What Is Your Commitment Level?

Week 1

Previous Week Training Hours: 11.5

Commitment Level: 6/10

Current Weight: 159

Current FTP: 3.9 w/kg

What is commitment level? I think of this as my marker so I dont burn out too early. One question that was asked was, “Can you really hold this level of intensity for over a year?”

Of course I can’t and I wont even try. 

While I am against people taking weeks and months off of training. I am also against people getting 100% focused for a goal before the new years if there event is in the late summer. I have seen friends and fellow athletes finish a season disappointed and get reengaged too early only to be burned out in March. It happens so often! 

I am 100% committed to the program. I am 100% committed to my coaches plan. But my lifestyle around training is a 6/10. I am still eating ice cream before bed. I am still drinking beer. I am still eating somewhat unhealthy. Kevin and I discussed this and after my previous weigh in and body fat test, I am in a good position for the fall. No need to lose too much right now. 

This past weeks training was awesome, I am so pumped to be working hard and doing structured sessions. While the sessions aren’t that hard, the grind of a schedule is exciting to me. I did a run session of 3x10’ at a Tempo effort and finished the last two repeats around 6:00 or 315-320 watts. It was cold, windy, and rainy and it felt effortless. This could be because I was still fresh from the week off but the paces still happened. 

In typical Kevin fashion, this week looks pretty similar to last week with some increases in swim volume and bike intensity volumes with the workout. 

Happy Training!

Steve

Improvements

Week 3: Improvements


Week #3: 

Ironman Wisconsin happened this past weekend and it reminded me of why I want to do this race over any other one. We had athletes racing and two of my athletes finished 4th in their Age Group, 1 missed Kona by a single place. I was also able to watch a friend have the race of his life and earn his Kona Spot hes been wanting for so long. It was motivating to watch so many athletes I know and coach accomplish what they’ve trained for. I find so much encouragement and belief that if others are able to, I can accomplish my goals of faster than 9:40 at Ironman Wisconsin.

When I first started thinking of doing an Ironman in 2019, IMWI wasn’t my top choice even though it is in the same city I live in. All eyes were focused on Ironman Arizona. Why? I am not very strong on hills. Cycling or running I get toasted by pretty much everyone. When I look at my results from previous races, I am much more competitive in the flatter races than hilly ones. The percentages of how close I am to the front shows I am much better at flat races. 

This makes me self analysis why this is the case and how do I improve as an athlete. When I look at the power profile chart, my 1’ power is much lower than my FTP power. I think that if they are not even in the same category, this will lead to more muscular fatigue on race day that you should encounter. 

Why did I decide on IMWI? It’s the crowds. The support is unparalleled to any other course I’ve seen. IMWI has over 6,000 feet of elevation gain on the bike and 1,000 feet on the run. The run course also had over 20 turns which makes it a pretty close course. To re illustrate why, I want to have an incredible experience over chasing a fast time. 

How am I fixing my weakness?

Kevin and I talk about this alot and what the primary focus will be and its nothing fancy. All of the sessions we do is to getting me as fit as I possibly can be. This may seem basic, but over the past 5-6 years this basic concept is what I lacked. Its why I continued to fall apart late into races. Its why i experience GI stress in ever marathon. 

Develop the Bow before the Arrow

We are currently in the grind of muscular strength. We are in a phase of training where it consists of alot of 90-95% efforts in a big gear (65-70rpms). On the run it is also pretty similar, Tempo running and striders. We are building the biggest platform possible. While I am only training 8-10hrs a week, the intensity is high and I am loving it. Knowing Kevin, we will probably sit in this phase for 3-4 months. More and more Sweet Spot in a bigger gear. The intensity isnt so hard it fries me the next day, it allows me to put in alot of good work. 

The over gear work is for my weakness. Strength Strength Strength. 

It’s Happening, Already.

I am getting better. I like improvement. 

Swim: Last week I was able to swim 15x100 on 1:30 base. My avg 100s were 1:18-22 and I was cruising with minimal effort. Today I was 3x600 avg 1:20-25, 5x100 avg 1:16, 8x50 avg 34. Totally 3600y and it was the best i’ve felt swimming this distance in over 6 years. I have never swum 1500-1800 yards on a 1:30 base. EVER.


Bike: No improvements yet. It’s only been 3 weeks. Yet, I am feeling very strong. I love over gear work. If you want to get better, put that puppy in the big ring!


Run: The volume of running has been quite low. We do 1x Tempo Run a week where i’m targeting 6:15-25 pace (Half Marathon Pace) for 30-40’ of total work broken up in 10-12’ segments. The purpose of this is building a strong base. I have the Madison Half Marathon in early November where I would like to Run in the 1:20-1:23 range.

Confessions From A Weak Winded Swimmer

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I have a confession to make. I am a mentally weak swimmer who’s addicted to their pull buoy. For years I convinced myself that all I needed to do was pull as it replicated the wetsuit. Here is what it really did, it made me mentally weak and unprepared for the hardships triathlon swimming presents. Anytime I would swim without my pull buoy it instantly became harder than I liked. I would grab my pull buoy faster than I do my Oreo Ice Cream. There were times I would forget my pull buoy at home and not even swim! Repeat this process over and over and I developed a dependency that was hurting my swim training as well as my confidence on race day. Sure, after some big swims my arms would be smashed and confidence would be restored (short term) but I never saw the returns on all of the pulling. 

Practice what I preach? Nope, didn’t do that. Ive been coaching swimmers from the pool deck for 10 years which means I have coached hundreds of swimmers. In 10 years of on deck coaching, I became very good at connecting body position errors and whats truly effecting it. The more I think of it with the coaching I prescribe in our classes, it rarely has any buoy work. 

For years I never USED the rotational aspect of my stroke to improve my distance per stroke. I knew it but couldn’t fix it because I believe that too much pull buoy, or the wrong pull buoy inhibits your ability to use your hips and core in the swim stroke. To improve usable rotation in your swim stroke, you can't use a pull buoy and I wasn't willing to give it up. So what was the result of all my pulling? Better pulling but not better overall conditioning.

Step 1: Cue Rocky Theme Song

Step 2: “Cindi HIDE MY SWIM BUOY"

Step 3: Harden Up

Step 4: Enter Cave Man Swim Training

Cave Man Swim Training (CMST) is literally something I made up. When I think of what the definition is, it resembles going back to the bare bones of swimming with no toys and simply getting the work done. I’ve removed my pull buoy from my bag so it not within reach. All of the my swims are purely freestyle, no toys. The 1st couple swims were exhausting. More open turns because I was so low on oxygen. More internal profanity. The bike and run sessions that followed would suffer because how much energy it took out of me. I didn’t care, I was motivated to break this habit. 

Guess what? I started to see improvement. I started to really connect my hips and core into my catch phase. My swim times for a set of threshold 100s went from 1:25s to 1:18s. I like improvement.

Sometimes it is cool to be the swimmer with all the gear on. Snorkel, paddles, buoy, band, fins. It may be helping you or it may not be. Do paddles, band, and snorkels have a place in swimming? Well, duh. Each toy has a specific place within swim training and fixing certain aspects of a stroke. In my case, these toys made me weaker because I started to depend on them too much. To become excellent at whatever it is you’re attempting, you have to have 100% belief in yourself. If you don’t because you rely on something or someone to do it for you, your chances of failure go up. You have to fix you before you can truly accomplish what you want.

Happy Training!

Steve

Cravings vs Hunger

https://www.facebook.com/100008545954745/videos/1862583844036463/

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This post from Expert Luke Briggs has really stuck with me. It has to do with emotional eating and the part that stuck with me the most is when he talks about Cravings vs Hunger. At first it resonated the most with eating (obviously) because I would go into a coffee shop and get a craving for something specific, I would then convince myself that it would be ok to eat it all the while it not supporting my goals. Luke talks about if you feel its a craving, wait a couple minutes without reacting to find out. If you are still “hungry” after 20 minutes… you are actually hungry.

It’s worked. In 4 months I have lost 8 pounds. Most of it by reducing so many unnecessary things from my diet.

I also have a tendency for buying unnecessary items because i’ve convinced myself it will make me faster. That sounds ridiculous as I type it, but I do it. This nutrition product. This helmet. This whatever. But it’s all bullshit. Total bullshit. Whats going to make you better is the hunger deep inside you, not a distraction that weakens you internally. This goes back to dependency and if you place too much dependency outside of yourself, you are weakening your confidence.

My swimming has gotten a lot better, in fact; I am swimming the best I have in years. I am only swimming twice a week with each session around 3,500 yards. Remember when I called myself weak minded in the pool? I feel like my commitment to eliminating all dependency of my buoy and paddles has paid off. I am now able to swim 1,500 to 2,000 yards on a 1:30 send off. All freestyle, no buoy. I go into my swim workouts with paces to hit. I am constantly challenging myself wanting to get better. This past swim session I was finishing up some strong 100s and cranked out a 1:09! I was full gas, giving it everything. 1:09 is not a personal best but being able to swim that fast under fatigue is a good sign for me.

Two things I have wanted to improve upon are happening. Body weight is reducing and swim paces are increasing.

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Planning Your Off Season

It’s that time of year when triathletes are finishing their season and transitioning to the off season. If you havent looked into structuring your off season, you should. If your off season consists of 3 months of no training and over 10lbs of weight gain, you are doing it wrong and putting yourself at major risk. Having a successful off season is critical for a number of reasons; injury prevention, mental health, and athlete longevity. 


Each year I have new athletes that are afraid to hang up their bikes or swim trunks for a couple months because they feel they will lose everything they’ve worked for, this is completely untrue. Trust me, I’m an experienced coach. If you keep pushing 12 months each year you will start to experience never ending overuse injuries, waves of low motivation, and lack of enjoyment for the sport you love. When you experience all of these symptoms, how can you expect to train at a level that will promote improvement? They wont. With a poor mentality you will fall into a poor training routine which will lead to a plateau of fitness. Doesn’t sound like much fun. 


Step 1: Take 1-2 weeks of minimal training. For my athletes, I call them “Free Days and Weeks”. These days consist of 30’ of swim, bike, run, or off day. There is no structure to the training. It gives them the freedom to relax. 


Step 2: Identify your weak link. Is it swimming? Is it running? October through December is meant for addressing your weakness. This is when you turn yourself into a single sport athlete. You are swimming 1-2x a week at 50% of your typical swim volume. You are also cycling 1-2x a week with minimal intensity or no cycling at all. The best Fall riding is to the bakery with friends.

I was coaching our Triathlon Swim Class on Monday and one our swimmers is signed up for Ironman Wisconsin 2019. Looking at his stroke we identified that he lacked the ability to change speeds. We did multiple 50s at different speeds, but there wasn’t much of a difference between the three speeds. If an athlete wants to see improvement but cannot sprint, their ceiling of improvement is limited. For the upcoming months this swimmer will be focusing on sprinting in the pool with a lot of rest. Think of this work like lifting weights in a gym. If you constantly are doing the leg press machine at 100lbs for 12 repetitions but never increase the load of your exercise, your muscle recruitment will never be challenged. We will be doing the equivalent of 5 repetitions of 140lbs. The goal of doing fast 25s and 50s with equal rest is that it allows the athlete to produce more power than they ever have. Here is an Ironman athlete learning how to sprint to improve their Ironman swim 12 months away. Doing long repeats at a slow pace in September won’t do you any good.

Also, I have never met a triathlete who didn’t want to improve their running performance. The Fall is the best time to become a better runner. When I talk with my athletes about Fall training we always discuss going “All In” with the running. This means we are doing more run drills, more plyometrics, more bounding, and more running volume. We turn into runners. We throw on the short shorts. We sign up for local 5k running events. We run! Athletes love this approach because they can focus on one sport instead of trying to balance two other sports at the same level. 

Coach Steven Brandes

USAT High Performance Coach

USAT Level 2 Coach

Door County Half Ironman

 

Every race has it’s positives and negatives and it’s highs and lows. My ultimate goal is Ironman Wisconsin 2019 and trying to achieve my best Ironman. Cindi and I have discussed the best path for me to achieve this performance. With all of this planning happening, I’ve found myself wanting to shut this season down, take a break and start the preparation into 2019. However, every time I start to think this way, I question the reasoning and I continue to come to the realization that i am in the process of self sabotage. I’m desperately trying to find the easy way out of this season. Maybe the stress of being a new father has taken more out of me than I expected. I know this because the drive to get in each session isn’t there and I’d rather get more rest than do the important sessions needed. Hard sessions turn into recovery. Simply put, this season hasn’t gone to plan and I haven’t seen the improvements I would have liked. Each races is a reminder of how much fitness i’ve lost. As I do find positives from each race, they seem to be stripping my motivation rather than increasing it. I still have 3 races on my schedule but plan on doing only 1, Steelhead 70.3. 

 

The Days Before:

I felt good going into this race because I was able to put in the bigger, high quality sessions. Everything seemed to be on track. Robin has been building for Ironman Wisconsin and its been nice to ride with her. I’ve also made chances to my bike position that continue to be a positive in regards to having a better second half to my races. The drive to Door County was pleasant. Justin was very helpful with meeting us at the race site to help us put up the tent. We settled back to our place, ate dinner, and relaxed at the pool. 

Lucy slept pretty well Friday night. She had a not normal wake up at 4am on Saturday and I was able to get her back to sleep. I decided to just stay up and do work. Being up at 4am is not an ideal thing to do the day before the race but work needed to be done. Saturday was the Sprint Distance and Cindi went down with the team and I stayed back till Lucy woke up. We made it to the race and was able to watch our athletes compete, one of whom won the entire thing! Way to go Bobby! Watching his race certainly motivated me. Lucy started to get tired so I brought her back to the condo for her first nap. My plan was to ride the trainer while she napped. Well, her nap only latest 30’ which meant no ride. I started to get in this panic where I know I needed to get my pre race workout in. It sounds incredibly selfish when I think of it. So I focused on the fact that I was able to stay inside, rest my legs, and relax while it was blazing hot outside. I was also able to have the ITU WTS Hamburg race play in the background. Cindi made it back to Condo and we switched roles. Bike done on the trainer, felt great. Drove to the race site to do easy run and stride, felt good but WOWZA it was hot. Then I went in an swam, felt awesome. Ready to go! Lucy slept awesome Saturday night which meant Cindi and I got great sleep. 

The Swim: D+

 

 

I sucked and have no clue why. Well, I know why… I dont swim much and still believe I can fake my way to a 30’ swim. NOT THIS TIME. 500 into the swim my arms were completely shot. “Ah your arms aren’t warmed up, they will come good”… They didn’t come good. I also was constantly drifting left. I literally couldn’t swim straight. I was convinced I was going to see 40’. The beauty of endurance sport is you get what you earn. I wasn’t trained for this and I got exactly what I deserved. 

 

The Bike: B+

 

 

When you aren’t swim fit you suffer the first part of the bike because you are trying to recover from the swim. I was uncomfortable. Heavy legs. Low power. Alone with no one in sight. Unmotivated. Making excuses. Convinced my brakes were rubbing.

Then… I saw people in-front of me so I made it my goal to catch them. From a distance it appeared these people were drafting which set me off into a hissy, it was exactly what I needed… some motivation. I rode past them pushing well into my threshold trying to create a gap so they wouldn't jump on my wheel. Looking back on this, it was quite stupid but it helped me mentally. Slowly I started to catch more people which changed my mentality. My goal coming into this ride was to execute a better 2nd half of the ride. Be more focused, consume more calories. I commonly see 8-10% of a drop off in the 2nd half which is unacceptable. Poor nutrition and bike fit caused me to slow down. This time it was only 5%. This was my best ride at DC by almost 2 minutes!

 

 

 

The Run: B

 

I got into transition ready to get after it. Earlier someone told me i was top 10, so after passing people I would thought I was 6th or 7th. When I ran past Cindi, she asked “Are you feeling ok? Jason Landretti is 7 minutes up” (Jason is a good friend and someone I like to race because of the banter back and forth)… However, these are not the words you want to hear. These words mean, you’re farther back then we discussed! Apparently I was in 13th place… note to self, don’t believe some random person’s place count. I went from being fired to running on auto pilot. When I looked at the results afterwards, it appears the front of the race was a draft fest as 4-5 guys were rewarded drafting penalties. One athlete was given 12 minutes!

The only turnaround is at 5 miles and up to this point I didn’t see a single runner. It was the perfect place for someone cruising, no pressure. THEN, I saw two guys coming up on me and one in-front of me. They were coming fast and I didn’t want to get passed. I started to push very hard and at times I had to slow down because I had crossed that lactate level line. “Dont look back, don’t look back, don’t let him see you looking back, it’s a sign of weakness, he’ll know you’re hurting” With 3 miles to go we are essentially on two long roads till the finish. I felt with every step I was losing time but I kept pushing. There is an acronym that sticks with me and its TUF, Toughness Under Fatigue. When you're at your limit, it is no longer up to your legs but your mind. How you mentally handle pressure, fatigue, and lactate determines your race results. I was literally at my limit. 1% harder and my legs would completely flood with lactate, 1% easier and Matt would have caught me. Weak mind? I would have been walking. It always funny because 5 miles earlier i was having a pitty part and now i’m at my maximal effort. The ups and downs. Here we are, 1 Mile to go and Matt was within 30 seconds. With the finish being downhill, I felt I was at a disadvantage because i’m short and Matt is tall. With the short rise before the downhill I had to push hard to get some extra time. I was able to hold him off, but holy moly I don’t think I’ve ever pushed that hard. Competition brings the best out of you. 

I joke with people that "every time I cross a finish line is a victory" and the feeling after maxing out is the reminder of why I love to race. Even if it's slower, I'm always chasing that feeling. 

Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Triathlon Recap

Lake Mills and Elkhart Lake Triathlon Recap

 

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Have you ever been stuck in a frame of mind that doesn’t parallel your current physical state? This is my current situation and it’s a very hard place to be because it tugs at the motivational heart strings. 

In 2010, I was 24 and training like a professional. My weekly training hours were between 15-25. I didn’t have a girlfriend, a real job, any responsibilities… it was fantastic! I am now 32 with a wife and a beautiful 10 month daughter who isn’t a fan of sleeping at night. The priority levels have shifted. But the problem is that I still want to train 15 hours a week. 

The past 4 weeks I have averaged 8 hours of training. I only swam 9,000 yards the past month. That’s not a lot of training. But, that is how my life goes. 

Lake Mills Sprint Triathlon

This is the first time i’ve raced Lake Mills and was very excited to see where I stacked up. The funny part is I had no reason to be excited. I spent the last 4 weeks with a calf injury limiting my running. I took a hiatus from the pool because when life gets busy the pool is the first thing that goes. The week before Lake Mills, I took a complete 7 days off of running so I could treat my calf with rest and self massage in hopes I could run pain free at Lake Mills… it worked. 

Lake Mills was one of the most mentally challenging races as I was excited to race, but I was incredibly unprepared. The whole week I fought the mental battle of not racing so I wouldn’t embarrass myself in-front of some of the best Wisconsin triathletes I used to race alongside. I continued to tell myself, “You quit once, quitting becomes a lot easier the next time.” 

Plus, I am not a professional triathlete. I used to put alot of pressure on myself before races to perform. There were years where I wouldn’t communicate with people before the start because I thought it would enhance my performance to remain “focused”. But the reality of this type of thinking is that it’s a complete waste of energy. In fact, it made my performances worse. I was losing the excitement of triathlon by creating so much unnecessary pressure. If you find me before a triathlon now, chances are I won’t shut up.

If you were to ask me what my goals were before Lake Mills, my reply would have been: “I don’t have any goals”… People look at me funny when I said that. They would then ask, “well what kind of paces are you going to try and do? “I have no clue, I’m just going to go as hard as I can and focus on what I can control”

It’s 100% true that during a triathlon I never start my watch for the swim. I rarely look at my power meter, and I NEVER look at my running watch. The races are done almost 100% off of feel. Why? It keeps me mentally positive. Countless times I have seen people get so wrapped up in their numbers that the second they are not riding or running to their numbers, they mentally quit. They start to blame some factor for quitting when in doubt, they were not flexible enough to adapt on race day. It’s an ego thing, I get it. However, do a race and don’t look at your pacing device. 

Lake Mills did go ok for me. I was able to place 19th overall. Not bad.

Elkhart Lake Olympic Triathlon

I love racing Elkhart Lake. It may be my favorite triathlon. It’s a family run event on a challenging course. Flat courses don’t interest me, their boring. Again, what was I thinking? I only swam 1500 yards twice the past month and it was done race week out of complete panic that I needed to swim 1500 at Elkhart. Let alone the fact that I havent run 6 miles straight in more than 3 weeks. But hey, lets have some fun!

Elkhart Lake is an event where you can see ahead of time who is racing. You get to size up your competition! What’s funny about this concept is that it doesnt help your performance. The worst thing IRONMAN does is release who racing ahead of time. Why? For the people looking to be competitive, they spend hours scanning through their age group to see how competitive they will be. Isn’t that ridiculous? You can’t change how you race off this information. Its the easiest way to come into a race with a deflated, fixed mindset of how they will do. It just adds more pressure that will sink their potential on race day. Literally, all of the hard work and fun you were looking to have is now gone. A poor mindset will haunt you. This year, I didn’t even bother checking the list. 

2016 was the last time I raced at Elkhart and I got demolished. Literally demolished by everyone and the course. There was a-lot of walking involved. I was also still trying to impress my now wife at the time. What do they call these moments, character building? Yea, sure. Also it’s a good thing she didn’t marry me for my athletic ability.

2018 was about redemption and it turned out that I had one of my best races in the past couple years. I was pumped! I was able to swim 1500, I biked one of my best power outputs, and I ran very strong on a challenging run course. No quitting, no walking, only fist pumps. 

I finished with a time of 2:26. In 2016 when I got obliterated my time was 2:23. In 2010, when I was 24 my time was 2:13. 

In 8 years I’ve managed to get 13 minutes slower over the same course. How could I possibly take confidence from this? Here we are full circle to where this post started. I had an amazing day of racing. Pushed myself very hard only to be reminded that i’m 10lb heavier than I was 8 years ago (too many IPAs) and 13 minutes slower. 13 minutes is over 2 miles! 

To conclude, it is ok to race when you aren't fully prepared. In fact, not many people show up to a starting line 100% ready. I love this sport. I love feeling healthy and I enjoy being around like minded people. Taking a step back and being able to remove unnecessary pressure is the reason I still do this sport. It’s not about times or placement, its about enjoyment.

A Year With No Ironman

A Year Without an Ironman

 

Everyone has been in these cross roads and the decision is very tough. As a coach I have seen people enter this sport because of IRONMAN and when an athlete enters a season without one, their motivation drops. I am currently at this situation and its been challenging to motivate myself to train like i would when i’m signed up for an IRONMAN. 

 

Training at such a high level becomes addicting. When you are in your final IRONMAN build, you start to develop a “healthy” habit of training so much. Repeat that for 4 months and when you are forced to lower your training volume you have withdraws, The IRONMAN Hang Over.  

 

 

When you add in the fact that you won’t be doing an IRONMAN this upcoming calendar year, you start to create excuses that justifies missing a session is OKAY because you won’t be enduring such a large event. One missed session becomes another, and another, and before you know it you haven't trained for a week. Once you’ve missed a week of training you start to question you’re entire triathlon career. I have seen people quit the sport from this, it’s depressing. Every year you see people selling all of their equipment. These are the people who entered the sport because of IRONMAN, NOT because they were investing into their-self. These people probably needed better guidance. 

 

How do you combat this? You develop goals that motivate you. You create goals that make sense on a long term scale. You create goals that make sense financially. You DON’T create goals off of peer pressure. You create goals that again, make sense. 

 

 

I've written before that since since 2012/2013, I have actually gotten SLOWER every single year. During these years I have transitioned into a full time endurance coach which means that my athletes come first, not my training. I don’t coach athletes to fund my habit, I coach athletes because I care about their goals and passion. As you become a better coach you spend more time investing into your athletes instead of your training. This means that my 20+ available training hours diminished to 10-14 hours. When you add in that Cindi and I are proud parents of a beautiful 5 month old… that takes up even more time. For everyone who has a family and still does IRONMAN, there is a huge level of respect for being able to balance it all. You don’t understand it until you are in it!

 

What are my goals for 2018? Here, I’m going to fill you in because sharing your goals are important to sticking with them.

 

Swim: Swim a 10’ TT averaging 1:15 per 100 yards.

Bike: Increase my FTP to 4.4 watts per kilo

Run: Run a 5k at 16:45 and a 1 mile on the track under 5:00. 

 

How am I going to accomplish all of those? I have no idea and thats the fun part. These goals are challenging to me because I’ve never accomplished any of them (I’ve run sub 5’ mile in high school). These goals will require something different because if i go into this season with the same expectation as before with less available time, I will experience a burnout.

When you don't do an IRONMAN for a year or two, the financial strain is reduced tremendously. The pressure of racing is also reduced! The fact that I will be able to race over 10 times this year and i will still be spending LESS on entry fees, training, and nutrition feels incredible. I do triathlon because I love the sport, not just IRONMAN. 

Don't take this as me hating on IRONMAN, I will be doing one in 2019. But when you are developing yourself into a life long athlete, you have to learn to balance your life. If you can balance an IRONMAN every year, that's awesome! However, in my experience it would be in most peoples interest to do an IRONMAN every 2nd to 3rd year. 

Let's have a great 2018!

Tackling The Off Season

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How I’m Tackling This Off Season

This off season will be different than others because I am going to do everything different. That’s right, I am going to throw out the old play book and work on all of my weaknesses this off season. The thought of this scares me but also motivates me. After competing in triathlon for 11 years, I need a new physical and mental stimulus in order for me to have a great 2018 season. However, this means I have to look at myself critically and determine what my weakness are which isn't easy!

  1. Work on my physical strength: I have seen my strength levels decline every year and have seen it effect me in training. I was once a strong climbers and am now getting beat on almost every climb when training with others. Since October I have been in the gym, lifting weights working on developing my muscular strength. The past 2 months have been focused on general lifting at a moderate intensity. I am now getting into lifting at full capacity. This means I am only doing 3-4 rounds of 3-5 repetitions where I am forced to rest 3 minutes before i can start again. This is where the gains will be made to making me overall stronger.
  2. Work on my explosive power: This compliments my lifting in the gym, but puts a different spin on it. I haven’t improved my 5k running time, 400 yard swim, of my biking threshold is over 4 years. If your critical speed isn't improving, you won’t get faster over longer events. It’s not as if i haven't tried to improve the above, for whatever reason I haven't worked on the supporting elements that will improve my “thresholds”. So far I have been doing plyometrics and up hill bounding, lifting heavier weights in the gym, doing a tremendous amount of sprinting in the pool w/ parachutes and ankle bands, and short intense sessions on the bike. These sessions are very hard. At first I hated them because my session volumes have reduced almost 50% but i am seeing the benefits already. My personal best in a 50 free was 34 and I am now at 30 seconds! You can’t change technical inefficiencies under a high training load, so if you are swimming 4,000 yards with a bad swim stroke, you will remain a bad swimmer. 
  3. Reduce my body fat: I didn’t say I wanted to lose weight, i said body fat percentage. I have noticed that as i’ve gotten older, my body fat has increased. With the added weights and explosive work, that will naturally add more muscle which will keep my weight the same and there is a good chance I will start to lose weight as well. Either way, when I went to CXC Skiing facility to get my Resting Metabolic Rate tested to determined how many calories my body demands each day, I also had my body fat tested… i wasn't happy with it. Having these numbers, i am able to set up my daily eating to know how much i should be eating to either lose weight or maintain my current weight.
  4. Race more frequent: I used to only race when I felt prepared and I feel like this is a weakness that always gets exploited on race day. I feel like I hide in my training until I feel race ready and then when i did race I had too many expectations to do well. This is a good thing and a bad thing because you should always have expectations, but I also feel like my performances suffered because I was afraid to fully commit myself in races, almost like i was racing at 90% of my best instead of 100%. So far i have raced twice this off season and before both I almost convinced myself to not race but glad i did. Its a hard thing to put yourself in a situation when you know you wont be at your best, it takes courage, but i am using these races as a stepping stone to manage my overall preparation. My plan this off season is to race 1-2xs a month, from the Pinnacle Indoor Triathlons to local running races, i will be out there learning to suffer!

Coach Steven Brandes

Race day ready: tactics for keeping pre-race nerves at bay

There’s very few athletes that can honestly say that they don’t get nervous on race day. For a lot of athletes, their entire year of training comes down to one day. One race with everything on the line. It’s close to impossible not to feel some nerves. Use these tips to kick start your race instead of letting nerves inhibit your performance.

Your biggest weapon? Show up to race day prepared. I would say that the majority of people are nervous on race day because they know they didn’t put in the work. But if you follow the training program and do the little things you’re going to significantly cut prerace nerves. That preparation goes for the logistics of racing as well. Your gear and nutrition for the race should be prepared the night before. You should be familiar with the race venue, how to get there and know how much time you’re going to need in transition so you can get to the start line in time.

Make it positive. I’ve seen people in tears, full blown panic attacks and the verge of puking before races. Positive or negative, energy is still energy. Freaking out is just riling up your stomach and throwing energy you’ll need out the window. Instead, use the emotion of the start to your benefit. Rely on your friends and family for support. If you don’t have spectators with you, talk to the thousand other triathletes standing with you. Just interact. Something as simple as talking about where you’re from and what your goals are will get your mind off of the uncertainty of racing.   

Know your game plan. “I’m just gonna wing it” is probably one of the scariest things we can hear as coaches. You need a game plan. It incites confidence in turn reducing nerves. When you start feeling nervous, refer back to your game plan. Think about what you need to do at each stage of the race and visualize yourself executing it. Check out last week’s article to learn how to develop your game plan.

It’s not likely that you’ll completely eliminate your nerves. In fact, some nerves are good. It’s reassurance as to how much value the race has. It motivates you to give it your all. Use these tactics to find the right balance and I assure you that you’ll get in the water with more excitement and confidence instead of nerves.

-Coach Amanda

For more information about Coach Amanda, check out her bio HERE!

Don't "just wing it." Develop your race strategy with these five elements.

Going to the line without a race strategy is a common and detrimental mistake. Don’t be an athlete who says “I’m just gonna wing it.” Instead, take the time to develop your game plan. For context, I’ll use one of my athletes who has done an excellent job developing his race strategy. Here’s how we did it and how it can help you build yours.

1.  Define your objective. Is your goal to finish the race? Are you trying to win your age group? Are you trying to qualify for Worlds? This athlete’s goal is to win a sprint or Olympic distance triathlon overall. He’s close. He has the talent and work ethic to do it. But the way he executes his strategy is going to play a major role in the outcome.

2. Set a realistic goal. If you’ve been running 8:30/mile for your long runs, it wouldn’t be the best idea for you to set a goal of 6:30/mile off the bike. Know what you’re capable of and build the strategy around it. In this case, swimming is not this athlete’s best discipline. The run is. His strategy isn’t to be the first out of the water. Instead, it’s his goal to stay on the leaders’ heals and set himself up for a solid bike and run.

3. Prepare split points and fueling. You should know where you need to be at certain points on the course in order to achieve your objective. The checkpoints should adaptable throughout the race, but there should be a specific outline of time and course markers to keep the strategy in play. This athlete studies the courses and knows approximately where he should be at those points.

4. Prepare for all conditions. I’ve been at races where it was supposed to be 70* and it turned out to be 40*. Your race wardrobe should prepare you for every condition. This goes for your equipment as well. Last year we had a series of hot days that caused big swings in lake temperatures. A lot of races were not wet suit legal. Which means that you need open water practice with and without your wet suit.     

5. Have a backup plan. We can all envision a perfect race, we all plan for it. But there needs to be a backup plan. This athlete has been plagued by GI issues. He has a specific mix of fuel to avoid it. What happens if he drops a bottle of fuel within the first 20 minutes of the ride? Although it’s not an ideal situation, he has practiced fueling with the products offered on course to minimize the loss.

Countless hours go into planning and training for every race. Why wouldn’t you go into the race with something just as specific? Evaluate these five elements and set yourself up for success on race day. Reach out to me or Coach Steve if you want help planning your strategy.

- Coach Amanda

For more information about Coach Amanda, check out her bio HERE!

Race faster and endure longer without adding more miles: just train your brain.

In college, my track coach introduced me to the concept of visualization training. I’ve been using this unique type of training ever since. You might feel a little silly at the start. But when you buy into the process, visualization provides a major benefit to your training.  

How to visualize:

Find a quiet place without distractions and sit or lay comfortably. Consciously think about relaxing every muscle. Think about the best race you’ve ever had. Picture the course, the environment, how you felt, the spectators, overcoming every obstacle. Now picture your upcoming race. Imagine every detail from the time your alarm goes off to crossing the finish line.

The good, the bad and the ugly:

Visualizing the perfect race puts you in the moment and helps you develop your race strategy. Obviously, we all dream of the perfect race. But, what happens when that’s not reality? How are you going to react to the event? Crumble and quit? Or maintain composure and find a solution to the problem?

Pick a few motivational words or phrases:

I always end my visualizations with a few of the phrases I use when things get tough. For me, “you owe it to yourself” has the largest impact. When race day comes, I know that I need to get everything I can out of my body. I need to make the sacrifices and countless hours of training pay off. If you can remind your body what’s at stake, you will always walk away from a race knowing you left it all out on the course.

Control the Controllable

Part of the thrill of this sport is the anticipation of the unknown. You can’t control everything on race day. A lot of athletes have a habit of worrying about the weather and the competitor lined up next to them that they inhibit their own performance. You can’t control Mother Nature. You can’t control who shows up on race day. It all comes down to preparedness and controlling the controllable. Focus on these instead:

Nutrition:

Race fueling is something that should be practiced all season long. It’s something that shouldn’t just be thrown together randomly. You should have everything planned down to the milligrams of sodium. If there’s any question as to what you should be consuming, Coach Amanda and Steve can help you determine the proper breakdown of nutrients for every race. As you click off mile after mile don’t think about the person behind you, instead focus on your fueling plan and make sure you stick to it every aid station.

Equipment:

There’s a handful of things you can’t control, flat tires, goggles getting kicked off, etc. But there are a series of things you can do to limit the likeness of those issues. Before I leave for the race I make sure my bike has been tuned and I’ve checked and rechecked my packing list (I’m a Type-A, it’s a pretty extensive checklist).  When you get to the race, do a solid inspection of your bike. Lay out your equipment and arrange it according to when you’re going to use it in transition. Look at the event schedule and make sure you know what needs to be where are when.

Your attitude:

If you believe you can, you’re right. If you believe you can’t, you’re also right. You are in control of your attitude and it will have a direct effect on your performance. Over my 15+ years of competition and coaching, I’ve never seen someone put together an excellent performance without the right mentality from start to finish. Even if the race isn’t going your way, smile. Remind yourself you can. Give a volunteer a high-five. Ultimately, you’re in charge of your performance. So, stop worrying about what athlete is there, the type of training they did, Mother Nature or the course. The only things that matter are the things that you can control.

-Coach Amanda

Video: Ironman Athlete Swim Analysis

In this video, Coach Steve goes over an athletes swim consultation that happened the 1st week of May.

Typical swim consultations take 90 minutes to 2 hours per person. From the initial consultation, the pre session movement screen, the swim consultation, video feedback during the session, and the wrap up.

Steve also does many remote swim consultations per year. If you don't live in Madison or able to travel, we can do a remote swim consultation with you sending over multiple videos of you swimming. Once we review the videos, we set up a 1 hour consultation to discuss. 

Lets us know, enjoy!

3 Things That Happened When I Stopped Eating Sugar

Next Level Triathlon athletes were challenged to eliminate any added sugar for the month of February. I have an above average diet and an above average knowledge of the macronutrients my body needs. But I’m not perfect when it comes to sticking to it. The combination of training, coaching and work often leaves me with very few hours at the end of the day and I often default to a protein bar for dinner. That changed and three major things happened when I stopped eating added sugar.

I lost weight. I cut three pounds without changing caloric intake or training volume. As endurance athletes, we all want to be lean and fit. There’s no denying that it provides a huge benefit when it comes to ripping up a hill or cranking out the last few miles of a run. But it’s often challenging to shave those final few pounds. There’s no short cuts, there’s no magic pills, but I now believe that the simplest way is to eliminate added-sugar. The rule of thumb is that if you can’t pronounce or don’t know what the ingredient is then you probably shouldn’t buy it. It’s that easy.

I recovered better. Typically, I wake up fatigued the day after an intense workout. This gradually changed as I stayed away from added sugar. Instead of eating bars riddled with sugar, I began eating more antioxidant rich foods like blueberries, spinach and kale. I ate more natural sources of protein like nut butters, turkey and chicken, all of which are proven to aid in recovery. I felt less fatigued and didn’t experience any soreness that I would have previously. That alone was enough to keep me on track.

I spent less money. There are very few options when it comes to eating on-the-go which meant that I had to be prepared no matter where I went. I spent a lot of time meal and snack prepping which left no excuse. I didn’t dine out and I wasn’t spending $2 per protein bar. Instead I was making multiple nutrient dense meals for same price. At the end of the month (yes, I kept track) I had spent $50 less than the previous month on groceries and dining.

We’re halfway into March and I intend on continue to avoiding added sugar. The benefits are too significant not to. Regardless of what your goal is, one short month can have a powerful impact.

-Coach Amanda

5 Reasons You Aren't Riding Faster

Over the past two years, cycling transformed from my biggest weakness to my greatest weapon. I hate to disappoint, but I don’t have a shortcut to offer you. However, I do have a handful of tips to get you on the road to your best bike split.

You hate the trainer.

You’re alone in the living room and it’s hot. Or you’re alone in the garage and it’s cold. I’ve done both and yes, we would all prefer to be outside. But cycling success is built on the trainer. You have to learn to love it. Workouts on the trainer can be tailored to achieve specific goals. It allows you to hit every zone from recovery to neuromuscular endurance that you wouldn’t be able to control as well if you were out on the road. If you’re willing to invest some money, a power meter can help you achieve the results you’re looking for by allowing you to accurately stay within the prescribed zones. Although it’s not as ideal, heart rate and perceived exertion are good measures to take advantage of what the trainer can offer.

You never ride alone.  

Until this year, I never did a long ride alone. My reasoning for that was two-fold 1) safety in numbers and 2) I couldn’t imagine being out there for 5-6 hours with only myself to talk to. Scheduling conflicts made it challenging to meet up with friends for rides this year. Despite my concerns about safety, I hit the road solo for several 80-110+ mile rides. The difference it made was incredible. There’s something exhilarating about it being you, the road and your mind. You aren’t going to have anyone to talk to or push you on race day. It’s you vs you. Having that mental strength is going to be key to maintaining focus throughout the most challenging parts of the ride.

Your bike doesn’t fit you.

Having the latest and greatest super bike is an advantage. But the “my bike isn’t as nice as theirs” excuse doesn’t work. It all comes down to the fit and the rider. If you’re going to invest in anything this year, my suggestion is a professional fit. The fitter should look at everything from the top of your head to the placement of the cleats. Although it can be a lengthy process, being able to ride comfortably in aerodynamic position that allows you get off the bike and run is invaluable.

You aren’t fueling properly.

I’m a broken record player when it comes to fueling in triathlon. It is the fourth sport. You can be the marathon world record holder but if you start with nothing in the tank, you’re not going anywhere. With hundreds of products available, fueling can be a daunting and overwhelming task. But the coaches at Next Level can help you determine the electrolytes, carbs and calories you should be consuming in order to maintain an energy level that sets you up for success. 

You aren’t taking advantage of “free” speed.

There’s a million bells and whistles when it comes to gear. But 4 stand out. An aero helmet can offer 3-8 watts. Aero wheels range from 18-20 watts. The right type of clothing that’s tight to the body has been proven to save 3-10 watts while a clean bike can save you 6-10. That means that you’re saving 30 watts at the minimum which can translate to significant speed increases.

These five things have helped to transform my cycling and continues to do the same for my athletes. But ultimately, you need to invest the time and energy into becoming a better cyclist. If you have questions or want to learn more about how Next Level Triathlon can help you become a faster rider contact us here.

 

-Coach Amanda

The Science Behind Fueling

The science behind fueling

Coach Amanda: 70.3 World Championship Qualifier

Infinit Becomes the Gamechanger

The Infinit Osmo-FitTM System is created around the principle of osmolality. Osmolality is the measure of density that is expressed in units known as osmoles or milliosmoles. Simply put, it refers to the combination our fueling plan the solution in your gut will be too dense to digest and you’ll feel like you just had Thanksgiving dinner. If you recall from my previous blog, my IMWI plan included a combination of five different products. The combination of stuff prevented me from taking in what I needed for the run.

Less is more: the optimal nutrition solution is the one that you can control the exact osmolality of what is in your gut. It’s virtually impossible when you’re trying to use a combination of several off-the-shelf products. Instead, Infinit’s patented system puts everything you need into one formula that you can’t mess up. After reading more about Infinit and their success with endurance athletes, I tried my hand with the Osmo-FitTM System. I answered a series of detailed questions, chose a flavor and had a formula within 10 minutes. The ideal range of osmolality is between 240-300 mosm/kg. Mine came in at 241. I felt fantastic on my first handful of rides using Infinit. But, when I ran my first brick off the bike, I noticed that I was still getting that bloating feeling. I hopped on the Infinit website and chatted with a representative. She adjusted the amount of protein in my formula from 3.7g to 1.8g. Coupled with a little more sodium this boosted my osmolality to 291.

Fast forward to IM Steelhead 70.3 in August 2016. Infinit was a gamechanger. For someone with a sensitive stomach, I always expected to have a little discomfort on the run. Nope, not with this custom formula. I felt great on the bike…and OFF the bike. The right type of training and fueling plan led to an excellent ride and I finally put together a solid run. It resulted in a qualification to the Ironman 70.3 World Championships. Fueling is the fourth sport of triathlon. Through experience, it’s clear that it makes or breaks your race. Based solely on my results, I’m a die-hard Infinit supporter and highly suggest checking it out if you haven’t already.

 

Key Takeaways

  1. Be scientific- don’t just guess what your hydration, calorie, carbohydrates and sodium needs are. Reach out to a coach, nutritionist or Infinit representative to help you calculate the exact numbers.
  2. Practice your fueling plan- Nothing new on race day. Try different formulas. Use them during different conditions and record how you felt.
  3. Less is more- Osmolality. The less stuff you have in your fueling plan the easier it is going to be on your gut and from a logistical standpoint.

 

Use the discount code “NextLevel2017” to get 15% of your Infinit orders.

The Big Picture

The Big Picture

The race schedule is set, the goals are laid out and now it’s time to really dig into training. Most athletes are hell bent on the big picture and expect to see results overnight. Sadly, that isn’t how this sport works. Take a step back to bring things into focus as you start to ramp up your training.

Start off moderate

Resist the urge to go 0-60 in 2.5 seconds. I’ve been guilty of this before. You’re so excited about your goals that you want to go all out every day. One of the reasons that periodization training works is because your body needs time to adapt to the stressors. Easy days easy, hard days hard.

Focus on strength and stability

As endurance athletes, we tend to avoid the weight room like it’s the plague. Reality check: if you want to be a better (and healthier) triathlete you’re going to need to put time into strength and stability. Most injuries are results of inefficiencies that could have been prevented with strength training and technique development.

Know your “why.”

When the alarm goes off at 5am and you’re trying to find excuses not to get into the pool, think about your “why.” What’s your ultimate goal? What’s at stake? How is this workout going to impact the big picture? Your “why” should be able to overcome anything.

The trick is to stay in the moment. If you’re continually building and progressing throughout the season, staying healthy and developing mental strength, the big picture will come together.

Coach Amanda

For more info about Coach Amanda and her coaching, check her out here!

Christmas 2016 Is Coming!

Training is heating up!

 

I have been having a hard time balancing my training stress at times, I need to be better with this. There are times when i am pushing very solid watts at low efforts then the next day i am shelled. The struggle! It does feel good to be back pushing hard.

 

My plan for this first block of training was to establish a good rhythm of training then come January 1st i would start my 2nd block of training with priority focus (in order) on 1) vo2 max 2) sweet spot capacity 3) Leg STRENGTH in 10 second and 1min efforts. 

 

The Plantar Fasciitis that i was dealing with into IMKY is back again but in my right foot. It isn’t nearly as bad but noticeable. I’ve gone to a PT here in Madison, Stacey Brickson at Crono Metro. She is a baddass cyclist and a fantastic PT. We noticed that my right hip majorly externally rotates which causes a bend in my waist when i run and my hips to shift when on the saddle. Both of this adds up if you see pictures of me run, my torso is off set of my body and all of my bike fits, the fitters have said i rotate right on the saddle which caused left hamstring pain/tightness. We are working on this.

 

Swimming is going very well. I have been putting down some of my best swims recently! Today at Gold’s Masters we did a final main set of 3x500. 1st was buoy, paddles 2nd was buoy, 3rd was free. All of them was 6:30-35! This was big as typically my freestyle compared to paddle work is SIGNIFICANTLY different, over 5 seconds per 100 slower. I was also doing some 200s last week and all were under 2:40 on a 3:10… an excellent set.

 

However, when I get video of my stroke, the work Grant and I have been talking about is improving but not there yet.

 

  1. Hand/Elbow position still isn't there
  2. Not getting much extension on my left side
  3. Need more acceleration from my core/hips

 

Onwards!