Training during COVID
You mean, you still have a coach???
Racing this year took a bit of a hiatus for many of us. COVID-19 has forced us to re-prioritize our goals and, unfortunately, affected too many in devastating ways. Regardless, our lives are definitely not what they were less than a year ago. So, you ask, why are you still training if you are not racing? And why do you even have a coach right now? There are three main reasons why I believe this is probably one of the best times to keep training besides all the health benefits of regular exercise.
Consistently expanding the base:
Training is not necessarily glamorous, and not all training sessions will be breakthrough sessions, but the accumulation of repetitive stimulus to the body will have a positive long-term impact. This year, I've been able to focus in low intensity training and reduce overall stress because of the lack of racing. While high intensity training sessions are important, they also increase chances of injury, fatigue, and stress to the body. This can be measured by tools such as HRV4Training and our perceived energy levels. Those risks are worth taking close to a big event, but overall health and wellbeing have taken priority during this time.
The result, increased aerobic efficiency in both running and cycling, despite lower training loads. This means I'm able to run for longer with less heart rate decoupling and keep a faster pace at a relatively lower effort. Why does this matter? Endurance sports aren't always about going faster, but being able to maintain a certain level of effort for a long bout of exercise.
Improvement is gradual, and not always linear. However, becoming good at something takes patience, requires learning, and will inevitably have setbacks. This year is a clear example of what we can achieve when we look at training not in terms of weeks or months, but years. 2020 taught me that I will improve even if I don't race. Actually, especially if I don't race. This is because I was able to reassess my goals and focus on what really matters to me. I'll be the first to admit, I am impatient and want to see (and test) results right away. Having a long-term vision of where I see myself as an athlete has helped me cope with the frustration and stress of current events. This mindset has helped me give purpose to each training session, even when training seems pointless right now.
I'll finish answering the question I posted at the beginning of the post. Yes! I still have a coach. Right now is the BEST time to have a coach. Not only does it give me accountability to continue training, but we have worked together to determine a plan that keeps things fun. Training has allowed me to feel connected to the triathlon community even during a time where we have been socially distant and isolated from our friends.
Finally, it is important to be kind to ourselves. While this is by far the hardest thing for me to do, this year has given me the opportunity to work on myself. Up until now, I felt that racing triathlons was what defined me as a "triathlete." I had to constantly prove to myself, and others, that I was only worthy of being called an athlete if I competed frequently. But, being an athlete is so much more than racing. It is a lifestyle, a mindset. Everyone's an athlete in their own way. It doesn't matter if you make a living from racing or have never raced. Being committed to the process of self-improvement through exercise makes us athletes, whether it is cold outside, our bodies are tired, or there is a pandemic changing our lives.
I hope everyone is staying safe and healthy!