In this day and age of information we have come to a point where you can make a case on anything. You can go and collect data to support your claim and testimonials from those who have reaped benefits from said topic. Google will help you out with your point also. Then on the flip side you can do exactly the same on the opposite side of said topic with no shortage of information to support it. There are 2 types of people in the world for the point of this article, those that choose to dabble and those that choose to master. For the dabbler’s of the world this can and does make things confusing with so many choices and so many opinions.
There comes a point though where you need to make a choice otherwise you are set to ‘stand for nothing and fall for everything’. For numerous reasons based on experience, values, needs and wants we need to make a choice for what we believe will benefit us most in the long run. To improve we need to move away from be a dabbler and begin to master. It’s slowly sinking in to the general sporting population that individual is better. Some still cling onto the magic session that will help them or training formula that so and so used will work for them but the rest are waking up.
So where does self-awareness come in? Well a phrase common to many triathletes would be ‘control the controllable’. Essentially look after what you are in control of and let the rest be .There are many parts to good performance; nutrition, training, physiology, psychology and we could continue on. You may have some idea or experience with and dabbled in these. Self-awareness is similar to typing a destination into google maps with a slow internet connection. When you first type in the address things take a while to load and after waiting your destination appears with a limited perspective of the surrounding area. When you zoom out the area you have been looking at what happens? The ‘known area’ stays clear and in focus while the information of the increased surroundings loads. Repeat gradually for a full map.
By having a better awareness this enables you to make better choices. You can ‘see’ the lay of the land and navigate it better with less wrong turns or dead ends. In training and racing terms, you know how you feel, where you want to go and have a better idea if you’re heading in the right direction.
Quite often the question comes up about training and racing with or without ‘data’. Be it speed, power or heart rate. Should I use it or not? The answer is dependent on who asks the question. If the data is going to ‘help’ the athlete then yes they can and should use it. When an athlete is new to the sport and learning about pacing then data can be valuable to teach awareness. The person who is obsessed with setting pb’s everyday even on their easy days, not so much.
Some athletes are able to use the numbers where others are used by the numbers. Some athletes will pace themselves perfectly off perceived effort where as others are yet to develop that ability. Many athletes are better off racing with no data, others not. It all comes down to where the individual athlete is and what will work best for them. An athlete I was working with before Melbourne IM 2 years ago who was fearful of not being able to average the pace she wanted on the bike. The solution? Remove Garmin from bike. The outcome? A relaxed athlete who pieced together a great race with a pb, first placing and Kona qualification.
So as with your training programs being custom and personalised, keep your data use the same way. The ultimate goal should be to get the best result you can in the method that best suits you. Sometimes its best to hand the data over to the coach for them to figure it out. This takes time and you do need the data along the way to learn pacing in the early stages. As you begin to turn more into the master there will be less need to be checking in on data if at all. This frees you up to get the results you are after without always being bogged down with numbers.