GymChat Transcript – Strength Training for Triathletes

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Tonight we had the GymChat and some wonderful questions! If you couldn’t make the chat, here are my responses to questions concerning weight training for triathletes, data recording/collection, and even compression socks!

Thanks again for the folks at Straight to the the Bar for hosting! It was a great time!

Chas Melichar  –  Good evening everyone. I just returned from my evening run, and I’m here to answer whatever questions you might like while wearing my recovery socks… I’m just glad we don’t have to use webcams, because recovery socks aren’t the sexiest things to wear.Strength training is definitely one area I think all endurance athletes fail to properly focus on, and something that could lead to better results if properly executed. I’m by no means an expert on anything, but I’ll definitely be able to give you a perspective from a 40yr old athlete.For those who are wondering, I’m an Ironman Finisher (15:38), Comrades 55-Mile Marathon (SA) Finisher (11hr11min UP run), triathlete, Nothing Special… 2012 includes plans for 5-7 marathons, Comrades back-to-back, 2 1/2 Ironman’s, 1 Ironman Triathlon, a Sprint Triathlon, Olympic Triathlon, and 2 duathlons – along with a few trail races here and there just fun!

It all began in 2009 when my best friend called me “fluffy”. I hated being called fluffy. That, and I was single, and my best friend advised me a great way to meet great women was to get into better shape. So, my fatso-calling friend and I signed up for the San Francisco 1/2 Marathon, and I’ve been enjoying being passed by mighty fine-looking triathlete/marathon women ever since. Since then I continue to push my boundaries – one cannot know the limits of failure until you actually fail.

So that’s my story, and along the way I’ve made lots of mistakes, tried many different things (I love techie/nerdy electronics and use +trainingpeaks to track all my lovely data) and even continue to try new and fun ways of doing things. Sometimes they work, sometimes it’s an epic fail, but I’ve always learned best from my failures.

Welcome!

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Scott Bird  –  Let’s roll. A quick definition : what exactly is a Triathlon? Which events does it consist of, and how long are they? Are they always in the same sequence?
6:01 PM
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Chas Melichar  –  Hello Scott! A triathlon is generally a swim, bike, and a run. The original triathlon was what is called today an “Ironman” distance, which is a 2.4 mile swim, 112mile bike, and a marathon – 26.2 miles. However, as the popularity of the sport increased, shorter distances were started, and now it’s even part of the olympics – at a shorter distance. Details from wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triathlon . For those who believe in crosstraining, the triathlon is one of the best sports, and NBC’s coverage of the Ford World Ironman Championships in Kona, HI are the videos that get me out to the gym on those days when I’m feeling lazy. It’s truly one of best challenges of fitness.Ocassionally there are “reverse” tri’s, but those aren’t as common as you might think. Also, Duathlons are usually a Run-Bike-Run sequence.
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6:06 PM

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Scott Bird  –  +Chas Melichar, I want to investigate three main areas of your training : nutrition, strength work and mental preparation. (And for everyone with questions you’d like to ask Chas, just dive right in.)
6:07 PM

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Scott Bird  –  Good stuff Chas.First up, nutrition. What’s your diet like these days – both in general, and when coming up to a race?
6:08 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  Like almost everything, triathlon is a sport of mental toughness. Preparation can get you to the finish line… until you start getting to longer distances. When a marathon is your “cooldown” you need to be prepared mentally for the simple fact that’s one’s body is not designed to do what you’re asking it to do. But people are doing Ironman races in under 8 hours, and I still think a significant part of that is mental fortitude. You need to find those visualizations that keep you going when your body wants to quit. General Patton once said, “Given its own devices, the body will lie down and die. It’s the mind that keeps you moving.” (sic).
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Scott Bird  –  Cool. +Chas Melichar, tell us about your own pre-race routine; how you get ready to do battle.
6:11 PM

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Kirk Fontaine  –  It is an amazing sport and it challenges your mind, body and spirit
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Chas Melichar  –  There is nothing like crossing the finish line at Comrades (The Ultimate Human Race), or an Ironman. It is a sport of extreme highs and lows. To tell a story: During the Comrades Marathon I tried to run with the 11hr00min group. The cutoff time is 12hours. When I was no longer able to hold on to the group, I began running at my own pace. Then, suddenly, I thought I was paced by the 12hour pace group of runners! I had travelled all the way to South Africa only to face the chance ofnot finishing in time. 40 weeks of preparation… to lose in the last 10km? It was devasting. But I didn’t give up, I kept going. I determined I would not stop until they dragged me off the race. I was fortunate – it was a SECOND 11hour group, and I ended up finishing with 50 minutes to prepare. This relates to +Scott Bird question and some things you determine before the gun begins (to follow)
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Chas Melichar  –  Before a race begins, I like to think that we all start with a book of matches. How we burn those matches – when, how fast, how slow – determines our race. If we run out of matches before the end, we ‘boink”, fail, don’t get that last rep (for Gym folks). Many people jump up and down and scream and yell but I look at that as burning a match of energy I might need later. If you look at the winners, the people at the front – they are cool, collected. Focused. Sure, they’re nervous. Sure, they have the same doubts all of us have. They just don’t waste energy on it. That’s what I do – focus. I visualize SUCCESS. I let myself visualize crossing the finish line. I don’t let things distract me, nor do I allow myself to be upset/worried when things don’t go as planned. I determine – I mentally accept – that something will go wrong. And that’s racing. I set goals for everything – including a goal of not letting the little things stop me.
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Scott Bird  –  Back to nutrition for a sec : what’s your diet like these days?
6:21 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  —- BTW — My internet is a little slow so if my responses get out of order I apologize —-Nutrition – Triathlon is about balance. You don’t have to be the best swimmer, bicyclist, or runner. You just have to have a good balance. I do a lot of Yoga, and the more Yoga I do, the more I see that life is balance. So, my diet is the same – I try to follow a 40% carb, 30% fat, 30% protein… A balance. Unlike most endurance athletes, I don’t really “carb-load”… I just think a healthy balance is what the body needs.Before a race the golden rule: Don’t do anything new. I think that applies to diet, too.

But the morning of a long endurance race I do like a bagel and peanut butter. And, I love the post-race pizza. It’s tradition, and it’s my reward 🙂

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Kirk Fontaine  –  I know at the beginning your spoke of recovery socks how do they help you get back to a pre-race status ?+Chas Melichar
6:22 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  +Kirk Fontaine The first triathlon I did was a Sprint in 2010, and then an Iron-length triathlon that same year – In 2011 I only did a 1/2 Ironlength because the 56-mile Comrades took so much focus on my time. This year I’m getting a bit more serious about it, and hope to do better than I have. I also turned 40 this year, so I hope to make it a memorable one – I might not finish first, but I’ll have a lot of miles under my belt! The key is to remain injury free!
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Anna Papij  –  I’m pretty sure there’s a law about post race pizza being mandatory
6:24 PM

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6:25 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  +Kirk Fontaine An excellent question. Professional triathlete wear compression socks during their runs. Science hasn’t determine if it helps or not, but even if it’s a 10% mental boost these folks do whatever it takes. Myself, they seem to help and I wear them during races. One thing science has shown is that compress socks/calf sleeves after a hard workout (whether lifting, running, anything involving those muscles) worn for 30minutes helps speed the recovery of the muscle (something about blood flow, lactic acid, etc). At my age, if it doesn’t hurt…it can’t help but help :).
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Scott Bird  –  +Chas Melichar, just a quick one on the ‘turning 40’ thing:In a lot of sports, a 40-year-old would already be seen as ‘too old’, and have retired. Triathlons seem to encourage longevity in the sport – what’s a typical age range in triathlons these days?
6:26 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  +Kirk Fontaine An olympic distance triathlon – 1.5km swim, 40km bike, 10km run (.9mi swim, 24.8bike, 6.2mi run) is the distance I hate the most. Too short and too long, I suck at that distance. THe sprint I can go anaerobic and finish, the Iron-lengths I stay aerobic, and the Olympic is just not good for either! I suppose if I get better at them I’ll like them more – which is why I should do more. I also pick those things I don’t like (like carrots) and make myself do them (like swimming) until I get better at it. Funny thing I’ve noticed – as I improve (or eat more of) I find I don’t dislike it as much… I’ll never make the Olympics themselves, and Bart Yasso, the kind of runners, described Comrades as “The closest thing a normal person can do to feel like an olympian.” There were over 10,000 people at the finish line, and they were cheering like crazy when I finished (and those around me). So, I guess I’ve had that feeling once… And finishing an Iron-Length triathlon – it’s better than the Olympics (I think).
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Scott Bird  –  How about you +Kirk Fontaine : do you do much in the way of running, and do you wear things like compression socks during your runs? Never tried them myself, curious to hear your thoughts.
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Scott Bird  –  OK +Chas Melichar, the big one – strength training.You mentioned recently that you felt many triathletes could benefit from a little strength work. Let’s start by taking a look at what is common now.
6:33 PM

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Scott Bird  –  Do triathletes typically do much in the way of lifting? Any particular exercises/routines you see all the time?
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Chas Melichar  –  Funny thing about the longer distance triathlons – The Elite winners are in the mid to late thirties. And those in the forties do amazingly well. I’ve seen much discussion about it, but what I can say is that at Comrades one of my fellow runners was 85… During a 50km Ultramarathon I ran with a 75 year old running a 100 mile race – and the oldest man at Ironman Championships was 85 also. Today, age is not a barrier. It’s all in your head. It’s about mental toughness and nutrition.
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Blaine Moore  –  +Scott Bird – I’ve found that 40+ gets way more competitive in running than the 30+ folks. The 30s seem to be a lull between the 20s and 40s, and then the 50s and 60s renew that competitiveness. It’s an easy sport to have races within races.
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Kirk Fontaine  –  I guess the answer would be no and no +Scott Bird I have never heard of compression socks being used for recovery purposes just for the elderly to help with edema and related isssues which swell the lower extremities
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Scott Bird  –  Hey +Blaine Moore, welcome.Never really thought about that – the age-related ‘races within races’ – but it makes sense.
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott Bird Most triathletes (other than the elites or professional triathletes) spend so much time swimming, biking, and running, and most triathlon training plans I”ve seen, fail to emphasize the fact that, at the end of the day, everything we do is based on core strength. You don’t need strong biceps to swim fast, or strong legs to run fast. But you do need a strong foundational core to rotate, hips, knees, and joints to withstand what you are asking your body to do. Keeping that core strong will prevent knee/hip/foot injuries. Unfortunately, a day of strength training is rarely (in the plans I’ve seen) included. When I put my plans together, I actually subsittute a bike/run day with a day of pure strength training. Endurance athletes don’t want bulk (extra weight to carry around for 14, 15, 16, 17 hours of an Ironman), but a day a week increases strength and stamina.The problem with most triathletes, also, is when they hit the gym they don’t strength train properly. Those of you here probably know a bit about that and see it in the gym every day. You see improper technique – sloppy technique to get “one more rep” – and all you are doing is defeating the purpose.Triathlon is about training efficiency – and that includes your workouts in the gym, too.

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Anna Papij  –  …and when you tick over to the next age group catagory you feel like you have to start all over again with the competition
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Chas Melichar  –  +Blaine Moore +Scott Bird In Triathlon, we have folks we call “Age Groupers” – those of us non-professionals “race” against those in our Age Group, because we know we’ll never beat the professionals. The other “Age Groupers” are like us, who have jobs, lives, Significant Others who limit our training time. It’s a better measure of our performance.
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Chas Melichar  –  +Anna Papij I’m looking forward to being the “Young Puppy” this year! Unfortunately those in my age group still include a great number of retired professionals!
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Scott Bird  –  Cheers +Chas Melichar, I’d agree 100%.Are there any particular aspects of strength training that you’d suggest endurance athletes focus on? Or just whatever’s weak in their case?
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Chas Melichar  –  +Anna Papij As far as reps, I’m with the crossfit/spartan/paleo type folks in that variety is the spice of life. I think you should do both. One session might be low reps, the next high reps (no more than 15)… In either case, you MUST feel the burn – when you hit the burn your changing things. It HAS to require MENTAL effort (with proper technique). If you’re not (as Saun T in the “Insanity” videos says) “Digging Deeper” then you’re not changing the body.
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Derek Peruo  –  Hi everyone! Stopping by for a quick second…
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Anna Papij  –  What are your fav exercises in the gym that benefit your racing?
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Scott Bird  –  Hey +Derek Peruo, great to see you here. Talking about training endurance athletes.
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott Bird For endurance athletes, I’d recommend “balance” workouts focusing on the core. I love doing pushups on a balance ball. Or doing curls while balanced on one leg or standing on a balance ball… Anything that focusing balance and agility. Much of our sport is linear, and balance (yoga!) or agility workouts (lateral) would be beneficial. But, like the old adage – you can’t get six-pack abs by doing just crunches – applies here, too. Don’t focus solely on the core, but on the whole thing.Oh, side note: My favorite saying: “Six pack abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym.”
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Scott Bird  –  +Chas Melichar, do you do a lot of suspension trainer (the TRX sort of thing) work? How do you typically train when on-the-road?
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Chas Melichar  –  +Kirk Fontaine Triathletes, like most sports, have an “Off season”. During the offseason, I’ve done p90x, insanity, crossfit, spartan workouts and races (those are just fun, like tough mudder, Warrior Dash, Spartan Races). Variety is key. I like p90x because I can do it on the road with resistance bands, so it’s portable, and so is insanity. I started years ago with Bill Philips’ “Body For LIfe” and still do some of his strength routines (12/10/8/6/12/12 rep repeats) with RPE’s up to 9…RPE’s is a”Rate (?) of Perceived Effort” wherein 10 is the point you feel like you’re going to have a heart attack, and 1 is you’re asleep.
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Scott Bird  –  +Chas Melichar , you use some really interesting products and services to record your own training, and to share your race routes and results. Everything from Runkeeper and Google Maps to Athlinks.Which are your favourites, and what sorts of things would you like to see?
6:53 PM

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Kirk Fontaine  –  yes I remember Bill Phillips Body of Life I trained a client under those principles years ago
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott Bird I’ve never done TRX sorts of stuff but would love to try it. My philosophy is anything that pushes you to push harder, is different, and MOST IMPORTANTLY, you find FUN, is the key.Fun is the most important part of Gym Training, endurance, or anything. If you don’t find it fun, then you’ll not do it. It’s the “can do” not the “look like” part of training.Do stuff fun. Eat stuff you like. Find a diet/nutrition plan you can live with (if not exactly like) If I was told I could never eat a chocolate chip cookie again – well, that diet would fail.

But I still balance that with something to keep my glycomic index from spiking too hard – or I just don’t do it that often.

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Scott Bird  –  (On the technology thing : personally, I’m really looking forward to software like Lightroom 4 – with the various ways of integrating Google Maps – and hardware like the new FitBit products with inbuilt altimeters).
7:00 PM

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Scott Bird  –  How about everyone else here – how do you record your training, and the routes involved in your runs/cycles/swims?
7:03 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  +Kirk Fontaine You know, Hal HIgdon has a Comrades running plan based on principles from years ago. I still use it today. There is still something to be gained from the experts of the past. Sometimes, they know better than us young whipper-snappers, too :).+Scott Bird On the technology side of things… I’m a huge proponent of Heart-Rate based training outside of the strength regime. The book by Don Fink, “Be IronFit”, is the philosophy I tend to live by. It’s about efficient time-based training, using heart-rate to determine proper effort. With that in mind, I recommend anyone doing any type of endurance work whether in or out of the gym wear a heart rate monitor.Being a tech nerd, though, I love +Ray Maker and his blog, http://www.dcrainmaker.com .. he’s not only into tech gadgets like me, but spends 20+ hours writing up and reviewing all the tech gadgets he gets from companies. ANd, he’s a damn fast triathlete, too.

For myself, I find +TrainingPeaks to have the most comprehensive workout-analysis sit on the web, and it’s compatible with most devices to upload to the site. For coaches, it gives you the best way to analyze the workouts of your clients. That said, it’s focused on the triathlete world.

+dailymile Is a new site I just joined that is great from the social standpoint, and definitely fills a gap as +TrainingPeaks social aspects are somewhat weak (but that’s not their focus, as their CEO recently pointed out in his blog).

Personal Devices: I have a Garmin 910XT on the way, and currently use a Garmin 310XT – a multi-sport watch but also great for watching and making sure my workouts stay within the cadence/HR zone they should

By the way: For those GYM folks: Running is as much about technique as lifting! It’s not just put on a pair of shoes and hammer away on the treadmill to warm up. You need proper form and technique there (for example, 190 steps per minute) as you would properly lifting.

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Scott Bird  –  Fantastic +Chas Melichar, superb info. Last one (just noticed the time) : do you ever use cameras like the GoPro to record any of your training?
7:06 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  Amazing Technology was revealed at the latest CES, and +Ray Maker mentioned some of the things he found there. Also, fitbit seems pretty cool… But there is a new watch that uses LIGHT to do much the same thing as bodybug. Amazing stuff.The Garmin 910xt also has a built-in Altimeter, along with swim-stroke analysis and so on.Most critically, though, I think devices are a .. supplement. Wearing all the cool gadgets doesn’t make you do jumping jacks properly or often enough :).

Sometimes, I still think it’s good to disconnect – just go out and have fun and ignore all the electronics. We can become slaves to them.

But from a coach’s perspective, the ability to see your clients HR, locations, steps, etc, helps tailor workouts and truly see into what the client is feeling and really doing to their bodies (not what they think they are doing).

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Scott Bird  –  (Incidentally, that’s why I’m looking forward to Lightroom 4 : GoPro + EXIF data + Google Maps -> accurate routes of training runs).
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Scott Bird  –  Excellent.I guess we should wrap this up. Cheers for that +Chas Melichar. Thanks also to everyone else here – great discussion.
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott Bird I got a GoPro for Christmas, and I’ve used it to create some pretty awesome videos of my trail runs, bike rides (down Mount Diablo!) and other fun stuff. It can be set to take pictures every set interval, and so I can do my workout – and then write a great report when I get home without interupting things.The GoPro is amazing. I’ve used it to record stuff from the flight deck also, and it’s fun to see a landing from an Airbus 320 cockpit. 🙂
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott By the way, they use Computrainer and a gopro to build a way to virtually ride your own bicycle over some of the most famous routes.
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Scott Bird  –  On a side note : +Chas Melichar, I’d love to see some of the Airbus GoPro video. Is it on your blog, or hasn’t it been posted anywhere?
7:12 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  For those who want to see more of my adventures, you can find me at http://endurancetourist.com, where I also put some of my more friendly recipes that are not only healthy, but good for those who are “Kitchen-Dumb” like me. If it’s more than 5 minutes to prep, it’s too long! 🙂
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Chas Melichar  –  +Scott Bird It’s on http://aviation.endurancetourist.com. My “other” site… It’s a short video though since I’m still learning Adobe Elements. A better vid will be coming soon with different angles once I get a suction-cup mount for the GoPro :). I’m also waiting for more bad-weather days to make it look more interesting.
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Scott Bird  –  +Chas Melichar, I suspect that what you’ll need is the car kit, but I’ll take a look. My own GoPro is one of the original ones, the new models are slightly different.
7:16 PM

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Chas Melichar  –  Cheers to everyone and remember: Nutrition is like fuel for your car. Put bad gas in your car, and it will not run properly. Same thing for your body.But don’t skip out on every chocolate chip cookie or pizza!Tailwinds!

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Scott Bird  –  Cheers everyone, and thanks again. Great discussion.
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