Anyone familiar with ABC's Extreme Home Makeover knows that most episodes begin with an old house being torn down in some new and exciting way. The existing house is generally so unacceptable that a "makeover" is pointless. Starting over and building from the foundation up is generally easier.
Sometimes, the same can be said for an aspiring endurance athlete. When the individual beginning the journey is inactive, 50-60 pounds overweight, and leading a generally unhealthy lifestyle, an extreme triathlete makeover is needed (since this is, after all, a triathlon blog). And like Extreme Home Makeover, the best way to start is to tear down the existing structure before starting the real work.
That's how I feel, lately. Marathon training resulted in a loss of nearly 30 pounds in several years, and my general health went from poor to better than most. Both my endurance and my speed increased. The introduction of triathlon training to the mix has led to additional, and much faster, gains. I've dropped another 25 pounds in 6 months, and will soon fall under the 170 lb. mark. It is entirely likely that I will hit a point (165 lbs) where I have to consider increasing my dietary intake to maintain that weight.
The existing structure has been torn down, and a larger, stronger foundation is in place. It is now time for the design team to step in and get busy rebuilding. Like the cast of Extreme Home Makeover, I am faced with many tasks, all vital to the new and improved athlete. And like the television show, it will take a great deal of work to accomplish these tasks and achieve my goals.
So, here is the "sketch" of what must be built.
First, the foundation must be strengthened. This will take some serious effort with weights. I've never been a fan of the weight room, but all things point to the importance of strength training. So, a key focus for this off-season will be adding at least one weekly strength training session, two if possible.
The foundation must also be expanded. I'm approaching limits of my ability to increase speed, so I'll be going back to the heart rate monitor. I will spend the winter working on improving my aerobic capacity through targeted heart rate training, with a limited period of speed work leading up to a mid-winter 15K race. That will be used to evaluate my progress and identify any needed changes.
Finally, the end result needs to be more of an amphibious vehicle than a permanent structure. So I will be digging around for some serious swim drills. Total Immersion will come back into the picture as I pursue comfort with bilateral breathing. I will also work to better vary the pace of my swimming, in an effort to improve speed in the water. In other words, swimming is going to be my friend. Or I'll hate it. But either way, I will be faster come spring time.
I've experienced a lot of personal change in the past few years, and even more dramatic changes in the past six months. Most of that change has been of the "accidental" nature. I trained, and changes occurred. With a few, limited exceptions, these changes have been unplanned and uncoordinated. Now, like the designers of Extreme Home Makeover, it is time to start making changes with a specific outcome in mind. It is time to build the best endurance athelete possible with the available materials. Stay tuned. New seasons always promise new and exciting storylines.