Cyclist Richard Feldman has won five world championships in master’s time trials and 10 national time trial and cyclocross championships. Ask him the secret to his success and he points to something you wouldn’t expect of a hardcore athlete: Regular time on the couch.
He found that out the hard way in 2009 when he trained too hard and placed second and third in his races. He cut back the following year and resumed his place atop the podium.
“A day off is one of the hardest things to get athletes to do because you know someone else is training while you’re sitting. But, just as you don’t go to the office on your days off, you don’t want to get on your bike or run or even hike with your wife on your day off,” said Feldman, who owns Durance Cycleworks in Ketchum. “It’s OK if you do some deadheading in your garden. But you don’t want to lay sod for four hours.”
With summer coming on, we asked Feldman and three other southern Idaho athletes for advice for weekend warriors who want to lose weight or train for an athletic event.
Promise yourself a reward
Setting goals is Jaime Tigue’s key to making sure she works out at least three to four times a week.
“I do a lot of half-marathons, and one full marathon. I do it for fun and it keeps me running,” Tigue said.
As assistant professor of physical education at the College of Southern Idaho, Tigue constantly thinks about ways to motivate her students to set fitness goals.
Want to lose weight? Reward yourself with a new pair of running shoes instead of an ice cream sundae, she said.
She cautions those who want to follow in her running tracks to start out in walk-jog mode — walking three minutes for every minute of running, then increasing the running gradually. And strike the ball of the foot, rather than the heel, as you land.
“We walk heel to toe, but we don’t have time to do that when we’re running,” Tigue said.
Good running shoes are necessary, too, as well as good hydration.
“You should drink 30 minutes before you exercise and continue to drink while you’re running,” Tigue said. “And be sure to drink up 30 minutes after you finish.”
Track what you do
Heidi Cartisser, who coaches women’s volleyball at CSI, gives her athletes summer homework: They must document all their summer activities.
That list should include some cardiovascular activity every day, whether a track workout or bicycle riding. There also should be some strength work, such as weightlifting or plyometrics, at least every other day, she said.
Cartisser says she doesn’t feel the need to do a crash course to get in shape for summer, as she stays in shape all year.
“And that’s what’s great about volleyball,” said Cartisser, whose favorite summer activity is grass volleyball. “You don’t have to be in the best of shape. It’s easy to pick up the ball and toss it around.”
That said, a commitment to walking and hiking provides a pretty good workout year-round, Cartisser said.
“And if you really want to get competitive, hit the weights. I just don’t try to kill myself.”
Have fun while you’re at it
Heidi Watanabe has thrown herself into the treacherous waters of the San Francisco Bay on an “escape from Alcatraz” — twice.
Both times she joined several hundred swimmers who braved strong current, 48-degree water and great white sharks to swim from that legendary prison to San Francisco. The Hailey woman swam the mile and a half in just more that 34 minutes, placing her first in her age class both times and third among all the women who finished.
Watanabe, mother of Olympic snowboarder Graham Watanabe, is a former NCAA collegiate alpine ski racer. But she swims in the Alcatraz race and skis in the 90-kilometer ultramarathon over the Continental Divide in Colorado just to see if she can do it.
“Even when I’m doing the Boulder Mountain Tour I just like being out there enjoying the beauty all around,” Watanabe said.
Eight years ago she joined a group of Masters swimmers at 6 a.m. in an outdoor Hailey pool because it was a beautiful way to watch the sun come up. She enjoyed the group so much that she wound up swimming with them in the winter, eventually accompanying a few to World Masters competition in Australia where she placed fourth in the 800-meter free.
“Swimming is therapeutic. It lengthens the muscles, stretches them out. And the water feels so soothing versus the pounding you get with other activities,” she said.
But she’s adamant about cross-training — something that helped her recover from shoulder surgery six months before an Alcatraz swim. Watanabe works out at Hailey’s 5B Crossfit on barbells, squats, pull-ups, kettle ball and box jumps.
“I’m not a weightlifter, but I figured I needed strength training to avoid osteoporosis, and it made me much stronger. It also cut down on my other workouts. I don’t feel I need to swim or Nordic ski as much now to stay fit,” she said.
“Now I need to concentrate on stretching more. My husband gets up every morning to do yoga poses, and he tells me, ‘You should be doing this, too.’”
Plan ahead and start easy
Feldman, two-time winner of the grueling Leadville Trail 100 Mountain Bike race in Colorado, says the principles he uses for himself and the athletes he coaches can be applied to anyone — someone who wants to lose 15 pounds this summer or someone trying to win a local bicycle race.
Feldman makes copious daily notes, detailing his workout and what he ate so he can look back later and see what worked and what didn’t. And he plans ahead — way ahead — in order to meet his goals of racing in cyclocross and other events.
“The important thing is to set a goal. It can be losing a certain amount of weight. But even better would be to have an event to look forward to. If your main goal is weight control, do it in concert with something else. It doesn’t have to be the world championship. But it should be your world championship.”
Have a realistic goal, Feldman advised. It’s preposterous to think a couch potato is going to do the Tour de France. But not so preposterous to consider the Twin Falls triathlon.
People striving to get fit or train for a summer competition in the first flush of spring make three major mistakes, Feldman cautions: not having a plan, not following a plan and trying to do too much too soon.
Feldman, for instance, orders his bicycle parts months ahead to ensure he has them when he needs them. At the same time, he says, he tries to dissuade weekend cyclists from ordering new components immediately after their first ride of the season.
“Often people come in after the first 60-degree day of the season wanting a new saddle. If I was unscrupulous, I would sell it to them. But, in most cases, it’s not the saddle. It’s the fact that they tried to do too much too fast and their rear end is simply not used to the saddle yet.”
One more piece of advice: Don’t do something poorly.
“If you start tiring or find yourself hitting balls poorly, stop,” Feldman said. “Chances are you’re going to start using poor technique. And you don’t want to get in the habit.”