As evidenced by the relative quiet of this blog, I have not been very active with 5K races lately. I skipped the New Year’s Day 5K, but decided to try something different to get 2018 off to a good start.
My YMCA had a “Try a Tri” program. Participants could simply register for the race, or they could sign up for an 8-week training program leading up to the race. Since I am not much of a swimming and have not been on a bike for a long time, I thought the training course would be the best way to go.
The course consisted of a swim workout on Tuesdays and a dry land workout of running on a treadmill or biking on an exercise bike, or both. The YMCA also gave the participants a sheet with workouts for most of the other days of the week.
The race all in doors. We swam 10 minutes, had a 10 minute transition, then rode an exercise bike for 30 minutes, and then had a five minute transition to the treadmills. The goal was to cover as much distance as you could in those time frames. We had someone counting our lengths as we swam, and then the machines gave us the distance for the other two legs. Those time frames meant that we would not be covering super long distances, which of course is fine for me.
It was good to have multiple skills and ways of working out. Looking at it by discipline, here is what I found.
Swimming: Some people are very efficient in the water. I am not one of those people. I feel like swimming is an important skill, but I did not learn it until later in life. The training course was helpful because it made me swim freestyle, and it made me get in the pool at least twice a week. I still am learning how to do freestyle and get the breathing down. One struggle for me has always been having water go up my nose. The instruction told me to hum as I swam, and that worked. It seems kind of intense and does take some air, but I am now mostly able to swim without a snout full of chlorine.
Also, I am much better at swimming side stroke and breast stroke. As I was learning to breathe and swim with freestyle, I threw in a little sidestroke one day. It helped me breathe, but as I was experimenting for myself, I started to try to combine the strokes. The light bulb went off, and now I think I have a better idea of what swimmers mean when they talk about rotating the body to breathe. There is work left to do to figure this out, but it makes more sense.
Biking: After not having been on a bike in years, it was surprising how much energy riding can demand. The effort seemed hard, which I think has to do with using the big muscle of the legs. It reminded me of how doing squats while lifting weights can boost my heart rate more than other exercises. Riding was a nice change up from running. The only drawback was the seat could get uncomfortable after a while.
Running: Hey, this is what I do, right? This I considered my strength. But doing it at the end of the event and having done the other two disciplines was a test of my endurance. Still, I felt good about my run and achieved the distance I wanted to cover. Also, the days that combined biking and running into bricks was a nice way to build a longer workout.
One other thing I learned from the training program was the value of stretching. When we did our land workouts, we took time to stretch. It was built into the workout time. I found I was more flexible than I thought, and that stretching can improve flexibility and recovery times. Foam rollers are nice tools for helping with both.
Trying the tri has changed my perspective a bit. I would like to do at least one outdoor event, I think. The swim still intimidates me a bit, but I think I could train up for it and just accept that it would be a slow leg. I like the multi-sport aspect of triathlons. It makes me feel like a more well-rounded person. I also will be spending more time on stretching.
The only drawback to the program was that focusing on the triathlon led me to neglect strength training more than I wanted to. I did some push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups, but I think in the future I want to make sure that strength training is part of the big picture, whatever even I am training for.
Up next, though, will be more 5Ks. Back to the short distance.