Triathlon Training, Uncategorized

Fitness and Health – walking the fine line.

A letter I sent to my athletes and probably good food for thought for any athlete.
Have you thought about the fact that there is a difference between being healthy and being fit? One of my favorite coaching guru’s and the guy our heart rate training is based on is Dr. Phil Maffetone.  I highly respect his work and his philosophy.  Now, as an injured athlete on a slow road to recovery, I have an even higher regard for his philosophy and approach.

Yesterday, all proud of myself because I’ve been exercising pretty regularly for 5 weeks after 5 months of nearly nothing, I went out for a walk.  When I started my back was quite cranky.  I just figured that once I got moving, the “motion is lotion” philosophy would loosen it up and I’d have a great walk.  As I began to walk, I started thinking about 2012.  What could I train for?  What races could and should I do?  I know that my body is enjoying swimming.  So far, after 3 rides, my body seems to be tolerating biking.  Although I did have some achilles twinges (warning, warning, warning).  My body is not tolerating running.  I’ve tried to take some short little runs and the back just says no, no, no.  So given that..I let my mind wander and I began to think about doing Kansas 70.3 and Redman 1/2 ironman aquabike.  I’d walk the run at Kansas and hopefully kick some bootie at Redman.  Now, I’m about 20 minutes into my walk and my hr is truly settling in (I’m out of shape and a sign of that is a HR that fluctuates all over the board as the body tries to figure out how to most efficiently accomplish what it’s being asked to do) at 98 bpm.  98?  That’s not even zone 2!!  I try to walk faster, my back is not loose and not happy.  I ease up for a couple of minutes and try again to walk faster.  Nope, the back won’t do it.

That’s when I began to think about Health versus Fitness.  In one of Maffetone’s first books, he addresses this issue.
Health is defined as: The optimal function of all the body’s systems:  those made up of muscles and bones, organs and glands, heart and lungs, nerves and brain, etc.
Fitness is defined as: Athletic ability, with the level of fitness associated with the levels of training and competition.

Maffetone writes, “Many athletes, including weekend warriors, spend much of their time getting fit but don’t pursue health with the same vigor.  Many others can actually become less healthy as a result of pushing and sacrificing their bodies from stress, more training than they can handle, poor diet or other factors, rendering them less healthy.  The result is injury, recurrent respiratory infections, chronic fatigue and other health problems that are sometimes wrongly considered “part of the game”.  But they are NOT part of healthy training.  These problems are indicative of an imbalance between health and fitness.  Once CAN have good health and achieve very high levels of athletic performance.”

Wow, I am now both unhealthy and unfit!!  So, what do I do first?  Get healthy.  Stop planning to train and race.  Focus on what I CAN do to get healthy and to set myself up to be in the best possible health when my body IS ready to begin to get fit, whenever that may be.

As a coach with 2012 on her mind and planning a little each day, you as one of the athletes I’m so blessed to coach are also on my mind.  I know that I have failed myself and I have failed you.  I had signs of fatigue, stress, etc and I didn’t stop.  I wanted to keep going.  I allowed myself to feel pressure and even put more pressure on myself because I thought as a coach I needed to.  When I first started in this sport – I was just so grateful to train and race and have FUN.  Each race I learned, each race I improved.  It was pure joy.  Then at some point, it became addictive and I took the challenges that my potential showed too far based on what my body could handle and what I could readily fit into my life.  Want the truth?  I was training for an Ironman because I felt that as a coach I had to/needed to do the distance. My performance for the second 1/2 of 2010 and all of 2011 had totally stagnated – that means what?  Overtrained.  Did I really feel it?  No, I didn’t think I was overtrained, I kept thinking that I needed to do something different to have a “breakthrough” in my performance even though I know that the fastest way to a breakthrough is more rest in a training program.  Geez, easy to see in an athlete, tough to see in myself!!  I have a group of wise people that I seek advice from a couple of times a year and they EACH told me it wasn’t necessary for me to do Ironman.  But, I had convinced myself it was.  So, at the beginning of this year I set out to train for Ironman knowing that I was pooped and had nagging little  aches left over from 2010.  I told you at the beginning of this paragraph that I failed myself and I failed you and I did.

I am ABSOLUTELY convinced that many of you are chronically tired, have so much on your plate and you keep trying to rearrange it to make it fit and stuff keeps slipping off.  I’m convinced that like me, you don’t even truly understand how tired you might be or just how incredibly beneficial REST would be on every single level for you.  I am absolutely convinced, more than ever that it is CRITICAL to fit triathlon into your life and that HEALTH comes FIRST.

So, I’d like to ask you to reflect on how you feel, take an inventory and assessment of ALL aspects of your life.  Listen to those you trust and trust what they tell you. Take an honest look at what is driving you – ego? stress relief?  Keeping up w/ your teammates?  A secret “I’ll show you” attitude towards someone or life in general? Escape?   Really, as I see it if we aren’t having total FUN….staying healthy and constantly improving what the heck are we doing?  Give credence to the fact that you probably don’t know how tired you might be from training (I didn’t really know) and how a BIG break or a BIG reduction in plans might actually get your health and fitness to a higher level.

Our Try a Tri  input meeting (for those in or returning to Try a Tri) is coming up 11/14/11 at my house.  6:30 pm.   I’ll also be sharing my approach to 2012 at this meeting and at the Winter 2012 reg and roll on 12/8, 6:30 pm at the Northwest YMCA.

If you want, please call me to arrange a consultation where we can sit down and really assess where you’ve been and where you should go.  This assessment time will probably really help you to get an objective view of where you should go and what you should do for 2012 and 2013….a long range plan is always a good thing.  Thinking of just next year, may be too short!

Not long ago, I sent out a youtube about how a top elite runner fit more rest into his training regime and actually got much faster as a result.  Here’s the link again:

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