4 Top Tips from a Veteran Endurance Athlete
How To Train For A Personal Best
At 20 years of age, I raced my first duathlon while serving in the Israeli military. I ran, biked, and ran some more, with a crappy bike, crappier shoes and a mostly military-style training regimen. I still managed to win though, and happily wheeled my bike back to my waiting commander, Shahar. “You have to run faster,” he stated simply, throwing my bike into the waiting army jeep.
He was always direct. And correct, by the way – my cycling won me that race, and I had to work hard to improve my running in order to eventually become the national champion. Since then, I’ve competed and succeeded in duathlon, professional cycling, ultra-distance cycling, and even some age-group marathoning.
I’m 46 now, and not a year has gone by that I haven’t competed in some kind of endurance event, so forgive me, dear reader, for being so bold as to claim to know a thing or two about training. There are endless book chapters, training charts, and expert opinions, all dedicated to unraveling the intricacies of preparing for an endurance race. I’m not the type to ramble on, however, so here are my top 4 endurance tips on how to train for your personal best:
- Simulate Race Conditions: Pick one day per week to simulate your actual race. And I mean everything. Wake up at the time you’ll have to on race day. Wear the same clothing, eat the same pre-race meal, and pick a route that mimics the hills and distance of your race. Carry the food/liquid that you’ll use (if you do that) and eat and drink at planned intervals. The rest of week, use other flavors or foods so you don’t get sick of it. And on this pretend race day – RACE! Go hard. It’s the only way to truly test your plan. Then on race day you can be calm knowing: I’ve already done all this.
- Cycle Your Workouts: Training harder and longer makes you faster and tougher, right? Ummm, not exactly. I learned this one the hard way, often doubling the miles of my professional cycling teammates. And taking a week off? Never! I trained really hard, but often felt “flat” and “sluggish” at races. After a few disappointing finishes, and a several long speeches from my coaches, I slowly perfected the art of recovery. We all need it to repair and build overworked muscles, and the concept is simple. Younger athletes, I recommend doing 3 weeks of hard/long training, then 1 week of active recovery – where you just do whatever you feel like. Slow 2-hour bike ride? Fine. Walk a few miles? Good. Over 40? Might want to make that ratio 2 to 1. During recovery week, just listen to your body – it’ll tell you what to do.
- Don’t Skip Workouts. You may have to race in the heat, rain, wind, or even snow (Yes, I live in Canada – there are actually people who would do this. I may or may not be one of them). And if you can’t control the weather on race day – why would you let it control you on training days? Riding or running in inclement weather gives you a chance to prep, just like the pretend race days. Keep a detailed diary, recording the temperature, the clothing you wore, how you felt and any issues that arose (and of course, your pace). For example: 90 degrees – needed 3 bottles of liquid. Avg. 7.5 min/mile or Rain and 45 – thin gloves too light. Blister from blue-toed socks. 8 min/mile. By race day, you should be able to check the forecast and pull together the correct gear, fuel and liquid faster than a personal shopper at Macys. And remember – the finish line weather will be different than the beginning…experiment with throwaway clothing (garbage bag, long tee shirts or my favorite – tube socks for arm warmers).
- Invest in good shoes and clothing – but mostly shoes. I see this all the time – a person tells me that they “hate bike riding”. And I say, “No, you hate riding your” I put them on a decent road bike, show them proper gear selection, and then a light bulb just explodes over their head. Their wide eyes and tilted head say it all. Ohhhhh. It’s the same with shoes and clothing. Taking your time, and buying quality, well-fitting gear is SO worth the money. Stop buying Starbucks for a month and build up your shoe fund…sliding your overworked foot into a little bit of heaven is totally worth the caffeine-withdraw headache.
Test and experiment and test some more! We are all different animals, so be wary of basing all of your training decisions on someone else’s advice – except mine! (I’m kidding, of course – INCLUDING MINE!). Your fitness training has to fit into YOUR life and YOUR body. No one is going to be a better trainer for you than you. Keep trying new distances, disciplines and cross-training activities! It’s good for your muscles, joints and mind. Above all, make sure that whatever you’re doing is still enjoyable. If you wake up in the morning and dry heave just thinking about your bike…then it’s time to fire that trainer.
Leah Goldstein is an internationally sought-after speaker. She is a World Champion Kickboxer, Israeli Undercover Police Officer, National Cycling Champion, record holder of multiple ultra-distance cycling races and all-around crazy person. Leah’s memoir, “No Limits” is available now at www.leahgoldstein.com/book/ and all online retailers.
Lori Friend Moger, M.Sc. is a writer, speaker and Kinesiologist. She is co-founder (with Leah) of No Finish Line Living, a wellness company providing keynotes, seminars and retreats with the sole purpose of pushing people into their best lives possible. She is considerably less crazy. For more information, visit us at www.nofinishlineliving.com.