Training with younger athletes reminds me of my own struggle to find my way in sport early in my career (back when dinosaurs roamed the earth). I remember balancing a zero budget, university studies, international travel and worried parents with my intense desire to progress in the sport. Looking back, I never expected my career to follow the path it has. I love being around young athletes and I am constantly encouraging them to have the courage to follow their dreams and pursue their highest potential, no matter how intimidating that seems.
The few athletes that make it to the top rise out of the ranks of beginners just as everyone else. There are a handful of athletes with outstanding success in the sport and many more with moderate to limited success. Challenging yourself to pursue the highest level in triathlon requires a considerable conviction, determination and resilience. It also requires sacrifice including financial hardship, postponing education, postponing other career choices, missing major events in life (birthdays, weddings, parties, etc.), physical challenges (injuries, illness, etc.) and strain on your personal relationships. These are all real costs associated with following your dreams.
This advice is not limited to youngsters though–the same applies to amateur athletes going after their goals later in life. Whether you’re a young athlete pursuing the Olympics, or a middle-aged athlete who just learned to swim and wants to qualify for Kona, your goals matter.
While you’re working on achieving your goals, you’ll experience a journey unlike any you can have outside of sport. When you explore the world on your bike, it looks a lot different than it does from the seat of a plane, car or a bus. Being an athlete allows you to meet a wide spectrum of people with whom you may not have anything else in common, but through sport you find a connection. Racing lets you experience the scents, sights and elements with an intensity that makes them hard to forget, regardless of your results.
https://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.png00melaniehttps://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.pngmelanie2015-03-23 01:54:132016-04-21 21:18:18Should you take out a professional triathlon card?
The sport of triathlon is a tiny step away from being one of the few examples of true equality among men and women in professional sport. Collegiate sport has Title IX regulations in the US which demand schools receiving federal funds to have equal rosters for men and women, so young athletes can get their start in athletics with equal opportunity. The regulations state, “The athletic interests and abilities of male and female students must be equally effectively accommodated.”  This amendment from 1972 would be considered reasonable by most people in North America in 2015. Maybe not in other countries or continents, but certainly here. Equally accommodated and proportionally accommodated are two different things. It’s time for triathlon to end the proportional accommodation of female professional athletes at the World Championship and take that last step towards true equality- and in the process become an example for all professional sports and to the world.
I tried to think of any professional sports that are equal in prize money, event distance, coverage, and opportunity between men and women. Car racing is equal given that women are competing directly against the men but I don’t know enough about the sport to know whether the handful of women racing are treated equally. There are some women competing in Olympic bobsled with the men this season. It’s rare that the best women can beat the best men in sports purely demanding physical strength and stamina, although women are getting closer in longer endurance events. My research did not come up with any professional events where it was 100 per cent equal, but that doesn’t mean the example isn’t there, only I haven’t found it.
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The first step in goal setting is to outline your Outcome Goals for the season which set out the desired performance result (see SMART goal setting). If the Outcome Goals are broken down into a series of steps, then the journey towards success is mapped out in a clearly defined and measurable way. In that way, even if a race day doesn’t end up as planned due to unforeseen factors (i.e. a flat tire or another disaster occurs) then there can be a lot of satisfaction in going through the process and knowing that there has been improvement.
Setting Process Goals is the next step in goal setting. These goals should reflect controllable development of fitness, strategy or skills on a shorter timeline. By focusing on improving these aspects of your racing you can map the route to achieving your Outcome Goals. To establish a Process Goal you must first set out the timeline for your Outcome Goal. Next, break this timeline down into smaller objectives with associated dates that lead you in a focused and purposeful way to the date you plan to attempt your Outcome Goal. For instance, if your outcome goal is to run 10 minutes faster for the run in a half Ironman race in July and you begin training in January, you have a seven month timeline to work with. Some ideas on how to break that Outcome Goal into Process Goals might look like the following. Keep in mind, these are goals to focus your running objectives within your overall run training program. On their own, process goals are not the training. They are simply goals that allow you to monitor and focus your training to maximize your potential success in achieving the stated Outcome Goal.
January – Build hip strength and stability through a focused strength program. Get up to three sets of ten one leg squats.
February – Complete a six week technical running course to maximize efficiency. See improvement in video by end of course.
March – Build up tempo running at goal pace. Be at 30 minutes comfortable at goal pace by end of April.
April – Start working on mental approach in training. Focus on thoughts during hard workouts and how to turn them to positive affirmations. Test this on tough workout days.
May – Incorporate tempo runs at goal pace with bike workouts. Complete 30 minutes at goal pace off the bike by the end of May.
June – Run a time trial at slightly faster than goal “off the bike” pace for 21km as a negative split.
July – Fine tune mental approach. Attempt your Outcome Goal at your key race.
Process Goals need to be measurable and realistic within a short time frame. This will help you to focus your attention, mobilize your effort, maintain your persistence and develop your strategies for race day.
By specifying and monitoring Process Goals, you can celebrate smaller improvements as you build towards your Outcome Goal. If you look at all your training days as small opportunities for achievement, or even as mini process goals, these small achievements will one day add up to a big one.
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I will be posting regularly on Triathlete Magazine Canada’s online magazine as well as writing for the back page of the print version. The online contributions will be on a variety of topics, the first of which is part of a series on organizing your thoughts to better estabilish and plan your goals for the race season.
Note: I wrote this article for Triathlete Magazine and it was recently republished on line at http://triathlon.competitor.com/2011/04/training/the-mental-aspects-of-recovery_26203. I think it is very appropriate for athletes who are in the midst of a busy time of year (pro athletes with a heavy schedule, amateurs with kids about to be let out of school, accountants finishing tax season, etc) balancing some races they would like to do well at. Considering mental fatigue is huge. I think mental fatigue got the better of me last weekend so a refresher reminder from this article is timely.
Published: Apr 20th 2011 1:59 PM UTC by
Professional triathlete Melanie McQuaid discusses the importance of recovering mentally during your training cycle.
Written by: Melanie McQuaid
Many athletes believe the most effective recovery modalities are those that focus on physiological regeneration-nutrition, hydration and activities like ice baths, physical therapy, massage and yoga. There is no arguing that these are very important for regenerating the body for the next planned training session, but what about your mind?
The very core of becoming an athlete was born of motivation and inspiration. So what happens when that passion and motivation are drained? Most athletes know that mental state affects performance as much as your level of fitness. Research has shown that the key markers of overtraining or staleness in training, aside from poor performance, are mood and emotions.
After your next block of training, monitor more than just the feeling in your legs. If you’re feeling mentally drained or restless, follow this checklist to help manage mental and neuromuscular fatigue:
1. Get adequate sleep. Sleep does wonders to regenerate the mind. The central nervous system is critical to high-performance athletics and it needs time to repair. This happens when you are sleeping, so try to get enough hours per night or add naps.
2. Constantly self-monitor. Ask yourself, “Do I feel like doing this?” If you don’t, take a break rather than force yourself to train and further drain your body and mind.
3. Meditation. Regeneration of the mind will occur during relaxation. A lot of visualization techniques are also very valuable for relaxing and centering the mind and body. By refocusing you can find your purpose and motivation within a training cycle, which will help you sort through distractions and stress.
4. Prioritize. Life goes on during a training cycle. You need to remain flexible. If, for example, you are constantly procrastinating a responsibility outside of training it could be weighing on you and adding stress. Make the time to get it done and you will find you can get back to training with better focus.
5. Periodize. Planning major training weeks when you have conflicting responsibilities at home or work is not wise. You can only handle so much stress, so plan to train harder when work, school or life has enough room for the increased training load.
https://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.png00melaniehttps://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.pngmelanie2011-05-20 15:09:322016-04-21 21:18:25The Mental Aspects of Recovery
This weekend Melanie McQuaid is defending her XTERRA Alabama title and after her recent win at XTERRA Italy looks good and ready to do so. Meet the Canadian Pro with a very amazing attitude.
Slowtwitch: Mel, thanks for talking to us.
Mel: Thanks for the invite! Hopefully we have some witty banter.
ST: So when were you home the last time?
Mel: Not sure, some time in May? Luckily I have good friends to water my garden for me.
ST: Didn’t peg you as the gardening type for some reason. Do you actually have a green thumb?
Mel: Yep. Must be the Dutch heritage. My mom’s parents are both from Holland. My mom is an obsessive gardener as well.
ST: How much gear do you currently travel with?
Mel: A ridiculous amount. Bikes, shoes, swim stuff, triathlon junk. Then the rest of it centers on makeup and outfits. I am not sure the athletic benefit of those items but if Maxim suddenly schedules a photo shoot I am so ready for it.
https://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.png00melaniehttps://melrad.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/MelRad-Logo-smaller-1024x358.pngmelanie2010-06-16 00:05:452016-04-21 21:18:27Mel’s Interview with Herbert from Slowtwitch
As published for Triathlete Magazine in my column “Singletrack Mind” as Getting To The Heart Of Hemp- I have been enjoying hemp hearts in my morning smoothie… so I thought I would let ya in on my little “secret”
I am normally not the one who discusses food in her columns.However, if anyone has the street cred to talk about hemp, I guess it might be the chronic, tatted, pierced mountain biker, right?Well, not so much.I don’t really have any credibility in that regard.However, I was introduced to EATING hemp hearts years ago, so introducing you to the latest fad in hemp-eating will be a pleasure.
Here is how the conversation went two years ago in regard to the food I am introducing you to:
Guy in the bike store:“Yo, Melanie.You heard what Ryder’s (Hesjedahl) secret diet food is?”
Guy in the bike store:“Hemp hearts.He eats them for breakfast and says he stays fuller for longer so he doesn’t need to eat as much.”
Me:“Really?”(thinking that it might be a stretch for Ryder to have had this conversation with this person and does Ryder honestly ever need to think about weight?)
So I left the store that day to check not the reliability of my source but more the reality of the tip.Sure enough, hemp hearts have a place in an endurance athlete’s diet.Victoria’s favorite tour rider is not the only one who may be tuned into the benefits of eating hemp hearts.The seeds of the hemp plant have no drug chemicals in them at all so you do not need to worry about any of the effects attributed to marijuana.However, these little seeds are packed with amino acids, essential fatty acids, vitamins and protein and thus are rapidly becoming recognized as a new superfood.
Remember snow days? No school. Snowmen. Fort fights. Sledding. You could be soaked to the bone with icicles hanging from your ears, and you’d still fight with your mom to let you stay out a little longer. Baldwin taps her inner child regularly. “I love to ride my mountain bike after it snows,” she says. “Sure you’ll probably crash, but falling in the soft snow doesn’t hurt as much, and you’ll feel like a kid again.” Play. No one says you need to run or bike or snowshoe if these sports aren’t for you. Try a game of snow tag, build an igloo, go ice skating, join a hockey team, or make a snowboard jump in your backyard.
Tip: Play. No one says you need to run or bike or snowshoe if these sports aren’t for you. Try a game of snow tag, build an igloo, go ice skating, join a hockey team, or make a snowboard jump in your backyard.
Find some reliable and fun friends to train with. It makes it tougher to duck out of a workout if you feel you’re letting someone else down. – Chrissie Wellington.
After she comes in from the cold, Wellington treats herself to a “movie night with warm pj’s and slippers.” While it doesn’t take a PhD to know that positive reinforcement works, sports psychologist Julie Emmerman emphasizes its effectiveness. “It’s a lot easier to get out the door and get your body moving if you know, once you return, there is your favorite cup of hot cocoa, tea, or a hot shower, waiting for you,” she says.
Sign up for an event
If you can’t find friends to hold you accountable, sign up for a snowshoe race like the Tubbs Romp to Stomp. Set a goal and train for it. “But choose goals that are realistic, enjoyable to pursue, and obtainable,” Emmerman advises.
Snowshoeing and skate-skiing give me a great workout in a short amount of time so I don’t have to be outside for as long. – Melanie McQuaid
Limit your exposure
Three-time XTERRA world champion Melanie McQuaid typically chooses activities that are accessible and pack a wallop. “Snowshoeing and skate-skiing give me a great workout in a short amount of time so I don’t have to be outside for as long,” she says. Likewise, Shayne Culpepper, twotime Olympic runner and co-owner of Solepepper Sports, suggests working out right outside your door: “This way you can have access to warm, dry clothes post-workout, and a warm drink isn’t too far away.”
Tip: On the worst winter-weather days, select an activity close to home and try 20 to 30 minutes of intense training.
Hit your favorite summer trails
McQuaid is a fan of finding complements to what she loves doing in the summer to get her through cold-weather workouts. “Find a sport that’s like the winter version of a summer sport you like to do,” she advises. “I cross-country ski the trails that I love to mountain bike. I get to see the trails in a whole new way.”
Tip: Scout a few of your go-to warm-weather hiking and biking trails and think about how you can use them when they’re covered in the fluffy white stuff.
Quality winter outdoor apparel will be a purchase you won’t regret. – Shayne Culpepper
We saved the most important tip for last: Buy winter gear that works and keep it handy. Culpepper suggests spending money on well-constructed clothing that will keep you warm and dry in the elements. “Quality winter outdoor apparel will be a purchase you won’t regret,” she says. “Keeping dry and warm on those cold, wet days will make [your activity] less daunting. There are tons of new fabrics and lightweight pieces out there.” According to Emmerman, having the right gear and apparel also builds confidence and “provides an added sense of psychological reassurance.”
Tip: Assemble a winter arsenal and have it ready to go each morning. Don’t be afraid to wear the same outfit every day. Most base layers come with antimicrobial features and are breathable enough to eliminate heavy sweating
I remember the first day I ever rode a mountain bike. I had just bought my first road bike. I was planning to try doing a triathlon and had acquired road shoes and pedals to match my blue road rocket. As I was embarking on my new adventure in road cycling I met a trials rider. Trials is the kind of mountain biking where you don’t really pedal, you hop instead, bouncing from one obstacle to another. Obviously, he was a much, much better rider than I was. Anyways, he thought it would be fun to take a complete beginner, not yet a triathlete or cyclist, out mountain biking for the afternoon. So we borrowed his roommate’s bike, which happened to be all of one size too large and possibly two sizes, installed my fancy new ROAD pedals and headed to the most technical trails in Victoria. I am sure he chose the trails that he thought were easy but they seemed death-defying to me. It was the most frightening, frustrating and painful experience of my life and I would never advise riding off road on road pedals unless you are highly skilled. I was covered in dirt, blood, tears and bruises. I was also hooked for life.
I bought myself a mountain bike the next day complete with mountain bike pedals and embarked on a career in mountain bike racing starting that weekend. Yes, I am that person who will go to the ends of the earth to conquer that which has beaten me in the past. Over time the amount of blood and tears I would shed per ride decreased but it really took more than a year to become a reasonably proficient rider. Then it only took two years to earn a spot on the national cycling team…
Mel back when she started… in a cupcake outfit with gnarly scabby mess on my elbowRead more
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