Athlete Journal: Andrew Read, Entry 3 – Staving Off Boredom

As Andrew’s Ironman training continues he fights two of the biggest obstacles for endurance athletes – boredom and injury. Find out how he is adjusting his training to deal with both.

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 3 – Staving Off Boredom

With an event that is still almost a year away, it is expected focus can come and go at times, which makes Olympians even more astounding than just their performances. The ability to stay singularly focused on a goal for more than a decade is amazing and great testament to the human spirit.

I am facing two big challenges right now:

  1. Continue preparing my body to cope with the REAL training that will come soon enough.
  2. Staving off boredom.

The first is difficult because it means that even though I feel like I could do more at times, I deliberately need to hold myself back. For instance, my normal swim sessions are about 3-3.5km in length. I could easily swim more than that each session, but I’m not sure my body has enough recovery ability to deal with that and keep me fresh for the more important running sessions.

Running is the thing that will break you down the fastest, especially if you haven’t done it for a fair while like me. I’ve dropped about 6kg over the last few months deliberately, not just for running, but because I realised I was zero percent better athletically at a heavier weight, so I got rid of the useless mass. (That was actually really easy – I just stopped eating bad food). The lower body weight makes a massive difference.

Take a quick look at the math in my decision:

  • If I weigh 90kg, my body will be forced to deal with up to 270kg per step when I run. At an average of 1200 steps/km, even a short 6km run will see me have to deal with as much as 1,944,000kg of force (270kg x 1200 steps x 6km).
  • But by weighing 84kg I am dealing with only 1,814,400kg of force. Simply lowering my body weight by 6kg sees me spare my body 100,000kg of potentially damaging forces. If I drop to 80kg that goes down another 100,000kg.

They say that when you are at or near race weight your family keeps trying to feed you and friends ask if you have an eating disorder. I guess time will tell on that. But you can quickly see why elite distance athletes are usually slightly built. It makes them less prone to injury (and there are some heat dissipation considerations to take into account too).

On the bike each kilo extra is estimated to be 1.25% more effort needed to go at the same speed. So far, I haven’t seen that it makes too much difference on flat terrain, but I have seen it many times up hills. Being 10kg heavier than a rival means you need to ride 12.5% harder just to go at the same pace. Now imagine having to sustain that extra effort over 180km of an Ironman bike ride, then still have enough energy to run effectively, and again you can see why maintaining the lightest body weight you can is beneficial.

That’s not to say you should try to get as light as a feather. I know from experience if my weight does drop below 80kg I start to get injured frequently – I’m just not strong enough at that weight to protect myself. The sweet spot for me is between 82-84kg, however I will need to carefully consider whether or not it would be helpful to my Ironman journey to allow my weight to drop to 80kg just for the race. I’m pretty sure the huge volume of running that is coming will shed weight off me, so I may end up working to keep my weight up, which would be an interesting problem to have.

The second issue, staving off boredom, is difficult. Like many on this site I am physically curious. I enjoy training and using my body in many ways. This makes my strength training difficult. I wrote briefly about it in a previous column, but I’ve already had to change it.

Originally Pavel had suggested I perform swings and get ups with the Beast (106lb kettlebell). If I were only doing that program it would have been fine, however with the volume of running and riding I am doing I quickly saw it was too much. In fact, the heavy swings (see my latest swing article to get an idea of how I was structuring these workouts) left me with a strained hamstring that I have been battling for three weeks now with treatment. It’s better, but I have cut the swings completely from my current training. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with Pavel’s suggestions. The problem with it is that I am strong enough to hurt myself. Think back to what I said about swimming – just because I can doesn’t mean I should.

So I’ve changed my program to include exercises that are useful, allow me to practice my RKC skills, and leave me fresh enough for the important things – swimming, riding, and running.

running, ultrarunning, running technique, endurance sports, marathon, triathlonMy current plan is simple – pull ups, kettlebell clean and jerks, single leg squats (and once my hamstring is one hunded percent I will also include some swings). I warm up with a combination of Indian clubs, primal movement, and some of Pavel’s Resilient push up series. I stretch after every strength session for about twenty minutes and also spend an hour two days a week doing additional stretches.

While the program is hardly the world’s most exciting plan – no met-con (can’t stand it anyway), little variety (fine, I grew up swimming, I can deal with boredom) – this plan will do the job. Adding in extra work will only tire me needlessly and open the door to potential injury. As much as March 2013 seems a long way off, it’s not that far and I can’t afford to lose four to six weeks nursing an injury that prevents me from swim, bike, run.

As Pavel says, “If you want to be entertained watch TV.”

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