The Importance of Hunger

This may not be the ideal point of the season to talk about this, since so many are building into some A races in the next couple months, but it’s salient for me and will be for you at some point over the next 12 months.  Additionally, this post should give you some insight into how I managed to outperform expectations at Tri Nats and Du Worlds last season.  No matter what my posts may have sounded like, I didn’t just train haphazardly, show up and hope for the best.  I spent the entire season preparing with those goals in mind.  Here’s how.

When I talk about hunger, I refer to the desire to do the work necessary to perform well.  This is mental and emotional preparation.  Preparation for your preparation, if you will.  

This can be particularly key for ultra endurance events, which require large training time commitments over and above what we might normally do, but it also applies to the intense, specific work necessary to peak well for short course.   If you set yourself up for success by not stressing yourself out over relatively minor issues, like lower priority race performances or what pace you held on your first run back after a layoff, you’re in a much better place for when the effort really matters.  The same could be said for doing long, long runs or rides that unecessarily deplete you and take you away from other priorities in life. 

I’m not suggesting that you use this need to feed the hunger an excuse to slack off completely.  I’m saying consider how much psychological and emotional energy you have to devote to athletic performance over the course of, say, a year.  How much of that would be best reserved for the last couple months before peak A events? 

A smart person once told me that race fitness and speed is a function of the work you’ve done in the last 3 months and the resting you’ve done in the last few weeks.   At least, I paraphrase as best I remember it, so maybe he’ll read this and correct me, but that’s the gist anyway.  If your key events are >3 months away, you aren’t so much training for the event(s) as you are preparing to do the training for the event(s). 

Let’s say you are 4-5 months away from a high priority event.  According to the principles of specificity and repetition, from a purely physical standpoint of preparation, it seems to make sense to start practicing the physical demands that will be expected of you in the event.  No matter how far in the future that event may be. 

However, you need to balance physical preparation with your mental-emotional readiness to do the hardest training blocks and key sessions in those final months before your A event(s).  You’ve got to be hungry to get the most out of those. 

As an aging, now masters athlete, I’m finding this to be even more important.  I only have so many matches.  I’d bet that you do too, no matter how much you think you should be 100% at all times and in all events.   Save those times where you dig deepest for when they matter most. 

I find that to do this, I spend months of mentally and emotionally preparing myself to go to the well, implementing harder and more specific key workouts up to a few weeks out from peak events.   To save up the psychological energy to pull that off– I relax my standards and do training that leans toward the enjoyable instead of specific.   Closer to peak, fitness focus becomes more laser like and specific up until final taper time, and even then, I spend a tremendous amount of mental and emotional energy storing up fight.  Will.  Desire.

Training matters.  Make sure you’re hungriest when it matters most to get the best results.

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