Sunday, January 1, 2012

The New Year

When I logged onto Facebook this morning, I saw lots of friends posts on their New Year's resolutions, plans and summaries of their NYE festivities.  Well, I didn't have a very "exciting" NYE (spent it at home watching a movie), but I guess you could say I have some New Year's resolutions.  Although it's not really because of the New Year; all that happens between Dec 31st and Jan 1st is you put up your new calendar.  It's not like there is anything specific about this day that makes it easier to keep promises to yourself.  However, this seems to be the time when people like to state their short term future goals and planned changes, so I will do the same.

Cut out Soda

Eat better

Sleep enough

Train smart

Recover well

As you may notice, most of these are lifestyle goals, not sport specific goals.  Of course I have race goals, season goals and workout goals, but those are secondary to these.  Why?  Because I don't want to make the mistake that many athletes do, and that is mentally separating their sport and training from their lifestyle.  Having coached high school sports I have seen example after example of this mistake being made.  "I work hard at practice, why am I not getting better?" (because your diet consists exclusively of soda and pastries, you average 4 hours of sleep per night, you go directly to other activities without eating, you made snow angels in your speedo and got sick... the list goes on).

If you watched the Olympic Games in Beijing, you may remember Ryan Lochte was famous for eating at the McDonalds in the athlete village every day (every meal most days).  Now he's an amazing swimmer and obviously had success.  However, since that time it is apparent that he was shooting himself in the foot.  His diet has supposedly changed, and I'm inclined to believe it because in many of the National and World Championships since the Beijing games he has been establishing himself as the swimmer to beat, not Phelps.  Many of his times have been as good or better than Phelps' times in Beijing.  Now I'm not trying to bash anyone here, all I'm saying is that how you live your life outside of your actual time racing and training will affect how well you do those things.  It's not my opinion, it's physiology.  My opinion is that it is up to each athlete to make sure that their goals align with their lifestyle, or make sure that your lifestyle aligns with their goals.

Put another way, if you're trying to squeeze every ounce of athletic performance out of your body, there is no room for poor nutrition, poor sleep habits or any other activity which jeopardizes that.  Not to say that you can NEVER have a sugary snack, but you need consistent good habits.  However, there are a lot of sacrifices that can come along with elite athleticism; I don't think you'll ever hear an elite athlete say that he or she hasn't made sacrifices to get to that level.  And whether those sacrifices are worth it is up to the individual athlete.

Getting back to my "resolutions"... it's not that these are brand new.  I'm not flipping a switch on Jan 1, 2012 and making extreme changes.  In fact, the entire past year has been an exercise in working to improve in these areas, and I have definitely been making progress.  However there is more progress to be made and I am at the point where those gains are going to be very difficult to make without some other changes.  One thing that is beginning on Jan. 1st is a change in my duties, responsibilities and hours at work that will be both in my benefit and that of Endurance House.

I also have a stronger motivation for this season than I ever have before.  Unfortunately, the reason for this is very sad.  Recently, one of my best lifelong friends was killed in an automobile accident.  He was my best training partner for years of swimming and track as a high school athlete, and got me started in triathlon.  He was also one of the best athletes I've ever known who could motivate me with his accomplishments or just by running together.  Since high school, he was always very supportive of my athletic endeavors in triathlon.  While it's tough to come to terms with it, one way I intend to honor his memory is to compete for him.

So here's to the New Year!  I'm excited for the coming season and all of the success and challenges that it may bring.