Monday, January 26, 2015

So much Data...what does it mean?!?

I belong to a triathlon team and our goal is to mentor and guide new women in the sport of triathlon, in fact that is a topic for another blog!  I mention it because today in our private group there was a lot of talk of swim information and what it all means.  These new fancy watches record all this data but what does it really mean to the normal athlete? Well apparently not much, there was a lot of debate and confusion so I thought I would break down some of the swim stats you are seeing from Garmin and what they all mean to me.

See below from my most recent pool swim:
SUMMARY Section:
Distance: Pretty self explanatory, the total meters or yards that you swam in your work out.
Pool Length: Again, this is set by you on the Garmin. You have 25/50 and then you can set custom length. 
Time: This is the elapsed time of your work out
Average pace: This calculates the average time it takes you to swim 100 meters over the course of your work out.
Calories: I never really use this to guide me but it gives you ball park what you burned.

TIMING Section:
Time: Is your total work out time
Elapsed Time: If you tend to pause your clock while working out for breaks, etc this will be MORE than the time section because it is calculating the overall total time. 
Average Pace: Again this is your average 100m time pace
Best Pace: This is the fastest 100m pace of your work out. (I think my watch got confused for this workout)

SWIMMING Dynamics (this is where things get tricky):
Total Strokes: How many strokes did you take in the entire work out? This will be affected if you are doing drills that don't involve strokes with your watch arm.
Average Strokes: This is the average of how many strokes it took you to go one pool length. 
Average Stroke Rate: This is breaking down how many strokes do you take in one minute, depending on how long it takes you do a pool length this number should be higher than your average stroke per pool length. 
Max Stroke Rate: The largest number of strokes that you took in one minute during the work out
SWOLF: The time in seconds plus the strokes it takes you to complete one pool length.  Ideally you want this score as low as possible. 

Now the real question is: What does all this mean to me?
Well as a swimmer you want to be as efficient as possible, gliding in the water with each stroke. Ideally you want to take as few strokes as possible while still moving quickly on each pool length thus having a low SWOLF.  The two values really work together to ascertain your over all swim health because a very low stroke count but a very long time to reach the other side will not be over all efficient.  Same with a high stroke count but low time to cross the pool, you are expending a lot of energy.  You need to find the sweet spot that results in a lower SWOLF.  

Your body composition may also affect these numbers so it is important as with all work outs NOT to compare yourself with others, if someone has longer arms they may have less strokes or if you are doing drills your numbers will be thrown off. If you want to compare work to compare your own workouts to see your development over time but keep in mind certain drills will affect these numbers. Also, try to limit your push and glide off the wall because this will really throw off your stroke numbers, there are no walls in an open water swim!

Did this clear things up? Still have questions? Leave a comment!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A single step forward is still progress...

 "Don't try to rush progress. Remember-- a step forward, no matter how small, is a step in the right direction."

Coach sent this to me this week and it was perfect for how I was feeling after an extremely long recovery and no real progress in my opinion.  My second metatarsal in my left foot was broken on May 17th, of course I didn't go the doctor about it until July so that was my bad but it is JANUARY! I watch the countdown clock click down closer and closer to IM Chattanooga (245 Days) and I'm trying not to freak out but it is hard not to look at what other people are doing training wise and get concerned.

Rule number 1: STOP LOOKING AT OTHER PEOPLE.  Why do we waste so much of our time comparing ourselves to others?  Sometimes we even say oh well we are using it as motivation when in reality we are using it to make ourselves feel badly about what we can't do. I need to stop looking at other people and comparing my workouts, looking at their stats and seeing that mine don't measure up and then stressing about it. I am coming back from an injury, I need to respect my body and the process of healing and recovery which leads to rule 2.

Rule number 2: Respect the Process. Stop expecting to be right back where I was when I got injured. It took months of training to get me where I was when I got hurt and I can't really expect to be right back there after months of no training. My brain seems confused as it thinks I should be putting up the same splits and same endurance.  I have to start back small and gradually, another reason I got a coach to make sure I don't over do it and get hurt.

Rule number 3: Remember healing takes time.  This one doesn't even just apply to training but to all aspects of life. The PRP injections were extremely painful and took between 6-10 weeks for the full effect to be felt. Patience is not my strong suit and I wanted immediate relief and results.  Now I am 14 weeks out from the very first round and finally I can say that the foot is healed. At manual therapy on Thursday at Performance Health my therapist said those blissful words, it seems healed.  Ahh I think I heard a choir of angels. Often times we find ourselves wanting to fast forward through the hard and trying times but in reality those are the times we learn the most about ourselves and those around us. I think walking around the city in that boot after the PRP injections was worse pain than any work out or race I have ever done. Trying to walk down the stairs from my third floor apartment with my trash actually reduced me to tears more than once, those walking boots are impossible on stairs!

Rule number 4: "Take it easy" to quote the new man in my life. Starting slowly to get back into a routine of working out 6 days a week, just single workouts for now but I forgot how tired it makes me. New training schedule coupled with some really intense hours at work and I am completely exhausted but very happy. My routine involves icing every single night and so far this week it feels we have turned a corner although I am taking it easy and still mostly wearing sneakers at work.

Rule number 5: Don't forget to enjoy the journey.  Every single small step is part of the journey and if you aren't enjoying the journey then you aren't enjoying life. Here's to an amazing next 245 days of accomplishments leading up to Ironman Chattanooga.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Put me in Coach!

The 2015 season is upon us and now is the time to get yourself set up for a successful race season. The important questions to address center around your build phase.  Should I get a coach? How do I pick a coach? Do I need a trainer?   

Let's start with a personal trainer.  I had the pleasure of working with a trainer for all of 2013 at a time when I knew virtually nothing about working out.  She helped me establish a good routine, evaluated my trouble areas and taught me how to do many exercises. A trainer will work one on one with you for as many sessions per week that fit into your budget and schedule. They will give you guidance and also push you to increase weight and fitness. You can typically find a trainer at your local gym and picking one is a tough task.  Focus first on personality because their teaching style should match your learning style. If you don't respond well to yelling then you need a trainer with a softer approach.  Also take budget and cost per session into consideration then ask a lot of questions about their experience, schooling and passions. My trainer had running experience as well as many certificates. The gains that I made with my trainer and the friendship that we formed was an integral part in giving me the confidence to jump into triathlons. A trainer is helpful if you have trouble pushing yourself to get to the gym and need motivation to even step through the door.  They will also be helpful if you don't have any idea how to strength train.

The question of, "Should I get a coach?" plagued me for many months even before I signed up for Ironman Chattanooga and essentially came down to an investment in myself. My total race fees for this year are slightly over $1,000 and at first I thought can I really justify more money every month for a coach but then I realized if I wanted the proper return on my race fee investment I needed to put the effort into locating a coach. There are many, MANY coaching options out there for triathlons some that live near you and some that are all virtual. Lucky for me I personally knew a USA Triathlon certified coach which made my selection process extremely easy but I'll go into why I felt it was a good fit. 

Choosing a coach is an extremely important decision because they will be your life line and a big factor in your racing success. Personality is extremely important, you need a coach that will mesh with your personality, someone that you feel completely comfortable talking to and someone that provides guidance in a way that speaks to you. I knew I needed someone that I could see on a consistent basis which ruled out a virtual arrangement, however there are lots of people that use a virtual arrangement with great success.  For me I wanted the benefits of the person getting to evaluate my skills in person and adjust my drills and workouts based off what they saw rather than what I told them.  I am extremely self deprecating and also tend to push myself very hard so I knew I needed someone with a very calm style, who I respected and could be counted on to tell me when to sit down and not train to keep me from injury. Only you can evaluate your own personality needs to pick someone that is a compliment to you. Someone could be an excellent tri coach but not be the coach for you.  

It is best to conduct some interviews and speak with the coach not only about the certifications and qualifications but find out their race schedule (will it conflict with yours, do they have first hand knowledge of a course you are doing), how they prefer to provide you work outs, will they meet you in person, their fees and what those fees specifically cover. An ideal coach saves you time because they will ensure your training schedule makes sense to keep you from over training as well as save you from having to do hours of research on what plan to use. Ask around in your triathlon group to see if they have recommendations, head to your local bike shop for some contact information, look on the USA Triathlon website or try google.  There is no shortage of coaches in the country so you just have to make sure to pick the best fit for your personality, goals and budget.  

I am already extremely happy with my decision to go with a coach as well as thrilled with my choice of coach.  Happy 2015! 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Peace out 2014, a year of major accomplishments and major setbacks!

2014 started as most New Years do, with promise and lofty goals.  The year ended with many of those goals accomplished and some important lessons and learning as most do.

This time last year, if I am truly honest with myself and go back to my blog I was recovering from foot surgery and I was ITCHING to do something, I hadn't really learned to swim yet, hadn't been on the new bike I had bought and frankly wasn't so confident about my running post surgery.  I had a long way to go before my first half iron in June but I was feeling excited mixed with the anxious feeling of needing to get off the couch.

Swimming proved to be an arch nemesis and I switched exclusively to swimming a 50 meter pool that was much further from my house in order to push myself.  That worked wonders until I had a complete and utter meltdown at my very first ever open water swim in May, ok well maybe not complete because I didn't cry but let's face it I contemplated giving up MANY times. People always say to me, "Oh I wish I could do what you do but...(insert reason here, I'm scared, I can't swim, I freak out, I want to quit, I don't have time)."  Well I have news for you and if you read my blog you know this, but I want to quit many days, I have meltdowns where I cry on the floor over something stupid because I have been training for weeks and I'm sleepy and sore and I've reached my limit, I get overwhelmed with my dreams and goals, BUT I don't give up, I don't quit, I stay the course.  That is the important lesson to learn and that I hope I have conveyed in the last year. I was never a natural athlete, this does not come easily for me and this journey has taxed me more mentally than physically.

Looking back on 2014 I'm disappointed in myself for getting hurt and therefore not meeting the very high goals I had set for myself at the start of the year.  I'm frustrated and tired of the injections, the physical therapy, the constant doctors appointment, and most importantly the lack of a training schedule presenting me with solid base and improvements as I head into an even bigger 2015. The injury has taught me valuable lessons and I need to focus on those lessons in my periods of frustration and self doubt.  I know that if push comes to shove mentally I can make my body work through pain, not of course broken bone pain again but in the instance of a grueling race I can have mental toughness.  I will never forget the words said to me by someone who has known me from the awkward first days of college, "You are way stronger than anyone has ever given you credit for".  Those words have stuck with me since they were uttered in June and they have powered me through.

When I think to all the physical pain I have endured I remember Packy and the fact he suffered far worse and he never gave up and he never complained. I'm sure he had internal complaints and some hidden meltdowns but to the outer world he portrayed his strength and that is important.  As far as me, I am going to endeavor this year to be more honest via the blog as far as feelings of doubt, being scared, etc so that you can see that I'm not Teflon, this process is hard and anyone going through it or thinking about it should have a real picture not puppies and kittens. I want people to say, "I decided to try it because after reading you try it I think I can do it."

Triathlons are hard, learning new sports is hard and sometimes demoralizing, long course events require extreme commitment and sacrifice.  The benefits to me far out way the sacrifices, amazing friends, inspiring and teaching others, the feeling of crossing the finish line and let's face it looking pretty good in skinny jeans is a plus :-)

So 2014, I must say you were pretty positive. I'm so lucky to have the best parents/cheering squad in the business who followed me even to another country to support an endeavor that I am not sure they always understand.  I have not had one major race without them and that means the world to me. I set a new half marathon PR and I set a new 5K PR during a sprint tri relay that my team won.  I accomplished my goal of a half ironman race, I didn't get the time I wanted but I learned so much about race nutrition and myself, especially when I learned I did it with a stress fracture. I had my first DNF, I struggled with my feelings of being pulled for not making the bike cut off but realizing that everything in life holds a lesson and that was an important lesson for me. The understanding that you can only push yourself so far before you need to listen to your body and understand that rest is necessary. The understanding that a DNF is not a failure, it is not a negative but a positive message of a new goal and what I needed to work on.  I accomplished the goal of learning how to take care of myself, rest according to orders and heal.

2015 is the year of the Ironman...more on that tomorrow.