In December 2003 I quit the sport of triathlon because my body couldn't handle it. In January 2004, Athletes' Performance took me under their wings and introduced me to movement-based training. By April 2004 I had the race of my life at the US Olympic Trials. The rest of the year was a dream.
Before that year, all of my racing seasons had come to close only once my performance had taken a dive, a sure sign that my season was over. Not the most fun way to end a season. Alas, that's how it went.
It was thanks to Athletes' Performance's methodology that integrates all aspects of performance into one complete training program, that I began to truly understand the concept of training with a purpose. Completely gone were the moments of misery and exhaustion, the disregard for sleep and recovery and the lack of confidence in my training and racing.
I have learned so many things over the years. I've gotten to experience first hand, with my own body, what many only get to read about in scientific studies. One particular example comes to mind. I was reminded of it after reading yet another twitter from a professional triathlete that mentioned: "It's simple. Train more and you'll go faster." This certainly has truth to it. However, assuming he means swim/bike/run more miles and minutes, then one major drawback is: there's no insurance policy against injuries, which can kill anyone's season, including top pros who have their career and major $$ on the line. A few examples, all from this past season: Terenzo Bozzone, Paula Findlay, Michael Raelert. The key here is, although volume works, it's not the only, nor the most efficient, and in my opinion, not the best, way to go about it.
Another mentioned to me this summer, in preparation for a triathlon that included a 40-45 minute climb on the bike: "You need to ride 2.5-3 hours consistently to prepare for that climb." Wait what? Why wouldn't I just do what it takes to ride 40 minutes faster and faster? My power output over a 2.5-3+ hour ride would never train my body to generate the amount of force required to maximize my power potential over a 40-minute climb. That's like saying you could squat with 100lbs for 3 hours and that would prepare you to squat with 300lbs for 40 minutes. Really? On the contrary, the opposite is what works quite well. If you train to handle 10 x 300lb squats it makes 30 squats with only 100lbs easy. Seems simple to me. No doubt, before I started movement-based training I was riding a lot, and I was fast on the bike, but I was also often on the verge of injury. Training wasn't always fun, and it didn't always make sense.
Here's the story that comes to mind...
In 2004, I had a stellar year. Unlike previous years I was still fresh as ever come November, so on a whim I decided to tack on one final race: Half-Ironman Mexico. It would be my first race at that distance. I considered it more like a vacation with a race at the end as it was in beautiful Huatulco, Mexico, and the race organizers were going to cover our accomodations and food all week. All we had to do was get ourselves down there.
Greg Welch had some great advice for me, which included not changing much from my current Olympic distance training load, including doing nothing longer than 2.5 hour bike rides.
I found myself at Athletes' Performance prior to the race, doing their typical training schedule which includes 4 days per week of 90 minutes of movement, 90 minutes of strength and 30-40 minutes of cardio system development (usually consisting of intervals on the bike or treadmill.) When it came time for an ESD workout on the bike one day, I remember asking them if, due to this longer race I had coming up, they would keep me on the bike a little longer: 60 minutes total instead of 30 or 40. I suggested I could warm up for 10 minutes instead of 5 and warm down for 5 minutes instead of 2. I asked if they could increase my interval work a just a bit: instead of 20 minutes total maybe 30-40 minutes. Metabolic Specialist Paul Robbins nodded his head and off I went. At some point in the workout I was completely crushing it, my heart, lungs, legs, everything felt like it was about to burst and I remember asking how long it had been. The answer I got: 6 minutes [of work.] When the workout was over I'd done a total of 9 minutes of work in a handful of intervals. I was never happier to get off that bike. They didn't have to tell me, I knew it: I was better. Once my heartrate came down I wasn't miserable, exhausted, unable to move, as was often the case after a hard group ride. I was fresh and confident in my work. It was obvious that my effort caused a positive change on a cellular level. Tomorrow I would be able to do more work. It was consistent workouts like that which inspired one of my favorite quotes: "Today's 100% is tomorrow's 99."
It was a fantastic lesson and one I've never forgotten. I like to create change fast. Sure I may have adapted over miles and miles, weeks and months, and gotten stronger, but I prefer to make those adaptations in the least amount of time. Another key factor: time efficient workouts like that allow for plenty of time to work on movement efficiency, strength and recovery to get ready to do it all again.
In the race I got off the bike with a 25 minute lead over the other pro women and easily won my first attempt at the 70.3 distance. A short race report is here.
I was sold.
A perfect end to a perfect season. And a perfect beginning to what's proving to be a fantastic rest of my life in endurance performance.
Enjoy the effort. Challenge your 100% daily.
Go get after it in 2012!!