7/6/13

My top ways to recover after a long/hard workout


I don't think I know of any athlete or fitness enthusiast who doesn't like to recover quickly. I know in some weird way we love the post-workout "hurt" but if it lingers on to a point that form suffers, motivation declines and fatigue ensues, it's likely that you are wishing that a) you didn't overdo it with your workout or b) when will I feel "normal" again. 

So for those who have tried to tweak their recovery routine, I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways (aside from nutrition) that I use for recovery. 

Now I must preface this and say that training or working out "hard" is only one component of making performance gains and often times it doesn't lead to successful performances or reaching goals. Training smart, on the other hand, is where the magic is made. When designing a training plan, it is important to factor in time for pre and post workout nutrition (sorry - I had to put in one nutrition suggestion in this blog :) but also for warm-up/cool down and of course, your recovery to ensure that you can be consistent with training. I see/hear far too many athletes who are pressed against the clock and rush out of bed to squeeze in a workout/training and then rush off to work or daily tasks. Totally fine in my  book to "get 'er done" early and to maintain an active lifestyle BUT it is important that you consider the necessary time spent on preparing your body before and after workouts for quality training. Thus, if you have 90 minutes for a run or bike or swim in the morning, consider the 10-20 min you may need to warm-up, the 10-15 min you need to cool down and then additional 10 minutes or so to properly recovery. I don't think that you'd be upset with a 60 minute workout although it isn't the 90 minute workout that you planned. However, considering the time you spent on taking care of your body, you can thank me later when you see consistent performance gains and more enjoyment with your balanced training plan. 


Today's workout was all about "race prep". Many coaches like to call this period of training "peaking" and although I do not want to peak right now (but instead on the 28th in Placid), it is important that I am considering every aspect of race day such as my nutrition, clothing and pacing. I practice, practice and practice these things all the time but nearing race day, I realize that my body may not make drastic gains in fitness but to ensure a great race day, I need to know what my body is capable of doing for 140.6 miles. Therefore, finding that right power zone is important on the bike to let me know what I can do for pacing off the bike. Similarly, designing the perfect run/walk strategy is important to me as well as "testing" all types of scenarios, including the ones that Ironman athletes hate to do....hold back on the first 6 miles of the Ironman run and holding back on the first half of the 112 mile bike. 

I am really pleased with today's workout, despite being hot and windy (like usual), my body performed well and it was a big confidence builder for race day. 

2 hour bike: 
30 min 'warm' up at 10 watts lower than predicated IM race pace
Main set: 3 x 20 min @ IM race pace watts w/ 2 min EZ in between.
Steady effort home, pace similar to warm-up although it felt much easier after doing the IM race pace intervals which was not too taxing on my body. 
Total: 42 miles

Transition to run: 
15 mile run, 2 hours and 14 minutes (including walk breaks)
Strategy: run ~8:20-8:30 min/mile pace, walk 30 seconds in between (to resist fatigue and to maintain good form since I believe in saving my best performance for race day)


Post workout......time to RECOVER!!!

1) Active recovery

This is not a consistent thing for me but there are some workouts (ex. running) where I like to go for a short EZ spin afterward for 20-30 min to loosen my legs OR jump in the pool to let my body enjoy non weight bearing activity. I try not to sit (although I did for this picture to show off my lovely triathlete-in-training compression socks + tri/cycling short tan lines) within the first hour after a workout as I find I get extremely tight so this active recovery helps my body out. I usually do no more than 30 minutes of some type of active recovery or I just walk Campy. 

2) Epson Salt Bath

We always have bags of Epson Salt in our house. I typically buy from Wal-mart, Big Lots or CVS/Walgreens. Epson salt baths are great to help relax the muscles and you can choose warm or cold water, whichever makes you happy. If I am short on time after a hard workout, I just grab a handful and use it as a scrub on my legs to soak in my pores. It works wonders. 

3) Compression
  
On goes the mobile ice bath after my muscles are a bit more relaxed. I LOVE 110% Play Harder and I have been using them for years. I wear compression while I train (always) such as tri shorts while running and cycle/tri shorts while cycling. I never wear running shorts because I believe compression works for me. I also wear calf sleeves in races and compression socks (CEP) in training/racing as well. I wrote an article a while back on compression and I have always felt like it helps me. I also have compression tights (Zoot for me, CEP for Karel) and several types of compression shorts. What's great about compression when you aren't training is that you can easily wear it while traveling or under many types of clothing to help with recovery, at least for the first few hours post workout/racing. Although, I am not afraid to rock my compression in public :)

             
                          
                                    (on my way to Kona for the IM World Championships in 2011)


4) Trigger point therapy


I typically wait a bit (after I eat a meal) to do some type of TP therapy on my body, particularly for longer workouts. For more intense workouts or weekly workouts, I may use the roller or ball soon after for my back and piriformis just to reduce any soreness. The thing I always do though is dedicate 10-15 minutes EVERY evening to using this kit and stretching. Yes, I am human and many times I do not want to do it and I just want to tell myself I'll do it in the morning. But it really helps me out and I want to be consistent with my training so thus I have to be consistent with my recovery. The Trigger Point Therapy kit comes with a helpful DVD which you can also find great videos on line as to how to properly get out your trigger spots. 

5) Extra's
Aside from nutrition, I get massages once or twice a month and I try to make sure that I keep up with balanced training because there is nothing better than going to a massage therapist who is sport specific and having him/her just "find" something to focus on. The thing that is the worst is going to a massage therapist as if they are the healer of everything and will cure all your aches and pains in 1 session. I have a few great massage therapist and they all know my body very well which is great, because my body can be quite difficult to understand at times (hence visiting many doctors and getting multiple imaging testing done for my chronic hip issues). 
I know napping is important but I just can't do it. I sleep wonderfully at night, almost always 8 hours a night is exactly what I need. I never do less than 7 and I get restful sleep which is important (aside from the occasional cat making noises at 3am and waking us up or Campy deciding that a King size bed is not enough room for him so he has to press against me under the covers). Karel is a great napper, just 20-30 minutes at a time and he is good to go. I guess my brain has a hard time shutting off so I just make sure that I get to bed at a reasonable hour (often times a bit earlier on the weekends) to maintain consistent sleeping....as I believe the sleeping is the key to keeping me sick-free for the past 6-7 years as I have yet to have the flu (no flu shot) or cold. I'm sure diet helps but I really believe that quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your overall health and mood. 
A good attitude is important. I don't like to dwell on workouts that did not go as planned or "off" training. I try to keep my mind in a positive state which is important as if you start to doubt your fitness or think too extreme, you may find yourself doing unnecessary things the rest of the day such as restricting food, overtraining (junk miles) or pushing harder than needed. Try to reflect about past situations in order to better plan for the future. And to help with better quality workouts, be sure you train hard and recover harder. 

Happy training! 

7/5/13

Endurnace sports. What's stopping you?

 
 
 
Before every endurance event I do, I like to read my old race reports. I was recently reading my IMWI and IMKY race reports and I just laughed while reading them because I guess two and three years down the road, my mind still wants Ironman racing to be "easy".  I always think about a past race and somehow, my mind tells me it was "easy" back then and now I am really going to hurt. But it's funny that when I read my race reports, it was not easy and it was never easy. I guess the saying is true...




 I guess when it comes to thinking logically, the body and mind do not like to suffer. Not a good combination when it comes to endurance racing. Not sure how many times you look for that "easy" button but if you find it while training for an endurance event or while racing, I am not sure you will want to use it because if "it" was easy, everyone would be doing it.

You see, the great thing about endurance sports is that you get to become someone that you don't believe you can become. You must be patient and respectful of the distance but you must also be willing to work every day to make some kind of progress. You get to experience highs and lows and you get to learn how to work your mind and body in magical ways. You get to inspire and motivate others and you get to join a special group of individuals who seek challenges outside their comfort zone.

I love working with athletes who are new to endurance racing because the human body must be trained and fueled in a way that it resists fatigue and stays energizes and does the minimum amount of work possible to receive huge performance gains. Sharing this journey with Karel has been so much fun because I have seen his body and mind strengthen in many ways and as I share my 6th Ironman with him for his first Ironman, I can't help but think that we will both be going through similar emotions on race day....a lot of why's and hopefully a lot of why nots.

I wanted to repost a blog I did after my 4th Ironman, which meant so much to me because I really pushed hard and received the best prize ever....a rolldown slot to my 2nd Ironman World Championship. Talk about emotions....battling thoughts to get myself on the podium and then being so satisfied with my performance that I went to bed fulfilled only to find out the next day I was going to Kona in 2011.

So I wanted to share my post with everyone (again) as to why I love endurance racing and that I hope this post inspires you to do something that challenges you. Get started with something now without thinking about where you are now and where you need/want to be in the future. The part of working hard for your goals is reaching your end point and being able to look back as to where you were when you started.

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9-17-2010
This part of the report means so much to me. Not only because I finished my fourth IM since 2006 but I get to write MY report on behalf of all of the triathletes out there, who aspire to one-day sign-up and finish an Ironman. And even if you don't aspire to do a triathlon or an Ironman, or you have done an IM, this is for all of the people out there who have set a challenging, and perhaps, unthinkable, goal.

It is hard to describe the feelings that come with finishing an Ironman. For many of us, we devote a good 6-12 months of training to one event. That's right, an entire year dedicated to one event! And to make things even more nerve-racking, you pay a lump sum of money for the event.... 365 days before the race! For myself, this race was 4 years in the making and I sacrificed many other local races (and wants) to offset the expenses for this event.

For many of you, you are forced to put the hurdles and obstacles that you experience day in and day out, behind you, in an effort to train on most days of the week. On some days, your training may last most of the day. On other days, you may be up at 4:30am just to be finished before the sun comes up. But at the end of the day, you know your priorities and you quickly realize that only in your dreams would you train like a professional. That's right, no scheduled massages, no sponsorships, no free race entries, no purse prize. You have a family alongside work responsibilities and somehow, you are happy just make it all work. Why? Because you have goals. For many of you, perhaps your love for living a healthy life was taken to the next level and somehow, your goals became a lifestyle.
  
For myself, it was my choice to balance a dietetic internship and training. Just like you, I had ups and downs with my training and the rest of my life and just like you, I didn't always think it was possible to achieve long-term goal(s). You developed a support team and perhaps, there were some people on your team that bailed on you. However, by staying in the positive, you surrounded yourself with people who gave you energy, rather than take it away from you. Without a doubt, with IM training you are always searching for extra natural energy!!!

When I crossed the finish line, I was satisfied. I had given everything I had during the race and I couldn't have asked for anything better. For in an Ironman, every person who crosses the finish line is a winner. Everyone gets a medal, everyone gets a finisher t-shirt and every person becomes a member of a select group of people. Even for those who don't reach the finish line during an IM, they are still in a select club...for only a small part of the population even considers signing up for an IM. Reaching the starting line of an IM is one of the biggest accomplishments you can ask for. Finishing an Ironman is just the icing on the "healthy" cake.

Ironman training is tough. However, through following a periodized training plan, you should find yourself improving on a weekly basis. By allowing your body to recover through active recovery, weekly planned rest days and planned recovery weeks you should find yourself enjoying your IM training and enjoying the journey.
Ironman training is 10x harder than the Ironman event. In an effort to get to the starting line of an IM, you must train your body to complete a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. Because you have 365 days to train for a 140.6 mile event, most athletes arrive to the starting line trained and ready to go. Sadly, many people arrive to the race overtrained and/or injured, so certainly, balance and a smart mind (and coach) may be necessary when planning for your IM journey.

It's hard to describe the emotions and feelings that flood your body at the IM finish line. Perhaps you want to envision yourself crossing the IM finish line but you may be asking yourself....will my body ever let me do an Ironman??

For those who like to swim bike and runANYONE can do an Ironman.

Here's how I can describe the Ironman journey.
Remember, it's a LONG journey with a one-day finish line.

Imagine yourself driving 140.6 miles on a daily basis. For the first few weeks, it probably seems really boring and you ask yourself "can I really continue doing this every day?"
After a few weeks, the drive gets easier and you become content with the drive. Maybe you even look forward to the drive because you are alone with yourself, your thoughts and feelings. Maybe you come up with new ideas and thoughts during your drive and feel inspired to change something in your life.
Certainly, some days do feel longer than others but overall, you are happy with your decision to do the drive.
Eventually, a group of your close friends tell you that they are going to ride with you during your drive to keep you company. The drive becomes much more enjoyable because you can laugh, smile and share stories with your friends during the long ride.
Down the road, you notice that thousands of other people are doing the same drive as you. Although they are in different cars (some nicer and more expensive than others) and drive at different speeds, they are all going to the same place as you. Some how, you look forward to the drive even more and you almost don't want the drive experience to end.
One day, you notice that there are lots of people on the road wanting to help you. They want to make sure your car is fueled, it is in excellent working condition and that you have everything you need to feel happy during your drive. It's amazing how special you feel during your drive and you feel compelled to tell your friends about the drive, almost as if you are motivating others to do the drive with you.
On your last drive, you notice that your closest friends and family are on the road waving at you. You couldn't be more excited to see them and they bring tears to your eyes because they are supporting your decision to drive 140.6 miles. They think you are crazy for doing it but they love you anyways and they want to see you finish the drive.
When you get to the finish of your last drive, you notice that there are thousands of people cheering you on. You tell yourself "but it's only 140.6 miles" but you know that not many people would make the decision to do this drive. A drive that you once thought was never possible and you finally made it to the finish line. Happy that you don't have to do the drive anymore, you are kinda sad and are ready to sign up for another 140.6 mile drive.

But because there are so many other people out there with you, wanting to reach the same finish line, you feel the need to help the people behind you, reach the same finish line.

When I reached the finish line, I was ready to see all of the future "IMWI" athletes cross the finish line. A line that once seemed impossible, was in close reality.

2% of athletes qualified for Kona at IMWI. That statistic is pretty consistent at most IM events. I'm guessing that around 8% of athletes are shooting for a Kona slot.
An amazing 98% of athletes at an Ironman are there to finish. 98%!!! If you feel as if you can't do an IM, you have absolutely no idea of what you are capable of doing. The body is truly amazing. Although many components play a role in finishing an Ironman, the Ironman event is very mental. With all of the training behind you, you are simply putting your training to the test and enjoying the day with 2500-3000 of your closest friends... a day that you have dreamed about for x-year(s).
If anyone has ever told you that you were "slow" for finishing an Ironman above the average IM finishing time of 13-14 hours or questioned why it took you 14,15,16 or 16 hrs and 57 minutes (that was the last finisher at IMWI 2010) to complete an Ironman....I give you permission to stare that person in the face and tell them "I am an Ironman and no one can take that away from me!"

Or
"I just swam 2.4 miles, biked 112 miles and ran 26.2 miles.....what did you do today???"

7/3/13

Nutrient-dense event-day creations

Salads don't have to be boring unless this is your idea of a salad.



And certainly, you don't have to be the party-pooper if you bring a plant-strong meal to a holiday event. Certainly, there will be plenty of options to enjoy a little of everything and of course, I want you to enjoy your options and feel great about whatever you put into your body. But, perhaps, as you happily indulge in some occasional treats/eats, you may inspire others by your delicious, nutrient-dense creation.


Growing up as a competitive swimmer, I was never a salad eater and didn't really focus on eating a lot of veggies..... unless they were drenched in ranch dressing and covered with croutons and cheese.  And even though I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian at the age 10ish, my definition of plant-strong was "I don't eat meat"....so that meant, bring on the cheese and anything that doesn't have meat or fish in it!

Oh how times have changed. Still a competitive athlete but I have a great appreciation of how plant strong meals can give the human body a powerful dose of nutrients.

So, in honor of any event/party that you may be going to tomorrow or in the future, here are 3 of my many favorite plant strong creations for you to enjoy!

Have a great 4th of July and be safe.

Mango-kiwi fruit salad
3 kiwis (sliced)
1 mango (cubed)
10 baby carrots (chopped)
1 small apple (chopped)
1/4 cup grapes (halved)
1/2 large lemon juice (or small lemon) for dressing




To cut kiwi's:
1)Cut kiwi in half.
2) Use a spoon to remove skin from kiwi
3) Turn skin inside out.
4) Cut off the ends.





To cut mango:
1) Cut segments out around the core
2) Use a sharp knife to make a grid on mango segments.
3) Use your thumbs on skin-side to pop out the top of mango segment.
4) Cut off cubes with knife.






Carrot, Coconut and Raisin salad


1 bag pre-cut matchstick carrots
4 tbsp shredded coconut
2 tangerines (sliced, seeds removed) + juice
1 pear (chopped)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup cranberries
1/2 lemon (juice)


Cucumber Tomato salad




1-2 large cucumber - halved then sliced again in half (I made it look extra pretty by scraping a fork on the outside of the cucumber before cutting it)
5 roma tomatoes - halved, then sliced again in half
2 ounces block mozzarella cheese - cut in small cubes
Pepper, pinch of salt, pinch of sugar
2 tbsp balsamic or any vinaigrette
1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

7/2/13

The best tip for "healthy" eating - because you've tried everything else

Every person in this world has his/her own definition of "healthy" eating. For some, it's as simple as making sure there is food on the table so that no goes hungry or starved throughout the day. For others, it is much more complicated, often involving words like organic, raw, macrobiotics, gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, whole, clean, super-foods, natural, all-natural, probiotic and energy-boosting. For others, it's just a way of living life to the fullest. 

According to Medical News Today.com, 

"Healthy eating means consuming the right quantities of foods from all food groups in order to lead a healthy life. Diet is often referred to as some dietary regimen for losing weight. However, diet simply means what food we eat in the course of a 24-hour, one week, or one month, etc. period. A good diet is a nutritional lifestyle that promotes good health. A good diet must include several food groups because one single group cannot provide everything a human needs for good health. Balanced diet - or a good diet - means consuming from all the different good groups in the right quantities."


Not sure about you, but I read that paragraph and found myself a bit more confused as to what is "healthy eating". 

Because that made me confused I decided to search for another definition. But this time I googled "How to lose weight fast" because for many, that means "healthy". 

According to Livestrong.com (a website that has an article for any topic possible), 
"The speed of your success depends on your determination and ingenuity. You don't have to have a gym membership or any fancy equipment to exercise or lose weight, and can often make do with not only your own body power, but with common household items to add resistance and weight to exercise moves. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume daily, so once you have done that--and added a regular exercise routine--you'll see not only a fast drop in weight, but a drastic reduction in inches."

Ok - so now we are getting somewhere. This makes "healthy eating" much more simple. So, what are the tips we should follow to lose weight quickly according to the article?
-Exercise every day, even if it's in small chunks of time
-Cut back on your calorie intake. Try not to go below about 1,200 calories a day for long-term weight loss management, but you can dip lower for short periods of time for extra fast weight loss
-Go for a short 15- to 20-minute walk every evening or morning for an all-around mental and physical workout. 
-Drink plenty of water, which will help prevent dehydration, which will also prevent your body from shutting down processes to conserve water.

That's it??? That's all we have to do to lose weight quickly? That doesn't seem extreme enough and by now we are all a bit frustrated because haven't we all tried to eat "good" or tried to cut back on calories and exercise and move more and drink plenty of water?

So much for taking the "healthy" approach. Now it is time for extreme measures because we have wasted days, if not weeks and months, trying lots and lots of "healthy" simple tips. 

Ok, now we are talking. A website called "Weight loss and training: Extreme weight loss tips" 

This author suggests that "Extreme weight loss goals are often met with disaster, interrupted by lack of motivation, unrealistic expectations, or plateaus that feel impossible to overcome. So that’s why I’m offering up my best extreme weight loss tips. These ones are guaranteed to give you serious results fast! 

- Restrict Your Carbohydrate Intake - Restrict yourself to 3-4 small carbohydrate servings a day (no more than a piece of bread each). 
- Fill Up on Fiber - If you have a hard time getting enough fiber in your diet, try a good fiber supplement like Myogenix Pro Fiber. It’s an easy fix and can help you shed the pounds! 
-Seriously Suppress Your Appetite - Appetite suppression is a great way to lose a lot of weight quickly. weight loss success, and understandably so. There are actually some great natural appetite suppressants on the market. Hydroxycut South African Hoodia is one that’s gained a lot of attention in recent years, derived from a root that’s been shown to reduce hunger. 
-Boost Your Metabolism - there are a number of eating habits that are totally effective for enhancing your metabolism. Foods like protein, fiber, and many spicy foods will all work. But one of the best things you can add to your diet is matcha green tea. It’s one of the best natural metabolism boosters around, and it also naturally suppressed your appetite! Check out one of the best extreme weight loss supplement on the market, Magic Matcha Green Tea. 
-Sleep Better!


So, with a several tips mentioned and a few supplements and tips suggested that may be extremely harmful to your health and functioning in society, it's likely that you feel more at ease that there is an extreme way to be "healthy". For so many people wanting to change habits to be "healthy" likes (more like, LOVES) rules because when you have rules, you don't have to trust yourself, let alone listen to yourself. You put all your trust into the other person who is telling you exactly what to do to be "healthy". 


Imagine saying this:
"I don't have rules in my diet. There are no lists of food that are off limit and there is no "best time" to reward myself with food. There is no emotional, stressful or mindless eating or feeling guilty after eating."

Do those thoughts make you feel more at ease with yourself, perhaps even around food and your body? 
 
This entire blog up until this point was all an example as to how overwhelming "healthy" eating can be in today's society. There is always something new to try or to consider and many times, it does not involve focusing on yourself, your own needs and your own goals. Many tips out there are helpful and can be triggers to promote a more healthful lifestyle. But many times, people are so rushed in the thought of being "healthy" (or improving performance, losing weight, improving fitness) that they bypass one of the most important tips, rules, suggestions and concepts of having a healthy relationship with food. 

Mindful eating. 

Here is a recent article that I did for Iron Girl that I'd love for you to read. After practicing the exercise, try to apply a similar thinking to your every day food choices. Because I believe that any fitness enthusiasts or athlete should develop a healthy relationship with food before even considering to tweak sport nutrition or to focus more on specific training/exercise, here is another great read to help you out: Mindful Eating

Please email with any comments, questions or concerns. If you can tackle this basic (yet often challenging) idea of mindful eating (either alone or with the help of others), I promise you that you will have nailed the best tip for "healthy" eating and all parts of your life will be improved from mood, relationships with others, functioning in society and fitness/performance. 

Eat More Mindfully - It's Not a Diet, It's a Lifestyle By Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, LD/N

There’s food everywhere and likely, you have your favorites. You are constantly being told to “eat healthy”, but as an athlete, it can be overwhelming and confusing. For in today’s society, it’s hard to define “healthy” when it comes to eating as the more people worry about nutrition, the less healthy we appear to become.
As you work toward a “healthy” real-food, balanced diet, consider eating more mindfully to help you feel more at-ease with food.
Eat more mindfully
Practice this exercise. Take a Hershey kiss (or small chocolate) and place it in front of you on a desk. Observe it, your surroundings and how you feel. Now touch it. How does it feel in your hand? Unwrap the item and observe it again by touching it and then smell it. Now, take a small bite from the top. Place the other half of the inside of the wrapper and place it out of sight. Suck on the chocolate and close your eyes. Savor your treat, making it last as long as possible without chewing it. Are any special past memories coming to mind as the chocolate melts? Now open your eyes. Did you stay present and in the moment? How long did it take to fully appreciate a small bite of a piece of candy/chocolate? Did you enjoy it?

Mindful eating is being in an active state and releasing all fears, worries or concerns about food. It’s about making choices that will give you an enjoyable eating experience in the present moment. Mastering mindful eating is not easy, especially with our quick-fix, diet-fad, food-trendy society. But with many disordered eating habits and body image concerns, your hurried and stressful lifestyle may make eating time a difficult, uneasy and overwhelming experience.

To bring some joy to eating, both inside and outside of the home, mindful eating should be practiced often. Instead of fearing certain foods, bring attention as to why you are eating to result in more control and enjoyment with what you are eating. Keep in mind that mindful eating will differ for everyone for eating is a very personal experience.
Consider working on this exercise with other types of foods/meals as a way to reduce any possible stress or anxiety with food as you learn how to eat in a way that is favorable to your individual goals.
 



7/1/13

Weekend training recap and my cycling tips


As human beings, we all make mistakes. But there is a big difference in making mistakes but knowing better, making the same mistake over and over and making mistakes to learn. 

I think we could all put ourselves in one of those categories at various times in our life from training/racing with injuries, saying something you regretted/didn't mean, making choices regarding food, etc. But the best thing about making mistakes is knowing that you are trying and that you can make yourself better in the long run. 

I remember a few weeks ago when Karel and I were doing a long brick and after our intervals, we joined our normal Saturday morning ride (which is around 50-70 minutes total depending on when we meet up with the fast group) and Karel was feeling the need for speed so him and a few other cyclists broke away and as the pack chased Karel, he was just ripping the pack apart...he was untouchable and seeing him in the distance, I knew my cyclist of a hubby was loving this suffer fest.....for us chasers. Unfortunately, Karel pushed beyond his IM limits and completely bonked after the ride and wasn't able to run off the bike. He laughed about it afterward and since then, he has stayed within his limits for his IM specific training. Of course, he was smart as to not try to be stubborn and try to run x-miles off the bike and of course, no amount of nutrition is going to help him bike and run at a pace that he didn't train himself to do in training. Just like many athletes, we can swim, bike and run at a certain pace solo but if you are a triathlete, it is knowing how to put the pieces together that really matters. There is something impressive about someone who can individual swim, bike and run fast but that doesn't matter much with endurance triathlon training/racing. Sure, it can impact your fitness but you have to know how to put the pieces together and that is what IM training is all about. Creating new limits but knowing how to stay within them. I take IM training very seriously as there is a lot to learn within the journey. Many athletes get so caught up in the miles and fearing the distance but I believe that we must not rush the journey and recognize how important it is to focus on the key workouts that make up great race day performances. 

On Saturday morning, I joined Karel for our 4.5 hour  brick. 4 hours on the bike and a 30 minute run. Well, that was the plan. 

After I stuck to Karel's wheel for the first hour, we did the most difficult set that my body has ever done....
10 minutes steady, 5 minutes hard....continuous for 1 hour. 

On paper, this doesn't look hard but Karel has been peaking and I knew after seeing my watts for the 10 minutes steady that this was going to be a toughy. However, I made an IM-rookie mistake of pushing beyond my limits in a brick workout but I just couldn't help but be the athlete I am inside....I just wanted to see if I could do it. 

Pushing watts I have not done in training for the past 10 weeks or so, Karel was impressed that I stayed on his wheel for the 1 hour set and by the time we joined the group ride, I knew I overdid it. I managed to stay on for the group ride but when we were heading home in head wind, I had enough. Knowing the physiology of the body, this was not nutrition or motivation related. I just overdid it and now I had to stay with my mistake. So, for about 1 hour of riding in headwind (talk about a hard way to gather your thoughts), I went back and forth in my head as to if I should run off the bike and within 3 miles from home, my "smart" coach thinking won over my "stubborn" athlete thinking and I decided that since that bike had nothing to do with IM training, it would be best to scratch the run off the bike. However, although the mistake was made, I was still able to think of plan B. Water jog. So I hoped in the complex pool for a refreshing 20 minute water jog as it was much kinder on my body than pounding the pavement for 30 minutes. Karel ended up having an amazing workout for both bike and run and when we connected that evening after he got off work, all was good and I was happy I made this mistake. For it was fun while it lasted but Sat. showed me that like many athletes, you have to respect your own fitness level when training for an endurance event. I love training with Karel but with 4 weeks til race day, the training is very specific to both of our bodies. We can continue to share this journey together but at different paces, intensities and volume. 

Thankfully, Sunday I was able to regroup and have an amazing brick workout - 1 hour bike, 13.3 mile run, 2 hour bike. As for Karel, he did his first ever 20 mile run with a 1 hour EZ spin after the run. Success for both of us to wrap up 3 hard, quality weeks of training. Gotta love progress. 

So as I was collecting my thoughts after my suffer-session with Karel, I couldn't help but think about the progress I have made on my bike so I thought I'd share some of my top tips for becoming a better, smarter and stronger cyclist. By no means am I a professional cyclist or cycling coach but having been coached by Karel on the bike since we met in 2006 and Karel riding a bike all his life, I have learned a lot about cycling and how to properly ride/train on a bike as well as being more and more comfortable on the bike (since cycling was very new to me when I started tri's and I was very scared on the bike). Most importantly, you can always get better as a cyclist so don't ever give up. 

-Train with a power meter
-Learn how to change your gears appropriately
-Learn how to switch from big/small ring while drafting 
-Learn how to anticipate changing terrain and adjust gears appropriately
-Be sure your bike is set-up with a hydration system that is easy to access (ex. rear bottle cages) and that all bottles are secure
-Learn what your nutrition needs are for each individual workout
-Learn how to become "one" with your bike
-Learn how to adjust gears before stopping
-Learn how to break properly, especially before stopping or if slowing down in a group
-Relax on the bike
-Maintain good position of your seat bone on the saddle
-Learn how to pedal smoothly
-Learn how to climb based on your size/height (I generally climb in my small chain ring and standing)
-Don't be afraid to ride with others but be sure you are not taking your time away from your own specific training
-Don't ride scared
-Learn how to change a flat tire
-Learn how to anticipate other objects around you, possibly getting in your way (react quickly but smart)
-Learn how to embrace the pain to get stronger (good pain, not injury pain)
-Just ride your bike for fun - get more comfortable on your bike in all types of conditions (be smart)
-Practice scenarios similar to race day - set up your bike, wear clothing, wear HR monitor, stuff jersey pockets, etc. similar to race day to get use to what "it" feels like. 
-Be sure to have a bike that fits you - don't buy a bike and then try to fit it. 
-Trust your mechanic (or be married to him/her :)) and be sure he/she understands your individual needs and goals
-For most triathletes, there is no reason to be "aero" on the bike with a flat back. Avoid an aggressive/aero position on the bike and get a retul fit by a fitter who is qualified to fit you with the Retul system. 
-Know how to dress appropriately on the bike and invest in comfortable shoes and helmet. 
-Use your gadgets appropriately. Use a bike computer, separate from a running garmin so you can fix it to your bike and not on your wrist. Rather than being stuck on speed, consider lap times every 10-20-30 minutes so you can better pace yourself. 
-Create sets that will allow you to progress with fitness and remember that athletes will peak at different times. 
-Do not get frustrated on the bike as cycling is one of the best activities that you can do for a lifetime (like swimming) that is easy on the body. 
-Ride safe, wear a Road ID and have fun!