Columnist's note: This is the sixth in a series of columns on local professional triathlete Katie Zaferes (née Hursey) and her journey to becoming a pro.
SL: Do you think a coach is necessary for the average triathlete, or do you think most athletes can achieve the results they want through discipline, hard work, and setting a realistic/appropriately challenging training schedule for themselves?
KZ: I am all for having a coach. For me personally, I have a coach that I trust and I prefer to just listen and follow directions. I don't have to think about anything. I just do what's on my training plan and report back. I think that some athletes may be able to achieve their goals through coaching themselves, but I think it'd be difficult to call the shots. My coach helps me make decisions on race schedules, paces, when to take it easy and when to go harder. However, it is important to find the right coach. Take the time to really get to know your coach and talk to his/her other athletes. Do a trial period. Make sure the person knows what they are talking about and that you will get an individualized training plan.
SL: What is the most important aspect of training? What role do you feel mental toughness plays in training and racing, and how important is it as opposed to physical toughness?
KZ: The most important aspect of training is rest and recovery, being OK with doing nothing in-between sessions to let your body recover fully.
I think mental toughness plays a big role in both training and racing. However it's not just being tough it's also being aware. I've found that I can really control my mood and my thoughts when I make a point to. Rather than letting my brain drift into thoughts that might be distracting in a negative way I focus on the positive things. I also really believe in having mantras. They made a big difference in my race in Stockholm where I ended up finishing second. When I saw the girl in second [place] starting to fall off pace I started telling myself, "you are strong, you are tough," and before I knew it, I was passing her. I remember being so proud that I was able to refocus my mind from the pain to something more helpful. There's a lot of people who are physically tough, but I feel like very few have the both the physical and mental aspect nailed down. I personally started speaking to a sports psychologist routinely to help me with my mental game.
SL: What is your "must have" piece of training gear or equipment?
KZ: A good watch! I like my Garmin 920xt because it's quite a good triathlon watch and has a lot of nice features.
SL: Do you rely on heart rate monitors and lactate thresholds to direct your training, or do you listen to your body and go with how you feel?
KZ: I've done a lot of training in the past using heart rate monitors, [but] I'm a big fan of the more simplistic view. I just train hard and don't try to over complicate anything. When I'm tired I go slow. When I'm doing a workout and I feel good, I go faster. [However,] I do use my watch and I have a power meter on my bike to also direct my training. There are some workouts my coach gives me with specific pace times or power numbers to hit and I will follow those.
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