Saturday, October 21, 2017

I recently conducted a Twitter poll which seemed to confirm a widely-held view that as triathletes, we consider our worst discipline to be swimming (for the record, I chose running, but then unlike many triathletes, I don’t come from a running background).

Of the 78 people that responded to my survey, 51% chose swimming as their weakest of the triathlon sports, compared to 24% for running and 22% for cycling (well done to the 3% who declared themselves ‘superb at all three’!).  But why is it that triathletes struggle with swimming?

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So far in this three part blog saga I've looked at 'Fatigue' and 'Exertion' as two of three main types of "pain" (if you haven't read the previous instalments, you should be able to find them below this posting). Now it's time for the final part, "hurt".

This is potentially the most contentious of the pains to look at, and once again I stress that I am not a medical professional, just another amateur triathlete trying to learn from my own mistakes and pass on what advice I can.

For me personally, the most important thing to learn when it comes to hurt is to distinguish between hurt that you can train through and hurt that needs rest to fix (accepting that there’s a massive grey area in the middle, which we’ll get on to in a moment).

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Having explored the first of three pains (fatigue, exertion, hurt) in my last blog, this week it's time to look at exertion. Again, there is a massive caveat that I am no expert, just a layman. But if any of the following strikes a chord or gives you pause to think (even to disagree) then all good.

What do I mean by the pain of "exertion"? Well, on a personal level, this is the feeling that you just can't maintain your current effort level or pace, and thus you either back off to recover composure, or you push on through and deal with the pain.

I guess the first lesson I've learned in the last six months or so is that sometimes training needs to hurt. It's by pushing yourself in training that you gain the confidence and knowledge that you can do it in a race. I'm paraphrasing here, but Chrissie Wellington often refers to training as her way of teaching her body and mind to deal with, and overcome, pain.

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I was casting around for ideas for my next blog post when my coach (twitter: @gobi_one) suggested I explore the concept of pain. No surprise to hear that suggestion from a coach, perhaps. After all, they must enjoy creating pain; why else would they be coaches?!

But his point makes sense; what have I learned in the last six months of training that has altered my views on different types of pain and how have I reacted to that both physically and mentally?

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As triathletes, we're all too aware that triathlon is a solo sport. Whether you want to beat your fellow competitors, beat the clock or simply beat the finish line, the difference between having a great race and one you'd rather forget is pretty much down to us on the day.

But we also know that often we wouldn't even get to the start line without support, in one shape or another. Perhaps it's just a loved one's encouragement, perhaps it's a whole team of professional coaches all focused on getting us in the best physical and mental state possible for race day.

I suspect for the majority of us amateur triathletes, it's somewhere in the middle. And so I wanted to take a couple of moments to recognise the efforts and contributions of those who don't necessarily race, yet still invest in our success.

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