So I have been dealing with a fair amount of stress lately, mostly in relation to work. I never thought that the stress impacted other areas of my life. I am usually a pretty busy guy with my full-time study, part-time work and throw in the training required to compete in triathlon. In recent months I have noticed that my energy levels were low, I struggled to find the motivation to complete sessions and even when I did, they weren't the best sessions I could have done. When I really noticed how much the work stress was impacting the other parts of my life was at the Wollongong Triathlon a couple of weeks ago. I had no interest in racing, I was drinking too much and out on course I felt flat. Even when I was with my friends they told me I looked unhappy, angry and tired. It's funny but when you are in it you don't really notice it.
Well this week has seen some significant changes in my life meaning that a lot of that stress is not affecting me anymore. All I can say is that I feel like a different person. I realised how unpleasant I may have been for the people around me and how much my training has been suffering. So I want to write about dealing with stress and how important it is not to let it impact on your training.
One of the things I remember before I started this crazy life that I know live was how easily I would come up with a reason not to train. Oh, I had a hard day at work, its a bit grey, I feel stressed. You name it and bang! TV on, chips and beer ready couch sat on. I kid you not, my Mum and brother used to refer to the couch as my office! Then I went through my big change and haven't looked back. As I said, I didn't realise that my stress was impacting my training. But this week has shown me just how much it was. Literally the first session I did this week after having the weight of the world lifted off my shoulders was my typical pool speed set. I normally do it as 50's but the uni pool is 25 metres so I go through it twice. The set is:
16x25 (4th sprint) 10 second rest
12x25 (3rd sprint) 15 second rest
8x25 (2nd sprint) 20 second rest
4x25 (all sprint) 25 second rest
Through twice with a 200m cool down
I normally do them in sets of 2 so it is technically 50's but that's besides the point. For the last few weeks I have been really happy with my times. Averaging maybe 47 seconds for the easy 50's, 42 seconds for the half easy half fast and 38 for the fast. Well this week I started easy and did a 1000m warm-up (I wasn't sure what set I would do) then I got in. I was crushing along at usual pace until something clicked. All of a sudden my slow 50's were 44 seconds, my half-halfs were 41 seconds and my sprints were 36 seconds... I couldn't work it out. I know I have been swimming a bit lately but my times have been so consistent for months. Then I realised something. I wasn't thinking about work while I was swimming, I was focusing on my technique, the things I could control. Literally my first session stress free and I had felt good the whole time and swam faster than I had before!
I am far from a psychologist, but as I have come to terms with recent changes I have actually felt myself get lighter, like a weight has lifted off my shoulders. So I figure that all that time I have been training stressed I have been making it harder for myself than needed.
So how can this apply to Jo average who isn't interested in that 4:05 70.3 time like I am? Well I have several PT clients now and one thing I notice with most of them is that the biggest limiter to them completing their sessions and reverting to poor health choices is stress. So I want to say to anyone reading this who is stressed that you may not realise how much of an impact it is having in you. Remember why you want to be active and try and separate your fitness from your work. Something I suggest to people which may be helpful is to think of your workout as your reward for the shit you have gone through at work or uni. Too often we see people rewarding themselves with food, come on, we are not animals needing to be trained with treats. Think of your workout as a treat and then enjoy it. Use it as a distraction from your stress and think about the benefits you will experience from it.
I hope this makes sense to you guys, I actually found this one quite difficult to write as there is so much I want to say so I might break some of the things I have left out into blogs for future weeks.... But please, let me know how you all deal with stress, share any secrets you may have.
As for training, I am getting stuck in with my coach again this week and am really looking forward to ramping things up in the lead up to Cebu 70.3.
Anway, stay safe, train stress-free and remember to TRI!!!
EDIT: Thanks to one of the best personal trainers and I guy I look up to Andrew Read for adding some good points to this:
"Adding exercise to destress from a stressful work situation doesn't fix it. It makes it worse. When stress is added you need more recovery not more work. The solution is things like yoga, meditation, walking, relaxed stretching - things that calm the CNS. When stress (either in the form of training or work) is high then recovery also needs to be high to balance it out.
The point is that when work stress adds up you need to reduce training load to ensure adequate recovery, not try to out train it by using exercise to get it out of your system. That sees a journey to a very dark place as you eventually burn out the poor adrenals that were desperately trying to keep you going for so long."
It's funny that I wrote about how training with technology can be your friend when you don't have a coach because for the last couple of weeks my coach has taken a few weeks off meaning that I have been flying solo. What has this meant for me? Not a whole lot really. I am lucky that it is pretty much the start of my off season and the lack of structure has been quite nice. However, I am definitely noticing the difference between training myself and being trained with a coach. So I thought I would focus today on the major differences I have noticed and why I am happy to pay my coach to train me.
Without blowing my own trumpet (too much) I get complimented a lot by people impressed by my 'mental toughness' and attitude towards training. I genuinely believe that one of the biggest reasons I am so disciplined when it comes to training is because I am accountable to my coach. I hate having to admit that I have missed a session. It is quite bizarre because I actually train a few people in weight-loss and when they tell me they have missed a session it doesn't normally bother me. I tend to put in lots of volume on the assumption that they will miss a few sessions. But whether my coach does that for me or not, I try and hit 100% every week. So while Ben has been taking a bit of time off I have only been accountable to myself. Don't think that this means I have completely slacked off. I have trained every day and most days twice. I have however lacked the ability to pick the right sessions and failed to get the balance right.
I struggle to enjoy my time in the pool. The biggest improvement I have seen with Ben has been the improvement in my swim time. The last few weeks I have definitely learnt what are the sessions that I like and the ones that I don't like. This is because I find myself repeating the same sets over and over again. I am making improvements in the pool still, but most of my sets are short, high-intensity sessions. Lots of 50 and 100m sprints with easy laps in-between. I have done very few sets of 400 or 500m (by few I mean none). If they were on my weekly program I would have done them without question.
My bike is pretty much the same as it was but I have always been very focused on the bike. It is my strongest leg and I want it to stay that way. So the amount of bike work I am doing has remained the same. On the run I am still doing my 4 or 5 sessions a week. My Sunday long run is there. I am just avoiding the speed work. Not because I don't like it but mostly because it hurts.
So while I have had this opportunity to see the difference I have noticed myself falling back into some of my old habits. Those bad habits are still physical exercise but they are what we call junk miles. I am just doing easy kms because it makes me feel good about myself and it isn't too hard. So why do I think I need a coach? Why am I looking forward to getting stuck in again with Ben and making 2015 even bigger than 2014? Having a coach makes me accountable. It means I have to spend less time trying to decide which session to do and which session would have the greatest benefit. I am not training these days to loose weight anymore, I am training to become a fitter and faster athlete. But I think that the lessons I am learning are relevant to people trying unsuccessfully to change their lifestyle.
I am not someone who advocates spending lots of money on PT etc but that is because I did it by myself. I am happy to admit it when I am wrong but there is a lot of value in having someone help you along your way. Now I am not talking about any old PT. You want someone who knows what they are doing. It is literally an 8 week course to become a personal trainer. However if you find a good trainer do not hesitate to ask for help. What should you look for in a trainer? I think the first and most important thing is to have a trainer who understands your goals and can use them to motivate you. I think you should look for someone who is constantly trying to learn and isn't afraid to admit when they don't know something. If you spend time with a trainer they are able to ensure you train properly and prevent injury. You also have to find someone that fits into your budget. There are all kinds of different options and it depends on what you want and can afford. But like me, when you have a coach, you are accountable and you can spend less time working out what session to do and more time actually training.
As for me, I have a mate from Melbourne coming up this weekend. He was meant to race IM Melbourne but had to withdraw due to injury so we are going to have a mini-camp this weekend. I have also signed up for a sprint tri in April. Other than that I am on the look out for some shorter triathlons and some good running races over the next few months. I am hoping to build my run speed over the winter and think racing is a god way of doing that.
Thats all for this week. I am thinking of adding some more sections to the website. Maybe a section in which I can display the equipment I use and maybe I could write some reviews. I was also thinking of doing some more stuff on weight loss in particular. Let me know what you think!
Stay safe, train smart and remember to TRI!
I always say that I am a 70.3 triathlete. I am focused on my 70.3 results and getting to the World Championships next year. But yesterday I went and raced the Wollongong Olympic Distance Triathlon. I achieved a new PB for the distance which is great when you consider I train more for the longer stuff. So why am I so disappointed?
I started my triathlon adventures with an Olympic Distance event. For those of you unsure, an Olympic Distance triathlon is a 1.5km swim, 40km bike and 10km run. I usually race just over double that distance. I really do not do many of these races but going into yesterdays race I really thought I was going to destroy it. Wollongong is a fast course with great road surfaces for the bike and a pancake flat run course. As I mentioned I got a new PB of 2:12 which is an improvement of 2 minutes. Anyway, I went into this race without a proper taper. I dropped my volume right down but was still doing some pretty decent speed work during the week. My rationale being that it is so short it won't take too big a toll on my body. I also went and had a massage on Saturday and walked away in more pain than I was before. Regardless I went to the start line feeling like my swim and run were in a good place and my bike would be about the same it was last year. The day did not quite go to plan.
When my wave start went I jumped straight in and tried to get to the front of the group to avoid a lot of the panic in the water. I am by no stretch a front pack swimmer but it I can hold a good pace for the first few hundred metres. With a series of boats to swim through I found the first few hundred metres to be quite rough and physical. I even had a bloke who get grabbing, not hitting, grabbing my feet. Once the swimmers started to disperse I focused on sighting and remember thinking as I swam out there the buoys were a lot further away than they looked from the shore. It was also very rough when you got out of the harbour. Anyway I kept swimming but couldn't kick too much because it felt like my calves were going to cramp. It felt like I was in the water for a long time which is not normally a good sign. I wanted to swim sub 25 minutes and based on my training I should do that quite comfortably. I got out of the swim and saw that I had swum 27 minutes. But I had also swam over 1700 metres. I am sure that I swam fairly straight and would assume that this was due to course inaccuracy rather than anything else. This is the third year I have done this race and the swim has been a different distance every year... SWIM SPLIT: 27:10
T1 took me a little longer than I expected but I got to try out my new Rudy Project Wing 57 and found it super easy to put on. Ready to go and off I went. T1 SPLIT: 1:43
Onto the bike. The bike is my strongest leg. Always has been. There is bit of a hill right at the start of the bike but nothing too serious. Otherwise it is a fast smooth course. I was surprised how good I felt. There were a few riders around me who I kept seeing. It was funny but I found my mind going into 70.3 mode where I would push as normal but not all the time. I realised this is only a 40km ride and decided to attack in the spots where there was a bit more wind or a slight incline. My breathing was out of control meaning that my HR was up. But I was trying to get as close to 1 hour for the 40kms. I came so close but once again just missed out. I came into T2. BIKE SLPIT: 1:00:44
T2 was pretty quick. Socks on, helmet off shoes on go. T2 SPLIT:1:20
I knew almost instantly that my legs were pretty fried. But it was my calf muscles which were the issue so it wasn't because of the cycling. When I would try and pick up the pace nothing would happen and I just couldn't get my pace under 4:00/kmh. People I had overtaken on the bike started to catch me. I kept going thinking to take care of those things I could control. I had a gel, drank sports drink, focused on my breathing as I was having a bit of a stitch. I even decided to try and negative split. Use the first 5kms to run myself into rhythm. I managed to pick up the pace with about 2kms to go which was nice but I knew that the sub 2:10 I wanted wasn't going to happen. I finished quite disappointed because I know I am a much stronger runner than I demonstrated. RUN SPLIT: 41:22
I really want to get my OD time down to 2:05 because it means that I have taken 2 hours off my first ever. In hindsight the issues I had yesterday were probably from the runs I went on during the week. I knew I shouldn't do it but that voice in my head telling me one more session would help. That and my arrogance to think that an Olympic would be easy. There is nothing easy about that distance. I am actually quite keen to sign up for a few more over the next 12 months as I think the speed of them will help to make me a faster 70.3 athlete. TOTAL TIME: 2:12:20. 20th in my Age Group and 75th overall.
So yes, despite all my bravado and saying that Olympic Races don't really matter that much I am guessing that they do. I know people will say that I still did a PB and that it is a good result. I expect a lot of myself and I want to keep moving forward. I suppose lately I just feel like I am not getting the results for the effort I am putting in. This is probably also an after-effect of the disaster I had at Western Sydney 70.3. I was positive I was going to go sub 4:30 that day and as of know I still have not done it. I am probably not going to get another decent shot at until September. However I have resigned myself to putting in another hard off season of training with a strong focus on my running speed and endurance. I am not afraid of the work that needs to be done.
Anyway that is enough of me feeling sorry for myself. If you know of any good races in the next few months list them in the comments as I am keen! Also a big congratulations to Mike 'Robo' Robinson on becoming an Iron Man on Saturday. He also had far from a perfect day and still managed a 10:38 for his first. What a legend. I know he is only going to get faster. As always a big thanks to my amazing wife Dez, my coach Ben Hammond and the entire crew of Team MaccaX!
Have a good week, trying hard and remember to TRI!
I think this is the latest I have ever been in writing my blog but alas here we go. This week I got the suggestion for this weeks topic from my friend Mike 'Robo' Robinson. Robo is attempting his first Iron Man this weekend at Iron Man New Zealand and I think he will dominate. He is one of the hardest working athlete I know so if you get the chance visit his Instagram and wish him good luck.
So many people especially people new to the sport train themselves without a coach. They like to make sure that triathlon is a good fit and also see what they are capable of. They are also probably more concerned with finishing than going fast. What I want to write about this week is how beneficial it is to keep track of your training when you train without a coach.
There is so much technology out there these days. Whether you use Tom Tom, Garmin (I think the best) or even just your phone, you are able to collect all kinds of information from your training. Why is this important? It gives you the opportunity to look at performance and measure success and failure. When I first started training I had nothing. The first piece of equipment I got for myself was a Garmin Edge 500 for my bike. Well, once I started using it I was instantly hooked. It is amazing how motivating it can be when you are out training to know that there will be a record of your performance. You might be tempted to slack off or cruise but you know that you will have to look at the file and now... Starve... come on, everyone else will see it too.
Soon after I got the Garmin Edge 500 I downloaded an app on my phone called Endomondo. I would use this app every time I ran and would be excited when I would get to the end of the run to see whether my speed or time was faster than last time. In a sense it was like I was racing myself. As I started to use these tools more and more I found that the way I trained also changed. When I was a bit tired I would push myself to do a session. Not because I thought it would make me a little faster but because I had genuinely started to care (and become obsessed) with my training log. Seriously, ask my wife and she will tell you all I talked about was how many kms I logged that week or what my average pace was. I was hooked. After 12 months I invested in the Garmin Forerunner 310XT and this meant that I was able to not only see my distance, pace and time, I was also able to measure my heart rate. This was the next evolution in my training. I used to run into T2 and throw the Garmin on and just use it on the run. But again I found it had a big change on my training and performance.
Now I can assure you that this weeks entry is more than just a pug for Garmin products and Endomondo. I found the data that I had incredibly motivating. Not only that, when I did sign up with a coach I was able to provide him with all of my past training data by simply telling him to check out my Endomondo profile. But what about for you reading this. How can you use technology to improve your racing or your weight loss? It is simple. Technology holds you accountable. You cannot cheat it. It is FACT. About 6 months ago I got a Samsung Gear Fit with my new phone. Big deal right? What I discovered was:
I hate walking. More than almost anything. But since I got the watch and it gave me my 10,000 step a day target. I found myself walking around the block to hit the number. Maybe I am a little OCD but if you are reading this and lack motivation maybe it is something worth considering.
If you are an athlete training by yourself. You can use the data to develop effective training plans. You can go jump in the pool and instead of just swimming. You can analyse past performance and decide that if you want to improve you have to hit a certain number. It means you can plan your training in a sustainable and smart way which will not result in injury or sickness. It means you can check your heart rate before your session and see how it responds during your session and tell you if you need to continue or take it easy for the day. Basically it can do as much or as little as you want it to.
Since I have become a little more serious with my racing I have had a Garmin Forerunner 910 and not I have the Garmin Forerunner 920XT. I love it. It is the most important piece of training equipment I have. I am able to tell my coach exactly how fast I went. I am able to ensure that my heart rate stays within the zone prescribed and I am able to race smarter because I know how my body works. I also have a sweet training journal that literally goes back years!
While technology will never replace the expertise that a coach has, it is still an incredibly important part of training these days. Through utilising that technology in conjunction with the many different training programs you are able to develop as an athlete in a sustainable and smart manner. You may be like me and find it incredibly motivating too. So have a look. Whether it is just an app on your phone or a basic heart rate monitor. Give it a go. If it works for you great! If not, there are probably many poor triathletes on line who are waiting to pick up a bargain!
To my racing now. I have my 'annual' Olympic Distance race this weekend. Tri the Gong on the NSW South Coast. Last year I went 2:14 and I believe that I have made huge improvements over the last 12 months. I am hoping to go sub 2:10 but am really really hoping to run sub 40 for the 10kms. Tune in next week to find out how I go.
I do need to state here that I am a massive fan of Garmin and they are the only products I use. I am sure there are other products out there that do similar or the same things that my watch does. But I am happy to recommend Garmin to anyone. If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.
Stay safe, train smart and remember to TRI!
I lost 50kgs though triathlon and completed the 2016 70.3 World Championships. Aiming to hit 4:05 for a 70.3, the same time it took me to complete my first Olympic Distance Triathlon. I want to bring as many new people to the sport as possible. Whether you are fit and active or want to make positive changes to your life.