New Normals : Training to Perceived Ability

I'm not a qualified coach in either experience or on paper. I do however like to experiment with my own training just to see what happens. I've always been a process driven person and that's what I enjoy about training and racing Ironman triathlons. The process is very long and the execution on race day is relatively short so it's all about the process.

I'm sure you've heard of using "Perceived effort" as a way of developing intuition and self awareness that helps in both training and racing. That's a positive thing and executed well will help any athlete continue to progress with both their fitness and skills. However as the term suggests this is governed by perception and depending on what mental baggage you bring with you can be wildly inaccurate. The real danger in this is training to "Perceived Ability" rather than "Perceived Effort". This can probably go either way but I'm going to stick to talking about having a lower perceived ability than what you are actually capable off and how this can hold you back.

I recently got back into racing Ironman after about 18 months off and after a swim session I started to think about my own perceived ability in the pool. I've been training off a blue print plan for a few years now, not because I don't see the value in having a coach but more because I like to control my own training. Part of the blue print plan is a swim set. The plan I use is the Ironman Blueprint from Kristian Manietta over at TriSpecific. If you haven't heard of Kristian before head on over, he's an inspirational and motivated guy and his daily emails are invaluable.

I won't go into all the details but the main set is 60 x 25 made up of intervals of 3 hard and 1 easy. The 3 should be pretty much all out. In my head, based on past training and what I think I'm capable of I swim the hard 25's in 21-22 seconds and that's pretty much how it works out week in week out.

I started the warm up then realised I had to be somewhere so I had to cut the session short. I figured I'd just swim harder to try and salvage something out of the session and get as much done as I could. So I swam about 5 of the 3 + 1 sets with all the hard lengths between 19-20 seconds. For me that's really fast but it's only a third of the main set. The thing is, I thought I could probably do another 5 and hold that speed, so I did. So all of a sudden I'd done 10 of the 15 sets all at 19-20 seconds. What was happening had a suddenly gotten fitter? had I changed something in my stroke that meant I was more efficient? unlikely.

This is just an example of setting glass ceilings in your own mind about what you are and aren't capable of. These boundaries are artificial and with some mental training and effort can be extended.

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