Back in July during the Multisport.ph cover pictorial, I had the opportunity to chat with Frank “The Legend” Lacson and discuss the history of triathlon here in the Philippines. Over the course of our discussion, I enriched my knowledge about its heritage and culture. More importantly, it brought about certain realizations about the evolution of the sport. I use the term “evolution” here deliberately instead of “difference” since the latter would not give justice to my musings.
Before anything, let me give a brief overview about my “colleague”. Frank started joining triathlons in the early 80’s. It all started when he was studying in UCLA; living in California, he was bitten by the triathlon bug. Soon after, it became a lifestyle for him. Having joined over a hundred triathlons over the course of 30 years, one could say he lives and breathes the sport.
I share this same passion. Prior to joining my first race more than half a decade ago, I was the epitome of a couch potato. I had no sport, zero athleticism, bad coordination, and among other things physically “tamad” (lazy). Being a nerd/geek most of my life, to most people, I was the last person who would join endurance sports. In my final year of my undergrad degree in Computer Engineering, I decided to run a 5k and never looked back thereafter. Like Frank, the running/tri bug bit me and it stuck with me since then. It changed my life and the challenge of surmounting something seemingly impossible added fire to how I lived each day.
As we picked each other’s mind for information and insights, one thing really became apparent: things weren’t so different for the both of us. The environment in which triathlon exists may be constantly changing but the sport itself has stayed the same. As we talked about training regimens, workouts, race strategies etc. most, in essence, coincide. We set goals, make plans, and do our best to bridge the gap between where we are and where we want to be.
“Walang forever” (nothing is forever) is a phrase that sums up our world of constant change. The landscape in which we live our lives (and train) is constantly changing. A decade ago, a good long session, would involve riding from UP Diliman all the way to Bugarin. Now, a lot of athletes (including myself) still ply through the same roads yet fail to get the same quality. The pollution, traffic, and reckless drivers make training less efficient and even haphazard. The rise of condominiums, office buildings, and malls have dwindled the amount of open, clean space in which we could run and train. The number of athletes has increased almost exponentially yet the number of pools available roughly still remain the same. Traffic, a busy work schedule, and the increasing number of commitments continues to shave time away from our training. To summarize all this, it’s getting harder and harder to train!
"Walang forever" maybe except traffic.
Training to adapt, adapting to train.
Back then, in the early days of triathlon, it was mostly a game of volume. Whoever trained the hardest/most, often won. Being an endurance sport, it’s all about aerobic fitness. The one with the strongest aerobic engine could go the longest, hardest, and fastest. This translated to training philosophies that leaned towards sheer volume and repetition. Yet, in today’s world, time and venues to train are luxuries we have less and less of.
EDSA-Ortigas, like most of Metro Manila, was full of open spaces back in the 80's.
The Rise in Infrastructure has eaten away the venues in which one can
bike and run freely.
Since we as Filipino triathletes, don’t have the time or venues to easily log in the miles, we need to be more efficient in how we approach each session. The evolution of triathlon, doesn’t lie in the sport itself rather, it’s in how we approach the sport. New tools, gadgets, methodologies, etc. have popped up over the past few years to help us train better. Examples are GPS watches, Power meters, Training peaks, and physiological tests. Most of which, if used properly, help an athlete to improve substantially compared to if he/she were without them. These, enrich our knowledge of how we understand our bodies, our sport, and our approach. Some athletes, intimidated by the complexity that these items bring, turn a blind eye or even brush them off as unnecessary or junk. To do so is foolish. Though there are virtuosos in this sport that survive without these tools, there’s more to gain by embracing them.
Buff vs. Fluff
Despite my staunch advocacy towards the use of technology for effective training, I am also aware of the pitfalls of being overly dependent on it as a shortcut or quick fix. The social media landscape is a marketer’s dream. Here, success or credibility is measured in the number of likes, follows, comments and clicks. Some, rely solely on these metrics without gaining a proper understanding of the subject at hand. Quite a few people fail to look beyond endorsements, recommendations, and sponsorships; they swallow each product claim (or implication) as fact.
"The AB-Flex, a revolutionary machine to sculpt that 6-pack"
"The AB-Belt, an innovate piece of equipment that does the work for you"
Case in point, the “AB Flex” machine and the “AB-Belt.” The AB Flex machine supposedly squishes that potbelly away with a thrust of the arms. The AB-Belt, on the other hand, uses complex algorithms to give the most effective abdominal contractions that simulate crunches. Both are tools marketed to help improve one’s physique yet they both don’t have any scientific basis. To someone undiscerning, he/she would gravitate towards these products because they’re so easy to use. They seem to save time, effort, and offer a revolutionary way of working out. In reality, the product itself is a glaring exaggeration and is definitely far from effective. These are classic cases where the marketer wraps the products in the mystique of “technology.” They blind, mislead, and even con the consumer into thinking they have game-changing products.
The AB Wheel, simple yet effective.
To put things into contrast, the proper use of technology is really quite simple. Take for instance, the AB Wheel. This robust piece of equipment enhances the way we exercise. Unlike the previous examples, it doesn’t make any claims to be easier or less tiring. On the contrary, its effectivity is rooted in the fact that it stresses the abdominal muscles more; hence, resulting in a more effective workout. It’s a tool rather than a substitute. Know when a product/gadget uses technology to hide the fact that it’s all BS. Know the buff from the fluff. Remember, the point of having technology is to enrich the way we experience the sport, not to distort the way we partake in it.
The Love of the Sport
Our sport is a complex one, yet it doesn’t have to be complicated. Compared to athletes decades ago, one could say we actually have things simpler. Brought about by improvements in science and technology, and the ever growing restrictions in our training time and turf, we now have the tools to help us make our sessions more efficient and effective. We no longer have to play the guessing game when it comes to measuring distance, intensity, and even quality. Equipment such as smart trainers, and treadmills allow us to train no matter what the time or condition. Despite all these advancements, one should remember that these shouldn’t take anything away from the sport we love. It’s a means for us to enhance how we make use of our time and effort to enjoy training and racing. Smart training beats hard training but the love of training does not change.