6/21/17

Embrace sport scariness


Sports are awesome because they resemble life. 

In both life and in sport, there are rules, ethic codes, regulations and laws.
In both life and sport, the things that come easy are often most enjoyable and fun but when there's a struggle, it's easy to lose motivation and to lose confidence.
In both life and sport, we need to work hard, stay committed and remain focused. We also need a bit of luck.
And in both life and in sport, we need a "team" to help us succeed.

And in life and sport, both can be extremely awesome and a little bit scary.

Despite how scary sport can be, people from around the world, of all different fitness levels and backgrounds embrace the scariness of sport because it resembles life. Many people recognize that life is extremely hard so why not do something fun with your body that scares you?

I've always believed that one of the best things about sport is having countless opportunities to embrace scary situations and then work to overcome them. Kinda like stretching a comfort zone. But with sport scariness, it's all about placing yourself into a situation that gives you a little fear and doing what was once very uncomfortable. Through this process, an athlete can gain strength, confidence and courage by each experience that is scary.  

This is why I love a group training camp. Later today, we will have 16 athletes from all over the US joining us for an amazing 4.5 day camp experience that will require each of them to work through scary but fun situations in swim/bike/run. For some athletes, this may not sound like fun but for our campers, they signed up for this camp in order to improve. Every camper will learn that he/she is capable of handling discomfort in the face of a scary situation. Once the camper learns that he/she has the ability to handle the scary situation, it will no longer be something that is feared but instead, the athlete will gain confidence that he/she can conquer it the next time.

If you find that you are constantly pushing away the things that scare you, this strategy may provide you with temporary comfort but it's only short term. The long term result will be more fear anytime you are asked to do something that scares you. 

We look forward to helping our campers face their fears, stretch their comfort zone and show each athlete that they have strengths that they never knew existed.

6/20/17

Making hard decisions when dealing with an injury


Imagine if you could train and race without a single risk for injury? 

If it seems to good to be true, well, that's because it is.

Injuries are part of sport. If you call yourself an athlete, accept that you are always at risk for an injury.

When you train for an athletic event, you are placing a tremendous amount of stress on the body to improve your skills, fitness and preparation. And for any athlete who wants to get more out of his/her body, there are risks to be taken to push a little harder and go a little longer. Certainly, every coach has his/her intentions to design a smart training plan/training environment to reduce the risk for injury but sometimes things are just out of your control. While many injuries (niggles) are managed conservatively with little break in structured training or activities of daily living, other injuries are very disruptive to life, often causing physical and mental stress due to a complete stop in physical activity. 


For any athlete who has been injured, it's normal to be pissed off, frustrated, sad, mad, angry, disengaged and irritated. This may cause isolation and lack of motivation and may lead into more serious issues such as depression, anxiety, disordered eating and substance abuse. 

Realizing that some injuries come randomly (without a known trigger or warning) and some injuries are accidents (crash, rolling an ankle, slipping on a wet floor), it's important to note that athletes are not injury proof. Whether an injury happens randomly or because you are always pushing your limits and ignoring pain, injuries happen in sport and each athlete will have his/her own mental and physical response. 

Certainly, for any outsider (friend, family member, training partner, coach, teammate), it's easy to give advice like "hang in there" or "stay positive" or "don't give up". But athletes don't just deal with the physical pain of a torn muscle, strained tendon or broken bone but also the mental pain associated with the temporary or permanent loss of sport (which also brings purpose and self-identity)

As an athlete, although there is no good time to be injured, one of the most difficult times to be diagnosed with an injury is right before an important event. While athletes will often get injured due to a ramp in training volume/intensity, athletes can often be a bit too dedicated (stubborn) to training in the 4-6 weeks out from a race and will often feel the need do go a little harder or do a little more to validate race day readiness - thus the risk for injury increases.

I get it.

It's very tough to make that decision "to race or not to race."

With your athlete brain, you are often only capable of thinking in the current moment. It's nearly impossible to think beyond your next race. 


For example, in 2015, Karel tore his plantar fascia in early June while training for Ironman Lake Placid. This was his first real injury and he didn't want to accept it. When he finally received the MRI results that it was a tear (as we were driving to Lake Placid a few days before the race), Karel still wanted to race. He thought he could just tough it up and race and then he could recover from the tear. His thinking was - well it's already torn, what worse could happen?

He was obviously thinking in the present moment and could not see beyond Lake Placid. He could not think about his health or anything beyond this injury. I don't blame him. This is normal and he was not doing anything wrong. He could not see that in 3 months, he would have the opportunity to participate in his first Ironman World Championship (with me) IF he didn't run in Lake Placid. It seems like logical thinking (don't race Lake Placid and heal up for IMKona) but as an athlete, it's extremely difficult to think logically, let along see beyond your next finish line. 


As athletes, we often struggle to recognize and accept long-term consequences of our immediate actions. 

There are many common reasons why athletes feel they need to complete a race, even though they are faced with an injury. For example.....


But I told everyone I was doing it and all my training buddies are doing the race.

I don't want to be left out. 


But I trained so hard for this race. 

But I spent so much money on this race and trip.

I don't want to gain weight.

But I invested so much time for this race and I don't want to let my family down. 

I'll just take it easy on race day. 

I want the finisher medal.

I just really want to do it.

I remember telling Karel over and over that his reasons for "racing" with a torn plantar were not smart. Come Kona, he would be sitting on the sidelines, regretting the decision of hobbling his way through IM Lake Placid - that is, if he could even finish the marathon. He would just be suffering and surviving until he could not tolerate the pain any longer. It was very difficult for him to see long-term but I kept reminding him that if he only competes in the swim and the bike, he will still have the opportunity to compete in Kona as he can kick-start the rehab as soon as he returns home from Placid.

Although we had many discussions during the 72 hours before the race (and Karel desperately hoping a miracle would heal his foot before the race), he finally made the right decision to DNF after the bike......after he packed his running shoes in his T2 bag and finally recognized that running was not a smart option.

Karel learned a lot from not racing with an injury. Karel is much better at thinking long-term and now he has the experience of a serious injury (with a positive ending) to help him make good future decisions with his body. I always believe that injuries teach us lessons - in sport and in life.

Well, here we are again....but with NO INJURY.

Instead, here we are, just a few weeks away from traveling back up to Ironman Lake Placid for Karel to race on the same race course as his first Ironman in 2013 (our first IM together) and on the same course that he did not finish on due to an injury back in 2015.

As an athlete, remember that the entire goal of training is to compete at your best. If you can not race at your best due to an injury, then your immediate goal is to heal yourself so that you can return to sport with a healthy and strong body.

It's always a tough call but be sure to think long-term. No race is "worth it."



And in case you were wondering, yes, Karel did end up racing in his first Ironman World Championship and he finished the race with no pain and a great marathon with minimal run training. He was diligent with his rehab therapy and was very patient in the process of letting his foot "heal" from July - October. After his torn plantar finally healed (it took about 11 months until it fully healed), he went on to have a phenomenal 2016 racing season by completing 3 Ironman's (and qualifying and racing Kona again), while running his fastest ever marathon off the bike (3:06 at IM Mont Tremblant - fastest male amateur run split).

An injury is a great teacher. Pay attention because it can teach you a lot if you listen! 


6/19/17

Athlete spotlight: Christine McKnight - Stretching goals and training hard at 69 years of age



Name: Christine McKnight

Age: 69

City/State: Saratoga Springs, New York

Primary sport: Triathlon 

How many years in the sport: 20 years

What Trimarni services have you used: Nutrition consult, Sweat Testing

                                                       -------------------------------------

Describe your athletic background and how you discovered your current sport?


I graduated from a smalltown high school in western  Michigan in 1965.  There were no sports for girls back then and  no female athlete role models for young women either.  I  was sedentary until my late 30s, when I then took up running. I quickly discovered that I had a competitive mentality.  I was  xclusively a runner for 12 years, and I raced a lot.  But, as the running injuries mounted, I embraced cross training and  discovered triathlon as a 50 ­year­ old.  Since then, I have completed more than 110 triathlons, from sprints to the Ironman distance.

What keeps you training and racing in your current sport?
 

I embrace triathlon as a lifestyle, rather than just a hobby.  Triathlon has given me health and fitness and a wonderful circle of friends, an active lifestyle and a positive outlook on life, that anything is possible.  Among my triathlon friends, I am known to frequently say: "How lucky are we?!?"

What do you do for work?
I am retired from a 35­-year career in wire service  journalism, public relations work, and magazine  publishing.

How does your work life affect training and how do you balance work and training?

Being retired is a huge advantage.  But I'm actually pretty  busy!  I am careful about my volunteer commitments and how I use my time.  As an older athlete, I try to carefully pace myself through my training week, and I pay a lot of  attention to recovery and rest.  I also work two afternoons a week in my local bicycle shop, Blue Sky Bicycles, and I write (freelance) about triathlon for a local publication called  Adirondack Sports and Fitness.
Any tips/tricks as to how to balance work and training?


Keep your life and commitments as simple as possible.  Be  clear about your priorities. Don't be afraid to say "no" to requests if they don't fit into those priorities.


Do you have kids?
My husband Jim and I have two adult children, a son and a daughter, and four granddaughters, ages 7 years to 15  months.



How does having kids affect your training? How do you balance a family and training? 

One of the values my coaching group, T3 Coaching, embraces is "family first." I really buy into that.  Sure, we want to train with dedication, but never at the expense of our families and relationships.


What tips and tricks do you have for other athletes who struggle to balance training with family? 

My son and daughter were in grade school when I took up triathlon. Sometimes I took them with me on a training outing,  sometimes I negotiated a deal with my husband, and sometimes I got a babysitter.  (Here's to babysitters!) As  they got older, they began to participate in runs and triathlons themselves.  But family commitments have always trumped training. 

How do you balance your training with your partner? Any tips or tricks for keeping your partner happy while you train to reach your personal goals?

I am so lucky!  My dear, sweet husband Jim is very proud to be married to a triathlete ­­- he often humorously introduces himself as "Christine McKnight's husband."  But major race decisions and annual goals always involve his input.  We are careful to set aside special times with each other, even if it is only a few minutes every day.  We play golf together often (my other passion), and we enjoy going out for a quiet dinner.  Be sure to make your partner feel special each and every day, and thank that special person for being your Sherpa. 

Do you have a recent race result, notable performance or lesson
learned that you'd like to share?

It's important to have stretch goals.  Also, never doubt  yourself ­­and trust your training. That's how I got to the  Ironman World Championships in 2013. At my qualifying race, Eagleman 70.3, I was in last place of eight women in  my age group coming out of the water. Not good!  After the  bike, I was in fifth place, and my run moved me up to third place. Miraculously, I got a roll­down. Good things happen  if you give it a go, compete hard, stay in the moment and don't give up.



What are your top tips for athletes, as it relates to staying happy, healthy and performing well?

1.  Be good to your body.  Place a priority on how you recover, and give yourself plenty of rest.
2.  Keep your life balanced and avoid over commitments.   Pace yourself through the day, the week and the season.
3.  Cultivate your relationships.  Surround yourself with  positive, caring individuals who can help you create an environment in which you can succeed.

How would you define athletic success as it relates to your personal journey? 

For me, it's about just being able to stay healthy and showing up at the starting line, ready to compete. That's a  huge victory even before the race starts.


What's your favorite post-race meal, drink or food?
I really love a smoothie, almost any kind.

What key races do you have planned in 2017?

  • Eagleman 70.3 (June 11) - qualified for 70.3 World Championship 
  • Ironman Lake Placid (July 23) 
  • 70.3 World Championships in Chattanooga (Sept. 9) 
  • Stretch goal: Ironman World Championships in Kona,  October (dependent on Lake Placid)



What are your athletic goals for the next 5 years?

To continue competing at the highest level possible, at least through the age of 75. Hopefully, blaze some new trails for older female athletes and set some AG records.