Monday, October 29, 2012

Angus Lessons- Pacing Your Season

Editor's note: As if Mother Nature read my last post on Perseverance, the great northeast is being beseiged with Hurricane Sandy. Rains and wind gusts up to 65 mph. I have every intention of running tomorrow morning. If Julie and Colin can row in a hurricane, I can run.

As I reflect on my interactions with the dynamic duo of Julie and Colin Angus, I was recalling some of the question and answer sessions in which they were involved. Mind you, they expertly participated in roughly 3000 Q&As over the course of a 2 day span. Oddly, many of their questions were not age limited. Kids, elementary school through high school and even adults, were very curious about the nuances of their travels. Here's a list of the most common questions asked to the mighty adventurers:
Nothing like asking a couple of the top adventurers in the world the hard hitting questions. That's some high quality learning opportunities there. There was one question, however, that was repeatedly asked which peaked my interest:
  • How do you train for something like that?
In case you are new here, let me clarify the 'something like that' bit. Colin walked, skied, biked, and rowed a boat starting at his house and continued west until he ended at his house. He made it around the globe using zero drops of gasoline. That feat makes my owning of a hybrid seem a little weak. Julie became the first and only woman to row a boat all the way across the Atlantic Ocean. She did that just after biking across Europe. In contrast, I rode my bike in the garage for an hour yesterday.

 So, back to the question at hand- How do you train for something like that?

Each time the question was asked, the audience grew quiet. Pens were on paper ready to record the wisdom of the ages. People wanted to know the magic behind getting the body ready for a venture that would span many thousands of miles. You can see that lives were about to be changed.

"You don't," said Julie and Colin.

The disbelief was palpable. Shoulders slumped. Faces contorted as minds tried to absorb the simple sentence just spoken. Luckily, the Angus's put it into perspective.

Colin's Take
On the first part of his journey the desert was full of life, there were plants and birds and rocks and things he was in a row boat for many days as he slowly crept his way across the sea into Asia. Instead of training, he was preparing all of the necessary gear and planning routes. Then he rowed. After the rowing, he biked for a very long time (the better part of a year). Any bike training that he would have done was lost on the first rowing. Then, any rowing training we accumulated would have been lost on the bike ride. There was simply no way to physically prepare for the excursion.

Julie's Take
Julie was in a very similar situation. She met Colin somewhere in Eurasia for the final portion of his bike ride. If she had any rowing adaptations from specialized training, they would have worked their way out of her arm muscles and into her legs. Then, somewhere in Portugal, she got in a boat and took up the oars. Now it was row, row, row your boat, gently across the Atlantic- a 5-month journey. You really cannot train for something like that.

The Take Home Message
Luckily, Julie and Colin are nice people and they kept talking. They did give their audience a plan of attack for starting an adventure. I found this advice to be spot on in starting any new adventure, beit training for an Ironman, starting a new career or life in general.

"Start slowly," they said. "It's really easy at the beginning to have all of this energy and want to get a head start on the job. But, this can have grave consequences. There's nothing worse than a repetitive stress injury or burn out in the first month of the adventure."

It's a shame people had stopped writing things down. That's pure gold right there. They went on to explain that they insist that the first 2 weeks are slow and steady, while emphasizing slow. That's how long it takes for them to establish a routine and for their bodies to gain the necessary adaptations for the work. So long as they don't stop and keep progressing towards the goal, they were not in a hurry. After 2 weeks, they can build intensity if they want to.

This sounds very similar to what all of the experts say about endurance training. In the first part of your training routine, never focus on speed. Everything should be slow and steady. Let your body adapt to the new schedule and the activity. In my opinion, 2 weeks is not nearly long enough for slow steady work. It takes me roughly 6 weeks before I get comfortable doing anything closely related to intensity.

To apply this to sport: One of my athletes is training for a marathon in late summer, 2013. Her current schedule is as follows: run 5 days a week at a minimum of 3 miles a session. Do that for 3 weeks in a row. If she fails during any of those weeks. She starts over. We have no current focus on speed, hills, or intensity. Her specific instructions are that she needs to be able to run tomorrow comfortably after today's effort. When she succeeds at that schedule, her next block will be very similar. Run 6 days a week for 3 weeks in a row. At the end of that block, she's going to be in some pretty good shape to tackle the next stages of training. Her body will be on the right path to handle the stress load for the impending marathon.

So, once again, thanks Julie and Colin for your sage advice. Your wisdom learned through arduous experience is spot on.

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