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!)


Less comparison, more compassion

Comparison stings. 
Compassion motivates you to go out of your way to help others. 

Comparison negatively affects your confidence and self worth.
Compassion focuses on others instead of yourself, trying to understand another person's perspective. 

If you find yourself in a daily competition with people who make you feel inadequate, direct your energy elsewhere and start caring about the things and people in life that give you a bigger meaning and purpose. 

There are far too many people in this world who experience sadness, stress, pain, disappointments, insecurities, anxiety or depression on a daily basis, which is far from the picture-perfect life that is often depicted on social media.

Compassion helps us recognize the good in people and reminds us that we all want to be loved, safe, healthy and happy. Be mindful of where you spend your energy.

With less comparison and more compassion, you will put yourself into a world where there is less judgement and more acceptance. Although many people are taught to put other people first, the best source of compassion can be found from within. When you are kind to yourself, you can be more compassionate to others.


Fudgy Black Bean Brownies

It's difficult to put "healthy" and "dessert" into one category.  For me, if I am going to indulge, I don't need the item to be classified as "healthy" as I want all of the real goodness that comes in an indulging homemade treat. The idea of a healthy brownie is a bit of a paradox but I suppose there is a bit of a nutritional boost when you add black beans to a brownie recipe. 

Black beans are an excellent source of fiber, folate, iron and magnesium, while also providing a good amount of protein per serving. They also contain high concentrations of anthocyanins, which give foods a dark color and a heart-healthy benefit, like acting as an anti-inflammatory.

I was scrolling through an old recipe from the 2013 September/October issue of Food and Nutrition magazine and I came across a Fudgy Black Bean Brownie recipe on pg 19. I was craving a treat so I gathered all the necessary ingredients and went to my kitchen to start baking. Enjoy!

If you are hesitate about the added black bean ingredient, give this recipe a go as I promise that you won't taste the beans! 

Fudgy Black Bean BrowniesRecipe developed by for the Bean Institute as featured in Food and Nutrition magazine, 2013 Sept/October issue. 

1 x 15- ounce can black beans, drained and rinsed
3 large eggs
3 tbsp canola oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp peppermint extract (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, divided

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil or coat an 8 x 8-inch baking pan or dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. 
  2. Place the black beans in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. 
  3. Add the eggs, oil sugar, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, baking powder, salt and optional peppermint extract. Process until smooth
    Note: I mixed step 3 ingredients in a large bowl and then added the black bean puree to the large bowl. 
  4. Add 1/4 cup of the chips and pulse a few times until the chips are incorporated. 
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top with a rubber spatula and sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup chocolate chips.
    Note: I did not have mini chocolate chips so I chopped large dark chocolate chips and sprinkled them in the mixture. 
  6. Bake 30-35 minutes or until the edges start to pull away from the sides of the pan and a toothpick inserted int the center comes out clean. 
  7. Cool in the pan before slicing into 2-inch squares. Serves 16. 


Weekend recap - snow and training

We are very lucky that we live in a southern city that provides us with all four seasons throughout the year. But even better, we can train outside year round. However, once or twice a year we get a beautiful snowfall in Greenville, SC. which forces us to train inside.

On Friday late morning, after our morning swim and strength session, we were shocked to see the rain turn into fluffy white snowflakes. We had over 24 hours of constant snow falling from the sky and it was absolutely beautiful. Although I was loving the change of scenery in our tree-filled backyard, Campy was not impressed as he is not a fan of anything cold and wet. I suppose when you are a 12-lb dog and live in a world where you can never be too warm or have too many blankets on top of you, there's nothing fun about voluntarily stepping outside, onto the cold, wet ground.

As for training, it was a nice change to spend two hours on my Tacx trainer with an hour of very specific variable cadence work. The main set was very mentally taxing but I found my legs getting super fatigued toward the end of the workout. It was a good type of hurt, which was then followed by a 25 minute run on the treadmill with a few 30 sec fast strides to open up the gait. In the evening, I had another run (well, power walk) on the treadmill for 45 minutes. This workout started with a 10 minute EZ jog and then I put on my 20-lb weight vest for a 34 minute interval main set of walking at a 15% incline. That workout had my legs shaking by the end but it felt so good to run for 5 minutes without the weight vest and at 0% incline.

At least I had a nice view from my workout room.

In the evening we watched the NBC coverage of the Ironman World Championship, which was incredible and super inspiring. Karel had a RETUL bike fit on Sat (and then again on Sunday) so we recorded the show for the evening.  Although I am still happy with my decision to turn down my Kona slot after winning my age group (and overall female amateur) at Ironman Chattanooga, I do believe that the Big Island of Kona is magical and I can't wait to return in October to watch Karel compete in his 3rd IM Kona.

On Sunday morning I opted to run outside, even though my workout would have been perfect for the treadmill. The sky was sunny and the snow had melted on the roads so it was safe enough to workout outside, even though the temperature was a tad cold (low 30's). I really enjoyed my long run which totaled almost 11 miles. The miles ticked away very quickly as the main set was a speed play set with different efforts throughout a 19-minute main set. This required me to really stay in-tune with my body which kept me engaged and present. I performed the main set twice and finished the workout with 2 x ~10 minute steady efforts. It was tough to get my legs moving again after the MS but it forced me to focus on my form (over pace) while running on tired legs (we call this fatigue based running form or FBRF).

One of my favorite quotes says "You can't get much done if you only work on the days when you feel good" by Jerry West. I think this saying holds true for the weather that you can't just train on the days when the weather is too your liking. I'm not one to complain about the weather. Good or bad, I love to move and use my body as it does as much for me physically as it does mentally and emotionally. And if weather is not ideal outside, I have no trouble working out indoors. I always remind myself how lucky I am to do what I can do with my body and there are many people in this world who do not have the freedom or opportunity to workout on a daily basis.