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The Importance of Resting

Endurance athletes are generally really good at completing hard workouts. However, too often, they forget to rest. We forget that it isn’t during training that our body gets stronger, but during the time between workout sessions while our body is recovering. If we cut the recovery time down, we won’t improve. Instead, we’ll burn out.

In these layman’s terms, it sounds really simple. Yet I have more friends whom have bragged about training hard every day for 2 weeks than fingers. Why do we do this to ourselves? In general, endurance athletes are a motivated lot. They’re generally willing to move heaven and hell in the process of getting faster and they think that training hard everyday will take them there.

They often see the impressive training regimens of their heros and think that in order to race like them, they have to train like them. Usually, this enthusiasm is coupled with the fear that resting is synonymous with getting out of shape.

I don’t totally subscribe to the less-is-more training approach. In general, I must agree with the mantra that getting fast requires a lot of hard work. There is no easy path. However, training with tired muscles doesn’t really work.

There are a few key workouts/skills that are a prerequisite for fast IronMan and endurance cycling races. The first main is that ability to ride/run hard for a long time. The second is the ability to maintain a high intensity for 2-10min. The third is pure strength. The last is the mental toughness to believe in yourself and the stubbornness and tenacity to not give up when things get tough out there and your body begins fall apart.

You must push your heart and nerve and sinew, to serve you, long after they are gone. You must hold on when there is nothing in you, except the will which says to you “hold on.”

For Ironman training, these goals are met with three basic workouts. The most important workout is the one that builds endurance. With respect to endurance, there is one key factor, one little niggly detail that we like to forget. It’s really nice to be able to bike for four hours. This ability alone isn’t going to win you an Ironman though. You need to be able to bike hard for four hours. This is your most important workout.

Your endurance rides eventually have to be at a reasonably high intensity. A good rule of thumb is to start out at 2hrs of cycling and get so that you can handle this with relative ease. If you’re planning an IronMan at the end of August, bump up the duration to 3-5 hrs sometime around the end of March. If you put in a few good weeks with regular long rides, your endurance will naturally come.

It is OK to ride easy for the first few long rides until you can comfortably handle the distance. However, after this, it is important to ride reasonably hard. The “talk test” is a standard gauge of endurance intensity”. This is great for the off season and people just trying to finish the IronMan. It doesn’t work if you’re trying to race the IronMan. You should be pushing for the entire long ride. You don’t need to sprint the whole way, but you need to be moving. I generally ride at 3-4 minutes below my pace for the 40km time trial. For example, if I’m in shape to ride 40km in 55min, I’ll ride at about 58min for a 40km time trial pace. This is pretty quick.

Right about now, the reader is probably realizing why you need lots of rest. These are hard workouts. If you try to train everyday, you can’t complete high quality workouts.

I’ve found that in the early season, these sort of endurance workouts are enough. I’d suggest getting really comfortable with the 4 hr bike ride. Around June, start throwing in an easy 1hr run after the ride. You can actually do the run fairly easy. This is for two reasons: * you’ll be pretty tired and probably won’t be able to run hard anyway and * running hard will tear the muscles in your legs and you’ll need extra recovery days.

They key here is to be able to push hard for 4 hrs and have enough energy left in your legs to run. You also need to get a feel for the vast amounts of calories that you need to consume to provide you with the energy to run after a long ride. This long ride/run is the most important workout for the Ironman.

The next important element is strength. In order to bike well, you need strong legs. In order to race well in the Ironman in August, you need to spend Jan to March in the gym lifting leg weights. I won’t get into workouts here. There is enough info on the net talking about leg workouts already. Basically, you just need to lift weights 2x/week.

You training week can be rounded out with a tempo ride/run (with some 6 min pickups) and swimming. The tempo ride should be around 2 hours, the run around 45min. This training schedule only requires 2-3 hard days of training, and allows 2-3 days of complete rest/week.

I guess the point to the article is this. Train hard, but don’t kill yourself each workout. If you train hard you’re going to need to take rest days. If you don’t take rest days, you end up completing a bunch of mediocre workouts and races.

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