Getting Fit and Loving It!

I’ve had several of my professional colleagues who have expressed a desire to improve their level of fitness.  We all do it for different reasons.  Some of us want to feel  better and have more energy, some would like to look in the mirror and get a “hey, I haven’t looked this good since college” thought, and some just need a new and exciting challenge or goal.  For whatever reason, it is easy for me to say that triathlon and the associated sports will change their lives if they simply commit to a goal and plan.

My triplet brother came to me a little over a year ago and said that he would do an Ironman.  I thought, “Yeah right!”  You see, my brother was the computer type of us triplets.  When we were out being active, he was playing around with networks or talking geek talk.  We shared many friends, so I got it, but if you asked me 10 years ago if he would be an Ironman, I would have responded with a witty hell is frozen comment.

He ponied up the cash, and in spite of some emotional and logistics barriers, he did it.  And he finished his first Ironman in style, at Chattanooga 2016 where, due to the heat, there was approximately a 40% DNS/DNF rate.  I’d like to say it was my amazing coaching, but he did the work.  I simply provided the plan, advice, and a lot of support.  I met with him a few weeks ago for dinner and I was amazed by how confident and composed he was.  It was like my brother had been transformed!  The reality is that he set a goal and achieved it.  His [...]

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    Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power – What is it and How Does it Help Me?

Functional Threshold Power (FTP)- What a mouthful!  Well, at least it’s a pretty cool sounding mouthful.  You may hear cyclists speak about this often.  If you’ve training by using FTP, you’re a believer.  If not, you’re missing out on one of the most influential and unknown aspects of training and output for beginner triathletes.

FTP is the maximum power output you can hold for 1 hr of effort.  It is measured in watts.  If you want an example as demonstrated in a French commercial, enjoy:

Wattage is power.  Various devices measure power output for cyclists.  Power meters can be built into the hubs of bikes, integrated into the cycling trainer, or integrated into the crank of the bicycle.  The number represents the amount of effort you are generating as evidenced by the power output.  Most would ask why speed wouldn’t be enough.  Great question!

Speed would be sufficient for effort output if all other factors were equal.  If we always rode on straight and level roads, road the exact same bikes, and had no wind to contend with or cyclists to draft off.  You may accomplish this on an indoor trainer, but the variables when on the road are very different each ride.

Power numbers take everything into account as they measure your output of effort regardless of the environment.

When I ask my athletes what is the single most influential factor in them improving their speed in a triathlon, most would point to the power meter.  I’d like to think they’d point at me as their coach, but let’s not be delusional.

One of the first tests I perform on each of my athletes, other than the VO2 test, is an FTP test.  Once I [...]

Recovery Tips and Techniques

For those of us doing an early season Ironman or other race this year, we’re now starting, or well into the build phases of our training.  If you’re like me, and have responsibilities during the day, that means 2 or 3 workouts on quality days.  That’s a lot of training stress!  If you’re like many others, you’re doing a Sat/Sun block and then hitting the work week again.

As overtraining can ruin the build for several months of your season, or cause a sub-optimal performance on your A race, it is essential that you are recovering properly.  Here are a few methods which I’ve found via research and practice to be most effective.  I would bore you with studies and scientific results, but I’ve found that they muddy the waters and that most studies weren’t intended to be applied to working athletes.  Plus, if you want to know, just Google it.  I’ll let Google consume your time.  This article is quick and easy.
Recovery Days
Training and timing is essential to building, peaking, and preventing overtraining syndrome or injury.  Recovery schedules depend on what phase you’re in.  I’ll paraphrase it as much as possible:
Base Phase (12-24 weeks)- Long and Steady with strength mingled.  During the base phase, you’re building your aerobic endurance.  Zone 1 or Zone 2 efforts increase blood flow, the number of mitochondria in your muscle systems, and the amount of oxidative enzymes in your blood.  You may wonder why you’re being given so many long and easy workouts during this phase.  Don’t worry.  Enjoy them!  Once you start building and peaking, you’ll miss them.
Build Phase (4-8 weeks)-  Higher Intensities and Bricks – The build phase is where your effort really ramps up.  There is a mix weighted toward the use of high [...]

Swimming Basics – How To Swim – Strong and Steady

One of the primary reasons I started the sport of triathlon was my fear of swimming distances.  I remember the first time I hopped into the pool with the intention of swimming distance.  50 yds later I was huffing and puffing.  As I didn’t have a coach at the time, I learned by trial, study, and error.  My breakthrough happened after a long workout culminated with a racquetball game with my wife.  I was beat.  I hadn’t done my swim, so I hopped into the pool.  1000 yds later I was ecstatic!  For some reason, it finally clicked.  I now believe that I simply just relaxed and stopped overthinking the swim allowing me to not go hypoxic and let things happen.

It’s easy as a beginner swimmer to get caught up in the intricacies of good form when it comes to swimming.  The result is bad form and a very slow and inefficient stroke.  I’ve read most every book out there, watched countless videos, learned from my fellow coaches and athletes.  I learn something new all of the time.  Run form and bike efficiency is fairly straight forward. Biking and running are also much easier to improve as most of us have learned those skills from childhood.

For those of you who would like some general swimming guidelines to think on, here they are.  I will likely go into more depth on each in future posts.   Also, feel free to ask any questions.

Swim Form:  Position in Water – My biggest problem when I was learning to swim was my position in the water.  We’ve all heard about the tug boat vs the sail boat analogy.  I was an oil tanker.  To swim efficiently, it is essential [...]

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    How to Eat Healthy and Enjoy It! A Few Healthy Eating Tips to Enhance Your Training.

How to Eat Healthy and Enjoy It! A Few Healthy Eating Tips to Enhance Your Training.

When I started doing triathlons, my mantra was that I exercise so that I can eat.  It worked well for me at the time.  I lost 40 pounds because of my change in lifestyle, but I knew I could do more.  I also find myself reading the various triathlete magazines out there which are filled with healthy recipes like the following:

Farmer’s Market Salad

Shredded Romaine, shredded radicchio, roasted corn kernels, fuji apples (diced), dried cranberries, roasted hazelnuts (chopped), avocado, lemon oregano and a dressing with a clove of garlic, fresh oregano, olive oil, egg yolks, and dijon.

I live in Texas… the home of steak and potatoes, and eating out.  I have a full time job.  My wife and I have 3 kids.  You might get the drift.  I’ll need a hefty raise and an extended 2 hours in my day to prepare meals of this caliber.  Many of my colleagues and athletes are in the same boat.  I am envious of those who can prepare and afford such delicious meals.   So for those of us who would like to eat healthy in a simple and effective manner, here are some tips.  (I am an advocate of the KISS philosophy.  Look it up if you don’t know it… and it doesn’t have anything to do with a man who paints his face)

Tip #1 – Don’t Drink Your Calories

This one is basically self explanatory.  A 32 oz soda has roughly 272 calories.  Orange juice, another culprit, has 110 calories per 8 oz, milk also has high calories at 150 and has a solid place in training efforts.  However, milk also has a lot of sugar, so drink wisely.    1 pound = 3200 calories (roughly)  If you [...]

By |November 18th, 2013|Nutrition, Training|0 Comments|

How to Cope with Missed Workouts

So I traveled to corporate for work last week leaving a gaping hole in my training schedule and ambitions.  I went with bright-eyed plans to work out daily, eat well, post a few blog additions, and complete some more coach specific education, but to no avail.  I had no energy at the end of the day and dragged myself through a 45 mile Saturday ride with one of my local groups.

While I was training for the Ironman, I learned a lot about workout schedules.  I can’t say I’m the overanxious type, but here are a few tips and tidbits from those who have been around for awhile.

1- Fitness is a Journey – I read that it takes an average of 9 years to peak in your endurance fitness.  There’s a good reason why the 40-44 age group is the most competitive in Ironman. Experience and years of aerobic fitness, technique, and slow twitch muscle efficiency development really add up in this sport.

If you’re sick or miss a day in your schedule, look at the larger picture and keep moving forward.  If anything, we tend to overtrain.  Give yourself a well deserved break when other priorities or sickness comes calling.

2- The 14 Day Rule – According to the GAS Adaptation Syndrome, after your body is subjected to stress (exercise), your body adapts to that stress during the resistance phase.  The adaptation comes in the form of aerobic, neuro, and muscular development which will better enable you to perform during your next stress phase.

The 14 days come into play as your body takes roughly 14 days to fully adapt to a workout session or block.  Missing a day may decrease to total adaptation, but not as [...]

Running in the Heat

I couldn’t sleep this morning for many reasons.  It’s been a long week, even with the holiday.  I decided to start my endurance run for the week which is customarily 13.1 miles.  This time of year, I typically average between 7:30 and 8:00 miles.  What’s interesting is that, in cooler temperatures, I can run at 7:15 – 7:30 and maintain the same heart rate levels.

“Well duh, you should know that!”  Many of you are likely saying right now.  And it makes perfect sense to me too… but what are the why’s?  I’m always curious like that.

I’m also reminded of my experience with the Texas Ironman this year.  The Houston temperature was 94 degrees with humidity in the upper 80%+.  Adjusted temp was a whopping 107!  It felt like hitting a wall on the run.  Average finish times were 13:40 with a 17% DNF (Did Not Finish) result.  (The only race which was worse was the last St. George IM where the storm forced many out of the water.)  Average run time was 5:35.  I came in at 12:39 happy to finish after such a long and hot day.  We spoke with another IM triathlete who’s PR was 10:14 and he was cruising for a 14+ hour time.  Brutal…

So what do the scientists say?
Exercise in the heat (40c) increases muscle glycogen oxidation and reduces whole-body fat oxidation (Febbraio et al. 1994), in comparison to the same exercise intensity performed at 20 C.
According to Alex Hutchinson in an article titled “How Does Heat Affect Fat Burning?”
In general, you burn a mix of fat and carbs when you exercise. The more intense the exercise, the more that mix shifts toward carbs and away from [...]

VO2 Max and Article by Matt Fitzgerald on

I performed my VO2 Max the other day and it stood at a solid 66.8%. As far as fitness is concerned, 66.8% is superior, however, how do I compare against the best? I learned that the pro athlete classification normally have a VO2 max of around 70%+. Even Lance, in his enhanced hay day, had an 83% VO2 max.
So being the Type A personality I am, I immediately started putting together this post in my mind thinking, “How do I increase my VO2 Max?”One of the best articles I read was by one of my favorite coaches
Matt Fitzgerald. Bottom line. It’s painful! Stressing your cardio system increases VO2. That means long time trials and intervals or fartleks. Bouts of mind over matter with a gasp of relief at the end.Higher altitudes also improve VO2 because the cardio system is forced to be more efficient. So maybe my sea level based VO2 isn’t too shabby after all.As I have the benefit of performing a VO2 Max on myself regularly, I’m going to see how my training affects my VO2. I emphasize at least one interval (speed) session per week per discipline for myself, and my athletes. The benefits are long term and varied. Training at speed increases speed.Article Below.VO2max is a measure of the maximum rate at which an athlete’s body is able to consume oxygen when performing a specific activity, adjusted for body weight.In running, it is usually determined through a procedure known as an incremental exercise test, in which the athlete breathes into a tube that collects and measures exhaled gases while running on a treadmill whose belt speed and/or gradient is increased incrementally until the athlete reaches exhaustion. The maximum [...]

By |September 4th, 2013|Run, Testing, Training|0 Comments|