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Use Performance Self-Analysis to Your Advantage

By Marty Gaal

finish line Many triathletes are all really hard on themselves. This is endemic to our somewhat OCD / Type-A sport. It is a demanding and unforgiving sport when you boil things down, with lots of techniques, disciplines and gear, and you are surrounded by equally motivated and self-demanding/achieving types. There is nothing wrong with this. However, your self-criticism must be balanced with recognition of what you have done and continue to do well in, and what you excel in.

Not every race (or workout) is going to go perfectly, especially if it is not your big "A" race of the season. You will probably be under-rested and a little beat up in most circumstances. Take a moment to view your race day performances in terms of what went well first as well as what could be improved second. Some of you view this in reverse - what went poorly with a negative self-assessment, followed by an after-thought of what went well, sometimes with prompting from outside. 

Of course, as coaches we want to know where you feel you could improve. That is part of the racing and training process. 

A positive attitude really makes a difference in how you view racing and training, and in my biased view it should be holistic — applicable across all aspects of sport. It is OK to be critical but it has to be balanced by a realistic view of your successful achievements in any given endeavor.

My wife and I have both raced at reasonably competitive levels, and personally nothing annoys me more than to have a person who finished ahead of me (or improved a lot, or won his or her division) start droning on about how his or her race felt lousy and the run didn't go well and there was that missed turn or whatever. Give me and you a break. Save it and revel in your victory or personal improvement. Relax and enjoy the moment — it is OK to enjoy personal success! 

No matter where you are in your personal quest for fitness and competitive success, there is someone who is working very hard to get to where you are right now. You can always look up and work to go up, but don't forget to look down and back on where you come from sometimes. It’s possible that you couldn't swim a lick a year or two ago, or you had never ridden a bike. Now where are you?

Sometimes races will not go well, period, no matter your attitude or training. The great philosopher Forrest Gump sums it up well. (Warning: mild-bad language.) 

As coaches we work to create realistic training plans, adjusting things as situations change, as well as help you develop mental toughness and positive attitudes, which are big parts of race and workout performance. Negative feedback loops quickly detract from performance, as quickly as dehydration or poor pacing can. 

What I am trying to write is to stop and smell the roses once in a while… Just not during the race!

Marty Gaal, CSCS, is a USA Triathlon and USA Track and Field certified coach. Marty and his wife Brianne are the co-founders of One Step Beyond. They live, coach, and train in Cary, N.C, coaching a Masters swim team, multiple swim clinics, open water races, aquathlons and summer group triathlon training. Read all about it at