Essential Sports Nutrition


Embracing the workouts that scare me.

Ask me to train at an aerobic effort for several hours and I will gladly say yes please. My body was  trained/built for endurance and I love going the distance.

As for intense workouts, they scare the heck out of me! Sprint - no thank you!

Whenever my heart beats out of my chest, I can hardly catch my breath and my body aches, I feel so incredibly uncomfortable, my first thought is to lower the intensity or just give up. There have been countless times when I was training with Karel and I tell him "I can't do this, I need to give up" (or think those things in a race) and by simply saying this outside, I immediately call myself out on my negative thinking and stay persistent until I finish what I started.

I have learned that if you want to excel in something, you have to step outside of your comfort zone and do the things that you are not good at (or what scares you). Nothing great will come from always doing what you are great at.

As it relates to training/working out, there should be workouts that intimidate you based on the distance, effort, reps or sets.

After 11 years of endurance triathlon racing, preceded by 10 years of competitive swimming, my endurance capacity is quite large and thus, I don't need to keep training my aerobic engine. Instead, I have to train my weak areas. Karel (who coaches me) knows all too well how uncomfortable I get whenever I am asked to do anything intense but it's an area that I need to embrace in order to become a more well-rounded endurance triathlete.

Earlier this week I was given a trainer bike workout that I despise - Russian Sprints. There's nothing fun about this workout. It looks so innocent on paper but this 11-minute main set is cruel and torturous. Karel used to do Russian Sprints quite often when he was "only" a cyclist as it helped him in his crit-racing days and for his road races.

10 sec ON, 50 sec OFF
20 sec on, 40 sec off
30 sec on, 30 sec off
40 sec on, 20 sec off (this is where it starts to hurt)
50 sec on, 10 sec off (oh the pain)
60 sec on, 10 sec off (I want to quit triathlon)
50 sec on, 20 sec off (it still hurts, make it stop)
40 sec on, 30 sec off (I didn't die - yippee)
30 sec on, 40 sec off (who knew 40 sec rest would feel long)
20 sec on, 50 sec off (you can do this)
10 sec on (thank goodness)

The ON is fast cadence with a lot of power per pedal stroke. All seated and in the aero bars.
The OFF is EZ spin, choice cadence.
I have the Tacx trainer and I use the Rouvy app (set on free workout) and adjust the grade/slope throughout the workout.

Thankfully, this time around I only had to do one round of the MS and I survived. I was fearful of this workout ever since I saw it on my training plan for the week but I embraced being uncomfortable and welcomed the opportunity to improve.

Although sprinting is not a strength of mine, I find it important to not lose sight of your strengths as you work on your weaknesses. For example, I often tell myself that as an endurance athlete, I am great at suffering through pain and I have great mental focus and strength. Anytime you are working on your weak areas, don't lose sight of your strengths as this can help you avoid the tendency to give up when you recognize that you are not good at something new.

Then, on Thursday morning, I embraced hill repeaters. Hill running = yes please! Sprints = um, can I pass on that?

I was so glad that Karel joined me for our hill repeater workout as it is much more fun to suffer in company than alone.

After a 20 minute warm-up on the rolling hills outside of our neighborhood, we made our way to the long steep hill behind our neighborhood for our main set.

MS: 2 rounds of 8 x 30 sec strong hill running w/ 80-90 sec rest between
3-5 min EZ jog/walk between the rounds.

Karel reminded me that a workout is only as hard as you make it and I kept this in mind during my warm-up so that I didn't run with negative thoughts in my head before the main set. To help me get through this set, I only focused on one interval at a time and never let my mind wander ahead as to how many I had left. I tried to keep my mind as present as possible, which meant not thinking about my packed to-do list for the day. I also reminded myself that it will feel so great when the workout is complete. It was rewarding to see Karel suffer and it kept me going. In some weird way, I had a lot of fun during the workout as I felt strong and resilient and of course, very grateful that I could push my body to new limits (even though the last 10 sec of each interval hurt so bad).

Many athletes are afraid of the unknown but more so, afraid to fail.  Growth occurs outside of the comfort zone and it's better to try and fail instead of hope and wonder. When you continually stretch your comfort zone, you learn so much about yourself and your capabilities. While it does you no good to be anxious and stressed when trying something new or uncomfortable, I encourage you to accept the workouts that scare you and give them a go. There's a good chance that you will surprise yourself in doing something that you didn't think you could do. And if you do fail or feel uncomfortable, give yourself a big high five for trying. As long as you don't give up, what was once your biggest fear will soon become your biggest strength.

(I'm not sure I will ever find enjoyment from Russian Sprints!)