Essential Sports Nutrition


Toasted quinoa and a salad worth remembering

Over the past few years, I've really tried hard to not sweat the small stuff. I use to find it easy to be reactive but very hard to be proactive. In other words, I was always finding myself regretting my actions, getting upset at my mistakes and worrying about things out of my control. Not sure if I had not developed good skills yet for a balanced life or if I was just too busy (thanks to my education from 2000-2011) but I felt rushed in life and never in the moment to slow down and enjoy the minute.

After many years of higher education with my Masters and RD credential, I realized that after all that time-consuming, life-changing hard work, it was time to stop letting life rush by. In order to develop positive thinking, I needed to develop positive actions. From diet to exercise to my every day life, I spent time every day discovering what was important to me to set myself up for a successful tomorrow.

On my ride Friday morning, I was stopped by every stop light as I was doing my intervals and then I got a flat tire. The old Marni would have been extremely frustrated with how the morning was going (especially on a time-crunch) but the new me has learned that even when things are bad, they can always be worse. I was not enjoying my ride any less with the uncontrollables that I was faced with so my best strategy for the morning was to learn the best way to deal with everything that came my way.

The stop lights were a "freebie" recovery during my intervals.
The flat tire was practice for race day in Kona.

And that's it. Just two things that were on my mind that morning that could have turned a great workout into a bad workout but with the right frame of mind, I didn't let myself get into that place. 

REFRAME the thinking: "I'm so frustrated/upset with my workout today!"
"For I am grateful that I have a healthy body that can push hard on the bike and that I have the opportunity to start my morning with a ride."

There's something very special about a meal that is worthy of a picture. Have you ever considered taking pictures of your meals? Whether it is a bowl of cereal with fruit, a delicious garden salad or lasagna, I find that when you appreciate the time and prep (and nutritional value) of your meal before you put it into your body, you are more likely to enjoy the meal and feel satisfied afterward. It's a true shame when you are eating a meal and wishing you were eating something else (and then end up doing so anyways afterward).

Learn to create meals that make you smile. In my opinion, food can be fun, delicious, flavorful and beautiful. You just need to add a little creativity to your kitchen creation.

Mixed greens with peaches, apples, carrots, tomatoes, green peppers, leeks, goat cheese, olive oil, granola, raisins and cottage cheese.

Karel is not much of a quinoa fan (or as I like to say "he hasn't yet learned to appreciate it yet") so I typically just add the quinoa to a stir fry to blend it all in.

One day I decided to "cook" the quinoa kinda like fried rice. I used 1/3 cup cooked quinoa w/ 1 tsp olive oil on medium heat in a skillet and tossed it around a little until it was coated. Every 3-4 minutes I used my spatula to keep it from burning by lightly tossing it around. I cooked it for around 8-12 minutes until it became crunchy with a nutty flavor.

Karel now loves quinoa...toasted. :) 


IM Lake Placid new swim start: Thoughts

Ironman Lake Placid (2013) was the first time Karel and I shared an Ironman event together...on the same course. Talk about an emotional day for us both, me competing in my 6th Ironman with Karel on the sidelines for 4 of them (IMFL, IMKY, IMWI, KONA) and now sharing the same course together for his very first 140.6 mile event. I can't believe it was almost a month ago!

My hubby is amazing in many ways and makes my life so much fun (even in the most stressful of times). But if there is one thing I can brag about Karel is that he is one hard worker. Not limited to athletics, instead of complaining about situations, he figures out how to survive with the best effort possible.  

I loved watching Karel in cycling races (cat 1) and always loved to hear about the race afterward for cycling is the type of sport where you never know how the race will turn out until ever rider crosses the finish line. 

Webster Roubaix was one of those races that I remember as a real suffer fest for Karel. Dirt covered roads for 112 miles and far from a casual conversational bike ride with sag stops. 

When Karel signed up for IM Lake Placid, he knew that he could push when running and that would make him a faster runner. It doesn't work for everyone that way but luckily for Karel, he adapted rather quickly and even surprised himself that he actually liked running training (and not just running for beer at the end...although, the beer is still welcomed to him anytime).

As for swimming, Karel continues to improve in the water but he knows he still has a ways to go to reach his goal of qualifying for Kona as it is a goal for both of us to compete on the big island together. Karel continues to work hard in the water for he is a hard worker who refuses to make excuses for things within his control.

When Karel signed up for Ironman Lake Placid, he was concerned about the mass start and not being able to find his rhythm in the water. For someone who just learned how to swim 13 months ago, this was always on Karel's mind for no matter how strong of a cyclist or runner he was and no matter how much he loves to suffer, push and hurt with training, swimming was of his #1 concern on race day ("just survive") for it is not yet comfortable for him to swim in open water around 2000+ people. I'm sure he is not alone. 

When Karel heard about the new rolling swim start, he was happy. It didn't ruin his first IM experience at all as he prepped for race day. If anything, it was a relief for him mentally. 
For myself, I have done 4 different types of swim starts (IMFL, Kona 2x, IMKY, IMWI) so I accept any challenge at the beginning of the Ironman.. Realizing that in a running race, self seeding (or corrals) allows runners of similar abilities to pace of each other, I gladly welcomed the idea of a new swim start at IM Lake Placid. Although many people did not like the new change, I don't see how a different start with the same distance covered is any different than standing among the masses with a group start, among athletes of varying finishing times. For if a race director is looking for a safe and fun race day experience, who are we as athletes to complain about a change without experiencing it first hand. 

Leading up to the race, as a coach and a wife to a soon-to-be first timer Ironman, it was important to me that my husband, who can suffer harder than anyone I know, was safe and comfortable in the water. 

As silly as it sounds for me to be concerned about my hubby and the 96% of other athletes in Lake Placid who were racing for a finishing line (and not a Kona slot), my only concern about this new swim start was not being able to know where my age group standing was throughout the race. I was fine to self seed and challenge myself among swimmers of a similar ability for I ended up with a PR swim and a 10 min PR for the day (and a Kona slot). The new swim start did not take away my enjoyment for the day and sharing the race course with my hubby and 2500 + athletes. 

I feel as a society, people love to waste energy on uncontrollables and love to voice their opinions when things change. Certainly, freedom of speech is welcomed and often brings good change but many times, it is the opinionated person who is unhappy that ends up putting thoughts in the heads of others and creates an all together negative situation/experience for many. 

I try to surround myself with people who give me energy and not take it away from me. That's why I stay away from forum-reading.

Looking back and thinking about a race/event situation that had me feeling worried before the start (yet still signing up for the challenge) was 6-gap in 2009. I love to climb but I am absolutely terrified of the descends in 6-gap. Hearing the horror stories of riders not being able to manage their bikes on the zig zag descends totally freaked me out but I welcomed the challenge with my some-what ok cycling skills. 

I can only imagine what it would be like if a race started at the top of a mountain and all athletes, of similar abilities started together in a mass start and had a time-cut to get down the mountain. I'm sure for many, myself included, would struggle with this start but somehow we'd all find a way to get to the bottom (hopefully safely) to receive our finisher medal and t-shirt. A race director can not stop athletes from racing based on skills but instead provide the best situation for every athlete to have a safe and fun experience. 

The Ironman is not for everyone but it is for the ordinary person who wants to do something extraordinary. It takes a lot of commitment, time and money and certainly a lot of training. I find that for many athletes, training is rushed and athletes need more than a year to prepare. As for Karel, since his body only allowed him to finish in 13th place at his first IM (10:03 - which is still amazing and he is happy), his goal is to qualify for Kona 2015 which means an entire year to work on his skills in the water and to learn how to be a smarter triathlete. For us, this is a lifestyle and not something that we need to rush or to take over our life (and disposable income). 

When I was contacted by Ironman to write about my experiences with the new Ironman Lake Placid swim start, I was excited to share my perspective as a coach and athlete. For my philosophy with life is to keep things balanced with diet and exercise and to live a quality filled life. 

I feel that in order to live a great life, we must spend our energy wisely. Just like I don't waste my energy discussing diet fads or trends or do give-a-ways or discuss products that I don't personally use or believe in, I felt that the best perspective I could offer to others with my article was to give others a better understanding of what the Ironman is all 600 words or less. 

When my article Ironman Lake Placid Swim Start  was shared on I re-read it to Karel and he loved it. We discussed the article when it was in the works and I really valued Karel's perspective as a first-timer. However, when article was posted on the Ironman facebook page, I read a mix of positive and negative comments. I was not surprised by any of the comments except for one which talked about my piece being a "PR piece for Ironman and that it is all about the money". 

My friend and editor Jennifer approached me with the piece by asking:

"What did you like? How was it different? How did it affect your overall race, and feeling about your performance? What are the benefits? Did it change your training?"

A few weeks after writing my 2.4 mile race report from Lake Placid, I gathered the thoughts in my head to be put on paper as to how I wanted to write this article. I was never forced by Ironman to say anything positive about the swim, just like Ironman does not force me or anyone to sign up for Iroman-branded events. I have had amazing experiences at every Ironman-branded event I have attended and because of Ironman (corporation), I get the opportunity to discover  new cities/states with my family and friends and even compete at the World Championship in Kona Hawaii! There aren't too many sports that have the opportunity for adults to compete at a national or world event. Thanks to USA triathlon and the largest growing sport (triathlons) many of us have the opportunity to dream big with a safe and fun venue to do it in (with amazing spectators, race directors and volunteers)

I did not have to write this blog today in reference to my recent article on Ironman Lake Placid Swim Start . As a writer on various websites and in magazines, I realize that no matter how I say something, there will always be happy and unhappy people with very strong opinions either way.

I hope that through my article and my blog, I can continue to inspire others to dream big, to not sweat the small stuff and to make the most of your days, months and years here on Earth.

Happy swimming and don't worry, be happy.

Looking forward to buckling-up for my 3rd Kona Mass swim start in October!


Proper fueling during workouts: TIP

Time for a TRIMARNI tip!

It's late afternoon and your body is asking for a snack.
Skip the diet coke or energy drink!

Isn't it amazing that a calorie free, chemically-filled beverage can make you feel "full" and can help with headaches/nausea when your blood sugar is low?

Kinda crazy how the food industry knows what you want and will find some way to put ingredients together in a factory in order to have it ready for you at the nearest grocery store or gas station. Too bad our media doesn't stress the importance of real food from farmers like it does for a 40+ billion dollar weight-focused industry. 

As for real food, no problem to honor your hunger. One of my tips for proper snacking is to never watch the clock. If you listen to your body after working really hard to create a balanced diet that leaves you satisfied and happy, you can get your body into a rhythm as to when it will be receiving meals and how to snack appropriately. Our society does a real good job of not eating when you are truly feeling a sense of hunger yet eating when you are truly full or not in the need of food. 

 But let's talk sport nutrition for any individual who is exercising over a 90 minutes (moderate intensity for health/calorie burning purposes) OR for any athlete training their body over an hour (aside from off-season).

The next time you find yourself working out without a sport drink, and not fueling your body during a 1+ hour workout, address your eating later in the day?

Do you find your hunger more intense as the week goes on as an effect of not fueling properly during workouts?
Do you find yourself not recovering well post workout? Maybe lingering fatigue?
Do you find yourself with fluctuating blood sugar, changes in mood, extreme hunger/cravings?

Here's my take on sport nutrition for the active individual who wants to respond favorably to training stress and to get stronger, faster and healthier (anyone not want this?)

If you are not giving your body energy when your body is under intentional physiological stress, ask yourself what's more valuable to your overall health and performance? 

1) Being sedentary (or fairly active) with a low resting HR throughout the day and "fueling" your body to continue doing minimal "work" with your body (or to pass the time because you are bored, stressed, emotional)
2) Moving your body with an elevated HR and "fueling" your body to maintain energy, postpone fatigue, stay alert/focused and to help with recovery and immune system health. 

When I work with athletes, my goal is to ensure that the athlete who is training for an event, is fueling properly for performance gains and to perfect race day nutrition.
When I work with athletes or fitness enthusiasts who are looking for a more balanced lifestyle or modifications in the diet, I focus on creating a good foundation diet so that when it comes to "training" nutrition, the ONLY thing that should be modified significantly should be the nutrition you consume before, during and after the workout to support the workout training stress. 

Every day offers an important time to fuel and nourish your body for your life depends on your ability to maintain a healthy metabolism and keep your immune system in good health. But because you do not have to run a marathon, do an IM or even run a 5K to be "healthy" consider the risks you take every time you push, challenge or force your body to perform during moderate to intense exercise?

I feel that with the rapid increase of endurance/multisport/running events, athletes are easy persuaded to train for an event but they have little to no idea as to how to fuel their body to support the new training load. From weight gain, to missed menstrual cycles (women), to rapid weight loss, brain fatigue/fog, low blood sugar, to muscle cramps, to a decrease in bone density to cardiac, muscle and brain issues. Why is it that so many athletes feel they don't "need" to fuel with some type of easy-to-digest/absorb, effective, safe sport nutrition during workouts? I feel that for many athletes, they consider these negative, yet health damaging, side effects as normal parts of training...but they are not and highly not encouraged when training for an event.

Swim, bike or run - if you want your body to perform and to adapt..... fuel it when it needs it the most. 
6am track, swim or bike workout. Your body needs fuel.
9pm. Your body probably doesn't need a bowl of ice cream, cookies or cereal. 

A well formulated, safe and effective sport drink will support your heart, brain and muscles by providing fluids, electrolytes and carbohydrates. Considering the complexity of the human body at rest, never overlook the value of fueling properly before, during and after your workouts and how it can significantly impact your health, eating and mood the rest of the day (and week and life). 

Need help? Contact a RD specializing in sport nutrition to figure out the best fueling strategy for your personal health, body composition and performance goals. 

Happy fueling!


Why you need a coach.

I'm 53 days away from my 7th Ironman and feeling fresh after finishing Ironman #6 just three weeks ago in Lake Placid. 

I value my health and I love my active lifestyle. I love setting goals and working hard for them. But I also know a lot about the human body and I do not try to push my body more than it is capable of handling in one season or one year. 

My immune system and bones are strong, my brain is sharp, I sleep great, I have a wonderful appetite and my energy is on a constant high level. I don't want these things to go away just because I am training for an Ironman. 

As a coach, I help a lot of individuals reach or move closer to their goals. One thing I have learned in my personal competitive sports history is recognizing that results do not happen quickly. Sure, you can take an athlete with great fitness and give them a structured plan and the body will likely adapt for great results. But then the athlete can only maintain that high for so long until she/he refuses to rest or slow down until injury or burnout occurs. As for the individual who is new to a sport or has a journey ahead in terms of improving fitness, what's the rush to be like others now when you can be who you aspire to be by working hard and being patient? 

Karel has guided me through my last few years of triathlon training and I continue to find myself improving throughout each season. I have learned a lot about myself, I have reached new levels with my fitness and I have overcome a lot of obstacles. As a coach to others, I also recognize that I also need a coach. 

As I aspire to reach my own goals with my career and races, I apply my skills, knowledge and experience to my daily choices to hopefully encourage optimal performances in my life. I can use a similar skill set and education to help others which I do so through my business. 

I was once told that athletes need coaches to tell them when to rest. Athletes love to train and if they are feeling crunched with an upcoming race, they likely will do more than is needed. Athletes doubt themselves, compare themselves to others, they don't trust themselves, they put too much pressure on themselves, they sweat the small stuff, they don't plan for the important things and they create unrealistic expectations. But on the flip side, athletes can strengthen their confidence, compete among those who are slightly better and trust themselves all while reaching new limits that were never once thought possible.....that is, if they have someone in their life who is able to provide clear, realistic and truthful feedback and genuine guidance to reach both short and long terms goals. 

I'm lucky in that I am married to my coach. I suppose we have a very long term coaching/athlete relationship. I question his motives at times and complain about silly things but I also thank him for seeing the bigger picture. In 2012 I had one of my best seasons by winning two races - Iron Girl Clearwater Half Marathon and Branson 70.3 all thanks to Karel's "long-term" plan. 

After finishing the 2011 Ironman World Championship Karel decided that after 3 Ironmans (2009, 2010, 2011), I needed a year break from Ironman's and to work on my speed. Now this was something that excited me but the thought of not doing an Ironman made me sad. I love the journey that the IM takes me on BUT I remembered the bigger picture of what my "coach" was wanting me to achieve. 

As someone who doesn't race a lot (Ironman Lake Placid was my only triathlon in a year and only race since last October) and enjoys the pressure of making races count after sticking to a periodized training plan, I want to be sure that my training allows me to be the best athlete I can be every season but also contributes to me being healthy enough to function well in life. .....for triathlons do not pay the bills. 

In 7 years of racing as an age group triathlete, alongside balancing continuing education (RD credential) and advancing my career/business, I maintain good health without sickness or setbacks. Sure, I get my hip/back issues that take me out of running but I am not forced to stop my life or the things that bring me happiness just like training for an Ironman. I have never been burnt out from triathlons and I have no stress fractures or broken bones to my name. I am not on any medications (even NSAIDs), I don't have a general physician (aside from OBGYN) to see in the case that I would get sick (for I haven't in the past 5-6 years). I feel all-around normal in society although I do admit that I my exercise routine is specific to performance and not to burning calories for health purposes. 

Regardless of your fitness status, your personal goals or lifestyle habits, it is likely that when the going gets tough or you feel a setback, you will give up and look for another option. I see this many times with diet fads/dieting and races. People love to move from one approach to another without figuring out the issue and dedicating themselves to another go around with a few tweaks in a similar approach.  

Having a coach allows you to better solve problems, to build better skills, to learn to recognize your weaknesses and strengths and to build confidence. A coach tells you what you need to change but also applauds what you are doing well. As a society, people love to be reactive. Always getting upset at the after math instead of being proactive and preventing mistakes from happening well before they happen. A coach allows an athlete to set him/herself up for success in an environment that bring success. 

And most importantly, a coach is not perfect and neither are you. Whether a coach is working on mental skills, nutrition or training, the coach understands that like anything in life, the more mistakes you make, the closer you get to figuring out what works by processes of elimination. Maybe you can't afford mistakes but a coach is an outside expert looking in and may reduce the number of mistakes that you could make alone, thus allowing you to achieve success sooner than if you try to dabble at things on your own. 

A coach sees things in you that you can not see. A coach only wants the best for you but they also know that the process can not be rushed. A coach may or may not be patient depending on his/her philosophy or approach, but in my experience, I know that patience does pay off and is a valuable skill for both individual and coach. 

Do you want to get results faster?
Do you want to stay motivated?
Do you want a long term plan instead of a quick fix?
Do you want to learn better life-long skills?
Do you want to prevent setbacks?
Do you want to reach a higher level of success?
Do you want someone to give you feedback on strengths and weaknesses?
Do you want to maintain balance in life?

What's the point of reaching your short and long term goals if you are not enjoying the process of becoming the best you can be? 

In our society, we have a lot of experts. Many have long lists of credentials with years of experience and others are passionate human beings who relate well to others. When it comes to looking for the right coach for you, the person with 15 credentials may be no better than the one who is compassionate and can identify with what you are feeling. 

So, if you were diagnosed with cancer, I'd like to think that you'd seek out the best oncologist available to help you with your disease and not google info on the internet to try to solve your issues all alone. As a Clinical RD, I see new diagnosis of cancer patients very frequently and I know that those who are willing to fight want a good team to keep them going. 

So what makes you an expert to train yourself for a triathlon, lose weight from January 1st to January 31st and maintain that lifestyle for the next 10 years, manage the negative thoughts in your head that occur during stressful and anxious situations and figure out the best strategy for managing life?

Because we are not stubborn when it comes to using professionals (and the best ones out there) for issues involving our health, why would you consider consulting forums, the internet and books to solve your personal struggles, concerns, questions and issues in life when it comes to reaching your personal goals. If you have personal goals, there is someone out there, whether it is a RD, career mentor, MD, life coach, psychologist, exercise physiologist or certified athletic coach (triathlete/runner) to help you reach your goals.

Whether you are changing careers, wanting to cross a finish line or change your diet/body composition, you don't have to do it alone. Just like the cancer specialist who is passionate about researching treatments options to help the person with a rare cancer, there is a coach out there for you that is educated and excited to help you reach your goals. 

As I finish this blog, I want to conclude that there are many great coaches out there in all areas of life. Do your research and find one that works for you. Many people out there, like myself, studied a subject/area specifically through education (and ongoing education) to better understand it and to better serve the public as a "specialist" in a certain area. Also, there are many great coaches out there with loads of experience and will be just fine to meet your personal needs as well. 

The idea is to find a coach that really cares about you on a professional and personal level. Work with someone that believes in you, that you can trust and communicate well with all day, any day. And most importantly, remember that having a coach is a long term investment. Do not expect someone to have magical powers and solve every concern you have in a few months. The best results are made in years. However, to keep you motivated, remember that the transformation happens daily and is noticeable over time. 

True success is found by people who refuse to give up no matter what comes in their way. Successful people have setbacks but they always find a way to  make progress. Because goals aren't achieved by doing everything quickly or doing nothing yesterday, enjoy your life and be sure you have someone special to enjoy it with you.