9/18/15

Workout motivation - when the mind says go but the body says no


We all know that it's hard to regret working out after the workout is over.
The hard part is always getting started. 

Many times, we are told by others that we just need a little motivation to get started. But what if motivation isn't the issue? Is it possible to be highly motivated to workout but your body is not interested in the activity at the same time? 

 I can assure you that there were many times in the past when I would see a PM run on my schedule, and my mind was "all in" but my body was not interested.
Consequently, this would result in two situations; either me skipping the workout all together or me trying to execute with a body that was not energized (which often left me with frustration during my workout followed by uncomfortable niggles post workout). 

For me, running in the evening (as a second workout for the day) was always tough on my body. The stress on my body from sitting all day combined with the weight-bearing activity of running was not welcomed by my hips, glutes, lower back and legs. I have no trouble working out twice a day and love an evening bike ride or swim but for the longest time, I couldn't develop the same energy for running in the evening like I feel when I run in the morning. 

I'm a firm believer that we should love what we do when it comes to physical activity. If I didn't like running, I wouldn't be a triathlete. But just because I don't love running in the evening, this doesn't mean that I am setting myself up for failure as a triathlete - I can simply plan my training accordingly and put all my energy into running in the mornings. 

But over this past year, I have welcomed the opportunity to run in the evening....well, I kinda had to because almost every week this entire summer, from Tues-Thurs, and then once on the weekend, I had two workouts on my schedule (AM and PM).
Although I can certainly choose when I do my workouts, I would often have a planned evening run workout on my training plan. 

All of my evening runs are designed to be very low stress and intentionally very slow. Sometimes an evening run would come on the same day as a morning run or brick and some days I would swim or bike in the morning and run EZ in the afternoon. I typically do no more than 2 evening runs per week (and not every week) but I have learned to set myself up for a quality evening run. Even if a workout is designed to be slow, there is still a purpose and it is imperative that the body performs with good form throughout the workout. 

Maybe you struggle with evening workouts or you have trouble getting started in the morning. Maybe you are simply trying to make exercising part of your lifestyle. 

Whatever the case may be, I promise (from my own experience) that with a little effort, you can set yourself up for a great workout - no matter what time of the day. 

A proper warm-up
I will always spend up to 15 minutes warming up my body with dynamic exercises before a run. A proper warm-up includes mobility exercises as well as movements that increase the HR and blood flow. Many times, I will perform a 15-20 minute strength session of core, glute and hip exercises before any run workout just to help wake-up my body.
This is one area that time-crunched athletes often neglect  - warming up before the warm-up. Not only will a proper warm-up help reduce risk for injury, but it also helps to loosen up the body when you feel stiff and can make for an easier transition from your "real" cardio warm-up before your main set. 
I suggest to dedicate 5-10 min of mobility work and dynamic exercises before all workouts to help your body warm-up. It's amazing how much better you will feel after the warm-up is finished. And the more tired you feel before a workout, consider adding a little more time to warming up the body.  

Music
Whether you can tune-out thoughts with a podcast or pump yourself up with the beats of techno, hip hop or alternative, there is research to support that music can affect motivation and mood. Next time you are feeling tired, consider turning up the radio or spending a little time before your workout to pump yourself up with music.
The simulating effects of music also help with controlling anger, minimizing depressive thoughts and helping to fight fatigue. 
Although I never listen to music when I bike or swim, I prefer podcasts for my evening runs and techno music for my morning runs. And I always have my music jamming on the way to the pool.

A good state of mind
Many times we can bring too high of expectations to a workout which can cause us to loose joy for the simple act of working out. Although it's normal to have anticipations about a workout, especially if it's with a group, in an unfamiliar environment or if the main set looks challenging on paper, but don't allow yourself to get overwhelmed by the perceived paces, watts or speeds that you are told to focus on (or think you should be able to hit), especially when you are feeling a little tired, fatigued or just off. 
Remember that performance gains come through consistency and even the most fit and accomplished athletes have to modify a workout every now and then. I've modified many workouts this summer based on how I felt and it's only helped me train harder.

If we get too focused on the outcome, we can often lose the ability to adjust to allow for a smooth fitness progression. Without this ability, not only can you find yourself lacking self-esteem before a workout even starts but you may find yourself pushing too hard for one epic workout yet, unable to recover or repeat that effort.
I suggest to look at your workout and then ask yourself "what is the best way for me to execute this workout on this day" and consider things like your mood, sleep, stress, diet, fatigue, weather, terrain, training environment, hormones and anything else that may positively or negatively affect your workout. 

Diet
It seems quite obvious but you have the ability to set yourself up for a great workout simply by focusing on the food that will help fuel your upcoming workout. Whereas on one hand you want to be mindful of foods, like fiber and fat (and any other chemically-made products with artificial ingredients - that shouldn't be consumed regularly in the diet anyways) as well as large portions that may disrupt normal digestion in the 2-4 hours before your workout but it's not just about what you eat but also what you don't eat.
Not eating enough or timing your snacks and meals appropriately with a morning or evening workout can also put your body at a physical disadvantage with energy levels remaining low alongside dropping blood sugar and possible dehydration to combat as you try to push your body.
To help you out, don't start your day without thinking about your planned workouts and what you will eat in the hours before the workout, what sport nutrition you will consume during the workout and what you will recover with post workout. If you do this often, you will likely find yourself boosting fitness and who doesn't want this?

Of course, there are also things like working out with a buddy, changing up your workout environment and making sure that you understand the purpose of the workout (instead of just chasing miles/time) to help set you up for a better workout experience. 

So next time you struggle with motivation because your body is not excited to workout (but your mind is ready), start with a warm-up, pump-yourself up with music, keep a positive mindset and make sure your diet is helping you maximize your fitness. 

Soon enough, you will find yourself with a body that is ready for whatever workout you throw at it.
And like usual, when the endorphin's start rushing, you will feel amazing and you likely won't regret the workout when it's over. 




9/16/15

The emotional athlete


It's hard to believe that just over 1 year ago, Karel and I qualified for the 2015 IM World Championship. And in two weeks from yesterday, Karel and I will be boarding a plan to the big island of Kona. And in 24 days, we will both be starting our 140.6 mile journey with 1500+ of the best Ironman athletes around the world. 

Just like you, we are on the same emotional roller coaster that so many experience when training for a key race. With any race day countdown in place, the ups and downs of training for an event can leave you exhausted and drained on some days and excited and overly energized on other days. 

No matter what the race distance may be or your fitness level, we all struggle with the dynamics of our emotions on a day to day basis.
Before you scream "why me?" when you find yourself angry, crying or stressed (or all three at once), what you feel is completely normal and not limited to world class, professional or elite athletes.
Every athlete has the opportunity to improve on weaknesses, experience gains in fitness and succeed on race day, so it is important to learn how to get your feelings under control.  

TRAINING MOTIVATION

                 It's truly remarkable how motivation can swing like a pendulum in any given week, day or even in an hour.
12 weeks out from a race and you may find yourself skipping workouts, not sticking to your training plan or struggling to get your butt out of bed in the morning (or get to the gym after work).  But 4 weeks out from your race, you realize that you can not change the past and all of a sudden, you feel unstoppable and it's no trouble to easily check off every workout on your training plan.
Monday through Friday, you can't seem to find your mojobut come the weekend, you can knock out hours and hours of training and still crave more.
And ask any triathlete who spectates or watches a triathlon race online (especially Kona) and within 24 hours, you can go from having no motivation to finding an enormous amount of energy to do the work....even when you haven't changed anything else in your life (ex. you are still busy, tired, stressed, etc.).

                 Motivation is the driving force for effort and with effort comes accomplishment. When you feel accomplished, you are more driven to continue to stay motivated to train. To perform your best and reach your goals, you must find ways to keep yourself motivated and be willing to go out of your way, sometimes, to get the work done. To help you out, dedicate 5 minutes before every training session to ask yourself the following: "What are my goals, why am I working so hard, why do I love to do this, how can I clear my brain right now to focus on my workout, why is this so important to me, how can I make this workout fun?
                  It is important that you allow yourself to manage the emotions that may cause you to struggle with motivation before workouts and to keep your thoughts positive during a workout so that you do not find excuses especially when the going gets tough. 


NUTRITION
                In my line of work, I work with a lot of athletes who struggle with the emotions tied to their body image. And, I also work with a lot of athletes who are performance-focused and want to learn how to eat for fuel and for health to maximize performance.
The immediate vulnerability that an athlete experiences before, during and after training often causes an athlete to intentionally underfuel or to use food as a reward. The big problem with this is that the times when the body is under the most stress (training/working out) is when the body needs appropriate nutrients, fluids, calories and fuel to meet metabolic demands. But for an athlete who has a poor relationship with his/her body, seeks body composition changes or lacks the education on how to properly fuel for workouts, will sabotage the workout and health by not taking advantage of fueling the body in motion.
On the flip side, there is often the tendency for athletes to carry poor eating habits in their daily life while training for an event which often creates negative internal dialogue, creating an unhealthy relationship with food. Examples include "
I shouldn't be eating this, I'll be better tomorrow, I wish I didn't eat that, I feel so gross/fat, I'm being so bad". In this instance, you absolutely do not want to let emotional eating sabotage your performance, energy, health or body composition.
               Every athlete has the ability to put great passion into their daily eating habits where eating is not strict, an obsession, forced or boring. To ensure that you keep a good relationship with food, plan ahead. Plan, plan, plan! Just like with a well designed training plan, you can feel more balanced and more in control of your choices, when you set yourself up for good behaviors. 


INJURY

               Talk about an emotional roller coaster!
An injured athlete often goes through several stages to cope with the injury diagnosis, rehab and recovery process that often resembles grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. Depending on what stage an athlete is in after the injury occurs, this can often dictate how the athlete will manage his/her emotions relating to the injury and recovery process.

              To ensure that you do not make further damage by pushing through pain if you are denial or angry at the injury or while feeling down in the dumps you decide that the rehab, therapy and cross training routine is just not worth it, find an athlete who has proven that an injury doesn't have to be the end of your triathlon career and then keep them in the front of your mind as you manage your emotions and trust yourself that you will heal. Linsey Corbin, Jesse Thomas, Craig Alexander, Meredith Kessler, Janelle Morrison are among the many professional triathletes who have all proven that it is possible to be at the bottom with your fitness with an injury but with hard work, focus and determination, rise to the top again. 

EMOTIONS

Did you know that you can be nervous and confident at the same time?
Did you know that you feel ready and be worried at the same time?
Did you know that you can feel off but still perform well?

You may think that the training is tough leading up to a race but sports also test your emotional stability.
Feelings and actions are two different things and as athletes, we need to learn how to calm the feelings that may negatively affect our performance and instead, hold on to the feelings that help us enhance our performance.
Emotions are part of being an athlete and it is important that you learn how to embrace the nerves, anxieties, fears and concerns and bottle up the good vibes, confidence and excitement for seeing what your body can do on race day. 

I often view racing as the end of a chapter of life. We all have a "book of life" and we fill our life with many chapters. Every chapter is filled with emotions - lots of them! Some chapters are not so fun and we don't want to remember them but then there are chapters where it is exhilarating to write the pages of our life because no one can write them for you - only you! 
Training is fun and exciting but also it is challenging and exhausting.
With every training journey, you are in a chapter of your life. 
Make it a good one!

9/15/15

Daily eats - food is fuel!

 No surprise.
Food is a BIG part of our life right now.
With so much sport nutrition being consumed during workouts, every meal is focused on nourishing our body with real food. 
Here are a few of my daily eats today....



With two workouts on the training plan today (70 min AM run - strong up hills, everything else steady. 4200 PM swim. MS 12 x 200's desc 1-3), I find no trouble in consuming nutrition before my workouts. Never do I train without a pre-workout snack.
Pre workout nutrition made simple for your busy life and your gut. 

Choose your low residue carbohydrate base (from left to right: pita, wasa, banana, saltines, rice cake) and then dress it up with additional carbs from syrup, honey, raisins or dates. For longer workouts or more time to digest, add a little nut butter or cream cheese. 

This works great for early morning workouts as well as evening workouts. 



I'm not big on food rules but you owe it to your health to eat a salad a day.
I love my lunchtime salad. The crunch, texture and variety in a salad does the body good, half way through the day.
Be creative with your salads. A plant strong meal should be nourishing and satisfying with a balance of colorful veggies, healthy fats, animal or plant proteins and a starch or grain.

This salad contained a mix of couscous, quinoa, corn, chickpeas and onions on top mixed dark leafy greens, tomatoes and avocado.
Sometimes I get a wee bit excited with my ingredients when I make my salads. 



And for dinner this evening - an overflowing "breakfast" pita. 
First I sauteed leeks, cooked split peas (leftover from last  night), garlic and sliced baby tomatoes in a pan and then added scrambled eggs (2 whole eggs + 3 egg whites - Karel had this dish too so we split this portion) and topped with cheese. I scrambled it all in the pan with olive oil and then stuffed my pita. 

No matter what level athlete you are, I invite you to see food for fuel.
The better you eat, the greater the chance that you have that your body will stay in good health. And with a body in good health, the better and more consistently you can train. 







9/14/15

2016 Trimarni coaching - apply now!!



-Do you have a big racing goal for 2016? 
-Do you have a long distance race on your schedule for next season but feel you need some guidance? 
-Are you looking to be part of a team that you can socialize with at key races and camps?
-Are you training for a triathlon race next season and are looking for two experienced coaches to help you take your fitness to the next level? 
-Are you seeking a better understanding of nutrition, sport nutrition, training, performance, recovery, cycling skills and the ability to train smarter to train harder and perform better on race day when it comes to working with a coach and being part of a triathlon team?

If you said YES to any of the above, you can now apply to be part of the 2016 Trimarni Team.
We realize that no two athletes are alike. We all have different health and fitness goals, we live different lifestyles and we all come from different athletic backgrounds.
Some athletes work more than others to pay the bills and some have more to balance on their daily plate. For some, your triathlon lifestyle is your life and for others, you are passionate about triathlons but it's just part of your lifestyle.
Above all, we believe in a TEAM structure with our coaching in that every athlete supports one another. But, as coaches, we treat every one of our coaching athletes as individuals, each with a personalized training plan.  It is our goal to help you train smart so that by race day, you have the skills, fitness and mental strength to execute with a healthy and well-fueled body.  We never want you to feel as if training takes over your life but instead, it is part of your lifestyle.
As 2015 Ironman World Championship qualifiers, we understand what is required to be in the best shape possible by race day and to be able to execute with a healthy body on race day. No matter what level athlete you are, we want to be part of your training and racing journey!


 IF YOU ARE INTERESTED IN BEING PART OF THE 2016 TRIMARNI COACHING TEAM, APPLY BEFORE OCTOBER 16TH. YOU WILL RECEIVE AN EMAIL AFTER YOUR APPLICATION IS RECEIVED TO CONFIRM YOUR APPLICATION. 
THE 2016 TRIMARNI TEAM WILL BE ANNOUNCED BY NOVEMBER 2ND.

9/13/15

4 weeks til Kona: Dialing in the sport nutrition



This weekend concluded a big volume week of training.
What a great feeling to have this past week behind me and what a better feeling to know that my body was able to execute during every workout. 


Saturday: 
5 hour/85 miles with over 8000 feet of climbing - all at Ironman effort
Followed by a 6 mile run

Nutrition consumed during bike:
4.5 bottles (slightly short of what I wanted) each with 280 calories
Additional calories consumed from wafer (170 calories)  and shot blocks (100 calories)
Total consumed: 1530 calories and 108 ounce fluid (~2400 mg sodium)

Nutrition consumed during run:
2 x 10 ounce flasks each with 80 calories Clif Hydration
Total consumed: 20 ounce fluid + 160 calories

Sunday: 
1:50, 13.2 mile run (2000 feet of climbing)
2 x 10 ounce flasks each with 80 calories of Clif Hydration
Refill 1 x 10 ounce flask with 80 calories + 1 flask water
Total consumed: 40 ounce fluid + 240 calories

More important to me than using these two workouts to get obsessed about certain paces, speeds or watts to validate my fitness or to determine my race day efforts , I went into this weekend with a realistic mind that my body is holding on to residual training fatigue and I am only one week away from when the magic happens during my 2-week taper. 

Therefore, my only goal was to execute to the best of my ability and to be hyper-aware of everything that was going on with my body and mind. 

Karel and I both did our own workouts this weekend so I had a total of almost 8 hours with my body to think about things like how many times I had to stop and pee during my workout, my weight before and after my workouts, when I experienced low's in my workout (and when those low's turned into highs), when I would find myself experiencing self-doubt and how my nutrition was working to my advantage. 

With very little change in my sport nutrition fueling regime (before/during/after) this season, I took extra measures to record everything that I ate and drink, how much, my weight before and after each workout and any other factors that would contribute to dialing in my fueling strategy for Kona.
Although the weather was much less warm this past weekend in Greenville, with the high in the upper 70's during my brick on Saturday and in the 60's during my run, I did not deviate from my planned sport nutrition regime as I wanted to simulate race day as much as possible. 

One of the most common mistakes that I find that Ironman athletes make in their final Ironman training is getting too obsessed with metrics and forgeting about dialing in the little things like mental strength, nutrition and listening to the body. Many times, athletes just try to "get through" workouts and don't even address pacing, let alone nutrition.

With so many "long" training sessions in training when training for an Ironman and a well-timed/executed taper to catapult fitness,  it's a given that all Ironman athletes should use every training session to practice, practice and practice. Every training session is useful even if you don't hit your watts or paces!

I understand that there is fear and excitement for gaining fitness and endurance but we should save our best performance for race day with the confidence that we can get through any obstacle that comes our way - which in 70.3 and 140.6 miles - there will be obstacles!

Regardless if I am training for an Ironman or an Ironman World Championship, I want to be as strategic, timely and flexible as possible with my sport nutrition. I used "engineered" sport nutrition products when I train to meet my energy, fluid and electrolyte needs and I focus on a healthy, balanced, wholesome, real-food and varied diet when I am not training to help keep my body in good health. With every long workout, I try to find-tune my nutrition for my upcoming key event.
In 4 weeks, I will be racing my 4th Ironman World Championship. My body is healthy and fit and I owe it all to focusing on the little things and constantly dialing things in to ensure performance gains as often as possible. 

140.6 miles is a very long way for the body to go and throw in the Kona elements like gusty strong winds and uncomfortably high heat and humidity alongside the best qualified Ironman athletes in the world, I don't need to be second guessing my nutrition on race day or figuring things out on the fly. 

If you want to dial in your nutrition, here are a few of my suggestions:

-Whatever you plan to eat the morning of the race and night before the race, try it out in training. Similar foods and a modified quantity. 

-Weigh yourself before and after workouts to better understand your sweat rate. It's very easy to calculate your sweat rate but there are some limiters in that it doesn't account for urine volume, urine specific gravity, sodium content in sweat and being applicable to all racing situations for all types of athletes. 

-Address how you perform and feel during your workout. Calorie, electrolyte and fluid consumption can be constantly tweaked when an athlete addresses things like lightheadedness, how often you pee during a workout, extreme fatigue, headache, GI distress during workouts, GI distress post workout, high sweat rate, not sweating a lot (or enough), etc. 

-Focus on your recovery. Feeling overly sleepy, lethargic, moody or weak can often relate to inadequate fueling/hydrating before, during and after a workout. 

-Consider your race venue logistics and lodging when it comes to pre race and race day nutrition. Don't make it super complicated at home and then try to simplify on race day.

-Allow yourself up to 6 weeks to use similar products in similar workouts to train your gut and to build tolerance of sport nutrition products. Consider whether you will bring your own nutrition to the race or use what is on the course when it comes to training your gut and fueling in your training sessions. 

-Don't let body image be your guiding force when it comes to fueling during workouts. An obsession with body image often creates an unhealthy relationship with sport nutrition and fueling your body during training. Every workout that you underfuel is a missed opportunity to boost performance. And underfueled body is also at risk for illness and hormonal problems. 

-Feel off or don't know what you can change/tweak with your sport nutrition? Consult a sport RD who can take the guessing away so that you can focus on your training with your well-fueled body.