I am a coach and this weekend is big in terms of the number of clients who are racing.  Some are racing iron-distance; others are racing half marathons; still others are racing aquabike (swim and bike, sans the run) or half iron-distance.  Weekends like this are always emotional roller coasters for me, my feelings running the gamut from excitement to downright depression, all within 24-48 hours.

It all starts with the athlete's commitment to a training block designed to get him/her to the goal race.  This race could be a "dream race" or maybe another opportunity at a PR.  Along the way, there are moments of doubt, streaks of confidence, and lots of smiles as well as tears.  During this training block, my communication with them, whether spoken or written, has to be as honest yet as empathetic as possible because my job is to get them to the start line, both physically AND mentally strong. 

So, this weekend I get the opportunity to soothe nerves, allay fears, practice high-5's, and scream at my laptop while watching the remote feed of the finish line.  I can't wait - I am a coach!

Swim workout
300yds. done as 100yds. free/100IM kick/100IM
6 x 75yds. first 3 are progressive and last 3 are strong
6 x 50yds. first 3 are progressive and last 3 are strong
6 x 25yds. first 3 are progressive and last 3 are strong

3 x 50yds.  1 easy/1 moderate/1 strong
4 x 50yds.  1 easy/1 moderate/2 strong
5 x 50yds.  1 easy/ 1 moderate/ 3 strong
6 x 50yds.  1 easy/1 moderate/3 strong

200 kick choice/200 pull stretch it out

The winner of Stage 16 of this year's Tour de France is a world champion time trial rider and had ridden in 9 past TDF's but had never won a TDF stage, a sought-after prize for most pro cyclists.  Michael Rogers was asked in a post-race interview what made the difference this year - how did he accomplish what he was not able to in previous years.  His response was simply that he took risks that he was not willing to take before and the risks paid off. 

Taking risks is not easy - it requires a leap of faith; or a deep knowledge of one's self; or simply a willingness to accept consequences.  With Michael Rogers, it was probably a combination of all:  relying on his past world championship wins, his prior TDF experience, and his current fitness level to give him the confidence (faith) he could cross the finish line of Stage 16 victorious, plus the willingness to accept the disappointment if he, once again, did not win. 

This is a great lesson for all of us, both in life and athletics.  Sometimes, we just have to be willing to put it all on the line - to not hold back or second-guess our ability to get it done.  Thanks, Michael, for inspiring me today!

Swim workout
200yds. free/200yds. back

2 x 25yds. right arm
2 x 25yds. left arm
2 x 50yds. 6-kick switch
100yds. progress by 25
the above set to be done in 2 rounds:  1 round free + 1 round backstroke

4 x 200yds. done as:
150 yds. free easy/50yds. backstroke strong
100yds. free easy/100yds. backstroke strong
50yds. free easy/150yds. backstroke strong
200yds. backstroke strong

the above set is repeated, changing the free to backstroke and the backstroke to free


I was hooked on the sport of triathlon after being the run leg in an Olympic distance race in San Jose in the early 90's.  I was the run leg for a good reason - I didn't know how to swim. 

The decision to learn to swim was big  because I was always fearful of water.  That decision also meant I would fully embrace the sport of swimming.  I accepted other swimmers talking yards, not laps.  I grew to like circle-swimming, understanding that swimming with faster swimmers in my lane was going to make me faster.  I slowly embraced non-freestyle strokes as being good for my freestyle, as well as overall fitness. 

All of this meant I had changed my mindset from thinking the swim portion of a triathlon was something to get through so I could ride and run, to a wonderful sport that not only provided me a welcome relief from tired legs but something I can participate in until I have one foot in the grave.

So, triathletes:  why don't you embrace swimming?

Swim workout:
9 x 75yds. done in 3 rounds of 3:  #1 swim; #2 kick; #3 25back/25breast/25free
125yds. done as 100strong/25easy

4 x 100yds. freestyle progress #1-4
400yds. pull breathe every 5th stroke and work the last 25 of each 100

8 x 50yds. progress by sets of 2
400yds. pull strong

4 x 100yds. freestyle best effort


There is an article in the August 2014 edition of Runners World that more than caught my attention - it outraged me because the content went against everything I learned through my coaching certifications and the reams of endurance training books I had read.  But, I allowed myself an open mind and, the information presented by the author, Alex Hutchinson, makes sense and actually I have unknowingly practiced it.

The "it" is tactical or strategic dehydration or, training dehydrated in order to trigger endurance-boosting adaptations in an athlete's blood.  Like muscular fatigue and other training or life stresses, dehydration signals your body to make changes to fight the stress.  If you are dehydrated during workouts for several days in a row, your body produces more blood plasma going through your arteries, making it easier to get oxygen-rich blood to your working muscles.  How should you implement this into your training:
Train 90minutes of light effort without hydration for 5 days.  This will boost blood-plasma volume by 8% - enough to lower race times by a few percentage points.  This is best done 2-4weeks before race day.  The goal for each workout is to dehydrate yourself by 1.5-2.5% of your bodyweight.  Then, you must be good about refueling 10min. after your workout with a mix of carbs and protein, at a 4:1 ratio.  You must also drink enough to return to normal hydration. 

To be safe, don't experiment on a long ride that takes you far from home and carry water and/or cash for emergencies.  Signs that you are straying into dangerous territory are headache, dizziness, muscle cramping, confusion, unusual fatigue and irritability.

Swim workout:
6 x 100yds. done as 3 rounds of 2 x 100yds.  First round=alt. 25kick/25swim     Second round=alt. 25drill/25swim
Third round=100 swim
6 x 50yds. progress 1-3 and 4-6 - this progression should result in the last 50 of each set of 3 at almost max
6 x 150yds. done as 100yds. max on an interval that allows 5-10sec. rest + 50 recovery on the same interval as the 100
8 x 50yds. kick done as 2 rounds of 4 x 50yds.   first 50 = moderate kick; second 50=25mod./25max; third=25sprint/25mod; fourth 50=sprint
4-6 x 125yds. pull - smooth and perfect s

It doesn't matter whether you are a runner, cyclist, swimmer, obstacle course specialist or triathlete - you gotta love race season because, not only is it the pinnacle of months of training, but it allows us to put ALL the pieces of the puzzle together.

By pieces, I am referring to technical, tactical, physical and mental aspects of racing:
1.  technical refers to your mechanics, your coordination:  how efficient is your pedal stroke? How good are you at running hills?

2.  tactical refers to the strategies you use to outmaneuver your opponents:  do you have full confidence that you can hold a particular pace during the final mile of the half iron-distance race?  will you try to use your strengths on the flats to overtake the guy in the lead?
3.  physical is just that:  have you been in the gym working on your core strength?  do you have the proper cardiovascular fitness to go the distance?
4.  mental is about your feelings, thoughts and emotions:  how will you psyche yourself up to do your best?  what will your self-talk sound like when the race gets really challenging?

So, now that you have and idea what is takes to successfully cross the finish line, put the puzzle together and get out there and race!

Swim workout:
1,000yds. pull and work every 4th 25yds.

400yds. broken into 4 x 100yds. free style strong cruise with 10sec. rest between each
2 x 200yds. broken into 2 x 100yds. IM with 20sec. rest
4 x 50yds. freestyle strong with 5sec. rest
repeat above set - you can change the broken 400 into 4 x 100yds. IM with 20sec. rest; the 200's into 2 x 100yds. freestyle strong with 15ec. rest; and the 50's into IM order (50fly/50back/50breast/50free) with 10sec. rest

I simply don't understand when athletes, the ones I coach or others, spend time identifying their weaknesses, as if I have some kind of secret potion that I can administer to suddenly change their reality.  This may be surprising, but everyone has weaknesses - physical, mental or emotional.  Running through your weaknesses is a waste of time because it takes time away from thinking about and using your strengths to your advantage.

For example, maybe the swim is your weakest discipline in a triathlon - you lack good body balance and stroke mechanics to make you a great swimmer.  You must have another strength you can tap into when in the water:  maybe you have a tenacious spirit, which will result in you getting to the swim exit, pretty or not.  Or, maybe you are not the strongest climber on the bike but you are a natural on technical descents where you can pass the tentative riders who passed you on the uphill.  Or, maybe you are not a great hill runner but, when facing a hill, your legs know what to do, albeit more slowly than normal but faster than those forced to walk.

Take time during each workout to think about what you are good, really good at and practice them, then use those things during your events/races.  It will help level the playing field because remember, everyone has weaknesses.

Swim workout
2 x 150yds. done as reverse IM by 50yds.
2 x 200yds. freestyle with middle 100 progress to maximum
500yds. freestyle done as 75yds. strong/25yds. max, broken at 100 with 10sec. rest
Repeat the above except change the middle 100 of the 200's to IM and pull the 500yds.
100yds.  kick IMO easy
2 x 50yds. kick max
2 x 50yds. swim max
You can repeat the above if you have time

I anticipated the response I would receive from my Masters swim group last night when I gave them sets with max efforts.  There was eye-rolling, mouth-gaping and all out groans.  So, in reading this article published in the NY Times June 25, I felt vindicated if not relieved that at least I had science to back up my training protocols.  http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/06/25/for-fitness-push-yourself/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_php=true&_type=blogs&ref=todayspaper&_r=1&

These max efforts do not have to be long - Tabata intervals typically last 60-90sec. but they have to be intense and uncomfortable - very uncomfortable.  And, they don't have to be a part of every workout - you can include them in your swim/bike/run schedule 1-2x per week and you can even do them in the gym as part of your strength training program.  Build them into your schedule gradually and consistently. 

Everyone, from athletes to fitness enthusiasts to those looking to stay one step ahead of the grim reaper can incorporate these short bursts of all-out efforts to their training and experience the physical and mental benefits.

Swim workout
600yds. done as 100yds. swim/50yds. fast kick
6 x 50yds.  odds = swim strong      evens = easy choice
6 x 125yds. done as 50yds.easy swim/25yds.max effort/50yds.strong
6 x 100yds. strong on an interval that gives you 10sec. rest
4 x 25yds. kick max
4 x 50yds. done as 25yds. kick easy/25yds. swim max
4 x 50yds. easy kick

I am currently taking a vegetarian sports nutrition course as part of my recertification for ACE Personal Fitness Trainer.  The book dedicates an entire chapter on muscle cramping and, at the end of the chapter, the book draws no final conclusions on what causes and what helps prevent muscle cramps.  This is what I learned can cause cramping: 

1.  extreme heat and cold
2.  inherited abnormalities of carbs and fat metabolism
3.  dehydration
4.  electrolyte imbalances
5.  muscle fatigue
6.  overuse injuries  
7.  chronic inflammation

Without anything definitive about the cause(s), we certainly can do the following nutritionally as part of healthy athletic life:
1.  drink enough to support your level of activity
2.  consume enough sodium that is lost through sweat
3.  eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes
4.  obtain calcium from natural sources
5.  make sure you are eating enough carbohydrates
6.  consume enough calories
7.  find good sources of omega 3 fatty acids and eat 2 servings of these foods everyday
8.  maintain adequate levels of vitamin D - more important in the winter months

Swim workout
300yds. free
200yds. done 25yds. heads up swim/25 swim
100yds. free progress by 25 to strong
5 x 200yds. free, sprinting the first and last 50 of each 200
1,000yds. sprinting the last 25 of each 100 - this can be done free, pull or broken into 100's with 5sec. rest between each

When I first began triathlon coaching in 2001, the research and data on which leg of triathlon was the most important for overall success was scarce.  There were a few preliminary studies as to the strength of the winners of IM Kona and most winners were fast runners, although strong cyclists were not convinced (strong swimmers knew they had a chance but not against someone who biked and ran strong). 

Subsequent data and anecdotal evidence has grown over the years and a recent battle between two 40-something athletes, a 3-time Olympian in cycling and a gold medalist in marathon (John Howard and Frank Shorter respectively).  The battlefield was the Desert Princess Duathlon in Palm Desert, CA (10K/62K/10K), leveling the playing field by eliminating the swim. 

Shorter's splits:    first 10K:  31:33   bike split:  1:42:14   second 10K:  34:01
Howard's splits:   first 10K:  35:00  bike split:  1:30:51   second 10K:  43:30 
Shorter caught Howard at the last half mile on the final 10K and ended up winning the race by 1min. 13sec.

I have made my decision - what's yours?

This "battle" was highlighted in an article in July 2014 Triathlete Magazine.  The necklace in the picture is available from
https://www.etsy.com for $26.

Swim workout
400yds. done as 50free/25back/25breastroke
6 x 100yds. first 3 freestyle at 80% and last 3 backstroke at 80%
12 x 50yds. done as 3 sets of 4x50yds.
round #1 freestyle at 90%
round #2 IMO 25kick/25swim
round #3 backstroke at 90%
24 x 25yds. done as 4 sets of 6x25yds.
round #1 freestyle max effort
round #2 kick easy
round #3 backstroke max effort
round #4 choice easy


Getting the real message in either print or online articles today can be very challenging.  We have been programmed to read the headline and a few opening sentences of the article.  However, sometimes reading further, you begin to understand the headline was only meant as an attention grabber and the info deep within the article is just the opposite of the headline. 

For example, a recent article published about the benefits of eating breakfast for health and weight loss led the reader to believe the recent research does not support eating breakfast to accomplish these goals.  In reading further, you are told the studies did not take into account WHAT the research subjects ate for breakfast.  In other words, they could have eaten 4 eggs and 8 strips of bacon, not necessarily a low calorie breakfast and therefore, not ultimately good for health or weight loss. 

My advice is, rather than skim a headline and the article contents, choose a few articles and pieces of great interest to you and read them in depth, summarizing in your head at the end of the article your takeaway information.  This is and will become even more important as technology accelerates and our time becomes even more precious. 

Swim workout

300yds. done as 100 free/100 non-free/100 free
4 x 75yds.  done as 50 backstroke kick/25 breaststroke pull
12 x 25yds. done as odds = smooth freestyle with minimal breaths
                                  evens = 12.5yds. backstroke fist drill/12.5yds. backstroke strong

3x(2 x 100yds./2 x 100yds./ 2 x 100yds.)
first 2x100 are easy
second 2x100 are medium
third 2x100 are fast
1min. rest between rounds  



    I have spent the last 30 years helping individuals to their goals, whether it be crossing a finish line with a PR, eating better or, simply finding the 20 minutes daily they desire to exercise.


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