Elephant in the room – Ironman Triathlon & Relationships
[That Elephant reference wasn’t a statement of your partner!]
No doubt many of you have very considerate partners which embrace how you are redefining yourself through the challenge that is the Ironman (or whatever endurance race you are doing). Mine has been wicked. However if your triathlon coach just handed you a training schedules which looks like a maths exam and you are wondering ‘how the hell am I going to do this with a kid on the way’ well here is a few tips.
I’m certainly going to need it with my Deca Ironman! [Dear gf, if you are reading this I swear it was just a post idea that popped in my head!]
For further reading I can recommend this piece in the WSJ – ‘A Workout Ate My Marriage‘
I particularly like the quote “The exercise widow often wakes to an empty bed […] may find dinner plans spoiled by a sudden avoidance of anything heavy before a night run.” & ‘Divorce by Triathlon’ – ‘Lonely wives, husbands and children of triathletes are out there wondering when this insanity is going to end’.
Tip 1: Do the least amount of training for maximum gains in fitness
When preparing for a long distance event – a century ride, Ironman, 100 mile ultra – it is not vital that you go out everyday for a ride/run/swim. Training when time starved is all about quality and consistency, not quantity. If you are riding every day this can often tire you mentally & physically, & rather than just making a routine out of it, it is better to set specific goals for each session.
For example: If you have a dinner, cinema date planned for Wednesday then make sure either on Monday or Tuesday you get out in the evening for a solid 3-4 hour ride; perhaps when the missus is on a girl’s night. Wednesday could perhaps be your swim session and that just means you have to get your lazy ass out of bed before work.
Yes, sometimes it is good to do some back to back days – it builds muscle endurance, your own mental resilience & focus, and importantly those 2-3 rest days you take afterwards will build your body back up much stronger. However work this around your schedule – girlfriend off to the parents for the weekend, well Jim you are cycling to & back from your mates 150miles away. Your Saturday night is ONE cold beer & a movie before crashing out on your mates couch!
If you can’t get your weekly long ride in – off on a weekend away, got your gf mate’s BBQ – well maybe you should double up with a 2 hour ride in the morning pre-work & a 3 hour bonanza after the frustrations at work (you will probably train better after your boss has shouted at you).
I utilize a lot of indoor cycling simply because it means I can get focused sessions and also the convinence of showers etc before rolling into work at 9am. There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck at traffic lights when you have got out of bed at 5:30am and cut short a lads night the night before to get out on the bike.
Interval workouts such as the sessions they have been subjecting me to in Athlete Lab are imperative to improving fitness, power & endurance as part of your midweek program. Of course all of this indoor cycling can be tailored to a workout schedule based on power and watts, pedaling technique (you will be amazed at how many cyclists don’t ‘pull up’ effectively), hill climbing power with your butt in the saddle, using HR to build baseline endurance, drills, periodization, coaching classes etc etc.
Of course there is also the famous FTP test to measure your progress:
Tip 2: Build in recovery & take it seriously
Use a date night as a way of putting adequate recovery days in your training schedule. Even for long distance events such as an Ironman, without rest days you won’t get fitter and inevitably you will become overtrained and your progress with stagnant. You will also risk repetitive strain injuries such as tendinitis and Chondromalacia patellae (which is a fancy way of staying runner’s knee). And as every runner knows once this sets in, you will only get more frustrated as you keep coming back to training too early & after 5km blow your knee, ankle, hip, foot again. Furthermore where training used to be a way of escape, stress relief from day-to-day monotony, you may find it becoming a chore, even boring. Your workouts will also become stale & inevitably your body will few week as it has no time to rec0ver.
So stop being anti-social, take 3-4 days off the bike to rest – and spend some time with the family [please note however their is no shame in escaping the family chaos on Christmas afternoon for a few hours].
Tip 3: Learn to commute to work & use it as a way to train
‘Don’t drive to the gym, bike to the pub!” – unknown
Ok I couldn’t find the right quote – something along the lines of its a sad world when people drive to the gym for a workout. But the point remains the same. Yes the ‘gym’ has some great equipment – weights are a very useful part of any endurance training – but don’t get into the mindset that the gym is some magical location where all the fitness must be done. Yes, it is a great way to focus your sessions but it is not an island of fitness – and anyway you must be sick of commuting on the underground in rush-hour?
That bike/run commute can be an excellent way to build up power – need to take panniers on your old steel bike to fit all those work clothes in? Great, an extra couple of kilos will make your quads burn up those hills [anyone reading this from London will no doubt be thinking of Highgate right now]. You may even want to bring in a bit of competitiveness with other cyclists and challenge yourself to catch them!
Ultimately this is an excellent way to get some training in if your partner absolutely refuses your gym session application that evening – BUT don’t let it be a substitute for focused training also – like to see you pull off a 112mile Ironman bike leg on a 8 mile commuting timetable!
Tip 4: Use racing to train
I have been reading alot about the post-War Italian pro-cyclists and their well-known habit of using the early season races to get into shape. Although riders like the great Coppi soon realised they could gobble up race wins with a bit of effort in the pre-season interval, in the modern office world – and one where you have to use every excuse in the bag to get away from the shackles of domestic bliss – a Saturday with the cycling/running/swimming (not forgetting that bit of the tri!) against some eager competition will substantially improve your race fitness. Notably the excuse of a race in the morning is much better on a Friday night then ‘I should really go for a ride tomorrow’ – trust me.
Tip 5: Get a coach and/or join a club
Having a coach is a great way to focus your short, medium & long term goals and a bit of blunt honesty will stop you kidding yourself on your lack of training progress. Yes I appreciate coaches can be expensive and certainly I would recommend this option only with funds available but if you are committed to your race goals, then this professional (and you must remember these coaches do it for a living) can draw up training blocks which bring you up to peak form at the right time.
Of course in additional to this you absolutely have to join a club. Club members push each other and you will often get better results than going out on your own. Also back at the nest it is much better to say you are off to meet some friends on Saturday morning than ‘I feel like going out by myself for a ride’. Don’t be a loner. Have a bit of stark reality giving to you (as I did last night) and get spanked on a club ride. In the long-term it will help you and you will save a lot of time & money (Only a few clubs rides have brought on months of fitness that I would have achieved in a gym). Who knows you might even make a friend or two.