It's always an exciting time to approach the Ironman taper. It is even more exciting when the body and mind are getting more and more itchier to race. The ultimate goal for any athlete approaching taper is to have workouts that are not too damaging that the body can not recover from them but every workout is executed in a way that brings confidence that all will come together perfectly on race day.
Over the past few years, I am continuing to learn the best way (each year) to apply training stress to my body for performance gains with Ironman training/racing. Not too much, just enough is my ultimate goal to keep my body in good health.
I have found through higher intensity training and less volume, I receive greater training stress on a more consistent basis. My mind and body recover quickly and burnout is not even close to my mind. I'm in a really good place physically and mentally for IMWI and I am SO excited to race my 9th Ironman just 12 weeks after racing IM Austria. Although this is my 4th Ironman in the past 14 months, my body feels fresh and my mind is excited to race. This is exactly where I wanted to be when we planned our race schedule back in November 2013.
The approach to training that we use for us and our athletes is not the only way to train for there are many approaches but we find it very effective for many reasons.
However, you have to trust our philosophy to become a believer that endurance athletes do not have train exhausting long distances to prepare for race day. If you constantly think to yourself that you should be doing more or you can do more, than you will find yourself not reaching your full potential. You have to trust the master plan, be willing to be patient and train hard but recover harder.
Here are a few key concepts that athletes must understand and believe in when it comes to the "less is more" approach (whereas we believe it is simply "enough"):
-Sport nutrition must support every workout. If you are going to stay consistent with training, you have to support the body. Therefore, every workout must have a pre training consumed before, a sport drink (in the appropriate concentration) consumed each hour during and a recovery drink/snack following the workout. The during fueling concept is never forgotten during swim workouts and especially not during runs. It is imperative that our athletes bring nutrition (liquid calories - carbs, electrolytes, water) with them during ALL run workouts OR set up aid stations, do out and backs or short loops so nutrition can be consumed and refilled.
-If you train hard you have to recover harder. There is a careful balance of training and recovering. The closer we get to race day, the more emphasis we place on recovery. It is no fun to train or race injured, sick or burnt out.
-We use the word "intensity" a lot when describing our approach to training but a better word should be sustainable max effort. If an athlete let's us help them plan their entire season (which we try to do for all our new and returning athletes) we can better periodized the training so that our athlete peaks appropriately and minimizes risk for burnout and injury. We first focus on getting stronger through strength training to build a strong foundation. We do not do "base" miles or any specific sport "blocks" of training. We then spend time on getting our athlete faster. We do not throw in endurance here with the intensity but instead, have specific workouts that help an athlete get faster in certain areas without overloading the body. I don't know any athlete who doesn't want to get faster and many times I see athletes spend too much time doing long slow miles and then when the body is tired during peak season, they try to throw in speed work on a tired body without and decrease in volume. Finally, when our athletes have their strong fast body to work with, we then increase the volume. This is a beautiful time when our athletes can enjoy the benefits of speed work as they pay off through improved endurance. During this time, the athlete enjoys their hard work as it pays off in more race-focused bricks and there is little need to do long, slow workouts like long bikes and runs. We spend a lot of focus on nailing the pacing strategy on the bike for a strong run off the bike so we do a lot of bricks.
-It's not just about the miles. We rarely use mile-based workout. Most of our workouts are by time so that our athletes understand how much time they should/need to devote to their individual workout and what the focus is within the workout. Which leads me to the next concept.
-Every workout has a purpose. Our athletes build confidence with consistent workouts, not just from one weekly epic workout. Within each workout, we focus on a variety of methods of determining how the workout went in terms of "success" : RPE, watts, paces, effort. We consider how life may affect each workout and we modify workouts based on life. We do not use HR as a training tool, we just monitor the HR as needed.
-Every athlete is different. We all respond to training stress differently and this isn't just from a physical or fitness standpoint. As life changes, so does our training routine and diet and it is important to consider what allows an athlete to progress the easiest rather than making life fit into a training plan.
-The number of weekly hours of training is determined by how much time an athlete has to train. This comes after considering time spent for work, restful sleep, meal planning, family time, social activities, travel, etc. We never sacrifice sleep or healthy eating to put in more training miles/hours.
-Strength training builds a strong athlete. Flexibility work helps keep an athlete healthy. We never spend too much time on either one but instead, enough time to enhance the cardio routine.
-Skills and form override speed and power. If form suffers, our athletes have to slow down or adjust the workout. If skills are not addressed, an athlete is waiting for an injury to happen. We never forget to incorporate form-focused workouts as well as drill/skills work to keep the athlete focused on the little things.
-We have fun. We understand it's a lot to balance and we all have a moment here or there when we question "why" we are doing this. We make sure that the hard work is going somewhere and the training plan is realistic to our athletes goals. We never want training to feel like it is taking over our life but instead find a way to let it be part of our lifestyle.
-And lastly, we inspire others to dream big, set a goal and work hard. There are many negative sides for training for endurance events and low blood sugar, unintentional weight gain/loss, dehydration, extreme fatigue, mood shifts, injuries are often part of the "norm" when it comes to endurance athletes. It is my goal as a coach and dietitian to minimize these issues as much as possible. This training lifestyle is suppose to make us healthy and happy and many times, I find that many workouts are unfocused, unstructured and too extreme for the body to handle and on top of that, a sleep deprived athlete who isn't using sport nutrition properly (or at all) and doesn't make time for healthy daily eating is simply damaging the body and setting the body up for failure. As endurance athletes, we now that we have to put in time to train for long distance events to properly prepare for the upcoming adventure on race day. However, with our dedication and passion for training, it should come from a place of balance and knowing that we are being smart, not only with our training routine but also with how we challenge the body.
On Thursday morning, Karel and I each did our own "speed" workout within our last "long" run. We both ended up doing mile repeaters but a slightly different workout all together. So here you go....take your pick as to which workout you would like to do before your Ironman....that is, if you focus on the key concepts I mentioned above so that you arrive to your taper with a healthy body that is not too damaged or burnt out from your previous training. Train smart!
Total distance: 10 miles
Total time: 1:20 (including rest breaks)
10 min dynamic stretching (mostly hip opener exercises)
20 min run on .5% incline for entire workout (straddle treadmill to stretch out/recover at 9 min and at 18 minutes) - comfortable pace, ~ 6.8-7mph
5 x 40 sec "fast" efforts (around 8.5 mph) w/ 20 sec straddle treadmill - leg openers
Main set (MS):
6 x 1 miles w/ 1 min rest
(I picked a pace of 8mph, ~7:30 min/mile - around 30-45 sec faster than my "dream" IM run, race pace and during my rest, I straddled the treadmill in between each mile to rest - always be careful when you straddle treadmill. I just keep the treadmill running the same pace. I had my music set on iHeart Radio Evolution 101.7 - techno music.
The pace you select should be realistic and maintainable. It will get a bit more difficult mentally and physically around miles 5-6 but that's ok. However, your legs should not be burning and you should not be hating this workout. Find a pace that allows you to visualize yourself in your race, running your perfect race. You have to keep good form and this should be an effort you can realistically maintain for at least 13 miles in a race. If you prefer a longer run/walk strategy, I recommend to stick with the same concept in terms of pace but do only 1/2 miles at a time w/ 30 sec rest in between and then afeter each 1 mile rest for 1 minute.
Keep in mind that the effort you pick is simply a percentage of your IM pace whereas the faster runners may not be running the same pace difference as those who may run slower in an IM. Therefore pick a pace that you may be able to sustain for 13 miles as a good starting place (ex. if you normally run 6:30min/mile for a half marathon you may not realistically run 7:15 min/mile in an IM marathon but it may be doable to do this workout at 7;15 min/miles to benefit from the workout. Consider the effort to be challenging like thanking me that I only gave you 6 of them, really happy that you aren't doing Karel's workout but choose a pace that makes you feel confident that by #4, you can totally do 2 more with your awesome body.
Cool down as needed.
Pre workout nutrition: 1 rice cake +PB + 1/2 large banana sliced + maple syrup + cinnamon + raisins (consumed 60 min before workout) + cup of coffee + glass of water
During workout nutrition: 1 x 24 ounce bottle w/ 160 calories INFINIT ISIS (1 scoop + about 1/2 scoop) + 1 x 24 ounce bottle water
Post workout nutrition (about 40 min post workout): Glass of milk w/ 1 scoop Whey protein (+ water as needed) and handful of granola mixed in, then real meal of 1 egg + 1 egg white scrambled and leftover apple chia pancakes.
Total time: 1:31:38 (including walk/rest breaks)
Warm-up on track:
Dynamic stretching 10 minutes
(Karel had no music to listen to during this workout and no one to pace him or suffer with him)
10 x 1 miles w/ 60 sec rest in between
Rode fixie home (1/2 mile)
During workout nutrition:
1 bottle w/ 2 scoops OSMO hydration
1 bottle w/ 1 scoop Customized INFINIT
Post workout nutrition: 1 serving Clif Bar shot protein recovery powder + milk, then real meal (french toast + eggs and veggies - made by Marni)