Archive for the ‘Nutrition & Training’ Category

March 17th, 2012

Hydration is HUGE topic in Sports Nutrition

By: Dr. Tracy Lawrence Black

While we can live for weeks without food, we can only live for a few days without water.    Similarly while we can perform a number of physical activities without food by relying on our body’s stores of fats and glycogen, we are unable to sustain these same performances without drinking.

While future blogs will deal with the ‘when’ and ‘how much’ of fluids in exercise, this week, in order to honor the Irish in all of us, let’s talk alcohol consumption and athletes.  Interestingly, athletes may drink more than their sedentary counterparts!

What effect does an occasional (or a nightly) beer or glass of wine have on our training and racing?

Alcohol is considered a food because it does provide energy:  a 12-ounce bottle of beer contains 140 calories and a glass of wine, 120 calories.   Each gram of ethanol, the energy source in alcohol, has 7 calories.  However, as foods go, alcohol contains few other nutrients.

Alcohol is also considered a drug because it depresses the central nervous system.  It decreases reaction time and alters hormonal function, including glucose regulation.

Alcohol in moderate amounts may reduce the risk of hypertension and heart disease through its relaxing effect.  Compounds in red wine may act as anti-oxidants.  This is important when one consumes grilled red meats.  It may be a healthy choice to have a glass of cabernet with that t-bone steak!

Conversely, alcohol stimulates appetite, which may lead to over-eating and weight gain.  Excess consumption may lead to increased heart and liver disease.

Other dangers include mixing pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen with alcohol.  This combination may lead to liver damage or irritation of the stomach lining.  So if you are injured and taking these medicines, it is better to avoid alcohol until you’ve healed.

Lastly, and somewhat surprisingly, alcohol has a detrimental effect on sleep.  Although it facilitates falling asleep, it can result in abnormal sleep/wake cycles.

So if you want to run a PR, it is best to wait until after the race to celebrate with a glass of bubbly.  In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends no alcohol consumption 48 hours prior to competition.

You should also wait until you have rehydrated with a non-alcoholic beverage.  Unlike most other foods, some alcohol is absorbed directly from the stomach, especially if the digestive tract is empty.  Absorption can be rapid.   That is why a post-race drink can go “straight to your head!”

In summary, like the saying goes: everything in moderation!  A glass of wine, or this week, a mug of (green?) beer is a pleasurable way to celebrate a job well done or St. Patrick’s Day.   Enjoy, and drink knowingly…. tomorrow we’ll be lacing up the running shoes, pumping up the bike tires and pulling on the swim goggles.   Cheers!

March 15th, 2012

Craig Alexander Shares His Tips For Training In The Heat


80 degree weather in Chicago, in March!  Who knew?

It’s warm out and judging by the traffic in our stores, everyone is out running, which is great.

As it gets warmer out there are a few tips that we wanted to share with all of you about training in the heat.  Nobody knows what it’s like to grind it out in the heat like Ironman World Champion Craig Alexander, we reached out to Craig and meteorologist Amy Freeze to help put together the following training tips.

Alexander shared these tips for training and racing that he uses.

•    Sip, sip, sip.  Don’t guzzle your hydration. Little bits often keeps you cooled off and hydrated.  It helps your body digest easier and absorb into your system.
•    Use common sense- If you are feeling worn down, take in more fluid.  There is no special award for “being tough,” in the heat, you have to listen to your body and take care of what it is saying.
•    Start Early-If you have a big workout in the morning and you know it’s going to be hot, make sure to start hydrating the night before.

Race Week-
•    Start Early- Craig starts to hydrate early in the week.  I usually start, Thursday or Friday to make sure that I am stocking up, without over doing it.”
•    During a race- Don’t panic.  As hot as it was at Racine 70.3 last year, Craig lost a water bottle in the first mile of the bike.  “I knew I would be OK with what I had and relied on the aid stations to keep me going, you adjust, relax and move on.”

Craig adds, “Staying calm is always vital to a successful, there is no such thing as a perfect race.  Greg Welsh lost his transition bag in Kona, that would have thrown most people into a tail spin, instead that was the year he won!

When it gets hot, July and August hot and we are in a heat advisories, Amy Freeze shared some additional things to take into consideration.

“The #1 thing is stay out of the heat in the middle of the day, this is
 when it is the hottest and the most dangerous.  If you want to train in
the heat, do it in the early morning or later in the evening, when it is
still going to be hot, but not as dangerous.”

Amy warms that 
even if you have been training in the heat and trying to acclimate, when the heat advisories kick into effect and it’s sweltering hot outside, it’s a different story.  “The effect gets worse as the day
goes on for an athlete, it’s a more cumulative effect, it will eventually take its toll.  The human body can only take so much stress,
before you start to do damage.”

Two years ago Freeze traveled to Da’Bears training camp and spoke to their trainers about the effects of
this heat. ” They can lose between 6 and 10 pounds in a workout!  They weigh them, make them drink electrolytes and take in the proper
nourishment to keep them healthy and safe.  If they lose too much water weight in a day and can’t gain it back, they don’t go on the field.”

That’s a great point.  Hydration means more than water, you need to be taking in electrolytes while you are out exercising.

If you are going to run, hit the treadmill.  I know it’s not ideal, but staying inside could help keep you alive and avoid heat stroke and other
things that will slow you down for the long term.

It should go  without saying, but also make sure to keep your running buddies at home.  This is not the time to be running with your pets.  They don’t
have wickable clothing and exercise in this heat could kill them.

If you have to get in some cardio, hit the pool or the lake and swim.  Now 
is a good time to work on open water swimming.  Make sure there is a life guard on hand, it’s light outside and if you can’t swim with a friend, let someone know where you are going.

It’s going to be a while before we have to worry about heat advisories, but these are good safety rules to know as we head outside and run!

March 6th, 2012

A Good Breakfast = A Happy and Healthy Athlete.

Dr. Tracy has another installment on nutrition and healthy living.  If you have questions for her or want to talk more about nutrition, make sure to stop into the Deerfield store.

We have been talking about what foods are important for athletes to eat for good health and for successful performances, but as the saying goes, timing is everything!

Breakfast is essential.  After fasting while asleep, the body needs to be primed with some energy to be ready for the day.  During sleep, tissues are repaired.  Physical activity is at a minimum.  Glycogen stores in the liver maintain a steady blood sugar level.  The body’s metabolism is in “conserve” mode.

When the alarm goes off, and the athlete gets up, the body is not predisposed to spend any extra energy than is absolutely required.  However, by eating breakfast, the metabolic environment changes, and the body is able to exert more.  Whether you have a workout or whether you have your usual routine, by eating breakfast, you are in a more balanced place, metabolically, at least!

Breakfast does not have to be large.  Nor does it have to take a lot of time to make or eat!  Choose at least three of the five main food groups, recommended serving size, to order to sustain energy levels through the morning.
For example:
whole grain cereal with some skim dairy or soy milk and sliced banana
OR
Half a bagel with peanut butter and a glass of orange juice
OR
Scrambled egg, slice of whole wheat toast and fresh berries
OR
Granola bar and fruit and yogurt smoothie

A mid-morning snack is a great idea too.  This is especially true if you had breakfast early in the day or if you had a morning workout.  I regularly have “my second breakfast.”

After a workout it is important to have something to eat within 30 minutes to 2 hours after you finish your training.  Again, it is important not to overeat, but to be sure to consume at least some carbohydrates and protein in order to replenish glycogen stores in the muscles and to start muscle repair.  After a vigorous workout this is the period of time where the body seems particularly adapted to fuel replacement.  For the endurance athlete who may be doing two workouts a day, it is crucial to take advantage of this window of opportunity.  Research currently suggests that for every 4 grams of carbs, try to eat 1 gram of protein in your post workout snack.  An easy choice is an 8 oz glass of low-fat chocolate milk.

Finally, some people suggest doing a workout before eating breakfast.  The theory goes that this results in a greater utilization of fat stores.  In fact, people who eat breakfast are more successful at losing weight.  Although exercising vigorously before breakfast is a technique that some athletes use occasionally, there is little research to support its value.

In summary, as an athlete, make good food choices at good times; your race times will be better!

February 17th, 2012

How to Eat and Train for Success.

Dr. Tracy Lawrence Black is a nutritionist, athlete and member of the Running Away family.  Every week she will be sharing tips on nutrition and fitness to help you reach your peak performance.  Check back here for Dr. Tracy’s tips or come visit her in our Deerfield store.

Athletes always ask, “What can I eat or drink before, during and after my race so that I will have my best performance?”  No easy answer to this one!

In truth, although race day nutrition is important, I would argue that everyday training nutrition is crucial to competition success.   True, calories and electrolytes are fuel for active muscles.  Without them, the body is not able to function normally.  However carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals are the building blocks for the myriad of interactions that take place within our exercising muscles.  Through training we maximize our metabolism and build stronger muscles, provided we are consuming quality food.  The maxim “garbage in, garbage out” certainly applies to what we eat and the health of our human machinery.  To build a better engine and to keep it running well, use the best components possible!

So to begin to answer the opening question, let’s look at what constitutes good nutrition on a day-to-day basis.

In order to eat healthfully on a regular basis, I believe it has to be easy to know what to do.  All kinds of previous guides, including pictures of pyramids (USA), rainbows (Canada) and pagodas (Singapore) have tried to simplify the rules.  I think the best effort so far has been the “Choose my Plate” released in 2011 by the USDA.

To learn more click here.

Simply put, each meal should consist of at least half a plate of vegetables and fruit, a quarter plate of complex carbohydrates, and one quarter of a plate of protein.   Dairy provides a great source of calcium.

Serving sizes are roughly the size of one’s fist.

Vegetables and fruits are packed with nutrients, and generally low in calories.  We should eat lots of these!

Carbohydrates include rice, breads and pasta and are important for athletes.  Whole grain choices are even better for us since they have even more of the extra nutrients.

Proteins can be either plant or animal derived, and provide the amino acids that are used in tissue repair and building, as well as providing energy.  Dairy products are particularly important for athletes because of the types of amino acids they contain, as well as for the minerals.

With each meal, we should strive to choose foods that give us the best building blocks.   By literally building a solid nutrition foundation, we have maximized our chances of a great race performance- even before the starting whistle blows!

January 23rd, 2012

How do you know what you are eating?

Dr. Tracy Lawrence Black is a nutritionist, athlete and member of the Running Away family.  Every week she will be sharing tips on nutrition and fitness to help you reach your peak performance.  Check back here for Dr. Tracy’s tips or come visit her in our Deerfield store.

Many of you started the New Year with a resolution that  involved diets!  As athletes in the off-season, you may want to lose a few pounds as you start to plan for next season’s races.  Regardless of which diet scheme you chose to follow, all require that you have some knowledge of the composition of the food.  We are going to be sharing plenty of health and nutrition facts and tips, but before that can happen, we wanted to share the basics with you, to help you better understand.

So how do you know what you are eating?

Every processed food is required by law to have a Nutrition Facts Panel.  Every Facts Panel must list calories, total fat, saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars (naturally occurring and added sugars combined), and protein.  There are four micronutrients also listed: the vitamins A and C, and the minerals calcium and iron.

Food labels can also have other optional information, such as dietary fiber, other vitamins and minerals, and different dietary fats, such as the omega 3s.

All of the nutrient information is given on a per serving basis; for example, 2 cookies, 8 fluid ounces or 1 bar.  So when you are comparing two food choices, or determining how much you ate, be sure to check the serving sizes!

Remember too that the serving size is determined by law.  However, you may not eat the serving size- if you eat half of the portion; just divide the nutrient values by half.

If you are counting calories, carbs and protein give you 4 cal/gram each and fats 9 cal/gram.  When you do the math on the Nutrition Facts Panel, sometimes, things don’t add up- that is because the total calories on the labels are rounded to the nearest 10!

The Nutrition Facts panel

Every panel has a column headed %DV.  What is this?

Daily Value (DV) is the amount of a nutrient, such as protein or vitamin C, which the government, working with scientists, has determined is consistent with a healthy diet.  What is a bit confusing is that for some parts of the diet, for instance dietary fiber, it is the minimum amount thought to be required.  For other nutrients, such as fat, it is the maximum amount.  For a complete list of DV values, check

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceComplianceRegulatoryInformation/GuidanceDocuments/FoodLabelingNutrition/FoodLabelingGuide/ucm064928.htm

The nutrients for which the DV is a maximum amount (and the government recommendations are to not eat more than this amount) are fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium.  There is no DV for trans fat since it is recommended that you eat as little of it as possible.

%DV is the percent of your Daily Value for a nutrient that you get when you eat one serving of a particular food.  So if a sports bar has a %DV for potassium of 2%, by eating the bar you are getting 65 mg of potassium (or 2% of your daily potassium requirements.)  Over the course of a day, all foods and drinks consumed should provide us with our daily nutrient needs.

All these calculations are based on a daily diet of 2000 calories.  It is difficult to consume the required amounts of vitamins and minerals on a 2000 calorie/day diet, unless you consistently make healthy food choices.  For many athletes, the daily caloric intake is greater.  This makes it a little easier for athletes to obtain the required amount of vitamins and minerals without using supplements. However, for some nutrients like potassium and calcium, even people consuming 3000 calories a day may not be getting the %DV.    In summary, as an athlete it is really important to make healthy food choices as you fuel and refuel!

October 13th, 2011

CONGRATULATIONS, MARATHONERS! – AND TIPS ON RECOVERY

The 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is in the books.  Expressions of joy, exhilaration, relief and satisfaction filled Grant Park, indeed, the entire City of Chicago, after the race.

Congratulations, Marathoners!

The weather conditions were less than ideal, slowing progress on the race course.  But your preparation and dedication to training over the last 19 plus weeks carried the day.

This week brings time to reflect on the journey, and allow the body to recover from the marathon.

In the words of Emil Zatopek (1952 Olympic Gold Medal winner at the 5K, 10K and Marathon distances):  “If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life, run a marathon.”

We have experienced transformation in ourselves over the last 19 weeks, culminating with the highs and the lows of Marathon Day.  And like our training regimen, in life we need to balance times of increased stress and cutbacks for recovery.

The next few weeks are a time for recovery.  Be kind to your body and your spirit this week.  For quicker recovery – continue to exercise, but gentle exercise this week.  Walking is a great way for tired muscles to repair themselves.  In a few days, consider a (gentle) massage to smooth the recovery.  (A ‘deep’ massage can delay muscle repair and, hence, recovery.)

Increase nutrition and hydration, especially Monday through Wednesday.  Following the race, our bodies need to replenish lost nutrients.  While it is not necessary to consume high calories (as we did before the marathon), it is important to restore glycogen to our muscles and protein to repair our muscles and provide energy.  Increase fluid intake as well.  We need to restore electrolytes depleted on race day and the two to three days after the race are the most opportune time to do so.  Our bodies will absorb electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein much more efficiently in these early days.

I have been asked by many when is it safe, or recommended, to return to running.  The urge to run again soon (or the dread of running too soon) needs to be balanced with the need for recovery.  Inactivity will prolong muscle soreness and repair.  Walking is a great alternative Monday and Tuesday.  A walk of 30 – 60 minutes will help relieve muscle soreness.  Follow a ‘reverse taper’ as to running.  Look back over your training schedule for the last two weeks leading up to the marathon.  Reverse the days and mileage of your training program to ease back into running.  Run at a very slow, easy pace until you ‘feel your legs’ again.  This may take several days or a few weeks.

Be cognizant of a condition called “DOMS”, which is an acronym for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, a condition whereby deep muscle and tissue damage (like marathoners experience on race day) exhibit themselves in more pronounced soreness 24 – 48 hours after exercise.  Your muscles may feel more fatigued Tuesday than they felt Sunday or Monday.  This is common for athletes, especially for marathoners.

Sitting in a tub of cool water (not necessarily ice water) will help relieve muscle inflammation and dissipate soreness.

This week is a great opportunity to reflect on your accomplishment of completing the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon and recognizing the person you have become over the last 19 weeks of training.

This is also a good time to think about future goals.  Maintain the fitness you have achieved in preparation for the Bank of America Chicago Marathon.  Consider a race in the near future – perhaps the Hot Chocolate 15K presented by RAM Racing.  That is a great ‘next event’ to capitalize on summer training and not have excess mileage as you recover from the marathon season.

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through.”

Coach Brendan Cournane is an endurance running coach and speaker based in Chicago (recently he spoke at the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon Expo).  He has completed over 80 marathons, including a marathon in each of the 50 States and has also raced in Europe, South America, Antarctica, China and Africa (where he also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro).  He has run the Boston Marathon six times and has a personal best marathon time of 3:16.  He can be reached at Coach@CoachBrendan.com or through his website: www.CoachBrendan.com.

October 5th, 2011

The Hay is in the Barn

Marathon Week is finally here!  Upon reflection, it is hard to believe that the 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon is less than one week away.  18 weeks ago we embarked on a journey which culminates this Sunday morning at 7:30 in Grant Park.

Through dedication, perseverance and effort, marathon goals which seemed Impossible on Memorial Day morphed into the Improbable by Labor Day and now, reaching the goal is Inevitable!

Less than 1% of the general population has completed a marathon.  Be proud of your accomplishments.  This week show your Marathon PRIDE:

P lan  -  have  a plan for the race, and be sure to follow it.

R est  –  get plenty of rest every night this week.

I – I  know my running type  - generally runners fall into three types (even split runners, negative split runners or positive split runners) — know which type best suits your performance and plan your race strategy accordingly.

D rink   –   stay hydrated throughout the week, do not overdrink on Friday and Saturday. Your urine should be the color of pale lemonade.

E at  -    eat the right amount of protein and carbs.

Nutrition breakdown:

60 – 65% (up to 70% towards the end of this week) Carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, pasta and cereals);

10 – 15% protein (lean red meats, poultry and legumes);

25 – 30% fats (staying away from transfatty oils and fried foods).

Structure your time at the Expo – allowing enough time to tour, but not too much time on your feet.

Friday or Saturday – set out all the clothes you will wear on race day.  Start with the clothes you will wear in the race.  These should be clothes you have already worn on a long run.  Go through a checklist.  Start at the bottom and move up:  shoes, socks, shorts, shirt, running bra (women) or band-aids; sunscreen; sunglasses and headwear (hat or visor).  Dress as if the temperature will be 15 – 20 degrees warmer than the air temperature.  While you may be cold in the starting corral, you will warm up quickly in the first mile or two.  If the weather is predicted to be chilly, consider long pants or long sleeve shirt, gloves and a headband.  Bring a large empty garbage bag to wear over your head and torso while in the starting corral, or throwaway clothes (don’t expect to see them again) to wear until the race starts.  Pin your bib number to the front of your shirt.

On Marathon Day – allow extra time to arrive at the starting area.  It is better to be early than to panic over being late.  Line up in the appropriate corral, based on your predicted finish time.

Nothing New On Race Day!

If you are running with a pace group, know the pacer’s philosophy on pace and fluid stops.  If the pacer’s way of running does not suit your plan or style, consider how to adjust so you meet the pace group after mile 20.

Don’t panic if you are off pace at the first few mile markers.  The most common mistake of marathoners is running too fast in the early miles.  It is better to be in control and a little behind pace during the first 5 miles than to run too fast.  Even if you are 2:00 slower than your pace at mile 1, you have 25 MILES to make up 120 seconds (about 5 seconds per mile).  Remember the race is timed by a chip, meaning your race time starts when YOU cross the starting line.  And the time limit for the Marathon begins when the last person crosses the starting line.

Know when you will consume water, Gatorade and nutrition.  If consuming gel packs or food, consume with water (not a sports drink) at planned intervals according to how you trained.  Recommended consumption is 4 – 6 ounces of fluid every 15 – 20 minutes of the race, more if the weather is hot and humid or if you are a heavy ‘sweater’.

If running with a group or with a few friends, discuss where you will take fluids and where you will regroup after fluid stations.  (There are multiple tables at each fluid station.  Don’t stop at the first table.  It is less crowded towards the back of the tables.  Regroup about 100 yards after the last table at a fluid station – and know whether you will regroup on the right side or the left side of the road.)

Run tangents whenever possible.  Remember your high school geometry – the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Run the race backwards.  Think of how you want to finish the race – a big smile on your face as you crest “Mt. Roosevelt” and turn onto Columbus with the finish line in sight!  Now plan the race backwards from the time you cross the finish line to the time you read this tip.  Prepare for certain landmarks on the course, visualize how you will feel at mile 25, mile 20, mile 15, mile 10, mile 5 and at the start of the race.

Build a positive bubble around yourself.

Repeat to yourself – “I am prepared!  I will have a great experience!  Good form will carry me through!”  Let the words and the thoughts sink in, listen to the words, believe the words, feel the words.

Success is when opportunity meets preparation.  The preparation has been building over the last 18 weeks, the opportunity is Sunday morning – Success is the outcome!

Run (or Run/Walk) well.

And when all else fails, repeat:  “Good form will carry me through.”

Coach Brendan

“Good form will carry you through.”

Coach Brendan Cournane will speak at the Main Stage of the Bank of America Chicago Marathon Friday at 1:00 and Saturday at 4:00.  The topic will be ‘Tips for First Time Marathoners’.

Coach Brendan Cournane is a marathon running coach and speaker based in Chicago.  He has completed over 80 marathons, including a marathon in each of the 50 States and has also raced in Europe, South America, Antarctica, China and Africa (where he also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro).  He has run the Boston Marathon six times and has a personal best marathon time of 3:16.  He can be reached at Coach@CoachBrendan.com or through his website: www.CoachBrendan.com.

September 2nd, 2011

PRs Don’t Grow on Trees

With the advent of social media and websites like facebook and twitter, when you hear from a coach mentioning their athletes’ successes, you’d think that nobody they coach ever has a bad race. Mary won their age group today…Joe qualified for Kona…Jane had the fastest run split of the day.

This really would be a beautiful thing if it was actually true, but as we all know, PRs don’t happen out of every athlete at every race. People do have bad days. Would it bad press to mention that an athlete had a bad day? Probably not, but you’re never going to see it happen for a variety of obvious reasons.

But as a coach (and athlete), you have to take the good and the bad. The beauty of it all is that we still analyze *why* our athletes have good races and bad races. We get to see where mistakes were made by looking at power files and GPS data and gathering information from the athlete about their pre/during/post race nutrition and mindset. We also get to point out where things went right during the training/racing and what, if anything, needs to be adjusted going into the next training phase or race plan outline.

What needs to be understood by the athlete however, is that even if there’s a bad race or training day, it doesn’t mean that “all the hard work and training I’ve been doing” is for naught. Things like environmental conditions, how the athlete deals with them, what point you are in your training, etc. can all have an impact of how well you do on race day. Conversely, if you have a great day at the races, it generally doesn’t mean that you can sit back, cruise through your next training block and assume that great things will continue to happen. Look at what went right on these days and use these nuggets for future success. So sit down with your coach and ask “Why did this happen?”

I’ve had the opportunity over the past month to have some very useful conversations with athletes who didn’t perform to their expectations on race day despite having great training, feeling strong and rested going into their events. We get to tear apart the days leading into the race, what they ate, how much rest they got, the weather conditions and what steps were taken to adjust to challenging situations, looking at the training and race data and trying to piece together why things didn’t go as planned. Being able to communicate with your athlete/coach is almost equally as important as putting in the work. We’re not all simple equations in which you can input data (ie: workouts/training) and get the same output from everyone. We all lead different lives that can affect how we react to training stimuli. As I like to say; “you just can’t put the hammer to the nail”…and expect great things…sometimes you hit your thumb instead and you have to take a step back.

The bottom line is that triathlon training and racing is very enigmatic. Things can be great one day and absolutely horrible the next. While we’d all like to bask in the glow of your success, there is almost always work that needs to be done…something to be improved upon…something that is good already that can be made even better!

This is what I love about this sport and being an athlete and a coach…there’s a constant “search for truth” with each individual. You can always find a diamond in the rough of a bad day or even a bad apple from the anatomy of a great race. It’s being able to identify these things and use them to your advantage on the path to your next event. So in the meantime, keep your head up, ask questions and have fun!

May 27th, 2011

No Strain…No Tear…No Break…OH MY!

My road to Kona and my triathlon season in general has somehow managed to become one large construction site. As you may recall, back in March, I was diagnosed with a foot strain. I figured I be better in a month or so, however it turns out I don’t have a foot strain after all. Well, as June approaches, the problem is still not resolved. After a bone scan and MRI, which both came out negative, I still do not know what’s wrong with me. I am scheduled for two more tests in the next week to see if it could be nerve related.

To say I have been patient, calm, and collected would be a HUGE fib, because I really hoped this year would be a great racing season leading in to Kona. It has been a very frustrating three months and I’ve had my emotional highs and lows with it. A wise man once told me that you can’t get upset and all worked up about things you can’t control; whatever it ends up being, you will deal with it and move on. I thought this advice was completely ridiculous…OF COURSE I CAN BE UPSET! KONA IS VERY IMPORTANT TO ME! Right?

In the last few weeks I realized that wise man was right…I can’t control what is going on with my body, but I can choose how to react to it. I need to be patient and realize that no matter what my injury turns out to be, I will heal and come back stronger and hungry, so watch out Age Group 30-34. In the meantime, I will continue to swim and cycle and think about the big picture.

May 25th, 2011

Which Training Plan is Right for Me?

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re an endurance athlete in one way, shape or form. Yes, even if you “only” run 5K races, you are still an endurance athlete and have possibly utilized a training plan.

How to choose your training plan can be a tricky process.

The thing you have to realize about training plans, is that they are not all created equal. Those found in books, magazines, the internet, etc., are usually generic in nature despite their claims of being “beginner”, “intermediate” or “advanced”. Those that are offered by coaches are hopefully quite specific in nature and are geared to your specific strengths and weaknesses and helping you improve as an athlete and your long term goals. You might be looking for one, the other, or something in the middle. Either way, there is a lot of information you have to filter through to find the one that best suits you.

We are here today to determine what type of training plan is for you and your current training.

The first step in searching for a training plan is to ask yourself a few simple questions:

*Determine what event you’re training for.
*What are your goals for this event? Top five? Age group contention? Be faster than last year? Just to finish?
*What is your time commitment to training?
*What is your recent history as an endurance athlete?
*How accountable to your plan will you be?
*Will I need to ask questions along the way?

This list is not all inclusive, but it’s at least a start for you.

Once you have answered these questions, you can start you narrow down your search for a plan that best suits your needs.

However, you must be honest with yourself and your goals and choose the appropriate plan without biting off more than you can chew, which usually spells disaster in the form of an overuse injury. So be weary of plans that are advertised as “3-hour Marathon” or “Sub 10-hour Ironman” training.

The generic plan is generally suitable for the newbie endurance athlete who can follow directions without much guidance. Again, you must be realistic and pick the appropriate beginner/intermediate/advanced plan based on your answers to the questions above and pre-requisites of the plan. These plans are generally free or available at low cost because of their generic nature.

Then there are plans that are offered through websites. These can oftentime be useful because there may be an online message board or forum through which you can communicate with other athletes following the same plan. These plans are usually more generic in nature as well, but at least you will have an outlet to ask questions to other athletes. Just be wary of some of the information being doled out…just because something worked for someone, it doesn’t mean that it will work for you as well.

If you think you need a little more guidance and hand holding OR if you feel like you’ve peaked with your ability by following the types of plans listed above OR if you’re looking to get the most out of your ability regardless of your experience, then you probably want to seek out a coach. These plans are obviously more expensive, but you’re hopefully getting expert advice and a plan that is suited to your individual needs as an athlete based on your results through field testing and/or past race results. A coach can also help answer all your questions and guide you through tricky things like your work and social calendar to help get the most out of your workouts.

Being an endurance athlete can be rewarding in so many different ways…but it can also be like walking through a mine field trying to stay healthy and keeping a life balance among other things. Utilizing the right training plan for you can mean the difference in staying healthy from beginning to end, having a great experience and executing your best race possible or the complete opposite. Just make sure you’re honest with yourself and your ability and your commitment when selecting what’s right for you.

Our next contribution: Making the Most of Your Training Plan!