She competed as a serious age-grouper triathlete for eight years after college before breaking through her own barrier and turning pro just two years ago. Thirty five Ironman races later, she has set amateur records across the country. She won Ironman Canada once and placed second in both Ironman St. George and Ironman Coeur D'Alene.
"You can have a life and still be an Ironman athlete," Kessler says. But you must be willing to change your training habits in a meaningful manner. She practiced what she preached before turning pro. While leading the amateur pack, she balanced training requirements with a demanding job in the financial services sector. She recently shared with us five rules for winter to help set you up for breakout performances in your "A" races next year.
- Be honest about your time to train. "What time do you have in the morning, at night and on the weekend?" she asked. Don't kid yourself when you are building a plan. Overestimating the time will not only lead to the development of an inappropriate training plan but it will also make you feel as though you are constantly running behind schedule.
- Know your true strengths and weaknesses. "My swim times and run times were always fast. But it took me awhile to realize that I was barely biking in my races. I was suffering through the bike to do the run." Once Kessler acknowledged this weakness, she found a coach who could truly teach her how to ride.
- Learn to love the trainer. "I do 90 percent of my training indoors. People can't believe this. But staying inside saves you half the time." If you are trying to balance a family or a demanding job, efficiency is everything. Kessler puts the athletes she coaches on two, two-hour "power-based" bike workouts each week that includes a run at the end of each session.
- Crush the runs. Cruising-pace runs won't cut it this fall and winter if you want to get fast. Again, Kessler advises packing a lot into each workout. She will put clients on three workouts a week that move from the treadmill, to the track, and then to the trail. Power is key on all three days.
- Listen to your body every day. The most important rule to follow is to react to feedback from your body every day and adjust the workout to how you feel. Don't be a slave to a training program that tells you to run when your legs say "rest." Find a coach who can help you stay on track, but change the plan to fit you.
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Meredith Kessler recently competed at Ironman Arizona. In addition to training, she provides coaching and counseling to Ironman athletes who want to compete and still maintain a balanced life. Find out more at Purple Patch.
Paul Tyler is founder of Triessential.com. Triessential offers an iPhone application that provides training tips and motivation every day throughout the entire year.