Sunday, December 28, 2014

Triathlon training: December 22-28

TrainingPeaks Log

My TrainingPeaks diary (affiliate link) is looking pretty full this week -- even though I skipped one planned swim, I got more than 8 hours of training in during the past week.  In the premium version, a workout completed as planned is green, one that was too long or too short is yellow, and one that was missed completely is orange. I'm finding that it works best for me to plan slightly more activity than my goal (which this week was 7:30) because it's easier to drop a planned workout from the schedule than to add an extra one in. I was a little long last week, but since I was sick the week before, I decided it was okay to be a little over.

My triathlon coach holds three weekly rides in the "Pain Cave," a.k.a. her basement. My bike is there, all set up on a trainer, and those rides are the skeleton of my training plan each week, along with the weekly Sylvania Masters Swim practice on Sunday.  Then I add in runs and other workouts to fill in the needed hours.

I found a great new class at the JCC called Group Power, which is a strength training class similar to Body Pump.  They are just running some test sessions for now, but I plan to hit that class twice a week to finally do the strength work I know I need. I'll also shoot for a yoga or Pilates class every week to add more strength and flexibility work.

It has been tough to get that second swim in with holiday schedule disruptions (my own and the gyms'), but once everyone is back to work and school, I can fit in a morning swim once a week.

I am feeling great, tired but strong.  19 hours of training down, 439 to go.

Book Review: Up and Running by Julia Jones and Shauna Reid

Pre-order now at
When asked by the lovely Shauna if I would like a free advance copy of Up and Running: Your 8-week Plan to go from 0-5K and Beyond and Discover the Life-Changing Power of Running to review, of course I said, "yes please!"

As you probably know, Shauna is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, and she has been working with Coach Julia Jones for the past few years to offer an online running community and training courses for women (and a few men, I think) who always thought they weren't skinny enough, or athletic enough, or whatever enough to be runners.

I did the Up and Running 10K training course a few years ago, so I was familiar with the Up and Running philosophy.  There are lots of other beginner 5K programs out there, but this one is, as far as I know, the only one that also incorporates drills and exercises designed to strengthen the feet, ankles, and legs and stave off the dreaded shin splints. 

With the Up and Running plan, you won't just be walking and running, you'll be skipping, marching, squatting, and stretching as part of your weekly workouts.  The "free-form running" philosophy means that you won't be left out if you can't run the full distances just yet.

This book doesn't just give you a training plan, it also helps you deal with the mental aspects of starting and sticking with a running plan, like self-consciousness and motivation. It also addresses issues like proper diet, running form, and the all-important question of what to wear when running. There are even tips for keeping your feet soft and (relatively) callous-free. 

The biggest plus for me are all the full-color pictures.  I couldn't believe the book when I saw it.  Every page is a glossy feast for the eyes.  Exercises are described in detail with accompanying instructional photos, but there are also profiles of Up and Running alums with accompanying pictures.  The photos make running look fun and accessible. 

My only quibble is that it might be a little difficult for a beginner to figure out a way to put these workouts in her pocket for a run.  There are some journal pages on pages 156-157 that summarize the workouts in a small space -- I'd recommend either photocopying these and cutting them out, or copying them onto a Post-It and sticking them to your phone.  I know the authors recommend programming the workouts into an app, but I'm not sure how to do that and I'm a techie.  Maybe the authors could offer instructions on the Up and Running site.  

The other thing that might be tricky for U.S. runners is that most of the distances are in kilometers, and most running courses around here are marked out in miles (except tracks, which are 400 m,  2 1/2 laps per K).  Any of the recommended GPS running apps should take care of this problem, as you can change the distance measurements in the Settings.  A kilometer is about 3/5 of a mile, so using K might make it feel like you feel like you are running further faster.  It will also help you have a better sense of how to pace that 5K. 

This book would make a great gift for anyone who has a New Year's Resolution to run a 5K this year.  It really covers everything a beginner needs to get started and, more importantly, keep going. Once you complete the 5K, there are recommendations for your next steps and even some bonus 10K plans. Pre-order links are available from the Up and Running site. There is also an undated training diary available, if you want more space to record your workouts and plan future races.

Friday, December 26, 2014

"It's time to see what I can do, to test the limits and break through"

I'm a latecomer to the Frozen bandwagon, but I finally downloaded it to my iPad and watched it the whole way through after seeing my nephews watch snippets of it. Then, of course, I downloaded the whole soundtrack to my iPhone. So if you see me rocking out in my car to "Let it Go," please don't judge.

The song speaks to me because it's about refusing to keep playing small to make other people safe.  This is the song where Elsa finally stops trying to suppress her power and decides to see what is possible for her.  (Yes, she also locks herself away in a castle made of ice, but don't ruin my metaphor here.)

It's so easy to for me to fall into a rut of playing it safe. It means things are a little easier. I don't have to challenge myself or risk failing.  In 2015 I want to take more risks and shoot for bigger goals.

My training for the Half Aquabike is going really well. Using TrainingPeaks Premium (affiliate link) to plot out and track my training has helped a lot, and now that I'm finally over the bug I had last week, I am feeling strong and confident.  I needed the big goal to help shake everything else into place. If I don't train adequately, I am going to have a very bad day in September, and that thought gets me out the door to do my workouts.

I've also read more of Racing Weight (review coming soon) and it has some really sensible advice on how to improve diet quality. It also warns endurance athletes about setting weight loss goals that are too ambitious -- a 500-calorie a day deficit, which is what is typically recommended for dieters, is likely to interfere with training and cause a loss of power.  A deficit of 500 calories is needed to lose a pound a week, so I have decided to set a half-pound a week average weight loss goal instead, which would mean I could be 20 pounds lighter for my race. I am learning that would be even a bigger help than I thought.

Finally, I have a review copy of another book I'm excited to read, Up and Running.  It just arrived the other day and it looks beautiful, with lots of gorgeous full-color pictures. Expect a review of that early next week. I can definitely use some advice on my run, which is by far the weakest leg of my triathlon.

I'm ready to test my limits in the coming year.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

A busy week!

This week was mostly a good one, but really busy. I logged my food about 1 out of every 2 days. I had my birthday and did a lot more eating out at restaurants than usual. It was the last week of classes and we had graduation this weekend, plus I had required edits on an accepted conference proposal.  This week, I need to get my grades turned in and work on 2 syllabi.

I squeezed in a Weight Watchers meeting so I could hear about all these "big changes," and... yawn. Not that big. I do like the emphasis on the Power Foods and the new realistic tone, but most of the changes seem to be a change of style and emphasis rather than a big change of program. The biggest change is that you can pay extra for one-on-one virtual coaching.  If I'm paying for coaching, it's going to be triathlon coaching.

I was supposed to train 7 hours and 30 minutes this week but only got in 5 hours and 40 minutes. "Only" seems like a weird word in that sentence, but I have a big race to train for.  I have next week's training plotted out and I think I'll actually get more than the 7 hours and 30 minutes planned, because I'll add in some strength work.

I read the first chapter of Racing Weight in a spare moment and found it a bit of a revelation. The author, Matt Fitzgerald, describes just how much impact excess weight has on racing performance:
Excess body fat is the enemy of performance in every endurance sport. For example, a runner weighing 160 pounds has to muster about 6.5 percent more energy to run the same pace as a runner weighing 150 pounds. 
He goes on to describe running on a treadmill that simulates a lighter body. He felt much fitter at 90 percent of his body weight and found it made him feel fitter and made running feel "like normal running, only so much better."

If a relatively thin and fit athlete like him feels that, I can't imagine what would happen if I could suddenly be at my Weight Watchers goal weight, which is about 85% of my current weight.  I found the idea motivating.  But then I tried his racing weight estimator, which suggests that at 44, I should weigh what I did when I was in my peak condition in college, and yet have an even lower body-fat percentage. So we will just pretend that didn't happen.

I feel light and graceful and powerful in the water, and even on my bike, I feel like I can really crank the pedals.  As a runner, I feel like a lumbering, sweaty mess, almost as if some kind of aquatic animal was forced up on land. Oddly, I still enjoy running if I can ignore that feeling.  But what if I could feel light and graceful and powerful when I ran?  I'm not sure it's possible, but it sounds worth making an effort for.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Happy 44th Birthday to Me!

I don't look a day over 22, do I? 
When I was a kid, I hated that my birthday is in December, but I've grown to like it. I have a Christmas tree in my house this morning, I'm enjoying a quiet cup of coffee, and my classes are almost over. It's sort of nice starting that end-of-year reflection early -- it gives me a little jumpstart.

I had a bit of a hard year this year with my dad's illness and passing. But there were lots of bright spots too. I think this year I learned to appreciate the good things in each passing moment in a way that I hadn't always been able to before.

I have big hopes for the year ahead. Signing up for that big race is what I needed to change my perspective on training -- I had just been slogging away at it, hoping to take off the excess pounds without any other real focus. The races I was doing were too easy to make me feel really motivated for the training itself, so it was all about calories. I feel like the training has taken on a new meaning now -- I can see what I'm building.

I have started to work on some other goals too. It may take a while for those to snap into focus. There are some changes I'd like to make, but mostly, I love my life.  I'm feeling very blessed this morning.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, December 06, 2014

Meeting with a triathlon coach

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

I met with a triathlon coach last night to discuss my race goals. To my surprise, she didn't sound doubtful I could do what felt to me like a very ambitious schedule. Instead, she clearly thought I should commit to just do the half and not the aqua bike. 

She's a five-time Iron finisher. I guess that I shouldn't have been surprised that she has high expectations. I'm just used to people looking at me and thinking, "not an athlete."

I got a little overwhelmed seeing all the hours of training I'll need to do sketched out at once.  And of course, I'm a little afraid my body won't hold up. She did tell me that part of the problem was that I wasn't training strategically -- I just kept ramping up my training instead of backing down periodically.

Another thing that overwhelmed me was the stuff that she suggested I buy or think about buying. In fact, I started to write this post as a , but quickly realized that some of this stuff, like a power meter, is too technical for me to really understand and make recommendations. The two I am most seriously thinking about are:

A GPS watch and heart rate monitor.  Since the  came out, it is possible to get some pretty good deals on the , the past reigning champion. But Garmin also seems to be getting some competition from the . I'm hoping that the competition might inspire some more competitive pricing. There are also good options available that are a step down in price, including the .

A TrainingPeaks Premium upgrade. The upgrade allows an athlete to plan future workouts and sync to an Outlook or Google calendar -- both really valuable features for me. There are also premium-only analysis tools and graphs. I'm a little annoyed at myself that I missed the chance to upgrade for 25% off on Cyber Monday, but I was sure I was going to stick to paper logging.

I hate that this is such an expensive sport. I think a lot of people enjoy the gearhead aspect of it, but I don't have the income to enjoy spending $300-$400 on a single piece of equipment.  I just dropped $130 on a new pair of triathlon bike shoes because the $100 pair I bought three years ago are too small and are making my feet numb. And found out in the process that the cleats for my clipless pedals are almost worn through and will need to be replaced this spring. I try to remind myself that the work is the important part, and that I don't need to squeeze every last minute off my time.

The coaching, though, was probably a good investment.  I needed help organizing my training, especially because I'm stepping up to bigger events.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Changes coming to Weight Watchers

I have heard rumors about the changes coming to Weight Watchers and even saw a blog post that was published prematurely (and taken down) that outlined some of the changes coming.  The biggest change, as far as I can tell, is stylistic:

This commercial captures so much about the complicated, emotionally-charged relationship most of us have with food. And it's not as simple as knowing that you are doing it -- most people who are emotional eaters are somewhat aware of it, but the food-mood connection is culturally embedded. Even a book I was listening to about changing unhealthy behavior patterns suggested walking away from an emotionally-charged encounter with a relative at a family party to "have some of Mom's deviled eggs." The fact that the authors of a "Recovery Lite" book suggested food as a way to avoid a scene, even though they talk about unhealthy eating behaviors in other places in the book, tells you everything you need to know about how difficult this behavior is to root out.

I like my Weight Watchers leader because she acknowledges that it isn't always easy to follow the program. She jokes about weighing in in her nightgown, and I'm pretty sure she's serious.  My beef with Weight Watchers was always that there was no acknowledgement of the struggle. It was as if someone thought that we just needed to learn that carrots were healthier than carrot cake and that the whole bag is not usually the portion size, and we'd magically drop all our unwanted pounds, chanting poems about "Ten Little Weight Watchers" as we cheerily exit the meeting room, picking up two or three boxes of Snack Bars on our way out:
We want a down-to-earth leader that knows that no matter how many times you chant, "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change," you still have to eat less food to lose weight, and that it sucks sometimes. We need a leader who can agree with us that it sucks, but gently and firmly tell us we still are going to have to do it anyway. It would be a bonus if she could give us some realistic advice on how to do that.
I'm glad to see things moving more in that direction. I wonder what they are going to do with the chirpy ones.  Maybe there will be a sort of re-education program?

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"Count your calories, work out when you can, and try to be good to yourself. All the rest is bulls**t." -- Jillian Michaels at BlogHer '07