Monday, March 26, 2007

I can see it in my head . . . .

I used to be one of those people who didn't get the idea of an elite athlete spending so much time and money on the idea of visualization.

I've read the magazines, training books and web sites, but it all seemed a little to new agey touchy feely for me.

Picture your goal, imagine yourself achieving this goal blah blah blah. . . why don't we light some incense while we are at it!

Now that I think of it, I guess to some extent, I've always done this sort of visualization automatically. I've just never quite realized what I was doing.

So yesterday, fresh off of skimming a section on visualization in one of Joe Friels books, I was about 1/2 way through the 12km run of by 4hr brick. The body was hurting a bit, and I had obviously misjudged my nutrution a little as well. Not dying, just not having too much fun.

I decided to give the visualization thing a go. I started to think about what my ideal outcome of one of the races I am going to compete in this year would be. I mentally started on the swim start, and carried through to the run. I ended up finding myself racing a fellow competitor for an AG victory, and winning.

Now, I often daydream while running but this was a deliberate mental activity on my part. By the time I reached the end of my mental race, I started to realize what was happening in my body.

All the concerns that were building in my head were gone. The legs were feeling great, the tummy was a non issue. I felt awesome. Not too mention that I had just completed two sub 4 minute kms as well. I was able to maintain that momentum for the rest of the run.

The weirdest thing was that I actually found myself acting like I was racing. The adrenaline was up, and the thrill was there as well. Not just out for another long training session.

Now, I don't know how often this sort of thing will work for me, but I now realize what sort of benefit it can have.

You still won't find me in any YOGA class anytime soon, or humming some sort of mantra, but I do have a bit more respect for what the brain can do!

By Syd Trefiak

Saturday, March 24, 2007

The March BLAH's!!!!

This is probably my least favourite time of the year. Yeah, it is nice that spring is coming and the snow is melting, but I always seem to get the blahs.

It is still too cold to go outside in shorts and a T , which means an extensive amount of time is required just to get prepared for any run or ride. How many layers do I need out there. Is it too cold to bike? Can I get away with just a hat or do I need the beeny as well. Will a bike ride today require hours of cleaning afterwards? exetera. . .

I also get a little tired of just training. The motivation takes a bit of a hit. It is still two months until the first du and almost 3 until the first tri. Add that to putting a lot of work in over the winter to keep yourself motivated and your tank starts running on empty. I could do the comentary for the Spinerval videos with the sound of, and I've caught up on all the movies from the video store that I have been wanting to see.

Sure I know the nice weather is probably only a month or less away, but it still sucks. I think my vitamin D must be lacking or something. Not enough sunlight.

Oh well, maybe in a few weeks things will warm up some more. Once April hits it will only be a month until the first race and I can start using the 'pit of doubt' to fuel me at that point.

It just always seems that March sucks the most!!


Monday, March 12, 2007

The Importance of the Taper

The taper is probably one of the most important, and often overlooked, parts of any training program. However, a well put together and effective taper can make a huge difference on race day.

The taper is the period of reduced training volume before a major race. This period allows the body to fully recover (without losing fitness), so that maximum performance can be achieved during an important race. One of the biggest mistakes triathletes make when tapering is to continue doing long/slow distance work while removing all moderate to high intensity workouts. What should happen is that over a 2 to 3 week period your volume should be reduced and intensity workouts should be maintained. Due to large reduction in volume during this period, higher intensity efforts will be short in length, and performed less often.
The part of the taper that I find most frustrating is the sluggish/lethargic feeling you can get during this period. Mentally your body is telling you that you are loosing fitness. In reality this is your body adjusting to the changes you are making in your training. Often athletes are tempted to �test themselves� and end up pushing harder and longer than their plan indicates. This is where the mental discipline comes in. You need to constantly confirm for yourself that this is what needs to happen for a peak performance during the race. There is a large amount of research on the subject proving the benefits.
Depending on the importance of a race, and phase of your training program etc., a taper will usually last for between 4 days and 4 weeks. A taper of 3 to 4 weeks is normal for an Iron distance event. A good rule of thumb with an Ironman taper is to reduce the volume of your Ironman schedule by 20% each week, starting 4 weeks out from the race. This will mean that in the week before the race, you are only performing 20% of your biggest volume week. Resist the temptation to do more, and don�t fill up the extra time with other physical activity.

The theory behind the taper is that it takes your body at least 2 weeks to gain the full benefit from any training you have done. So by the last two weeks before the race, your major focus should be to allow the body to fully recover and build up energy stores for you�re A race. The training you do during your taper to keep your fast twitch muscles (which get recruited nearing the end of an Ironman when your slow twitch fibres fatigue).

Another mistake that is quite common is that an athlete will take a rest day the day before the race. Take your rest day 2-3 days before that race (possibly on a travel day for an Ironman). On the day before the Ironman complete short/easy workouts in all 3 disciplines with some short sprints to keep those fast twitch muscles firing.

In shorter distance races(sprint/Olympic) athletes sometimes respond better to a more abrupt taper (60-90% in the last week). It is important at these distances to test out your taper at a minor race prior to you�re a race. Each athlete will respond differently.
If possible always test out any changes to your strategy (taper, nutrition) prior to implementing it at an A race. For Ironman distance competitors it may be feasible to test a shorter taper at a 70.3 (1/2 IM) event earlier in the season.

Best of luck training!

Mujika, Padilla, Pyne and Busso. Physiological changes associated with the pre-event taper in athletes. Sports Med. 34(13):901-927, 2004.
Mujika and Padilla. Scientific bases for pre-competition tapering strategies. Med. Sci. Sports Exercise 35(7):1182-1187, 2003.