Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Banish concerns about training for your first tri

Any time you try something new or venture outside of your comfort zone, you are bound to feel a little nervous or apprehensive. But once you've identified an exciting new goal for yourself, take a moment to consider what, exactly, it is that concerns you. Are you unsure how to train? Are you worried you won’t have enough time to train? Are you concerned you won’t be able to finish the race? Consider this: What is the worst that can happen? When you answer this question, you remove a bit of the unknown and, hence, its power to undermine your efforts and confidence, allowing you to devise a plan of action to combat any obstacles that may arise.

The first thing you need to do is find a sprint triathlon that’s at least twelve weeks away and register for it. Having an event in ink on your calendar will do wonders for your motivation.

The next step is to create a training plan. A solid training program for a sprint triathlon typically involves five to six workouts per week over a twelve week period. Ideally, each week you will run twice, cycle twice and swim once or twice. If the race you choose is more than twelve weeks away, take advantage of the extra time to build a fitness base that includes walking, yoga and strength training. There are many websites, such as beginnertriathlete.com, that offer a variety of free training programs online.


When it comes to having the time to train, you simply have to be willing to honor and prioritize the commitment you’ve made to yourself. Schedule your workouts into your day as you would any other appointment and consider your workout time to be non-negotiable; the grocery shopping can wait! Enlist the support of your family and ask them to pitch in a bit more with household chores. Better yet, sign up to train and race with a friend who will encourage you and hold you accountable. 

And, don’t be afraid to get creative with your training: Push your kids in a jogging stroller while you run or tow them in a bike trailer while you cycle; hire a sitter so you can get your workouts in before or after work; team up with your spouse and swap your dinner and a movie date night for a bike and a run; and ditch the camp chair and go for a run while your kid is at lacrosse practice.

As for completing the race, visualize yourself crossing the finish line and know that all the hard work and training will pay off. Even if you aqua jog or dog paddle through the swim, push your bike uphill, or walk instead of run the 5K, you will finish. And when you do, the amazing and rewarding feeling of accomplishment will have you signing up for your next triathlon in no time! 


Monday, March 11, 2013

Aging athletes can fight back

There is no fountain of youth, and it’s impossible to turn back the hands of time on aging, but there are things you can do to beat back the aging curve. 

According to runnersworld.com, merely reducing the rate at which the years affect our speed is a victory—it’s the runner’s version of aging gracefully.

While many facets of aging work against our speed and performance goals, the primary culprits are declining aerobic horsepower, flexibility, muscle power, and recovery and healing rates.

Aerobic horsepower, classically measured by VO2 Max, or the maximum rate of oxygen usage per unit of body weight, is also affected by changes in the heart and how adept the muscles are at using oxygen. The easiest way to combat aerobic decline is simple: keep running. Richard Brown, a 71-year-old exercise physiologist from Oregon, recommends sixty minutes of moderate-paced aerobic work two or three times each week. Others, including Portland-based coach Bob Williams, believe speed work and regular racing is essential.

Flexibility, and the loss of range of motion, is a problem that intensifies with age and a sedentary lifestyle. As tendon elasticity diminishes, a runner’s stride and propulsion is negatively affected.

"Once the muscles start to get tight, you're limiting your power base," Williams notes. "You're not going to be able to move as smooth and efficiently."

The easiest way to maintain flexibility and muscle elasticity is to stretch. To get blood flowing through the connective tissues, incorporate pre-workout dynamic stretching and post-workout static stretching into your routine. The use of foam rollers, regular massage and cross-training also helps to retain flexibility and range of motion.  “The foam roller seems to be the primary tool I've found that keeps competitive runners healthy," Williams says.

Declining muscle mass is another side effect of aging. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, muscle strength and mass begin decreasing at the age of 40, with the process speeding up after age 65 or 70, and the rate of loss occurring fastest in the lower body and with fast-twitch fibers. 

Scott Trappe, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., blames changing lifestyles as the cause of decreasing muscle mass. Trappe notes that, as people age, they tend to stop doing high intensity activities that require fast-twitch fibers, which causes the fibers to atrophy until they permanently disappear. Vigorous weight training is the best way to combat the loss of muscle composition.

Recovery & Healing: As you age, tissue repair and replacement occurs less rapidly so, while workout intensity should remain constant, the frequency of hard workouts should be reduced to allow for more recovery time. While you cannot actually slow the aging process, you can accelerate it if you push too hard too often.

According to runnersworld.com, aging, like injuries, is one of those things most of us prefer to deny but, eventually, we’re all going to become masters athletes, or not be athletes at all.  Simply modifying your current workout routine will go a long way to keep you racing well into your golden years.