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Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

8 Weeks Left!

We’re now down to the home stretch of our Becoming an Ironman 2008 training program.  The progress that the team has made over the last 40 weeks is incredible!  It’s been truly inspiring to watch, and a real honor to be a part of. 

At this point, nearly everyone is already in Ironman shape and will have no problem finishing the distance on September 7th.  However, the next 4 weeks or so are a great opportunity to work out any kinks in your race plan — and especially your race-day nutrition — and to sharpen the edges a bit by adding some shorter, more intense mid-week workouts to get you in peak racing shape.

As far as race-day nutrition and pacing goes, here are a few things to keep in mind and to practice at next weekends half-ironman and on your long training days over the course of the next month:

General Health

  • As we near race day, and as our workouts increase in intensity, it also becomes more important to pay attention to what you’re putting into your body.  You need to be eating a lot of calories, but you also need to be eating good calories.  Make sure you’re getting plenty of protein — that’s critical to your post-workout recovery as well as repairing and building damaged muscles.
  • No matter how well you’re eating, you’re probably not getting enough critical vitamins and nutrients for the level of training we’re doing.  For that reason, it’s strongly suggested that you take a daily supplement, such as Hammer’s Premium Insurance Caps.  They only cost about $1/day, and if you look at it as an insurance policy to help increase the odds that you stay healthy and injury-free for the next two months, the price is well worth it.
  • It’s also a good idea to consider getting a sports massage once every two to three weeks between now and the race.  This can help both to allieve and/or prevent the onset of training-related muscle injuries, and also to boost your health and increase your performance by flushing many of the toxins and lactic acid from your tissues.  Note: schedule this for the day before an easy day, as you’re likely to be pretty sore for a day or so afterwards (but it’s worth it)!

Race Day Nutrition

  • Although there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all nutrition plan, you should plan on consuming approximately 300 calories per hour during the bike portion of Ironman.  That equates to approximately 1 bottle of Gatorade Endurance (which they’ll have on the course) and 1.5 packets of Gu (or any other gel or shot-block type product).  Unless you can’t handle the Gatorade, it’s probably easiest to plan on grabbing a Gatorade and/or water at each aid station — they’re spaced out approximately every 12-15 miles on the course.  It’s also a good idea to tape the bars or gels that you’ll use to your top tube.  It’s not only easier to get them that way than trying to reach into a pocket or get them at water stops, but you’ll also be reminded to eat them as they’ll be right there in front of you.
  • In terms of timing, keep in mind that you shouldn’t consume any solids/gels for at least the first 30 minutes on the bike.  After 2.4 miles in the water, where your arms and core is doing most of the work, you need to give your body every opportunity to adapt to cycling, and that means not diverting your blood flow to your digestive system.  However, you’re going to need calories as soon as possible, so it’s important to start eating right around the 30 minute mark (this will be approximately at the bottom of the hill at the intersection of Whalen Road and Fish Hatchery — a great time to get out of your aerobars and eat that first gel).
  • It’s also very important that you stick to a regimented nutrition routine.  The tendency is to listen to your body, and since you’ll probably be feeling great one you get on the bike, and since even on a warm day, it will still be very comfortable, you probably won’t feel like you need to eat.  BUT YOUR BODY STILL NEEDS THOSE CALORIES AND ELECTROLYTES!  No matter how great you might be feeling, you’re going to be burning a lot more calories out there than you can consume, and once you fall too far behind, it’s impossible to make it up.  Find an eating schedule that works well for you in training, and duplicate that on race day.
  • Having said, that you still have to be flexible and have a back-up plan.  Your sweat rate, and electrolyte and caloric needs, will vary significantly with the temperature.  On a very warm day, you’re going to need more water and electrolytes than normal.  On a very cold day, you’re going to need more calories than normal (because you’re having to burn extra to keep your core warm).  So be ready to make the necessary adjustments once we know what the conditions will be like on September 7th. 
  • Along those lines, one thing many of you should consider — and nearly everyone should consider on a warm day — is some sort of electrolyte supplement (often referred to as “salt tabs”).  Maintaining a high electrolyte balance is critical to avoiding cramping, especially late in the day.  The more you tend to sweat, the more important it becomes to replace not only the water you’re losing but also the sodium, potassium, and other nutrients you’re losing as well.  Endurance House has several good options to choose from, so take a look next time you’re in the store.

Race Day Pacing

  • When you’re doing an Ironman, the most important thing to keep in mind is that YOU’RE DOING AN IRONMAN!  Whether you’re planning on finishing in 10 hours or 17 hours, it’s a long day out there.  As great as you’re going to be feeling in the first half of the bike, you have to consciously remember to hold back and be patient.  By the half-way point of the bike, your still only about one-third of the way done in terms of total time.
  • The goal should be to do the second half of the bike as fast as the first half.  Not only is this the most efficient and fastest way to race from a physiological standpoint, but it’s also the most beneficial from a psychological standpoint.  As fast as some people might fly by you during the first 56 miles, you’re going to be doing exactly the same thing to them during the second half of the bike, and that’s going to give you a huge mental boost as you start the run.
  • As far as the run goes, there’s no question that starting the marathon after 112 miles on the bike is going to feel very daunting.  The key is to just take it one step at a time.  Tell yourself that you’re not running a marathon, you’re just running ot the next mile marker, or the next aid station, or the next point you’ll see your family.  Before you know it, you’ll be making the second turn onto Martin Luther King to hear those famous four words:  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!”

As always, please contact any of the Team Captains if you have any specific questions or concerns with anything discussed above, or any other Ironman-related topics!

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October Seminar Recap

About 20 team members attended last Thursday’s seminar on Life as a Triathlete. This seminar covered three main topics: the Becoming an Ironman training program and philosophy, the psychological aspects of Ironman, and nutrition tips for Ironman athletes. Each is summarized briefly below:

Training Program and Philosophy

Our training plan is designed around four training blocks – each 12 weeks long. The reason for this is partly based three things:

(1) Convenience – from the start of the program on October 8 we had approximately 48 weeks to work with before Ironman Wisconsin

(2) Psychology – it’s a lot easier and less daunting to view our journey to the Ironman in four separate, 12 week stages than to look at the year as a whole

(3) Science – most importantly, scientific studies on endurance athletes have conclusively shown that treating the training preparation for any key event is most effective when done in compartmentalized stages as opposed to a constant build. This is called Periodization.

Periodization was first experimented with during the 1950s, when the Soviet track and field program used the philosophy to dominate the world at key competitions. Periodization has since been refined and now refers to a specific cycle of training and rest designed to maximize your body’s performance for a specific event during a relatively narrow (3-to-5 week) time frame. Periodization differs from constant-build type programs in that it focuses on different aspects of your body’s response to training loads, while also giving your body time to recover from and adapt to that training in between stages. The primary benefits it provides over a constant build program is that it greatly reduces the risk of burnout and overtraining-related injuries and also gives the athlete a much better chance of peaking their performance at the time of their key event. The only disadvantage is that following a periodization program generally means that the athlete is not going to be in “racing form” for early season triathlons.

The science behind periodization is contained in the way our bodies adapt physiologically to increased training workloads. In terms of muscular and cardiovascular development, most people’s bodies are on a 20-day cycle. That is, we can handle and adapt to increased loads for approximately three continuous weeks, but then we have to either ease back on the training to allow our bodies to adapt and recover, or we risk break-down. Our bodies can handle only so much work before our performance starts to decrease dramatically instead of improve. The key with periodization is to work our bodies right up to that threshold and then back off for a short period (about one week) to allow our bodies to absorb the benefits of that training and come back stronger at the start of the next three-week period.

So with the exception of Block I of our training plan – where aerobic conditioning is only a secondary focus to practicing form and technique – each of our 12-week blocks will be further broken down into three three-week mini-blocks with a week of slightly lighter “recovery” training between each, as well as a week of more significant rest at the end of each major block.

Psychological Tricks of the Ironman Trade

There are seven key elements to keep in mind that will help you get through what can often be psychologically-demanding Ironman training:

  • Identify what you’re not good at. Focus on applying strategies to help turn these weaknesses into strengths.
  • Identify what motivates you. Knowing your doing all of this for some greater purpose can provide a great psychological boost during the hard times.
  • Avoid cramming. Ironman training requires a great deal of planning ahead. Don’t procrastinate so that you have to “squeeze in” training at the jeopardy of other important aspects of your life. Planning ahead can help you effectively allocate time between all of those other important things — like family — that also require your attention. If Ironman training isn’t enhancing your life in a positive way, you need to re-evaluate what your are not attending to from a planning standpoint.
  • Reward yourself. When you achieve those weekly or monthly training milestones, celebrate that fact.
  • Train with a group. For motivation, fun, and a psychological boost, group training cannot be beat. Just as important, developing bonds with other athletes who are going through the same physical and mental struggles as you are can provide a great support network.
  • Ask for help! If you don’t think you need help, you’re wrong. The whole reason we have a team is to support one another. Your family can also provide tremendous support — and probably already does so. Don’t forget to thank them.
  • Be positive. This is the most important tip to remember. There will be a lot of times — both during training and on race day — when you have the chance to get down on yourself. Don’t succumb to that temptation. Channel your thoughts and feelings positively by developing phrases that you can recite in your head that inspire you to keep going. Remember, this is a life-changing process that we are all going through together. Enjoy it.

Basic Nutrition for Endurance Athletes

We will have much more to say on this topic next spring, but there are three basic categories in which nutrition should be a consideration in your life:

  • Eating to Live. This is just a fundamental aspect of being healthy, regardless of whether or not you’re training for an Ironman. In general, you just want to follow the basic guidelines of eating a healthy diet, including:
    • Avoid high-fat content foods
    • Avoid high-sugar content foods
    • Avoid highly-processed foods (if the list of ingredients contains more than ten items or any words you can’t pronounce, you probably shouldn’t eat it)
    • Eat plenty of protein
    • Eat plenty of colors (i.e. fruits and vegetables)
    • Portion control!
    • Eliminate sugary fluids – unless it’s for training purposes (see below)
    • Moderate caffeine and alcohol intake.
  • Eating to Train. When you work out as much as Ironman training demands, your body has special requirements above-and-beyond those above.
    • Take a vitamin supplement daily. Hopefully you are getting all the nutritional requirements you need from your diet alone, but a multi-vitamin never hurts.
    • Increase the amount of lean protein. This helps support muscle development and recovery.
    • Consider supplement products to help speed the nutrients to your muscles necessary for a speedy recovery between workouts. See Jamie for more information about what products might be best for you.
    • Listen to your body. Be aware of what you are eating and how you feel during workouts. If you’re feeling great, don’t change it! On the other hand, if you consistently have an upset stomach or other similar issues, it might be time to change your nutrition around a bit.
  • Eating to Race. Racing puts a tremendous caloric demand on your body and you need to try to replenish some of those calories in a way that is beneficial to your performance. This can be a very delicate science, and we will cover this in much greater detail once our racing season draws nearer next spring.
    • Nutrition is often called the “fourth discipline” of Ironman. The difference between finishing strong and not finishing at all is often a matter of on-course nutrition.
    • Begin experimenting now. Some people have greater tolerance for some drinks, gels, and solid foods than others. Use our longer team training sessions to try different types of race-day drinks and foods to see what works best for you.
    • Be reasonable about the calories you attempt to consume. Studies have shown that most people are only capable of absorbing approximately 300 calories per hour while racing at an Ironman-level intensity. Gatorade Endurance (which is available on the Ironman course) has 100 calories per 16 oz. bottle. Most gels are approximately 100-120 calories per pack. A Powerbar has about 230 calories. So before you load yourself down with too much nutrition on the bike or run, think about how many calories your taking in and whether they’re doing you any good.

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