Triathlon Training with Fire
by Chris Hague
Personally, I love it. I splurge on the latest technology (whether I necessarily need it or not); I analyze my data down to the single watt; I religiously read the latest blogs; and, I pour over fellow athletes’ training logs, tweets, and blogs. I find that my technology and social media fix not only allows me to improve my own fitness but also stay connected to others. However, there is a limit to technology and a
breaking point where its use becomes more of a hindrance than a help.
When it comes to gizmos, there are enough options out there to turn you into the 6 million dollar man. My latest favorite tool/indulgence is the Garmin 910xt that recently came out. It has all a triathlete could dream of. It keeps track of pace, heart rate, pedal cadence, foot turnover, elevation gain/lost, stroke speed in the pool, swim efficacy, calories burned, and, if you hit a few buttons, the time of day
including sunset and rise.
One of the coolest features though that Garmin included in this model (compared to the 310xt) is the Training Effect (TE), which they adapted from Suunto. For those who are not familiar with this function, TE collects your data including watts, pace, heart rate, and fitness level, and crunches all those numbers through most likely complex algorithms to put out a score between 1 and 5 where 1 is an easy recovery workout after which you can recover quickly and 5 is an all out effort that leaves you quite drained for a few days.
The obvious benefit of having this number is that you can ensure how hard you hit a workout and not overdo your recovery effort (i.e. train in the gray zone) as many type A athletes tend to do. Moreover, this number can help you estimate how much recovery you need after a workout.
Doing two or three level 5 workouts a week most likely will not allow for proper recovery. However, this number can be perilous. While I and many others (Coach Brett Blankner of Zen and the Art of Triathlon also loves this feature in his own Suunto) have had great success with TE, I have to remind myself that only I can know how my body is feeling on that day. If I personally feel that I need maybe a few more hours of recovery or an extra day off, then I need to listen to my body—numbers be damned.
No matter how sophisticated the watch or the formula, I am training my body—NOT my watch.
Social media also offers a similar number trap. As an addict of twitter and Facebook, I like to see (borderline stalk) what my fellow TrainingPeaks ambassadors or Pros whom I idolize are doing as they train for their next events. An athlete cannot train in isolation but needs a strong support team to help him or her along and provide motivation. Moreover, I can get some good ideas about nutrition, workouts, or form while receiving feed back about my own training.
Once again, though I have to be very careful not to fall into the dangerous trap of feeling insufficient. When I look at another athlete’s data, I am sometimes amazed at the numbers, be it speed, power, or number of weekly training hours, that they are able to put out. This amazement though quickly turns to jealousy and a feeling of inadequacy.
“Why am I not doing that much? He ran 3 times in one day or did a 150-mile bike ride at race pace, so shouldn’t I? He only eats 1800 calories but I am eating 2800; maybe I should diet.” I then begin to lose confidence in my own training plan, a mindset that will destroy an athlete. Like my Garmin, I have to remind myself that I know my body best. If some other athlete is training more than me, good for him/her, but I have to follow my own path that I have worked out with my coach and further trust that the plan she lays down will get me to my goals; it has in the past and it will in the future.
Those other athletes are other athletes with sometimes much more experience than I have; therefore it is useless to compare myself to them. I have to be satisfied with where I am as an athlete and the plan that will make me grow individually.
Technology and social media definitely has its place in training and when used appropriately can have a great, positive affect on your training. However, like fire, it can be a dangerous tool that can leave you and your body badly burned if used incorrectly.
Chris Hague is the assistant coach for triswimcoach.com and competitive triathlete in both the half and full Ironman distances. For more, check out http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/about/