Over the past year and a half I have grown a lot as a triathlete. I have gone from knowing nothing about proper training to know being at a point where I can honestly say that I have some of my own opinions. I would never tell someone to train a certain way nor would I ever critique anyone’s training. The trust is as they say “is in the pudding” so on race day everything you do shines brightly for everyone to see. What do you want people to see? With that said I just wanted to share a little peace of wonderfulness that I have attempted to put into words.
It revolves around the type of training that in my opinion is crucial during this time of the year. What I mean by this time of year is that its January 1st. Most of you all who are triathletes won’t even be racing tri’s for another 4-5 months. Personally my first real races of the season is 5 months and 20 days away. The bottom line here folks is that YOU HAVE TIME. There is no need to feel bad about a missed workout, if you feel tired or you feel sick, take a day off and get some rest. Don’t dig yourself in a hole now…its a long winter.
When it comes down to it though the key to offseason training really does become CONSISTENCY! Yes, I know what your thinking..but Matt you just said that we can take days off. 1 day off to recover and get yourself together is fine, as long as your not really sick or anything you should get back on the horse in my opinion. You get back on the course because being meticulous about your training is key. Plan out your week ahead during the weekend, determine the times when you are going to train, do your big grocery shopping on Sunday so you don’t have to waste precious training time during the week. I like everyone else wish that we had 28 hours in a day, but the fact of the matter is we don’t. None the less everything that we need to get done (including 8 hours of sleep) can be accomplished in the 24 hours that we have each been given. I will bitch and moan about this over the next three months when I am going to be slaving over a computer doing peoples tax returns. But you know what? All that time that I am sitting at my desk makes the time between 4:30 – 8:00 when I am training all the better. Even though I may not be as well rested, or the fact that its cold out, or that the sun hasn’t made an appearance in weeks, I know that I am getting it done and that feeling alone gets me through the long days at the office. Personally I get a lot of personal satisfaction that I have done more exercise in a single morning than most of my co-workers will do in a week..some in a month..some in a year. But I don’t hold that against them, nor would I ever bring it up. Each person does what they want to do and I hope that they are doing it because they really love it and really get a joy from it, whether that be watching football, playing with their kids, going golfing or whatever else they may be doing. The bottom line is that everyone should have something! Something to call their own, something that they absolutely love. In my case triathlon has filled that void. Its not only the sport, its the training, its the races, its the travel, its the fun days with friends, its the weekends with friends, its the trips to Lake Placid with good buddies…its the mile repeats on the treadmill on New Years Day, its the reason why I went to bed last night at 10:30 after having gone to see a movie with my parents last night. Ya know, when push comes to shove if your not doing what you really enjoy then something needs to be done about that. I know that if I had stayed up late last night and rang in the new year in style and then I subsequently blew up during my run test today the fact that I had a shitty run would totally put me into a funk, it would make me feel like a pile of poop. I’d be cranky and no fun to be around or talk to. However, I know myself now and I understand that going to bed early and kicking butt in a workout is what really gets me going. And the beauty of this sport of triathlon is that I have met people like me, people who are the same model as me. They get the same kicks that I get from all this stuff. Its fun to do all this stuff by ones self but its even more fun when you can share it. For me I really enjoy the energy I get from other people around me. Like today when my friend Mary ran with me on the treadmill at Midtown. We did mile repeats on the treadmill to get some HR data. Mile repeats are not what you would call fun on a treadmill, its pretty much as fun as having your toe nails ripped…just kidding it wasn’t that bad, I actually had a lot of fun. Other than my stomach giving me some issues early on I really had a blast. We didn’t talk much because thats not what it was about, today was about putting the work in. It was about being Consistent!
I truly feel from experience that most people get caught up in thinking that they don’t want to do a workout because they might fail and not hit the targets they want to. Subsequently said athlete will either tone down the workout or skip it all together. Now the athlete is falling behind because they are no training to there potential. This compounds and two months later they have not progressed because they have failed to really challenge themselves. The fact of the matter is that challenging workouts are their for a reason. They are in our plans because they spice things up and give us all a good measuring stick to see what we have done to improve and what needs to be worked on. I urge you all to not be scared by high intensity workouts or “test” days when you have to run all out in a 5k or bike as hard as you can for 20 minutes. These days are great even if you do bad. Why? Because even if you have a bad day and totally blow up you can reflect on that, analyze your data (if wearing a powermeter, or have a HR monitor), think about what you ate, think about how your prepared (sleepwise, etc.). Or you could hit your targets and feel good that your training is taking you to the places you need. Testing at full out balls to the wall intensity is a necessary evil. One that is not needed a ton during the winter months but it is needed just enough so as to keep you on the edge.
Ok, I am not really sure where my post has gone but I am going to go with it and see what comes out..maybe some useful knowledge will come out of this in the end. As I think about the day I had today and some of the conversation I had with Mary I want to make the point that I began making at the beginning of this post. It’s that during these winter months training is all about Consistency and putting in the time. During these months you have to really be dedicated to your plan as well. I have come to really really like training in my HR zones. Yes, I have a power meter and all that jazz, and yes I really love it. But I begun to see that every time I get on my bike I don’t need to be riding to a certain wattage. During these winter months its just not that beneficial in my opinion. I think that power is very objective and even if your feeling shitty and your HR is all out of wack your power will remain constant. Thus if you are feeling a little “out of it” and your HR is way low or way high you are still going to be riding to a certain wattage. Say your HR is really high because you have a slight cold and you didn’t get enough sleep. Then you hop on your trainer and try to ride to a certain power zone at a certain HR. All the sudden your HR dictates that you should be in zone 2 power but your only supposed to be riding in HR 1 in power zone 1. I’ve probably lost some people with that but what matters is that during the offseason I think a good chunk of base should just be executed on the bike by HR because it takes away the “glued to the powermeter syndrome” it allows your to ride to your bodies ability and not overexert yourself when your not feeling 110% or if your feeling really good it allows your to exert yourself maybe beyond the normal levels. That got a bit tough to follow but if you understand what I am saying acknowledge with a comment and I will give you a gold star.
So with that I will end my little rant on HR zones with the key take away for today. The key take away today is that I have been running very slowly lately. I have been sticking to my prescribed zones, running 8+ min per mile endurance zone runs and 9:30 + min per mile recovery runs. These are on the slow side but they are pretty good for this time of the offseason. As training accumulates and miles are logged the times will keep decreasing. One thing that I am dedicated to this year is sticking to my zones regardless of how fast or slow I am going. This will most likely bring me to the place I want to be come summer time and keep me healthy at the same time. Like I said their is no need to go out at blast out a run at a specific pace if your HR is through the roof 10 minutes into…your body is telling you something, listen to it! We are not training like we are in high school when the season is only 3 months long, were training year round for races that are in 5-10 months. WE HAVE TIME! So the moral of the story is that I tested today in the tune of 4 x 1 mile repeats at descending paces. I started at 6:03 and ended up running my last mile at 5:30. In between each mile was 1:30 of recovery run. This proved to me that I still had a little speed in the legs. I have not “lost” it over the past couple of months. I think a lot of people think that they are somehow going to lose all that they have gained in the previous year(s) when they take time off or tone down the level of training they are doing. Personally I think I am proof positive that this is not the case. I am running slower in my training runs but doing so purposefully. I am slowly going to make myself a very fast and efficient endurance runner who someday is going to run in the low 3 hr region for an ironman marathon. I am confident that if I keep my drive and determination that this will happen. So don’t fret when you are running slow, or biking slow..stick to your plan and go with it. If you have a coach, believe in them! Believe that they are setting you up for success not failure. Don’t manipulate your workouts, they are there for a reason. And make sure to test out once in a while because it will make you feel good, trust me!