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Winter Training - Re-Creating Habit & Maximizing Time

The sun will always rise tomorrow, and everything I do with the time between now and then will always be the answer to the question on my mind, "what can I do NOW in attempt to make me better today, and, maybe even, smile at mile 20 of my next Ironman?" My week is 45+ hrs of work, 50+hrs of sleep, 10+hrs of eating, and 3-ish hours of commute/travel. That leaves 60-ish hours for me to do what I please. For the past 2.5 months, I have had all 60 of those hours to do whatever I want... Typically during season, about 30-35% of those remaining hours are spent training, but during winter, only about 15-20%. So let's call it 45 hours. I have 45 hours a week during the winter that are uncommitted. How do I maximize this time knowing, in just a short time, I will have 25% less free time?
This weekend marks 10 weeks since my last race of the season, and my performance at Kona wasn't one that I wanted to end on. I had/continue to have pent up anxiety around leaving a loose end on 2016 when I had worked so hard for what I wanted -- a killer KQ/PR performance at Coeur d'Alene in August. Something I consider a strength is my ability to effectively maximize and manage not only my time, nutrition, and the discipline required to get results, but also the emotional roller coaster that comes with it. That being said, the end of 2016 was a challenging one. Since my racing season typically spans from summer into fall, there is no "easier" time than now -- the demands on my schedule, body, and mind are the lowest they will be all year. This winter, I decided to focus on low-impact active recovery, finding fun in my routine, and eating, even testing new, nutritious meals and performance nutrition. I will be in the pool at 5am three times a week (for stroke swimming), after work in the water another two times a week (for water running), focused weight training/"gym" time twice a week, and cross country skiing (classic) and/or snowshoeing at least once a week. I will reintroduce running to my training in February or March and biking to my training in the new year. I took a solid amount of time away from them in order to reduce the tri-sport-fatigue, impact to my joints and body, and to add diversity to my routine that had been absent since April. 
Time seems to be the most cherished intangible amongst triathletes, and during the winter and other pre-season months when we have the most of it, we must use it wisely to ingrain good habits and act similarly to the expectations we set for ourselves during season. During most of the year, my tri life is not lacking time in the saddle, long LSD pavement pounding, or discipline, but what it does lack is variety, free time, and even fun, sometimes. One luxury that the winter pre-season affords me is the ability to focus not solely on building a strong base by putting in long hours, but also to enjoy winter sports, the thoughtful aspect of planning my 2017 season, and the visualization of what I want from my body over the course of the year (and acknowledge what it is going to take to get there). That isn't to say I take it easy out on the XC track or in the snowshoes; I frequently incorporate quick, exciting, high intensity intervals that allow myself to have small mental wins while challenging my mind, body, and workout preparation. During the winter, there's no immediate concern of "will this impact my next race/well-being?," so now is the time to let loose a little bit and have flexibility in giving my body active, fun recovery, while staying on top of high quality nutrition, rest, and recovery because they are just as imperative now as they are the rest of the year. By putting together and adhering to an effective plan, I will not only ensure my body gets what it needs, but I will also instill a mental and physical routine to make the decision to do whats best for my body and not give in to what's easy, e.g. over-eating, not stretching or getting massage, mentally talking myself out of that last interval, etc...
Triathletes juggle a lot of things; consequently, a lot of energy must go into having success in our professional lives in order to still be able to leave the office and push our body's limits, fuel and refuel, and recover to do it again in the morning/the next day. Getting the nutrition I need to perform and planning the meals that provides this should not be overlooked -- no day/sequence of days of training is the same; therefore, I must constantly be mindful of my body's needs throughout the workday while still being present and performing at a high level at the office. The most lucrative thing to how I ensure my body has what it needs is by identifying something that steals my time and energy away from the positives (training, recovery, and preparation), and finding a solution that relieves me of that sunk time cost. In 2016, that was something that I did well. I went to good ol' Costco and got more freezer containers (even thought about getting a stand-alone freezer), I added Endurance360 to my supplement regimen to eliminate the negative impact of training that I used to think was out of my control -- the rate at which I recover, and I even began using my training time to meal plan, particularly workouts that are not demanding on my mind. It doubles as something that took my mind off the aches and pains of the workout AND served as a use of time that I would otherwise have spent staring at my pantry/fridge to determine what I was going to prepare. In closing, I enjoy knowing that everything I do is a thoughtful representation of the time, energy and hard work I put in to get the best training and results possible! In the hard times, I just try to be better today than I was yesterday, and since yesterday was the shortest day of the year, beginning today, I only have more time!
Vanessa Aders

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