Wednesday, January 26, 2011

AgilityGuard from A-Z

Alright folks, here's the complete story on the "magical mouthpiece."

If you recall, I had my fitting for the AgilityGuard mouthpiece when I visited Boulder.... here are pics of some of the process...

What sets the AgilityGuard apart from other mouthpieces on the market is that it's very specifically customized to the individual -- no "one size fits all." Therefore, the fitting itself is a super long procedure of more than two hours in which you're hooked up to equipment nearly the entire time (imagine having electrical stim on your face for 90 minutes with constant jaw-muscle contractions, hilarious!). Eventually they make multiple test molds and narrow it down to the perfect one; the final mouthpiece is created based off that. While I was getting fitted in Boulder a hanful of athletes were stopping by to pick up their mouthpieces, everyone from a hardcore CrossFit director to cyclists including Taylor Phinney:

When they did the initial tests on me -- testing strength, flexibility, balance, etc with mouthpiece in / mouthpiece out -- I'm not gonna lie, I was completely skeptical. Some of the tests were the same ones I've seen done for PowerBalance, so that was like "uhhh, here we go." But then we did a bunch of tests, and they worked like I couldn't believe. We re-tested to make sure muscle memory wasn't kicking in, and the mouthpiece still proved to enhance what was being tested. Trust me, I was trying
sooooo hard to prove it wrong, but the mouthpiece made a difference!

But the caveat: Doing little tests in a room is great and all; it shows promise for the device. But that alone doesn't give the answer to the big question: Does the mouthpiece work in a real-life setting, aka while you're doing your sport?

What the AgilityGuard is supposed to do:

Improve/increase...

Posture
Strength
Power output

Balance
Flexibility
Agility
ROM

as well as...
Enhance recovery


Well hot damn!!! Sounds amazing, yea? But how does it do this? (Especially if there's no "hologram technology" involved?? Hehe.) I wanted to know the actual mechanisms that make this mouthpiece a potential performance-enhancer.

In short, the mouthpiece creates "optimal alignment" of the jaw that has a positive impact the body from head to toe; this works to enhance all those factors listed above.

And the long version....

I asked Dr. Joe Andary, DDS, one of the dentists who fitted me (and a super nice guy), to give me the complete lowdown, and here's what he told me. A TriTawn exclusive lol:

"The 'Bite' how your teeth meet is an integral part of the human structural and functional anatomy to support body posture, balance and function. There are over 60 pairs of muscles above and below the lower jaw that determine head, upper neck, shoulder and jaw posturing during static and dynamic movements.

Our teeth come together several thousand times a day, during swallowing and chewing functions and is controlled by a complex feedback sensory motor system involving the largest of the 12 Cranial Nerves. Teeth coming into contact is orchestrated by the muscles of the jaw, jaw joint and the associated nerves. Depending on the position/condition of the teeth, your 'bite' determines how these muscles and joints function . A poor bite will require more compensatory movements of jaw muscles and jaw joints than a corrected physiological bite.

AgilityGuard is an appliance that captures a physiological bite when worn over the teeth and is based on the science of Optimization. Optimization of the bite is the science and art of determining and maintaining a specific relationship of the teeth, muscles, joints and the central nervous system by sound principles of bite management that allow not only the collective structures of the mouth and jaw to rest, but the entire body to function in a more efficient physiological zone.

Optimization utilizes a TENS ( trans-cutneous electrical neural stimulation) machine to deliver low frequency stimulation via nerves to the muscles of the face and jaw to remove the torque and imbalances in the muscles. TENS along with precise computerized jaw tracking techniques are used to confirm the optimum position of the lower jaw within fractions of a millimeter. The AgilityGuard appliance provides a position of contact for the teeth which which eliminates jaw torque and muscle strain to support proper head and neck posture.

When these muscles are allowed to assume a physiological balanced relationship by correcting a 'bad bite' the head immediately assumes an upright posture and the shoulders level off. pelvic rotation ceases allowing the leg length to equalize and over all body posture dramatically normalizes and the body becomes more efficient physiologically.

A 'quieter' nervous system, unstrained muscles and better alignment improves flexibility, range of motion, strength, balance and improved recovery."

~~~

So there you have it. A couple more comments about the AG/my thoughts... the guard actually protrudes your jaw somewhat, meaning it brings your bottom teeth forward. It's not uncomfortable at all to be in this position for extended periods (I know from experience), but it will make you talk funny and have a lisp; no biggie in my opinion. Also, it sticks well to your bottom teeth so you don't have to worry about it falling out while biking or running (I wouldn't wear it swimming. however). You can still drink and eat gels with it in, but I'd stay away from eating real food (bars, etc). Oh yea, like I said before, your front teeth don't touch so ripping open gels is tricky! I especially like how there's something there to bite down on instead of grinding your teeth, especially when you're working hard. I the only thing I didn't really care for was getting dry mouth and chapped lips more than I do sans AG (and not being able to chew gum lol). Hm, but maybe that makes me hydrate better/more often? Just be sure to wear lip balm/chapstick when wearing.

Again, I'm still not in a position to say if the AG lives up to all the claims. But I'm optimistic. It definitely hasn't made me worse... things go well when I train with it on, and I'm recovering well. But other factors surely play a role in that. I have to do more scientific-like testing to draw my own definite conclusions.

In the meantime, for more research click here. Even some triathletes are onto this.




Monday, January 24, 2011

Mouthpiece + Recovery Sunday

I forgot to mention that on Saturday for the Pseudo I wore my new custom-made Agility Guard (aka athletic "dental appliance" to enhance performance) for the entire bike and run. I will write about the whole concept in my next post, as well as give you guys a first account from the dentists who are developing these things. My initial impression: It was quite comfortable to wear, and I liked having something to bite down on besides my own teeth. Plus, I had a great day Saturday. But the jury is still out; I need to do some well-thought-out specific testing to see its real impact. A couple things I didn't like: I couldn't chew gum, which I really like doing while working out because it gives me a sense of moisture in my mouth... and I'm addicted to gum :) I also couldn't open GUs with my front teeth because they don't touch when the guard is in. The only other thing, you talk with a lisp, but that's more funny than it is annoying.

Click here for some videos on the Agility Guard, featuring a couple videos with my good bud Dr. Lim and the dentists I worked with.

Anyways, Sunday was again a perfect SoCal day, so recovery ride it was! [Insert picture of cyclists' butts and blue sky here.]

Thankfully another one of my clients joined me and we tooled around Irvine aka flat land -- I wanted no hill action! However, my recovery ride got somewhat hijacked thanks to some gnarly Santa Ana winds that forced me to pick it up or go like 5 mph. The tailwind was nice, though.

I eventually let my client go on his way, as he had hills and race-pace efforts to do. I was tempted to join him, but played it smart and bowed out. On my way home I dodged death.... The strawberries are starting to grow like crazy around here, which means one thing: BEES! I went through two swarms and I have never been so scared in my life!! I wasn't wearing a HR monitor, but I bet I went up to 200 bpms for a bit. All the while I was praying, "Please God don't let them sting me!!" I probably looked schizo and frantic the way I was riding and moaning. They were just whizzing by my one after the other like bullets-- literally a "worst nightmare" situation for me lol. Didn't help that my bike outfit was summer-ish, aka minimal coverage.

Thankfully I survived the bee storm and made it home, 21 miles later. I had an optional EZ/slow 2-mile run to do, and I debated. Within a couple minutes I was out running. It was perfect. I'm a happy camper anytime I can wear just a sports bra and shorts outdoors.

And now the week begins.... school starts; my last semester before it's Tawnee Prazak, MS. Saaaweet.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Pseudo Half Ironman

We're about 10 weeks away from Oceanside 70.3, which means time for a Pseudo/Mock Half-Ironman aka a "Big Day" or whatever term floats your boat. Basically it's a run through of swim-bike-run close to or at the actual race distances, mostly geared toward half-Ironman and Ironman in which you don't often do the whole race distance in training like you can with a sprint.

Saturday was my pseudo day. Exciting, as I haven't done anything close to a back-to-back-to-back SBR workout of this magnitude since Oceanside 70.3 last March, almost a year!!! Plus, I never did these in training in the past, particularly I didn't do enough long bikes with loooong t-runs. But after reading how coaches such as Joe Friel suggest Big Days, I figured this would be extra smart for me to do this year--both physically and mentally. (Never underestimate the power of mental training with this long stuff.)

The idea is to gauge current fitness for long duration going close to race pace. Friel suggests going at race pace, but considering I'm still on a comeback and haven't trained thaaaat much yet in the area of long distance @LT/speed endurance, I decided to keep it submax (around Zone 2 to Zone 3 average) with some @race pace effort (Z4+). I will try to fit in another one of these 4 weeks out with more intensity (after more specific training).

Whatever your fitness level, if you do a Pseudo HIM or IM, you can and should push yourself hard, but not quite like an actual race. You don't want to be forced into a long, drawn-out recovery or, worse, not recover adequately and then dabble with overtraining, no bueno! To help with this, you get long transitions. For half-Ironman take 30-60 minutes for each T1 and T2, for Ironman Friel suggests breaks of ~90 minutes.

The good news with the Pseduo Half and the timing from the actual race: You still have 10 weeks to work out any kinks and improve--lots of time! You'll discover physical and/or mental weaknesses and can then focus on improving them; you can hone in on strengths; work out any issues with nutrition and your gear... so on.

The bad news: You DON'T get to do a real taper before this... in my case, the Pseudo Half occurred at the end of Week 2 in the Build Phase (first build since last May), so as you can imagine I'm already a little thrashed having put in 15+ hour weeks.

~~~

Recap of the day:

I did everything with my client Marta, who is about the same fitness level as me, lives about a mile away and is doing Oceanside, pretty much a perfect partner. In a nutshell, I think we killed it physically and mentally. I was very pleased with our paces/times given the effort we put out and the HRs I saw. And we still have 10 wks to get better!

I made a rough plan for us that was time-based, guessing that we'd hit or be close to HIM miles.

Plan:
:30-:40 swim
T1/break
3:00-3:20 bike
T2/break
1:30 run
Total time: 5:00-5:30

Actual:
:38 swim, 1.3 miles (just over 2100 m, we are overachievers, I know)
3:10 bike, 56 miles
1:30 run, 11.25 miles (underachievers, lol)
Total: 5:18 workout time, 68.55 miles

Swim
We did an 8 a.m. open-water lake swim; very cold water, just like we wanted. At Lake MV you can only swim in a certain area; it's a 150 meters in length, then you turnaround, repeat and so on--like a long pool with no lane lines, no visible bottom and no walls to push off. Each turnaround sucks because you lose all momentum, but it's still great practice for open-water swimming.

The swim was an eye-opener for me for two reasons. 1) I was pleased with my pace for the effort I was giving and I felt strong. 2) My ugly "issue" popped up: leg cramping. It never fails -- long, continuous swims in cold water = my legs cramp up so badly it's debilitating, especially the calves. The pain is out of this world; if I was alone and without a wetsuit, I swear I might drown, no joke. The cramps of Saturday forced to stop for a bit and Marta was almost ready to rescue me, quite funny looking back. Overall, I swam almost entirely without a kick as to not "set off" the cramping.

I'm not using cramping as an excuse, this is just my sad reality that I'm not happy about and want to fix. I've cramped in every half-Ironman swim I've done except Vineman I think. I've tried a lot of tactics to cure this issue, but no success... wtf? Help! I even get in the cold lake now at least once a week to adapt my body to cold...

Break/T1
Short enough but long enough to: Shower to wash away any chance of getting duck-poop rash (swimmer's itch). Put on bike gear and sunscreen. Make and eat a bowl of oatmeal with scoop of whey protein and banana. Check the vitals--FB, Twitter, email. Get bike and nutrition ready. .....Very race-like indeed lol :)

Bike
We did good ol' Santiago Canyon with an extension of more hills that begin at mile 30, very Oceanside-like. It was simply gorgeous out the entire time; mid-70s and ideal conditions! I kept pinching myself thinking, does life get better?!

For the 56 miles, it was just about 4,000 ft of elevation gain. At times we held a conversational pace, at times it was medium (not "EZ" but not wrecking us), at times we went hard. The back-to-back hill climbing burned toward the end especially, but I sort of enjoyed the pain. In fact, the hills I used to dread didn't seem so bad anymore. We're lucky to have good hills in the OC!!

On the other hand, the biggest detriment to doing a long race-like bike in the OC that doesn't involve repeating the same road 3 million times: There's a shitload of stoplights and traffic! We suffered from that intermittently from mile 18 on. The slowdown/stop-and-go BS definitely screws with HR and pace, and it's just plain annoying. But I guess it could be worse -- we could be stuck on trainers with snow and freezing temps outside, no thanks! (Anyone know of the magical long route in OC that doesn't involve repeats on the same stretch of road?)

Break
Again, short but long enough to: Pee. Make/drink coconut water protein shake. Eat granola bar. Quick chat with parents about the day so far. Check computer. Change attire. Oh yes, and pluck eyebrows, re-apply makeup, brush hair.... just kidding, that would never happen lol.

Run
I was feeling really good after the bike, like scary good, and was wondering if that'd last for the next 90 minutes of running. Of course, our speed on the bike was definitely sub-race pace and we got extra breaks with the stoplights, etc, but we also did do a lot of climbing and, again, I hadn't done a t-run like this for a year-ish? The run would be the real test, as it always is!

Wouldn't ya know, the good feeling endured on the run, until about the last 2ish miles. Our route was rolling hills, but nothing too steep. We just kept clicking off the miles but held back from "racing" them (and to prevent skyrocketing HRs). Our pace was everywhere from 7:00 to 8:40; the overall average being just about 8:00 miles; honestly, better than I was expecting. Surprisingly, I was even more chatty than usual (I'm not a big chatter when I run). Having marta by my side no doubt helped push me through that run.

I started feeling crappy the last couple miles and tried to focus on good posture/form. I knew I probably needed a GU, but with only ~15 minutes left, I could suck it up because I was over my liquid/mushy diet since pre-dawn... I wanted real food and could wait it out. Such a prima donna, eh?



Finish/Thoughts
We finished with big smiles on our faces. It was a great sense of accomplishment, and a high that's been lacking in my life for ~9 months. Most of all, mentally speaking, it was a big confidence booster for both Marta and I seeing that we could get through the day-long workout so well.

Personally, it was great to see that I'm slowly getting back to my old self after coming off many months of an injury that zapped away all my endurance fitness. As recent as this past Oct/Nov, there's no way in hell would I have been able to pull of a day like this. As for Marta, who's a HIM virgin, she surprised herself at how well she performed (I say it's the coaching, lol).

I'm sure the pros and elite racers do this sort of stuff often. But for most amateurs, a Pseudo Half-IM or IM / Big Day may not happen at all before the actual Big Race. I think it should be on one's schedule, no doubt about it! I only wish I had done these in previous seasons.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Cold treats in January, a SoCal Special

A lot of you will hate me for this, but it's in the mid- to high-70s in SoCal right now so frozen/blended/cold treats are appropriate. I've nailed two good ones in the last 24 hours...

Pumpkin Smoothie
(A Tawnee original)

1/2 can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
1/2 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
1 1/2 tbsp plain greek yogurt
3 extra large strawberries (6 if really small)
dash of cinnamon
dash pumpkin pie spice
dash of salt
stevia (or sweetner of choice; as little or as much as you want)
1 cup ice

Blend and enjoy!

I had this smoothie after a cold lake swim (water temp ~55F); you'd think hot chocolate would be more appropriate but I worked so hard in the water I had taken such a hot shower that I was feeling hot after. Doesn't this lake look inviting? Nevermind the duck poop and bee-fest at the shoreline (wouldn't you know I stepped on a dead bee, but guess I got the stinger out so quickly that I avoided another death-like reaction, just minor foot swelling...hmm, maybe that's why I was so hot)

~~~

Avocado Ice Cream

Click here for the recipe; found on Heather Eats Almond Butter (a great food blog that I highly recommended; I found it thanks to the blogroll of the lovely Lindsay Cotter).

The Vitamix is ideal for making ice cream and fro-yo, with the secret being: xantham gum and guar gum, aka my two new best friends because now I don't have to go out and buy fro-yo 24/7!!

I made this ice cream for the first time last night, and the avocado gives it an amazing creaminess unlike anything I've ever tasted. Sooo good! I topped mine with mixed nuts and seeds.

~~~

That's it for now... got a big weekend coming up. We're 10 weeks out from Oceanside 70.3, so this weekend we're doing a mock half-Ironman! Looks like the perfect weather for it :) Also, got some great news to share for next week, stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Few Recipes for Your Healthy Enjoyment



I was going to post a brand-new recipe blog today (including Vitamix goodies), but I found an older-ish unpublished blog in the mix... how did I let this slip by? Ooops.

So here ya go... three recipes with a mix of sweet and savory (all gluten-free of course)....


GF & Grain-Free Pumpkin Muffins with Nut Butter Spread

I'm obsessed with pumpkin and this one is so quick & easy to make! About 88 calories per muffin (not including nut butter)...

1 cup almond flour
1/2 cup raw almond butter
4 tbsp ground flaxseed
1 zucchini, shredded
1 cup pumpkin, pureed from can
4 eggs separated
5-7 packets stevia, or sweetner of choice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder

Heat over to 350 degrees
Mix egg yolks and almond butter until well blended. In a separate bowl, whip egg whites until stiff then add to yolk mix. Then add almond flour, zucchini and pumpkin. Mix. Add spices and rest of ingredients. Mix well.

Put batter into greased muffin pan and cook for ~30 minutes at 350.

Nut Butter Spread: Any nut butter will do, but I prefer either Justin's Honey Almond Butter (or any of his nut butters mmmm) or my own concoction: Mix a few tablespoons of peanut flour (I use Trader Joe's brand) with water and Greek yogurt, keep mixing until it's a creamy consistency.

After muffins cool, spread on top, in the middle or just eat a spoonful with each bite of muffin :)

*Unfortunately I forgot to take pics of these, but you can imagine what a brownish muffin would look like lol :)

~~~

GF Salmon & Black Bean Burgers with Avocado
This one is super easy and I just randomly came up with it one night when we didn't have any fresh meat to cook...

Canned salmon (omega-3 enriched preferred)
Eggs (omega-3)
Canned black beans (or fresh if you prefer)
Garlic Salt
Basil
Oregano
Dried chives

Directions: For every can of salmon, add one egg and 1/4 cup black beans. My recipe had three of each and that made about 6-8 burgers. If you're using canned black beans, make sure to rinse well and slightly mush them up; don't add beans that are too "wet." Add seasonings (you can be flexible and add as much or little as you want, or even throw in more stuff).

Mix all ingredients with your hands and form into balls, then slightly flatten those out and place on pan or grill. Don't make the burgers too big or they might fall apart. Cook on low heat about 5-8 min each side.

Once done, pile on the slices of fresh avocado and enjoy with or without a bun!

Note: I eyeballed everything on this recipe and didn't keep track of measurements, cook time, etc, so just have fun with it and experiment! Hopefully yours turn out like this:
~~~


GF & Grain-Free Zucchini Nut Bread (Paleo-Friendly)
*Note, this recipe is floating around many gluten-free blogs, so it is not an original of mine and I'm not taking credit for it, but it's worth sharing...

1 1/2 cups almond flour
1/2 c almond butter
2 zucchinis, shredded (2 small or one large)
4 eggs, separated
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
3 tbsp coconut flakes
2 tbsp agave
3-5 packets stevia, or sweetner of choice
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cream of tartar
optional: 1 tbsp cacao powder (or cocoa powder)

Directions: Heat oven to 325. Grease a 5x9 loaf pan. Or two pans*

In a large bowl beat the egg yolks until light yellow (~2 minutes). Add the zucchini, almond butter, almond meal, salt, agave/stevia, spices, vanilla, baking soda, baking powder and mix until well blended.

In a clean bowl whip the egg whites and cream of tartar until stiff peaks form.

With spoon, add egg white mix into the zucchini mixture. Fold until no more streaks of white appear.

Pour into the prepared pan and cook for 45–50 minutes until browned and puffy on top and firm in the center. Let cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Remove bread from pan, discard parchment and allow the loaf to finish cooling on a rack.

*Instead of making one big loaf, I used two pans and made two smaller loaves so the pieces were similar in size to a hearty piece of biscotti. Perfect little snack that last 2x as long :)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ah, Kona

Just had this link emailed to me; it's from a blog in Argentina... Oh man... pretty funny. Gotta love Kona! I see some familiar SD peeps in there too at the end :)

Book Review

I recently got Joe Friel's newest book, "Your Best Triathlon," sent to me to read/review. I think Friel is great on a lot of levels, and I've learned a lot from his books/blog already, so I was excited to dig into the new book. I was impressed. He lays down a solid plan and there's a lot new, updated material too.

Overall, I think it's a must-have book for triathletes and coaches. It doesn't matter if you're self-coached or you have a coach or you're a coach who thinks you know it all (yea right), I believe you can never have enough resources when it comes to training/racing. It's important to get various perspectives, especially when it comes from a veteran coach like Friel.

Click here for my full review on EverymanTri.


Oh yea, so I'm pretty sure I said next blog would have food/recipes, but I guess I lied, sorry ;)

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life update

The word "build" has a lot of significance in my life right now. It's all starting to pile on. Training, job(s), curve balls, adult responsibilities, etc. I'm having to make choices and play tug-of-war with certain things. I'm also having to be more self-disciplined with my own training (I'm recovering from the "I go-too-hard-too-much" syndrome). Add it all up, and it's scary at times, but I say, "Bring it!" At least my eating/sleep habits are better than ever :)

On the training front, last week was my first real week in the build phase and overall it went great. I stuck to all my planned workouts except one (an optional swim, of course a swim). To sum up the week: I felt strong and happy to be knocking out the miles and reaching intensities I haven't felt in a while. Every session presented a challenge and gave a sense of extreme satisfaction.

I definitely felt terrible at certain points--in a good way of course--because I was pushing the limits/getting into Zone 5 when I needed to do so. But overall I didn't overdo it, I promise! I stayed true to recovery/EZ/moderate workouts and didn't let my HR skyrocket 24/7 just so I'd get a "really good" time/pace.

Here's the thing: As a coach, I can easily dish out "smart training," and now I'm finally starting to practice what I preach. It paid off well on Sunday, when I still felt surprisingly good during all of my 63-mile Bike + T-Run. It even paid off well this morning when I still had the energy and desire to do an hour swim instead of take the day off.

It got me to thinking, "What I was doing last year at this time?" So I busted out the 2010 log. Low and behold: I was already laying down the hammer big time in early Jan '10... arguably going too hard, too often. I think I was training out of the fear of wanting to be good--but that's totally not the case anymore! Now: I want to train because it's fun... and challenging... it's freeing... and I love it... and I want to continue loving it all the way through IMC in August and beyond.

Moving on to the "shit show" part of my life....

Whenever I'm not training/sleeping/eating, it's work work work, but I'm not rich lol. There's some R&R of course, but work can go 'round the clock. I have more jobs going on right now than I ever have had before. Part of that means I'm putting a great deal of time into managing it all. It's not a typical job life where I go to the office 8 hrs a day M-F, get a paycheck every two weeks and that's it. Nope. My jobs = 24/7. That's the life of an entrepreneur/independent contractor!! I love it, but it's tough. There's the scheduling, time management, finances, budgeting, invoices, tracking multiple incomes/expenses, IRS/tax-related stuff, bank accounts, insurance/liability, etc. Then figuring out how to do it all efficiently and not waste time or be lazy. Craziness! I wish I could hire an assistant. Did I mention school starts next week? Saaaaweet.

There's no doubt my work has increased big time since the beginning of last year, and, thus, there's no doubt it will affect my ability to train/recover in the ideal sense. Believe it or not, I love my jobs just as much as I love training so I'm not ready to give anything up yet--i.e. I won't give up "Job X" to spend more time in the pool to potentially shave 30-60 seconds off my race time. It's just not worth it to me right now. Eventually, certain jobs will be axed so I can focus on the few certain things that really matter, but I'm still trying to figure out what those things are. I have a lot of opportunities on the table and 2011 will be spent sifting through them all. Why not try it all? No regrets that way!

In the meantime, it's good to know that no matter what training and racing can be always be FUN, even an escape from reality at times, and I intend to keep it that way.

And with that, back to work so I can get make a good dinner tonight then get up and train in the morning bright & early with my client (not too early, like 8 a.m. lol).




PS - Next post: good food! Yes... recipes for those who saw my Twitter on healthy Spaghetti Stroganoff and Vitamix FroYo!!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A little motivation for tempo

Today I was transitioning from my swim to run in the pool locker room. It was going to be my first "real" tempo run of the season thus far, and my swim hadn't gone so well so I was hoping the run would be better. But to be honest, I was a little discouraged because I didn't feel that great for the effort I was going to have to give. I knew I'd have to dig deep. Thankfully, I ended up getting extra motivation just in the nick of time.

Let me back up a little first. I swim at a pool complex that includes several indoor pools used for swim lessons and swim therapy for people in rehab, people with disabilities, etc. I use the outdoor pool, which isn't used for the things I just mentioned, and it's great because I usually have the whole thing to myself (no one seems to know about this place, which why I'm not posting the name lol).

Anyways, back to today. While I was putting on my run clothes a woman started chatting with me, asking if I had swim and was going running next. I recognized her because she often says to me in passing, "Have a nice swim;" I reply with the same. She is frail and thin, but with a spark in her eyes and a warm, comforting smile on her face. Today was our first real convo. I told her my workout plans and she responded with "That's so great, I used to run marathons until..."

Long story short, this woman, now in her mid-60s, ate bad chicken in 2005, which led her to get autoimmune disease. The disease began in her lungs and spread, simply wreaking havoc on her body. Some of the symptoms she described to me sounded scary as hell -- when she first fell ill, the doctors didn't even know what was wrong! As time went on, the list of issues grew and she was forced to go on tons of medications, forever. The disease took over her body and her life. No longer was she that fit, healthy marathoner.

But as she was today, this woman is clearly not an upset and/or depressed person. She seems at peace, very optimistic and clearly is making the best of a terrible situation. She swims a mile a day at the pool and walks another hour. Her children, all grown, do marathons and even triathlons I think, and she is able to watch and support them. She could have thrown in the towel, but no. She refused to let her situation get the best of her; she's living her life.

Listening to her story as I dressed got to me. I almost started crying. Finally, as she and I parted ways, she wished me luck again. I left the locker room with a new level of motivation. I know I would've worked hard at my run regardless, but after that chat in the locker room, I had a new level of motivation.

I guess the point is: Don't take the little things for granted because you never know. I ran better today thinking about that... yea, tempo run was muy bueno!!! :)

Lastly, I'm not trying to make light of the situation, but another point to make is: Beware of chicken, where it comes from and how it's prepared! Seriously. Even she light-heartedly told me, "Watch out for that chicken!" (Um, is it just me, or does the movie Food Inc. come to mind immediately?!)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ask me, and more!

So after taking the time to sit down and put thought into the last post, I got to thinking... I should make something of this. Next thing you know, I now have a column on EverymanTri.com in which I'll be answering all your endurance sports-related questions and beyond. Everything from training to nutrition to sports psychology to exercise physiology to racing to exercise testing.... whatever you can think of! So keep the questions coming, thanks :)

In the meantime, I wanted to share some info I was reading up on recently before bed (see what good comes when there's no TV in your room?!).....

Spices & Their Health Benefits

Disclaimer: Much of the info below comes from Nutrition News magazine, as well as a little extra research I did to find out more and check for further evidence of the purported benefits. Overall, I'm not an expert on the topic and am not saying this info is 100% guaranteed, but it's better than recommending drugs :)

Mustard Seed
-Eating just 1 teaspoon of hot mustard can boost metabolism 20-25% several hours after eating, which will burn an additional 50+ calories of a 700-cal meal.
-
Rich in calcium, dietary fiber, iron, manganese, magnesium, niacin, phosphorus, selenium and zinc.

Cinnamon
-About 1-1 1/2 tsp per day can increase metabolism and aid in weight loss/maintenance. A couple reasons for this: it helps reduce blood sugar and utilize glucose instead of storing it, and it can increase thermogenesis, aka heat production, causing metabolism to go up to counteract that extra heat.
-Reportedly, it can even enhance brain function! Hmmm.
-Apparently you're not supposed to consume more than 2 tsp per day; eating too much can be bad for the liver over time.

Turmeric
-The curcumin found in this spice is a strong anti-inflammatory. It can also prevent blood clots, fight infection, help with digestive and liver problems, relieve arthritis and cystic fibrosis, fight cancer, etc. And just fyi, turmeric is a safe anti-inflammatory compared to others.
-Rich in iron (2 tsp = 10% daily value)

Capsicum (Chilli/Cayenne Pepper)
-Increase endorphins, high in vitamin C
-Weight-loss aid by increasing fat oxidation and acting as appetite suppressant

Black Pepper
-Can increase metabolism by stimulating breakdown of fat cells, etc. The part of pepper that's potent for this is piperine (puh-puh-pppeeeee... enough p's? lol)
-Helps with nutrient absroption.
-Fresh ground pepper is best

Ginger
-Major antioxidant that fights free radicals and boosts immune system
-Can boost metabolism up to 20% after ingestion
-Alleviates nausea/upset stomach

Oregano
-Major antioxidant (over 40x more powerful than an apple) with anti-inflammatory properties and rich in calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc.

Sage
-Can boost memory and brain function
-Powerful antioxidant


The list of benefits from spices and herbs goes on... but I'll leave you with this:


Spices said to help reduce flatulence (because I know all you out there in training are eating a lot and might suffer from gas every now and then lol):
Allspice
Black Pepper

Turmeric

Cloves

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Strength Training Questions Answered

First off, thanks for all the nice comments/messages regarding my last post. My dad is a rockstar -- by Friday night he already had several job offers/opportunities! They love him!

Anyways, onto a long-overdo blog post that goes back to an old post and the questions associated.... Time to give some answers to Patrick, Ryan, Chloe, Aimee and anyone else who gives a sh*t ;) It's a mega post, so maybe you should read just one Q&A per day lol.

#1) Do you strength train year round? ~Patrick Mahoney

A: Yes, I strength train year-round. However, what I do varies greatly; I do different volumes and intensities of ST depending on the phase I'm in for triathlon.

Here's how it breaks down: Offseason (aka transition), prep and early base phases are the best times to hit the weights hard. It's during those times when training is more general and about increasing fitness, not triathlon-specific training. Doing ST in such phases will prepare you to dominate once your in-season ;)

Even now, in January, it's not too late to get going if you haven't already. If you're not that experienced with ST or it's been a while, start with lighter loads and generally do 3 sets of 10-15 reps. Add weight as you improve. Eventually do certain exercises with heavy loads in which you're only able to do 2-5 reps / 3-6 sets. You WANT to lift heavy weights whether you're male or female – it's that type of lifting that will increase your strength and power that will translate to the bike especially, but also run/swim – and it won't make you overly buff (watch out, I'm going to repeat this a lot).

Additionally, body-weight exercises such as pushups are great, and working on muscular endurance is good too, specifically do 2-3 sets of 12+ reps – just please don't choose such light weights that you could lift them all day without fatigue. That's a waste of time.

Then as season progresses and gets into the build and competition phases, that's when it's time to decrease ST and increase sport-specific workouts for triathlon or whatever endurance sport it is. For example, you can still do your pullups and ring rows to help your swimming but replace those ST session with more session in the water – only swimming itself will make you a better swimmer. The strength training is just an "accessory" of the sport. Not to mention, S/B/R workouts themselves can be used as ST workouts to build/maintain muscle, i.e. hill repeats, intervals, paddles during the swim.

Bottom line: a) When you're in season, do ST as maintenance, for injury-prevention and to keep from losing muscle; if you're not already ST'ing don't start a crazy new ST plan in the midst of the season in hopes of increasing muscle mass, etc. – that's a recipe for overtraining or some sort of disaster. b) In offseason/prep phases and/or after your main A race is over and you're on a break... that's when you should hit the weight room big time.

I could ramble on for hours on this topic... but I think my next to answers (esp the fourth) do a decent job at elaborating and giving more specifics as to "what to actually do in the weight room."

#2) Q: Would you agree that strength training, ideally, has a lot of compound movements/involves more than one muscle group? If we agree on that (say generally, agree, as I know there may be benefits of isolation), what are your thoughts on these? ~Ryan Denner (pt 1)

Yes, certain ST exercises are multi-joint and utilize multiple muscle groups (aka compound, total body, etc), but many are not – know the difference! Triathletes will benefit most from compound exercises, such as those that load the spine (back or front squats), Olympic lifts (cleans, jerks, push press), etc. However, learning the technique of many compound exercises is a difficult process and takes time. Make sure you're doing such exercises correctly before adding heavy weight to prevent a crazy injury – aka seek professional help.

As for single-joint isolated exercises, I generally do not recommend these unless you're in rehab, addressing a weakness and/or correcting a deficiency/imbalance. hands-down I recommend doing mostly compound/multi-joint stuff because you want to get the most bang from your buck – you don’t want to spend 5 million hours in the gym doing silly little things like wrist curls and leg extensions – yuck.

For example: doing a leg curl (single-joint isolated exercise that works hamstrings) may seem worthwhile but it’s pretty lame (and boring) in my opinion. Instead do a deadlift and work hammys, other parts of the leg, shoulders, traps and core – even arm muscles get an isometric workout.

Bottom line: When considering isolated vs. compound movements in relation to triathlon – are you every just working your bicep in triathlon? Just your quad? Just your deltoid? No!!! So why waste your time in the gym doing exercises that target just one muscle? Triathletes should do exercises that use the motions/movements you use in triathlon, and should work in multiple planes even though our sport essentially just goes in one direction (forward). That said, isolation exercises are great if you’re injured or addressing a specific issue.


#3) Q: [Should I do] Do primarily lower body training (ie. legs) before/after a swim workout (which primarily works the upper body)... Do primarily upper body strength training after a bike and/or run and/or bike/run (say that 3 times fast!) workout ~Denner (Pt 2)

Ideally, you should do strength training as a completely separate workout from endurance, but if you have to combine, try to do the bulk of ST first. Next, yes, I think targeting different areas for the ST vs. endurance is a great idea to some extent. But going back to what I just said about compound exercises, that might not always be doable....

Most my ST sessions and what I recommend to others are full body to some extent. I rarely do just upper body (UB) or just lower body (LB) or just isolation exercises. I may specifically target LB or UB in a session, but even in that case when doing multi-joint LB-specific exercises some “minor” muscle groups of the UB activate to help the “major” muscle groups (like I mentioned about deadlifts above) and vice versa. That said, your arms will probably feel better swimming if you do squats, box jumps and deadlifts rather than a crapload of pushups, pullups and slam balls beforehand.


(I combined the final two question with one answer)

#4) I'm finally getting back into the gym. It's probably been over two years since I've ventured into the world of weight lifting/classes. Anyway, do you have any good book or web site suggestions for 'triathlon friendly' workouts? I'm not trying to bulk up, but just focus on the core and to define. ~Chloe

#5) I'd like to start a strength training routine now over the winter and was wondering what type of exercises you suggest? I'm a triathlete...if that helps ~Aimee

A: Hopefully I'm not too late answering these. The most basic way to answer these questions is by saying: Do exercises that mimic the movements of the sport.

As a triathlete you’re better off choosing a handful of exercises and doing them in circuits that have 4-6 rounds and last 20-30 min, as an added bonus add in a short run (200-400m), jump rope, rowing or some cardio component lasting 1-2 min per round. Circuit training is great because it keeps your HR elevated, that aerobic training component is great for triathletes. But please, I'll say it again, just don't choose a weight that's so light you could lift it all day long – make it somewhat challenging (i.e. you're dying after anywhere from 8 to 15 reps)!

With heavy lifting, however, things change. Doing a circuit isn't the best idea because you need time to recover after each set. Heavy lifting meaning so heavy that 2-6 reps are all you can take, and it's usually a compound exercise (Oly lifts, DLs, squats, push press, etc). You NEED to “fully recover” between sets to get the most benefit and to maintain good technique – rest 30 sec to a couple minutes between sets depending on the load. For example, when I’m deadlifting 150 lbs, I probably rest a minute or so after each set.

of course, the major concern I haven't mentioned yet: "I don't want to bulk up!" Trust me, when it comes to ST, I promise that as long as your endurance training is high, you won't "bulk up," especially girls... we just don't have what it takes hormonally speaking (unless you start taking freaky supplements). Look at me, I lift pretty heavy weight very consistently and ST in general 2-3x a week. Do I look like a bodybuilder?

What will happen when an endurance athlete strength trains: The combo of ST and endurance will cause you to gain some lean muscle mass and shed fat, which will make you look more ripped and defined but not “bodybuilder buff.” Endurance training of 8+ hours a week surely prevents that. Plus, due to the wonders of physiology, endurance athletes tend to build “smaller condensed” muscles and don’t really get extreme hypertrophy like a bodybuilder (various reasons for this, and I could babble on but will stop while I’m ahead lol). As a side note: to ensure such results don’t take steroids or any weird drug/supplement and you’ll be just fine.... super sexy/ripped/powerful fine ;)

Getting into specifics:

1. I told you I'd repeat this concept a lot: If you're new to ST start off with lighter weights but don't be afraid to add on more weight and lift heavy loads as you improve – lifting heavy will directly translate to an increase in power and strength; thus, you’ll race faster, be injury resilient and be more fatigue resistant. Using weights that you can lift 100x in a row nonstop really isn’t going to do anything, and it won’t “increase endurance.” However, 100 pushups, situps or [fill-in-the-blank body-weight exercise] – that’s a different story.

2. I'm a big proponent of free weights vs. machines. Free weights add an element of balance and coordination that isn't required with machines. That said, if you're completely mew to ST, might want to start on machines and work your way to free weights.

3. Whatever your program includes, be sure to warm up with non-weighted functional movements plus light weights of the exercises you’ll be doing. Once you’re warm a routine should go in order: the hardest and/or multi-joint/total-body exercises first, then medium-level stuff and finish with the easiest exercises like situps or planks. For example: Deadlifts, knee 2 elbows, band squats, renegade rows, pushups, abmats. Harder/multi-joint/total-body exercises generally require more technique and force production, so you're best off doing those when you fresh (another reason why to ST before endurance exercise).

4. mix up your routines. Doing the same thing over and over will lead to stagnation. Don't get me wrong, I do heavy deadlifts and squats at least once a week, but my circuits, the loads, when/how much I do varies greatly (and also with the training phase).

Last but not least…


Some of my favorite ST exercises:

Lower body-specific

Deadlift (DL)*

Romanian deadlifts (RDL)*

Back squat*

Front squat*

Goodmornings*

Sumo squats (extra wide stance)

KB swings (common mistake to avoid: Arms should not rise above shoulders when thrusting the KB up. Arms should finish at a position that’s parallel with floor, NOT overhead)

*key heavy lifting exercises to increase LB power/strength


LB with or without weight:

Box jumps/step-ups

Single-leg squats and/or DLs

Glut bridge

Side leg lifts

Lunges – reverse, front, side, multi-directional, walking, etc

Split-leg lunge jumps

Lateral squat walks with resistance band just above knees


Upper body-specific

Inverted ring rows (Olympic rings or TRX)

Ring pushups

Pullups (variation: band or jump pullups – even I can’t do many “real” pullups)

Overhead slam ball

Pushups

Bent-over row with Olympic bar

Bench press

Regular and reverse fly

Med ball chest throw


Total body

Push press

Hang clean (I’m still learning these)

Split Jerk

Burpees

Inverted hamstring with reverse DB fly

Overhead squats with resistance band around whole body (essentially you stand inside “the perimeter" of the band keeping arms straight/behind the head; this one is a lot harder than it sounds)

Pushups with elevated feet (in Olympic rings or TRX)*

Pikes*

Knee-to-Elbows*

Renegade rows*

Rowing machine

Sledgehammer swings (yes, I’m serious… not practical to do at most gyms, but my gym rocks)

*extra emphasis on core


Core-specific

Planks / side planks

Abmats

KB Can Openers (lay supine, hold KB overhead and lift lifts up/lower down)

Core twist with med ball or weight

Plank march (rotate lifting each leg and/or taking steps in circle)

Overhead med ball toss + situp with partner

Bicycle situps


NOTE: the exercises I list all use free weights, body weight or bands; they ARE NOT the typical machine exercises (i.e. lat pulldowns, leg curl, etc). As a personal trainer and frequent gymgoer, I find that machines cause people to be lazy and just sit there between sets. I like a ST routine that keeps you moving and doing unique things.

For further reference, here's a great website that has detailed info on exercises of all types and the muscles they work, plus info on anatomy, exercise testing, etc... ExRx.net


Go big!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Beginnings in my Household

Today my dad and all employees in the Annuities division at Genworth Financial were laid off -- a couple hundred, maybe more. Nothing personal, Genworth is just closing up shop on the annuities business.

Happy f'in New Year, right?

My dad has been working in the financial world since I was born, about 26 years. He's always been successful, well-respected, well-liked and at the top of whatever he does. He's never lost a job, been fired or laid off. In fact, as he's grown older he's become known in his world as the nice guy who's everyone's friend, hard-working and as loyal as they get. And he knows quite a few people after nearly three decades in the industry.

So, as you can imagine, when we got the news today it was a huge shock. You'd think someone like my dad who's a true veteran of this business would have more job security, even a tenure of sorts. Clearly not the case.

Although it's never fun to get laid off when you're the "bread-maker," he's taking it well. The rest of us are in shock but are taking it well also; staying upbeat. The good thing about my family is we're smart when it comes to savings, so we will get by and won't get kicked out on the curb.

Right away I personally got to thinking:

My first reaction was: This will be a great opportunity. I know my dad liked his job, but he didn't love what he was doing. I could just tell, whether he admitted that or not. So, instead of thinking how shitty it is to be laid off, I immediately thought how this could be the one big chance for him to do what he wants finally! I envision him pursuing one of his many passions and turning it into a career, being an entrepreneur... he'd probably do something involved in sports, something that doesn't require a suit & tie, something creative, who knows. The options are endless. My dream would be to see he and my mom go into business together and do something kick-ass and modern "ma & pop-shop" style. I know they'd make a good team.

My second reaction was: Shit, I really need to get my act together so I can fully support myself and help my family as much as I can. If I had to, right now I could be completely independent off my savings and income. I could even live on my own. It'd be a rather crappy lifestyle to some extent, but I could do it. However, OC rent prices might leave me broke by December. Anyways, point is, even though I still have one more semester in grad school, I have no problem taking on more work (if I can get it) to help my family through this time. Anyone need a coach or personal trainer? Lol.

Third reaction: Wow, the economy of today finally gave my family a blow. I should be sad, but I'm not. I'm a little pissed, but not outraged. Overall, I'm not even that upset. I guess it's just because I have tons of faith in my dad, mom, sister and myself. We're not the type who will resort to the bottle to cushion the pain ;)

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Dirty hands? (Product Review)

Remember how the marshmallow test can give us insight into a child's likelihood of being successful in life? Well, today's blog topic is on a product that isn't monumental in terms of overall life well-being, but it can say something about the type of person you are. Dirty or clean? Anal or nonchalant? Sorry, there's no life-changing psychology to accompany the conclusion, but I think it's interesting stuff. (My thoughts at the end.)

Grease Monkey Wipes.


If you're not familiar here's the product in a nutshell according to their website, "Grease Monkey Wipes, a division of Kong Concepts LLC, was created by frustrated cyclists who wanted an easy, portable way to clean up after getting greasy from changing a flat tire."

The wipes are gaining popularity in the cycling world and beyond. Even NBC's Shark Tank crew found it worthy of their precious dollars.

The low down:

I had a few of these bad boys sent to me to test out and review. It was perfect timing as nasty winter weather has been leaving my bike full of dirt, grit and grime, plus I'm riding a lot more these days training for half-Ironmans and a full Ironman this year -- add all that up and I'm cleaning my ride 10 times more than usual. Not to mention, I've inevitably had a few flats recently. All that equals black, greasy hands on a regular basis and, thus, a great reason to put Monkey Wipes to use.

The wipes, which are roughly $1 each unless you buy in bulk, do an excellent job at cleaning the grease, grime and oil from your hands and even under your fingernails after you've been working on your bike -- especially great for when you're on the road and don't have soap and water to wash off. They come in a tiny flat little packet (2.5" x 4"), so they're easy to take along on rides.

Monkey Wipes are also great to use at home so you don't smudge the walls, doors or anything with black greasy grime. This is very important to me, as I live with my parents and if I were to get grease anywhere besides the garage my mom would probably chop off my head! (Not really, but she wouldn't be pleased).

Other bonuses: Monkey Wipes are all natural and made with a citrus base so you're not cleaning with harsh chemicals. Plus, they aren't solely meant to be used for cycling. You can use them if you're painting, working on the car, doing yard work, construction or any sort of dirty work.


Conclusion:
I think Grease Monkey Wipes are a great, innovative product that many cyclists will deem necessary in order to avoid greasy hands that mess up their pretty bar tape, gloves, frame or whatever they touch.

However, I personally can live without them and don't plan on purchasing more. I don't mind the occasional greasy-hands look that comes with good ol' fashion bike work. In fact, I kind of like it. Don't ask me why. But then again, I'm the girl who can't even follow through with a new year's resolution to paint her toenails.

Plus, at about $1 per wipe, Monkey Wipes are not a product I "need." I'll save those dollars for a quality post-ride meal or for my "moving-out-of-my-parents'-house" fund ;)

But that's me. You might thing these things are the greatest invention since sliced bread. In that case... There's a great deal if you buy Monkey Wipes in bulk: Get 24 wipes for $21.40 or the 30-count canister of wipes for only $4.99!



Bottom Line:
Great idea, but not something on which I'd spend my money. I can deal with the gunk and clean it later or even deal with a stain. Heck, a little grease here and there adds character. I like when I can save a buck (remember - struggling grad student here.)

However, I think a good number of people will buy the wipes in order to keep themselves and their gear clean because they invest a lot of money and time in it all, and they want everything to look nice, which is totally OK and acceptable! In that case, buy the wipes; there's nothing like them and they do the job well!

Monday, January 3, 2011

and one more for 2011...

This isn't so much a resolution rather than a realization of "why didn't I do this sooner?" I have a TV in my room that basically takes up space -- and it's not even flat screen; it's the old-school "fat" kind, so even worse! lol.

Last night out of nowhere I decided that the TV needs to go, for good. It rarely ever gets turned on; sometimes during a trainer session, but I can just use Hulu for that. Generally, I think most of what's on TV is crap anyways.

Bottom line: I have time to be watching TV in my room, then I should either be a) sleeping or b) reading c) doing something productive.


Soo, that said... anyone need a ~14" TV? It's yours for free!