failing to plan is planning to fail

I’ve written posts on this topic in the sense of the individual things that can be done to keep on track to a goal be it your goal to lose weight, increase strength or flexibility, run a marathon, or any health related goal you may have. Keeping journals, measuring the food you eat, etc. Without a plan, how do you know if you will end up where you are trying your best to get to?

And it can be broken down into 2 parts, I think: the planning that is needed to get you there ready to rock, and the planning for the actual event itself.

Before

Don’t underestimate preperation

If it’s a sanctioned event such as a marathon, 10k run or something similar where these things happen all the time, all around the world than there should be a wealth of information available to help you plan to get ready for this event. Blogs, podcasts are plentiful for these events with lots of info on what you need to do to be successful and also information geared towards what can be done to complete the event in your desired duration.

If what your event is not a standard event such as above, try to find something similar. If you are participating in an event that is 5 hours long and thus classified as an endurance event than try to find something similar. You could probably equate this to a marathon, or maybe even  a triathlon. Use training information for these events to help with your planning.

The lead up

I recently wrote a post on this. Taking it easy for the week or two weeks before your event. Seems contradictory that you’ve worked so hard to get ready for your event that you would take it easy leading up to the event. How could that help you out? With hard training comes many demands on the body. Muscles breaking down, less time for the body to recover due to lack of rest/sleep, running an oxygen deficit.

EPOC. Do you know the word? I sometimes make the mistake of forgetting that something I understand doesn’t mean that others understand it. Let’s take EPOC as an example, Excess Post exercise Oxygen Consumption. In simple terms, when your exercise routine consists of high intense interval training you put your body in a state of oxygen deficit. Hard to believe when we breathe in oxygen all the time. If fact, this oxygen deficit can last up to 30 hours! This is 30 hours of time that you will not perform at your best. You will perform fine, but not at your best, and you want to be your best, you want kill this event and have that feeling that you killed it. Nothing like a big confidence booster knowing you did your best and your best is the best you’ve ever been.

So I guess my point is you need to take it easy that last week or two so you are in optimal condition to do this. This doesn’t mean you stop everything, it means working at a moderate pace so you are still moving and still active but the intensity is less, about 60% of what you are used to. Also since you will be burning less calories due to the lesser work load, you shouldn’t worry about running a calorie deficit. You might even see some gains in muscle size and strength because of this. And if you aren’t sure you are eating enough, consume more food as long as it’s not processed.

And don’t worry. Don’t worry about working less than you have been. You’ve put in the hard work the last number of months and now is the time to slow down and let the body recover so it’s 100% ready.

The day

The fire inside

Well, actually I’ll start on the day before. Try to do what you normally do. What I mean is don’t just sit around the house. Try to keep moving, eat well and if the opportunity is there, do what it is you are planning to do the next day. This keeps the body moving, lubricated, prevents injury due to lack of movement, keeps the mind busy and will also help you settle down that night and get a good night’s sleep. Consume whole foods that are plant based, drink plenty of water so you have your fuel tank full and are also fully hydrated. Pack up the gear you need for tomorrow instead of doing this in the morning. Double check that you have everything you need packed. And err on the side of caution. Better to have too many gels, electrolytes, and food then coming up short. Now is the time to make sure everything is ready to go, not in the morning where if you can’t find something this will bring on undue stress and is not a good way to start the day of your event.

When the morning comes, be sure to eat a quality breakfast. Steel cut oats with berries on top is a really good choice. The oats and berries will give you the carbs and the fiber will also slow down digestion and ensure you have the fuel you need. Try not to load up on protein as you need carbs to fuel you. Protein will come later, after the event to help rebuild the damage that has been done.

While you are waiting to leave for your event, as your breakfast digests, visualize yourself completing this event as you want to complete it. In your mind picture yourself being the best ever, no mistakes, perfection, poetry in motion. This might be the hardest thing to do for you. We all have doubts about ourselves and often times this is the voice we listen to in our head. We push out the voice that says you did well, the voice that says you are awesome and amplify the voice that says you could have done better, you sucked at that, you were awful and don’t deserve this.

Why is it ok to tell ourselves these things but not ok to say the same things to someone else? Why is it we are so good at disrespecting ourselves? Self criticism is OK if it’s constructive but it becomes damaging when it is not based on reality but instead is driven by other reasons, reasons which are usually emotionally based and thus not constructive. Trust me on this one, I know. I struggle with this all the time and I think I always will.

And when the time comes, and you are an hour, two, three into your event keep telling yourself this: You do deserve this, You can do this, You are incredible and You will do this. Mistakes will happen but don’t dwell on them. Forget them right away. The more you pay attention to them the more you will break down the positivity you have built. Set milestones for the event be it time based or event based. As you complete each milestone, remind yourself that you are doing this, you are in it for good!

I know, it’s all bullshit, right? Woo woo bullshit. But why is it we throw out the food that was left out too long and has mold on it. Why not eat it? Because it’s poison and will make us sick, possibly even kill us. Then why do we let ourselves consume poison food for our mind? Throw that poison in the garbage and eat the positive food. As I’ve said before, the mind will quit before the body will. Keep your mind as strong as it can be.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

 

Teach your silent sleep

Slow dawn

Many of my posts talking about working out usually emphasize the importance of intensity. For good reasons of course, intensity brings the results you need and are looking for.

But, there comes a time when you need to slow down. It’s referred to as the taper.

What

What is tapering? Tapering is taking the last week or more before your event and tapering back on the workouts, the intensity. Tapering is a very important cycle in your training regiment in preparation for your event that allows you to train less, eat more and sleep more! Tapering will help you perform  the way you want to perform in your event. It often gets overlooked as people generally think that they need to train hard all the way up to the event. Makes sense why we think this but this will do you more harm as you won’t be in peak performance shape.

Tapering allows the body to regain glycogen stores, repair any small damage that has been done to muscle and connective tissue. Enzymes, antioxidants, and various hormones depleted during training  are given the time needed to return to optimal ranges. Your immune system vastly improves too. Lastly, some studies have shown an improvement in performance of up to 3%. Tapering before your event sets you up to perform as best as you can. It sets you up so you are going into your event day feeling as best as you can too. Performance stress is not only on the physical level but also the mental level. You want to be sharp, confident, and feeling well, not foggy, shaky and feeling mentally fatigued.

Less can be more.

How

Tapering can be anywhere from 1 to 3 weeks before your event. During this period you will want to cut your training down to 20% – 30% less than what you would normally do on a high volume week. If your workouts are 5x a week, you would then drop down to 3 to 4 workouts a week. Also, that should be the same for intensity when it comes to resistance training. If for your event you are relying on your legs to help you get through it, I guess that’s pretty much anything thinking about it, you want your legs to be fresh. Cut down on any training that impacts the legs. Any leg work should be done solely for the purpose of dynamic stretching, cardio and mobility reasons. You can keep training upper body but be sure to drop the intensity level as you would not want to go into your event with any sore muscles.

Let’s look at tapering and nutrition. Even though I’m not a fan of supplementing it may be wise to err on the side of caution and ensure you are getting adequate protein levels to aid in the repair of soft tissue for that last week before your event. That’s it. That’s it if you are following a whole foods plant based diet. No need to worry about carb loading as you would already be consuming the high level of carbs you need.

Be sure to consume enough water. Peeing more than normal is better than being dehydrated for your event. Cut back on diuretics such as alcohol and caffeine.

Do these things and you might even notice that you have added a couple pounds to your body.

Summary

  • 1 – 3 weeks before
  • Do 20% – 30% less
  • Eat more
  • Sleep more
  • Drink more water
  • Keep moving, mobility is important
  • No killing yourself in workouts

Finally

It seems counterintuitive to taper but embrace it. Your body has already made it’s adaptations weeks before and is ready to go. Maybe an experience of mine will illustrate that this works. Years ago when I was in the Navy I would travel back to my old home to visit my family twice a year. Previous to one  of those trips I got heavily into body building, working out 6 days a week, 2 hours a day on a 3 day split program. I was a hard core gym rat. My trip home was just over 2 weeks long where I caught up with family and friends which meant a lot of relaxing, eating and no working out. When I returned back to the Navy my friends there couldn’t believe how much bigger I had gotten. That 2 week period was my taper even though I didn’t know it. My body had the time it needed to repair muscle tissue and add the muscle it needed to. When I was back and started to work out my performance levels also increased.

Don’t underestimate the importance of this. Implement a taper and use that extra time to relax, mentally prepare and I think you will be so much better going into your event than you would have otherwise.

Yours in health,

Darryl

Staying home to watch the rain

And you are young and life is long

It’s usually the mental aspect of it that gets us. It’s what ends up being our downfall be it that day or worse, our life. Everyone of us is capable of great things but for a lot of different reasons we don’t execute on those great things and end up living a mediocre life. That might be alright for some but for most it means a lost of adventure, a loss of things that ‘could have been’.

I used to struggle with explaining what this meant, what pushing yourself brings to us as individuals. I couldn’t convey it into words. Then I looked into it more trying to understand all things that are rewarded unto us when we work hard, when we push ourselves. I would look back on my own experiences of success and failures and it started to make sense to me. When we push ourselves and work hard towards a goal the end result is the reward. It is what makes us feel alive, feel that we have a purpose and adds a lot of positives to our reflection of what we are as an individual. Self doubt starts to diminish and our confidence starts to grow.

Also, doors may start to open and sometimes those things happen organically. If you are someone who pushes themselves in a group type of environment, maybe you are a competing triathlete, think of all the people you have met along your journey. Coaches, experts in your field, fellow competitors, and so on. You don’t get this exposure sitting on the couch every night and weekend. And then think of the people you meet if you are doing things considered on an elite level. You will be surrounded by people who generally are more positive, outgoing, other people who push themselves hard all the time. We tend to become the people we associate with. Hang out with negative, unmotivated people and you will tend to become the same because those people don’t want to be involved with someone who isn’t: it makes them feel like failures and they will never meld with you if you aren’t also complaining and being pessimistic about things. Surround yourself with positive people and you will tend to rise to that level.

But I digress. This post really is about what can we do to help ourselves do things that are lengthy in duration and can be really mentally overwhelming. What can we do to trick the brain and keep pushing through a long tough event. Here some ideas:

  • Compartmentalize: Depending on what it is you are doing, never, NEVER look at the event as a whole. This will crush you even before you get out the gate. Let’s take a triathlon. 3 major events: swim, bike ride and a run. Depending on the type of triathlon this can take maybe 8 hours. If you think of this at the beginning as an 8 hour event you have already lost, you have planted the seed in your mind that this is going to kill you and you will never get through it. To start, break this down into the 3 events it already is: swim, bike, run. Then, break it down further if you need to: break the swim into half. Break the bike ride into quarters, or fifths, or more. Same with the run. If it’s a marathon length run, break it into quarters and after each quarter mentally check it off – Done, 3 more quarters to go.
  • Distraction: Believe it or not you do not always have to think about what you are doing. Have you ever arrived somewhere and you cannot recall how you got there? You’ve driven the same roads, the same route to work for years and it’s all muscle memory. You arrive at work and you can’t recall how you got there. Same thing here. Let the brain wonder off onto some journey, maybe to Alaska to see the northern lights, or maybe thinking about the last book you read. This happens sometimes to me when I’m running on the treadmill. Your mind comes back and nothing changed, you are still running. The muscle memory took over and you probably were running better because of this. You were probably more relaxed since you weren’t tuned in to every muscle twitch, to every foot step. Give this a try and you will find it tends to make a long event fly by.
  • Hero: Do you have a hero, someone you look up to? Who inspires you, who do you want to be in a sense? Try to be that person mentally. When I run on the treadmill and things start to get tough I think of a person who has inspired me: John Joseph. This guy is the hard ass endurance athlete I would like to be. No excuses get it done kind of guy. John’s first triathlon was done with a fracture in his foot after playing a concert the night before in the band he’s in. Yeah, played a concert (high output as his band is a punk band), fractured his foot, long drive home, little sleep and then completed the triathlon in the August heat of New York. If that’s not inspiring I don’t know what is.
  • Readiness: If you fail to prepare you have prepared to fail. This is so true. Be ready for your event. Of course long term preparedness means getting in the training. Short term are things like testing any fuel you plan to use. There are many stories of people who on the day of their endurance event change their fuel, they try something new like a new brand of glucose gel. These people typically end up in the porta potty due to GI issues. Always, ALWAYS try what you are going to consume at least a few times weeks before so you know it agrees with you be it gels, sports drinks. This goes for quantities too. Don’t just sip the drink you are going to use to replace your electrolytes. Use it in your training so you know how your body is going to react to it when under stress. Clothing, make sure it comfortable and suits the needs of the event and of you. Rest, rest, rest.
  • Mind set: Before your event I want you to tell yourself how amazing you are, tell yourself that you are the rock star you want to be. Because if you are doing this that is what you are! A lot of self doubt exists in us for reasons that don’t hold up to scrutiny. Put there by others, put there by false perceptions of what society thinks we should be. And it’s easy to self doubt. It is so hard to pay ourselves a compliment or two. Try this. The next time you doubt yourself, ask yourself if you would say the same thing to someone else and when you answer no, think about that. Think about why you wouldn’t say this to someone else and then ask yourself why then is it OK to think this of yourself.

Finally

That’s all I have for today. For now. We all have the ability to do great things, if we let ourselves.

Yours in health,

Darryl

 

I can lock all my doors

It’s the only way to live

It’s time to embrace the things that help you and the things that enable you to reach your goals and still feel human. I’ve been there myself and from my own hard learned lessons I hope you are able to take some information from this post and make your journey a more comfortable one. If your goal is lofty one, it’s still going to suck but it will help you get through it and come out achieving that goal at the end of the day.

What

As I said earlier I’ve been there myself and I look back at my younger self and I think ‘how stupid was I?”. I was stupid. But I didn’t know better. I’ve always kind of had a bit of a hard head mentality, a ‘I’m going it alone and will get through this’ mentality but that doesn’t always help you. When I used to do a lot of distance running, I would go sometimes 23, 24 miles and replenish only by drinking water. No sports drink, no fuel, just water. Not a good idea especially as I’m a heavy sweater, losing lots of electrolytes. I look back at that and no wonder sometimes I felt like death warmed over when done. But that was then.

Now I’m trying to train smarter. It doesn’t mean you don’t train hard it just mean you don’t feel like yesterdays garbage when doing it and when done.

But I digress. The focus of this post is on using technology to help you achieve your goals and become the athlete you want to be.

How

By taking my knowledge from getting my personal trainer certification it helped me to understand the fuel the body uses and when it uses it. The main source of fuel our body uses is glucose. Glucose, or sugar, is in our blood and is used by our muscle cells for energy. We have only so much glucose and when we use that up, our body converts glycogen into glucose to keep us fueled. This isn’t only when exercising it’s everything we do from breathing walking, and even thinking. Our brain uses a lot of glucose just to do what the brain does. And where do we get glucose from? Carbs baby! That’s just one of the reasons why a low carb diet such as a keto diet is a really bad idea. We need carbs (high quality carbs). Keep it carbed.

So when does this happen, our body running out of glucose and then glycogen? It’s not that long. Looking at the science the recommendation is to consume 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour. To play it safe, if your event is longer than an hour, you probably want to start consuming at the 45 minute point. This will help prevent you from running out of fuel near that 60 minute mark and start to feel the physical fatigue and mental fatigue set in. Think of it as that saying that when you feel thirsty you are already dehydrated. And it’s in your best interest to not hit that mark where you feel lethargic. Because what happens? The body is tired and then the mind starts to go. And then it’s an uphill battle, a struggle to get through it.

Endurance sports can be very demanding

Have you heard of the term ‘bonking’? The first time I heard it is when looking into marathons. People ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’ and it’s a struggle to continue. This is the body running out of fuel (glucose). And what does the body do when it has no fuel? Not what you think. Typically when in an endurance event you are working hard because you are competing be it in an event or even against yourself. So your heart rate is not in the ‘fat burning zone’ but in the cardio zone so fat is not an option for fuel. Your body turns on you and starts to metabolize muscle tissue into carbohydrates. You are consuming muscle tissue to fuel your body to complete an event that is to make you a stronger person. When blood glucose gets really low, you may experience hypoglycemia. This is the feeling of extreme tiredness, a near complete loss of energy, the ‘bonk’. When in this state, the body will begin producing cortisol. These hormones break down muscle tissue in order to convert the proteins within to glucose. This will provide the energy to continue exercising, however, cortisol also suppresses the immune system. There goes the muscle mass you worked so hard to add.

No one wants that to happen.

Guide

I’m going to refer you to a web site that has a good guide on how to fuel for your event. I’m not endorsing this company but they do sell the fuel you need. It’s up to you if you use them. This should give you a good idea on what you need for your training or event. Let’s look at an example.

For this example I have chosen an event that takes 5 hours. Here are some of the things they recommend:

  • 2,500 – 3,500 mg’s of sodium
  • 1,500 – 2,000 calories (glucose)
  • 100 – 150 oz of fluid
  • 15000 – 25000MG BCAA (branch chain amino acids)

That equates to 5 gel pouches, 2 energy chews, 2 stroopwafels, a hydration energy mix, 2 energy drink mixes and so on. Go hear to check it out and you can go to the main planner and look at requirements for other events.

Does this seem a lot? It does to me, for sure. Maybe it’s heavy on the requirements because it is a company and they have to make money but they have been around a long time and are well known within the endurance athlete communities. I’ve started using gels myself and I’m going to continue and add more as I go seeing the impact. How do I feel, did they work, did I feel stronger, is my mental will strong and not foggy.

endurance training can be hard

But don’t dismiss this. I’m not getting into science of how our body uses fuel; fatty acid oxidization, aerobic glycolysis, ATP, etc. but this is based on science. Why is it professional athletes and amateur athletes on the olympic level do the same thing? Because it works and it helps them to succeed. That’s how Gatorade came to be. The University of Florida Gator’s head coach went to their team of scientists to address loss of body fluids during football games. This concoction of water, electrolytes, flavour etc. was credited for the Gators Orange Bowl win in 1967.

Finally

It makes sense. Let technology help you. The technology that allows us to no longer have to eat oranges, bananas and other foods to keep fueled during an event. It’s so easy and so much better now and there is no reason to not do it.

Yours in health,

Darryl