To Train or Not to Train?
To train or not to train is a question every athlete will ask at some point when faced with a cold or the flu. Considering most athletes are very motivated there can be a lot of background conversations in their heads and guilt about losing fitness or being lazy. Sometimes it is okay to keep training with a lighter load or less intensity and other times it may be best to simply take a few days off.
Are you training for a particular event? Is that event soon or do you have some months until your event?
If you have some months until your event, take the time you need to get better. Taking a couple of days off from training won’t impact your overall goal. What will impact your overall goal is not taking the time you need now and losing a lot more training time when you develop a secondary infection such as bronchitis, a sinus infection or even pneumonia.
Even if you are close to your event, it may be better to take a few days off instead of continuing to push. It is common to get sick in the weeks leading up to an event as usually the training load is higher than usual and the body is under more stress than usual making it very susceptible to bugs. Make sure that you are taking the appropriate time now to rest to recover so that the illness does not linger and cause you to lose even more training. Remember, it’s always better to come into an event a little under trained rather than taking a ride on the struggle bus to the start line.
The general rule is that if you are feeling a cold in your neck up (stuffed up nose, headache, sore throat, sneezing), it’s fine to train if you are feeling up to it. You may find that a workout will loosen up the crud and give you a bit of a boost mentally and physically. Start with a short easy workout and see how you feel. This is not the time to be caught up or feel guilty for not hitting a certain mileage, pace, or effort level. If you had a particular workout planned, scrap that and instead aim for an easy general aerobic workout. Your body is already working hard and we don’t want to stress it more by trying to hit a particular pace or effort.
If you are feeling that your chest is tight and constricted, if you have a productive cough or if you are running a fever and/or feel achy, please bag training for the day and try and get some more rest if you can. A fever, in particular, indicates that your body is trying to fight off an infection. Adding more stress (and that’s just what training is) at that time isn’t going to help anything! Wait until a fever breaks and then access how you are feeling.
We know skipping work is not as easy as skipping training and thus there is the need sometimes for over-the-counter decongestants, fever reducers and pain relievers such as Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. It is fine to use these if you need to get through your day, but do not let the fact that you feel better on them fool you into thinking you are well enough to do your workout. If you are taking any type of medication to keep a fever down or feel better, make sure to really think about if it is smart to do a workout and will there really be any benefit? The answer, of course, is no.
Feed a Cold, Starve a Fever
This old saying isn’t speaking to an athlete! Remember to stay hydrated and make sure you are eating appropriately. Your appetite may be off (particularly if you’ve been running a fever) and things might not taste all that great. Hey, it’s another indication that you are sick! Making sure you are getting proper nutrition can only help your recovery and getting back to training.
Unfortunately, getting sick is a part of being human. The average adult gets a cold at least 1-2 times a year and for those with kids, who travel a lot or are prone to getting run down can expect more frequent bouts of illness.
The goal is to avoid getting sick as much as we can and recover as quickly as we can when we do. Hopefully this will lead to the least amount of interruption in your training and life as possible. Good nutrition and enough of it, quality sleep, frequent handwashing are all things that can help avoid illness.
Once you feel a cold coming on or there are a few things you can do to feel better. Some have more science behind them than others and some have better anecdotal or placebo effect but either way, if it works for you to feel better give it a try.
If you’ve had a cold, you can expect symptoms to ease after 2-3 days. You may still have lingering congestion and coughing for 1 - 2 weeks. Let your energy level and congestion dictate a return to activities. If your sleep is still disrupted for whatever reason, make trying to get more sleep a priority even if that means skipping a workout.
An influenza virus lasts longer and typically has more debilitating symptoms like fever, achiness and severe coughing. Be careful with resuming activities after having the flu as you may still be surprisingly weak. It’s always rather humbling to think that you had no problem running 5 miles before a flu but finding just walking up the stairs to your house exhausting when sick with a flu. Don’t worry! Your energy will come back as you recover but trying to come back too soon can’t help your training.
Hopefully the congestion gradually goes away and you’ll notice you are feeling like your old self. Great! Should you feel that you are still really dragging or are overly tired, be alert to the possibility of a secondary infection such as a nasal infection. Don’t wait if you feel something may be off. Get it checked out and dealt with sooner rather than later. We want you to be healthy and ready to go!
We know that for some of you (Coach included!), it will still be hard to make a decision but here is something a coach told me long ago that has helped me and might help you too:
“Choose to give your body a break before your body chooses a longer break for you."
I would rather choose to be out a few days versus missing a lot more time out of the roads or trails. Go drink plenty of fluids, have some chicken soup and rest. You will be back out there soon!
Team CLA is headed to IMCA in August 2020! It’s 7 months to race day. No matter if you will be swimming 2.4 miles, biking 112 miles and running 26.2 or doing some other big or small adventure this summer, it is time to get going! Any distance or goal can feel daunting when starting out. It is time to dig in and get going even though the gloomy, wet weather is challenging right now.
Yikes! 7 months! It’s time to start base building. Hurray! Have you made friends with your bike trainer yet?
Seven months out from race day and that means this is your base building period. What exactly does that mean?
For one, it is ok to continue to play. Check out some of our 2020 challenges for instance! But, it is also time to start putting a little focus in and to make sure you are keeping your eyes on race day even though it seems so far away.
By playing, we mean it’s ok to not be totally structured with your workouts. If you want to do some cross country skiing, snowshoeing, a little extra riding or hiking there is still room. Take time to be active and play with friends and family. It’s ok to not be regimented into thinking you MUST get in X,Y, and don’t forget Z. In fact, getting too intense with your workouts now can do some harm.
As people get nervous, it is human nature to start to feel we must start getting it all in now. We all want to get a little faster so it feels counter-intuitive to keep the training easy effort or low zone. However, it is that long and easy effort that we really do need right now. Consistent workouts are great, getting in some of all three sports as well as some strength is great, but remember we don’t want race fitness right now.
The long easy workouts are the hardest for many to do. They might not feel as important because you are not “working hard enough” or they may be boring but it is critical to develop this foundation. It’s way too early to be reaching towards time goals, pace goals or race fitness. It would be impossible for you to maintain that type of fitness for over half a year! And if you try to maintain that type of fitness gained by intense workouts, you are more likely to develop overuse injuries or other maladies which will take you off of that start line. Foundations are not built by quickly throwing together hard training but are built by steady work.
But I AM Going Easy
Are you sure? It’s time to get all nerdy about all the good things that happen when you are going at a general endurance pace. This pace is where muscle capillary development happens. You increase the amount of blood that your heart can pump. You increase aerobic enzymes. Trust us, these are all great things that will help you in an event that is going to last at least 8-9 hours but probably much longer.
If you work too hard, you miss out on the physiological changes which happen and support you on that looong race day! And don’t forget, this type of workout - a general aerobic pace - also helps you reap a lot of other health benefits like supporting good heart health, for instance. Working too hard in workouts can also sabotage your efforts mentally and start a chorus of: this is too hard! I can’t do this!
Easy effort is a pace where you can chat with friends if you are out for a run. If you are a newer runner or running is not your strongest sport, it is ok to put in walk breaks as this is a strategy many use come race day and it is a great opportunity to train this technique. This does not mean run hard intervals and then walk to catch your breath. You want to be able to chat the whole time. I can tell you from experience being able to have conversations during the run can make race day even more fun. You will be amazed by the people you meet, the stories you hear and the friendships that can develop.
If you are on a trainer, you should be able to read a book or a magazine (great chance to catch up!). If you find it difficult to concentrate, try backing off a bit and seeing if you can refocus. Swimming? It’s a little hard to go for a talk test in the water but aim for relaxed swimming where you feel like you could keep swimming forever. Imagine being in the ocean in Kona and wanting to follow all the pretty fish. If you can focus on and follow the fish you are more than likely swimming easy.
And now here is the gray. Training is never black and white. Some days the pace that felt easy last week might feel like a hard pace or more moderate pace. That is okay. Slow down if this is the case. Put your pride aside if you feel like you must hit a certain pace all the time and really learn and understand what is easy for your body on any given day. This will change with training load and all the other stressors in your life! Sometimes heart rate or power information will not be accurate or your watch may die on race day so it is really important that you learn for you what is an easy, sustainable pace.
It is difficult for you to go too easy in training. What will be too easy? Sitting on the couch and not doing any workouts at all. Stick to it, trust your training and the years of research that talk about base building. You’ll be thankful on race day.
An Opportunity for Skill Development
Winter? You know it. It’s easy to get discouraged with the cold, gray, wet and snow especially when it comes to cycling. Let’s re-frame that and look at this time as a great opportunity to spend a lot more time with your bike trainer. Woohoo! More time on your bike trainer means you get a chance to work on bike skills that will make you a more efficient rider.
As always, it’s important that you have a bike that is well fit to you including the shoe/pedal combination you are using. If you have not yet had a bike fit done, it is time! You’ll be amazed at how different riding might feel after just a few little tweaks by an experienced bike fitter. When talking about Ironman the bike is the leg where we all spend the most time so comfort is something to think about. Do you really want to be uncomfortable for 5-8 hours?
The other reason for a bike fit is that with that many hours of repetition, if something is just slightly off it is easy to develop an overuse injury. This may impact your whole season of training or might catch up to you in the weeks leading up the race or on race day. There are so many things that can go wrong on race day that we don't have control over like potholes, weather, even other athletes, that is important to take care of the things we can control. Rule of Ironman is to do all we can do to avoid things we can avoid particularly something like an overuse injury from poor bike fit. So, take time now to make sure your bike fit is spot on!
Bike Trainer Focused
Use the time on the trainer to work on an even and round pedal stroke. Insert eye roll here. Of course it is a round pedal stroke, I am on a bike with pedals that go round and round! Sorry, a truly balanced pedal stroke takes work and practice.
Most of us tend to be quad-dominant and this leads us to put much more pressure on the down-stroke using more of our quads than other leg muscles. Remember you still have a marathon to run so you want to save those quads so you can use them later on the run! Why not share the load with your glutes, hamstrings and even your calves?
There are many drills you can try and it is good to try several and see where you personally need some work. One of our favorites is the One-legged Drill - can you pedal a nice round smooth stroke with only one leg? Do you have a dead spot where you suddenly have no power or are clunky? Practice doing one-legged pedaling to minimize these dead spots. A second one we like is a Cadence Drill. Can you increase your cadence (or how many revolutions of a pedal per minute) from 80 to 90 to 100+ without bouncing in your saddle? To do this, you must stay smooth and relaxed and use an even pedal stroke using both push and pull. Once you are good at these drills, try going through all your gears so you get more comfortable shifting.
We get asked a lot about spin classes for winter training. They can be great to mix in to keep it a bit more exciting and fresh but remember, on race day you will be sitting on your bike, your saddle with your bike’s geometry for a long period of time so practicing this on your trainer for a majority of your workouts will help the rest of your body adapt.
And remember back to base building phase and keeping it easy? Spin classes or online biking sessions can get the competitive juices flowing and have you riding harder than you intend. Be mindful about what is the purpose of your ride each day and use the classes to support your workout but not dominate your riding.
Bit by Bit
You are building your foundation. Stroke by stroke, pedal by pedal, and step by step. Continuing to add sport specific strength is invaluable to making your more efficient and keeping everything together.
This doesn’t mean hours in the gym but doing short and targeted workouts where you feel the work in the particular muscles. It’s easy to quickly go through strength workout but are you actually feeling it where you should?
We have a couple of new swim specific videos for you to try out. And they don’t even require water! Slow down and get the most of these short workouts:
Truly these are short core focused routines which are good for anyone regardless if they have an Ironman in their future. We'd really appreciate it if you could subscribe to our YouTube Channel!
Yes, you still have seven months.
We know it still may be a bit overwhelming but hopefully you can see that by breaking it down you can do this. Basebuilding lets you gradually increase the volume you can handle both physically and mentally.
Tell yourself you can do this. Take a deep breath. Focus.
Let’s go! It’s time for that journey to Ironman. We can’t wait to see what you’ll accomplish on that journey.
With the new year, I have been hearing everyone discussion about goals, resolutions and intentions. This is great! But, how do we really make that happen?
It is fun to dream about goals but many people forget that we have to start thinking about what we can do now to make them happen even if they seem a long ways away. Even big, big goals are achievable with enough time.
This is the time to be preparing to train. Preparing? That’s right. It might sound funny, but we need the foundation and basic skills to be able to take off and do the actual specific training for an event and to minimize the risk of injury along the way.
Happy New Year! With a new year and a new decade (!),it’s time to set those intentions for your Ironman dreams. What will that look like for you? (Hint: even if you aren’t planning on an Ironman, this applies to you too!)
For many with Ironman dreams, the swim is a very daunting part of the day. With 8 months to go, it’s time to embrace the water. With 8 months to go, you still have time to make some big changes in what for many is their weakest sport.
New Year, New You?
It’s super easy to get sucked into all the hype with setting resolutions and and going all gungho with grand resolutions especially if you have big goals at Ironman (or any fitness goals or events!). Really, it’s not about making sweeping changes but putting into place small intentions now that will pay off big later.
Probably the number one thing that I see as a coach is people struggling with consistency. Life gets in the way and you skip workouts and then try to cram it all in on the weekend. You feel guilty and try to go harder thinking that more intensity will make up for missed days. Repeat.
Start now with setting your sustainable schedule. This doesn’t mean that you need to spend hours and hours working out right now. Make that time in your schedule where you know you’ll be able to bike this day and swim this day. And make it a priority to get those workouts in, especially those workouts that you tend to skip. Guess what? If you only have 20 minutes, that’s ok! It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. If you struggle to maintain strength conditioning, get in 10 minutes. Surely you have 10 minutes?
Phew! With the holidays behind us, it’ll be nice to get back into better nutrition habits. Please don't go jumping into a fad diet or going into the all or none mentality. This means simply working on getting regular meals with fruits, vegetables and lean proteins as well as healthy snacks in between to help keep your blood sugar stable. Work on getting enough of high quality foods (protein included) to fuel your activity levels. If this is an area where you struggle, pick a couple areas where you could make small changes that would pay off big.
With the new year comes my challenge to you to work on that refrain in your head which tells you that you are slow or you can’t do this or keeps you distracted with all the other things you need to do. We admit, we are always guilty of this! Stay in the moment and prioritize what you are doing now. Pat yourself on the back when you make those changes. If you have an off day or week, don’t beat yourself up but remind yourself that it’s ok to have some missteps along the way.
Yes…swimming! I sink! How can I swim 2.4 miles?! Ahhh!
I am a fit person, why is swimming so hard??? I can’t tell you how many times I hear this. Swimming can be humbling.
It’s time to get in the pool if you’ve had a "break." (wink, wink) Swimming is all about technique, and thus it’s important to start now working toward good form and being comfortable in the water. This doesn’t mean that if you’ve had a break or if you are new to swimming that you are heading to the water and planning on long, long workouts. Just like with any new activity, you’ll need to build towards time in the water and that takes, you guessed it, time! Otherwise you can risk injury.
WATER VERSUS AIR
Unless you’ve been consistently in water and/or grew up as a “fish” then you probably expect water to behave just like air when you are trying to move your body through it. Water is a very different medium than air and the rules are different. If you are running or biking, you expect that working harder will equate to faster. Extra force applied to a pedal equates to a corresponding increase in speed in air. In the water, working harder does not necessarily equate to better, faster, easier swimming. Churning your arms faster and faster won’t let you overpower the water and is akin to fighting it. Counter-intuitively, relaxing and slowing down can lead to better results.
Where to begin?
There are so many things to work on with swimming it can be overwhelming. Here are some good starting points to think about as you start working towards Ironman. Relax! You’ve got this.
FLOAT: If you can’t float/balance in the water - learn to! We all naturally think we are going to sink and struggle or flail as a consequence. It takes a lot of work to just relax and let yourself float. Spend a few minutes each swim session practicing floating on your back. With our driven lifestyles, it’s hard to see how doing nothing can help. But panic in open water swims on race day and even in practice can happen. If you can learn to relax and let go in a pool with no wetsuit, you have a skill you can utilize on race day if needed. If you are struggling to add mindfulness into your life, how about a few minutes of floating therapy? Sure, you’ll need to move somewhere in a busy lap pool to do this but surely a few minutes is doable if you need to work on this skill.
NO KICKING: For now, it is okay to take out the kick unless you are already a skilled and efficient swimmer. For many the kick takes so much oxygen that it becomes almost impossible to focus on building skill or technique. We will ultimately want to learn to use your legs for body balance and maybe even propulsion but for now let’s focus on other things. Use a pull buoy placed between your thighs so that your legs are supported and your body is in a more streamlined position. From here, you can work on connecting your arms and legs through your core. Feel the pull of your arm through the water. Learn to use those lats (back muscles) as they will give a lot more power than the small muscles in the shoulder and are more durable. Watch where your hand enters the water - is it crossing the mid-line, is it back by your ear or out in front of you. Where your hand enters affects how much your body will rotate, how much power you can get and how much drag you create.
REDUCE DRAG: Swim tall and streamlined. Think about swimming quietly and calmly in a straight line. We want to reduce the drag from excess motion and the drag from the body not being in a streamline. There are many drills depending on what your specific need is. Unfortunately, there is not a one size fits all drill for better swimming. But this is a great time to incorporate regular drills into your swim practice. Remember, any time you work on a change in technique, there will be a period where you become less efficient. You may be slower, have a higher heart rate, feel awkward or like you are working harder. Stick it out as over time, you will become faster and able to work at a lower heart rate (ie more efficiently).
Now is a great time to have a friend or family member video you in the water. Taking a short video from both the front and the side using a phone above water can help. Look from the front and the side and see what you notice. Or, send the video to your coach to help you break down where the areas you need to work on. Coach does do private swim consultations should you need more help!
FREQUENCY: Increasing frequency of swimming is one of the best ways to improve technique and efficiency. Two 30 minute swims will improve efficiency more than one 60 minute session, for instance. Keeping the swim fresh and actively working on those areas you need improvement will reinforce better skills and better swimming.
It’s very easy to get all grumbly about “Ugh, i gotta go the pool.” Lucky you! You’ve signed up for an Ironman and GET to go to the pool. It may feel very daunting now looking at what needs to happen over the next 8 months. But setting the foundation now will pay off.
With 8 months to go, it’s not the time to stress about any one missed or difficult workout. However, it is time to build in all three sports. You need that time in the water, the time on the bike and the time on your feet starting now. Bring on the new year!