Essential Sports Nutrition


Garden-friendly dinner: Fueled by plants

Do you live a busy lifestyle?
Do you stay active morning 'til night?
Do you have more on your plate than your mind can handle?
Do you need more hours in the day to tackle your never-ending to-do list?
Do you hate getting sick?
Do you love traveling?
Do you love pushing your body for fitness gains?
Do you love to compete in athletic events?
Do you love to use your brain?
Do you want to reduce your risk for disease/illness to live a quality-filled life?
Do you enjoy being spontaneous with your life?
Do you love your life, your family, your job, your friends, your children, your furry ones?

The only way you can function well in life is by having a functioning body and mind. You only have one place to live for the rest of your life and your body is your home so you have to take care of it. It is up to you to keep the foundation strong and to constantly tune-it-up to keep it in top-notch condition. You can ease up every now and then for what you do most of the time matters more than what you do occasionally.

There are many people who rely on a wake-up call to change dietary habits. There's nothing wrong with that for if life gives you a call to wake-up, consider yourself lucky that you have another chance at healthy living. For others, life doesn't seem worth it to change or change is just too hard, difficult and time-consuming.

Regardless of where you are in your life and your relationship with food and your body, find a way to make progress. No need to be perfect, just focus on yourself and what you can do to set yourself up for a better tomorrow.

For a plant-strong dinner to keep your immune system in optimal health, your muscles fueled, your GI tract happy and your brain thinking clearly, consider using your oven for an easy meal that needs little attention to prep. And the best tastes great!!


Roasted potatoes, grains and veggies

Whole grains of your choice - I used wild rice, barley and spelt berries (I made a big batch for leftovers)
Sliced mushrooms
Firm tofu (sliced)
Corn (frozen)
Red bell pepper (sliced)
1 extra large clove of garlic (thick slices, peeled)
White potato (large, sliced)
Sweet potato (large, sliced)
Sunflower oil
Spices of your liking - turmeric, salt (sprinkle), oregano, garlic
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cook grains according to package (it took me 1.5 hours to prep my grains so you may want to do this the day before or on the weekend and plan for leftovers).
3. On a large baking sheet, drizzle oil (about 1/2-1 tbsp) to lightly cover baking sheet and toss white potatoes (sliced) in the oil and sprinkle with spices. Add mushrooms and garlic (cover garlic slices in the mushrooms so the garlic doesn't burn on the sheet).
4. Repeat the same thing on separate baking sheet with oil, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and garlic.
5. In a casserole dish, drizzle a little oil and toss tofu, corn and peppers (the casserole dish will keep the veggies soft without browning but if you like them brown, you can cook them on another baking dish). 
6. Bake items prepared for steps #3-5 in oven with potatoes on bottom rack and casserole dish on the top.
7. Bake for 35-45 minutes or until potatoes are golden brown. 
Toppings (optional): greek yogurt for dipping, shredded cheese on potatoes, nuts/seeds for a crunch, greens for a bit more color, salsa for spice.

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GYMBOSS Interval Timer: Product Review

I love intervals for workouts. For anything to break up the monotony of a timed-workout keeps me motivated and excited for each and every upcoming workout. My mind never gets bored and I am forced to be mentally and physically "in the moment" for every set.

Although I see nothing wrong with swim, bike, run for x-minutes (as I rarely go by miles with my training or my athletes training), I find the best way to train for quality is to have a purpose for each workout. You warm-up and cool down as needed and the focal point is the main set....the intervals.

When athletes or fitness enthusiasts think intervals they generally think hard, leg burning, sweaty and intense. But intervals can range from steady and long to short and intense...and everything in between.

Here are a few of my favorite, recent Ironman-focused swim, bike, run workouts:

Key IM bike workout
IM focused long brick
Breakthrough IM swim
Run intervals

But in addition to using intervals for cardio workouts, intervals work great for strength training. I am a firm believer that strength training should be included in the weekly fitness routine - regardless of what type of athlete or fitness enthusiast you are. I have been strength training since I was 11 (when I started swimming competitively) and I feel it has given me strong bones (along with dietary focus) and muscles which have kept me from experiencing any stress fractures or broken bones in my life thus far. I also feel that strength training is valuable to improving power, speed, endurance and form as an athlete or fitness enthusiast and helps minimize time spent training for cardio (ex. junk miles) as the body needs little time at home or in the weight room to gain strength whereas for cardio, physiological adaptations can often come rather slowly after the initial first 3-4 weeks of training.

Although full body strength training and plyometrics are ideal for the off-season and base phase for athletes, I believe that hip and core work should be continued year round. Certainly, as athletes, any type of "strength work" should enhance cardio and not sabotage us for upcoming workouts so there must be a nice balance as to when the strength training falls and what type of exercises are performed.

Here are a few of my favorite hip and core focused exercises which you can include as intervals into your weekly workout routine. Rather than focusing on reps, go by time. Seeing that for most people one side of the body is often weaker/stronger than the other, time-based intervals are ideal for hip and core work so that you can finish an interval with good form rather than just trying to get to a certain number of reps while the body is fatiguing with poor form.

Here are some of my favorite hip/core exercises:
Perform 3-4 days a week, 10-20 minutes.
Up to 30 - 90 seconds -  on each side (if appropriate) or for each exercise.
-monster walks
-hip hikes
-lying on side, top leg lifts (straight and bent leg)
-plank, belly down
-plank w/ one leg lifted (belly down)
-side plank (optional w/ top hip thrust)
-reverse crunch (if equipment bench is available) or reverse crunch on stability ball
-bench v-ups
-mason twists (optional w/ weight)
-lying on back, leg drops

So, to help you out with your interval "strength" work at home (or any type of intervals, especially for personal trainers or aerobic instructors), I have the perfect tool for you!

Gymboss contacted me and asked if I would review their interval timer stopwatch. I said absolutely as I am always interested in new technology that can make for better, smarter and more quality-focused workout. As much as I love to exercise, I think like an athlete and therefore, I want to adapt with the least amount of training stress. I do not want to waste my time exercising and not making performance gains. Just like you, I want to put in the work to receive the benefits and be able to do it all again (but better) the next day.

To learn more about the Gymboss you can check out the Operating tips video which gives a great explanation of all the wonderful features of this product. You do not have to use all the functions as it works just fine as a stop watch but for those who want to do the work and think very little, this will really help you out. All you have to do is set up the timer for your workout and it will automatically alert you as to when you should be performing an exercise and what you should stop and rest. It's like having a trainer with you but without the fun chatting in between intervals. :)

Enjoy! Any additional questions, send me an email and I'd be happy to help you out.


Overcoming open water swimming fears: TIPS

A few pictures taken by my official photographer (Dad) at the 2011 Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. 

A few weeks ago I was approached by Caitlin from Healthy Tipping Point (via Erin D from Twitter) who was looking for a triathlon coach for her very first half Ironman. Gotta love social media for connecting passionate athletes who share similar lifestyles. I'm excited that another coach-athlete relationship was born!

Since I am filled with one-on-one coaching athletes for the year due to the time it takes to review training files, modify workouts on Training Peaks and get my athletes race ready with race/nutrition plans, Caitlin is using one of my pre-built 12-week Half Ironman plans (a new service that I have not yet promoted via my website) where I can help her with determining training zones and providing feedback on a monthly basis, along with tips along the way.

In exchange, Caitlin is using her social media outlets to provide information to other newbie athletes in all areas of her prep as she gears up for Ironman 70.3 Miami. I absolutely love helping newbie athletes learn the proper skills, nutrition and tips training for a triathlon or running event so I am so excited for the next few months to share several of my tips from nutrition to training (and everything in between).

Caitlin had several athletes recently ask her about open water swimming so she sent along some questions to me for me to answer and viola! She put together a fabulous blog post with my responses and a few great pictures to inspire us all.

OWS (Open Water Swimming) can be a combination of mental fears as well as physically being unable to swim efficiently in open water. It’s important to recognize that the only way to be a better OWS swimmer is to practice and to address both strengths and weaknesses.

To read more, check out the entire blog post and feel free to email me or leave a comment on Caitlin's blog for future blog posts.
Ask the tri coach: overcoming open water fears

How to race a triathlon....swim efficiently, pace yourself on the bike and run smart to your finish line!


Hard work works

There are those who love hard work and then those who don't. Most likely, it's obvious to the eye as to who is most determined and dedicated to reaching a goal. There isn't much moving forward for the person who feels the task at hand is too difficult to achieve. Sometimes, there is even moving backward for the person who is not willing to accept difficulty before something becomes easy. But then there are those who are passionate about learning news skills, habits and traits in order to make a change, for a change. 

Hard work works for everyone, regardless of talent. Whether you think you "got it" in you or not in order to achieve, there's nothing natural or gifting about working hard for something that you don't have now. Medical doctors who treat cancer patients are not born as natural healers. They work hard to find answers. Teachers are not naturally talented to educate but instead, passionate about helping others. You can be anything you want to be but you have to put forth an amazing amount of hard work over many many years. And for many, there's some initial trying but it doesn't last long because things get hard and uncomfortable. Hard work is demanding, time-consuming and exhausting. But the outcome is rewarding, fruitful and special. Entertain the idea that you can achieve success. 

Skills, motivation, intelligence and discipline are learned traits. If you learn how to be great, you will become great. For some, they learn quickly and adapt easily. For others, learning is slow, adaptations is a work in progress. But no matter the speed, you will keep improving until you give up. 

Anyone can work hard but not everyone wants to. It's easy to look for the easy button, to wish things were different or to hope for a different outcome. It's so simple to want things to be natural and effortless or the way they use to be but there's not such thing as a successful outcome in life without practicing, working hard and gaining experience and skills along the way. 

Whoever you choose to compare yourself to, likely did not succeed overnight. Even those who are most accomplished worked hard in some capacity before they found success. For many, setbacks are keeping you from progressing. For others, setbacks motivate you to move forward. Spend 5 years learning how to succeed and you will often gain a lot more than you had hoped for when you finally do reach your goals. 

Easy doesn't cut it and you really don't want the easy route. Easy teaches you nothing about what you are capable of achieving. Easy is boring and not what you want in your only life. You may not believe this to be true but if you are dedicated to devoting the time, money and effort to a goal, it will pay off. Job, education, family, sport....learn how to reach beyond what is comfortable.

If you are ready to put in the work, you must be consistent and patient. You can be 100% dedicated, disciplined and focused but if you rush the process, you will likely find yourself in first place at a dead end road. Slow down the process and you won't miss the right and left turns that will give you the shortest route to your final destination. 

Starting today, be willing to work hard for things to work. Keep your goal in mind with an end date but accept where you are today with a mindset that will keep you moving forward. 

For many people in this world, life will seem easy. There will be no major setbacks only stressful temporary situations. As for others, there will be life-changing events that force a person to dig really deep to the point of questioning "can I do this?" alongside arguing against "is this worth it?"

I say yes. You CAN do this and it IS worth it. 

Perhaps life is hard enough and you have no desire to push any harder. Maybe there are extra steps that you are not willing to take or you are choosing to do the bare minimum to just get by. Perhaps there is a to-do list that never gets complete and a thinking of "tomorrow I will be better" started nearly a decade ago. 

Everyone has the potential to succeed and everyone has the ability to behave in a way that brings success. Great performances do not come from those who do not work but instead, from those who are willing to go the extra mile even if there is an easier route right across the street. 

The reality is that nothing in life is easy. We get comfortable being comfortable and if it isn't quick, easy or natural, it is too hard, difficult and not worth it. 

If you find yourself behind a bump or a mountain, stop but don't turn around. What lies ahead of you is demanding, it's tiring and it won't be easy. But if you have a goal or a dream, you have to want it and know that it doesn't happen by doing nothing. 

Life gives you chances to change your attitude, your path and your direction but this doesn't mean you need to change your final destination. 

Hard work works. Develop a work ethic that makes you wake up every morning, excited to get out of bed, excited to see what you can achieve for the day. Assure yourself that nothing feels better than working hard for something that you want to happen. Learn how to be better today than you were yesterday and when you feel weak or vulnerable, remind yourself that excuses do not work....only you do. 


Hello Ironman TAPER!

Taper is a beautiful thing. You reduce the volume before a race and maintain the intensity and see the fruits of your labor begin to ripen. Your life becomes a bit more normal as you find yourself with a bit more time on your hands....but for those who don't get "it", you have trouble with your new normal as you aren't quite sure what to do with your extra time. Clean, chores, errands, watching TV....not as fun as a 5+ hour workout. 

Over the past few years, Karel and I have really spent a lot of time understanding tapering for endurance athletes. Between Karel and myself, cyclist and triathlete, we have both learned how to nail a taper and it is great when it pays off. 

One of the best things about taper is going into it without needing it. No fear-based training the last week before taper, no worries about gaining weight by reducing volume and no hoping that an injury or burnout will go away in 10-14 days. 

It's really neat to see the body change throughout training for an event in terms of getting faster, stronger and smarter. But let's never forget that with training for an event, there comes plenty of ups and downs to overcome to get to the starting line. 

When I train for an event, I love putting in the work. I love staying focused for a few months at a time and learning how to keep things balanced while dreaming big. The way I race the best is by remembering all the great, positive moments in training (and in life) instead of dwelling on any bad or down moments. 

I find for many athletes, the "bad" or off workouts weigh heavy on the mind and thus, athletes struggle with not feeling "ready" for an event due to thinking about those off workouts. Well, I hope that for every bad or off workout, there is at least a dozen or so great workouts that can bring you confidence for race day. And on top of it all, an appreciation that racing in endurance events (or any event) is a gift that should not be taken for granted. 

As I go into my 6th Ironman, my mind is filled with happy thoughts and I'd love to share some of those with you in hopes that you do not waste too much energy on the moments when you feel "off" but instead, remember that in life, you will be the happiest when you think happy thoughts. Although I have many great memories in my 31 years on this earth, here are a few of my favorite recent "sport" related memories. 

Riding 112 miles behind Karel's wheel. It's been an amazing journey over the past 7 years since I first got a triathlon bike as it was super scary to clip in and ride with aero bars. I'm so grateful for a supportive hubby who is a talented cat 1 cyclist. He has been so incredibly helpful and patient with my cycling skills and fitness. Thank you Karel for challenging me on the bike and for always believing in me. It's been a pleasure looking at your butt for many long bike rides over the past few months. :)

Winning 2012 Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and having my dad there to see me win my first big win. My dad was attending an optometry continuing ed conference in downtown Clearwater and left the conference to watch me finish. Neither one of us expected me to win so it was a great surprise for both of us. Thank you Dad for being my #1 photographer and supporter (with mom). 

Karel getting a call-up and finishing the Athens Twilight Crit two years in a row. Don't get me wrong, I love sharing a triathlon journey with Karel. But I LOVED watching Karel race in crits. The adrenaline pumping just as loud as the music and the energy was contagious. I met Karel on the bike in 2006, when he was a cat 3 cyclist and it has been amazing to see how Karel improved with cycling over the years to race Cat 1, alongside top level cyclists who race as full-time pros (not TDF pros but still pros who race for their day-job). Karel loves to suffer and push himself on the bike and he did just that at USA Crit Speed Week for three years in a row. I absolutely loved sharing those races with him. 

Riding from Znojmo Czech Republic to Retz Austria. It's easy to think that traveling will disrupt fitness, especially while training for an Ironman. Karel and I think otherwise as we rarely travel for a vaca not related to a race but when we do, we love to stay active and deviate from the "normal routine". I believe that everyone needs a break from the normal routine and structure and there are so many ways to do just that. Riding road bikes in Europe will stay with me forever and I will remember the switchbacks, the cobblestones, the espresso's mid-ride and the beautiful sights from Europe whenever I am riding my bike...even in flat Jacksonville, Florida. Thank you Karel for showing me your beautiful home country and for living such an active life with me!

Oakley Women trip to Utah! I love the sun, the water and the heat. But I'm ok with changing things up for some winter sports. I really enjoyed my recent winter trips to Iowa and Utah and allowing myself to step outside of my comfort zone. I love seeing what my body can do and the only way I can do that is by trying new things. I'm not good at everything but that's is short, not perfect. 

Pittsburgh Half Marathon. Part of being an athlete is knowing how to be a great sherpa. My brother was graduating from Carnegie Mellon business school and as my parents supported my brother at his graduation, we first had to cheer him on for his 3rd half marathon. 1:31...not too shabby for a Big Ten High Bar Champion from University of Michigan. All-around Division 1 gymnast turned proud of my brother and all of his accomplishments! Next up...he is getting married in Sept in Pitt to his amazing fiance Dana! 

I still remember my first Ironman (IMFL 2006) like it was yesterday. Winning the 18-24 age group was a dream that came true with a lot of hard work, determination, passion and excitement. Here I am with Ironman #6 in 14 days and I still have the same motivation, excitement and passion for what I choose to do with my body on a daily basis. It never becomes boring, not-fun or something I have to do. I stay competitive to the point where I am driven by the ability to improve but I try to stay balanced so that triathlons are not my life, but instead my lifestyle and something that I want to do because it makes me happy and healthy. 

Since Campy came into our life 5 years ago, my life hasn't been the same. Since we rescued Campy from a foster family, I have found myself seeking ways to fill my life with as many opportunities as possible to create memories for us. Knowing that Campy does not get the pleasure of living a life that lasts more than 20 years, I am constantly looking for ways to maintain a healthy and active lifestyle with my furry BFF by my side. We travel together, run together, sleep together and love life together. Whenever I have a low moment in a race, all I need to do is see a furry friend to bring a smile to my face. Cow, horse, bird, dog, squirrel, cat....anything will do as I have a soft spot in my heart for all animals. Campy just happens to be the lucky one as his life is truly a lottery-winning life and I'm lucky that I can give him the best life ever. Campy always reminds me that it is possible to never have a bad day.