Extend Your Body's Battery Life and Finish With Full Power

By Carrie Barrett – May 1, 2014
Photography by Fotohogg

Several of my athletes and friends are just weeks away from competing in the Memorial Hermann Ironman Texas on May 17. I refer to the two months before race day as the “Eight Weeks of Suck” because this is where training duration peaks, quality sleep diminishes, hunger is a constant companion, and emotions spark like a live wire near a puddle. In essence, your body's battery is draining, and you are constantly looking for a recharge. It's these weeks that, I believe, truly make competitors an Ironman long before they cross the finish line.  

Picture this scene (which may or may not have happened to me recently):

You're in your car without a phone charger when the dreaded notification “20% Battery Power Remains” flashes before your eyes. Panic ensues. You've got texts to send, emails to check, NPR shows to hear, and only 20 percent power. You contemplate changing to airplane mode to conserve battery, though unsure if that even works. You feast your eyes on the Starbucks two exits ahead because you know some “home office employee” is there with every adaptor known to man. Unfortunately, you don't have time for a 10-minute charge. You even consider stopping into Best Buy for a new charger (though you have two others at home, acquired under the same emergency circumstances). It seems mere seconds have gone by when you see the “10% Battery Power Left” notification. Dang it! What is happening? All I did was update my Facebook status to complain about my battery power! How could that have drained it by 10 percent?!  And then… boom…the apple appears. Your phone is shutting down and you can't stop it. “WHY, GOD, WHY,” you exclaim like an innocent victim of a violent crime. “How could you do this to me? I still have an hour to drive! What am I supposed to do with this time?” 

Sound melodramatic? We've all been there, our phones and our bodies. Athletes aren't unlike smartphones, albeit we're not always as smart, slick, pocket friendly, and intuitive. Think of how much you accomplish and multitask on a daily basis.  How many “apps” do you have running in your life at any given time? You get kids to school, run 12 miles, go into the office, work a full day, cook dinner, do homework, and try to keep in touch with loved ones. At the beginning of the day, you're like a fully charged iPhone. However, just like your mobile, with overuse comes drainage, and that last 20 percent of your energy empties faster than Lake Travis these days. 

Training and racing pose the same challenge. How can you extend your own body's battery life in training and on race day? How do you hang onto that 80 percent as much as possible and save the last 20 percent for the glorious finish line sprint? Much like our phones, there's a lot you can do to conserve your own battery life.

Keep it Cool. Experts suggest keeping your phone cool to extend battery life. Leave it out of the sun. Extremely hot conditions essentially fry a battery, diminishing its charge quickly.

Well, isn't this some handy advice as we head into summer races? To extend your own battery life, keep cool. Hydrate by taking in at least 90 ounces of water each day (more if training regularly). Wear CoolMax clothing and sunscreen to protect skin from the sun's wrath. During hot weather training and races, take advantage of ice and wet sponges at the water stops by putting some in your hat or even in your race kit. There is no shame in shoveling an ice-cold sponge down your pants or bra, I swear. If it keeps you away from a “low battery” signal, go for it. (Just don't give someone else a recharge with your used sponges.)

Turn Off Apps. I once noticed that I had over 40 apps running simultaneously on my phone. No wonder my battery was dead before noon. So was my brain, apparently. Siri didn't know that I wasn't using Google Maps, Twitter, Evernote, Yelp, and 30 other apps all at the same time. If you're not using an app, go ahead and shut it down to extend your phone's battery life.

In the same way, shut down the things you don't need in your personal life, especially when training for a big race. When new athletes come to me about coaching and reaching goals, one of the first things I tell them is to get rid of as many distractions as possible. Eliminate the clutter and turn off the personal apps that aren't serving you at the moment; you need all of the battery power you can get to make it through the tough training. Yes, this can even mean some of those social obligations that can drain your body and minds of power (and brain cells).

Avoid using unnecessary features. This is the over-training of cell phone use. If you know it will be a while before your next charge, don’t use the camera flash or shoot hi-def video of your kid's swim meet. If you're someone who actually uses a phone to talk, keep conversations or FaceTime chats brief.  Disable Bluetooth capability and turn off any vibrations, push notifications, or other unnecessary features that mindlessly drain your battery life. 

To extend your body's battery, avoid over-reaching and over-training. If your plan says to run a 10:00 mile, don't run an 8:30 to prove a point. Over-training is one of the biggest personal battery drains, especially when it comes to long distance. Is it necessary to prepare your body for the rigors of a long day? Of course. However, it's also equally necessary to plug your body back into a charger with things like massage, yoga, functional movement, ice baths, and sleep. 

As triathlon coaching expert Joe Friel said, “You want to train as little as possible to receive the best possible results.” More is not always better, especially with training. The more your body is depleted, the longer it takes to recharge for the next session.

Turn It Off.  When all else fails and you need to conserve battery power, shut the phone down. The same holds true for your body. If you are at the point of exhaustion and burn out, turn it off, and rest. Give your body and mind downtime. This will go a long way toward raising your battery life to full power.  

On race day, if you find your battery draining quickly, slow down and assess the situation. Walk for a bit to extend power to your legs while still moving forward, hydrate, take in electrolytes for some additional electricity, and minimize those distracting negative thoughts that may also be zapping your power.

At the end of the day, just remember that a little charge goes a long way. You have your own chargers called rest, good nutrition, and a winning mindset. Plug into those, and you'll be back to 100 percent battery in no time.


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