One of the most discussed questions heard in homes, bars and at stadiums all around the world relates to those athletes that we watch on our televisions who are the best at what they do. How does someone become the best athlete in the world at their chosen sport? What does it take to represent a country in a world championships or the Olympics? What do these athletes have that makes them better than the rest?
These athletes are professional. It is their job, after all, to aim to be the best that they can be at their chosen vocation. What about those athletes who are the next level down? Athletes that may not get paid to train and race. Athletes that must also work a full-time job. Athletes with families and extracurricular activities that need attention. In today’s blog, we will use data from multiple sources to dig deep into the habits of these athletes and understand a little about what makes them so skilled at their chosen sports.
Add more duration to your training
We start with the obvious one. To become a stronger athlete, you need to spend more time training. According to data provided by Strava, athletes who placed higher in their age groups, trained an average of 53% more than those below them in the 12 weeks leading up to the event. In some weeks, this increased duration went up to a staggering 71%. Please let it be noted that this training increase does not refer to pace or intensity, and that it would likely have been increased under the expert eye of a professional triathlon coach.
If you want to be one of the best, you must get your body used to being out there in the sun, in the cold, in the rain and wind. You cannot escape the elements on race day, so you need to train as safely as possible to be prepared for everything.
Train more often
Top athletes and coaches generally focus a block of training on the event that the athlete prioritises as the most important. As the distance of events increases, so too does the amount of training required. Multi-session days are one of the best ways for a coach to increase the training load of an athlete while reducing the risk of injury. If you want to run a marathon, you don’t have to run 42.2km in one session. You can break these sessions up and still provide the body with the physiological stimuli required to run the distance on race day. Once again, this training increase does not necessarily refer to pace or intensity. This is the jigsaw puzzle that a good coach can put together for you.
Athletes who speak with their coaches tend to show better results. This comes from the fact that the coaches get the opportunity to become more in tune with the athlete’s training, fatigue, stress, injury management and life stressors. Creating a connection with your coach makes it a much smoother process for both coach and athlete. More can be read about this in a previous blog; Secret Stories Behind Success | Davey Black Triathlon
There are studies that suggest that training efficiency is slightly higher in the morning rather than the evening. Top athletes, however, train at any time of the day. This is especially important for athletes with full time jobs and families. You just need to make time in your day and get the training done and in the bank. This is where following a structured program is priceless. You do not have to worry about overthinking how, where and what. You worry about the ‘when’, your coach will worry about the rest.
Leading on from fitting training in around a work and life schedule, top level athletes develop a more organised mindset around training. This is normally a reflection of the way they see and organise their own lives. A top-level athlete develops a very self-conscious mindset and a sees the sport as a reflection of the way they want to live. The Beginner Veteran Mindset | Davey Black Triathlon
Easy means easy
Even though the best athletes tend to train at higher intensities, they fully recognise when to go easy and when to take a step back. This also applies to life itself. Sometimes, you need to work harder to achieve results, and other times you will need to relax and take it easy. Learn how to separate the moments of leisure with moments of hard work, and if your coach says ‘easy’, they really mean ‘easy’!
Have a plan
Athletes who perform well will generally always have a plan on race day. Even if the plan doesn’t go exactly as they would have liked, there is a plan set in place from the start. This plan will set out pacing, nutrition, race day checklist, pre-race preparation and post-race recovery
As you will have by now discovered, there is no big difference between a professional sports person and an amateur athlete. As mentioned in a previous blog, becoming wise and intelligent at sports has nothing to do with age or the number of races someone races but about the lessons you get and the people you surround yourself with.
If a lesson can be taken from this blog, it is that becoming self-conscious and accepting help can be incredibly useful in the long run. Ask your coach as many questions as possible. Aim for events that, at some point, you might have just dreamt of. Get to know your personal limits and aim to share your personal journey with those around you. Aim for bigger challenges, try to find your limits, then push them a little bit. You’ll be surprised with what you will discover about your mind and body. Believe in yourself, believe in your coach and believe in your team.