Push Through It!


If working out was easy, everyone would be a triathlete.  Heck, the world would be a much better place as the food industry wouldn’t be trying to cram sugar laden food down our throats. But this isn’t a post about the sins of the major food processors.

No, this post is about the transformation and journey one will experience as they move off the couch and into the gym, outdoors on the jogging path, and/or on the saddle of your bike.  This is also a good time to disclaim the concept of seeing your doctor before doing any rigorous exercise.

Reflecting on the Painful Past

As I reflect on the past few days and the agony of sore quads, a bit of dehydration, and stomach discomfort, I look back to my first journey and the pain, the emotions, and the experience I had when I was in much worse shape.  It was not a walk in the park.  In fact, I was moody, in pain, couldn’t catch my breathe, and wanted to walk away from it all so many times.  But I didn’t.

This time, I know what is ahead.  Right now, it hurts.  Right now, I lose my breathe easily.  Right now, my heart rate peaks very quickly.  Right now, my muscles are fighting to stay in bed.  Right now, I am thirsty and hungry.  Right now, I am drenched in sweat.

But tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that, I will experience these things a bit less.  Pretty soon, I can climb a flight of stairs with vigor without losing my breathe.  Pretty soon, my muscles will be upset when I DON’T exercise.

Don’t Be One of the 95%

As we embark on our fitness journeys, we will go through stages.  I understand why a lot of people go to the gym and give up after three sessions.  In fact, one of my personal trainers told me once that if he could one client through six sessions, they would be a client for over a year!  That conversion rate, less than 5%.  Yup, less than 5% of clients go beyond six sessions.  That’s a lot of people saying goodbye to their fit future.

Take My Advice

Just push through it
from Brainy Quote

For anyone who is new to this and just embarking on their fitness journey, my advice is this:  “Just push through it! The reward at the end is far sweeter than you think.”  It is true.  Becoming a triathlete saved my life and it gave me a life I never thought possible growing up.  Being fit makes it super easy to do things.  Being fit makes you look different walking down the street. Being fit gives you confidence.

While the first few sessions will suck and that voice in your head will try to convince you to go back to the couch, don’t listen to it.  Listen to me, “push through it” because you will thank yourself later.

Let’s do this together.  Subscribe to my Blog, join me on Twitter. Leave a comment, share your goals. Let’s create a community.

Simple Nutrition for Athletes?


Aric In Training Makes a Tri Tuna SandwichIs there such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes?  Is is possible to break nutrition and the need to fuel properly down to one or two rules?

I am a huge fan of K.I.S.S., not the band, but the saying “Keep It Simple Stupid.”  But, the books I’ve read regarding nutrition for athletes, endurance or otherwise, talk a lot about what type of nutrients are needed and when.  Reading these books was a lot like reading  science experiment written by someone who had forgotten what English was, replaced with technical garble.

So, I was overwhelmed with the thought of getting the exact amount of protein for my body at just the right time.  Let’s not forget that I am an overworked Analyst by day and I don’t have much time to spend buying food, cooking, and eating in addition to the job, triathlon training, and rest of life.  As much as I tried to make it work, it was just too complicated for this triathlete.

I even tried the paleo diet for a while and have to say that it made life a lot worse.  While it was simple, the complexity in carrying out the diet while at work and with busy weekends just couldn’t work for me.   The paleo diet eliminated some foods that were okay by some diets and were convenient for busy people like me.

So, is there such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes?  If we strip away the metabolic typing, the protein and carb calculators, and even the calorie counting bank recording calories in versus out, what is left?  In my opinion, there is a lot left that can be considered simple nutrition for athletes.   Let’s take a look, but keep in mind that if you are going to get technical on me, please don’t send me hate mail.

This is what simple nutrition for athletes is in my mind:

  1. Avoid the sweets: Sure you can have a little cake and ice cream at the neighbor’s kids birthday, but don’t have a small amount of sweets more than once a week.
  2. Avoid processed foods: Processed foods are anything that doesn’t resemble its natural counterpart any longer, such as anything made with flour, those frozen chicken nuggets, and anything that comes out of a drive through window.  This is the paleo influence on my simple nutrition for athletes.  Don’t eat white breads, processed sausage, cakes, or pastries.
  3. Eat lean protein:  Protein is what helps build muscles and aids in recovery post-workout.  Having a small amount of protein with every meal and a little before and after workout will help you recover and build muscles.  Eggs, chicken breasts, lean pork, salmon, and buffalo burgers are great choices.
  4. Consume fresh vegetables and fruits: Salads, greens, citrus, and berries are a great source of fiber and provide much needed energy for your workouts.
  5. Cook with the intention of creating leftovers:  Cooking four chicken breasts even though you are only going to eat two gives you two extra to eat during the rest of the week.  Package up some salad mix into tupperware and toss on some cheese and other veggies while making a salad for your weekend lunch.  Consume a salad right after a workout to help recover as well.

So, simple nutrition for athletes broken down to five rules.  It is not all inclusive list, but is a great place to start when getting a handle on what you eat.   You might be surprised just how simple this can be while achieving race weight and feeling great about yourself.  There is such a thing as simple nutrition for athletes after all.

Recovering from Distractions


Aric in Training April to November
April on the left, November on the right

Life isn’t always as convenient and fun as a walk through the woods to the creek for a picnic.   If it was, people probably wouldn’t be obese, depressed, and unemployed.  Instead, life is a lot like a box of chocolates (Thanks Forrest!) where you really don’t know what you are going to get.

In fact, I got nothing but the icky chocolates over the past few weeks.  A client with a very complex house-sitting situation left town and my obligation to the business kept me from enjoying my usual triathlon training routine. There were also some additional early morning hours required at work that exacerbated the distractions from training.

To make matters worse, the increased stress led to additional distraction from the proper triathlon training diet.  Some how, fast food found its way back into my stomach.  Those compromises between fresh home cooked meals and fast, convenient food were pushed to an extreme.

By the time the client returned and my schedule opened up, my training on average per week dropped from 5+ hours to less then 3 hours.  And today, my body felt every minute of reduction in training and every over processed carbohydrate I’ve eaten.

Today’s run: 80 min endurance run, which turned into a 58min run that only covered 4.8 miles.  Given where I was a few weeks ago, this is shameful. While my muscles were in pretty good shape, the main problem was my inability to breathe and a heart rate that kept spiking higher than Mt Everest.   I simply couldn’t catch my breath and as I pushed on, the heart rate rose to ridiculous levels, the chest tightened and life sucked even more.

Previously, I was able to maintain 12:00 pace for quite some distance (1hr +) with a heart rate in the low 160’s. Today, dorking (remember the dork run?) along at 13:00 pace still brought on a heart rate of 170+ with my lungs feeling like filled balloons, gasping for air.

While I really don’t want to believe that a three week reduction in training and a less than ideal diet would cause such poor performance, I have to remind myself that I am sensitive to airborne allergens. With such dry weather and so much burned land around Santa Barbara, the particulate count is at ridiculously high levels.  This has impacted my cardio performance before.  Perhaps, next time I will try taking a Claritin before the next big workout.

So, with just one week from the Santa Barbara Triathlon, I am not feeling ready.  Granted it is a very short distance sprint, but my hopes of crushing last year’s time of one hour and four minutes are diminishing.

All of these distractions have reminded me of how important triathlons and associated training is to me.  Time to put into place an action plan to prevent further long-term distractions from happening again.   Triathlons are a huge part of me and I can’t ignore it.

I look at the thumbnail above, two pictures of me running 7 months apart, and am reminded of how far I’ve come.  I don’t have time to recover from distractions that shouldn’t exist.  I am a triathlete.

Training Summary & Review: Week 48.09


Tracking the time you spend on each sport is a great way to focus on the sports that need improvement the most while also holding yourself accountable.  Since triathlons are really all about combining sports, tracking your triathlon training in the same way provides awesome visibility into your progress.

Without further ado, here is the most recent training summary chart by week:

Weekly Training Summary through week 48

Week 48 was last week and included the Thanksgiving holiday.  I took a trip to Texas for a family reunion.  As a result, week 48 was the lightest training week recorded to date with just over one hour and half.  This included:

A) a single strength workout (thanks Chris for squeezing it in!)

B) Three runs, totaling almost six miles (2 1.4-mi runs and one 2.8-mi endurance run)

The bad thing is the lack of swim time.  In fact, I haven’t been in the pool in two weeks. At this point, my lack of swimming ability is my biggest hurdle to a competitive triathlon time and the biggest thing preventing me from competing in a long course in 2010.  This must change going forward!

Here is some of my triathlon training strategy that I hope to work into a revised plan going forward:

A) Maintain the three run workouts each week.
B) 5 days of cardio workout
C) One off/recovery day
D) 2-3 strength workouts per week
E) Focus on swim technique and breathing ability at least twice per week

These five things look like this when you plot it out over the week:

Example workout triathlon training plan
With one day off, the other six are quite full.

To make it work, I had to double up on some days.  The long run on Sunday with a strength workout seems a bit extreme, but with Monday as an “off” day, I think it is doable.

Now that I have the basic structure of the plan down, it is time to plot it out for the entire year of 2010.  Then I have to figure out distance progression and how I want to handle periodization. Of course, first, it would help if I publish my goals so you all can see what I am planning to participate in next year.  All in due time…

Cheers!

A New Milestone: 6-mile Run


On Tuesday night, I reached another milestone in my training by running a full six miles, non-stop!  I even did it wearing my FiveFingers!

This week, instead of doing another strength workout with my trainer, I decided that it would be good to try something new, so we went out for a run instead.   While I initially balked at a six mile run, I knew that I could do it if we kept the pace to 11:00 or slower.

Well, we ended up running a little faster than that in the end.

Aric's 6-mile Run Milestone
3-miles out, 3-miles back, nice and smooth!

Stats:

Distance: 6.03 miles ~ Time: 1:03:43 ~ Pace: 10:34 ~ Avg Hr: 170

While the next day, I felt quite fatigued, knowing that I can go the distance is awesome.  6.03 miles is not that far off of a 10K run and the 10:34 pace is not bad at all.

So, what’s next for me?  You are just going to have to stay tuned.

Tale of Two 5K Competitions


2009 has been an exciting year.  It was my year of firsts:

First year of competition.

First triathlon.

First duathlon.

First did not finish (dnf).

First year living fit with routine exercise and healthy diet.

I also started off the year running my first 5K.

After some consideration and mulling about, I decided to enter my second 5K competition, the NewsPress Half Marathon and 5K Fun Run.  Not only would this give me something to do while I was waiting for my trainer to complete the half marathon (yep I was there to cheer him on for a change!), but it would also allow me to show the world how much I improved my running ability since April’s Chardonnay 10-miler/5K (my first 5K).  In addition, this would also be another first, the first competition completed wearing my Vibram FiveFingers (barefoot running “shoes”).

Note that the race courses are exactly the same, starting at Leadbetter Beach and running east, looping back to the beach.

The 5K Results

To make a long story short, below is the data from April’s Chardonnay 5K (results):

Time: 33:04   Pace: 10:39
Place: 114/182 (top 63%)

And, Nov 7th’s NewsPress 5K Fun Run (results):

Time: 30:39   Pace: 09:48
Place: 91/250 (top 36%)

There is no question about it, I have really improved my running ability. I shaved two minutes, twenty five seconds (02:25) off my overall time and 49 seconds off my pace. I also placed in the top 36% of the group, compared to 63% in April.

More Data

Below is the data that I recorded during the NewsPress 5K. (click here for interactive chart)

Heart Rate, Speed, and Map of Aric's 5k run.

Notice how smooth the heart rate and pace is.  I was surprised to see this as earlier this year, my runs were plagued by heart rate spikes, a really fast pace followed by really slow walking recovery driven by horrible form.  It wasn’t pretty. (I don’t have a similar data set for back then since it was before my GPS heart rate monitor)

So to see such a flat heart rate line means a few things:

1) My muscles have become stronger and able to sustain longer runs.
2) My run form has improved, making me more efficient.
3) I am able to control my heart rate while keeping a fairly consistent pace.
4) Running barefoot probably helped my form and efficiency too.

Looking at the graph, you can even see my mad sprint to the end as I out sprinted another participant to the finish (right side of graph). You can also see at the left side of the graph that my pace started out quite fast and I started slowing down to a more manageable pace.  Nice to see the speed at the start and the finish!

Wow!  Such a great way to end the year.

The tale of two 5K’s is really about showing you that all of that hard work and training does pay off.  In fact seeing these results makes every minute of pain and suffering during the last two years worth it.  Now I want to know what 2010 is going to bring.  I certainly am not going to settle for a year of seconds and I hope 2010 will be a year of more firsts!

What I Learned from Triathlon Training


As I embarked upon on my journey from office potato to triathlete almost two years ago, I never dreamed of how awesome the journey was going to be. Looking back, I wonder why I waited so long to do it.

I thought I would take a moment to share a few things I learned along the way.  These items apply to everyone, whether you are a triathlete, a customer service agent, or a stay-at-home mom.

Here is what I learned:

1) Baby Steps Lead to Big Goals

Nothing happens overnight.  Set a goal and begin working toward that goal, doing something everyday until you reach that goal.  Then set a bigger, higher goal and do it all over again.

2) Enduring Pain is Part of the Fun

Pain is not enjoyable, but it is a necessary aspect of the journey.  Enduring pain makes us better by helping us grow.

3) Seize the Opportunity When It Presents Itself

Tomorrow is never a better time to do anything than the present. If you want to connect with someone, do it.  If you have the chance to race, do it.  If you need something from someone, get it.

4) Stay Focused On The Big Picture

Deviating too far from the plan is like stabbing yourself in the back.  Realize why you set the goal and focus on that.   Constantly deviating does not bring coordinated progress.

5) Share Your Experience and Learn From Others

Sharing your experience with others is not only a fabulous way to hold yourself accountable, but to use your experience to inspire others; hopefully making the world a slightly better place.  Through sharing, you will also find others that will help you and you will get to know some very cool people.

6) Document, Document, Document

Keeping some sort of a log of your experiences to document changes, thoughts, and methodology is a relatively simple way to find motivation.   I keep multiple logs of my workouts, nutrition, and experiences. I also use Excel to slice and dice the progress so I can visually see how far I’ve come. This will also keep you focused on your goal.

7) Find the Tools that Work

Not everyone likes a Palm and yet others find the iPhone frustrating.  Finding the tools that work for you is the key to your success. From documenting your experiences and data with paper and pencil to purchasing an online training log like Training Peaks, experiment and figure out what works.

8) Keeping an Open Mind

Along your journey, listen to the experts, experience new things without judgement and do not let yourself project your own bias.  Experience the moment as openly as possible and then begin to form your own judgment.  Looking back over the journey, you will see your perception change as you develop along the way.

Needless to say, my journey is full of ups and downs.  I would do it all again in a heartbeat.  I hop you come away from this with a sense of inspiration and one or two concepts that will make your life that much more enjoyable.