Triathletes typically share many characteristics: driven, goal oriented, a desire to have the latest gadgets, and we typically love numbers. With the qualities, we are armed with our GPS watches, bike computers, heart rate monitors, activity trackers and power meters monitoring every aspect of our workouts as we splash/pedal/dash through our workouts.
All of these tools help us track our workouts, and log them up to Strava with witty names so that we can get kudos from our peers, teammates and friends and so we can make our competitors envious of the efforts that we are putting out. But missing from this list of gadgets is something simple that can serve two purposes: a pencil.
Throughout the season, I typically go through peaks and valleys mentally, emotionally and physically. Some of those show up on my Garmin watch- my run pace during my track workout is slower than it is supposed to be, or I push harder up a climb than I have before, so I get a little trophy from Strava letting me know that was one of my better efforts.
These highs and lows are difficult to keep track of when your log of your workout is limited to what you are putting into Strava or Training Peaks or whatever other platform you are using to track the work you are doing to PR at your next race. Armed with a pencil and a log, jotting down a few notes can help you track your mental and emotional state through the weeks of the season. Making notes about your mood, what influenced it, and how the workout went can help keep you focused and mindful of what else is going on in your life.
This pencil can serve another purpose, and it is not to make notes about your workout.
On a personal note: This season, I have made it a goal of mine to focus on the positive aspects of the sport. In past years, I have been caught up in tough days and weeks, bogged down mentally and physically as I question the struggles of early morning wake ups, aching muscles, and general fatigue. While on a run a few weeks ago, I was talking with a friend while out on our usual loop, and I said that I was trying to stay positive, and she said I should put a pencil in my teeth.
I was befuddled as to why, and thought about it for a moment, and then my lips turned up into a smile. Reading this now, your lips probably did the same. It wasn’t a true smile, but a faked one. What’s the benefit of a fake smile? It turns into a real smile if you hold it. In fact, researchers at the University of Kansas studied fake smiling and found that it reduced stress, lowered heart rate, and improved mood. All of those are useful to an athlete who is pushing through a tough session.
After the fake smile, I felt those effects described by the researchers, and made a note in my log at home that in addition to using my pencil to record how a workout went, I should mentally chew on one the next time I am having trouble with training. It helps remind me how lucky I am to be able to participate in this sport, that I should be grateful for this workout and the opportunities this sport has presented to me.
So whether you are making notes about your workouts, tracking how you are feeling before or after a workout, or making sure you are staying positive, add a pencil to your toolkit.