Blog
Athlete Highlight
June 15, 2021

Meet Kait!

Kait started triathlons in 2015! Since then, she has completed numerous multi-sport events ranging in distance from sprint through IRONMAN 70.3. As you will read in her Q & A below, her triathlon journey began with her first and favorite event, Escape the Cape which led her to complete another two tri’s that very same summer. Kait has done many of the local short course classics like Tri the Wildwoods and Atlantic City Triathlon while also competing in longer course events like IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City, IRONMAN 70.3 Lake Placid and IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman. Next, she has her sights set on a full IRON distance event.

Kait has been training with AME since the beginning of the year! She is consistent with her training and puts in every ounce of work. This has paid off immensely for Kait. Despite having a brief foot injury as she came on board, she has made immense progress in her training. She has cut over four minutes off her 1000 yard swim threshold, improved her average wattage on her bike threshold by 30% and dropped one minute and six seconds per mile off her 5k time! Her biggest race gain is seen in her most recent finish at IRONMAN 70.3 Eagleman where she dropped 57 minutes off her time from her last 70.3. GO KAIT!

Kait has a strong drive and love for the sport. This was evident in her training and completion of numerous virtual events throughout the closure of live races in 2020 during the pandemic. She has a go-getter attitude to dive in and take what comes next. Her energy, excitement and positive attitude make an impact on all around her and keep her growing to be the best she can be!

We are THRILLED Kait chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Kait:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

My cousin originally got me into triathlons, which is funny because she had never done one prior to our first race. A few weeks before Escape the Cape (2015), my cousin asked if I wanted to do the race as registration was still open and since it was right around the corner, I was like “why not!” I will admit that I had no wetsuit or bike until two days before and had no idea how to transition until my first T1. (If you’re thinking about pulling the trigger on a specific race, but are nervous, do it!)

What is your favorite event and why?

Hands down Escape the Cape! It will always hold a special place in my heart as it was my first race and got me hooked. Nothing else beats jumping off the Ferry to start the swim.

What about triathlon and endurance sport brings you the most joy?

All the wonderful people that I have met through the sport. I have met one of my good friends, Rachel Leal, through triathlon. There are so many incredible athletes and volunteers coming together to accomplish something incredible.

If you could choose anyone to do a triathlon with, who would it be?

My dad. He continues to toy with the idea of doing a tri but hasn’t pulled the trigger yet. After my race this last weekend at Eagleman, I think we might be a step closer!

What is your favorite part of training?

I enjoy seeing the improvements over time. Training for months on end is tough, mentally and physically, but seeing the capabilities that I have achieved through training is such a great feeling.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I DNF’ed at Ironman 70.3 Lake Placid and it absolutely sucked. Race day was in the mid-30s, the water was in the mid-60s and despite all of my training, my body couldn’t handle the temperatures. I struggled with that for about two years and put off triathlon completely. A DNF is rarely talked about in the sport as most people are embarrassed, but at the end of the day it ALWAYS beats a DNS.

Find Your Sweat Rate
June 14, 2021

Now that we have had some time in the heat and humidity, this is a wise time to find your sweat rate. Sweat rate is unique to everyone and varies for each person based on several factors; such as, your level of training, the modality of workout you do and the temperature/humidity in which you exercise. Knowing your sweat rate for each discipline (swim, bike, run), in different temperatures and in different phases of training provides an understanding of what your specific hydration needs are. Knowing your unique hydration needs allows for improved hydration replacement during training and racing, resulting in better training sessions, optimal recovery and improved performance.

To start, find your sweat rate in the heat/humidity for either the bike or run. Ideally, you should find your sweat rate for each discipline (swim, bike and run) in both moderate temperatures (earlier in the season) and a hotter and more humid environment (summer), every year. This provides greater insight to your specific hydration needs. The more you know and understand your body, the better off you will be, both in and out of sport.

How to find your sweat rate:

- Pick one of your training sessions this week lasting 60-90 minutes.

- Before you exercise, empty the bladder and weigh yourself nude.

- Exercise. Record how much you drank during exercise (Do not pee during exercise, this will skew the results).

- Use a water bottle or clear cup in which you know how much it holds so you know how much you have consumed.

- After exercise, dry off your sweat and weigh yourself nude.

- Every pound of body weight lost during training equals 16 oz of sweat loss.

- Fluid consumed during the workout are sweat losses replaced, so add this back into the weight lost (you can skip this step by not consuming fluid during the exercise session; however, this is not recommended for training in a hot/humid environment).

- Divide the total amount of fluid lost by the number of hours trained to get fluid losses per hour.

Example:

- 60 minute run, moderate intensity, outside, 80 degrees, high humidity

- Weight before: 150 lbs

- Weight after: 148 lbs

- Fluid consumed: 8 ounces

- Weight loss: 150-148 = 2 lbs

- Convert to fluid loss: 2 lbs = 32 ounces

- Fluid consumed: 8 ounces

- Total fluid loss: 32 ounces lost + 8 ounces consumed = 40 ounces total

- Sweat rate/hour: 40 ounces fluid lost / 1 hour = 40 ounces / hour

It is difficult to fully replace what we lose in our training and racing, essentially impossible in long course events. Having a greater understanding of what our fluid losses are sets us up for greater success in our rehydration efforts, allowing us to lessen the gap between what we lose and what we replace. Fluid losses as little as 1% total body weight can negatively impact performance. The goal is to optimize performance in racing and make the most gains possible in training by hydrating appropriately.

Ryan, M. (2007). Sports nutrition for endurance athletes. Velopress.

Sims, S. T. (2016). Roar : how to match your food and fitness to your female physiology for optimum performance, great health, and a strong, lean body for life. Rodale.

Achieve Your Best Open Water Swimming
May 13, 2021

Open water swim season is almost upon us. After what has hopefully been a solid off-season of focused work on form in the pool, we are about to be reintroduced to the exciting but unpredictable open water abyss. Every experience in open water is different. Even if you regularly swim in the same location, there are variances in temperature, depth, color, current, chop, sunlight and other activity that may be taking place on the water, like boats and water sports.

As multi-sport athletes, our form in open water will look different than our form in the pool. We do not train for perfect and pretty form in competitive lap swimming. We train for endurance and efficiency. We train to overcome chop and swells, to be able to stay the course by sighting efficiently and effectively and to be able to breathe on both sides of our body.

Let’s focus on some of those differences and how we can become better open water swimmers. While there are many variables that affect how we must adjust our form to be most efficient in open water, here are some key tips on open water mechanics, breathing and sighting to help you achieve your best open water swimming.

OPEN WATER MECHANICS

Chop, swells and turbulent water all call for changes in our swim form to power through the water and delay the onset of fatigue. The goal is to do our best to work with the conditions at hand, swimming as efficiently as possible, rather than fight the water.

With chop, the biggest key here is to clear our arms over the chop, rather than try and slice or push our hands through it. Trying to push through the water increases drag, reduces speed and leads to a much earlier onset of fatigue. To navigate chop effectively, we change up the style of our recovery.

In the pool or a calm open water environment, many swimmers default to a bent arm recovery, meaning the elbow is flexed as you bring your arm out of the water. In a pool environment, this is good form. Chop and swells, however, call for a straight arm recovery. We must reach out and over the water, think of making an arc with your arms to overcome the chop.

The pull. The pull is the first propulsive phase of your stroke underwater and may need to occur earlier. In other words, in smooth swim conditions, we can effectively glide with one arm while maximizing propulsion with the other. Heavy chop and swells do not allow for this, if we try to glide, the water will push us backwards, stalling our movement forward. To maintain continual forward movement, we must pull earlier than is typical, sometimes beginning the pull as soon as that hand enters the water.

The kick. Depending on if you use a wetsuit or not, open water conditions may call for a more aggressive kick to help the body stay horizontal and streamlined. A wetsuit provides the advantage of extra buoyancy, helping our bodies float and stay in a more horizontal position with the water. While the kick is less than 10% of our propulsion, it is used to help our body stay streamlined and can be used to help keep our body horizontal, bringing our legs up and reducing drag.

BREATHING

At AME, we place a heavy emphasis on the ability to breathe both bilaterally AND unilaterally on both your dominant and non-dominant sides.

Mastering this skill will keep you calmer on race day. Chop can come from any direction, and it will, depending on the course, wind and any other activity on the water, like nearby boats passing by. In a race setting, proximity to other swimmers will also influence which direction water will be splashing towards your face at any given moment. You may be swimming free and clear one moment and the next an off-sighting athlete comes surging right in front of you splashing water directly into your dominant breathing side.

The ability to breathe bilaterally and to your non-dominant side starts in the pool. Bilateral breathing simply means you are breathing every three or five strokes, which causes you to breathe to alternate sides as you go. Most swimmers do not practice bilateral breathing or breathing to the non-dominant side. The ability to do this will not only improve your confidence in the water and decrease any anxiety on a choppy swim morning but drive you to achieve faster times and less energy wasted in the swim which you can save later on for the bike and run.

Bilateral breathing can be as easy as making it a part of every warm-up. As an example, in your classic 4 x 100 swim, kick, pull, swim, breathe bilaterally, or every three strokes, in the first and last 100.

For non-dominant breathing, add in 4 x 50 at a moderate pace, making it the sole focus to practice your non-dominant breathing with each 50. You may need more rest in between sets as you practice catching your breath, this is a difficult skill to learn.

Like any new skill, these will seem hard to learn at first, but stick with it. With consistent practice, you will be that much more confident in your open water swimming, setting yourself apart from your competition and improving your experience and swim times from years past.

SIGHTING

Near perfect mechanics mean nothing if you are not sighting and swimming in the right direction.

Sighting should occur prior to breathing. Lift the head just enough for the eyes to clear the water. Many open water swimmers lift their heads much too high. When the head is lifted, this causes the legs to sink, increasing drag and slowing propulsion. When there is heavy chop or swell, requiring you to lift your head higher to sight, utilize a more aggressive kick, this will help keep the body horizontal and streamlined.

When swimming in open water, sight often. Sight every 6-10 strokes. In a race situation, never depend on the swimmer in front of you to be sighting accurately. Always be cognizant of where you are and where you need to be, continuously sighting as you go.

Practice sighting frequently in open water and in your pool sessions to strengthen this skill. Try out 2 x 200 where you practice sighting every 6-8 strokes. Pick a spot on the wall or an object at the end of each lane to sight. Practice lifting the head only as high as needed to clear the eyes from the water. Again, this skill is not easy or fun, but practice makes permanent. Keep at it!

In summary, practice your sighting, ace your breathing, be flexible with your mechanics, #AMEhigh and do it with a smile!

AME Athlete Highlight
May 12, 2021

Meet Jude!

Jude has been training and racing for triathlons since 2016. Since then, he has completed close to 20 triathlons, including Escape the Cape Triathlon, Tri the Wildwoods and IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City! This year, he has several triathlons on the horizon ranging in distance from sprint to 70.3. His main event is IRONMAN 70.3 Atlantic City while hitting several local events along the way.

Jude started training with AME this January. Since then, he has made continuous and steady improvements in swimming, biking and running, even with a brief shoulder injury the first few months into the year. His biggest improvement has been the run, since the beginning of January, Jude has dropped 7% off his 5k pace per mile. One of his greatest assets is his focused and determined mindset, his willingness and drive to persevere. He also has a hunger and enthusiasm to learn and continue to develop his approach to the physical, mental and nutritional aspects of training and racing.

On top of his dedication to training and racing in triathlons, Jude has a full life with his career and beautiful family, including three kids, some of whom already participate in triathlons! Jude is an extremely hard worker, rarely misses a training session and keeps himself and his family active with outdoor sports throughout every season of the year. Jude sets an exceptional example for his family and his community.

We are THRILLED Jude chose AME to share in his journey!

Q & A with Jude:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

I had been curious about triathlon for a long time. I have a triathlon training book I bought in 2005 yet it took me until 2016 to actually sign up for one, that being Escape the Cape. I decided to raise money for charity that year so I was completely committed to racing but thought it would be one and done. As I got closer to the race, I realized all the training I had put in but I was also so convinced that I would get a flat tire on the bike or have some other issue that would end my race that I signed up for a second race a few weeks later just in case it was a disaster so I could redeem myself. Well, after that first race I was hooked and ended up doing 4 races that summer!

What is your favorite event and why?

Without a doubt it's Escape the Cape.  It's very unique with the ferry jump plus there's a different energy around that race that's addicting. The bike course goes by the house that I grew up in which is also very cool.  

What about triathlon and endurance sport brings you the most joy?

I love the complexity of triathlon. I love the competition but there are so many reasons: to feel better, the great tri community and meeting new people such as through the Wild Harbor Tri Club, to show my kids that hard work pays off, to relieve stress, to have a healthier lifestyle and maybe to look a little better come summertime lol.

What triathlon or multi-sport event would you most like to do with your kids one day?

My 8 year old son is entered into the Islandman Kids Tri this summer in Avalon. The Islandman race has a Fastest Family Award. I would love to win this with one of my kids someday. I also think it would be fun to do a relay with my kids in a few years.

What is your favorite part of training?

There's always something to improve. It seems like you never have a perfect race but the process of training and seeing yourself get stronger and faster is motivating to continue.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

Before every race I remind myself that just getting to the start line in shape and healthy is such an accomplishment. Then I focus on the #1 goal of the day to be safe, #2 goal to have fun, and #3 is to go kick some butt!

Let's Stop Fighting with Ourselves and Better Manage the Mind Chatter
May 10, 2021

By Mitchell Greene, Ph.D., Clinical & Sport Psychologist

www.greenepsych.com

Sport psychologists are forever attempting to get athletes to be more positive and to stop their negative thinking. The idea is that if you can replace negative beliefs with positive ones your performance will improve. There is only one problem. The research data supporting the negative-to-positive replacement strategy does not exist. In fact, experienced triathletes will tell you that second guessing, and whispers of doubt remain despite determined and repeated attempts at positive affirmations and confident self-statements. Even the best, such as Hall of Fame pro triathlete Scott Tinley, talk about pro triathlon having its own “dirty little secret.” He reveals that, “Self-doubt runs rampant through the ranks of even the best.”  

Mindfulness strategies have become enormously popular for several reasons, the most obvious being that people, particularly endurance athletes, have a knack for being very tough on themselves. They often relish pushing their bodies to the brink, but many become frustrated (and humbled) to find that self-confidence still eludes them. From a mindfulness point of view, having an inner critic is not necessarily the problem. It is the relationship between “you” and your critic that is important.

Mindfulness approaches accept the inconvenient truth that we have less control over our thoughts than we might wish. As many a triathlete can attest, trying to forcibly make yourself feel confident about p.r.’ing in your next race or “nailing” your ocean swim can be akin to throwing yourself a surprise party. It just does not work. Trying too hard to feel something you do not really feel (i.e., confident) signals to a mindfulness practitioner that the athlete is basically saying, “I don’t know how to respond when I start doubting myself.” Instead of trying to not be nervous, mindfulness teaches athletes how to practice non-judgmental awareness of one’s thoughts (and feelings). The goal is to create some much-needed separation from your inevitable second-guessing.  

Here is a dialogue I had with “Dave,” a triathlete. Dave learned some basic mindfulness strategies, including what I call “managing the mind chatter,” to help him deal with the messages his negative self-talk was sending his way as he readied for his next big race.  

Dr. Greene: So, Dave, you have signed up for a half-ironman in late August. Congratulations! I understand you want to really challenge yourself, otherwise I guess you would have stuck to sprint and Olympic distance triathlons.

Dave: Yes, I heard from others that the 70.3 distance is not so bad if you train well for it. One early morning, immediately after a great swim session, I found myself paying the fee and there it was . . . an email congratulating me for signing up. The problem is now I’m literally freaked out about it.

Dr. Greene: I get it. One day you find yourself open to a new opportunity and nothing else at the time seems to matter. Now, you are questioning the whole thing.

Dave: Exactly, I don’t know now if I can do it. I mean, in training I can do all the distances, but I don’t know what will happen in the race and whether the heat will get to me, which happened once before, and I had to walk for a big chunk of the Olympic-distancer run.

Dr. Greene: The way we will look at this Dave is that you and I need to team up against something I call “Mind Chatter.” While you are looking to have an experience of a lifetime, your chatter is working on a wholly different agenda. Not surprisingly, it does not want anything bad to happen to you. If we stick together Dave, we can figure out what to do about that chatter.

The key, Dave, and this may sound a bit odd, is to accept that the doubting voices are not just going to go away because you say so. Consider them part of the competition picture. If you don’t want chatter, you’d basically be telling me you want to stop pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone, which obviously is not the case. By the way, your chatter would be happy if you stayed home. It wants to protect you from getting hurt or looking bad.

Is this making sense Dave? For now, let try not give the second-guessing any more importance than it deserves.

Dave: So, the idea of me trying to not be nervous is a mistake?

Dr. Greene: Correct. It sounds funny, but your energy is better spent breaking down the race into small goals – physical ones and mental ones. I can help you with that. All along, while you and I are trying to figure out how to tackle this challenge called half-ironman your chatter will pop up and tell us why this might not be a good idea. We won’t do anything directly about that chatter – we will try to just let it do its thing—and we will shift our attention to race-related actions that put your training to good use.

Dave: I kind of get it. I am not going to be worried that I’m worried. I can race worried. But it’s better to fill my “mind” with how I want to approach each of the three sports, in terms of specific techniques and strategies.

Dr. Greene: Right. You are off to a great start!

Here is a fitting metaphor that resonates with many athletes who, like Dave, find themselves mentally exhausted trying to get on the right side of their racing jitters and fears. Think about being anxious for a big race like being in a tug-of-war with a monster. The monster is big, ugly, and very strong. In between you and the monster is a pit, and as far as you can tell it is bottomless. If you lose this tug-of-war, you will fall into this pit and be destroyed. So, you pull and pull, but the harder you pull, the harder the monster pulls back, and you edge closer and closer to the pit. The hardest thing to see is that your job here is not to win the tug-of-war. Your job is to drop the rope!

AME Athlete Highlight
April 7, 2021

Meet Jessica!

Jessica began training and racing for endurance events in 2010 and began her triathlon journey in 2014. Since then, she has completed close to thirty running and multi-sport events! Jessica just recently finished the Garden Spot Half-Marathon in March, her first live running event since a pre-Covid state.

Jessica has an exciting year mapped out ahead of her. She is doing her first half-Ironman event, Ironman Atlantic City 70.3. Then, very shortly afterwards will be headed out on a two-day adventure trek traveling 40-50 miles through Zion National Park! This is all done for a good cause as she has raised over $4,000 for Project Athena.

Participating in running and multi-sport events does not come close to describing Jessica’s active lifestyle. Once springtime hits, if she is not working or training, you will very likely find her out hiking the trails or riding her bike for leisure with a huge smile on her face. Jessica loves everything about exercise, the outdoors and an active lifestyle. She will be the last person to tell you she is an athlete, but that is exactly what she is.

Jessica has a remarkably busy life but manages to fit everything in with balance. On top of training, racing and exploring, she has a highly successful career and a wonderful mother who she now takes care of. Jessica has a beautiful daughter who graduates this year from college and she loves to travel and explore with her husband. They have been to 57 out of 62 of the National Parks.

We are absolutely THRILLED Jessica chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Jessica:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

I joined a newly formed group called Fit to Lead (FTL) within the Healthcare Businesswomen’s Association. This group combines the skills of being an effective leader to also being an effective athlete. The lessons are very similar. I am still a FTL member!

What is your favorite event and why?

My favorite event is the Philly Women’s Tri with DelMoSports. I have done it every year and I love seeing so many women athletes at one race. It leaves me inspired to do my best.

What about triathlon and endurance sport brings you the most joy?

I am so proud when I set an ambitious goal and I reach it – pretty basic!

What are you most excited about for your trek through Zion National Park?

As you mentioned, we have a family goal to get to all the National Parks and we are super close. We have been to Zion before but this experience will be totally different. I will be hiking with a group of Athenas & Zeuses  that have had medical setbacks and are doing this 40 – 50ish hike as a demonstration of their strength. The hiking will be in the backcountry of Zion away from the crowds and the scenery will be amazing. Sunsets over red sandstone facades will be photo worthy. Also, once you are on the trail we are one team. There is no racing ahead. The team goal is to get everyone to the finish successfully and that might mean carrying a little bit more weight in your pack.

What is your favorite part of training?

My favorite part of training is following the plan and seeing greens in my Training Peaks for the week. Miles add up. When you get to the Start Line, all of the hard training work is done and now it is your time to shine. Another favorite quote is “Don’t be upset by the results you didn’t get with the work you didn’t do!”

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

When my daughter was growing up, she had this quote “if you do something new today, you get to live another day.” This sparked my love of diversity in training – biking, swimming, running, hiking, kayaking, skating, sledding … you get the point. It keeps me interested in being active and I enjoy trying something new. When was the last time you did something for the first time?

AME Athlete Highlight
March 18, 2021

Meet Dan!

Dan began training and racing for triathlons and endurance events in 2017. Since then, he has done numerous events, including Ironman AC 70.3, Escape the Cape Triathlon and Broad Street. After taking a brief break from training with the impacts of Covid last year, Dan was eager to get back to a consistent routine of training and racing and hit some PR’s along the way! Dan’s main event this year is Ironman 70.3 Atlantic City!

Dan joined the AME Team in December of 2020 and has made excellent progress since then. He has dominated his new routine of training, rarely missing a workout. He has consistently progressed in volume for all three disciples and continues to improve his speed with each discipline in every passing field assessment. So far, he has shaved one minute and 35 seconds PER MILE off his 5k time, cut 14 seconds off his swim threshold and improved his bike threshold by 28%!

The biggest takeaway with Dan is how incredibly hard he works. He works countless hours at his job, has three wonderful kids in high school and still makes the time to get his workouts in. Rarely does Dan miss a workout. He is committed and driven to be the best athlete he can be and learn all he can while setting a great example for his kids.

Absolutely THRILLED Dan chose AME to share in his journey!

Q & A with Dan

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

Heard about it from a friend and I could ride a bike and run a little. Didn’t know how to swim freestyle properly, thought it would be challenging.  

What is your favorite event and why?

The poverty to the cove swim.  It was just so far outside of my comfort zone I really loved it.  

What about triathlon and endurance sport brings you the most joy?

Challenges every day, mental and physical.

Pick your pain, you realize while setting up transition on race morning you forgot your Garmin or after you cross the finish line you realize there is toilet paper stuck to the back of your jersey and it’s been there since using the port-o-potty before starting the run?

TP for sure.  

What is your favorite part of training?

I like the satisfaction that comes from battling with your mind.  When your mind tries to keep you comfortable but you get up and do the work anyway.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I don’t eat meat/dairy/ eggs.  I cut those foods in 2019 as an experiment and found my weekly mileage drastically increased while my soreness and swelling after workout was greatly reduced.  I was amazed.

About the Fit
March 17, 2021

Now is the time to connect with your local bike shop for a seasonal tune up and a bike fit. Many endurance athletes have never had a bike fit. For endurance athletes who put in countless miles on the bike, a good bike fit is crucial. A good fit will maximize your power output, provide the most comfortable, yet aerodynamic / aggressive, position to you and decrease risk for overuse injury. For endurance athletes who crank out countless miles on the bike, setting your body up in the best position possible to decrease risk for injury is essential for longevity in your training, racing and lifetime riding.

Your fit will change based on a variety of factors. Generally, I recommend a bike fit at the beginning of every season and with each new bike purchase. Fit changes with season, your fitness level, weight, flexibility, age and goals, there are many different factors that go into a bike fit. Depending on the type of bike(s) you have and the style of racing you do on each bike, you may even be fit differently to each bike.

It may take time to get a bike fit this year. Some bike shops are not doing fits yet due to Covid, the fitter does need to be close throughout bike fitting. I would recommend reaching out now to your favorite or local bike shop to see if or when they are doing fits and book an appointment within the next few months. Ideally, you would be ready to hit the road come spring with your bike fit and tune up checked off the list.

If you are in the process of, or considering, getting a new bike this year or at any point in the future, always remember fit the bike to you, not yourself to the bike. It is crucial to buy a bike that first fits you and THEN get fit, not try and fit a bike to you that doesn't fit you. Think frame size first, it's important to choose a frame that fits as well as possible in the first place. Be an educated consumer. It is imperative to test ride before you buy and I would recommend testing out a variety of bike brands to find the best one for you. A good bike shop will expect and encourage you to take a test ride.

Beat the crowds and get it done or scheduled now so you are ready to hit the roads come spring!

The Importance of Good Nutrition for Endurance Athletes
March 17, 2021

Have you ever heard the saying the fourth and fifth legs of triathlon are nutrition and recovery? Developing good nutrition habits and realizing the value of recovery is crucial to maximizing your adaptations from training and reaching your best performance in racing. It is important to practice and improve your general nutrition requirements and training/racing needs EARLY in the year. Race day nutrition should be second nature come race day, you should feel 100% confident in how your body will react to the fuel you take in because you have practiced this in your training time and again.

To operate at your best, it is imperative you are eating ENOUGH calories and doing your best to get the RIGHT calories in. For several reasons, many athletes tend to eat less than they should. Not eating enough and not eating well can lead to increased fatigue, decreased recovery, weaken the immune system, increase risk for injury, provide a limit to the gains you will make with your training and limit your potential come race day. With that said, what are our goals with nutrition as an endurance athlete?

1) Meet the energy and fuel demands to support training and racing.

2) Achieve and maintain good body composition - for good health and good performance.

3) Fuel and hydrate well to optimize training for each workout session / race and attain optimal recovery and adaptations.

4) Maintain good health and build and maintain a strong immune system, reducing the risk of illness, with increases in training load and the demands on the body.

5) Practice race nutrition and hydration strategies that work well for YOU, fueling your needs while minimizing GI discomfort.

6) Taper correctly before events / carb load for optimal performance.

7) Enjoy what we eat! Eating what we enjoy in moderation and attaining and maintaining a healthy approach to nutrition for life.

With those goals in mind, you need to have a basic understanding of how many calories you should be taking in to maintain your current weight. This number is unique to YOU and is based on your age, weight, daily activity level and exercise/training. This number will vary week to week, season to season and year to year. To learn more about this specifically, read my article HERE

Once you know how many calories you need, the next step is eating as mindfully as we can. Getting the right foods in, thinking about what you are putting on your plate. You need to know the right amounts of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and fat you should be getting in and then do your best to do so. An excellent and quite simple resource for this is myplate.gov.

Nutrition and its requirements for endurance exercise can get very granular. As you begin to ace your journey to stronger nutrition, remember, it is always best to START WITH THE BASICS. By making sure you are eating enough calories and doing your best to eat healthy and mindfully, you are setting yourself up for lifelong success.

AME Athlete Highlight
February 21, 2021

Meet Amanda!

Amanda has been training and racing for endurance events for 13 years! She began her running career in 2008 and since then has completed over 20 running events. In 2015, she added triathlons to the agenda and has been doing those ever since. So far, she has completed close to 15 triathlons, including Ironman Atlantic City 70.3 and jumping off a ferry for the iconic Escape the Cape Triathlon.

Amanda will cross the finish line at her first Ironman event this year! For 2021, Ironman Maryland is her focus with a few smaller distance events along the way. She has been training with AME since October of 2020 and has grown significantly since then! She has made great progress in both volume and speed in all three disciplines, has built a strong foundation in her strength training and is eager to continue learning training and racing strategy.

While she has made gains and built a solid base for the bike and the run, her biggest improvements so far have been in the pool. She has been putting in the work all off-season to strengthen and improve the swim.  Working together, she has made great progress in her form and efficiency and has shaved close to 15 seconds off her average threshold pace!

Aside from her drive, passion and commitment to training and racing, what we love most about Amanda is her personality! She shows kindness and compassion to everyone, has a great sense of humor and is extremely detail oriented!

Absolutely THRILLED Amanda chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Amanda:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

After spending 8 years post college in Washington DC, I relocated back home to Cape May in May 2008. As that was a big transition point, I wanted to commemorate it and did so by dedicating myself to training for my first half marathon. I never considered myself and athlete, let alone a runner, so the commitment to training and learning was a huge deal for me. When I crossed the finish line in September 2008 at the Philadelphia Distance Run, I was elated and so proud of what I’d set my mind to and accomplished. And, that feeling is addictive.

After continuing to experience those feelings while posting better times/paces running, finishing a marathon in 2010 as well as planning a wedding (2011) completing grad school (2013) I guess I was looking for the next fix so to speak.

Friends who had completed Escape the Cape pushed me to sign up…they said it would be great fun.  They forgot I really don’t like heights, cold water and was not a trained swimmer. But, I got in off the waitlist and in June of 2015, I jumped, fell, was pulled of the edge of the ferry and found myself splashing into the world of triathlon.

What is your favorite event and why?

I don’t really have a favorite event in the sense of a certain race that have to sign up for every year. But if I had to choose a favorite event I’ve completed; I would say the inaugural Ironman AC 70.3. It was super exciting to be part of that event in its first year. The course was great, DelMo did an excellent job and the volunteers were amazing. The adrenaline was pumping, and the day did not disappoint.

Honorable mentions to the 2019 Key West Tri, 2009/2010 Key West Half Marathons, 2009 Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half (also an inaugural and you run the Las Vegas Strip all lit up), 2010 Philly Marathon (seriously though, if I never hear Eye of the Tiger or the Rocky theme song again, I’d be ok).

What about triathlon and endurance sport brings you the most joy?

I’m a pretty goal oriented and achievement driven person, so endurance sports are perfect for me. They give you so much room to stretch and grow. You can always get better; you can always set a new goal. It isn’t always about the full race, it could be bettering one discipline within a race, or moving up to a new distance. It’s really very personal.

I also love the camaraderie we endurance athletes have here in Cape May County. Through the Wild Harbor Tri Club and the great slate of races put on by DelMoSports, Cape May Running Co and other local race directors, we get to train, race, volunteer and play together and it is so much fun. I have met so many new people I consider great friends though this sport and I love being able to support them in their goals and they do the same for me!

Pick your pain, a non-wetsuit legal 70.3, or greater in distance, triathlon event or bumpy roads and endless potholes in a sprint triathlon?

I’m going with the non-wetsuit legal race…which is huge for me because if you know me, you know I love my wetsuit and lava pants, or as I call them, floaty pants.  BUT, I choose this because I’ve actually already faced this challenge.  When I raced Tri AC Olympic in 2016 as a warm-up for IMAC 70.3 it was not wetsuit legal and I was not happy that morning.  However, I chose to have confidence in myself and my training and I went out there and swam that mile with no wetsuit! It was the first time I’d ever swam a mile plus with no wetsuit. So, if I can do it for 1 mile…I can do it for 1.2 miles…the 2.4 for a full…come get my opinion in August. LOL!

What is your favorite part of training?

My favorite part of training is when you hit a milestone you’ve never hit before, running 1 more mile than you ever have, swimming just a few second faster for a 100 yd, changing a flat by yourself, eeking out 1 more push-up. Those little victories are what keep you coming back. I cried the first time I ran 8 miles when training for my first half. I’d battled it for weeks, and couldn’t get there without walking some, and then one day I did.

The big victories, like crossing finish lines, are great, but those small victories, the ones maybe only you see are what get you there.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I love being a volunteer for races just as much as being a participant. I know how much an enthusiastic volunteer can impact me during a race and how important it is to have those aid stations stocked and running smoothly. I was a cheerleader in high school, and I bring that all back when I am working a racecourse. I will cheer for you and high five you and help you bring your best in that race. I’m loud and I don’t care if I lose my voice if it gets you across that line! And yes, I have my own megaphone and I’m not afraid to use it.

It's Okay to Ask For Help: You Are Only Human
February 18, 2021

By Mitchell Greene, Ph.D., Clinical & Sport Psychologist

www.greenepsych.com

If you follow the blogs and tweets of triathlon’s elite performers you realize a couple of things very quickly. First is that triathlon is an around-the-clock job for them, with nutritional requirements, recovery aides, travel plans and sleep cycles requiring as much attention as any particular workout. Second, although their reputations are built on their head-down pedal-to-the-metal racing style, their patience and perspective are the key attributes that keep them from flaming out too soon.

Recently, as in pre-pandemic, I worked with a seasoned pro triathlete who traveled three states over only to achieve a much slower-than-expected duathlon time; slower than his time in this same event the previous year. Disappointed and somewhat shocked, he needed to perform some serious mental gymnastics to keep his training program from being sabotaged by one race. But, you know what, he reached out for help. Kudos to him; that takes courage.

Whether you are new to triathlon or someone who has been putting your sweat in for years, dealing with the all-too-common reality of underperforming is a job hazard that never gets any easier. Most age group triathletes gradually get through these rough patches with the support they receive from their training partners, coach, significant other and/or spot-on motivational quote. If those work for you, great! However, for some, the weight of what can feel like ever-present performance pressure can lead to significant cracks in the armor. Is it time for you, when the pandemic has forced all of us to slow down, to reach out for help?

In a sport psychologist’s work with age group and elite athletes, we provide a safe place for athletes like you to say how you feel. Sometimes when an athlete comes to a sport psychologist’s office, they are tired of feeling "stuck" and are sick of complaining to their coach, spouse or bike shop guru. In some situations, triathletes become so frustrated that they long ago stopped talking to anyone about what is bothering them (mentally or physically), but the significance of the issues and the affects remains. You spend so much energy and time on your physical game, please be sure to take care of your inner game as well.

For any triathlete who feels stuck, seeing a sport psychologist can provide an opportunity to get "out of the big chain ring" and reconnect to what you love about the sport. The goal is to return to enjoying the challenge of training and competitive racing, and not to let yourself be defined externally by any one race result or workout session.

Finally, it is important to not think of a psychologist (sport or otherwise) as someone who fixes someone who is “broken.” Sport psychology is more akin to teaching than emotional digging. In that sense, it is more mundane than mysterious. A triathlete’s willingness to build mental conditioning into their fitness program won't magically produce never-before-seen race results but they hopefully will be sure to keep racing happily (and with perspective) for years to come.

For sport psychology resources in your area, or on the web, please contact Dr. Mitchell Greene at mgreene@greenepsych.com.

Challenges and Overcoming Odds
February 12, 2021

Weekly, I write emails to the AME team. Generally, I do not share these outside of the team but I felt this had relevance to many in the world today. Last week, I wrote about challenges and overcoming the odds. While we face challenges every day, albeit these challenges are generally small, facing bigger challenges is a common theme among the world right now. What it appears is life in general has hit many harder than ever, while Covid-19 has presented it's own ripple effect of struggles.

For some, these challenges look like overwhelming hours at work while trying to maintain family life and training. While more are working from home due to Covid-19, and this may seem great, many are facing higher hours or more demands on the job than ever before. For many, this time has provided a continued presentation of obstacles and barriers towards goals or business pursuits they are trying to accomplish. Others are overcoming injury, training related or not, which takes a toll both physically and mentally. Many are caretakers for family members who are sick, injured and/or elderly which is a load of itself and, on top of that, have had to find a way to manage the complex and confusing healthcare system. Finally, it seems many have recently faced the death (or anniversary) of a loved one.

The weight of each of these items is heavy. As we face big challenges, the weight of even the small challenges seems larger or more intimidating. Over time, if we continue to carry a load without working through it or determining a solution to step forward or ease the path forward, the load only multiplies. As this load multiplies our stress multiplies, we begin to lose our fire and passion for things that once brought excitement, our training begins to derail, we lose sleep, our immune systems weaken and we may even begin to get sick.

I'm currently reading "Finding My Voice," by Mike Reilly. One of the quotes in his book that I love is, "You can't tell just by looking at someone if they're having the race of their lives under extraordinary circumstances." This quote isn't actually by Mike, it's by an athlete who said this to him in a letter after Mike called him an Ironman in Kona as he crossed the finish line. This athletes name is Petri and it took him seventeen years and thirteen Ironman races to get to the World Championship in Kona. Three months before his race, he had a horrific bike crash. He drove HIMSELF to the hospital, part of his scalp torn off and his left eyeball hanging halfway down his cheek. He had reconstructive surgery three weeks later. During the surgery, he went into cardiac arrest, his heart stopped beating for fifteen minutes. They got him back and he went into cardiac arrest again. You can see how unbelievably meaningful it was for Petri to cross that finish line in Kona just NINE WEEKS LATER.

Overcoming the odds when they are stacked against us is all about how we approach them with our attitude. For some of these obstacles we must recognize that we do need time to heal, both mentally and physically. For others, we need to find a way to more efficiently organize and manage our time, get creative in how we approach the obstacle, ask for help or even gain a fresh perspective. Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. When life puts us on these roads, especially when that seems to be a repeated pattern, don't say "why me," say "try me."

Another story you might enjoy is on Chrissie Wellington's 2008 World Championship win in Kona. I wrote an article on this about a year ago so I won't go heavy in the details, but ultimately, she overcame great odds to win the race. Long story short, she was leading the race by five minutes, got a flat on the bike, blew through two CO2 canisters and was begging for a spare from athletes passing by. She ultimately lost 10 minutes, when one of her rivals gave her a spare as she blazed by on the bike. Chrissie fixed the flat, got back on the bike and ended up winning the race by 15 minutes. If you want to read more, click HERE.

Character in the face of difficulty is what matters. In some obstacles, it may feel like you are being targeted or singled out. Generally this isn't the case. Remember, if someone is treating you in a negative way, they generally have pain in their lives and it comes out as an attack on you. I have said this before and I will say it again, always AME for kindness, AME for strength, AME for beauty of all kinds. The best stories are of those who face overwhelming odds yet overcome them with character, class and grace.

Muscular Strength and Endurance
December 21, 2020

There are five components of physical fitness:  cardiorespiratory endurance, flexibility, body composition, muscular strength and muscular endurance. In this article, I will focus on muscular strength and muscular endurance.

You may be wondering, what is the difference between muscular strength and muscular endurance? Muscular strength is the external force that can be generated by a specific muscle or muscle group on one occasion. Think heavy weights here, muscular strength is generally assessed with a 1 rep max.

Alternatively, muscular endurance is the ability of a muscle group to execute repeated muscle actions over a period sufficient to cause muscular fatigue. The muscles ability to continue to perform successive repetitions or exertions against a sub-maximal load. Think lighter weights here, bodyweight work, etc. One method in which muscular endurance can be assessed is through a protocoled push-up assessment to fatigue.

Building your muscular strength and muscular endurance is paramount to health, wellness and longevity. Below, I have listed below some of the benefits of improving your muscular fitness for both general health and wellness and specific to endurance sport.

General benefits of improving muscular fitness:

  • Lower risk of all-cause mortality
  • Fewer cardiovascular disease events
  • Lower risk of developing physical function limitations
  • Lower risk for non-fatal disease
  • Improvements in body composition
  • Improvements in blood glucose levels (think diabetes)
  • Improvements in insulin sensitivity (again, think diabetes)
  • Improved blood pressure in individuals with mild to moderate high blood pressure
  • Improved bone mass and bone strength (of particular importance to women as we age, think osteopenia and osteoporosis)
  • Slows the aging process

Benefits of improving muscular fitness relative to endurance sport:

  • Improved strength
  • Injury prevention
  • Neuromuscular training
  • Improved speed
  • Improved endurance
  • Improved power
  • Delayed onset of fatigue
  • Improved running and cycling economy

Now, we understand the difference between the two and we know their benefits. In my upcoming blog and newsletter, I will discuss how we apply this in training to maximize results and obtain the highest impact. Be sure to sign up for my newsletter if you haven't!

Citation
  • Riebe, D., Ehrman, J. K., Liguori, G., & Magal, M. (2018). ACSM's guidelines for exercise testing and prescription. Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer.
  • Millet GP, Jaouen B, Borrani F, Candau R. Effects of concurrent endurance and strength training on running economy and .VO(2) kinetics. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2002 Aug;34(8):1351-9. doi: 10.1097/00005768-200208000-00018. PMID: 12165692.
  • Hausswirth C, Argentin S, Bieuzen F, Le Meur Y, Couturier A, Brisswalter J. Endurance and strength training effects on physiological and muscular parameters during prolonged cycling. J Electromyogr Kinesiol. 2010 Apr;20(2):330-9. doi: 10.1016/j.jelekin.2009.04.008. Epub 2009 May 26. PMID: 19473854.
  • Ronnestad BR, Mujika I. Optimizing strength training for running and cycling endurance performance: A review. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Aug;24(4):603-12. doi: 10.1111/sms.12104. Epub 2013 Aug 5. PMID: 23914932.
  • Vikmoen O, Ronnestad BR, Ellefsen S, Raastad T. Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiol Rep. 2017;5(5):e13149. doi:10.14814/phy2.13149
Triathlete Holiday Gift Guide
December 1, 2020

Treat the triathlete(s) in your family this Christmas by giving them gifts that support their favorite sport!

$

-Foam roller

-The Stick massage roller

-Goggles

-Abundance of their favorite training and racing nutrition

-Several of her favorite sports bras

-Swim buoy

-Pull buoy

-Favorite pair of run socks

-Resistance bands

-Motivational and inspiring endurance sport books

$$

-Theragun, or similar, massage device

-Running shoes

-Aero Helmet

-Cold weather running and biking gear:  thermal and long sleeve tops and pants, coldweather socks, overshoes, waterproof gloves and hats, under-helmet hat

-Warm weather running and biking gear:  sweat wicking run singlets, run shorts

-Gore-Tex wind/rain jacket

-Transition bag

 

$$$

-Garmin Fenix 6 or Forerunner 945

-Aero Wheelset

-Normatec, or similar, recovery system

-Power Meter

-Wetsuit

-New Bike

 

Stocking Stuffers:

-Goggle anti-fog spray

-New swim caps

-All the components of a flat kit:  spare tubes, co2 cartridges, inflator, patch kit, tire levers

-Multi-tool

-Running hat/visor

-Handheld water bottle/hydration for running

-Race belt

-Road ID

-Body glide

-Individual packs of Gu, gels, chomps, Shot Blocks,Sports Beans, Clif bars, Honey Stingers, you name it!

Gift Cards (or $$ for) and other items to Place on the Tree:

-Greenpsych Sport psychology:  to master the mental component

-DelMoSports:  towards a local race registration

-Cape May Running Co:  for all their run essentials

-blueseventy:  for all their swim essentials

-AME Coaching: to maximize their training and racing

-Swim, bike, run ornament!

AME Athlete Highlight
November 24, 2020

Meet Elaine!

Elaine started triathlon in 2018. She had trained and participated in several events over the years and developed a love for the sport and the camaraderie of the sport. She decided this was the year she wanted to buckle down, set bigger race goals and hire a coach! She put her mind to it and has absolutely DOMINATED her goals this year! She has crushed race distances she had never completed, participating in her first Olympic tri this year. She has made gains in volume and distance on the bike she had never completed, covering 50+ miles on the bike on multiple occasions. She has made gains in speed, placing in her age group for many events and even setting PRs. She has pushed through her fears of open water swimming and covered distances she had not yet covered. And last, but certainly not least, she has put in the effort, time and training all season long to accomplish these goals.

She is not done yet. She is ready to go and has signed up for her first 70.3 next year! She continues to push through off-season training and recently completed an underwater swim analysis so we can nail down her swimming mechanics, which is where she wants to focus most. She has gone through many battles over the last several years that could easily knock anyone off their feet and keep them down. But not Elaine. She pushes forward with a positive attitude and uses this sport as a release and way to help her overcome obstacles.

Extremely proud of Elaine and her HUGE accomplishments this year. I cannot wait to watch her continue to crush every single goal she sets in front of her. Absolutely THRILLED she chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Elaine:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

After the tragic death of my son Sean, I felt that I needed to do something that would keep me balanced and somewhat focused.  Even though I have a husband, children, and grandchildren, I still needed something that would challenge me mentally and physically. During this transition in my life I reached out to my friend Valarie who is one of the founders of the Wild Harbor Tri Club and she took me under her wing and helped me along in the world of triathlon. Well, here I am three years later and training for a Half Ironman.

What is your favorite event and why?

My favorite event so far is the Jersey Genesis Triathlon. I really like this because it is a small event, and it is a lake swim. I prefer to swim in a lake instead of the Ocean or Bay.

What about triathlon brings you the most joy?

The people in the world of triathlon are great. They all support each other, and it makes for a more enjoyable event. Also, I feel accomplished after I complete my goal of finishing.

Pick your pain, a long and steep uphill finish at the end of a triathlon or forgetting your sunglasses in transition for the bike portion of your upcoming 70.3?

Forgetting my sunglasses.

What is your favorite part of training?

My favorite part of training is getting outside in all types of weather and the way that I feel mentally when I am finished with my workout. I also like the way I look and feel physically but to me that is just a bonus.

What is one thing you want people to know about you?

I am a Wife, Mother, Grandmother, and a Great Grandmother. I look forward to training because it gives me something to strive for and it keeps me focused and balanced. I never thought that I could ever do a triathlon because it just seemed so out of reach to me at first, but with perseverance and will, I was able complete not only a triathlon but an Olympic Triathlon as well. After my son passed away I had a choice to make, I could either live or I could exist…..I chose to live because God has blessed me with so much and I don’t want to waste it!

Weight Management Principles
November 21, 2020

As we enter the holiday season, I wanted to provide insight into some basic weight management principles. There are several reasons why we need to place an increased emphasis on weight management at this time of year. First, this is the off-season for many athletes, meaning lighter training and less calories burned to counteract what we are eating. There is less daylight which impacts our melatonin levels, causing us to feel sleepy later into the morning and at earlier points in the evening. The temperatures begin or have begun to drop, typically resulting in less overall movement and exercise. Finally, our dishes and meals are heavier and desserts are plentiful which can cause us to throw eating well and in moderation straight out the window.

I am a big fan of eating mindfully or being very aware of our bodies, thoughts and attitudes toward food. Like when we feel hungry, when we experience cravings, how our bodies feel or react after a meal. Mindful eating encourages things like eating slow, recognizing when you feel full, only eating when you eat and not multi-tasking, enjoying and appreciating food and understanding the effects different foods have on our health and waistline. While mindful eating is not about calorie counting, it is important to understand the basic principles regarding weight management. Having a solid understanding helps us to not only mange our weight but make mindful eating a LIFESTYLE, which is what it is all about.

Finding Your Daily Caloric Needs

Have you heard of basal metabolic rate or BMR? Basically, this is an ESTIMATION of how many calories your body uses throughout the day to function if you were to literally sit and do nothing. This formula is based on gender, age, height and weight. I highly recommend you look this up and find your number. This number reflects at a very minimum how many calories you should be eating to sit and do nothing all day.

Now, you are not done yet. Once you have your number, you need to factor in how many calories you burn with movement, like your activities of daily living and any exercise on top of that. This is where the Harris-Benedict equation comes into play, which takes your BMR and your activity level and provides your estimated total daily energy expenditure, shown below. Before I move on, it is important to understand this is an ESTIMATE of how many calories you should be eating every day to MAINTAIN your current status. Understand this number changes with age, fluctuations with weight and changes in levels of daily movement/exercise.  

Harris Benedict Formula:  multiply your BMR by the applicable activity factor:

- Sedentary (little or no exercise):  BMR x 1.2

- Lightly active (light exercise/sports 1-3 days/week):  BMR x 1.375

- Moderately active (moderate exercise/sports 3-5 days/week):  BMR x 1.55

- Very active (hard exercise/sports 6-7 days a week):  BMR x 1.725

- Extremely active (very hard exercise/sports & physical job or training twice a day):  BMR x 1.9

Now, for those who know how many calories they burn each day with exercise (via their Garmin or similar device), I have one more step. To be more accurate with your caloric needs, I recommend taking your BMR, multiplying this by the “sedentary” activity factor (1.2) from the Harris-Benedict equation and adding in your specific number of calories through exercise. This is still an estimate for that days’ worth of calories, but it is more specific to you.

Training varies every day. You may have a long ride on Sunday that burns 2000 calories, while you have a tempo run on Tuesday that burns 500 calories. To understand your average number of calories needed per day, add up the number of calories you burned through exercise in a week and take the average of that number, meaning divide it by 7. Then, add this into your formula. Here is an example:

- Jane Doe:  Age:  48, Height:  5’8” (172 cm), Weight:  155 lbs (70.3 kg), Device:  Garmi

- BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 x 70.3) + (3.098 x 172) - (4.330 x 48)

- BMR = ~1422 calories/day

- Total Daily Caloric Needs without exercise:  1422 calories x 1.2 (HBAF) = ~1706 calories/day

- Average number of calories burned through exercise in a week:  400 calories

- For this, add up the amount of calories you burn with exercise the last seven days and divide the total by 7. For Jane Doe, it was an average of 400 calories

- Total Daily Caloric Needs including exercise:  1706 calories + 400 calories = 2106 calories/day

- Average Total Daily Caloric Needs:  ~2106 calories/day

How to Lose or Gain Weight

Okay, we have our total daily caloric needs, now what? At this point, we need to understand how weight management works. To maintain weight, calories in need to equal calories out. To lose weight, calories in < calories out. To gain weight, calories in > calories out.  To influence these equations, we need to eat less or more, exercise less or more or do a combination of both. For weight loss, I am always a proponent of doing both.

Roughly, one pound of fat is about 3500 calories. A healthy, manageable and realistic weight loss is 1-2 pounds a week. Breaking this down, you would need to be in a calorie deficit of 500-1000 calories a day. So, you either need to cut back in caloric intake by this amount, burn this much in exercise or a combination of the two. To burn 1000 calories through exercise is the equivalent of running 10 miles, this is not realistic for most people. On the flip side, it is not realistic, sustainable or healthy to cut back this much on calories alone, which is why I recommend a combination of exercise and cutting back on calories to reach your goal. Let’s go back to our example.

- Jane Doe:  Her goal is to lose a total of 5 pounds. She wants to lose one pound per week, the equivalent of 500 calories/day. This should take her five weeks.

- Strategy:  Burn 400 calories per day through exercise and cut back 100 calories per day through her nutrition

One additional thing to keep in mind is women should NOT eat less than 1200 calories/day and men should NOT eat less than 1800 calories per day. Our bodies are extremely good at surviving. Cutting back in calories less than this causes our bodies to see this as almost starvation. This ultimately leads to a decreased resting energy expenditure and makes it that much HARDER to lose weight. Ultimately, you are harming your chances of losing the weight you wanted to lose in the first place. Plus, you are making it more difficult for yourself to keep that weight off once you lose it.

Wrap Up and Takeaways

Once you find your total daily caloric needs, keep track of your calorie intake for a week. Are you higher, lower or on point with your calorie requirements? Once you know the answer, adopt a mindful approach to eating with this new information in mind. If you found your calorie intake is too high, consider the types of foods you are eating, remember to eat slow and pay close attention to when you begin to feel full. It can take 15 minutes before our bodies begin to register a feeling of fullness. If you smash your lunch within five minutes, you may think you are still hungry only because your body hasn’t had the time to register what you have ingested yet.

Wrapping up, I wanted to share these basic principles to improve your understanding of how weight loss works. I am a much bigger proponent of eating mindfully. Listening to your body, eating only when you are hungry, staying hydrated (with water), stopping eating when you feel full, enjoying all foods (and drinks) in moderation and getting in your regular exercise. This makes a lasting change to how you approach weight management and turns it into a LIFESTYLE.

This is a long one and I hope you learned something. If you have ANY questions or want to pick my brain further, do not hesitate to reach out.

#AMEhigh guys, today, every day, and do it with a HUGE smile!

AME Athlete Highlight
August 17, 2020

Meet Aileen!

Aileen is a go-getter! She started triathlon in 2015 and since then has completed numerous triathlons, duathlons and running events, including three 70.3s! This year, Aileen has been working her tail off preparing for Ironman Maryland. Unfortunately, like all others, this event was recently cancelled. While this news can be crushing, especially after putting in so much training, Aileen has not let it stop her. She has ZERO intentions of losing all the gains she has made. She recognizes her next big improvements will be made in the off-season and is AME’ing for IMMD again next year along with several smaller events along the way!

Aileen has made MUCH progress since she joined the AME team.She has made significant improvements in her swim, bike and run speeds. She has crushed distances on the bike and run she has never tried before. She has improved her body composition, shedding the few spare pounds she had to lose, while building lean muscle mass and making serious gains in her muscular strength.She even came in FIRST, out of males and females, at a virtual triathlon she competed in with the local triathlon club. Aileen has a very full plate in life outside of training, yet she gets in EVERY workout and keeps a tremendously positive attitude when it could be quite easy not to.

Extremely proud of Aileen, her accomplishments, perseverance and drive to achieve her goals. Next year will be her biggest and best year yet, AME cannot wait to watch it happen!

Absolutely THRILLED she chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Aileen:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events? 

My first tri I committed to happened all over a beer. A friend of mine and I cheers'd to doing Escape the Cape after seeing it happen. After the first Escape the Cape I did in 2015, I was instantly hooked. 

What is your favorite event and why? 

My favorite race is Escape the Cape because I grew up here in North Cape May and swam in the Delaware Bay my whole life. Plus, this awesome event takes place within a couple miles from my home. It's in my backyard. And all my family and friends come out and cheer me on. It's a great feeling! 

What about triathlon brings you the most joy?

Being able to race and have fun.

Pick your pain, snoozing your alarm race morning and barely making it in time for race start or getting water in your goggles first thing into the swim because they weren’t quite tight enough?

Snoozing my alarm! 

What is your favorite part of race day?

The finish line. I like to push it hard to the finish, my signature move is a full out sprint. My old track moves come out. 

What is one thing you want people to know about you? 

You may see me running on my toes that's because I Irish danced for years as well as competed. I often walk and run on my toes. It's ingrained in me. My husband can always pick me out of a crowd of people based on my walk!

Just TRI
July 15, 2020

I was driving in my car today and I happened to notice an older silver Honda Civic with a simple bike rack attached to the trunk. It got me thinking of my first car, a 2002 silver Honda Civic. Manual, no air-conditioning and you had to hand crank the windows. Loved it. Like the car I saw, I had a simple bike rack for it that attached to the trunk. I owned this car for six years, lived with it in four states and it got my bike and I back and forth to my first six years of triathlons.

This also had me reflecting on my first triathlon from so long ago. My parents had come to watch and show their support. It was a good day. After I finished, I remember my dad was surprised at how many types of people did the race, of every shape, size and ability level. He had this preconceived notion that only highly fit people did these types of events. Now, I should say, my dad is naturally athletic and one of the hardest working people I know. With that being said, I think even he thought triathlon would not be for someone like him before he saw the race. A lot of people think this way about triathlon, it looks like an intimidating sport. Now, if you’ve never done a tri, I’m going to stop your thoughts right there.

Triathlon, and multi-sport (duathlon, aquabike) in general, is for EVERYONE. You do NOT need to have a huge training log in the books, expensive exercise clothes and a fancy bike. You simply need the will to TRI. It’s a simple event really, you swim, you bike, you run. That’s it. You don’t need loads of training to finish a triathlon, even just the recommended minimum amounts of exercise will do the trick. For most, the swim is the scariest, or hardest, part. Some people who start triathlon don’t even know how to swim when they first start training. If you don’t know how to swim, learn. This is an important, fundamental and potentially life-saving skill that everyone should know. Call me, I’ll teach you.

Now, while the events themselves are not happening right now, that doesn’t mean you can’t start preparing for one. Pools are starting to open up. Jump in. Get in the lake. Get a better feel for the water. Hop on your bike, whatever kind of bike it may be. Start walking, jogging or running a few blocks around your house every couple of nights. Just start.

Triathlon will change your life. I have yet to meet someone who has done a triathlon and didn’t beam about their experience(s). You will learn things about yourself you may not have known existed, you will be introduced to a phenomenal community of people and you will make memories you will never forget. On top of that, you will gain confidence, better health, new friends, new connections, new experiences and, quite possibly, a new lifestyle.

Just TRI, AME high and do it with that amazing smile!

AME Athlete Highlight
July 2, 2020

Meet Mary!

Mary is training for her first 70.3 this fall! She started running at age 40 and started competing in triathlons at age 57. Since then, she has completed numerous running events and triathlons, making the podium for many. Mary gets her workouts in early! On more than one occasion, my wake up call has been the Training Peaks notification of Mary’s completed workout and I absolutely LOVE it!

Mary started training with me in May after recovering from an injury last winter. Since then, she has made considerable progress. She never misses a workout and is always eager to learn how to improve in every aspect of triathlon. Since May, Mary has made huge improvements in both speed and power on the bike and her speed on the run. She has little to no pain from her previous injury and has not developed any further injuries. She has also gained knowledge on how and why we do certain workouts which has led her to do her workouts more effectively.

Getting nervous butterflies is Mary’s biggest hurdle. However, she pushes through EVERY SINGLE TIME with a can-do attitude. She gets those butterflies to fly in formation and crushes each one of her workouts. She is extremely positive of this race season, even if her upcoming 70.3 gets cancelled. She knows the gains she has made and knows the gains she will continue to make as she continues her training.

Absolutely THRILLED she chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Mary:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

I was a runner for a long time. I watched Tri the Wildwoods one day while out on a run. I thought I wonder if I could do that? My friends at 10th street gym always talked about triathlons, so I mentioned it to them. They were very influential in helping me train all winter for my first triathlon the following summer. My first triathlon was in Stone Harbor the summer of 2015 at the age of 57!

What is your favorite event and why?

My favorite event is Tri the Wildwoods. I guess because its in my own backyard and I love everything about that race, the spectators, the volunteers and of course the after party!

What about triathlon brings you the most joy?

The thing about the sport of Triathlon that makes me keep coming back is the overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and the wonderful friends I have met along the way. Triathletes truly look out and take care of one another.

Pick your pain, the biggest calf cramp of your life in the middle of a choppy ocean swim or realizing you forgot to fill your water bottles as you’re running into transition from the swim?

Cramp in the middle of the ocean!

Favorite post-race meal?

My favorite post race meal is a Philly soft pretzel and a cold beer!

What’s one thing you want people to know about you?

Well, the one thing I think most people that know me in this sport is that I really push myself, despite my nerves. I am also very good at finding humor in most situations, which I'm sure has helped me not only with nervous jitters but in so many other areas of my life. I have a strong will and determination. That’s what has made me a triathlete.

I couldn’t agree more Mary, you are an athlete to look up to! I can’t wait to see you cross the finish line at that 70.3!

Always #AMEhigh folks and ROCK that amazing smile!

All I See
June 16, 2020

Over the past few months, I think we have all learned many lessons and a lot more about ourselves. Who we are, what we value and what we want to achieve. I know I have. My biggest takeaway:  things will happen as they are supposed to happen, they cannot be forced or hurried along. Sometimes, we make plans and God has a good laugh.

Most races were cancelled or postponed this year. Some of these being very meaningful events for people. Destination events for some, qualifying races for others and first-time events for newbies. This past weekend would have been a big event for me, Escape the Cape Triathlon and Open Water swim. This would have been my longest swim to date in a racing environment, 3 miles in the bay. Not to mention the best part of “taking the leap” by jumping 12 feet off a ferry to start the swim. In many ways, this race holds a lot of meaning for me.

Many have been upset by these cancellations. Grief, loss of motivation and lack of focused training has followed suit. The way I see it, this has been a good learning opportunity for all. We must train ourselves to see the positive in every situation. This is not the end of the road, nor is it a setback. This is a chance to better prepare us for what is to come. A chance to get in more training. To develop greater strength. To build more courage. To grow.

Most days when I run, I run past the side ferry exit, where Escape the Cape occurs, and make my way through the parking lot to a main road. For the past three months, the gate here has been locked and closed down with additional fencing. To my surprise and delight, I realized on my run this morning, the fencing had been removed and the gates were open. In my heart, I honestly believe that what will be, will be. Everything will happen in the right way and in the right time, generally when you don't expect it. Races will resume, life will progress, leaps will be taken and the gates will be open.

In the meantime, the best you can do is to keep being your best you. Choose FAITH in the process and your training. Choose HOPE that races will resume and life will progress. Choose LOVE for yourself, those around you and the future.

One of my athletes recently posted on social media about Escape. At the end of her post, she said “Keep following your dreams, keep your head up and keep making it happen. Anything is possible.” This is without a doubt what I believe and intend on doing and my hope is that you will too.

See the positive. Anything is possible. Keep being your best you. AME high and ALWAYS rock that amazing smile.

AME Athlete Highlight
June 9, 2020

Meet Maureen!

Maureen is a Philly-based athlete with a drive and determination like no other. She started triathlon in 2018 and has raced in numerous events since then. She suffered a rough injury at the end of 2019, which kept her from activity for six months. Did she let that stop her? Absolutely not. Since she started training with me in March, we have seen HUGE GAINS. At the time she started, we began her training with swimming (pre-COVID-19), strength training and stretching because of the injury. Slowly and progressively, we added both running and cycling back into her life and training.

Maureen works her tail off. She pushes when she’s supposed to push, she holds back when she’s supposed to hold back. She stretches, she eats right, she recovers. The result? In the past month alone, she has shaved 35 seconds PER MILE off her threshold run pace and improved her threshold distance on the bike by 38%! She no longer feels pain from previous injuries and most importantly has incurred no additional injuries.

Maureen’s strongest asset is her solid mental game. Instead of letting injury, lack of events and other battles life has brought her way derail her training, she has taken the opportunity to improve. Be like Maureen:  positive, courageous, determined, making gains. #cantstopwontstop

Absolutely PUMPED she chose AME to share in her journey!

Q & A with Maureen:

What got you into triathlon and endurance events?

My local running club (Thanks All Kinds of Fast!). I started running with the group a few months after I picked up running again on my own. A few of the women in the running club were already triathletes and suggested that anyone who was interested in doing their first triathlon sign up for the Women’s Philly Triathlon since the swim was in a pool. So I signed up and the rest is history as they say :)

What is your favorite event and why?

I love the Escape the Cape Triathlon in Cape May, NJ - there is nothing like the experience of jumping off a boat and into the ocean for the open water swim.

What about triathlon brings you the most joy?

The camaraderie - especially at women only events. I’m always surprised how supportive women are with each other - I’d love to see more of that in the world today!

Pick your pain, jelly legs from the bike to the run or forgetting where your bike is racked in transition?

Jelly legs any day!

Favorite workout song?

We Are One (Pitbull, JLo)

What’s one thing you want people to know about you?

I’ve only been doing triathlons for 3 years so I’m fairly new and have so much to learn - I can’t wait to see where this journey takes me :)

We can't wait to see where this journey takes you too, Maureen!

AME high folks and do it with a SMILE!

The Value of Stretching
May 12, 2020

Do you stretch? If so, regularly? Be honest, do you take time out of each day or a few minutes after exercise to get it in? Most people don’t. I didn’t even start stretching regularly until I hit my early 30’s. Today, I’m going to focus on flexibility and why it’s so important. Flexibility is one of the five components of physical fitness and the benefits are vast. There are several different types of stretching. Each type of stretching accomplishes a different purpose. Here, I’m going to focus on static stretching and dynamic stretching, as these are the most beneficial for both endurance athletes and the general population.

Static Stretching

Static stretching is what most people think of when they think of stretching. This is where you hold a position for a given period of time, like bending forward at the waist and reaching for the toes to stretch out the hamstrings. Back in the day, we were told static stretching should be done before exercise. Does anyone remember doing this? Team stretches before practice? I do. This is no longer the recommendation and some studies show it can cause adverse effects to performance when done pre-exercise.

Static stretching is ideally done AFTER EXERCISE or even after a hot shower. At this time, the muscles have an increased blood flow and the muscles are more pliable, better prepared to stretch. It helps to think of your muscles like a rubber band. Let’s say you have a rubber band you just pulled out of the fridge. This rubber band is taut, it does not stretch well. The likelihood of it snapping is greater. But once this rubber band has been sitting out in the warm air, it has much more flexibility and elasticity. It works the same way with your muscles. So, what are the rules with static stretching?

• Ideally, stretch after exercise or a hot shower

• Stretch all your major muscles groups

• Stretch to the point of mild discomfort, you should not feel pain

• Hold each pose for 10-30 seconds

• Complete each pose 1-3x

• Do NOT bounce while holding the stretch

Why should you do static stretching? What’s the importance? For many reasons, even if you do not regularly exercise. For one, it leads to an improved range of motion and decreased stiffness. This is especially important as we age. With age, our joints lose some range of motion, we can help to counteract this with regular stretching.

Stretching also provides a reduced risk of injury. Back to the rubber band scenario, a rubber band that has a lot of flexibility and a lot of give has much less chance of snapping if quickly called upon to stretch. Similarly, if we need to move suddenly, like quickly avoiding an unseen pothole when running or riding, or even in our regular activities of daily living, we are less likely to become injured. A greater existing flexibility and range of motion decreases risk of injury.

Regular stretching also improves posture and alignment. Tight muscles can contribute to poor posture. Think about the activities you do every day, the positions your body assumes on the regular. Stretching helps counteract tightness these positions can cause.

Last, stretching can be used as a great form of stress management. Taking deep, slow breaths as you perform each movement. Clearing the mind as you go.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching prepares the body for the stress of exercise. Think of dynamic stretching as part of your warm-up, to get the body moving, loosen the muscles, decrease risk of injury, promote circulation and increase blood flow. With dynamic stretching, you perform movements like those in the sport or activity you are about to do, but at a lower intensity. Then, increase speed and intensity throughout your warm-up. Some studies have shown improved athletic performance when dynamic stretching is performed consistently.

A dynamic stretch is not held for any specific length of time and involves movement. A few well-known examples are walking lunges, arm circles, or butt kicks. You might do 15 walking lunges, 20 arm circles (on both arms) and 20 butt kicks before a strength workout.

Stretching is not a once and done. Like putting on weight and then trying to lose that weight, stretching takes time. You won’t increase your flexibility in a day; however, putting it into your daily routine is what does the trick to increase your range of motion. Back to that whole healthy lifestyle thing 😊

Remember, if you have any health concerns or existing injuries, always talk to your doc first, in some cases, stretching may cause further harm.

So, get your stretching in, AME high and do it with a SMILE!

Where it All Began
April 24, 2020

I began triathlon in 2007, as you can see from the fuzzy image of me at my first triathlon above, I was a sophomore in college. I have shared this before, but I grew up playing basketball, basically since I could walk. After high school, I started college and no longer played sport competitively. I gained the freshman 15, and, like many college students, lived a little too carefree. Unsure of what I wanted to do as a career, I took a career assessment that told me, among other things, I would be a great drill sergeant in the army or do well in the field of exercise science. I chose exercise science. This is where I was first introduced to the sport of triathlon, by a graduate assistant in one of my ex sci classes. He put together my first training program and helped me with the process of buying my first bike. I worked my tail off that year for my first few tri’s. I still do, but for myself, not for any specific race. To be perfectly honest, triathlon has completely changed my life since it entered my life.

For me, triathlon has never been about finish times, making the podium or placing in my age group. Racing is just the cherry on top. Sure, I’m competitive, but I could not live without the day-to-day exercise that has since become my lifestyle. Clearing the mind, relieving the stress, maintaining my health, turning me into a better person and pushing my limits both mentally and physically. It is truly endurance training for life rather than for any race.

The greatest treasure this sport has brought, is all the people into my life along the way. From the helpful older woman at my first triathlon who racked her bike next to mine, to my supportive and encouraging husband, to my amazing athletes who inspire me every day, all the way up to the more recent people who have entered my life, who I cherish and value so deeply. The love that I hold is so great, truly something that will never fade and I would never want it to.

We all have a journey. I would love to hear yours. Connect with me and tell me all about it. In the meantime, AME high and do it with a smile!

Transition Like A Pro
April 22, 2020

While we get through this transition from our day to day norm, why not learn to transition like a pro on race day? Shaving time in transition is FREE TIME that can help you PR or give you an edge on your competition. The key is to get in and get out in as little time as possible, while expending the least amount of energy as possible. In a normal racing season, practicing transition may seem out of the question due to time and other life constraints. With the “extra” time this year, why not practice it now? Have you ever practiced transition? Most triathletes have not. A great transition starts way before race day. If you want to get better at any skill, you have got to put in the time and practice.

As we walk through this, we are going to practice visualizing race day. Visualization is a great exercise, if you visualize a great race and a great transition, it is that much more likely to happen. That said, let’s visualize its race morning. You’ve arrived on site. Yesterday, you picked up your packet and swag. Now you’re walking to transition area, bike and transition bag in hand. You find your spot, greet your neighbors and rack your bike. Next up, optimize your transition layout.

T1:  Everything you need on the bike course should already be attached to the bike. This is something you do the night before. Hydration/water bottles full and in place. Spare tube either taped under the saddle or in a seat pack, spare CO2 canisters taped to the seat post. For nutrition, most races are wetsuit legal, so put your nutrition in the back of your jersey BEFORE race start, underneath your wetsuit. It will not slide out or get ruined if it’s not open. For the rest of your nutrition, tape it to the top tube of your bike, ideally partially open and ready to eat depending on what it is.

Place your helmet upside down on your aerobars, positioned towards you so you can easily put it on without having to flip it around. Put your sunglasses inside your helmet so you can quickly put them on and won’t forget them. Depending on preference and race distance, place your socks in your cycling shoes. However, if this is a short course race, to maximize speed, do NOT wear socks. Put baby powder in your cycling shoes to help your feet dry out from the swim and to prevent blisters. Be sure to get training rides in without socks, this will help build up calluses prior to race day. Not to mention, you should NEVER try something new on race day. Which brings me to my next point, if you can and HAVE PRACTICED a flying mount, clip your shoes in, using rubber bands to keep them horizontal. If not, place them directly next to your bike on the ground, facing forward, so you can easily slip them on.

T2:  There is much less needed for the run, so place your running shoes next to your cycling shoes if they are not clipped in. If you are not wearing socks, put A LOT of Vaseline inside of your shoes so you can quickly slip them on, and your feet do not blister. As a side note, if you don’t already, use lock laces so you can slip your shoes on and go without having to tie your shoes.

Next, place your hat, race belt with bib attached and running nutrition in one small pile in front of your running shoes. This way, after you have thrown on your shoes, you can grab your items and go. Do not waste time putting these on in transition. Get running. Throw on your belt and hat and load your nutrition in your jersey on your way out of transition.

VISUALIZE:  Next, take in your surroundings and visualize. Find swim in. Count the number of rows and bike racks from swim in to your bike and remember this number. Visualize yourself running into transition from the swim, stripping off your wetsuit, goggles and swim cap while finding your bike. To make finding your bike easier, consider bringing a small brightly colored towel to drape over the saddle of your bike so you can quickly find it. Next, find bike out and run out. Visualize yourself going through the motions in each of these transitions.

PRACTICE:  Practice, practice, practice. Do it from home. Or, find an empty parking lot, empty track, empty field. Bring your bike, your transition gear, your race day mindset and practice. Visualize setting up like race morning (place your bike against whatever is around since there likely won’t be a bike rack) and go through the motions. Time yourself. Practice running to “transition,” putting on your bike gear and running with your bike out of transition. Go ride for 15-20 minutes, spinning your legs out in a high gear as you head back into transition to prepare for the run. Take off your bike gear, grab your run gear and take off for a quick run. This can be a great brick workout while also practicing transition. Use every open water swim to practice running out of the water and removing your wetsuit, swim cap and goggles with speed.

Be minimal, bring only what you need into transition and nothing more. Practice your transition set up. Practice going through the motions. Visualize what you will do race morning both in practice and on race morning.

Transition like a pro. AME high. And no matter what, always wear that smile!

Curveballs and Comebacks
April 13, 2020

Do you know the story of Chrissie Wellington’s Ironman World Championship win in 2008? Read on, I’m going to share, but search it on YouTube, you will be amazed. I remember watching that year, she triumphed big time when the odds were against her.

For those unfamiliar, an Ironman consists of a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run. The Ironman World Championship in Kona, a race you must qualify for, has exceptionally brutal conditions. Severe heat, high humidity and extreme wind. Having won overall female in this race the year prior in her Kona debut, all eyes were on Chrissie.

The start of the race went to plan, great swim and halfway into the bike she had already attained over a five-minute lead. Then, as sometimes happens in life, she was thrown a curveball and caught a flat tire. She pulled off to the side of the road and got to work. She had two spare CO2 canisters. However, she failed to use BOTH properly. Unable to accept outside assistance as this results in a DQ, she began shouting to other triathletes as they sped past for a spare. Time was ticking, she watched as her competitors continued to fly by. Eventually, word got back on the course of Chrissie’s situation. Rebekah Keat, a RIVAL, heard this and gave her one of hers as she passed her on the bike. Chrissie successfully filled her tire and got back in the race. This delay cost her 10 minutes, which, of course, did not stop her. She gained back the lead on the bike and absolutely CRUSHED the marathon, breaking the course record that year, ultimately winning the World Championship by almost 15 minutes. She did all this with a huge smile.

Life throws curveballs. It’s in your ability to fall, brush it off and get right back up that you WILL make an epic comeback. You can ALWAYS find a way, most of the time you just need to get creative, be bold, take a risk. Be resilient. Know that you can. Trust that you will. Like Chrissie, when in need, don’t be afraid to ask for help. In the words of Julie Moss (another story you should know), everyone has defining moments, hers were just captured on film.

Can. Will. Achieve. Make these your vocabulary. Power through, overcome challenges and you will come out stronger than you ever thought possible. ALWAYS AME high and you will never forget to smile!

Adjusting Your Season
April 2, 2020

Uncertainty seems to permeate the air. Athletes nervous about race cancellations, Race Directors under pressure to provide answers, workouts restricted due to social distancing, concerns on health in general. With this uncertainty looming, sticking to goals can be difficult. Maybe your first race of the season was cancelled, maybe your destination “A” race was rescheduled for fall. Should you stick to your original goals? Do you set new goals? Is it smart to sign up for a different race later in the year? How do you adjust your training?

The first thing I would suggest is to open your annual training plan. Identify what races were cancelled or rescheduled. For cancelled races, mentally, you need to grieve and move forward. Change is difficult, but you will overcome. Regarding your training program, you may need to get rid of a taper depending on if this was an “A” race or a training race. For rescheduled races, pencil those in for their new dates. Again, you may need to remove any existing tapers. You may also need to reconsider participating in some of these events if their rescheduled date is now too close to another race. It’s okay to have one or two races close in proximity, but too many can lead to overtraining, injury and burnout, especially if you push hard in each one. Looking at your adjusted season, make the decision if you want to add another race. I would not suggest registering now, but do your research and keep an eye on possible events.

Now that your race season is very likely heavy in the late summer and fall, you will need to adjust your base and build periods. Simply put, this means you won’t need to build in duration or intensity quite as early into your training as you originally would have. You don’t want to peak too early or burn out before you’ve even done a race. To help maintain training motivation early in the season, try out a virtual race. You will push harder knowing your results will be scored and it’s a great way to support your local or favorite race company.

Since you may have more free time with a bit less training and more time at home, this is a great time to improve or build on other areas of your game. Get down and dirty in the kitchen, testing new and healthy recipes for the season. Cook these in bulk to freeze and use when life is hectic down the road. Search swim videos and learn all you can about swimming mechanics. While you can’t swim now, you can certainly improve your understanding on form and be better prepared for training when you’re back at the pool. Maybe you didn’t work on your strength gains enough in the off season, depending on your new race layout, you could possibly build that in now. This is also the perfect opportunity to work on your mental game, read more on that in my previous blog, "Believe What You Can Achieve." Never stop learning, there’s always something you can improve on.

Think positive. Maybe this time is a blessing in disguise. Sometimes, you must take one step backward to take two steps forward. I talk a lot about dreaming big, setting goals and having courage. Sometimes I don’t even practice what I preach, although I'm definitely working on it. Progress is progress, no matter how small. Don’t give up on your goals or your training. If you’re not working and living towards your goals and dreams, what are you living for?

Think positive and get after your goals. Adjust your training and racing season and use this opportunity to build on your existing game. And, remember, ALWAYS AME high and rock that amazing smile!

Believe What You Can Achieve
March 17, 2020

In the past week, there has been a lot of stress in the triathlete world regarding COVID-19 and the social distancing rules put in place. Pools closed, gyms closed, no group workouts, races cancelled or postponed. This has been a frustrating time for athletes, not to mention the effect it has on the companies putting on these events. While this is something we cannot control, we CAN control how we respond.

That said, this is the PERFECT opportunity to work on your mental game. Take a minute and reflect on all the races you’ve done. Was there a race you started where every last detail went perfectly? Where nothing came as a surprise? I’m going to take a stab and say no. Every race brings with it a new learning experience. Something you can prepare better for at your next event. Whether race day was way hotter than expected, you caught glass in your tire, you forgot your race-day nutrition or maybe there weren’t enough port-o-potty’s so you were forced to pee in your wetsuit at swim start (plenty of athletes do this, don’t be ashamed to admit it).

I’m going to share a story about my first triathlon experience. My first ever race was back in 2007, small event, sprint tri, middle of nowhere, maybe 350 people. I was stoked. Showed up, racked my bike and gear in transition and walked down to the water. First thing I observed looking around, I was the only one not in a wetsuit. This was May, water temp was 65 degrees, and here I was in my little two-piece tri kit. Not even a full shirt, it was a sports bra style top. Mistake #1. Now, for mistake #2, I then proceeded to self-seed myself in the mass swim start near the front of the pack. Big mistake. This resulted in lost goggles and being swam on multiple times. I made it out alive, never more excited to feel land and made my way through transition. Little did I know back then, about the very specific run and bike in/out locations and timing mats in place to catch your time. Mistake #3. After being yelled at, not understanding why and finally making my way out of the correct bike out, I suddenly seemed to realize there was a hill located directly at the beginning of the bike split, right out of transition. Since it’s impossible to hop on your bike and clip in while trying to climb, this resulted in numerous people falling over on their bikes. Fortunately, I had my bike in a high gear and was able to make it up the hill. Fast forward back to transition, I realized once I re-racked my bike that my back tire was flat. The end of the course was incredibly bumpy and somewhat littered with trash. Thankfully, I didn’t realize this on the course; otherwise, I might not have completed my first race because I would not have known how to change a flat, nor did I have the tools with me to do so. Mistake #4.

Things happen. We can either choose to respond negatively and only see the downside in each situation. Or, we can train ourselves to choose to respond positively and see the OPPORTUNITY in each situation. You could say that I failed epically in that triathlon, but I see it as a huge win. I had done my training, completed the race, fell IN LOVE with the sport then and there, learned what NOT to do at my next event and I’ve never looked back.

We work on our physical fitness, so why wouldn’t we work to enhance and improve our mental fitness? There are several components to mental fitness that, if you address, will only improve your experience in triathlon and, quite possibly, how you finish or place in a triathlon. Some of these components include confidence, thought habits, focus, visualization and motivation. Generally speaking, triathletes are highly motivated people. But, how are your thought habits? How do you react when tough situations strike? Do you visualize a strong and successful race? Can you erase self-doubt? Back to my experience, did I make it through? Yes. Did I learn something along the way? Absolutely. Am I a better athlete (and coach) because of it? Hell yes.

So, the pool is closed, it’s the shortest leg anyway. And if you’re really concerned, transfer to a duathlon! Maybe your race was cancelled. Is it only about the race? Or, is it about the journey getting there? Did you train hard? Did you show yourself you can put in the work? Are you a better athlete and person because of it? On all accounts, yes.

Think positive, see the opportunity in every situation and never stop working on your mental game. You will only achieve as high as you believe. ALWAYS AME high and rock that beaming smile.

Conquer the Swim. But First, Breathe.
March 12, 2020

This past weekend, I coached several swim clinics for the Women’s Philadelphia Triathlon & 5k. Each clinic consisted of around 50 women, the majority of which were beginner swimmers. Women’s Philly Tri is the perfect event for beginners as the swim is in an outdoor pool, only 300 meters and extremely spectator friendly. The goal of the clinic was to prepare the women for race day; specifically, how to snake swim, understanding the importance of and how-to self-seed, the experience of swimming close to others, basic swimming mechanics and so on.

Throughout each clinic, there was a recurring question asked by most of the athletes. “How do I breathe in the water?” Now, before I dive into this topic, it’s important to understand, if you can’t breathe while swimming, there is slim to no chance you can focus on swim mechanics and improve your form. Getting faster at the swim is ALL ABOUT MECHANICS. Swimming “harder” does not mean you will swim faster. You must focus on form, do NOT waste precious training time doing otherwise. Ideally, this is done through video analysis that captures different angles both under and above water. If that’s not an option, have someone assess on deck. Better yet, find yourself a coach who does video analysis, writes up swim drills and then re-assesses form down the road. I know a great coach who does this if you’re looking for one 😉

Now, back to breathing. Many beginner swimmers like to hold their breath in the water, which is something you should not do. Holding your breath causes a buildup of CO2 in the body. This buildup causes a panic feeling, your body is telling you to breathe, to get the CO2 out and oxygen in. On top of that, your body is producing more CO2 and demanding more oxygen than normally required because you are exercising. Add to the mix you’re taking less breaths than normal and your body is already in a state of anxiety from being in water, a foreign environment.

To overcome this, there are several basic breathing drills you can and should do in every swim session. A few drills you can practice are 1) holding the pool wall and blowing bubbles while standing  2) holding the pool wall and blowing bubbles with a gentle kick  3) sink downs  4) blowing bubbles (practicing breathing) while using a kickboard. Google these exercises and do them correctly. Or, reach out to me and I will explain how to do them. You can breathe out through your nose and/or your mouth, most swimmers breathe out through both. The most important thing to remember with these drills is you MUST become comfortable putting your face in the water. Meaning, the water should be at your hairline or even towards the crown of your head. Putting your face in the water is a common fear beginner swimmers must conquer. If you are not putting your face in the water, you are automatically introducing bad mechanics. If your head is up, your legs are sinking and you are likely arching your back. More on that topic later.

Practice these drills, master your breathing, then focus on mechanics. You can conquer the swim, but first, learn how to breathe. And, as always, AME high with your goals and do it with a smile!

2020 Marathon Olympic Trials
March 3, 2020

Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to attend the 2020 Marathon Olympic Trials. This was a phenomenal experience; one I will always remember. The trials were in Centennial Olympic Park in Atlanta, Georgia, where the 1996 Olympic games were held. Even the Olympic torch in the park was re-lit for the trials. There was so much hype in the air, the energy was immense. Conditions were tough, hilly course with a heavy wind. The race was three loops and very spectator friendly. The male athletes went off first, followed by the females twenty minutes later.

Excitement bounded through the air as the athletes rounded back through with each loop. As expected, the lead group would get smaller with each lap while the rest of the athletes became more and more dispersed. A Des Linden fan, I cheered hardest for her each time around. Only the top three finishers for both males and females get to participate in the Olympic games, while 4th place lands you the alternate position. Galen Rupp placed first by over 40 seconds scoring the first male Olympic spot. Soon after, Aliphine Tuliamuk banked the first female spot followed by Molly Seidel seven seconds later, this was Molly’s FIRST marathon.

I walked away from this event inspired. All the athletes who competed that day, even those in last place, had worked their tails off to be there. They had put in the work to be in those Olympic trials, a position others only dream of. Good genes only go so far. These athletes had taken the road less traveled and it truly made all the difference. Similarly, every time YOU lace up and go for that tempo run, long ride or early morning swim, YOU are taking the road less traveled. YOU will finish a race that others won’t. And YOU are very likely inspiring someone else.

The next day I ran the Publix Atlanta half marathon, a great event if you have ever considered it. Towards the end, I noticed a runner wearing a shirt that read “courage is endurance for one step more.” A fitting quote for the weekend and upcoming race season. And, something to keep in mind when your workouts seem brutal or there seems to be no finish line in sight.

Have courage, endure, AME high and be sure to wear that smile!

AME High
February 21, 2020

Race season is quickly approaching. At this point in time, some of you have decided which races you will tackle this year and what your goals are for each race. You’re making your way through base training and strengthening your weaknesses. Hopefully, you’ve had the opportunity to spend some extra time with your families before training and racing season gets hot and heavy.

As you think about your goals, I encourage you to AME high. Sure, they should be realistic and achievable SMART goals. But as you think about where you want to be at the end of this year, next year and even five years from now, plan big. You are capable of more than you think, both in your physical pursuits and every other area of your life. Map out where you want to be in two, three, five years even and make a plan to get there. Don’t sell yourself short and don't let yourself get overwhelmed with big goals. Remember, like any endurance event, goals are achieved one step at a time.

Recently, a friend and former co-worker of mine passed away with no warning, likely due to a heart attack. He was young, mid 40’s, a cyclist and runner. He left behind a wife and two kids. Life is unpredictable, why waste it not dreaming and doing BIG! So, dream, go for your goals. Live your life without limits, AME high and always do it with a smile!

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John 3:16
For God so loved the World, He gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.