Training for a half Ironman and training to look like a fit female are two totally different and opposite goals.
We are constantly trying to find that balance. Can we train for an event and still be a fit female?
In addition to four half Ironman’s, I completed one full Ironman in 2007.
I have invested a lot of personal research, as well as referenced much of the other credible research out there, and I have found that as I train for these longer distance events and add more and more volume of steady state aerobic training, my body changes, and not the way I want it to. I don’t lose weight and I don’t fit in a smaller size, in fact my weight and size usually stay about the same, despite a high training volume, but my appearance is different. I lose my abs, don’t have the definition I am used to seeing, and overall end up feeling a bit “soft” by the time of the event. THE RESEARCH also shows this to be true, that using higher intensity, lower volume is the answer for fat loss.
Although I am in great physical shape, and am able to swim a mile, bike 56 miles, and run a half marathon all in one six hour workout, for all of the training I have been doing my body doesn’t look its best. Again, I am the same weight and size, and probably look the same in clothes covered up, but won’t be caught training in a half top for a few weeks.
I always start training for these long distance events and for some reason think – “This time it will be different. I will really keep lifting heavy, and watch what I eat, and I will be able to keep my abs throughout the whole training and do a half Ironman looking like a figure competitor.” I know many of you have similar thoughts because I get emails all the time – “How can I train for a marathon and lose body fat, crossing the finish line looking defined?” I actually did an interview on this very subject a while back - Click here to read. And in that interview I state – “My ultimate goal is to cross the finish line of a triathlon looking like a fitness competitor and be able to maintain it, but I don’t know if it is possible. I am still working on that one…”
But, once again, as my training progressed for this half Ironman my abs got softer and I could not keep my definition, no matter how hard I tried. It is probably a hint that the majority of people who cross the finish line of an endurance event have a softer appearance; even if they are thin they usually don’t look defined.
So, as for my “Ultimate Goal,” I have realized that it just may not be possible, especially when training for half Ironman and Ironman distance. Training for a half Ironman and training to look like a “Fit Female” are two totally different and opposite goals. To get the look of a Fit Female you have to challenge your body and keep it from adapting with intense exercise, on the other hand, to compete in an endurance event, your goal is for your body to adapt to the workouts so that you can complete the mileage at a steady state, but adapting means you burn less and less calories.
The key for me is to “periodize” my year and my training so that after completing a half Ironman, which for me was totally worth it (to have the satisfaction of completing the event and contributing to the Challenged Athletes Foundation so my niece can participate in sports and be a part of what they have to offer), I have a 6-week “Attack The Fat Phase.”
You have to switch gears and bump up the intensity, drop the volume, and get the definition we’re used to having back. You have to “Attack The Fat.” The plan is six weeks of two metabolic workouts and three strength workouts, along with eating healthy. NO steady state cardio. I did this same plan of attack after my last triathlon and within six weeks I was back to the way I like to look.
This is the exact same plan that is laid out in my book, Drop 2 Sizes, which has 12 weeks of strength and metabolic workouts. This is also the exact type of plan we recommend for members of our gym who, for most of them, perform 1-2 strength workouts and 1-2 metabolic workouts a week, and their bodies transform to look the way they want in 6-12 weeks.
You too can be on your way to reaching your ultimate goal, and the good news is that you don’t need to do hours and hours of steady-state aerobic training to have the body you want, in fact it could work against you.