Race Strong: Gut Health for Endurance Athletes

How many of you have experienced gut issues during a race? I distinctly remember getting terribly ill and having to stop at every portable restroom (there was one every mile) during the marathon of my first Ironman. I was miserable. Sadly, many of us have similar war stories. It is estimated that between 30-90% of people have struggled with gastrointestinal issues at some point in their lives. In fact, a study of long-distance triathletes competing in extreme conditions found that up to 93% of the athletes experienced gastrointestinal symptoms.1 That is a remarkably high statistic. So what gives?

triathlon swim

Your race has just begun. Do you have a fueling plan to stay strong all day? [Photo courtesy of Pixabay].

Gut Problems?

In the world of endurance sports, there is a common belief that you should replace as many calories as physically possible with “easy to digest,” simple carbohydrates, typically by slamming gels and sugary drinks. This approach is supposed to help you spare your glycogen stores, allowing you to maintain a higher intensity for longer (read: race faster). However, this approach is attacking the problem from the wrong angle, and it is overloading our digestive system in already trying conditions.

Some studies suggest humans can safely absorb up to 360 calories (90g) of carbohydrates per hour, and should do so for events longer than 2.5 hours. This figure is highly optimistic, and is it really necessary to push the envelope?

During exercise your body delivers as much oxygen to your muscles as possible, which requires blood. The higher the intensity, the more blood you need to keep up with demand. This causes blood flow to your stomach to take a back seat, and leaves you in a less-than-optimal state for digestion. Add in factors like hot and humid conditions or the jarring impact from running, and your stomach becomes even less capable of handling a high consumption of carbohydrates and you end up with gut problems.

Flipping the Script

Instead of trying to keep up with carbohydrate demands that could wreak havoc on your insides, why not become as aerobically efficient as possible to burn more fat and less carbohydrates to race faster? This frees you up to take in less calories and gives your gut a break.


Read the Full Article Over at Breaking Muscle

Triathletes: Own the Transition With Brick Workouts

Triathletes have been doing brick workouts (running right off of the bike as you would in a race) for ages. Brick sessions are a valuable training tool that comes with the territory of managing three sports instead of one. The question is not whether or not you should do bricks, but how often should you do them, and how they should be structured. Let’s clear that up by asking a simple question:

What is the purpose of your workout?

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Why Do Brick Workouts?

If you are self-coaching or creating your own training plans, you must determine a purpose for each workout. Whether it is meant to promote recovery, increase your aerobic output, or improve movement efficiency, the purpose should be crystal clear. As a triathlete, this becomes even more important. Managing three sports often means there will be days with multiple workouts. Understanding the interplay between these workouts, both in the same day and throughout the week, is crucial to your overall success.

So how do you answer this question when it comes to brick workouts?

Two main things are at play when you do bricks: learning to run with “bike legs,” and preparing your body for race-like exercise volume. The volume piece is fairly simple. You want to do bricks that will mentally and physically prepare you for the rigors of spending several hours on the bike and run. There is no question that bricks are valuable for crafting this endurance.


Continue Reading Over at Breaking Muscle

Programming for the Unexpected: Risk vs. Reward

No pain. No gain. We’ve all heard it before, and maybe you’ve even taken it to heart. But these are only partial truths that should really be accompanied with “no recovery, no gains.” Training for performance is a balancing act between appropriately challenging your body to elicit physical improvement and recovering enough to see the gains from all your hard work.

Recovery is the yin to the yang of good old-fashioned hard work. Without appropriate amounts of both, you will not progress as an athlete. Understanding the nuances of this balance is key to your long-term success.

stress

Teaching your body how to balance stress is a critical element of any training program.

There Is No Perfect Plan

When designing a training plan, there are two concepts to keep in mind:

  • Stress is stress. Your body has a hard time differentiating between the stress of training hard, juggling work responsibilities, or tending to sick kids. All of these stressors have a significant effect on your performance.
  • Stress is cumulative. Without proper recovery, stress adds up. This is why it is important to gradually progress through training and allow for periods of recovery. It sets the stage for adapting to greater levels of overall stress and improving fitness.

These two concepts lead to one important conclusion: your “perfectly designed” training plan will likely be wrong for you at some point. There will be periods in your life when the stresses of life, demanding workouts, a lack of good sleep, and poor recovery leave you in a less-than-optimal state to train. When these times inevitably come, it’s important to know how to adapt and stay on point.


Read the full article over at Breaking Muscle

Addition by Subtraction – My Year of Saying No

No = Yes?

NO. Such a simple word, really. Just two letters long, yet it has been such a difficult word to master.

N. O.

Why is that so hard to say sometimes?

Some days I look at my two year old niece and am just astonished by how quickly she learned the word no. It’s incredible, really. She’s good at it – uses it without hesitation.

NO. 

It’s simplicity is beautiful. She’s not trying to please anyone. She’s just stating how she feels and what she wants in that moment. Is it lacking a little tact? Yes, but that’s to be expected of a 2 year old.

No is a powerful word, capable of shaping the very direction of your life, yet saying no can be such a chore. It comes loaded with a certain amount of fear that no two letter word should possess – fears of offending or disappointing others, of missing an opportunity, or of being improperly judged as being selfish or self-centered.

You have those fears on one side, and the legitimate reasons you want to say no in the first place on the other. It turns into a full-on battle inside of you.

What is one to do? How bad could a yes be? It’s definitely an easy answer right here in this moment…

YES.

Ah…that felt good. Nobody’s feelings are hurt. Everybody is happy. This could be a great opportunity! What a good day.

Sound at all familiar?

It will if you have even one people pleasing bone in your body. The struggle is real, and before you know it you have a ton of “extras” on your plate. I don’t know about you, but I’ve found that the more I add to my plate, the more mediocre everything tends to become. Actually, that sounds like something I learned in macroeconomics. Oh college days…

Over time, two things have become very clear to me:

  1. Being hyper-committed and “busy” does not necessarily equal to being productive or successful. I’d rather be the latter.
  2. Trying to please people is an endless, unrewarding pursuit. It needs a filter.

Coming to those conclusions (albeit far too slowly) is also how I decided to start this “year of no” for 2016. Let me explain how it looked for me.

In 2015 I was hustling hard and the more you hustle, the more opportunities seem to cross your path. Before I knew it I found myself juggling a lot of balls, trying to keep a lot of people happy. I started the year with a pretty clear vision of the 2-3 big things I truly wanted to accomplish both in my career and personally. At the end of the day, though, I found myself in a very different place. There was a disconnect and a dissonance between how I spent my time and what I truly wanted to accomplish.

How did it all turn out you ask? You probably guessed it already, those 2-3 things failed miserably. And the rest of the stuff I was juggling? Mediocre at best. Stinking economics class…

So I (finally) decided to put an end to the craziness and took action to get myself on point for 2016. That meant learning to look more closely at “opportunities” and figuring out good ways to say no so I could focus on those 2-3 things that really matter to me, which are:

  1. Building a business that allows me to help people improve their lives and creates freedom for me to live a healthy lifestyle (I want to be a good example of what I coach), travel more, and spend more time with my awesome family and friends.
  2. Kicking butt at triathlon, especially long course (Ironman and Half Ironman distances).
  3. Have fun. It’s cliche, but I want to enjoy most of what I am doing on a regular basis. It feeds productivity, too.

So I learned how to say no (key word learned). I got rid of a lot of superficial commitments. I said no to things that weren’t helping achieve the three things above. And slowly, but surely I am entering this hallowed space that allows for this weird thing called focus.

And it’s wonderful.

By subtracting I added so much to my life. It seems so backwards in a world that rewards busyness, but it turns out you can be happier, do more and be more by saying no to most things and only saying yes to the very best.

“Good is the enemy of great.” -James C. Collins

Now I know you’re not here to hear my life story so let’s talk about the actionable bits that made all the difference. Here are the biggest game changers from my experience:

Get Clear

Getting clear on the 2-3 big goals or ideals that are most important to you is so key. It lays the foundation for being able to say no and helps keep you on your vision when it gets hard.

Fair warning: if you do this but don’t follow through you will experience the same dissonance and frustration that I did in 2015. Be ready to take action when you decide to get clear on your vision.

Reduce Choices and Examine Consequences

This is key. Just by being very clear with your personal vision you will be able to weed out 80% of “opportunities” that don’t fit the mold, which is a good thing. When we have too many choices at hand we tend to either not choose, or go into default mode (which is saying yes for a people pleaser). Be clear on your vision and weed out everything that doesn’t fit. It helps to practice and become good at turning things down. Which brings me to my next point.

Learning to Say No Kindly and Clearly

No, by it’s very self, is a sentence. When you leave it at that, though, it often does come across as rude or selfish. That’s why it is worth learning a few good ways to say no kindly and clearly.

When done well you can preserve relationships, extend respect and stay on mission. It’s a wonderful skill to have in your arsenal!

Rather than unpack all of that right here, check out this great article I’ve read on the topic:

8 Ways to Say No Without Hurting Your Image

Come up with a few scripts of your own, then practice. A lot. It gets better with time, I promise.

Establish Your Support Group

Find a mentor. Talk to family or friends. Find the the people that will help you get out of your own head, offer other perspectives, and ask you good, hard questions to keep you on track and inline with your vision. Accountability is key, especially when establishing new habits which is exactly what this is. Get your group and have them help you on vetting the opportunities that pass the “first cut” I mentioned above.

Vet The Opportunities That Make It Through

Don’t be in a rush with the 20% of opportunities that do not get weeded out right away per the above advice. Ask for time to process them and really take the time to walk through the details. Sit down with your support squad and examine the potential consequences involved with either saying yes or no.

One of the better questions I ask myself is: “Will this create a synergy between the things I already have going on or will it just district and detract from them.”

That helps get things clear pretty quickly.

Go Public With It

Follow my lead on this one – telling folks about what you intend to do creates an atmosphere for accountability. In tough moments, just knowing that someone you know may ask you about it may give you enough pause to step back and make a solid decision.

For Daily Success, Try A Not-To-Do List

I like to have two lists to keep me on point daily: a to-do list and a not-to-do list. If I’m being 100% honest, the things that I know I shouldn’t do but end up doing anyways (reading articles on Facebook, checking emails and texts, etc.) are the ones that get me off task the most.

Choosing the 2-3 goals that are a priority for the day, then also establishing a list of things I will not tackle in a given day brings clarity to the mess that is my mind. Knowing I won’t touch a certain task on a given day just removes clutter and helps keep my processing power where it needs to be.

If you get your priority items done for the day (which feels great by the way), you can move on to some of the lower priority items on your to-do list. I absolutely love setting my day up like this because it really does help you be clear about what you want to accomplish and feel great about it when you do.

Everybody has their own systems for this but I share mine in case it helps. I use an app called Trello to keep it all organized and, most importantly, easy.

I have a long-term, short-term, and a “today” list that I can easily move items around in as demands change. The 2-3 priority items make it onto the today list and the others remain in short term. It’s easy, fluid and fast. Great tool Check it out if you have the time.

Say Yes, To The Best

“The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” – Bruce Lee

Human behavior is a messy arena. It is my hope that sharing this brings some clarity to your mind. Decluttering and leaving room in your life so you can say yes to only the best of opportunities is such a great feeling.

Like so many things, it comes down to human behavior, or, put another way, recognizing bad habits and replacing them with new habits. If you’re curious about the best way to get habits to stick, or would like some accountability as you give it a go – reach out. That is a big part of what we do with our clients here at Rare Air Fitness.

Here’s to a great year!

Run in Crappy Weather – An Ode to Mental Toughness

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It’s 5 am. Your obnoxious alarm is going off. It’s 15°F out and snowing. What person in their right mind wants to get out of bed to go exercise in that mess?

I mean, honestly, it’s so cozy and warm in bed. This HAS to be a poor life choice.

But you do it. You peel yourself out of bed, layer up and get it done.

Why?

Maybe you do it because it’s on your training plan or perhaps you’re busy and it’s the only time of day that it will happen. You have your own unique reason for getting out the door. Any way you cut it, some days it can be really hard to get it done

One of the first things I learned as I was becoming certified as a triathlon coach was to have a clear purpose for every workout.

That might mean staying within a certain range of intensity so you can reap the benefits of improved endurance or it may mean doing low cadence work on the bike to build strength and power.  The concept is super simple.

Be purposeful (in your workouts and in life).

What I have learned as I’ve grown as a coach and an athlete, though, is that sometimes mental toughness alone can be purpose enough for talking yourself into doing a workout (but it is often paired with some sort of physiological benefit all the same).

As much as I love to geek out about all the physiology at play, the reality is that most folks perform short of their potential. There are myriad reasons for that, but why let the mental game trip you up?

Sometimes you just need a brutally cold, windy, snow run (or equivalent) to sharpen your mental sword.

That’s why I love to mix in brutal workouts or exercise in stupid conditions once in awhile. It allows you to go back and think “I survived that. I’m kind of a badass. This right here? This is cake.”

So know this. You made it out of bed. You got that workout done.

You’re a survivor.

Better yet, you’re an overcomer. You can thrive, even when life gives you lemons.

And when you come to tough spots in a race or even in another key workout, you can draw from that well of mental toughness. You can push the envelope just a little farther.

Hell, this is what I really love about sports: it applies to life, too. Just think, when you go through rough patches in life you can draw from this same reserve. Because you’re a total badass, remember?

So, to quote an early influence in my life: “Embrace the suck” every once in a while and keep up the good work. And realize that sometimes you just need to get out the door more for your mind than your body.

Endurance Athletes: The 2 Phases of Perfect Off-Season Prep

I want your next season to be your very best, and I’m sure you do too. Capitalizing on your off-season lays the groundwork for a great season ahead. The off-season, or as I prefer to call it, the transition phase, is a time ripe with opportunity for long-term gains and consistent PRs. Who doesn’t want that?

Making the most of this time begins with adopting the right mental framework. This is why I prefer to talk in the terms of two phases:

  1. The transition phase
  2. The preparation phase

Discussing the off-season in these terms better prepares your mind for this time of year and helps you remain focused amid holiday distractions. Let’s take a look at each phase.

endurancerunner

The Transition Phase

There comes a time every year where you are D.O.N.E., done. Your big events are in the books. Mentally and physically you are toast. You’re simply ready for a break. When you get to this point, it’s time to recharge and head into the transition phase.

What this phase looks like varies greatly from person to person.

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Zesty Quinoa Salad

Zesty Quinoa Salad

Zesty Quinoa Salad
Zesty Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
"This bright and colorful salad is a great summertime recipe (or anytime you want to feel like it's summertime). Light and citrusy, it's a whole new way to enjoy quinoa. Lime juice and cilantro give a refreshing kick, while quinoa and black beans provide tasty vegan protein. If you're not vegan, add even more protein by adding chunks of chicken or turkey. Yum!" Courtesy of AllRecipes.com
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Zesty Quinoa Salad
Zesty Quinoa Salad
Print Recipe
"This bright and colorful salad is a great summertime recipe (or anytime you want to feel like it's summertime). Light and citrusy, it's a whole new way to enjoy quinoa. Lime juice and cilantro give a refreshing kick, while quinoa and black beans provide tasty vegan protein. If you're not vegan, add even more protein by adding chunks of chicken or turkey. Yum!" Courtesy of AllRecipes.com
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Servings Prep Time
6 servings 20 minutes
Cook Time
10 minutes
Ingredients
Servings: servings
Instructions
  1. Bring quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until quinoa is tender and water has been absorbed, 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lime juice, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, and red pepper flakes together in a bowl.
  3. Combine quinoa, tomatoes, black beans, and green onions together in a bowl. Pour dressing over quinoa mixture; toss to coat. Stir in cilantro; season with salt and black pepper. Serve immediately or chill in refrigerator.
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There Is No Try: Believe in Yourself

Do or do not. There is no try. It’s cliché, and yes, Yoda said it, but if you remember anything I ever tell you, remember that. Better yet, don’t just remember it. Believe it.

In my time as a coach, I have picked up on many behavioral patterns. The most interesting are those that make or break people as they pursue their goals. The pattern I want to discuss today is belief.

Beliefs Are Powerful

Beliefs are extremely powerful and hold the potential to shape outcomes. For example, I believe humans are incredibly capable beings. I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it. These beliefs shape how I act and how I treat my clients. When you treat people as remarkably capable, they tend to become that, sometimes despite themselves.

In this game called life, our outcomes are largely shaped by what goes on between our ears. The most successful among us are those who have mastered their minds. What we choose to believe is such a vital part of that mastery, but it often starts on an almost imperceptible level. Let me get more specific.

Self-Talk Is Poppycock

We constantly talk to ourselves, often without realizing it. There are a hundred different names for it: self-talk, hidden scripts, inner monologue, etc. Whatever you call it, it happens, and it shapes what you believe, how you act, and what you accomplish.

“I believe we all have potential to learn and adapt to just about anything if we put our minds to it.”

All too often I overhear phrases that start with “I can’t do this…” or “I’m no good at that.” To be fair, sometimes it is 100 percent true. But most of the time it is total poppycock.

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