During our last phone call prior to her first Ironman, I asked Marnie, my client to share with me her biggest take-away in her Ironman journey. She restated to me something I’d told her when she first decided to race Ironman; that all the training, the nutrition, the recovery, the strength training, was all part of the process of becoming an Ironman. Marnie had realized that becoming Ironman isn’t an outcome, it’s a process.
This process-based approach was helpful for Marnie to remember during her training. It was the process of enduring thousands of training hours, in step by step succession, that made her an Ironman. And while hearing the words “You are an Ironman” signal the end of that journey, the entire process is what got her there.
In the same way, a process-based approach can set us up for success in all fitness ventures, whether that be a race goal or a weight-loss one. So many times, we take the opposite approach in fitness- we look to lose 20 pounds by a certain date, no matter what the cost. Or, we focus all our energies around being on the podium for a particular event. Or maybe our goals in the weight room revolve around the ever popular question, “ How much can you bench?”
While these goals in and of themselves may not be necessarily bad, if we focus our energies around the outcome, and not the process, we can wind up making poor fitness decisions and not achieve our desired results. However, with a process- based approach, we can better manage our efforts. Here are three of my favorites benefits to taking this approach:
So, whatever your fitness goals, take a process-driven approach to achieving them. In the end, you’ll be better equipped to set manageable expectations, have a more productive focus, and minimize energy wasted on things outside of your control. Whether you’re racing an Ironman, running your first 5k, or just trying to drop a few pounds, success is found in the process, not the outcome. Not sure if that’s the case? Just ask Marnie.
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, that unfinished business on race day is a great motivator. 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 dropping out 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 then? This is my second point - you learn from it: “Race-day success is seldom achieved 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 learn from our setbacks as well. 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 lead to injury. 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 “race-day success is seldom achieved without race-day failure”. By knowing when to quit, we can learn from our mistakes and weaknesses and become better in the long-run. While we never want to fail, 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!
With the year almost over, it’s a good time to reflect and reevaluate last year’s goals prior to making New Year’s resolutions for this year. Last year, did you meet your goals? Did you drop those extra pounds, invest that extra paycheck, or race a personal best at your “A” race this year? Did you get to spend more time with the family, or run that 5k with at your children's’ school? Were you able to get to the gym more or eat healthier this year like you’d planned?
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. (last year’s article - a few edits…)
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:
Remember to keep things simple. A goal such as ‘running every day’ when you are not a runner may be too overzealous. A simple goal such as “I will run 30 minutes 3x week” is more achievable. Some people embark on complex health and fitness regimens with multiple components, and almost always fall short of complete their goals. Be leery of complex meal plans, lengthy “cleanses”, and overly complicated fitness regimens. Pick one or two areas to improve upon and keep things simple. Here are some great examples of very simple health and fitness New Year’s resolutions you can set for this year:
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! Be SMART about your goals and enjoy the process! Good luck this year!
So now that winter is 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 we've got at least 2 more months of short, cold days and long frigid nights. Summer race times (and summer race bodies) are made in the winter, which means maximizing the winder months to ensure you get the most out of your off-season training. Here are a few tips to make sure that when the temperature starts to climb, your times start falling. To "get" the most out of your winter training, here are 4 keys to consider:
1) Get Better. Use Winter as a time to focus on weaknesses- for triathletes this could mean focusing on improving running technique or spending more time in the pool fine tuning that swim stroke. For runners, this may include improving flexibility or finally taking care of that nagging injury you've been putting off. If you’re neither, this may simply mean building some endurance into your weight program, improving an existing strength regimen, or developing a realistic meal plan. Use this time as a time to improve those areas that have been lacking.
2) Get Stronger. This is a perfect time to hit the weight room. Strength comes before speed. By building a strong base, you're body is better prepared to handle the intensity and duration when the miles begin to pile on, and the speed work ramps up. The gym is where athletes prevent injuries by doing the essential, stabilizing exercises- not just the fun plyometrics, HIIT circuits, and power lifts. Strength comes before speed, but stability comes before strength! Also, the gym is where you can build that top-end, explosive speed needed to out-kick your competition in the sprint finish, or power past other cyclists or runners on the hills. Dedicate a few days a week to focus on getting strong in the gym.
3) Get Organized. The off-season is a great time to determine goals for next race season or the calendar year. Even if you're not looking to compete against others in races, you can always better yourself. Work with a coach or find a mentor who can help you set realistic goals that still push you beyond your current capabilities. If you’re tackling fitness, set a dedicated time block to focus on building fitness. If technique is a challenge, block off some time in the year to dial in your form in specific areas. If race execution has been an issue, set aside time to dial that in. A coach can help you take an objective look at your season and work with you to create a macrocycle that enables you to successfully work on different areas of weakness. Use the winter months to do so.
4) Get Rested. Last but not least, take some time off! "Unstring the bow" as the saying goes. Take a few weeks to decompress and avoid burnout. 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. This doesn't mean go off the rails and lose all fitness, but take some time off from the normal routine. If you're a runner, maybe try some mountain biking, kayaking, or hiking. If you’re a gym addict, try some outdoor functional workouts instead. If morning workouts are your thing, try a 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 are. Four ways to “Get the most” out of 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!