Thursday, March 30, 2006

Closed Circuit to Todd...

(The rest of you are free to listen in...)

For those of you just joining us, Todd is training for his first ever Sprint triathlon. A "B" race in early June, and his "A" race is the Lifetime Fitness triathlon on July 15th. Todd has informed me that he has hit the proverbial wall.

Coupla things: In my experience, the body has its way of telling you what it needs you to know. It will give you subtle hints, which you should listen to (I'm only learning to), and if you don't listen, it will force you to with an injury or illness. In general, if you find yourself hurt, sick, or totally unenthusiastic about training, it can be your body's way of telling you to slow down. It's likely that you're overtrained. What was your schedule like before you took 2 weeks off? At the end of those two weeks were you really excited to back into it, or were you totally dreading it? Are you having fun, or are experiencing a slowness in your progress that's discouraging you?

It's said (and I believe it) that it's better to be 10% undertrained than 1% overtrained. Especially for a Sprint that's still 3 months away, your goals right now should be general fitness and acclimation to the 3 disciplines. You might look at combining more cross training into your schedule right now - play hoops for an hour instead of that hour run. Instead of a 3 mile run, do just a mile. Ride your bike 3 times this week where you would normally drive (to Target or the grocery store or somewhere else nearby). Always remember that something is better than nothing. Reward yourself for successful workouts - swim just 500 yards, then reward yourself with the hut tub. If you need to mentally "take a break" from training, feel entitled to do that - you have plenty of time right now to reorganize a bit. But try not to physically take a break, even if you're not doing organized triathlon training.

I'm not surprised your run was crap...if you took 2 weeks off, you lost fitness. If you spent any of those two weeks eating hot wings and drinking beer, then your body quickly re-acclimated to some bad but addicting nutrition, and you'll have to re-establish some of your expectations for your body. The good news is, if you were reasonably fit before, you'll come back around really quickly. Be patient with yourself, and take small steps to keep pushing through this - it will pass, I promise (I've been there). See this as a mini-contest within your larger contest. If you keep going, even when it's tough right now, you will feel amazing personal rewards, physically and mentally. If you quit now, then you'll have to make peace with that.

Consider: If a person were to do almost no exercise, it would take about a week of (healthy) nutritional sacrifices to burn 3500 calories - one pound. It takes me about 6 hours on the bike to burn 3500 calories. But to take in 3500 calories would take me about 7 minutes at McDonalds. You're right dude - this is not the easy path. This is the path few take (as evidenced by our national obesity epidemic. Wrap your mind around that for a minute. We have an Epidemic. Of. Obesity.), and it's not meant to be easy. Nothing worthwhile is, you know that. Whenever I drive by McDonalds, I try to think to myself - be part of the solution, not part of the problem. SO much easier to drive through and get a big fat Strawberry shake. So much better to get a Diet Coke. So much better than that to get an ice water.

I am not a machine. The only thing that makes me at all unique here is that I've chosen to do it. Anybody can do this stuff. It just requires time and discipline. So my advice:
Consider your two weeks your vacation. Now school is back in session, but everybody knows that the first few weeks of school nothing much happens. Take it light and slow for the next two weeks. Look for the fun in your training again. Even if you're not entirely excited about it (as long as you're not sick or injured), then keep plugging through this rough patch until you're past it. If your nutrition is out of whack, realign right away - the longer you eat crap, the more addicting it becomes and the harder it is to quit. Most importantly, break your goals here down. If you think "I have to be in great shape for a triathlon", it can feel overwhelming. Think weekly goals - "I want to do x amount of running, x amount on the bike, and x swimming (or whatever - x basketball games, x jumproping, x less hours in front of the tv, whatever). Do whatever you can to achieve those goals, so be realistic with them in the first place. Then make daily goals. "I want to get a good night's sleep tonight." "I want to make sure I get my run in later". Finally, see your day as a series of choices that you alone control. You can wake up and either have Count Chocula for breakfast, or a bowl of oatmeal. You can either drink a Mountain Dew, or have an ice water. You can go for the value meal at lunch, or skip the fries (or better yet, have a salad). You can stay out late all weekend and eat and drink crap (and so your most meaningful training days will suffer), or you can choose to only go out one night, and stay in the other. Whatever it is in your universe, try to make more good decisions than bad decisions. Try and be disciplined. Pretty soon, your systems will be firing again, and you'll have that one great run that will give you confidence and excitement to do it again, or you'll see 2 less pounds on the scale and feel like the work was worth it, and you'll be back on the metaphorical and literal bicycle.

My two cents. Good luck dude. Let me know if you want to work out sometime or if there's anything I can do to help you out.

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