• Do you want to get faster?

    Do you want to be a faster triathlete, cyclist, swimmer, mountain biker or runner – or get faster or more competitive at any sport?

    If your answer is “yes,” let’s take a look at what it takes to compete vs complete.

    Can I be a competitive athlete?

    What defines a "competitive athlete?" For the purpose of this column, a "competitive athlete" is defined as someone looking to improve his or her performance to a new level. Examples include stepping up the speed, stepping up to a new distance and aiming for more than event completion.

    There is nothing wrong with aiming to comfortably complete an event, just know it takes a different mindset and commitment level to be competitive and push your personal limits. Whether you are competing for a spot on the podium or competing with your own past performances, either way you are a "competitor."

    If you want to aim for new personal-record performances, depending on your race schedule, you need to have two to three months to get faster or go longer.

    If you are starting today you can make significant gains on your goals by focusing on a few key areas. Here are three focal points to begin your journey:


    Building "bullet-proof health" is the only way you can expect to optimize your potential. To have bullet-proof health means you can fend off most of the illnesses passed around at the office, health club, school and home environments. If you do get an illness, its life cycle is very short.

    This also means having a body that is outstanding at the job of quickly repairing from the stresses of difficult training sessions. If you remain healthy and can recover from tough training sessions quickly, you can increase the amount of quality training you do. More quality training equates to a much better chance of reaching your goals.

    I know you're thinking, Yeah, yeah, eat right. So we know. Ah, but did you know that the body you are living in now was built from the nutrients you ate six to 12 months ago? Radioisotope techniques show that over 98 percent of the molecules of the human body are completely replaced each year. Within six months almost all the proteins in your body die and are replaced--even the DNA of your genes. Blood cells last some 60 to 120 days.

    If you want a competitive performance out of your body in six to 12 months, you need to begin building a competitive body now.

    Consistency and Purpose

    The competitive athletes that continue to make improvements season after season have consistent training programs. This means they are consistent with their physical fitness, keeping their body physically active several days each week. Seldom do they go for long stretches of time with no physical activity. The concept of inactivity and binging on activity is not within their mindset.

    Although they are physically active year round, competitive athletes are not pounding out long anaerobic interval sessions three days a week for 52 weeks out of the year. Each aspect of training has a particular objective--each training block and each training session is done with a specific purpose in mind, including an easy recovery workout.

    If you want a competitive performance next season, consistent and purposeful training is essential.

    Data Collection

    Before you begin setting dreamy, new time goals, you need baseline and historical information. What were your racing speeds in past seasons? How long have you been a competitive athlete in the sport(s) you are aiming to improve at?

    Beginning athletes can make some pretty impressive gains in speed and endurance. The longer you have been a competitive athlete, the smaller the gains are and the harder they are to come by.

    Beginning athletes can make time and distance improvements over 20 percent within a year. Improvements for athletes that have been consistently training and racing for over two years are typically in the four to ten percent per year range.

    Elite athletes that have been competitive for many years are looking at annual improvements as small as the one to two percent range, sometimes less. It doesn't take a large percentage of improvement to break a world record--sometimes less than a hundredth of a second; but it takes years of work to achieve that record.

    Having a good understanding of your current and recent-past capabilities is essential to future performance planning. Setting challenging yet achievable goals helps you get out of bed at 5:00 am to get that workout accomplished.

    If your times stop improving, it may be an indicator that you need to change your training. Competitive athletes will often decide to train more, when in fact they need to back off and rest. How do you know what action you need to take? The first step is to review the data and take an objective look rather than an emotional look.

    If you want to make calculated improvements to your performances, you must collect data. If you have not been collecting data--begin now.

    Start Now

    The three suggestions here are a good start. If you are really looking to optimize your potential, achieving that goal takes more than a few weeks. It also takes a careful examination of several areas, such as: job stress, school, family obligations, sleep hours, late night social habits and, in general, your overall lifestyle.

    Is your lifestyle conducive to achieving your goals? When evaluating your athletic goals, you need to decide now just how competitive you want to be and what you're willing to give up to get what you want.

    How bad do you want it?


    Be sure to see if I have an easy-to-use training plan for you on my site to help you reach your goals. And, there are more options on the TrainingPeaks site.

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