The year 2020 surely will not go down as one of the best for top athletes. The triathlon season – as is the case for most endurance sports – is completely cancelled. So, for now, what can we do to keep up our motivation to excel? Coach Bart Rolet from Bart Coaching answers our questions.
After a springtime of staying the course as to training despite trying to maintain a healthy work-family life balance, since schools and day cares were closed, how do your athletes feel about competitions being cancelled this season?
We all find it hard, and I am no exception as both a coach and as an athlete. Looking forward to competitions gives us the spark to push that much harder when training. It gives us butterflies as we set off in the morning. And the competitions themselves are moments to remember… It’s rough knowing we’ll miss all of that this year!
Yet, this forced break does allow us to think about our relationship with the sport. If competitions are our only motivation, there’s a problem! Our greatest motivator should be the pleasure, even if we are really competitive.
How are you approaching this season with your athletes?
I try to see it as a golden opportunity – though, of course, I do not rejoice in the health crisis we’re facing – since now we have the time to do things right. We tend to forget that training is a long-term endeavour! Very often, however, we are driven by challenges, so we sign up for such and such an event which necessitates a specific training plan and a certain recovery time. If, for example, you want to be on the starting line of an Ironman in August, you need to focus on volume. So, you don’t take the time to improve other aspects, such as speed. Now is the time!
Concretly, what should athletes do in this context?
We should develop the fundamentals that we need to improve in our sport. The “formula” changes for each athlete since each has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. Some will want to focus on their VO2max when running and others when biking. And those lucky ones who are in lock-down near a lake can fine-tune their open water swimming! In 2020 we improve and in 2021 we succeed!
So, we should focus on improving where we need it. But always working on our weaknesses can be demotivating, can’t it?
In a way, it is rather motivating, since when we work on our weakest points, progress will come quicker. There’s not much more encouraging than feeling the results of all our efforts! The training sessions are also designed differently than in the middle of the triathlon season: doing intervals on the track with fresh legs is much more enjoyable than training the day after a long bike ride.
Something else: I’ve noticed that several of my athletes are taking advantage of this season to get off the beaten track, trying a gravel bike or trail running, for example. They are developing valuable complementary physical qualities, as well as an agility that is often lacking for those who only run or ride on asphalt.
Any other ways to stay motivated during this “non-season”?
I think that being part of a group has never been as important. I’ve seen athletes that didn’t train this winter come back this summer … because lock-down was too hard on them. We are now able to train with others while still respecting the health measures. Being part of a training group is super motivating … especially if our social life hasn’t gotten back to normal!
We can also organize “informal competitions”: fitness tests with our athlete friends. On a given day, everyone runs 5 km as fast as they can, aiming for a PB! With the club, we even organized races, duathlons and triathlons, for which each athlete recorded their best times for the specified distance during the same weekend. Everyone loved it!
One thing is for sure: we won’t forget 2020! We can choose to put it aside or brave it, one day at a time. Stay strong and stay safe!