Thursday, January 16, 2014

No, You’re Actually Not That Tough

I’m currently in my fourth season as a triathlete. Without question, the training I have done since taking this sport up in the late fall of 2010 has been some of the most demanding and disciplined I’ve ever faced. I have always prided myself on scheduling and completing challenging work outs. That’s included bike and run intervals, swim-run two-a-days, bricks, hills, long swims and so on. I knew there were other elite age groupers and pros that had harder workouts, but for a self-coached athlete, I thought I always put myself through the paces pretty well.

Nevertheless, I also knew that my results were not where I wanted them to be. Some of that was poor training, but even when I trained a lot it was clear that I needed to improve the quality of my training. That led to my decision to hire a coach. I interviewed three and the one I hired impressed me with his philosophy of shorter, more intense workouts. That was something I had not done.

I signed the paperwork back in late November but things did not really start until the last week in December/first week in January. Then I learned how easy I had actually been on myself.

The first workout I had was a swim. In fairness to my coach and the company he contracts with, I’m not going to divulge full details here. However, the highlights include increasing speed over set distances and then following that with a longer distance at max effort. By I reached that last part of the main set, I was more exhausted than I’ve ever been in the pool. Subsequent workouts left my arms feeling tired the way they do after a tough session of lifting free weights.

That was the swim. Then I got bike workouts that included things like increasing the resistance to the point that I could only crank out 50-60 rpm but still had to hit my upper heart rates. This went on for minutes per set with three minutes of high spin recovery. When I read it, 50-60 rpm still seemed like a lot. It’s not. I basically was riding up a 4.5% grade hill in the middle of my gear range. And just to make things interesting, the bike is followed by a fifteen minute run.

Ironically, it’s the running that I’ve handled the best. That’s not to say that the running workouts are easy. Maybe it’s because I’m just used to feeling the pain when I run. Nevertheless, I still manage to get through them and feel pretty good. In fact, that only real issue I’ve had with running so far has been the cold, but then again, it is January.

Two weeks in and I’m feeling pretty good. I got some tough workouts, but I’m doing them all and doing them completely. I tell myself I can handle this.

Then Sunday night rolls around and my coach sends me an e-mail that begins “here we go” and he proceeds to congratulate me on a successful recovery week. That’s right, the first two weeks, the same ones I found to be harder than anything else I had ever done in January were just the easy part.
Now I’m looking at over 8 hours of training over five of seven days during the week. That includes some weight lifting designed to improve swimming. There are also additional tough bike rides which are also always followed by fifteen minutes of running. I expect to be pretty thoroughly exhausted by the time Sunday rolls around. Then I start the second hard week.

So is it worth it? Absolutely. No way would I have ever pushed myself this hard on my own. The real proof will be when I do my first race, but I’m guessing I’ll be more than ready for it. Between now and then, time to slug it out.

Thanks for reading!

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