One Last Ride – Longevity & Wellness

Having been around the sport for over a decade, I have had the opportunity to watch athletes, friends and coaches navigate (or not) the transition from athletic excellence to personal wellness. Quite often the most “successful” athletes are forced to endure a forced retirement (due to ruining their bodies) or quit because they are haunted by their expert knowledge about how to “train right.” I’ve been navigating this transition myself so, this week, I wanted to offer you a couple principles that guide my current athletic life. I have a hunch that if I follow them for 80% of my life, the other 20% will be more than enough to be “athletically excellent” when I feel like it.

Low Standard Deviation Training
My friend, Jeff Shilt, first brought the “no zeros” philosophy to my attention. I’d been shooting for a slightly different version of this philosophy (five aerobic hours per day) when I was an elite. Jeff’s a smart guy. Realizing that training like an elite didn’t fit his life (as doc, dad, professor, administrator), he realized that he would be able to achieve a considerable lift in total training load if he dropped the days where he did nothing.

Getting more done by doing less nothing… I think a lot of us try to live this way. Let me explain how I get that done. Being a dad, coach, businessman, husband and top AG triathlete I’ve had to adjust my approach from when I was #livingthedream.

In 2009, I had significant time constraints while I was resurrecting my families finances. Not being sure how to train, I placed myself on Endurance Corner’s half ironman program (you learn a lot when you do your own program). I paid attention to my athletic performance, as well as how I felt. I discovered that I was most productive on the days where I trained an hour both in the morning and at night.

I found that my personal sweet spot was about two hours per day of aerobic exercise (about 12 hours per week). By way of benchmarks, it takes me about 18 hours per week to appear “fast” in an age-group-sense and about 25 hours per week to be competitive (overall) at ironman racing (tapping my personal athletic potential). Those figures are over a 20-week time horizon and, yes, I think you probably need to dedicate approximately 650 hours a year towards your personal wellness.

The error most athletes make is they read the above, decide on an external performance goal and back-fit volume. As a result, their starting point guarantees that they will fail to achieve their internal wellness goal, which is far more valuable than a race result. This leads to stress, which screws up nutritional choices, which is why most people “training lots” can’t control their weight.

If any of us create the space for 650 hours of wellness-focused sport then we’re going to improve. We’re also going to learn valuable techniques that we can apply in all areas of our life. In addition, we can periodically leave moderation for smart overload.

In my own life, I have four types of “unplanned zeros”:

  • Missing training: Pretty obvious!
  • Sleeping in: I always convince myself that I deserved it…
  • Nutritional lapses: Same rationalization, I deserved it…
  • Being rude to Monica: Why do we unload on those that truly love us? No excuses here and her ability to mimic me is terrifying!

By watching the situations that cause these “little failures,” I can remove the items that can prevent my big successes.

Take Home Point: Consider how much training you need to: look good, think smart and be fit. Then train the ability to not screw up.

End Games
How do you want to die?

I know that you would prefer not to think about it but play the game… how would you like to check out?

The way we live, our choices, our likes, our tolerances — all are trainable through incremental effort and practice. Consider what you could achieve if you identified a few simple principles that would extend the quality of your life.

A story: a buddy of mine visited his doctor. The doc told him that he was facing a life-or-death situation with his health. He needed to change, or he was going to die! When my pal told me this story, my internal response was “so what, we’re all going to die.” To most of us, death isn’t real — suffering is real.

I had a chance to visit my buddy’s doctor and drew this chart for him (click to blow up). I think this is a more powerful argument — the lines are Illness, Average and Goal. The choice isn’t life or death. The choice is length of death and I’m shooting for the cliff edge approach that you can see. Q = quality of life; T = time.

No zeros as an integrated approach to personal wellness.

Categories: Health, Lifestyle

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