Monday, March 14, 2011

Saturday = Track Day, Sunday A Bike Ride

So I'm trying to get back into the routine of a weekly MAF run. Last year I did quite a few of these in the winter and the spring on the track so that I could tell whether or not I was getting "aerobically" fitter. Primarily, I used to do this work on Wednesday so I could go with a group and have people to look at while I ran. This year I decided to man up and do them on my own. Technically, Ironman is just you and the crap going on inside your head so this year, the "training wheels" are coming off. I'm just gonna have to get used to the company of my own thoughts so I switched the workout to Saturday.

I also use these workouts to learn even pacing for my runs during races. Because of spending so much time on the track, I know what different paces "feel" like and have a better sense of how fast I'm moving on race courses. But the thing about doing these early season MAF sessions is they are so frustrating for me because I know I'm built for speed. I love sprinting. And left to my own devices I'd do a "WHOLE" lot of interval work. But that would not get me where I want to go. So for now I get to run around the track working at keeping my heart rate down and my laps as consistent as possible. I think I expend more mental energy than anything else on days like yesterday.

Anyway, so I went back to the track and ran 3 miles at precisely 9:45 min per mile pace and an average heart rate of 152. The workout would have been 6 miles but I was pressed for time because I had to get back to work. I used part of my lunch to go water a friends plant and pick up her mail. But like I said I just needed to get back into the routine of doing the workout. Looking back at logs for this time last year I was running between 10:35 min per mile and 10:15 min per mile pace at about the same heart rate. A couple of differences however do stick out. First yesterday it was over 80 degrees while I was running. The workouts last year were all in the mid 60's to low 70's. The other difference is I'm about 8 pounds heavier than I was last year. That tells me even though it was hot and I'm heavier right now than I was all of last year, I'm still more efficient at running than I was a year ago.

Some of the weight is muscle. I've been working out doing a bunch of functional strength work and swimming a lot more. But some of it is just water. I've decided to see what happens if I can stay better hydrated this year. Honestly, I think I just feel better. But I'll write more on that later.

So Sunday I just did an easy recovery ride on the bike. Mostly I looked at houses. But hey, I was out there turning my legs over and enjoying the impromptu power session the wind provided. Other than that I got my food ready for next week. I think it is going to be epic for training between Day Light Saving Time and warmer weather, I can't wait!

Monday, March 7, 2011

A Few Thoughts On Overtraining

"Better to stop short than fill to the brim. Over sharpen the edge and the blade will soon blunt... Retire when work is done. This is the way of Heaven." from the Tao Te Ching

Giving your best. It is the easiest thing in the world to do sometimes. Especially when you are exited and committed. And you have a goal with a firm deadline. You go all out. You give it everything you have. No one expects anything less from you. "You"expect nothing less from you. It is with this mindset that you have come to accomplish many things in life. So it is no surprise you enter the training for triathlon with this mindset as well.

As much as I applaud this mindset, I am also keenly aware of how it can also negatively affect your performance and ultimately undermine your experience of the sport of triathlon. I know this because of my own personal journey down the backside of the "More training is better and harder training is better still" mountain and into a crevice that left me unable to train or race for 5 years.

The key thing to consider is while the workouts you plan and complete are important, what is of equal importance if not more so, is the quality of the recovery you allow between the workouts. Perhaps you've seen the equation Stress + Rest = Performance? Simply put, the quality of the stress (or workout) and the quality of your rest (or recovery) is what adds up to your performance on race day. It is the combination of these two things that determine your improved fitness and adaptation to future workloads.

It was during my time away from triathlon that I came to fully appreciate the wisdom of the words that precede this post. What follows next are five principles I've used to embody the sentiment they convey in my actual daily training.

1. Strive to be honest about your current fitness level and accept where you are. At the beginning of any training block take time to assess as honestly as possible where you are in terms of your fitness. It doesn't have to be anything fancy. All you need is a known distance and a way to track time. A local track and a sports watch will do. A heart rate monitor, if available can add finer detail to the assessment. Test during weeks where you have lowered both volume and intensity to allow for a true assessment. By returning to do the same test regularly, you remove the guesswork from your training. How you perform on your tests can tell you lot and help guide your future choices with regard to the duration, frequency and intensity, and even the sequence of workouts.

2. Learn to be patient with your training. Many athletes will move on to the next phase in their training because of what it says on a calendar, or because it is what someone they know, or someone they've read about is doing in an attempt to rush improvement. What you should ask yourself based on your tests is, "Did you make the gain?" The answer to this question is what should determine whether or not you are ready to move on to more exotic and demanding types of training. Remember, improved fitness isn't always linear. It is important to keep in mind your training, your diet, the quality and quantity of your rest, and your body all work synergistically to create a gradual adaptation to increasing volume and intensity. It is this systematic consistency of workout stimuli, recovery and diet, which leads to improved fitness and race results.

3. As a general rule, workouts should leave you feeling satisfied and even refreshed. You may not want to repeat what you did, but try to leave your workouts knowing you could repeat the effort if necessary. One way to achieve this is to find other ways to gain speed or endurance without continually pushing your body to its limits. Work on refining your technique in the three disciplines and improving endurance, functional strength and range of motion, prior to working solely on generating speed. Consider speed training as you would sugary dessert -- something to be indulged in sparingly if at all. The truth of the matter is if you become adept at refining your technique, and developing your endurance while gaining functional strength and maintaining range of motion, you will get faster without killing yourself to do it.

4. Listen to your body. There will be times when your body will subtly ask you to rest. Learn to listen to it. By learning to recognize your body's unique signals and honoring them immediately, you won't find yourself in the situation where gentle hints have become firm, painful ultimatums. The hints can be as simple as difficulty sleeping or feeling the need to stay in bed a bit longer than normal after the alarm has gone off. Dreading or postponing workouts is another common but subtle indication that your body may not be ready for more training. Other more common symptoms include moodiness, loss of appetite, lethargy, slow healing wounds, onset of colds or coughs, increased allergic reactions, elevated or prolonged muscle soreness and stiffness, elevated resting heart rate. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, take a day off.

5. Learn to trust yourself and your plan. Map out a plan and stick to it. Map out a plan and be flexible. I know this sounds contradictory but it isn't. Try to develop a routine and stick with it. Have a reason for each workout. The more focused and purposeful you can be in developing your training plan, the easier it is to stick with it and see the rewards from what you have set in motion. But you need to be flexible because there is always the larger aspect of your life outside of triathlon that also needs to be attended to. When your life outside of triathlon interferes with your training, and it will, you will need to be able to adapt. The simplest advise I can give, is if something comes up that needs attending to that will keep you from doing your workout on the day it is scheduled, then skip that workout. Forget about it. It is gone. Move on to the next workout, or repeat the one before it. Whatever you do, do not attempt to "make up" or "double up" workouts or training blocks to stay on or get back on track. Take it from me, it doesn't work.

Your overall goal should be to enjoy your training. Your training should enhance your life through improved, health, fitness, greater self-esteem and self-awareness. At the center of each and every workout, every decision, and any training program, is you. Always remember this because ultimately triathlon is one of life's the demonstrable activities where you can truly experience and reap the benefits of a "less is more" approach.

Train well!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Monday And Tuesday In Review

Let's just say a couple of things are starting to occur to me. First, I have a lot of time to bring my body into shape for the races I'm planning on doing this year. I think I want to try for 2 70.3 races this year and 2 Olympic distance races in addition to Ironman Arizona.

I may do some other stuff like time trials and 10k's for fun but for the most part I'm still working at becoming fit. I've decided to work on my overall endurance, strength and range of motion for this first part of the year. I'm not doing much in the way of speed at all unless you count my rides with the super cyclists, Jason and Du Shun - and even there it isn't as much as trying to go fast as it is trying not to get left behind.

Anyway, I think I have a handle on how much work I can comfortably do in a day at this point and how to schedule it with the necessary food and recovery to make it all work out. But that isn't what the purpose of this post is about. This post is simply about what I've been doing for the last few days.

Yesterday I went out for my morning run and changed my mind. Not about the running, mind you but about the route and ultimately the duration. The run went from 30 minutes in my neighborhood to over 30 minutes down to Town Lake and on to the water stop under the foot bridge and back home. The whole run ended up being slightly over 90 min and pretty much about 10 miles. I haven't run more than 30 minutes since Thanksgiving. But I felt good the whole way so my pace and heart rate were right in line.

I think the thing about this run is I was pushing through some personal boundaries. For the last couple of years I've been hesitant about doing long runs too early. But I've relied on so little running in the past in my preparation that I've probably been underprepared for Ironman. I want to address that this year. So not only am I running more frequently as I did last year with multiple runs per day, I am also going to do more middle to long distance runs early so that my runs later in the year can focus on quality and not durability.

After the run I came home and ate and got ready for my bike. Again here is where I was pushing boundaries. Instead of mapping out a longish ride, I decide I wanted to be more consistent with my cycling this year. Last year I was lucky to get in 2 quality rides a week. This year I want that number to be closer to 4. So again I took a look at what I was doing. I did a lot with a little last year increasing wattage, speed and efficiency on the bike to the point of riding well on very little training. I want to take what I learned not to just "do" more work, but to do more quality work within a certain amount of time. So while I'll be on the bike more frequently, I doubt my time on the bike will increase substantially. To that end I want to keep my rides in the 45 minute to 2 hour range and leave it at that. Yesterdays ride clocked in at 1 hour 45 minutes. Perfect. I got home and it was time to eat again.

This morning was more of the same albeit with shorter durations. 30 minute run on the treadmill before breakfast, then 90 minute bike ride after lunch and a nap. As I give more thought to what I want to accomplish physically, I'll post more details. Until then, "Train well!"