How Important Is The Workout Gear?

In this installment of milestones along my journey from office potato to triathlete, I wanted to point out just how important having the right gear for your workout really is.

When I started my journey at 60 pounds heavier, I really had no clue what it meant to truly workout.  Sure, I knew what if felt like to sweat, dripping my saltiness everywhere I went, how it soaked my clothes and even how much bad it made me feel.

During those first few months of workouts, I was so new to this that I didn’t even own a real t-shirt. Shortly before my first workout with my new trainer, I remember scrambling through my closet, looking for something to wear.  I had shorts, albeit more leisurely shorts made of cotton.  So, my first workout gear was nothing more than a cotton t-shirt and cotton shorts.

view more milestones and tips along my journey

You know what happens to cotton when it gets wet?  It sucks up moisture and hangs on to it as long as it can.  When it does this during an hour long workout, your clothes not only get heavier and heavier, but your body is then wrapped up in a wet “towel”, preventing it from cooling off, so it sweats even more.

Aric in Training April to November
Comfortable running in lightweight clothing.

At the end of the workout, you must then extract the soaked clothing from the body.  With a sweating body and sweat soaked clothing, there almost seemed to be a glue that was keeping them together.  No amount of heaving and hoeing would make the clothing give.  Already exhausted from the hellish workout, one must contort in ways never thought of.  I quickly nicknamed this the “sweat dance.”

While my trainer and I had a rather amusing conversation around this topic, he suggested buying some actual workout clothes.   While, I wasn’t wild about investing even more money into this fitness thing at that moment (joining the gym hurt the pocket book enough), fifty dollars for a set of actual workout gear (shirt and shorts) really was small potatoes in the grand scheme of things to come.

After making my purchase and proudly strutting through the gym wearing my new clothes that said “Champion” on them (a champion would settle for nothing less!), I immediately felt a difference. The difference wasn’t just about showing off the new clothes, the clothes made me feel different, especially after my first workout in the new gear.

First and foremost, I felt how much lighter the polyester based fabric was.  By comparison, the heavy cotton felt like wearing a lead vest, whereas the polyester was almost like running around naked.  This translated to even more of a weight difference during and after the workout.  The polyester didn’t absorb the sweat nearly as much and it didn’t stick as badly to my body.  The “sweat dance” quickly became a thing of the past in the locker room afterward.

Next, during the workout, I felt significantly cooler. The heavy, sweat soaked cotton was acting like a blanket, keeping heat in.  The lightweight polyester by contrast, was light and airy, allowing the air to reach my skin and heat to be released.   In fact on cool mornings, the amount of steam coming off my body is sorta like San Francisco in a fog. The fabric also dried very quickly. With improved body temperature regulation, my body could better handle the tough workouts.

view more milestones and tips along my journey

After a few workouts, there was no going back to cotton.  The freedom that well designed, lightweight fabrics can give the triathlete is a huge reason to say bye-bye to cotton.  Sure, the investment is a little more than cheaper cotton, but performance always comes at a price.

This was the first of many gear purchases that would make my workouts more comfortable and, in turn, help me achieve my goals. Having the right workout gear is hugely important.

Remembering Why

As life goes on, training gets tough and the weather turns gloomy, it is important to focus on what matters.   It is important to the success of one’s goals, whether fitness they are fitness goals or business goals, to remember why you set them in the first place.

Reminding yourself of why you set your goals not only provides an amazing amount of inspiration, but provides a check for your own actions.  Are you doing things that are not helping you attain your goal?  Are your actions appropriate for the expected outcome?  If not, look at your goals and make changes to redirect yourself.

Case in point, I have allowed my day job to take over my life, which is hindering my personal goals, including my triathlon goals.  This scares me as I can see the digression in my training dashboard.   I have rechecked my goals and want to make them clear here:

  1. Finish in the top 70% at Ventura Tri in June.
  2. Finish a half marathon in 2011
  3. Going long at Carpinteria Triathlon in 2011, finishing my first Olympic course
  4. Enjoying the freedom of training and how awesome it is exercise.

No time for digression.  Time to bring back balance, priorities and my awesome goals.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!  I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and active celebration with their family and friends!

Today is a good day to throw the diets and exercise plans temporarily away.  Enjoy the time you have with the people you care about in whatever way you feel fit.


The Pyramid That Was Meant To Be

This was my second workout back at the gym after a few week hiatus. There was something new in store, but before we get to that, I must mention that this workout was in jeopardy of not happening.

Being just three days before Christmas and my part-time job as a house-sitter, my schedule somewhat unexpectantly conflicted with the workout. I was to meet a client for dinner at the same time I was going to workout. I wasn’t very happy about missing my workout and my client wasn’t very about happy about missing dinner with me. Compromise is usually the best solution, so I moved dinner up half hour and decided I would just have to be a little late to the group workout. In the end, both my client and I were happy.

Arriving about twenty minutes late meant that I didn’t have too much time for a warmup. Instead of 10 minutes on the elliptical, I skipped it altogether and went right into the stretches. Captain Morgans, lunges, squats, march kicks, etc I blew through so I could catch up with the rest of the group.

Then our trainer broke the news… we are doing something a little different, a pyramid workout. While I instantly thought of Egypt and mummified kings, my stomach wanted to churn. Today’s workout was going to be a true test of devotion to bodily punishment:

1) Pushup knee tucks
2) Pullups
3) Step-ups with weight
4) Hanging leg raises
5) squat and press.
6) 1/4 mile sprint on the treadmill

These don’t seem like much, but when performed in pyramid sequence, they are someone’s worst nightmare. The pyramid was 5, 10, 15, 20, 15, 10, 5, with 1/4 mile treadmills in between.

The first five were fine, in fact the first five were downright exhilarating and fun. Even though I can’t do a decent body-weight pull-up for the life of me, I was actually enjoying trying. I even caught myself thinking that this might be easy as I sprinted through the first treadmill sprint… but nothing is easy in the world of athletic performance and fitness.

The next ten were a little more difficult, but I started to really feel the pain at the end of the workout. The shoulders and fore-arms in particular hurt a lot. Going onto the treadmill, I took it a little slower than usual, realizing that a pyramid is not only about speed, but it is also about endurance and my shoulders and fore-arms needed a break.

Starting the circuit of 15, worried me. The push-up knee tucks were excruciating, the pull ups impossible, and the squat and presses made my arms scream with agony. I was feeling every movement and I started to feel nausea coming on. The lack of food in the hours previous to the workout was coming back to bite me (I anticipated eating with the client, but only had a drink as we ended up at a slow service restaurant). Now was the time to focus.

Focus I did. I took a queue from Apolo and closed my eyes, focused on breathing, and feeling my body recover with each breathe. It worked, going onto the treadmill I was starting to feel better. I continued with visualization while on the treadmill, with my eyes shut I felt the pain leave my body with each breathe.

Starting the circuit of 20 though made all the relaxation go out the door. I got through three push up knee tucks before collapsing. I forced myself through two more… I made it to five! It was time to focus on the breathe and getting these done. Before I could start up again, our trainer told me that I should only do a half pyramid, that is stop after the circuit of 20 and the following treadmill sprint. I wasn’t going to argue.

I mustered up enough energy to push out ten more push up knee tucks, using the old saying of mind over body. The last five though, the body pushed back and insisted that body over mind was really the correct saying. It seemed like each time I tried to push up or do a knee tuck, the body simply didn’t respond, if it did, the movement was so minimal and painful that it was hard to tell if I should count that as “one”.

To make a long story short, I took each movement as it came. The hanging legs raises were probably the easiest of the circuit, everything else, including the pull ups were simply painfully difficult.

In fact, I had never been so happy to see a treadmill in my life than after that circuit of 20. The guided swinging of the legs, the spinning of the motor, and the calculated breathe all seemed like heaven to me.

In the end, I was drenched with sweat. I was exhausted, and somewhat upset that I had only made it through a half pyramid. Given my previous hiatus, I have to be content that I simply was there and I did my best. I even got to practice positive visualization during the workout. It really doesn’t get much than this!

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

I Googled for “Scary Triathlon” images, but didn’t really come up with much.  Apparently, no zombies have ever attempted a triathlon.  But, I did find this crazy image on photobucket:

Closest Thing to Scary Triathlon!

That dude is pretty scary with those brilliant teeth and eyes.   Maybe 2011 will be the year of the zombie for me… can you imagine me, dressed like a zombie, doing the 2011 Carpinteria Olympic course?   maybe not…

Anyway, here’s to a fantastic, fun, and safe halloween!  Cheers!