We’ve all heard a version of the saying, 90% of sports is mental. The other half is physical.
But there’s also sleep, mindfulness, nutrition, relaxation, family, friends, and coaches, says professional triathlete and six-time Ironman champion Ben Hoffman. A day on the course is the culmination of months of preparation, meals carefully planned, hours of training few can comprehend.
As athletes from around the world prepared for the Transamerica Chicago Triathlon weekend August 26-27, Hoffman reflected on his training and race day preparations, stressing how every facet of a racers training and routine all comes together for the big event.
“There’s no question that I could never do what I do without the support, having that. It ranges from my wife, Kelsey, to my parents, my sister and her husband and their family, everybody that’s part of my team. My management, the sponsors, my fans, everybody,” he said. “You have to have that community. You talk about a village like that, and it really does take that … I don’t think it’s possible to go it alone, in this sport or in any aspect of life, and it’s OK to reach out to people and lean on people when you need to.”
For racers hitting the streets, from experts to first-timers, Hoffman, 34, urges them to trust their training and stick to their routine.
Miles and miles of running, biking, and swimming challenge Hoffman’s body. He said he works with a coach and presses himself to perform. Sometimes the challenges of training are daunting, but Hoffman said that’s all part of the preparation, being ready for any challenge.
“For me, probably the best thing I have is a system that I stick to,” he said. “I’m looking at all aspects of my life, and that’s on the physiological side and the emotional side as well … I make time each day for meditation, 10 to 15 minutes, just calming my mind down and really relaxing, letting my body recover that way.”
As the big day approaches:
“The last week, I’m really trying to hone in mentally and run through the race and make sure that I’m focused on the event, going through specifics. Visualization is huge,” he said. “Be prepared for every eventuality. You need to be prepared for things to go wrong. You need to plan for the flat tire on the bike because that may happen, and if it does happen, you’ve thought about it already, you have a plan for it, and you can tackle that and not miss a beat.”
The night before:
“If you’re just eating your normal meals as you’re backing off your training, your body will absorb that and build those glycogen stores up before the race. You don’t have to do anything super special. There have been a lot of people who have promoted a carb-loading mentality, and I think that can be maybe a little misleading sometimes for people because they tend to overdo it and then they have that GI (gastrointestinal) distress in the morning before the race. Sticking to what you know, getting your body on that program weeks and weeks out is probably your best bet and not changing too much as you get close to the race.”
“I try to tell people not to change a whole lot on the day of the race, and I think that’s an important thing to stick to because your body really does adapt and get used to the diet that you’re on. For me I tend to have a couple pieces of toast with some almond butter and honey on it, and then as I get closer to the race I usually have a Clif bar (one of Hoffman’s sponsors) 35 to 45 minutes before the race. Keeping it light in the morning maybe having a banana, something that you’re used to for breakfast in the morning and not changing it up to much,” he said. “People have a tendency to kind of get there and change things up, and that spans the whole realm of sport where they’re changing the saddle height on their bike or something last minute. It’s more of a nerves-based thing and I think if you can stick with what you know you’re better off.”
“I try to gain a lot of confidence from the training that I’ve done, and that’s the physical but also the mental training, too … just knowing that I’ve done the training when I show up there. As long as there’s not a hurricane or something, I should be prepared for the race. I’ve prepared for the distance and I’ve done the training,” he said. “One of the key components for performing at a high level is to stay engaged in the moment. The past is past and there’s not a lot you can do about that. The future’s not real yet. So what you try to do is stay really in the moment and make the best decision you can make in that moment … If you can stay engaged in the moment you’re really going to have a good day.”
“No matter what you do, whether you have a great performance or maybe one that didn’t meet your expectations, you have this fall-out period where there’s a bit of a let-down, and I think that’s normal. You build up so much, and then you get it done, and even if it’s great you’re sort of like, ‘it’s over now,’” Hoffman said. “Give yourself a break. Give yourself some time to absorb … Just enjoy the moment, all the energy, the time you put into this …. Take a moment and really absorb that. These are special moments to be out there.”
And then, get some sleep.
Sleep is “one of the most, if not the most, important recovery tools that anybody has,” he said. “It’s hard to get that sleep that you need, and that’s really where your body regenerates at night.”
Hoffman has had a successful campaign in 2017 with five top-10 finishes and a win at the Ironman African Championship South Africa in under eight hours. He’s scheduled to race the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, on October 14 and is one of the top contenders. The last American male to win was Tim DeBoom in 2002.
Follow Hoffman on Social Media:
You must be a registered user to add a comment. If you've already registered, sign in. Otherwise, register and sign in.