Getting Back On The Bike

Happy new year ladies! Welcome to 2019…although we are already half-way through January now and February is staring us in the face! Regardless, I hope your year is off to a cracking start, and you were able to take some time out over the holiday period to reflect on and review your 2018, and set up 2019 to be even better.

The start of a new year always signals a fresh start, doesn’t it? A whole big shiny blank canvas in front of us ready to be filled with stuff – work, family, life commitments, holidays, and of course for all of us, new race goals! I’m guessing that a fair chunk of that shiny white canvas is already blanked out with hundreds of training sessions, paving the way to the finish line of your race goals. So, tell me, what’s in store for you this year? What goal did you set for 2019?

For many of us, it’s building on our achievements in 2018, taking on bigger and more challenging goals in the form of races or qualifications. BUT, there’s also a lot of us out there whose commitment for the new year is to re-start our triathlon journeys after taking a break, having kids, travelling, or whatever the reason may be. But the point is, we are re-starting the journey, and seriously, sometimes that thought alone feels like a mountainous obstacle to overcome, right?! Nope, it probably isn’t going to feel awesome when we’re starting from scratch all over again. I get it.

Last year, that was me. I’d been living overseas and hadn’t done any form of structured triathlon training for a few years. Sure, I rode my bike and ran in the mountains a few times a week, but it was for sheer enjoyment. Switzerland is a pretty spectacular place! But jumping in the lake for a cool-off after my sessions was about the extent of my swimming. So, whilst I had some level of fitness, I wasn’t anywhere NEAR the level I was when I was doing structured training and racing.

Which messed with my head. Big time. I’m sure I don’t have to explain to you the feeling of having to re-start training. It’s a mind explosion. The thoughts, fears, negative emotions and beliefs that crowd in and shout all at once, all the time, is not fun to deal with! So, whilst I had been pretty happy jaunting off into the mountains on my own for a while with no goal other than to enjoy it and look at the pretty scenery, the thought of going back into structured training scared the life out of me! For one, where to even start?! 

And that right there is what hinders our progress and taints our enjoyment of the process. Not starting out of fear, of not living up to our own expectations. I know, because it happened to me for months. Instead of simply enjoying exercising again and being out on the road with my friends, all I could think about was how fast I used to be, how fit I used to be, how strong I used to be, how muscley I used to be, how much training I used to do…and on and on it went. I was living in my own head, comparing myself to my “old” self constantly (which ironically was a substantially younger version!), and always falling short. No I wasn’t fit, no I wasn’t fast, no I wasn’t strong – yet. And that was the point! I had lost sight of the fact that this was a journey back to all of that, and that I couldn’t go from zero to 100 in a matter of weeks.

And you know what? Once I realized this, I was far happier, far more relaxed, and I started enjoying the training that I was doing once again. Because no one was comparing myself to anyone except me. No one was judging me. I was doing a fine job of that myself, tearing myself down through constant negative self-talk. And you know another thing I realized? It must have been pretty depressing for my friends training with me at the time to hear me constantly complaining and making derisive comments about myself! (Sorry to all of my lovely training girls out there!)

So, if re-starting with triathlon is your goal for 2019, then awesome! I’m celebrating you and your decision to get back on the bike and rejoin this amazing sport. And if you can relate to my experiences in any way – struggling to win the mental war – then the first tip I’m going to share with you is this – just start. Just get on your bike and roll. Pull your runners on and take a step. Dive into that pool. Nothing else matters other than you start; the rest will follow.

Here are another couple of tips that I would like to share with you to help you on your journey back to triathlon, which I hope provide you with the courage, confidence boost and positive mindset to get back out there and do what you love. Because let’s face it, we’re all mad about this sport because we love it, right?! So get out there and do it.

  1. Train naked. Yep, I knew that would get your attention! But seriously, do it. Take the watches and trackers and gadgets off yourself and your equipment for a while and just start training. Go for a run, a ride, a swim and enjoy doing that activity. Focus on building up a routine and consistency only. 
  2. Release expectations. When you’re first starting back, it really helps to release all expectations about yourself and the session outcome, and allows you to simply enjoy what you’re doing with the people you’re with, knowing this is the first step on the journey. Use the information from the session as informative rather than predictive; this is your starting point, and you’ll only get better from here. 
  3. Find some friends. Surround yourself with a fun bunch of like-minded people who love training and staying fit. Believe me, when the self-doubt and negative talk creeps in and all you feel like doing is hitting snooze, these awesome peeps will keep you accountable. Besides, who doesn’t love training chats and coffee with friends?!
  4. Train smart. Our natural desire is to get back to where we were as fast as possible! I know. But that is just a recipe for disaster, mentally and physically. Remember, your body is slowly adapting to this new routine and training load too, which is likely significantly higher than what’s been done recently. Slowly increase volume and intensity progressively (and one at a time); the recommended progression is about a 15-30% increase every couple of weeks.
  5. Join a club. When you’ve sufficiently squashed the harpy in your head and you feel comfortable training in a group again, why not head back to squad sessions? The extra structure, direction and training group environment can be really motivating, particularly when you’re surrounded by people who are all preparing for their own goals. This dynamic alone can really propel your progression, so enjoy this experience!
  6. Bonus extra: enter a race. By now you’ve got training consistency, direction, structure and you’re back to loving the grind, so why not commit to a goal? Start with something simple and fun! Now, you don’t have to rush this, it could be 4 months or 1 year after you re-start, there’s no pressure! Remember, do it when you’re ready!

Congratulations! You’re officially back on the bike…so to speak. Just remember during this phase, not to put pressure on yourself to be anywhere except right where you are at that moment on your journey. No, it’s not where you used to be, and no, those knicks don’t quite fit like they used to, but that’s OK! It won’t be like this forever. You’re on the road back, so enjoy the ride!

Have you gone through the process of re-starting triathlon? I’d love to know what you did to get yourself fit and race-ready once again. Share your thoughts with me on social, I’d love to hear from you!

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