There are many, many things I like about being a triathlete: feeling alive and energetic when I get to work in the morning, the achey achievement of having another long ride under my belt, the friendships and camaraderie I’ve discovered, and the rush of blood to the wallet I feel every time I walk near a sports store or bike ship, to name but a few.
But one of the greatest things about being a triathlete has to be the smugness with which you can look at ‘normal’ people trying to get in shape. A lunchtime chat in my office yesterday revealed that, of eight people sat around the table, six were on diets. And nothing makes my day more than hearing the latest bat-slap-crazy diet that folks have signed up to. One lass was existing on nothing but honey, lemon and hot water for four days; another was eating only rice cakes for lunch every day… they all almost choked on their two almonds (they were on dessert by now) when I whipped out my Big Mac Meal with extra chicken nuggets (unwritten rule of triathlon: for one month after an Ironman, you’re allowed to eat ANYTHING you want).
It seems amazing to me that the one thing the massive masses find really hard to swallow is the simple truth: eat less, exercise more.
But then are we, as triathletes, actually any more sensible? Speak to ten triathletes about their training schedules and you’ll likely find ten different schools of thought:
‘I’m in a Tz1 base period.’
‘I’m totally into the high intensity stuff.’
‘Heart rate, mate.’
‘Nah, it’s all about power.’
For some, the key to training for an Ironman, for example, is volume, volume and more volume. While, at the other end of the spectrum, this dude reckons you can go sub-9 at Kona on about 45 minutes a week (and even that only if you feel like it), while the beefcakes at Crossfit Endurance claim they can get you through an Ironman in a good time based on very low training hours, with a focus on high intensity and weights.
Strange, when you think about it, that there are so many routes when the destination (getting faster) is the same.
But all the science, fitness tests and training tools have overshadowed what I believe just might be the greatest approach to triathlon training ever invented. You see, since I returned from my recent Ironman, I’ve been following a radical programme that seems to be having amazing results: it’s called ‘having fun’!
If I fancy a swim, I’ll go swimming. Someone says they’re heading out on the bike and I’m in the mood, I tag along. While cycling along, I might do a steady ride or, if I feel like it, throw in some fun little sprints. I used to love going to the gym in my pre-triathlon days so, guess what, I’m going to the gym and lifting weights again. And the results? Well, I feel awesome – what other result do I need?
Of course, if you’ve a specific goal in mind, I understand that a structured programme is necessary but, for many, now is simply a case of staying in shape until the next goal comes around or getting ready for the local tri season. Sometimes, it’s all too easy to be blinded by the science and get wrapped up in training zones, heart rates, kilometres and pace and forget why you’re doing it in the first place (because you enjoy it, for those of you who’ve forgotten!).
With so many great swimming, cycling and running groups out there – plus loads of willing training buddies looking for company – Dubai is the perfect place for this ‘do what you wanna do’ style of training. Try it – you just might like it!