I wrote this for an audience of one, a long time ago. My daughter has heard me break things down like this many….many….many times. I figured I’d share it. It’ll be the closest thing I’ll ever draft that could remotely be considered sound advice.
- Have a goal. Make sure it’s big and bold, so it scares you a bit. If it doesn’t scare you – it’s too small.
- OK – you have a goal in mind? And it scares you a little? Excellent. Now develop a plan. Draw up the path to get you from where you are to where you want to be. Write it down – don’t just think about it.
- So – you now have a goal AND a plan? Good. Now break the plan down into manageable pieces. Take your time. Go step by step. Be patient.
- Don’t just treat your plan like a bunch of items to be checked off on some list. Focus on each step you take to get closer to your goal. Fall in love with the process. Let it become a high priority in your life and give it the level of attention that your aspirations truly deserve.
- Celebrate the wins. That can be something huge that you accomplish along the way to your ultimate goal (like running your fastest mile while training for a marathon), or something smaller (like stepping on the scale and seeing that you’ve lost a pound or two on your way to your goal weight).
- Forgive yourself when you don’t accomplish all that you wanted in a day. Just promise yourself you’ll work a little harder tomorrow. If you are dieting and you find yourself giving in to a craving for Oreos (speaking from experience here), forgive yourself and simply do better tomorrow.
- Remind yourself that the only person you are competing with is the person you were yesterday. When working on your goal, go into a bubble. Focus on the simple task in front of you – not a call you need to make later this evening or a meeting scheduled for tomorrow. When working on your goal, it is the only thing that should warrant your attention.
- Don’t be afraid to “plus” your goal while you are working toward it. It’s OK to make your goal bigger while you’re on the path to achieving it – it may take longer to accomplish, but the juice is worth the squeeze in the end.
- Don’t be afraid to share your goal with others. Your allies will ask if they can assist you in achieving it. They’ll keep you focused and motivated. And if the person you share your goal with responds with something like “oh please – that’s impossible”, then just smile back at him / her while understanding that the goal may be impossible for them because it’s not their’s. It’s YOUR’S. “Impossible” is just a big word thrown around by small men.
- And last but not least: when you achieve your goal, whatever it may be, don’t forget those that were in your corner all along the way, helping you get there. When you receive the recognition, pass the credit.
Thus endeth the sermon.
It’s kind of cool, when simple positive actions become habits…and then the results of those habits begin to be noticed. Simple things like taking a minute here and a minute there to do as many push ups as possible before jumping back on to the laptop and continuing to work, or taking 30 minutes out of the day to focus on learning something new – from how to measure acidity in a glass of wine to the origins of old sayings like “what a fiasco!”
Just a note: the term “what a fiasco can be traced back to several stories – and here are two of them:
Google’s primary explanation: “The French faire fiasco (to fail) was adopted in turn from the Italian far fiasco. When the term “fiasco” entered English in the mid-1800s, it meant “a failure or break-down in a dramatic or musical performance,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary.”
Ah, but there is more to it than that….
Fiasco is one of the Italian words for a bottle (it’s related to English flask) and the idiom far fiasco, literally “make a bottle”, developed first among Italian theater and opera people in the eighteenth century to mean perpetrating a bad performance. Why? Because some of the actors would down a bottle or two before hopping onto the stage and performing their version of Cats. The result was a car-wreck of a performance.
Here’s another tidbit: some say that the term “what a fiasco” comes from the fact that some bottles of chianti wine are really poorly designed. They cannot stand on their own. So….they need to be encased in a wicker sheath. So the term basically sounds like sarcasm: picture 2 Italian guys drinking a bottle of chianti, when they remove the wicker wrapping from the wine bottle. They then try to stand it up, it immediately topples over and spills all over their Zenga suits. One looks at the other and says “hey paisan – look at dis! Wadda fiasco, eh?”
Last note: this month’s Runners World magazine has an article that simply rocked. This dude is my hero.
Signed up for IRONMAN’s VR6 (Virtual Race #6) this weekend. 3k run, 40k bike, 10k run. I also signed up for Rock n Roll Marathon series’ virtual race, which is an 8k. So….lots of time outside running and riding.
I’m also finding that taking time consistently throughout the day to complete sets of push ups, kettle bell swings, body weight squats and leg lifts helps raise the metabolism a bit while working. I’m already feeling some of the benefits that comes with consistency.
Using an application like MyFitnessPal has made policing my dietary intake a bit easier. I’m surprising myself when it comes to the increase in self-discipline lately. While I do have cravings for all things tasty and NOT good for me, I’m finding that it’s becoming easier to reign myself in a bit and not give in.
Progress is slow. Very slow. But it’s there.
I’m beginning to try yoga more and more, simple 10 minute sessions that still kick my butt. I need to focus on flexibility – right now the only way i’m gonna be able to touch my toes is if someone snips them off my feet and hands them to me.
So today I began something new: intermittent fasting.
It’s a rather radical decision to make, but I realized that the old saying is true: Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes. Before today, the only times I’ve done what’s now referred to as Intermittent Fasting was when I either a) didn’t have enough cash to buy breakfast and lunch, b) I lost my damn wallet on the #6 train, or c) I didn’t have enough time to breathe, let alone eat a meal during my work day. Let’s face it: I didn’t call it by some fancy name like Intermittent Fasting….I referred to it as I’m Cranky As Hell Because I Didn’t Eat.
I’ve done a lot of reading about this type of fasting, and I chose to go this route so that I can drop excess pounds quicker. This will allow me to train at a higher quality level than I’ve been hitting recently. This won’t be a lifestyle change for me – I like food WAAAAAY to much for that – but in order for me to finally go from where I am to where I want to be, something drastic needed to happen.
The way I see it, I’ll go the next 6 weeks trying this discipline of eating: there will be a window of time each day for caloric intake (I’m budgeting a 5 hour period between 10am and 3pm each work day). During this time period, I will eat a decent breakfast (around 10sm), and a decent lunch (as close to 3pm as a work schedule will allow). After 3pm, I can take in as much water, tea, or coffee (black, no sugar) that I feel like. When I wake up in the morning, it’s calorie-free fluids until the clock strikes 10am again.
Now my number one concern was my energy level and how the lack of calories will effect my training. Some experts say that proper calorie intake during your feeding window should permit a solid workout. However, my goal is to drop weight at a rather quick rate, so some hunger pangs and a grumbling stomach are part of the deal. As an Ironman Certified Coach, I would not recommend this type of diet to someone training for a triathlon, because the athlete needs fuel to get him/her through longer workouts at a high level of quality. But that’s just it for me: I feel like I’m not getting quality workouts in BECAUSE I’m carrying too much of myself around 24/7. I’m feeling sluggish. Unfocused. And my training plan has been a bit aggressive. Soooooo…..I burn 800 calories in an hour and then I take in 1400 empty calories as a “reward for a job well done”. NOT THE WAY TO DO THINGS. AT. ALL.
Instead of trying to get lighter, faster, and stronger all at once, I decided to prepare for what’s in store for me in phases…..
Phase One – Drop the Excess Me: Drop the piano that I’m constantly carrying on my back. This means six weeks of The Biggest Loser-type of training. Let’s get rid of the piano. In this phase, I’m expecting some headaches, hunger pangs, and some development of lean muscle (because I’m not ditching my workouts – I’m just altering them to sculpt a newer version of myself).
Phase Two – Crank Up the Mileage: As I begin to notice Phase One showing results, I will gradually up my endurance sessions (those high mileage run and bike sessions) while taking in slightly more calories and timing my meals to ensure healthy recovery post-workout. If Phase One has done it’s job, Phase Two should result in me having an easier time cranking up my running pace and hanging longer at 20+mph on the bike.
Phase Three – Play Mad Scientist: Once I have the body composition that is more conducive to being able to run 30-35 miles a day for 2 weeks (where I’ll need to be in 14 months), I’ll need to add some serious strength work to my routine, because long endurance events break down muscle, big time. So you gotta build yourself up to break yourself down.
So Phase One is geared toward making the load I’ll need to carry lighter, Phase Two will be focused on putting the tiger in the cat and using my lighter weight to go longer and faster, and Phase Three will be adding muscle so that I can endure next August and defend against injuries. I’ve tried doing everything at once. Now I’m changing things up – I focus now on one issue at a time. When you try to accomplish everything at once, you wind up accomplishing nothing well.
TODAY’S REPORT CARD
Sleep: A (Got 8 hours in. A good way to start the week.)
DIET: B+ (Day One on this plan, and I stuck to it. I did have a couple of Twix bars though!)
Swim: N/A (Not on the schedule today)
Bike: B (I didn’t get a bike in in the morning – I was too chicken to start my day in severe calorie debt, so I waited ’til the evening to get an hour in)
Run: C (Dreadmill. That sucked.)
Strength: B+ (I had a great evening upper body workout, Felt like Hans and Franz from SNL)
Ahhhhh, Friday. Today’s been a very good day. My Jeep Wrangler, Lola (yes, that’s her name – its an homage to Agent Phil Coulson’s car in Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD……and yes, I’m THAT big of a nerd) got picked up from the dealership today after requiring attention (apparently there was something wrong with the radiator…either that, or some asshat siphoned all of its engine coolant and sold it on the black market for vast amounts of bitcoin). Four days in Cali without a mode of transportation results in some rather odd and morbidly funny Uber rides. Here are just a few of the things I’ve heard during my rides to and from work while Lola was ailing:
- “….I’m like, really smart. Super smart. I have, like, a 300 IQ…” To which I responded “While I’m not that smart, I can use big words like Delicatessen in a sentence and know what it means…”
- “….I don’t think my girlfriend likes men any more…” To which I responded “Hey I have idea – let’s talk politics, because it will be less uncomfortable. Sound good?”
- “…this whole climate change thing is a bunch of crappola. It rained all afternoon….” To which I responded “You make an excellent point. Absolutely. It never rains in Phoenix, so that’s when you know their climate is screwed – but the rest of us are just fine. Just don’t go to Phoenix.” (NOTE: I tipped this driver because he used the word “crappola in a sentence, like a damn boss)
- “…can you believe it? I got stopped for speeding and then they didn’t believe me when I told them I wasn’t drunk.” When I asked “Well, were you drunk?”, his response was “I don’t remember”. I just replied “Well then that would be a yes.”
- …and my personal favorite, which just happened this morning: “I love a good pastrami sandwich in the morning – I don’t know what to do without it. It’s like, really delicious. And my boyfriend told me its ok for vegans because it’s the only meat made of soy.” two notes here: 1) yes, this was actually said, almost verbatim – I had to write this in the morning so I wouldn’t forget the sheer artistry of what I had just heard, and 2) yes, the car smelled of warm, cured meat and dijon mustard.
On a scale of 1-10, I’d give myself a solid 7 today, diet-wise. No junk food. No soda. Only one cup of coffee (I think I’ve been taking in way too much caffeine, and I’ve not slept much all week). No fast food or junk food. Nothing fried. An abundance of high quality H2O. So that combination – in my world – equates to eating like a monk. Seriously. That’s like a damn detox day for me. Sad, I know – yet oh so true.
The workouts today were AWESOME. I brought my A game. I started with some strength training, and then transitioned to the dreadmill, where I stretched my legs for 45 minutes at a relaxed pace. I was thinking about not running today – but then I remembered how damn slow I am, and that I needed the practice. So: dreadmill. Then I hopped on the bike and sweated like a damn fiend for 90 minutes. I really wanted to burn my legs out today, because I want to see how they recover for tomorrow’s long run. I’m going to be in some serious pain coming off the bike in Santa Cruz in May, and then I’ll need transition to the marathon even though I’m hurting. Like David Goggins says “every day, you should do something that absolutely sucks”. Well bathing my quads in lactic acid sucks. Now let’s see if manana goes well.
March 3rd…..4 hours on the bike with a goal of 80 miles or more in order to raise money to fight cancer. Please check out my Cycle for Survival donation page (I’ve attached the link below), and consider a donation to this important cause. Thanks!
…and if you’re interested in checking out my race schedule, I’ve shared that link below as well!
The experiment continues.
Over the last couple of weeks, my plan has consisted of swimming, biking, running and strength training sessions. I’ve logged the workouts in an app that I LOVE, called Training Peaks, recording within the application all of the data that comes along with 21st century technology (heart rate monitors, triathlon GPS watches, and my IPrecious). I’ve completed a number of training sessions in all four disciplines, so that I have a fairly decent-sized sample in order to crunch some numbers that will actually mean something to my training and improvement. This is the second post wherein I’d like to briefly talk about the data. In this post, I’d like to elaborate on a number that stares me in the face every time I hop on my bike (I named him Maximus, after a horse from a Disney movie…and with that, let the lambasting commence within the comments…) or take a cycling class at my gym: Watts.
(This is Maximus)
If you ride your bike a lot or go to spin classes, you can track the amount of power your legs are generating through the amount of watts shown on your GPS or the device attached to the stationary bike on which you take your spin classes. Here’s what the device on the bikes used within my usual spin class look like:
My spin classes normally go for 45 minutes, but I try to get there early in the hope that they will turn on these devices 10-15 minutes before class starts. In the example above, you can see that the device was only turned on about 5-6 minutes before the class began, so the only hard data I have to go on for the morning’s effort is captured here. Normally, I’ll start my morning with a run of 45-60 minutes before transitioning to a spin class, so my legs have already been forced to work for a bit before this 45 minute cycling session begins. This means I am warmed up and awake – but the tank of energy has already been depleted. During triathlons I will already be tired by the time I hit the bike – a 2.4 mile swim can do some damage – so hopping on the bike not feeling 100% is a good thing.
When I first looked at this screen, I could understand RPMs (revolutions per minute – how fast those pedals were going around in a one minute time span), MPH (miles per hour, just like a car), heart rate (beats per minute – got that one), calories burned (say hello to an extra Oreo – oh hell yeah), time and miles covered. The one data point I didn’t really understand was Watts. So I did some reading and I asked a couple of Ironman athletes in my gym about how to use this data point in my training. What I learned was freakin’ awesome.
Up until a couple of weeks ago, I focused all of my time and attention on average speed and miles covered. I used these two pieces of training data to measure my performance. The faster I went, the bigger my smile at the end of the 45 minute training session. The other athletes poked holes in my analysis almost immediately. Here’s the breakdown on what they shared:
- average RPMS – a nice statistic to track, because the higher your average, the quicker your leg turnover. That’s nice to know – but it’s not a predictor of future race performance because you aren’t pedaling in wind, rain, on uphills, downhills, etc.
- average MPH – another fun little statistic – but don’t use it as a predictor because a) you are only going 20-23 miles in an hour on the stationary bike, and b) no elements, heat, hills.
- Calories burned – nice if you want an excuse to eat another Oreo. (I do. I like this number. So there.)
- Miles covered – nice little piece of information, but it doesn’t mean you will rack up mileage even close to what you see on the screen when you are riding in a crowd of other athletes on race day.
So there I was, left with only one data point left: watts. When I asked about this number, I got a solid lesson over awful cups of burnt coffee that left me re-thinking how I attack my cycling workouts from then on. The average watts figure at the top of the picture above measures the average amount of pure power being created during the training session. This figure is a more pure measurement of cycling strength because it is immune to the other variables. It simply states how much power your legs are giving off. The More power generated, the faster you go. Simple.
OK – so how the name of Zues’ rear-end do I measure my average watts, comparing the power that I currently generate to the amount of power I need to generate over a 112 mile bike course (leaving some juice in the tank for a marathon)? Well their obvious first answer was “just try to meet or exceed your average every time.” OK, well that’s easy enough to track. But how does watts translate into speed in a race? That’s where the conversation got a little gray. However, they recommended looking at pro triathletes statistics on-line, since they usually share these data points post-race. I followed their advice, using my Unicorn as the race of measurement (Ironman World Championships in Kona).
Ben Hoffman is an elite Ironman triathlete. He came in fourth this year at the Ironman World Championships, as was the top American male finisher. While I couldn’t find his 2016 stats, I was able to google his 2014 cycling statistics for this race, and the numbers blew me away. Ben covered the 112 mile Kona bike course in 4 hours and 33 minutes. He maintained an average speed of 24.4 miles per hour, with a cadence (RPMs) of 89. He averaged 2:27 per mile. The average watts he generated for this portion of the race was 274.
While I am not nearly looking to keep up with these beasts, at least it gives me an idea of how watts translates into speed. Hoffman averaged 24.4 miles per hour and the average watts were 274. While listening to the live coverage of this year’s Ironman World Championship, the announcers estimated that the leader on the bike (and eventual winner – Jan “Frodo” Frodeno – was probably putting out close to 290-300 watts on average. He covered the bike course in 4:29.
Using the elite athletes’ numbers as a point of reference, I designed a couple of goals for myself going forward:
- During these 45-50 minute spin classes, my primary goal is to generate an average watts figure that beats my prior workout. In the picture above, I averaged 254 – so I know cranking out a 250 average watt session is possible. My next goal will be 255…then 256…etc.
- I’ll need to attach a power meter on Maximus, and then collect a sample of data to measure my watts for longer rides. Obviously, the average will be lower than in my spin sessions. However, I am hoping to begin at around 220 and then get stronger from there.
- By the time next July rolls around, I am hoping to have an average of 230-240 watts for a 100 mile training ride under my belt. That should get me back to the transition area in plenty of time to begin my 26.2 mile waddle to the finish line before the clock hits midnight.
The data matters.