Endurance Hydration

I have been talking on the show a lot lately about a couple of things; one (of course) is the never-ending saga of my inability to shed the weight I carry, and the next has been my issue with the second half of my racing, notably the way I feel after the bike portion of a triathlon or duathlon. Running off the bike is always a tough thing to get used to, but my issues go way beyond tough. It has been difficult to explain it to people how it feels but suffice it to say that there is just no energy in my legs. At all. I have tried to “power through it”, thinking that if I force myself to RUN it will clear out and the body will kick in. It doesn’t work. I try very hard to get my legs moving and they Just … Won’t … Go.

In prepping for the podcast I have been reading up on hydration (1), the effects of dehydration, and training and may be hitting on some things. The first being that I am nowhere near drinking the amount of fluid they are prescribing in the material I am reading. Not even in the ballpark.

I have done in the past the normal testing to check my sweat loss, and it normally comes out to about 41.3 ounces in half an hour (actually 35 minutes). This is come to by this formula (done about two weeks ago on a 2.2-mile run):

  • Starting weight of 277.0 – End weight of 275.4 = loss of 1.6 pounds
  • 1.6 pounds x 15 ounces (per pound) = 24 ounces of fluid loss + 0 fluid intake = 24 total ounces
  • 24 ounces / 35 minutes total time (or .58) = 41 ounces

Let me be crystal here … I took in NOTHING

And this was a short training run … so I went back and looked at my last duathlon in 2016

I drank 24 ounces of water mixed with 2 scoops of UCAN on my 90-minute drive … and nothing more before the race started. I drank … NOTHING … during the 1-mile first leg. In T1 I took one sip of water and got on the bike. During the bike I drank 2 times from a 24-ounce bottle, so let’s call that 4 ounces (Gatorade Endurance). In T2 I took one more sip, grabbed a handheld water bottle (20 ounces) and started the second run (3.1 miles). During this run, I drank at each water station (about 2 ounces each time for a total of 4 ounces) and about half of the bottle.

So, for a race that took me 2:09:32, I took in a total of ~44 ounces …

I did not weigh before and after, and was probably, according to my HR, working at a much higher level than the training run. So that means, using the training as a guide, I was under hydrated by about 148 ounces (192 ounces required [48 ounces x 4] – 44 ounces taken in).

Maybe this is the reason the run is bonking? It would make some sense since the person I trained with did much better at these races and drinks all the time.

I can also used a recent Saturday run as an example. I was carrying the same bottle with me and drank maybe three times in 4.5 miles. Granted I was staying in Z2 the whole way, but I have a tendency to NOT drink enough, and this may be the underlying cause.

The other issue is daily, ongoing hydration. I always thought I was drinking enough water, but according to the reading, I am well under the requirement. It states that daily fluid requirements are 2.5 to 3 L a day, and to average 8 ounces each hour. Now, 8 ounces is nothing really is it? One or two gulps and it is gone, so would/should be pretty easy to handle. I do carry around water each day, or have access to it, but I am bad at actually drinking it.

(1) Sports Nutrition for Endurance Athletes by Monique Ryan

The Racing Equation

We cannot always be podium finishers, especially within the readership of this blog or listeners of the podcast. Yes, we do have a few that finish high in the standings at each race, but the majority of us are middle of the pack to the back of the pack people, so measuring our success or failures based solely on where we finish is not reasonable.

So, how DO we gauge or successes?

That’s a big question, isn’t it?

There are some, even among the back of the pack groups, that feel starting a race, or just completing a race, is not enough to label it a success, and there might be a few more reading this that agree on that issue.

I am not one of them.

In the world of endurance sports the method by which you can gauge your successes, at least in the beginning, should be based more on an internal measurement than an external one. What I mean to say is that your success should be based on what YOU are capable of and the manner and effort by which you train or race. Only YOU know the effort you have given correct?

Let’s be honest…

You know when you have not trained enough for a race or event. You also know when you have not given 100% of yourself during the race. You may not admit to it openly, but you know it in your head. Personally, I have no trouble admitting when I have not given my all. I am VERY self-aware in this area. This has normally been met with graciousness from people, but on occasion, it has been met with scorn. I can’t let that deter me. Everyone has detractors; someone that doesn’t see what they’re doing as healthy or useful.

So, the bottom line here is that when you are racing and training, the only person you should be competing against is yourself, your history, your previous best effort or time. That is ALL that matters in our world.

But IS there an equation? A Race Equation?

I think there is, and it was pointed out to me by a long time listener, reader, and friend, and occasional co-host.

DFL > DNF > DNS

There it is, plain and simple, but let’s break it down:

DFL = Dead F***G Last

I have been here many times, and though some think I am OK with it, I am NEVER OK with it. I accept it, especially if I know I have given everything I had at that moment, but no one likes being last. Being last sucks. It’s soul-draining. And it too easily becomes a habit.

DNF = Did Not Finish

Just a step below a DFL is the dreaded DNF. It means you toed the line, started with the pack, and then for whatever reason you were not able to finish the course. Most of the time this is due to a timed cut-off that you could not make, but there are times where you get injured, overheat, sick, etc. that also causes you to call it a day. Pulling yourself out of a race is a hard decision. It’s a fleeting thought on some days, but one you can push aside, except for that one day where the mind and/or the body just isn’t cooperating. When I started this in 2010 I took great pride in the fact that I had never had a DNF. Every race that I started I had finished. Then came Disney in 2014. A race I was not ready to run due to an injury, but one that I was determined to start. The balloon ladies caught me at mile 8.2 and I got on the bus and rode back to the start. I still was handed a medal, which I did not keep, and was deeply disappointed in myself, but I could live with it because I know I was not prepared and it was the result I had expected.

Which leads us to the final, and bottom, rung.

DNS = Did Not Start

Before I start on this one, let me be clear. There are MANY times that pulling out of an event is warranted. Injury, emergencies, etc. come to mind immediately. A DNS is a VERY hard decision. It’s not about the money you have already paid or the hours of training you have put in leading up to the event, but about the admission of defeat, and the knowledge that, for whatever reason, you could not even attempt it for fear of further injury. The decision to take a DNS is not one that is taken lightly. I have had a few, and they were never easy decisions. What amazed me most was in 2017 at Infinitus was my decision to NOT take a DNS and attempt the event knowing that due to injury and under training I had a serious chance of both not finishing AND getting further injured, and how a couple of people looked at that decision as a failure, telling me that I not have tried at all. I don’t get that mentality. I’ll be honest and say that the thought of not traveling and attempting that event was very close to becoming a DNS, but I went and tried, and had the result I thought I would. A DNS is a horrible thing to endure because it will weigh on your mind for a long time. In my case, two years because I am traveling back there in 4 months to try it again. Not the same distance, but I have to complete this race.

So remember, we all have goals and ambitions, but the race equation is different for all of us.

Be the Milk

I was reading, and by reading I mean listening to audible while driving, to the Stephen King collection called “Bazaar of Bad Dreams”. A collection of short stories, which I really enjoy from him, where he narrates the introduction to each one. I have always liked it when King takes a moment and describes what he was thinking, where the thought came from, etc. He always makes me think about why I don’t write things down more as they come to me. How many good ideas have been lost to the cosmos because I didn’t take a moment and scribble it down somewhere?

Anyway, before one particular story he began talking about how his mother had a saying for everything, and how one specific one always stood out;

Milk always takes on the flavor of what it’s next to in the icebox

This is something I have heard from my own parents and grandparents, so it automatically strikes a chord in me, but the inner meaning began to worm its way into my psyche as I drove home that night.

We, as athletes and coaches, are a lot like milk. We take on the flavor of what we are reading, who we are listening to, what people we are around while we train. It’s inevitable as humans to not have this happen.

The trick, as they say, is not to become the onion if you are the milk.

Now, what do I mean by that?

Humans are adaptable. We take on the cloak of what is around us in order to survive. Over millions of years, we evolved to meet the climates where our ancestors found themselves. What we, as athletes and coaches, need to do is adapt to the things we learn and the people we train with or coach.

The danger is taking on too much of the things around us so that we lose what is our own essence, and our own belief system. Most of us want to be liked, so we tend to become what we need to become in order to be accepted and liked by the people we are around. Joseph Campbell’s theory of Masks speaks to this in great detail. We assume the mask of what is accepted, but underneath we are the same person we have always been, and eventually, if we don’t tend to the real person, the mask cracks. This is how women end up married to abusive men when nothing, while they were dating, showed that he was abusive. Eventually the mask he was wearing cracks and the monster emerges.

The trick is, then, to assume what is around you, take it all in, but never lose or hide who you are as a coach or an athlete. No matter how many onions are sitting next to you in the icebox, never try to be an onion, because no matter how you taste, you are still at your core, milk.

As I am working through my coaching certification I was hit with things being taught that I knew I would eventually come across; nutrition and the belief still being held by most dietitians that an athlete’s daily food intake should be 60-75% carbs.

Big sigh as I read this, and I started to react, but then it became clear to me that it really didn’t matter what they were teaching. The lessons (and most of the coaches) are geared toward elite level athletes. Not overweight or obese clients. For them, this level of carb intake might be correct because they burn constantly. What I do know is that this type of eating will not work for overweight athletes trying to lose weight. I know this not only because of my own experience, but because of studies I have read, books on the subject, and people I have trained with over the years.

And it doesn’t matter …. it just doesn’t …

I will take in what they are teaching, answer the questions as they taught them in the final test, then throw it out once I attain my certification. As part of the venture, you are asked to develop your own coaching philosophy; are you an LLD type of guy, or maybe an LLDLD person? Do you believe carb loading works? Are you a paleo/wild diet/Asprey/Tortorich/Abel follower, or do you agree with Rich Roll? Some love Gatorade, while some prefer plain water.

All of these decisions make up who you are as a coach. I am still developing that, but I know that I want clients who are new to the sport, are overweight and feel they cannot lose it, who think that a triathlon, or a half marathon, is out of their reach. Clients that feel they are too old to start something new or have too many medical issues. These are my people.

I have met many people since becoming more of a presence online. I became a podcast host because I met Andrew Weaver through another show and then ventured off to do a spin-off of that show on my own. I have had arguments with people on those forums that I eventually ended up agreeing with, and I think I have had the same effect on some others. I have had to accept that no matter how much science you throw at people there are some that will always believe in carb loading, ice baths, and Greenfield followers who think bio-hacking is normal.

I have to accept that and just stay the course, but at the same time keep an open enough mind that might come to agree with some of them in the future.

That … I am still working on. 🙂

Jelly Roll

There are many good things about training. The first of them is the feeling of accomplishment at the end of a long ride, or finally being able to breathe in the water, or running under a 12:00 pace for a 5k. All accomplishments I have seen over the last 7 seasons, but along with these good things, there are usually corresponding not so good things.

I don’t say bad things because in the grand scheme they are not “bad”.

The first thing that pops to mind is the weight loss. Yes, I know … those that have read my stuff for a while have heard me bitch and moan about my inability to lose weight, or at least lose weight consistently (because going from 313 to 276 is a loss). The weight comes off, grudgingly, slowly, pound by pound, only to inch back up on occasion as if my body is telling me “don’t get too full of yourself, buddy, I control you still”.

But what I have noticed is a whole new issue.

When I was at my heaviest I took some pride (believe it or not … amazing how a person can find pride in negative things) in that my belly was not “flabby”. I carried all of my weight in my gut (not uncommon for a guy) but I still had decent muscle mass in chest and legs, so my midsection, though huge, was HARD. Tight as a drum. And here’s the thing … now that some of the weight has come off, the stomach has become flabby. And it is refusing to tighten up.

This is my body again saying:

“See? we will allow you to lose weight but we will keep this jelly roll on you so that you remember we were here!”

The body can be a real bastard.

So, anyway, on another point …

Throughout the years I have ridden three different road bikes (a borrowed LeMonde, a Scott Speedster, and now my Litespeed C1), a mountain bike (a refurbished Giant frame), and a Scott Plasma 20 TT bike (now sold to a new home). There are differences, and in the course of these years I have come up with a list for riding … lessons learned if you will. They are:

    • It is much easier to stand on a TT bike than a road bike. I am not sure why this is … maybe just the way your body sits on it.
    • If you plan on racing and riding in hills, invest in a compact crankset and an 11-28 cassette. Once I changed my Litespeed over it made a world of difference.
    • All bikes must be named and all names should show at least a little bit of creativity (i.e. naming a Bianchi “Bianchi” or a black bike “Blackie” is … boring). My bikes are/were: Scott Speedster was “Mario”. Litespeed C1 is “Buzz” (like Buzz Litespeed. OK, I thought it was funny). Scott Plasma 20 was “Gunner” and the Giant mountain bike is “Buster” because he busts my balls going over rough terrain and jumps.
    • It’s fun riding in aero going downhill (even if it’s a bit scary), though the control, or feeling of control, you have on a road bike makes it a bit less scary.
    • Love Bugs taste better than grasshoppers. This might just be a palate issue.
    • In that vein, learn to ride with mouth closed and breathe, Nuke Style, through my eyelids.
    • There is something deeply gratifying getting off the bike and having sweat drip off you like a river. This may be a Florida thing, but sweating like that is … manly.
    • Braking takes longer on a Tri Bike … adjust accordingly. Just trust me on that one.

So … things are coming along. So many people helping me, from Team in Training Alumni’s to Meghan Collins-Fanning, to Facebook followers, and to listeners of the podcast. They have been awesome, and when the motivations wane, as it tends to do, they are the ones that pull you out and push you to the next level. This has been an awesome adventure so far.

I just wish I had started sooner.

Injuries and Adrenal Fatigue – Can You Train Through Either?


Author’s Note: I am not a doctor, nor do I claim to be. Information in this post is from my own research from as reputable sites as I could find. If you have better information, please feel free to share, as long as you cite your sources.


Athletes can be a stubborn bunch. Even those of us that should know better, that coach or advise others, tend to not follow the best practices when it comes to injuries.

You know who I am talking about.

When we are training for a specific goal, a target race, the only “A Race” on our schedule, nothing will deter us from those long training days, the early morning sprints around the neighborhood, the sneaking out of work early to get a swim in before a scheduled bike ride. Miles or Time in training equals success on race day, so the inverse must also be true, basically, that time or miles lost during the training period costs us on trace day. We will run through small aches and pains to the point that we are hobbled, then after an evening of ice, compression, and elevation, get right back out there the next day and do it again.

The trick is when is it time to say “enough”?

We are a short-sighted bunch. We either refuse to see the big picture or are so narrowly focused on the end event that we just don’t see it. We only see “today” and do not take into account what happens tomorrow if we continue to train through an injury. A slight tweak in an Achilles is run through until it changes from a “hurt” to an “injury”. When I played football the coach would always ask us as we lay writhing on the ground if we were hurt or injured. Back in the late 70’s when I played this was a HUGE distinction. If you are hurt, you can play, and if you can’t play, then you are replaced, and possibly never getting back on the field. This happened to me my last year of playing against New Smyrna Beach (damn them ‘Cudas). I was chasing a running back (#44 – will never forget that number) down the sideline and leaped at him just as he was about to score, grabbing him by the back of the shoulder pads (something that is illegal in today’s game). I snapped him backward (though not in time since he did cross the goal line) and I went flying into the spectator area, which was very close to the sidelines. I rolled a number of times before coming to a sudden stop against the concrete. When I got up I felt that my knee was off, but I limped back into the huddle for the extra point attempt. Back in these days, there was very little kicking, so they went for 2, using the same running back and I met him coming through the middle of the line, just as he planted his helmet directly to the same kneecap.

I couldn’t get up. My knee would not bend. A couple of teammates helped me to the sideline and sat me on the bench. My Defensive Backs coach came over and asked if I was OK. I told him “I can’t bend my leg”. He shook his head at me, swore, and yelled “Ingram … get in there for Harris” and walked away. I sat there for a few minutes, scared to pull my pants up to see what was there before the trainer came over. I leaned against the trainer we had as he pulled up my pants. My kneecap was about an inch off center. He looked at me and said “grit your teeth” which I did as he grabbed the knee and pushed it back in place, telling me it was “just dislocated” and would be OK. “Just ice it”. Since we lost that game (we played on Thursday nights) we had a practice the next day. I hobbled into my head coach’s office and told him I didn’t think I could go. All the coaches looked at each other, and then he said “fine … sit on the bench” without ever looking at me. I walked away, hearing them laughing when I closed the door, and never saw the starting lineup again.

So, when I feel a tweak, it is my first instinct to try to push through it. One day, to me, could mean not making the lineup, in this case, not starting the race. When I hear of others that have a nagging issue I am the first one to tell them to sit out, to rest, that losing one training day is better than losing the whole year, but I am the worst culprit. I am not alone. I know coaches who say the same thing to me yet are out running or biking on injuries themselves. As I said .. we are our own worst enemies.

Sometimes the injuries are evident, like a sprained ankle, a plantar fasciitis issue, a swollen knee, but often they are not, especially when we are dealing with true adrenal fatigue (AF). Once your cortisol levels drop to zero, there is no recovering from that other than taking time off. You cannot “train through it”. The issue is recognizing AF is not always easy, because it can feel amazingly like just being tired, or over-trained. So you take a day off, maybe two, and then hit it as hard as you can once more. And it is just as bad, or worse, than before.


What is Adrenal Fatigue?


From the Adrenal Fatigue website, AF is defined as a collection of signs and symptoms that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level, most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep but it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger. You may look and act relatively normal with adrenal fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People experiencing adrenal fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

Adrenal fatigue can wreak havoc with your life. In the more serious cases, the activity of the adrenal glands is so diminished that you may have difficulty getting out of bed for more than a few hours per day. With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

Pretty scary stuff right? I wonder how many of you reading this right now are walking around with it and never knew it? Dr. John Tinterra, a medical doctor who specialized in low adrenal function, said in 1969 that he estimated that approximately 16% of the public could be classified as severe, but that if all indications of low cortisol were included, the percentage would be more like 66%.

And this was in 1969 … you know … BEFORE the internet, 24/7/365 work days, terrorism, the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, Donald Trump, etc. Imagine what the numbers would be today??

The problem is this; although adrenal exhaustion is a real medical condition that can be measured through blood tests, adrenal “fatigue” is not. There are no scientific facts to support the theory that long-term mental, emotional, or physical stress drains the adrenal glands and causes many common symptoms, and there is no test that can identify adrenal fatigue (http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/myth-vs-fact/adrenal-fatigue).

Eric Metcalf, MPH writes (and reviewed by Dr. Brunilda Nazario) on WebMD that:

Adrenal fatigue is a term that’s used by some to say that fatigue and other symptoms are caused by a poorly working adrenal gland in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress. But it’s not a proven medical condition. Your adrenal glands make hormones. One of these is cortisol, which helps your body deal with stress. According to the adrenal fatigue theory, if your life is too stressful, your adrenal glands may not pump out enough hormones, leading to a wide variety of symptoms. But there’s no evidence to support this theory. (http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/features/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real)

Robert Vigersky, MD, a past president of the Endocrine Society, says the symptoms are very common in people in general. Though people often blame their hormonal glands, such as the adrenals or thyroid, for their tiredness, Vigersky says in many cases fatigue is due to common problems such as:

  • Poor sleep habits
  • Poor diet
  • Stress at work or home
  • Depression

All of these can affect your energy level without involving your adrenal glands. Fatigue is also a symptom of many diseases such as anemia, arthritis, diabetes, and heart failure, says Janet McGill, MD a hormone specialist at Washington University in St. Louis.

I know this … I fit into every symptom of adrenal fatigue but mine is due to 2 of the 4 (maybe 3 of the four) common problems, in addition to having psoriatic arthritis and no thyroid due to cancer. Adrenal Fatigue is a new buzzword (much like Celiac, where people want to be Gluten Free, but most are not actual Celiac diagnosed … ) so when someone throws that at you … take it for what it’s worth and get checked out before buying supplements. Do your homework, and do what is best for you using an intelligent mind. Lots of information is at your fingertips these days. There’s no excuse for being misinformed. And remember, just because the medical establishment doesn’t recognize something as a disease doesn’t mean it is not real (for example Fibromyalgia and Thyroid Disease were not recognized for a long time, and the effects of Low T is not agreed upon as well).

And if you’re tired … how about resting?

Just a thought …

The Best Way to Lose Weight

Disclaimer: This is one of those posts that people reading either scream “YES!!!!” or scream “What an Idiot!!!”. Let me start off right away by stating this … if you disagree with anything I am about to talk about, or if it doesn’t jive with what you have seen or experienced, let’s take it at that and move on. Everything … and I mean everything … I write about on this site or on my various social outlets are an n=1 issue. 

I will start by saying this … I have been having a hard time with my weight again … and it has gotten to the point where I have had to take a hard look at what I have been doing vs. what I was doing when my weight was dropping in 2012-2013. After reading through my past logs and postings, and comparing them to what my current practice is, I have found some large differences, and the bottom line is that it all comes down to self-sabotage. I knew what worked in the past, and I have actively gone against what worked, for whatever idiotic reasoning has been in my head. It is time to halt this train and get my head straight again, and this posting is part of that, so bear with me as I share what I have found works and doesn’t work, for me.

The Best Cardio for Losing Fat

Here it is in a nutshell. If you are training for a long course event, say a marathon or long course triathlon (70.3 and up), you are going to have a hard time losing weight. These events and burning fat do not go together. Long form cardio is not effective as a foundation for a weight loss program. Many people and sources have told me this over the past 8 years, from Vinnie Tortorich personally, to books by various authors, but I have fought this concept. I have fought it at my own risk. When my training went from sprint triathlons and half marathons to marathons and 70.3 triathlons I started gaining weight again. Not only did I start gaining weight, I also started getting injured, and the heavier I got the closer I was to getting hurt at some point. A vicious circle.

So what is?

The exact opposite.

The first two years all I was doing was the sprint and Olympic triathlons, and my weight was dropping. My weight was dropping because my training program consisted of 20-mile bike rides vs. 40-50 mile rides. It consisted of swim workouts of 100 meter splits to “long sets” of 400 meters. Runs were 3 miles, not 6-10 miles.

And you know what else I was doing?

I was lifting weights.

But more on that in a little bit.

So when doing shorter, higher intensity, work I went from 303 pounds down to 235 pounds. Then I started adding distance events, marathons, 70.3’s, even attempting to train for a 140.6, and my weight started creeping up again. The most frustrating thing? I KNEW better.

So, What Should I DO to Lose Weight?

So if long course training should not be the foundation, what should be?

The exact opposite. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT). This means a short burst of energy with short breaks in between.

This means an hour bike ride that is broken up into bursts of 10 minute, out of the seat, sprinting followed by a 1-minute spin, and then hitting it again. This means 1:00 running as hard as you can and followed by a 30-second walk, and then going again. It means sets of 100-meter pool sprints with a 15-30 second rest in between while maintaining race pace as best you can throughout each set.

It also means WEIGHT training.

When I was going to Powerhouse with a co-worker at lunch a couple of years ago, my weight was dropping fast. AND I was getting stronger very quickly. When my psoriatic arthritis flared up for the first time I stopped going, and my weight has been a struggle ever since. I am starting to think that the foundation of a weight loss program should be strength training, even before HIIT. But it has to be done correctly.

I have a history of lifting. It started back in my days playing football and as a member of the weightlifting team, but continued well into my naval service as a way to escape the monotony of being at sea for 6-7 months at a time, and the funny thing is, the lessons that were taught to me back then are proving to still be the most effective.

Muscle hypertrophy is when the metabolic effect happens, and subsequently, weight loss occurs, so the idea is to get into that state and stay there. Hypertrophy happens when the muscle is under tension, so “time under tension” (TUT) is the key. What this normally means, for most people, is the following:

0 – 20 seconds – strength is being built
20 – 40 seconds – strength is being built with the beginning of muscle hypertrophy
40 – 70+ seconds – no strength is being built and the muscle hypertrophy is constant

So, if you load up a bar with 200 pounds and bench press it three times, you are building strength and strength only. If you load the same bar with 100 pounds and bench it to failure, say 30 times, you are into hypertrophy and are starting to burn fat. It’s the old “High Weight Low Rep” to get strong method. Still seems to work.

The additional point is TIBS, or “time in-between sets”. Most people in gyms take forever in-between a set. They lift the weight for 30 seconds, then talk, or text, for 4 minutes before doing the next set.

This accomplishes nothing.

In order to “keep the burn” on, your TIBS should be under 45 seconds.

OK, So I Need to Lift Weights … What Weights??

This is easy …

When you walk into a gym and see all the fancy equipment lining the walls … ignore them… and head straight back to the free weights.

I know that is scary because that’s where the monsters live, but trust me … you only need 5 exercises to gain strength and lose weight.

  • Bench Press
  • Dead Lift
  • Squat
  • Barbell Row
  • Overhead Press

Yes, there are machines where you can do these exercises, and in a pinch, they will work, but free weights not only give you the weight to lift, they also cause you to balance the weight, which makes it a better exercise all around. Machines take the “feel” from you.

When I was going to Powerhouse we split these 5 exercises into two workouts. They were:

  • Workout A: Squat, Bench Press, Barbell Row
  • Workout B: Squat, Overhead Press, Dead Lift

The key, as is true with most thing, is FORM. Make sure you have the form down before adding more and more weight to the bars (and one more reason to use free weights over machines). This might mean lifting only the bar itself, but in the long run, it will save you from injury. If you feel unsure about asking for help, YouTube (and Endurance for Everyone has our own channel HERE) has plenty of video’s showing form and function. Kelly Slater is a valuable tool on there.

So .. That’s ALL There Is?

Of course not. As I stated in the beginning, everyone is different, so feel free to play with this a bit. The core is sound, however. Long Course Training should not be your base for losing weight. You will end up frustrated and injured. I know this for a fact, even if I don’t practice what I preach.

You also MUST watch what you eat. Just like a computer, if you put crap in you will get crap results. Eat no processed food, including sugar and grains (I know I will get comments on that one). Naturally occurring sugar, like in fruits and vegetables, are fine but cut out the artificial sweeteners, the Dixie Crystals, etc. If you need carbs, then fine, but it doesn’t mean eating pasta unless you can lead me to a pasta tree.

I hope this helps some of you.

A Triathlon Primer

I have been asked many times about how I got started in triathlon, and more importantly, how would I recommend others getting started in the sport. I have written numerous times about what led me to triathlon, and my issues with each discipline as the last 8 seasons have unfolded, but it occurred to me that I have never put it all together in one post. I’ll attempt to do so with this one.

Being certified doesn’t mean I know anything more than I did before, but I have a pretty certificate now and I’m a bit lighter in the wallet

I earned my Ironman Coaching Certification in May 2016. That doesn’t mean I know anything more, but I have a pretty certificate now and I am a bit lighter in the wallet. I have a Masters in Public Administration and an MBA, along with a BA in Psychology and a certification in Six Sigma (green belt) and Lean Design. Everything I write about is taken from my personal first-hand knowledge and experience, with some additions from a few clients I have worked with the past two years. If your experience or knowledge differs from mine, more power to you. As you all know I come from a perspective of someone who has had cancer, was over 300 pounds at one point, and deals with psoriatic arthritis every day. I am not in this to “win races” and I more than likely will never see a podium, and I am OK with that, but that doesn’t mean you have to be the same way. I don’t even consider triathlons “races” anymore. A friend stated recently that he only calls them his “events” because the only person he is competing against is himself. I am trying to adopt that mindset.

The first thing I would tell you is to read … everything. Magazines, Nutrition Books, first-hand accounts like those of Macca and Wellington. Anything. Ingest everything about the sport.

Then promptly forget everything you read.

These are meant for elite levels and professionals. They will have little to no bearing on how you will train, how you will eat, or how you will race. Keep in mind that many of these athletes, especially the pro’s, are paid by companies to promote their products and gear. Have you ever actually seen a pro triathlete drink chocolate milk after a race? Didn’t think so. While the advice they write about is inspiring, they have the time and the paychecks to do the type of training they talk about. It has nothing to do with you. The biggest mistake I made/make and that I see others make is trying to gear their workouts to meet those they read in magazines, and this includes routines in magazines like Flex and Muscle & Fitness. They are at best personal workouts the pro’s use, and at worst cookie cutter routines. Don’t do them. Move on.

The Swim

Swimming, by FAR, is the discipline that causes the most anxiety, with veterans and especially newbies. Most triathletes do not come from the swimming discipline (though there are some) and you will find that the best swimmers are not those winning the events. Swimming also comprises only 2% of the total event (in most distances), so it often takes the back seat to bike and running. Do not underestimate it because of this reason.

This is a mistake.

While being a good swimmer will rarely put you on the podium, what it will do is set the tone for the race. Learning to swim efficiently is key to a good race, and learning to deal with the inevitable panic attack is even more important. A good swim, not necessarily a fast swim, will let you enter T1 with a clear head and not have to spend 3:00 of your precious time trying to get your head clear.

My training advice on swimming is to forget about the drills. One armed drill, closed fist, etc. will help you become a better and more efficient swimmer but you, as a beginner, need to swim … just swim. Use a race snorkel if needed to get your breathing down but concentrate your efforts on being comfortable swimming, especially open water (though never go into the open water alone. Always practice safety and if alone use one of THESE). Practice panic attacks. Learn how to get yourself through them. Have your partner grab you and pull you. It will serve you better than all the 100m kick drills combined. I will also say to become very comfortable in the pool before going to open water. Be able to swim 800m, 1600m, without stopping before going to the lake or beach.

All that being said, the race is always different from practice. Pre-race jitters will take their toll on you at some point, especially in the beginning, so breathe deep and try to stay calm and relaxed. When the race starts, count 30 seconds and then go into the water (if able to depending on the start methods), stay to the outside away from the fray. There will be bumping. People will grab you. Just move away and race YOUR race.

The Bike

The bike is the largest portion of the triathlon. You will be on your bike for HOURS in long course races, so anything you do regarding training should be geared toward that. Forget about speed. Speed will come. Your focus should be on getting your ass used to sitting on that seat for long periods of time. Period.

The other focus is to train like your race. If you are racing Chattanooga, for example, find hills and climb, climb, climb. If you’re racing Florida in Panama City, find long flats, get into aero position and stay there. If it is possible, try to ride the actual course (easy if you only race close to home). Those of us in Florida have trouble finding hills, but contrary to popular belief, Florida is not everywhere. In Central Florida head to San Antonio or Clermont. I would challenge anyone to ride Clermont, for instance, and still try to claim Florida is flat.

Nutrition is also important during this phase, as you will be, like I said, on the bike a long time. I personally cannot handle solid food while training long and hard. My stomach cannot handle it. When you are in full training mode the blood in your body is being routed to your muscles, leaving very little, if any, available for such little things like digestion. Ever hear triathletes, and especially runners, complain about GI issues while training? Now you know why. But everyone is different. I cannot handle sugar so I don’t eat it. I would argue your body really doesn’t need sugar (especially those downing multiple packets of Gel during a sprint race or a 5K), but I recognize some think they need it so I will leave it at that. I have resorted to Coke during a grueling session where I bonked, and it does work, but once you start throwing sugar in your body you have to keep feeding it.

It’s like a fire.

If you want a fire to burned fast and hot you throw pine needles on it, and you keep throwing pine needles on it to keep it going. If you want the fire to burn not as hot, but last a long time, you throw on a log. If you just MUST have carbs, try a product like UCAN in your water bottle. It’s a super starch (a lot like corn starch) that gives you the bump you need but doesn’t spike your insulin, so doesn’t affect you like the sugar does. Not the best-tasting stuff in the world (flavor it with sports drink) but I have found it works and works well. Plus Meb likes it so it HAS to be good right??

A quick note on Nutrition. Your body burns about 1g to 1.5g of carb per minute when in physical activity. That is 60-90 grams per hour. Your body is able to store about 2,000 calories of carbohydrate (400 grams in skeletal muscle, 90-110 grams in the liver, and roughly 25 grams circulating through the bloodstream for a total of 550-600 grams). Burning 60-90 grams per hour means about 10-12.5 hours. Replenishing carbs at a higher rate than your body can burn means it will SIT in your GUT and cause Gastral Distress. Get out of the “I need carbs” mindset.

And one last thing … learn how to change a flat

… the back tire too.

Seriously.

The Run

By reading my blog, I am going to assume that most of you are heavy, or at least used to be heavy, so you will all know this one simple truth: the run hurts more than any other discipline. Light people look at me like I have three heads when I say this to them. They LOVE the run. The run to them is the best part of the triathlon. But for the heavy triathlete, the run can be deflating, and painful. My most recent race was a good example. I killed the swim, did well on the bike, but because I hammered my hardest on the bike the run was done. My HR was pegged in Zone 5 and would not come down until mile 1.5. In a sprint, where the run is only 3.1 miles, the race that looked promising was one of my slowest.

Pushing through a run when feeling pain is not the right way to go

The thing is this, the run is an evil that must be done, and must be practiced, but nothing ravages the body like running … even if you’re a little rubber person. It jams the feet, ankles, and knees, all of which is multiplied 10 fold if you’re overweight, and the kicker is this; nothing will make you lose weight faster than running. The trick is finding the method that works for you and sticking with it. I have found from trial and many errors that pushing through a run when feeling pain is not the right way to go. I have also been accused of not pushing hard enough on my runs, and there is some truth to that. I have a fear of injury, because I know an injury in running will affect everything else, so I plan ahead a run/walk pace and I stick to it, even if I feel I can push harder (until the very end, of course. Once I see the finish line I move as fast as I can).

My training advice goes along with George Sheehan’s advice, that training should be done according to time and not miles. Sheehan never ran more than 15 miles to train for a marathon. There have been a few recent articles written stating that a 20 mile training run actually does more harm than good for the majority of runners, the basis is that the laws of diminishing returns hit at around 2.5 to 3 hours (meaning the risk of injury after that outweighs the increase in strength, which is minimal). This was, of course, met with a great discussion on boards and social media because, well, how DARE someone challenge conventional wisdom.

So that’s my view on getting started. Let me leave you, though, with a few of my extra thoughts:

Focusing on your weakness in training is fine, but where people (myself included) go wrong is that they don’t adjust the rest of their training to meet the new need. If you do 2 hours of swimming, 5 hours of running, and 7 hours of biking a week for a total of 14 hours and decide that your swimming needs work so you add another 2 hours, now your total training is 16. Your body can only handle so much stress and will become overworked. Focusing on one discipline is fine, but adjust accordingly.

Race … as much as you can afford to. Training is fine but nothing prepares you better than actually racing.

Find easier races to start. If you’re in Florida a great sprint triathlon to try is in Crystal River (400m/15miles/3miles). The course is flat and fast. For more of a challenge in the Sprint Category try Clermont Summer Series (400m/12miles/3.1miles). The hills will get ya!! As far as a 70.3 I would recommend Ironman Augusta (even though it’s a branded race) if you can get to it, just because the swim is “current aided”, or the HITS series in Ocala or Naples.

I hope this post was helpful. As I stated in the beginning, it is only my point of view. I am certain there will be disagreements (especially about the sugar thing … people seem to really get upset about that for some reason) but I have found, as a Fat Slow Triathlete, these things seem to hold true. Please share your thoughts (as long as they are constructive), and join us for discussions on this and other Endurance Sports on the podcast Endurance for Everyone.