Triathlon can be bittersweet – and one of the reasons triathletes push themselves beyond their limits and through the pain is that it makes the reward taste only that much sweeter.
But, it’s sometimes hard to recognize the fine line between pushing yourself and harming yourself, so how do you know how much is too much?
Listen to your body
Polar athlete Sebastian Kienle balances his training and recovery by listening to his body and using reliable data. It’s never one single thing that makes him do something or take a decision, it’s the combination of data and his subjective feeling that guides him on the quest towards balance.
After being a professional athlete for 20 years, Sebastian Kienle is experienced in listening to his body but he understands that not everybody is.
In our sport, you learn to ignore all the signs your body is giving you.
“Many non-professional triathletes try to go really hard and think that’s always the best way. In our sport, you learn to ignore all the signs your body is giving you because to succeed, you have to accept that a certain amount of pain comes with the job.”
So, you learn to push through it up to the point that it’s easy to lose sight of how much is too much.
“When you get injured, overtrained or burned out, you lose the fun and may lose your passion for the sport altogether. That’s why it’s important to react before it’s too late,” says Kienle.
Sometimes the problem is not doing too much but not doing enough.
Sometimes the problem is not doing too much but not doing enough. It’s an ongoing challenge: when to listen to your body and when it’s just your body trying to avoid the discomfort?
It’s a continuous walk on a thin rope that requires constant effort: on one hand, you have to ignore the signals your body is giving you, and on the other, you have to listen to what your body is telling you.
monitor your recovery
Experience is valuable in understanding your body and mind but still, your subjective feeling can be misleading on its own. That’s why reliable data plays a key role in stopping you from straying and if you do, steers you back to the right path.
Data helps me to avoid mistakes and look for warning signs.
“Data helps me to avoid mistakes and look for warning signs. When my heart rate and the orthostatic test shows I’m fine, I know I’m good to go. Sometimes my own feeling weighs more and reigns over numbers: even if data suggests I’m not recovered, but I feel fine, I don’t skip a session. If both my data and feeling are off, I’ll take 3-4 rest days,” Kienle says.
So, what kind of recovery data helps Sebastian Kienle on his way to the podium?
The orthostatic test indicates how fresh my system is and tells me if I should do more or ease up a little bit.
“I monitor my recovery by doing the orthostatic test regularly: it indicates how fresh my system is and tells me if I should do more or ease up a little bit. I also monitor my resting heart rate and measure my heart rate variability (HRV) every second day.”
In addition to the physical training load, there are other stress factors that affect recovery.
“Before big races I monitor my overall activity and track my sleep to get a holistic view of my recovery level, including stress from other than training. The stress levels get really high before big races like Kona when you have to do press conferences and give interviews. If you don’t pay attention, you can be quite worn out way before you’re anywhere near the start line. “
Keeping track of all this data allows Kienle to take shortcuts and get to where he wants to go faster. Experience serves the same purpose but learning by trial and error is a slower path.
“Simply put, I check my data before I make a mistake,” he summarizes.
Balance is also about getting in and out of your comfort zone. Sebastian Kienle pushes himself out of his comfort zone but makes sure he rewards himself afterwards. Winning a podium is not the only occasion that calls for well-deserved self-pampering – even the smallest accomplishments matter.
Even the smallest accomplishments matter.
“After an 8-hour bike ride in the rain and freezing cold, nothing tastes as sweet as a candy bar on the couch after a hot shower. I do this all the time: reward myself with small treats. This is key in order to maintain an intense triathlon training routine all year long. It’s about balance.”
People who never leave their comfort zone miss out on those micro moments of happiness that come with winning yourself. To help you achieve those moments while maintaining balance, we bring you the data – the rest is up to you.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.