How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

How to Maintain Fitness and Wellness Habits: Tips and Techniques

Maintaining your fitness and wellness habits can be challenging, especially when life gets
busy. However, developing simple and effective strategies will help you stay on track and
keep your health a priority. This article will provide you with a comprehensive guide to
staying fit and healthy, complete with tips and techniques that you can implement in your
daily routine.

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6 Tips For Quality Run Training

6 Tips For Quality Run Training

Tips for Quality Run Training Train no faster than one pace quicker than the race you are training for. For example, 5k pace is good for an Olympic-distance race, while half-marathon pace suffices...

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How to Start Cycling

How to Start Cycling

One of the scariest things for a beginning triathlete, besides getting in the open water, is cycling.  The first image that wandered into my head upon deciding to start seriously bicycling was of a that scary peloton. Those tight formations of bikes moving at ridiculous speeds, during the Tour de France, so close together that one wrong move could cause serious damage to my body or someone else. Scary right? Luckily, triathlon doesn’t allow for huge groups like that, as a matter of fact it isn’t even allowed.  Whew!

Buying my first Bike

I didn’t have a lot of money when I first started in triathlon, and I also didn’t really know if I was going to like it.  I spent a lot of time in bike stores drooling over the expensive bikes, while studying cheaper entry level bikes.  Every bike store had a different angle they played.  One would say, purchase the more expensive bike, gain more speed so when I improved I didn’t have to buy another bike.  Another would tell me to buy the entry level but load it up with expensive components so I could ride faster, and when I wanted another bike, the components alone would warrant a good price, and of course that store would buy it back from me and give me a discount an another bike.  Decisions, decisions what to do, what to do?

I researched different road and tri bikes online and in magazines, and while I was pretty surecannondale_caad9 I would enjoy triathlon, I decided on an entry level Canondale CAAD 9 road bike.  I also included in my purchase, a pair of pedals, cleats, shoes and a helmet.  The helmet was very important especially since I hadn’t actually rode a bike in over 10 years.  Would I really not forget how to ride a bike?  The answer to that my friends is YES.  It is not a skill that is forgotten.  It maybe a little unsteady the first couple of times, but not forgotten.  Luckily I will have my trusty helmet, just in case.

I also read something that resonated with me.  The most important thing that is needed after the purchase of a bike, is the fitting.  At first I thought, “what?  Don’t I just have to find the most comfortable height of the seat and then get going?”  I had no idea that there are so many different adjustments on a bike, to a point that bike “fitters” actually have to be certified in order to properly fit you.  They have to take courses, pass tests and be mentored.  “Really?”, you ask?  Yes…really.

The fitting took about an hour where they put my bike on a trainer, and with my shoes and bike shorts I pedaled, then the fitter took measurements and made adjustments to my seat post raising it and lowering it to a perfect dimension.  Then he took angle measurements from the ground to my hip, knee and shoulder and from the pedal and a bunch of other places.  He moved my saddle not only up and down by forward and back.  He then took my handle bars and put different size spacers on the tube underneath my handlebars to find the perfect height and then was able to move them back and forth to find the right angle, height and most comfortable spot for me.  I had no clue there was this much to it.

Pre-First Ride

As I left the store after my fitting, Jo-el, the general manager and friend from my track club, gave me some good advice.  I had never rode in cleats and pedals before, where my feet were clipped into the pedals where they wouldn’t just simply lift up.  I had to turn my heel so the cleat would unclip from the pedals so I could put my foot down.  Jo-el said to take my bike in the house and put it between a doorway, and practice clipping and un-clipping from the pedals.  Also, I needed to find the most comfortable side to unclip first and then stick to that side no matter what.  I followed that advice in detail.  I clipped, unclipped, clipped and unclipped till I was sure I had mastered it.  Then I took a little ride around the block and practiced even more till I was confident I mastered at least that part.

I had a feeling of euphoria that first little trip in my neighborhood.  I felt fast, free traveling under my own power on this brand new, tuned Cannondale bike.  I was really excited for my first ride the next day in the hills of San Antonio.

The First Ride

I drove to San Antonio…Florida that is, with my brand new bike in the back, my new bike shorts on, bottles ready to put in their cages on the bike, coffee in my cup holder and classic rock playing on the radio.  I remember having mixed feelings about this initial ride.  I had never ridden in a group before, I had never ridden with these cleats and clips before, but I knew I was in good shape but was I fit enough?  After that I just thought to myself, “if you cannot go as far then just turn around and head back.  no big deal.”.

I met a friend at these ball fields and was mesmerized by the amount of bikers getting ready to take their morning ride.  The sea of colors from the different bikes and jerseys was extremely overwhelming.  That anxious feeling came back for a second until my friend mentioned we were riding with triathletes not pure cyclists.  They would understand I was on my first ride and would help me out.  After preparing for my first journey, we found our formation and began the trek.

I was surprised that I was staying in the middle of the pack and with minimal effort.  The wind was in my face,  I was pedaling under my own power and keeping up!  It was an incredibly euphoric feeling.  Unfortunately, when we hit the first long hill, euphoria turned to anxiety and then… embarrassment.

My pedaling slowed, and it became extremely hard to mash down on the pedals.  With very minimal spinning of my legs I tried to switch to higher gear, but I actually ended up in a lower gear which made it even harder. When I did finally gear up, it was too late.  I couldn’t move the pedals fast enough to switch gears, and my chain fell off , so I was at a dead stop. Of course I was so concerned about the gears I didn’t unclip out of my pedals, and I went down on my side.  The only thing that really hurt was my ego as I stood my bike up and examined the chain.  The group was passing me all asking if I was ok, and taking for granted that I was telling them I was fine and to keep going.  By the time I had my chain back on the group was completely out of site.  I pedaled like a bat out of hell hoping to catch up, but I missed a turn and ended up 10 miles out of my way, and lost.

To make a long story short ( I know, too late) one of the faster members of the group realized I was gone, backtracked, and finally found me asking directions at a convenience store.  He led me back to the group and I finished the ride without any other issues, but I learned a lot of lessons that day.

Hints to get started in cycling straight from the Goof:

0103_00504.jpg

On my first bike after a couple of modifications

1. Buy an entry level road bike.  This is usually an aluminum alloy frame.  You don’t want a Wal-mart special, but you don’t need to start with the top of the line bike either.

2. Purchase a set of entry level pedals, cleats and shoes.  The pedals usually come with the cleats and the bike shop will install them for  you.

3. Purchase safety equipment.  Biking shorts, and a helmet to start.  I would also have a set of sunglasses as well.  Not just to keep the sun out of your eyes, but it helps with the wind too.  Make sure you also have at least one water bottle with a cage installed on your bike.

4. Get the bike fit for you.  Have a certified bike fitter make those adjustments specifically for you.

5. Practice getting in and out of your cleats .  Put your bike in a doorway, hold onto the frame and get in and get out of your cleats.  Find the most comfortable side of the bike and then practice getting out of the cleats and putting your foot on the ground.

6.  Take a short ride around your neighborhood and continue to practice getting in and out of your cleats.  When seeing a stop or even a potential stop ahead practice just moving your heel just to the point where you unclip before stopping so you have a quick option that you can pull out of your clip to stop or return your heel to clip back in to keep going.  Remember to always clip out and stand with the same foot first every time.

7.  Understand your gears.  While in that first ride, switch the gears on your right hand and find what lever takes you to a higher or easier gear, and which one brings you to a lower or harder gear.

8.  Take your first long ride with friends and have some fun.

One last thing, you are going to fall.  That is just the reality of it.  You will get stuck in your cleats at some point and you will fall over, but it will be minimal.  The trick is to accept it, get up brush yourself off, laugh at yourself, get back on your bike and have fun.  It’s worth it I promise.

This post was originally published for IR4C for their new media site, IR4C.TV on July 2, 2013.

The Goof Guppy – Swimprove #2

The Goof Guppy – Swimprove #2

In my recent post, Effortless Swimming-Goof Out#1, I gave a summary of the introductory lesson in Effortless Swimming’s Mastering Freestyle Course.  This course is located within the Swimprove program hosted by Brenton Ford and his Australian company Effortless Swimming.  I continued with that lesson for a week which was dedicated to balance and streamlining within the water, and I recently continued with lessons 1 & 2.

Lesson 1 was specifically geared to the feel of rotating from your hips.  I did this workout 3 times and I want to nickname it the Core Killer.  I never thought working out in the pool with so little movement would cause such a tightness in my abs and core, but nevertheless, my abs, obliques, quads and hammies where a little tight the next day.  It consisted of 1800 meters of drills, plus a warm-up and cool down making it 2400 meters total.

The Workout

WU: 300m any stroke
MS: 300m Kick on side w/ shoulder to chin
300m Kick on side w/ hand-to-face
300m Kick on side w/ switch
300m Kick on side w/ arms at side
300m Kick on side w/ arms across chest
300m Kick on side w/ blockhead arms
CD:300m Easy Free

I do not have a strong kick, so I continued to use my Zoomer fins to reduce my worry of propulsion since I knew that was not the focus of the workout.  Lucky for me, Brenton actually suggests the use of fins in both the written material and the videos that accompany this course.

Throughout the workout, I noticed that when it was more difficult to rotate from my hips, I was not streamlined, however when I engaged just my core, and lengthened myself, rotating the hips became a lot smoother and I did move faster to the other end of the pool.  I also learned more about breathing, because when you have one shoulder out of the water and you are look at the bottom of the pool, once in a while it is nice to turn your head and breathe.  The breath is quick, so I started to breathe out during the drill and breathe in when I rotated.  This was never natural for me and I know it caused a lot of anxiety for me.  It still isn’t natural, but it makes a lot more sense.  Once I finish the lessons, I will be able to develop a relaxing pattern with this new revelation.

Lesson 2 added the arms.  I kept the fins with these drills, but because there were only three drills, I dropped them afterwards and swam one thousand meters without them.  I was still slow, but I noticed it was quite a bit easier.  I also developed a patter of breathing for myself, which I still am not consistent with but, when my position is streamlined and I am keeping a high elbow, it is a lot easier with the new breathing patter. It makes for an interesting alert.  If I begin to feel like my breathing pattern is off, most likely it is because my swimming technique as fallen apart.

The Workout

WU: 300m any stroke
MS: 300m Shark Fin Drill with pause & return
300m Shark Fin Drill with practice entry
300m Shark Fin Drill with switch
10×100 Free Form Focus
CD: 300m Easy Free

This weekend will be the test.  My first triathlon of the season is Sunday at the HITS Ocala Olympic Triathlon.  I still have one more module of the Mastering Freestyle Course, but that will have to wait for next week.  I am going to use my last workout this week to continue with the lesson 2 drills.  We will see what happens. I am really excited

You can checkout the Swimprove program at www.swimprove.com

Carpe Viam!

Gasparilla Goof:  A Recap

Gasparilla Goof: A Recap

Since I have been an endurance athlete in the Tampa Bay Area for a few years, I have always felt a pull toward the Gasparilla Distance Classic.  This last weekend was no different.  I had the intention of possibly hanging out on the sidelines this year, but the attraction of the race and the fact that all of my racing “peeps” would be there, lured me to enter the Becks Light Challenge which consisted of the 15K, the 5k and the ever loved Half Marathon.  There is another level to the challenges named the Michelob Ultra Challenge which includes all of the races in Becks Light Challenge plus the 8k, but I know myself well enough that after a half marathon the last thing I was going to want to do was run another 5 miles so I decided against it this year.  Maybe next year.

The Expo

Photo by Ben Mena

Anchor Hottie Falon Silcox at the expo

The expo was pretty much the same as it always is.  I enjoy being around it, and seeing my fellow running buddies, getting some samples, seeing the new shoes that are out and tasting the new products.  Unfortunately, I was a little late this year, so I didn’t have the allotted time I would usually, but I did spend some time with Pearl Izumi rep, Kyle, and tried on their new product, The E:Motion Tri.  Kyle mentioned it had only been available for five days at that point and after a little schmoozing I think I may have finagled a pair, of which I will review at a different time.

The race included over 27,000 entries this year, and with muli-race entries the estimates stated there were about 23,000 unique entries, which I consider to be an amazing turnout. I was pretty excited to be participating the next day, however I let the energy of the social part of running get the better of me and I did not eat very well that day or that night.  I ended up paying for it the next day.

The 15K

Photo by Ben Mena

I woke up at 4:30a and took care of morning routines and ate a banana with almond butter which is usually all I need for a workout that is only 9.3 miles.  Jumped in the car and headed off to the race.  I found a nice spot, behind Publix and since they were sponsoring the event I didn’t think they would mind.  It was a nice little hike to the start line from there, so it was perfect  to warm-up and get the blood moving.  I had plenty of time, so I hung with Dawn Peters, and saw a few others in the corrals while I was continuing to warm up a more thoroughly.  Peculiar thing I didn’t mention earlier.  In Tampa, there was a power outage in the water treatment plant because a squirrel chewed through the lines.  This caused a water distress warning for all of the areas that received their water from the City of Tampa for 72 hours.  We were told to drink bottled water or boil our water before drinking it.  The announcer was assuring us, the water served was bottled from Zepherhills and the mixed Gatorade also used the bottled water.  I caught myself wondering how much of the water, I used to brush my teeth with, made it into my system.

There was a great rendition of our national anthem sung acapella followed by the blast of the start horn.

I started feeling really good and I was charging hard at about 7:31 pace as I hit miles 1, 2 and 3.  My legs were fine, my breath was under control and I just kept saying to myself; “Self, you know you have another 5k you have to do today followed by a half-marathon tomorrow don’t you?”, but the energy of the race ran away with me (pardon the pun).

At mile 4 I started to slow down and at mile 5 my whole race fell apart.  Here I was, on my own training ground, turning the corner and heading for home, and I felt dizzy, my legs were not feeling great, and I was slowing to a crawl.  I walked for a bit, trying to clear the toxins the lactic acid was ridding my muscles of, and motivate myself to finish this thing.  I couldn’t believe I was falling apart this early.  Just two weeks prior I slowed but at the 9 mile mark, so I thought I would at least be able to get through this race and shuffle through the 5k, but here I was at mile 5 and completely crashing.  I kept saying to myself  “The mind will quit 10 times before the body does.  This is not your body, you goof, this is your mind.”  I started again, with the expectation to keep running no matter how slow and just finish.  Athletes, that I run with at track that are in groups below me started to pass.  My friend Rich, whom has been just lifting and bulking up past me with a motivational pat on the shoulder.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.  I checked my posture, looked at my placement, leaned into a comfortable position and picked up my cadence, allowing for maximum efficiency and pushed on with everything I had left.  At the 9 mile mark, as is tradition, I put everything I had in the last third-of-a-mile and sprinted across the line.  I literally felt like I had nothing left.

I took pictures with the pretty pirates and was lucky enough to see a few of my clients whom were running the 5k about an hour later.  I was so drained I was seriously contemplating just cutting out of the 5k altogether, but that little jingle went off in my head.  It actually used to be an old Hefty Bag commercial that started with a little squeaky infantile voice; “Wimpy, Wimpy Wimpy.” Of course the actual commercial continues with a loud, strong, low and bold voice; “Hefty Hefty Hefty!”, but that part was missing in my head.  I decided that 3 miles was not a big deal as long as I can get some fuel up a little, so I journeyed on to find some food.

This was the only disappointing portion of the Gasparilla Distance Weekend.  Every other year I have participated in this race the vendors are lined up in the tunnel with fruit, beverages, smoothies, rice and beans, sandwiches  bagels the works, but this year it was cut to bananas, fruit cups, granola bars and sample smoothies.  I was a little disappointed, but I ate a couple of bananas, gulped a couple of smoothies, headed back to the start line.

The 5k

Photo by Ben Mena

Two races DONE!

As my readers know, I am not the fastest runner by any means, but usually fast enough to be in the front corral.  This year because I really wasn’t feeling it, I put myself in the middle of the front corral.  What I didn’t realize, was because there were only two corrals, the 9am and the 9:45a, there were a lot more people.  After another rendition of our national anthem, which was just as good as earlier, the horn blew and we were off.  Again.  Or, so it seemed because even though I crossed over the start mat  I was still walking.  19,000 runners in-between the two corrals, and here I was in the middle of the first one.  After 400 meters I heard the announcer mention that five minutes had gone by since the start.  I heard my own voice cry out, “What? Five minutes? Already?”  Embarrassingly enough, I was talking to myself.  I started weaving through the crowd the best I could and finally around the half way point it opened up enough to get some speed going.  I was still spent, but the food I consumed filled my glycogen levels enough to finish the race.   My time was a dismal 26 minutes and change, but I was happy I did it.

After the race- Saturday

Photo by Ben Mena

Original Bootcamp Buds – Rich and Kevin

Photo by Ben Mena

Alesandra and former neighbor Barbara

After completing the ritualistic medal photos, walking, stretching, and chatting I caught up with Rich O’Dea and we headed to Four Green Fields for a couple of beers.  Everyone I knew was there, so the place was hoppin’.  The Tues-Thursday Starbucks run peeps were there, Progressive Run, Four Green Fields, A-Train, Shark runners, and of course Mrs. Jessica Glover behind the bar on deck.  She was incredibly busy  but smiling and gabbing away.  I chatted for a while, met some new runners, saw some old friends like Malynn Nguyen who I haven’t seen since the 2011 Ironman, and just basically hung out and had a great time.  It was a nice ending to a couple of difficult races for me.

I realized that I in no way was I talking myself out of running the Half Marathon the next day, so I devised a strategy on the way home.  I needed a way to fuel and feel as fresh as possible, so I stopped on the way home and grabbed a couple of bags of ice.  What for?  An ice bath.  I never actually indulged in an ice bath, but I have read over and over the advantages to them, one of them being rapid recovery and that, is what I needed in order to get through the next day.  When I arrived home I grabbed a Coke, which would help top off my glycogen levels, ate some chicken breast and broccoli, and headed for my ice bath.  Since I never actually took one of these before I knew that it would be torture if I just filled the tub with ice and water and jumped in, so I ran some barely luke warm water and got in.  Slowly, I moved the water to cold and it rose above my legs and found myself getting used to the temperature.  I then slowly started adding ice, and the temperature started to drop a little more rapidly, but not so much where it became too uncomfortable.  I dropped the last bag of ice in and waited my 20 minutes.  I have to say, it wasn’t that bad, since I allowed my body to acclimate.  I am not saying it was comfortable, the ice remained frozen after all, and it was touching my skin, but I could handle it.  After 20 minutes I jumped out and into a hot shower which was absolute heaven.  I assessed how I felt and noticed that my legs felt somewhat rejuvenated  but the test would be the next day, both waking up and running the half marathon.

The Half Marathon

I woke up the next morning and was feeling pretty good.  My legs were a little tight, but not bad.  I cleaned up a bit, donned my new IronGoof racing singlet and headed out to Jet City to meet up with Jessica, Cheryl, Carol and Tara Lee.  That was a nice way to start the morning.  Jessica, made us triple espressos and we headed to the start line, for the last time.  We made a quick stop at the Team RWB tent to pick up some more runners and take some pictures.

Team RWB prior to the Half

Team RWB is one of my favorite Veteran charities.  Being a Veteran myself and an ambassador, I am connected with their cause to help veterans with “invisible” injuries incorporate themselves back into civilian life through athletic endeavors.  Invisible injuries would be, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), biological-chemical treated injuries, Combat Stress, and other psychological and physiological issues and disorders.  As I was there, I understand more than the average person how critical this cause is, because for every injury and casualty of war there are over 25 invisible injuries affecting Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines, Coast Guard, and DOD contractors.

Photo by Ken Mersereau

Jessica Glover and I slow during the first mile

We lined up with the rest of the pack for the Half Marathon, listened to a repeated acapella version of the Star Spangled Banner, and after the horn went off for the last time for me, we started shuffling to the start line.  As with the 5k, there were a huge amount of runners for this race, so it took a while to find a way to break free.  The first mile was around eleven minutes, because we had to stop twice due to the foot traffic moving towards Davis Island.  The second mile was not much better at around 10 minutes, but the third is where it started to spread out a little at the end which ended up pacing around a 9:30 minute per mile.  I was already way way behind schedule to even come close to the time I completed a couple of weeks earlier at the Rock n’ Roll half marathon.  Once I was able to move, I did so, and sped through miles 4 – 8 between 7:30 and 8 minute miles.    I felt absurdly confident and noticed the difference in my energy level since I made sure to fuel the night before, more adequately.  Unfortunately, the tole I took on my body the prior day, decided to rare it’s ugly head as I passed the mile 9 marker.

All of the sudden my legs felt heavy, my breathing became more labored and even though I was adamant about my nutrition during the course, I slowed to a pace just above a 10 minute mile.  I couldn’t believe it as my watch started alerting me after each of the last few miles.  When i finally reached the finish line with nothing left, I was just hopeful that I was under two hours or my ego was going to take a huge blow.  As I stumbled through the medal line, grabbed some water and Gatorade, I checked my Garmin’s history for my unofficial time.  1:59:17.  My slowest non-triathlon half marathon in two years.

Photo by Denise Mestanza- Taylor

Bloggers Beth, Denise and Chrissy with Nick Z & I

The after race activities included pictures in the VIP tent with members of the Brandon Running Association to include lovelies; Beth “B.o.B.” Shaw, Fallon “News Channel 8 Morning Anchor Hottie” Siilcox and Patricia ” Bring my own changing tent” Rossi, good friends; Ben “The Lazy Runner” Mena, Nick “Best Damn Race” Zivolich, Tim “You will never look this good” Schubert, and Chris “You can’t touch this” Wiegner.  Of course there were others I cannot remember due to the fact the blood was not pooling in my brain at the time.  After I chatted, drank and posed, I left for Jet City where I continued my socializing over fresh Mimosa’s made with love by Jessica.

As I drove home I reviewed the race and what the heck happened to make it so rough.  I do not like excuses, so the fact that I am a little older, it was humid or the course was boring are not ideas I choose to partake in, but problems I personally created I can learn from.

  • I did not fuel properly Friday night.  I know better.
  • I had not been putting any real distance in my recent workouts.  I had been doing less distance and more interval training.
  • I know I have been losing a lot of weight without trying and not feeling as energetic as usual lately and refused to address it. 

My intentions to address these mistakes are:

  • Revert back to being more responsible the night before race day. 
  • Obviously, put my longer distance runs back in while keeping a couple of interval workouts. – Lesson Learned: There is no substitute for distance.
  • I am incorporating a couple of whole, wheat free, grains back into my diet.  Specifically, Gluten Free Organic Oatmeal and Quinoa, to see if I can get my energy and weight back up. 

How were your races and/or workouts this weekend?

Carpe Viam!