Step Up and Tri – July 2013

Welcome to July’s Blog.

We just had a super-moon (did you SEE it? WOW!); the summer is here in full force and you guys are training your hearts out in the heat and wind of south Florida. For my athletes up north, I think the summer has finally arrived for you too. When I looked at the super-moon I was awed and when I look at all the training and racing that you are doing, I feel the same; totally awed by your dedication and hard work. WOW!

I was honored this year to be asked to write a chapter on Sport Psychological Concepts and Applications for USA Triathlon and their Level II Endurance Manual which will be provided as curriculum to the coaches seeking Level II certification. And, as usual when preparing lectures or materials for this sort of thing I learnt a lot and it made me think about whether I was doing a good enough job of helping my athletes with their mental skills training.

One of the things that I harp on and on about with all my athletes is that they should use nothing new on race day. Most of us think that that means gear options, like “don’t wear a new pair of socks or bra or a new fuel belt or jock on race day” without having tested it in training first, as I guarantee something will go wrong or at the very least we will end up with some nasty chafing that might be hard to explain.  But even more important than having tested our gear is that we have tested ourselves and trained at race intensity so that we know we can do it on race day and so that we know what to expect mentally on race day at those intensities (not to mention whether or not our nutrition and hydration strategies work at those intensities also).

Leading up to race week I will have given my athletes many workouts that ask them to dial in race day efforts,  whether that be by rating of perceived exertion- RPE, heart rate –HR, power or pace. It is vital to do this so that you train your body for the rigors of race day, but even more so for the mental challenges of race day. Pushing yourself HURTS, and athletes must train their minds as much as their bodies for this kind of discomfort. During the toughest parts of the race, your mind might try to get you to slow down (as a protective mechanism) but in fact you know (because of the training you have done) that you CAN continue; the juice is worth the squeeze and if you have practiced and trained at race day intensities you can access that when you need to- actually on race day.  Many newbie athletes will train one way and race another, at much higher intensities, blaming excitement and competition, which generally leads to spectacular meltdowns, as 1) they are simply not physiologically prepared for working that hard, 2) their nutrition and hydration plans are not tweaked for that intensity, and 3) they are mentally unprepared for the surprising negativity and defeatist attitude that their brains can take when pushed to the limit, or beyond.

Endurance can be defined as a resistance to fatigue and there is an excellent and noted exercise physiologist, Tim Noakes, who has posited a theory concerning this. His “central governor” theory of fatigue which states that the brain (the Central Governor) anticipates pain/heat/fatigue and gets the body to slow down before any of this actually shows up in the system. Studies have shown that the mere anticipation of getting hot has slowed down athletes even before core temperatures rises. Other studies have shown that cyclists can produce much higher test results when compared to prior personal bests when they are tricked into thinking they are competing against other athletes.  All this points to what athletes must be prepared for on race day: lying to the central governor! When the brain says, “ooohwwee, this is soooo uncomfortable and I think you/I ought to slow down”, or “I suck in the heat, so why don’t we ease off”, or “I don’t think I can do this anymore”, athletes can combat that with statements about all the training they have done at exactly these intensities and keep on pushing through. The athlete learns where the limits really lie- beyond the over protective tendencies of the central governor- and can talk themselves into pushing hard through to the finish.

If you want to be fast, if you want to give your very best efforts on race day, then you have to do so in training. It will be unpleasant for portions of the race, and there will be times when you hurt, but if you want to achieve your goals then you have to come face to face with this discomfort and decide whether you have what it takes to keep on pushing. Training will teach you that you do!

If it were easy, there might be no point to getting off the sofa. Right?

We must connect training to racing- both physiologically and psychologically so that we are prepared for what we encounter on race day. We must strive to be prepared for anything that might arise on race day, from the physical stressors to the emotional and mental ones and we do that by making training as much like racing as possible.

So, back to my super athletes and the super moon. Day in and day out I see you all putting in huge efforts and toughing it out through very difficult workouts and races, and I see you learning that your limits are much further than you had ever thought, and that it feels damn good to keep pushing yourself, and that in fact you are capable of incredible feats and your goals are attainable. Amazing and awe-inspiring.

A good read:

Heart health:

Nutrition corner with Erica Goldstein
Glutamine and Endurance Exercise – Evidence for Immune Support?

In Exercise Science, methodology is most often cited as a reason for inconsistent results among studies. This makes perfect sense as mode, duration, and intensity affect not only the way the body responds (or does not respond) to supplementation but these same variables also influence the way the body adapts to training.  Another important set of variables is age and current level of fitness. As an example, it appears from the literature that moderate-intensity exercise supports the immune system. In comparison to a sedentary person, a recreational athlete may experience less illness over a given period. However, as the intensity and duration of exercise increases to that of an endurance athlete that participates in repetitive, long, and continuous hard efforts, the immune system may become suppressed. In this scenario, the athlete may experience increased bouts of illness, in particular upper respiratory infections. An athlete that has to spend time recuperating from an infection (i.e., cold, sinus infection, etc.) is consequently not able to achieve daily or weekly training goals, which could negatively affect overall performance.

Glutamine is a nonessential amino acid, which means the body can synthesize this amino acid instead of having to take it in through food, and is mostly produced, stored and released by skeletal muscle. Glutamine is released from skeletal muscle cells and is then taken up by immune cells, which is why it has been widely studied for its ability to prevent infection in athletes. Different types of white blood cells exist to protect you from harmful pathogens that can make you sick. One type of white blood cell is a neutrophil and is commonly referred to as a bacterial slayer. This is because neutrophils have the ability to engulf and destroy bacteria, which supports the immune system and prevents infection. A lymphocyte is a second category of white blood cells and serves to recognize antigens (microbes such as bacteria or virus) and mount an immune response, which is your body’s way of stopping the virus from reproducing and spreading throughout your system. Lymphocytes destroy pathogens, which prevents you from developing an illness. Glutamine acts an energy source for these components of the immune system to promote replication of these good cells in the body.

It has been hypothesized that repeated high intensity exercise of long duration results in a decrease in glutamine concentration post-exercise. This reduction in glutamine may hinder the body’s ability to produce and replicate white blood cells, which may impede the immune system and subsequent ability to fight infection.

It therefore seems logical that supplementing athletes with glutamine would prevent a decrease in blood levels of the amino acid and prevent subsequent immune suppression. However, as suspected, the literature is not conclusive and overall does not support the use of glutamine supplementation as a means to prevent infection in endurance athletes. This is not to say that glutamine is not effective in supporting the immune system in different types of athletes, who exercise at a different intensity and duration (i.e., high intensity, short duration). However, a direct link has not been confirmed between a decrease in the level of glutamine following a moderate-to-high intensity long duration effort (e.g., marathon running) and changes to the immune system that would increase risk for infection. Unfortunately, it is just not that simple.

Other roles for glutamine in terms of recovery do exist: glycogen and protein synthesis. However, in terms of the overall health of an athlete focusing on any one single nutrient as a means to increase performance or immunity is not advised. The best method is to consume carbohydrate, fat, and protein in adequate amounts that will both parallel and support specific blocks of training and recovery. Glutamine is present in the amount of 4-5 grams in most whey protein powders and is also consumed in meat sources such as beef and dairy. However, glutamine content is actually much higher (double that of whey) in soy protein isolate. Glutamine is most effective however in persons suffering from a period of malnutrition due to severe illness and/or trauma (e.g., glutamine levels are near deficient) and the majority of endurance athletes are not at risk for this type of protein deficiency.

In conclusion, directly supplementing with glutamine in an attempt to stave off training related illness may be misguided. However, consuming glutamine as part of a routine dietary strategy (i.e., consuming adequate amounts of protein, whey or soy in smoothies, etc.) may help to support the overall health of the athlete and their performance.

Hammer Burger
2 tbsp olive oil
½ small onion
2 cloves minced garlic
1 cup diced sweet potato
½ small yellow squash
½ small zucchini
1 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
1 ½ cup rolled oats
¾ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ cup shredded mozzarella
½ can black beans

1. Drain and cook black beans on low-medium heat for approximately 10 min.
2. Heat Olive oil in skillet over low heat; cook the onion and garlic for approximately 5
3. Mix in the sweet potato, squash, and zucchini; continue to cook and stir for
4. Transfer all ingredients (vegetables and black beans) to the food processor. Combine
5. Remove from food processor and add in soy sauce, rolled oats, bread crumbs,
6. Form 4 patties; refrigerate for 1 hour.
7. Add oil to the skillet, grill patties for 5 min, or until heated through.

(Nutrient facts follow)

Athlete Race Update:

Kristy B: 1st place AG in last weekend’s Motivation Man!  Roth coming up on the 14th.
Sue (birthday girl!): 2:27 at Motivation Man! (with the shortened swim). And she just go 1st AG in the Duathlon at Tradewinds!!!
Cicily: PR at Eagleman Half Iron in Maryland in 6:07 (swim was 2 mins faster, bike was 26 mins faster and the run was 13 mins faster!!!)
Colin: 5:15 at Motivation Man Half Iron- fassst!
Nadia: great 10k in NYC women’s race around Central Park. Doing the relay: swim and run for the NYC triathlon.
Adam: superb showing at  the S. Carolina state 40k TT !
Kim: did the Father’s day tri in Moss Park, but it got turned into a duathlon instead — fantastic finish time of 2:13.
Mark: second AG at the WPB 15k TT last weekend! And a whopping 12% improvement in FTP simultaneously.
Bernie: first race at Motivation Man Oly and 2:15 finish (with an abbreviated swim due to CRAZY currents!).
Julia: just returned from biking in Italy and Slovenia and was stronger than ever.
Jason: qualified for Nationals (again!) at Motivation Man with a 13th place finish overall!
Franny: On a relay team with Angela and Jodi — took 1st place at Motivation Man AND trade winds.

Way to go everyone! Super impressive all around!

Did you know about this?

Featured Athlete –
This month, we’re putting a unique spin on the Featured Athlete section. “Married to a newbie triathlete,” a Q&A with Rachel Tibor (wife of Sean Tibor)

Q. When Sean said he wanted to not only get into triathlon but train for a half ironman, what did you think?
A. I was all for it!  When we moved to Florida 2.5 years ago we swore we would be more active and avoid the ritual hibernation we often went into up north.  This was a perfect way to take advantage of where we live.  I’m also a believer in setting stretch goals vs. easily achievable ones – it means that the possibility of attaining those goals are there, you just have to work harder, but the result is greater.

Q. How different was it than you anticipated once training got going?
A. Initially there was little structure to training which I personally believe made it harder for him and for me in terms of setting expectations.  Once he started picking up momentum and building a strict training schedule, it was much easier to manage our time.

Q. How do you think it affected Sean?
A. This is an interesting question.  When training first started I was worried about him.  His mood changed and he would sleep for 3-4 hours after a workout – basically killing our weekends and time together after work.  Now this is not a plug for you and how fabulous you are Dara, but… Once he started training with you, I got my husband back in a week’s time.  Putting him on a strict schedule to build momentum, stay hydrated and maintain proper nutrition made all the difference for his mood and ability to function happily and normally after an intense workout.

Q. How did it affect your relationship? (If this is too personal, I apologize and please skip it).
A. I’m not sure it did – mainly because after being married for 8 years we understand each other and how to communicate.  Setting expectations on both sides up front was key.  Talking through everything on his end from time commitment, to the cost of “playing” the game, to what it might mean in terms of contribution to work around the house is critical.  On my end, had to do the same – communicating what I was and wasn’t ok with.  Then comes the fun part…you have to compromise where there are conflicts 🙂

Q. For many spouses it is hard to adjust to all the training time- early mornings, late workouts, long weekend workouts, the total tunnel vision about training and racing. How did you manage this?
A. Truer words have never been spoken.  I swear mistresses aren’t as demanding as competitive distance triathlon training.  Having my own major projects came in handy.  While he was training, I was working full time, gutting and renovating our entire house, as well as in my first – third trimesters of pregnancy.  That said, he also made sure to be there for me when I needed him and make time for whatever needed to be done, even if it was just doing errands on a Saturday.

Q. What did you do while he was out training on the weekends?
A. I was working with contractors, visiting stone distribution centers, negotiating with the kitchen guy, picking out paint colors, etc.  You have to have a hobby – and it has to be just as all consuming.  Knitting is great, but unless you’re launching your own knitting business, it’s not enough.

Q. How do you like all those protein shakes? Haha.
A. All I have to say to this is I never knew a person could consume so much food.  The man ate 2 breakfasts before heading to work.  That can’t be normal.

Q. What has been the hardest thing to get used to?
A. The limited topic of conversation.  You’re so proud of them for the daily accomplishments and all the hard work they’re putting in, yet, at times it’s the equivalent of your friends going on an amazing vacation and showing you their reel of 1,000,000 pictures….for hours.  For you triathletes out there, please recognize we love we with all our hearts, but sometimes, just maybe, we have to talk about something else.

Q. What advice would you give to other spouses and partners of newbie triathletes?
A. 1. Let them know that you support them, you love them, and are proud of them.  Not many people can do what they are doing, and we need to celebrate that.

A2. Get a hobby that is just as all consuming.  It can get lonely and boring fast if you have nothing to do.  It can also be super fun to throw yourself in head first into something you would normally not have the time to do.

A3. Make sure you state your needs up front: You get at least 2-3 “I need you cards” that you can cash in, and it either means they skip a workout or do it at another time, without any complaints 🙂

A4. My caveat to number 3: Recognize that if they drop everything any time you need them, they will not be training properly and could get injured before, during, or after the race.  Use your cards wisely and try not to do it on a 22 mile training run.  It’s a lot better for them physically and mentally to miss a 3 mile short run, bike or swim, than a milestone workout.

A5. Triathalon training can be all consuming like a child.  Set date night once a week.  You’ll be thankful for it.

A6. This goes for both parties: Do not sugar coat when you communicate the commitment it takes or what you will have to sacrifice to accomplish your goals and get your needs met. Also recognize that if you are deviating from the original plan, you need to re-communicate your goals and the changes you are expecting or experiencing and make sure you both are aligned.

A7. Use this as a time to get in shape too!  Try a kickboxing class, yoga class, or get a trainer. If you can manage it, why not?

A8. Have fun with this whole process.  Learn to be an expert spectator.  Find the best spot on the route to cheer them on and know no one will judge you if you have a beer in your hand while you do it.

Like I said, they’re doing something amazing.  When Sean finished his first Olympic distance race I was so happy and proud I was in tears.  But that could also be because I was hormonal and found out I was pregnant the next day.  Who knows? 🙂


About TriCoachDara

I have been a multi-sport coach since 2001 and during that time I have trained hundreds of athletes for whom triathlon, running, biking, fitness and health must fit into very busy lives. My clientele includes lawyers, doctors, full time mothers, office workers, school teachers, nurses, and entrepreneurs – and every one of them has a jam packed schedule. My goal is to help each athlete strike a balance between training to their maximum potential and balancing the various other aspects of their lives, as well as to provide all the information they need to perform at their best and stay healthy and injury free.
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