An Initial Workout


I had planned for a bike ride early this morning.  A step in rebuilding after tearing down. I did a bit of research last night and decided to check out part of the Medina River Greenway starting at the Pleasanton Road Trailhead.  A nice easy, meandering ride along the Medina River near the Toyota Tundra plant in south San Antonio.

All the best made plans and aspirations tend to fail at times.  With a restless night, a few trips to the  bathroom and finally being awaken by the cat at 9am, I could feel the bike slip away as my feet hit the floor this morning.  Groggy, tired, and perhaps a bit dehydrated, I really wanted a small breakfast and a good cup of coffee. Then we will re-evaluate.

Re-Evaluating the Best Plans

Upon re-evaluating, the oldest trick in the book became my block.  I waited too late and the heat of the day was upon us.  San Antonio quickly gets warm, shooting up into the 90’s and low 100’s by mid-day.  Today was no different.  It was warm and that is my block. I worry about getting dehydrated, sun-burned, and doing more damage than good. On the plus side, the heat sends the rattlesnakes to their rock covered dens.

Finding My Workout Gear

fitness gear for successWhile I wavered on my plans, after walking by the duffel bag, I was inspired to see what was inside.  I had set the duffel bag out next to the bike because I knew my Cookie Monster Jersey was in it.  Upon leaving Colorado, I threw all of my workout clothes, bike stuff, and other related into my workout duffel.  My initial reaction was the clothes wouldn’t fit.  Good thing I looked!!  I found a pair of shorts I forgot I bought, I found some lovely REI workout shirts that fit, and my package of Under Armor super duper workout boxer briefs.  I had everything I needed for a gym workout!

Well, everything but a heart rate monitor.  My Garmin GPS HR device was nowhere to be found.  I think it ended up in one of my electronics boxes during the move.  Finding it would be difficult.  So, I decided to run the risk of using my Amazon Fit Bip.  When it comes to heart rate monitors, this thing sucks.  It only refreshes once per minute (I know I could change that), and it is highly inaccurate.  Typically when my HR is high, it shows me resting.  Would it work this time?

Let’s Do This!

I got dressed and headed down to the “fitness room” of my apartments.  It is more of a fitness closet than a room, but with three machines (treadmill, recumbent bike, and elliptical) and a weight machine, it is really only big enough for one, maybe two in a pinch.

So, here I am, in my tiny little gym.  You know what happened?  I got excited.  I got inspiration.  My inner kid said, “bring it on!”.

And bring it on we did.  But we played it safe.  We initially started with a goal of one mile on the elliptical.  Then the goal increased to 15min.  My quads were feeling it, my lungs were surprised, and my head was on cloud 9.  The Amazon Bip was useless.  It did not record many “steps” and the heart rate said I was sleeping, not working out.  Using the HR function of the machine, the heart seemed to stay around 170 bpm.  That felt accurate.

After the elliptical, I couldn’t help myself, I had to use the weights machine.  I had visions of my workouts from 10-years ago.  I started with a split squat press.  Morphed into an anti-rotation twist, and then ended with one my most favorite exercise, squat and row.

A Corner Stone Established

OMG…  life is good again.  I did it.  My first official workout of my new journey is in the book.  While total time was only 25 minutes, it is a start.  I remember when 25 minutes would just be a warmup.  But then I cannot compare myself today to the person I became 10-years ago, a triathlete.  I can use those visions for inspiration, but not for personal shame. The reprogramming will go on.

And so the workouts with go on.  An initial workout has been checked off the to do list. This is the foundation for greatness ahead.  Or at least until the “runner’s high” wears off.

Survey: Triathlon Training Solutions


One thing that is near and dear to my heart is analytics.  The second thing that is near and dear to my heart is triathlon.  What happens when you put the two together?  Triathlon analytics that can be applied to race results, triathlon training and nutrition.

It is such a fascinating topic to me that I recently created a solution called TrainingMetrix, which is still under development.  One of the goals of TrainingMetrix is to produce the best triathlon training analysis solution that gives you the feedback to perform.  I call it focused performance.

If you currently track workouts and nutrition via a 3rd party online solution, Excel, or just a simple notebook, please take the following survey (via SurveyMonkey): Triathlon Workout Tracking Survey.  The information will help me create the next generation solution that will help you perform your best.

Cheers!

Triathlon Training Update – January 2011


It has been a while since I gave an update on my triathlon training.  Seems like after last year’s Carpinteria Triathlon, I went into hibernation.  For one reason or another, it was simply time to slow down, deal with life and do some regrouping.  So, the winter months were not exactly the most productive in terms of triathlon training.

But, it wasn’t like I spent the winter in bed.  In contrast to last winter where I spent quite a bit of time improving my physical side, this winter I focused more on the mental side.  I spent time reflecting on 2009 and 2010 triathlon seasons, studying “the mental edge” and positive visualization.  I learned a lot about what it meant to perform mentally whether during training or during a race.

Studying the Mental Edge

Two books helped me focus and provided some surprise inspiration.  Two of the books, “Zero Regrets” and “Spirit of the Dancing Warrior” are summarized in my post, Some Inspiration: Apolo and a Warrior.  The third book, Dan Millman’s Way of the Peaceful Warrior, is an interesting tale that parallels the other two.  Simply by being focused, in control, and breathing calmly, one can become a warrior at everything they do.

All three books have made me reconsider my approach to everything, but I am learning that becoming a warrior requires discipline, practice and even more discipline.  However, when I achieve the warrior state whether swimming, biking or running, the results are fantastic.  It is like I am transported to a land where gravity works with me, not against me and every step or stroke is pure bliss.  The hard part is getting to that state, which requires one’s mind to let go of all thoughts, step above any muscle pain and focus on breathing.  It takes practice.

C is for Consistency

Speaking of practice, my physical workouts have been sporadic.  Like I said before, life can be quite busy at times, especially during the holidays and end of year.

Daily workout score with moving average.

As you can see in the chart above, my triathlon training is rather inconsistent.  Each marker represents a workout with the value being a function of time and intensity.  Not only has the frequency of workouts dropped off, but also the intensity, starting in mid-January.  In fact, February has been dismal with more zero intensity days since I was an office potato.

The primary workout each week has been a cross training workout that combines strength with cardio training. The workout starts with intervals on the treadmill, then two circuits of strength and usually ending with more intervals on the bike or elliptical.

Weekends would include a long bike, run, swim or combination of the three.  I also started attending a group swim workout at the local pool, which proved to be highly beneficial.  Not only is it a longer pool, at 50m, but very motivational as swimming with other more competent athletes really makes me push harder.  My swim workouts have gone from 500-600 meters to well over 1 kilometer.

Going Forward

So, what’s next? Keep moving forward.  My first triathlon is the Ventura Triathlon at the end of June.  This gives me plenty of time to build my competitive spirit and get back into shape.  With the goal of completing the olympic course at the Carpinteria Triathlon in September, it is clearly time to come of hibernation and get going.  Bears can spend an entire year in their caves!

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!

Invest in Winter Training


Yeah, winter training is hard.  Its cold, dark, wet, and miserable outside.  Our daylight hours are reduced, making it difficult to be safe and get workouts in before and after work.  We have to buy expensive winter gear to stay warm, which eats into our holiday funds.  Yep, winter training is nothing like the paradise of summer training.

But there are numerous advantages for braving the miseries of winter training:

  1. Winter training provides a higher foundation heading into the the new racing season.  Come March, when your competitors will be dusting off their running shoes, you would have already gained an advantage.
  2. Provides an opportunity to train in conditions that are not so perfect.  Hey, race day conditions are seldom ideal and getting practice in in less than ideal conditions prepares you for the worst.
  3. It’ll provide stress relief during the holidays.  With countless social occasions on your calendar, the stress of shopping in crowded stores, squeezing in extra end of the year projects at work, etc, the holidays can stress us all out. Getting a good run, bike, swim in will help relieve the stress.
  4. Triathlons are mental events.  I know the physical side of triathlons are just a small part of the picture, based on personal experience (I’ve seen very strong athletes crumble during the swim).  Getting yourself mentally prepared by running through a blizzard is just part of the journey.
  5. It “separates the men from the boys.”  Yes, the weak will hang up their running shoes and take a nice comfy arm chair next to the warm fireplace.  The strong will be running/swimming/biking in the freezing temperatures.  Just think, when you meet that fellow runner by the coffee maker at work one afternoon and their chin drops to the floor when you tell them you ran 6 miles through that icing storm last night, you will be gloating for the rest of the day.

What ever reason you use to maintain a proper training schedule during the winter, just know that it is truly worth investing in winter training.  Whether your are preparing for a triathlon, an ironman, or a marathon in 2011, get a head start on your competition this winter.

Keep Moving Toward Those Goals


Every workout is a step toward the ultimate goal.  My ultimate goal is to be an Ironman.  It won’t happen tomorrow and it won’t happen next year, but I will be an Ironman.

As I shake the last bit of the flu, I headed off the gym tonight for my first big workout in a week and a half.  It was awesome, it kicked my ass, and I stopped half way through the second circuit.   Even though it kicked my ass, I can feel my muscles waking up and my energy coming back.

From the decline push-ups (ouch!), to the step-ups (ugh), to the squat and rows, my body squeaked with every movement.   With every lift of the shoulders, every squat and row, I could feel my body giving its energy.   But it wasn’t a sad energy, it was energy that recognized that each movement was for a greater good.

Feeling refreshed and reminding myself of the ultimate goal, the Ironman, empowers to make a return to training, post-flu, that is smart, precise and filled with passion.

With the next big event being Xterra’s Boney Mountain trail race, that Ironman feels like a long way out.  But then, two and a half years ago I started a journey that got me to today.  Juggling work, launching a company, and maintaining a social life requires a lot of time even before I factor in maintaining nutrition plans and getting in training.

The future journey is coming and will lead to the ultimate goal.  Time to take it one step at a time and enjoy it.

How My Busy Afternoon Screwed a Great Workout


There are afternoons that just fly by like like the clock has had too many grande red-eyes from Starbucks.  It is that situation where you start working on something at 1pm and then suddenly realize that it is already 4pm and realize that you haven’t had your afternoon snack.

No Snack Just Yet

But, just as you get up to grab that snack, the phone rings and the boss needs something that super-cedes that snack.  For the next hour or so you are caught in a meeting and thinking of that snack you so need.  Then you realize that you have a group strength workout at 6pm…  this better wrap up fast!

It doesn’t.  You’re stuck.  With just a few minutes to spare, the meeting wraps up and you speed across town to the gym, only to arrive in time to change.  Then you realize that the snack you’ve been dreamin’ about for the past few hours is still at the office.  Ugh!  Your tummy growls and you wonder how you are going to get through a group strength and cardio workout from hell.

The Beginning of the Sabotaged Workout

The warm-up on the treadmill went okay as did the stretching circuit.   Stepping into the weight room and looking at the mats, the incline bench and weights sitting on the ground.  How far am I going to push this?

Pumping weights was easy, but the step-ups with alternating legs and 25 pounds quickly started to drain the energy out of me.  Finishing the last of the 15 leg lifts, our group trainer informed me that the cardio portion was two 90 second sprints on the treadmill.  Busted…

The first circuit really wasn’t too bad, but I knew I was on borrowed time.  The step-ups were the worst and I could feel my heart pounding even though it was quite low at 145 bpm. I was also sweating profusely and I struggled with every breath.  Yep, how far was I going to push this?

The third circuit came and I tried to push on.  The step-ups were the worst and I stopped a few times to let the leg muscles recooperate and the shoulders recover from the strain of holding the weights.  As I stepped onto the treadmill the third time, I knew this was going to be bad.  At the end of the first 90 seconds, nausea set in, the legs turned to rubber and I thought I was going to go down.

I should be looking forward to this, happy that I am alive to carry out such an amazing workout at an amazing gym.  But I wasn’t, I was miserable and letting my busy afternoon and lack of fuel destroy my dream.

The Realization

Then I realized that I had some almonds in my gym bag.  These were my emergency fuel supply for situations like this.  How could I have forgotten?  I ran to the car, grabbed a packet of almonds and slowly started munching a handful…  after a short break, some additional water and a moment of silence I think my body started to recover.

I went back in for the fourth circuit.  Despite feeling better, I was still drained.  The step-ups were the worst ever, the cardio intervals short and slow, and the body was even more ready for a long nap than ever.

Too Little, Too Late: I’m Done

But, wait, there was still a second circuit…  oh boy.  I quickly learned from the deadlifts that my wrists are highly inflexible. The elbows are supposed to point up when the wrists flex holding the bar…  theoretically at least.  Then came the single-leg ball squats where you balance on a spiny little inflated ball and squat on one leg, moving the opposite leg in front and then to the side.  My balance is the worst and after being drained from the previous circuit, it is even worse.

At that point, it was time to cut my loss.  Besides, after an hour and a half, the next group was arriving.  While I hate leaving anything unfinished, this was the right call for me on this particular evening.

The Reflection

Reflecting back on this rather enlightening day, I realize that I sabotaged my workout and that I was heading toward even worse injury.  I need a strategy for making sure I fuel at the right times and am ready for anything.   While the emergency almond supply saved me from total devastation, it was one of those situations that should never have been.

It just sucks that I let my busy afternoon screw a perfectly good workout!

It begs the question, what strategies do you use to make sure you are ready for your workouts?  By ready, I mean that you are fueled, have the equipment/gear you need, and can workout with any thought of “I forgot something?”