I paused, perplexed, as I stepped out of the kayak, slightly out of breath with my arms sort of quivering and feeling embarrassed at how tired I was after rowing 2.4 miles in a kayak with my daughter. It was no coincidence we kayaked 2.4 miles, my Garmin just happened to be in the car so I figured, why not. I swam the same distance in Ironman Boulder faster than we rowed it. My chest and arm muscles hurt for days after. Wasn’t I in shape? Why do I feel so exhausted? Annoying. Specific fitness I will call it. But is that best kind of fitness for a normal age group triathlete approaching 50?
Sure, physiologically I am fit; my heart rate and blood pressure suggest that. I feel fit, look reasonably lean, but can become exhausted at the most menial of task that doesn’t involve triathlon specific muscles. Will this fitness serve me well as I age?
10 years ago I wasn’t as fit as I am now, or was I? I hadn’t even considered participating in a triathlon yet alone an Ironman. I weighed more, couldn’t run or bike as far and it was impossible to swim more than a few laps. But, I played basketball, soccer and hockey just fine, could dig a hole, trim bushes and probably could’ve rowed across that lake more successfully. I was certainly more balanced physically.
I think triathletes probably fall victim to specific fitness more than most athletes, especially older athletes. Obviously an offensive lineman probably can’t run a 10k very successfully, but he is a great athlete who can shove around 300 pound defensive linemen with precision. But he is young and that’s his profession and of course every athlete has honed their skills to their sport of choice. But triathlon training to me at least, is part of my lifestyle, it almost has to be to find the hours to train and to work and do everything else in life. It’s easy to get stuck with the limited time doing the same things for fear of not maximizing an opportunity to improve speed or endurance.
I am old, relatively speaking, and want to live a healthy life and no doubt training for triathlons will keep me healthier than most. But with school starting, the days shortening and race season winding down, it’s transition time yet again and as much as I hate to admit it, it’s time to think about some changes to my regiment as indoor season approaches.
Every year I vow to try more yoga or Pilates or simply lift weights. The pressure of building endurance and speed for the season will have dissipated and as I face the tedious hours of being inside, I know I should try to find more balance in my workouts. But I fall victim to the temptations of spin classes and treadmills.
My plan is to at least ski more and hopefully play some basketball and those two activities alone will undoubtedly give me some variations in my training and most importantly be enjoyable!
Perhaps with a little discipline, a few alternative workouts and other activities, I will be able build a snow fort, have a snowball fight and in the spring row across a lake without feeling so tired and still be ready for tri season next year!
Plenty of great weather will provide thousands of miles of riding yet this fall, but I hope to approach the Winter with a broader perspective.