Devote part of the pre-season to building a big base.

Part of getting your body and mind ready for improvement in your achievement season each year is putting in the long and low-intensity distance that gradually stimulates the body tissues to build up and prepare for more intense efforts in the main season. It’s what endurance athletes do in pre-season to prepare their bodies for more difficult training.

There are prescriptions for each sport (and for each event in each sport) for how much distance one should aim for, but just know that getting a lot of easy, mindful, injury-free meters/miles racked up really, really helps. Basically, it’s giving months of rhythmic repetition and stimulation to the body that the necessary systems in the brain and body get built up to a high level in support of the activity. The brain says, “Hey, this gal is super-serious. This is looking like a lifestyle. We’d better set up the whole system to get ready to live this way!” And it does.

But when the person engages in the activity only occasionally, the body may respond more like, “Oh, she’s trying that again? Let’s just resist her a bit and see if she won’t give up and stop it. We don’t want to go to all that effort retooling the whole system if she isn’t serious!” And, so over this pre-season of work unseen but important things develop inside the body to allow an athlete with a big base to perform in season at a much higher level than one without such a base.

I know the benefits of this base well from my early years of swimming and triathlon (when I had to do it in three sports!), and I still work this principle in my Flow State distance swimming and running training now.