Managing the balance between training, your career, and your family
If you are a ‘Superhusband’ or a ‘Superdad’ or even a super person that is aspiring to be an outstanding marathon runner or a triathlete, this one’s for you.
Logic and Reason Are Your Kryptonite
As counterintuitive as it may seem, leading with your heart and not your mind may just be your secret to health and fitness success. Discipline is overrated. Based on scientific evidence, discipline only carries you as far as 30-40 days but what keeps you going lies in your willingness and ability to quit overthinking and intellectualising! Could you seriously stick to a structured performance plan if you do not enjoy what you are doing?
Enjoyment may seem trivial but it should not be overlooked as it forms the basis of efficient and effective race preparation and largely determines your willingness to continue to engage in your chosen sporting activity in the longer term. Enjoyment can be achieved if you allow passion and love to lead the way.
Succeeding at this can enable you to achieve a state of Flow – a complete immersion of yourself in the experience of your chosen sporting activity.
If you really want to know what happiness feels like, this is it. Flow is the sweet spot when action and awareness merge. You have a complete sense of control, full concentration, peace and clarity of mind and pure enjoyment.
Keeping your training simple and spontaneous will make it sustainable and increase your chances of performing at your peak on race day. Tap into your intuition. Don’t be afraid to defy logic or oppose conventional wisdom. Take a plunge into the depths of the ocean like a Navy Seal and immerse yourself in the FEELS. Remember. Clarke Kent didn’t sweep Louise Lane away. Superman did.
Cultivate Your Interest and Transform It into a Passion
If you are still not convinced about the critical role enjoyment plays in training progress and training outcomes leading up to race day, let us take it up a notch! If you go against “natural order” by forcing yourself to engage in an activity when your heart, mind and body are opposed, your form will suffer and you will probably end up injured.
Being alert to your body’s signals and tuning in to your natural instincts and emotions should overwrite any structured plan if you are serious about getting to a high level of performance. Structured training plans should be adjusted based on your body’s signals and messages rather than intellectual theorising of what a training programme should encompass. An important facet of smart training is that it teaches athletes to preserve precious mental resources and energy by only tuning in to what is important rather than getting overwhelmed with unnecessary details and intricacies of constructing and following complex training plans.
Stefano Passarello, a devoted husband and father of two, managing partner of Hong Kong-based accounting firm and a consultant for start-ups and 2:31 Standard Chartered marathon finisher, emphasises that habits help cultivate and feed passion and recommends engaging in repetitive activity of your chosen physical activity for 30-31 days.
To sustain the level of enjoyment and prevent it from becoming a chore, he advises to go easy and gradually progress and resist the urge to go all out during the first few days as tempting as it may be. The mileage is not important as long as this activity is done daily and consistently and for all the right reasons – Enjoyment!
Find what you like.
Keep doing it.
A ‘Healthy’ Addiction
Discipline and habits only get us so far. Exercise addiction has been implicated as a bad boy in fitness and sport. Addictions can upset family equilibrium through obsessive thinking and compulsive behaviour. High achievers and performers tend to be borderline obsessed but the secret is knowing when and how to cut back. In order to do this, it is important to re-channel this energy constructively rather than destructively.
The Runner’s High or Addiction demonstrates the power of addiction. Serotonin is the runner’s shot of happiness, magic. It improves the psychological state of the runner by producing feel good vibes and when these positive feelings merge with memories, it feeds the runner’s enjoyment for the sport — running. This keeps the runner coming back for more. However, addiction can be detrimental if you are not mindful. Pay attention to your stress/ cortisol levels. Running can re-instate normality and equilibrium but it should not be the only “go to” option. Control is important.
Consider engaging in creative forms of expression such as arts and music, meditation and mindfulness to calm the restless mind and prevent destructive consequences of exercise addiction.
Gadgets and Smart Training Nurture A Man’s Love for Sport
Training loads — both duration and intensity should be reduced based on feelings rather than logic. You can use tracking devices such as Elite Heart Rate Variability (HRV) for a good indicator of how fresh or fatigued you feel first thing in the morning but ultimately if you feel tired all the time, you will need to reduce your duration and intensity of your training. Training programmes should be a combination of structured and semi-structured.
Here’s Stefano Passarello’s top secret training guide for his marathon and triathlon preparation:
(i) Base period (3-4 months)
(ii) Build period (1-2 weeks)
Goal: Fitness and increasing training volume and intensity
(iii) Peak period (2-3 weeks)
Goal: Replicate race performance. Less volume.
(iv) Tapering period (1 week)
Goal: Allow body’s immune system to weaken and then strengthen in time for peak performance on race day. Light activity. (e.g., indoor bike, 3-4km slow run, gentle swim)
(v) Post-event Recovery and rest (2-3 weeks)
Goal: Refresh body and mind to bounce back and improve performance on next event
He also attributes a large part of his high level performance to the frequency and prioritising of races. Stefano plans 3-4 “A” races of primary importance and “B” races which are recreational and non-competitive. A good mix of the two should keep you in the game longer.
Be a Fuel Efficient Muscle Car
Cross-training (varying your exercises) has been shown to improve your race performance. For example, without changing your training volume, to reduce strain on your joints, like Stefano, you could much of you substitute running with biking.
Apart from cross-training, strength training should be included in the overall training programme as it helps minimise the risk of staleness, overtraining and overuse injuries which become more common with age. Dropping a few kilos around the mid-section would most certainly help a marathoner or triathlete run lighter, stronger and more efficiently.
Low Carb or High Carb for Endurance Events
Stefano takes a low-carb nutrition approach where carbohydrates are limited to 50g per day. Depending on the person it can take 3 to 6 weeks for the body and mind to adapt. Fat primarily from plant sources are also consumed and protein intake is kept within 25-30%. With this approach low GI foods have also been recommended as they teach the body how to use fat for fuel and convert glycogen stores to energy more efficiently for the endurance athlete.
This approach is not sustainable for everyone and there is still much to be learnt regarding a ketogenic diet. It is advisable to consult a nutritionist or dietician before you choose to embark on a specific diet plan.
Reverse psychology has its benefits. Perhaps, it may be better to do away with the term “professional athlete” and stick with the basics. Labelling yourself a professional athlete adds to the stress and performance anxiety which Superdads and Superhusbands clearly do not need. Most importantly, living life as a pro comes at a price. Sacrifices will need to be made at the expense of flexibility and commitments outside your sport.
Just remember. Love. Balance. Enjoyment. These form the equation of HEALTH!
If this feels overwhelming, don’t be discouraged. Join me on my 90 Day Transformation, a 3 month program designed to reboot your your metabolism and build the strength and conditioning needed for ultimate performance.
Like IRONMAN Champion Mark Allen, smart triathletes have realized that without proper nutrition and a strength & conditioning program you will never realize your full potential.