Sometimes you just have to let loose!

Whenever there is pressure to do something for an indefinite amount of time without breaks, you're apt to crack at some point. Take this to heart when it comes to your training - I've seen way too many athletes train year-round without something that resembles an offseason where they can recharge their mental batteries, and it leaves them in a constant state of "dull" training. An important aspect of improvement is pushing your limits, and you can't do that if you aren't physically and mentally ready for the beating your body and mind will take. The tricky thing about it is that you often don't know when you're overworked! In 2013, I did Ironman Lake Placid attempting to qualify for Kona but I missed it by one slot. I then spontaneously decided (with my wife's approval!) to race Ironman Louisville (on her birthday!) four weeks later. I won my age group there and qualified for Kona, which I raced 7 weeks after that. On the surface, anyone would look at that, 3 Ironmans in 2.5 months, and say "of COURSE you were tired," but if you were to ask me right before racing Kona, I would have told you that I was in the best shape of my life and mentally ready for racing on the Big Stage. I was dead wrong. I felt motivated, but when push came to shove, and things got tough during the final miles of the marathon in Kona, I didn't have the mental strength to get really uncomfortable, which is an absolute requirement to run a good Ironman marathon. This is just one example of how not having enough downtime can impact performance, but if I had to name more examples, I could rattle off a dozen. It happens more often than you think! So this year, enjoy some physical and mental recovery while A races are still many months away, even if it's just two weeks, and you'll find that you're ready to go at it harder than ever when you start up again.

I also want to note that this doesn't just apply to triathlon. It applies to other aspects of life too. Trying to shed some pounds? Finding it overwhelming to always be focused on eating right? Allow yourself a "miss" here or there where you eat something you love. It'll be more sustainable in the long run and will make you more motivated to "be good" on a daily basis. I have "misses" often in my life, not by accident, but by design. I eat clean 90%+ of the time, but intentionally eat some dessert or have a beer occasionally to ensure that I don't feel deprived all the time. I follow Metabolic Efficiency Training and work with a nutritionist named Nicci Schock, and she was the one who taught me that it's a good thing for long term success to not always be so rigid.

Implement downtime in your life in 2016! Happy New Year!