A lot of folks talk about the extra 1% that separates the good athletes from the really good athletes. I consider myself a good athlete, not a great one. I've always told folks that I liked triathlon because you could be mediocre in all three disciplines and still be a really good overall triathlete. I'm not a standout runner or swimmer (but I can hold my own...) and I'm CERTAINLY not a standout cyclist, but I really don't have a weak leg when it comes to tri's and I feel like that's a benefit.
So we all generally try to follow the same type of outline/plan and (shocker) since there is no secret workout that will ultimately make you faster, we're all doing the same thing. We're slowly building hours up and making our bodies more durable to the training and acclimating them to be able to handle the crazy workload that we put them thru. After 7 years of long course racing (first season for me was 2005) I've had the consistency piece down, but wanted every single legal advantage that I could over my friends and competition.
Just like life choices, it's not the macro level stuff (that stuff obviously matters) but I'd like to focus on the micro level choices that add up and give you an advantage in the long run. Maybe it's all psychological, but if it helps you when times get rough, then it's A-okay in my books. These are some of the things I've done in the past few years that I'd like to share:
1. I take the stairs every day at work. I work on the third floor of an office in Downtown Rochester and there are some days when I wish I worked on the ground floor. But I made a new years resolution to take the stairs every day at work of 2011 and I'm still going strong. Whether it's to get a soda from the vending machines in the basement at 3pm, whether I have to go out for lunch, do a run, head to a meeting, whatever...I take the stairs.
2. I watch my diet. I'm not a food nazi and I don't count calories (I've been known to house an entire pizza by myself), but if it's a choice between white rice and brown rice, I'm going with brown. I love cookies too and sweets, but I try to keep things in moderation. Those who know me know that coffee and Mountain Dew are staples in my diet, but come race time, I just try to limit my intake of those two vices in an effort to clean up my food intake. Remember garbage in = garbage out. Same thing goes for beer, I'm limiting my intake on that right now and I actually can't remember the last time I had one...which makes me sad, but I know the next one I have will taste sweet as it will likely be directly at the Kona Brew Pub! :o)
3. Core exercises - I try to do about 3 sessions of 10 minutes each per week. It's nothing special, just a bunch of situps, pushups, back extensions, leg raises and planks. I've done this since my high school cross country days and I feel its benefitted me greatly.
4. Sports massage - never done this until recently, can say that I was expecting a LOT more, but nothing comes and can undo a decade worth of damage from not stretching. I went to a guy by the name of Bruce Merla who owns Merla Massage and he's a great guys with a WEALTH of knowledge. It's definitely super pricey to do this and I can see why pro-athletes get this done regularly, but I wouldn't be able to afford food on the table if I went as much as I needed to. It's a trigger point massage and is very deep tissue (which hurts like hell) But I have insanely tight calf muscles and it's recently been causing some plantar fascitis issues in my feet and after going to him one session about a week or two pre IMLP this year, it loosened everything up. I'm trying to get into him again by next Friday and hopefully he can squeeze me in again.
5. Foam rolling/ice/stretching/advil - This was something that I have a really hard time with, but when your partner in crime is injured as well, it helps! :o) We started this routine religiously a month out from IMLP and boy did it keep me loose and I thought it helped a ton. You often forget the benefits of this and I'm the first person to neglect a stretching routine, but MAN can it help you out. Keep at it.
6. Train on the course you are trying to tackle - It might not be feasable for every big race you do, but it helps drastically to know thy course. I can't count how many times I have ridden the bike course for IMLP, or how many miles I've done on the out and back section of River Road for the run course up there. When it came to race day, I knew that course like the back of my hand and I feel like that gave me a little bit of an edge over everyone else. It's my "home course" Ironman and I've been up there pretty much every year since 2005 for numerous training weekends and reconnisance missions. I also have a route that's a 56 miler around Canandaigua Lake that mimicks the elevation of the hills in LP as well that I did all my long rides on prior to race day. It sucks, but it got me where I wanted to go...
Overall it's the culmination of the little things and adapting them to fit your lifestyle. I know that I will never make this crazy triathlon business a career, but I wanted to see how far I could go in this chapter of life and every little advantage helps as everyone is super competitive. That and coming back from a crazy accident with something to prove every time I toed the line was a big help too!
So the point of this is; there are no magic workouts, we're all doing crazy hours, big intervals and training our hardest every single time we get out there. Every little edge can help in such a long day, so look at where you can tweak your life and make those small changes. I guarantee it will help in the long run. Take care friends. Train hard and don't forget to relax too, cheers.