Keeping It Real During the Holidays

The off season provides time to relax and let the body recover from the strenuous racing season.   As triathletes, we live a lifestyle full of activity, healthy food and awesome friends & family.

But, during the winter when the weather is cold, wet and dreary, we tend to focus our activities indoors at the gym and around the house.  To add another layer of complexity, the holidays tease us with a variety of scrumptious foods like pumpkin pie, egg nog, turkey, sweet potatoes, ham and cranberry jelly.   The holidays usually come and go with an increased waist line.

But, you can keep it real during the off season and actually get a head start on the new racing season with a few simple tips:

  1. Pack bands and other small home gym equipment when you travel.  With a body weight workout supplemented by a few bands, you would be surprised how good  of a workout you can get in within the hotel or guest room.
  2. Pack warm clothing and run when it is sunny.  Early morning runs can be breathtaking during sunrise. By wearing thermal gear and layering, those early morning runs don’t have to be cold too.
  3. At dinner, eat the sweets in moderation and have a larger helping of vegetables.
  4. Enjoy every moment you can with your friends and family.  Let go of your goals, the coming season and training.  Spending time with those important to you now will pay off dividends during the new season.

From Aric In Training, Happy Holidays.   I hope everyone has a safe, fun, and memorable holiday season!

Some Inspiration: Apolo and a Warrior

Reading is one thing I really enjoy doing right before bed time.  Spending a few minutes with a great book gives me an opportunity to wind down and focus on something more inspirational.

Apolo’s Dedication From the Heart

While I am reading a few books at the moment, one of them is Apolo Ohno’s “Zero Regrets.”  Apolo is a very inspirational person and I find his story quite motivating for both life in general and the sport of triathlon.  Here is a segment of his book that really caught my attention:

He was teaching me right then and there the most fundamental thing: You have to dedicate your heart and soul to something.  Then you go forward; you don’t look back.  And you don’t hold back.  You go after whatever that thing is without being afraid to fail.

After reading this segment, I really wanted to yell out “Yeah, go Apolo!”  But then it was late at night and I didn’t want to wake anyone up.   To me, dedicating your heart and soul to something is, perhaps, one of the hardest things to do.   It means maintaining focus, avoiding distractions, and implementing a dream that comes straight from the heart!

My dream from the heart was to finish a sprint triathlon.  In fact, I finished seven! During this journey I faced a lot of hurdles, snuck by distractions and learned so much about life, fitness, and the sport of triathlon that reflecting back on it, makes me want to cry with joy.

The Commitment of the Dancing Warrior

I have also been reading the “Spirit of the Dancing Warrior,” which uses zen exercises to help the athlete perform to a new level.  With a new focus each week, the book helps the athlete focus on connecting with the inner soul.  Starting with Emptyness (being ready to learn) and Gratefulness (take things for granted), I have now moved on to the Commitment focus.   The segment below grabbed my attention:

Consider whether your lack of commitment is simple complacency or whether you might want to look deeper to see if there is another sport or activity that will engender a higher level of commitment.  In other words, lack of commitment may be a sign that it’s time to move on to something else that’s more appropriate to your development at this particular time.

After reading this segment shortly after reading the segment from Apolo’s book above, it sent a chill down my spine.  What if my struggles during the winter are really an indication that I need to do something completely different for the winter months?

I am not sure what that would be and I would have to do some more research, but it is something to think about.  Instead of triathlon training (swim, bike, run, strength, yoga), maybe I should take up karate or kayaking.

Whatever I choose, it has to come from the heart and once selected, I must be committed to it.  Are you committed from your heart?

Week 08.2010 Training Review: Burn Out

There is no one to blame, but myself. What can I say… I started 2010 off with a bang, running faster, farther, and more intense than ever.  Unfortunately, this enthusiasm didn’t translate to swimming and cycling got left on the back burner. Accommodating these other sports only led to burn out.  Burn out or not, the progress is inspiring!

Training Summary to date.

I can break the chart into four groups (from left to right):  a) Fall 2009, weeks 41 through 49, b)  Holiday period, weeks 49 through 1, and c) Winter, weeks 1 through 6, and d) burn out, weeks 7 & 8.

  • Period A was the conclusion of the 2009 season, including the Santa Barbara Duathlon.
  • Period B was when I decided to start workout toward running a marathon, working it into my triathlon training plan
  • Period C was realizing that the 2010 season is not far away, cycling and swimming had been neglected, so I really cranked up the workouts.
  • Period D suffering from a cold and extreme burn out, workouts were missed and motivation went out the door.

The nail in the coffin for my burn out was during week 5 but began in week 4.  Training really picked throughout January until week four, when bricks were introduced.  At the end of week four I not only completed a 23-mile cycling and swimming brick, but I also attend a class at the gym called Ripped, which gave me an additional strength workout.  Then the following day I was supposed to run 10 miles…  I barely made three!   This was the start to burn out and I did tell my trainer and we made a slight change to the plan.

RUnning progressed nicely, until burn out set in.

Week 5 was supposed to be a recovery week.  For the most part if was, but week 5 ended with a mock triathlon consisting of a 500 yd pool swim, a 18-mile cycle and a painful 5k run.  That did it, burn out was inevitable.  As much as I tried to push on at this point, I couldn’t do it.  It was at this time, I started missing workouts (weeks 7 & 8), started feeling demotivated and lost perspective.  Here are some common symptoms of burn out:

  • Depression, loss of motivation
  • Decreased appetite
  • Extreme body fatigue, prolonged muscle soreness
  • Frequent sickness due to weak immune system
  • Moodiness
  • Loss of Sleep

Burn out is the body’s way of telling you that you pushed too hard for too long.  Training is an art and getting the balance right is a huge part of long-term success.   You can read more on Dealing With Overtraining and burn out, an article by

Cycling was sporadic, then I over did it.

The most ridiculous part is that I never gave myself time to recover from that first killer workout at the end of week four, despite having a few days of light recover during the first part of week 5.  No wonder the mock triathlon at the end of week 5 was so painful! I saw it coming everytime I looked at the charts above, but I was in denial. My trainer kept pushing me to go harder; no pain, no gain.  Peer pressure wanted me to keep up, and I lost grasp of the reasons for doing this.

What would I have done differently? Taken week 5 off completely until my body was ready to continue and rework the training plan to accommodate regular cycling workouts, more regular swimming workouts and follow the 3 week build, one week recovery model to the teeth.

The sad part is that burn out led to my decision to not compete in the UCSB Triathlon (post: Don’t Forget the Journey).

Since it has been two weeks since my last full week of training, I am starting to feel more motivated again.  A huge part of me is very nervous about going back to training as hard as I did previously.  Is it really worth it?  I really want to train because I enjoy it, not because I have an event coming up and want to kick ass at it.  It is the people, the memories, the experience, and the joy that I want from this journey, not the most number of bibs.

Going forward, I will take another week of recovery, doing light swim, bike, and running workouts as I feel the body can accommodate them.  I will also continue to build out my detailed triathlon training dashboard, including nutrition charts, goals, and various metrics that will help alleviate burn out.  Above all, recognize that this isn’t a race… triathlons are plentiful and there is always next year.  Smart training leads to fun, joyful success.

The Power of Rest

Could you imagine that you are making yourself more powerful by not doing anything?  It seems strange, but it is so true.

As we continue to train and stress our bodies, we damage muscle and deplete our energy stores.  Keep up a vigorous training routine for too long and you risk damaging the very muscles that make you perform.

This is why you must take it slow and rest.  Feeling fatigued when you get up in the morning, excessive sore muscles, and even dizziness can be indicators that you need to let your body recover.

Taking an “off” day allows your body to rebuild the damaged muscle tissue and replenish your energy stores.  Here are some additional tips to help your body recover:

1) Taking some additional amino acids, which will help rebuild muscle tissue.

2) Drink lots of fluid. Dehydration can stall the recovery process.

3) If possible, taking frequent naps and getting at least 8.5 hours of sleep each night would be ideal.

4) Eat right.  No fast food during the off day, so eat plenty of high quality, organic vegetables and proteins.

After a day or two of good rest, you feel so much power from your body.  Oh yes, the power of rest.