Category Archives: Intermediate to Advanced

High RPMs During Rest Intervals

Last year, my coach M2 gave me a set of cycling workouts which changed subtly; knowing that I had progressed many years with him, he knew he could increase their difficulty. The rest intervals now had a small but important change: they would be performed at 100RPM.
Now anyone who has tried to spin at 100 RPMs, even at low wattages, knows that it can be a heart rate raising experience. However, I had trained specifically for this. I had spent weekly sessions for years working on improving my ability to cycle at high RPMs. Given Lance Armstrong’s success at pedaling at high RPMs, I was determined to do the same. For recovery workouts, I use M2’s Pedaling Efficiency workout which is alternating one legged pedaling at 100 RPMs. It became a regular event every week and over a period of months, I could pedal at 100 RPMs through that workout with barely a rise in heart rate, certainly not approaching my lactate threshold heart rate at all.
Throwing 100 RPMs into the rest interval of 30 seconds to 1 minute in between high wattage intervals was scary, but I found that my neural muscular training with that Pedaling Efficiency workout really adapted my nervous system to perform even though the system was tiring. It also meant that in cases where I would raise my effort (ie. sprinting, or passing) that I would not collapse completely after that effort and my RPMs would drop after each of those effort. I could maintain RPMs, shift downward, and maintain my previous speed AND recover energy into my muscles. Before this, I would make the effort and then have to lower RPMs to recover or else my system would just keep rising in effort until I would flame out because I could not recover without the low RPMs. During a race this is really important.
Likewise, I started experimenting with high leg cycle rates in running. I would train weekly on the treadmill and do sessions of super high speed for short intervals. This trained my neuromuscular system to be used to high RPMs and to not easily collapse in the face of heavy or long efforts.
This has manifested itself mainly in hills. You hit the bottom of the hill and attempt to maintain speed up the hill. If the hill is long enough, you may find that by the time you get to the top of the hill you are so tired that you need to slow down your legs’ cycle rate in order to gain some rest. This is bad for your speed! As you crest the hill, you have nothing left to surge and accelerate again.
These days I practice relaxing completely BUT maintaining or increasing the cycle rate of my legs. I try to relax the muscles and rest them from the effort of the hill climb and then rest as I tell my legs to spin faster. It’s amazing that one can train for this; it really helps in not slowing down or collapsing entirely as you crest a hill and then move to the downhill on the other side where you want to keep higher RPMs to keep yourself moving down the hill. Thus, the rest interval happens during the crest and on the downhill.
I attribute this ability to high RPM training on the treadmill, using neuromuscular training intervals to train my nervous system to operate even in conditions of high effort. I also practice this when I’m out during a run through rolling hills; at every crest of a hill, I relax completely to rest but keep my legs’ cycle rate high, or try to even cycle them faster. I don’t want the nerves to stop firing when fatigued; I want to them to keep going even though my muscles are tired.
Again, the value of neuromuscular training is revealed. Whether on the bike or on the run, training your body to rest while maintaining high RPMs is a valuable tactic to being fast.

Intermediate to Advanced: The Different Types of Training

In my interactions with my coach M2, I have learned that there are 6 types of training. These are:
1. Neuro-muscular – training of the nervous system to do something either differently, better, or to some form which maximizes efficiency and minimizes effort. Example: super short high speed treadmill intervals for 15-30 seconds per interval, form focus workouts for swimming.
2. Speed – training that results in being faster. Examples: swimming speed sets, sprinting track workouts for running.
3. Strength – training that results in you being stronger, and to put out more energy at the same effort. Examples: hill climbing in running, hill climbing or more watts on the computrainer in cycling.
4. Endurance – training for the ability to race or produce energy output for some length of time. Example: gradually lengthening the duration of a long run over a period of weeks.
4b. Stamina – I make this a sub-section to endurance, which is the ability to maintain a level of speed/strength for a long period of time. Example: gradually increasing the time of your intervals and reducing your rest periods while maintaining the same wattages during Computrainer bike interval workouts.
5. Recovery – stimulation of blood flow by raising heart rate and circulation but not raising effort to flush the body of exercise by-products and promote healing. Example: cycling on a computrainer at negligible watts, but high RPMs for about 20-30min.
It is somewhat obvious that whenever you go out to train, you’re most likely training more than one of these areas simultaneously. However, I wanted to point out:
1. You can train to focus on only one of these areas.
2. It’s good to have a mix of all 6 areas as you’re building for a race. The mix depends on where you are in your training schedule.
3. You have to be aware that potentially you could be detracting other areas if you’re not focusing on these areas.
Let’s talk about the first point.
Focusing on one thing is possible and many times desirable. Of the 6 training types, I’ve focused on mostly neuro-muscular, strength, and recovery. It’s all based on what you individually need.
For example, over the winter, I did a lot of treadmill training where I’d warmup with track drills, ie. kick backs, skipping, and then started doing 30 min intervals at super high speed, building from 6 MPH to as much as 11 MPH (where the interval drops to 15-20 seconds due to the fact that the treadmill takes too long to accelerate to that speed). By the way, I have not found a gym treadmill that goes faster than 11 MPH, although I have heard that you can actually get treadmills that go that fast. What this achieved for me, is not necessarily the ability to maintain an 11 MPH/5:27 min/mile pace over a race. It does help train my neuromuscular system to fire my muscles quicker so that I get used to running at a higher turnover rate, at paces I can maintain. This results in me being faster simply because my body is accustomed to moving my legs faster.
For strength training, over the last 2 years I started climbing and doing laps on Old La Honda and Kings Mountain. These laps have built up my leg strength considerably and increased their resilience on hill climbs, where I was defeated utterly at Ironman Austria a few years back.
I am also a big user of recovery workouts. I figure out if, for a given workout, I need to back off. If I do need to back off severely, often I’ll do a recovery workout. An example of this is a pedaling efficiency workout involving a lot of high RPM one-legged pedaling drills at minimal wattage. It doesn’t stress my muscles from a power standpoint, but it raises my heart rate and circulation so that blood is flowing through my muscles and the flushing effect helps my recovery so that the next day I’ll be able to perform a normal workout.
Second point: The mix.
Training all in one type means that you’re not gaining the full benefits or reaching your potential for a race. If all you’re doing is sprinting workouts on the bike, you may not be able to last an entire century. If all you’re doing is running at endurance pace every workout, you may find that you aren’t increasing your speed, or you don’t have enough strength to pass someone when you want to.
You need to mix it up and include all types and improve on them all. You can figure out, as I have, where my deficiencies are, and do some focus on improving some areas. But overall, you need to train all 6 types as you build through your season to the big race.
I tend to focus on neuromuscular workouts during the offseason, as they don’t stress my aerobic system and are great for recovery workouts. Then I move from neuromuscular focus as my training season starts to building speed and strength with a lesser endurance emphasis. This is because endurance is easiest to build, but speed and strength take lot more time. As I hit mid-season, I am adding more endurance and stamina into the mix as I try to extend the speed and strength I’ve built up to longer times.
Third point, watch out for what you’re not focusing on and don’t let it slide.
As you’re focusing on certain aspects of training, you have to watch out that you don’t reduce other aspects. An easy example is that as you build endurance, you may find that your form (neuromuscular aspect) gets really messy as you get tired. This is very bad! The trick is to maintain form even when you’re butt tired, and as you focus on building endurance. Otherwise, you could injure yourself through poor form, as your muscles are tiring and you engage other weaker muscles to compensate.
Another example is when you’re supposed to be doing a recovery workout, but yet you feel energized and so you try to push harder and do something with more energy. But then all of a sudden, half way through the workout, you find that you burn through that initial burst of energy which fails you later because you weren’t fully recovered and you don’t have enough stamina to continue. Recovery when you have to and don’t force yourself to do something your body just isn’t OK for.
Yet another example is not gradually increasing your workout intervals to improve stamina. You mentally don’t feel like doing fast intervals beyond a certain point, and thus your stamina never improves. You hit race day and you find that as you try to maintain speed, you can’t and you’re slowing down as you move through the miles.
While training typically involves the simultaneous training of all 6 types of training, I think that there is a lot of benefit to identifying where your personal needs are, and coupled with where you are in your training season, you can focus on specific areas which need improvement and advance them greatly. Categorizing the different types of training really helps in thinking about training and how to race faster.

I2A: Training by Time versus Distance

If you look around training programs, you’ll see that there are two camps for coaches: those that give you training programs by distance, and those that train you by time.
If you don’t know the difference, it simply means that some coaches and/or training programs tell you to train by swimming/cycling/running a certain distance per workout. The theory is, that if you hit a certain amount of distance at the right time and amount, you’ll be able to complete a race. Training by time, in contrast, focuses on being out there and swimming/cycling/running for a certain amount of time and not be concerned about the exact distance covered.
In moving from beginner to intermediate triathlete, I have found some interesting elements to training with either:
1. I started training for my first marathon by training with distance. As a beginner, I think that training by distance is more advantageous to you than training by time. This is because you don’t know exactly how long it will take you to complete a race. WIthout knowing, you may be under-prepared for a race if you trained using a time system geared towards more experienced athletes because more experienced athletes will be able to cover more distance in the same amount of time. By actually going the distance, you can train your body and mind to know how long it will take to complete a race, to prepare it for surviving the distance both mentally and physically, and to know what will happen to your body, joints, and mind for being out there that long. Otherwise, you’ll find out at the race itself and it could be rude shock to your system, which I feel is totally unnecessary if you had prepared sufficiently.
2. Once your experience with racing grows, you get faster, and you start knowing your body better. You can then start moving towards training with time, knowing when you can approximately complete a race. You can just train with quality up to about that time and you’ll be prepared by race time. An example would be when I was training for Ironman Brazil and I would do these 30+ minute hill repeats up Old La Honda, which was only 3.3 miles to the top. I would do enough hill repeats to be out there for 5 hours, but my total distance would only be about 50 miles. But yet this gave me enough fitness and strength to complete the much flatter Ironman Brazil bike course of 112 miles in 6:15.
3. With swimming, I use a combination of distance and time. I swim one 45 min, one 1:30, and one 2 hour workout each week to prepare for Ironman. Each workout varies in distance depending on the workout itself. But I know that in my 2 hour workout, I will cross 4000+ meters which will be sufficient enough to complete the Ironman swim.
4. When training for triathlon, the cross training factor really helps. All the mileage I put in on the bike really translates to fitness on the run. Thus, when I peak for Ironman, I usually am swimming a 4000+ workout, riding a 6 hour ride and do a run of 2:45 in the same week. All that saves me from killing my joints and needing to run 3+ hours, which some training programs tell you to do. In that 2:45, I usually reach a max of 16-17 miles; hardly the 21-24 miles that some training programs tell you to do. But I know that the cross training effects mean raised overall fitness and I don’t have to go the actual distance.
5. Knowing your race times means you can train for that time, and not worry so much about distance. For example, I know that I can ride the 112 miles of Ironman in 6-6:30 hours. Thus, if I ride with quality (not just cruising) for about 6 hours, I know I can complete the 112 miles of a race without actually covering 112 miles in training.
6. By the way, you can’t be cruising in training with time. You need to train with quality and smarts and not just think that if you jog or cruise the time, you’re going to be OK when race time hits. That happened to me during Ironman Austria. Thinking that I could just ride the same rolling hills course to prepare really screwed me when I got to the hills of Austria.
Switching from training with distance to training with time was a real signal to me that I was getting truly familiar with my body and fitness level, and knowing what it takes to train for Ironman without overdoing it and risking injury.

I2A: All About Recovery

If you read the books, you’ll find some info on recovery. They talk about the fact that you should take one day off and work out for six out of seven. On that day off, they recommend that you do absolutely nothing. Then they talk about getting rest during the week, like getting enough sleep at night, and eating after working out to replenish your fuel stores. If you get hurt, they tell you not to do anything until you are healed. After races, you should take about 4 weeks off after an Ironman, and about a week off for other shorter races. Post-race recovery is often described as little or no activity, maybe some active recovery like light cycling, swimming, or jogging. And that’s about it.
In learning about recovery for myself, I’ve found that it’s much more complex than that, and books don’t explain this to you, and neither do many coaches or so-called experts. I’ve found that recovery is a fickle thing, and varies by many factors and even across a race season.
First, I do take one whole day off each week and I don’t do any training on that day. I find that it’s a good thing to rest the body and mind completely. The other days are the usual regimen of doubling up on some days and not on others. I usually like to bike singly, and swim and run on the in-between days. Then on Friday morning, I go for my long run. On Saturday, I go for a swim, long bike, and then do a short brick run after.
But I have found that on really intense, long days, which for me means my usual 4000+ meter swim, and then long bike doing hill repeats upwards of 5 hours total or more, and then I run as fast as possible for about 20-30 minutes after that, sometimes stretching that to an hour, that after these long Saturdays I rest my Sunday, but then on Monday I’m still wiped out. In fact, the intense workout leaves me drained for about 3 days afterwards.
Sunday is complete rest day. Monday mornings I have tried to workout but I can tell I am not recovered because I hit my LT very quickly and cannot maintain long tempo sets. Even on Tuesdays, I still reach LT very quickly and cannot do fast workouts. Instead of panicking, I just go with the flow. On Mondays I sometimes swim a short set, like 1500-2000 meters relatively easy. Then I jog a recovery run on the treadmill, or do a form run. On Tuesdays, I do a low wattage pedaling efficiency workout on the bike trainer, which is varying sets of one legged pedaling. Basically, it’s two days of active recovery as my body gets back to being able to stand higher intensity workouts. By Wednesday, I am ready to do a more usual swim workout of 3000+ meters, and then I usually run track or a long distance tempo run and I’m pretty much back to my old self at that time.
Given my age and my fitness level, this is just the way it is. I’m 41 and I take longer to recover. I am also trying to improve my speed so that requires more intensity. But my body can’t take that kind of intensity without rest. And believe it or not, I am still getting faster despite needing more rest.
I also find that “rest” sometimes doesn’t mean just sitting around, watching TV and doing truly nothing. A lot of people talk about active recovery but don’t give enough talk about how effective it can be. I believe that the other reason why I get faster is because I employ active recovery instead of just sitting around. I believe that active recovery does two things:
1. It gets your blood pumping so that you can flush your system of lactic acid by-products, and get nutrients to muscles that need it. You’ll be amazed at how much better you feel if you are sore the next day after a workout, just by doing a light workout.
2. It trains the neuromuscular system of that particular sport’s movement, which enables you perform a particular athletic movement better. When I do active recovery, I always keep this mind. I do form runs, cycling drills, or swimming drills for active recovery so that I’m not just moving about. I keep the attitude that I am training, even though I am actively recovering. Many people go out for a jog, but don’t really concentrate on this aspect. They just go out but don’t use the time as training time.
Another example: the day after Ironman Half Vineman 70.3, my legs were really sore, and my body ached from the hot race day prior. I didn’t feel all that good, so I went and got on my bicycle trainer and proceeded to do a pedaling efficiency workout. After 30 minutes of that, I got off and noticed that my legs were not sore anymore, and my body definitely felt looser and didn’t ache so much! So that old rule that you should just take off a week after a race isn’t really that accurate. In fact, I would advocate active recovery (if you’re not injured of course) even on the day after a race, and then basically do active recovery workouts until you feel that your aerobic system is back to normal.
I have also found that recovering after Ironman, it is important to keep up your activity or else you fall back in fitness level. Of course, you cannot maintain pre-Ironman levels of intensity and duration. But it is important to do some speed work to keep your muscles primed for that kind of activity. After Ironman Brazil this year, I took my first week and dis active recovery until my muscle soreness went away. Then I started doing some faster speed work, but not fast track workouts or sprinting on the bike or swim. Basically I would get my speed up but cut back on the duration. Whereas previously I could do 2, 3, 4 or higher minute intervals, I would only do 30 seconds per interval and do at least a minute jog or walk recovery. The overall workout I would cap at 30 minutes. By keeping my muscles neuromuscularly stressed but not overstress my muscles and aerobic system, I found that I could gain benefits in active recovery and prevent my body from falling into fitness levels that approached the way I was right after the winter off-season.
In previous years when my Ironman recovery stretched to 4-6 weeks, I had often done almost nothing during those days, following the advice of some books. But as I waited for my aerobic system and body to come back, I found that it was really tough to get back into the racing groove. My body had regressed back to a pre-Build phase state! Definitely not good, if you have races after Ironman!
What other things help my recovery? I eat immediately after the workout, even before taking a bath. Lately I have taken to eating half a cake of tofu and a bowl of rice to replenish my fuel stores after my long swim and ride on Saturdays. This is in addition to drinking down a glass of Endurox, into which I also dump a scoop of Endurolyte powder for electrolyte recovery and a packet of Emergen-C to bolster my immune system. Remember, everything gets stressed after a long workout, and you need to make sure you replenish whatever your body has used up during its long hard effort.
Ice baths are also key in my recovery scheme. More on that in this post, Call Me Mr. Freeze.
I also discovered a supplement which seems to be working really well. It’s called Sportlegs and it seems to nearly completely remove the burn in my legs both during workout and also afterwards. Their claim is that these lactate compounds of common vitamins raise the blood lactate level and tells the body not to make so much lactic acid which is the cause of “burn” in your muscles. I take 3 pills before my long workouts. Then I take 3 more post-workout. During a race, I’ll take 3 before racing, and then 3 every three hours during the race, and of course 3 after the race.
One other word about recovery. I have found that recovery varies by where you are in the race season. For me, as I cross into the second half of my race season, my body has experienced tremendous stress and now I only swim and run twice a week, with sometimes recovery runs and swims earlier in the week coming off the long swim/ride/run Saturdays. But yet, I do not experience a slowdown; I maintain my speed. It only goes to show that you don’t have to train intensely each sport 3-4x a week. You need to listen to your body and give it the proper rest it needs.
The essential message is that you shouldn’t blindly follow training programs. You need to be acutely aware of what your body needs and adjust your training program accordingly. Hammering your body through intense workouts week after week, month after month, could wear on your body over time. Some people can take it, but some cannot. If you’re like me, you need to reduce the number of workouts but not the quality, or else you risk injury. You need to do what your body needs and not stress about following a training program or missing workouts. As a guide, I make sure I do my long bike, swim, and run each week. During the week, I often only do one more intense workout and then the other workout is an active recovery workout.

I2A: Running Off the Bike Training

The books say that you should run off the bike but often it’s only towards the end of the training cycle, right before taper as you peak. Coaches will get you to run after a long bike, but they tend to tell you that a bit of jogging is all you need.
The books also say that you should take it easy until your body recovers from biking legs and switches to running legs, and to be patient about it. So thus you should not worry if you’re just jogging the first mile or so.
These do work somewhat, but I don’t think it’s enough.
In my own experience, I take about 10 minutes to get my running legs back. And naturally, the shorter the course, the better. But running a little bit off the bike during training wasn’t enough to get me speed during the run. At Ironman Brazil, it took me almost a full 30 minutes to get some of my running legs back. It was way too long a time.
In the last 3 Ironmans, I have consistently ran about a 4:51 marathon. But yet my marathon PR was 3:51. I think I should be able to run a 4:30 marathon but yet I cannot. Something else was needed.
I started asking my fast triathlon buddies on how they train for running off the bike. Their comment was that this kind of training can only be done AFTER you’ve put your body in a depleted state. You can’t train by not being tired. The body needs to adapt to switching from biking legs to running legs while super tired. So they go out and ride 80-120 miles and then run as fast as they can for about 3 miles afterwards, just simply to get their neuromuscular systems adapted to moving their legs in a running fashion after a long bike. They also practice getting up to pace as soon as possible after transition, instead of just jogging the first mile or so, waiting for their legs to come back.
Two things going on here:
1. You need to get your neuromuscular systems to switch from biking to running as soon as possible.
2. Research has shown that your best running times are achieved by running faster than you think early on, versus holding back and then running faster later. Almost everyone slows down near the end, and negative splitting makes it harder for you to make up lost time from the early portion of the run. So inevitably, if you start out faster, you’ll have a better time as long as you don’t flame out later but maintain as hard as pace you can as your resources dwindle. So you better go out faster sooner if you want to get a better time.
I started biking long and then running like hell after the bike. I started with a 10 minute run and gradually increased that to a 20 minute run and inserted hills into my run path. How funny was this.
The first time I went out my legs felt like bricks and really floppy. I basically just tried to move my legs as fast as possible and it was really tough. They did not want to move like that at all. I felt like I was pounding the pavement and didn’t have much form at all.
The second and third times got progressively better. As soon as I went out, it was hugely uncomfortable and my legs felt like big floppy duck feet. But according to my GPS, I was doing 7:30-9:00 minute miles. Much better! And I was maintaining strength up and down hills as well.
The fourth time I went out, my legs didn’t feel like bricks but definitely very floppy. Now I was definitely maintaining 7:00-8:30 minute miles but my HR was jumping to LT very fast and I had to walk a bit. My body was adapting to the stress and now my next step is to determine pacing so I don’t flame out.
Like many things, this training was taking time and was HUGELY uncomfortable, but thankfully with no pain. You gotta put up with some discomfort and over the next few weeks you’ll see results. I hope to draw out my after-bike run up to 30 minutes with some hour long runs inserted.

Talking with the Pros and the Super-Fast: What They Don’t Teach You in Triathlon Books

This year at Ironman Brazil, I was fortunate enough to meet both Hillary Biscay and Nina Kraft, two incredibly talented pros on the Ironman circuit. It’s interesting to hear their banter about how they race and how often they race.
For example, Hillary raced 11 Ironmans last year. Incredible! And as a pro and talented athlete, she consistently placed either in the top 10 or just finished plain fast. How can that be? According to literature, it takes about 4 weeks on average for the body to recover from an Ironman. Is that claim false or misunderstood?
Another example: I talked to Nina Kraft. She was ready to hit one of the 101 triathlon series 2 weeks after IM Brazil. At her skill level, she could definitely place high, if not win the race. But to race 2 weeks after IM Brazil? Unheard of.
And then there are my triathlon buddies in the Bay area, one of which came to Brazil. He is also super-fast and races all the time. I asked him how he could race so much, and he replied that most of the races he goes to, he uses as training. So for him, many of these races he races at “low intensity” but against most measures, his race times are phenomenal for “just a training day”.
After my conversations in Brazil, I thought back to snippets of conversations with other people: my super-fast triathlon friends, my coach; readings from triathlon magazines like this pro’s favorite workout or published training programs for “advanced” athletes in magazines in books.
I would hear from my coach who has the unbelievable ability to race within 4 beats of his lactate threshold the whole way and just hold it there, on the hairy edge of flameout but maxing out his race effort in the bid to win. Any book would tell you that you should always keep your heart rate in the aerobic zone. Perhaps this is true, perhaps it is not the whole story…?
And then there are the training programs which show conflicting theories on quality versus quantity. Should you constantly do 6 hour bike rides on the weekends for weeks on end or should you train at high intensity for lower time, and then pop up your ride time length for about 3-4 weeks before tapering for a race? I just read in Running magazine an article about marathon training. They gave 3 training plans. The advanced training plan started at 18 mile runs at the beginning. Wow. That’s flirting with the wall on week one of the training program!
I was missing something. In reading a lot and now researching a lot through conversations, I have found that the story is much more complex. It would be nice to just follow training advice and programs in books forever, but I think that it only can get you so far. I think that the authors have a tough time to write about triathlon and have to equalize the theories so that the general population can benefit from them. But herein lies the problem, where the levelling of the information has also meant that you can’t give a piece of advice which is applicable to everyone, as everybody’s body responds differently to training. So books tend to be great for those starting out and into intermediate levels, but I think they’re not able to deliver specialized, individualized training advice for those who want to go beyond intermediate.
As I enter into my third year of Ironman, and my fifth in triathlon, I feel that I have crossed from beginner to intermediate, and now and touching on advanced. By advanced, I don’t necessarily mean that I have the skills and talent to become pro; I do mean that I am maximizing my potential as a triathlete.
But the crossing from intermediate to advanced is proving to be a mythical ground full of theories and varying bits of knowledge, sometimes contradicting each other. I have decided to blog about my journey from intermediate to advanced in this category called “Intermediate to Advanced” and publish my thoughts and findings.
So in this post, I set the stage because I believe that my background has a huge bearing on how I apply the knowledge I pick up. Here’s where I came from:
I am a big believer that one’s background in sports from their youth has a big effect on their success as a triathlete. In high school, I never played any sports. I studied a lot but did no sports at all. No track. No running or swimming for competition. I did biking for fun but I never trained cycling. When I hit college, I started lifting weights and did some martial arts. After a string of injuries to my knees, I moved from martial art to martial art and ended up in Aikido where I didn’t need to kick at all.
Summer after my freshman year, I did try to run. I actually enjoyed it a lot. However, I stupidly ran with tennis shoes and knew nothing about running form. My knees started to hurt from the stress and pounding and I gave up.
After college, I played team volleyball for a while. But one year, I went up for a block and when I landed, I managed to herniate 3 discs in my spine. That took me out of any sport for about 9 months.
Then when I went to work for Yahoo!, I entered startup mode and basically didn’t do anything but work for many years. I lifted weights inconsistently but that’s about it.
Until 2002, when I joined Team in Training and trained for my first triathlon in Pacific Grove.
Since I did not have a strong background in sports, I did not have the muscular base that others have. I could not believe how hard it was to advance in the 3 disciplines without that base. Lots of hits and misses along the way.
I believe age is certainly a factor in my triathlon success. I started triathlon in 2002 at the age of 37. At this age, you don’t make gains or recover in the same way as when you’re younger. I’ve had to adjust my training for both factors. You always want to get somewhere faster, and you can’t because your body just can’t grow in strength as fast as when you were younger.
Entering into triathlon relatively injury-free has also had an impact. Consider those athletes who have run for years and have really banged up their joints and muscles due to poor form and heel striking. They keep running despite the pain and have caused permanent damage to their bodies. Even though I had some injuries while younger, those have all healed relatively well and allowed me to start triathlon training without pains and problems. That’s not to say I didn’t get injured along the way. But more on this in a later post.
Lastly, I had no natural technique to draw from. In swimming, I did not have a natural feel for the water like some swimmers do, or have natural body position, meaning I’m a butt dragger by nature and it’s not natural for me to lay very horizontal just by lying on the water like other swimmers. My body composition and proportions naturally cause my butt to sink in the water a bit, which slows me down unless I focus on body position while I swim.
In cycling and running, I could not believe how much technique involved both sports. But yet I had no natural ability to draw from. I had to unlearn any old bad habits and learn all new ones.
And I started my triathlon training via a very generalized program with Team In Training. I then attempted to use some generalized programs found on my triathlon club website, as well as purchased through one half ironman race. I coupled that with training programs in some books I bought. All of them got me part way there and allowed me to finish races, but finishing races in pain and suffering was not what I was after. I saw friends and others finishing races as if they were just out having fun, and they still performed much better than I did. I knew there had to be something more. I crossed into intermediate status when I signed up my coach, M2, began a consistent program of physical therapy, researched technique and trained for it, and learned how to listen to my body and adjust my training program to my body’s needs, sometimes changing what my coach prescribed.
So, I started as basically a non-athlete old guy and became one over the space of 5 years. On this topic, many of my posts will probably have the most relevance to also a non-athlete wanting to become an athlete, but I’m sure they will be interesting to more natural athletes as well as those who come with great sports backgrounds. I will concentrate on my observations on moving from intermediate to advanced.