Sunday, October 21, 2012

Final Tough Mudder Training Day

Well, we're almost there.  Our Tough Mudder is this coming Saturday and we are about to do our last workout today.  It will involve a total of 10 miles running and 14 obstacle stations.  This is still less than the actual race, but many of the Tough Mudder obstacles are psychologically challenging rather than strength challenges.  Our goal today is to sustain our efforts for the entire time without breaking down significantly, practice a consistent race pace together,  and figure out the last bits of strategy that will help us succeed as a team.

This looks worse than it actually is.  
There is no need to push the prowler today or do any agility drills.  We're as strong and conditioned as we can possibly get and unless we had another four to six weeks to work on it, its not going to get any better.  In fact, for most of my teammates, I would strongly suggest they do little else this week other than a shorter run, a long walk, a yoga session, or even a little swimming.  Anything that is not intense or obstacle specific would be ideal.

The reason for this is that the last 8 weeks were a period of what we call "Transmutation".  Transmutation is similar to football training camp or any pre-season sports training.  Its when you take all the base strength and endurance you've built up and make it sport specific.  Just like the ancient alchemists sought to turn lead into gold, we seek to take all our nonspecific strength and endurance work and turn it into something that will make our physical abilities as specific and optimal for the Tough Mudder as possible.

This period of training is incredibly stressful and not just because the workouts are harder.  The simple act of turning full body strength into activity specific strength endurance is very taxing.  Your central nervous system has to make a lot of adjustments in muscle fiber recruitment, coordination, balance, proprioception, and kinesthetic awareness.  Our bodies also became more specifically conditioned for race day efforts during this time.  The base of long steady distance endurance we built will allow us to sustain a three to four hour effort on the course, but this race specific conditioning will allow us to transition between strength and endurance efforts more easily.  Most importantly, we developed positional and postural strength that will help support our joints through our efforts to mitigate the risk of injury.

Train smart, don't smack yourself
 in the face.
Because transmutation is so stressful, this is a period where individuals may feel more fragile and may actually sustain injuries.  For this reason, it is extremely important to include a taper or deload week prior to entering into competition or the competitive season and make recovery the number one goal.

I like metaphors and so I like to think of training as shooting a slingshot.  The construction of the slingshot itself is the phase during which we build our base.  The wood and the elastic band must be structurally sound and not likely to break.  Transmutation is the period of time when we load the stone and pull back the band.  If the slingshot was made well and doesn't break from the tension, the stone will go straight and  far when released.  If the rubber band is worn down or the wooden frame is weak, you'll just end up smacking yourself in the face.  




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