Monday, November 29, 2010

The Triathlete Grows Up

More Night Maneuvers
I was emailing back and forth with Kovas on Saturday.  In addition to him turning me on to a great Beatles documentary on the History Channel (which led me to watch the Woodstock documentary that came on next which then led me to listen to nothing but Sly and the Family Stone for the rest of the weekend), he made a comment that, based on my Facebook feed, he had noticed that I hadn't cut my training back as I had originally planned.

I (of course) got immediately defensive.  But I knew he was right.  My volume hasn't decreased that much over the last month.  I'm only going to be a tad short of 40 hours for November, which has less to do with cutting back and more to do with taking time off while sick.

The truth is, I don't know how to take time off.  I have a vague idea that any good training regimen calls for athletes to take it easy for a month at the end of the season.  But I don't know the definition of "taking it easy". 

So I did some research.  And while opinions vary, the common recommendation is to stay active, but decrease volume, lose the heart rate monitor and work in some activities like hiking or mountain biking.  This way, you can preserve an aerobic base, but give your body and mind a much needed rest.

Of course, these recommendations are given with the assumption that an athlete has come off a season's worth of structured training.  But thus far in my career,  I've done little structured training.  My training has consisted of swimming, biking and running purely for the joy of it.  Sure, I reduce my volume every 4th week and occasionally run or bike up a hill twice.  I also modified my swimming workouts a few months ago to be more drill focused.  But I've never lived and died by a strict daily training plan.

So far it's worked out OK.  I've always managed to dig a little deeper when it's mattered and go longer or pull out a better split time.  But between Kovas' comment and poking around on the web this weekend, I'm starting to look at training differently.

In all honesty, a structured training plan scares me a bit.  Because the thing about I most like about endurance sports is the freedom.  And though I am careful to make sure I train in reasonable ratios amongst the 3 disciplines, I rarely take it further than what I mentioned above.  Academically, I understand how a structured plan would be beneficial.  In fact, it may be just what I need considering the concerns I had in a post last week about fitness gains in 2011.  But at the same time I am afraid of being beholden to a plan and having some of the joy sucked out in the process.  I don't want the party to end.

It's not the volume of training or the types of training I'll need to do.  Time can be manufactured and I am not afraid of pain.  It's the added layer of responsibility of having to do certain things at certain times that gives me pause.  I'm married, have a 5 year old son, dogs, a mortgage, two car payments and a job - Isn't that enough responsibility?  Apparently not.

I think I know what I need to do, and that's to try a structured training plan.  I'm going to need to be stronger for the Hawaii 70.3 anyway.  I was watching some video of the bike course. Between the long climb to Hawi and the wind it's going to require a level of riding I still need to get to if I want to race strong.  And of course I'd love to go faster, who wouldn't?

Perhaps this is me maturing as an athlete.  Yeah, OK, I had fun for two years doing whatever I wanted training wise.  But I probably owe it to myself to step up my game a little bit and really see what I'm made out of.  And if that means adding "structured training" to my list of responsibilities after my job, so be it.

So suck it up, buttercup.  But I do need to get that rest in first.


Allison said...

HAHAHA "Suck it up buttercup" - I haven't heard that in forever.... you made me laugh!!!

KovasP said...

Great post Patrick, so nice to see your maturation over this past weekend. :) The thing about getting stronger/faster/fitter is that you need to give your body time to adapt through rest or it will stop progressing. I'm with you on the rigid schedule - even though I have my own training plan, it's nice to know you can run instead of bike or hike instead of swim. Keep up the great work!

Unknown said...

Training plans are a necessity once you get to the longer courses - unless you just want to finish. But from the tone of your post you want to race, so suck it up buttercup - check your email in 5mins.

Jason said...

Well written again and timely. I just posted about the idea of tapering for the upcoming marathon and how I was beginning to embrace it until the mail came today.

BTW - not sure if I told you but appreciate you putting the banner up on your blog. Means a lot.

And you and I are in the same boat. Married, mortgage, 1 car payment, 4 year old BUT I do have a structured plan with my coach and I'm out the door by 5am and getting my work in early. It helps bc my wife does her workout at lunch or at night and so we all have to balance it all but it helps.

My coach is relatively affordable b/c it is online. You can go to to see if you want to work with her.

Caratunk Girl said...

Aww, Patrick is all grown up!!!

Love the suck it up, buttercup. I didn't have a structured plan - I did it exactly as you did it - UNTIL I started training for the 70.3 distance. I agree with Jeff 100%.

There are tons of plans out there as you know - I used one of Beginner Triathlete's free plans, but if Jeff sent you something, use that.

Aimee said...

I actually love training plans and don't know how I would have gotten through my HIM without one. BUT, although I follow a plan, I don't beat myself up when I skip a workout or when things get juggled around. Life happens, especially when you have kids. So, I think having a training plan is great, but it's never set in stone.

Lucas R. Tucker said...

I couldn't function without a structured plan. If I could afford a coach i would take it abother step. However, after months of structured training I looked forward tot his less structured last two weeks where I took my MTB out.

Emz said...

where's my freaking shirt?

TRI714 said...

hahahahaha, dude your a machine . Admit it, you need structure because you can't contain your desire to excell and succeed. But hey man you need ballance and rest too.
You have a mountain bike ? I'LL hook you up with some sick loops that will give us a change of scenery, and anarobic thresholds.

Big Clyde said...

You make me feel like a total wimp. I guess I am the buttercup.

Thanks for the inspiration.

Julie @ HotlegsRunner said...

I guess joining an Ironman calls for being a mature athlete. *gulp* I wonder how I'll be? 0_0

Jennifer said...

I guess I'm just not good at stopping either... There are natural times I just don't feel up to it and they work together to give me the breaks I need. Nice post BTW.

Unknown said...

I think structure is great! It gives you something to look forward to everyday. I am a coached athlete and will not turn back!! I love it! Hope it works well for you!

Unknown said...

My training is anything but prescribe. I aim for a certain mileage each week and plan on a long run. Then, it's a "run when you can" approach; if I hit three days in a row, I take the fourth off. Life has a habit of getting in the way.

Johann said...

Well said. I follow my plan to the extreme. I know its only running and I do my own plan, but it still gives me structure around my training. My problem is that I don't really have an off season. I kind of have one season that lasts 12 months per year.

Big Daddy Diesel said...

I agree with Jeff, more structure for the longer distance, the main reason is avoid born out, and from experience, burn out sucks

Personally, I use the offseason for just about anything, no structure workouts, I do what I want to do. Spend some time shocking my body, hiking, mountain biking (like you said), I also have this now unhealthy addiction to climbing stairs. I have played football, attempted raquet ball, went to bed late a couple of times. It wont be long before the "schedule" comes back, just have fun till then

Glenn Jones said...

The thin to rembrr is it's not the training that make us faster fitter stronger - it's recovery.

Also don't do like me. Avoid injury. I've prettyuch been on the back shelf for a while with my knee. It's been tough starting back up remembering what my fitness *used* tk be like. So yeah - cut back on the volume and intensity- but keep that aerobic base up!


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