Don’t Train. EAT!

Seriously… a recent article on 220triathlon.com suggests:

What’s the message? Don’t modify your goal to suit the reality of how much you can train… train less because you don’t need to train… all you need to do is fuel & hydrate properly in order to achieve your athletic goals.  Here is another article on Triathlon Magazine Canada, by Coach Paul Duncan stating this is no uncertain terms:

What is being sold to us is that it isn’t training that gets us to our goals – OK… train a bit – but the point is that these so called coaches are making is that far more important than training to peak performance is EATING (oh, and don’t forget your hydration toolbelt)!

Just take a look at these article titles (click on any to link to the article):

Training… that’s for losers!  The message is winners, ‘real’ athletes, especially those who know the ‘secret‘ to success in sport… don’t waste their time doing it the long way, they take the short cut… they just eat their way to the finish line, to their goals.

EATING… THE SOLUTION TO ALL THINGS IN SPORT, IN LIFE

Let’s get one thing on the table before we load it up with food, food, and more food. The average lean individual has enough fat stored on them to last for over 500 km of running… and that is without EATING anything while on the run. Again, that’s LEAN individuals; let’s not even consider right now the typical North American who has not just a couple of extra pounds on them, but tens upon tens of extra pounds on their frame.

You can last about 3mins without oxygen, you can last about 3days without water (yes… no water for 3days to all you water-holics who carry around water bottles the size of oil drums), and you can last about 3weeks without EATING! Think about that…

If the average person burns around 1,500 calories a day, multiple that by 21 days… and you get 31,500 calories in reserve!

Evolution – over millions of years – has taught our body one thing… food is scarce, there are times of plenty, and there are times of scarcity therefore always carry a store. It is only in recent times, where the constant abundance of food (and we now waste almost 1/3 of all the food that is grown/harvested on the planet) has become available.  That has happened in what… two generations, maybe three… definitely not enough time for evolution to work its wonders and rewire our DNA adapting us to 24 hr grocery stores where foods from around the world are on constant display and 24hr drive thrus offering a solution to whenever even the slightest hunger pane hits our hypothalamus.

Wakey wakey, we do not have an under-eating issue!

At last check, we – as the collective we of society – are somewhere between 2/3rd and 75% overweight, with 1 in 12 OBESE, with the projections being that by 2020 over 85% of North Americans are going to be overweight.

Yet we are told EAT, EAT, EAT? Why? Because corporations need us to buy too much, eat too much, and throw away so they can grow sales & profits; cause it sure ain’t for our own health!

The last thing we need is a mindset of EAT, EAT, EAT as if eating is the cure-all to all things. Have we not been trying this strategy for the past decade and so far its gotten us epidemics in diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, strokes, and now its starting to spill into mental health disorders which will only lead to the collapse of our health care system when we sit our double wide asses all at once in the Emerg department of our local hospital.

To be fair… there is some merit that we can improve performance by proper fueling, but “curing” undertraining, insufficient and sup-par preparation for athletic events with ‘proper fueling’ is bulls#!t. Take for instance this article which claims to be a “nutrition case study”:

The writer of this article states that an athlete who completed an iron distance triathlon ended up in the medical tent after crossing the finish line because of cramping, swelling, and then vomiting. These worsened into tachycardia, confusion and hearing difficulties, which later escalated into cerebral edema and a seizure. The medical diagnosis: severe hyponatremia.

The solution proposed by the writer so that this athlete avoids finding themselves in this scenario again… proper hydration with proper levels of sodium.

Seriously!

There is absolutely no mention of actually training to be ready to take on an iron distance triathlon to avoid pushing oneself to such exertion extremes that would result in the above list of signs and symptoms.  Nope. The fact that this athlete should not have even considered completing let alone competing in an iron distance triathlon until they are properly trained doesn’t even come into the discussion. And, this is what passes as “coaching”.

How bout this… stop teaching weekend warriors that insufficient and inappropriate fueling is the root of their problem. Why? Because it isn’t poor fueling or hydration its plain and simple not enough training! If you train enough, at least if you train properly enough then you should encounter every conceivable problem in training that you can expect to encounter in racing. By encountering these problems, the point of training is to solve them BEFORE you compete.

But with coaches claiming that you don’t need to train that much… just a few hours… athletes never come close to swimming, biking or running the full distances they will face in the event so its no wonder that athletes never encounter the problems the will face in the event. That athletes blow themselves apart, risking not only finishing, but gambling with their lives just to cross a finish line should be no surprise. And, this is what passes as “coaching”.

If you are encountering issues in racing that you do not encounter in training, then guess what:

YOU AIN’T TRAINING ANYWHERE NEAR WHAT YOU NEED TO BE FOR THE EVENT YOU WANT TO PARTICIPATE IN

and/or

YOU ARE EXERTING YOURSELF WHILE PARTICIPATING IN EVENTS AT AN EFFORT LEVEL FAR BEYOND ANYTHING YOU HAVE TRAINED, AGAIN REVEALING THE EXTENT OF YOUR LACK OF TRAINING & PREPARATION

But no one wants to tell an athlete… no you cannot do this or that race because no one says “no” to anyone any more. If we don’t blow sunshine up everyone’s ass 24-7 then we are taken as naysayers, disbelievers, or haters. Meanwhile, those who do blow sunshine, teaching that all you have to do is click your heels 3x and you will be back home, that all it takes is enough positive thinking to ride that rainbow to your goals… well, if that’s the strategy that gets you into the mess of severe hyponatremia, why shouldn’t that be the strategy to get you out?

If you as a coach do not have the courage to tell your athlete… “NO, you do not have the quality or quantity of training to safely compete in an event so you shouldn’t”, then you do not have what it takes to be a coach because you are willing to compromise the health and well-being, and even play with an athlete’s life.

One day… all this EAT, EAT, EAT bulls#!t will catch up to those promoting it, just like taking supplements is now coming up as yet another empty set of promises of instantaneous health:

Research is now coming up revealing that all the supplement and multi-vitamin claims are coming up empty or close to empty, and in some cases taking supplements and multi-vitamins is coming up as posing a risk to health.

Its the same thing over and over again… short cut, short cut, short cut.  When will we learn?

There is no short cut to health, to performance, to our potential… the long journey is the short cut, everything else is simply someone blowing up sunshine up your arse in hopes that you will buy, so that they can sell you… vitamins, supplements, and now these days its protein powders, recovery smoothees, sports nutrition that will keep you fueled, hydrated, and going going going.

But no… we want the finish line photo so badly, sooo badly, to prove to ourselves that we are healthy, we want that participation medal sooo badly to shove into the face of our friends to prove that we are so awesome, that when something like this happens…

Instead of asking… did I really train enough for the event?  Am I truly healthy enough to engage in an event that can take as many hours in a day that I am used to being awake?  Why do that? Why actually face the reality that… we are not as healthy as we think we are… we need far more training than what we are told we need in order to compete respecting our body and brain.

What about actually respecting the signs and symptoms our body/brain are communicating, like… sensation of gripping pain which is there to attract your attention so that you hear: HEY MORON! You’re not ready to handle 12hrs of continuous swimming-biking-running (a) because you have not trained anywhere close to enough to be ready, (b) because not once have we even come close to training for this period of time in one single session so no body system is prepared even in the slightest for this undertaking, and (c) because you’ve spent the past decade sitting behind a desk you have become weak, stiff, and barely capable of climbing a flight of stairs from disuse… do you seriously think the 12 weeks of what you call training is enough to do what you are asking of me… your body and brain?

No, no… it must be a fueling or hydration issue. Why? Because such issues require no training to solve, no effort whatsoever. Making this a fueling or hydration problem allows me to sign up and do another event next weekend because all I need to do to “solve” this problem is head to my local tri shop or bike store… and BUY a solution (on credit no less, much like how we pay for athletic performance… using our health as the credit to pay for the lack of training when competing).

You want sunshine blown up your arse… no problem… the internet is full of coaches who will blow you as many rainbows and unicorns as you can pay for.

You want health, a dose of reality… then you will have to find a coach who has the courage to tell you the truth, a coach who has the courage to confront you and your illusions that you are still 18 and still in the physical shape you were when you were 18, a coach who cares enough to tell you the truth that they are willing to risk you walking away. Such a coach will smack you upside the head with truth, AND then they will take the time to train you… properly, so that you can compete in an event, pursue your goals but in an healthy manner… physically, mentally, and emotionally.