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home » fitness is fleeting

You train consistently for weeks, months, years, and finally achieve a high level of fitness—ready fly on race day! After all the work you'd think holding this peak should be easy and last for a while. Unfortunately that's not the case.

When your body is pushed to the limit of its ability to cope with a certain training load, you're also on the edge of breaking down metabolically, psychologically, or mechanically (injury). And if you timed it right this happens right as you taper for a target event. Post event your body and head needs a break to recharge.

So your season becomes a series of planned peaks and valleys. If all goes well you can maintain a high level of fitness all year, but those key events require a little more training time and effort with a break after. If you race a lot there can (should) be 'A' and 'B' priority events. You should put in a good effort for all races, but the 'A' events have higher expectations.

For my own season I look at early season events as a buildup to a key event. I look for progressively better performances at each subsequent event, then a great result for the target race. If I have another key event later in the season I'll maintain fitness, but not work as hard as I did for the early season buildup for a while. Then I'll ramp up my training again, but it will be a shorter build than the early season effort since I never really lost race level fitness. The process can be repeated several times during a season depending upon race distances.

If your focus is sprint to Olympic distance events you can have several peaks a season; if your focus is Ironman distance, hitting peak fitness is only realistic once or twice a season.

"Past results are not indicative of future performance" is a well known statement to investors. Since fitness is fleeting your race day will only be as good as your most recent training. The phenomenal race results last year after a perfect training block have little to do with the current season unless this year's training goes just as well. In nearly every case you get exactly what you 'earned' in training.

It's also important to understand that how long you hold a certain training load can have both benefits and a downside. For example, training for an IronMan year-round at full distances has no more value than a buildup for 3-4 months assuming you achieve the same level of fitness during those final few months. Holding max training distances causes lots of wear, increasing the odds that something will 'break.' There is no value to hold peak fitness through the off-season; better to stay fit and keep a good aerobic base while not working too hard at it. In other words, the training you do 6 months out from your IronMan creates a fitness base to work from later, but it's the quality of the last few weeks that determines race day performance.

Athletes new to a distance need a longer, more gradual buildup than an athlete who's 'been there' before.

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