The numbers never lie.

Posted by James Greenwood | 10:02 AM | View Comments

Innovative Fitness, the company for which I work, is about to wrap up its second Nutrition Challenge.

This challenge was put out to all of our customers to challenge them to make lifestyle changes and not only commit to these changes, but be held accountable to the commitment.

In short: cut out the bad stuff and replace it with the good stuff, exercise more consistently and and basically move outside of their comfort zone, and hopefully set the wheels in motion for the laying down of new and healthier behaviors that will last beyond the 30 day challenge.

Points are awarded for weight loss, submission of daily food logs, taking part in events both in and outside of the facility.

The challenge started on 1 October with a weigh in, assessment of body composition, Basal Metabolic Rate and Metabolic Age. It ends on November 1 with the big weigh in and the determination of who is the champion.

It is a great challenge no doubt, and so simple. Yet it all hinges on numbers. The numbers do not lie. There is no hiding from what the numbers say!

Without an initial weigh in, there is nothing to compare your improvement against. If there is no calculation of BMR, how do you know what your daily caloric requirements are, how many calories you need to remove to illicit a weight loss response.

This challenge provides us with an excellent example of how anyone who is serious about improving their performance, overall fitness or body composition, should approach the task.

What I mean is that without some sort of baseline value to measure improvement against, the hours and hours spent working toward the goal would be pointless.

So why is that so many participants in physical activity train from day to day, with no real idea of where they started and where they are going.

I call this type of activity Random Acts of Training (RAT).

All to often, there is a definite end point to which are committing a large chunk of time and resources, but we have no baseline or starting point against which we can compare our intervention (running program, weight loss plan, strength training plan).

It can be so simple to set up a little self assessment for yourself. It certainly does not require a high tech lab and a PhD in Sports Science.

For example, if you are a runner, a 1.5 mile on a treadmill at 1% gradient, with the goal being to cover the distance in as short a time as possible. A Cyclist might do a 40km time trial, a rower a 2000 indoor Erg session.

Weight loss would require a weigh in and perhaps a body composition assessment and muscle endurance might be how many push ups you can do till muscle failure.



In fact as long as you can repeat the "test" in exactly the same way, every 6 to 8 weeks, anything will go - it is up to you.

Of course there are a couple things you must remember to record to be able to compare you second tests results against:
  • The time of day, day and date you complete the test
  • The time taken to cover the distance, your weight or whatever parameter you are measuring.
  • If you have a heart rate monitor, record your average heart, maximum heart rate and calories expended as a result of the effort.
The next step is apply your intervention. This might be your training program or an eating plan or stretching program. If you are consistent and stick to the plan diligently, when you re-assess yourself after 6 - 8 weeks, you will notice an improvement.

This might be a faster time, a drop in percentage body fat or increase in the number of push ups completed. There might not an improvement in time, but perhaps your average heart rate is 10 beats per minute lower for the effort.



You now know for certain that the time and effort you have been committing to the program is paying dividends and that you are on the correct road to realizing your ultimate goal.

Always remember: the numbers never lie!

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete. He has is a level 1 Triathlon Coach, holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA.

James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and Training Coach at Innovative Fitness in Vancouver. He has also starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

The Fall and Winter months are, for many endurance athletes, a time to give their bodies and minds a well deserved break from the routine and the intensity of training and racing.

In terms of recovery, it is an important part of the training cycle, because it allows the bodies anatomical structures and physiological systems time to recover and regenerate. It also provides our minds an opportunity to unwind the tightly wound spring that has developed as a result of months and training and racing.

With the approach of Thanksgiving, Halloween and New Years eve, all of which fall into a short 2-3 month period, our nutrition can fall to the wayside, with disasterus results.

Please keep in mind that maintaining racing weight and body composition year round, is not a realistic goal for this period either - even for the Elite level athlete.

So while you are planning your Off season, remember to spend some time adjusting your nutrition plan, to reflect the adjusted training volumes and intensities.

The formula for maintain a healthy body weight is an extremely simple one:

Weight maintenance: Calories in = Calories out
Weight gain: Calories in > Calories out

It is an extremely fine line between weight maintenance and weight gain. Even a few hundred additional calories consumed each day, over the course of a month can easily equate to the gain of a couple of additional pounds.

So how does one go about determining your daily caloric needs?

The equations below, will assist you to determine the number of calories you require per day. Exceed this number, gain weight, balance this number, or as close to it as possible, and you will stand a better chance of maintaining your weight.

Women:
BMR = 655 + (4.35 X weight in pounds) + (4.7 X height in inches) - (4.7 X age in years)

Men:
BMR = 66 + (6.23 X weight in pounds + (12.7 X height in inches) - (6.8 X age in years)

BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) is the number of calories you require to keep your body functioning optimally over a 24 hour period.

It is important to remember that there is no "good" or "bad" BMR. It is a highly individual, and can be affected by factors such as age, gender, level of conditioning and body composition.

After calculating your BMR, you will need to add a few additional calories to the BMR value to account for you activity level:

  • You do not exercise regularly: BMR X 1.2
  • Exercise lightly 1 - 3 times per week: BMR X 1.375
  • Exercise moderately 3 - 5 times per week: BMR X 1.55
  • Exercise hard 6 - 7 times per week: BMR X 1.725
  • You have a physically demanding job and exercise every day or are training for a sports event or big event (e.g. marathon): BMR X 1.9
You have now predicted the number of calories you require on a daily basis.

So now you can balance the Calories In VS Calories Out equation.

Calories out can be estimated using a heart rate monitor, while calories in can be estimated by looking at food labels' calorie content for a single serving.

The number you get from the watch at the end of a workout provides you with a ball park figure, so do not take it as gospel!

You can also use resources such as those found on the Livestrong site, and using the Daily Plate app, which provides you with a search engine for almost all food types caloric content.

Taking these simple steps during the Off season, will set you up for an excellent Pre-season, without the worry of having to drop those unwanted pounds gained through the Off-season.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

You might not win the race in the swim, but you certainly can lose it.

In a few of my most recent posts I have written about pacing strategy and the danger of outracing your training.

I would like to expand on these themes by briefly discussing the impact the swim leg of a triathlon can have on the bike, run and overall race day performance.

The saying goes, "you might not win the race in the swim, but you certainly can lose it". I agree with this statement 100%.


(Triathlon of Paris - USA Today)

The effort put out in the swim should be a controlled one, and be used to lay the foundation for the remainder of the race. Too much output to early, can have dire consequences later in the race, on your bike and your run performance.

An interesting study performed at the University of Western Australia found that in the Sprint distance event, "a swimming intensity below that of a time trial effort significantly improves subsequent cycling and overall triathlon performance".

This study found that racing at 20% below time trial swim velocity, gave the fastest overall time in the group tested.

I know there is a massive difference between the race strategies, and swim strategy, of the different racing distances e.g. sprint VS Ironman, but I believe we can learn a lot from this study.

By keeping our swimming intensity under control, and slightly below what we know we can swim for that distance on its own, we can be confident that we are setting ourselves up for a better bike leg and overall race performance.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.



Our brain is alive with conversations with itself for almost all of our waking hours.

This self-talk is comprised of both the purposeful and random thoughts that run through our minds, and include all the things we say in our heads and out loud.

Self talk is comprised of both positive and negative thoughts. Positive self talk impact our ability to focus on a goal, motivation and enthusiasm. Negative self talk, on the other hand, is the "trash talk" we heap upon ourselves: self-critical and pessimistic thoughts that saps our energy and drive.

How many times before a big event have you thought, "there is no way I have done sufficient training for this event," even though you have followed your program to the "T".

Perhaps you are checking into the start of your first Ironman or a marathon, and you find your your thoughts awash in negative self talk like "I have no business being at this race" or "I'm probably going to come in last, if I finish at all" or all-consuming "Look at these great athletes - there's no way I'm as good as them."

Let me assure you that, from first time racers to Olympians, negative self talk invades the minds of every athlete, in every sport, from every country, at some point in their racing career. By pointing out how common negative self talk is, I am by no means downplaying its affect on performance. Negative self talk can significantly and negatively impact your race training and event performance.

So where does such negativity come from? There are any number of sources, depending on the individual, but these five seem to be very common amongst athletes:
  1. Reliving the past
    Reliving a poor performance or experience at a particular race is a common problem especially if it led to severe consequences such as not finishing the race or perhaps coming off your bike. These experiences are reinforced with their negative re-telling: "I can't wipe out like that again" or "Like an idiot, I went too hard on the hills and blew my race."

  2. Trying to control the future:
    On the other side of the coin is trying to control the future. Perhaps you find comfort in narrowly focusing on one or few parts of the race. By zeroing in on one aspect of the race, a strong marathon leg for example, what we gain in control, we lose in the big picture and for example, leave our swim and bike to chance.

    Along the same lines is another favorite of mine: the "What if..." [insert undesirable race condition here]. "What if it's too windy", "What if it's raining"... you get the picture.

  3. Focusing on weaknesses during competition:
    We all have a weakness or two that we continually fight to improve in training. For some athletes, this weakness can become a serious performance limiter, from a mental not physical perspective.

    Perhaps you really struggle with the start of the swim at a triathlon. In the days leading up to the race you end up spending so much energy playing all the scenarios through in your mind that come race day, you are riddled with anxiety and emotionally exhausted.

  4. Focusing only on outcome:
    There are two ways we can look at most things in life: outcome focused or systems focused.

    When we give all of our energy to the outcome, we lose track of the steps or the plan we need to follow to reach the final outcome successfully. We might neglect to rehydrate or perhaps fail to execute our racing strategy. Whatever the consequence, remaining in the present at all times is very important.

  5. Demanding perfection:
    Most endurance athletes are driven and highly motivated individuals, showing many, if not all, of the Type A personality traits. This is a good thing when it comes to being disciplined, focused, dedicated and committed to fitness and their sport.

    However, it's a bad thing if your personal bar is set unrealistically high. In my experience, performance perfection for even truly great athletes is completely unrealistic. And ultimately the pursuit of this perfection creates stress and feelings of failure, and misplaced pressure leading to doubt and negative talk.
So now we have a few ideas of where these negative conversations might arise from, and why they might occur, let's have a look at a few strategies that might help to overcome the negative thoughts , and build some positive energy.


  1. Work on increasing your awareness of self-talk, both positive and negative.
    Increasing awareness of these negative thoughts is the logical starting point for getting the upper hand over them. Remember, negative talk can occur in practice and during racing. Try to identify when thoughts begin to turn toward the negative, and be aware of when they are positive too.

    Perhaps thoughts lose their positivity in the days leading up to your competition. Is it when you are swimming at your Masters group and doing a tough set of intervals you become critical of yourself? Whatever the situation, being aware allows you to begin developing a strategy to deal with it.

  2. Stop the negative (easier said than done)
    Once you have learned to recognize what negative self-talk "sounds like", you begin working on ways to stop it before it before it escalates. A mental cue / key word such as "STOP" or "NO", will bring you back to reality and allow you implement your negative talk ending strategy.

  3. Start the positive (easier said than done)
    Positive thoughts and images are what you are striving to have in your head during training and racing. As soon as you recognize the onset of the negative, flip the mental switch that turns on the positive thoughts and messages in your head, and switches off the negative. Also, start looking for the style and content of positive self talk that works for you.

  4. Practice, practice, practice!
    Having identified the positive talking points above, it will progressively become a easier to replace negative with positive. But, and I can't stress this enough, positive self talk in athletes takes practice and has a training trajectory just like any part of a race.

    Start in the off-season. If you're in the midst of a long training and race season, you'll need to keep those thoughts as positive as possible.

    Do them at every opportunity, in training, through the course of your day and in racing. The increase in your self confidence and reduction in levels of anxiety and stress, will become clearly evident as your performance improves.
The psychology of sport has been gaining a lot more attention over the past few years as a component of athletic performance. And there are any number of other strategies out there that can be used to assist you improve your mental resilience and enable you to boost your physical performance.

Do you have a mental strategy which you have had success with? We would love to hear what it is and how you use it.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

A common error made by triathletes while racing is attempting to race at a level that exceeds their level of fitness. You might have heard this referred to as "outracing your training" and it is intricately tied to your race pacing strategy.

An error that is very easy to make, and can be extremely difficult to recover from. Let's use a fictitious athlete "Mike", an avid and fairly experienced endurance athlete.

Mike has done much of his training for his Ironman race with the goal of maintaining a 220 - 230 watt output for the bike leg, which for him, translates into a predicted time of roughly 5h30.

His training has developed his fitness on the bike to the point that he is confident he will be able to achieve this goal without to much distress, and he has developed a solid race strategy to follow during the bike leg that will take him to the run leg feeling confident and not overly fatigued.

In theory, and during his build up events, his numbers were spot on. He was diligent about following his pacing strategy, and his lead up went according to plan. Unfortunately the day of Ironman proved to be a different story.

Mike got caught up in the post swim adrenalin rush, and spent the first 3 hours of the 180km bike leg working about 4% above his planned output, which might not seem like much, but over 180 minutes, the added effort takes its toll on the each and every muscles fiber. It depletes the body's energy reserves a more rapidly than anticipated, and fatigue begins to set in, not only on the body but on the psyche too.

Fortunately Mike is a seasoned campaigner and he was able to reign things in before the wheels came off completely.



He backed off the elevated output enough to allow the muscles to recover thanks to the more reasonable level of intensity. He took on board additional calories to re-supply his body's energy reserves. He also took a few minutes to regroup mentally, allowing time to re-focus and redirect his efforts back onto working to his original bike strategy.

Lucky guy! For the less experienced participant, getting caught up drama and excitement of the big day can often lead to athletes "outracing their training" and before they know it, the wheels of their race have come off completely.

We sometimes forget that we have only conditioned our body to a certain level and yet often when we enter the racing environment, our expectations of what our bodies are capable of delivering become inflated.

In Mike's case, he believed that he could increase and sustain his power output by 9 watts. At the time, the increased demand he placed on his body seemed completely acceptable. But, for novice and veteran racers alike, out-racing your training is a sure way to throw your race completely. Fortunately he was able to make the necessary adjustments before it was to late, and he still managed to reach his time goal.

I can't stress it enough -- stick with your racing pace strategy. You did not invest in all that training to try to "out-race" yourself... it's one race you are guaranteed to lose.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

Cut the corners

I remember high school rugby practices and being shouted at by our coach for cutting corners when running the fields for training or punishment. He often made us re-run the lap, punishment for the infraction.

Thankfully, as adults training for Ironman, there are no negative consequences to "cut the corners" or, in more technical terms, run the tangents.

We all know that the shortest distance between 2 points is a straight line, and after long day of swimming and cycling, how nice would it be to be able to cut the marathon a little bit shorter - legally?

This can be achieved by cutting through the running course's corners, even if you have only half the road to work with. If you have the entire road, all the better.

Remember to always pay close attention to what is taking place around you. Ensure your strategy does not impact on other athletes, or, most importantly, break any race rules. You can better your odds of this by knowing your race route ahead of time.

Using a simple strategy such as this one will not only save you a bunch of energy, but shorten your run time too. Our former high school coaches may not approve, but then they've likely never run an Ironman.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.

Having a well planned and well rehearsed pacing strategy in any race can mean the difference between success and failure, especially if you are on the race course for the better part of a day.

A few weeks ago, I completed the Oliver Half Ironman. I somewhat overdid things on the bike and paid the toll on the run leg.

Through months and months of training, I have become very in tune with my body. I know, almost to the beat, where my thresholds are, and when I am exceeding my level of conditioning. I know exactly when I am "under-doing" and "over-doing" things.

During my training, I practiced my cycling and running pacing strategies and knew exactly what I had to do. I knew at exactly what heart rate I needed to work at to achieve my 3 hour bike split, and I knew that this would not do to much harm to my body ahead of the run.

I started the bike leg at my rehearsed pace and felt really good, never feeling like I was exceeding my training and fitness. As I progressed through the course I let my discipline and attention to my race plan slide, just a little at first, and as the finish line approached, I picked things up.

I ended up riding a 2:45 bike split, my heart rate was, on average, about 8 beats above the upper limit I had set for myself in training.

All that attention to pacing strategy during cycling practice had gone out the window. And boy did I ever feel it in the middle of the half marathon.

The first 5km of the run also saw a slide in my self discipline. I allowed the adrenaline of finishing the bike leg and the energy and excitement of the crowds to push me through the first 4km at a completely unrealistic half marathon pace.

The price: a 1:55 half marathon, filled with pain and suffering. The middle 7km was spent running from aid station to aid station.


Mind vs. Body (Fightticker.com)

I felt like a UFC referee in the middle of a battle between two heavy weights -- except the fighters were my body and my mind. Body wanted to walk or stop, but my mind was saying "No way! Go hard!"

I ended up only walking through aid stations while I took on fluids and nutrition, and crossed the finish line at 5 hours and 15 minutes, 15 minutes faster than my previous best time. I rank my time a 10 out of 10, but my pace execution gets a big fat 0 out of 10!

If my time was so great, why am I sweating my pacing strategy so much? For me, a Half Iron allowed me to see the strengths and weakness in my training. I now feel very confident that I have physical conditioning to push through a full Iron. However, it's clear that I need to develop better psychological control in order the execute my pace strategy and meet my race goals.

The Oliver Half was forgiving enough and I was in good enough shape to blow my pacing and still come out on top. However, a full Iron will not be so forgiving. One error in judgment could cost me my race, not just a decent finish time. A solid pacing strategy is both comfort and contingency: the comfort to know you're on track and the contingency when something goes sideways.

Over the final few weeks before the big day, I will be investing time to improve my psychological powers of patience and concentration, so I do not have another day like I had in Oliver. It's no wonder that tri coaches like Troy Jacobson and others have training resources dedicated to mental toughness. Ironman is as much a mental test as it is a physical test.

Trust me when I say I will be practicing to perform! And so should you.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at MyPypeline.com, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.