Tag Archives: fear

Backwards Racing

How do many athletes race backwards? By first looking to the future, to an event they want to participate in, and then by signing up for that event and then go about planning the training to survive the event, is to backwards race.

Backwards racing leads to backwards training, or as I prefer to call it: cramming, no different than the cramming we all did at some point at school.

Backwards racing results in what you typically see at the finish line long after the pros and top age groupers have completed the event: athletes who are walking, crawling, hobbling towards the finish line in hopes that they will make the cut off time, that they will make it to the finish line, that they will survive to tell the tale of yet another near death experience. Its athletes who have bitten off more than they can chew, yet so sold on the meaning of the finish line that they refuse to acknowledge their lack of training, their lack of preparedness, their lack of real health. Their hope is that the finish line will prove their fears wrong, their hopes right: that they are indeed healthy and fit enough, to show up and complete any race they select.

[A study performed at Ironman Brazil revealed that 2/3rds of all triathletes took NSAIDs the day prior to the event, and 1/3rd took NSAIDs on the day of the event. If triathletes are so healthy, why the need to pre-medicate? If you have trained properly for the event, there should be no need for prophylactic medication. That is of course unless your standard of health has been reduced to the point that relying on medication implies nothing about your lack of health.]

Time after time, I hear of athletes who compete in marathons and triathlons, and despite months passing, still have not fully recovered, still are dealing with physical and mental repercussions of the effort put into completing the competition. Suffering from anxiety, depression, pain, immune system, sleep, digestion, and/or muscle and joint dysfunction, they refuse to acknowledge that their body malfunctioning is connected in anyway to the fact that they were not healthy enough, not fit enough, not sufficiently prepared to take on the challenge of competing in whatever event they signed up, yet proceeded to torture themselves through it anyhow.

Backwards racing is comparable to going to a loan shark for money: its using the threat of broken knee caps, swimmin’ with the fishes, or wearing concrete shoes to serve as a kick in the arse to force yourself to put in the necessary effort to payback the loan. There is no difference between a loan shark and backwards racing: (a) the piper always comes to collect, and (b) the piper will always collect even when you have nothing to offer… your health is always up for grabs.

What I do not comprehend is why do athletes, time after time, gamble with their health in this manner?  Why do they put health up as collateral, simply for a finish line medal or photo? Is that medal really worth more than your well being? What does a medal or finish time prove if in the process you hurt yourself, inflict pain, harm yourself with injury arising from overextending yourself attempting to accomplish in weeks what needs months or years of training.

Racing is supposed to be about testing the progress you have made to date in training. It has to be an honest test for it to have honest meaning. Backwards racing is not a test of anything, its a form of gambling: spin the wheel, pick an event, place a wager (by registering) and then hope that you can pull off the training that at best will allow you to finish the race standing, and at worst puts you into a med-tent or an ambulance.

Backwards racing sets the athlete up to lose, and continued losing. Albeit for the delusional athlete, over-reaching for an event that you have no business attempting, and then surviving in some strange way may serve as a win (especially when the agony of recovering for weeks or months is denied as being related).

If you are not improving as an athlete, then my bet is that you are backwards racing, and training backwards, aka cramming. In fact, you are probably not only failing to improve, I would bet also that you are regressing in some way… in flexibility and mobility, in fitness, in health, as cramming causes athletes to become more prone to injury, to illness, and susceptible to the systemic diseases of prolonged over-training, and over-racing.

In the moment, hyped up, delusional images of grandeur that arise by seeing yourself at a competition – hoping that you can pull it off with weeks or months of training – is just as it sounds… a setup for failure, where pain and injury are the likely outcomes, and health is the account into which you will dip to pay the piper.

If you need a race in order to get training, in order to get motivated, then you are not training, you are threatening, guilting, fearing, scaring yourself into doing what you say you should do, but are clearly not inspired or motivated to do without some sort of doomsday scenario playing out in front of you.

Do you honestly think that health, true health, can be based on emotionally manipulating yourself into training for an event?

Why do this to yourself? Why subject yourself to the pressure, the negative motivation, to the endless reverse psychology of overextending yourself and then hoping that you can cram in enough to pull yourself out of the trap you set for yourself?

Why not take the time to do it right? Start from scratch, learn how to train, learn how to plan to train, learn how to plan to race, and learn how to race so that you can make it a lifelong journey of enjoyment and exploration. Otherwise, you can continue with the hokey-pokey in and out of being active, suffering through training and a race one year, then waiting until you regain some mild level of interest to put myself through the torture of training and racing yet again.


OK… so some triathletes, some athletes race backwards… big deal. No, its not some, its the majority. How do I know? Two sources:

  1. Race Directors – just ask how many register, then how many actually show up to events, especially triathlons.  XTerra Race Director James Kowalewski shared in one post that triathlons – across the industry – have a 25% no show rate. Think about that… athletes shell out anywhere from $100 to almost a thousand dollars when entering iron-distance triathlons, and 25% of them don’t even show. Why? Because they booked their epic event first, and then second tried to figure out how to train to survive the event = racing backwards.
  2. DNFs – review iron distance triathlon results and you will be as shocked as I was at the staggering number of athletes who never make it past T1, past T2, across the finish line. In some age groups I have seen as many as 25% of all the athletes DNF!

So 25% don’t show, another 25% don’t finish… so approximately 50% never complete what they set out to do and then there is a significant number who crawl, stumble across the finish line either after the cut off time or perhaps before but finish their event in the medical tent because they overextended themselves well beyond their capacity. Why? Because racing backwards is the norm, and healthy training and racing is the outlier.

Final story… last year an athlete who went with a local triathlon club to Arizona for a spring training camp returned to share this story. While out on a ride, there was a crash, a serious crash with one athlete in particular suffering a severe concussion. Instead of focusing on the athlete’s well-being, the coach who was also riding in the pack (but did not crash) came to the injured athlete and immediately started to promise that he would get the athlete to their event (which was coming up in a number of weeks). Seriously! A severe concussion and instead of placing health as the priority, encouraging the athlete to recover fully, reminding the athlete that there are many many races available this year and in following years… hell no! Like Monty Python’s Dark Knight… “tis only a flesh wound [Dark Knight is missing both arms, and a leg], come back here, I can still fight you!”

Where does the backwards (cart before the horse) mindset arise from? Coaches who should not be coaching because they have no clue… about what is truly important in life. Find yourself a coach who values health – and your life – over their own ego. The above coach being so obsessed with their own ego could only see themselves as a failure if the injured athlete failed to compete; meanwhile the fact that an incomplete recovery and that a second concussion poses a threat of sudden death doesn’t cross the mind of the coach. Clueless!

Does Daniel Clarke Have A Death Wish?

After reading the title of Clarke’s Vlog #047 “Nutrition Breakthrough”, I wondered what was the epiphany this triathlon neo-pro had today. I don’t watch all of Clarke’s vlogs but once in a while I give in and think… why not. It tickles me now being in my 40s, with two kids of high school age to watch the arrogance/ignorance of youth, especially youth which has been put on a podium or puts itself on a podium.

Today, there was no tickling… I watched Clarke’s video and was gob-smacked.  He didn’t really say what I think he just said… did he? Hold on, let’s play that back and listen… and then I had to listen again. He did! He really did say what he said… and the thought crossed my mind…

Does Clarke have a death wish?

Below is a transcript of Clarke’s vlog #047 starting at 2:39, and here is the link to the Youtube video if you want to hear for yourself:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=14LqTn0cglY

Daniel Clarke:

“Usually when I do longer harder workouts, I feel like literally everything has been drained out of my pores, I feel really weak, sometimes I would have headaches, there would be a little bit of dizziness, sometimes my vision would be a little bit blurry. I always in the past just attributed that to the fact that triathlon training, Ironman training its hard, its meant to be hard, you are pushing your body I just accepted that’s the way it is and I never investigated it further. The big takeaway… just because you are doing something one way doesn’t mean that its optimal for you. And because what I was doing wasn’t broke then there is no reason to fix it… but in Tremblant it broke and fixing it is something I needed to do.”

Clarke’s fix… salt pills.

—————————————————–

Cadel Evans, leader of cycling WorldTour team, TEAM BMC, winner of the 2010 Giro d’Italia, winner of the 2011 Tour de France, winner of 2009 World Road Race Championships shares in his book “Cadel Evans: The Long Road to Paris” that on one mountain stage he started to lose vision as a result of the effort he was putting forth.

Its one thing to be a GC (General Classification) contender, to be a leader of a cycling WorldTour team, to be leading a team of top professional cyclists with the expectation of winning the Tour de France, to be competing in the Tour itself, a race that lasts 21 days covers 3,500+ km of horizontal and 35+ km of vertical distance, to be on a mountain stage at altitude, in the moment of competition against the best of the best in the world of cycling, to be an athlete with over a decade of training and racing experience at an international level as a pro, to be an athlete who knows what they are doing to their body, who understands and is able to weigh the risks of their actions.

Its one thing to be the leader of the Tour or to be going after the yellow jersey – because there are a select few times in life where it may be appropriate for an all out effort – BUT…

Its an entirely different thing for a neo-pro, who demonstrates little evidence of having enough knowledge or understanding of basic human body function, let alone advanced physiological and psychological principles and training concepts to push themselves routinely to extremes. Besides, Clarke is talking about training; he is not experiencing these medical signs and symptoms while competing in the race of his pro career, he is talking about headaches, dizziness and vision loss in regular training! Worse, he is talking about training during a long distance session… as in training which should be aerobic, not at or beyond VO2 max.

Clarke inflicts upon himself signs and symptoms that anyone else would seek medical assessment, emergency medical assessment if these signs and symptoms were severe.

[Honestly, tack on slurred speech and you have ALL the symptoms of a TIA or a stroke!]

Clarke, thinks its A-OK to repeatedly subject his body to stress & strain of such intensity and duration that pain, vision, and balance are compromised.

FYI… its NOT!

Hey, Clarke… ya think asphyxiating yourself on a regular basis to the point that you’re dizzy, to the point that you have visual disturbances is in an way healthy?  Can you consider that maybe you are so high on yourself that you falsely believe that the account from which you constantly overdraw from (i.e. your health) to bulk up your fitness is not endless and maybe, just maybe, one day the piper will come calling, and your debts will have to be paid?

Think about it…

Your brain – the most important organ in your body, the organ your body will defend to ensure that it gets the resources it needs – is FAILING IN ITS ABILITY TO FUNCTION… ya think that there may be an issue with what you think is “not broken”?

If your brain is going blue (as in blue from vasoconstriction), then how do you think your liver, stomach, pancreas, kidneys, intestines, all your other internal and vital organs are doing? If your brain is blue, how do you think your heart is doing? If your brain is blue, then what sort of training are your muscles, your nerves getting?  What sort of resources are they receiving if your brain ain’t getting what it needs?

What’s the plan?

Do Ironman entirely an-aerobically, holding VO2 max for 8+ hours?

Is this what you deem a smart race strategy?

Is that why you think what you are doing can in any way be called “training”?

I assure you… what you are doing is not training; unless your goal is near death experiences.

“No pain, no gain”, “PR or ER” are impaired mental states and not philosophies that consistent peak performers follow to achieve their fullest potential. These are sales & marketing ploys used by industry to sell you on narratives such as “Beast mode” and other absurd, juvenile, insane concepts of health and wellness.

Clarke, you needed things to break @Tremblant – i.e. you needed a crisis as a pro athlete – in order that your eyes and ears open to the fact that… you might not know everything there is to know about training, racing, lets not mention just basic human body physiology… so do tell… what happens when you are in your late 30s, maybe early 40s and all this catches up to you? I mean… surely you have stopped for a moment and considered what asphyxiating yourself will eventually do?  Right?  You have, haven’t you… stopped and considered the consequences, the side-effects, the long term risks of what you are doing?

What’s the plan? When you hit 40, or maybe ‘old-age’ doesn’t catch up to you til you are 50 and the headaches, dizziness, and vision difficulties don’t go away… then what?  Head to the doctor scratching your head as to why, or how, or what ever could be the source, the cause, the root of all these impairments?

You may not even need to wait til 40, as there are athletes of your age who as a result of their own or their coaches mantra to go hard, harder, go til you pee or cough blood led to them suffering heart attacks, developing heart beat irregularities, even brain aneurysms. I’ve met an athlete who had to have a defibrillator implanted into his chest. Imagine needing a device the size of a deck of cards to be implanted under your skin to make sure you don’t die on a daily basis. Sure, lifesaving device, but what if the need for that device was self inflicted, or perhaps coach inflicted from chronic overtraining, overstressing a young body, demanding that it puke up one more rep, even faster than the last, and then another and another?

Then what?

You are free to do as you please with your body and brain… they are after all your body and brain, but what I believe is 100% careless and reckless is that there are amateur athletes both age group (as in kids) and masters who watch your vlogs and will think to themselves… oh, you mean that’s how hard I have to push myself in training.  You mean that’s what I have to do to myself in order to be considered a ‘serious triathlete’, this is the expected ‘payment’ in blood that has to be made to call oneself a pro? And without any further investigation whether or not its the right way to train, whether or not its healthy… will monkey see, monkey do, and train in similar ways as you.

Clarke, are you prepared to handle the consequences of your “advice” falling on unsuspecting amateur athletes that wanna be like Clarke, who then do like Clarke, and train like Clarke… train til they cannot see straight or retain balance while standing? Are you prepared for the call when they are in a bike accident having pushed themselves til they can’t see straight… when they trained like they heard you train?

I worked in long term care, in convalescent care, in pre and post surgical units, with the chronically and terminally ill for over a decade. I can tell you one thing for certain… not one patient I ever met thought that when they were young that they were living ‘wrong’, unhealthy, in a way that would have consequences on their health as an adult. When we are young, all of us think we are invincible, immune to anything going wrong. When they were young (for example) smoking cigarettes was new, was cool, was the ‘in’ thing that all the ‘in’ kids did. Today, struggling for each breathe, able to function only because of the oxygen they inhale through nasal prongs, dealing with chest infection after chest infection… some will still deny that the pack a day, or two, for a few decades has anything to do with their lung disease, be it cancer, COPD, or however it manifested. Why? Because we do not believe, we cannot believe that we could inflict upon ourselves such injury, that we could ever cause ourselves harm, dysfunction, let alone disease.

Wakey, wakey… we can and we do it to ourselves all the time. We just don’t like to admit it.

Clarke, I hope you and everyone else who trains in a similar manner receive this blog not as a slight, but as a wake up call. Read it appreciating that I have true concern for your well being, for your state of mental and physical health, concern for you from the damage you are repeatedly inflicting upon yourself. Damage that unlike @Tremblant, I guarantee you do not want to ever experience, because if you do, it could very well be too late for a salt pill to make it all better.

We Are Wrong About… Fat [1]

I believe our attitude, our approach to dealing with being fat, overweight, and with obesity is wrong.

I do not agree and I do not believe it’s a matter of calories in vs calories out.

It’s overly simplistic, mechanistic, and ingrains a mindset that we are merely machines.

I do not agree and I do not believe that it’s a matter of determination, drive, willpower.

Again, it’s overly simplistic, denying that beliefs, narratives, emotions play any part.

I believe that our model of how the human body functions is stuck in the steam engine period, while the world has evolved into an era of lithium battery powered remotely controlled drones.

Overeating, over-exercising or under-exercising are the result of individuals having excessive intensities of stress and/or excessive durations of stress in their lives and unable to effectively manage the stress levels that they have taken on. We incorrectly use eating and exercising (or lack thereof) as short term solutions when we fail to maintain healthy levels of stress in our lives, and/or fail to engage the stress we have in an healthy manner.

The root of the obesity epidemic is that we – collectively – are not handling appropriately the effects that advancements in technology are causing on our lives, on our work, our careers, our finances, our social structure, social interactions, on the nature of how we live each and every day. Our failure to integrate and ‘keep up’ with the accelerating rate of advancement is not only making us outright sick, it is driving us to addictions and in worst cases to an early grave (despite the hoopla that technology is a one way street to an ever improving quality of life).


What’s the difference between a dead body and an alive body? Both have organs, muscles, nerves, and both have a brain… so what is the difference? What is the aspect of being alive that makes us alive, that differentiates us from being dead?

You are pronounced dead when there is no longer detectable electrical activity in your heart and in your brain; when the electrical signals of these organs stops… you are pronounced dead.

What defines us as alive, is energy, the electrical signals constantly flowing between individual cells (e.g. within an organ), or between different groups of cells (e.g. between organs).

Like anything that conducts energy – as in electricity – there must be some sort of segregation of signals so that signals remain distinct, discrete, preventing short circuits.

In electronics, the part of the wire which surrounds, protects, and isolates the energy traveling in the wire from coming in contact with any other wire is the wire insulation.  The insulation is typically a rubber or plastic coating that surrounds the copper wire within.

In the electrical wiring of the body we too need to have an insulator that ensures that the signals – the electricity – along nerves, between groups of cells doesn’t come in contact with other signals, short circuiting the message or overloading the system.

What does our body use as insulation?  It uses FAT!

That’s right… FAT is the insulator. You need fat in your body, you need fat in your brain, you need fat everywhere in order that each and every electrical signal you generate remains distinct throughout its journey from start to finish. Fat is also needed to insulate to prevent an overload of signals.

Fat as an insulator is critical to the proper function of every single organ in our body, brain included.

Fat is not only needed in the wiring (i.e. our nervous system) but fat is needed wherever there is the risk or the potential risk that short circuits and system overloads can happen.

In healthy systems, where stress loads are appropriate and balanced by rest (e.g. cooling) periods, then the insulation required is minimal.

In systems where the stress load – or stated another way, in systems were the flow of electricity is excessive in intensity and/or duration – then the amount of insulation required increases.  If the stress load is so high that there is a risk that organs could be damaged, then in order to protect itself the body starts to insulate itself… it uses FAT to surround and protect the organs.

To visualize what happens when electrical devices are placed under excessive stress loads for which they were not designed, (as in there is insufficient insulation to prevent overflow of the stress), here are computer motherboards being overloaded with electricity:

The above are not situations that your body can allow to happen to you… that would be capital ‘B’ bad.  To protect and prevent total organ overload and organ failure, your body insulates organs using fat.

If you stop and think for a moment, that its not just your brain that handles stress, but every single organ in your body… your heart, your lungs, your liver, your pancreas, your stomach, every organ… then insulting to prevent a burn out ain’t such a bad strategy.

Your body is not stupid. Your body is not rebelling against you when it stuffs insulation between each organ. Your body is working to protect you, to keep you alive. Your body is simply responding to the fact that the stress load you are placing it under is more than it can handle.

Millions upon millions of years of evolution are not working against you, but for you, to keep you alive.  Your body is hoping that it can keep you alive long enough that the threats that you are under that are causing the excessive stress loads will decrease.  Until then, stuffing every crack and crevasse with fat is simply your body being smart about survival.


We need to reconsider the paradigm with which we think about fat, being overweight, and about obesity. It is not calories in vs out, its not willpower, its not laziness or lack of motivation; the issue is much much larger… its about stress.

In fact, its not about stress per se, its about our ability to engage stress in an healthy manner, its about our ability to eliminate, reduce and manage stress, its about our ability to train, preparing to live in a world that is only becoming more and more stressful.

We cannot eliminate stress.  The only people without stress are those in a cemetery 6ft under.

I believe that an electrical model, not a caloric model needs to be considered because at the root of our function, each and every cell in your body is a tiny little battery, a tiny little capacitor, which depends on proper electrical charges existing and flowing across its cell membrane to function properly.

A caloric model of obesity thinks of the human body only as a mechanical object.

The human body cannot be thought of in a steam engine manner… we need to upgrade our model from the steam engine era, to the era of the super computer. An era that is not fueled by calories, but by the flow of electrons.

Mindful Training vs Exercise Addict

It is recommended that both posts titled “Simon Sinek: Understand the Game” are read prior to this post as the addictive nature of aspects of our nervous system is important to grasp so that you can appreciate the significance of how the industry markets exercise to us, and why.


In general, we are not encouraged to train towards a goal mindfully. We are not encouraged to evaluate our starting point: our cardiovascular and respiratory capacity, our flexibility, our mobility, our skill level.  We are not encouraged to establish proper baseline measures against which to assess progress, to assess improvement in any real aspect of health, or function; instead we are told to pick a goal, preferably an epic event, then follow a plan which will take us to the finish line.

We are encouraged to create an addiction to exercise, not for exercise to be added as a balanced aspect of life. We are encouraged to over-reach and over-train all in the pursuit of finish lines, participant medals, and t-shirts, as if any of those are measures of wellness, function or health. We are encouraged to participate in sport, as if its an experience no different than wine tasting… something you casually do on a weekend with friends which requires no development of ability, capacity, or skill.

This is how dumbed-down training for performance, for the pursuit of health, of peak physical and mental function has become.

Its been dumbed-down not for your benefit, not to make health more accessible, more available, but for the sake of corporate revenue and profit.

The major sports product and service companies, from footwear, to apparel, to event management and so-called sports nutrition (i.e. candy for adults) have diminished sport telling everyone and anyone that a 10k, a marathon, a triathlon, a grandfondo, any and all finish lines are just on the other side of acquiring all the right training equipment, outfits, technology and tracking devices, and of course, all the sports nutrition your two hands can carry to the check out.

Training… oh, don’t worry about training, all that it takes is a few weeks where you train at your limit (hopefully without a resulting injury or illness) learning to “take the pain”. There is no technical instructional, there is no learning of skills; instead mindless all out effort has been branded “training”. If you aren’t coughing up or peeing blood… you ain’t trainin’.

The industry makes it sound like anyone can participate in any sport, and if you are not, then the final attack in their strategy is emotionally manipulating us to believe that our lack of participation is due to a lack of willpower, a lack of discipline, or evidence of inadequacy as an human being that holds us back. The corollary being that we will no longer feel inadequate and all our life issues will disappear if we only sign up for their event, wear their gear, use their equipment.

Consider the recent announcement by World Champion and 2016 Rio Olympic gold medalist in the sport of triathlon Alistair Brownlee:

  • He announced that he will be training and competing in iron distance triathlons, moving up from the sprint and Olympic distance triathlons for the next two seasons. His goal is to qualify and compete at Ironman World Championships in Hawaii, but he believes that the two year time frame is likely too short of a time span to achieve that goal.

We are not talking about an athlete who is just starting out. This is an athlete who has been training since elementary school age, who has been competing at the highest level of sport for over a decade, and who has stood on the podium at Worlds, European Champs, and the Olympics, both as a Junior and Amateur athlete…

We are talking about an athlete who peaked for competing in Rio in an Olympic distance triathlon by putting in 35-40 hr training weeks, swimming 20-25km, biking 500-700km, and running 120km per week…

…and he doesn’t think two years is enough to prep properly for an Ironman triathlon.

Please stop there, re-read this point, and allow enough time for the significance of it to sink in.

How many who have spent the last decade or more sitting behind a desk and behind the wheel commuting 6-8+hrs a day, who have little background in formal training for sport, who have a ways to go to regain health let alone starting on fitness are sold that all it takes is a few months and you can… run a half or full marathon, race in a triathlon, or better yet complete an iron distance triathlon, or cycling grandfondo?

How many coaches are selling aspiring athletes that two years is more than enough time to prep for an Ironman? Really. Its not enough for Alistair Brownlee, two time Olympic gold medalist in the triathlon (London 2012 & Rio 2016), and four time ITU World Champion, but its more than enough time for everyone else? How exactly does that work?

How is it that pros who have decades of training under their belts, train as many hours per week that you work your job need years to prep while everyone else is packaged and sold that training and competing in sport is no different than packing a suit case and going for a cruise, or an overseas vacation? Just have the right luggage; that’s all it takes.

National & Olympic Swim Team Coach Paulus Wildeboer

The health and fitness industry are lying outright to you in order to monetize your fears, and turning profits to the tune of billions and billions of dollars in so doing. Meanwhile, you in an honest effort to become healthy have become addicted to excessive and insanely intense exercise at that, which after yielding some temporary positive results now leaves you jailed with unending aches, soreness, pain, injury, and illness. Plus, the all out efforts and subsequent days of discomfort add to a growing animosity towards the gym, fitness clubs, and the entire thought of training. It builds an inner turmoil fed by the guilt the industry sows to make it seem that if you don’t work out then you are inadequate because you obviously lack the willpower, desire, and ambition to drag yourself back out for another session of self inflicted harm.

So what do you have to do to keep it going?  We sign up for some extraordinary epic one of a kind event. An event that we pray will motivate us to continue to hurt ourselves day after day until we are healthy (or die trying).

The industry cares not whether you get healthy, all they want is to pry from you every penny you’ve got and once drained, drop you moving on to another whose fears of being overweight, obese, stricken by anyone of the lifestyle diseases (e.g. heart disease, stroke, cancer, Alzhiemers, diabetes) or due to the desire to be identified as an athlete fall for their trap of “only 10weeks to look and feel your best”.

You have not been and you are not being encouraged to engage in mindful training.

Mindful training is where you regain flexibility, regain full function of all your joints, muscles, and with that mobility, leading to agility, balance, coordination, and dexterity. Mindful training naturally leads to an appropriate body weight, and retrains the mind to remain at peace, focused, and objective when stressed, and precludes getting injured or ill. Mindful training is not a destination, its a process.

Sport is about the beautiful movements that the human body is capable of creating, not mindless extreme effort.

The problem for industry is that mindful training cannot be sold in quantity. So the solution is to dumb-down training and competing in sport so that they can achieve sales quotas.

Mindful training comes from a caring, compassionate, knowledgeable and experienced coach and health professional, preferably done one on one, but doable in small groups.

Mindful training focuses on learning how to move, from which joint and muscle group to generate power, resulting in speed, endurance, and ease in movement. None of which can be done via Skype or by downloaded spreadsheet.

Mindful training does not depend on premium equipment, the latest technology, laboratory developed nutrition.  If it did, then why do Olympians arise from poverty? Hmm?

You have been encouraged to get addicted where your supplier and enabler is the health and fitness industry.

You want your health? Then break free from the mainstream definitions of exercise, of training, of competing, of nutrition, and especially of health.

Addicted living is not healthy living.

Find someone in your community who coaches healthy mindful training.

Those depending on HIIT (hi intensity interval training), bootcamps, Tabata, CrossFit or any other insanely intense and excessive form of exercise are selling short cuts to cosmetically change you to look healthy, they are not truly helping you to change to be healthy.

Find someone in your community who is teaching how to move, how to regain movement by acquiring skills in movement, and who will help you one on one figure out what is holding you back, what you need to do to get healthy, who are willing to walk with you each step of the way.

Find a sport or a performing art that speaks to you on a deeper level… it can be ballet, hip hop dance or jazz, or it can be any sport that you fancy. If its fun, if you are challenged by it, if you can commit to it, if it requires you to practice, to train, to learn, if you can start at an appropriate level and progress at your speed and skill, then its the right activity for you no matter what it is.

Stress Adaptation & Overtraining [4]

Is your training unproductive?  Are you working out, perhaps pushing harder and harder and nothing sticks?  Are your split times stagnant, or worse slowing?  Is your power output and endurance faltering?  Before you review training data, what about reviewing your sleep data.

How many hours of sleep are you getting consistently?  Is it straight or broken?  Do you find it easy to fall asleep?  Are you falling asleep or collapsing into bed, or do you toss and turn waiting for sleep to arrive?  What about falling back asleep if you wake up in the night?  Is waking up easy? Sleep quality is as important as training quality.  When sleep quality diminishes then training quality already has or is about to deteriorate.

In order for your training to be productive, your body and mind need to start workouts rested and ready to learn, think, and work.  A lack of sleep precludes total recovery between training sessions and prevents a receptive state to deal with the challenges and stresses of training.  If you haven’t recovered from your last workout, then piling on another one is not going to have a positive effect, in fact you are risking starting into a negative training spiral.

It happens to all athletes at some point… your ‘A’ race is fast approaching, your training has been inconsistent due to work/school priorities or life in general, so stacking workouts one on top of the other is somehow rationalized as logical.  But you cannot ‘cram’ your way into peak performance.

Athletes often get overwhelmed with pre-performance anxiety, recounting negative feelings and images from a prior poor performance.  Feelings of guilt, disappointment, anger and frustration are anticipated as doubt begins to overshadow any remaining enthusiasm and belief in executing a desired performance.  Lack of emotional stability, unrealistic goals, doubting race readiness/training impair an athlete’s judgement in the final weeks of training ahead of their event. The unfortunate result is that athletes increase training intensity exactly when it needs to be tapered, and increase training volume when sleep, rest, and recovery are the priority, all in a futile attempt to right perceived training wrongs.  It is not uncommon for inexperienced coaches to panic, to doubt their own programs wondering if the training they prescribed has been appropriate, and if the objective will be met or if the season will be lost in vain.

Sleep probably doesn’t even register as a form of training with many athletes or coaches.  Yet sleep is as important and as beneficial to peak performance as time spent in the gym, on the field, the road, the track, or the pool.  To encourage athletes to sleep, to nap, to rest, coaches need to have their athletes log sleep hours along with training hours, in this way, rest is neither skipped nor discouraged.

In fact, if peak performance is desired, then as a coach I would go so far as to ban an athlete from training if they fail to consistently obtain sufficient sleep.  What’s the point of training an athlete who seeks consistent flawless execution but is repeatedly tired, weak, unable to focus, and lacks clarity in their priorities?

The reality is, if you don’t sleep sufficiently, then you have no goal of peak performance.

The training effect does not occur until and unless there is adequate rest, and sleep is the optimal form of rest.  Rest allows the body to physically heal and rejuvenate, allows for the neurological integration of new patterns of movement improving technique, coordination, balance, increases neurotransmitter supplies improving agility resulting in faster turnover and higher power output. Its simple: it takes time for the body to do all of this, and it takes energy and focus to do it right.  If the body is not given time to recover, then subsequent training sessions will not build on top of prior sessions: there will be no training effect. Instead working out – because at this point you cannot call it ‘training’ – will serve to take an already weakened, tired, fatigued, and sloppy body and debilitate it further.

Is your training unproductive?  Maybe its has nothing to do with your training, and has everything to do with a lack of rest, recovery, and sleep?

To find all posts in this chain and others on this topic, follow the tags: ‘stress’ & ‘overtraining

Importance of Pacing – Across All Sports

In coaching age group and masters athletes, both groups reveal a consistent pattern in competition strategy: out strong at the start of an event, only to die a slow, miserable, horrible death from about the 1/2 way point all the way to the end.  Time after time, race after race, athletes attempt to set personal bests through this agonizingly painful strategy.   If we could chart it, it may look something like this:

chart - poor pacing2

Red Line = RPE               Green Line = Pace/Speed

RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) starts out feeling easy, but is in fact too hard.  The athlete only trains hard, so they only know hard, and therefore can only race hard.  Failure to train rested and at low RPEs results in the inability to accurately judge pace.  They start out too fast, often faster than they have ever trained. At a race, starting RPE may feel low because of the energy of the event, but it isn’t necessarily so, leaving little room for RPE to climb.  Already at or near max RPE the athlete is maxed out by the mid point of their event.  As their effort level climaxes, their pace starts to crater.

Click here for a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) Chart

Click here for a RPE Chart with Heart Rate (HR) Zones

Click here for a RPE Chart matched to Speaking/Breathing

Mentally and emotionally this approach to competition is equally depleting and demoralizing because the athlete has to exert more and more effort only to see themselves fail to improve. At times like these, athletes often fall into negative self talk loops – only worsening their state of mind – by blaming themselves for not being mentally strong, that they are undeserving, or simply aren’t athletes, misinterpreting the true errors in their training. Prior to competitions, the anticipation of the pain to come results in performance anxiety, doubt, and in the worst of times, a return to the negative self talk loop.  These death marches in competition are marked by positive split times (i.e. second half is slower than the first half), and in some cases a DNF or a DQ.

To solve this problem, athletes and coaches conclude that their training ‘wasn’t hard enough’, so they return to even harder training, hoping that they will be able to hold their initial pace longer. Problem is that at their next race they repeat the same pattern, starting out even harder because their training was harder, resulting in even greater suffering and pain.  In time, this training and racing pattern leads to dissatisfaction and frustration, with themselves, their coach, and the sport. Inevitably, athletes quit because the disappointing results of training harder and harder are undesirable, with disappointment eventually becoming anticipated.

Personal bests are possible with this form of training for awhile, but the cost at which they come – the exponential rate of effort required to sustain momentum – leaves a trail of injured, maxed out, and burnt out athletes.

 

If physical activity and participation in sport is supposed to generate health and wellness benefits, then athletes and coaches should seriously reconsider whether ‘hard training’ is really all that healthy to start.

 

A Smart Training Solution: Race Pace Training

One solution is training at a specific pace repeatedly until the athlete can deliver that pace irrespective of how they feel: when fresh, when a bit tired, when having to work to sustain it, and when its all they’ve got left.  If your goal is to compete, to explore your potential, then learning to run one speed at all levels – from fresh to fatigued – is fundamental to consistent peak performance as these are the exertion levels that you will experience during competition.

Why do many athletes not have this capability?  Simple.  They don’t train across a range, they only train hard, all out, all the time.  They train only one or a few RPEs, believing that true competition occurs only when effort is 10/10.  Therefore it is no wonder that they have difficulty tapering, don’t taper, and when they do are unable to integrate a full recovery to delivering a personal best in competition.

Example of Smart Training

If your desired 5k personal best is 20 minutes, then your race pace for 1k repeats is 4 minutes. Not 4:01, not 3:59, but 4 minutes even.  In fact, to truly train a 4min pace, each 200 meter split during 4min/km pace should each be exactly 48 seconds.

How do runners train such a session?  Their 200m splits for a 1k repeat may look something like this: 44, 47, 48, 50, 51 seconds.  It adds up to a 4 min/km pace so they believe they are training 4k pace BUT there are a few problems. First, starting out way too fast even in this one interval teaches the athlete to do exactly what they don’t want to do in a competition: go out too fast, only to die another slow miserable death.

Training is dress rehearsal for competing, therefore train the way you intend to compete.

Second, the above 200m splits cannot be classified as training 4min/km pace because a 4 min pace was only held for 1 of the 200s (i.e. the third 200).  The first 200 at 44secs is a 3:40/km pace, the 47 is a 3:55 pace, the 50 is 4:10 pace and the 51 is 4:15 pace. If your goal is to run a 4min/km pace, then training means training your body through repetition (and loads of it) to hold 4min/km pace irrespective of how you feel.

Consistent peak performers have a portfolio of paces, a range and sub-ranges of RPE, with awareness of how much time they can spend at each speed and effort level.  They can adjust pace to meet head winds, to take advantage of tail winds, when going uphill, downhill, when in a pack, when solo.  They know what pace to use to attack, and what pace is available to recover. They have trained to develop the widest range of abilities so that they are a force to be reckoned with regardless of conditions, competitors, or their own state.

Consistent peak performers do train hard, but it is within the context of smart training. Training smart arises from evaluating race performances and dissecting errors and mistakes in strategy, and then developing and training solutions for the next event.  Training hard is simply what it sounds like: hard training.  The metric for success in hard training is whether or not you hurt at the end of a workout (which is no indicator of performance improvements, and most definitely not synonymous with health and wellness).  The metric for success in smart training is whether or not you accomplished a specific objective… can you hold a specific cadence, a pace, a cadence at a specific pace, can you hold form, execute a specific skill, routine, a strategy on cue, and so forth.

When training is appropriate for an athlete, and executed with the specific intent on learning how to deliver effort consistently, then competing can look and feel like this:

chart - good pacing1

Red Line = RPE               Green Line = Pace/Speed

What many athletes don’t realize is that if they actually worked on pacing alone – without training harder – they would see consistent improvement in race times, race after race as their consistency in holding split times improved.

If we are getting into sport to enjoy ourselves, to improve our health, then training needs to be enjoyable, a learning experience, a rewarding time spent problem solving specific issues in technique and strategy, a process of developing skills.  There is so much more to training then just training at hard, harder, and puke effort.  There is an art to sport and if athletes and coaches spent more time on the art, they will realize that the offerings of sport are much deeper then they ever imagined.

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This past competitive swimming season saw several of the Burlington Masters Swim Club members achieve personal best times not because they trained harder, but because they trained smart: able to hold a consistent pace.  Two particular athletes come to mind:

One athlete who competed at  Provincials who after racing the 200m FR event reported that because they paced well, they even splitted the race, and when they came off the wall at 125m instead of being spent, they had another gear (i.e. higher RPE #), were able to kick it up a notch, and raced swimmers in other lanes into the wall.  Their excitement and exhilaration with their success displaced any fatigue that they may have felt, motivated them instantaneously, and set them up positively for their next event. Over the remainder of the swim meet, this athlete competed with renewed confidence as they felt control over their application of speed and power, able to deliver on cue.

Another athlete competed well at Provincials and wanted to improve further by Nationals.  This athlete chose an event, identified two specific technical aspects of that event – turns and breathing cycle – and trained those two aspects almost exclusively.  With 4 weeks between competitions, and only 1 week to fine tune race pace prior to tapering, the swimmer successfully applied their training to take 2 seconds off their 100m FLY time.