Coach Tip Tuesday is here!!
Coming off of the wettest April on record in New York and a rather rainy May, I think it’s a WONDERFUL time to share this tip: Don’t obsess over the weather.
This is something that has come up with many of the athletes I work with over the last few months, and it’s been a common theme in the training forums I have to monitor this month. When the weather looks like it’s going to be less-than-desirable, folks get nervous and don’t want to train in it.
When this happens, I always start a conversation by asking two questions: 1) Is your reasoning for not wanting to train in adverse conditions rooted (even just a tiny bit) in fear?? 2) If these exact conditions existed on the day of your goal event, would you withdraw from the event, or would you go ahead and race??
Generally (though not always), the answers to the above questions are 1) “Training in X conditions does scare me a little bit and I’m not confident” and 2) “I won’t withdraw from a race.”
In my experience as an athlete and as someone who has coached many, many athletes over the years, avoiding the things that scare you does not make them less scary. If anything, it does the opposite; it tends to build the fears into much bigger things that become harder to overcome. This is especially true for training in inclement weather. There are, of course, exceptions for conditions that present a true safety hazard (thunderstorms, ice, snow, hurricanes, etc.), as those would likely cancel a race anyway. But learning that you are strong enough to train in most weather conditions is a very big deal, as that increases your overall confidence as an athlete, and certainly on race day.
My goal for every athlete out there is this: I want them to be as strong and as confident as possible come race day. The best way to accomplish this goal is to limit uncertainty (remember, the number one enemy of athletes on race day is uncertainty). If you do not know if your gear will hold up in bad weather, if you can handle your bike in windy or rainy conditions, or how to swim where there’s a bit of a chop, you will feel very uneasy if those conditions exist on race day.
If you wouldn’t withdraw from a race with the same conditions presented to you in training, then I ask this: what makes a race different than a training day?? If anything, races can be *more* dangerous than training days because then you are out on a course with a bunch of other people whose handling skills and tolerance for adversity is unknown. Isn’t it a better idea to train in all conditions so that you know that *you* won’t be the squirrelly, nervous person out on that race course??
When this situation exists - and especially when it exists in relatively close proximity to race day - building confidence becomes more important than any other specific objective a given workout might have. So, for instance: If there’s a running speed workout on your schedule and it’s pouring, it’s better to get the run in without worrying about hitting targeted times. If you’re scheduled for a bike ride with specific intervals and it’s very windy and/or rainy, getting in a ride that focuses on handling skills and familiarization would be the way to go. An increase in those skills and the corresponding boost of confidence that comes with that is MUCH more valuable in the long run than executing a single workout’s targets as originally intended.
I’ve watched this happen over the years: even though everyone knows that forecasts are generally inaccurate until you’re within a few days of the day in question, they will still start looking at long-range forecasts and getting unnecessarily stressed or panicked over them. I firmly believe that this stress and anxiety doesn’t do anything productive and that it actually prevents one from using that occupied mental space for more productive or happier things. Control the variables you can control, and do not spend tons of time stressing about the things (like the weather) that are 100% out of your control. Prepare for any weather/adversity that can come your way, and you’ll reap the rewards of that confidence that comes with that preparation. All of a sudden that windy and rainy forecast will look just annoying, not scary. :)