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 …

Dead Zones

One of the hardest parts of being an adult-onset athlete is learning when to back off. We have become so ingrained to sit on our asses for years upon years, that when we do find the energy, the willpower, the need, to get up and start moving, the very thought of sitting back on that couch is anxiety producing. It scares us. This is a hard thing to explain to those who have never been on the “other side”, who has always been active. Taking a day off to them seems easy, and welcomed. When I have a recovery day on the schedule, especially on a weekend day like Saturday, I spend the whole day fidgety. The mere act of sitting still, relaxing, taking it easy is enough to throw me into a panic attack. I get images of scales going past the 300-pound mark again. Images of not being able to get up that hill the next day. Just typing this is making me antsy.

I will find reasons to prove my point as well, even if some are concocted.

“Took a day off did you? Well, you gained .6 pounds because of that, fella! Get your fat ass back on the road!!”

Our inner voices can be very insensitive at these times.

And we listen to these voices.

“We have lost dozens of pounds yet see in ourselves the same, self-loathing behemoth we were 5 years ago.”

It never goes away.

We can look at pictures of us before and now, and see … SEE … the difference and yet it makes no difference to us in our heads. A day off is giving in to the monster, the 300 pound beast inside me that wants, so badly, to win … at all costs.

So … when I struggled through 2016, into 2017, and now facing 2019 with injury after injury, along with new and exciting medical issues erupting, and with it some MORE meds to take, I feel like I am at my wit’s end. I was not sure in recently if I actually cared enough anymore to keep going. I was having a crisis of faith, in a way, and was about to give in to Rick (my inner voice has a name) and let the fat guy back out. I went from a low of 238 pounds in January 2014 back to 278 pounds. Rick is back. And He is angry.

I need help.

The first thing I needed was to get a grip on was my health and injuries. Normal, and I say normal in the most positive way, coaches spend time on your workouts and training plans. I needed more. I needed someone to look at what I could do, what I have done, and what I can do, and try to help me (I say “try” because I am very hard-headed at times) work through it in a logical manner. This is how I found Meghan Fanning at Zendurance Now. I had “met” Meghan through a few online groups I was part of, so when I was rambling on about what my issues were, and she started chiming in, I asked her onto the old podcast to discuss injury management. Once talking to her with Andrew on the show I felt like she understood the issues I was having (as well as Jennifer) so I contacted her about coaching us, and she agreed. Meghan is “Up North”, so the coaching is via email and Skype sessions, but what I like about her is that she tells you what she thinks, point-blank, but not to the point that she’ll tell you not to do something if you really want to do it. An example is the Disney Marathon in 2015. I knew I wasn’t ready, she knew it was probably a mistake, but she gave me some pointers and told me to just take the race as it comes and not to be afraid to pull off if I had to. I did end up DNF’ing that race (the first time I had ever DNF’ed a race), but I felt supported, even in that failure. That is what makes her a good coach. She may not like or agree with something, but she listens and attempts to work around the issue without getting me killed.

Unless you count Infinitus. I do think she was trying to get me killed there.

So, the body was taken care of, but that’s the easy part. The mind is the hard part because I have spent 55 years screwing my head up as much as possible without actually tipping over to insanity. I have been told a few times, and once very recently, that one of my strengths is my willingness to look inward and mess with my inner doctrines. This is not something most people can do, especially men, or so I am being told. I find it interesting to be honest, which is why my undergraduate degree is in psychology. I find the way people think fascinating, but it’s easy to look at others and find their … not faults I think … wrong word … find their roadblocks. Each of us has the capability to be great. It is there. The hard part is unlocking the barriers that prevent us from becoming great. Being honest with ourselves, being Self Aware, is important in this. It is not self-deprecating to refer to myself as a Fat Slow Triathlete. All of the parts of that title are true. I am Fat, I am Slow, and I am a Triathlete. So what’s the problem?

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” has little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It is meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult-onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

A large portion of my change was based on getting my life together. By that, I mean deciding that enough is enough and making the effort to change your way of thinking and living. Although hard, it is not as difficult as you may think, once you get the initial “lethargy” over with as your body is readjusting. The hard part is facing the shaking heads, the tuts, and clicks of tongues, from people who at first ask you how you’re losing so much weight, and then when you tell them how, proceed to tell you how that is not going to work, despite having proof right in front of them to the contrary. It is amazing to me the reaction you get from people, especially those closest to you when you try to share with them what you have been doing to change. It’s as if they take offense to the fact that you are improving yourself like they are being personally attacked. They tell you all sorts of things: You’re neglecting your family! You’re obsessed and that is not healthy! You’re being a zealot!

They don’t see the full picture.

If you are struggling, I wholeheartedly recommend seeking out a coach, whether it be a fitness coach or a life coach. Do your due diligence and find one that matches your personality or fills a need you have in your life. I use joke a lot about how Tara Newman would ask me blunt questions like “well when you finish an Ironman, do you expect to be different?” … reminds me of something my grandfather would have said. My grandfather was my first “life coach”. He had his faults, as do we all, but he had this old world Italian way of looking at things that cut through the bullshit and hit the nail on the head. I have striven, in my life, to be like he was, at least in that manner. He has been gone for over 25 years now and I have been missing that person in my life ever since. So after struggling for that long with no one, I am starting, at this advanced stage, to fill that void with people I think like, act like, or wish to emulate in some way.

Andrew and I used to talk on the show about self-destruction or holding back just enough so that you had a reason for not being at the top of your game in training or in a race. It may not seem related but I think it is. A part of me was destroyed in that situation, and I am not sure that I ever fully recovered. There is always a sense of “distrust” in me about relationships, a stand-offishness that allows me the ability to not be hurt if the relationship ends. I have been doing better. Suffice to say, though, that some can be traced to my inner shittiness and cold-hearted side at the most inopportune moments. I can be an asshole to the nth degree at times. Being aware of it doesn’t make it right though. So, as far as training goes, it’s that part of me that just assumes failure.

Just wrap me up now

Pain is NOT Weakness Leaving the Body

At its core what is “pain”?

Pain is your body telling you that something is wrong. It is not a weakness. A weakness is when you have NO pain and your brain is telling you to stop, because you’re bored, or you’re tired. That is not true pain. There is a reason for pain, and true pain is a warning bell for you to STOP whatever it is you’re doing at that minute, or it WILL get worse. I have a couple of examples of this.

The first one happened to me in high school. Playing Strong Safety (or Monster Linebacker as we called it) for the DeLand High Bulldogs against the New Smyrna Beach Barracudas. NSB’s running back, a big corn-fed farm boy, #44, hit the line and we all stacked the middle to stop him. From the corner of my eye, I catch movement to the right and see #44 heading down the sideline. I take off after him and catch him at about the 5-yard line, grab a hold of his pads in the back (which would now be a horse collar foul) and yanked with everything I had. He flipped, OVER the goal line, and I went flying into the bench area. I got up and felt a twinge in my knee, but it had been the first week that I had earned a starting slot and I was NOT about to come off the field. So I limped to the huddle and lined up for the extra point. At this time in High School ball no one really kicked field goals, so they were going for two. They handed the ball to Farm Boy again, he came through the middle where I met him head on …. only he ducked under my tackle and slammed his helmet, and that big old farm boy head, straight into my knee.

I saw stars but managed to get to my feet and limp to the sideline where I was immediately yelled at by my coach for allowing not only the touchdown but also the extra point (obviously I had missed the practice where I was the sole person responsible on defense for stopping plays like this). I went to the bench and sat down but found I was having trouble bending my knee, so I motioned for a trainer. She pulled my pants over my knee and my kneecap was sitting to the outside of my leg. She freaked out and called the coach over, he looked at it, grabbed the kneecap, and pushed it back into place, then told the head trainer to get ice for the “pussy”.

Yes, that is NOT an exaggeration. It is exactly what he said …

On Monday afternoon I was back at practice.

I finally got the knee fixed in 2009 after once again ignoring pain while running on a treadmill and spraining the ACLs on BOTH knees.

A more recent example was a Fit Niche Pub Run in 2011. I usually am “off” for the first half mile or so of a run, so when I felt sharp stabbing pains in my right foot I didn’t think much of it. “It will loosen up,” I told myself. “You can’t afford to miss the miles with a marathon coming up”, so I pushed through it, and the funny thing was it did feel better after a while, and even after the run. I had forgotten about the pain until I got home and got my shoes off. It started hurting again but now was to the point that I could barely walk on it. So what did I do? I iced it for the night, iced it Friday, and Saturday headed out for my training run with Team In Training. I made it 2 miles before having to stop running. I went to a doctor and was told that I had probably ruptured the tendon the starts at my ankle and that I should rest it. I did …. for four days and tried to run the next week’s Fit Niche, made it two miles before hobbling back to the start. Iced it. Then Saturday headed to team run. Made it two miles. This finally got my attention and I sat until the week before the half marathon …. three weeks of no running. I finished the run with no pain and then finished the marathon.

So I started reading. Jeff Galloway and John Bingham mostly at that time. It has finally sunk in that I am not in these events to become a champion. I am in them to finish, to become healthy, and to have FUN. Where I had failed in the past to keep up with training was the same path I was heading down again. I had become obsessed with pace time, and finishing times, and had forgotten to have fun. PAIN is NOT fun.

Galloway says in his book that the pace for a half marathon should be one that is comfortable and that you can hold a conversation throughout the run and after the run. He has a formula that is basically multiplying your normal one-mile pace by 1.2 and that should give you your half marathon pace in the end. My normal pace at that time was in the 12:00 range, which means my half time should be in the 14:27 region. Guess where it was? Correct. 14:23. That means I held my normal pace through 13.1 miles, and I should be proud of that and be OK with that.

This might be I have started to “lose my motivation”. I have forgotten to have fun. When I watch Chrissie Wellington compete in the Ironman she was smiling the whole time …. she was pushing her body to its limit, sapping every bit of strength she had in her, yet she is HAVING FUN. The funny part is when you watch Crowie in the same race, he is grimacing, scowling, hating life. The “man” part.

So … PAIN is NOT a weakness. It’s a warning sign that you are pushing too far. If my Stepfather had heeded the PAIN he was feeling for a year when urinating instead of trying to be tough, we would have found the cancer, but instead, he waited until the bleeding was so bad he was almost passing out, and he died three months later at the age of 64. As “men”, as “athletes”, especially those of us that have seen success before athletically, we try to treat ourselves like we are still 17. but 17 was 38 years ago, and I have to accept that and change my definition of an athlete.

Am I an athlete? I don’t think so. Not really …. I may never really be one …. but I am going to keep racing …. and from now on I am going to have FUN doing it, no matter what my time and pace are.

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.

Realistic Goals and the Problem of Groupthink

In past podcast episodes, we talked a little about training partners and whether or not they can actually hurt you. The bottom line in the discussion was if the partner you choose to train with is not on your level, or does not have the same goals as you, then they can hurt your preparation in the end.

We have all been there to some extent. As social creatures most of our instincts are to be with others, not solo, so when we choose to run or bike or swim or hike we naturally want to go with someone, or with a group. It’s human nature. The issue arises when you happen to be in a training plan for, say, a marathon and the person you run with is only out to socialize and take it easy. Nothing inherently wrong with that at all, except when your training for that has a purpose that is now affected because you (1) want to hang with your buddy, and (2) don’t want to hurt their feelings by leaving them behind.

Groups are notorious for this, and I myself have been guilty of giving the wrong impressions at times.

For those new readers out here let’s have a quick recap of the blog and the associated podcasts.

After a year of co-hosting a show called “Ironman: Year One” Andrew Weaver and I decided to rebrand and changed the name to “Back of Pack Endurance”. We kept that name for over a year, and when Andrew decided to move on I once again rebranded the show to match the name of this blog, “Fat Slow Triathlete”. Six months into that I received input that some were “scared off” by the name, thinking it was a triathlon only show, so once again we rebranded to “Endurance for Everyone”, a name that came from an off-the-cuff remark by the co-host at that time, Randy Messman. Four different names but still the same show.

And here’s the thing, the names we chose for each of them had a specific purpose but was never considered to be a “requirement”, although I think some out there see these names as such.

Ironman: Year One was not only for those seeking to accomplish 140.6 miles of pure triathlon joy. Yes, at its core it was a chronicling of Andrew and my journey to that goal, but the show was about the pitfalls we all face, not just in triathlon.

Back of Pack Endurance was not only for people that ran in the back. We had guests on ranging from one end of the spectrum to the other. “Back of the Pack” was not a GOAL, but a MINDSET. But that fell on deaf ears to some.

But nothing compared to the issue I encountered with the name Fat Slow Triathlete.

The term “Fat Slow Triathlete” had little to do with weight, quickness, ability, or even triathlon’s. It was meant to provide an inclusive atmosphere for the adult-onset athlete, where support and acceptance can go a long way in bringing everyone to a healthier lifestyle. It’s a way of thinking that doesn’t allow for obstacles to get in the way of the things you want to achieve. If you’re “fat” … so what? “Slow”? ….so what? It’s a way of saying, yes I am Fat (or obese, or overly tall, or old, or young), and I am slow (or injured, or tired) but I can get off the couch and train, and I can compete in and complete any race I set my mind to complete.

It is not, nor ever was, the GOAL to be Fat or Slow.

Again, it’s a MINDSET

Groupthink is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people in which the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an irrational or dysfunctional decision-making outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative viewpoints by actively suppressing dissenting viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences.

It was shared with me this morning the same issue in another group. In one episode I talked a little about this group and a bad experience I had with some of them back in 2015. While that opinion changed at Runners World, the gist of my issue with the group reared its head today.

The Sub-30 group was founded by Ted Spiker and was named as such because that was HIS goal, a sub 30:00 5K. All well and good. But there are some that take that goal literally and strive for it in a sometimes unrealistic manner. Case in point was a member stating that they “HAD to get under 30:00” because a race was named in their honor. Not in of itself a bad goal except for one thing; their current best was 39:30 and they had 2-months before the race.

Now, if they had 6 months, a year, absolutely realistic. Go for it. But trying to drop 9:30 off your personal best in 60 days is a recipe for injury, and while most of us would never want to dissuade someone from a goal, there has to be a point where people can be honest with unrealistic expectations. Remember that goals have to be SMART; Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely. In this case, it IS specific (sub 30:00), it IS measurable, it IS achievable (technically), and it IS timely (2 months).

But it is NOT realistic.

And here’s the other issue these days; telling someone that a goal they have is unrealistic is now met with disdain. When did it become that way? I can understand if you’re being an ass about it, laughing at their ideas, calling them an idiot. But what is wrong with stating to someone that their goal is admirable but probably not realistic and then helping them set another goal that works toward that one? In that string on social media the first responses were the normal “go for it!” types before someone, finally, said the truth, that the goal was probably not a good idea in the amount of time they had.

A voice of reason in the crowd.

So, once again, a SUB 30 is a mindset. YOUR “sub-30” could be breaking 45:00, or doing a run/walk split of 4:1. It is not always specifically a sub 30 minute 5K.

Find YOUR goal instead of letting others define it for you.

Remember, everyone’s visions are their own.

5 Tips to Speed Up Transitions

Everyone knows how to train for a triathlon very early on; get in the water as much as possible to increase comfort, ride as much as you can, run off the bike every training session, and on and on, but one piece that can make or break a race is the shortest of them all; the transition. Some people you can see fly through a transition with minimal time spent, and other (me included) struggle to go from one discipline to another quickly. Two 5:00 transition times adds 10:00 to your race, which is HUGE, so learning to get in and out as fast as possible can make a lot of difference in a race result.

Here are a quick 5 tips to makes this process faster, all coming from my first-hand experience.

Have as Little As Possible in Transition

It is a normal right of passage in triathlon from newbie to a seasoned athlete that your transition area shrinks. When you first start out you’re so worried about forgetting something that you bring everything. I have seen brushes, combs, battery operated hair dryers, etc. Once you start learning the amount you bring in starts to dwindle down. The bottom line is that you should only have what you absolutely need and nothing more. When you leave the area to head to the water the only thing left on your mat should be bike shoes, your helmet, glasses/sunglasses (if needed), running shoes, socks, hat, your bib, and maybe on course nutrition and/or water (depending on the distance racing). Everything else is extra stuff to worry about. Leave it in the car.

NO Clothing Changes

Especially after the swim. Ever try to put a tight bike jersey on, or tri top, when you are wet? Takes forever. Don’t do it. Full gear should be on your body in the swim. If you’re using a wetsuit it should be on you underneath. In a PINCH you can probably get away with changing your top before the run portion, but even that takes time. Seconds build to minutes in the blink of an eye.

Speed Laces and Powder

Sounds like a good buddy cop movie title, but a simple change in set up can go a long way. Tieing your shoes takes time. Get a set of speed laces (there are many brands) and learn to use them on your shoes. Some people don’t like them, but I swear by them. I even use them in normal road running events. Another trick it to douse the inside of shows with baby powder when you’re setting up. Your feet will slide right in even if wet, and the powder also helps with blisters if you have issues there.

Preset Items on Bike and Use the Bib

The transition from swim to bike is often the longer of the two, so anything you can do to get on the bike fast helps. Put your bottles ON the bike and put your bib on now. I put my bib over my saddle, so when I come into T1 I grab my helmet, glasses, then put on the bib and flip number to the back, then my shoes, grab my bike and go. When you come into T2, rack bike, shoes off and on, helmet off, hat on, start moving to the course and flip the race number to the front.

And finally … Practice the Plan

You cannot get good at something without practice. It’s the same with transitions. when doing brick training try to set it up as you would a race. Move as quickly from one thing (the bike) to the next (the run) in the same way you will at the event. Too often when brick training we take our time racking bike, locking it, getting some water, changing shoes, etc. It works for that moment, but as with everything else, you will race as your practice.

So You Want to Race a Triathlon

I am asked a lot 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 7+ 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.

In the original post, I made sure to state that I was not a coach or credentialed. That has since changed. I earned my Ironman Certification in May of 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 few 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 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.

Everything I write about is taken from my personal first-hand knowledge and experience

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.

Have you ever actually seen a pro triathlete drink chocolate milk after a race? Didn’t think so

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 cycling 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 of you need to get your breathing down (they are legal in some races, but not Ironman anymore, so check before you use one. I used one my first full season), but concentrate your efforts on being comfortable swimming, especially open water (though never go into the open water alone). 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.

In the Facebook group, found by clicking on the link, member Amy Loewenthal did a fantastic write up on how she got through her anxiety on the swim, and she has given me permission to reprint it here. I think it was very helpful and insightful:

The first thing was finding a local swim coach (Joel Feldman. If you like her services and in the New Hampshire area she can be contacted at the Keene Family YMCA) who was tremendously supportive. I trusted her enough to tell her my irrational fears. (It turns out that most fearful swimmers are afraid of the same things) She took me seriously and we dealt with those things in practical ways. For example, I was afraid of getting a cramp in my leg and not being able to push my foot against something to release the cramp. She taught me how to make a turtle position that would enable me to reach down and use my hand as the surface to push my foot against. Another example: A fear that if I stopped making forward motion, I would sink. She had me practice many versions: rolling on to my back, treading, etc – midway through swim sets. These became second nature.

I got two pieces of buoyancy gear – a wetsuit zipper vest, and drawstring buoyancy shorts. They give me confidence that I won’t sink! They keep me warm and comfortable.

The coach taught me how to acclimate to the water BEFORE starting the swim – get head under the water, bob up and down three times. There is a reflexive shortness of breath in reaction to the cold water. I learned to get that done before the swim start so that I wouldn’t be starting the swim feeling short of breath – which is a surefire way to get a panic going. Easily avoidable!!

Sort out which thoughts are helpful and non-helpful. Practicing banishing non-helpful thoughts. Crowd them out with helpful thoughts. Also, crowd them out with rhythmic cycles and accompanying sayings. For example, I might say with the different parts of every stroke “long, strong, roll” (meaning: put your arm out long; strong catch and pull; rotate your body). I count 4 or 5 arm cycles and then sight the buoy. So I’m counting arm cycles too.

Visualize having difficulty. Let it play out in gory detail. Now start over and visualize how you solve your problem. Realize that you can deal with it. And you will deal.
This may be my own quirk – but if I was comparing myself to other swimmers and decided I was embarrassingly so much slower than everybody else…I was tempted to create a little drama. That way I would have a story about what I had to overcome. For example, I might start to imagine a scenario where I would aspirate some water, cough, and cough, still manage heroically to finish the swim, albeit slowly. But it made me so anxious to imagine all these bad things happening. I decided it was better to have a boring and uneventful slow swim. I don’t need an excuse for swimming the speed that I am currently (no pun) able to swim. I’m just out there doing what I can do. It will take some time to cover the course. I will be workmanlike and get it done.
I realized that my main job is to BREATHE OUT and BREATHE IN. The important point is to keep these two things very distinct. That is another helpful saying to myself if I get nervous.

I try to regard myself as if I was a well-meaning and smart child. I try to foster an attitude of both being gently amused about my own foibles but also respecting my seriousness and effort.
Practice physically and practice mentally. Mix some “what if” simulations into your routine laps in the pool or open water.
Patience. It took me three seasons to get calm. I decided after my mental success last year, that I didn’t need to freak out in the water ever again. At this point, I have a lot of strategies in place. The only way I’m going to go back to freaking out is if I DECIDE to ignore everything I know to do.

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 being on that seat for the long hour(s). 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 flat all over. 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.

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 on time and not miles. Sheehan never ran more than 15 miles to train for a marathon, and the Hanson method we use with Rob Bozovich is capped at 16 miles. 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 challenges 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 aided by a strong current 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.