And 30 seconds… thanks to the nice ticker on the front page of the Toronto Marathon site, I can countdown the seconds to the big race! I have set my goal at 3:10, which will qualify me for Boston!

Over the past few weeks, I’ve put in my longs runs (up to 35km two weeks ago), but I am worried that I haven’t run enough shorter ones to have me in peak form. At this point though, there’s not much I can do about it. A couple more shorter runs this week to keep the legs loose, and then it’s race day!! Should be an experience!

6 days, 11 hours and 6 minutes and 15 seconds… the countdown continues.

How Am I Going To Find Time to Train?

Wow – I can’t believe it’s been 10 days already since my last post!! Here I promised I would write more!! One of the reason’s I haven’t written is beacuse I haven’t had much time for training lately! I was away last weekend, watching my beloved Maple Leafs in Pittsburgh, and didn’t get back until Monday night. Then Tuesday night was “jam night” with my “band”, out Wednesday night, and next thing you know, the week is almost over!!

I have managed to pick it up in the last couple days though. Squeezed in a quick little 5km run on Wednesday night, got on the bike for 40 minutes last night, and just got back from a good session in the pool!! But I’ve decided that if I’m really going to make this half-Ironman thing happen, I need a more organized training plan. So this afternoon I’m going to try to lay one out for the next few weeks. However, my biggest challenge is going to be fitting in training with all the other fun things that I like to do!!

I think this is a problem that just about every non-professional or part-time athlete struggles with – how do you make time to train with all of life’s other demands? I find it hard enough – and I live in a low-maintenance condo and don’t have kids to worry about! I don’t know how some people do it!!

For me, another difficulty is that I have had such a varying schedule lately. I’ve had late nights at work, social commitments on different evenings, weekends away – it’s tough to give that stuff up!! So it’s been especially hard for me to stick to a regular schedule!

I’ve been fighting this by forcing myself to squeeze in my workouts where possible – like my 5km run on Wednesday or my hard 40 minutes on the bike last night. I’m hoping that all these little workouts here and there will add up to have me in shape for triathlon season this summer!!! I guess we’ll see in a couple months!!

Learning to Swim… All Over Again

Wow – I wish I had never learned to swim when I was younger! I have realized that I do not have a stroke built for speed… and it’s damn hard to change it now!! In the last two weeks, I finally decided that it’s time to get a little more serious about these triathlon things. Step 1 is to figure out how to swim properly!!! Last year, I’d leave the swim gasping for breath, not to mention that I’d have been passed by the second wave of swimmers while I was struggling along, wishing the whole time that it’d be just be over and I could get on the bike!!!

So about a month ago, a friend of mine loaned me a book on how to swim effectively – Total Immersion by Terry Laughlin. “The Revolutionary Way to Swim Better, Faster, and Easier“. Come on, I can get that from a book? I must say, I was a little skeptical at first. But I finally sat down on the weekend, read through this book, and WHAM! What was I thinking? I was doing so many things so ineffectively!!! Dragging my legs, lifting my head as I breathe, using my arms and not my hips, taking too many strokes per length… the list goes on and on!!!

So on Saturday, I had my first real “swim practice“. No more just hopping in the pool and churning out inefficient, unproductive laps. I focused on drills (I’ll admit – I had never done “drills” before in the pool). One of the first things I am working on is balancing in the water. Who’d ever have thought you’d need to balance while swimming? But it’s true – you just press your chest down, and it magically pops up your hips!! It’s pretty cool, actually, when you get it!! As the author of Total Immersion describes, it gives you the feeling of “swimming downhill” – and it makes moving through the water that much easier!! In two practices, I’ve gone from about 27 or more strokes per length to about 21 or 22. I’m hoping to have that consistently under 20 in a couple of weeks and a few more practices!!

Despite the progress I have made, tonight’s swim was a little disappointing… I spent some time going through the basics again, then started on the next step, balancing and rotating onto your side while taking a stroke. This was tougher than I thought – I still lift my head and sink once I start moving my arms and try to take a breath!!! But at least now I know what I’m doing wrong, and hopefully in the next few weeks I can work to correct it!

Triathlon season starts Saturday, June 4th, and by then I hope to be a lean, mean, EFFICIENT swimming machine!! I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going!!

Train Smarter, Not Longer

Today a friend sent me a link to an interesting article by Michael McCormack, a triathlon coach and former Ironman champion. In it, he points out that “time-consuming long slow distance (training) will produce a long and slow race”. He goes on to state that speed and strength work not only helps you to race faster, but also builds endurance. So, if you’re looking to improve your race times, training for speed and power is a great way to get in shape and shave off those precious seconds.

One of the statements made that I find particularly interesting is “Your body will only do what it has been trained to do”. If you never train to be fast, you can’t expect to be at the front of the pack come race day.
Over the next couple months, I’d like to improve my race speed. So I’m trying to vary my workouts between endurance building and speed training sessions. For example, I might do a long “brick” workout, where I bike 25km and immediately follow that with a 5km run. For me, I’d consider this an endurance workout, since I’m not up to the Ironman or half-Ironman distances yet.

For my next workout, I’ll take a short bike ride to the track, to run some 400m sprints. Sprint a lap, take a rest, sprint a lap, take a rest. This sort of workout is great for training speed – if I can’t run 400m at sub 4:00/km pace, then I can’t really expect to run 5km at that pace, can I? But this type of workout also helps to build my endurance. If I do 10 laps, I’m running 4km – at a good pace. Considering that most of the Sprint Triathlon’s I’m considering entering only have a 5km run, these sort of workouts are great preparation for my race (or at least I’m telling myself that).

Back in my football playing days, we used a similar program in our summer training. Here we were much more speed and power focused. However, playing wide receiver meant that we put on a lot of miles over the course of a game. So we also needed that endurance base for the fourth quarter.

We had a sprint workout that consisted of 2 sets of 50 yard sprints. The goal was to keep each one under 7 seconds. We started with 2 sets of 5, and over the summer, worked up to 2 sets of 25. That’s equivalent to sprinting approximately 2.5km, which apparently is how much we’d run in the typical game (I think we used to get about 60 plays a game on offence, so 2 sets of 25 was pretty good preparation for two halves of football).

I’m going to continue trying to work these speed workouts into my triathlon preparation! Hopefully I see some good results! I’ll keep you posted over the next couple months!

My Triathlon Training Begins!

First of all, I have a question – how do people find the time to blog everyday? I’ve been trying to post at least once a week, but it seems that I have two problems:

  1. Lack of material.
    Some days I just don’t have anything all that interesting to write.
  2. Lack of time.
    There’s only so many hours in a day. I’ve finally got going again on Podium Fitness Solutions. I’m in the process of designing my first product. I’m hoping to have the first release ready by the fall. I’ve also started trying to get myself back into shape, and have been working out more frequently.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way, on to my real post. I’m finally going to take my own advice, and have decided to enter the Peterborough Sprint Duathlon in two weeks. Now, I still haven’t actually signed up, but I promise to do that by the end of this week! I’ll be sure to post when I do!

For those of you who don’t know, a duathlon is similar to a triathlon, but without the swimming part. Typically, a duathlon race consists of a short run, followed by a good bike ride, then another run, a little longer than the first one. I’m entering the “Sprint” duathlon, which is much shorter than the “1/2 Ironman Duathlon” that is also being run in Peterborough. Here’s how the distances break down for my race:

  • Run #1: 2km
  • Bike: 20km
  • Run #2: 5km

This will be my first duathlon, and I’m not really sure of what I should be doing to train. I think that the biggest mistake I made in my half-marathon preparation last year was not getting in enough distance. I did a lot of short, quick runs, but didn’t have the endurance to get through 21km. I never actually tried running 21km before the race, and consequently, hit the wall about 15km in. So, this year, I’m trying to increase the length of my training runs/rides (you can read about my 83km bike ride here), to make sure I can handle the distance.

Since I only made up my mind to race last week, I’m a little short on time to really get ready. I’ve been running and riding off and on, but now only have two more weeks to get into “race shape”. From what I’ve read, triathlon training involves a lot of “brick” workouts. A “brick” workout is where you do two exercises back to back, similar to a race. So I might swim then bike (when I start training for a tri), or bike then run.

The “brick” workouts help with what I’ve heard is the hardest part of a duathlon – finding your running legs after the bike ride. So it’s definitely important that I practice running after biking. I did my first brick workout on Thursday last week – 15km on the bike, immediately followed by 10 laps around the track (4km). The first 1km of the run is tough – it really is a very strange feeling to immediately start running after over half an hour of pedaling!

Because my race is now less than two weeks away, I’m going to try to get in at least five good hard training sessions this week, then ease off next week so I’m fresh come race day. I did a 5km run last night. Man, was it hot outside! You know when you open the oven door and get blasted by heat? Well, I felt like I was running into that heat blast the whole time!

I followed up last night’s relatively short run with another brick workout tonight. 19km on the bike followed by a 5km run. I ran the same route that I did last night, and was about two and a half minutes slower. That was about what I expected, but I’m hoping that I’ll be a little faster come race day. At least that was very close to the race distance. I’m going to take tomorrow off to rest (maybe I’ll get into the gym for some weights, but I’m doubtful), then try another brick workout on Thursday. I’m going to try to do some running speed work on Friday, take Saturday off, and get in another good long brick workout on Sunday. Then I’ll ease off a little next week. Hopefully I’ll be ready come July 10th!

I’m going to set some goals for myself for this race. I’ll post them in the next couple days, so if you’re interested, check back soon!

P.S. – If anyone out there has any triathlon/duathlon training tips for me, I’d love to hear them, so post a comment!!

One of my fitness goals this summer is to compete in my first triathlon. For a while, I was flirting with the idea of a trying a full marathon, but I can’t bring myself to take that plunge! The half-marathon I ran last year seemed plenty long enough!

I’m also lucky enough to have a few friends also getting into tris. This gives me some people to get advice from and train with. Of course, come race day, I’m sure there will also be a little “friendly competition” between us!

Last Sunday afternoon, my friend Blair, who did his first “Try-A-Tri” a couple weeks ago, decided to stop by for a little bike ride while our girlfriends were off attending baby and bridal showers (thankfully we don’t have to do that stuff)! Our original plan was to bike the 25km course used in Victoria’s Duathlon in Waterloo. Since I don’t yet own a bike rack for my car, we somehow convinced ourselves that it was not insane for us to bike there, ride the course, then bike back home. We chose a route that would keep us out of the city, and guessed that it would probably be about 75km, round trip.

Now, I just got my bike last fall, and rode it exactly one time before the snow came. This year, the longest ride I had done was about 25km with a couple other friends. Needless to say, this ride was going to be quite the challenge! I haven’t been pushing myself too hard in my training yet, so I thought that a nice long bike ride would be a good way to really get into it!

We set off around 2pm, on a hot, humid afternoon. Fortunately, the sky was overcast, and we even got a nice refreshing light rain over the first hour. We kept the pace fairly easy at first, took a short water break after half an hour, and managed to get to the start of the course by 3pm.
Once we made it to the start of the course, we got off the bikes for a few minutes. Luckily for us, the park we stopped at had a lively cricket match in progress, so we even had a little entertainment while we rested and had our PowerGels! After a few minutes to catch our breath, the real fun began.

Cycling001Since the next part of our ride was used for a recent race, we wanted to push ourselves to see how our times would be. Until last weekend, I really had no idea how fast (or slow) I was on the bike. Blair had warned me that there were three large hills on the first part of the course, but the second half would be fairly smooth. Well, it seemed to me like he forgot about a lot of hills on the back part of that course! About halfway through, I was dying climbing a long, slow hill. Blair must have got a good kilometre ahead of me. Then my chain came off – which I actually didn’t mind, because it meant I got to get off the bike and ease the burning in my legs for a minute. Blair was so far ahead that he had lost sight of me, and so he stopped and waited a couple minutes for me to catch up. We managed to finish the course in about 52 minutes. If you’re curious, check out the results from this year’s duathlon to see how we’d stack up! Did you check? I did – I think I’m going to have to put in some serious miles on the bike to get ready for these triathlon things!

After the course, I was pretty exhausted, and thirsty. I had managed to empty my water bottle by the halfway point. Thankfully, the friendly cricketers had a large 10 litre jug handy, and kindly let us refill our bottles with some nice cold water! At this point, I was about ready to call a cab, throw our bikes in the trunk, and get a ride home! But I couldn’t let Blair know that, so we set off again for the 23km journey home. With about 15km to go, Blair broke a spoke on his front tire. I didn’t realize it, but when we got home, he showed me the result – his tire was warped, enough that it would rub the brake pads with every turn! I thought he was taking it easy on me, but man, I definitely would have been calling that cab if I had been trying to ride like that!! He was basically riding with the brakes on the whole way home!

We made it home shortly after 6pm. My legs felt like jello. I don’t even want to think about those guys in Ironman Triathlons that bike twice that distance, then run a full marathon (and all that after a nice long swim)! So what’s the point of my story? Well, I thought I’d share a few of the things I did to help survive an extend period of exercise:

1. Eat well before! I knew we were going to have a big ride, so had a good sized plate of pasta to load up on the carbs for lunch, a couple hours before we took off. Many marathons now hold “carb-loading” parties the night before, where they serve up huge amouts of pasta to get everyone the energy they’ll need for the race!

2. Hydrate! Probably the most important thing. I drink a lot of water normally, but made sure to get lots into me the morning before our ride, especially since it was hot and humid outside. We also took along a lot of water, and even filled our bottles a couple times. Staying well hydrated is important if you want to finish, not to mention that severe dehydration can have some pretty bad effects!

3. Take breaks! Don’t be afraid to stop and take a break. This was my first long ride. I didn’t expect to do three hours on the bike without stopping. We had a total of four stops, where we got off the bike, got some fluids and carbs (and a little grease), and stretched our legs. After our little breaks, I felt a lot better, and ready to ride some more.

4. McDonald’s! Ok, ok. Not good advice here. But on the way home, we were passing by the big M, and chocolate sundaes seemed like a really good idea after over three hours on the road. While Blair was in getting the sundaes, I was dreaming of some nice greasy fries too. Well, he read my mind, because he came out with two sundaes and two medium fries! I don’t think McDonald’s has ever tasted that good! (Now, that’s not recommended, but we figured that if there was ever a time you deserve McDonald’s, it’s after 3 hours of biking).

5. Stretch! One of the biggest things I learned during my football career was the importance of stretching after exercise. “Ice and stretch, ice and stretch”. Sometimes I think that’s all our trainers knew how to say! But it really works – stretching for 10 or 15 minutes after a good workout like that can really help keep the soreness away!

Well, thanks for reading. If you have any tips for surviving extended periods of exercise, feel free to pass them on to me! Maybe some of you Iromman tri-athletes can share your secrets with me!

Getting Started – It Hurts!

Here’s a little secret I thought I’d share – I didn’t go to the gym or get much exercise at all from December until last week! I think it pretty much the longest period of inactivity I’d ever had!

Since my blog is about exercise and working out, and I even wrote an article about how to get started working out, I thought I’d better get back into the gym. Finally, last Monday, I went in for my first weightlifting session in 5 months. I stopped to weigh myself, and to my shock, found that I’d put on about 8 pounds since Christmas!! I was surprised, and scared, since in the past, I’ve never put on weight without a lot of effort (back in my football playing days I was actually trying to add some pounds, not lose them).

Anyway, I thought I’d get back into things with an overall, full-body workout. Here’s what I had in mind:

  1. Squats: 3 sets – 12, 10, 8
  2. Bench Press: 3 sets – 12, 10, 8
  3. Lat Pulldowns: 3 sets – 12, 10, 8
  4. Shoulder Press: 3 sets – 12, 10, 8
  5. Crunches: 2 sets – 25 each

So how did it go? Well, around the second set of shoulder press, I got dizzy, and felt like I was about to throw up! At that point, I decided to call it a night and head home. But it didn’t get any better. The three sets of squats had me limping around all week! I was particularly sore on Wednesday and Thursday.

This dull, aching pain was not really new for me, though it was pretty bad. I think it’s probably a sign that I’m not 21 anymore! But even in the past, I’ve always found the first week of getting back in the gym hurts a little!

If you’re just getting started working out, don’t give up if you’re really, really sore after the first couple workouts. From my experience and from talking with others, the first week is bad, but it gets better if you stick with it.

I managed to make it through two more workouts last week (Wednesday – upper body, Thursday – lower body), and then went again this Monday. So far this week, I feel much, much better than last week! So when you get those sore, aching muscles after your first workout, try to stick with it – in a couple weeks you’ll be feeling great after your workouts, and looking forward to the next one!