by Kelly Williamson
Ed. Note—the coaches at Durata Training are back with the first of two pieces from professional triathlete and coach Kelly Williamson. Williamson raced professionally for over 15 years, racking up over 15 Ironman 70.3 and Ironman victories during her career. Kelly now spends her time working as a coach for Durata Training, guiding her athletes to their own victories, large and small.
"The future is fluid. Each act, each decision, and each development creates new possibilities and eliminates others. The future is ours to direct." —Jacque Fresco
How do we make decisions at athletes? Our ability in this area can separate the great competitors from the merely adequate. Life (and sport) always offers us choices, and later we can reflect on those choices and see more clearly if we picked the correct path. In the moment, though, something I'll call "Athlete IQ" drives our ability to choose correctly. I consider your Athlete IQ to have two parts, logic and emotion. This segment will focus on logic. What things can you logically do, as an athlete, to set yourself up for success?
- Communicate with your coach. And if you do not have a coach, communicate honestly with yourself. The key word here that can be difficult is "honestly." Do not expect someone to read your mind. If you’re tired, voice it. If you’re unsure of why you’re doing something, ask. Without communication, relationships rarely work effectively. We know this to be true but it’s easy to let this slip. Take initiative, speak up, and keep the lines of communication open, honest, and ongoing.
- Make the wise decision, not the tough one. We already know you are tough. Most athletes are tough but the successful one will also be smart. Being a wise athlete is not always toughing it out, or pushing through at all costs. Sure, there are times that this is absolutely the goal and is essential to improve and grow, but start to learn when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. This ability takes time to cultivate. If you are new to sport, experience is your best friend. You will make the wrong decision at times (ie: I should not have done that session as I felt I was getting sick and, shockingly, I got sick), but learn from it so as to make the right one in the future. There is a difference between being tough and being smart.
- Attend to the details. It is not all about cycling, running, swimming or your given sport. A lot of what affects our performance takes place outside the sessions. Are you fueling yourself properly? Are you eating enough? Are you getting sufficient rest? Do not question why you are failing to hit session after session if you’re eating like crap, not sleeping well and overextending yourself. Take ownership of controlling what you can and make decisions that will allow you to be your best YOU. This doesn’t mean turning down every happy hour, but if you have a huge session the next day, think twice about how you spend the evening prior. A lot can be gained by those little things such as fueling, rest, and recovery.
- Respect fatigue. This could be an entire article in itself, but, in short, acknowledge when you are truly tired and back off. It may be an extra day off or it may need to be a week of lighter training. The exercise is far from the only stressor in your day—consider work, family and life itself. Start to hone in on the days you feel truly TIRED (note how it feels, what your thoughts are, what your attitude is like) and dial it back. Again, this comes with experience, but always better to err on the side of caution when it comes to fatigue.
- Let go of ego. Know this from the start: you will have great days, and you will have crap days. This really is no different than life; sometimes it flows, others it blows. Do not LET yourself be defined by the highest of highs or the lowest of lows. Check your ego at the door, be it a tough training session or a goal race you’re toeing the line of. Remember that nothing that is truly worth it should come easy (at least in my book), and you are still a worthy human even if you are off your game. The key to success lies in our ability to rebound. And I guarantee the minute you feel like you’ve figured it all out, you’ll get something thrown in your way. Stay humble, stay honest, and stay true to your goal.
Stay tuned for the next installment, when I’ll dive into Athlete IQ – Emotion. And until then, stay smart, friends.