Thursday, August 18, 2011

Myths of Triathlon

All kinds of information trickles down from pro triathletes to the masses of age groupers. This info can be found in the many online and hard-copy triathlon magazines, forums, and advertisements. I've noticed that over time, a lot of this information has assumed a homogeneous blah-ness. Where the same information is repeated over and over again using the same descriptive language. And while some of this information can be beneficial, some of it gets warped/dumbed down/altogether transformed into pithy one-liners that are far removed from the truth.

Repeat something often enough and pretty soon, everyone believes it to be true. The real crime, is that eventually, these false truisms are passed on to people new to the sport of triathlon.

Well, I am here to clear up all this nonsense today!! LUCKY YOU!!! Hahahahaha! Here is a list of my four favourite myths -- ones I've subscribed to, challenged, and finally realized WERE myths.

Myth #1: The Myth of "Race Weight"

This one is a doozie. I am going to keep things simple here -- Take two athletes: Athlete A and Athlete B.

Athlete A -- pro triathlete. Played sports as a kid, swam on university/college swim team, ran track at same university/school. Years and years of fitness right there alone...Then, he/she gets into triathlon. Training load and intensity increases -- he/she already knows how important nutrition is -- he/she is very fit, lean, and an aerobic machine.

Athlete B -- average age grouper. Played sports as a kid, learned how to swim as an adult (ie learned in their late 20s, 30s, 40s, etc), may/may not have ever run a get the idea. Reads a book about race weight and thinks, "If I lose 10lbs, I will be so much faster."

You see the faulty logic here? To be fair, although certain books do not espouse this over-simplified theory, THIS IS THE MESSAGE THAT IS OUT THERE. Couple that with the North American cultural infatuation with skinny anorexic-looking models (even if you do not buy Cosmo or magazines of that ilk, you can't get away from it -- this $hit is everywhere and if you think it doesn't colour your perceptions you are lying to yourself), and you have a hot mess.

This falls in line with "if you lose x number of pounds, you will run x number of minutes faster per mile." FALSE. You will run said number of minutes faster if you TRAIN and log lots of hours (and mileage) running. Simply losing weight is not a magic pill that will deliver unto you fleet feet and perfect, efficient running form. Time invested in training, racing, and resting and recovering -- these are the things that make one faster.

It is the YEARS and YEARS of training and racing that makes a body lean and efficient at burning fat. The training creates the body...Yes, diet is extremely important, but *being good* for 2 weeks - 6 months in an attempt to get down to some kind of magical race weight is a misappropriation of resources. Starving yourself before a big workout because you read somewhere that so-and-so professional athlete doesn't eat before he/she swims, bike, or runs, is not the way to go. Through years of training, your body changes. Your diet changes. You change.

For an elite athlete -- they can 'lean down" in two months or more or less or whatever the time frame is, because they have the YEARS of training behind them. Their bodies respond differently to leaning down than the average age grouper's. Yes, losing weight can be a good thing, but in my opinion, the focus for the average age grouper should be on getting stronger by swimming, biking, and running consistently. You train consistently, you get faster. Period. The more you train; the more aware you are of the things you put into your mouth. Focusing on losing weight is the wrong thing to do -- focusing on what you SHOULD eat and the things you CAN do in training is wayyyyyy more effectual!!

Myth #2: To run faster, you must run faster.

I am not a sports scientist or a physiotherapist or whatever -- if you want hard data and evidence, go elsewhere. I will tell you this -- I talked to my coach and asked her, "if I want to run a marathon at a 6:00min/mile pace, should I start forcing myself to run that pace on the treadmill for longer and longer periods of time?"

After all, that is what Myth #2 says...

(Any errors in the paraphrasing of our conversation are mine alone -- NOT my coach's, Here is the gist of it...)

If I were to go out right now and run 6:00min/mile, I would be in Zone 5. Right off the bat. Zone 5 means I am going all frigging out and will not physically be able to hold that pace for very long. While adding speed work in doses will help me get faster, it is running at the pace where I am pushing myself but not tipping over into chaos and madness that is the sweet spot. THAT pace will push my threshold and enable me to run faster over time. It is putting the training in -- putting the miles in OVER TIME -- this is where I will make significant gains in running and then will be able to run faster paces with a lower heart rate. As opposed to training to run at a faster pace for a shorter period of time at a faster heart rate.

The biggest nuisance about these myths, is that they conveniently exclude all the "buts." For example, "In order to run faster, you must run faster," BUT...that does not mean running fast all the time for all your runs...

Myth #3: You Must Cycle at a Certain Cadence

There is no magic pill. There is no magic RPM number. Every one of us is different and that is one of the many reasons why triathlon is the greatest sport on the planet. :) We can all celebrate our differences -- some people spin higher cadences and some push harder gears at a lower RPM. Whatever floats your boat, dude. As my bike guru, Gord is always telling me, "Don't over-think it." Hahahaha!! :) :)

Myth #4: You must "suffer," "destroy," "smash," "bonk," crash," in training and racing. Then, you are tough enough and worthy.

This is a big load of bunk. When I use negative words, I feel negative. That's how I roll. from my coach, I have learned to use pain as an indicator that I am performing a session with appropriate intensity. I look at pain as a good thing -- not as a bad thing. To me, pain (this is training-pain, NOT injury-pain to be clear!) is another rung on the ladder to growing stronger and faster. Like watering a plant, I am dousing myself with training to get stronger. Not dousing myself with pain to "hurt" or "destroy" myself.

Another thing I've learned from my coach, is that words and language are very powerful forces. What we say, often manifests itself in what we do....Choose all your words wisely.

That's all of my deep thoughts for the day...



Big Daddy Diesel said...

Hey, now its too small to read?!?!?!


I admit I have falling into the Myths
- Racing Weight
- Run faster to be faster

Glad you posted this

Julie said...

LOL!! I had to choose small, and as it turns out, the middle section is different size too?!?! WTF?!?! I have no idea what happened..That first post was scary though -- holy cow, eh? Hahahahaha!!

Keith said...

I know what happened, and how to fix it. But it's like knowing how to get to a place, but not the address, and not being able to describe it to someone. So your post will just have to stay that way. Spouting the truth in big letters.

Lisa Graham said...

Love it! Couldn't agree with you more on these 4 myths.

See you in Penticton! Do you have a cell? Would love to meet up with you for a little workout! I'm planning on heading to the lake on Friday for a swim and a bike ride. Let me know if you're interested!

Theia said...

For every training theory, you'll have an equal number of people arguing for it and against it. There's no end! :)

Are you racing IM Canada this weekend? If so, kick some butt!

Julie said...

Lisa -- Sorry I didn't get back to you! I've been a bit busy getting sorted out, and never contacted you!! But I meant to! :) :) Good luck and see you out there babe!! :)

Theia -- What a great way to sum things up! :) Well put. Hee-hee! Yup, I am racing on Sunday -- thanks so much for your good vibes! :) :)