Friday, April 3, 2009


This post was inspired by a conversation with a high-school friend. We had been out of touch for decades. One of the reasons he contacted me was that he was planning to do a triathlon, and he knew that I had done one. In fact, I've done exactly one. I don't believe that this qualifies me to say anything at all about triathlons; nonetheless, I plan to do just that. Originally I was going to send him my thoughts in an email, but I decided I would post them here, so that others could benefit from them (or not). Here goes, roughly in order of importance:
  1. Get lots of sleep. People need different amounts of sleep, but if you don't get enough sleep, you'll be tired and achy, and it will take you longer to recover from your workouts.
  2. Eat healthy food. If you are working out regularly, you will burn thousands of extra calories per day, and you will be building muscle mass, so I grant you free license to eat however much you want. But definitely not whatever you want. I try to eat according to the guidelines in the book Nourishing Traditions, by Sally Fallon. This book provides the best nutrition information of any resource I've encountered. In particular: I try to eat coconut oil, butterfat, fats from well-raised animals, and olive oil; avoid most other oils and fats, including vegetable oils (eg., canola, safflower, soy); consume unpasteurized milk products; eat raw, fermented foods, like traditional pickles and sauerkraut; make bone broths and use them as the basis for soups and sauces; and avoid grains that have not been fermented, soaked or sprouted. If this doesn't make perfect sense to you (which it probably doesn't, out of context), or if you want some explanation, with assiduous footnotes and references, plus delicious recipes, then please buy the book and read at least the first 80 pages.
  3. Find training partners. Personally, I find this especially helpful for the biking; biking with folks who are a bit faster than you can help you to get stronger, and can also keep you from getting bored or restless. (I have found a great group for me: the Harvard University Cycling Association. These are the kinds of folks who will never leave you alone to change a flat tire. And I do not have enough kind words for the three team coaches—they are a gift. I feel a lot of gratitude toward HUCA.) Running is less social for me: I usually have a specific idea of how fast I want to run, and being pushed to run faster is not generally helpful; nevertheless, it can be nice to have a running partner. The social aspects of swimming seem quite limited to me. But no matter what the sport, commitment to a group of people will often get you off your couch. I did my first (and only) triathlon as part of Team In Training. Another super, super bunch of people. I recommend it very highly, especially for a first triathlon.
  4. Instrument yourself. I have a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS (with cadence sensor). The Forerunner is inexpensive right now. It displays and/or records pace, heart rate, location, and elevation, for both biking and running, plus pedal cadence for biking. When I get home, I can review the entire session in conjunction with a street map, compare it to previous sessions, and so on, using third-party software called Ascent. Most importantly, while I'm biking or running, I can monitor my heart rate for a quick read on how much effort I'm exerting, and I can pace myself accordingly. (Fancier cycle computers can show instantaneous power output in real-time. But they cost several times as much as the Garmin.)
Oh, is anyone out there looking for an occasional, slow running partner around Cambridge, MA?

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