My noticeably, bulkier, upper body (honed from recent strength sessions). Photo-credit: Running KakiHere is an update on my learning, while preparing for a marathon, half-Ironman triathlon, and a full Ironman race in the next four months. Yesterday morning, at an early-breakfast I shared with ultra-marathoner/Ironman finisher, Danny Wan about my progress in running and triathlons. Yesterday's 21km race at Sundown Marathon 2013 was a culmination (thus far) of 8-9 months of preparation. These are some salient observations:
1) Training consistency: Sounds cliched, but regular practice makes for better fitness. I trained about 5-6 days per week, with a compulsory rest day. Recently, I trained twice a day, however with shorter sessions. I may cycle for 60 minutes (AM) and swim (PM: 75-90 minutes class); cycle 2 hours (AM) and run and easy 10km (PM).
2) Rest is training! Rest and sleep are different. You need a day off from physical activity related to your sport. You may do some stretching or balance work, however keep these session short. Sleep at least 7-8 peaceful hours per night.
3) Limit anaerobic sessions to 1-2 per week. Anaerobic sessions - through interval training, hill-work and fartlek - eat into your reserves. Racing is considered anaerobic, so if you race that weekend, it is an anaerobic workout. If you feel knackered, you are probably doing too much high-HR work.
4) Do at least 1-2 session each of aerobic workout for each discipline. Your aerobic heart-rate range should not exceed this formula (180-Age), as prescribed by Dr Phl Maffetone. Maffetone trained Mark Allen to his landmark 1989 Ironman win against Dave Scott. I spent the past 7-8 months on slow runs and rides. This has translated into a leaner and defined body, and speediness on the course. Aerobic sessions teach your body to burn fats better, is less stressful to the body, and reduces injuries. A trained aerobic system supports and sustains your anaerobic efforts; I have experienced this on my last few races.
5) Pace smartly. Keeping near your aerobic pace during racing means your body relies less on sugars (and sports-gels). Yesterday, I raced only on water and electrolytes offered at the aid-stations. If you huff and puff like the Big Bad Wolf, you are probably going too fast for your fitness. Slowing down slightly can help ward off the inevitable fatigue. Go too fast (above your maximum aerobic HR range), and you will pay it back on the back-end.
6) Consume more good fats. I use deep-sea fish oils (Omega-3), coconut oil (extra-virgin) and butter (occasionally) for my energy and recovery needs. I have also begun taking some lard and animal fat (visible) from red meat. Coconut oil is fragrant but has almost no taste, and although it is a saturated fat, it is stable under the high heat of cooking (like extra virgin oil). I consume two teaspoons with my breakfast or whey-protein drink.
7) Breakfast is a critical staple meal. Never train on an empty stomach as it does not spare your glycogen reserves. You need some carbohydrates to activate fat metabolism during training. Reduce your reliance of refined carbohydrates and high-Glycemic Index (GI) foods. Aim to consume low-GI foods, and foods from natural form and sources.
8) Strength training is a must. Do weight-training, Cross-Fit, balance-work and core stability training. These are essential to your success as an endurance athlete or weekend athlete. I do two sessions per week, focused on proper form, controlled speed, and the major muscles/muscle groups. I, currently, use a 12kg kettle-bell as my main weight source, although my home-gym set is my back-up for more variety of exercises. I use a Balance-Disc for my balancing, as well as modified Planks, and ankle-conditioning.
9) Proper Warm-Up & Cool-Down. Although I do not stretch very much, I focus on maintaining muscle balance through specific movements and activities. Your core/strength workouts teach you to activate potentially weak muscles. These include the hamstrings, lower-back, and shoulders.