the need for fun even with the pain. The goal race, the big event of the season, is plastered on calendar. Every workout is a stepping stone towards that goal and there can be no deviation from the plan designed to get there. Many times, athletes blindly follow a training plan - focused only on the numbers in front of us. We hide in our basements or garages, bragging about the pain caves we've created. The numbers become primary to the physical and psychological benefits of activity. As a result, the training becomes work - something to dread. It should be the part of the day we look forward to; the release of stress built up throughout the day. Without the anticipation of the fun that comes with a hard workout, we aren't balanced between work and play.  Balance is the ability to find the benefit in every situation, understanding the the training is the journey and the experience worth savoring and the races are the rewards. Love the path you are taking and if it isn't providing the rewards - mental and physical - then reevaluate the path.

Sport should be a lifelong pursit, not a moment in time that is neglected as soon as the goal race is over. Workouts should challenge you - physically and mentally. The act of moving should provide a mental and emotional boost, not adding to the emotional stress built up throughout the day. That is where the art of balance comes to shine - dancing the fine line between fun and play while striving towards achivement of your goals.