Finding Your Perfect Training Blend

By Carrie Barrett – July 1, 2014

Ever try to make a green smoothie? It's not as easy as it sounds. If you put in too much lemon, it tastes bitter. If you don't blend it long enough, you may as well be chewing your smoothie. If you add too much kale, it tastes like it was scraped off the bottom of a lawnmower. I'm as plant strong as they come, but the last thing I want to do for breakfast is make out with a John Deere. It's hard to get the combination just right no matter what recipe is used. However, there are those times when magic happens. Add in just the right amount of apple, ginger, or pineapple and suddenly, that liquid catnip becomes a little slice of sweet nutrient heaven.

You have found your perfect blend.

Training plans are nothing more than a recipe. If you follow your training plan perfectly, chances are good for celebrating an amazing race day performance. But, like most recipes, the tendency is to leave a few things out (I still don't know what tarragon is) or make some substitutions along the way to fit needs and taste buds. You tweak, experiment, pinch, and substitute to find that perfect blend.
Welcome to the triathlon training smoothie bar. How can you make your perfect blend?

Choose Your Greens.

Duh. You can't have a green smoothie without greens, the drink’s fundamentals. Many people use chard, spinach, romaine, and other greens. Diehard smoothie and juice lovers swear by kale. Kale; yeah, they do. My suggestion is to start conservatively with greens and add as you become used to the taste of drinking your veggies.

Triathlon training also has its key ingredients: swim, bike, run. You can't have a great race without knowing those fundamentals. At some point, you practice all three. Like dark leafy greens in a glass, sometimes less is more. Start conservatively and add sessions as your body and mind adapt to the schedule. There is no exact formula for everyone. Some coaches prescribe a balanced schedule, much like the one included here. Still, other coaches focus on building upon strengths—or even weaknesses. Bottom line: Start with the fundamentals. Learn to swim, bike, and run properly and with good technique. Work on drills over speed. Lay the foundation of your training recipe.

Choose Your Consistency.

Water, milk, coconut water, or real fruit juice are all recommended liquids to give a smoothie its desired consistency and additional flavor. Adding ice or Greek yogurt can also turn it into a frothy milkshake dream. The smoother the consistency, the more palatable it is. There's not much worse than trying to take a sip of a smoothie only to find that it's either way too thick or so thin that there’s a sticky green homage to Jackson Pollack dribbled down your shirt. Knowing how much liquid to put in is an art and individual practice because it all depends on personal ingredient selection. Again, start conservatively and add more as you blend.

Consistency is also a key word for triathlon training. You have your three main ingredients ready to go, so schedule and mix them as desired to ensure a smooth and confident training system. As race and training distances grow, consistency becomes imperative. Sure, it’s possible to wing the shorter races sometimes, but it's tough and unpleasant to put together a race that will last six to 17 hours. It's almost like adding too much lemon juice to your smoothie (you can picture the look I'm making right now). You may as well toss the whole thing out and start fresh.

Choose Your Fruit.

Though it’s certainly possible mix a smoothie concoction with just greens  and have a nutrient bomb for breakfast, many blend-a-holics include fruit to cut the bitterness and add a little sweetness. Blending frozen fruit also helps with the texture and consistency. Bananas are a popular choice, as are pineapple and mangoes, but the sky is the limit here. Toss in apples, oranges, melons, grapes, and berries. Keep in mind, however, that when dark berries are added, they change the color from bright green to Lady Bird Lake brown in just a few pulses. It will taste awesome, but if you have a color aversion, beware. 

Sweeten up triathlon training and keep it fun. Do you enjoy charity bike rides? Sign up for a couple. Train and race with friends on occasion. Add some sweetness with a master’s swim class or open-water event. Join a training team or group if time and schedule allow. Add some speed work. Sure, you can train by yourself and have the perfect blend, but add some zest and find some fun with group outings. Beware, however; as a few too many blueberries can turn that smoothie brown, too much group training can turn a desired flavor and taint a favorite mix. Why drink someone else's smoothie all of the time when you can make your own? The same holds true for triathlon training. I recommend mixing it up with friends and competitors every once in a while, but not all of the time. Keep your eye always on your perfect training blend.

Pack Your Punch.

Add a kick to a smoothie with fun spices and flavor additions like ginger, goji berries, cacao, protein powders, avocado, chia seeds, nut butters, spirulina, and more. Add-ins go a long way toward delivering the goods on protein, healthy fats, and “super food” nutrients and lay the finishing touches on your recipe for awesome.

Strength training, yoga, and recovery days also add a kick to the training schedule. Who doesn't want to be stronger, faster, and more agile? Strength and flexibility training, however, do more than just add speed—they add power. Strength training is the protein powder of training. It packs a punch with explosive full-body movements, core work, and flexibility training. It staves off injury and aids in restoration. Add-ins, especially recovery days, also break up the monotony of routine and provide a little zing of excitement to your perfect blend.

Choose Your Blender.

Sure, a $500 Vitamix blender sounds ridiculous at first, but $500 is a mere drop in the bucket to good health and longevity when considering the long run. It pays for itself quickly; trust me, I’ve seen my Juiceland tab. Plus, there are thousands of recipe ideas on the Internet. Smoothie options are endless with this investment.

In triathlon training, your coach and training log are your blender, and they work with you to mix up the ingredients—the liquids, fruits, and add-ins that mesh together for a perfect training plan. If something doesn't taste quite right, tweak and fine-tune it until it does. Can coaching be expensive? It sure can. But, like a $500 blender, a good coach provides more than just basic functions. A good coach has all of the bells and whistles (including feedback, meetings, education, therapy, empathy, and perspective). A good coach will take your smoothie recipe and make it better.

Before you make a green smoothie, make sure you like dark leafy greens. Why bother choking something down if you're going to hate it? Likewise, before you embark upon triathlon training, adopt a love affair with the lifestyle. Your coach and blender will love you for it, as will your body. Find the perfect combination and enjoy peak power and performance. 

Download the entire Half Ironman training program on Training Peaks!


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