The “off-season” is often a time to set up challenges, streaks or other gimmicks to keep training going. I’m as guilty as the next person of really slacking off in the cold winter months, so I certainly understand the appeal of the challenge. In discussions with other friends the subject came up about “junk miles” during these challenges. “Junk Miles” being a catch all for simply going out and swimming/biking/running or just “working out” simply to keep the streak going. I think there is some merit to that for elite or even top-tier challengers. But on the other hand for the 90% of us that participate in endurance sports for health, fitness and fun, the winter streak or challenge can be a good way to stay off the couch.
I usually participate in the USAT National Challenge each year, and this year I’m leading the Somerset County YMCA Multisport Club program. Doing so makes my effort extra visible, so I’m going to try and stay on track, AND lead a number of workouts during the challenge. I can’t keep up with a lot of the members (yet), but I can do bike trainer workouts or swim sessions and not have to chase people all day.
In the past, I’ve often just used these challenges to log “base miles” but it appears there is some science that says ‘base mileage’ may not be all it’s cracked up to be, especially for the time constrained amateur athlete. So I’m going into each workout with a specific plan in order to improve a particular aspect of my fitness. My swims are going to focus on form, specifically maintaining good form during very hard efforts. On the bike, it’s seated hill climbing and regaining raw power. On the run, it’s simply getting back to actually “running” instead of walking or walk-runs.
All of that is a very longwinded way of explaining this weeks workouts. The USAT Challenge has extra points for swims in December, bike workouts in January and running in February. So this week I had three swims, two bikes and one run. The swims went pretty well, with Mon/Wed spent leading my lane for masters swim sessions. I’m able to snap off some 1:15ish 100s and am doing so without getting choppy. Thursday morning’s bike ride was miserable, just not feeling it after about 45 min, but stuck it out for the full 1:15. Saturday’s ride was the exact opposite, as I was able to hold a reasonable pace for the whole ride, and didn’t completely run out of gas. I did the same route that I rode on Thanksgiving afternoon, and felt a whole lot better. Sunday’s run was the high point. I decided to do a true walk/run split, by 1/4 mile segments. That knocked 11 minutes off the same 5.5 mile route I did last week, and I felt strong and solid the whole way around both loops. The run gave me just an additional bit of encouragement that I am improving and that I can continue to get back to at least the paces that I had prior to OHS.
Also, Sunday marked the longest unbroken streak of workouts since OHS. 11 straight days. I’m certainly feeling the cumulative effects, and will be doing additional rolling/compression and other recovery work to make sure I don’t end up injured. I’m going to press on through next week w/out a break to see how the body reacts.
It’s going to be a great winter.