I recently had the incredible opportunity to meet with some of the best coaches in the fitness industry at the Endurance Coaching Summit in Boulder, Co. earlier this month. It was a two and a half days packed full of incredible information about everything endurance fitness related; from cutting edge technology, to the latest and greatest from the world of performance nutrition, to what the best in the business do to motivate, inspire, and develop their athletes. Of course, the goal of the entire conference (and every coach and fitness professional there) was to find out how best to improve performance in their athletes. Seasoned athletes and weekend warriors alike want to get the best out of themselves and perform up to their potential, whether that means qualifying for the world championships, or simply giving their best effort in the gym twice a week. We all want to see positive results. We want to see improvement.
So, while attending the conference and listening to some of the best fitness minds in the world, I was hoping to find some nugget, some silver bullet, or take-away that would be the end all be all to help others improve their performance. And I found it...sort of.
After listening to 22 of some of the most accomplished coaches and athletes in the endurance world cover all sorts of topics, from nutrition to technique mastery to coaching theory to performance psychology, there was one salient theme that resounded: DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU.
Some might think, “Wait a minute! That’s it?! That’s all?’Do what works for you!?!?’ What does that even mean?!” That’s a fair question. The answer is simple: there is no ‘one-size-fits all’ approach to fitness or to exceptional performances. There is no ‘best’ approach to nutrition, diet, measurement, periodization schedule or any other aspect of fitness.
A prime example was related by legendary 6-time Ironman World Champion and master endurance coach Dave Scott as he gave his keynote address at the summit. He spoke about having coached both 3-time Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander, AND undefeated (14-0) Ironman phenom and 4-time World Champion Chrissie Wellington. Having the same coach, one might think that each of these two multiple-time world champions would have a similar approach to training and racing. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth. Chrissie trained and raced by feel. And clearly it worked for her, remaining undefeated in her career at the Ironman distance. She didn’t watch her heart rate, her wattage on the bike, or any of the many other metrics that other coaches and athletes use to calculate performance over time. However, Craig Alexander was the polar opposite, pouring over every piece of data he could gather, paying attention to every calorie, watt, and heartbeat to ensure his optimal race performance. Yet both were career world champions and dominated their competition. Over the years, they had each found a winning formula that worked for them, yet those formulas were nothing alike.
Over the course of the conference, we heard case studies about high carb vs low carb diets, arguments for and against different training techniques, and debates around why or why not to use different coaching metrics. The reasons for each approach were all compelling and certainly had their merits, yet my takeaway was simply that everyone is different- and my role as a coach is to help people figure out what works for them. So, here are a 3 keys to help figure out YOUR best approach to fitness goals:
I’ve been thinking a lot about running as of late. Maybe it’s because race season is here. Or because after 2 years I’m finally back to full running workouts again. Or possibly it’s the my recent run in rural PA, where I enjoyed a run on some good old country roads. But most likely, it’s because I’ve been working with a few novice runners, who are just getting into the sport, and have some fairly lofty goals. I’ve had several conversations with them about injuries. And while they are novices, even experienced runners get hurt. In fact the injury rate for runners is an astounding 70%. Yikes! That’s more than football! Because of running’s repetitive nature and high impact forces, running can be as harsh on the body as it can be soothing to the soul.
So, how do you protect the feet, knees, hips, and back? How do we stave off injury? While nothing can guarantee you’ll avoid the injury bug, here are 4 keys to ensure you remain as healthy as possible when hitting the pavement or trail.
Using these tips, you can hopefully avoid that injury bug. Remember to build gradually, use a structured plan, practice good mechanics, hit the gym for strength training, and listen to your body. Need help figuring all that out? I’ve got a few ideas- reach out to me and we can get you dialed in. But in the meantime, happy running!
Well, it’s Ironman training season again! Whether you’re doing the 70.3 distance or the full 140.6, (or know someone who is) it’s a pretty daunting undertaking and will require an enormous amount of time, energy, and mental stamina. Earlier in the month, I was speaking with one of my soon-to-be first time Iron-distance triathletes about some challenges to expect and obstacles to face during her journey toward becoming an Ironman. So, I thought I’d share them with you - and whether you’re training for your first Ironman, or your 10th, here are a few tips to remember along the way to get the most out of your long-course race experience:
1) Even if the rest of the weekly workouts don't fall into place, don't skip the long ride and long run. They are the foundation of the training plan and your race strategy. They build fitness and confidence, so don't skip them. Even if the rest of the training week falls apart, carve out the time for the long ride and run.
2) Something is better than nothing. Life will get crazy and you'll have to skip workouts and alter things. Get creative - if you can't do a 3 hr ride on a sat morning, ride for an hour on the trainer before the sun comes up, then jump back on after dark to add on a few more miles. Can't swim 3000k due to time? Do 1800 but with perfect form.
3) Get buy in from your support system. Sit down with your family, friends, and co workers to discuss your goals, the commitment and sacrifice this will require of you and of them. Don't skip this step! It will be very important to get them involved. Ask early on if they are willing to be there race day, and/or if they can help you to reach your goal.
4) Nutrition, recovery, and strength work are critical to your success race day. Each of these could be separate bullet points and are huge components of keeping you injury free. Long course training beats your body down in a way you've never experienced before- it's critical to recharge. Making sure you're eating enough calories, sleeping enough, and doing your strength training work will ensure you make it to the starting line, which is WAY more difficult than getting to the finish line! Take naps during the day, do lunges in the kitchen while preparing dinner, or stretch and foam roll on the bathroom floor while supervising the kid’s bath time.
5) You've got to go slow to get fast. Stick to the training heart rate and power zones prescribed. If it's a recovery run or easy spin, resist the temptation to go faster. Your body needs time to 1) recover adequately from previous workouts, and 2) and/or to adapt to allow you to become very efficient at utilizing oxygen and fat as fuel. Don't worry about your long runs starting slow as your heart rate stays in the prescribed zones. In time, you will be able to run faster and still keep the HR low.
6) Be mindful of weather. Heat and humidity will require you to slow down and hydrate more. Adjust your workout and race expectations accordingly. Take solace that everyone will be doing so on race day- but if you've learned to do it during training, you'll know your sweat rate, caloric needs, and proper equipment that works for you in the heat. Your heart rate will get higher (cardiac drift) over the course of the workout, but with experience you'll know how far/hard to push and when to back off.
7) Invest in yourself. Ironman training is not cheap! Race entry fees alone are astronomical. So when deliberating how much to spend and on what, remember to invest in things that will give the most bang for the buck on race day. Some examples: a good training plan/working w a coach; proper fuel/hydration (find out what works for you via trial and error); massage/chiropractic as needed to keep you healthy; good running shoes for you (make sure to track mileage and change them out as needed); aerobars (if you're using a road bike); a bike fitting (will keep you healthy on the bike optimize your aero position); an aero helmet (other than aero bars, the biggest bang for your buck in terms of time saved during the ride).
8) Full ironman racing/ training is exponentially harder than 70.3 racing/training; and 70.3 racing is exponentially harder than Olympic-distance racing. Think of it as 3x as hard- and treat it with the same respect! With the shorter distances, you can cut some corners, skip long runs, shorten the bike rides, and gut it out on race day. This is much tougher to do with long-course events. So, have that mindset going in. Be prepared to suffer. Long course racing is not easy, otherwise everyone would do it. But that's what makes it awesome!
9) Don't try anything new on race day that you haven't tried before. At the race expo or in talking w fellow triathletes, you'll hear about a new fuel or gadget or technique that he or she has tried which gives them amazing results. That may be their experience but that doesn't mean it will give you the same results. I had an athlete end up in the ER instead of on the podium because he borrowed some goggle spray from an athlete just prior to starting the swim- it burned both his corneas. Race day isn't the time or place to try something new.
10) Enjoy the journey. Your race is a celebration of an incredible journey you will have accomplished. Getting to the start line prepared is a MONUMENTAL task. Hundreds of hours will have gone into this one day- make sure you enjoy the process and the day. While many times it doesn't feel like a wonderful experience to wake up at 4:45 to swim 3,000 yds and then do a 90 min run, remember that you are becoming an "Ironman" on a daily basis- it is not a singular event. While you may cross the finish line on your race day to make it official, “Ironmen” (and Ironwomen) are made on Tuesday mornings at the pool, and Friday evenings lifting at the gym, or Sunday afternoons running in the heat, not only when you cross the finish line. Enjoy the process of becoming, and enjoy the reward of making it to the start and (finish) lines.
So, those of you who are making the leap to long-course racing this year, enjoy the journey. And remember these few tips that will help you stay on track and get the most out of your long-course experience!
Of the hundreds of events I’ve competed in, I’ve dropped out of a race exactly one time. Only once. I had traveled west to race the Utah Half, a half-iron distance triathlon. I was racing in my own backyard in front of my family and friends and I knew this course well! My fitness level was at an all-time high, and this was a tune up event prior to racing as a guide for my friend and blind triathlete Richard Hunter in Ironman Florida. I was ready. I was fit. I was confident. I was certain I’d make it onto the podium, and bask in the accolades and cheers of family and friends...but it sure didn’t work out that way. A lower back disc issue flared up during the bike ride and caused me to slow to a literal crawl on the run. Rather than risk further injury and jeopardize the chance to guide Richard , I dropped out. All that work. All that time. All that money. All wasted. I didn’t even finish! I hung my head in shame as I limped back to my bewildered friends and family.
Sometimes, despite our best efforts, we are unable to achieve the goals we set out for. Whether that means falling short on race day, being unable to toe the line at the race we’ve dreamed of completing, or simply failing to get in all our weekly workouts, failure is a part of fitness and especially endurance racing. We’ve all heard that failing makes us stronger, and that unfinished business on the race course will help motivate us for a faster time in the future. Still, in the moment, we feel the sting of missed opportunity, the frustration of seemingly wasted time, energy, and money, and the heartache of coming up short. So, when those inevitable painful moments happen, how do we keep moving forward?
As we consider failed objectives, and dashed hopes, and unfulfilled expectations, I find it helpful to remember two key points to help us maintain perspective, keep motivated, and become stronger when we experience race-day or season-ending failure.
First, remember that “Not today” is different than “not ever.”
As “type-A” triathletes and runners, most of us see stopping a workout or dropping out of a race as giving up and being weak. However, making the strategic decision to stop, even when it means not meeting your immediate goals is a sign of strength, not weakness. And it does not mean that you won’t crush it next race, next year, or even the year after that.
Knowing when to slow down during a race to allow fluids to rehydrate, halting a training regimen for a week to avoid burnout, altering season goals to allow an injury to heal, or stopping even when you just want to finish, takes an enormous amount of mental and emotional strength. It shows maturity and long-range vision. When continuing the current course of action jeopardizes long-term success, stopping the race, the training, or the season shows wisdom, not weakness. “Not today”, is quite different than “not ever.” Keeping that perspective is a vital part of being a seasoned, savvy athlete, as well as a normal functioning human being. That same perspective is what allows you to learn from your mistakes, and come back stronger, faster, and better.
After you have dropped out of an event, cut a season short, or experienced similar setbacks, what’s next? This is my second point - learn from it: “It’s hard to have race-day success without race-day failure”.
A life-time ago, I learned this valuable lesson from my seasoned pole-vault coach. He taught me to learn from my failures - that they are essential tools to build our ultimate success. And unlike in triathlon or running, failure comes in spades in the pole vault. After all, the bar goes higher and higher until you fail to clear the bar- in most cases, even the eventual champion will FAIL on his or her last jump. It’s essential to learn from our failures- in the pole vault, failure came frequently. It was easy to learn what I needed to do differently to have success. But by figuring out what I was doing wrong, I could learn what do to do right. Thomas Edison is a great example of having this perspective when he said about the difficulties in perfecting the light bulb, “I haven’t failed, I’ve found 10,000 ways it won’t work.”
With endurance sports, we have to also learn from our setbacks. If we don’t take the time to analyze what went wrong, we miss the opportunity to improve. This sounds easy enough, but taking the time to write out the specifics of our failures can be a sobering process. Yet it allows us to better address our weakness and improve during the next event. Maybe it’s re assessing our nutrition or hydration strategy. Or it could be looking at our rest and taper leading up to our race. Or possibly we recognize a deficiency in developed a sufficient base which led to our going out too fast and getting injured. Take the time to go through this process. Work with a coach (or an experienced veteran in your sport) who can give objective feedback and help you identify possible areas of improvement.
Since that ill-fated race day years ago, I’ve gone on to make the podium at that very same race. My time on that course had improved by over 30 minutes, and I have become a much stronger triathlete. Yet this process is a continual one. Currently I’ve made the difficult decision to take 2 seasons off to let my body heal completely after an accident and injury. Painful as it is, by choosing to delay the immediate satisfaction of race-day accomplishment, I will gain the long-term benefit of becoming a faster, stronger, and ultimately more successful triathlete. And so will you.
So, be wise in your racing and training. Remember these two nuggets of wisdom: “not today doesn’t mean not ever”, and “it’s hard to have race-day success without race-day failure”. By knowing when to bow out, we can learn from our mistakes and weaknesses and become better in the long-run. While we never want to DNF, sometimes sitting out, stepping back, and reevaluating is the right move to make. Sometimes, “quit happens” for a reason.
Over the last several days, I’ve had some insightful conversations with a few of my clients centered around how to ‘fit in exercise’ into our already crazy lives. More specifically, one of the most frequent comments I hear is, “I don’t have time to exercise because my job is so demanding.” I can certainly sympathize, having left a fast-paced sales career for the fitness business. I remember all too well the late nights at the office or out on the road. And here in DC, so many are beholden to late-night congressional votes, RFP’s, and proposal deadlines, which leads to an abundance of 9:00 pm meetings and even the occasional all-nighter. With all the demands on your day, how do you keep yourself from turning into an overstressed, overweight, lethargic drone? How do you prevent becoming the one who’s forgotten what running shoes look like, much less how long it’s been since you've actually used them?
While quitting your job to maybe seem like a blissful solutions at times, it’s probably not practical. So what do you do when there is simply no way to squeeze any exercise into your jam-packed work day? Here are 10 ways to fit in fitness at work:
So there you have it. 10 ways to fit in fitness at the office. So get to it! Go take a lap around the office and refill that water bottle. Until next time, stay TriFit.
The end of February is usually a challenging time of the year to stay motivated to reach fitness goals. The health and fitness New Year’s resolutions we committed to so resolutely in January have been pushed to the back burner, and swimsuit season is still months away. Cold, wet weather makes exercising outdoors difficult for all but the most die-hard fitness fanatics. The gyms are still packed, and trying to fight for a spare treadmill or squat rack is demotivating, to say the least. So, how do you stay active and motivated during the winter months?
I’ve listed three tips that have helped me and many of my clients staying motivated, even when the weather isn’t cooperating and the doldrums of February are setting in. If you're feeling less than motivated to reach your winter fitness goals, give these a try:
There you have it. My three simple tips for staying motivated and on track during the winter. If you can create a sustainable schedule, train at home when needed, and find an use a plan, you’ll be on track to stay fit and focused throughout these last long weeks of winter. Still need help sorting it all out? Talk to me. Send me a quick email or text, and I’ll be happy to give you ideas on how to maximize your workouts and keep on track based on your circumstance. Happy training and stay warm!
The year is almost over, and the New Year is on the horizon. It’s a good time to reflect and reevaluate last year’s goals prior to making New Year’s resolutions. In 2016, did you meet your goals? Did you drop those extra pounds, or invest that extra paycheck like you’d planned? Maybe you were able to spend more time with the family, or get into better shape? Did you get to the gym more or eat healthier this year?
Well, if you answered “no”, you’re not alone. According to Forbes magazine, only about 8% of people actually keep their New Year’s resolutions. And, If you’re like most, you’re considering making a health and fitness goal this year. So, chances are that goal to “get healthier” or “eat better” probably won’t happen without a bit of help.
When making health and fitness goals for the New Year, I use the “SMART” goal system, a throwback to my days in the business world. SMART is an acronym which guides goal development and helps ensure project completion. While there are a few variations of this acronym, I like to use the following:
Again, keep it simple. Don’t overcommit to multiple resolutions. Select a FEW goals that might work for your situation, write them down, tell your significant other and get ready to start. By making SMART New Year's fitness goals, you'll be well on your way to reaching them. Have a happy, healthy, and fit new year!
So now that winter is almost here, how do we keep up that motivation to keep all those fitness gains we made during the Spring, Summer, and Fall? Beach season is a long ways off, racing season has just concluded, and 2-3 months of short days and long nights. A summer body is made in the winter- whether that means becoming swim suit ready or race ready...here are a few tips to make sure you’re ready for when the temperature starts climbing again!
To "get" the most out of your winter training, here are 4 keys to consider:
1) Get better- use Winter as a time to build upon strengths and focus on weaknesses- for triathletes this could mean focusing on improving running or swimming technique, for runners this may include improving flexibility. If you’re neither, this may mean building some endurance or improving a strength regimen or developing a realistic meal plan.
2) Get stronger- this is a good chance to also hit the weight room. Remember, strength comes before speed. Also, this is where you prevent injuries, by doing the essential, stabilizing exercises- not just the fun plyometrics, HIIT circuits, and power lifts. Dedicate a few days a week to focus on getting strong in the gym.
3) Get organized- this is a time determine goals for next race season or year. Even if you're not looking to compete against others in races, you can always better yourself. Working with a coach can help you set realistic goals that still push you beyond your current capabilities. If you’re tackling fitness solo, set some specific, realistic goals to help you improve.
4) Get relaxed- last but not least, take some time off! "Unstring the bow" as the saying goes. Take a few weeks to decompress. After a long season (whether that's a dedicated race season or just following workouts and pushing yourself), your mind and body both need a break. Don't lose fitness, but take some time off from your normal routine. Maybe try some mountain biking, kayaking, or swimming. If you’re a gym addict, try some outdoor workouts. If you are a morning exerciser, try to do workout on your lunch break instead. Keep the fitness, but change things up. Enjoy the break from the routine- your mind and body will appreciate it!
So there you go. Four ways to “Get the most” out of your winter training. Whether you’re a hard-core triathlete, recreational runner, or simply looking to keep in shape, these will help guide your winter-month workout regimen.
TFE Nutrition Bullet-point Basics
Recently, I was asked to facilitate a nutrition Q and A with a group of eager fitness enthusiasts looking to understand nutrition basics. With all the fad diets gimmicks, and nutrition myths out there, how to we make sure what fact and what is fiction? Do you make your food decisions based on proven fact, or what is popular today, and out of date tomorrow?
I've put together a few bullet points to help steer you in the right direction. While this isn't a full list, it's a great start to moving in the right direction.
If you can integrate these tips into your daily nutrition routine, you’ll be on the right track to meet you health and fitness goals. Good luck and happy eating!
As a personal trainer, the most common questions I get refer to weight loss: “How do I lose weight?”. I’ve listened to dozens of people say something to the effect, “I’ve tried diet X for 30 days and but I gained it back”, or “My friend does XYZ workout and he lots tons of weight but I can’t seem to”, or “I follow this girl on Instagram and she’s lost 30 lbs, but I do the same things with very different results.”
Sound familiar? Maybe you fall into that camp. Unfortunately despite what the infomercials tell you, there is no magic bullet for weight loss. While the general principals of maintaining an effective fitness regimen and wholesome diet is paramount in loosing weight. Everyone is different. It is important to remember that what, may not work for others.
But there are 3 tips for weight loss success that are critical starting the weight loss journey. Regardless of the exact path you/we choose to go down, these three simple keys will help set you up for success. My clients who have been successful losing weight ALL do these: