Saturday, July 3, 2010
Is More Better
Back in the day when I used to work a regular job two workmates and I plotted a winter ascent of Mt. Rainier. A winter climb of Rainier is extremely arduous even under the best of circumstances, and when a third coworker approached me about coming along I was skeptical. The guy had the mountaineering skills and he was definitely fit, but his fitness was a product of the gym and not the trail. At the time I was a svelte endurance athlete and was naturally uncomfortable signing on with a guy who looked like a bodybuilder.
In the end we made it a group of four and set out from the Paradise Lodge early one Saturday morning. My two original teammates and I were snickering behind our hands as the newcomer strapped a pair of Sorel boots onto the outside of his already overloaded pack. We quit laughing right quick as the big guy set the pace, kicked the steps and drug us all the way up to Camp Muir. In the end the weather stopped us at Muir, but I learned that muscle and endurance are not mutually exclusive.
I’ve come to the reluctant conclusion that traditional Ironman training, for me, isn’t healthy. In the world of Ironman conventional wisdom states that more is better: training eighteen hours a week is good, but twenty is better. That’s one way to skin a cat, but I’m starting to think that there is another way.
My coworker on Mt. Rainier wasn’t putting in nearly the amount of endurance training that I was, but he kicked my butt. And this isn’t the only example. During Ironman training I’ve gone out backcountry skiing with buddies and they see me huffing and puffing and ask “hey man I thought you were training for an Ironman.” The reality is that I go skiing on my rest day and thus I show up destroyed from a hard week of training.
I’m starting to think that true fitness and health doesn’t come from continual tear down of one’s body, but instead comes from short bursts of high energy exercises punctuated with adequate rest. I don’t think that you have to do an Ironman every week in order to do an Ironman on race day. More to come on this issue.