Preparing For Your First Ironman

By Tom Piszkin

This series was originally written in preparation for Iroman USA in Lake Pacid, NY 1999.
1: Calling All IronPeople 2: The Road To Lake Placid 3: Bring on the Power 4: Jump to Warp
5: Cruise Control 6: The Need for Speed 7: At the Crest 8: The Two Week Tweak

Jump to Warp
by Tom Piszkin

This is the fourth installment in a series of articles intended to make your 
Lake Placid date the best it can be. To recap, the themes currently playing 
in your training theatre are:
1)Flexibility and strength conditioning
2)Aerobic base building
3)Power lifting

April's theme--aside from keeping a step ahead of the IRS--is plyometrics.
Roughly defined, plyometrics are a collection of jumps, hops, leaps, bounds
and skips performed with great speed and intensity, over a well planned time
progression. Plyometrics are used to transform the strength and power
developed in the weight room into speed on the roads. They are introduced at 
this time to prepare you for more traditional speed work coming up later.

Unless you're involved in a masters running program, you've probably not 
heard much about this field of training. It is a little understood and easily 
abused set of drills that has evolved by trial and error over the last 25 
years. Words of caution: some is good, more is not better... What seems like 
not enough quickly becomes too much.

The number one prerequisite to safe plyometrics is to develop a more flexible 
body, which you have been doing for at least three months now. The second is 
to have strong muscles and connective tissues that can handle the explosive 
moves, which you have also been working on for awhile. The third is to 
ALWAYS perform the drills on a mat or soft (grass) surface. 

Because of all these caveats, I'm suggesting a very simple program that can 
be performed (after warm up) in ten minutes, three times a week:

1)24 lunge steps (aka, banana walks): Hands on hips, back straight. Step 
forward the length of your femur. Bend lead leg no more than 90 degrees 
at the knee. Keep knee (vertically) behind the ball of your foot. Push off 
trailing foot bringing it forward and ahead of first foot a distance that 
creates the same 90 degree bend without the knee passing the vertical plane 
of its corresponding foot. Repeat slowly for a total of 24 steps (12 with 
each foot). STOP! You'll be surprised how worked your glutes will feel the 
next day after such a brief visit to plyo-land.

2)10 vertical jumps: Stand with feet shoulder width apart, partially squat so
that booth heels are on the ground, and arms hanging down. Jump vertically as
high as possible reaching up with the hands, use arms to jolt upwards. Keep
back erect. Anticipate landing, bend knees slightly, manage the deceleration
to land "softly." Jump back up as powerfully as possible. Repeat rapidly ten 
times. STOP.

3)18 Bounds: Thrust lead knee and opposite arm up and out while completely 
straightening the push-off leg. Make sure the toes are active at the push off
for the entire length of the exercise. The arms are actively used to assist
in overcoming the main challenge in bounding, i.e., the collapse of the
landing knee. To keep the knee from bending too much on landing, concentrate
on swinging the same-side arm vigorously forward and upward. Bounds are
designed to cover as much distance as possible per step. And it doesn't take
too many steps to deplete your mitochondria of its ATP stores. You might start
by bounding only a couple of steps at a time so as to maintain form and avoid
injury. (It's easy to turn an ankle when your coming down from your five foot
vertical leap!) 

When to Ply? Never when fatigue threatens a break in form. Always after a
good warmup. Preferably not after a lifting session, fast run or intense bike
ride. That still leaves plenty of slots in your week to take three doses of
this speed medicine. 

More plyo-results can be had by adding hill repeats to one of your weekly
running and one of your weekly biking workouts. Focus on power and speed 
under heavier loads. Think about "bounding" explosively up hills with your 
arms leading the way. Think about staying in the saddle with a smooth,
slower cadence as you ascend a grade. You can work on this same principle by 
swimming tethered to a stretch cord.

Other than adding this theme, your road to Lake Placid is well marked.
Next month we'll talk about cruise control..