Training For An Ironman Without Running Over 3 Miles

This post has been updated here

That’s right, I’m going to attempt an Ironman event without running more than 3 miles in training!

OK, OK. It’s a Half Ironman (1.2 mi swim, 56 mi bike, 13.1 mi run), because people that do full Ironman events are crazy. And I’m only half crazy. ;) The event in question is the Ironman 70.3 in Galveston, Texas on April 26th.

An-exhausted-runner--001How is this possible?

Running hard. Really, really hard. While traditional endurance training is lots of miles at a moderate pace (ignoring “speed work”), I’ll be doing intense, interval style running.  I mean if I can sprint up hill for 3 miles that would have to translate into the ability to run (jog?) a lot farther, right? …right???

Why are you doing this?

I initially got into trisport because I needed a reason to workout and I enjoy both swimming and biking. First I set my sights on a sprint tri and later an Olympic tri. But after that I slowly fell out of training because it was too much of a time commitment. I enjoy bike riding but, I can’t often find half a day to drive somewhere nice and then bike 24-32 miles. When I went back to grad school, my free time all but vanished.

I got the idea from Tim Ferris’ book The 4 Hour Body that covers how intense interval training can substitute for moderately paced longer mileage training for marathons or even ultra marathons. His book includes a full training schedule with different intervals for different days (runners do seem to love complicated schedules – just pick up any running magazine), but I needed something uber simple.

I distilled Tim’s two chapters into this: run intervals on the treadmill (run/walk/repeat) increasing the running speed, incline or ratio (more running or less walking) as I can, and don’t run more than 3 miles.

So far I’ve increased from 2 min of 10 min/mi pace runs with 2 min walks when I started in December to 3 min of 8:30 min/mi pace on a 1% incline and 1 min walks. My distance has increased from less than a mile to about two miles (including warm up). With warm up and cool down this takes me less than 30 min to complete. I have been taking 1-2 days off between runs.  If it’s a nice weekend, I’ve taken a bike ride around my house for about 10 miles (~50 min) instead of running.  The pedaling on such rides has gotten noticeably easier as my running has progressed (It’s working! *maniacal laughter*).

Tune in soon for my write up on test #1: The Aggieland Sprint Triathlon.

Scott Occam’s Protocol

Since I have maxed out my Bowflex’s 310lb rods on 3 of my strength exercises I need to do three things: 1) order the 100lb upgrade,  2) update my progress, and 3) start a cardio workout.

Below is an update of my previous strength chart with my actual set and the associated 1 rep max estimate along with a percentage increase from the original.

A few disclaimers:

  1. “Bowflex lbs” are not as difficult as free-weight (real) lbs because of the progressive bow-like resistance (I prefer it as it is much safer for maxing out without a spotter).
  2. The accuracy of 1 rep estimators tend to decrease as the number of reps increases.

In this case, even if the lbs listed aren’t “real” and the reps are high, they are similar in number – allowing for accurate relative strength comparisons.  So while I don’t believe I could bench over 500lbs just yet, I have gotten considerably stronger with less effort than I previously thought possible.  Stay tuned for my full write up on the simple workout that achieved these great results.

July 6th October 6th Nov 21st Feb 6th
Close-Grip Suppinated Pull-Down
(Machine Chin Up)
80 lb x 12est max: 115 lb- 130 lb x 11est max: 180 lb+56% 155 lb x 12est max: 223 lb+94% 190 lb x 11est max: 263 lb+128%
Machine Shoulder Press 45 lb x 12est max: 65 lb- 100 lb x 13est max: 150 lb+130% 125 lb x 15est max: 204 lb+214% 150 lb x 12est max: 216 lb+332%
Machine Squats 120 lb x 11 150 lb x 30 190 lb x 30
Kettle Bell Swings 25 lb x 75 25 lb x 110 45 lb x 90 45 lb x 105
Machine Slight Decline Bench 70 lb x 9est max: 90 lb- 105 lb x 16est max: 180 lb+100% 155 lb x 15est max: 254 lb+182% 185 lb x 14est max: 290 lb+222%
Reverse Drag Curls 55 lb x 10est max: 73 lb 65 lb x 15est max: 106 lb+45% 105 lb x 18est max: 199 lb+272%
Slow Shoulder Rolls 50 lb x 40 80 lb x 40 105 lb x 40

UPDATE: Since posting this I have learned that a 2 “bowflex lbs” = 1 free weight lb.

Strength & Speed Benchmarks

Since I have maxed out my Bowflex’s 310lb rods on 3 of my strength exercises I need to do three things: 1) order the 100lb upgrade,  2) update my progress, and 3) start a cardio workout.

Below is an update of my previous strength chart with my actual set and the associated 1 rep max estimate along with a percentage increase from the original.

A few disclaimers:

  1. “Bowflex lbs” are not as difficult as free-weight (real) lbs because of the progressive bow-like resistance (I prefer it as it is much safer for maxing out without a spotter).
  2. The accuracy of 1 rep estimators tend to decrease as the number of reps increases.

In this case, even if the lbs listed aren’t “real” and the reps are high, they are similar in number – allowing for accurate relative strength comparisons.  So while I don’t believe I could bench over 500lbs just yet, I have gotten considerably stronger with less effort than I previously thought possible.  Stay tuned for my full write up on the simple workout that achieved these great results.

July 6th October 6th Nov 21st
Close-Grip Suppinated Pull-Down
(Machine Chin Up)

160 lb x 12

est max: 230 lb

260 x 11

est max: 360 lb

+56%

310 x 12

est max: 447 lb

+94%

Machine Shoulder Press

90 lb x 12

est max: 130 lb

200 x 13

est max: 300 lb

+130%

250 x 15

est max: 409 lb

+214%

Machine Slight Decline Bench

140 lb x 9

est max: 180 lb

210 x 16

est max: 360 lb

+100%

310 x 15

est max: 508 lb

+182%

Before Cardio Benchmark

Since I have been experiencing such great results in my strength training, it has (finally) inspired me to get back in to reasonable cardiovascular shape.  To track the effectiveness of a new interval training that I am trying, I had to have a baseline to compare with as I progressed.  Which meant a long, painful run.  (Did I mention I hate running?)

I planned out a 3 mile run that looped around a park containing level areas along with slight and moderate hills.  Apparently this was overly optimistic, as I experienced significant cramps in my 2nd mile forcing me to walk until I recovered and then flaring up again in the 3rd mile motivating me to quit while I was ahead.  Below is my beginning benchmark data:

“Before” Run – Nov 20 2011
2.5 Miles in 26:57 (10:54 pace)
1st Mile 9:12 pace
2nd Mile 12:41 pace (cramp)
Last 0.5 Mile 10:08 pace

 

4 Hour Body: 3 Months Later

Not Really Me

Not Me

About three months ago, I tried out a few of the suggestions in the book: The 4-Hour Body. I adopted the Slow Carb Diet, started photographing my food, took a couple of the suggested herbal supplements* and even a experimented with few of Tim’s exercise tips. While my experiment is still ongoing, I think enough time has passed to give some preliminary results.  ( *things like green tea extract not those other kind of supplements ;)

First I need to address some slippages on my part. Even though I started this project at the end of June, I had some personal events that derailed my motivation to adhere to the diet for about a month and kept me from the exercise program for a few weeks (which should hint at the ease of this new workout approach). I also did a poor job keeping up the food photo journal. I just couldn’t seem to remember to whip out the iphone and snag the pic when need. Not a big loss as “diet aid” in my opinion but it needed mentioning. Anyway, the results:

Even though I essentially did the slow carb diet for a month, then off a month, then on a month – I am down 8 lbs. Which isn’t bad as my goal is ten total. In real terms, I have gone from tight 34 inch pants to normal fit 32s. And this was with most weeks involving several cheat meals in addition to my cheat day. Yes this diet works.

However, more impressive for me are the strength gains that I’ve made while losing weight. As most athletes know, it is difficult to do both at the same time. So here are few of my gains in workout weigh and the associated 1 rep max estimate:

July 6th October 6th
Close-Grip Suppinated Pull-Down
(Machine Chin Up)

160 lb x 12

est max: 230 lb

260 x 11

est max: 360 lb

Machine Shoulder Press

90 lb x 12

est max: 130 lb

200 x 13

est max: 300 lb

Machine Slight Decline Bench

140 lb x 9

est max: 180 lb

210 x 16

est max: 360 lb

Now in the interest of full disclosure, I need to point out that my machine is a Bowflex and “Bowflex lbs” are not quite as difficult as free-weight lbs because of the bow-like resistance (which is much safer for maxing out without a spotter).  However, the relative increases are real: a 56% increase in my pull-downs and doubling my shoulder and bench strength.  That my new workout works is obvious, but I’m interested to see just how far the rabbit hole goes.  That is, can I continue these gains over the next 3 months?  We’ll soon see.  :)

Flickr FoodStream

So I am trying out a new idea dieting aid from The 4-Hour Body as part of my Slow Carb diet experiment.   The idea is similar to the written food journals popular with many trainers, however your smartphone’s camera replaces the old pen and paper method.  Add to that a flickr.com photostream and voila the FoodStream™ was born.  I am personally using Instagram to make it happen as it is super simple, efficient at uploading, and offers some fun filters when your eggs look too dull.  Once setup, it was easy to get my latest photo from my iPhone to flickr to this site’s home page with just a few taps.

Research suggests that documenting your food will reduce your bad eating habits.  Swapping out jotting everything in a notebook for quick snaps just makes things easier.  Well almost.  I have found the hardest thing about starting a photo food journal is remembering to photograph your food.  It’s really not a natural thing to do.  But after a week, I am finally getting a hang of it.

Just so long as the occasional (often) mostly eaten plate counts too.  ;)

UPDATE:

  • After two weeks, I still constantly forget to snap my food – at least until I’m done eating it.
  • When I’m up to it, I added the meal info to the empty plate pic title.
  • Instagram’s filters are fun but a few more would be even better.
  • I’m down 4 lbs!