Friday, 28 September 2012

Sweet dreams

Professional athletes typically sleep ten to twelve hours a day, according to Joe Friel - author of the Triathletes Training Bible, with eight to ten hour nights and daily naps thrown in. Why I'm trying to improve my race times this season, primarily by working on my running, my approach is far from professional. I don't think I have the dedication, or ability, to reach the top - but if making it to the professional echelons of the sport guarantees me ten hours sleep a night, and the excuse to take a couple of naps during the day, then sign me up.

Mr Friel accepts that us mere mortals may not have the time for such naps (even working from home I don't find time for daytime sleeps although I do tend to lose critical brain functions when Mrs Trihard subjects me to Come Dine With Me) but states that the higher the intensity, and volume of training you do, the more rest you need.

As well as the duration of slumber Mr Friel also states that the quality of sleep is highly important and that difficulty in getting to sleep, or waking frequently throughout the night, cuts into its benefits. His tips for getting a restful night include going to bed at the same time every night and unwinding an hour or so before your bedtime. Methods he suggests include reading, going for a short walk or engaging in light conversation. Perfect sleeping conditions include a darkened room that is well ventilated.

Mrs Trihard is well on board with this and when I'm just drifting off indulges me in light conversation asking me not to break wind under the duvet and checking that I've got the cats in, closed the cat flap, locked the back door, locked the outdoor office and put the bins out. Which is when I have to get up, perform those tasks, and then begin the unwinding process again.

Unfortunately Baby Trihard and Toddler Trihard haven't yet read Mr Friel's book. If you are a parent you'll already know that getting a good night's sleep with a new born baby beside your bed is impossible. Even when they are fast asleep they like to make sure that you aren't by sighing, groaning, grunting, snoring, cooing and filling their nappies extremely loudly. Even if you are able to block out the noise some how, the night light (also known as a 90s hardcore rave light show) that is there for their comfort pierces through your eye lids.

 But rest assured if exhaustion has well and truly taken over and you have nodded off, they'll wake you up by screaming for a feed every couple of hours. And not to be out done Toddler Trihard will periodically bellow down the corridor, usually around 1am, informing me that her milk cup needs replenishing.

So make sure if you are training hard that you rest equally as hard. Possibly by booking into a nearby hotel and emptying the minibar.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Keep yourself regular/Excuses, excuses

So today I actually managed to spend more than a few minutes on the treadmill and complete 5km. You've probably cottoned on to the fact by now that I hate running but the only thing I hate more than running is running on the treadmill. It's incredibly boring and, for someone who is as dedicated as me in avoiding a run, it's all too simple to press the stop button when I think I've put myself through enough. Usually within a minute of pressing the start button.

When you're running outside you don't have to rely on your mental strength to keep you going. Even if you've only been running for 15 minutes it's still going to take at least 15 minutes to get home. I've tried it many times but bus and taxi drivers are generally reluctant to pick up a sweaty, near naked man who is covered in mud and crying like a baby. So you still have to make the journey back to the safety of your family on foot.

This clever little tactic actually helped me finish the Amsterdam marathon last October. At around the 17 mile mark I'd well and truly lost the will to live. I'd hadn’t done more than 15 miles in training runs so was at that stage a very broken man. I decided I was going to throw in the towel. I'd gone out there on my own so there were no friends and family to witness my shame. I felt a sense of relief and made peace with the fact that I'd given it my best shot but I wasn't destined to ever complete a marathon. However a sad realisation suddenly set in. I was on an industrial estate miles away from any part of the City that I would recognise. The only way I knew how to get back to my hotel was via the finishing line. So that's one medal I'm particularly proud of. Although I can't believe the Dutch organisers misspelt October. I bet they felt pretty stupid when they realised their mistake.


So back to today. Once I got off the treadmill I got in the pool and swam 70 lengths. Not a bad day's session. Except that I was meant to do all this yesterday. Being a member of a triathlon club means that I obviously have set days when I am training with others. However I also try and stick to the same days, doing the same disciplines, each week. Having set days for a set workout I find it easier to keep motivated and not think "I'll just give it a miss today." I am lucky that I work from home (although Mrs Trihard might disagree with the use of the word "work" there) so am able to get to the pool or gym when it is quiet. When I was a slave to the "man" (or "woman" - I have also worked for a few female bosses) I would often "plan" to go the gym but the motivation to get home at the end of the day was stronger than that of spending an hour or two in close proximity of fifty grunting, sweaty men.

So now I don't have a traditional working day I am able to fit my training sessions in at more convenient times. Except yesterday I had to take the car to the garage and then go and pick it up when I'd normally be swimming. By the time I got home it was nearing the time that all the office folk would be descending on, what I deem at the quieter times to be, my private health club. Not a problem, I thought, I'll go for a run in my brand new off road running shoes. However a quick look out of the window revealed this.

There was no way I was going to subject my expensive new running shoes, that were specifically designed to deal with wet, muddy conditions, to the wet and muddy conditions. So instead I thought I'd get on with yesterday's blog post. When I'd finished typing away I looked outside and saw this.

Yes, I could have gone for a run but it was time for dinner, so I thought I'd do it tomorrow. 27 minutes 28 seconds by the way.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Big fat fatty

I sincerely hope the theory that muscle weighs more than fat is true because in the spirit of my new beginnings I decided to step on the scales this morning. It wasn't pretty. I’m hoping it was more due to the weights session that I powered through yesterday afternoon (muscle gain) than the multiple snacks I consumed in the evening (fat gain). Unfortunately nutrition is where I fall down in the training process, especially after dark. While I find it easy to remain restrained during the day it is in the evenings when I become most peckish. Finding the balance between fuelling up for a training session and replacing the nutrients afterwards isn't exactly something I've mastered. However, as luck would have it, in order to address this I purchased a book several months ago. I'll let divulge some interesting facts to you, dear readers, once I get round to reading it.

According to one of my other large text books, Joe Friel's The Triathlete's Training Bible, (of which I have actually managed to read a page or two) you can reduce your 5km time by a minute by losing 10 pounds of excess flab. Hopefully by the end of this week I'll have a 5km time to reduce (I only managed about 3km in total during yesterday's visit to the gym and that was in three different visits to the treadmill.)

As I have mentioned, while my commitment to running is lacking, I do exercise between four and six times a week. This is a mixture of cycling, swimming, coached swimming sessions with EGTC and workouts at the gym. While I have certainly become more toned over the last year the weight just doesn't seem to come off. However I have been told that taking on less calories (rather than trying to burn off extra calories through exercise) is a more effective method of weight loss. A week long study referred to by Mr Friel (he doesn't divulge exactly where the study was conducted or give us names but assures us that it was "researchers" and "scientists" recording the data) supports this. One group of athletes were charged with burning off a 1,000 extra calories a day while another group laid off the booze and burgers for a week, consuming 1,000 less calories a day. Those tasked with the additional exercise lost an average of 1.67 pounds in weight in a week while those rationing the food intake lost an average of 4.75 pounds. Certainly food for thought. See what I did there?

So it looks like it's the calorie counting for me. When I mentioned my scales displeasure to Mrs Trihard she commented: "I'm not being funny, but you do drink a lot of beer."

I have to agree with her, she wasn't being funny at all. It was 15 stone 10 pounds by the weigh. See what I did there?

Monday, 24 September 2012

The beginning, sort of

October marks the start of a new Triathlon season at my local club. I've been a member since November 2011 so this is the beginning of my first full season and a good opportunity to start documenting my "quest for glory". What do I mean by that?

I joined East Grinstead Triathlon Club last November for a number of reasons. In July 2011 myself and the family (which in the last two weeks has expanded to include Baby Trihard as well as Mrs Trihard and Toddler Trihard) moved out of the ghetto of South West London to a small West Sussex village meaning I no longer had any drinking buddies at hand. Over the last few years I had dipped my toe in to a few 10ks, a half marathon, a failed marathon (injured my back soon after completing a 20 mile training run about five weeks before the event), a marathon (got drunk and signed up to another one the day I officially withdrew my entrance because I, occasionally, don't give up easily) a duathlon and a triathlon. It was the latter two events which I enjoyed the most because - and we're edging closer to an explanation of my "quest for glory"- I absolutely hate running. Yes, it took me a marathon (almost two) to realise this fact.

I grew up by the Essex coast so have swum from an early age (not fantastically quickly and possibly not through the cleanest water in the British Isles) and almost ten years of commuting round London by bike has given me fairly decent pistons in that department. I enjoy these two disciplines and as a result have seen significant improvement in the last year. It doesn't take much motivation for me to get in the pool or out on my bike (although Turbo Training is a slightly different story). But I absolutely hate running - did I mention that? The main objective for me joining EGTC was to encourage me to run at least once a week, with fellow club members, in the session that is held on a Saturday morning after the swim. But the problem is I hate running.

I have bought books, various gadgets, an assortment of running shoes (depending on whether it's a treadmill, road or cross-country run I'm trying to avoid) even asked fellow club members to hound me during the swim to ensure I don't get out of the building before. The problem is what I lack in running prowess I make up for in my getting dressed and out to the car transitional skills. So my last gasp attempt at improving my running performance, and my overall race time, is writing this blog. Because this season is going to be different, you see. This season I am going to lose the weight I have been trying to shed (despite the swimming, cycling, personal training sessions at the gym, heavy text books heart rate monitor and other motivational gadgets I am still quite a fatty), I am going to train properly (not a half arsed effort followed by a desperate surge four weeks before a race) I am actually going to open some of the heavy text books, I am going to complete my "quest for glory" and I am going to keep all you lovely people updated on my progress.

As you may have guessed I am not an elite sportsmen (I'm sure that will become increasingly apparent in future posts) and was never a star athlete at school, college or University. So hopefully I can provide some helpful insight into triathlon at a grass roots level without it being at all daunting. So I think you can expect mainly rambling rubbish from me, one or two training tips that I've learnt and perhaps even the occasional product review. Either that, or this will be the last post you ever see from me. Wish me luck!