Monday, January 4, 2010

Beating Boredom- Part 1: Overall

Yesterday, I sat on my bike in the cold garage for 1:25, working fairly hard, then drove to the club for an hour run on the treadmill. This morning, I got up at 5 to drive to the club (2 minutes away) so I could get on that same damn treadmill for 1:15. It's time to start ramping up for the Cape 10 mi which is in 5 weeks. Early on, I realized I'm engaging in potentially incredibly boring activities. Add staring at a black line on the bottom of a pool, and you've got a recipe for committal. So it got me thinking....what is it that allows me to engage in this insanity, especially during the winter when we are inside and don't actually travel for many of the workouts. (Just to clarify, I actually run outside more than 1/2 of the time.) In no particular order:

1. Dream up blog postings. This one will deal with training in general, then I'll do one for each sport. I'll even throw in some specific workouts that I find interesting and productive. I should also include one big fat disclaimer- like many triathletes, I'm probably a bit off my rocker. I also have certain buttons, that when pushed, work well for me. I'm sure others have additional solutions.

2. Beat past workouts. Obviously, this needs to be done in moderation. You can't just keep beating previous efforts and not expect to get injured. I use Training Peaks WKO+ to upload data from both my Powertap (bike) and Garmin (run). With the software, you can see things like what your best 1, 5, 10, and 30 min efforts have been at any point in a given time range. This works especially well for the bike. These observations frequently lead to specific workouts, which I'll list in subsequent posts.

3. Competitors. For me, just thinking about Jeff, Rob, and Bob keeps me going. I know they are working their tails off. I need to do the same.

4. Competitions. Early season competitions are a great motivator. They also may lead to modest changes in the routine, which can be refreshing.

5. Music. The iPod is perhaps the greatest training aid to come along in recent history. Set it to random shuffle so you don't know what's coming next. You might even hear a song you haven't heard in a while.

6. Vary time, distance and intensity, within the workout and from one workout to the next. Vary the gearing on the bike and pitch on the treadmill. more on this later. It's critical to mix things up- not only mentally, but also physically- you end up working different energy systems.

7. TV can work well, especially if it's a lower intensity workout. Personally, I find music to work much better when things ramp up.

8. Nutrition. It's easy to get bored if your performance trails off, which happens easily if you don't replace calories and liquids. For a 1:15 ride, I'll go through 2 full water bottles and a nutrition bar.

9. Company. Our swim group can be up to 20+ strong. It's a great group, and very competitive. I may be a good swimmer in the world of triathlon, but on a good day, I'm somewhere in the middle of this group.

10. Podcasts. I like IM Talk, The Competitors and Endurance Planet, all from the iTunes store. IM Talk is two guys in New Zealand who cover triathlon training and racing, spending more time on the IM distance. They can be a bit goofy, and one of them (Bevin) has one of the highest pitched voices I've ever heard. They can also get good interviews. This one is weekly. The Competitors are Bob Babbit and Paul Huddle. They get one good interview per episode, and do it once or twice per month. They do more triathlon than other sports, but also cover biking, running and other special interest stories. Good stuff. Endurance Planet has evolved over the last year or so, and is now a weekly one hour call with three interviews each. More endurance running, but also triathlon and other sports.

11. Have a plan. Knowing what you will do, and committing to that idea, can help to get to the finish. It's even more helpful when you have a weekly plan that this workout is a part of. If you just show up with no daily or weekly plan, it's easy to get off early because you aren't failing.

12. Break the time up into manageable chuncks. Focus on just gettign to the next time threshold. Intervals work for this. You can also eat a 1/4 bar every 15 minutes. Or stand up on the bike every 5 minutes for 60 seconds.

I'm sure there are other things that help fight off the boredom. Bottom line, do whatever it takes to stay engaged. So what works for you?


  1. I printed out your list. Let me tell you , I am looking forward to some of the posts you plan to write--esp. on the data you record on your bike and run workouts, and how you use it to assess progress (or not) and then create workouts specific to your needs.
    Would you ever ride outside in the winter? Just curious. I've been observing that even with snow on the ground, some people are still out there.

  2. I'm interested in reading your run workouts too. I find running by myself to be completely boring and inane. 3 miles alone = death. 20 miles with my friends = joy. Maybe it's time to give that "run with iPod" thing a try. :)

  3. You may want to check out swim coach finder to help with your swimming goals this year. Find a coach, learn better swim technique and win.

  4. Great Blog.

    Thanks for sharing the insight. I hate that black line!

    --- Jim

  5. ahhh yes.. the boredom factor. Swimming doesn't seem to bore me however...the black line..I use it to help my stroke. It's the trainer and treadmill that have a way of putting me over the edge. Fun workouts are what keep me going. workouts that are all mixedup and force me to focus instead of flip through a book that I can't read anyway because sweat is dripping down onto every page. Music helps a tad.....but not much on the treadmill. NOthing helps me with that...and I only use it when I'm desperate and can't get outside.