IF A TYPICAL WEEK of exercise for you involves 60 minutes of perspiration every other day, pat yourself on the back. Why? Because that level of commitment puts you well on the way to running a marathon, biking a hundred miles, even taking part in a triathlon. You just need to step things up a notch and you'll discover an amazing little secret: Training for long-distance endurance events needn't be torture. The next level is within your reach, and getting there is easier than you think.
YOUR FIRST 14ER
Want an easy plan to prepare you to climb a mountainsay, 14,494-foot Mount Whitney? Check out our five-week program that'll whip you into summit-worthy shape.
Half and half: have a life, but still have a game when competition calls.
To prove our point, we enlisted three expert coaches to tailor a trio of training programs that will consume a bare minimum of your time but still produce race-day success. How does six and a half hours or less per week sound? That's pretty much all Sheryl Krohne, 50, a professor of veterinary ophthalmology at Purdue University, has devoted to her exercise program over the last three decades. During that time, she's finished four Ironman triathlons, run 20 marathons, and climbed both Rainier and McKinley.
Though you might be slightly less ambitious than Krohne, her example shows that, when it's done right, training for endurance events can feel less like a second job and more like a labor of love.
Ramp up to a marathon
Ready to get into gear for a marathon in 19 short (well, kinda short) weeks? CLICK HERE
THERE'S NO REASON completing 26.2 miles on foot has to be brutal: The average time for San Diego's Rock 'n' Roll Marathon in 2000 was a safe and sane four hours, 30 minutes for men and five hours, ten minutes for womenenough time to hit the john at mile six, walk through every water station, and hug your loved ones at mile 20. To get you to a triumphant finish, distance-running expert Jenny Hadfield, co-author of Marathoning for Mortals, has come up with an 18-week program that "allows you to finish with dignity." Hadfield has good reason for her regimen of short workouts. "It takes time to adapt your body to a marathon's high mileage," she says. "Push it and you risk hurting yourself." Apart from long runs every Saturday, you'll spend only two to three hours a week in your running shoes. Hadfield's plan assumes you've been logging five miles, three times a week, for at least three months. Now, on Mondays and Thursdays, run at a pace that makes it a little too hard to talk at the same time. On Tuesdays, cross-train with yoga, swimming, weight lifting, or biking to keep your whole body fit. Go for an easy run on Wednesdays or complete one of the following, as noted on the chart: (A) Run hard for five minutes; walk briskly for one minute; repeat sequence three times; (B) run hard for ten minutes; walk briskly for two minutes; run hard for ten minutes; walk again for two minutes; or (C) run hard for 20 minutes. For Saturday's longer runs, your pace should allow you to have a conversation.
CHICAGO MARATHON In 2002, Paula Radcliffe set a world record of 2:17:18 on Chi-Town's flat course. Ambitious? Yes, but inspirational nonetheless. (October 12, 2003; www.chicagomarathon.com)
TUCSON MARATHON It's all downhill! Now hear this: Running down 2,250 vertical feet is easy on the lungs but murder on the legs. Be prepared. (December 7, 2003; www.tucsonmarathon.com)
WALT DISNEY WORLD MARATHON Run straight under Spaceship Earth and hang a left at Cinderella's Castle as you bound through the park's level terrain. (January 11, 2004; www.disneyworldsports.com)
100 miles in 24 easy rides
Aspiring for room-is-spinning century mark has never been easier. CLICK HERE
UNLESS YOU JUST BIKED the Tour de France, few cycling experiences inflate an ego like watching a bike's odometer hit triple digits on the same day it registered zero. And cycling into shape for those 100 miles takes less time than you think. Try two months. Lynda Wallenfels, a cycling coach at Ultrafit Associates, an online coaching service, devised a plan (see chart, far right) that assumes an easy baseline of fitness: 30 miles a week for at least two months before starting the regimen. That breaks down to slightly less than 20 minutes a day. Once you begin, a little math will make your workouts sharper: On Tuesdays, concentrate on maintaining a high cadence for 30 minutes; calculate yours by multiplying by four the number of times one foot goes around in 15 seconds. "Aim for 80 rpm or higher," says Wallenfels. When you can, increase ride time to an hour. With Thursday's ride, you're going to build leg strength on climbs that take at least five minutes to complete. No steep hills? Then find inclines too long to sprint all the way up and sprint up them as far as you can. If you're feeling strong, go for 90 minutes. On Saturdays, stick to a pace that will guarantee you finish the ride.
Saturday of week eight is century day: Carry enough food and liquid to last for three hours and cruise through the first 50 miles without stopping. "That way, your century will probably take around seven hours instead of ten," says Wallenfels.
AMTRAK CENTURY Blessed by tailwinds, the course starts in Irvine, California, and follows the Pacific coast down to San Diego, where you'll board an Amtrak "party train" back to Irvine. (September 6, 2003; www.ocw.org)
THE TRI-STATE SEACOAST CENTURY See three statesMassachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maineand all their fall colors. (September 20, 2003; www.granitestatewheelmen.org)
RIDE FOR THE ROSES Be like Lance and bike 100 miles in and around Austin, Texas. You may even be able to momentarily draft off the man himself. (October 26, 2003; www.laf.org)
The it-ain't heavy triathlon
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USA TRIATHLON, THE SPORT'S GOVERNING BODY, estimates that more than 200,000 people competed in their first triathlon in 2001, a recruitment rate that might have to do with the sport's inherent cross-training benefits. Triathletes face a lower risk of activity-induced injuryand sheer boredomthan those single-sport-obsessed folks. To help you test your own limits, Eric Harr, pro racer and author of Triathlon Training for the Rest of Us, designed a program for Olympic-distance triathlons that involve a 1.5k swim, a 40k bike ride, and a 10k run. The best part, according to Harr? "We'll get you to the finish without drooling on yourself."
The not so secret weapon Harr employs in his eight-week program to help you go the distance is, of all things, weight lifting. "Triathlon is a strength sport," he says. "Going from the bike to the run requires a strong back and legs." So, on weight-training days complete the following lifts: squats, hamstring curls, calf raises, lat pull-downs, back extensions, chest presses, and abdominal crunches. Do one set of 12 to fatigue, followed by one set of ten to fatigue. Your cardio work should be completed at a notch above tortoise pace so you can, in Harr's words, "build aerobic fitness without fatigue." The designated Level 2 workouts (see chart) are done at your predicted race pacethat is, "working hard but not out of control," says Harr.
(Olympic Three-Ways )
CHICAGO TRIATHLON Joining 26,000 flailing arms and legs in Lake Michigan seems like a daunting way to start your first triathlonuntil that frenzied momentum carries you to the finish of this easy urban course. (August 24, 2003; www.chicagotriathlon.com)
THE MONSTER CHALLENGE It might take some gumption to plunge into Boston Harbor for the swim, but smoking past scullers on the scenic Charles River on your bike is incentive enough to tackle Boston's biggest triathlon. (August 31, 2003; www.monsterchallenge.org)
SEAGATE TRIATHLON AT PACIFIC GROVE This neophyte-friendly course in California has you swimming among sea otters and sea lions, then biking and running along Monterey Peninsula's breathtaking coastline. (September 13, 2003; www.tricalifornia.com)