TriCoachGeorgia

Are You an Over or an Under?

Look at people’s belly buttons some time. You will notice that some are innies and some are outies. Triathletes are kind of like belly buttons. They are creatures of habit. They either nail their workout to the T, cut it short, or overdo it as a rule. They either overeat and gain weight or underfeed and lose weight. Both approaches hurt the athlete’s performance.

You can make an argument that each approach to hitting the numbers is worthwhile. Mrs. Slayer, for example, has a 10 mile run lined up yesterday in preparation for the Athens Half Marathon (http://athhalf.com/), and what does she do? She hits 10.00 and stops the watch. Likewise, she monitors her caloric intake as a rule. Her discipline is admirable like many of yours.

I, on the other hand, have a 30 minute run on the books. What do I do? 45 minutes.  After a big workout, I get out a box of ice cream, even if it’s low carb, and go to work!  At least I have done so in the past.  This is the pattern for both of us. Others eat unhealthy and find ways to cut the workout they have short. Bottom line, we all have patterns of repeatable behavior.

When former world champion and current Augusta 70.3 champ, Mel Hauschildt (www.melissahauschildt.com) was in town with me, she told me she never overdid her training program. Her longest runs were 90 minutes at a time for the entire year. I, of course, was aghast as that is a medium run for me. I would also watch her eat pretty healthy as a rule (even some lambchops from my fave www.Chops and Hops.com).  As a side note, they comped her meal (but still haven’t re-named the House salad to the Haus salad)!

She would naturally would be someone to emulate per her results, but some of us just can’t help it. OR CAN WE?

The triathlete has to ask themselves why they have a compulsive need to overdo the workouts or to eat excessively. Or why  are they quitting early? Are we insecure, competitive, driven by parental or important figure messages from childhood? Is it weakness, laziness, disinterest, something else? The one who nails sessions are eats right probably has less questions to ask himself or herself. Unfortunately the over and under crowd have to answer to their coach and/or themselves.  Sometimes professional help needs to be sought (like at www.positive-outcomes.com – haha).

Although not ideal, a coach has to navigate these behavior patterns and try to get the maximum performance out of the athlete without incurring injury. They have to, in a sense, out think the athlete. Perhaps, plan a 14 mile run when they really want a 16 mile run for the over and  vice versa for the under. The coach with the compliant athlete has to do no such thing.  Helping out with accountability regarding general nutrition and weight can be another role of the triathlon coach.

At www.TriCoachGeorgia.com, we have a comprehensive training plan that not only will help you maximize your performance, we will also hold you accountable and encourage you to seek help if its needed. We realize that athletes are people and people are fallible. They can benefit from an objective, outsider viewpoint about what may get in the way of overall success and goal achievement. We may see your training more clearly than you do as you are less objective. This may cause you to re-examine your characteristic position as an over or an under, and move towards being the best you, you can be!

TriCoachGeorgia

Where Do I Go From Here?

Even before I was a certified triathlon coach, a lot of folks asked me this question. Now even more often I am asked it. And I help the athlete answer the question. I don’t give him or her the answer. I give them the tools and information in a real way to help them make informed decisions.

As Spartacus, aka Coach Brian, discussed eloquently in his YOU MUST BE SMART blog, refining goals is the number one thing you and your coach will do for the next season. Ultimately it’s a decision that should be made with you and your significant others. It all begins with goals, not in an esoteric or impractical managed care sort of way. Managed care, well intentioned as it may be, is ridiculous at times trying to quantify human behavior or performance.

Goal defining is real and meaningful in triathlon. People don’t play around. They say “I want to race at 180 lbs, I want to break 5 hours at HIM, and/or I want to crush 20 mph on an Olympic bike.” Do you want to reach a weight loss goal? Do you want to race sub 5 for a half ironman or sub 12 for an ironman? Both? Do you want to complete a half ironman with a smile and your arms outstretched like Rocky? How about a shot at the podium at a local sprint?

Once you have the goal or goals we begin to set the race schedule.  We have to figure out when we want you to peak. Some folks like two (Spring and Autumn) or three peaks (add Summer in there), others want more or less. How about a season that starts at a Sprint triathlon, progresses to Olympic , half ironman, and culminates in a late season ironman? Do you just love to race alot and stay fit?

Your coach will advise you what is realistic and should be informed about the close and distant races that lend themselves to your goal achievement. Bottom line, you need a coach that is going to get you to the start line healthy, progressively builds your fitness, leaves you happy because you and your family are cool with your training, and ready to crush dreams or achieve your goals.

How do I get there?

After the goal(s) is/are refined and races are targeted, we begin the process of trying the best way to get you ready to achieve the goal(s). For me I try to examine the diet and training nutrition and/or set the weekly structure from which I will apply the training stress through intensity, frequency, and duration. For example, for a long course triathlete, we may shift to more protein, vegetables, and healthy fats and less whole grains or sugar sports nutrition (see our blog on no secret sauce) . Regarding scheduling, it may be shifting a long run to Tuesday, placing a long swim on Saturday, and giving you a longer brick on Sunday. Other days may include some interval and tempo efforts across disciplines.

If the goal is to improve the running base we may look at a 6 (i.e. BarryP on www.slowtwitch.com) or 3 day running week (i.e. something like a Run Less Run Fast model) and work together to slot the other two sports in accordingly. When swim is the focus, we may look at four days of swims incorporating speed, tempo, combinations, and endurance. Open water and pool swims may be prescribed. Likewise for cycling. We love to prescribe trainer and road sessions hitting each system.  We may have to get creative due to your work and family situation.

In conjunction with your workouts prescribed on www.trainingpeaks.com. Weight loss goals may be addressed through trainingpeaks as well. There are other accountability functions coaches can serve. We may ask you to send us daily weigh ins or food diaries.  Pace, heart rate, watts, perceived effort and fatigue are ways to get at training stress, which help us to modify your schedule in a dynamic way.

Now it’s Show Time

Once the structure is in place, it’s on the athlete to execute and to communicate. It’s the responsibility of the coach to be alert, responsive and flexible.  We are the kind of coaches that make time for you. Why? Because we care!

At www.TriCoachGeorgia.com, we are trying our best to facilitate you achieving your goals. It all begins with goal refinement. Then we both do our jobs and race day is just another day where we represent! Let us know what will make you intrinsically satisfied. Then we go to war together as a team. Sure is nice to have guys like Coach Slayer and Coach Spartacus behind you.

TriCoachGeorgia

To go APE you must be SMART

I want to expand on Slayer’s comments about going APE and talk a little about planning.

It’s very important to have a plan for any endeavor and endurance sports such as triathlon will be more successful with a solid plan. Most plans usually start out with an idea and a vague sense of how to attain the idea, but it needs a more deliberate thought than saying, “I want to complete a triathlon.”

Planning involves very specific items to ensure success. Planning includes goal setting and an effective goal setting technique is the SMART one.

SMART is a mnemonic for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed.

Goals should be straightforward and clearly define what you want to accomplish. In addition to the main goal, there should also be smaller goals placed throughout your plan to use as mile stones and achievements to keep you motivated as you strive for the big goal. The SMART method can be used for any life application from learning to play an instrument to getting a new career. Today, I will discuss using the SMART method for triathlon.

Specific

Instead of saying you have a goal to get in shape to complete a triathlon, make that goal specific to a particular race distance, location and date. An example of being specific is, “I will train for three months to complete the Langley Pond Sprint Triathlon set for April 2013 in Aiken SC.” Being specific makes the goal very real to yourself and to others with whom you share it.

Measurable

Setting goals gives you long term vision and measurable milestones along the way will keep you motivated. Your goal of training for three months and completing this sprint triathlon in April 2013 is measurable because time will continue to tick toward that date. Also, successful goal attainment is enhanced when you can specifically measure your progress. For example, you will be training over three months and in those three months you should have fitness tests or some other marker to verify you are making progress in getting more endurance.

Attainable

Or, action oriented is next in the SMART way of goal setting. Determining a goal and committing to it puts your actions in motion to attain that goal. You will identify ways to achieving the goal and those ways will become priorities. Attitudes, abilities and skills will be developed to get you to your goal. You also want to be positive in your thoughts and self talk about the goal. Say to yourself, “I will have a great swim session,” instead of, “This swim workout will suck because I’m not a swimmer.” See yourself achieving the goal.

Realistic

It’s important to make the goal realistic. While you don’t want to make the goal so easy that it takes minimal effort to achieve, you also don’t want to make it so difficult you fail. If you have never swum beyond the length of a pool or ran more than across the yard, setting a goal for a half iron distance tri in three months may not be attainable whereas a sprint tri is more realistic. Your goal needs to be high enough where it requires effort but realistic given your current fitness level and available time to train.

Timed

This is the endpoint of your goal. In our example, the timed or timeliness of the goal is three months. Setting a time to attain the goal gives you a clear target towards which to work. A goal without a specific end time is too vague and does not create urgency to get the job done.

There it is. To go APE you must be SMART and the coaches at www.tricoachgeorgia.com use this method in our own training and we will use it in planning your training to help you determine and achieve your goals!

TriCoachGeorgia

70.3 is the Distance for Me Now

Some folks don’t know that I went to over 180 Grateful Dead shows in the late 1980s and early 1990s. I was a deadhead with a bushy curly afro and even took my wife to her first show at Wembley Arena (Werewolves of London!)! I love to travel and see new places and learn different cultures. You never knew when that magical show would hit so you would keep going back for a bunch of good but not stupendous shows.

Similarly I loved to chase the magical Ironman day for a brief spat. I figured you could race one every six months or so and train hard and smart and you were bound to have that magical race day where it all came together. That would be the Mecca of triathlon for me and many others regardless if you qualified for Kona.

The Big Shift

Truth be told I haven’t had my magical day, but my IMFL in 2010 was close to a big hit for me. I think I may even have a better one in me. Unfortunately, my IMCDA in 2011 told me results at the IM distance were not going to get progressively better until a magical crescendo hit. They were shockingly different dependent on so many variables it wasn’t even funny. You do what you can to control the ones you can control and hope for the best on the variables you can’t control. Subsequently, of late, I stopped thinking about Kona and started thinking about the bigger picture which included the massive toll that pursuit was taking on my family, my work, and me.

Except maybe one time, Ironman 140.6 on a semi-annual basis is not really sensible for most ordinary people, especially ones with tough jobs, families that depend on them, and who have other demands on them outside of sport. However, 70.3 is totally doable within the context of a well rounded and balanced lifestyle. Consequently, I started shifting over to 70.3 as my favored distance. It may not be the Dead show where they break out the Dark Star or St. Stephen that they haven’t played in a decade,
but it’s definitely the Phish, Disco Biscuits, or local fave Dank Sinatra show where they play some great tunes, you reach some level of nirvana, and you can totally jam out.

As opposed to very long days in the saddle training for 140.6, longest bikes for 70.3 are 3-4 hours which gets you home in time for lunch on the weekend. You can run a 15 mile maximum long run and your swims are no longer than an hour! This creates much more family, work, friend time than Ironman training. You are not as beat down mentally or physically so you can focus and get around better. Not to mention, it saves you a lot of money on sports nutrition that I have touched on in prior blogs, but will discuss more at length in a later blog.

If you lean towards long course, you will probably want at least one M-dot Ironman or independent long distance course like Setup Events’ Beach2Battleship or Bone Island to your name. You may even want the tattoo! However, don’t get sucked into believing that 70.3 isn’t a great distance to race and hone your long course prowess. There are so many more options at 70.3 including the largest in the world in our backyard of Augusta and there is less of a demand so you don’t have to commit a year in advance. Vegas 70.3 world championship, if you can qualify, seems to be every bit the magical destination at this point as Kona. At least to me it is.

Also, I should mention that short course distances are fun and tough in their own right too. Like my training buddy Ghost sometimes says, “it’s like a fork in the thigh vs. a toothache”. One way or the other you will have to endure some pain. Of course, we try to prepare you in a way where the pain is bearable.

Why is 70.3 our distance of preference now? Because, like a lot of our athletes at www.TriCoachGeorgia.com, 70.3 allows for balance. Balance is more important than the strife a 140.6 mile race can engender to even the most well-intentioned. Coach Brian and I will help you get you ready wherever and whatever distance you choose to race. Just don’t undersell the value of 70.3 or shorter course or overvalue the 140.6. Mix it up and keep your feet on the ground!

TriCoachGeorgia

Facing Your Limiters in Triathlon

What better time than now to go APE?

Many of us age groupers are winding down our seasons, or have already raced the big race, though some still have that big one on the calendar. Regardless, the racing season is tapering off and we are setting our Autumn and Winter schedules up, planning next season’s race schedule if not done already, and trying to regain some balance in our lives. The taxation of the racing season is less pressing and we can step back. There are a few simple steps to take now that can have a huge impact on your performances next year, and we all love to see a positive trend over time.

Considering the concept of return on investment or best bang for the buck, here are the steps I suggest you take:

Assess

If you haven’t a good idea of what your limiter(s) is/are , then it’s time to go back through some of your race results and see your relative rankings in each discipline. Were you a one weapon or two weapon racer? Did you show less prowess in transitions and/or was nutrition your downfall? Did you have solid efforts across the board but suffer due to poor response to stress on mass or wave swim starts, mechanical problems, weaker back halves of races? There are many ways to examine the question at hand.

Begin by listing what areas you have to work on, and then rank order which will give you the biggest benefit next year on race days. Then get some baseline times for various distances, paces, watts, heart rate zones, what have you through some easily obtained testing protocols. This will give you a great starting place to compare back to.

Plan

For some the swim is their downfall, for others the bike, and some the run. Some need across the board improvement. If you suffer on the swim, consider hiring a personal or group swim instructor, join a masters’ program, design a winter training program that allows for at least 3-4 days of swimming, review YouTube videos of good swim form, consider signing up for a swim only race, and begin to attack your limiter. Cycling and running plans are widely available online and there are ample opportunities for group rides, spin classes, group running programs, and road races.  Make sure you set realistic goals, dedicate yourself and have the proper support at home and in the water or on land. Mini goals along to a larger goal may be a good way to get where you hope to go without getting frustrated.

Execute

Now get it done. Delegate where possible, consider changing your work schedule to accommodate, set the alarm if you need to. Track your progress through free or pay sites online, many of which are linked to social networks. Don’t be afraid to publicize your goals if it will help you meet it. Develop some training buddies that will help hold you accountable and some regular times to meet and train. People are creatures of habit and there is something comforting in routine.

Conclusion

Attacking your limiters now will pay off in a big way when the racing season is back upon us. Going APE is the way to maximize your time investment in a structured and balanced format. Triathlon is a lifelong pursuit, so have longer range vision about your improvements.

Coaches like the ones at TriCoachGeorgia.com can help you now, which will help you later. We have a track record of helping people achieve their goals and doing the same as triathletes ourselves. We make time to help our athletes go APE. Send us an email or call us. We are eager and willing to help you with comprehensive offseason planning that will enable you to best DYJ (Do Your Job) next year!

TriCoachGeorgia

My Approach to Race Nutrition for Triathletes & Runners

This week’s blog comes from a simple but brilliant post written on the Georgia forum of www.BeginnerTriathlete.com by one of my best triathlon buddies, the elusive Brown Dog, Doug Bachman. Actually, his wife, the less elusive but still wonderful Mrs. Brown Dog, Stephanie made a couple of good points too (i.e., you must fuel well before and after an event to have the best day and drink to thirst per one of my faves Dr. Tim Noakes). We are a very active, not always agreeable but friendly, bunch on the forum and I like to throw questions out there to stimulate discussion and flesh out opinions.

Is There Such Thing as a “Secret Sauce”

This particular topic had to do with “secret sauce” or tricks of the trade we had learned this year. Somehow my secret sauce question led back to the topic of “the best” nutritional plan. I get lots of back channel questions because of my weight loss and success with a lower calorie approach to racing. After some thoughtful discussion about how each plan has merits, it generally ended up with coaches and triathletes chiming in that there is no one method that works for everyone and, thusly, we must all find out what works for ourselves through trial and error, Doug wrote there is no “secret sauce”.

According to him, “you have to work hard and smart in training to figure out what works for you. The people who struggle with nutrition are the ones who listen to anything published by Gatorade or just do what one of their fast friends do.” Here he is absolutely right. Too many of us take the plan that was passed down from coach to coach, without properly considering the full effect on the body.

Doug stated that he “used to give detailed nutritional advice, but (he) realized that wasn’t really helping the athlete. Now (he) tell(s) them this:

Learn to train on less.

You need to know exactly what it feels like when you start to run out of fuel. Most people think they are low on nutrition when they are actually just low on energy/fitness. Eventually you will know how it feels when you need salt, fuel, or a blood sugar boost.

Learn to pace yourself.

An overwhelming number of GI problems on race day are caused by going harder than your stomach can handle.

Learn to perform well on a variety of fuels.

Train with Gatorade sometimes.  Use UCan for a month.  Eat nothing but salted boiled potatoes and drink water on a long ride.  Take in nothing but flat coca cola and salt tabs for your next 20 miler.  Use infinit.

From my experience this year, racing several HIMs on less than 200 cals and, in fact having a breakthrough race of a 4:26 on 140 calories in April, I will not dispute that we can train and race on many less calories than you might have heard or would expect. Prior to my breakout season, I personally have had solid races up to Ironman on 300+ calories per hour post swim (but I woke up in the middle of the night before race day to pound down 1000 calories) and many pros take in many more calories than I do so its not always best to do the less is more approach unless it works for you.

Personally, I hated gaining weight on big races and big training days, not to mention the horrible toll on your system so this approach works for me.  Many of us former heavy people don’t just do triathlon for podiums, but for healthy living and weight loss/management.  Not even mentioning the physical toll on your teeth and systems, even the ordinary person sees the problem with excessive sugar intake.

Pacing is also crucial. You overshoot the swim or the early bike and the later bike and/or the run could get ugly for you in many respects, especially from a GI perspective. If you want to push the pace on race day you have to push the training stress (e.g., volume and intensity) in training. You have to do your job preparing and not buy into a less is more training approach unless you are very gifted and talented.

Finally, you have to learn what fuels work best for you. Like Stephanie said, learn that race day nutrition starts the days before and ends after the race. Eat well as a rule and periodize your nutrition to your nutritional training needs.

I love the products like natural foods (e.g., bananas, raisins, dates, smoothies, etc.) and  Generation Ucan that work hand-in-hand with my general nutritional program that I share with my athletes and friends. Obviously, I am not a big fan of sugar based products, which have no nutritional value and can lead to bonking because of the insulin spikes, but some have/had success so we know the protocols and how to refine them for you. Slower burning fuels like Ucan seem to me to be the way to go, but I respect others that choose the traditional sugar-based paths of gels, blocks, and the liquid mixes (if they work in training and they don’t mind the physical toll).

One exception for me is for the elixir, coca cola, on the back half of the runs on long course triathlons. Short course triathlon is another animal and requires a separate discussion altogether, but I see far too many age groupers with a cornucopia of gel packs for a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon. Not only is that unnecessary, it slows you down and is bad for your body. You have 2-3 hours of glycogen stores for training or racing in you at any one time if you fuel well normally.

Here at www.tricoachGeorgia.com we systematically work with athletes to refine their particular nutritional plans for a variety of triathlon distances and other endurance events. Though not Dieticians, both coaches have had extra coursework and study in the area of athletic fueling, healthy eating, weight loss, and weight gain. We are familiar with Seebohar‘s caffeine and sodium loading protocols and a variety of fueling strategies. We can help you along those lines as part of our comprehensive coaching package. Give us a shout and see what we can do to help you score a personal best while finding your happy weight in and out of sport!