Giving Thanks

At the end of every race season, I look back, like most of you and reflect on the; shoulda’s, woulda’s and coulda’s. People say I am hard on myself that I should be proud of my accomplishments and that I inspire them to do more. So this year I am going to give thanks! I am going to be grateful for the people who have supported me this year, for the work my body was able to do and for the experiences I had.

I want to share a brief but important and painful moment I experienced in my last and most important race this year, Ironman Florida.

Let me start from the beginning of the day. The 2.4-mile ocean swim was set as a two loop course where as you had to exit the water and run/walk back in to continue your second loop. Doesn’t seem like that would be a big deal depending on how you look at it. You could be the glass half full and say,” I’m already half way done” or you could be the glass half empty and dread getting back into 3-foot rollers unable to see the sight buoys. Me, I was drinking the water, the salt water and had a near disaster exiting the water into T1 luckily securing a portapotty before losing my shit! Literally!

Ok onto the bike, but wait a volunteer decided to discard my T1 bag so I had nothing to put my wetsuit in. So after desperately explaining this to a kind hearted female volunteer I raced to my bike hopped on and  off I went into the wind! Not like the wind, into the wind! Lots and lots of wind!

After my near-death incident in the porta potty, I still had a little feeling to you know, but I just stuck with the nutrition plan I had mapped out for the bike adding in some bananas at the aid stations and pedaled my brains out. Watching my heart rate and power on the bike I was right where I was supposed to be. At least that was going well. Mind you I haven’t stopped once in my 6hour and 3minute ride since getting on the bike so as I entered T2 me and the porta potty become fast friends, again! Luckily I was ok in that department. Now for a marathon.

I had been feeling optimistic about the run, my previous training runs, although not exceeding a half marathon, went well so my plan was to follow the Galloway method the entire 26.2 miles and hope for the best. At about mile 10 my knee decided to rear its ugly head and remind me that it still was going to be an issue on the run. DAMN IT!!! I tried everything I could think of to either get the pain to subside or block it out completely. “It’s just your knee Anna, everything else is feeling good”. You can do this. I stretch my quadricep,”Ok run to that flag then you can walk ok, maybe not the flag maybe to that post its closer, look at all these people out here if they are doing it so can you”.

Mile 12. I am starting to do the math and at this pace, I will be out here for another 3 and half hours! I can’t do this for another 3 and half hours the pain is too much! I am looking down so no one can see me crying. DAMN IT!!! Just then a very fit, likely twenty-something female passes me running, like really running. She was hard to miss so was the mess she had made of herself that was running down her legs. She had shit herself and she is running like the wind! I just kept walking.

Mile 13. I know the start of the second loop is coming, there are a lot more people around I am trying to hold back my tears and I am desperately searching for my husband Tim. As I come around the turn I grab special needs bags, cross the timing mat, look up and there is my husband waiting so patiently for me. I really start to cry now. He offers me the chair he had bought the day before to sit down and all I can say is” I can’t, I can’t finish. Tears streaming down my face I look at him to tell me to just go, just get up and go! But he could see the pain I was in and just told me “Babe whatever you think you need to do it will be ok” I said ok, not knowing what else I could do to try and finish what I started that day. I handed my timing chip to a race official I didn’t have to say anything, just the letters DNF, he nods his head and I walk away. Trying to stop more tears I realize my race was over. That was the most painful moment I think I have ever experienced in my life.

Those of you who know me know I have a don’t quit attitude. I felt I let not only myself down but my coach, my clients, my friends and my husband down. I know that is not the case and I know it was the right thing to do but it didn’t make me feel any better at the time.

So why write this and then share it with you, because life is short. I know that sounds so cliche but you hear it all the time; “I can’t believe the holidays are here already” and then it is the start of another year. Who we are is not determined by our past, something is only a mistake if it is repeated more than once and everyone who has had success has at one time failed. So look back but only to learn not to wish for a different outcome the change is in your future, not your past.

Most important, give thanks. Thank your body for what it gives you every day. Thank your mind for being strong enough to know when to push through and when to back off. Thank your family and friends for their support even if they think you are crazy. Be thankful for what you can do, embrace your life, your training and your goals in this next year. I wish you the best in all that you desire for 2017!

I wish you the best in all that you desire for 2017!

Thank you for listening

Coach Anna

 

How On should you be in the Off Season?

The days are getting shorter and in the “off season,” you look forward to sleeping in, not smelling like chlorine and enjoying a weekend that doesn’t include a four-hour brick workout that leaves you napping on the couch and skipping out on social engagements. You hang out with your “non-triathlete” friends, you have coffee AND read the paper. You did though put your bike on the brand new trainer, you swore in July you would put to good use but still haven’t taken it on its maiden voyage. Come on you have plenty of time, you have looked at next season and are eyeing a few races but they are 6 months away. Plenty of time. Right? Yes and No.

I agree winter is not only a time to let your body recover physically but also to recover mentally. But it is also a time to look back at this past race season a see where there is room for improvement.

Here are some things to think about moving into next year.

If you lack the ability to resist fatigue then you need to work on your endurance. If you’re unable to surge past another athlete in a race then you need to work on your speed skills and if climbing hills either on the bike or in the run is your weakness then you need to work on your force or your strength. Those three things; Endurance, Speed skills, and Force are the foundation for any triathlon training program and the offseason is the best time to work on these specific areas without the stress of an upcoming race. Now each discipline of triathlon brings a unique set of skills and although you might be fast on the run, as you know, that doesn’t make you able to surge past another competitor in the swim.

So what should you specifically be working on you can click here and take this test to find out.

For a more  broad answer here are some ways to use this offseason to make next season your best

I can say for certain most triathletes need to hit the gym! This is extra important for triathletes over the age of 30, you begin to lose muscle mass and function, a condition known as age-related sarcopenia which you can lose as much as 3% to 5% of your muscle mass per decade after age 30. Lifting weights 2-3 times a week doing basic exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups, seated rows and the like will maintain your current muscle density and help increase your strength for next year. Increased muscle mass benefits you not only on the race course, the more muscle you have the more oxygen your body can deliver to those muscles, but also the more muscle you have the more calories you burn sleeping so if keeping off those unwanted pounds around the holidays is a problem then strength work in then gym is part of the solution.

 

The Swim! Yes, the swim! I find so many triathletes year after year who continue to swim lap after lap with poor form but never get a coach to look at their swim stroke. They keep hoping that lap after lap the perfect swim stroke will just magically happen. Some athletes know they have work to do on their swim technique but use the excuse that any work they apply to a better swim will only result in a few minutes on the race clock. Ok fair enough but looking back at this years 70.3 world championships women’s 45-49 age group, less than 3 minutes separated the top ten women out of the water, of those the top five finishers are less than 3min apart at the finish line. What is that you say? Your not looking to podium just quit yet ,you just don’t want to drown in the swim? Swimming is the discipline where technique is KING so learning to swim better is the key, not swimming more often and doing it badly. Get someone to look at your swim stroke. Period.

 

The Bike! Now I know fat tire bikes are all the rage but not only do you likely not have enough room in your garage for yet another bike but you would rather spend that money on a race entry or two. Like I said before gains in strength will happen in the gym and those gains will carry over to the bike, stronger legs= faster legs, but taking advantage of indoor riding sessions and sweating it out with your friends while the snow is falling outside is the one sure-fire way to increasing your Functional Threshold Power (FTP) on the bike.

Some of you are already signed up for either a Computrainer or Kickr sessions but some of you have purchased your own home trainer. Make sure you use them! Apps like Wahoo, Trainer Road, and Zwift work with your Kickr. Computrainer has its own software called Racermate. There are other bike training programs like Best Bike Split and WkO4.  No matter what you do this offseason focus on your weakness on the bike, if it is hills then intervals of 2-3 minutes in zone 4 with a one-minute recovery is what you need. If speed on a flatter course is where you need the help then speed intervals are the way to go. Riding at in lighter gear for 4 minutes with a high cadence of 100-115 RPM’s that you can control in Zone 2 and a recovery of one-minute will help.

 

The run! It goes without saying, but I am going to say it any way you need to be a solid runner to do well in the sport of triathlon. Unfortunately, triathletes can’t devote the same amount run training a runner can due to the demands needed for the bike. Quite often to make up miles a triathlete will throw in junk miles instead of working on speed drills. I have a secret if you want to run faster all you have to do is……you ready for it?

Run faster!

Ok, I know you are rolling your eyes but it is true! No that doesn’t mean every run you have to try to accomplish in an all out sprint but incorporating Fartlek runs, track work, negative splits and hill work all have a positive impact on your ability to run faster.

Then there are those nagging injuries, using the offseason to correct imbalances in your body will not only help you run, swim and bike faster but also address some of those nagging injuries that got in the way of this year’s training. Taking a Yoga class once or twice a week, meeting with a physical therapist for nagging injuries that have prevented your progress this past season or focusing on a core strengthing program over winter months will help you make the gains that escaped you this past season or take you to that next level in the upcoming season.  So while you sit in front of the fireplace sipping your PSL (pumpkin spice latte) DUH, know that you did your best this past season and look forward to not just working harder in the offseason but smarter!

Happy Training!

Coach Anna

 

 

 

Rest and Recovery are the same thing right?

As a coach suggesting that an athlete skip a workout is like asking them to go out for a workout without their Garmin! But sports science has shown over and over again that rest and recovery days are important elements of the training cycle. But is there a difference between rest and recovery? And when’s the best time to incorporate the two into your schedule?

The Difference Between Rest and Recovery

Rest: Rest is time spent sleeping and not training or exercising. This means letting yourself sleep in or indulging in a nap. You don’t have to sit on the couch and binge watch Netflix but you can literally do anything you want, so long as it doesn’t involve working out.

Recovery: Or  more commonly referred to as “active recovery,” can help relieve muscle soreness, improve flexibility, and restore energy levels. This is where the beauty of triathlon comes in three sports more choices. A long hard bike on Sunday can be followed by an easy swim session on Monday. Active recovery should not be a way to avoid rest, but a way to help the body repair itself after hard workouts.

 

When Do We Incorporate Them?

Rest: The easiest way to tell if you need a rest day is to listen to your body for signs which include an elevated resting heart rate because your body is under more stress trying to heal itself, poor sleep patterns, dark urine because your body is dehydrated, increased irritability, or a general feeling of sickness or constant injury. As a coach, I think rest is essential in order to help my clients rebuild and recover from training.

Recovery: In a day or two following a challenging training session I always recommend an easy workout for my athletes that will help repair the tiny tears made in the muscles. An active recovery day can include an easy swim session, a recovery bike workout or even a restorative yoga class. Foam rolling is often a simple and much-overlook way to aid in recovery.

 

How Much of Each Do We Need?

Rest: Many studies suggest that muscles need 48 hours to fully recover from a workout, but that doesn’t mean you need to take two days off and do nothing.

Each athlete I work with needs a rest day or rest period at different times depending on their unique training plans. Some may need a day once a week or just once or twice a month. Injuries or illness create more demand for rest, and newer athletes may need more rest days than an athlete that has been training longer. This is very reason why a one size fits all coaching plan doesn’t work for most athletes.

Recovery: Every training plan I create has easy days for a reason. While rest days may be pushed around based on experience level, you’ll need a recovery day at least once a week. Scheduling recovery days will still vary based on the volume of an athletes training, but you’ll find that active recovery days should happen more frequently than rest days.

 

How Do you Fuel On Your Rest And Recovery Days

Fueling on your rest and recovery days is just as important as on your high-intensity training days.

Since a rest day is when your body makes the changes you’ve worked so hard for, taking the time to recover properly by fueling for muscle repair is crucial.

Quite often athletes don’t think about what they are eating on the days they are not training hard or even worse they will skip meals because of fear of eating calories they are not burning thus afraid they will put on unwanted weight. This is a critical mistake, it is when we are at rest that our bodies become fitter for the next workout and proper fueling plays a large part in that process.

So what should you eat on your rest/recovery days? Clean sources of protein like eggs will aid in the repair of muscle fibers while low glycemic carbohydrates like oatmeal are good for replenishing glycogen stores. Fibrous fruits and veggies with high water content like cucumbers and oranges help with rehydration. Something I make myself and is now all the rage is bone broth. It can help heal your gut, which is where your immune system lives, It also has been shown to protect your joints and help you sleep better. You can buy it in the store or online but I prefer to make my own with organic beef bones in my crockpot. I have attached my favorite recipe here.

 

Other Aids For Recovery

BCAA’s: (Branch Chain Amino Acids) Research has shown that BCAA supplementation before and after exercise has beneficial effects for decreasing exercise-induced muscle damage and promoting muscle protein synthesis. Muscle damage develops delayed onset muscle soreness or DOS: a syndrome that occurs 24-48 h after intensive physical activity that can inhibit future training sessions.

Compression: Compression garments significantly aid muscles’ recovery once strenuous exercise is over. Using compression socks or pants augments the movement of blood through muscles after exercising, when blood flow would otherwise slow down. This increase in circulation may help flush away some of the biochemical byproducts of hard workouts, like lactate, thus reducing inflammation and muscle aches.

Cryotherapy:  This is something I have recently found to be very valuable to my recovery. In a cryotherapy chamber, the ambient temperature is lowered to a numbing minus 100 degrees Celsius. You only remain in the Cryo chamber for no more than two minutes. Cryotherapy follows the same science as the ice baths but without having to suffer nearly as much.

Foam Rolling: Foam rolling is an easy and effective way to increase the range of motion. Only two minutes of foam rolling a day can benefit an athlete in their recovery. Foam rolling has also shown to help increase blood flow before a workout.

So I hope you see that although Resting and Recovering are different they are both as important to your goals as your training days.

Train hard, Rest easy

Coach Anna

 

The Honest Answer to Why You’re Not Getting Faster (and It’s Not What You Think)

 

Whenever you are confronted with a challenge in life, an obstacle, what is it that is truly standing in your way? Is it you? Is it a lack of desire, maybe even obsession?

What holds you back from success is never the obstacle itself.

It’s how obsessed you are with finding the solution.
I am at a point now,  I know the feeling. The challenge isn’t asking me not how strong I am, or how experienced I am, or how old I am or what kind of bike can I afford.

It is asking me how obsessed I am.

“Are you obsessed enough to get faster?”

This is what people don’t understand about work ethic, goal setting, productivity, time management, etc.

There is no secret.

There is no app for that.

Every single pursuit in life, every goal, every aspiration that is measurable costs the same thing. And it’s not time. And it’s not energy.

The cost is obsession.

  • Are you obsessed enough to do what needs to be done, first?
  • To get out of bed every day and get your workout done?
  • To workout through your lunch hour?
  • To spend your Friday night after a full day of work, by yourself,on the trainer… again?
  • To go outside your comfort zone, over and over again, until you get the results you so desire?
  • To change your group of friends?
  • To say no ….again to another night out with those friends?

How obsessed are you?

This is the brutal, honest answer people don’t want to hear: It comes down to obsession. You want to change? You better be obsessed. You want a faster bike split, a sub 4- hour marathon. You want to no longer be a middle of the pack athlete. You better be obsessed.  You better be unbelievably obsessed.

Obsession is what makes working 8-hours a day followed by a 4000 yards set in the pool at 8pm at night tolerable. Obsession is what allows you to power through. Obsession is what gives you the courage to make leaps in your fitness go beyond where you are now to that place you only dream of. Obsession is what breaks down massive barriers, leading to the results you desire. Obsession is what drives work ethic–raw, gutsy, real work ethic.

You know the feeling of obsession. It is a passion that won’t let you sleep at night because you rehearse your race over and over in your mind looking for those minutes, those seconds that will make the difference. You plan your training week like your planning on going to war, a war you are fighting only with yourself. A war that can only be won if you give everything you have while your in it that’s how you know you have the potential, the desire, that is how you know it is yours because you earned it.

Because you are obsessed.

Let me state for the record that to me being obsessed about something like triathlon is not a bad thing! Not for me. Obsession,passion,discipline,desire are necessary for results. They are symoninous with success. Period!

They are symoninous with success. Period!

Do you think Micheal Phelps is/was obsessed with swimming? Yes? Look where that got him. Or that Usain Bolt does eat sleep and breath every second of a

Or that Usain Bolt does eat sleep and breath every second of a 100-meter sprint?

If you aren’t reaching the levels of success you would like, you need to ask yourself, plain and simple, “Is triathlon something I am obsessed with?”

Swimming! It doesn’t have to be the necessary evil of Triathlon?

open water swimming

You have logged thousands of yards in the pool, hundreds of miles on the bike and more miles of running you can count and the big day is finally here! Race day!

As you stand at the cold waters edge among hundreds in a sea of black neoprene and brightly colored swim caps a fear you knew would come starts to overtake you. Dread.

Through sidewise glances and nervous shuffling you hope to communicate that you come in peace and wish to not be kicked in the head or beaten down into the cold, black darkness once the start gun goes off. “It is the shortest part of the race”, you murmur under your breath. “Just let everyone else go ahead” you remind yourself. What was that pro tip about sighting I watched last night? BAM! The gun goes off.

If this is you then you are not alone, the open water swim is among the top fears of anyone participating in a triathlon of any distance. Be it lack of swimming fitness, lack of experience in open water or just fear of the unknown there are a number of things that you can do to improve if not eliminate the dread that overtakes you at the beginning of what should be an awesome and well earned day!

BTW These are not listed in any particular order of importance unless one or more speak to you personally, I believe they are all equally important.

  1. Do not let a friend lend your their wetsuit if it not the right size for you! Wearing a wetsuit that is too big will not help you stay warm in the swim it will only fill up will water and weigh you down.  Also, don’t wear a wetsuit that is made for water skiing or surfing! These wetsuits are not designed for swimming long distances even a sprint distance triathlon!  Triwetsuitrentals.com will rent you a wetsuit two weeks before your event and only charge you about $45. With two weeks you can practice in your wetsuit and get comfortable swimming in it before race day! Check them out!
  2. Not practicing in open water before the day of the race! I know that the sport of triathlon takes up a lot of time, the endless training hours away from family and friends can be a strain on everyone (definitely a topic for another blog post) but getting to an open water session can be easier than you think. Here are a couple of ideas. First, do it on the weekend VERY early! By getting to a lake or reservoir  on the weekend you will avoid the boaters and jet skiers and can swim safely with little distractions. Take your family with you! Rent a paddle board and have your kids or spouse help guide you in the water this will involve your family and help to keep you safe.
  3. Not practicing sighting is a big problem. Unfortunate race organizers still haven’t  figure out how to get a black line painted on the bottom of the lake you are going to race in so they have decided to continue to put large brightly colored buoys on top of the water to help you know where to go. Sighting in open water is a skill and needs to be practiced, too much sighting takes a lot of energy but too little and you can be swimming off course. You want to sight like and alligator with your eyes just above the water. Practice sighting in every pool session. I have attached a very short clip here so you can see what effective sighting looks like. If you want more details then contact me and we can set up a private pool or open water session.
  4. Practicing in the open water before the race will help you to determine which direction you pull. Most swimmers pull or drift in one direction more than another. Let’s say you know you pull right then you need to take that into consideration in the open water. If the swim course is counter clockwise and you pull right you will constantly be course correcting and likely sighting more than you need to. Knowing you pull to the right it would be better to position yourself on the inside to the course thus using the mass of swimmers on your right to help keep you on the course. This segway’s me into my next tip…
  5.  Know your course i.e. race venue,which way the course is set, will you be swimming into the sun, etc. Showing up on race day and not knowing all of the above only adds unnecessary stress. Race organizers post the swim, bike and run courses on their website. If you are unsure of the course map contact them they should be more than happy to help you. Knowing if you will be swimming into the sun will help you decide what kind of goggles to bring. Oh and bring more than one pair, you never know how mother nature might throw you a curve ball with a cloudy day.
  6. Still, can’t get to a lake then practicing in a pool is the next best thing. Some master programs have open water swim practices where they move out the lane lines and go through drills to help replicate the feel of an open water swim. Also practicing in the pool with your wetsuit before the race is a not a good idea it is a great idea! BTW if the wetsuit does feel like it fits you right in the pool the wetsuit fairy isn’t going to magically make it all better on race day!  Your wetsuit will feel tight but the more you wear it the more you will get used to it. But if it really isn’t working out for you either find another suit or make sure you are putting it on correctly.
  7. If the swim is the shortest distance why should I spend so much time on it in my open water training? I believe in the quality of training, not quantity, yes the more you train in the open water the better but using the time you do have to swim in open water by focusing on sighting, relaxing in your wetsuit and swimming a mock race course helps. If the open water swim is the biggest obstacle you face in your desire to become a good triathlete then you do need to spend more time on it… in the beginning. In time and with some races under your belt it will become more familiar to you and less of a dread.
  8. Lastly, focus on the mental part of the swim during your practices in the pool and open water. At the pool don’t be afraid to circle swim with total strangers when your lane partner goes by and you can feel their splash or feel the water from their kicking think about how that will translate in the race, you don’t stop you just keep going. When you are practicing in the open water and you get a mouth full of water instead of stopping see if you can just cough it out with the next exhale. Goggles keep getting water them or fogging up get a new pair and use a small spray bottle of diluted baby shampoo before swim to wash them out so they don’t fog up.

Here is a great drill I use in my coached open water swim sessions.  After putting on your wetsuit,goggles and swim cap enter the water about waist deep and completely dunk under the water anywhere from 3-10 times making sure you blow bubbles out when you are under the water.

Doing this will help relieve the initial shock of the temperature of the water even if it considered warm it will still take your breath away. After dunking swim ten slow relaxed strokes out and then ten back sighting every four strokes. Repeat this again. Then swim twenty stronger strokes what you would do in the race and twenty back again sighting every 6-8 strokes. Repeat this again.

At this point, you should be ready to start. During your open water swim session count your strokes to ensure you are sighting every 8 or so and also use your stroke count to do some speed drills as well. Speed drills in the water are similar to those you would do in running only by stroke count, not time or distance. Your speed drill can go something like this: 10 strokes hard 20 strokes easy repeating 10 sets. It can be any number of strokes you feel that you can maintain for 10 sets then settle back into your regular rhythm. Don’t forget to sight!

If you are really a beginner you can continue to use the shoreline in your drill swimming twenty strokes out hard and twenty  strokes back to the shore easy and using the shore to rest.

Most important be safe out there! Find a safe time of day and area of the open water that has as little motorized traffic as possible. Swim in a lifeguarded area if available and with a swim buddy or a friend in a SUP or kayak.