Tis the season where most people who have just completed Ironman Arizona are finally fully recovered and starting to think about their goals for next year. If another Ironman isn’t on your immediate horizon, it can be difficult, for a multitude of reasons, to figure out what to do next. Ironman has been the single focus of your life for so long, you can feel lost and even a bit depressed. Your main goal is just not to get out of shape or gain weight, but every workout you do seems to pale in comparison to what you could do before, both in distance and speed. You lack motivation and focus. As your last blister heals, you feel you’ve lost your edge and it’s slipping away more and more each day.
Short Term Goals
Pick a short race that requires a minimum of training to just get back out there. With the weather being colder and your everyday or twice a day workout habit gone, it can be hard to get going again. Pick a nice race, perhaps a charity focused one, and just get back out the door. Leave your heart rate monitor / watch at home and just enjoy the community.
If you don’t have time to continue the same volume of training you were doing for Ironman (or your spouse has informed you you don’t have the time), picking the goal of getting faster at the shorter distance races can be just the ticket. This also avoids the trap of always feeling like you’re not going as far as you should be or you once could. You have a tremendous base after Ironman, so you can really sharpen your fitness with shorter, harder distances, and really wring yourself out with a short, intense workout. If you haven’t done every distance of triathlon, it’s a great time to check off the rest of them.
Single Sport Focus
Everyone has a favorite and least favorite discipline in Ironman. It’s time to get even better at one of them. There are ultradistance runs, bike racing, and marathon open water swims. Running is the first one to go when you stop doing it regularly. Swimming comes back fairly quickly after a few weeks to get your water feel back.
Different but the Same
We give this advice to athletes coming back from an injury, a long break, or who are burned out on triathlon. It’s easy to feel like you’re always chasing where you once were those last month prior to the race as far as your fitness level. It is difficult to maintain that same level week in and week out. Think about other ways to use your mad triathlon skills that aren’t quite your usual triathlon. Try trail running, or an XTERRA triathlon, or learn your other 3 swim strokes and compete masters.
You’re a GO$#%@MN Ironman
Most people equate the Ironman training process and race day similar to planning a wedding and having a baby (but on the same day). As far as most memorable positive, single days in your life, it’s probably right up there. The process of having to fit their training into their lives to achieve an Ironman race gives them planning skills in the rest of their life and the confidence that they can achieve anything that they put their minds to. The question after is what will that focus be? Will it continue to be triathlon?
When you first start racing, it’s about firsts… first time you’ve done a distance, first time you’ve done a type of event. For a lot of athletes, it then becomes about PR’s…trying to get faster and faster at distances you’ve already done. For most athletes, another transition happens where they have to figure out why they are still at it. (This usually happens during a particularly hard work out about three quarters of the way to a given race goal when you’re completely questioning what the eff you were thinking signing up for a particular race). We’re huge proponents of it being about the process itself, lifelong fitness, the community, and the lifestyle. Take some time and allow yourself some introspection on why you got into the sport in the first place and where you want to go from here. Enjoy the process and then take your next steps after Ironman.