Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Starting a healthy addiction

Right. So we know we have an event to do in 5 months time. Doing your first triathlon is both an exciting and daunting prospect. Getting nervous is part of the buzz, but 5 months is a long way off so what's the best way to get started if we haven't already.

It's pretty easy to keep putting off training as we still have plenty of time, but what we need to remember is that the more prepared we are for the day, the more fun we are likely to have. I mean prepared in both the mental and physical sense. Practice and training will cover both of these. Following a structured training program is always the best way to prepare the body and mind for what is to come.

Theoretically, this is straight forward but being motivated to train can often be a difficult thing. Quite often it is just the starting process that is the problem. Once we are into it, the rest becomes much easier. In fact, the body has a mechanism to help us out here.

Exercise is actually pretty addictive. During exercise, our bodies produce and a type of hormone called an endorphin from the pituitary gland. An endorphin is a type of opioid made by the body. This has the affect of blocking pain, reducing appetite and creates the feeling of euphoria, that some describe as an exercise high. If we exercise for more than about 30 minutes, the level of endorphins in blood can increase up to five times that of resting levels. Most importantly, after several months of exercise, our bodies become more sensitive to the endorphins and they tend to stay at higher levels for longer.

After, months of exercise, the pain blocking affect allows you to train longer at a comfortable level and the natural high lasts longer making exercise more pleasant and leaving you wanting to return the next time.

So ideally we want to get to this euphoric state kicking in as soon as possible to help us along. If you are anything like me, you leave things to the last minute and then panic. If the panic comes early enough we may still have enough time to half prepare for the task and scrape on through. The obvious problem here is that we are missing out on conditioning that prolonged exercise will give us.

I solve this problem by picking manageable intermediate steps. This means picking an event and committing to it. The event should be a much smaller challenge but in the not too distant future. There are normally nominal cost involved with these events but it is enough to not want to through the money away.

I have picked the Santa Monica Classic 5k run in early May. I only have about a month to train for it which means I needed to start immediately. I also picked a running event as this is the weakest part of my triathlons. By starting early, I hope to allow enough time to improve my run and make it a more enjoyable part of a triathlon.

I am now about two weeks into my training and I am already enjoying it immensely. I am also a lot happier that I have finally started my training.

Hopefully, this will inspire you all to start now and be more prepared by race day.

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