“Being Excellent at Life”
Triathlete Magazine has got some great advice for training in the off-season. And when I say “great,” I mean “totally doable.” Essentially, they’re letting us know that the off-season is actually NOT for loading up on exorbitant amounts of distance training, which was particularly interesting to me since that’s exactly the training plan I’ve laid out for myself. See, when people say “Who do you train with?” and I say “Just by myself,” I realize that I shouldn’t be saying that with any pride at all. In a shocking twist, I actually have no idea what I’m doing.
Thankfully, Triathlete Magazine tweeted the straight dope, and now I’m back on track to “being excellent at life.” That’s what coach Patrick McCrann of Endurance Nation tells his athletes to do during the off-season. Train harder but shorter, and use the extra time to invest in other areas of your life like (and this is me talking here, not McCrann) perfecting the Hot Toddy, making sugarplum less of a dream and more of a reality, and setting a Christmas Movie Marathon PR (Christmas Vacation, Love Actually, and White Christmas in one night. Where’s my medal?).
Training Naughty: The Coal Approach
I originally set up a standard training plan that increased distance incrementally each week. I started the plan in November, and so now, late in December, the distances are getting longer in all three disciplines. This means each workout is an hour (often more for runs, and often MUCH more for rides) and there are frequently two workouts a day. Normally I’d say, “Who has time for that?” but in the wake of holiday shopping, wrapping, DIY-ing, list-making, baking, packing, and furiously hitting, I’m escalating it to “Who in the HELL has time for that?“
It’s a rigorous schedule for any time of year, but at the holidays, it’s not even really do-able. All I’ve managed to do is not maintain the training schedule, but still adhere faithfully to the rigors of the guilt grind thinking: “You’ll be hating these two hours you spent wrapping gifts in front of Love Actually when you’re forced to stop and walk the last six miles in the Half Ironman.” I’ve even found myself looking at my trip home to visit family as a perfect time to catch up on long workouts by, you know, not spending any time with family. What’s happened to my focus, here?
Training Nice: The Hop-a-long Boots Approach
Rather than just pile on minutes and miles, I should be using the time I have to do speed work. Maxing out effort over shorter time is proven to increase speed and overall performance more than just gutting out endless miles. For one, you’re able to maintain proper form, which is always a plus. Also, getting faster is good, too, so I am told. (It’s not at all lost on me that faster than not-at-all-fast is still not really “fast.” I’m talking about improvement, here, folks. Fast-ER.)
In addition to being better for racing, it’s also better for being a person, too. Tough to believe that one plan can help you be a better athlete AND a better person, but according to Triathlete Magazine, it’s not only possible, it’s the EASIER route. Do I smell another Christmas Miracle? Austin Fit Magazine included a piece this month called The Triathlete’s Gift Guide breaking down gear that’s good for starter athletes and for more advanced athletes, but also suggesting a great gift for triathletes to GIVE: their time. The piece acknowledges that being a triathlete means bagging on late Fridays with co-workers in order to be fresh for Saturday morning shop rides, skipping Sunday brunch with the ladies in favor of a long run, and ducking out of shopping trips that don’t stop at the bike store (or Lululemon).
It’s not that I necessarily think my time is an appropriate gift to anyone else, but I do think it’s important to use as much time as possible to be present (see that?) this holiday season: with friends, with family, and just generally in the moment. So I’m heeding McCrann’s advice by stepping up intensity and ramping down on distance in hopes of being only ever-so-slightly excellent at life. One last thought: He also OKs packing on a few extra pounds.
I’m a success already!