Essential Sports Nutrition


Any idea of how good you are suppose to feel?

Campy just had his yearly "senior" check-up yesterday. I'm proud to say that Campy is in great health. He is a strong 11 lbs, 4 ounces and even at the age of eleven, he still plays like he is a puppy. He is full of endless energy and still has a very strong personality. While he loves to sleep (a lot), he won't pass up the opportunity to take a long walk (or hike), go on a road trip or sprint in the backyard.

Notice the left paw death grip around my neck. This is how much Campy loathes the vet. 

As a furry parent, Campy's health is really important to me. I want to make sure that I do everything possible to give him the best life possible. Whether you are a furry parent, human parent or caregiver, there's a good chance that you are use to taking care of everyone......but you may often neglect yourself.

If you are tired of being tired, listen up. Life is short and you need to take the time to take care of yourself.

Most people have no idea how good their body is suppose to feel. Far too many people "put up" with health issues, pains, aches, and uncomfortable bodily functions, only to consider these things as the norm. For athletes, many believe that feeling chronically exhausted, run down and sore is an acceptable state of being. For those who aren't taking action and potentially adding training stress on top of a potentially significant underlying health issue, I'm here to say that you have no idea what it's like to be in good health.

When you are in good health, you should not need a copious amount of caffeine to survive the day. Your mind should not be foggy, you shouldn't feel dizzy or lightheaded and you shouldn't find yourself needing to nap periodically throughout the day. Anti-inflammatories should not be consumed like candy. You should be able to easily fall asleep and stay asleep. Your appetite to flow from feeling slightly hungry to comfortably satisfied - never feeling starved or too full. It's normal for your energy to ebb and flow, but without extreme dips and dives throughout the day.

When you are in good health, you make the effort for health-promoting lifestyle, nutrition and sleep practices. Achieving a healthy weight may require a little bit of extra effort but maintaining a healthy weight should be supported by the healthy lifestyle choices that you acquired during your weight change journey. One should never feel "too busy" to make the time to take care of your health. It shouldn't feel like a chore to take care of your health.

When you are in good health, you feel comfortable in your skin and don't bash your body or the way that you look. You thank your body for what it allows you to do.

When you are in good health, you recognize that your mental health is just as important as your physical health. If you have extreme changes in your emotions, you want to withdrawal from society, activities you once enjoyed are no longer fun, you engage in unhealthy behaviors, you use alcohol or drugs to cope with uncomfortable feelings, you have lost a desire for your own health (and self-care), you feel overwhelmed in life or a sense of hopelessness, reach out for help. This is not how you have to live. Help is available.

To get in good health, you have to take action. Get blood work. Get regular check-ups. Consult with a specialist when you have a concern about your health. Talk to someone when you don't feel right - mentally, physically and emotionally. Don't make healthy eating complicated, stressful, confusing or overwhelming. Don't skimp on sleep. Manage your stress. Commit to consistent restful sleep. Exercise daily. If you are an athlete, make sure you are training in a way so that exercise has a purpose and focus. Get rid of energy suckers in your life, especially on social media. If someone doesn't make you feel good about yourself, don't allow that person in your "network."

If you've been putting it off, it's time to take action. Now is a great time to start working on yourself, so you can finally experience how great your body can actually feel.


It's time to get excited about strength training

I have a long history with strength training. I think back to my early years of competitive swimming when was around 12 yrs of age, in the gym (supervised by our coach), lifting weights with my swim team. Since then, I can't think of a time in my life when I wasn't strength training. In the later years of college, I interned with the Strength and Conditioning coach of the UK male and female basketball teams. I then went on to graduate school to study Exercise Physiology to become a Strength and Conditioning Coach. Although my career choice has changed since then, I still have a strong passion for Strength and Conditioning.

Although nothing beats the endorphin rush of cardio training, I love the feeling of feeling strong. You never realize how weak you are until you are forced to lift weight (or move your own body weight through specific exercise). While I have had my fair share of soft-tissue related injuries, I have never had a broken bone or stress fracture, and I'd like to think that strength training has helped with that statistic.

As an endurance athlete and triathlon coach, I could never imagine training for such an extreme cardio-sport without a structured strength training plan. From correcting imbalances and improving mobility and efficiency of movements to increasing muscle and connective tissue strength, strength training helps create a a strong, durable and resilient body.

Like any structured training plan, strength training should be periodized, structured and sport-specific. Because the same muscles, tendons, ligaments and bones that assist in movement in your sport must be conditionally strong, powerful, efficient and durable, strength training should compliment your cardio training - helping you perform better in your sport.

It's interesting how many athletes understand the importance of strength training and mobility work but don't make time for it. When the body and mind are tired, time is crunched or motivation is low, strength training is almost always the first thing to go in the athlete's daily/weekly training plan. But it isn't until an athlete gets injured or experiences a setback in training that the athlete will say "I should have kept up with strength training and mobility work."

The great thing about strength and mobility work is that you can get a lot out of a short session of just 20-40 minutes, a few times per week. However, strength training is one of those things were many athletes need guidance, accountability and direction.

To help get you excited about strength training, I want to introduce you to two experts that I have used for my own strength training and I also prescribe their services to my athletes. They are great resources and have a tremendous amount of respect for both of them as they are experts in what they do.

Back in 2014, I came across Chris Johnson's strength training videos on YouTube and I told Karel "I need Chris in my life!" I reached out to Chris when he was in Kona (getting ready for the IM World Championship) and he responded to my email. I highly suggest to check out his website and videos. Since then, Chris has played an integral role in helping us as athletes and coaches. Chris will routinely speak to our athletes about running injuries, strength training, running form and busting popular running myths. He's a fantastic resource and all around great person (and athlete). Chris and his colleagues have written a comprehensive guide on all things strength training. While a great resource for practitioners and runners, any athlete/coach will benefit from this guide.

From the guide "Each chapter covers one exercise as well as the associated progressions and regressions to meet the needs of the runner. For every exercise, we discuss the following: the benefits and rationale, the objective, criteria for success and mastery, relevant cues, and common errors/compensations. Video links are also included to provide runners with a model of performance. While we encourage readers to work through each chapter systematically, one can also quickly jump to specific chapters if they want to focus on a particular exercise. Finally, at the end of the book, three sample programs are provided to give practitioners a window into how the loads between running and resistance training are managed across different demographics."

Chris is a wealth of knowledge and he knows what he is doing. If you run or work with runners, Chris is your go-to guy. If you are interested in his new Strength Training Guidebook, you can receive a 20% discount with the code: trimarni.

Triathlon is a challenging, time consuming, exhausting sport as you have to train for 3 different sports. Many triathletes neglect strength training because they;
1) Don't know what exercises are "functional" for the sport
2) Don't feel they have time for it
3) Feel overwhelmed by gym equipment and strength regimes
4) Lack the accountability to perform strength
5) Strength training isn't as fun as cardio training
6) Don't know how to fit it into a cardio-focused routine

Erin comes with a great understanding of how to strength train triathletes. She gets it. Not only does she have experience training many professional triathletes but she is extremely passionate about helping triathletes. Like Chris, she is an triathlete herself. Her knowledge and passion shine through in what she does.

Erin has done something that is revolutionary in the triathlon world - She has also made it very easy for athletes to perform strength (with accountability) with a strength training app. This app is easy to use and it's affordable. I've been using one of her programs (compliments of Erin to try it out) for the past two months and find it incredibly easy to use. I also feel like it targets the areas that I find get weak/sore throughout the season when volume/intensity increase (hip region).

I loved the app/program so much that I partnered with Erin and she is now the official Trimarni strength coach for our entire team. Our athletes are currently performing a 4-week demo program (compliments to Erin) that she has set up for our team. The app provides looped videos, suggested reps and sets and each program is designed to be completed as a compliment to your cardio training. There's also a PDF to explain how to use each program. She has also great mobility (Get the connection) exercises to keep your hips/glutes/back happy with all your swim/bike/run training.

I feel so lucky that we have Erin and Chris as resources for our athletes. I encourage you to consider either (or both) as you get excited about strength training. If you have any questions or would like me to make the connection to Erin or Chris, just send me an email.

As a final note, just because you call yourself an athlete, don't expect that you can simply rush into lifting heavy weights, join a cross fit class or try out a plyometric routine. Start slow as you may be an experienced athlete but you are probably a beginner at strength training.


It's time to slow down

Although my last triathlon was Ironman Wisconsin in early September, since returning home from Kona, Hawaii on October 17th, I've done little structured triathlon training. I did, however, participate/race in two events (Hincapie Gran Fondo on 10/21 and the Spinx Half Marathon on 10/27) over the last two weekends in October just to use some of my leftover fitness as my mind and body still wanted to race. While I did keep up with structured swim sessions until Karel raced Ironman Florida on 11/4 (moral support :), it feels like forever ago when I had workouts in my Training Peaks.

Over the past twelve years, I've given myself all different types of an off-season break. I've failed at many and have succeed at several. I've learned that taking "too long" of break didn't work for me (4-6 weeks) but return too soon (1-2 weeks) and well, that didn't work either. In reflection on what worked or didn't work, I think about the season that followed. When I think about when I best peaked for my races, how easy/hard it was to gain fitness and the strength/health of my body, iterestingly, my most successful two seasons of racing have been over the past two years (2017 and 2018). Before both those seasons, I gave myself a ~3 week break from structured triathlon training.

This time around, I'm not deviating from what has been working. While I like to think of my off-season as a "transitional period" with a gradual decrease in training intensity/volume and structure, this past week ended that phase. I've done nothing all week! Well, let me clarify. There's been no swimming, no biking and no running. My "normal" routine is no longer. Aside from 3 light sessions of ECFit strength and mobility work to keep my hips happy, the extent of my daily exercise has been walking - and always with Campy. 

This break from structure has been enjoyable, well-earned and well-timed as we are extremely busy with starting back our athletes (and welcoming new athletes) to our coaching team, I have welcomed colder temps and fall colors (there's something about cold weather that says off-season) and Karel just finished his season so we can enjoy doing nothing together. Since we watch little to no TV over the summer (aside from triathlon, cycling, running and swimming and Ellen), it's been nice to spend an hour or two in the evening being entertained by Netflix. On the weekend, instead of training for hours all morning, we are now exploring beautiful Greenville - by foot. And we can get to a few house-projects such as organizing and cleaning cluttered spaces/closets. To me, this is what the off-season is all about....slowing down, enjoying non-triathlon/extreme activities and being ok with not being a disciplined and dedicated athlete. Nothing has changed with our diet aside from removing the "extra" food that was needed to support higher volume training. And with less time training we can spend even more time in the kitchen cooking. This week was all about chilis and stews with the crockpot. Yum!

Here are some pictures from our hike to Ruby Cliff Falls and the overlook at Caesar's Head. The Ruby Cliff Falls hike was ~4.5 miles round trip and took us about 2 hours. Campy was a trooper and walked the entire hike with no complaints. 

As for what to do or not do in your off-season (if you are an athlete-in-training), everyone is different. What works for one person may not work for you. More so, what worked for you last year or five years ago may not work for you right now in your life. 

However, it's important to remind yourself that your self-identity shouldn't be tied to you as an athlete. While it's great to be passionate about healthy living and physical activity, you can still be a great spouse, friend, family member, community member, volunteer, parent (furry/human), employee and active individual without structured training. So if you are struggling to give yourself permission to take a proper/formal break from training, use your off-season to develop and explore other great attributes about yourself that don't have to do with sport. If you keep registering for races over the fall/winter, this is a red flag that you may be struggling to take a break from training.

On the flip side, make sure you don't get too comfortable with physical inactivity as it poses a great risk to your mental and physical health. While the off-season is an important time for mental, emotional and physical rest, it's very easy to fall victim to unhealthy lifestyle habits. 

If you struggle with a sense of loss or have difficulty finding meaning in your life or self worth without structured training or you don't know how to function in life without training and racing, remind yourself that sport is something you choose to do, it's not who you are.

If you are struggling with a transition away from sport or struggle to find a sense of identity and purpose without being engaged in structured training, reach out to a mental health expert for help.