You know that saying, "A Rule Thumb is...." I feel like growing up I heard it a lot from parents and teachers as a lesson-learning mechanism for when I made a less than intelligent decision that clearly was obvious to them. At the age of 24 though, I am still making mistakes, but it's kind of on me to patronize myself and say, "Well Sam, a good rule of thumb is to..."
There are some lessons we all learn the hard way. Some of my favorite, and I know my Dad's are: Put things back where they belong, and they won't ever get lost; or think before you speak (that's probably one of his favorites!) Often I have stumbled upon brilliance from bad choices: losing my keys too many times to count or saying something that has me putting my foot in my mouth immediately afterward. The same seems to go for triathlon training....although I wouldn't recommend putting your foot in your mouth...
So for this post, I'm going to share some of, what I think, are good "Rules of Thumb"....which really just gives me an image of being on my bike, in aero, staring at my thumbs on the gears. Triathlon on the brain!
1) Order of Operations: There are many days that I don't have time to break up my workouts and so I find myself doing them back to back. Yesterday I did a 7 mile tempo run and then went off to the pool for a 3,000-something set. Needless to say I was tired afterward. But the order in which I do my workouts is important. Often times I save pool workouts for last or first thing in the morning when I know that I can break up my workouts. I read an interesting article about how when we swim we get more tired because our body is working harder to maintain it's core temperature. And well, let's be honest, when I finish a long set I want nothing more than to take a hot shower and sit in the sauna for a few minutes...not rush off to another workout!
2) Core before Brick: This one is similar to the first; on today's agenda: 60 minute ride w/ high cadence and 25 minute run off the bike. I had a great ride and my run felt like I was barely pounding pavement. I felt so great I actually went for about 35 minutes and told myself I would break for 10 minutes and then do some core exercises. Well, I got through one set of exercises before calling it quits. Lesson learned, when you have an intensity and endurance workout in the same day, do the intensity first!
3) Fuel your Fire: When I first started training I was embarrassed by how much I would eat, and how often. It wasn't until I did some reading that I found that I need close to 3-4,000 calories a day to put back what I worked off. But you can't just put anything in. My body has become very particular to the types of foods. Everyone is going to be different but the underlining point is that as triathletes we need carbs...carbs are our friend! Without them you have no fuel for your fire, and with no fire your workouts will not make you feel like a hot-shot ;)
4) Drink a glass of water right when you wake up. I didn't start doing this until about a few months ago. But if you think about it this way, you have been asleep for 6, 7, maybe even 8 hours, in which you have not had any water (OR FOOD!) so your body is in need of hydration and fuel.
5) Cont'd from 4: ALWAYS eat breakfast! I never used to eat breakfast, especially when I would eat a lot before I went to bed. I'd wake up feeling like everything wasn't digested and my logic was that my body would just use whatever it didn't digest. That's crap. Or if you're one of those people who says your stomach can't handle food early in the morning I really have to ask, who runs your body? Your body needs the nutrients and starving it of that is only going to make it more upset.
7) Lift frequently, 2-3 times a week. But when it comes down to a triathlon based workout or a lift...skip the lift. I can't tell you how much it brings me down to think how much upper body strength I've lost since I stopped consistently lifting. But then I think to myself, there is a gain in this, because I am strengthening the muscles that are going to get me through 140.6 miles
8) Food over supplements. For the past few months I have been heavy on amino acids and protein shakes for recovery. But since training for triathlon I've moved away from this and focused more on whole foods. The first month I would recover by the means I was used to. But let me tell you, after a long endurance workout, a protein shake is not going to cut it! Your body needs whole foods to replace what was lost. So occasional supplements are good but the real thing is always better :)
9) Respect the bed time: Just like when I was younger, I have a bed time. But the difference between the 7-year-old and the 24-year-old me is that I don't put up a fight. After a long day of work and workouts my body is usually dragging me into bed by 9pm. It's almost become an unspoken rule of mine that if I can't get at least 7 hours of sleep the night before there's no way I can honestly expect my body to get up at 4am for a workout. My body works really hard for me, getting extra sleep is the least I can do for it.
10) Don't obsess over workouts. I still struggle with this one occasionally. But if I find myself on the bike at 60 minutes and my "gas tank" is on E, but I have another 15-20 minutes, I call it a day. At that point you're really just spinning your wheels and you want to get the most out of your workout. Don't get me wrong, for those longer rides you want to do your best to stay on for the full 2-and-a-half-hours by means of nutrition and caffeine, but don't sweat the little stuff. You have to be just as present mentally as you are physically to put out a good workout.