March 17, 2014 on 2:32 pm | In Athlete Profile, Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Team athlete Scott Bradley, reminding all of us why we started our endurance sports habits in the first place. Check out Scott’s blog and follow him on Twitter – scottbradley11.
Trying to be a competitive triathlete is not easy. It requires a pretty large commitment to be putting your name towards the top of the results sheet race after race. There are countless hours spent training, sleeping, eating, reading about the newest training techniques and equipment, studying competitors and everything else we spend time on. If you let it, the whole thing can become one big grind.
I couldn’t say for sure, but it’s highly unlikely that when anyone started multisport they said, “I want to get involved in a sport that will take time away from my family and friends, cost me thousands of dollars in equipment and race fees (not to mention the larger than normal grocery bills), and beat the crap out of my body day after day so I’m exhausted almost all the time. That sounds fun.” It’s much more likely that people said something like, “I want to challenge myself to be the healthiest, fittest person I can possibly be” or “that looks like it would be a lot of fun,” which leads me to the best advice I’ve ever received as a triathlete: Make sure it’s still fun.
When I started triathlon I had no clue what I was doing. My first season was nothing short of a disaster and if I hadn’t just purchased a really expensive bike toward the end of it, I would have thrown in the towel. I kept at it, however, and was fortunate enough to have a colleague who had been doing this stuff for years, and had been tearing up courses since way back when I was still wearing pull-ups, take me under his wing. He gave me training structure and taught me about how to prepare for races properly. We rode and ran together all the time, often with a bunch of his other friends who were also veterans of the sport.
When it was time for a big ride, there were often interesting destinations. Usually it was some sort of annual trip for these guys, but to me these were all new experiences. One day we were riding to the Maple Tree Inn, which was about a 75 mile round trip ride with lots of climbing on an annual ride they called “The Easter Bunny Ride” because it always happened in late March or early April when the restaurant was open, which is only for about eight weeks a year (as a side note, this place has the best buckwheat pancakes and syrup anywhere and I highly recommend anyone in upstate New York going if you’ve never been). I was riding next to Carl and he said “Make sure this is always fun. If it stops being fun, don’t do it anymore.” That’s why they had all these destinations for rides and took so many crazy trips. It made it fun and every year they would go back to places together and enjoy each others’ company and share memories.
There are days when we have to rise early to train before work or winter months where we have to grind out hours on the trainer in order to maximize our potential (we don’t all live in sunny Tucson!). Every session isn’t going to be about fun, but if none of them are, what’s the point? I’ve found ways to make the 5am pool sessions fun by swimming with a great group of people (and I don’t even really like swimming to begin with). In the winter, a few friends will bring their bikes over and we will set up shop in my basement to watch movies while we grind away on the trainers.
A little creativity and a few friends can make almost any session more enjoyable. It is a piece of advice I will never forget and hopefully I can continue to have fun with this sport until I’m old and gray so I can share it with some up and coming triathlete who’s just getting into it. If I do, it’ll probably be the best advice I ever give, too.
February 24, 2014 on 4:56 pm | In Athlete Profile, Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments
This blog brought to you by Helgi Spencer Olafson, Amateur Triathlete and Arthritis Warrior with Ankylosing Spondylitis. Check out Helgi’s website, join his Race For a Cure team, donate and follow him on Twitter – @HelgiOlafson.
I often ask myself… “why do I keep adding more and more to my plate?”…and then I think to myself, “if only there were more hours in a day… yeah, that would be awesome!”
But this is reality!!
The earth will always turn at a pace which conducts time. We have no control over time. What we DO have is control over how we spend that time. YOU have the power of CHOICE.
Is it selfish to take the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle? Or is it something that can be used as an example for others to follow with the hopes of getting this world out of the rut that we are in where everyone is searching for the magic pill?
Here is the bottom line: EVERYONE suffers from hardship and challenges at one point or another in their lives. Some people have it easy and some don’t. It is likely that each of us can’t know exactly how it feels to be in another person’s shoes. We are genetically different from one another and it’s just not the way genealogy works.
What is important is that we continue to use the lessons from our personal experiences and education, as well as the history recorded by countless visionaries over the many centuries that humans have roamed this earth. Believe it or not, “Visionaries” are people just like you and me. I have Ankylosing Spondylitis, and I AM a visionary for many. For them I carry a torch, which also stays lit in my heart. I will lead the way, while learning, teaching, growing, and respecting the knowledge that history and experience has provided.
Harness the thoughts that you produce in your mind. They can move mountains!
Triathlon as Medicine for #Arthritis
Since competing as a runner for a relay team in my first ever triathlon, which was the 2012 Lavaman Waikoloa Olympic distance triathlon, I was hooked. I knew that this was the answer. I was tired of living my days with a back, bones, and joints that hurt because I wasn’t taking the best possible care of myself. “But I have autoimmune arthritis, and it makes it hard for me!” No, Helgi!! THAT is even MORE the reason why you should be held accountable for your health. No more giving the jet plane regular unleaded for fuel. It was time to figure out how to manage my arthritis, and help others by leading the way.
I found that if I maintain a good combination of swimming, biking and running, as well as functional strength, core work, and a proper stretching routine to maintain flexibility, I am currently almost invulnerable, aside from the common daily creaks and cracks, to the autoimmune disease that may eventually cause my spine, hips and other joints to fuse together. This fusion, or ankylosis, is caused by severe inflammation and pain. The autoimmune arthritis I have is called Ankylosing Spondylitis, or AS. 40% of the world’s population will suffer from one or more of the over 200 types of arthritis at least once in their lifetime.
Triathlon is great for arthritis! I am not a Rhuematologist, or even a doctor, but I am my own maker, and I know that triathlon training works for me. It can also work for others, but those of us who have arthritis know that our bodies and bones don’t really react very well to sudden changes. This is why it is important to ease into triathlon and be sure to use each discipline regularly to improve overall fitness and core strength, while maintaining a proper plan with the help of a coach that understands your personal limitations from arthritis. A strong core helps maintain the integrity of my joints.
Of course it hurts! I AM human…but I think I am on to something here.
I put my music on and run the trails of the lava fields, valley-laden coastline, or the rain forests of Hawai’i. Give me a day cycling the hills in the Pacific Northwest, or the flats of Florida. There is nothing like jumping into the water for a training swim at the pier in Kailua Kona, which also happens to be the start-line for the Ironman World Championship event that takes place each year to crown the best Ironman triathletes in the world.
Talk about motivation all around me. Here is the deal. There is no “Magic Pill.” There may never be a “Cure.” What does exist is #Hope. Raising awareness by word of mouth and through networking is a key element in reaching the extremely large number of arthritis patients, doctors and interested parties all over the world.
If you support arthritis and exercise as medicine, and you would like to help this cause, please support our mission and consider a donation. Perhaps you would like to join our team and race with us in support of arthritis research and programs to help people with arthritis? All levels welcome! You can learn more about our team here, and learn more about me here.
TriSports.com supports the Helgi Olafson Foundation…use coupon code HOF14 to donate 15% of your purchase directly to the Helgi Olafson Foundation. Code cannot be combined with any other offers. Sale items and items designated as non-discountable will not be included.
January 21, 2014 on 4:03 pm | In CAF, Charity, Community, Giving Back, Random Musings | No Comments
Races use to be just that…races. But training for races is a lot of hard work, and quite some time back, some one (not sure when, not sure who) came up with the idea that as long as people are training, why not train for a cause? In my mind, Team-in-Training was the one that really put this kind of racing on the map and, since it was founded in 1988, they and untold other charities have benefited from people racing for dollars. What has been amazing are the people from all walks of life who are brought together for a cause, people who may never have even run a 5K, let alone a marathon; never done a sprint triathlon, let alone an Ironman, yet they are willing to toe the line to raise money for research to beat down the disease that took their brother, their mother, their daughter, their best friend. The causes are numerous, but the goal the same…raise as much as possible for the cause that speaks to you.
I have done this before, raising money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation, an organization that does amazing things for people with disabilities – they give them the freedom to get out and participate in athletics by providing prosthetics, training, travel and more. I did my first event with them in 2003 and have participated most years since then (a fire in SD, a couple of pregnancies and our store grand opening had me miss a few), and I don’t even know at this point how much money we’ve raised for them doing their San Diego Triathlon Challenge, Million Dollar Challenge and Race For a Reason over the years. I’ve made great friends and memories to last a lifetime! I’ll always continue to race for CAF because I truly believe in what they do, and the people who run it are amazing!
We have become involved with another amazing organization, this one local to our Tucson community, called Tu Nidito (means “Your Little Nest”). Over 19 years ago, some incredible people saw a hole in the support system for children who had been diagnosed with a serious medical condition (and the adults who care for them) or who had suffered the loss of a loved one, and so they created Tu Nidito to fill that hole. Today, Tu Nidito serves around 900 children and their families, providing ongoing support for grieving children, and helping families who have a seriously ill child all the way from diagnosis to either recovery or the bleak alternative. Just visiting and touring the facility brings tears to my eyes. The staff there is so strong to face these families and the losses they suffer on a daily basis. They do all of this at absolutely no cost to the families, and so fundraising is super important for them. They have had their “Ride for a Child” program for years, pairing a cyclist competing in El Tour de Tucson with a child. The cyclist rides for that child and raises funds for Tu Nidito. This year, they are launching their “Tri for a Child” program, and have partnered with us to try to help get the word out. They have spots for sold out IRONMAN Boulder, as well as the challenging IRONMAN Lake Tahoe. Sure, you could go get an entry for Tahoe at regular price, but by racing for Tu Nidito, you’ll get so much more, and I’m not talking about the tangibles, though those are pretty cool (ever heard of Jimmy Riccitello? He’ll be your coach). You don’t need to be a local Tucsonan to believe in what they do, so check it out, and consider racing for them…there are many children who will be very glad that you did!
December 13, 2013 on 12:06 pm | In Charity, Community | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Jake Greenwood. As we approach the anniversary of this very tragic event, we thought Jake’s blog (written earlier this year) was the perfect one to share. We all hope that the people of Sandy Hook are finding joy this holiday season in the memories of those lost to them. Follow Jake on Twitter – gwoodjcg.
This blog is not about Leadville or Kona. This blog is about a 5K. That’s right, 3.1 miles. Most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race. Recently I participated in a 5K that was far more grueling than any other endurance event I’ve encountered in my life.
I live a mere 12 miles from Sandy Hook Elementary School and have seen my community and my schools changed forever. The innocence my children once had hopping on the school bus each morning has been stripped from them. In return we have been given fear, frustration, and a deep, deep hole in our souls.
On March 23rd I participated in the Sandy Hook Run for the Families in Hartford, Connecticut. Along with 12,000 other participants, I ran the 3.1-mile loop through Bushnell Park to raise money for the families.
Again, most of you wouldn’t even enter a 5K race. Your countless hours of training have fine-tuned your bodies to view a 5K as a warm up to the next 20 miles you’ll run. But make no mistake; this was a grueling 3.1 miles. Far more grueling than the hours you will spend on the road this weekend.
Prior to the run, 26 bells were rung one at a time to symbolize the lost lives of the students and faculty of Sandy Hook Elementary School. The sound of 12,000 silent people in the heart of one of the largest metropolitan cities in the U.S. was deafening. As we wound through the course not a word was uttered. All that could be heard was heavy breathing and the whimpers of adults fighting back tears.
With a heavy heart, I proudly pushed my 4 year old daughter and 1 year old daughter in the stroller while holding my 8 year old son’s hand through the course. No course record was to be set. No medals were given out. No post race barbeques were held. No tales of trials and triumph were shared. The crowd simply ran the course and slowly, sadly made their way back to their cars and drove home.
When I wake up early and fill my water bottles for a long day of biking and running, I often think of that morning. I can still see the pain in so many of the adult’s eyes and the lack of understanding in my children’s faces. The pain I will feel as I embark on hour 4 in the tri-position is no match for the pain in all of our hearts over the recent tragic events of Sandy Hook and now Boston.
The Sandy Hook Run for the Families was not about running. It was about life: honoring the memory of precious lives lost through tragedy and celebrating the gift of life. It was about uniting in hope for the future.
Live. That is what we must do. Embrace new challenges. Push your body beyond its limits. Spoil your family. Because, in the end, life is finite and today will too soon be yesterday.
December 3, 2013 on 4:22 pm | In Charity, Community, Giving Back | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Polly Jansen. Although this took place earlier this year, we thought it a good one to share during this time of thanks and giving. Check out her blog and follow her on Twitter – pjansen!
As a member of an athletic community, I have learned from some amazingly gifted people, but the thing I appreciate most in my friends and fellow competitors is their eager willingness to give back to the sport. One such example recently popped up when I attended a training class for my new job. As participants, we were asked to introduce and tell something about ourselves. One of my new colleagues, Awolu, shared how he had come from a war-torn area of Ghana and never owned a pair of sneakers until he graduated from high school because his village didn’t have access to them. Awolu went on to explain that he has been in the United States for nine years and periodically purchases used sneakers to ship back to his village in Ghana. He is taking a trip there to work with a middle school in July and plans to send a shipment of shoes at the end of June.
Intrigued, I had to meet him afterwards. “Awolu,” I said, “do you really PURCHASE the used sneakers?” He assured me that he did, but confirmed that he would also take donations. I said, “Don’t purchase anymore shoes right now. You will have your whole shipment by mid-June!”
That evening I messaged Dan Gordon, founder of the Wissahickon Wanderers, a trail running club in Philadelphia that I have been a part of since 2004, and pitched the idea of collecting shoe donations from club members. We decided that since the Wanderers are holding informal trail races each Thursday in May and also helping to put on the Wissahickon Trail Classic 10k on June 8, that we would encourage the runners and volunteers to bring their used shoes to go to the students in Ghana.
This past Thursday we collected our first round of donations and will continue to do so through June 8. I really appreciate the support so far from the athletes in my community and it’s refreshing to see everyone come together when there is a need and they have the capacity to help. It seems like such a small thing because everyone has used running shoes laying around, and we are so happy to be able to share something of ourselves that we often take for granted. I thank Awolu for this opportunity and hope the students feel renewed energy as they lace up these kicks and put their best feet forward!
November 5, 2013 on 12:15 am | In Product Information, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Clyde Messiah, who now makes sure he always has an extra pair of shoes at the ready. Check out his blog!
Whether you’re a triathlete, runner, or just someone who likes to stay active and fit, it’s important to have shoes that fit your foot type and gait. If you’re a runner or triathlete, you probably already have that covered; if not, get to your nearest high end running store ASAP!
Keeping track of your shoe wear is, however, equally, if not more, important. Last year I learned this lesson the hard way. I was racing Ironman 70.3 Kansas. Once I hit mile 3 of the run, I started to experience awful pain, mainly in my ankle joints and the bones of my feet. It was the classic symptoms of worn out shoes (sudden joint and bone pain). Trust me, mile 3 of a half-marathon that’s following a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride is not the time you want to find out your running shoes are worn out!
So how can you tell when your shoes are done? Most running shoes have a life of 300-500 miles (but can vary based on the type of shoe, the terrain and the type of runner you are). An easy solution is to keep track of your shoe mileage. This can be done by simply looking at your regular running/training log, if you keep one; or if you average the same mileage each week, you can keep track of that. Once you get close to 300, it might not be a bad idea to buy a new pair so you have them ready. You can also check the wear patterns. Below are 2 pictures comparing worn out shoes to new shoes. For reference, you can take a good picture of your shoes when they’re brand new, or take your shoes into a running store and compare them with a new pair (an employee at a high end running store will usually be glad to help you, as well). There’s also an illustration above of the spots to monitor for wear based on the type of foot motion you have. An important thing to note is that even if you’re naturally an over-pronator or under-pronator (also called supinator), if you have the right shoe and orthotic combination you’ll most likely have a normal wear pattern. On the same note, if you do have the wear pattern of an over-pronator or under-pronator while using an orthotic, then you may want to get your shoe and orthotic combination re-evaluated to keep you healthy and prevent injury.
Remember, keeping track of your shoe wear patterns is just as important as keeping up with your nutrition and bike maintenance, and can help prevent injury, keeping you on the road and in top training and racing shape!
October 22, 2013 on 2:58 pm | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion and former TriSports.com employee Kris Armstrong. Hope you are enjoying that MI winter, Kris (you know you regret leaving Tucson when this time of year hits)!
One of the most common reasons for becoming a triathlete is to cross train. Swimming, biking and running provides a variety in training that is very attractive to those bored with doing one or the other solo. The problem is that after 13 years of tri training, I am a triathlete and no long benefit like I did a few years ago. I have adapted to swimming, biking and running and even transitioning from one to the other. So what can a triathlete do to again experience cross training benefits like injury prevention/rehabilitation, improved performance and greater enjoyment of our sport? The answer for me, my secret weapon, is Triad Health and Fitness in Farmington Hills, Michigan, owned and operated by Kirk Vickers, a former trainer of the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey team. Kirk has a variety of clients, ranging from high school to professional athletes, as well as amateur athletes of all ages and those recovering from injuries. I had the privilege of working with Kirk during one of my internships for my degree in exercise science. Working with Kirk Vickers at Triad has helped me recover from injury, improved my performance and made training and competing a whole lot more fun!
Injury Prevention and Rehab
I have one injury that has been recurring since I was hiking in Arches National Park in Utah in February of 2010. It was a simple rolling of the ankle, pretty common, but whenever I pushed off the wall too hard swimming, biked a lot of hills or ran long distances or trails, my ankle would swell and be in such pain I had to take days off to recover. I found myself doing fewer activities to protect the ankle instead of solving the cause of the problem. Working with Kirk I learned that it might not be the ankle that’s the problem but could be instability in the hip allowing the ankle to roll. He also suggested lateral exercises to help stabilize the ankle, knee and hip – conditioning triathletes don’t get from swimming, biking and running. Kirk started me with some simple side steps that progressed to hula hoop jumps, two feet in two feet out. Currently I am doing 6 inch lateral hurdle jumps that have a cone at each end to touch and then return in the opposite direction. Kirk’s favorite remedy for pain is ice, which I use whenever the ankle acts up on occasion. The best thing about my ankle, knee and hip stability is my return to trail running which is one of the few things we can do outside during the long Michigan winter.
One of my favorite bike rides is Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona. If you climb all the way to the top, it’s at 9000 feet, an elevation gain of over 6000 feet from the base of the mountain. As difficult as this is on a bike, my most memorable performance improvement was realized during the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. My training not only helped me finish this, as advertised “Toughest Marathon in the World,” but actually do a pretty respectable time. The exercises that prepared me for this event were simple but very effective. The two exercises that I thought of while running were walking lunges and hip drives. For hip drives I used a weight lifting bench with one foot on the bench and the other on the floor. The arm on the side of the benched foot starts behind and the arm of the floored foot starts in front like a running stance. As the benched leg drives up the arm swings forward then returns to starting position. After 15 reps change sides. I also used a slide with hand weights. Place the hand weights in an upside down STEP, used for step aerobics, using the weights as handles push the slide ten yards. Immediately change direction and push back to start. Five reps of this drill are usually plenty depending on how much weight you choose.
Working-out in a gym is usually very boring to me. I like to be outside as much as possible which is why I like triathlon so much. But working out at Triad is fun and I look forward to each visit because I always learn something new and Kirk makes it challenging. If someone else is working out at the same time he will put us together to push each other. A little friendly competition is always fun. I usually do a warm-up then 5 drills and then a cool down. My 5 drills include something to improve stride, lateral stability, explosive power, core rotation strength and stability, and upper body strength. Normally these are done one at a time with breaks in between to recover, but sometimes it’s fun to run these drills as a circuit. Add a friend or two and time each station and switch every 30 seconds or every minute.
Cross training is very important when preventing and recovering from injury and improving our performance, but I must admit that it’s the fun factor that keeps me coming back for more time and again. Have fun!
October 15, 2013 on 1:35 am | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Ed Ten Eyck, who is a kick-ass duathlete and coach. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter – ed_teneyck.
Not too long ago I was invited to an event at one of my local bike shops as an information night for Irongirl. I was to present information about running off the bike and how to avoid the feeling of heavy, or dead, legs. Being a standard distance duathlete and exercise physiologist I thought nothing of the matter as I could talk about running on or off the bike for hours. Since I only had 15 minutes I compiled a very well manicured list that can keep most people out of trouble! I will outline the different sections and then get into more detail later about each one.
- Bike efficiency
- Better running form
Bricks are the most common and possibly the most feared workout that new multisport athletes encounter. What is a brick? A brick is when you combine 2 workouts into 1. Whether it is a swim/bike, bike/run, whatever the combination you come up with you have a brick. So how can this help your run off the bike?
Specificity of training states that training should be relative and pertinent to the sport in which you are training. If you are going to bike and then run in competition, you should train that way so your body is used to the stress demands placed on it. By incorporating brick workouts into your training you are stressing the muscles in the same way that you will during a race. This allows your body to adapt to the stress more efficiently. This alone will not prevent you from having the feeling of heavy legs, but it is one of the tools used to help.
Bike efficiency is a very broad category but we will focus on pacing and cadence.
Pacing is the hardest thing for most, if not all, athletes who compete. The reason? We are all competitive and we all want to win. That being said, pacing on the swim or run followed by pacing on the bike can help you set yourself up for a successful run off the bike. Pacing can be done using a variety of tools; HRM, power meter, RPE, speed, and cadence. Personally I feel a power meter can be the best tool when planning your pacing strategy for the bike portion of a race. It is the only true direct measurement of effort you can monitor. So what is proper pacing? Pacing depends on a number of factors but if we just look at the bike portion of a race we would have to look at the distance that the bike portion is, the terrain, and what your goals are coming off the bike into the run. For shorter distance bike courses you will be able to ride at a higher pace than if you were riding a full IM course. The same can be said about flats versus hills. When it comes to the run off the bike, if you are looking for a solid overall performance and want to negative split the run, then pacing on the bike is key.
Cadence is the other side of bike efficiency. The faster you turn over the pedals the less stress per pedal stroke is placed on the muscle; however, more stress is placed on the cardiovascular system. What is the optimal cycling cadence? That is the never-ending question. A lot of research has come out supporting a cadence between 86-96 RPM. Is this perfect for everyone, no, but it is a general range that the majority of people will fall into. The more experience you have the easier it tends to be to maintain a cadence in this range. Some studies have shown that slightly higher cadence can benefit riders; however, there is a good deal of training that would be needed to adapt to the demands. Winter is a great time to practice this on an indoor trainer.
For the focus of multisport I feel the range of 86-96 RPM is ideal because when you get off the bike and you run at about the same RPM, your body is used to moving at that pace. When it comes to running, you are more efficient when running at a higher cadence because at lower cadence, the stored energy in the muscles is not used as effectively. Also, when you spin a higher cadence on the bike you are giving your muscles a break because you aren’t generating as much force per stroke. So the take home from this section is that your bike and run cadences should match, which will decrease the likelihood of feeling the onset of “heavy legs.”
I believe better run form is one of the best off-season training tools you can use to your advantage if you are new to the multisport or endurance world. Having inefficient running form forces you to work harder and can increase the likelihood of injury. It takes time and patience to become a more efficient runner, but usually after 6 months of dedication and focus on form you will begin to see the results. So what is better running form and why is it more efficient? A natural running position is when your kinetic chain is in alignment and you are landing more over the center of your body. This is typically the result of landing more mid-foot versus having a heel to toe gait pattern. When landing heel to toe, the majority of people are landing behind their center of mass enough that they have to overcome the compression and gravity pushing them backwards to continue the running motion. This results in a decrease in efficiency. When you land more mid-foot or with a landing closer to the center of mass, then you are propelling yourself forwards. Correcting your running form is something that takes time and energy to do. It is something that can be done during the off-season and help you prepare for the upcoming season, but I wouldn’t ever recommend attempting to overhaul your running form during the race season.
In closing, these are just a few of the ways that you can feel more fresh coming off the bike going into your run. By working diligently on this during the off-season and pre-season, you will go into your races knowing you have new tools to help you PR the run portion of any multisport event.
October 7, 2013 on 10:57 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments
This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels, who wrote this much earlier this season and who has, now, completed that first Ironman she mentions. As the off-season begins for many, we thought this a fitting blog to get you strong during the winter months.
Ommmm….. yes, we’ve all heard it, the ever popular meditation sounds that so often accompany a just as stimulating yoga class. Runners and triathletes alike have heard it for years, “try yoga, it will help with your injuries.” But most of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush of zipping through the trails in our newest and coolest trail shoes, or racing down a hill in our aerobars hoping to hit a new high speed, cringe at the thought of placing our feet (or our head or our hands, or all 3 at once) on the mat and inhaling and exhaling to a count of 8! While the benefits are well documented: stress relief, improved mood and well being, improved flexibility, improved digestion, improved sleep… the list goes on and on… for some reason, it is still tough to convince us cardio-junkies to forgo a one hour brick workout where our legs will feel like lead for an hour of gentle relaxation and meditation. We are conditioned to believe that in order to set a new PR or achieve that highly sought after age group place, we must push harder, put in more hours, do more hill work or add speed work. While there is no compromise for hard work (you get what you put in), it is time to re-condition our minds when it comes to how we think of yoga. What if we had the mindset that the more yoga we practiced, the better we could bike, or the faster we could swim? Well, fellow tri-geeks, it’s true! Yoga really can make you into a “warrior.” I was the first to stake my claim against it, I thought, “Who has time for one more activity?” And who wants to sit around with their legs twisted like a pretzel becoming one with the universe? That is, until I tried it!
Tired of the long winter full of indoor bike rides and treadmill runs, I headed to the group fitness studio for a Yoga Fusion class. This sounded at least a little more fitness based and not as meditative. To my surprise, I struggled through most of the class! I am an 8 time 70.3 veteran, run more marathons than I care to count, and I am training for my first full Ironman. I had been putting in about 7-8 hours a week of base training and thought the yoga class might be a nice stretching break for my sore, tired muscles. Instead, I found myself in plank, pigeon and half moon, shaking to hold the poses. Shocked at my lack of apparent strength and balance, I began attending 2 yoga classes a week. Within 2 weeks I noticed remarkable improvements and had to admit to its benefits. As my IM training progressed, I entered a 70.3. It was very early in the season when you come from Michigan and have only had a month of outdoor riding. To add to that, the bike course was the hilliest and toughest of any I have done.
As I started on the course and climbed the hills, I felt very strong and quickly passed people. Hill after hill, the same result, I was strong and pushed with ease to the top of them. My bike split was faster than on most courses, despite its difficulty. What’s more, my legs recovered quickly after the ride and my run (hills, again) split was consistent with my others. Yoga has not only improved my strength and balance, which no doubt helped me climb those hills, it has given me a sense of control over my body. It has taught me how to breathe deep and remain calm amidst chaos. Now, triathletes, hear me when I say: this is worth far more than it sounds! In mile 90 out of 112, when your neck and shoulders ache and your legs are burning, if you can put your mind into that place where you feel calm and in control, your focus shifts from the here and now (“I still have to run 26.2 miles..”) to a place where you have a greater awareness of just you moving through space, in a world much bigger than just you pedaling on a bike. If that is what it takes to get you to T2, and ultimately, the finish line, isn’t it worth considering?
Yoga teaches you to become aware of your surroundings and to feel weightless as if you were part of those surroundings. This is achieved by challenging yourself to complete the strength and balance poses, breathing through them, and accomplishing a little more with each session. Yoga practice can mean different things to different people. For me, it was at first the humbling experience of inadequacy that convinced me to continue, but eventually the benefits carried over into my first passion, triathlon. Once I began to feel the strength and control of my body, and my race times improved, I knew yoga was for me. While I may never feel the meditative power many achieve from yoga practice, knowing I am stronger and more aware of my body I will continue to practice. I urge all of you cardio-junkies that can’t get enough of the wind whipping past your face and feel the need to be in your target heart rate zone for hours at a time, give yoga a try and see how it can improve all aspects of your life, not just your athletic performance.
Learn more about the benefits, and different types of yoga.
September 18, 2013 on 1:01 pm | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship | 1 Comment
This fun blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Scott Perrine, who is about to compete at the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe.
All history ties the roots of Triathlon back to San Diego, CA in the early 1970s, but after spending the last two years in the San Francisco Bay, and on Alcatraz Island completing some concrete restoration work, I believe Triathlon may actually have its roots tied to Alcatraz. There is even a Triathlon named Escape from Alcatraz which I competed in this year.
Not possible you say? A simple look at the history of Alcatraz and the attempted escape of John Anglin, Clarence Anglin, Frank Morris and Allen West shows many similarities to Triathlon and multi sport. While a prison escape is obviously not a sport, there is a lot of preparation and dedication required for both, even some failed attempts along the way.
Start with the preparation. John, Clarence, Frank and Allen began their planning and preparation in September of 1961, eight months before their attempted escape. They spent every minute allowable planning and working towards their escape. Many of us that race long course competition dedicate eight months or more to training. We focus and plan for the event, training for the worst and hoping for the best. We spend countless hours focused on that specific event, sacrificing time with friends and family, sleep, etc.
They created tools to chip away at the concrete in their cells; we continually develop new “aero” equipment to make us go faster. They designed wetsuits utilizing raincoats to survive the swim through the San Francisco Bay; we continually develop wetsuits utilizing the latest technologies in neoprene to get us through the water faster.
The night of their escape they crawled through the openings they dug in their cells, climbed up through the service corridor to the roof and out to the Northeastern side of the Island and jumped into the water, that is a lot to go through just to go jump in the water. At the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, you get up early in the morning and head to the race site, set up your transition, get onto a crowded bus and ride over to the ferry, crowd onto the ferry and head over to the Island, then everyone jumps off the ferry and off you go. Adrenaline is racing as you jump off the boat, imagine what is was like for the guys that night in 1962.
They jumped into the water in the darkness of night during the incoming tide, fighting the currents and the cold. Some of their belongings were found washed up on the Shore of Angel Island the next morning. We jumped into the water during the early hours of the morning sunrise with an outgoing tide, had to cross three different current flows (as well as fight all the other competitors) and a majority of us swam (some washed up) onto the Shore in front of the St Francis Yacht Club.
A few other similarities:
- Allen West was unable to fit through the hole he had dug into the wall of his cell and never made it out to meet up with the other three. The first DNS (Did Not Start)?
- The other three were never found. The first DNF… we will never know?
- The FBI closed their case against the three 17 years after they escaped. In Ironman competition they close the finish line after 17 hours?
While the original Escape from Alcatraz was not a triathlon in any true sense of the meaning and I have taken some great liberties tying them together, it is fun to compare true history to activities we enjoy in our daily lives. What triathlons have you done where you can intertwine history with the event in this type of manner? Give it a try and see how creative you can be…. It will definitely help you get through some of those “dark holes” we sometimes go through during our training and racing!