My Own (Non-Professional) Words of Wisdom

I am overdue for some posts! I have three product reviews on some yummy products that I want to tell you about and I also have some other ideas floating around in my mind for post topics. But, after spending a few hours on the phone last night with one of my triathlete friends, I wanted to make sure I sat down and wrote a post about this lifestyle choice of ours as it seems to be the most relevant at the moment. (It turns out this is a long post but I think it has some good points. I hope you enjoy!)

I’m also going to say one more quick thing about the importance of taking the medications your doctor prescribes for you. Up until a few weeks ago I didn’t even realize all the important things a properly functioning thyroid did for you. But boy did I see a difference once I started taking the medication again. I had no idea that an improperly functioning thyroid could affect your emotions as much as it did. Physically, mentally and emotionally I feel 100x better. Phew! (I added this paragraph as a segue to the next part of my post because as many of you may have saw or read, I certainly wasn’t sounding so positive or upbeat about triathlon, Ironman or life in general a few weeks ago and I certainly wasn’t someone who should be giving their words of wisdom on the lifestyle of a triathlete).

As with all of life, I’ve come to realize that triathlon (or any endurance sport) is a learning experience; it’s something that becomes ingrained in your life as opposed to a hobby that you do when you feel like it. The friend with whom I was speaking last night is training for her first long endurance event and is having a hard time with the hobby to lifestyle adjustment. It wasn’t until she and I were talking that I realized how much I’ve learned and how much I’ve changed things in my life as a result of triathlon. While I’m certainly no expert and I am far from executing a plan perfectly, I thought I share some of the “wisdom” I learned over the past few years and shared with my friend last night.

Have a reason why you want to reach this goal – We’ve all heard this advice hundreds of times, but it’s usually followed by someone saying how they’re training to raise money for a charity or they are racing for a friend or family member who can’t. These are great reasons to race and I wish I was that altruistic about why I was training for Ironman. My reasons are 100% selfish and I’m finally okay with saying that. I’m doing this training because I want to; I want to see what I can accomplish; I want to push myself; I want to learn about myself; I want to be healthy and happy. It doesn’t matter what reasons you have for wanting to do this sport and you don’t have to share them with anyone, just don’t lose sight of them. There will be plenty of mornings (especially cold WI winter mornings) when staying in your warm bed sounds so much more exciting than going to the gym to swim. This will be the time to think about all of those reasons you decided you really wanted to do this training.

It’s okay to miss a workout or two – When I was training for my half-Ironman last year I was using a plan I found online. It was two workouts a day, six days a week for six months. It may have not been the best plan for me to follow, but it got me across the finish line. I didn’t do every single swim, bike or run workout in the plan but I still reached my goal. I am a type-A person in so many ways and at first I freaked out when I missed a workout because of work or if I cut a workout short because I physically couldn’t get through it (Ok, I still freak out sometimes). In so many ways triathlon has to become a huge part of your life to reach these lofty goals, but if it becomes your entire life it will no longer be fun.

I didn’t do 100% of my workouts last year and I know I won’t do 100% of my workouts this year. When I come up against a time when I find myself deciding to do a workout or not, I’ve started asking myself this question – “Am I being lazy and making excuses or is there a legitimate reason (work, friends, family, exhaustion) why I can’t get this workout done?” If I decide there is a legitimate reason then I let it go and stop obsessing about the missed workout. It’s not the end of the world. If I decide that I’m being lazy or making excuses than I ask myself a second question – “Are you ok with knowing that you didn’t do this workout simply because you were lazy?” And honestly, every once and a while the answer to that question is yes. Some days I just don’t want to do the workout. I know sitting on the couch or sleeping in is not going to help me reach my goals. If I think about all the reason why I chose this goal and sitting on the couch still sounds like the best decision, then I tell myself I’ve made that choice and I move on. Nine times out of 10 if it’s a goal you really want to reach being lazy is not going to be the acceptable alternative. On the rare occasion that it becomes the choice you pick, just remember that it was your choice and stop feeling guilty about it. Enjoy the time you’re spending not working out. (And if you’re still feeling guilty in 10 min get off the couch and do the workout).

Listen to your body – This ties in with realizing you don’t have to do every workout on your training plan. A few years ago I got to the point where my doctor had to tell me to stop working out because I was over-exercising. I wasn’t listening to my body or fueling it properly. My body was stressed to the point of exhaustion. There were days when I felt so weak I couldn’t even stand up long enough to take a shower. It has taken me a really long time to get the hang of this (and I still don’t do it all the time) but it’s important to know when your body is telling you it needs a break. Recovery is just as important as the swimming, biking and running. Go back and ask yourself the “Am I just being lazy” question if you’re not sure what your body is telling you.

I was in the pool a few weeks ago (when I was dealing with all of the thyroid issues) and I literally could not get through the workout. I was swimming some of the slowest laps in the world and my body would not move any faster. I had a mental conversation with myself for about 100 yards trying to decide if I should finish the workout or not. I finally asked myself if I was being lazy and looking for excuses not to workout or if my body really just needed the extra rest. I was already in the pool, my hair was already wet, I was going to need to take a shower either way so it would have been just as easy to stay in the pool but I decided for that workout my body really wasn’t going to finish the workout. I think this is a hard thing for endurance athletes to decide because in the back of our minds we know our goal race is not going to be easy; we will have to push ourselves to get through it and getting through the tough workouts is what makes us stronger. I completely agree with this and it this crosses my mind 100 times every time I quit a workout early. But I also know a year of training is a long time and drowning in the pool because I couldn’t move any more is not the best way to get through a training plan.

Surround yourself with supportive people – I have the most amazing and supportive friends and family. A majority of my friends are runners or triathletes as well. They understand the time it takes to do this training. They understand why I can’t stay up all night on a Friday night when I have a 7am cycling class on Saturday morning, or why I have to leave early to get in a swim workout. Use your active friends as your support group. Yesterday, for example, I knew I wasn’t going to want to get up and run so I convinced one of my friends to meet me. When I first started training for Ironman, I set up a private Facebook page for all of my local, athletic friends and I to plan runs together. Through the posts we plan runs, share words of encouragement and offer advice. And what amazes me most about my friends is that the day I signed up for Ironman, they added a post to the Facebook page to start planning their own trip out to Arizona for the event. Talk about support!!

Have a plan -One thing I’ve learned about myself is that I tend to be a planner. This definitely comes in handy for triathlon. Make a plan for your workouts – it’s usually easier to stick to them. Plan the workouts you know you aren’t going to want to do with friends. Plan your meals to ensure you are fueling properly. I’m still a novice at this one but I’m learning that if I make food on Sunday afternoon and learn to love leftovers, then I have most of my meals planned for the week. There is no extra time or thought involved. This works well for me since I tend to not think much about food until I’m already hungry. With the leftovers I just pop them in the microwave and I’m good to go. Granted, by Friday the monotony tends to get to me, but I’m working on it and figuring things out as I go. Which brings me to…

It’s all a learning experience – This is probably where I struggle the most. I’m a perfectionist in so many ways. I want to be able to go out there and run an 8-minute mile (which I’m not even close to doing by the way). I want to be able to eat healthy food all of the time (which I definitely don’t do). I want to enjoy every workout that I do (which I don’t). But, this sport reminds me every day that I’m not perfect (and never will be). I can only continue to learn something new every day and use my strengths to help me keep improving and make my life easier.

I feel I have learned so much through triathlon and how it’s become a lifestyle for me. I could write three or four more pages! For those of you that made it through the whole post, I’ll end here so you to get back to your regularly scheduled days though.

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Posted in Friendship, Ironman, Life, Triathlon, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Calorie Counting

And so it begins… A few fun-filled weeks of tracking everything I eat. Zeus and I have talked a few times about my diet (not the weight loss kind, just the what I’m eating on a daily basis kind of diet). It’s always been in the general, “I don’t think I’m getting enough protein” or, “maybe I’m not eating the right type of foods for recovery”. We discussed keeping track of what I’m eating before, but I’ve always been hesitant. Aside from being a bit of a pain to have to measure everything, the topic of food sometimes just stresses me out. But, I decided that we can’t work on fixing my diet if we don’t know what’s going on presently.

After my realization yesterday that I completely stopped taking my thyroid medication (for over three weeks it turns out) I decided it was time to start looking at my diet as well. Over the next year I’m going to be asking a lot of my body and I want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to support it. Remembering to actually take my thyroid medication is a big step in the right direction but there’s a lot more I can do. I plan to track my food for the next few weeks, and then probably on and off for the next year, to make sure I’m giving my body all the energy and nutrients it needs to make it through each of my workouts and for proper recovery.

I downloaded the myfitnesspal app for my phone and am also using their website. I started last night by adding in the recipes that I cooked over the weekend and guesstimating my serving sizes yesterday. (You can put in your recipes and myfitnesspal will calculate the nutritional information based on the number of servings you enter. I’m guessing on serving sizes too). This morning I didn’t remember to measure the ingredients in my smoothie until they were already on their way to being blended (oops) so I guessed on my breakfast again. Technically I’m only about 24 hours into calorie counting and I’m already discovering what Zeus and I both assumed… I’m not eating enough! How many times are we ever going to hear that?? With the amount and intensity of the workouts I’m doing Zeus gave me a target to hit for my daily caloric intake. I’ve got some work to do to add in some more healthy calories… It will be interesting to see if this trend continues and what other little tidbits of information we will learn.

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Stressing a Little Less

I have felt like I was really struggling during my workouts the past few weeks. My runs have been difficult, my legs have felt heavy on the bike and my arms have felt like they were swimming through mud. I’ve been frustrated during most of my workouts and really questioning my ability to cross the finish line next year. My off-season workouts shouldn’t be feeling this difficult and I have felt like I’ve been dragging myself around and sleeping way too much. Needless to say I haven’t been very pleasant to be around either 🙂

I had a 3-mile tempo run this morning. I decided to hit the treadmill instead of trying to figure out pacing with my Garmin. I wanted to work on form and I feel like I’ve been spending a lot of time speeding up and slowing down to try and hit my target pace. I didn’t want to have to think about that part of the workout this morning. I ended up only making it through 2.5-miles and left the gym very frustrated.

It finally dawned on me after I got home from the gym and calmed myself down that I haven’t taken my thyroid medication in probably almost three weeks. (I couldn’t even find them this morning). With everything that’s been going on lately I somehow got out of the habit of taking them first thing in the morning. Duh! How stupid of me! I looked up the symptoms of hypothyroid and sure enough… that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling lately. I guess those tiny little pills were really doing something for me 😉

Let’s hope this is a lesson learned. After my adrenal fatigue diagnosis from overexercising a few years ago I’ve been a lot more careful to listen to my body and rest when I feel like I need to take the extra time. But I’ve been a bit worried that I’ve felt like I need a lot of extra rest so early in my training plan (after all I’m really just maintaining a base and working on form right now). I’m feeling a little less stressed about this Ironman training and have breathed more than one sigh of relief now that I feel like there may be a valid explanation for why I’ve been feeling like crap the past few weeks. Here’s hoping that getting back into the habit of taking my thyroid meds will help with my energy levels and recovery from workouts and I can start feeling like myself (and someone training for Ironman) again.

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I Signed Up for Ironman… And Then I Panicked

I signed up for Ironman Arizona on Monday! I has taken a few days for everything to sink in but I think I’m finally adjusting to the idea. I volunteered for the race which meant I was able to register prior to the opening of online registration. Volunteer registration opened at 8:00 AM but we were told to get there early. My mom and I got there at 6:00 AM and the line was already outrageously long. I found a nice spot on the grass, pulled out my iPad and settled in to do some reading. My mom headed up to Starbucks to grab something for us to eat while we were waiting. They ended up opening registration at about 6:30 (instead of 8:00) so they could get through everyone before online registration was supposed to open. The line moved fairly quickly but we still waited for almost two hours. (It’s a good thing I volunteered because online registration sold out in 40 seconds)!

A long, long line of volunteers ready to race next year

While I was registering I was feeling very emotional. Registering was putting me one step closer to a goal I had been talking about for years. It was something I always thought (and sometimes still think) would be unattainable for me. By actually signing up I was putting into motion things I had only thought about. I was also feeling a little nauseous. I was now actually committing to this race. I was committing to the next year of coaching and a lot of swimming, biking and running. As my friend Mark put it, “you have a feeling of oh shit-ness” and that’s the best way I can think to describe it. You have a moment when you realize just how much it takes to do a race of this caliber and I started to wonder if it was something that I was really capable of doing. But I handed over my credit card and committed to the race.

Standing in line – A little tired, cold, nervous and excited

Almost there

I thought once I signed up and got over the initial shock and panic that I would be excited. Instead I found myself questioning my sanity even more. I got back into town Monday night and headed straight to bed. I had a swim and a bike ride and a lot of work to catch up on all scheduled for Tuesday. I got up early to get my swim in before work. Luckily it was only a 1700 yard workout, but there were some timed sets in there that I was having a hard time getting them done in the times on the plan. This started my self-doubt for the day and it just got a lot worse when I struggled through the indoor cycling class that night. I kept thinking that if I was having such a hard time getting through these workouts maybe I wasn’t ready to do an Ironman. By Thursday morning when I felt like I had to drag myself over the finish line of the Thanksgiving 10k I was really having a hard time and really doubting how I would get through an Ironman distance race next year. I mostly convinced myself not to cry until after the run was over but I sure didn’t stay around to socialize with everyone once I finished. My confidence for all of this Ironman training was pretty low. Since I was carpooling with Liz and we were heading to Cindy’s house after I decided to walk the mile and a half to Cindy’s and use the time to clear my head.

There have been more tears than I’d like to admit over the past five days but I think, for now, I’ve put my fears and some of the self-doubt to rest. I had two weeks of travel, little sleep and bad food. My body was not in the best shape for workouts to begin with and adding the stress and pressure I was putting on myself was making it so much worse. As much as I’d like them to be, not all workouts are going to be perfect over the next year and that will continue to frustrate me. I shouldn’t expect to be in Ironman condition today; that’s why I have a coach and a year of training. If nothing else, this past week has shown me that there are so many factors that affect my performance and it’s a good thing I have almost a year to work on all of them! Thankfully, today’s indoor cycling class went much more smoothly than Tuesday night’s and after spending the day getting caught up on things around the house I am finally feeling much less panicked about registering and am starting to get a little excited. Signing up for Ironman is a big deal and I should be doing a happy dance instead of worrying about one or two (or three or four or five) bad workouts.

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Holy crap…

What a long few days. I spent all day yesterday watching friends race Ironman Arizona and I was up bright and early today to stand in line to register for next year’s race. Reality has not sunk in yet and I have so many emotions and thoughts running through my head. I’ve been traveling most of the day and am exhausted. I will attempt to post more about the weekend in the next few days once the dust settles but I couldn’t let the day end without at least putting it out there that I am now officially registered and training for Ironman Arizona (November 17, 3013). Holy crap… Shit just got real 🙂

I am also amazed, thankful, in awe and honored to have such wonderful friends and family who are already planning their trips to watch the race next year. I am truly blessed!

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I’m in Arizona

Well… I’m in Arizona. I’m here to volunteer for Ironman this year so I can register for the race next year. (Volunteers get to register before online registration opens and I wasn’t taking any chances that I wouldn’t get to register). I was feeling a bit emotional about the trip yesterday and found myself getting a bit teary thinking about what was coming.

Signing up for the race is kind of a big step for me. I still find it unbelievable that just a few years ago I never swam, biked or ran. I know it’s still a year away, but I’ll be signing up for something I’ve thought about and planned for for a long time. It’s also marks the start of a year of more swimming, biking and running than I’ve ever done. It’s going to take time, dedication and a lot of hard work to get me back out here (in racing condition) but I’m getting excited to take the next step and actually sign up for the race!

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My Body Needs to Move

This post is more than a few days overdue but I feel like I need a pause button on life to get caught up on everything that needs to be done!

I was out of town last week for a work conference. My boss was there with me and a number of our software users attended. I spent my days standing in our booth doing software demos and my nights doing dinners with my boss, users and friends in the area. I was functioning on little sleep, a lot of travel time in the car and more fast food then I really want to think about. I legitimately did not have time to get in my workouts. By the time I got home on Friday, I had gone four days without any workouts at all. My whole body was telling me it needed to get moving again. I was exhausted and didn’t have a lot of time but I packed up my gym bag and headed to the pool. I didn’t have a workout planned; I didn’t count laps; I didn’t worry about speed. I simply spent about 20 min in the pool getting my body moving again.

I’m not sure how I managed to live for so many years doing absolutely no exercising. I spent years sitting on the couch eating take out and fast food. My mind still tries to trick me into thinking that was a good way to live (and some days it is still what I need to do – but only for the day). After four days of living with my old habits I was ready to jump out of my skin. I needed to get moving and I needed to eat something that wasn’t made in a restaurant. Getting a taste of the “good old days” definitely gave me a chance to appreciate how important it is for me, physically, emotionally and mentally, to make the time to exercise and focus on what I’m eating.

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