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The Five Elements. 5 - Lifestyle

Alarm clock at sunrise

There are five elements which I believe are at the heart of performance and each has its role to play in contributing to an athlete’s success; physiology, psychology, technical and neuro-muscular strength, tactical understanding and finally an athlete’s lifestyle.

In the last blog of this short series I'll consider the area not always immediately connected with training but very important; lifestyle.

Element 5 - Lifestyle

For all athletes,whether age-group or elite, recognizing there are other aspects in life aside from triathlon such as family, relationships, work and other pastimes is very important. The number of aspects and importance of these obviously varies depending on the individual. Some of these aspects will give you energy whereas others will create more stress and take energy away. Understanding the effect of these aspects is necessary in order to help balance the stress and required recovery.

With 168 hours in a week, even for a full-time triathlete, there is a lot of time spent not training. The fifth element, lifestyle, is not based on investing your energy to become better at triathlon through training; it’s more about careful management of your time outside training sessions including those non-triathlon related areas of your life. Both of these can involve further energy loss or allow you to get energy back in.

For the remainder of this blog I’ll consider how to manage further energy loss and how to give yourself more energy to help you understand why I believe they are so important and deserve some of your time and consideration.

Managing further energy loss

For most athletes, the biggest area where more energy can be lost is work. Clearly, for all but very few, this is an essential part of life and its effect on an athlete’s body and mind needs to be understood by a coach. The better the understanding the better the management of overall stress can be. Too much stress, in most cases, leads to increased fatigue, friction in relationships and a general inability to perform at our best. From a physiological point of view, excessive stress means, often leads to injury and illness which in turn creates inconsistent training and this is a big factor in preventing athletes from reaching their potential.

Bowl of fruit

With this in mind any reduction in energy loss is beneficial to a triathlete. Strategies that help include advanced planning for busy schedules, clear communication with those around you mostly being impacted by your training schedule and careful decision making on issues such as last minute changes of plan that may affect your training and those around you.

Putting energy back in

When all this stress has been added up, we need to establish how to put the energy back in. There are a number of ways in which this can be done and we’ll cover these briefly here:

A – Sleep

This is quite simply the number one recovery technique. It’s the natural time when your body recuperates from the stresses of one day and recharges ready for the stresses of the next day. It is generally unadvisable to prioritise training over sleep, especially when in the pursuit of performance.

B – Nutrition

You need to fuel your body appropriately to prepare, recover and complete the training you are asking it to do, so what you put into it counts. It is also important to consider the timing of your meals to fully ensure you are giving your body what it needs.

C – Body treatments

Massage therapy

Further down the list of recovery techniques but still an important one is treatments such as massage or visits to a physiotherapist, osteopath or chiropractor. All help to keep your body in good condition, prevent decline in performance by spoting potential muscle imbalances and risks of injuries early, , therefore, improving your ability to recover better from the stresses and strains you put it under.

Of course, other recovery techniques exist and maybe we’ll cover them at another time, however, it is these three that come top of the list of effective and efficient recovery methods.

Ultimately, everyone only has a certain amount of energy and it can only be split a finite number of ways before it runs out. Effectively managing the time away from training sessions and the process of regeneration will all help you tostep up to the start line knowing you are as prepared as possible to achieve your goals.

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