Friday, March 16, 2012

Lessons learned from IM training

(Post trainer ride - the sun finally came up. And yes I know the room is a mess.  I had stuff for the Team Blaze kick off taking up every spare corner of my house.)

Yesterday morning at dark-o thirty as I was riding on my trainer I was reflecting on my training this last week and how generally it stank.  Sure I got in all my workouts but I felt sluggish and I wasn't really sure why.  So in the early morning quiet when every other smart person was still in bed I was changing things up a bit.  Testing some theories and coming to some conclusions. It seems to me this may be the first of many posts about the things that I have learned so far from Ironman training.

1 - Not every double workout should be done as a brick.

At the moment I am doing double or triple workouts on 4 out of 7 days. Now as a lazy person who loves to sleep I always choose to hit the snooze button than to get up early and workout.  As a result the only time left for me to do my workouts is in the afternoon, once school is over and before the kids evening activities begin.  So on all these double workout days I end up doing all my training back to back.  My coach only has me doing specific brick workouts on 1 or 2 days.  So I have been doing run intervals then jumping on the bike and trying to do a hilly ride and wondering why my legs don't have any power in them....duh. My early morning ride and my afternoon hilly interval run yesterday afternoon confirmed my suspicions.  ONLY do your workouts as a brick if that's what your training plan calls for.

2 - Sleep is King

For some weird reason I haven't been sleeping well this week. Lots of stuff going on keeping my head spinning I guess, but it made me realize how major sleep is in the training and recovery cycle.  It is MAJOR. 

3 - Learning to say no.

Do I want to go out to dinner tonight with my friends? Yes, I do.

Do I want to eat something rich and creamy prepared by a chef rather than something boring like salad or vegetables that I cooked myself?  Why, yes...yes, I do.

Do I want to sit around and laugh and drink and stay out late ( for me that's around 9:30pm)? Yes, Yes I really, really do.

Do I think I can do all that and still get up and do 4 hours of training tomorrow after training for 4 hours today?  Um...weeell. Ok. You got me.  No.

I am learning that sometimes saying no is the smart thing to do because it makes your body happy....and a happy body makes for less suffering on long training days.

4 - Training can be a bit of a mental rollercoaster.

Some weeks you finish a training block and you feel strong and fast and awesome.  And sometimes for no apparent reason the next week you can feel slow and weak - as if somehow you have gone backwards. I'm not sure why this happens or what exactly triggers it but the mental side of IM training can really be a rollercoaster ride.  When I have a week like this last one where my training mojo went MIA I just think about completing all my workouts and then starting the next week with a better mental outlook.  I like that Mondays are do-overs.  A new week on my training calendar.....actually its the only thing I like about Mondays really.

Having said that, when I am having a less than stellar training week it helps to remind myself that this is not my career and no-one depends on my performance to survive.  I do this for fun and for the challenge and really I am so very lucky to be in a position to be able to do it at all.  So even the lousy training weeks turn out to be good when you keep it all in perspective.


  1. Oh man. I guess you knew that not every week would be sunshine and roses on your IM journey but still... blah. I was reading my triathlon book and they were talking about just HOW important sleep is to recovery. That's when you get your surge of growth hormones which are apparently key in getting stronger. In fact, they strongly recommend a daily nap on top of a good night's sleep. THAT makes me LOVE triathlon even more! ;)

    Here's to a better week next week! :) Glad you're learning all these lessons relatively early in your journey. :)

  2. I just read your post after writing mine. My husband is wondering why I am having trouble sleeping too. I was up at 3 am and could not fall back asleep so I got up and filed papers that were all over the floor and then had to leave for swim practice at 5:20. Don't forget to take naps before the kids come home from school if you have the luxury. How many of your teammates are doing IM AZ? Talk to you soon. :)

  3. So true on many fronts, especially #4. I've had a week where I'm just going through the motions and then a week where everything goes right and I'm on fire!!! because I remind myself that I've signed up for an Ironman :) Sleep is awesome too!

  4. Very true points! I found as the training went on I had to say "no" to a lot, as well as let the occasional session slide because doing double days as bricks can make things worse - and I also faced tougher training sessions in terms of mental endurance; personally I found those tough sesions/days/weeks are what get you through the IM itself, like a "fortitude chest"...happy ZZZZZzzzzz!!

  5. i need to work on no. 2! all lessons i'm coming to learn, too.

  6. Hi Donna, So good to read your post, I am subscribing to it by email so I get it directly. Thank you for writing this - I feel these training weeks are getting more difficult to fit everything in and staying focused on eating and sleep is so key right now for me too. Early morning 6 am swims seem so hard to get used to, but how else do you fit it all in? I have the same trainer you have and it is stuffed into my front room with my desk and everything else. I feel a bit crazy as I try to sneak in the time on the bike in between the start up "to do's" of my new company. The mental game is tough, yet I like how you say it starts over each Monday - I think that too :) Thanks for sharing - it really helps!

  7. I almost always have trouble sleeping after hard workouts... sucks because that's when one needs sleep the most!

  8. Love your post. Yes, training is a roller coaster - some weeks it's great - others you wonder why you have signed up! And, learning to say "no" and prioritizing is key - all about the managing your time according to your priorities :).