I was listening to a new podcast this week, and one of the episodes struck a chord with me. The podcast's title is Triathlon Swim Training for Beginners To Intermediate Triathletes (that's a mouth full), the episode was #108, and if you're curious you can listen here: Is high level triathlon training healthy? – TSC Podcast #108.
In the episode they were comparing training philosophies of high level triathletes with common “age group athletes” or “weekend warriors”. There was quite a bit I got out of that episode.
One of the main points was a thing called the 80/20 rule. This just means that you “should” be training 80% of your time with easy effort, and 20% of the time with vigorous effort. From the tests they were referencing, most “weekend warrior” people spend most of their effort in neither category.
Stickman had brought this concept up before, but it didn't sink in until I heard this podcast. I went home, and looked back over some of my data, and sure enough, I was doing the same thing:
As you can see by my heart rate data, I have most of my time in a zone between not easy and not hard. Zones, by the way, meaning heart rate zones. Zone 1 and 2 are considered easy, Zones 5 and 6 are hard, Zone 7 is you're going all out crazy and can't keep that up, and Zone 3 and 4 is the “meh” zone.
The way the podcast describes falling into this zone is perfect. When you're out doing a workout, you want to get it done as fast as you can - be it you want to get on with your day, or you don't want someone to see you going slow, or whatever. However, you also don't want to blow yourself out, and you want to finish the workout so you talk yourself into chilling a bit to save some energy. What this does, according to the podcast, is leave you in this zone where you're not going slow enough to build up your aerobic capacity, and you're also not going fast enough to build up you're anaerobic capacity.
Of course, any exercise you do is good. But if you're trying to go faster than the last time, or go longer than the last time, staying in that middle area isn't great.
The other part of the podcast that struck a chord was the implied “What are you doing this for?” question. Many “real” athletes make decisions about their training and nutrition based around if it will help them win. This makes sense for them, as if they don't win, they don't get paid. But for someone just trying to stay healthy - shouldn't doing the most long term healthy thing be the goal? What's the point of doing long term damage to your body when you aren't going to win anything in the short term (or at all)? You'd be hurting your future self for no actual reason.
Personally, I got into this whole thing to be healthier - to fix some past transgressions. I think I've made good decisions to keep that trend going, but it's an easy thing to forget - what are we doing here?
I still feel odd referring to myself as a triathlete, but my workout breakdown is now looking more triathlete'ish than runner'ish:
And my first triathlon is now just a few weeks away. Fingers and toes.