No Such Thing as Ideal Prep
Like most middle-aged Americans with teenage kids, life can be quite full. Balancing family, work and getting in some exercise can be quite a challenge.
Over the last year, our publishing business has gotten increasingly more busy (a good thing), but has left me with less time to fine tune my training (a bad thing).
As I wrapped up the 2015 race season and looked forward to the 2016 Du Nats, I realized that I need to tweak some things.
My first issue was that despite a reasonable training schedule, I was still about 10 pounds over my ideal weight. The issue, as it usually is with weight, was my diet. Busyness means eating on the go and not processing all my dietary decisions (not to mention a lot of processed food).
To start the year right and get my weight headed in the direction I wanted, I went on a fairly extreme detox diet whereby I cut out sugar, alcohol, dairy, gluten, coffee and soy for six weeks. I immediately started losing weight to the tune of 2-3 pounds a week. After six weeks, I was a spry 15 pounds lighter.
My first race of the year was the Los Angeles Marathon on Valentine’s Day. My life schedule made long runs imprudent. My longest training run was 12.8 miles. Nevertheless, I ran fourteen minutes faster than my last marathon despite the fact that I’m 11 years older (44 now).
The secret was consistency plus double run days (a strategy developed by my coach Kevin Everett). I was amazed at my progress simply by getting in a short and sweet 30-40 minute run most days and sprinkling in two of those runs in a day, once or twice a week. As I approached, the marathon, we did need to get in a few days where the two runs totaled 18-22 miles. But the run in the morning then run in the evening, worked so much better on my body and my family-work life schedule.
Illness Brings Healing
As I have gotten older, I’ve learned the increasing importance of listening to my body, which is a learning I still ignore a lot. Coming off the marathon, I was excited to ramp up my training for Duathlon Nationals. I started to experience IT band and hip flexor issues.
I went to physical therapy and a masseuse with limited improvement. Then unexpectedly I got hit with the flu and had 103 degree fever for six days in a row. The entire thing knocked me out for three weeks. I was very depressed and frustrated that I had lost fitness and was way behind in my prep for Duathlon Nationals.
As I slowly returned to running, I realized my IT band and hip flexor issues were gone. As I’ve ramped up my training, they’ve stayed away and I’ve had a stellar spring with some strong performances.
Sometimes good comes from that which we think is bad.
Can’t Do Everything Right All the Time
A quick review of the year to date for me is bundle of good and bad. Weight loss and a strong marathon, but illness and travel and missed training. But the balance is way to the positive than the negative, even though in the moment it feels like a constant challenge.
This wide brush look back convinces me all the more of the art of realizing good training doesn’t mean doing everything right all the time. It’s about doing what you can as smart as you can and gaining ground by giving up on “nailing it.” As I learned from my flu, a less than ideal scenario can actually produce improvement in ways not previously understood.
Going with the flow is more enjoyable and peaceful than fighting it and at the end of the day, it may be a more sound training program than trying to get everything right.
Mark L. Russell is the CEO of Elevate Publishing. He lives in Boise, Idaho, with his wife, Laurie, and their two very active teenage kids and a hoard of live animals.
Visit the 2016 USA Triathlon Duathlon National Championships event page for more coverage.