Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Handling More Load

Wow. Definitely less time and energy to blog these days. Must mean ironman training is in full swing!

I tweeted last week about my new Recovery Pump Boots and how much I was in love with them...

That prompted a few responses from folks wanting to know more about what I think about them... Are they worth it, etc. Initially my thought was Yes! #worthit. And a week later my thought remains. YES! Worth.it.

So here's the thing. To improve at Ironman, we have to train a lot. More is more, and all that... until it's not more, meaning you're doing too much and can't recover from session to session which means your body isn't able to adapt/absorb the work you're doing... so no point in training beyond that point b/c you'll just end up sick or injured or whatever. That's old news.

Some people are able to train a heck of a lot more than other people, and still recover day to day... Which means they can do more WORK. Those athletes who are able to handle more load, if things go well, will likely fare better on race day. So how do we go about teaching our bodies to handle more load? I've been pondering this over the last week while sitting in my recovery boots between sessions. Here's what I'e come up with.

1. Longevity/aerobic base. Athletes who have been at this game for a while, who have years and years of miles in their legs, can definitely handle more load than someone who is recently off the couch. However, even if you don't happen to have 18 years of triathlon training behind you, you can still teach your body to handle a higher load if you take the time to develop a really solid foundation of aerobic base miles. I've been over this before talking about MAF base, etc so if you're new and lost on this topic, go back to November/December and search what I wrote then. I'm too tired to link it. ;) The biggest reason to develop a great big huge aerobic base is so when the time comes to TRAIN, you can TRAIN. And then you'll recover really well which means you can TRAIN again tomorrow. And the next day. And the day after that. (This is the phase I am in right now, as evidenced by the lack of regular blogging I've done lately).

2. Whole Food Nutrition. I am not a dietician but I don't think you need to be one to figure out that whole foods do a better job of supporting your body than processed crap. Whole foods go a long way toward allowing your body to repair itself and can help you combat excess stress. Live by this motto and you'll recover 100x better than if you don't: 1. Eat real food. 2. Not too much. 3. Mostly plants. (I am quoting Michael Pollen here. Smart guy.) I would venture a guess that my diet consists of more greens and other fruits/veggies than a lot of people. Consequently, my body recovers well and I stay healthy more often than one might think I should based on my training log.

3. Sleep! This doesn't seem like rocket science but I would venture a guess that many folks just don't organize their lives in such a way as to make 9PM regular bedtime. Try this for a month and see if you don't feel like you recover way better from your training?? Fwiw, good whole food nutrition supports this effort to sleep. I don't know the exact mechanism there but I am sure there is a connection.

So those are my top 3 things you can do to increase your ability to handle more training load. And guess what? They are all FREE! Ok, well good food isn't free. I lied. Sorry. But sleep and base miles are free! Well, if you run barefoot and naked they are free? You get my point.

Now, IF you are doing the above and still trying to get more out of yourself with the goal of achieving your highest potential, then maybe you'll be open to spending some money to aid your cause. There are endless ways to spend money on triathlon, but here are my thoughts about how you might get the best return on your investment!

1. Hire a good coach. There's lots written about how to pick a coach so I'm not going to go into the details of all that now. I'll summarize by saying pick someone who you like and trust... and who also genuinely wants to work with you. This last point may sometimes be overlooked but I think it's really important! A coach is going to be able to figure out how much load you can handle (it might be more than you think??) and suggest that you do it. A coach might also hold you back a bit if you're new and overeager to go after more load than you've set your life up to handle.

2. Buy yourself a set of Recovery Boots. Yup. After my experience this past week I'm putting this right behind hiring a coach. Two weeks ago #2 would have been buy a power meter but the power meter (in my head anyway!) has been relegated to #3. My rationale is that you can still put in the work on the bike without a power meter... maybe you can't quantify the work and track your progress as specifically, but you can still *do the work*. Recovery Boots allow you to feel fresher the next day so you can once again go out and get the work done, whether you can measure it or not. I find inflammation in my legs to be nearly non-existant after sitting in those boots for 45' or so. I use them every single day now! And yes, my husband laughs at me. Whatever! Another benefit is that I tend to be a little more aggressive than I might otherwise be on my harder days now knowing that I have this recovery tool at my disposal afterward... which is huge. I've been able to do more quality work this past week than I even dreamed I'd be capable of and I'm crediting my coach and my boots (and my aerobic base, nutrition, and sleeping habits!) for the increase. I should note here as well- I am not sponsored by Recovery Pump. Believe me, I wish I was! But I am not... so nobody is paying me to say this. It's 100% my own opinion.

3. Buy a power meter (and learn how to use it). A power meter in itself will not make you a faster/stronger rider. BUT, if you have a good book or coach who will teach you how to use it and you pay attention to your numbers and record them for future reference, you can get pretty specific with your bike training and track your progress accordingly. You can build base by keeping your watts in control, and push yourself harder on intervals chasing higher numbers. You can also dial in Ironman effort which can help you learn to control yourself with pacing, etc.

Of course there are 100 other ways to spend money on triathlon that can be beneficial to performance... HR monitors, Garmins, race wheels, aero bikes, wetsuits, race shoes, etc. The #1 thing though, really, is to Get The Work Done. So if money is tight, focus on the first three items here. If you've got some to spend (and you're already doing the first three right!), consider the latter three.


Katie said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Michelle. You are obviously a huge believer in this product!!!

Katie said...

This has nothing to do with your post, but I clicked on your "yes I am bat shit crazy" link and it told me I wasn't invited to read. HOW RUDE.

mtanner said...

well I have #1 and #3 so #2 is a MUST!

Anonymous said...

Have you heard about the recovery centers where you can like go in use recovery boots for a fee?

Hillary Hanson said...

Thanks for the great review! It captures our sentiments exactly. Do you have to have the RecoveryPump to compete in triathlon? No. Do you have to have a bike/running shoes/wetsuit? Likely yes. Will the RecoveryPump help you compete to your fullest potential and flush waste from fatigued muscles faster than anything else? YES.

We always say it's not magic, it's science. Much like compression socks, pneumatic(air) compression has been used in the medical field for decades before it was ever realized as a muscle recovery tool. Even over the past 10 years pneumatic compression was primarily used for sports injury treatment- RecoveryPump is revolutionizing the industry with the idea that pneumatic compression can be used for muscle recovery and it can be used safely every day. For a healthy person (no DVT, Arterial disease, etc.) the RecoveryPump is completely safe to use for hours and hours each day- although benefit is realized after 45+ minutes. Many athletes like to jump in them more than that for the massage effect they also provide.

Again thanks for the great review!
Train Hard. Recover Harder.

Complete Triathlete said...

Recovery Boots are an excellent product. For athletes looking for something more affordable with optional garments for the mid-section and glutes, check out the RevitaPump