Friday, December 26, 2014

Managing Multiple Pursuits Over the Holiday Season

One of the side effects of holidays (or any break in the weekly routine for that matter) for me is facing the additional demands I place on my free time. Obviously there simply isn't enough already, the irony being that the more free time I seemingly have (i.e. on a holiday) the more things I discover to do. Is everything I'm doing on my time off really important? Almost never. What is the difference between my free time management and regular time? What is the deadline? Who is involved? In this case there have been no deadlines, and nothing clearly defined is involved. By internalizing the possible outcomes I hope I will become better committed to a clear path and able to easier navigate future uncertainty. For me the goals that matter I have never had to write down. Another extension of this is know enough about the process that I am not distracted by alternative or contrary advice. Grounding yourself in reality will help prevent being drawn I nto fads or advice that will ultimately detract from your future performance. Acknowledge that you are blessed with motivation and perhaps the gifts of ability to be able to pursue something that you are passionate about.

Find Your Passions to Find Yourself

Adopting a self-check system can help balance a persons drive to compete including self-assessment questions like: am I doing what I love? is this feeding me? is it fulfilling? In this way you will be clarifying your priorities and possibly going so far as to outline the specific steps needed to manage your life and activities. Assess your goals. Along the way you will organize yourself and also organize your life in a way that better enables you to fill you free time with productive activities, even if they may seem peripheral to your big objective. Part of this is knowing and being able to identify activities (even ones that are not obvious) that support your chosen goal. A corollary of this is automating as much as possible anything that you don't need to take an active role in completing for your own benefit. This can include things like cleaning, cooking, paying bills, etc. There are many services and people who can help you take yourself out of direct involvement in these extraneous chores. On the flip side consider freely offering your time in ways that contribute to your enrichment but may be helping to automate the lives of other less dedicated to your particular pursuit. Working as a connector in a field that allows for frequent interaction may be the best way of accomplishing this.

Stay Focused By Being a Connector!
One of the hardest things to accomplish and also one of the most important tactics is that of removing everything else except for the object your plan to pursue. Having a plan that you are interested in is obviously of utmost importance here for a number of reasons. Not only will this help you focus your mind during downtime, it can help improve your overall patience and dedication. At the same time you will realize that focusing on only one thing can be mentally limiting and exhausting. In order to better apply yourself to a single task it is clear that certain amounts of distraction, downtime, and recovery is required. Attempt to find distractions that are entertaining but that do not add additional fatigue. Think of your energy and capacity to progress as cyclical as the tides.

Go With the Flow
Breakdown projects into tasks. Consider the costs, the scope, and the time commitment of the goal. Delegate. Prepare for disruption and change. Don't panic. Stick to the plan and avoid scrambling to make up for shortcomings. Remember your own and others success stories. Realize that you can't do everything. Avoid multitasking unless you are really good at it. Reach out to others and ask for help! Communicate. Don't allow your ego to get in the way. Take frequent breaks. Stick with the program and don't lose focus. Get it done! Remember the big picture. Be proud of what you do accomplish. And again make sure that you finish what you start. 


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Managing Injury Near a Race

Mostly the best way to manage an injury is to prevent one from ever happening. In many cases this is simply not possible. Injury will happen when you are not aware that there was even a risk. On the other hand with a chronic injury that is aggravated by training there are other considerations. At the extreme an injury will prevent an athlete from exercising or performing in a race event. Most moderated injury causes discomfort but may not make a race impossible. In this case the injury is minor, however the injury could also be aggravated or become  a chronic problem during an extended athletic performance.

Managing Injury Will Help Avoid This On Race Day

The most common triathlon injuries are related to overuse. Overuse is a condition that results from training the muscles to a point where they are unable to repair properly prior to subsequent training. As a result of the weakness additional strain is placed on ligaments, tendons, and joints. Eventually these body parts fail and pain, inflammation, and trauma occurs. Training through these types of injuries can lead to permanent damage or increasing pain that causes the athlete to take significant time away from intense training. Injuries afflict all three of the triathlon disciplines and each instance will require careful consideration and the input of health and fitness professionals.

Triathletes Bodies Endure Unique Demands
Basically it comes down to the fact that if you have even the precursors for an injury you should not race. In other cases the injury will be far enough away from an event that you will have to consider managing the affected area for recovery while still training. This will require modification to training plans, additional emphasis on recovery, and using body supports such as wraps, braces, or tapes. More serious pain will affect the body outside of training, pains that can be managed will often come up during the training. If the injury resulted from a training error there is a good chance you won't make the same mistake again, injuries that arise without direct cause or during normal movements are more concerning and suggestive of overuse. Ultimately it's much easier to prevent injuries than to treat them. Doing your best to prevent getting hurt will pay dividends come race day. Prevention includes all of the normal practices of flexibility and strength training and also less obvious practices such as taking extra rest days or cutting workouts short depending on how the body feels. Finally it is important to consult physical therapists regarding all training plan modifications and injury prevention practice.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Problem Solving: It's All a Matter of Perspective

Performance management applies to so many different areas of my life lately that it has been difficult to recognize how significant this has been. The amount of work I need to apply to different extensive projects, and by extension my enjoyment of doing these projects, has both depended on the way I am training myself to look at each challenging step along the way. In this vein fully embracing each step and activity has not necessarily been a part of my grand strategy. Currently my perspective is to over-identify problems. I am no longer first and foremost a problem solver, I am a problem finder. I don't see problems as obstacles to hurdle I see them as things that require work and diligence. In this way I know that there are no short-term goals, only short-term problems to be climbed over on my way to long-term objectives.


Often you can only choose to address one or two at any time!

This wasn't always the case, for most of my career I've self-styled myself to be a 'problem-solver,' now as I've grown and developed in both my career and personal life I've come to learn that the problem solver is only as effective as their ability to identify the problems. Solutions are actually often relatively simple and straightforward, asking difficult questions and posing abstract problem scenarios can be extremely challenging and creative. A truly great problem solver cannot be effective if they don't have the proper perspective required to identify the truly significant problems and challenges they are currently or soon will facing. Some of the worst teams I have been involved in have all suffered as a result of poor problem identification and prioritization. In this way it is surprising to me that there are so few articles written on the subject of problem identification and athletics. I know I've been frustrated with coaches in the past who've not seemed to be able to grasp a problem I've tried to present to them. Of course the other hand is that I've often brought up concerns that bothered me personally but that were not relevant.

You have more important things to be focusing on right now!
Using problem solving is only as effective as your ability to problem identify. In this respect it may be better to over-identify problems while having an efficient system for prioritizing your solution management. At the least you will be less likely to be completely surprised by outlier events that pose a challenge to you meeting your objectives.

Monday, November 24, 2014

2015 Triathlon Goals

As with the start of any New Year, if not a time for making resolutions it is definitely that time when you need to start planning for the upcoming year. This last year I managed to execute on a number of major goals related to my career, schooling (mainly the whole graduating aspect), and of course health and fitness. Granted last year was relatively light in the whole racing department, this is something I am hoping to expand on as I finally finish school and begin working. In addition this is the year I turn 29 (a big number!) and the last opportunity I have to prepare for the grueling and highly-competitive 30-34 age group. For the coming year I have decided to adopt a much more proactive approach to the use of racing as a training motivation, especially considering that my 'A' race doesn't take place until the end of August! Rather than simply selecting major goals sprinkled throughout the year (letting them fall where they may) as I did last year for 2015 I have split my year into months. Although I have more objectives for the coming year than just racing I've decided to limit this post to what is also the major theme of my blog - that being health, fitness, and triathlon.

Gear Purchases

TYR Hurricane Cat 2
2015 Specialized Tarmac Sport

Saucony Kinvara 5

Profile Design Aerobars


Fitness Goals

Swim - 1500m @ 18 min, Bike - 25 miles @ 1 hour 2 min, and Run - 10km @ 35 min

Monthly Breakdown

January

January is a big month, after all it is the start of the entire New Year! Happy 2015 everyone! I don't have plans for News Years Eve so if you are doing anything be sure to let me know! Anyway I digress. This is basically the month I recover from the holidays and return to my training program. I don't have any events planned for January because I want to focus on training for an event in February.

February

February is my birth month! That shouldn't affect my training or race planning any way. I decided to run in the Hellyer Half Marathon in San Jose, CA. A couple of considerations went into choosing this race over the much larger and more established Kaiser Permanente San Francisco Half Marathon mostly its come down to that this will actually be my first half marathon, this event is much closer to home, and I would prefer a smaller crowd and easier logistics. I haven't set a specific goal for this race as it's something I typically do closer to, long-term I am hoping to have a 1:30 half. Needless to say most of February will be run focused, which is good because it is winter!



March

For March I decided to celebrate 1/4 of my heritage which is Irish with a St.Patrick's Day race. This will be fun because I can wear all green and maybe a shamrock headband or something outrageous. If all goes well in February this will be my second ever half marathon! For this event I should be taking the lessons of the Hellyer Half and applying them in a way that I should hopefully be better able to complete this event with ease in good time. Other than that I think this may be a bit of a fun run so I won't be taking my ranking results too seriously assuming I place near the top of my age group.



April

Breaking from my prior two-month tradition of running half-marathons my first triathlon of the season (and my second tri ever) takes place in April. It is the Half Moon Bay/Silicon Valley Sprint Triathlon in Half Moon Bay, CA. This will be my first ocean triathlon and also the first race I have done at sea level. Going into this event should motivate me to be doing the open ocean swimming that I need to practice. Ideally I will have an easy race and can grab a confidence boost before I jump into the much longer swims required for the International and 70.3 events which is my current long term goal for at least the next two years. Looking at last years results suggests that this will be a relatively small event.


May

For May I'm hoping to step up the distance a bit by completing a bit of a longer event. The Morgan Hill Sprint Triathlon is at the extended distance race for this class of event with a 1200m swim, a 16mile cycling leg, and finishing off with a 5 mile run. This event should be my longest to date and more closely will resemble the International events I plan on doing later in the season. By this time I hope to have practiced my open water swimming to the point where I am not troubled by the open water aspect of this event. I have visited this reservoir before is lovely and I have a good idea regarding road conditions and topography. Other than the swim this should be a very straightforward event and hopefully the first one where I can use the bike that I want for the year pictured above.


June

For June I decided to do a third USAP Events branded triathlon this time it will be the California International Triathlon taking place in Pleasanton, CA. This will be my first official Olympic/International triathlon. I chose this event because it is a lake swim. I am hoping that I will be more comfortable doing later season races at altitude and in the open ocean at this distance if I can start with a lake swim. The lake its self looks fairly small and I am hoping that I establish a realistic timed trial of my fitness for future races.


July

The Firecracker 10k is a race I have been looking forward to doing for a couple of years. There is no real fitness objective here other than to have a great time. Well I guess that it is incidental that the 10k distance also applies to my coming 'A' races so I could be doing this as a Time Trial but mostly I've been wanting to just make it out and enjoy the course. You can check out a preview on the events webpage which shows just how nice the day will be.


August

In August I have two major events planned. The first being the Crystal Springs Trail Run which is held in Woodside, CA. The Half Marathon for this day is actually one of the shorter events being held. I will never have done a trail run to this point. Mostly I am interested to check out some of the Ultra-runners and trying trail running for the first time. There was a January option for this event but I think that the weather will be nicer in August.


The second main event for August is the Lake Tahoe Olympic Triathlon, this is a special event to me because it is also my first triathlon. I have a race report up from the event I did this last summer in which I knew that I wanted to return. This is where I am hoping that my hard work improving my swim will finally pay off, if not this is going to be a very painful event as I have keen memories of suffering on the swim from this summer. Basically the altitude will throw a wrench into all of my training and preparation. I'm hoping to have a fun time in a beautiful location. Other than that I can't really set realistic goals as I know from last time that hypoxia will be the ultimate limiter. This event has proven to be the most motivational for me throughout the year. Tahoe is something of a local race and attracts may Bay Area, Northern Californian, and Nevada residents. I feel that it is a worthy challenge and something that I want to excel at in the future.



September

September will be my final racing month as I have it currently planned and is also the time of the year in which the Santa Cruz Triathlon takes place. This may be the most popular event I have planned and is likely to have the largest competitive field. I simply love the location and the course is spectacular. I am looking forward to getting comfortable with bigger fields and also the longer ocean swim. In this case we swim right around the iconic pier. Assuming I have survived the Lake Tahoe Triathlon at this event I am hoping to me much more comfortable on the swim as it will be my return from the altitude of Lake Tahoe. This is a decidedly local event and some of the best triathletes from the Bay Area will be competing.


2015 Banner Coming Soon!

October/November/December 

Currently I have nothing planned for these months other than decreased training load and possibly an ad hoc fun run with friends. I am looking forward to reporting on my progress throughout the year and redoing a post similar to this in November or December of 2015!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Reflections Triathlon Offseason

Apparently I missed an important date that was the date in which offseason officially started. The reason I know that I missed this is because everyone is already doing it am I am only just now catching up!  If you don't know what offseason is it's when triathletes take anywhere from 2-weeks to 2 months off from their normal training regimes. Most people typically won't stop training or exercising entirely but most will greatly reduce the amount of time and intensity invested in the pursuit/addiction that is triathlon. The theory behind offseason is basically that there are no more major races until spring, also that it is the end of the year meaning that most people's 2014 plans will have been executed and time needs to be spent resetting mentally and physically for the upcoming 2015. Some commonly understood activities of offseason that don't apply to the rest of the year include:

It Is Offseason There Is No One Here!

  • Stop working out! (Seriously stop it!)
  • Ok if you're going to do anything mostly do high intensity work on your weak area, for me that is a couple days this week swimming. 
  • Sleep in. 
  • Plan your next race season, I use competehub.com you can find me there. 
  • Plan your workout schedule, factor in changes to your life in the coming year. 
  • Drink lots of beer and find some of that weight you have been avoiding during training season.
  • Catch up on everything non-triathlon (reading, work, hobbies, friends, family, etc.)
  • Meditate on your prior year.

Let's face it if you are like me taking a break off from training means that you've just rediscovered a whole lot of free time. Even a moderate training regime takes up about as much free time as any serious hobby. This is why most triathletes I know obsess about productivity and lifestyle planning. This sounds great in theory but as anyone who functions under a loaded and stressful schedule will tell you there are sacrifices to be made. For me a common situation is where I have predetermined a plan or course of action; however, as a result of the demands of the program once I am involved in it I have trouble taking a step back properly to reassess. This is one reason why I utilize coaching and another reason why an offseason is so important to me. I will never be as able to properly assess my results and the effectiveness of my plan as when I am completely removed from the day-to-day grind of completing those set of objectives. At a minimum your offseason should be at least two weeks in length, but more importantly when you return to training and competing make sure that you are genuinely refreshed, refocused, and better attuned to what you need to be doing this coming year.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Persevere Through Failure Don't Embrace It

Quitting isn't always bad. In fact there is probably more written on how to fail and way of embracing and learning from failure than there are on maintaining. It's getting to the point where the tagline 'embrace failure' is cliche and turns up in some form or another without clear definition almost everywhere you look in motivational, business, and sport writing. This leads me to believe that we must fail a lot. Afterall we a spending a lot of time learning how to be good at it! It is true that I have failed and given up on a lot of different activities, hobbies, interests, occupations, and lifestyles in my past. In fact one of the character traits I am most proud of has been my willingness to adapt to new circumstances (i.e. give up on the old) and embrace new experiences. On the other hand I also have goals some of which require intense dedication and effort. If I were to stop before I reach the end of them the negatives of failure would far outweigh the pain and suffering it will take to finish. What is more important than failure? Obviously it is learning from your mistakes. OK so do I need to fail to learn from mistakes? I don't think so. What I would be better off doing is practicing ways of not-failing by learning from the mistakes and failures of others. Afterall there are somethings I really really don't want to fail at.

Sometimes, Failure Isn't An Option!

It turns out that most athletes quit their sport as a result of injury. Injury prevention is sometimes a factor that you forget about until it's too late. It's hard to imagine how this sort of failure can in any way be good. Being forced out of something you love to do would be extremely difficult and traumatic. Unless you are planning to fail in a safe way related to sports it doesn't seem like there is much benefit to the activity. In fact the job of most coaches is to prevent an athlete from failing.

Tired? Injured? Or Just Feeling Like Quitting?

Another kind of failure is the desire to simply quit after a certain length of time pursuing an activity. As time progresses it is obvious that what was originally an interesting and engaging activity may become less exciting for the participant athlete. Even people who are passionate and love a sport may eventually come to a point where they feel ready to turn their efforts onto a new pursuit. In many cases the motivations and goals that enticed the participant to join the activities in the first place no longer exist or can be satisfied in other ways. A lot of people simply experience burn-out by pushing themselves too far too quickly, they are unable to step-up to the challenge of a higher competitive level, physical factors prevent sport specific excellence, increased interest in another activity or sport, and possibly an extremely unpleasant experience related to the sport. Quitting something is never a black and white issue. Any number of these factors could be a good reason to leave the sport. Ultimately you have to ask yourself am I leaving because I think that failure is OK or am I leaving because I can succeed better doing something else. If you are accepting your failure just because you believe that failure is somehow always a good thing you probably aren't leaving for the right reasons. So don't give into failure because you think you will learn something where you could have persevered and accomplished something great, give into failure when you won't be getting returns on your invested effort.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Ironman Arizona IMAZ Course and Race Preview

Ironman Arizona (IMAZ) is a very popular and highly demanded late season Ironman. It is late season in the sense that it is mostly already fall time for most of North America but in a sense it is one of the earliest qualifiers for Kona 2015 so look at it how you will. Formerly held in April this is the 9th running of a very successful Ironman course and location. This years event features the debut of Olympic triathlete Brent McMahon and former hockey player Heather Jackson.

As is common for these events expect that most of the competitors won't be getting much sleep tonight. Today will be spent either registering, or in transition doing final gear checks. If you arrived after Thursday you've missed the traditional underpants run.



Swim (Cool & Murky):
Expect a crowded swim start as is typical at these events. In most cases the starting line for this event will be spread out enough that most athletes can avoid getting beaten up too badly. Hopefully everyone remembers that foot massages are not always welcome and the swimmers can spread out without too much difficulty. Weaker swimmers generally seed to the back of the pack but there is always a shuffle between the stronger and weaker swimmers. With cool 65 degree water wetsuits will be legal and are recommended for helping reduce those swim times. Tinted goggles are a must swimming into a rising sun. There were a few reports last year of record breaking swims making some wonder if the course is short or if there is an unreported lake current that is helping. The water does have poor visibility. Watch your footing on the way out aluminum stair have been know to break toes (like my coaches big toe at Ironman Texas for example)!



Bike (Flat & Fast):
The bike course starts with three out and back loops making for congested roadways and mental havoc as competitors have to avoid other racers and keep track of their location. As with most things that are repetitive keeping focused may prove difficult for some. The elevation profile for this course makes a perfect pyramid three times for each out and back. This course is tempting for an all out hammering of the hills with time to recover on the back side, for most who attempt this will also be a reminder of just how far 112 miles really is. This course is gorgeous by the way, if you've never been to Arizona or Utah before expect to be blown away. By midday there could be the additional factor of a rising wind as the course heats up, worst case here would be a crosswind otherwise a tailwind will help more than hinder. Because the course the pretty much flat(ish) and the road is in perfect condition these factors will highly favor those able to hold an aero position comfortably the longest.



Run (Rough & Dry): 
This is a fairly flat course and possibly one of the reasons for IMAZ's reputation of being beginner friendly. That being said it is still a full marathon and deserves all the respect it is due. Rumors of poor surface conditions continue to dog optimists like me. Most competitors will enjoy looping back to greet friends and family a number of times. Anyone who was seeded over from Ironman Lake Tahoe will be taking a huge break on this leg (not to mention the bike to be honest)! There is a hill, also known as 'the hill,' most won't be sprinting it even though it is relatively short.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Struggling is Good

Most people do their best to avoid struggling as much as possible. I know that I go out of my way to make my day-to-day and weekly activities easier. On the other had I was recently watching a documentary about the production of a film where it turned out that every time it seemed that the challenges were too great the solutions the producers came up with ended up making the film very popular and original. If the production hadn't suffered the results would have been much less impressive.



It turns out that struggle is one of the most motivating forces in peoples lives. Struggling humbles people and forces them to apply their skills or hone their talents in order to solve the problem they are currently facing. Thinking back on myself and the times where I struggled and faced opposition were also the times where I tried hardest or came up with some of the most creative solutions to the problems that I faced. Sport is a constant struggle on a number of levels. Everyday is spent working to improve and reduce the effects of fatigue or injury. A lot of what is required to improve is repeating and practicing the same skills and routines over and over again. This is a different kind of struggle than most people expect. Often I face the struggle to be consistent and committed. This is only one example. Another common example comes from needed to make sacrifices, accepting limitations, or even having to seek and ask for help. If you can manage to balance all of these competing demands and focus on your goals you are much more likely to someday succeed. In this way struggling is good, it motivates and makes people look at their situation honestly. Struggle often defines a persons character and makes their success stories more inspiring.

Monday, November 3, 2014

5 Important(ish) Things I Am Going to Do This Week

It's the monday after daylight savings, which means Christmas is almost here (the connection is pretty direct). November is always an interesting month in that regard. It's kind of the last chance to salvage (or continuing crushing those goals) the year, it's also the lead up to Christmas and generally recognized as the start of flu season. I've had a great year so far including many new experiences and met most of my goals with some still to be defeated (perfect!). Planning for the next two months involves finishing my Accounting degree (finally!) and escaping the arctic chill here in Canada for a move to sunny California (so long suckers). But that's all big picture stuff, what I am going to do this week to make sure that I am on track for the remaining 9-ish weeks of the year?

1. Do my homework! 

Being almost finished a degree can be tough, really tough. I want a diploma, my professors want to give me tests first. I've done tests, plenty of them, in fact I'm pretty much through with test taking for a while. Not that I don't still have a bunch to do, and not that I'm really caring anymore. I'm a learner, I love learning, I hate taking tests. I guess I can thank the modern school system for turning my love of learning into something I know I won't be doing best when my motivation is largely GPA related. Whatever, time to buckle down, make those sacrifices, and earn a few more A's, or B's, it really doesn't matter that much anymore.

You Want Me to Memorize What?
2. Reset my circadian clock

Daylight savings sucks..! Oh wait this is the good one. Daylight savings rules..! Nothing like literally setting the clock back to wake up earlier to make me feel like a well rested champ. On the other hand it usually isn't long before I'm sleeping a bit late again. This is an opportune time to go for broke and be that early bird out to catch the juicy worms. Not to mention that I will be joining a Masters Swim club in the New Year that starts practice at 5:30a daily! Time to hop on the early morning red-eye bandwagon.

4am? At Least No One Will Hear Me Crying

3. Lists of all kinds

For me making a list is a fun and rewarding activity. I enjoy the experience of sitting somewhere comfortable and contemplating whatever topic with a friend or even alone. Usually I forget about the list shortly after or I am not able to complete all of the different items but it is always such a relaxing activity to me. Lists help me organize, clarify, and be more productive. I should be making more of them for fun and to help keep my life manageable.

Step 1: Making a List of the Lists I Am Going to Make!

4. Think about the future

This is another activity for me like lists that is almost entirely wishful thinking. On the other hand for the many hours I may spend thinking about where I am heading, what things around me are changing and how events have unfolded in the past there are bound to be at least a few valuable conclusions. Now I'm not really a futurist or anything. But maybe I could be!? Mostly I should be thinking about the coming weeks, months, and years of my life and what actions I can be doing now that will help me going forward. Not a bad use of time actually. Some of my classmates don't even know what area of Business they are interested in!

Is it Too Early to Get Into Forestry?

5. Write more blog posts! 

I'm just going to leave it at that. Not that I don't need this to-do as a reminder here!

They Don't Write Themselves People!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Ready, Reset, Go!

In an earlier post I mentioned the importance of momentum. That is very valid and something that I know still works. Unfortunately due to a variety of fall related factors I have almost completely lost my momentum for the last 3 out of 5 weeks. My Strava training log has never looked so pitiful. Rather than setting record highs by pushing up past the 14 training hours per week threshold I now have a new low with a 2 hour training week! They say it takes around two weeks to begin losing fitness. So what else happened? Oh, nothing like a bit of a carb bender to throw off my fueling as well. Hey if I'm going to be sitting around I may as well sit around eating plenty of carbs in the hope that I will be bestowed the energy/motivation from on high to get my butt to the gym. In reality loads of carbs made me lethargic and sleepy most of the time. Well I've cut the carbs and it's 5am and I'm fueling for my coming w6a eight session which means that it's time to get back on the horse. No more excuses! (Results TBD).

It's Time to Hit That Button!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Cast a Wide Net

What make a great project? How can you be sure that you have addressed everything you need to when planning for a big event? Maybe you think that you are not finding diverse sources of feedback and you just keep coming up against the same things time and again. Chances are that you are not casting a wide enough net. In gathering material for a large project there are many places to turn, both obvious and obscure. The trick to finding the best sources and adding diversity is searching through everything in between and beyond where you might expect. Looking through everything in between also involves being open to new experiences. It's about always keeping an open mind and not limiting yourself to what is familiar from the past or to only what you are experienced with. Opportunities to learn and improve can arise unexpectedly and without direct or obvious connections to your primary activities. 

However, a wide net can also be a bad thing. Sometimes less is more. Adding too much can be overwhelming and as a result the benefits from the most valuable activities may be lost. When you are casting your net be sure that you are not also wasting your valuable resources. Make sure you have practiced the ability to also assess opportunities as they relate (or not) to your big project or goal.  

Casted a Wide Net Result: Many Fishies!

Friday, October 17, 2014

Triathlon and Body Image

Most triathletes care about how their bodies look. In general people are dissatisfied with their bodies, partially the reason fitness is so popular. People placing emphasis on their looks and outward appearance has never been so important as it is today. Some of the medical conditions that can result include extreme dieting and/or exercising! Athletes are supposed to be focusing on their sport performance not how they look but that is impossible. Everyone cares about how their physical characteristics are responding (or not!) to their activities. For me I know that objectively speaking I don't have the perfect swimmers body, I'm too short and my hands and feet are way smaller than what a great swimmer would need. I never really thought about it before but in the back of my mind I realized today that I actually find it harder to look at myself in the mirror before swimming compared to other sports where this inferiority conception does not apply!

Oh No! Not This Again!

Being realistic about your body characteristics can be difficult. Perception plays such a huge role in sport and athlete development. Generally we know that athletes and people who exercise are more happy with their bodies and have better body image. But what happens when these bodies suddenly are not capable of meeting performance expectations? Quickly a perfectly fit body can seem defective and useless for performing the desired activities. On the far end of the spectrum you may know people with Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD). This is a psychological condition where the athlete tends to naturally view themselves as fat or non-masculine despite their relatively high levels of fitness.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

8-Things I Always Do In Between Triathlon Race Season

Between race time is always great for needed relaxation and recovery. It is also an important time to reframe your goals. Sometimes when I stop training I get feeling a little bit 'blah' but a few short workouts (especially runs) can help a lot with that. Wait long enough before getting back into training and I may even find that I am more couch potato than triathlete (OK maybe I don't let myself go that far!). What am I doing with all of that spare time in the fall? What should I actually be doing with it.

Pretty Colors and Cool Weather, Dammit I Really Should be Training!
Fall Activity #1 - Putting on Weight
Seriously where did all of those calories used to go? Now that I am no longer considering the effect of every ounce of body fat will take on my way around the course I can get back to something other than the anorexic chic I had been approaching. OK I was never that slim but I can certainly find 10lbs at this point without even worrying about excess weight or body image issues. Sadly all this will happen with fewer calories than I enjoyed while training. Isn't putting on weight supposed to mean you aren't sacrificing?

Fall Activity #2 - Catching Up on Work/Study
Obviously those 15-20 hours per week have to go somewhere. Right now that is directly into my studies. Well almost directly I have been free reading a bit more as well.

Fall Activity #3 - Detoxing from Redbull/Carbo Loaded Bars and Gels/Caffeine/Endorphins
Redbull is a very special thing to me. At some point it was the one working out and the rest of me was literally floating along. Forget about the dependency issues I was cruising on this stuff. All of that is behind me for now. Resetting isn't hard, all of those carbs and stimulants really did was carry my carcass far enough for the exercise stimulated endorphins to kick in anyways. Without the constant feeling of extreme fatigue it's almost like I'm on a Redbull buzz anyways.

Fall Activity #4 - Reframing Goals
Now is a great time to start asking questions like: Who am I? What is my purpose in life? ... Well maybe not quite that deep but I am definitely looking at my coming year ahead.

Fall Activity #5 - Mental Break
Basically this amounts to getting full nights rest (all of the way until 7a, wahoo!) and not constantly pushing my butt out the door for those killer runs late in the week when I needed to make my mileages. Overall my attitude has definitely improved and I've noticed myself starting to have fun again in places like crowded supermarkets and other 'choke points' which used to be a much bigger stressor.

Fall Activity #6 - Reviewing Strava Logs
Basically I am looking for where I was at my last peak so I can gauge what my fitness goals are for next season. I am also identifying repeat events or exercises that I can enter for a better time-series of feedbacks. Partly this is my own self gloating about all of the hard work I did, partly I am keeping a bit of myself on edge so I don't forget what I'll be coming back to.

Fall Activity #7 - Marveling at Feeling of Being Fully Recovered
Wait a minute! My shoulders/butt/legs don't hurt! Checking for pulse now. OK still alive!

Fall Activity #8 - Dreaming About Get Back Into My Training Routine
Who am I kidding? My number one activity right now is dreaming/wishing I was training and in race shape again! Here's to Spring 2015!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Pain Management

Well, today was a rare day. I usually don't have to quit a swim workout early, especially not when it has been planned for. The problem? Pull-ups, well a particular pull up challenge to be exact. Doing 30 chin-up, 30 dips, and 60 hanging abdominal crunches sounded like a great idea when I started on Sunday, today is Wednesday and I think I've seriously hurt myself. Well not injured as in a torn muscle, ligament or the like. But seriously why am I still sore? Why am I so sore today that I couldn't swim? I don't really know other than to say that the facts don't lie. If only I had predicted my impairment and thought to bring along some worthwhile pain management techniques.

There has been a lot of research into pain thresholds and it happens to turn out that triathletes have a higher tolerance for pain than average people. This is because we are used to suffering, in fact we train for it. Triathlon is literally a triple threat for injury. Pain is the bodies warning light that something is going on that the brain-body system doesn't agree with. It is absolutely true that pain is only in your head, it is also absolutely true that pain is indicating the need for a lightening of the training load. That being said pain is unreliable, think of bumping your funny bone and how much that hurts, why should it there is actually no real injury? Knowing the amount of pain may not be helpful in managing it appropriately. Especially since the longer you have been training the relatively less amount of pain you will experience. Pain should never be used as a feedback during exercise. Experiencing pain has nothing to do with the quality of exercise you are completing. Pain is simply telling you that you are wearing down parts of your body and that eventually your behaviours/actions will have to change to allow for recovery. So today when my initial reaction is to notice the pain and immediately consider how I can ignore or shut it off is a totally unsafe approach. I know what caused the overtraining (or overchinuping as it so happens) and now I know the result. If I really want to manage pain I need to organize my week to allow for proper recovery so I don't have any more mis-starts on the pool deck. So bodyweight lifts on Sunday and not swimming until Thursday and see how that works.

Stretching Shoulders: Warm-up or Pain Management? 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Always Be Editing!

Looking back over the last few posts something is clear: I don't do as good of job editing my writing as I thought I did when I published a lot of these posts! What's up with that? Well I generally don't like editing my work!! This sounds crazy to admit but it is true. I'm not surprised. It's much easier to allow myself to believe that I've completed something to par when in reality it needs more work. Writing is probably 80% editing! I've known that. But it gets worse, this doesn't only apply to my writing, I'm starting to realize that I need to become a better reviewer and editor of my life!! Scary stuff. For example just today when I was doing that long spin, did I really do the best I was capable of? I'm not so sure any more...! If I think hard enough I'm pretty sure there are few things I do that wouldn't benefit from a dose of retroactive improvement. But how is that even possible?

Truer Words Were Never Spoken
If I were to start tomorrow with editing my life the first place I would turn to is my posession. All of the biggest changes in my life (I've gone through plenty) have generally involved reducing an accumulation of possession. Possession that had something to do with an identity I was leaving behind. These were all items that I'm sure I needed at the time but which are really just become a whole lot of bad grammar to my life. I feel that the things you own are like the tools or pencil of your life. You can choose to have items that help you express yourself or items that don't. Personally I would recommending investing in the best of whatever you need to do those things you really want and ignore or skimp out on the rest of the things that really don't. Or at least until your lifestyle gets you rich and famous and you can have the best of everything!

The next thing I'm sure has had a great impact on how I live my life relates to commitments. This has included: jobs, volunteering, social groups, sporting clubs, and pets. Nothing impacts you more than where you spend your time and who with. Social groups are both especially influential and hard to replace. Volunteering is mostly positive but it can be hard to maintain the commitment. Sporting clubs are the best (especially triathlon clubs)! Pets are OK but they can be a lot of work and hassle, maybe opt for plants instead or maybe a dog so long as they can pace for you.

At a deeper level we are all guided by personal ambitions. These are the motivational cornerstones of your life (or they should be). Without ambition people find it harder to excel. I have ambitions today that were different from the ones I kept last year. Your ambitions should be edited to help improve your capabilities. Chances are you can't really know when you start swimming that you will be a champion at it until you have received some feedback. Alternatively since you may have to cope with the fact of not becoming the champion you thought you would your ambitions may have to reflect that as well. The best case scenario has had me continuously updating several of my key ambitions as I have developed over time and better understand what I hope to accomplish and what my capabilities are/can be. Bonus is that being realistically ambitious makes you happier!!

Me! (On Average)

I'll end this by mentioning lists. Lists are probably the best way I have found to control my day to day activities as well as the overall scope and direction I am working towards. It is really much easier to edit yourself once you have everything down on paper. Just remember that being honest with yourself is never easy or maybe even never possible. Be sure to get feedback along the way.

Monday, September 29, 2014

That Person Who Motivates You

For me the interesting thing about motivation is that is has to happen so frequently and in so many different ways. There is the daily motivation I need to get routine tasks done, and then there is the large scale motivation that I need to tackle bigger and bigger challenges. Throughout my short life the people and persons that I have been looking up to has consistently changed at least every year. Of course this could be due to the fact that more than anyone I know my tastes and preferences are always changing. Lately I have been inspired/motivated by the experienced members of my local tri-club.

Alright People! Today We Break Out of Our Square Yellow Prisons
Being a great leader and being motivational are often the same thing, if not closely related. However, there is a difference between possessing motivation and being motivated by someone. Often it is the accomplishments and direction of others that lends motivation, whereas becoming self-motivated requires a different set of tools and design. People who self-motivate well often have a realistic plan and a goal, they possess the stamina and resolve required to put that plan into action and the do it consistently. Being motivated by someone else (even temporarily) only requires a sense that what that other person is doing seems like a good idea or is impressive. Both are great. For me I have always taken the inspiration I gain from others and developed personal plans and goals needed to actualize that inspiration. This can take many forms as the nature of what is inspiring about a person can vary dramatically. Generally it is not good enough simply to look to others for motivation, motivation inspired from others has to germinate within you where it greatest rewards are developed by planning out goals, expending controlled effort, and practicing consistency.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Momentum

Ask any cyclist why going down the hill is easier than climbing up and the answer will surely be related to momentum. In fact there are few instances in any movement sport where momentum is not in someway important. Much of learning to swim is simply creating and allowing for proper body motion so that momentum isn't blocked. Psychologically momentum make an athlete feel like they are 'on a roll' or that their training program just seems to get itself done once they allow 'themselves' to take a step back and flip into auto-pilot. This is a subject that I have blogged about in the past related to combatting the monday blahs. Well it turns out that in sports streaks have a positive reinforcing effect that modifies the emotional investment in the sport activities. Momentum is the difference between showing up feeling 'cold' or 'on fire' to that important event or training session.

Momentum: Not Just Physics!
Momentum is the amount of motion that an object has. Generally endurance athletes want to maintain a consistent momentum throughout the duration of a training block or race. The is important for both efficiency and performance. According to physics the best way to maintain momentum is to have continuous propulsion and minimized drag related to the activity. Similar observations can be made to the psychological frame of reference is shifted yet in a way the principles remain the same. It is very commonly understood that past results can positively or negatively influence future performance. We can remember a few recent tennis matches were one of an equally matched pair of opponents seems to suddenly gain dominance throughout the duration of a match. Goals, touchdowns, and made baskets do change games. Mostly this has to do with how each side thinks and  feels about the potential outcomes of the match, their own abilities, and their opposition. Generally we notice that struggling athletes stop focusing on those mental cues that allow them to perform well and start focusing on other elements (usually their own thoughts and impressions) of the present situation. Premature analysis of past mistakes is a common stumbling block and one that inevitably leads to over thinking or simply trying too hard. Momentum changes are related to how an athlete is thinking and feeling at any given time.

Anyways Attempt to Maintain Your Momentum

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Never Stop Learning (About Triathlon)

One of the great things that I love about having a dynamic hobby like Triathlon is that you can never really stop learning more about yourself and the sport that you love. Although many people don't do extensive researching or self-discovery when entering the sport in general I don't think it takes very long before they have to start. For most people research is what you do into you competition, for many triathletes knowing the field can be an important part of preparation; however, for most of us the real research that is happening is going into what works best for them as individuals day-to-day and over the extended periods of time leading up to a challenging event. This could be related to diet, training, recovery, etc.

This added layer of researching may seem to be just another additional time burden to an already busy schedule but in the end adding research is important in ensuring that you will end with the best possible information available. Understanding completely how you will need to fuel for an event may not be necessary but you will need to have a minimum understanding to avoid very real difficulties. For most (myself included) the research I was doing into myself and into the sport quickly extended beyond Google searches. Ok there were actually lots and lots of Google searches but often what I got in depth of information from Google I lost in direct experience and breadth of knowledge. Spending 30 minutes reading blogs or online articles has become far less rewarding than a similarly lengthy conversation with one of my teammates or coaches.

Funny enough has been my own shift from researching to blogging (something I never thought I would bother with). But, after all what better way to record my own personal project and develop some structure around what I was taking the time to learn? I didn't start writing online just to get followers, I was beginning to see the value in actively reporting what I was researching about triathlon and not just storing it away in my memory. Some of the more interesting results has been receiving feedback from blog readers, the necessity for doing deep research, noticing the popularity of certain post subject, and even better understanding my own interests in particular subject based somewhat on how long and keen I am to finish that latest post (if at all).

Social networks continue to expand in popularity and sophistication. There are thousands of active triathletes online who I have been able to link to and interact with. Do I expect to ever make money spreading social media? Absolutely not but it is a great way to employ my free time between training sets. Also morning blogging has added an element of structure to my mornings and in a fun way to get out of bed and sharpen my mind for a busy workday. Social networks also come with an added benefit in that they are just that: networks. I've always had good support networks and I can only hope that the online ones I am cultivating prove to be just as helpful.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Suffering: Pushing Through

There are any number of different ways an athlete can suffer day-today. Physical pain and suffering is the most obvious, other forms can include but are not limited to: anxiety, general elevated stress, and other so-called affective disorders. Understanding exactly how you are suffering, in what way, and how much can be a lengthy discovery process. It is clear that healthy people suffer and can live normally under significant stress and suffering. Not to mention chronic pain suffers. Suffering can also be seen in the absence of other positive qualities such as energy or enthusiasm. So long as most of your positive personal attributes are not impaired by the day-to-day stresses you experience you can be sure that the stresses are acceptable impairments, even welcome! One of the most common overtraining symptoms that I frequently experience has been mild flu-like symptoms. Ultimately this will get to the point where it is no longer tolerable and I know it is time for some serious rest and recovery! In this way I am able to find a measure of inner peace and not get too upset about possibly getting sick or having to postpone forward progress in training.

Pain: Suffering, Stress, and Possibly Emotional Issues All-in-One!
Being humble also helps to reflect on the fact that I am not invincible and that even though I am embracing the stresses of hardcore training my body is still following all the same rules as everyone else. It's largely been my lack of feelings of invincibility that have prevented me from tackling longer distance triathlons to date (maybe a good thing to date)! In order not to feel completely defeated I have found it is best to give the most out of myself. This is a technique common in losing teams, that being in order to justify feelings of inadequacy they will often turn to 'best efforts' and 'giving it your all' without the part about scoring more goals. In a way that is the difference between the beginning and the end of a training block. At the start when I'm fresh it's all about crushing record times, by the end of the week a few days later I'm just hanging in for survival! It's those times of survival that I know will make the difference, meaning having ways to deal with unexpected or extreme stresses and carrying on.



There has been some research regarding the differences in athletes who are spiritual versus agnostic. I won't get into my own beliefs but it does turn out that athletes who are spiritual possess a transcendental framework. Christians have been documented praying/meditating through some significantly painful experiences (Lion attacks possibly included). There are a number of really great Bible passages I have heard from other athletes (repeating verses like Isaiah 40: verses 28-31 is probably pretty effective overall), in addition to one particularly famous quote from a German philosopher going: "the things which don't kill us make us stronger." So I guess to some degree you can take it either way just so long as making sure that a spiritual approach to suffering is present in your life. I will add that it is my personal view from experience that philosophers tend to be cold and cynical where religious folks tend to the grateful and caring end of the scale. I definitely go out of my way not to get caught up in the whole 'individualistic' trip. In the end like anything else there is really no reason not to borrow the best from both approaches and all available philosophies while staying true to what you are comfortable with.  Mostly pain, suffering, and stress are seen as negatives. With transcendental exploration and understand an athlete can rationalize the pain. In my own experience I have come to identify a sort of ultimate meaning. In fact for the most part I had always already been doing this without fully realizing it! Ideas like: improving over time through practice, tolerating pain for future benefits, and even maintaining a selective diet were all already based on a ultimate view of a desired outcome. With practice and self discovery these hooks, or tokens, become much deeper and more personally meaningful. An example of an ultimate meaning for me has been seeing my activities as part of a continuum of intake and output related to the heartbeat and breaths we take everyday, exercise and suffering being part of the same cycle.

Choose You Must - Or Not
 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Adding Fun to Your Workouts

It sounds somewhat strange, especially to someone as fun loving as I am, but it can sometime be very difficult to add elements of fun to a daily workout routine. This is even more true if the task is grueling. Now addressing this subject isn't to say that having fun is the most important element, in fact the original title for this post was 'Adding Passion...' which is a topic of a later post I'm thinking. So what is the difference between fun and passion, well fun is often exciting whereas passion does not have to be. Passionate people can be the opposite of fun by most standards. Obviously I aim to be passionate as well as fun in my triathlon pursuits but whereas I can often be cold and calculation when it comes to devoting my energies (i.e. acting passionately about the subject) adding fun is often the more elusive task.


  • Be With Fun People - This is probably the best way I've added a fun element to my workout routines. Simply hanging out with other people who are fun, even if I may not be in a fun mood, has been a great way of increasing my enjoyment of exercise. It seems to me that there are generally two camps in this regard and a person can easily shift from one into the other, those being: I'm here to be social, or I'm here to train. Both are valid. In fact both may even be necessary. For me I have sessions where I know I'm not going to be getting the most out of the time but I can be sure that it will be engaging and fun. On the other hand I know that if I go out by myself I'm going to crush the workout but probably have less fun doing it. It sort of reminds me of a Friday night analogy: you can either stay up late working on your paper or going out with friends. Doing your paper is not going to be fun but there will be other future rewards for your efforts. On the other hand going out with friends will seem fun at the time but there may be fewer future rewards. Obviously what would be the best would be getting the paper done while going out with friends! Group runs or rides can approach this, but still in my experience most of the actual fun will happen when the training is paused or over.  
  • Add Variety - Variety is the spice of life. Probably enough said. 
  • Smile and Laugh - Psychology has shown that people who are not happy but who force themselve to smile and laugh actually become happier! By acting like how you want to feel you actually begin to feel that way. 
  • Broaden Your Definition of Fun - Maybe today your notion of fun includes hill repeats! I know that this sounds crazy but it would probably work just as well as the point above. If instead of coming to the stop with a grunt/goan/sigh but with a laugh you can probably at least tell yourself that you were having fun the whole way! Besides as with the point above even if you weren't actually having fun at least other people think you were. Give it a try! The psychology behind this is pretty strong. 


Passion and Fun, Not Always Closely Related

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Turtle v. Hare - a Modern Retelling

I recently came across a modern day retelling of the age old fairy tale in an organization behavior class that actually introduces an obstacle onto the racecourse (a wide and fast river) with the finish line just following, in this version the hare rushes through the course but must wait to ride the turtle across the river, in the end both the tortoise and the hare cross the finish line at the same time. It's not clear why the turtle must carry the hare but he does, maybe the hare has better eyesight and can see across the channel I don't know. Aside from doing away with many of the classic notions of competition, what was important for me and also what I found most interesting in the presentation of this updated classic is that this modern retelling breaks from one of the most classic analogies in sport training and psychology (fast and short versus slow and long) and seems to be saying that in order to do well it is best to look for compromises, common ground, and above all to seek balance as a means of achieving objectives.


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

That New Car Smell

It's always amazed me how much I am affected by my surroundings and environment. Take for instance this past week. I recently returned from travel to a location that I have visited frequently before and is home to a large body of both highly competitive and accomplished athletes like myself. Typically working professionals of one kind or another training in one or all of the triathlon disciplines to maintain to stay fit and enjoy the other benefits of an active lifestyle. What was different during this past vacation however was my realization that the concentration of talent in the area I was visiting was not the same as where I currently live and train. For example the Masters Swim club there had well over 50 active members whereas mine currently operate with around 5 or 6. Yes I could be going out of my way to find a more active group but I wasn't exactly driving across town on my vacation either. So what does this mean, it means that I was totally impressed by the other age groupers and was pushing myself harder. I wasn't the best or near best swimmer in the pool for once. The worst of it is that now that I am back from the holiday, which was lovely by the way, I feel like I just test drove the sports car in the lot and am now relegated to my used economy vehicle. Not to diss my current local club but I really cannot compare the two teams. So now I'm in a funk and obviously have a bad attitude to my current situation. Why? Because I am not being completely outdone by my club peers of course!! I had actually enjoyed being forced out of my confidence zone and placed behind some truly great swimmers and athletes. Not having that now isn't the end of my current training goals but it has definitely caused me to pause and refocus my relationship to my current club and where I want to develop to as an athlete.


Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Resetting Mental Focus

I've written before about the benefits of allowing muscle memory to carry you through a particularly tough start of the week or even as a way of counteracting low levels of motivation. That is all good but what happens when you need to completely reset your mental focus. I'm not necessarily talking about redefining your fitness goals this could be as simple as having to enter a new major phase in your training or following the implementation of rehabilitation or preventative therapy. In my case this has occurred following what is basically my only race of the season. All things left equal I have an entire year until my next triathlon race performance. While it is nice to relax on the other hand I am seeking that motivational hook that will allow me to continue building towards a better result next year. Right now I am relying on muscle memory, meaning that I know how to get up early and make it to the gym for 'x' amounts of whatever training I know I should be putting in. What I need to find today is some needed mental focus before and during my workouts to really carry myself to higher levels of performance as well as being sure that I am having fun and enjoying the process. All three are elements that don't always go together.

Very Productive, Just Not Sure About What