Couch Surfing is NOT a Sport

So you had a great race season.  You trained hard, raced harder and had great results.  You are heading into the off-season, or may be well into it now.   The offseason is typically a time where you don’t have any significant training goals or events planned.  You may lose some focus on your fitness or even stop exercising entirely.

Instead, why not use the off-season to springboard your way into the 2013 season?

Here are some do’s and don’ts to help you recover, and launch into next year:

  • DON’T completely shut down and ride the couch until the flowers bloom.  You’ll lose a big chunk of the fitness you worked so hard to gain during the season!  If you shut down your training from October through January, it will take you until April to get back your base fitness.
  • DO learn a new sport!  If you are in northern climate, consider learning speed skating, cross-country skiing or snowshoeing.  Look into options for winter triathlons that combine some of these sports.  If you live in a warmer environment, you might look at stand-up paddle boarding, trail running or mountain biking.
  • DON’T be a “Christmas Star” – Piling on hours in the pool, and miles on the trainer or treadmill trying to build “base fitness” will burn you out very quickly.
  • DO something different.  The off season is a good time to try a completely new exercise program.  Look at programs at your local gym or YMCA.  Some local park & recreation groups in communities offer fitness programs as well.  Look for a program that will get your heart rate elevated, and have you moving in multiple dimensions.  Think of programs like Zumba, P90X, Pilates, Yoga or TRX
  • DON’T try to extend your normal swim/bike/run workouts from the main part of your season.  You will risk injury, burn out and limit the potential for a break-through 2013 season
  • DO train like a single sport athlete.  The off season is a great time to work on the weaknesses in one sport.  Having problems with your swim speed?  Train like a swimmer.  Is your run holding you back? Train like a runner.  In both cases, focus on form and drills more than endurance.
  • DON’T ignore any nagging injuries you may have from the racing season.  You need to take active action to heal and recover.
  • DO make friends with your foam roller, Trigger Point massage rollers, or other recovery equipment.
  • DON’T obsess about the data.  Stop scrutinizing your heart rate, caloric burn, pace and power.  If you simply like recording the data, that’s ok just don’t over analyze it.
  • DO spend time in the gym.  Focus on building a strong foundation for next year.  Build strength and power, but not muscular endurance.

Have fun with your fitness this off season, and you’ll come out of the dark & cold, stronger, healthier and ready to take on the world!


Running Scared

We all go into our races with some sort of goal.  Whether it is just to finish, to set a personal best, or to qualify for a prestigious event, endurance athletes seem to be hardwired for goal seeking.  We train for the goal, write it down, tell our friends or sometimes, just keep it to our selves.  But it’s there in our head, and usually at the forefront of our mind on race day.

Then there comes a point in the race where the we will question our ability to hit that goal.  I’m sure it happens to you, just as it happened to me at the Philadelphia marathon last week.  I knew I had the training for a personal best, and had trained with a goal time in mind.  When the weather began to cooperate, I began to really believe I could set a PR and possibly a stretch goal 5 minutes faster.  As the race progressed I focused on each mile, tried to stay loose and smooth, and maintain my fueling and hydration strategy.

Then around the 20 mile mark, I hit the point where fear took over.  I knew that I was not going to be able to hit my stretch goal, and a PR would require me to maintain a pretty aggressive pace.  I was hurting, but I was moving, yet the fear of having to hurt that much, or even more through the end of the race was daunting.

Facing our fears is a big part of why we all do these events.  We know that at some point that we will hurt and have to push through that discomfort to reach our goal.  Doing so is about facing the fear of the pain, and pushing back.

The fear is always much bigger than the reality.  You know it when you sign up for the race, but it seems to grow with each passing mile until you face it and push through it.  It doesn’t take a huge mental effort, tribal scream or some personal mantra to overcome the fear, (though these can help).  Sometimes it’s simply recognizing the fear, acknowledging it and bringing it along for the ride.

So at mile 20, the fear rose up and asked me a question.  It told me that there was no way I could reach my stretch goal, so what was the point of pushing on in pain.  I could give up, jog/walk the last 10k and finish, or I could keep my pace, pick up the last 5k and get a PR.

The fear lies to us and steals our dreams.  It’s up to us to pull back the curtain and reveal it’s insignificance.

I decided to own the fear, and the pain.  I decided it wasn’t “all that” and I wanted the PR more than I wanted to slow down.   And as I made that decision, I knew that that hurt wasn’t going to get worse, that striding out a bit and picking up the pace was going to get me to the finish faster, the fear began to shrink and the pain wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the fear had made it out to be.

I ended the race completely spent, but very happy with an 8 min PR.  And the fear was left standing along Boathouse row, dropped like a sack of rocks.