At times, triathletes can get so caught up in their training, it seems like nothing else in the world matters more. Getting up early to get to the pool before work, fitting in sessions during lunch breaks, spending hours on the bike at the weekends, using all spare time to check Strava/upload training sessions/analyse your data/clean your bike/browse Wiggle. Sound familiar? It’s easy to get sucked into the triathlon bubble where your thoughts are along the lines of: ‘what will make me faster?’, ‘how can I fit in more training sessions?’, ‘which piece of new kit do I need next?’, ‘how many races can I squeeze in this season?’ and ‘can I beat *insert name of training partner here*’.
But when that training is taken away from you - which could be for a whole range of reasons not limited to injury and illness - it becomes clearer that there is more to life than riding your bike. What else in the world matters to you? Family, friends, loved ones, children, your health, your work, other hobbies, holidays, relaxing, reading. Be grateful that you have these things in your life. When you are forced to take a break, you suddenly have so much extra time on your hands and it is your choice what to do with it. This is where things can go either way; some people will get sucked into the negative thinking of not being able to train and it completely takes over their lives; other people are able to switch their energies to focus on alternative projects and still succeed. Be kind to yourself. To avoid getting into a negative cycle of missing training, being frustrated, getting upset about it and hindering your recovery, use your extra time in a positive way.
What did you do with your spare time before triathlon? Did you play a more active role in your children’s lives? Did you enjoy reading books? Did you get pleasure from going on a family hike? Are you able to continue exercising by turning to a different sport? Have a think about other things you can get enjoyment from.
Being able to train and compete in triathlons is truly a gift, not a given. Be grateful that you are able to run through the park, feel the wind in your hair and have the buzz of endorphins afterwards. At times, training can feel like a chore, especially on cold, dark winter nights in the UK. But after you’ve been forced to take a break, going for that little jog in the rain after work can be so exciting. You’ll never see training as something you ‘have’ to do again – it’ll be something you ‘want’ to do.
This blog comes from experience, as I used to be an elite triathlete and last year I was so excited about the upcoming race season. I’d had the perfect preparation of training full-time in Portugal for the previous three months and was hitting numbers in my training sessions that I had only ever dreamed about. But unfortunately, as I crossed the finish line at the European Champs in Geneva last July, I became extremely unwell and have not been able to train since.
It seems quite ironic that I am writing a blog on how to deal with being unable to train, because sometimes it feels like I am really not coping well at all. I struggle watching my friends, work colleagues and fiancé train and being left home alone. I get upset not knowing if and when I will ever be on my bike again. It is hard to listen to the stories of the fun they had out training that day. Meal times are difficult when they can eat for England and I can only take a small portion. I even miss being in lycra (who would’ve thought it!).
But I’ve found ways of dealing with this negativity and turning into positive thoughts. I’m slowly accepting that this is my life for now, and finding enjoyment from other things such as yoga, going for coffee, reading a good book, getting back in touch with old friends, learning a new language and taking on a new project whilst working from home. If and when I return to triathlon, I won’t complain about how hard my session is, I’ll never moan about the early mornings and I’ll never swim/bike/run without a huge smile on my face!