Monthly Archives: July 2012

Motivation breakdown…

Apologies to Led Zeppelin…

August is the time when motivation seems to breakdown for people training for fall marathons or endurance even.  For marathoners, the excitement of starting training in June has worn off but the countdown to the start hasn’t begun.  For people training for a fall Ironman, the excitement of beginning training has LONG run out and there seems like nothing but monster weeks ahead.

The weather has become hot and humid so one needs to either get up before the crack of dawn, run later at night or toughen it out in conditions that drain energy faster than normal.  Any and all of those don’t exactly make the athlete scream “YEAH!!!!”

Those nagging aches and pains can turn into injuries from overuse and you get tired of trying to eat healthy when all your friends are drinking boat drinks and eating BBQ all weekend long.

If you race during training, you might be getting a motivation smackdown when you can’t seem to PR short events and wonder why you seem to be training so much but getting so slow.

Vacations in August remind us how nice NOT training is.

Here are a few quick tips to deal with the inevitable motivation breakdown:

1)  Friends.  If you train alone, try to find some friend(s) who will train with you.  Even if you can’t find a friend to run 15 miles with you, you might be able to find one who will run the first 6 with you, or meet you at the halfway point and run you in.  Having someone train with you will a) help you avoid blowing off a session and b) provide you with someone to distract you from the monotony of long distance running.

Many local running stores have running groups that meet weekly or you can seek out groups on social media.  I know of a runner who recently had success finding an informal running group using

Try going to one or more of those runs as they fit in your training schedule.  Even if it is a short run, doing something different will break up your training and be something new.  You might find that someone in that group is also training for a long distance event and would be willing to do the long runs with you.

If you have a non-runner friend, you could ask if they would ride a bike next to you as you jog.  They might not get the greatest workout (depending on your speed) but it would be some fresh air and a time for you and your friend to talk without work, family or other distractions.

2)  Cross-train:  You should be doing some cross-training anyway, but if you aren’t, add it in.  Once or twice a week do something other than running.  Take a class at a gym, go to yoga or do some other sport.

Running is a repetitive front/back motion.  Try playing tennis or basketball to get a good aerobic workout while working in a multiplaner direction.  It will help build up the knees and hips, while giving you a break from the same old same old runs.

Yoga builds strength and flexibility.  Both good and, again, it is a break from 5-6 days of running.

3)  Focus on the goal:  This isn’t as distracting running with friends or playing tennis, but now is the time in training where the goal tends to get forgotten.

We get bogged down in the day to day schedule and keep looking ahead at the 18-20 mile runs to come. It seems like training has been going on forever and doesn’t seem to have an end!

Take a few moments each week to look back at your training plan.  See how far you’ve actually come.  Look at the total mileage for that first week and compare it to the current week.  Get excited about how far you have come, but don’t pay attention to how far you have to go.  Just be mindful of how much you have accomplished and be proud of that.

Often, doing just that will provide you with a bit of a motivation boost.  “Wow, I’ve really come a long way.  I can’t wait to keep going and look back in another two weeks and see my progress.”

In addition, by looking back at your training and your written goals and targets (YOU DO WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS AND TARGETS, RIGHT?!) you can refocus and reorient.

If you are racing and see your 5K time getting a bit sluggish, by reminding yourself of you goal (a marathon) you’ll remember that marathons are run in zone 2.  You aren’t working on 5K type speed.  You are supposed to be running slower than that.  Unfortunately, training slow tends to make you slow so of course your 5K time suffers.

When you hear co-workers or friends talking about their recent PR in an event, instead of getting upset that you don’t seem to be keeping up, you’ll be able to remember that you aren’t training for the events they are doing.  Someone training for a marathon is training endurance not speed.  Sure your friend might have a better Olympic distance triathlon because they were training for that.  When you look back at your goals and targets you will keep the focus on the fact you are training for a 70.3 or 140.6.  It’s not the same training as a short course event.

Again, by reminding yourself weekly of your goals and targets you won’t get caught up in what other athletes are doing and/or comparing yourself to them.  You will remember that this race is about YOU.  What YOU want.

Finally, as always, rest and recovery goes a LONG way to keeping motivation levels where they need to be.  As an aside, I said “where they need to be” not “high” or “elevated.”  Not even Macca or Kara Goucher or any elite athlete always has high motivation.  They just have the ability to work through the low points.  You WILL have low points.  That’s to be expected.  It’s what you do about it that will separate athletes.

Making sure you get good sleep, use foam rolling, self-massage or professional massage, eat properly and take rest days during training will help prevent overtraining and burnout.  I can’t stress it enough.  Even if it means taking a few days off from running when you feel mentally and physically exhausted.  Do it.  Those few days off won’t cripple your training program, but trying to push through just might.

That doesn’t mean blow off training sessions whenever you just don’t feel like it.  It means learning the signs of overtraining, talking to your coach, and cutting back as soon as you see them crop up.  I’ll have a quick post about the signs of overtraining in a few days.

In the meantime, if you have any questions, feel free to ask away!

Posted in Mental Game. Tagged with , .

Hiring a coach

How do you know when it’s time to look into getting a coach? What are some decision points you would recommend that leads to the decision – either as a coach or having had one?

Good question. 

I think there are a couple of decision points to focus on.  The easiest way to do it is to tell you my experience.

I decided to get a coach after I trained myself for a triathlon that was a disaster.  My first triathlon was a 70.3 and I had little idea what I was doing.  I followed a chart I found in a book.  I finished, but it was ugly.  I decided that if I was going to do an IM, I needed help.

1)  Hire a coach if you don’t know what you are doing.

This is more for beginners.  If you just have no clue but have a goal, hire a coach.  They will be able to teach you about working out, nutrition, recovery and provide you with a plan and motivation.

Since I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, I joined a triathlon training group specifically for IMWI.

Even thought I finished and learned a TON, I decided I still wanted a coach.  Why?  To take me to the next level and keep me working hard.

2)  Hire a coach if you want to go to a new level and/or are stuck at a level.

Even if you know what you are doing, an experienced coach should be able to take you to the next level.  They should be able to evaluate your workouts and tweak your training plan to move you to greater distances or faster speeds or both.   Sure you might be able to do this yourself, but it’s sort of like home repair.  Everyone thinks they SHOULD be able to do it, but there is a reason people are pros.  There are still tricks and tips that you may not know.  Coaches spend their careers learning either in classrooms, from client experience, their own experience.  They pick up things that a single athlete might not come across.  Heck, even bonking at an IM can be fodder to train athletes. :)

One of the things I enjoy about having a coach (and even though I am a USAT level 1 certified I still have a coach) is not having to think.

Coach uploads workouts and I do them.  If you trust your coach and have good communication, it is golden.  I check my Training Peaks account, do what is written and don’t have to think about it.

3)  Hire a coach so you can just train and not worry about making your own schedule.

Last (for now, this is off the top of my head),

4)  Hire a coach to get the most out of your training; feedback.

I’ve said it before, but many people simply find a chart on the internet or from a book.  They try to follow it as best they can, but either it isn’t a good fit for them, they get hurt, sick, go on vacation or maybe it is too easy for them.

A good coach will review your workouts as you enter them online and monitor your progress.  They will be able to tweak the workouts to prevent injury if they see signs of over training.  They will be able to add or subtract workouts by duration or intensity as training progresses.  In short, you will get a personalized training plan that works for you and not a one-size fits all.

My coach is very in tune with me and will actually modify workouts based on the tone of my emails.  I believe a direct quote was “I know crabby Tridad and actually crabby Tridad just by you emails.”  They also know my heart rates and power rates and can actually look at a Garmin file and know if I’m over-training, fatigued or looking good (rarely).

OK, one more…

If you are at a plateau, you might want to hire a coach.  If you have been getting the same results race after race, year after year, you might want to hire a coach to figure out why.

Posted in Uncategorized.

Foam Roller Infographic

Foam Roller Infographic

Posted in Uncategorized.

Turning Turds into Triumphs

Brilliant advice from Chrissie Wellington.  Yes to all of it!

Posted in Mental Game.

Can you recommend some “entry level” clothes that might be appropriate for a sprint tri? I was planning on getting some tri shorts, is it ok to just wear a regular running shirt for the bike and run, or would you suggest some kind of cycling jersey? Right now I don’t have any cycling or triathlon appropriate stuff… I don’t have a big budget (aka no budget) – David

I am a big (and getting bigger) proponent of “less is more.”  That makes me a big of an outsider in triathlon world where more gadgets and gear is deemed better or even necessary.

When I mentioned that before I received some comments to the effect “it’s their money and more power to them if that’s what they want to do.”  I agree 100%.  If you have the money and you want to buy gear, knock yourself.  I believe that for most age-groupers, they will get a better bang for their buck by losing weight and training more.

That said, you don’t need a cycling jersey for a sprint triathlon.

Cycling jerseys are useful for comfort, lower wind resistance and nutrition storage (aka pockets).  All of those factors increase as distance increases.

If you are riding 100 miles, you will want to be able to lower the zipper to cool off, the seconds of difference with a tight fitting cycling jersey over a flapping t-shirt will matter, and you will want somewhere to store gear (be it food, tools or a rain jacket).

Conversely, in a sprint triathlon probably only comfort will be an issue.  It might be hot on a July morning and it might be nice to be able to cool off by having your jersey half unzipped.  It is worth spending $75 on a jersey for that?  Not in my opinion, but if you stick with the sport or cycling, you’ll want a jersey eventually.

You won’t save any appreciable time wearing a jersey over a well-fitting technical t-shirt.

I don’t know your nutrition plan for the sprint, but I doubt you’ll need pockets on your shirt to stash any gels you plan on eating.  For me, I wouldn’t eat anything for a sprint.  If you are bringing a gel, you can tape it to the top tube or use a bento on your bike.  Also, some tri shorts have pockets (Desotos have a nice tight pocket on the leg..some have them on the waist)

Also, probably don’t want to run in a cycling jersey.  If you wanted a one-size fits all top, get a tri top.

As for the shorts, a standard pair of tri shorts will be fine.  Again, if you stick with the sport you can spend more for “better” tri shorts, but for a sprint it shouldn’t matter that much.  Look at the pad and the seams.  I’m a fan of desoto tri shorts but they fit super snug (but have a great modesty panel in front) and are expensive.  If you stick with triathlon, you’ll wind up with a few pairs anyway for training (unless you like doing the wash all the time and/or training in stink) so try some out.  Start with inexpensive ones and move up if needed.  Like wine, I bet most people really can’t tell the difference. (true fact from studies by the way).

Short answer:  wear a regular old running shirt, just try to use one that fits somewhat tighter and doesn’t flap around too much.  Wear a regular inexpensive pair of tri shorts.  (or Desoto’s if you want to spend a few more dollars).

by Ross Eagle · Leave a comment

Wetsuit question…

I have a question regarding the South Shore Tri- it sounds like you have competed in it. It’s my first triathlon and I am wondering if you would recommend using a wetsuit for the swim. Thanks for any help/advice, I’ve really enjoyed your blog.

I don’t know if it is my training as a lawyer, but I never seem to be able to answer a question without beginning with “well, that depends” and then listing about 18 different answers.

But…it depends.

First off, I have never done South Shore.  My wife and some friends have done it.  Even so, I think I can answer this question because it pertains to most sprint tris and I do have experience doing tris in Lake Michigan.

Wearing a wetsuit will make you faster in the water.  The buoyancy gives you an advantage and it also allows you to kick less (or not at all) and saves your legs for the bike and run.  Most times, you will benefit by wearing a wetsuit.

However, the swim is a sprint tri is short.  Depends on the sprint distance (they aren’t all the same) it could be 600-750.  The amount of time and leg-saving in such a short swim is not all that much.  Seconds?  If you are going to swim a 12 minute 600, maybe you would do a 12:30 without a wetsuit.  Not that much.

Obviously, the longer the swim the bigger the savings.  So heck yes for Olys and above.  (unless of course it isn’t wetsuit legal).

You also have to balance the time and energy you save in the water with how much longer T1 will be when you have to take off your wetsuit.  This time will be shorter if there are wetsuit strippers, but still, I think it is a wash.

It also depends on your swim ability.  I am a fairly good swimmer.  I probably would not wear a wetsuit at South Shore. I would wear tri bibs and a tri top and then just throw on a helmet and shoes in T1.  I could be out in under a minute.

If you are a weak swimmer, wear one.  The buoyancy and leg-saving will be worth it.  If you are a moderate swimmer, up to you.  You can pretty much walk the whole way at South Shore because it is shallow.  You certainly don’t need one to prevent drowning. The water temp will also be fine.  No need to a wetsuit to keep you warm.  If you do wear one, the swim isn’t so long you’d need to worry about over-heating.

The other options depend on what wetsuit you have or can borrow.

Sadly, I have three wetsuits (although one is a loaner).

I have a full sleeved, sleeveless and a short-john (short sleeve, mid thigh).  Each one has their uses depending on distances, water temp and comfort. The links are the brands I wear though I do not have 2012 models.  Big fan of the BlueSeventy Reaction line (love the neck)

If I was going to wear a wetsuit for a sprint tri it would be the short-john.  Provides buoyancy so I’d swim faster but it is the easiest to take off.  Next would be the sleeveless, which is the one I prefer to wear for anything.  I like the range of motion, don’t mind giving up 1 second of time because my arms are less buoyant and it is easy to get off (especially over a big Garmin on my wrist).

Last is the full-sleeved.  Just don’t like them at all. Only wore it at CdA because the water was 54 degrees.

Final it depends:  You could also just wear a speedsuit.  That would be a great option for something like South Shore.

To summarize:  For a sprint triathlon

Strong swimmer – no wetsuit strippers = go without

Strong swimmer + wetsuit strippers = it’s a wash, I’d skip it but no harm using it.  We’re talking about less than :30 for your race.

Moderate swimmer = up to your comfort, maybe use a short-john

Weak swimmer = use a wetsuit

Posted in Gear, Swimming. Tagged with , , .

Run Analysis with Coach Jesse Kropelnicki

Excellent video analyzing the run form of Cait Snow and Mirinda Carfrae.

(via Frayed Laces’ twitter feed)

Posted in Running. Tagged with .

Organic goes big business

A very interesting and informative article in the Sunday Business section of the NY Times about the role of big business in “organic” food, what that means for organics, what it means to be organic and issues like that.

Many of the “organic” companies and brands you might use are actually owned by big corporations (Naked Juice is owned by Pepsi for example).  That isn’t an issue (unless you just plain hate big companies) so long as they are actually organic products.  However, as the companies push into the business they also lobby and/or back board members for the National Organic Standards Board.  Thus, synthetic inositol (which is made by chemical process) becomes “organic” as does herbicide ammonium nonanoate.

That’s a problem.  Sadly, “certified organic” probably doesn’t mean much anymore.

Posted in Nutrition.

Delineating the perfect swim stroke

Delineating the perfect swim stroke

This is a NY Times article on the perfect swim stroke.

Posted in Swimming. Tagged with .

Superfood – Hemp seeds

ImageChia seeds have been all over the news, internet, message boards recently due in large part to the book Born to Run.  There is another seed, however, which you might want to consider sprinkling on your yogurt, salad, putting in a smoothie or otherwise using: hemp seeds.

No, you won’t get high and no, you won’t test positive at your employer drug testing.  You will, however, get all 20 amino acids including the 9 essential amino acids our bodies cannot produce and a perfect blend (3:1) of Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids.  The proteins are very easy to digest and it is a great source of phytonutrients.

Shelled hulled hemp seeds can be sprinkled on yogurt or blended into a smoothie.  I often put a spoonful on salads or even ice cream.  I have also mixed a few tablespoons with ground beef when I make burgers, toss it into chili or stew or fold it into a meatloaf.

This website has a ton of recipes and information about hemp seed nutrition and uses.

Give it a try!

Posted in Nutrition. Tagged with , , .