This past Sunday I was sitting in the pews (okay actually chairs). After the service, in which the pastor had spoken about what heaven may be like and what jobs we may each have when we get there, I fielded a question from an old friend I have known since my college days at OSU. He asked me, "Do you think we will have to exercise when we are in heaven?" The tone of voice that my friend used had a bit of a snide edge to it. In the past, this friend has at times questioned me indirectly on the amount of time that I spend swimming, biking and running, plus the many other activities that I do. Now, you need to understand that this friend of mine went into cardiac arrest nearly 20 years ago and has had to "exercise" (mostly walk), under instruction from his doctors ever since. My response to his question was that I don't really know. But, after thinking about his question more, I sure hope so. Being able to move my body through swimming, biking and running has literally saved my life; I rarely see it as a chore. Sure, there are days when it is tough to get out the door. But once I do, a smile usually starts to grow across my face. I don't really see myself as someone who "exercises" or even "works-out." Why? Because I get to go outside and run though the woods on beautiful trails, ride my bike as fast as I dare and sometimes faster, and swim in some beautiful water and fantastic pools. I get to see how amazingly the human body can move, how fast it can go, how unique we as humans are in our abilities to learn complex movement patterns. When I think of all the other ways our magnificent bodies can move through our world I am almost certain that we will get the opportunity to continue to do so when we leave this world. So to my friend, yes I think we will get to exercise in heaven.
During a recent run with one of the Pure Endurance Athletes, I found myself reminding them to back off the intensity on the rest portion of a set of hard intervals. Whether it was because of running with another individual (coach), or just a natural tendency of a competitive person, the rest interval in this case was being done at a pace that did not allow for much recovery. This problem is one that I see so often as a coach and experience as an athlete myself. For some reason we get it stuck in our heads that in order to improve, the work must be very strenuous all the time. While the example here is about individual intervals within a single session it can also apply to a week, or entire block, of training.
For the example above, the athlete was supposed to be completing builds from a solid Z3 pace up to a very strong effort. Since this effort was only four minutes in duration, with the fastest pace only being held for the last 30-60 seconds, we would have expected to see a finishing pace eclipsing their recent best one mile interval by a fair amount. However this was not the case. While there are many variables that could have played into that day's individual performance, but the practice of going too hard when a plan calls for easy is pretty universal. I strongly believe that this one habit is a limiting factor for many athletes striving to improve. I myself have been guilty of this more times than I care to admit.
During a short exchange with the athlete, they were able to understand what I was getting across by bringing up an example and phrase that a coach from "back in the day" had told them. The example was in regard to running hills, and the advice was to break the hill into thirds. The first third was to be done at a pace that felt "guilt-producing easy." I loved this so much! It is a great descriptor of a level that too often as athletes we don't allow ourselves to work in. The problem is that if we cannot embrace the "guilt-producing easy" intervals, we will never be able to hit the very high intensities when they are called for because our bodies will already be taxed. This means the session will not have the same impact for performance gains in the future.
Lies, Part II...Technology
I love them and hate them at the same time. Those little devices on our wrists that give us more numbers than were likely required for the first space shuttle launch.
Yes as a coach I love to have the data, and often in coaching there is a progression on how we use the numbers and data over several seasons. When first working with many athletes I have found it necessary to give them boundaries to keep them from turning every single training session into an absolute suffer-fest. While I can understand, and most likely frustrated my own coach when I started working with her almost a year ago, there is a reason why trying to always push faster when the fitness is not there yet is bad for us. When we are returning to activity after a long absence, our lack of speed and endurance can be discouraging. So, the tendency is to push ourselves to go faster and harder then we should because, "How can I be that freaking slow!" We crank it up to prove to ourselves and the world that we still have it. In running, "I can walk that fast" is a phrase I have heard more times then I care to count. When we are not fit, it is not difficult to get the HR up to near our max, it happens quick and regularly. Backing off to a sustainable effort and HR causes the pace or output to drop to levels that make us cringe and think "This is waaaaaay too slow. I really need to go faster!" But what does the athlete most likely really need? Consistency, consistency and more consistency. It takes so much more discipline to approach training in this manner and do things correctly than to just go out and push hard.
After a bit of time developing as an athlete, it is important to begin to understand different work zones, the delayed response of perceived exertion and HR, and how to pace correctly for the best result.
So how does the mini computer on your wrist whisper in your ear all sorts of lies?
It's smart, but not that smart. And it sure as heck should not be replacing your brain and your ability to sense how your body is functioning and performing.
Your device can make you believe that you are not performing well during a given training session because the pace displayed can be flat out wrong. Go under a canopy of trees, go along the base of a hill that partially blocks connection to the device, have a battery that is getting low, etc.... all these things can cause your device to display a pace or output much different from reality. But what do we do in response? We immediately think, "you suck, you cant do this, all that work is not getting you anywhere, give up it's not worth it." Really? Don't let yourself go there and don't let a number, at one point in time determine your worth and ability. Work instead to follow the intent of a given training session, let the numbers be what they are during the session, and analyze them after the fact. You may just surprise yourself.
The countdown continues, much too rapidly, to my race in Hawaii. Only 50 days remain. Focus is sharp, legs are responding well to consistent training, just feeling about 2.5-3 months behind where I would like to be performance-wise (due to a setback two months ago). Guess that's why I paid my registration for Arizona 70.3 on October 21st as a "backup race". While pursuing my own racing ambitions I have been reminded of a few key things that, if not properly understood, can cause an athlete to leave a training session frustrated and feeling defeated, and wanting to throw in the towel or host a pity party for one. I like to think of these things as "little lies." If you give these lies a foothold in your brain they have the potential to negatively impact the race results you work hard for.
My next few blog posts will focus on these little lies that can sabotage your training. Here is the first one..."If I sweat a lot I got a great workout!"
Your rate or amount of sweat during a training session is not a measure of your effort level. This is contrary to the current fitness culture, which tells us that ending up in a lifeless heap on the gym floor to create a "sweat angel" is the pinnacle of effort given in a training session session. Let me explain a bit. First off, I'm a fair weather bike rider (call me a chicken or whatever you want). But after a few close calls on days when visibility was limited by rain, road spray, fog, etc., I log a substantial number of miles indoors on the bike trainer. Currently, as I prepare for my warm climate race in just 50 days, I have started to add in a few sessions on the trainer where I shut all the doors in the garage (training studio) and keep the fans turned off. These are low intensity training sessions that if done out on the road would not feel like much of an effort. However, when done with zero air movement, our bodies generate a micro-climate which makes it feel like riding your bike in a stifling greenhouse. Kinda like riding on the Big Island will feel in less than 2 months. By the time my ride is done, a small pond will have formed under my bike that has about the same salinity as the Great Salt Lake. While this effort might look impressive at first glance, (look at that puddle of sweat, that guy must have really killed it today!) that session actually didn't do much of anything to improve my fitness. What it did was to simulate the type environment I will be racing in soon. Mentally this is hugely beneficial; it also helps with dialing in my hydration strategy for race conditions.
This example illustrates the point that your sweat rate is not a direct correlation to your effort level. On another training day recently, my session called for intervals that took me above race effort for sustained periods of time. We are talking leg-burning, mental struggle to keep the legs churning, kind of effort. Fans going full blast and doors wide open, music blasting. At the end of the session there was barely a drop on the ground beneath my bike. No Great Salt Lake, no Salton Sea. Nope. The difference was that this session called for deep muscular effort. Had I tried to perform that kind of effort with no fans and door shut I would have failed to produce the kind of power required for the type of session that I was trying to accomplish. I heard an analogy at a coaching conference that referred to doing a high intensity session in a sauna like atmosphere as "blunting the tip of the sword." This means that, if done with any kind of frequency, this will have a negative effect on performance because the body's limiting factor becomes overheating rather than building muscle during a hard effort. Yes, you will sweat buckets, but that does not mean the training session was effective at helping you toward your race goals.
I have been know to tell my athletes that they are overdressed, especially on high intensity days. Yes your knees should be covered on the bike in cooler temperatures, but that does not mean that you need 5 layers on top, plus 2 hats, a balaclava, and lobster-claw gloves when it is 54 degrees outside. In running it can be especially easy to overdress since we do not generate the same speeds as in cycling, therefore the evaporative cooling effect is not as great. This can lead to a lot of sweat, but not as much physical benefit from a given session. It is important to keep in mind what adaptation you are seeking to achieve and plan accordingly. Sweat volume or rate is not necessarily a good measure of whether you have achieved the goal of your session or added to your fitness.
With that being said, its time to hit the pool and then another round of "sauna session" on the bike.
50 days and counting...
I was inspired after reading a post race recap from local professional triathlete Jesse Thomas. Jesse recently raced at Challenge Wanaka in New Zealand, often listed as one of the most scenic races in the world. His theme of "Cool Races in Cool Places" for this season, saw him take 3rd place, even though according to Jesse, his training load is down significantly from where it often is coming out of winter. While not all of us have the opportunity to travel to foreign countries to compete and push our individual limits, we all have the opportunity to enjoy what we do in our chosen sport.
Now, not every training session will feel like a holiday where we are excited to do what session is written down. However there should be an element of gratitude in everything we do in our chosen sport or activity. I believe that this gratitude can change the lens through which we look at our training and competing. In Jesse's write-up of Challenge Wanaka it is apparent that he is very grateful for not only where he is able to race, but also grateful for where he is in life with business and family.
This does not relieve us from the hard work that will need to be put in along the way in life or sport. It does, however, help to change our attitude as we approach difficult situations that will invariably come our way. Being able to navigate challenging times is a marker of resilience.
I recently listened to a podcast from coach Matt Dixon where he was interviewing one of his athletes
who is an elite amateur and a busy CEO executive. Sami shared one of his strategies for staying focused and moving forward. Each morning he writes down 2 things that he is grateful for. While this may seem elementary, I think it has a lot of merit. Soon after my wreck on the bike just over 3 weeks ago I started such a journal. With all of the negativity surrounding most of us on a daily basis, it becomes pretty easy to feel defeated, unmotivated and otherwise negative about, well, pretty much anything and everything. I am not saying that starting a gratitude journal will solve all of the problems each of us have in our busy lives. I am saying that not looking for ways to improve how we operate on a daily basis will likely not bring any reward.
Link to Purple Patch Podcasts here
By now most of you know that I spent a good chunk of my Monday at the friendly local ER after coming to a sudden stop from 20-0/mph by hitting a dog that was coming at Rebecca and me. My guess is that dog has ribs as sore as mine since I hit him broadside, then launched into the air landing on my right side. While the films were negative for rib fractures the physician diagnosed me with a fractured rib based on physical evaluation. My post last week was about life giving you rest days. Well I should have known better than to talk about that since life has now given me an unknown number of rest days coming up.
Truth be told, I threw a party on Monday night after the crash, and I mean a big party; the only person invited to the party was me; a big pity party for me. It was everything I could do to not lash out at the innocent bystanders around me. For the most part I just stuffed my emotions down deep inside, probably a defense mechanism that I perfected from almost 12 years in the Fire Service. This one really hurt. I have been thinking about this specific race and its location for over 18 months now. With the race only 4 months out, yes there is time to still train after I recover, but this is critical time to be able to layer in the fitness needed to reach the lofty goals that I had set for myself. Coming to terms with this blow has not been easy for me. I could list a huge number or reasons why there will not be another race like this, and in reality there won't be.
However unfortunate that reality is, living in that place will not do me any good at this point. So what do I do from here? Focus on what I can do, which is really quite a bit. It may not be the intensity of work that will get me to my original goals for Hawaii 70.3, but it is sure a lot more than logging nothing. At this point, I am counting walks as a win. For right now I will focus on what I can do each day. I will do my best to not host another party for one, and will be grateful for each day.
And with my wife's support and encouragement I am signing up for Arizona 70.3 in late October. Who knows, it might be even better timing to achieve those lofty goals. I will still do Hawaii 70.3 in June, with more of a focus on enjoying the experience. I will keep pushing forward and will also work on my ability to dodge those big dogs that like run out in front of bikes on quiet country roads.
|Sometimes life gives you rest days.|
Many of you are aware that I am training for a race in Hawaii that has special significance to me. That race is now less than 130 days away. Days like yesterday do not really help in the preparation for a race that I have put so much pressure on myself to perform well in. Or does it?
Coach Matt Dixon had a saying when I was listening to him speak in Boise that went something like "Sometimes life gives you rest days." My thought yesterday was "Life is sure giving me a lot of rest days."
When I initially started my journey back to racing fitness I set for myself a pretty lofty goal of getting on the age group podium at Hawaii 70.3. Since setting that goal a funny thing has happened along the way, called life. Last night was tough for me from the standpoint of feeling my goal slip away from me. I felt that I was almost at a crossroads, knowing full well that 128 days is not enough time to get to my lofty goal. So I feel like I have a choice; I can choose to hold onto a goal that may not be realistic anymore and go through the next four months frustrated. Or, I can take each day as it comes to me and stop making excuses on days when I "just don't feel it," knowing full well that life will bring me real rest days (like when I end up hauling a wounded duck and my son with his tear stained face to the veterinarians office).
I choose to take each day as it comes, get more organized, and execute my training the best I can within the context of real life. Real life includes vet visits, sick kids, aging parents, 4H shows, horse riding lessons, a business to run and grow, mending fences to keep out the predators, and whatever else life throws at us.
Here is how I see today unfolding. Once I get done hand feeding and getting this duck to take its medicine I am headed out to run in the pouring rain, a run that has some real promise, because these legs got an extra rest day!
Bring on Hawaii 70.3!!!!! It's going to be awesome!
P.S. Bungee, the duck, is hanging in there for now, but it will likely be a long recovery.
220, 230, 250, 260 watts......... HR 155, 1158, 163........ Come on, come on, come on......... ARHHHHHHHHHHHH Why am I getting slower!!!!!!!!
The above is not a direct quote of what was going through my mind on a recent ride, but is close enough for the purpose of this hopefully short post.
This ride of mine was frustrating due to the fact that, despite relatively solid training (except for the cruise to Mexico that was not kind to the waistline) I was putting down intervals on the bike that were a whole zone slower than what I had been able to do just a month ago.
I got home from the ride frustrated and feeling like my goal for Hawaii 70.3 was slipping away. After a few back and forth emails with my coach about the experience and talking to one of my long time athletes who is a coach in the making, it really began to dawn on me that increased stress was likely the main reason for my lackluster performance on the bike that day.
Another factor that really messed with the training session was that I was so focused and stressed about "hitting my numbers" that when I started missing a interval here and there I knew it immediately. This is a problem because in the heat of the moment, when your heart is pounding in your ears and all you want to do is will your bike to go faster but your body will not allow it, the brain does not take into account, and remind you of all the other current life stressors that are impacting your body.
That is exactly what happened......
Once I cooled off a bit I was reminded of a talk that Coach Matt Dixon gave while I was in Boise in early December. He stated that his athletes know the intent of their sessions and know what is to be executed, then they go out and do it by feel. Then they let the numbers be what they are. Newer athletes can benefit from seeing a specific number of pace or power so they can associate what that exact effort feels like. As athletes progress it is important to be able to go out each session and complete the session to the best of their ability that day without being chained to a given number that causes additional stress and anxiety during the session. Once it is all said and done and the brain actually has sufficient oxygen to think clearly again, then you can sit down and pick apart the session interval by interval. Had I done this instead of being married to my Garmin, I may have saved myself a whole day of heartache and stress. I likely would have been able to look at the session from a more holistic point of view rather than being so myopic as to why the session did not go as well.
Moving forward I plan on changing my approach to most training sessions. I will understand the planned intensity zones and intent of the session, then I will hit start on my watch and only use the timer to keep track of how long I am at each interval. That way the numbers do not stress me out because I am not hitting them, or hold me back from a breakout performance because on that day everything lined up to create something awesome.
Get out there, train smart, train hard, and know the intent of what you are working on. Do not be married to the numbers in the thick of the session. analyze the effort only after you have sufficient blood flow to the brain. Above all else, enjoy what you do with your training. I was reminded of this as I scrolled through pictures on my phone and came across this one of my son. He does not ride for numbers, he rides to see how fast he can go down a hill, to feel freedom, to explore, to feel the wind in his face as he pedals as fast as his little legs can carry him.
Please post questions or email me with your own experiences in this area.
Quote from Matt Dixon
"For any given workout, you need to have presence, understanding the purpose of the workout, have your resources available, and make a habit of executing the intentions of that workout"
I am looking forward to meeting and learning directly from Coach Matt Dixon this weekend at the Pacific Northwest USAT conference in Boise.
Link below to Coach Matt Dixon's new book
I am so thankful for the perfect timing of my business reading this morning as I work my way through one of coach Matt Dixon's latest books. I am being reminded that while the world tells us to focus on our end goal in order to stay motivated, that focus, at least with this goal, scares me beyond belief. To the point of feeling a bit paralyzed. In coach Matt's book he reminds the reader that one should be focused on process goals, not the end product. This is such a departure from many other sources of "advice" See, if I focus on the event itself then I quickly start to compare where I am now to where I want to be in just over 6 months (pause taken here to go execute that process goal and get in a Brick (bike/run session).
"For any given workout, you need to have the presence, understand the purpose of the workout, have your resources and energy available, and make a habit of executing the intentions of that workout." - Matt Dixon
When I focus on each session and the solid execution of that session, the end goal will take care of itself. This somehow takes a great deal of the pressure off. Because at the end of the day worrying about what is six months down the road does me no good in solidly focusing on the day's tasks and the training at hand.
Some days this means scaling the training session due to things outside of my control and being ok with that. It's life and it is good, messy but good. This does not give me the green light to not plan ahead and just quickly throw out the session when any one little thing comes up. Quite the contrary, I plan, schedule, protect and invest time to set aside the focus, energy and readiness for each training session. After each session I will take a few minutes to reflect on what went well and what I could have done to improve one area of the session. Often this results in recognizing that I could have planned better, starting the night before, to set myself up for success.
Side note, you may have noticed that I refer to training as "training sessions or training" instead of workouts. Not sure where I picked that one up, but the reason is quite simple. In the fitness industry in general there is a long standing feeling or sense of needing each "workout" to leave you in a heap, sore for 2 days, and really feeling like you "left it all out there". The problem with taking that mindset into endurance training is that it will lead to plateau, burnout, injury or illness (see last week's blog on "Moderate Training Rut"). Training sessions each have a different purpose. Some are meant to leave you in a heap on the ground, some are to force you to endure for long periods of time at a lower intensity. Not easy but definitely a different type of hard. While others are meant to leave you feeling more refreshed than when you started.
So to summarize, while there will be days when you are just checking a box that the training has been completed, you will improve so much more if you begin to understand that each session has a purpose, and that bringing your best, most prepared self to the start of each session will take you so much closer to your goals.
|Sometimes Z2 end up being a fall leaf hike/run|
|Feb. 2016 top of Haleakala|
Dreaming of warmer days!