Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 21 – A New Bike and A Lot of Back Bends

Ironman training starts next week, so I spent this week trying out my wetsuit and preparing my new bike. Also, an unexpected cure for my calf problems: lots of back bends. Who would have thought?

Click here to read other journal entries and articles by Andrew Read, and look for his new journal every Monday as he trains for Ironman Melbourne.

Journal Entry 21 – A New Bike and A Lot of Back Bends

I can remember a day not too long ago when I thought that a big training week was five or so sessions totalling about seven and a half hours of training. For strength training that is a lot for me. But these days that isn’t even two days of training and the “real” training for Ironman begins next week (actually the day you read this I will be on my second day of “real” training).

Over the last week I’ve been deliberately taking it kind of easy to have a rest before next week starts. The Ironman training plan begins with less volume but far more “hard” in each session than what I have been doing. I have deliberately stayed away from too much intensity while riding and running to build as much base as possible before I begin.

Swimming has been a little different, as I don’t believe there’s any great value in swimming ‘easy’ other than for recovery. Because you don’t weight bear and use smaller muscle groups swimming than you do riding or running the heart rates and effort don’t really match up. You can swim yourself to a near death experience but if you took that same amount of work and used it for running you’d find that it ended up being an easy session.

There’s also a lot to be said for learning to suffer and the extra economy you seem to gain from going faster in training versus a more moderate race pace for an event like an Ironman (where a fast swim will still take an hour). One of my goals for this week was to get my wetsuit back on after not having swum in it for a few years and see how fast I was, as the suit adds buoyancy and speed. While I’m never going to challenge real swimmers I swam fifteen-minute kilometres in the pool in my wetsuit this week and was amazed at how easy it all felt.

The only problems were that I had to reduce my kick because the legs of my wetsuit are so buoyant that my feet actually come out of the water if I kick much. Also, when I turn to my right to breathe my neck gets irritated by a seam or something on the inside of the suit. That will be easily fixed with some lube next time I swim in it (common practice in endurance sports is to grease up parts of your body that are prone to chafing – Vaseline may be the secret of champions). But to easily handle intervals that equate to a roughly hour swim left me feeling pretty happy.

And there’s more good news for the week. Firstly, my bike showed up. It’s not all put together yet and I haven’t even sat on it and got it all sorted for riding, but it’s almost there. I’m hoping by the next column it’ll be ready and I can share some pictures with you, as well as detail the fitting process that is so crucial to long, fast riding. Secondly, I may have actually found the underlying reason for all the calf troubles I’ve had.

In my last journal everything was going well. I’d had no issues for a week or so and it appeared that I was on the road to running without issue again. I saw my therapist on the Wednesday during the week and joked that it had been about two weeks since I’d done any damage so it must be about time. Sure enough, the next morning it happened again. Me and my big mouth.

Out of frustration I called an old friend, an absolute genius when it comes to the human body, and he agreed to quickly take a look at me. After literally about two minutes he’d found the culprit – all my time spent riding had locked up my SI joint and I had nearly no movement at all there. The solution was to do some back bends going into extension from standing. One of the FMS yardsticks for movement is a toe touch, and my toe touch went from about four inches from the floor (normal for me because of my hamstring issues) to on the floor without having done any hamstring stretching at all. And the pain I had felt in my calf was instantly reduced. The body really is an amazing and complicated machine.

The end result is that I have been doing fifty back bends daily as well as spending some extra time on bridging so that I have both a passive and static extension exercise in my routine. The weirdest part is my calf tear has disappeared in two days – this morning it was 100% pain free even for single leg hopping. I’ve been cleared to run/ walk again next week and I’ll get back into it. I’ll adhere to the rest of the program one hundred percent – which means I’ll be doing some very intense sessions on the bike – but overall it will actually be a slightly easier week than what I have become used to.

This week is a big week – the start of proper Ironman build up, my new bike will be sorted, and I’m hopeful we’ve finally put this calf thing to rest once and for all.

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