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Archive for triathlon

Setting Goals: Twenty Fifteen

Well, the year has come to an end, and it’s time to start thinking about what you want to actualize in 2015. Here a little acronym to think of when setting a goal: S.M.A.R.T.

S – Specific

M – Measurable

A – Achievable

R – Relavent

T – Time-bound

They are helpful for two reasons. First, they are effective in quantifying success. Second, they address unrealistic expectations. For example, you may want to finish a marathon in less than 3.5 hours. If this is your first marathon, you can see why this might be an unrealistic expectation. The key to SMART goals is to use both outcome goals, which focus on bottom-line results, and process goals, which address how you will train to achieve those results. For example, “To finish in the top five at the local Triathlon in my age group” is an outcome goal. The problem is that we have less control over outcome goals than they have over process goals. If you fail to accomplish an outcome goal, you may question the efficacy of your training, and get too self-critical. We have greater influence over process goals, such as “To run 2,000 miles during the calendar year.” Plus, in the end, this stuff is suppose to be fun! Enjoy life and have hope for what you can accomplish. It’s a new year and a new time to actualize your dream.

And remember, a goal without a plan, is just a wish.

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Tips on running a marathon

102679-019-014fRunning a marathon or half marathon is a whole different beast than the 5K or 10K running race. It really comes down to one very important skill: Endurance. Mentally it is very difficult to grasp this concept in our training, when we’re used to just going out running at a certain comfortable pace and then completing a certain comfortable distance. It’s often quite challenging to get out of our comfort zone, but as you may know this is what brings the most rewards in life!

 

1. Pacing

Often in a workout we start out blazing fast in the first interval and by the last interval our energy is zapped. Often this happens in races too, we start out energized and focused only on being competitive in the moment. It’s an extremely common mistake to warm-up and then go for broke. Often the first push of a workout should actually feel easy, efficient and nearly effortless. Keep in mind you need the energized surge of adrenaline to last you through the whole workout. Many people start out revved up and then by the end of class they pitter out. If you don’t exert such a huge effort at the start of the workout, by the end you might just surprise yourself with the level to which you can accomplish it. Once I did a 4th of July Firecracker 4-mile run. I really thought I was going to win. I started out the run doing a 1-mile race pace! I was in the lead! I kept up a good strong pace for 3 of the miles but by the last mile I had nothing in the tank and got passed by five girls, the fifth one as I was coming across the finish line I heard my friend Richard yelling “Go Maggie! Finish STRONG!” I didn’t know that meant there was someone inches behind me as I approached the finish line! She passed me one second ahead of me. What a bittersweet lesson on pacing.

 

2.  Long Distance Run (LDR)

The single most important run you can possibly do for training for a marathon or half marathon, is the LDR. It should truly be done in a slow to moderate pace, maybe slower than you’re used to running. And it should really push your limits for length. I recommend going by time rather than distance. For example start with a 1 hour run, if you’re ready for that. Then build on that, each week by increasing the time by 10 or 15 minutes. If you add on too much time too soon, you may get injuries, or illness, and staying injury-free is crucial!

 

3. Recovery

Lastly, but probably most important, be sure to take time off every 10 -14 days or if you’re feeling really run down. If you are following a proper training plan, you’ll definitely need to build in recovery days to refresh and rebuild and take it really easy, including foam rolling, stretching and eating helathy. Recovery can be the most challenging for some runners!

Running shoes: back to the basics

I am a runner. I have been a runner all my life. It’s funny that although we are all able to run and do so all throughout our childhood, some of us do not consider ourselves “runners.” If you are a slow runner, you are still a runner. Maybe you do not have the genetic predisposition to be the next Usain Bolt. However, you are able to run. “Run for your life!” is a saying essential to survival. But, instead of running everyday, we sit everyday. We sit as we drive, we sit as we eat, we sit as we use our computers, we sit until our bodies are chronically aching and obesity is rampant. Then we try to go for a run wearing these big bouncy rubber-soled shoes that prohibit all our sensory abilities of our feet. Yes, we have more cushion wearing the modern running shoes, and more protection from dangerous terrain. But, how was it that the human race coped with “running for their lives” without these extra thick-heeled running shoes up until the 1970’s? You’d think that since then the amount of injury to knees, feet ankles would have dramatically dropped, or at least we’d be fitter and less overweight. However, it’s not the case. In fact, there are more running injuries than ever before. The large over-built stability shoes have actually robbed the body’s ability to stabilize! 

If you want to improve your stability in your feet, ankles and knees, then try this: Find your local track and go to the nice soft grassy in-field. Take off your shoes and socks and do a few laps on the grass in-field. It may feel weird, but this is natural and how our bodies can naturally perceive your own best running gait. Another option if you live near a beach, try a mile or less at a time, running barefoot on the hard packed sand – you may be on sensory overload! I tried it last week and it felt awesome!

Once you get more comfortable with running barefoot, I urge you to begin diminishing your running shoe. Start little, by little, inch by inch, reducing the thickness of your sole of the shoe. Really pay attention to what your body is doing and how it is changing. It may take you a year or more to adjust gradually to this new type of shoe. Also, begin with shorter runs and progress at most 10% longer distances at a time to get more comfortable. Be conservative in your process of learning to run back to the basics.

Lastly, just try taking off your shoes more, whether at home around the yard, at a park. It feels very liberating, to say the least. Imagine if we went through life with thick rubber gloves on our hands, not being able to use the sense of touch. Maybe some glove company would even make loads of money, and we’d be left senseless.

If you’re more interested in this topic, check out a great book “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall. I highly recommend it.

Happy trails!

Don’t let injuries set you back

Plantar Faciaitis, Patella syndromes, IT Band syndrome, and other chronic aches and pains can be difficult to detect and even more difficult to heal. If you’re an athlete, it’s inevitable you’ll be nursing some wound sooner or later. Many endurance athletes I know get repetitive stress injuries particularly in the knees, shoulders and back. Over the years, I’ve had dozens of injuries, and most of them I was able to nurse back to health and be back out doing my sport within days. The difficult thing, is that doctors tend to give mixed results and often refer you to a specialist, who may refer you to someone else. I find the whole process of dealing with our healthcare system doesn’t give quick or clear answers, especially in the case of chronic conditions. Don’t let the process of healing your injury get you frustrated.

What do you do when you are limited from an injury?

1. The first thing you should do is rest the sore area. And stay positive: the power of positive thinking can heal you!

2. If it’s muscular-related, and it’s not a bone fracture, then ice it. Typically the pain is due to inflammation and one of the best drug-free ways to reduce inflammation is 10 minutes of icing once an hour.

3. Ibuprofen is a great anti-inflammatory to take, in moderation, to reduce the pain and swelling.

4. After a few days of healing and it’s feeling better again, you may want to do modified exercise to keep up your conditioning so you don’t lose too much muscle.

5. Then after a healing period, carefully try your sport again.

Keep in mind, you may be limited with your range of motion or with as much strength as you had originally, so it may be discouraging. However, one step at a time you’ll be back to doing activities you love. Don’t let the injury limit you. Some people have missing limbs and yet they still find a way to overcome life’s obstacles! Check out these amazing athletes! Whatever you do, don’t give up. Don’t let injuries keep you from accomplishing your dreams and goals. “All we have to fear is fear itself.”

Work with your Strengths

We each are born with specific genetic body-types and we have only so much we can do to transform them and shape them into our dream body. Yes, plastic surgery is one option, but in regards of fitness we are genetically inclined to do certain activities. One factor that determines our strengths and weaknesses are the amount of slow-twitch versus fast-twitch muscle fibers we are born with. Slow-twitch muscles are the muscles fibers that are best for long endurance sports, or aerobic exercise. Whereas, fast-twitch fibers are recruited when a muscle contracts for a shorter burst of energy, called anaerobic exercise. The muscles fibers are on a spectrum that ranges from Type I, slow-twitch to Type II b, very fast-twitch. Therefore, we are naturally built to accel more at one type of exercise over others. Of course, it’s important to have a well-rounded workout regime of both aerobic and anaerobic work. You may find it works much better for your specific body-type to do one type of activity over the other.

Runners going for it at the San Diego ITU Triathlon

My suggestion, as the title implies, is that go for what your body is built. If running marathons doesn’t seem to work well for you, yet you can run extremely fast 200 meter sprints, you could be more of a fast-twitch guy/girl. However, if all you’ve ever done is quick short exercises and you’ve never dabbled in the realm of endurance sports, you may not know what you’re missing! Try both and work at it to see what you’re made of. You never know unless you give it a try. Hey, you may be the next best Ironman Triathlete.

Consistency equals achieving goals

After coaching hundreds of people throughout California, I must say most people do not take their training very seriously. Some do, and they see the results. But many people enjoy the workouts, but do not commit to really changing their priorities in order to see improvements. Training is a great way to get in shape, have fun, feel great. Also, most importantly it can dramatically improve your health! There are numerous positive outcomes from an effective training plan, as we all know. However, it doesn’t happen with the snap of a finger! It takes perseverance and a solid consistent routine.

In 2005 I decided to sign-up for my first triathlon called Wildflower in May of 2006. It was a pretty challenging course and I took my training seriously. After six months of a regular routine of training nearly every single day, my body adjusted to this type of training stress. My mind wanted nothing more than to improve and see how far I could take it. One lesson I learned was that it’s not about beating the guy next to you ,as much as it is about beating yourself. However, without the diligent commitment of practice, my goals just remain unattainable dreams. We can live all our life’s dreams through these same lessons. But, in particular I know that the absolute only way to get better, stronger, faster and fitter is through consistency and hard work.

Forget the excuse. Tie up those sneakers and go get after it!

Winning 1st Place of the Women’s division at the Catalina Island Triathlon in 2009 took a lot of consistent training

Strength, the missing part of the equation

For many years I trained very hard and competed as a swimmer and as a triathlete. Day after day, mile after mile, I made progress as an endurance athlete, to a certain extent. Then, I plateaued. I was never aware of the benefits weight training and body weight exercise could bring to me. Possibly, because I thought I was training SO hard in practice, that practice was all I needed.

Many years later, after getting certified as a Strength & Conditioning Specialist, I’ve come to appreciate the power, strength and advantage of training muscles in a specific way. When one improves strength skills, it translates to faster movements in practice, more powerful kicks on the field, greater distance with each stroke, and passing your competitor at juuuust at that right moment! It’s that extra spring in your step, you might say. And suddenly moves in practicing a sport suddenly feel easier.

Focusing your strength and conditioning towards your sport can be a touchy subject since different muscles are used for various movements. One muscle group I find benefit all athletes, regardless of the sport, is the abdominal muscles, specifically the transverse abdominus and the internal and external obliques. Exercises, such as planks and plank variations are great for working abs and many upper-body muscles. But, many other abdominal exercises like the Russian twist, the Bicycle and rope climbers are effective at targeting those really important muscles of the abdominals. Here’s a video of my five ab series. I do NOT recommend standard old sit-ups as it uses much of your back muscles to do the work you want your abs to do.

Simply practicing your sport will not always give you the extra edge you can achieve from strength training. Find a good personal trainer, or functional strength training class to start making the most of your muscles’ potential.

Benefits of strength training:

  • Higher power to weight ratios, making hill climbing faster and easier
  • Greater resistance to injury
  • Jumping higher
  • Hitting, kicking harder: increasing force output at higher velocities
  • It can reduce body fat up to 9%, according to Fleck, S.J., and W.J. Kraemer. Designing Resistance Training Programs
  • High Intensity loads can actually improve the connective tissues involved.
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