Chattanooga is a beautiful city that is tucked between the mountains. It is one of those cities that really makes you appreciate life (if you have never been you should go). It had been a good 9 months since the last time I toed the line against the top competitors in our sports. I had my normal pre-race nerves.
Ok, Ok maybe a little more, I was probably talked off the edge of those mountains twice. See, sometimes I feel like I belong with those guys and sometimes I feel like I am not in the same stadium. My head kept rushing back and forth between the two, and I couldn’t control it, until the pro meeting.
The pro meeting was nothing special it just put all the professionals (man and women) in the same “room”, but after that meeting I came out calmer, more focused and ready to jump. We (the wifey and I) know that I get this way, so instead of sitting around we plan to do some family activity, so in Chatty we spent all day pre-race at the Aquarium.
Race morning went off without a hitch, coffee, breakfast, coffee and Transition set up. Swim Start was .9 miles up the Tn River from transition. So, I decided to walk to mentally get ready for the pain that I was about to put myself through. The swim was 350 meters up stream and then the rest down the river back into transition. I was the most confident I have ever been at this race about the swim. I have put in many yards this year to make this weakness and weapon.
The cannon goes off and we (the male pro’s and I) go from fighting the current to stay in place to a mad dash up stream. I was immediately in a pack of swimmers fighting for some clean water. The good news about swimming upstream is the strong swimmers had all separated from the pack about 100 meters in and by the turn buoy (350 meters) we had well established packs. I was pulling what seemed to be the forth pack (by my estimates) with the third pack literally a body length in front of me. Two guys behind me realized that I was swimming hard to close it but wasn’t closing it fast enough so they surged to pull us on the feet, were I am happy to report, that we stayed the rest of the way down the river.
Coming into T1, I realized that the plan JB and I had written up for the swim, was executed flawlessly because I was in the pack with some of the targets we had set to pull as along on the bike. I mean mugged my way through transition to not lose my targets and boom we were on the bike.
The bike course at Chatty is pretty simple it’s an 11 mile stick out of town a large circle and then a 11 mile stick back into town. There is a really good climb at mile 26 and 44 outside of that it’s a simple course. At roughly mile one I went over some train tracks and one of my bottles popped out. I made the decision to turn around and pick it up. At that moment I lost sight of my targets and never saw them again. Somewhere within the next ten mins I lost that same bottle again. I knew by 5 miles in, that my target bike power wasn’t happening. I was pedaling as hard as I could and the power was just not coming.
Typically, in the situation I give up. Things weren’t going my way, but I shifted my focus onto my run. Knowing I was going to have relatively fresh legs I tried to keep reminding myself that the power number didn’t matter.
Rolling into T2 I was about 8 mins or so off of my targets (according to the wifey). I drilled the first half of the winding course through the north and south shore of Chatty, but by 7 I completely checked out. I wasn’t having fun, the cramps were setting in and I couldn’t settle my heart rate. I finished the race and my head wasn’t in a good place.
Despite not having my legs, we accomplished the majority of what we came out to do. We had a great swim and my targets were right there. My mind stayed positive and alert for a majority of the day. Lastly, we finished our first pro race of the season. All that being said, I still made some bone headed mistakes and I am reminded that even though I have come a long way mentally the mountain top is still way up there.
Overall, I am torn with the performance. There is a lot that went right but also a lot that we can improve. One of these days we will put it all together and when that happens, watch out. Until that day though, we will keep entering the arena.
Stress & Recovery
In my previous post, I wrote about doing the basics at a high level and maybe this post should have been first but it does continue the theme of doing the basics extraordinarily well.
The basic piece I want to focus on today is RECOVERY.
The equation for improving any aspect of our lives is STRESS + REST = Growth.
This is a really simple equation and simple to see that if you remove either of the variables, the product is negated. Also, if one of the variables is weighted too heavily, the product will be compromised.
In terms of athletic performance, the primary stress is training, rest or recovery is time completely off, training at a very low intensity and volume in comparison to your normal load, sleep, and the use of recovery modalities such as massage, ice baths, compression therapy, and contrast plunges. Lastly, growth is your improvement toward your goals.
Here’s the tricky part for most of us though, our stress is not limited to our training and your brain and body do not and cannot differentiate between intervals on the bike and running late for work while stuck in traffic.
Our modern lives run deep with stress on a daily basis, and this over abundance of stress is likely the reason you aren’t getting faster, aren’t loosing those last 5lbs, aren’t building muscle. Besides elevated levels of the stress hormone cortisol (which causes weight gain or maintenance), the use mental energy to deal with stress reduces our ability to make good choices and perform cognitive functions (put down the Oreos).
So what can you do to help yourself your reach your goals?
Focus on you to truly unlock your potential!
- Coach Mike
F*ck you!!! I knew you were coming many months ago; you were the bad train wreck that I couldn’t look away from. You were about Survival.
See April, you hurt me, in more ways than one. Physically you took me away from the places I wanted to be and when I dreamed about those places you came shattering down. You filled my waking hours with crazy schedule that made it nearly impossible to accomplish my goals.
Mentally you took me places I never imagined, from the darkest depths of the ocean to the brightest places on the sun. You made me question what I was doing. When I was doing it, my mind was always somewhere else. You even had me questioning my why and made me think about hanging it up.
Yeah April, you had me against the ropes. You knocked me down more times than I care to admit. You knocked my breath away, kicked me, punched me and you definitely left scars.
But you know what April, I am still standing!!!
You underestimated me. Did you not expect me to get back up? Did you not expect me to throw hay makers when the lights went out? You didn’t see those coming did you? When I was suffering, I was growing, and when I failed, I learned. You left me a little glimmer of hope April, and you never give a fighter an opening.
So April I say thank you. Thank you for the trials, for the suffering, for the pain. Thank you for the tears, the anger, the blood. It added to my fuel. Because of you, I overcame the dark times and grew into someone I needed to become.
April, next time, because we all know there will be a next time, bring a bigger army because you f*cked with the wrong human!!!
This is the first in a short series of Optimizing Yourself.
Do the Basics with Expertise:
In this day we can see all the fancy, crazy, cool, secret workouts that professional athletes do almost immediately on social media.
We get to drool over all of the cool equipment and technology that their sponsors hand out to them. Then, we want to try these workouts, buy that cool gear, be just like those elites. However, that is not the answer to becoming the best athlete and human you can become.
Almost without exception, those elite athletes that you look up to did not get where they are today by doing anything that that would look cool on the internet or using some high tech piece of equipment. They got there by doing the basics at an outstanding level.
They learned to squat, lunge, and hinge (usually without added weight) properly before they clean or do some crazy battle rope routine.
They learned how to shift, corner, and pedal smoothly before they learned how to those things in a Cat 1 pack or in the aero position.
They did thousands of yards of drill before they could consistently knock out 59 sec 100’s with flip turns that make them look like a dolphin.
But most importantly, they learned to do the basics of life at the highest level.
If you don’t have these aspects of life dialed, you are short changing your potential. If you want to get faster, be stronger, perform better in all aspects of life, this is where you should start.
In the following blog posts, I’ll lay out the equation for optimizing yourself but start here:
30 min more sleep/night
Drink 2 more cups of water/day
Eat 1 more serving of vegetables (green leafy things) each day and one less processed thing each day
Try to only breathe through your nose when you aren’t working out.
- Coach Mike
So I’ve always thought of myself as generally a pretty healthy eater. I pride myself on feeding my kids a vegetable, a fruit and a protein every dinner. I eat left overs which consist of the same and deny offerings of sweets at work easily. I’m not a saint by any means.
I have yo-yo’d between bread, no-bread, bread phases throughout the years depending on what I’m training for. I’ve tried high sugar products on training rides and during races which worked well for me. I’ve tried vegan, vegetarian, and plant based diets.
These changes are usually triggered by a new movie that is coming out talking about health benefits and I go 1000% in because I believe what’s on the tv must be just as real as what’s on the internet. So I change... and drag my sweet, forgiving family with me.
My kids and Jeremy, for that matter, will roll their eyes yet roll (Tide) along with me. The problem is I hate to cook. Hate it. And I hate hate, but I hate cooking more than I hate hate. So that’s when my new “lifestyle change” (we use quotes when we say it in my house) happened.
When I visited my friends, Juliana and Steven in Pensacola this past summer, they were eating keto. Plant and meat based diet. I thought, this I CAN DO! She was cooking bacon, spinach, eggs (This was my for sure sign bc I have been eating 2 eggs every morning for at least the past 10 years. I know it’s crazy), nuts...all things that I already eat and love. BUT no bread. No sugar. No WINE. No Wine? Wait, I’m not sure I can do that. I have boundaries.
I grew up on a meat based diet so I do love meat but I also know how important veggies and fruits (side note, huge pet peeve of mine is when people say “I’m not eating fruit bc it has too much sugar” then they eat processed sugar free foods that are worse for your body than nature...off my box) are and how of little importance sugar is.
I cut out everything...except wine, of course. I thought, I’ll see if this works even with my wine habit.
We start eating basically the same as we were without any processed foods. No chips (hard to do when drinking margaritas) No tacos. No tortillas. No fries. No popcorn. No bun with my burger. No more bread and butter. No more toast and jam. No more...you get the idea. I don’t even like jam.
So we were 100000% in. Then...I get on the bike. The bike that I had worked sooo hard to improve. The bike that I loved to be on.
And the bike...that now I hate. And you know how I feel about hate.
I felt sluggish. More than sluggish. Weak, irritable and frustrated. Not hitting power numbers set after set for over a month. Over a month. Seriously. What is happening. I have IMFL in 6 weeks. I’ll never be back to where I was.
Detox was happening. Sugar detox. Time was what it was going to take to get me passed this stage.
Who has time? Not me. I have a family and work and training numbers to hit. I can’t wait. I should eat sugar, bread, Oreos. Yes, Oreos. This isn’t working.
But I fought that urge. Mentally I had to buy into it. I had to let go of the present and look toward the future. My logical brain told me this was right. This is best. So I fought. And slowly I recovered quicker, got stronger, less irritable, well, less ups and downs AND I was losing weight.
Here’s the deal. I NEVER use a scale. It’s in my garage just so I don’t ever step on it. My logical, very logical brain says the numbers don’t matter and honestly they don’t. My dad says we have “big bones” and muscles scientifically weigh more than fat so what matters to me is how my clothes fit. I don’t buy clothes. I’m not a shopper. I hate cooking and shopping equally. This “lifestyle change” is now increasing the lifespan of my clothes. And that to me is pure bonus without effort.
Now, I realize every body’s metabolism is different. I know logically and realistically this might not work for everyone but this HAS worked for me. There’s definitely times I’ve fallen off. Eaten sugar and lots of it, but coming back is a mind set.
I have to remind myself of what’s important. My health. My training (Which keeps my mental health in check) and most importantly my family. I am happiest when I am healthy and my family is happiest when we are all healthy. Love. Health. Happiness.
- Kendall Gill
Strength training in endurance sports? But, if I put on extra weight from lifting wouldn’t that slow me down? This is a common misconception that many people use as an excuse to skip out on strength training during their training plan.
Strength training is a MUST when it comes to endurance sports. By incorporating a strength program into your training, you will benefit by strengthening your muscles, ligaments and tendons. When you make these moving parts stronger, your body becomes better at handling the stress that endurance workouts put on you.
Unlike other sports like soccer, basketball, and football that initiate lateral movements, endurance sports primarily operate in a single plane by requiring you to move forward in a straight line. Although you will have strong quads, hamstrings, back and shoulders, you will more than likely have weak stabilizer muscles, glutes, core, and hip flexors which will likely result in injury.
By incorporating a strength training plan into your endurance training, you can target the major muscles as well as the smaller muscles we tend to neglect. I’d recommend two to three strength sessions a week, incorporating band and core work into these workouts. I’ve included a workout below as an example of the format I like to use when it comes to strength training for my athletes.
4 Rounds, 1.5 Minutes Rest In Between Rounds
- 8 DB Chest Press
- 8 DB Upright Rows
- 8 DB Shoulder Press
- 8 DB Thrusters
Upon completion of the above circuit, perform the following band exercises
3 x 15 Lateral Walk (each direction)
3 x 15 Monster Walk
3 x 15 Reverse Monster Walk
3 x 15 Glute Bridges
Cash out with a 1.5 minute plank
- Coach Jesse
Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm --- Winston Churchill
I discovered this quote searching for a way to combat my loss of motivation this week. It is the first time this year that I have waivered in my journey to “reinvent myself”. The enthusiasm, I failed to carry over from yet another failure was eating me alive. That failure initially in my eyes was losing another swim challenge.
Heading into the off season portion of my training the last week of November, I knew I needed a jumpstart to get my butt in the water, because we all agreed my swim needed a massive overhaul. So I called up my boy Paul, who also needed a jumpstart, and challenged him to a swimming competition. It took A LOT of convincing, but he agreed to a 3-week competition to take place Dec 1 – Dec 21. The rules were simple; all he had to do was swim half the distance I did in the water. IF he did, he won.
The first two days of the competition we swam the exact same distance. Waking up the morning of the 3rd I remember being mad at him. My anger came because I thought this was going to be easier than Paul was making it. The first two weeks Paul and I stayed relatively even and we agreed that we would be honest with each other about the distance we swam, no funny business.
Rolling into the final week, I thought this was going to be where I separated myself from him. Every day he rose to the occasion. As a result, I just got more and more hungry to make him suffer. The deciding day, however, came 4 days before the actual end. My home pool was closed because of chlorine levels, so they sent me to another pool. That pool was a meter pool. I remember the entire time I swam thinking; this is going to win me the challenge.
Well hindsight is 20/20 and it ended up being my demise. The evening of the 21st, Paul had a choice; either swim above or below it. I lost the first swim challenge. I was mad, I threw everything I had at him. I swam over 100K in those 3 weeks, the most I had ever done, and yet I lost. I was also extremely proud of Paul. He tenacity each and every day brought the best out of me, but most importantly himself.
Well our little rivalry lead JB to think of a different way to bring this challenge to the entire Mind Right Endurance (MRE) group. The rules (a basic overview): swim as much as you can for the entire month of January, but time was going to be recorded, not distance. At the end of the month he would arrange us bracket style for head to head until we had a champion. I didn’t like this initially. I had just got out of a challenge with Paul and I just wanted to swim. He told me I didn’t have a choice, so suck it up buttercup.
Through January I swam very consistently. My goal was to swim 120K and let it be what it was. The challenge (to me) was about the brackets not about January. I just needed to make it to the playoffs in my mind. I was right and I completed that goal.
Making into the playoffs, I decided to be aggressive. I was riding a high and felt really good in the water. My goal was to swim a 50K week. I knew that if I lost, it was going to take a major effort from my competitor. Mid-week the distances were released (remember this was a time challenge). I knew instantly I was losing. I was beside myself, but I knew swimming over my goal wasn’t going to lead to long term success.
Fast forward to this past Sunday. I completed my 50k goal, it hurt and at points I got tired of being in the water. Yet, I was proud of myself, it’s not every day that I get to do something I have never done before. That pride though didn’t last long. As the results were announced I felt instantly deflated as I found out I lost again. Honestly, in my gut I knew I was going to. I had a break point and had a long term view, but that didn’t help the sting one bit.
Which leads me to yesterday. The loss drove me insane and I was beating myself up pretty bad because of it. I hate to lose and, to a point, my self-worth is tied to winning (something I am still working on). My tribe tried, unsuccessfully, to pull me out, so, I Googled failure. I knew there was a lesson in this, I just had to find it.
The Winston Churchill quote brought me out of this slump. Instantly, I felt better. I know failure is not bad, but this quote gave me the perspective to push through the negativity and regain that motivation to attack the day. So remember to enthusiastically chase your dreams, dare to make mistakes and don’t let failure put out your flame. Instead let it ignite you to new heights and climb mountains you never dreamed you could.
The Polar Vortex is starting to subside, the days are getting just a hair longer each day, and well of motivation to be on the trainer or treadmill is getting dry. What do you do now to keep your momentum up, to keep your fitness improving, to not be an impatient, cranky low life to your family?
GET OUTSIDE! And not just outside the house, garage, gym, Zwift, Strava but get outside your normal routine.
I personally don’t spend day after day indoors for months, the weather where I live is nice enough to get outside even in winter. My schedule allows for time in the middle of the day to be outside. I get to travel to warmer climates to work at training camps. But all of that was still my routine and it was weighing on me. And when I talk with athletes that don’t have my schedule, I can hear the weight of their routine.
So what did I do? I took a sick day. I dropped my son off at school, did an absolute minimal amount work, and I drove to my favorite place to ski tour. For various reasons, I hadn’t been on my skis in a couple of years and I was unsure of my ability due to a lingering minor injury, but I went anyway.
As I drove into the mountains, the sun shone brilliantly and the temperature dropped from a balmy 45 in Colorado Springs to a low of 7 in South Park. I saw pronghorn, bison, and a big coyote. Once at the trailhead, I got a little nervous, but worked through it with some box breathing and the discipline of double checking my equipment as I put my skins on my skis, extended my poles, and buckled into my boots.
When I started the uphill ski it hurt but in a way that refreshed my mind and soul enough that I pushed a little harder and decided to climb a little higher. It took a little while to feel like I had any skill at all but every second was still glorious as looked across the valley to the high peaks.
When I arrived home later that night, even thought I was exhausted I felt refreshed and was grateful for all the things in my life; the people, the work, and even the suffering. It only take a little bit of time and doesn’t need to be everyday but occasional ejection from your routine can do wonders for your motivation.
Get outside and live life!
- Coach Mike
The ability to to swim faster, more efficiently and without feeling like death at the end of each lap is a common goal for all swimmers, especially beginners. Consistency is without a doubt a key component to becoming a better swimmer. The more you perform a skill or function, the better one becomes at it. All swimmers want to excel in something they spend hours doing but how? In the sport of swimming it comes down to efficiency of forward propulsion by reducing drag on ones body. There are several types of drag that are imposed upon a swimmers body but that is a topic for another post.
That being said, here are 3 of the most common areas that swimmers struggle with and the drills to help combat them.
Midline Crossover- This is by far the most common issue with swimmers in general, especially beginners and one of the biggest killers of speed in my opinion. It is one of the most crucial pieces of the swim stroke. So many parts of the swim stroke are affected by midline crossover, so fixing this one problem will improve several other aspects of the stroke. Crossing over ones body midline creates several issues including the potential for shoulder injury, hips to lower, poor head and body position as well as preventing the swimmer from initiating a proper hand entry and “catch” on the water. All of these create a substantial amount of drag on the body. Crossing over the mid line also increases the chances of the swimmer performing a scissor kick to compensate for hips. Midline crossover also affects a swimmers EVF(early vertical forearm) which is a main component of generating power.
This problem is amplified in open water and prevents one from swimming a straight line when visibility is less than ideal. In an Ironman swim this problem can cost a swimmer 4-12 minutes of time!
Catchup Drill: This is one of the most commonly used drills in helping new swimmers with midline crossover. Besides helping with midline crossover, this drill helps the swimmer with timing and tempo as well as lengthening the stroke. Begin by pushing off the wall and start swimming your normal stroke. If you begin with your left arm, leave your right arm out in front of your body fully extended. The right arm or lead arm in this case should not begin the catch and pull back on the water until the left arm (recovery arm) comes to the same position as the lead arm or in other words “catches up” to that lead arm. I like to have new swimmers use a snorkel and pull buoy the first few times so they can watch what they are doing without worrying about breathing or kicking. As this becomes more natural the pull buoy and snorkel should be taken away. Another aid is to have the swimmer hold a pencil or pipe in the lead hand. The swimmer holds onto the pipe or pencil and then switches hands when the opposite hand “catches up”. There are also special swim aids that can be used in place of these items.
90 Degree Kick: Use fins to help with the kick. Push off the wall and rotate your body over to 90 degrees. Your stomach and belly button will be facing the side wall. Kick at a steady pace and keep your lead arm out in front of you. I like to start with the right arm out in front. Rest your top arm(one closest to the surface) at your side and face downwards. Rotate the head out of the water to inhale and then rotate back downward. Eyes are looking down but slightly ahead. This helps the swimmer learn what it feels like to keep the lead arm out in front while holding body position, kicking and the breathing cycle. Alternate sides each lap. If this drill is difficult in the beginning use a snorkel until you feel comfortable and then try a few laps without it.
I also like to have a swimmer perform the drill and then swim a normal stroke to feel the difference immediately after the drill to create muscles memory correlation.
Fingertip Drag Drill: For this drill start off with a snorkel. This allows you to visually focus on the hand entry and catch without having to worry about the breathing component. Start by pushing off the wall and swimming normal freestyle. The only difference is focus on keeping your fingertips pointed downward towards the bottom of the pool the entire time. As your hand and arm comes out of the water and begins the recovery phase, drag only your fingertips along the surface of the water, aiming to just skim the surface. By doing so it makes it nearly impossible to cross over your midline but if you do you will instantly notice it because your forward momentum will stop and the body will sink in the water. This drill also promotes a high elbow recovery. Also one must fully relax the wrist on this drill for it to be effective. Remember to watch your hand entry during this drill. Notice if your fingertips get close to crossing over. This drill also helps promote a slight fingers down hand entry at the start of the stroke. Keeping the fingers lower than the wrist and the wrist lower than the elbow will help promote a proper and efficient entry, catch and pull in the water.
Visualization Drill: This drill we will use a clock and the pool lane line to help us prevent midline crossover. Start by swimming in the middle of the lane with the center of your body being directly over the black lane line of the pool. With your eyes watch as your hand enters the water in front of you. Focus on keeping your hands and arms outside of the black lane line. If you cross over the lane line then you know you are crossing your midline. Side note: Every wonder why the lane lines come to a T at the end? The T stands for turn and it is where the flip turn should take place for timing.
The last visualization drill is using a clock as reference. Imagine the 12 oclock position is the center of your body. Think about your hands entering the water at the 10 oclock and 2 oclock positions on the clock face. This will feel odd at first but with consistency will become more natural and in time you will start to see times increase.
Lastely, have someone film you doing the drills for reference. Film yourself every couple of months to see the progress. If you have a coach this can be extremely useful in helping them decide what drills are best needed and how to make corrections for the swimmer.
- Coach Ray
As coaches, we like to know the process. Our purpose is to bring an athlete from point A to point B, from start line to finish line. The beauty in that seemingly simple goal is that the process gets to look different for everyone.
I have athletes ask me all the time how they can get faster, or stronger. No matter who is asking, what their goals, are, or what context they’re asking, I respond the same.
Why do you want to get fit, why do you want to break 20 minutes in the 5k? Why did you sign up for an Ironman? When you can identify your why, the rest becomes much easier to execute because your purpose has become clearer.
You see, I can write you workouts all day long that center on pace, reps, watts, laps, etc., but you aren’t going to want to do them if you can’t turn back to your why.
Your why dictates your willingness to be up before the sun. Your why is what pushes you to go harder, do one more rep, swim one more lap, push the pace on that last mile.
In contrast, as athletes, we like to know why we’re swimming five days a week or what the purpose behind threshold bike intervals are. It is never a bad idea to ask why. Your coach has a process, there is a method to that madness. I have gained much insight as an athlete asking my coaches “why?” over the years. Now, as a coach, I love the investment behind my athletes asking me why.
So much weight is carried with such a simple and short phrase. Three letters that set the course of your goals, the purpose behind your path, the purpose behind your training, and fuels the passion behind your drive.
Know your why and strive for it daily! Keep putting in the work!
Mind Right Endurance coaches are here to address the many question, issues and topics that endurance athletes encounter all the time! Check them out and share them with your friends!