Busy Days & Training Strategies

Busy, busy!  Being the sole Analyst at work and with a number of large projects I am leading certainly fills my mind with things to do.  Keeping up with this quarter’s training plan takes up quite a bit more time as well.

Instead of training an average of 4.5 hours per week, I am now averaging upwards of 6.5 hours per week.  Last week topped out at 7.5.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t leave me much time for blogging.  I have so many things to share with the fitness and triathlon community, it is a shame and makes me quite sad.

On that note, what are some of the strategies that you use to squeeze training in amongst your other responsibilities?

Please leave a comment or send me a tweet @AricInTraining on Twitter!

Week 52.2009 Training Summary

Triathlon training summaries are a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, you get to see your progress and gloat about your accomplishments.  On the other hand, you often start to see bitter realities that don’t make you so proud.  However you end up looking at it, the exercise of reviewing your training, your progress, and your goals weekly is essential.

The last time I reviewed my weekly training summary at Aric In Training, we four weeks ago, week 48.2009.  At that point, I was talking about putting my plan together, focusing on periodization, and publishing my goals (I owe you my goals… I know).  The whole idea was smart triathlon training for 2010.  Something went wrong in the past four weeks…

The Chart

Looking at this week’s chart, one will be shocked.

Week Triathlon Training Summary Chart
Wow, quite an increase in training time!

Wow. Check out that four week increase in training time since Thanksgiving week (48).  Each increase represents a substantial increase each week:

  1. Week 49 Increase: 125%
  2. Week 50 Increase: 25%
  3. Week 51 Increase: 19%
  4. Week 52 Increase: 12%

The 12% increase this week does not seem like a lot.  In fact, a 10% increase week over week is not unheard of in the fitness industry, but 25% is hefty!   The 12% on top of 19% and 25% is just plain ugly.

The Reality

So what happened?

  1. Substantial increase in run distance, which increases the overall training time. In fact, run distance in the past month has almost doubled. Sick!
    1. This week I had: 1) 4 mile tempo run, 6 mile speed workout, 8 mile “long run”
    2. The 8 mile long run was pace focused (sub 11:30) so most of the run was in zone 3, carb burning zone and I bonked quickly.  Long runs should be endurance runs where fat burn is key.
  2. What you don’t see is the intensity of the 17.5 mile bike ride on Dec. 25th.  With just one bike ride per week now back in the training plan, I would expect there to be an increase in time, but the ride should be easy, not hard.
  3. Swim time and strength workouts are being used as recovery days, not necessarily the ideal purpose for them.
  4. Goals were switched around.  I feel like I gave into peer to pressure as my trainer and and another client seem to be racing fast and hard to compete in a half marathon in March.  Getting sucked into the excitement was a bad decision on my part. Yes, I am competitive, but being competitive is not always smart.

But there is some good news.  Focusing on my running workouts week over week, one can see that I am progressing quite nicely.  Even with a substantial increase in distance, my average weekly run pace continues to improve.

Weekly Run Distance and Pace Chart
Distance Increases as Pace Improves

How do I feel?  Pretty good actually.  My muscles are definitely tired from today’s 8 mile run and I feel a little stressed as I have been trying to do so much… any yet the dishes still aren’t done.   It feels great to push the body a bit…  that runner’s high is amazing, but I am starting to feel like I am pushing too much.  Fatigue is settling in.

While I can go on and on giving insight into my training week, I think the above four items summarize what went wrong.  To sum up in two words:  lost focus.  Giving into peer pressure to participate and prepare for an event that is not on MY A-list is pulling me toward failure. I have so much to build on, it would be a shame to loose my momentum now.

Going Forward

One word: regroup.  AFter looking at my Facebook page tonight, I am hearing loud and clear that I am pushing my training too far.  My summary chart shows it, my body feels it, my friends say it, and my goals tell me to train smart.

Tomorrow, Monday, is a 100% rest day, as planned.  Then I will review my training plan and consider what it means to train for my A-list events.  What do I want from my 2010 season?  Smart training, competitive races, and enjoyable fun!

After reviewing the training plan, I need to take some further data points.  On 10/24, I ran 2-miles at 10:00 pace with a resulting heart rate of 162.  Doing a test this week will help me understand how my heart has improved its ability to sustain effort.  I hope to see it under 160??

Of course, I also need to talk to my trainer.  While he has been pushing me to train for the half marathon (afterall, I told him I was interested in doing it), I need to communicate my hesitation toward continuing at such a high level of training.

In addition, nutrition is the key.  While my nutrition has improved ten fold over the past two years, I will be honest that there is still room for improvement.  Focusing on eating simpler, nutritious meals that fuel me to perform is a huge priority.  You can read more about my nutrition experiences at Fitness and Food, A New Reality.

Lastly, going forward, all long runs, need to be heart rate runs, focusing on keeping my heart rate in zone 1 and 2 for the entire run.  Sure I can do 8 miles, but I can do 8 miles at a pace that teaches my body to burn fat, not carb.

Summary of the Summary

Staying on the current trajectory is going to lead to problems.  I felt it, saw it coming and now sit in my own reality of over-training.  Time to pull it back, regroup, refocus and stay true to what 2010 will deliver if I train smart.   Triathlon training is an awesome thing and is focused around goals, not my own made up peer pressure and ego.

Eating to Entertain Oneself

Eating is an activity that can be used to fill time.  In fact, when eating goes beyond basic survival one must step back and take a hard look at the role of food in their life.

Eating to Fulfill

In this case, the person gorges them self in the extreme at every meal.  They do not pay attention to the amount of food they eat and their only consideration for what they eat is how it fulfills their emotional cravings.  In fact, when they are done eating this meal, they are already thinking about what the next meal will be.

While this sounds a bit crazy, it starts to make more sense when you realize that they are emotionally distraught, lack a formal job, and live in an environment that is both boring and toxic.  With these conditions in place, the only security one has is food.  Food goes from a survival need to one that fulfills the absence of everyday structure and emotional fulfillment.

My Personal Case

In my personal case, this all changed when I started my triathlon training.  Not only did I start exercising, but I soon realized that the food I was eating was not supplying my body with the right fuel. I was also eating so much that my body was burdened with digestion constantly, my stomach was stuffed and stretched at each meal.  Through baby steps, I eliminated fast food, sugar, and most other refined foods. Today, food is a tertiary thought since I eat to fuel and not eat to fulfill.  As a triathlete today, I look back and can’t help but be bewildered by my previous relationship with food.

Family and Lack of Routine

Visiting my family this Thanksgiving, I see my old self in each of them, two years ago before I started training.  They live in a small town where employment is difficult, they seldom exercise, and the only security in their life at the time is food.  This epidemic is so prevalent, that even the cat is obese!  Seeing them this way makes me very sad.

It is also very difficult to not get sucked into the emotional binge eating. I certainly have consumed more food than I typically do and my training has tapered off.  My routine has been interrupted and I can’t let their routine substitute for my own.  It has been tough and I am feeling the consequences for not being more disciplined with my eating habits.

Life Changing Event?

While I desperately want to help them, you can’t force someone to change when they can’t see the problem.  I hope that they encounter a life changing event that makes them wake-up, deal with their emotions and become more fit and loose some weight.

When you begin your triathlon training, please take a conscious look at your relationship with food.  It may not be as healthy as you think it is.

Thank you.

Triathlon Training Dashboard: Chart One

As an analyst, numbers fascinate me.  After two years of triathlon training, I feel great!  I feel even better when I see my fitness improvements on a chart. This is the one of the reasons why I wanted to create a training dashboard that compliments my 2010 triathlon training plan.

This post is one in a series of posts to discuss the building of the triathlon training dashboard and the relevance of each chart and/or component.  Understanding how I built my dashboard, I hope it will inspire you to take another look at how you track your training.

As a member of Training Peaks, there are things that I like and things I don’t like about their dashboard. One of the things I do like about their dashboard is the Fitness Summary pie chart.  It shows the time and percent training spent on each of the sports like bike, run, swim, strength, etc. Below is my most recent Fitness Summary chart for the past 30 days (October 2009).  You can see that I spent the most time running, the second most time spent on strength training, etc, etc.

My Training Peaks Fitness Summary, October 2009

What I don’t like about this chart is that it lacks trending, which is a problem with all pie charts.  What I really want to know is how have these percentages changed?  While this month (or whatever time period) I spent about 45% on running, how does that compare to my training three or four month ago.  To do this, I have to turn toward an alternative workout tracking solution.

Enter Excel.  Microsoft Excel 2007 is a blank slate just waiting to be nurtured into a masterpiece by an analyst like me.  After looking at the options, I settled on a weekly summary focusing on four sports: bike, run, Swim and strength.   I also decided that not only do I need visibility into the time trained on each sport, but the distance I covered as well.  If time stays the same, yet distance increases, it is a good indication that my ability in the sport is improving.

Below is my version of a Weekly Summary.

Trending My Weekly Triathlon TrainingI use a stacked bar chart by week to indicate the amount of time spent on each sport.  This enables me to:

1) See the overall amount of time each week spent on training.
2) See how much time each sport makes during the week
3) How the time spent on sport changes over time.

Using an area chart placed behind the stacked bar chart allows me to:

1) show the distance covered in each sport.
2) trend the distance over time to identify changes
3) placing it behind the bar chart, I can easily compare time with distance.

When you put it altogether, the number of insights you can get from my combo chart above compared to the TP pie chart at the top is much more.  It is quite fascinating to see the relationships and changes in my actual training performance each week and over time.  Here are some of the interesting things I see in this chart:

1) in the past three weeks, I have almost doubled the run distance compared to week 36 and 37 (time spent running has also increased).
2) the past three weeks, I have not done many bike workouts at all.
3) the amount of time spent on strength training is consistent week over week.
4) swim time has become more consistent, but I need to spend more time in the pool.

Has anyone noticed something missing on the area chart?  Yep, that is right, Swim distance is non-existent.  This is on purpose for two reasons:  1) plotting 975 yards on the graph with these scales would throw off the rest of the data (one solution is to convert yards to miles) and 2) time spent in the pool focuses on technique, not covering distance and I don’t count laps when I practice, meaning distance is irrelevant at the moment.

Seeing your training on a graph is not only a great accountability tool, but it also drives inspiration.  I can see how far my training has come and I want to see how far I can take it!

Can you visualize your training week over week like I outlined here?

Please stay tuned for the next post in this series…

Update:  I started a company called TrainingMetrix, that specializes in fitness dashboards, workout tracking, and focused performance for triathletes based on my frustration for finding a solution.  Please head over to our blog for more information on fitness dashboards and triathlon workout tracking.

If you are a data oriented triathlete like myself, you might also want to read, Triathlon Results and Their Story, where I plot the results of my division for the 2009 Carpinteria Triathlon.

Visualizing a Training Plan

As I start building my training plan for 2010 for the fourth time, I quickly realized that my problem with producing the plan is that I can’t visualize the progress. This is a problem with with the example plan that my trainer shared with me a while back.

I can see the progression of the endurance phase, that is just a matter of increasing bike/run distances each workout.  But when you move into speed and intensity workouts, how do you show the progress visually?  Training Peaks WKO+ software uses an rTSS metric derived from a number of variables.  The purpose is to normalize every run so that you can compare it to other runs despite route, elevation, weather, etc.

What does progress look like for each training phase?
What does progress look like for each training phase?

It is something like this that I think I need to develop for myself that shows the progress of intensity, yet handles more simplistic endurance progress.  If I can find something that can show intensity/distance/etc/etc of strength workouts, bike workouts, swim workouts, and run workouts all on the same playing field, I think I would find my missing link.

Clearly something like this does not exist.  As I mentioned before, Training Peaks offers something close, but I am unwilling to spend the $100 just to test it. Besides, I am on a Mac, which they don’t support.

Visualizing a triathlon training plan…  not as easy as it sounds!

Does anyone have any suggestions?