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.

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.

Keeping the Flame Alive


Fire.  It is inside every triathlete. It is what makes us jump into freezing water.  It is what makes us ride 112 miles and then run a marathon!

As strong as the Fire can be, it is also quite delicate.  The Fire can spit, cough and even die out.  When it does, we don’t do the crazy things that triathletes should do.

Here are some quick tips on keeping the Fire alive and well inside you:

  • Track your workouts closely, paying attention to intensity
  • Listen to your body and giving yourself a day off
  • Have a regular yoga session in your weekly routine
  • Hang out with the right people and DON’T listen the over competitive professional wanna-bes out there
  • Eat the right food when you need it, if that means a few bits of ice cream on occasion, so be it
  • Never be afraid to question your coach, sometimes they are driven by testosterone than the good of their athlete
  • Spice up the routine, switch cycling and swimming days
  • Try a new route, services like Endomondo and MapMyTri have libraries of route submitted by users
  • Sleep, and get lots of it.  10-12 hours a night might just what your body needs
  • Set long-term, reasonable goals; if you have never done a 5k, you certainly won’t be running a marathon next month

Keeping that fire alive isn’t that hard. It takes patience, awareness and the long term vision of your goal.   Keep your on the prize and never forget where you have been.

Running to a Clear Mind


Way back when I started my journey to triathlete, I would hear people say, “I think best when I am running.” My response was to roll my eyes and mutter to myself, “yeah, right” as all I ever felt when I was running was pain and lack of oxygen.

But as my body got used to running, developed stronger muscles, and an improved mental attitude, running became a much more peaceful, sublime experience. I was able to cover new ground with my increased endurance and go exploring new areas of town, noticing things that one would never see in a car. My community came alive as I ran by.

I also started to notice that my thoughts shifted from my body and surroundings to concepts that have been at the top of my mind. By focusing on these thoughts, time and distance went by faster. I also returned to work with new perspectives and…. A fresh mind.

Running had come full circle. The truth is, I really do do my best thinking while I am running. Instead of sitting at my desk to work through a problem, I’ll go out for a short or long run (if it is a big problem) and think it through. Running had gone from something horrible to an essential part of life.

Get out there, run, clear your mind and make the world a better place, one thought and one mile at a time.

On Becoming a Race Director…


Giving back to the community can take many forms.  From donations to local charities to adopting a highway, there is more than one way to give back.  How one gives back often depends on their beliefs and passions.

Being a triathlete convert from an office potato, I understand the impact of fitness on improving one’s quality of life.  So, for my philanthropic project for 2012, I decided to do something so outside my box, that I downright frightened myself.

Combining my passion for competition and the local need for a new type of sporting event, I created the concept of the Goleta Duathlon.   A run-bike-run event that is structured as a “B” race, good for seasoned athletes as a warm-up, and a great first race for beginners, that will double as a fundraiser for the Foundation for Girsh Park.

For the first time in my life, I set the bar so high, it drowns me with fear.  Being Race Director is a huge responsibility as the success of the event and the safety of all participants lie on my shoulders.  This event will sink or swim because of me.

Luckily, some of the same principles I learned in triathlon competition apply to my Race Directorship.  In no particular order:

  • Perseverance – Just don’t give up.  Like a triathlon, the mind plays games and tries to get you to stop pushing the edge.  When you get a flat tire, you either continue riding or you change it fast and double your effort to make up time.  As a Race Director, you must keep moving toward the larger goal, even with “No” thrown at you.  If one thing doesn’t work, get feedback and try another angle.
  • Flexibility – Triathlon requires a large amount of flexibility, particularly when dealing with race day conditions.  You can’t let the snow stop you, just adjust your game.  As a Race Director, listening to my community leaders and peers has lead to a very different event that I envisioned last summer when I came up with the idea.   Instead of being stuck on the original event, I rode along for the ride and adjusted where I needed to.
  • Attitude is everything – Sure the rain sucks and makes you cold.  But the cool thing is that you are doing a triathlon in the rain!  Not a lot of people would be bragging about such a thing, but it makes a great story for the grandkids and your friends will respect you a lot more smiling as you cross the finish line in the rain.  Race Director’s have to smile a lot too.  During my first meeting with the city, my event was rejected.  As crushed as I was, I listened to why they rejected it and worked with them.  While the smile did disappear for a moment or two, when the smile came back, I knew this event was going to happen.
  • Enjoy the Journey – Life is not about the destination (death) and neither is the finish line.  In fact, I find finish lines quite boring.  The action is out on the course with every step.  So, every interaction, every sponsor I speak to, and every athlete that contacts me is going to make the journey what it is.  I will be focusing less on race day, and more on how to make race day hugely successful.  Of course, a week before race day, the Race Director seldom sleeps, something that sweetens the journey.

While the daunting task of making the Goleta Duathlon & Fitness Expo a huge success has just began, I know I will be learning a lot along the way.  I know I will also be doing a great thing for my local community.  If there is one thing that keeps me going on this project, is knowing that this event will have a positive impact on a lot of people and be the reason for their smiles at the finish.

Looking to be a Race Director yourself, checkout this inspiring post.

Running in the Oven


Summer is here!  Today, Santa Barbara is having the perfect Fourth of July weekend weather with brilliant sunshine, perfect 74 degree temperature and access to parks, waterfront and shopping.

As I was reminded during this morning’s run, running in warmer temperatures can be a challenge.  In fact, running along the waterfront this morning in direct sunlight and light humidity, I really felt like I was running in an oven.

So, I would like to offer some tips to help running in the oven a bit more fun and less likely to do you in.  Here we go:

  • Wear breathable, light colored clothing

    • I would not recommend wearing a black, cotton t-shirt, but I would recommend wearing a moisture wicking white t-shirt and grey shorts.  The idea is to wear clothes that will keep you cool through wicking sweat away from your skin while being light in color to reflect the sun’s rays.  I am a huge fan of Champion’s line of active gear.
  • Drink lots of water

    •  This is a no brainer.  If you dehydrate, your body will shut down and you could probably die.  In addition, the body dehydrates a lot quicker the higher temperature.  So, bring plenty of water with you and consume it regularly.  I run with an Ultimate Direction waist pack which is enough for shorter runs (6k).
  • Don’t over do it!

    • Be realistic, especially for the first few runs of the summer. When running in higher temperatures, run at a slightly slower pace.  This will prevent your body from overheating prematurely and requires less water. The slower pace might mean a longer run, but you will be building endurance as well as giving yourself time to enjoy the summer scenery!
  • Wear sunblock and a light colored hat.

    • Skin cancer sucks.  Avoid it by using a good quality sunscreen of SPF 45+.  You should also wear a light colored hat with a wide brim to keep the sun off your face and neck.  A baseball cap might be preferable by most runners, but it leaves your neck exposed, so use an extender with the baseball cap to protect your neck.

Follow these simple tips and you will be enjoying summer time running without the feeling of running through an oven.   What are you waiting for?  Go for it!

My Day of Enlightenment


Over the next few weeks, I will be bringing you snippets of some of the more memorable moments during my 18 month journey from office potato to triathlete.   These snippets aren’t currently included in the AricInTraining archives and more dear to my heart.  They will be a part of the book I am writing about my journey, yet to be named.  So here is the first snippet:

Workouts can be great.  Workouts can also be miserable.  For the past few months I had dedicated myself to strength and cross training workouts.  I was feeling pretty good, although the “struggle” seemed to be at a stalemate.  As you workout, you build aerobic capacity, strength, and improve your metabolism.   This is progress in the world of fitness.

So why was I struggling so much to run to a stop sign?  A day in March 2009 proved to be one of those “gotcha” days where suddenly things make a lot more sense.   My trainer had this ability to shake up the workouts and surprise me with some new and obscene way to torture my body.

On this particular day in March, the torture test consisted of a brief strength workout, followed by an outdoor run to the stop sign at the end of the block and back.  This wasn’t the first time and I hated how I felt when I ran this course, a 1/8th mile out in an increasing slope uphill, followed by a downhill sprint back.  Running at this point was very painful, my legs easily cramped up, with my muscles so tight, I couldn’t walk, my breathe so short that I was gasping for air, and my blood boiled to the point I thought my skin was going to melt write off.

And that day in March was no better, in fact it was worse and I was pissed.  Running the first 1/16th of the mile pretty much brought my immediate demise, yet I still had an increasingly slope to the stop sign.  My trainer was yelling at me to get moving and all I could feel was my body rejecting.  Reluctantly, I pushed on to the stop sign doing the obese shuffle and walked a significant portion of the return leg, bringing home a run for the finish.  It was horrible, I couldn’t breathe, my muscles ached, and I felt like getting hit by a Mack truck might actually make me feel better.

For some reason, I looked to my trainer, who had that annoyed look, for sympathy The dialogue went something like this (I don’t remember the exact dialogue):

Me: “I thought it gets easier with time.  That sucked!”
Trainer:  Looks at me dumb-founded
Me: Staring at him, looking for any shred of sympathy, but couldn’t find any.
Trainer: “What did you have for lunch today?” smirking.
Me: “A hamburger, some fries, and an iced tea. I was running late and had to grab something.”
Trainer: Looking at me as if I was a dumb ass “Well there you go…  eat crap like that to perform like crap.  You need to start eating salads. Now, go to the stop sign and back.”
Me: I just look at him as if I was just slapped hard across the face and then tossed into a pit of piranas.

And that was the day I gave up fast food.  My brain finally correlated diet with my poor fitness and realized that workouts were just a small piece of the entire journey to triathlon.   If I wanted to progress and enjoy my workouts, shedding the pain and building fitness, I had to get my diet in order.  Once I did, I quickly lost weight and busted through plateaus over the next year.  Before I knew it, I lost 60 pounds and was actually under 200 pounds.

Despite the enormous accomplishment, I struggle even today with my diet, which influences my workout enjoyment.  If I step off the deep end too far and for too long, eating treats, refined foods and not drinking enough water, I can feel that day in March creeping back into my body and it quickly reminds me of how important eating right is to consistent progress and feeling great.