Are you asking yourself "how do I get faster?" Of course you are! As athletes, we're always trying to get the best out of ourselves. You can do it, and one way to approach it is by building out the infrastructure of your training.
What does that mean?
It means setting yourself up for success by creating an environment that makes it possible for you to train effectively. This applies to those just getting into the sport as well as the veterans. For the beginners...where will you swim, bike and run? Do you have a bike and a trainer for the winter months, or will you do spinning classes? Is there a local pool with convenient lap swim hours or a Masters team? Do you have a physical therapist who can keep your body from falling apart? For the veterans, there are changes you can make to the infrastructure that make it more effective than it already is. I'm constantly revisiting my infrastructure and making improvements to it, particularly at the beginning of the year when you have the freedom to do so away from races. Here are some examples of how I've managed to improve the infrastructure of my training:
1.) I Made the Trainer Fun/Bearable: I used to ride outdoors all the time, even when it was raining or very cold, because I found it boring to be on the trainer. In 2014, I found Tailwind Endurance, a computrainer studio in NYC convenient to my work that my coach runs, and all of a sudden trainer rides weren't boring anymore! Not only that, but the trainer is a more effective tool for training because it's a closed environment where there is no slowing or stopping because of street lights, potholes, etc.
2.) Train with Others: When I left the cross-country team at Penn State, I ran on and off for 2 1/2 years, never able to gather enough motivation to get back to where I was fitness-wise. This changed in 2007 when I realized that the reason I wasn't able to keep the training going was that I wasn't running with others! I started training with a friend, then with my alma mater high school cross-country and track teams, and was able to get down to 16:05 in the 5k, very close to my PR of 15:53. Once I discovered my own need to train with people, I built out the infrastructure of my training by finding training partners which led me to racing the Baltimore marathon, and then climbing through the amateur ranks of triathlon.
3.) I Found Solid Masters Swim Programs: Sometimes you need to spend extra time (ie. traveling) to get a more effective workout. I used to swim on my own, but realized that swimming with a Masters group was pushing me harder and farther, even without the same mental tax. Even among Masters groups, there are differences in how well they work to make you improve. I gravitate towards those that provide the best workout, even if I have to drive a half an hour to get there.
4.) Surround Myself with Achievers: I often see people around me complaining about a workout, or shirking what their coach tells them to do, and you probably do too. That type of negativity is not healthy to have around you when you're honestly trying to get faster! Surround yourself with people who not only speak positively but more importantly act positively. I'll complain from time to time, but I nearly always give it my all, even when what I think my coach assigned is impossible. It also helps to train with people who are better than you! Learn from their form, training structure, and mentality, and you will be better for it. I am constantly tweaking my training groups to include those who are fast go-getters who will help me get to the next level, and you should too!
5.) Train Away from Home: It's hard to train in the comfort of your home where you are used to eating, relaxing, sleeping and doing many of the "fun" things in life. I find that when I need to do a strength session and I choose to do it at home, it is rarely as effective as it is if I do it at the gym. Now I do most of my strength work at Tailwind Endurance, at the gym, with my physical therapist, or even outside. I get much more out of it and am willing to spend the extra time getting to these places so that I can make the most of my effort.
These are just five of the laundry list of ways that you an improve your own infrastructure of training. Assess each aspect of what you are doing and see where you can make some changes.
Remember...we are all different! What works for me might not work for you. The biggest takeaway from the idea of "building out the infrastructure of your training" is that you need to find what is most effective for you to train to the best of your ability. Even if you have a dud of a workout here or there because you tried something new, it's worth it! You are exploring all of your options and finding what is going to set you up for success. Do it now before we start racing!