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Are you recovered enough for your key workout? How long should your interval training  be? Should I run the 800m run today even though my fatigue index is high? There are countless questions that the athlete will ask himself throughout each season. While these questions are important during a training day, they become even more important during a race. This is why the best quality an athlete can have is to be an educated athlete. Here are 5 items that all athletes should consider when making training and racing decisions.

 

1. Knowing the energy systems and how they affect your training.

As an athlete, you need to know what you can and cannot do physically. For example, if you run 1600m and you sprint for 600m, you will need to slow down drastically while your body needs to process oxygen. However, for the same runner, if you ran 1200 at your v02 pace, you can run the last 400 at a completely anaerobic pace. Knowing the different energy systems and how to maximize their utility in your training gives athletes an advantage in knowing when to step up.
If you have access to a power meter, heart rate monitor, or other work/strain measurement tool, you can begin to understand which numbers relate to which energy system and how to best maximize your training/race strategy.
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2. Knowing the training load and tracking fatigue.

An educated athlete will know how each workout affects his body. The measures of training load and fatigue give athletes a day-to-day view of how prepared their bodies are for training or a race. As athletes begin to understand these metrics, they can also be utilized in actual training. If you're training for an Ironman, but live in the mountains, you'll want to train for a training load instead of 112 miles. Perhaps riding 70 kilometers in the high mountains causes the body as much stress as 112 kilometers at sea level. Understanding your metrics will give you the decision to rest when needed, and move on when it comes to key training. You no longer have to ask yourself if you are too tired from yesterday's workout, the numbers will help you.

 

3. Knowing your advantages in relation to the competition.

As an athlete, all training can be summed up in these three words ... "maximize your chances". When we train, sleep, recover, eat right, and sacrifice a night out so we can wake up early, we maximize our chances of success. You have to take that same mentality into the races.
How to maximize the chances of success in the race? Simply, you maximize your strengths relative to the competition. If your strength as a runner is your threshold, then why would you run easily in a group? If your strength as a runner is on the way out, why try to push the pace? If you're an ultra-light trail runner, why not push yourself uphill? You need to maximize your strength as it puts every other athlete at a disadvantage. Know your strengths and watch your results improve quickly.

If you don't know your strengths, you should test each of your energy systems and muscles to see what performs best. You can test it in field tests such as running 100m, 400m, 3000m. There are different tests for different sports, but the basics remain the same.

 

4. Knowing your nutrition strategy.

Nutrition will be a determining factor in how well you do in training or racing. Knowing what works for you and making it a dedicated focus is what separates the good from the "hopeful" for a good day. Do you respond better to a high carb diet, or a high protein one? Can your body handle 400 calories/hour when exercising, or are you better off with 200? Do you like liquid nutrition when exercising? How does your body deal with calories at high temperatures? How does your body cope with nutrition at 160 beats per minute?

These are all questions you can answer during your regular, focused training days. The most educated athletes have tried the different diet and removed the items that can wreak havoc on race day.

 

5. Know when to focus and when to relax mentally.

A properly designed training program will include focus areas and recovery times. Just like your body needs rest time, your mind needs to relax too. Although performance goals can greatly drive progress over the years, every athlete needs to know when they are in a relaxed part of their calendar. The best athletes prioritize recovery. This ensures they have the focus and mental strength needed to make it through their main training periods.

 
Summary

The best athletes are those who understand their sports and the tools used to help them. During training and competition, there are thousands of questions that pop up. While many athletes will have a coach to assist in this process, a coach cannot be with you on the trails, in the peloton, climbing the rock wall or hiking up Everest. In those moments, it's all about your preparation and decision-making skills. The more educated you become, the better you make the right decision. The more times you make the right decision, the greater your chances of success. By learning about these 5 topics, you will continue to develop as an athlete. Keep learning and go explore perfection!
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