#12 Break on through; SET………pull

Training is a finely tuned game of details.  Push a little bit, back off to recover, push a little more, back it down again, etc.  The push can be intensity, duration or frequency, but the back-off part of this balance might just be the more important part of the equation if the goal is to keep building.  Not only from an injury standpoint, but from a performance standpoint as well.

In part, this is real-life wisdom gained by people who have either pushed too hard (incredibly common) and blown-up somewhere along the training route (or worse yet during the race), or the people who didn’t work as hard as they could have and were faced with the constant nagging of the “could-a, should-a”.  However one renowned MD/Researcher, Dr. Herbert Benson (formerly of Harvard and the author of “the relaxation response”) has shown that this breakthrough, or “breakout” as he and his coauthor call it, is a predictable response, something you can actually work for…..you just have to put a 1908 law of Psychology (Yerkes-Dodson) to work for you.  This law, which says that as you increase the stress on the system, it will get more efficient and performance will increase…..but only to a point……(perhaps a less famous way of saying “that which doesn’t kill you will make you stronger”) and it’s an unbelievably important concept for any athlete, especially the endurance athlete to deeply understand……It is at this point, when the springboard is really loaded up (so says Benson), that you just have to let-go……and go you will!

File:OriginalYerkesDodson.JPGBecause of the sheer volume of training required to complete an ultra-distance race like an Ironman, so much can go wrong by not understanding and internalizing this concept…..too much struggle and overuse/over-training/burnout will set in.  Too little struggle and you simply won’t be prepared by race day.  To a certain extent, the knowledge gained from years of PT Practice, working with athletes (which if you ever read the walls at Pro-Activity you’ll understand is something we consider every person) at all levels coupled with a fairly diverse personal sports background has been an advantage for me, in that not only have I had some personal experience with this balance, but I understand the science behind what I’m feeling and can therefore make a pretty quick determination of whether it’s just “hurt” or truly “harm”.  That said, being relatively new to endurance-sports (first event was the 2008 Philly Marathon), I’ve still had the “luxury” of learning several lessons the hard way…..but I think a breakout might just be on the horizon.

This week felt to me like the springboard may be loading up…..14 hours of training, which is still a bit light (would’ve liked to get in a little more work in the pool and possibly 1 more run), but the workouts were much higher quality this week.  Did a “self-select” run on Monday and felt great…..not only did the body feel good, the speed was faster than I expected over the +/- 6mi. and the hammy-area is almost pain-free (YES)!  Was able to get in a solid “long run” (14 miles) mid week, even if I got some crap about my cool hat and reflector vest and felt about as strong as I could hope for on the monster-brick (5hr bike + 1hr run) on Saturday.  My body was fatigued for my swim today which forced me to cut back on it some (there’s that balancing act again), but I’m now into a recovery week…..time to “let go”……and I’m ready.

Things are on track so far……have gotten a few “did you lose weight?” questions recently, without any significant whispering about looking ill, which, if you read my post from a few weeks back, says that I’m not at race weight just yet.  I’m probably about 7lbs off, which puts me about where I should be.  I still need to put more into my nutrition/hydration though.  I thought after last week’s miscalculation on calorie intake during the “long day” I got it right this time……nope.  I managed to take in more calories, but still wound up down 4 lbs by the end of the workout……..I really have to get this right b/c if I’m losing this much fluid in NJ over 6 hours, I can only imagine what the dry air of Utah is going to do to me over 12hrs……..thankfully, it’s not thaaaat far off…..I’m not experiencing any real symptoms of dehydration or hyponatremia (low sodium)……but this is going to be huge on race day, so it’s a training variable I have to get under control.

Happy to be going into a recovery week……I’m not completely spent, but I’m definitely tired and can use a little recharge.  Have to say though, youtube comes in handy here…..don’t know if it’s just hearing Al Trautwig’s voice bringing me back to Yankees Baseball on MSG, or the truly extraordinary stories that come out of this Ironman thing…..

Check out this one, which tells the story of Blazeman, an “every-man” afflicted with a death sentence of the worst kind who told his family that he would finish even if they had to roll him across the finish line…….if you can watch this video and not be moved or inspired to get up, get moving and breakthrough today…..I suggest you check your pulse.

Love a little…..that’s what it’s all about (Craig Matthews)

Mike E.