–Sharone Aharone, USAT Elite Level III Coach
A minute after I crossed my first Ironman finish line back in 1998, I couldn’t escape the thoughts of what now? Is it all over? Is this it? I struggled with that thought for weeks, but I still started to train for my next event without putting more thought into it. It took two more years of training and racing to realize that the race could not be my goal. To truly succeed, the journey must be the goal. Training is where I spend most of my time, therefore the race is merely a milestone along the way.
My first two years of racing went pretty well. I was getting better from race to race and felt I got a good handle on the sport. Year three was a disaster; training motivation was not there, and performance dramatically declined. You train the entire year for that one “race,” and things do not go well. What do you do then? How do you reconcile that? That year, I decided to look deep inside to truly understand why I spent all that time training. Of course, I want to do well on race day! However, there are so many variables that I can’t control, and it doesn’t make sense to make that day the purpose of all my time, effort, and sweat. This was when I started thinking more about the purpose and less about the race. I made the shift from focusing on races to what lifestyle I wanted.
Since then, I started my season planning how I wanted to live my life and then lined up my races accordingly. I selected my races based on my life vs. living my life according to the races. I wanted to be healthy and fit, with the freedom of controlling my schedule. I was never thrilled to train early in the morning, and I was training by myself anyway, so what was the point of losing sleep and not enjoying training? I joined a master’s swim program and started to do track workouts with a local run store. Both workouts were in the evening. I set up almost all my other training sessions for the middle of the day. I felt that my body was more awake and functioning better, my sessions felt much better too. At that time, I trained with a coach, and he was very supportive and encouraging of those changes.
It’s not a secret that consistency is the key to success, and simplicity is the key to consistency. Making training simple will lead to success. I did all my group training (masters swimming and track workouts) basically in one location. Running and biking were just outside my door. I know it’s not that simple for everyone, but can you make it less complicated? I cut down on traveling to and from training and set up one place to do most of my training. The other side of simplicity was my mental and emotional energy. Those are influenced mainly by your training environment, where you train, and who you train with. Furthermore, I stayed away from drama and unproductive training competitions and ensured that my training environment was pleasant and supportive. I spent so much time training, and my new focus made it joyful and productive.
I believe that you will always have to work for something meaningful. After setting up my new routine, I surrendered to my new lifestyle. As a result, the training was so much easier to commit to. There was no struggle to get out and go. I was much more relaxed about that whole Ironman thing, and the results followed very quickly; my next Ironman was 2 hours faster!