CBT Nuggets-sponsored triathlete Evan Pardi goes into every season with a clear idea of what he wants to accomplish — qualify for the ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. He accomplished his goal the past two years and many smaller goals along the way.
For instance, last week he placed 15th in the Ironman 70.3 Coeur D’Alene out of 2,000 competitors, one of the smaller goals before the big race.
The ITU World Triathlon Grand Final brings top athletes from around the globe to compete for a title, but according to Evan, the path to winning isn’t about beating the other people. It’s about challenging yourself, knowing your limits and breaking them, training hard, and avoiding burnout before you get to the big day.
In a way, it’s not so different than preparing for any IT certification exam.
What is your World Championship?
Preparing for a triathlon or your next IT certification are pretty similar. You need to start with a game plan — as in, a literal written plan. Write out what you want to accomplish, and the steps to meet your goals.
Ask any CBT Nuggets Accountability Coach (and you can, actually). They’ll tell you to start with your exam date and work backwards. A good study plan breaks down course material day by day, taking into account how long you can study each day. Be honest with yourself, and don’t forget to take breaks.
That’s exactly the method Evan uses, too. He works with a coach to plan out his workouts. Each day Evan is on a bike, in the pool, or on the track, following a weekly workout plan. He’s tweaking his workout constantly, drawing from past race performances to improve, and monitoring his physical and mental state to fully prepare for his racing season.
You don’t know your wall until you touch it.
Avoiding burnout and injury are two factors of training that are constantly on Evan’s mind. Nothing will take an athlete out a race quicker than injury, but the slow burnout is equally detrimental — and very common. In Evan’s racing career, he’s seen top-ranked competitors burn out. They slowly stop entering races, change their priorities, and then just fade away from the sport. There are lessons to be learned from these athletes for IT pros. Training should be a lifelong endeavor, so watch out for the signs of burnout.
Evan says that when it comes to training, people don’t dig into their feelings enough. Training is as much mental as physical. “There should be an intuition about it feeling wrong,” he said.
If you’re starting to feel overwhelmed, or feel your priorities start shifting away from training, then step away for a little while. It’s alright to scale back your training, shift gears from video learning to hands-on training, or even take a little break. However, make sure you know the difference between burnout and your “training wall.”
You don’t know your training wall until you touch it. If you follow Evan’s lead, you should advance your training until you’re a little uncomfortable, and then scale back. When you’re at your wall, ask yourself: How is this affecting my life? Is this helping me reach my goal?
You need to find your training wall to break through it. Before stepping away, determine whether you’ve rid yourself of bad training habits and make sure you’re implementing good study habits. The key to developing the habits you want — and changing those you don’t — is understanding how habits form.
That can be the difference between burnout and success.
Turn your sine wave training into a straight line.
Passing along the advice of his coach, Evan emphasizes consistency above all else. “You need to turn your sine wave training into a straight line,” Evan said. Here’s what he means.
If your certification training plan is too ambitious, it may become overwhelming. If it’s too lax, you risk getting bored. Each can be equally detrimental. Creating a plan helps prevent either extreme, but you also have to gauge how you’re doing as you plod along, too. (And, yes, there will almost certainly be some plodding while you train.)
When Evan trains he’s monitoring his performance every single day with his mind on that day’s workout, not Rotterdam, the location of the 2017 ITU World Triathlon Grand Final. He’s grinding out the miles on his bike every day along a path predetermined by him and his coach. Once you know your limits, then the rest comes down to consistency.
Evan recently wrote about consistency on his website: “Small, day-to-day consistency is the drive to keep working every day, little by little, and to absorb the issues that arise, so as to work around them… This day to day consistency is marked by extreme flexibility and a good sense of perspective. What is important? How can I cope? By prioritizing, I can keep all from just crashing down and losing my consistency.”
Many people train a lot and then burnout, come back to train a lot again, and then stop. There’s no way Evan would have made it to the World Triathlon Championships if he trained a few days, stopped training for a week, and then picked it up again. He trains every single day.
How do you pass your next exam? How do you keep from burning out? Be consistent in your training.
Pick up the bike when you’re bored with running.
Cross training breaks up the monotony of marathon training. Maybe you lift weights one day, jump on a bike, or go to the pool a couple days a week. The same is true with your IT certification training. You have many tools at your disposal for a little IT “cross-training.”
If you’ve been watching a lot of videos, maybe it’s time to start practicing with virtual labs. Find an aspect of training that you find fun, like flash cards or practice exams, and take training time to focus on those. Take a little time to build a home lab.
Plan for success. Be consistent. And challenge yourself along the way. Whether that’s the CCNA or Network+, you should plan your next exam like it’s long-distance race, not a sprint.
Not a CBT Nuggets subscriber? Start your free week now.
CBT Nuggets has everything you need to learn new IT skills and advance your career — unlimited video training and Transcender® Practice Exams, Virtual Labs, validated learning with in-video Quizzes, Accountability Coaching, and access to our exclusive community of IT professionals.
Learn more about the CBT Nuggets Learning Experience.