Incrementalism Can Work for You
You’ve heard the saying, “Go hard or go home.” We glorify those who put it all on the line. Our heroes quit their jobs or drop out of college to pursue their true callings. They are the ones who, exhausted and gasping for air, stretch across the finish line ahead of the one who didn’t give quite as much.
I’m telling you not to go hard or go home. More specifically, I’m telling you to go selectively hard, and then, when you’ve reached the level you want to be in that area, move on to your next focus area.
The dictionary definition of “incrementalism” is “a policy of making changes, especially social changes, by degrees; gradualism,” and I’ve adopted this policy in my tri life. I’ve told you before that you don’t need to buy much, or even any, new equipment before your first triathlon. For my first tri, I think the only new equipment I purchased was a pair of swim goggles. I raced the swim in a normal swim suit, and then threw on shorts and a tank top before jumping on the hybrid bike I’d had since college.
This year, I am committing to incrementalism in improving my performance. I am committing to improving my swimming and core strength. There are plenty of areas where I could be better, but I am focusing on those two related areas. I’ve tried before to do all the things. I end up burnt out and accomplishing less than I would have if I’d instead focused on doing one thing well.
If you are a beginner triathlete, you will find that purchasing equipment can turn into something that looks like the book If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. Once you buy one piece of gear, you will want to get the next thing to complement it. So here are some suggestions for ramping up your gear, that you can spread over months or even years.
If give a girl her first triathlon, she may find that the experience is addictive, and she’ll want to experience this crazy festival of dirt, sweat, and camaraderie again. So she’ll register for another race.
For the next race, she will want to buy a tri suit so she isn’t wearing her ratty workout clothes, and she can save some time in transition by wearing the same gear the whole race.
When she realizes how important efficiency is for triathletes, she will want a new bike, a nice road bike, with as much carbon in it as her money will buy to make it lighter. When she races the first time on her svelte new machine, she will be wonder how she ever lived with her clunky hybrid.
Then she will want to find even better ways to transfer power, so she will buy pedals and bike shoes. (She also may consider aero bars. I don’t have those and they aren’t necessary for your average age-group weekend warrior racer, but, by all means, feel free to consider.)
After that, she will want to measure exactly how well she’s doing on that bike, so she will buy a cycling computer to help her keep track of her mileage and other stats. (If she wants to just use her phone and a GPS app, she can skip this step.)
After focusing on her bike for a while, she will want to see what she can do for her swim, and she’ll also want to register for some races earlier or later in the season when the water might be a little chillier, so she will buy a wetsuit. (A sleeveless suit that falls mid calf is probably sufficient for her needs. She will not get too hot when the water is warmer, but it will give her a little buoyancy and keep the chill away. She also should know that USA Triathlon rules allow wetsuits in water 78 degrees (F) or less.)
After a few fairly pricey upgrades, she will want to buy helpful new gear that doesn’t require quite so much of an investment, so she will get a race belt to attach her number and speed up the transitions a bit more.
And then, now that’s she’s purchased all this great gear, she will want to register for another triathlon.