5/23/18

How to avoid the training plateau


It's not uncommon for an individual to start a training plan and experience quick results in terms of body composition changes and fitness improvements. These are two of the most enjoyed benefits of starting a new training plan or exercise routine. But sadly, despite being consistent with workouts and feeling strong enough to train harder and longer, results stop happening. If anything, it's more difficult to experience fitness improvements and you are tempted to make extreme changes with the diet or step up the intensity and volume - putting you at risk for injury and illness. And, you may even notice weight gain, particularly around the stomach area.

A training plateau refers to a period of time when the body is no longer responding to your exercise or diet routine. Although it's completely normal to reach a state of over-reaching, where you are unable to improve pace or mileage, only to experience a breakthrough in fitness after a period of tapering or planned recovery, a training plateau is different in that it's a wall that's difficult to break through. Despite feeling like you were once making quick fitness and body composition gains with the same style of training, you just can't seem to make progress or notice change.

When I started training for endurance triathlon events twelve years ago, my first year of Ironman training was pretty regimented. I did pretty much the same training week after week after week for an entire season. I gradually increased volume and intensity but the frequency and layout of workouts stayed pretty much the same every week. This was good for my body to adapt slowly to more volume in anticipation of my first half and full distance IM. I also found myself improving my fitness, changing body composition easily (not forced) and feeling more confident with each week of training. However, come the second year of Ironman training, I found myself gaining weight and struggled to experience any significant fitness improvements. I also got myself injured by trying to do more volume and intensity- assuming that more is better. Instead of taking forward steps with my endurance fitness, I was taking huge leaps backwards. 

Since that time, I have tried a lot of different training strategies to keep myself healthy, strong and fit as an endurance triathlete and the one thing that has helped the most with longevity and enjoyment in the sport, along with good health, is variability. I have not been injured in about five years and my body has gotten extremely resilient and strong. No two weeks look the same for my training as every week is different in terms of frequency of workouts, duration, intensity and sport. Instead of cramming all my workouts into the morning, I regularly perform two-a-day workouts to allow ample time for recovery and refueling/rehydration. I am not married to a certain time for workouts as frequency training has proved to be more beneficial for my body than longer miles. I will often do two bike or run sessions in one day to accumulate more volume but ensuring good form by not overdoing it in one workout. Every workout is of quality and I keep my easy sessions easy so I can go hard on intense days. I never count miles or get obsessed with paces but instead, go by time and focus on form and effort over metrics. Sleep is extremely important and I won't sacrifice sleep for a workout. My long workouts are never too long that I can't recover from them. I always eat before my workouts, use sport nutrition during all my workouts and focus on good recovery post workout. The rest of the day, I eat to nourish my body. These are just some of the strategies that I have adapted to my style of training, which has helped me continue to see performance and body composition improvements over the past few years. At the age of (almost) 36, I have been in this sport for a while as I haven't taken a break from long distance triathlon since the age of 24. However, I feel stronger, healthier and fitter than ever before. There's nothing magical, extreme or ground-breaking with my training other than I am constantly stressing my body with quality training sessions that vary week after week. Every week is new and exciting, which also keeps me from feeling burnt out and makes training fun and fresh.

If you are finding yourself in a training plateau, here are a few of my tips to help you break through the wall: 
  1. Make sure you are focusing on good fueling and hydration before, during and after your workouts to minimize added stress on your body and to help you better adapt to training.
  2. Incorporate strength training into your cardio-focused routine. 
  3. Mix up the workouts in your typical routine so that you aren't doing the same workouts on the same days each day of the week. 
  4. Add in more intensity (with appropriate recovery intervals) and reduce the volume. 
  5. Get more sleep. 
  6. Move more when you aren't exercising. It's very easy to add more volume to your training and become more sedentary throughout the day. 
  7. Focus on quality instead of quantity/intensity. If you are experiencing chronic deep muscle and joint pains, an overall lack of energy, low motivation, feeling down, frequently getting sick or injured, you may be overtraining. Overtraining is not limited to a certain number of hours per week or the elite, but failing to properly recover between two sessions, match energy intake with energy expenditure and nourish your body with wholesome foods and proper hydration. 
  8. Make sure you are eating "enough" to support your training load and timing nutrition properly around/during workouts. 
  9. Focus on form over pace. 
  10. Make a small change in your training to feel more energized, mentally and physically. Avoid making a drastic or huge change. Don't get fixated on needing to stick to the same routine every week. 



5/22/18

How to find the right "expert"



Getting and giving advice over the internet is so incredibly easy. Some people think they have an answer to everything. The problem with giving advice is that you aren't responsible for what happens next. For example, what if your nutrition advice negatively affects the health of someone? What if your training advice gets someone injured or sick? There are a lot of self-proclaimed experts who give bad advice because they don't take into consideration you as a whole person. You can't expect quality advice from someone without giving an expert all the current facts and your past history.  More so, just because one expert experienced success in weight loss, diet, health, athletics or career, this doesn't mean that what worked for him/her will work for you. Also, information can be heavily skewed to fit an agenda, such as selling a service or product or boosting popularity. There will always be a research study and success story to support any kind of agenda. With so many experts out there, here are some ways to help you select the right expert for your needs. Remember - don't believe everything you hear. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.


1. You believe in his/her philosophy. When you have insight on how an expert approaches situations and how he/she helps others, you will gain trust in this individual as you have similar views and understand his/her methodologies. 

2. Your expert has credentials, competence, experience and a good reputation. 

3. You feel safe and not judged by your expert and you feel like you are treated like an individual. 

4. Your expert has a specialty area or is an expert in a specific field, based on experience and formal education.

5. Your expert is actively involved in learning with continuing education.

6. Your expert has patience for you and does not rush your journey. She/he doesn't have a quick fix or a one-size-fits-all method. Despite having knowledge, education and being extremely popular, experts are not magicians. Most issues or problems require ongoing support, accountability and assistance.

7. Your expert gives you his/her full attention, provides a supportive and positive environment and does not ignore or dismiss your questions or concerns. Your expert values a team approach when working together.

8. Your expert challenges you and wants you to step outside your comfort zone. She/he doesn't tell you exactly what you want to hear or give you false promises.

9. Your expert maintains your confidentiality.

10. Your expert doesn't change his/her approach based on what is "in" or trendy. While it's important for your expert to keep an open-mind to new research, trends and strategies, it's not necessary for your expert to change his/her beliefs every time a new fad becomes heavily popular. 

As you search for the best expert(s) to help you with your personal needs, keep in mind that the same expert may not work for everyone. Figure out exactly what you need and are looking for in an expert - keeping in mind that not every problem has a clear, simple or easy answer. 

5/21/18

Spectathleting Ironman 70.3 Chatty


It was a very quick and last-minute decision to drive 4.5 hours to spectate Ironman 70.3 Chattanooga but it was well worth it. With nine Trimarni team members racing (6 age groupers, 1 pro, 2 educational team members), we couldn't pass up this opportunity to see our athletes in action. Plus, we know the Chatty area really well after being there for Ironman 70.3 Worlds and Ironman Chattanooga last year so it was an overall stress free, quick and fun weekend. 

Although the weather was iffy for the weekend, it turned out to be absolutely perfect. It was hot and sunny instead of stormy which I'm sure delighted the minds of the athletes who were racing this weekend as it can be mentally exhausting to have to worry about the chance of storms and the possibility of a cancelled swim or race. The weather forecast looked to be worse for our athletes racing the Greenville Mountains to Mainstreet half ironman on Sat but thankfully the weather gods were in our favor.

We left Greenville on Friday late morning. Because our weekend was dedicated to our athletes, we strategically used the weekend as "recovery" from our training instead of trying to pile in longer Ironman workouts in a different training environment, without being able to focus well on recovery and nutrition. Therefore, we did our "longer" workouts on Thurs and Friday morning - although, neither was too long by most Ironman triathletes standards but we have been focusing more on quality and intensity over volume lately to help us fine-tune our fitness for our upcoming races.

After we checked into our hotel around 4pm, we quickly unpacked the car and drove to the expo to meet up with our friend Rachel at Ventum. It was nice to also see some other familiar faces at the expo. We had all the excitement of racing but without the nerves :)
We are so excited about our recent Ventum + Trimarni partnership and to have the opportunity to support and ride Ventum. I'm excited to say that I'll be riding a Ventum one at Ironman Wisconsin as my new bike will arrive later this summer (after we return home from our Europe race-cations). I only say all of this after I had the opportunity to test out the Ventum bike. Since we were in Chattanooga and there was a size 46 demo bike available, Rachel (aka director of happiness) let me borrow the bike overnight (how cool and awesome is that?!?) for Karel to do a quick fit/adjustment for me to test-ride the bike on Saturday morning. I was super excited to try out a new bike brand (with a radical design) as I have been riding Trek for about eight years and I have head nothing but great things from Karel since he got his Ventum a few months ago.

Since we brought a cooler full of food, we didn't have to rely on eating out or searching for food but we did pick up dinner at Whole Foods (on the other side of the river) to give us a nice meal to eat in the hotel room before calling it a night. After two extremely tough days of training, we really needed to make sure we stayed up on our nutrition and hydration, especially with being a bit off of our normal routine in Chattanooga. In the evening, I worked on the computer for a little bit as Karel watched the Giro (or Tour of California - not sure as he is in cycling heaven right now with so much to cycling to watch!) and then we went to sleep around ten. Campy loves road trips and he was so happy to be with us this weekend. With so much travel for us this summer, it was nice to have Campy with us as he makes everything more entertaining with him around.

We woke up rather early to get out on the bikes before the expo started so that we could return back the demo Ventum. With our athlete Josh staying in a hotel across the street from us, he joined us for the ride at 7:30 so that he could do some of his warm-up with us before we carried on with our ride. Karel had his road bike as this Sat ride was all about me getting to test out the Ventum. We were so thankful to Josh's wife Eedee for babysitting Campy at her hotel while we were out spinning our legs. Campy is one spoiled pooch.

After a quick 45 minute spin on the race course, Josh left us to head back to his hotel and Karel and I carried on with our ride up Lookout mountain. It was important for me to test the bike in all types of terrain and my biggest concerns were how the bike rides on bumpy roads, climbing and most of all descending. Because me and the wind tend to not get along really well, I was anxious to hear if the Ventum would help me feel more in control of the bike when riding in the wind (especially descending). Although there wasn't much wind if at all, it was still good to climb and descend on the Ventum. My immediate feedback was that this bike feels just like a road bike - it's extremely easy to control, smooth and responsive. I felt in control while descending and it's very comfortable in aero. If you know me, I don't like change but I was loving this bike so much that I didn't want to get off it!

After about 1:30 of riding, we rode to the expo to meet up with a few of our athletes so Karel could help with some bike mechanical needs of our athletes and so I could say hi to others. I went back to the hotel after almost 2 hours of riding the Ventum and didn't want to stop riding it.

After getting Campy, cleaning up and eating, we headed back to the Expo to return the Ventum and finish off our morning helping our athletes out however needed. We spent the rest of the afternoon in the hotel room working, watching cycling, eating and taking a short nap (phew, exhausted!) before heading out for dinner with Eedee in downtown Chattanooga at Bluewater. Dinner was so good and it totally hit the spot to have something filling, fatty and salty.

On Sunday morning, we stayed at our hotel instead of heading to the swim start so that we could see all of our athletes (and  the pros) start the bike (around mile 2). We were in the perfect spot to give some cheers to everyone. It was so great to see our professional triathlete Ericka in action as she put together a very strong race and was in the mix throughout the entire race, from start to finish. We are so proud of her. Our other athletes, Josh, Reid, Diane, Michaela, Pat and Andy did amazing, as did our educational team member Gin. Another team member Josh had a mechanical which took him out of the race on the bike but he was in good spirits which is important as that's part of racing. Everyone was smiling and looked in control throughout the entire run.

We headed down to the race venue before the male pros got off the bike, just in time to see Starky finish the bike and start the run. It was very inspiring to see the pros in action and we were able to give a big cheer for a few of our favs out there on the course, especially our athlete Ericka who was rocking this race and ended up 11th pro female.

The Chatty run course is perfect for spectating so we headed up the hill to backside of the course (before the bridge over the river) to see our athletes on both sides of the course. It was the perfect location to cheer for everyone. Campy was a trooper although he spent more time in my arms than on the ground as his 10.5 year old body doesn't move as fast for as long as it use to. Regardless, he had fun out there and gave a lot of barks/cheers. 

We watched most of our athletes finished but we needed to hit the road by 2pm in order to get back to Greenville before a busy Monday for us (nutrition consults and Retul fits). Thankfully, we saw everyone out on the course and it's always a relief to know that your athletes are off the bike. It was exhausting to spectate but well worth it as it was so awesome to see so many familiar faces and to be there for our athletes. Next up, Karel will be racing Raleigh (I will be staying at home with Campy so Karel is making the trip solo).

A few pics from the weekend....