I have recently written a program to train myself for a 1/2 Iron Man Triathlon. Inspired by a friend, I felt that whilst I had put my triathlon equipment to bed for a few years, now was the time to open the box and give myself an endurance challenge. I wrote a program that would last 12months.
Please don't worry, it is not necessary to train for a year to do a Half Iron Man Triathlon. The 1.2mile swim, 50mile cycle and 13.1mile run can be built up to in 4-6months, depending on the athlete. I regularly run 10miles, swim more than 1.2miles weekly throughout the summer in the lake, and have been known to do 100m on the bike. So, armed with my "glass is half full" attitude, I was prepared to spend a year to work towards a fast time (bearing in mind fast for a 1/2 IM is 6hours).
This is where the interesting bit comes in.
Firstly, and perhaps less importantly, I found my response to my training schedule unexpected. This schedule was unlike others I have completed. Suddenly I was having to assess my weaknesses, confront them and train them in ways new to me. Not only that, I was aspiring to 2-3 hard workouts per day (on top of my work load), rather than the 1-2 previously. This became a battle against the clock, sneaking workouts in before my family woke on weekends and between clients on weekdays. To my surprise the short sharp workouts I thought I hated, became the ones I loved, leaving me uninspired for the longer runs, swims and cycles I previously enjoyed losing myself in.
Then I had an accident. Interesting part no 2. Now as a trainer I coach my clients to accommodate the unexpected. No training plan ever works as you had predicted. However, I was finding that whilst I was happy to adapt to my 3 weeks away during my first 12weeks of plan (unexpected holidays with plenty of time to fit in alternative workouts), total rest for a FURTHER 2 weeks was simply impossible to get my head round. 5 weeks of interrupted training out of 12 is pretty disruptive. And here is what I learnt at the end of the (forced) 2 weeks off. Our bodies really do come back better after brief rest. Any training guide or PT can tell you this. But, and this is the big bit, but, having to surrender to being a couch potato really does help you refocus on priorities. I don't now rush to sneak in training. I do sit and listen when my teenagers want to talk to me. I am motivated to do my hard workouts AND take time out as well.
And the learning from this: BALANCE. Don't get drawn in people, the satisfaction of the workout only lasts until the guilt of the next one kicks in. Enjoy each one, AND the rest in between.