My coach and I finished our second workout of the day today keeled over and sucking wind. At the top of the narly, steep hill in the rain soaked woods Cal exclaimed, “I am VO2 maxed!”. Once we caught our breath and started heading back down the hill, we chatted about how it is that time of the season, now under 3 weeks out from the Xterra World Championship, when it is mainly about high intensity and getting sharp. Hence, the reason I was feeling pukey for the second time in one day, first on the bike and then running! It is the transition time where training takes less time, but the effort is more, maximally more some days!
The race season can be long. With my first race each year being as early at late March and usually finishing up by the end of October, there are many ways I’ve followed the principle of “less is more” in order to arrive at the end of the season at the most important races feeling as fresh (mentally and physically) and fit as I possibly can. Here are the top ways I like to apply the “less is more” motto as an athlete….
1. Its not the end of the world to throw a training day out! This is what my brother Geoff reminded me of every so often when he coached me in my mountain bike racing days while at grad school in Ottawa. Whether it be due to the accumulation of outside stresses, feeling on the edge of getting sick, losing too much sleep as the parent of young babes, or feeling under recovered, throwing a day of training out never hurts once in awhile, and is WAY better than losing up to a week due to being sick!
2. Applying “Less is More” is a personal thing! Learning to respect when less is more for you personally takes some trial and error, good self-awareness developed over time, and trust in the purpose behind the type of training you’re doing (another reason a coach can help you maximize that time!). Unfortunately a number of athletes believe if they just do more than their competitors, and do the maximum amount of training that they can then their “hard” work will pay off. Learning to balance the quality of training versus the quantity at the appropriate time of the year on top of balancing the overall training load with work, school, life, and/or family is a fine art that takes practice, and wisely erring on the side or “less is more” from time to time can be the key to staying healthy and seeing overall improvement.
3. Racing less for more motivation! I’ve definitely had race seasons when I reach the final month or more of racing and I’ve felt like I’m just going through the motions. The drive to compete and push maximally at the end of a long season of racing can be tough if you don’t pace the race season. Figuring out what is optimal for you as far as number of races to enter, and how much time to spend away from home racing can make the difference in ending the season without feeling like your competitive fire has burned out! Pacing the season sometimes means opting of fun local races (since there are SO many in the Calgary-Canmore area!) in order to take real breaks from the emotions of racing.
4. Sleep – less can be more! If there is anything I’ve learned since becoming a parent its that I’m capable of a lot more on less sleep than I ever thought I would be! In my early days with my firstborn, Zoe, I often felt like I’d rather take a nap than get out the door and train. But once I got going, most of the time I would feel great. And the workout would leave me with more energy than I started with! Of course, in line with point number one in this post, once in awhile a nap is more important than completed a training session. I’ve learned not to sweat it when I’ve been up feeding or changing diapers too many times in one night, and because I no longer have control over what time my “child” alarm clock will go off in the morning! 🙂 And as for sleep before races we all know that how much sleep you get the night before a race isn’t nearly as important as the sleep you get two night’s before! And getting up early on race morning can be a good thing to wake up your body!