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.