SALT LAKE CITY — It has been eight weeks since my twin sister and I decided we were going to compete in a Half Ironman with only 10 weeks of training. Granted both my sister and I have been active our entire lives, but completing the training required thus far has been a tall order indeed.
The last eight weeks has been an eye opening experience and a non-stop learning process. My knowledge in endurance training, recovery, nutrition, and periodization has been amplified and I’m excited to be able to share what I’ve learned in efforts to help those who are interested in competing in endurance events. Listed below are eight tips I’ve learned in eight weeks.
Follow an organized training plan
It was hard finding an inexpensive (and by inexpensive I mean free) training program that catered to our short 10-week time frame. We picked a program written by author and fitness coach, Matt Fitzgerald, who I respect.
His program, which we simply pulled off the Internet, suggested training for 16 weeks leading up to a 70.3 Ironman, but unfortunately we did not have the luxury of time. If you’d like to begin training for a 70.3 Ironman, 16 weeks or and even more time to train is ideal.
This training program is suggested for intermediate athletes meaning you should already be able to swim 1000m non-stop; bike 1:30 non-stop, run 1 hour non-stop. If this doesn’t apply to you, try finding a program that covers a longer period of time.
Recovery days are a must
With any competitive training regimen, proper recovery is a key component. My sister and I are training six days a week with one full day of recovery in order to allow our bodies to repair, recover and rest for the upcoming week.
Incorporate nutrition as a recovery tool
I’ve noticed that I can’t slack on this tip. Recovery nutrition works differently for everybody, and you'll have to find out for yourself what works for you.
Eating a ratio of 4:1 (four grams of carbohydrates to every single gram of protein) within 30 to 60 minutes after a work out is essential. This helps your body replenish the energy used during your workout and rebuild tissue damage. This simple strategy will refuel your body and prepare you for your next workout.
One of my favorite recovery meals is a green smoothie made with Gnarly chocolate protein powder, spinach, kale and banana along with a piece of whole-grain toast and almond butter.
Add strength training to your workouts
Even if it's just simple body weight exercises, light strength training will help to increase your range of motion, muscular strength and contribute to muscular endurance.
I have posted a total body strength training routine on Globecandy that doesn’t require any weights or the hassle of going to a gym. This routine is helpful for both beginners as well as athletes.
Practice your race day nutrition
Swimming 1.2 miles, biking 56 miles, and running a 13.1 miles requires a lot of energy. Eating while racing is hard and requires practice. I have found through trial and error that gel packets work really well for me on the bike and the run. I prefer the Powergel’s and the GU’s. Cliff Shot Bloks are another good way to fuel while biking.
I would also recommend using some form of electrolyte drink mix while training. Gnarly Boost is an electrolyte drink that I have loved so far. Also, using salt pills has been great in avoiding muscle and stomach cramping during long workouts. You can find all these products at most running and biking stores. I buy almost all of my performance food at Canyon Bicycles and Wasatch Running Center. Both shops have a great selection.
Be consistent with your Self-Myofascial Release, aka foam rolling
I know that Self-Myofascial Release (SMR) is key for any fitness routine and I notice a big difference when I don’t take the time to use my foam roller and SMR stick. Click here to read up on benefits and SMR techniques. Be sure to roll those tight IT bands.
Train with a partner
Training with my twin sister, Hayley, has been huge in helping with my motivation, enjoyment, and overall quality of training. We just recently went to St. George and checked out the Ironman course and practiced our swimming and biking which was great to be able to do together.
Watch for overtraining symptoms
It is easy when beginning a training program to jump in quickly and aggressively, but keep in mind that overtraining is a common occurrence and can put a quick stop to your fitness progression. Over the course of the last seven weeks, I’ve felt exhausted, sore and sometimes unmotivated. These feelings are normal but can also be indicative of overtraining.
One thing I’ve been trying to incorporate is measuring my resting heart rate in the morning. An elevated resting heart rate of even just five beats or more can be an indicator of overtraining. Regardless of if you are overtraining or not it is good to be educated about the condition.
With eight weeks down and only two more to go until the Half Ironman, I am both excited and nervous about the race. Along with the eight tips I’ve shared, and much more learning along the way, I am hoping for a great experience.
Bryn Bingham is co-founder of Globecandy.com, a travel blog that celebrates the sweet spots around the globe. She currently resides in Salt Lake City with her husband and son. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org