Saturday, December 31, 2011

To Reflect Or To Look Forward?

It is that time of the year to reflect, genuflect, ruminate and pause for a cause – before the festivities begin. I have learnt to appreciate recentness and recency, yet I prefer to look towards the future. Being a learned optimist (as I had to learn how to think differently), I rather work with possibility and purpose. I will also pretend that we will have another conversation next year on 31 December 2012. Humans make mistakes, and so could the defunct race called the Mayans. Choice or destiny? I rather take my chances. Be resolute instead of making an unending and unfulfilled list of resolutions.

Never rest on your laurels. Leave the past behind. You cannot change your past. Stop dwelling on the past.

Anticipate change. Tomorrow is another day. You can still change your future. Our future has not formed yet.

Here is my list of challenges for next year:

1)    Be more creative. Add ‘1’  (+1) to whatever I do, with whomever is with me.
2)    Add value to what I do. If I am not adding value, remove myself out of the equation.
3)    Shift and sift through some serious paradigms. Time to create a larger Ripple Effect that benefits more people.
4)    Apply totally and thoroughly my values to my actions and interactions.
5)    If it does not feel right, and my intuition backs me up, I will rather shy away from a project or business relationship. Money isn’t everything. Gain and value, are.
6)    Collaborate, commemorate and commiserate.
7)    Be more constructive and build on more possibilities with and for others.
8)    Do more acts of kindness and charity.
9)    Build a coterie of fishermen who will teach others to fish. This applies to my both my profession and pastime.
10)Share my ‘bucket list’ with others.

Thanks for sharing this journey with me so far (for the last three years). I do deeply appreciate your support, friendship and partnerships. Have an amazing 2012! Challenge yourself to make your next 365 days count for you, beginning tomorrow.

Friday, December 30, 2011

It May Not Hurt (Much) to Take A Break

The reality is, few people will be fondly remembered for coming to work early, leaving later than others. That is old school and out of date. Result and performance matter more, than putting in the lengthy, unpaid, overtime hours. We are the sum of our efforts, but not because of it. Effectiveness and efficiency ranks higher than people who look busy, are unproductive, and slow in their movements.

One thing we can draw from triathlons and journalism is: fail to meet the deadlines, and you are done. It is painful to watch swimmers being dragged out of the swim leg of the Ironman triathlon for failing to meet the 2 hour 20 minutes cut-off timing. You have 17 hours (exactly) to complete the 226K of swim, ride and run. You need to respect the stringent guidelines for each discipline/phase, for therein lies the challenge of sports. Faster, stronger and higher – these are and to be the Olympic ideals.

If your work-life dominates your entire being, then it may be eminent that you may seriously need to take a break. Request for the nearest duration of leave days you can use. Workaholics are employees who allow their work to dominate and desecrate their lives. All work and no plays, does dull your mind and body. If you choose to bring work home, you do it out of your choice. If you think it spells into future results, do it for deliberate and clear reasons.

If you think that as a marathoner, that you must do 70-90 kilometres a week of running then that is your belief. If another runner attains similar if not better results than you do with less mileage, then you need to recognise that. There are many variables to factor in for sporting excellence, and over-training may not be one of them. Some of our elite age-group runners run only three times a week, and supplement this activity with cross-training: star-climbing, hill-running, weight-training, core stability work, cycling, swimming, and others.

I just took a two-day hiatus from work and endurance training and did some travel. One of the physical discomforts I experienced was newly found, soreness and stiffness in some of my muscles. I may have exercised some muscle groups used in retail-therapy, or it could be my body responding to rest. When muscles heal during inactivity, they may feel weak and sore. Fret not – it is merely nature’s way of repairing overworked muscles and weaving a stronger fabric. That way, you will be cut out for the work when you begin training or racing.

Leadership Lessons: Take time to smell the flowers. If you are Type-A, learn to slow down occasionally. If you are pushy, hold back your forcefulness. Push through with your earnestness; yet pull with your influence. There are more to life than work and play; explore, discover and enjoy. Work less, however work effectively.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Learn By Speaking To Experts

Dr Cal Lightman is an expert on lie-detection in the hit TV series. It is based on real-life social anthropologist, Dr Ekman's work and research on facial recognition and micro-gestures.
One of the lessons in business and in endurance sports I have learnt is: Talk to experts.

This approach seems to be a common pattern among people of excellence. Virgin Group founder, Richard Branson suggested that he ‘surrounds himself with experts’. He manages this ‘team’, while they help manage his numerous businesses he has created. Macro-manage instead of micro-manage. Tap on the expert’s expertise and breadth of working experience. Learn to leverage on their lessons.

I was at Adidas retail-outlets last week, looking for minimalist shoes to train and race in. I met one of their experts, Sean who asked me questions about my running needs. He surprised me pleasantly by identifying some of my discrepancies about my feet; I had a broken toe that has caused my foot to be slightly wider. Together, we decided on the most comfortable shoe size, design and weight for my running needs. I respectfully asked him questions that intrigued me, however naïve or ignorant I may have sounded. Ask, and ye shall find.

Working with an expert such as a coach – whether in sports, business or career – can be an edifying experience. You learn much about collaboration, perspectives, and developing capability. You also learn to recognize the values of performance, respect, potential, broad-mindedness, and choice. When choosing to work with experts, interview them as you would any job candidate. How close do they fit your profile and expectation? How wide is their experience? Which unique skill-sets would you find complementary? Which personality type would you prefer? Would you prefer an astute critic, or an engaging encourager?

A coach who walks their talk is highly relevant. Being consistent in their thoughts, words and deeds is important. Certainly, coaching is a partnership. Once you engage a coach, you will need to trust them and the process. You will have to commit to the active processes of exploration, analyses and prescription. Constant feed forward and feedback are crucial pieces of the strategic equation for performance.

If you are keen to enhance your swimming performance during a race, here is an expert’s opinion.

If you would like to change your tire, and this is crucial during a race when the technical support team is not immediately available. It is important to be self-sufficient through your technical skills and working knowledge.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Positive Psychology: Learn To Be Optimistic

We are who we spend time with, including our own self. Martin Seligman, PhD., wrote about ‘Learned Optimism’. Despite its usefulness about being positive, pessimists are better than optimists at evaluating conditions during a crisis. Napolean Hill wrote: ‘What your mind can conceive and believe, it will achieve.’ You can, if you want to.

The trouble is: if there’s a will, there’s a will not! If you need a kick-start in your pants to get going, here is a good piece by Inc. magazine. Work with Type A colleagues, and you may be agitated into action. You may even learn to procrastinate away your procrastination.

You have heard about the seven habits of highly effective people. So, what are the seven approaches of productive people – those who get more done in their working hours, or even get it done much earlier. Endurance athletes can accomplish a lot even if they hold full-time jobs.

I love swimming, but it is the workout I hate! Have you ever considered mixing your swim drills up? What about fun activities between? How about dry-land workouts? Changing variables help in injecting excitement and fun to an otherwise staid and static training program. Even my students in class enjoy the occasional physical activity or puzzle.

This morning, I rode for 100 minutes. It was a strategically-placed workout for an ‘easy’ week. Coach assigned this week for me as ‘easy’ for recovery. I did a 20-minute warm-up, followed by 20 sets of 1-minute low-cadence pedaling on the highest-gear I could manage; rest period was one minute between sets. I completed the menu with descending sets of 3 minutes, 2 minutes, one-minute, and 90 seconds with 2 minutes recovery between sets.

Last night I ran in the swimming pool for 30 minutes and followed up with swim drills for 40 minutes. It has been a challenging fortnight of conditioning. Come January, I will have to step up my training intensities and mileage. It will be serious business. 226K are not something to fool around with. It can be impossibly hard work at times, and obscene at other times. I would need an inordinate amount of optimism and motivation to complete each session; all lessons unto them selves.

The point to all this? To coax the body into handling more physical stress in incremental amounts. However, at times it needs to be surprised with a harder session. Triathletes adore routine; so does the body. Once the body gets bored, it stops adapting and becomes resistant. Do shock your body with variety so that it does not get too intelligent, and refuses to progress. It's all in your mind and body. Stay tough. Be bold.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Be A Skyscraper: Building Strong Foundations

Demi Lovato played a princess in Disney’s ‘Princess Protection Program’. She blossomed into a pop star, alongside her co-star Selena Gomez (JB’s squeeze). Lovato’s MTV video ‘Skyscraper’ has drawn in excess of 35 million hits. Many graduates (including Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilera, and Britney Spears) of the Disney film or television series and franchises have attained royalty status with their worldwide fan-base of teenagers, youths, and even adults.
Skyscrapers are extremely tall concrete structures that are built on strong and sturdy foundations. The Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world – standing at 830m, in Dubai. Tom Cruise filmed his own aerial stunts on ‘Mission Impossible: The Ghost Protocol’ on this iconic landmark. Being the athlete he is, he rappelled and climbed on the side of this glass-and-steel modern monolithic wonder.

Like the 49-year-old box-office star, foundational training is vital to pulling off physical challenges. Cruise spent months training on a four-storey structure before taking on the actual skyscraper, complete with feisty crosswinds and heart-stopping moments.
Poets write their poems with words, built on a structure of head, heart and hands. As the film ‘Music & Lyrics’ described, it takes both melody and words to make beautiful music. Yin and yang: the harmony of nature. How you write your training program will depend on your goals. Co-writing your preparation plan can be a powerful, collaborative experience. You weave a fabric based on the threads of possibility and experience, which is then cut to size. Sure, your work is cut out for you and you need to put in the foundational time, be it for aerobic base building, or speed and strength training.

Endurance athletes are also poets at heart. They may do extreme tasks (like long runs and rides), with apparently, no rhyme or reason. Yet, there is a method to their madness. You do not plunge into the open arms of a triathlon with scant preparation, as you will ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortunes’ (with reference to ‘Hamlet’). Every step is calculated and intentional. Every punctuation or word is written to engage different parts of our intellect and emotion. Build on the skyscraper of your being, and beyond.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Spinning Away Excuses

I did a 120K ride this morning and afternoon, as the weather was inclement. The monsoon season deters riders from making their pedaling sojourn since it means cleaning up after making a mess. Your bike forks are subject to accumulation of dirt and debris that are spun inside during your ride. A wet road enhances adhesion of these foreign particles, and scratches to your paintwork are a risk you take when ride. It was tempting to call the ride short when it drizzles, however brave the elements and temptation we must. Otherwise, plans become compromised as we fine easy excuses to ditch training.

I have focused my energies in training to completing specific sets, swimming more, getting my nutrition needs pin-pointed, developing rising strength and flexibility. I am certain it will convert into the outcomes that I seek in my quest for my PB in Taupo. I note all my measurements on my Garmin 310XT, as my RPE, and for my post-training evaluations.

Fox sent me my new weekly training schedule. Mercifully, this week is  ‘easier’, with less emphasis on specific sets. It is more about keeping my body engaged in the routine, as well as recover from the last fortnight’s work. Sleeping about 7-8 hours a night has been instrumental in my ability to make some gains in strength. I am fully recovered from my flu, and should be shifting towards higher gear.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

T’was the Morning Before Christmas…

Photo-credit: Richard Leong (One of our largest turnouts)
This morning, 18 swimmers showed up for our fortnightly Sentosa Lagoon Swim at Tanjong beach. Our new President of our online tri-group Triathlon Family, Andy ‘Small Circle’ Ng attended as a participant – which we appreciated. Four times of the 420-450 metres (according to our Fearless Leader, Matt) laps later, we did a 4.5K run. After some fun plotting (strategizing with the Survivor mantra ‘Outwit, Outplay, Outlast’) we managed to overtake our youngest Ironman Western Australia finisher in our group. I had fun acting out a mock ‘Iron War’s scene where you go mano a mano with a young buck, and then breast the imaginary tape with experience. At the end, pacing is everything and, if you do not want to hold the lead then drop the pace and follow. I called out everybody’s time as they cross the last lamp-post before the carpark. Some of us were coasting on our post-Ironman or post-marathon peak. Like Steve 'Pre' Prefontaine said: 'In running, what matters is the heart!' 
Photo-credit: Richard Leong. My poor impression of Macca; 11 IMs down, two to go for 2012!
I learnt from my cyclist friend, Bernard that doing power sets on the ride, builds strength quickly. However, this comes at the expense of tendon and ligament development. It takes longer for your elastic and inelastic connective tissues to adapt alongside the highly responsive gross muscles used in pedaling. This must contribute to my mild soreness near around my kneecaps – whose history has been relatively injury-free. We were in agreement that riding with faster riders should encourage strength and speed on the bike. You learn to hold your pace and place when you 'pull' your team or draft with it.
Photo-credit: Richard Leong (End of the run set. Spent but happy!)
Tomorrow, I am headed for a 4.5-hour ride (with 30-minute sets as my Main Set) in the east. Already I have a few interested parties who are tempted to ride on a humid and cool Christmas morning. I will follow up with a brick-run, which sets the premise for an unrepentant evening of Christmas feasting and friendship. Next week, Fox will probably prescribe an appreciative easier week; or not. The daily rainfall has affected one 2-hour run, and two pool-swims so far this week. No drama. There is always the next session. Put heart and mind into the effort, and savour the results and outcomes.

Enjoy your weekend and celebrate in your unique way! 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Updates and Up-enders

It has been a physically challenging second week of Ironman preparation in my second meso-cycle. A meso-cycle, in my case, is a month’s load of triathlon-specific training. Each week, I have three sessions each for swimming, cycling and running. I have a heavier workload over my weekends, as this reserved for long rides and runs. It has been three weeks since my flu-troubled Singapore Marathon; I only registered a dismal 3:41, nowhere near the revised Boston Qualifier time of 3:24:59.

It is supposed to be an off-season, and in my personal design I am thick in my racing season. 3 March, in Taupo, New Zealand will be my 12th assault for an Ironman finish. This will be my third time in Auckland to attempt a personal record for an Ironman course. After my PB plan was up-ended with last year’s pre-Ironman road accident, I had to refocus. I have the numbers to improve on. Numbers do not lie, and plans can be tweaked. Because my weaknesses lie in climbing (and rolling courses) and headwinds, I have dedicated my training towards strength development: time-trials, intervals, and sprints. I am aiming for fresher legs at T2, holding steady for 180K, before the marathon in nine weeks’ time.

Disease and acute fatigue can up-end a well-designed, comprehensive race program. Rest is something I factored in deliberately in recent weeks. I aim for 6-8 hours each night of quality sleep. I am also flexible (with my coach, Fox) with how I attend to my training sessions. For a time-crunched triathlete, you need to be able to shift sessions around without bogging yourself down. You have to be decisive in changing plans and altering your goals. The monsoon season is predictable for its abundant and ubiquitous rainfall. Sometimes, you may miss a session or two, and you move on. It may be useless to recover it like lost sleep. Instead, you could focus your efforts on the next workout/s, or do something else like focus on building your core stability and strength, run on a treadmill, or ride a stationary-bike. Never allow your body to be too clever in adapting to routine. After all, triathletes love routine and structure to their madness.

My nutritional changes include: higher antioxidant-laden foods (mainly unprocessed nuts, tart cherry juice and pomegranate juice); more vegetables, water, vitamin C (with zinc) and protein (including two Muscle Milk whey protein drinks daily).

I am reading ‘Ironstruck’ (2006) by Ray Fauteux, which I bought online as an e-book. He describes his fascination with marathons, ultra-marathons and his 14 Ironman triathlon finishes. John Cooke wrote about his reflection and perspective on preparing for Ironman races. How do you restore balance when this sport is skewed towards a 10-15 hour training week? How can we reduce its impact as an indulgent sport? How do we position it as a sane sport when many perceive it as extreme from the insanely long hours we spend training? When this bolt of lightning strikes you from out of the blue, you can bet your last cup of Kona coffee that life will never be the same again.

Have a very good Christmas weekend!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Elementary, My Dear Watson…

Sherlock Holmes: Uh, hmm...Right. Where are the wagons?
Madam Simza Heron: The wagon is too slow. Can't you ride?
Dr James Watson: It's not that he can't ride...How is it you put it, hon?
Sherlock Holmes: They're dangerous at both ends and...crafty in the middle. Why would I want anything with a mind of its own bobbing about between my legs?
I caught ‘Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ at Golden Village new cinema in Katong last evening. This is a screenplay based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s ‘The Final Problem’; this is NOT a screen adaptation.

Robert Downey, Jr. returns as the annoyingly, intelligent and maverick private detective Sherlock Holmes. Jude Law reprises his role as Dr Watson the unflappable sidekick who complements his manic-depressive partner. In this installment, Watson gets married and his honeymoon prematurely terminated when Dr Moriarty – Holmes’ arch-enemy and nemesis – plots to upset the balance of peace in the world pre-dating the 1900’s.

Madonna’s ex- Guy Ritchie directs this sequel and does a fabulous job with the pacing and sequencing. Most memorable was the escape-cum-gunfight sequence shot in a combination of real-time and slow motion. Loyal friends to the series may be perturbed by the well-stocked action sequences that portray Holmes as an Indian Jones-type character. However, in today’s micro-wave-ready, paint-by-numbers, convenience-food society, film audiences may expect more physical action as well as cerebral competition. There is the perfunctory speed chess-game that evolves into a hands-off, mental bout which chess connoisseurs can pick holes on. Yet, this build-up is important to the climax of the film where we wonder: Is this The End?

Overall, this is a fun film that pays mild tribute to the uniquely vivid characters created by Doyle. Ritchie amplifies and assiduously adheres to the film genre of action, crime, adventure and comedy for 129 minutes.
If you enjoyed the stories of Sherlock Holmes, you may also consider the latest BBC television version that is more contemporary and gritty. Make your own comparisons and enjoy playing along with the clues, deductions, and analytical journey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Intervals and Pause That Refreshes

A Zen monk receives a greeting card. He smiles. He opens the card. It is blank on the inside. He smiles even wider.

We reap what we sow. What we do, or not do, has consequences. In the area of physical fitness, your race day results reflect what you invested into your training sessions. If you trained as you would compete, then you may settle in quickly into the race conditions, come what may.

I did interval training for the past two weeks. An interval set is where you incorporate higher-intensity work in seconds or minutes. For example, as part of one-hour cycling session, you may integrate 10 sets of 30 seconds where you pedal at your largest gear at about 40-45rpm. Between each set you recover by spinning at a lower gear for about one minute. As part of your long ride (4-5 hours), you could even extend your intervals into 3 sets of 30 minutes each (at 75-85rpm) with 15 minutes of easy recovery between. You could do 30X100m sets with 10 seconds for recovery with the front crawl.

How do intervals work? They work best after your warm-up, where you raise your intensity via higher cadence (spins) or heavier loads (gear). However, this increased workload is done at a brief duration, as you do not want to overly tax your body or you will suffer in subsequent sets. Your investment could be working with heavier resistance, or working at ‘all-out’ effort. The recovery period between sets is lower in intensity (usually lower gear at higher cadence) so as to allow your body to recover (lower your heart-rate, return your breathing to near normal, and encourage the removal of lactic acid from stressed muscles). This interval-between-intervals is crucial in order to challenge your gradually fatigued muscles to maintain its power output.

For running, you can also insert (one or twice a week) intervals that can be as simple as four sets of four minutes (4X4) of higher intensity running. A recovery of one minute should be adequate, unless you go all out in your earlier sets. That’s a total of 20 minutes for your intervals. For a 50-minute run session, you could do 20X30 seconds (with one minute recovery) as your main set.

Intervals help simulate race-day pace. In reality, you may run at various speeds throughout the race. You increase your pace to overtake; you slow down if you start to pant (and creep into Zone 4/upper lactate threshold). How important is the pause? How often do you take advantage of the time to recover? It allows your body to regain equilibrium, earning adequate oxygen intake and time to fuel your body. Walking through a drink-station may be the brightest idea than rushing through the fuel-stops without restoring your energy and fluid needs.

Give interval training a go. Begin with one session per week. Once you get stronger, you can manipulate the menu of duration, number of sets, recovery time, and speed. Monitor how you feel after each session. You should get faster and more confident as the sessions accumulate. All the best!

Leadership Lessons: How often do you monitor your ‘intervals’? How often do you stop to smell the roses? Do you pause for a cause? How often do you press the ‘pause’ button? Does your life end when you push your work aside? What’s the worst that can happen when you shift your priorities? Go on a vacation. Leave your work for a while! Avoid e-mails for a day. Live life, or it will pass by you.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pushing Lazy

The quirky, macabre and touching story of star-crossed lovers, Pushing Daisies is available on
Congratulations to my TNF100 Duo buddy, Hui Koon for completing seven loops on Sunday’s MR25 Ultra-marathon! Each lap of the Macritchie Reservoir was 10.2K of trail with slopes and uneven surface. The seasonal downpour made it challenging for the later part of the 12-hour, beat-the-clock, and do-as-many-loops-as-you-can. Each lap of this popular year-end ultra-marathon was as hyphenated as my previous sentence, for it was a 5-loop sentence you subject your body to. Five loops spell the minimum for an exclusive t-shirt. I recall earning my first ultra-marathon badge of honour from MR25 and I still value it, as it holds deep memories of my self-directed, assault of my feet.

With the persistent rain and gloomy skies, it would be so easy to succumb to the sin of sloth. We tend to make excuses to be lazy when nature decides on the collective mood of the day. When you have a plan, it makes veering from it a less than easy decision. Miss a day of training, and you may forfeit on your body’s ability to engage its resources on race-day. Train as you race, we are taught.

Steven Covey, author and perpetrator of the highly lauded ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ and ‘The Eight Habit’ proposed his time management matrix. It is based on the axes/variables of Urgent and Important. If it is not urgent and unimportant, it has to be a time-waster. Crises fall under urgent and import tasks. During a marathon, treating a mild abrasion can be not urgent and but important, as a grain of miscreant sand can cause you to suffer a painful and bloody situation down the road. Taking unduly long for a bathroom break, or spending too much time enjoying the smorgasbord of snacks during the marathon phase of an Ironman triathlon can add up into a disappointing timing for your overall race.

You can ward off unnecessary laziness by focusing on the more important tasks at hand. Even celebration need not be a passive process. Engaging in enjoyable conversation, when interest in another person is expressed builds on your relationship. Engage others. Be engaging. Learn from another: just this morning, my buddy David Chambers sent me his IMNZ 2010 preparation strategy (he posted a sub-12-hour completion). He was stoked thinking about my mild question, whereby he spent the whole night writing out his pre-race and post-race thoughts for me. Thanks, mate!

Leadership Lessons: How do you deal with your procrastination? How much time do you waste each day? How much do you squeeze out of your waking hours? How do you push your laziness away? When is being lazy vital to your well-being? How much time do you put aside to learn? Make first things, first.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Party Does Not Have To End

Rock 'n' Roll makes people feel great. That's been Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos' thinking since 1971 with a plan to bring good music, good food, and good people while having a blast doing it! Today, the party need never end, and no one has to go home. The famous rock-and-roll themed restaurant moved from creating dates to accommodate. It combined wine-and-dine with laying supine in a comfortable room after celebration.

Yes, it is the off-season for sports in the tropics, so the idea is to while away the time doing nothing – since we slogged for the entire year at work and in sports – so let’s vegetate and let the hard-earned fitness go to waste. We can always recover our fitness, since we have muscle memory.

Since making a plan makes the invisible – visible (according to motivational guru Anthony Robbins), then it stands to reason that we can formulate a strategy for next year that capitalizes on our abilities and capabilities. Physical fitness is an asset that although intangible, can spell the difference between make it or break it. Applied energy in professions includes passion, enthusiasm, curiosity, courage and purposefulness.

I have always stressed leveraging on a post-race peak – an elusive and thus seldom-noticed condition, of peak performance that occurs about 7-10 days after a major endurance event. Recent finishers of the Ironman Western Australia shared that they feel much stronger and fitter now although it has been almost a fortnight after they raced a 226K triathlon. That is one of the best things that occur after a race, as part of your rest, recuperation and recovery. Your body appreciates sleep, rest, active and passive recovery and replies by becoming adaptive, flexible and responsive – traits that augur well for leaders to develop.

So, what do you do if you are still experiencing post-marathon or racing blues? Continue exercising, although not in high volumes and intensity. Go back to the FITT formula: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. This is an opportunity to heal completely from your injuries, smartly select key races to train for, and optimize your presence as a time-crunched athlete. Ironman champion, Rachel Joyce’s won at ITU in Las Vegas; she uses the Compu-Trainer.

If you are facing issues with ITB (iliotibial band) syndrome, then here is Master Bike Fitter/Customised Bike Designer, David Greenfield’s explanation of a common condition among runners and cyclists. The strength and balance of your large gluteal muscles can spell comfort or discomfort, strength or weakness, for your ride or run. Form follows function. Poor technique and form leads to improper adaptation. Perfect practice makes perfect. Poor practice spells permanence.

Just because the train and rain is down, it doesn’t mean you cannot walk to the party. Fast foot forward!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Venturing Overseas & Overseas Adventures

Would you consider working overseas? In the early-1990’s, many PMETs shied away from the idea of being expatriated. However, it soon dawned on many with the opened markets of China and Indochina that opportunities presented themselves for those who dared venture overseas. A foreign land presented apprehension and anxiety, yet proposed a plethora of purposeful possibilities. As opportunities appear less in an abundant labour market, moving overseas seems like the useful way to go. Here are some reasons to work overseas.

Doing different things with your career can certainly add value, whether it is perceived or actual. Taking on new roles and responsibilities is basic when it comes to enhancing your value as a staff. As a manager overseas, you have many opportunities to express yourself as a leader: Territorial Manager, Cross-Cultural Manager, Country Manager, and Specialist. How you effectively lead your team, work closely with others, manage expectations, recognize results, evaluate fairly and regularly – these build up to your resume of your abilities and capabilities.
Building our capability for the second and third disciplines of triathlon, was what our team did this morning. Our team of eight riders – familiar faces and trustworthy people from our swim sessions – realized that we had our work cut out for us with the medium-paced distance we set ourselves to do. We did about 70K over the Selarang circuit (30K for each loop) followed by a moderate, 6K run 'brick'. Matt, Chris, Wilson and I would be doing Ironman New Zealand on 3 March, so it was time that we cranked our pedals for the 180K of rolling ride around Lake Taupo.
Photo-credit: Wilson Ang [Pit-stop at the patrol-station]
We took turns, leapfrogging, to take the lead, for as long as we could; I did my best setting the pace for the first loop since I had fresher legs. Since this was our first group ride, we did not punish our bodies unduly. I climbed up the steep Hendon Hill with my cries of ‘Attack!’ Matt wrote that he would return with ‘Counter-attack!’ at our next ride. Rain did not dampen our spirits during the run, although the heightened humidity was an issue. In total, I consumed six packets of High-5 energy gels and my legs felt decent during both the ride and run; my hydration was adequate.

I took this morning’s ride as a gauge of my current fitness and how my body responded to Coach’s training prescription this week. I almost completed his sessions, except for two swim sessions that I could not do due to a re-emergence of bursitis/tendinitis in my right, formerly injured shoulder. I will not re-instate these two sessions over the next 7-10 days however will integrate swim-specific sessions next week. The guidelines for training are: If you miss a session, move on. If you need to rest, rest. Train hard but stay injury-free.

Since there are no more Ironman triathlons hosted in Asia, we have to venture overseas to seek new endurance adventures. Part of the triathlon lifestyle is traveling. It is a race cum vacation. Ironman participants travel with their Iron-Mates, without which the celebration becomes hollow and meaning-less. For a report on celebrations, here is Matt’s report on our recent post-Ironman WA/Singapore Marathon gathering.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bespoke-Tailored New Year Plans

I recently commissioned a London-trained, Saville Row, bespoke tailor to make me a few shirts and a coat (jacket). What I learnt from the strenuous but needful process – selecting fabric, style, collar, button, button-holes, cuffs, pocket, inner-lining and monogram – is the true meaning about ‘If it fits, wear it!’ The best clothes take time to sew, and they feel good to the skin, and makes the wearer feel good about themselves. Having watched many episodes of 'Project Runway', I have acquired the lingo in tailoring and designing and am more educated about 'threads'; I am not a connoisseur of fine raiments, well not yet.
I did not use the words ‘resolution’ as I have found it to be errantly ineffective for goal-setting. How many of us end up, starting the New Year, with revisions to previous year’s resolutions? The mounting weight gain shows no respite, despite upgrades and mounting mantras to attain the flimsy constructed goals. Resolution may be described as ‘re-solution’; ‘resolve’ is to ‘re-solve’. That suggests, on an unconscious level, that we are sabotaging our efforts for success by imprinting a ‘panic button’ to fail. How about you sticking to a plan of action and committing to it like a bridegroom fitting into his finely-made suit? The dateline/deadline matters as much as the intention. A goal is a dream with a deadline. A resolution sounds cool like satin, so few are hot about it like a rip in your pants.

Instead, stay steadfast to your original goal by dissecting it into smaller chunks. As in proper nutrition, chew thoroughly before you swallow. Mastication or chewing, increases the surface area for thorough digestion. The larger the food size that you consume, the higher the risk of choking on your food. Your goals can be re-sized for a higher chance of achieving it. Chunk it down into manageable portions. Split it into intermediate goals.

Let’s avoid corporate buzzwords like ‘right-sizing’ and ‘re-engineering’, and call a spade a spade. Go back to accounting basics like the reliable mathematical signs of Plus, Minus, Multiply and Divide. Relook your goals and see how each can be tweaked to meet your specific needs. Add value to your profession; be valuable. Remove annoyances and minimise distractions. Accelerate and amplify your influence. Share recognition and celebrate together. These are like hand-stitched clothes, and the monogram the fine embroidery that completes your personal attire.

With a custom-fitted bicycle, you will ride comfortably and injury-less, and thus better. With a custom-made, hand-crafted bike, you would benefit even more with your body’s unique measurements. With a bespoke tailor, you can specify how you would like your cloth cut. With a nutritionist, you can learn which foods to avoid (allergy-causing) and which superfoods to eat. With a sports coach, you can turn into an awesome time-crunched athlete. In a world of ‘less may be more’, we need to explore options that enhance our time and resources.

Take some time to lay out your better plans.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Biking Tips For Riding Long

This is a long week of endurance training for me. My short rides are strength/power-based while my long ones will be about 4.5 hours (with specific, short intervals woven in). Some of these rides will be followed with a run of about 10K, thus I need my legs to be fresh enough for the pounding of pavement. The following is a contribution on riding considerations from my Dubai-based, architect friend David Chambers. He and I completed Ironman New Zealand last year. Thanks, mate for this!
TIP OF THE WEEK: Tips For the Long Ride Ahead.

Change your hand and body position frequently. That will change the angle of your back, neck, and arms, so that different muscles are stressed and pressure is put on different nerves.

When going uphill, shift gears to maintain normal cadence. On a long hill, conserve energy by staying in your seat (not too big a problem in Dubai, but worth a mention).

Brake right. To exert optimal pressure, brake with your hands at the ends of the levers. For a quick stop, as you press the brakes firmly, slide your buttocks to the very back of the saddle. This will keep the rear of the bike down so that you don't flip over the handlebars.

Don't wear headphones. They can block out the street sounds you need to hear in order to ride defensively.

Use hand signals to alert drivers to your intentions.

Try to make eye contact with drivers as you pull into an intersection or make a turn, so they know your intentions and you know that they've seen you.

Drink sufficient fluids even if the weather is cold. You will still need to replenish lost body fluids, and keep your energy levels optimal for the long ride.

Don't pedal in high gear for long periods. This can increase the pressure on your knees and lead to overuse injuries such as biker's knee. Shift to lower gears, and faster revolutions to get more exercise with less stress on your knees. The best cadence for most cyclists is 60-80 revolutions per minute (rpm), though racers pedal in the range of 80-100 rpm.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

You Are Empowered to Give Permission

My friend, Shan wrote me yesterday: But Enrico…You must have been smoking cigars to celebrate completing 11 Triathlons. Read about you in the papers today. I will follow your advice and I will take up yoga again.’ This was in reference to three-time, national marathon champion Mok Ying Ren (soon-to-be medical doctor) who mentioned me in his weekly column on running in The Straits Times.
Our appreciation to K K Chin for forwarding this piece.
I would be happy to assist you, Shan in ways that are useful and thinking about resuming an activity is a splendid start. Next, give yourself the permission, then the motivation.

Why permission? Too often, we hear family and friends comment: ‘You make me angry?’ or ‘You are making me feel bad!’ Technically and physiologically, nobody can ‘make’ you feel bad or do anything unless you commit to it. Emotions are a personal thing, and your body determines your emotional state. With about 2,000 words describing our emotions how often do we activate other less commonly experienced emotions?

Human interactions include eliciting in others (through our behaviors, consciously or unconsciously) emotional states. Only we can give permission to ourselves for feeling happy, angry or sad. Nobody else can incite these feelings you feel, until you allow them to do so. Stop allowing others to do that. It is not nice of them, and not useful of you!

You want to avoid being a pushover; you may not like people taking advantage of you when it comes to work. Some colleagues may take full advantage of their observation about you being easy to ‘unload’ on. Some people like to seek assistance form those who are not assertive, and have not learnt to say ‘no’. You are empowered to give permission to yourself and others through your thoughts, words and deeds (as observed by philosopher, Renes Descartes). ‘I think, therefore I am.’ These phrase and mindset applies to many things in our lives – both personal, and professional.

Furthermore, many of us are not used to compliments. If you do not know how to respond to ‘How are you today?’ with ‘I’m fine. Thank you. And you…?’ then you are, probably, uncomfortable and unskilled in giving and accepting compliments. The late-co-founder of Solutions Focused Brief Therapy, Insoo Kim Berg used to teach us to deliver three kinds of compliments: Direct Compliment, Indirect Compliment, and Self-Compliment. Give and receive words of kindness and gratefulness. Practise and learn on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and electronic mails.

Leadership Lessons: Stop bullying others to do your work. There is a difference between designate and delegate. Give permission to yourself to say ‘no’. You can only give permission to somebody to blame you. You do not have to take things sitting down. Stand up, and stand up for your rights and beliefs. Be sincere. And, while you are it dish out some genuine compliments. Enjoy the responses.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Creating Change That Matters

Train, recover, adapt, and repeat. The essence of training is to stimulate and simulate physical stress on the body. With adequate rest and sleep, the body gets a chance to heal. Upset the rest/recovery equation, and the body may succumb to the stress with fatigue or an over-trained state. Over-arching has its risk for it must be systematically applied, or it consumes the body’s ability to recuperate.

Our body has coping mechanisms for stress, be it from disease, fatigue, temperature regulation, or physical work. At its extreme, our body falls ill as its immunity system is compromised; as such, full healing is crucial before resuming intense training. At least 6 hours of sleep is required to begin the repair process for damage tissues. Nutrition is also a critical key for tested muscles to heal themselves through assimilation of high quality proteins and complex carbohydrates.

Coach has prescribed me a tough first week of triathlon training; this comes after a few weeks of conditioning, mainly from racing in long distance running. It has been a week since I completed the Singapore Marathon when I was convalescing from the flu. Fox has offered a flexible program for me, since he is aware that I am a time-crunched athlete who has more time on the weekend to invest in longer distances.

This morning I was supposed to swim 3K (through specific sets) and run for 70 minutes. I swapped it around and did my run yesterday, which comprised four sets of 4 minutes each at Moderate/Hard pace. Prior to that, my runs sets comprised 40 minutes of Easy and Moderate paced running. I will do a 90-minute strength/power set when I ride outdoors shortly. Every training set is deliberately designed to purposefully activate and enervate a certain aspect of my fitness. There is little use for ‘junk miles’. A well-deserved and long overdue deep-tissue massage follows it, as I am very tight in my legs after a heavy season of racing.

Ironman Sweden/Kalmar is the latest installation in the M-Dot series. The bike course passes the former home of IKEA founder, Ingvar Kamprad.

Finally, a treat for us! The video for the Ironman World Championships has been released. Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Switching Gears: My Second Meso-Cycle

I am sore in my arms; a result of a fairly intense swim squad session. This evening’s Monday Night Swim session with 22 members, including recent Ironman finishers was my first serious session after a long season of racing in marathons. Tonight spells exactly one week after my post-flu, Singapore Marathon completion. It is timely to switch gears and shift from pure distance-running to triathlon-specific race training.

I have 11 more weeks to go before Ironman New Zealand. Coach has prescribed my first week of conditioning and it includes no rest, but active recovery. My schedule for the second week of my second meso-cycle (4 week-block) looks daunting, partly because I will be focused on more mileage and power-specific intervals. As I will be on two weeks of vacation, I will be able to train more diligently and enjoy more sleep. Of course, Fox has been kind to suggest some degree of flexibility for a time-crunched athlete. Olympian and veteran coach, Chris Carmichael also wrote a book to address the serious triathlete who is tight for time, yet wants to excel based on the ‘quality time’ approach.
This phase of my training that will run through the end of the year is about engaging adaptation. Apply new stress on the body gradually, and it will adapt by becoming stronger, faster and fitter. Deprive it of much needed rest and nutrition, and it may not recover well and may weaken. The axiom is: Train, recover, and race. Repeat. The delicate line of consideration is: stress the body exceedingly and briefly, but not excessively and prolonged. One hard week is followed by one easier week. Active recovery and rest is an integral part of athletic improvement and progression.

I look forward to this phase of my triathlon training as, after withdrawing from IM Canada this year, I was eager to race again. After a hectic season of running-based races, I ready to race an Ironman. Perhaps, my first 226K-race will be my opportunity to do a personal record (PR) I was denied last year. I suffered a bad crash when a taxi knocked me down while I was cycling one month before IM New Zealand. I eventually raced, although not at my best and posted a 13-plus hour completion. I was disallowed any swimming as my fractured cheek would have risked infection of my sinus.
I also signed up for Ironman Switzerland on 15 July. I chose it as the Australian M-Dot branded races were all sold out. IM Western Australia 2012 sold out in just 69 minutes, as the wave of fervent interest for the 226K-triathlon format increases. All Asian Ironman races have been discontinued, with the other Kona slots distributed over the new Australian M-Dot races.

Leadership Lessons: How do you cope with physical and mental changes? What is your coping mechanism for crisis and emergencies? How open are you to changes? How do you cope with changes in the marketplace? How do you stay relevant and contemporary? How much time do you factor in for rest and recovery?