Crash Training: Focus on Your Strengths


Crash Training: Focus on Your Strengths

Crash Training: Focus on Your Strengths

Crash Training

Over the past couple of years my competing has been reduced to one or two events per year.  For each of these races I’ve faked my way through training, hoping to rely on muscle memory and good old fashioned grit to get by, but inevitably I show up at the start line with mediocre fitness at best.  The upside of doing a few, albeit spread out, races on “crash training” is that it’s allowed me to get good at, well, crash training.  I’ve signed up for an Xterra mountain bike triathlon at the end of March and have been able to train more efficiently and effectively than I have in quite some time.  Below are some thoughts on what’s worked for me when getting in shape in what I consider a short amount of time (3 months or less), as well as how I mentally approach my training and racing. 

Note – these are based on personal experiences, anecdotal knowledge, and common sense.  Unfortunately I don’t have the time right now to site each and every statement I make – I’m training for God’s sake.

Focus on Your Strengths, Cut Your Losses on Your Weaknesses

Even if you are starting with a decent baseline of fitness, getting in real race shape takes time.  Going out and spinning on your bike for a few hours a few times a week, or running forty-five minutes here and there is a far cry from racing all-out for an hour plus…but it definitely helps.  Because I am getting in shape for a triathlon, I’ll use it as the basis for most of my training discussion.

From the time we are kids playing sports, we are told things like, “take your weaknesses and make them your strengths.”  This is a great message, and I could not agree more – if we are talking about long-term training or preparation.  If you are at the onset of a multi-year triathlon career and have just come off a background of competitive swimming, I would highly, highly recommend getting good at both cycling and running.  But for those of us who live in the world of jobs, families, etc, spending the enormous amount of time it takes to “turn a weakness into a strength” is not practical.  Especially when targeting a single race, and giving yourself only a few months to prepare for it.

I know that for me, getting in race shape takes time, effort, and a lot of pushing myself outside of my comfort zone.  I also know that with a little bit of focused effort, I can be one of the strongest cyclists and/or runners in a given local triathlon.  I know even better that my weakest discipline is swimming, and if I put in 100 hours of training in the pool leading up to an event versus 10 hours, my performance improvement on race day will be marginal – and the cost (time lost in training other disciplines and general fatigue) will be significant.  So when I am “crash” training, it makes much more sense for me to focus on my bike and run – both of which I maintain a baseline level of fitness year ‘round, bringing them to a highly competitive level.  I’ll swim just enough to develop some muscular endurance and aerobic capacity, but that’s about it.

Don’t confuse this message.  As far as training, whether it be for triathlon or baseball, if you are developing a long-term program or road map, you are best to train every element of your race or game, eliminating weaknesses.  But when it comes to getting in shape quickly, be realistic and think economically.  Figure out how you can optimize your fitness by finding that intersection of finely tuning your strengths, and getting your weaknesses to a point of competitive acceptability.

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