She's Always on the Move
Just a little walk was able to get me through many of my recoveries. After my two C-sections, walking helped my circulation and helped my digestive system get jump-started again. When recovering from my cancer surgeries, exercise helped me regain a sense of wellness and also confidence in my body. Cancer has a tendency to rob you of your feeling of control; seeing my body respond to exercise by getting stronger helped me regain that control. I wasn't "training" per se, I was merely exercisinggetting the body moving and the heart rate elevated for a period of time. It is so important and can be such a miracle cure.
Have you ever had an overuse injury?
I wish I knew back in college, when I was on the swim team, what I know now about recovery and overtraining. I've suffered from overtraining at times, but not since the late 1980sknock on wood. I've had no stress fractures, for example. I'm really careful about not getting overtrained, and I'm a big believer in a minimalist program. I totally train by feel. I have things on my schedule that I've planned, but I'll cut workouts short if I'm tired. I've developed my own instincts.
You also coach yourself. How do you make yourself keep your life in balance?
The Ironman buildup is a burden on the family. Long training is a grind for me, so I keep it to a pretty quick buildup so I won't get sick of it. What matters is how much my body can absorb while still staying fresh and excited about it. And I definitely can't fit in as much volume these daysnot with two kids and coaching.
What's your advice for midlife athletes who haven't done sports all their lives?
It's never too late to start. The 60-plus age groups at the Ironman are filled with men and women who didn't even start running or biking until they were middle-aged. But start small and with something that you enjoy. Find a friend to walk with; join an adult soccer or volleyball league. Sign up for classes at the gym. If you can combine a social element with the exercise component, you're more likely to enjoy it and stick with it. The great thing about just starting out is that you get to see improvement very quickly. If you stick with it, you can feel yourself be transformed.
Do you think you'll retire from racing?
I don't see the word "retire" connected with my life!
NOT EVEN A DAY OF REST
Think your workout regimen is tough? Here's how 45-year-old professional triathlete Karen Smyers spends a typical hard training week:
Monday: About an hour of swimming in the morning, then an "easy" bike ride of between 45 minutes and 2 hours (she may skip it if she feels tired or time-pressed).
Tuesday: A 1
Wednesday: About an hour of swimming in the morning (which Smyers might skip if she's going to swim on Thursday and Friday), then an easy bike ride.
Thursday: Long "brick" day with intense back-to-back workouts: first a 3-hour bike ride, followed immediately by a 60-to-90-minute run. And maybe a 2-mile-plus open-water swim at Walden Pond.
Friday: As much as 90 minutes of swimming in the morning, then an easy bike ride if she has time.
Saturday: A long bike ride of up to 130 miles followed immediately by a 3-mile "transition" run to reacquaint her legs with running.
Sunday: A long run of 15 to 20 miles.