Are you capable of non-reactive training? – Triathlete

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Quick quiz: Do any of them describe a past experience?

  • You went on a long group race with specific power goals but as soon as the leaders attacked, you couldn’t resist.
  • You take the “hold on for dear life” approach to most Masters swim sessions.
  • You have suffered from multiple running injuries (IT Band Syndrome, stress fractures, etc.).
  • A few weeks after finishing a 70.3 or an Ironman, you couldn’t help but crash a track workout because “I’m in such good shape right now.”

If any of these scenarios ring true, you likely have a reactivity issue, or what coach Gordo Byrn calls “excitement control.”

Picture this: you’ve trained diligently for your next Ironman and have a strategic race plan, complete with power numbers and heart rate goals. But when you’re in the heat of the action on the bike course, a competitor overtakes you and can’t help but give up those goals to follow. Advance halfway through the race and you’re destroyed.

“At the most basic level, unresponsiveness is the ability not to push back when someone pushes you,” Burn said. “For endurance sport, it’s about saving energy, making your own choices in a race and not letting someone steer you away from your decision.”

If you’ve never practiced unresponsiveness in a low-stakes training setting, executing it on race day will be a challenge. The good news, however, is that training this skill/behavior will absolutely pay off during a race.

“We try to equip the athlete to be able to make a decision rather than react to a situation,” Byrn said. “When we are really stressed or tired, we start reacting instead of deciding. We want to let people decide.

How to work on non-reactivity in training

Get knocked down. On purpose.

Practice arousal control in a relaxed, low-stress group environment first, suggests Byrn. Cycling is the easiest sport to try out this skill because you can regulate yourself up and down with gears. “I’m going to give the athlete endurance training and tell him I want him loose. I just want them to experience it and see what it feels like.

Get on your back.

If you’re someone who is chronically afraid of being left behind – “like abandonment issues on a ride” – do a ride where you stay 30 yards behind the entire time. “Just sit down and process whatever’s going on in your head and let it go,” he said. “Then when you get into a race, you’ve already practiced it.”

Swim in a hallway.

The most stressful environment for most of us is an open water crowd. If you have this tendency to react, it can feel totally overwhelming. Overcome your ego in the pool by swimming one or two lanes down and leading the lane, suggests Byrn. “I don’t need to lead the first 1500y, but I want to be in a lane where I can lead the main set. I direct training at the intensity I want instead of hanging on to the back. If there are key strokes where you need to challenge yourself, go back.

Go big in a camp.

A safe place to test your physical limits is a boot camp environment, in a controlled and purposeful way, instead of willy-nilly in random workouts. “I think it’s okay to let people do anything in training camp – go big,” Byrn said. “A lot of these physical limitations that we put on ourselves aren’t really there. We have these mental limits that hold us back and a boot camp is a great place to discover that we are capable of more than we thought.

Practice non-reactivity in the race

Once you feel confident in your ability to run your own race, prove that you know how to run. “A motto I have is to prove you can run below your fitness level before you try to exceed it,” Byrn said. First, focus on a good run at the end of the race and minimize swimming and cycling. Next, try cycling and running well, then possibly add swimming. “Once you do that and learn the event, you will get the experience to see where and how you can push. This is especially useful for half Ironman and Ironman distance.

You can also take advantage of the more aggressive athletes around you. For example, in swimming, instead of fighting the aggressive guy who passes you, tuck in behind him (or her) for as long as it serves you. Keep calm, save your energy, know that everything will be fine and do what you want.

While the point of non-responsiveness is to stay in control, when you’re level with racing against other people to win the race, you can’t always stick to the plan. But it still requires a lot of foresight, fitness and experience.

“I think a lot of us run like we’re trying to win, but we don’t have the ability to win,” Byrn said. “Running to win is different because you have to be ahead of the race, and that will often require a lot of reaction and doing things that feel suboptimal compared to doing a TT. But along the same lines, you have to take these decisions as part of a larger strategy, understanding what your capabilities are.

We see this calculated risk mentality in the professional field all the time. At the recent 2021 Ironman World Championship in St. George, Lionel Sanders was aware of the dynamics around him, but he didn’t let others dictate his run. He stuck to his strategy and was strong enough for a sprint to finish second.

Beware of post-peak fitness

It takes a lot of preparation to be in shape for a big event (marathon, 70.3, Ironman). In those 10-17 days, all the pain is gone, but you’re still really, really fit. “If you don’t have the excitement under control, you’re going to feel like a complete rockstar,” Byrn said.

You can get away with doing a stupid workout: you think “wow, I feel so good”, and you go out and blow yourself up. “Your pain may be gone, but your immune system needs time to recover,” Byrn said. “That’s an example of an area in recovery where lack of arousal control can wreck you. You have to get out of that big spike you had. You can do that with active recovery – I’m not saying that you have to stop it – but this desire to maintain it, you mentally get used to very hard training sessions and you can rock yourself until the end.

The same applies to training camps. You come home after a big training block and you want to keep going. But back in the real world, you have more stressors in life and you have to let yourself recover from the high load.

Bonus: it also works in life

The idea of ​​arousal control goes beyond training and racing. If you can figure it out in your sport, you can apply it at work or at home. “If you have kids, that’s really the only way to survive with toddlers,” Byrn said. “They are totally unreasonable and they don’t care. These skills that I learned as an athlete came in very handy when we had young children. For me, that’s always been the most fun part of athletics: being able to give people these tools that they could use for the rest of your life.


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Richard V. Johnson