The handful of people standing around applauded. I think my parents even cheered a bit. The announcer shoved a small trophy into my hands and yanked my hands back into the air with enough enthusiasm to nearly dislocate my shoulders.
‘So Vince, what kind of training have you done to prepare for this race?’ He asked, his voice echoing around the caravan park.
My cheeks flushed with embarrassment. Uh oh, I thought. I searched around the crowd for my parents faces, hoping they would have the answer.
‘Er....I have a paper-round.’ I said quietly.
‘Sorry, Vince, speak up a bit please.’
‘I have a paper round’, I said leaning in too far and clinking my tooth on the metal mesh of the microphone. At that moment, I saw my Dad’s face. He smiled and shook his head.
I was quickly ushered off the podium to make way for the elite prize giving.
What the announcer did not give me the opportunity to explain, is that I had two very long paper rounds and for 6 mornings a week, from age 10 till 16 I may have been the fastest paper boy in the south East. Although I didn’t know it then, I was brick training the hell out of my juvenile body with high intensity intervals. I would sprint the driveways, leap over walls and sprint back to my bike, then sprint on my bike to the next road and go again. I would then ride to school, doing the same thing, I was totally smashed every day.
The point of this anecdote is that not everyone has the opportunity to follow a nicely structured training plan with built in recovery, threshold and high intensity sessions. Work, family and social commitments are often just too unpredictable to really follow a decent plan. Before you know it, you miss key training sessions and then get stressed trying to catch up. Sooner or later you’ll put yourself into a hole you can’t climb out of.
I know this, I’ve been there. But it didn’t take me long to realize that I needed to change things back to the days of the paper-round.
I raced several half and full Ironman races at the sharp end of my age group with baby at home and a stressful job.
So how do you stay fast without the time to execute well defined training sessions?
Use the commute.
If you can bike to work, make the route at least 45mins long, get in the usual 10min easy pedalling warm up to get heart rate up and muscles firing, then build the route into interval sections. For most commute journeys, steady tempo is just not feasible, there are traffic lights, pedestrians throwing themselves in front of you and damn cars everywhere. There is just too much recovery built in, so you have to really smash it for the sections of the route that you know are going to be uninterrupted. Time yourself for these sections or try to hit a certain speed, better yet have power targets to hit. Build the motivation in the recovery set before you hit that certain road, ‘I’m gonna smash 450W for this whole street.’ Then reward yourself with really easy spinning recovery so you can hit the next interval at the correct intensity again.
I hit my morning commute without any breakfast on board and just take a bit of fruit juice mixed with water. Despite what you may think, you have plenty of glycogen from last night’s dinner to get through 45mins of high intensity intervals and your metabolism will be properly ramped up for when you do chow down at work, so you will replenish when insulin is at its peak.
There is plenty of research that shows the benefits of high intensity intervals on increasing cardiovascular fitness (read endurance fitness) and fat burning. Save your tempo rides for the country lanes at the weekend.
You can do the same with running, you can use a run, walk strategy to make sure you really hit vVO2max (velocity at VO2max) for the intervals. Take a look at Bobbie McGee’s blog for some real insight into run walk training for triathlon.
Use your commute to your advantage. The commute can be used for excellent high quality training. It just takes a bit of planning.
I agree with Vince, living 20Km from work gives me the perfect opportunity to both run in or cycle in and home, adding a little extra distance in Richmond Park on the way home to make up 2 -3 hours of ride time. Utilising this dead time is paramount to my training strategy.