Category Archives: About Me

Triathlon Time!!

You may or may not remember that one of my New Year’s resolutions for 2012 was to complete my first triathlon.  Last August, I had the opportunity to compete with a relay team in a triathlon, and that’s where I got the bug.  I determined that the following year, I’d do the whole thing.  Then, I got adventurous, thought a sprint triathlon would not be enough of a challenge and decided to do an olympic distance tri instead.  This past week, I must admit, the “what exactly did I think was so ‘un-hard’ about a sprint triathlon?” thought crossed my mind–more than once.  Alas, here I sit, blogging about my experience, realizing I live to tell about it!  That’s right!  1500 Meters of swimming, about 25 miles of biking, and a 10K run later, I’m officially a triathlete, and it feels so good!!

One of the biggest motivators for me to complete this triathlon was that it felt very foreign to me.  Swimming especially was quite the humbling experience!  I had to take swimming lessons and the whole nine yards–literally starting at square one here!  It was a good experience for a personal trainer go through.  When we are constantly asking our clients to do hard things for the first time, sometimes they need to know that we’re willing to do the same.

While my final, overall time was about where I expected/hoped to be (3:04:22), my place in the field was not quite what I had hoped for.  First of all, women in Colorado aged 25-29 are in ridiculous shape (end of excuses).  But instead of make excuses or feel sorry for how I finished, I decided to be proud of this “virgin triathlon” effort.  I even made a list of all the things I know I did right on this first time around…

10 Things I Did Right in my First Triathlon:

1.  I married Matthew.  Or, rather, he married me.  Seriously, sorry to start off super sappy, but that race day encouragement meant the world.  Not everyone has a hubby who leaves the house at 6 in the morning on a Saturday after working probably 60 or so hours at work that week to come cheer you on before he leaves for his next business trip.  AND, he did it all with a smile.  I know he would have liked nothing more than to just sleep in and rest up before the next onslaught of work, but instead, he came and cheered for me for three whole hours.  Seriously, if you know my Hubs, and you see him, give him an extra pat on the back for being exceptional.  Knowing I would see him after each leg of the race and hear him cheering for me, meant so much and got me through.

2.  I didn’t let the other racers in their fancy gear fool me.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the world of road racing and triathlon it’s that the nicest gear does not automatically give you the win.  In fact, lots of people (especially in Colorado, it seems) have the money to dump into their hobby.  They may spend 10 grand on a super swanky, aerodynamic triathlon bike, have the coolest triathlon suit and wetsuit ever, and they might still be slow.  Sorry, but it’s true.  Now, there are certainly some very fast people with all the fancy gear that will legitimately whoop your butt in a race, but there are far more people who look the part than actually play it.  I don’t let it intimidate me.

3.  I didn’t buy a bunch of fancy triathlon gear.  Now, this being said, it’s not that I wouldn’t like to have all the fancy gear, it’s just that I decided this would not be a race winner for me.  The most important thing for me to do was improve my swimming and biking.  At this point, the learning curve is still steep enough for me that the fancy gear would not make as big of a difference in my overall time as just pure training would do.  So I opted out of buying  a bunch of stuff and focused on what was important.  Definitely a good call.

4.  I took swimming lessons.  Yes, I know, I know.  You’re supposed to take swimming lessons as a kid.  Don’t worry, I did.  (Insert shudder as I think about that horrificly freezing cold pool at 8 a.m. in June.)  Now, I can “swim” just fine, meaning, you can throw me in a pool, and I won’t drown.  However, I didn’t exactly have a good freestyle stroke that would get me through a 1,500 Meter swim.  So, I got a referral for a private swim instructor, and I took lessons!  I should probably take more, but at least I took enough to get me started.

5.  I wore a wetsuit.  Now, I know I just said that I was proud of myself for not spending a bunch of money on gear, but this was definitely $20 well spent.  For one, they pipe the water for this particular reservoir in from the mountains.  (Read: it’s cold…even in August!)  But, a triathlon wetsuit makes you much more buoyant in the water.  I felt like I was just floating along in the water, and since this leg of the race is the most intimidating to me, I found this buoyancy to be quite a comfort.  In fact, I had fun doing the swim!  Additionally, opting to rent a wetsuit rather than fork over a few hundred dollars to buy one was a great way to find out whether or not I would like it.

6.  I ate right and hydrated well.  I watched my nutrition carefully in the week leading up to the race (and, of course I try to be fairly careful all the time regarding what I put into my body to fuel me).  I didn’t go crazy “carbo loading” which is triathlete/road racer code for “pigging out.”  That is a ridiculous concept and not nearly as effective as people tend to think.  However, my pre-race dinner is always pizza.  I make it myself, so it’s not super greasy at all and made with a good, whole grain thin crust and served with a big, green salad.  It sits well for me, and gives me a healthy version of the traditional pasta carb dinner.  I also drank a lot of water since dehydration can often be a race day problem for me.  For breakfast the morning of the race, I ate a multigrain bagel that had some extra protein in it served with natural peanut butter and a little black espresso.  Next time, I may opt out of the espresso.  Even a little caffeine combined with race day jitters was not ideal, but I don’t think it harmed my performance at all.  I also ate a gel during the bike leg and tried to drink a good bit of water as well.  I don’t like eating at all when I’m racing, so I have to force myself, knowing that my body can really utilize the sugar in a three hour event.

7.  I didn’t change clothes during my transitions.  Now, originally, I was planning to change outfits completely in between events, and I am SO glad that I didn’t.  For one, no one else did.  They mostly just wear triathlon suits underneath their wetsuits to cut down on time.  Secondly, there was absolutely no place to change clothes in privacy!  Yikes!  It would have been bad had I needed to completely change.  I wanted to be comfortable during this first experience, but it turned out that I was just fine without changing.  I just wore my bike shorts and a sports bra under the wetsuit then threw on a racing top when I got back to my transition area.  Yes, that meant, I had to run around in my bra after the wetsuit “strippers” took my suit off for me.  Oh well…  Definitely better than my original plan!

8.  I did my research.  Since this was my first triathlon, I bought two books on the subject that I read in the months leading up to the race.  They were very helpful on more than one occasion.  I still have plenty more to learn, but at least I got some expert advice before diving in (pun intended?) to my first one.

9.  I took advice.  When I was at a gym working as a trainer, several of the members of my running club where triathletes.  Even though I was supposed to be the “expert” of the group, I took advice from the members of the group as to what I should and shouldn’t do in my first tri.  Additionally, the super nice and helpful lady next to me in the transition area offered me lots of advice on the morning of race day that kept me feel calm and confident as well.

10.  I had fun.  My husband claims that it is much more fun to come to my races post-college as I’m not so tightly wound on race morning.  I even caught myself dancing in my wetsuit before the start of the race just because I knew how ridiculous I must look and wanted to make him laugh.  It worked.  🙂  Perhaps I should have had more fun while racing competitively in college, but it’s an altogether different mindset when you are the one paying someone else for the opportunity to compete than when someone is paying you to compete.  Now, I can make as much or as little as I want out of each and every race, and that makes it fun.  Endurance sports are my hobby, and I’m okay with it always only being a hobby for the rest of my life.  Might as well have fun with it.

So there you have it–the ten things I did right in my first triathlon.  Of course, I’ve got my own list of things I’d change for next time which include longer bike rides, more time perfecting my swim stroke, and a caffeine-free gel for the race, but all in all, I’m pleased with this first time around.

So what’s next?  Well, I plan to try to get a little extra rest this week, as I feel quite sleepy post-race!  I’ll back off on my workouts this week, and then, well, I may or may not have looked up Fall half-marathons in the area already.  🙂  One race seems to just get me psyched up for the next one these days.

What I Wish I Had Known as a Collegiate Athlete

My journey in health and fitness started at a really young age.  I can still remember what I was wearing on those first few runs with my dad and sister.  My sister had joined the Middle School track team, and was running the 800 Meters.  My dad thought she should go on at least a couple of runs in order to train for the event.  Of course, I wanted to come along, so the three of us went out and did a loop together.  I know it now as the mile and a half loop.  I don’t remember being tired or thinking it was hard, I just remember thinking about how cool I was that I was running with my dad.  After all, even at the age of four or five I had seen him leave for a run in the evening.  I’d mix up a glass of gatorade for him and watch for him to get home.  Then I’d sit next to him and think something along the lines of, “Wow, he’s really sweaty!”

Then in middle school, it was my turn to join the track team.  Again, I have vivid memories of my first race.  Unfortunately, all those years of people telling me I was fast had me thinking I was a sprinter.  I think I was second to last in my 100 Meter race.  And I cried.

After that tragic day, I decided I should join the rest of my friends on the field hockey team.  I had heard that the conditioning portion of the practices were really, really tough, so I thought I better show up at the end of the summer prepared for the worst.  So I started running 3 miles every weekday morning at 7:30 a.m. around the cemetery down the street from my house.  I still kind of shock myself at how disciplined I was with my training regimen.  I just got up and got it done every morning.  Needless to say, the conditioning portion of field hockey practice turned out to be a bit of a joke for me.  I was more than prepared.  During that first summer of running, I ran a one mile road race.  I remember loving that experience, and finished in 6:28 for my first timed mile ever.  I didn’t have anything to compare it to until the following track season where I took second in our one and only track meet of the season with a 6:08 this time.  After that, I was hooked.  Track was my “thing,” and I loved it.

I remember going to the library and checking out Runner’s World magazine and just pouring over it even in eighth or ninth grade trying to engage myself in this really “cool” new community that I was quickly becoming a part of.  Finally, my dad said he’d just pay for me to have a subscription if I liked it so much (read: my dad is awesome).  As I got older, I loved to read any fitness magazine I could get my hands on.  I loved being an athlete.  I loved seeing my body develop in high school as I ran more and more.  I loved being competitive.  Heck, I just loved winning!

Enter the college years.  I had been recruited by a small, NAIA school to run cross country and track.  I was beyond excited to actually be part of a team as I had run cross country somewhat independently in high school and was typically the only girl distance runner on the track team.  Unfortunately, my collegiate career didn’t end up quite the way I had hoped.  I couldn’t really tell you why at the time, but looking back now it seems crystal clear for several reasons.

1.  I was overtraining.  This was really no one’s fault but my own.  I had really excellent coaches who did not believe in pushing their athletes to their literal breaking points (i.e. stress fractures, etc.).  They put together excellent programs and then tweaked them to each runner’s abilities.  None of this ridiculous “Here’s our star.  Let’s write a really fantastic training program for her, and then just have all the other girls do the same thing so they can help push her a little bit.”  My coaches saw a bigger picture than that, thank goodness!

However, now I think back to those days, and I had all of the classic symptoms of overtraining: constant, nagging injuries (imagine not being able to squat down for four years or jump off of anything because your shins are always hurting); fatigue; not much improvement most seasons over my best times; even weight gain.  As much as I loved this sport, I was pushing myself too hard.  My competitive streak told me that I had to do all the same training as my teammates, even if it was truly too much for me.  However, popping Motrin before practice just to make it through without hurting too badly is not healthy!  I had a stress fracture, and a near stress fracture.  After my freshman track season, I limped for at least a month before going to physical therapy.  I was just so worried that if I took a day off when I felt a nagging twinge or pain, that I would get out of shape while my teammates were getting in better shape.  Silly me…I should have listened to my body so that it would listen to my mind come race day.  Sigh…

2.  Running was my definition of true exercise.  Oh boy…how far I’ve come on this one.  In college, I couldn’t really call anything “exercise” in my mind, if I wasn’t running or if it didn’t supplement my running.  If I didn’t run, I couldn’t say that I had worked out that day.  I was sure that running was the only true exercise, and nothing else could give you quite the same workout.  This was probably one of the reasons that I was constantly injured.  I was always stressing my body in the exact same way.  Not to mention the fact that my body was completely adapted to running, even hard, high intensity speed workouts.  I have since learned that weight training that includes a good bit of plyometric and cardio intervals are where I really see results in my appearance because they are hard for me!  I’m not naturally strong, so I am really challenged by strength training.

3.  Adequate sleep is crucial to recovery.  I absolutely loved college.  I loved running.  I loved my major.  I loved my friends, coaches, and professors.  There was nowhere else in the world I would rather be than at school.  That being said, I was very, very serious about everything in which I was involved–especially my grades.  My sister graduated college with a 4.0 cumulative GPA.  I wanted to do the same.  So I worked and worked and worked, and, while I really did love it, I wore myself quite thin.  If it came down to getting a good night’s rest or studying hard to ensure I knew everything that could possibly be on the exam, I never once questioned that I’d be up studying.  I was involved in two performing groups in addition to the weekend traveling of the track team.  I knew that if I just managed my time, well, perfectly, I could have it all–the grades, the voice, the times on the track.  However, I was extremely exhausted.  I could not consistently maintain a schedule of five to six hours of sleep a night while running forty or fifty miles a week without reaping the consequences.

I occasionally brag to my husband, who doesn’t sleep very well, that I wrote the book on sleeping, and particularly napping.  In fact, one time in college I had three minutes before I had to leave for track practice.  So, I set my watch to go off in three minutes, laid down on my bed, and in that amount of time, I actually woke up from a dream.  How on earth did that not tell me how extremely sleep deprived I must have been?  A dream–in three minutes!  

4.  I had really poor nutrition.  This is actually the factor that I want to hone in on the most.  My nutrition was horrendous, but I thought it was actually pretty good.  I had always been careful about eating too many sweets during the season.  In high school, I wouldn’t touch dessert during the whole season.  My motto was “garbage in, garbage out.”  However, in college, I was racing about eight months out of the year, and it just seemed too restrictive to never have a treat.  Plus, my teammates weren’t quite as obsessive about no desserts, so I thought it was okay to indulge.  Unfortunately, there were other areas of my nutrition that were much worse.  For example, one of the ways in which I made my hectic schedule work was by skipping lunch.  I realized that I could get an extra hour of practicing in (read: singing; I was a Vocal Performance major) if I skipped lunch.  That was when all of the other music majors took a full hour to do nothing but socialize.  I felt superior eating my Clif Bar quickly and then putting in a solid hour of practice.  However, this led me to be really lightheaded during my afternoon classes, and I usually had trouble focusing.  By dinner, after practice, I was starving, and I know I ate way too much for dinner and after dinner snacks to more than make up for the calories I had missed during the day.

Additionally, I snacked on really unhealthy foods that I thought were healthy.  Animal crackers and pretzels were my staple snacks, and I truly thought these were at least nutritionally neutral choices, if not actually positive choices.  The thing is, all that white flour has zero nutritional benefits to my body.  White flour is really just one step away from white sugar (the evil thing I thought I was avoiding with no or few sweets).  I was pumping my body full of empty carbohydrates.  Sometimes to keep myself awake while I was up late studying, I would also eat.  However, even if it was a bunch of raisins I was eating, I was still consuming way too many calories.  

So what happened?  I lost all that muscle tone that was so apparent in high school.  I gained a few pounds, but not a lot.  Remember, I was still working out a lot!  However, my body fat percentage increased significantly (about 5%).  Combine all of these factors together, and you’ve got an athlete who never actually reached her potential.

When it all came together.  It took me a long time to realize all of these things that had gone wrong for me in college.  One day, though, it really started to come together.  After college, I worked for a year, then got married and moved to Denver.  I hadn’t raced at all since college, so after about a year and a half of just easy running (and recovery from my myriad of injuries), I decided I would run a half-marathon.  Naturally, this meant increasing my mileage a little bit (not a lot) and adding in some speed workouts.  I decided to do one of my easiest track workouts to get me started with my speed workouts–some 200s and 400s.  Dear goodness was I nervous to start that workout, but then I got started, and you know what?  On about half the training, but with plenty of rest and some markedly improved nutrition, I was hitting the exact same times I ran in college!  The workout felt easy!  For one, my body just remembered that pace pretty well, but there was no straining to hit the times.  I stayed relaxed, didn’t even push that hard, and hit those times without a problem.  

It’s been almost exactly three years since my last race of college track, and I am amazed at the difference in my body.  My pants from college are all too big.  My body looks toned and tight again.  The number on the scale is a little bit lower (not a lot), but my body fat percentage is definitely dropping.  Even my husband has repeatedly told me in the past several weeks, how toned I look.  I finally have those abs that I knew had to be there…they were just hiding under a layer of overtraining and white flour laden fat!  My workout routine now includes a mix of swimming, cycling, running, and weight training as I prepare for my first triathlon, and I am excited about how great I feel!  If only I had known in college what I know now–listen to your body, switch up your routine, get some rest, and eat whole, unprocessed foods, and you will be truly healthy and able to train consistently and enjoyably.

Here’s to a well-rounded, healthy lifestyle!

Why a Blog?

Hi there!

It may seem a little odd and perhaps a bit unnecessary for a Personal Trainer to begin a fitness and nutrition blog.  Certainly that’s what those 50-minute sessions are there for, right?  Well, in these first few months as a Trainer, I’ve found that 50 minutes go by pretty quickly, and I’m usually far too busy correcting form, demonstrating exercises, and encouraging my clients through those last few, really tough repetitions to talk very much about diet and nutrition.  So, here I sit, hoping to provide some useful tips to make healthy eating a simple part of an otherwise insane life.

I deemed it necessary in this first post to discuss a few underlying premises for my views on fitness and nutrition.  First of all, healthy eating is possible even amidst an insane schedule.  Sure, it takes a little bit of planning, but soon enough you’ll find that healthy eating is possible no matter how busy your life is.  Yes, you can avoid that drive-thru window.  No, you do not have to succumb to frozen pizzas and TV dinners.  Yes, a nutritious breakfast can be made quickly and grabbed as you rush out the door.  These are a few of the topics I’ll be covering, hoping to help you make a nutritious choice at every meal of every week.

Secondly, the world of healthy eating is a lot easier to understand than you may think.  There are about a million diet plans from which to choose and just about as many schools of thought on what proper nutrition really means.  Should I cut out all carbs and just eat protein?  Maybe I should just eat raw fruits and vegetables.  If I don’t eat breakfast, will I gain weight?  Should I eat three squares or six small meals, and for goodness sake how many calories should I really be eating?  How on earth is a person supposed to answer all of these questions.  Unfortunately, we’ve made it all a lot more complicated than it has to be.  Sure, my opinions are biased.  Yes, there are some diets that I would suggest over others, but all in all, I’m interested in your good health a lot more than the number on the scale and getting you to that “magic number” as fast as humanly possible.

Lastly, I believe in moderation.  I’m not going to suggest anything too crazy.  I want you to develop eating habits that will carry you through a long and healthy life, not just for the next two months until you reach your goal weight (enter the yo-yo diet).  There is room in my nutrition for an occasional treat and a guilt-free indulgence.  If you’re feeding your body with good, whole foods full of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients you can enjoy a treat here and there, and this time, without all of the guilt.

I hope these posts will serve as an encouragement to all of my readers whether they are my clients, gym members, friends, or family members.  Is my nutrition perfect or even quite where I’d like it to be?  Certainly not, but I’d like to partner with you in pursuit of lifelong health through good nutrition.  Are you with me?