Friday, June 29, 2012

The Theatre Behind All Engagements

Theatre can teach us much about how we can live our lives. After all, Shakespeare wrote, ‘All the world’s a stage, and we are the actors…’ Life is full of its moments of drama, and this makes us engaged with them. The dramas involve conflict, relationships, how we relate to each other, and whether we resolve the conflict. In comedy or suspense, tension is followed by relaxation. Taking the director’s blueprint for shooting a film or directing a stage-play, we can cleverly apply it to our athletic pursuits. The four elements listed below describe how you can direct yours session with purpose and premise.
Scene: In the living-room (as per set-up).

Setting: Training for cycling (day or night); mindful that it is not noisy if it is in the late-evening.

Characters: You, the time-crunched athlete. Who else is around you, who may render assistance (get you another towel, fill your water-bottle, or watch out for your safety).

Situation: Training for a triathlon, and the weather is inclement. Need more bang-for-buck for each training session. Your training menu for the session is your script, so stick closely to your script.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Ironman Has Landed!

Dex Tai has arrived in Europe. He is getting ready to race in Ironman Austria, his first of a trilogy of 226K triathlons as part of his cause, Racing For Autism.
Congratulations to Tomoya, one of Singapore's fastest half-Ironman triathletes! For his podium position in Japan last weekend, he secured his entry to Kona to compete in this year's Ironman World Championships. 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How Do You Fail? Gracefully, Or Disgracefully?

‘The bigger they are, the harder they fall.’

How much of this is true? If you consider it as a test of physicality, size does matter when you multiply it by the physical laws (force, acceleration, magnitude, direction). Size times gravity = OUCH!

The OUCH Factor. How painful is it? From ‘I can live with it’ to ‘bearable’ to ‘excruciating pain’. When we make mistakes, how do we recover? How can we learn from our mistakes? How will we really know if we have learnt from our transgressions? How do you make amends? How do you seek forgiveness when you have betrayed somebody’s trust?

Somewhere down the relationship chain – us and another person – are a collection of values and beliefs. When we violate a value, whether it is a shared or unique one, we may create friction, doubt, and distrust. Values have value. Honesty may not be the best policy for single-minded, prejudicial and discriminating people. No amount of facts or affectations can easily shift a person to another perspective or paradigm unless he/she makes a deliberate choice and decision to step aside of themselves. To put it in grandiose terms, ‘time to get your head out of your backside!’

Love him, or hate him, triathlon professional and champion Macca articulates his approach to failure with distinction.

How do we stop ourselves form falling or failing? Perhaps, a better question would be: How do you bounce back when you fail and fall?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Lessons Learnt From Films

There are many useful things we can glean and learn from films, if we are willing to be broadminded and creative. Last night, I watched the fascinating work of fiction called ‘My Name Is Khan’ (2010).

Set in the USA, the protagonist (played by the talented Shah Rukh Khan) suffers from Asperger Syndrome (a form of autism, however he is a savant). His key message was a poignant one, and he travelled across country to deliver his two lines to the national leader. He stays true to his cause and survives by repairing broken things; he is a genius at fixing things. We are led to appreciate his character, motivations and skillfulness – beyond his physical clumsiness, reduced empathy and repetitive linguistic behaviors. The character of Jerry Espenson in the TV series ‘Boston Legal’ is an attorney who suffers from this syndrome, and has several quirks (often mistaken for actual symptoms) like ‘purring’ and shouting ‘Bingo!’ when he is nervous.
A hard film to get (but you can watch it in parts on YouTube), and a heartfelt one.
In the Korean film ‘Marathon’, an autistic youth runs the marathon in under 3 hours. Inspired by real-life autistic celebrity Bae Hyeong-Jin, this film raises the compelling issues of raising children with the mental condition. We have yet to fully fathom what causes autism, and the range of similar conditions. Those who have this condition are, generally, emotionally-withdrawn and seem to be distracted easily. There are certainly many forms and shades of this condition.

Both films explored sibling rivalry, when more attention is paid to the disadvantaged member of the family. The Hollywood-made film ‘Rain Man’ (with Dustin Hoffman & Tom Cruise) focused on sibling exploitation, whereas a lower-IQ parent fights for custody of his daughter in ‘My Name Is Sam’ (Sean Penn & Dakota Fanning). These films led me to resource from Wikipedia, and from there it linked me to other resources. I am led to conclude that this syndrome has a wide range of manifestations, and we have yet to fully understand how it works, and manage it. I can empathise deeply with parents and families of autistic children. It must be unduly tough and stressful to raise children with ‘special needs’.

One should be discerning when diligently pursuing knowledge. Knowledge applied is a powerful thing. You can seek information, support a cause, or raise funds to assist a charity. Instead of raising our eyebrows in horror, we can raise our hands in honour.
Remember to support my friend, Dex Tai for his 3 back-to-back Ironman triathlons. He is racing for his charity 'Racing for Autism'. Please help out in your own unique way.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Decisive Moments: Never Too Late!

This may sound like a cliché, yet the above phrase rings true for many, and it may be a truism. The saying ‘Better late than never’ assures us that ‘now’ is the ‘decisive moment’ to anything. As your own leader in your life, and also with others, be decisive.

World-renowned photographer, Cartier-Bresson used to describe his creative work as ‘decisive moments’. The difference between an amateur photographer and professional photographer is, a professional knows WHEN to take the photograph. Learning from the wisdom of hindsight, or learning not to make the same mistakes twice, is crucial to developing our smarts. Intelligence unapplied becomes useless, and create self-doubt and regret if we are not mindful or aware.

Uncle Kor is, arguably, Singapore’s oldest marathoner. He decided to initiate changes to his life and lifestyle, and he now influences positively to a new generation of runners. Now, he is not reckless and is completely aware of his physical and medical limitations. Running is an activity that adds to his life, and he derives numerous benefits from it.

Do you have to wait for a life-changing moment before you institute changes to your current life? Do you need to experience the ‘tipping point’ of life’s dramas and crises before you will commit to doing something different? When is the ‘right time’? Procrastination can rob us of our proverbial ‘nine lives’. Use them, but don’t use them up at once.

Your next moment is a decisive one. Do something. Do anything. Don’t let it slip by unaware!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Grin, Grind and Grunt

I have ridden on my turbo-trainer four times this week, totaling eight hours since Tuesday. Not the best place to ride when you have good weather, but way safer than riding on congested roads filled with temperamental riders and drivers. It is during these long and hard, indoor, rides that my mind has to work tough to not surrender to the discomfort and pain. It is also through sessions like this, that I ask questions and reflect on values like patience, persistence, determination, tenacity, commitment, decisiveness and diligence.

Working hard and putting in effort, can take its toll on our mind and body. Our brains are easily distracted, so any opportunity to deviate from our conscious awareness and sensation is a welcomed relief. Pain versus pleasure: easy choice isn’t it? Down play one, and crank the other one up.

When you prepare for an examination, nearly complete a stretched-out project, or even a sports race you can draw deeply upon your reserves. By reserves, I mean your energy, mental stamina and psyche. Recall what it felt like at the end of your examination period – what did it feel like after you completed your task? Did you feel drained and relieved? You just wanted to sleep over it, or just do something recreational.

Part of the grind is to keep doing the hard yards, engaging your discipline, and activating your resolve. Persist in your goals, and you will develop strength of character especially when it comes to marathon projects and tasks. You grin quietly to yourself as you go about your task. You may grunt as long as it activates your energy systems to help you through your grind. Grind out your best results, and perform to the best of your ability.

Sometimes, a ride on a turbo-trainer or climb up a long flight of stairs can be edifying and refreshing on one’s being.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Tests, Assessments & Data-Collection

My warm-up. Taking it easy so as to prepare myself for the impending, increasing intensities. (Photo-credit: Matthew Wong)
Measurements are useful when you can use them. In science, measurements form the strong foundation of scientific basis and enquiry. Empirical evidence can be useful in backing up anecdotal evidence, and substantiating hypotheses and theories. Raw and refined data become reference points including benchmarks, de rigeur standards, and for calibration.
Harnessed for safety. Mouthpiece adjusted comfortably. (Photo-credit: Matthew Wong)
This afternoon, I had my fitness assessed at the Sports Performance Laboratory of Republic Polytechnic. I underwent a series of tests, from the physical to the physiological. I was hooked up to a treadmill and completed my sub-maximal stress test. As there were no medical personnel present (other than laboratory technicians and the course supervisor), the test protocol only explored the penultimate aspect of my lactate threshold. My blood was tested before and immediately after my run on the treadmill. I also acquired knowledge of my VO2 uptake (shy of my maximum ability). To keep us (the subjects safe), Sports Science experimenter, Matthew ensured we were hooked up to a harness in case anyone of us blacked out from exerting ourselves unduly. There was no shame (for four of us: Lap Huan, Joyce, and Robert) to stop the test once we experienced discomfort. Our fingers were pricked to measure blood-lactate levels, and our immediate Rate of Perceived Exertion (scale of 6-20) recorded, after dismounting from the stopped treadmill.
The whole set-up was assuring from the assessment team: from experimenter to laboratory-assistants to supervisor-on-duty. The whole process was non-threatening, respectful and useful. (Photo-credit: Matthew Wong)
We had some fun playing with the mouthpiece, making our pale impressions of Darth Vader. Most subjects we talked to expressed reservations about breathing into the transparent, plastic mouthpiece. I learnt that the expired air was collected with a more unpleasant mechanism years ago (clamped nostrils and a breathing apparatus similar to those used by scuba-divers). I enjoyed my first experience having a sophisticated battery of tests run on my fitness; I felt like a Space-Cadet in NASA. I also had a rewarding chat with students/friends like Dave Lem, Brian Tan and Kenneth Koh (a sub-11:00 Ironman finisher). With next weekend’s session (with a new variable), I will learn how fit I am for my next Ironman triathlon. I await, with deep, purposeful breaths.
The useful, subjective, however intuitive RPE Test: How hard did you go? (Photo-credit: Matthew Wong)
Leadership Lessons: How often do you put yourself to the test? Which measurements do you regularly administer? How do you measure your performance and progress? How often do you talk to your staff about their Individual Development Plan? How much do you measure and manage?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pedantic & Purposeful Preparation for Switzerland

I use Social Media 2.0 in a variety of active ways. My preferred applications include Twitter, Facebook and Blogspot. I use these tools for learning, sharing and building online and face-to-face relationships. I gratefully appreciate the opportunity to sense and recognize different perspectives from the experiences of others. Seek and ye may find. Ask and you may learn. Apply and you will realize through your experiencing, reflection, genuflection and insights.

In recent weeks, I have interviewed my Ironman friends (Reeves Lim, Neil Franks, Walter Strach III) who completed Ironman Switzerland since 2007. I have learnt that the bike course used to be three loops, and it will be done twice this year. The run course is relatively flat around Lake Zurich.

Most of my questions revolved around the ride, including two climbs known as ‘The Beast’ and ‘Heartbreak Hill’. As such, I have focused on building my riding strength, so as to ensure more resilience during my marathon. To earn my sub-4-hour marathon, I would have to not only improve my run but also to ride strong and not be fatigued. I recall the challenging times and experiences climbing in Ironman Lanzarote in 2008 and 2010. My lack of training and experience riding hills, led me to my longest race rides and a compromised marathon time. I took 4:44 to complete my marathon last year on the Canary Islands.
Running my ass off, for the final sprint into the finisher's chute. A tactical race (and tempo-training run), I had to start near the line and complete first. In terms of nett timings, honorable participant 5240 ran slightly faster than I. However, I placed a position ahead of him. Congratulations, mate! That's the way races go.
The past two weeks, I have earned my personal bests in training and racing. All my races are strategically arranged to allow me to peak on-time, and develop my sense of competition. My A-race is Ironman Switzerland (15 July), and so I need to be in my A-Game, with my A-races supporting my preparation. All the racing and [mostly] solo training will, hopefully, converge to a surprising finish, with memorable milestones throughout the race period. My friend, Dex Tai will be doing three back-to-back Ironmans beginning next weekend. It is part of his Cause and charity of choice, while I will be using my race to promote my Causes. I am grateful for my current fitness, supportive community, and dedicated family for allowing to achieve my performance best.
Another training run, a month ago. I used this race to assess my relative fitness for the 21K. A marathon would have affected my recovery and recuperation. I was pleased for holding this pace and still earn a sub-1:40 finish. My ranking was still top 1-percent of the field!
Leadership Lessons: Do your homework. Research thoroughly, interview comprehensively, and study the course assiduously. Mental rehearsals can help you create a sense of familiarity and déjà vu. Training is the ‘done that’ while your attempt is the ‘been there’. Create simulations to achieve a ‘been there, done that’ sensation. Make your training sessions tough enough without scaring yourself. Enjoy the process/journey.
Photo-credit: Running Kaki

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Cycling Indoors & Ramping It Up

You spin the initial spin, and it is quite hard. It takes a short while for your wheel and turbo-mechanism to gather momentum. Then, you gather your rhythm and pace and it does not get any easier. Cycling without a change of scenery is hard on your mind and legs. The punishing heat and humidity does not help either. However, these reclusive sessions builds discipline and mental strength.
The set-up for turbo-training: fan, towels, water, HRM, and proper bike-mounting on the trainer. Notice my dropped wallet - thus, I could not order pizza on-the-move like Dean Karnazes.
You decide to amplify the intensity, which can be a premature move unless premeditated and committed to. Endless and mindless spinning leads to a fixed pattern that is hard to shrug off. You need to break the habit (of incessant spinning at a fixed speed/power unless you are doing an aerobic session) by doing something else. You insert a specific training set, be it a series of 30-seconds all-out sprints, or a more calculated 10-minute moderate pace with your highest gear. Of, you can elect to do a more challenging (and painful) 30-minute time trial on a high-gear. You can also create a hill, by raising the front wheel with a phone-book. You can create a ‘party mix’ of various permutations and combinations. Commit to these complementary sessions long enough, and you will experience new growth in your riding abilities. Come rain or shine, you will save time because your set-up is ever-ready for an aerobic session or spinning class!

However, there are repercussions. You will need to mop up a big puddle of sweat and other residue – evidence of a spent session. Such is the consequence of training in private. How to Ride Inside: Indoor Trainer Workouts for Cyclists.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Indoor Riding: Purely Mental & Keeping Your Focus

I spent the last two days riding on an indoor-trainer - a generous gift from marketing consultant, Reeves Lim Leong. For the relatively uninitiated, I mounted my road-bike on an indoor-trainer (an apparatus that locks your bike in place, and allows for variable resistance). The version I use is the Minoura Rim Drive Trainer, which operates with two wheels over the rim of my road-wheels. The advantage of this type of contraption is that, it spares my expensive race tyres from being worn out. The version I used previously (years ago) was abrasive on my tyres, and left sticky shreds of residue after each riding session.
The roller pressure is kept at an even 365 watts, and larger resistance would cause more rim/roller pressure and wear them out. The initial pedal resistance is not very hard, and gains nice momentum after a few revolutions. I have up to seven levels of difficulty to adjust to. Due to the varying resistance offered from each style and model of trainers, it has often been described that, an hour of indoor riding might be equivalent to 1.5 hours outdoors. It certainly feels that way, since you do not enjoy a variety of surroundings and scenery.

Considerations for doing indoor sessions with your trainer:

1)    Keep you room ventilated. Open all windows.
2)    Use a fan, and ensure that you are adequately cooled especially when the humidity is high. Set your fan to blow at your face-level for most effect.
3)    Ensure that you have adequate fluids. Fill up two bottles of hydration.
4)    If it is a session that is 3-4 hours long, consume nutrition as per your long rides outdoors.
5)    Lay a large towel directly underneath your body, including the pedals. This will assure your family against a wet and slippery floor. Use a smaller towel, draped over your handle-bars/aero-bars set-up.
6)    To ease into the mundane situation of riding-but-not-moving, you can catch up on the news on television.

Deca-Ironman Kua Harn Wei has spent 4-6 hours on his trainer when it rains. Rumour is, he used to do it consecutively, every day, for three weeks as a prelude to his 10 Ironmans done back-to-back for 10 days. Indoor-trainers may be testing on your patience and mental resilience, yet it is as Spartan (and mentally punishing) as it gets. It is certainly safer than riding on the roads these days (unless you mounted your bike poorly). However, you do lose the effort put into balancing, bike handling, and experiencing headwinds/side-winds and other impediments. Nevertheless, you can train and rehearse your entire bike leg in safety, and with strategic relevance. You can mix your program up with power sprints, strength intervals, time trials and tempo training.

Leadership Lessons: How mentally tough are you? Handling your boredom and impatience can be a useful skill. How do you handle senseless, mindless tasks like irrelevant meetings and useless presentations? How do you maintain strict focus over your professional behaviors? How aware are you about displaying appropriate behaviors?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Keep Your Obsessions All To Yourself

Fans can be fanatics. We can shift our lifestyle from decent to decadent within seconds. Elimination and simplicity may be our excuses to fulfill a personal goal instead of being considerate. We have heard of golf-widows, however it no different from families of endurance athletes, who ‘suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous behaviors’.

Endurance athletes can be indulgent. We can be so single-minded in our physical pursuits that we deliberately miss many moments of the day, while chasing other tasks that revolve around routine (but disciplined). Triathletes are creatures of habit. We seem to engage by a clockwork-mechanism that lets a scheduled day dictate our activities. And, we are horrified and petrified when our routine is affected by other exigencies or, heaven forbid, acts of God. Inclement weather throws a celestial spanner in our un-shuffled mortal coil, and mucks up the delicate machinery of an online coaching program.

With our highly developed tunnel vision, we see the world in various shades of branded tri-gear. We shriek like school-kids when we are presented with the latest toys (for adults). Remember the sensation of holding your Garmin 910 watch for the very first time? What about that feather-light pair of Brooks runners? Or, those carbon-soled riding shoes that had a comfortable toe-box that did not strangle your near-arthritic toes? Not to mention, the personal best (PBs) times you earned this year.

And, our ‘partners-in-life’ and ‘in-crime’ – they bear with it through their well-acted smiles of apparent approval. We always wonder when that Chesire Cat grin will deteriorate into a mangled mess of facial contortions. Are we exceeding our boundaries of what’s appropriate?

Here is a very good piece by an empathetic sports-spouse.

Shall we band together – just for this week – and throttle down our unbridled enthusiasm, passion and lust for our lives and spare a thought for our supportive family and friends? This could mean more rest, and more chance of recovering from our badges of injury. After I finish my deep, static, calf stretches would you mind rolling me that golf-ball from your foot to mine? This plantar fasciitis is giving me grief, and I have hill repeats to do this evening. I mean, next week…

There’s always next week to catch up.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Measuring and Maintaining Highs & Lows

There’s lots of talk about time: in the long haul or in the short-term. Investment consultants and gurus are confusing us with terminology and jargon that sound more impressive than expressive. In a time of great confusion and uncertainty, clarity and simplicity are key considerations when leading and influencing minds and hearts.
Last year's Mount Faber Run result.
In most of what we do, risk is involved. There are implications and consequences for each decision we make in a relationship. How do you assess risks? How do you maintain your sense of professionalism in your business? How do ‘reset’ when you get ‘upset’? How do you ‘time out’ when you experience ‘down time’? Who do you trust during ‘down-turns’ of the economy? That is why regular measurements and calibrations are relevant. Yesterday's 10K race showed an improvement of two minutes, which was deeply satisfying despite missing a podium placing by two spots. So, relative scores via ranking, personal timing, and annual positions are measures of progress or diminishing performance. 
Same race, one year later: An improvement of two minutes.
In running, when we get winded we need to slow down. That is why ‘keeping to your pace’ is so important in training and racing. Once physical fatigue sets in, we will want to ward it off for as long as we can so as to complete the race. Measuring and using recent data can be vital to our peak performance. We consume nutritional aids or take naps, so that we can ward off mental fatigue when we write or present papers or research data. Thus, pacing is as important as creating a sense of balance and perspective in our lives. Actively balancing our priorities is a skill and awareness we need to develop, so that we do not lose sight of the fact that we are living our lives, and need to engage our foresight and insight.

Leadership Lessons: Which kinds of measurements do you take regularly? How do you know when you re making progress in a project? What do you do when the ‘alarm bells’ ring? Which contingencies do engage when are falling behind, or faltering?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Mizuno Mount Faber 10K Run 2012

Today was my sixth continuous training day of the week. I have about a week and a half of heavy sessions to complete, before a proper taper for Ironman Switzerland. As of this week, I covered a total of 17 hours of triathlon training. 29 days more to go before Ironman Switzerland, in Lake Zurich.
I raced in this Mizuno Running Series 10K run, which is my third consecutive attempt, since 2010. This short, but challenging 10K run takes place on Singapore’s second-highest hill (we have no mountains, except those in our minds), Mount Faber. It is a 1.5K climb, which occurs around the fourth-kilometre mark. This year's design is routed slightly differently, with an elimination of a gradual climb on the last 2K-mark. The heat and humidity was consistently familiar, so the three water-points were a welcome relief.

It was a good hit out this morning, as this race was part of my preparation for my upcoming triathlon on 15 July. This fast race constituted my anaerobic/speed training; as such, I was bedecked in full race-day gear. Although I missed out on the top-10 placing once again, I believe I equaled last year’s timing. I was pleased that despite a heavy training week, and yesterday’s 6-lap lagoon swim and a 5K barefoot-run that my legs could still make the run up Mt. Faber. Elite age-grouper, Melvin How wrote me to say that he would never commit to training the day before a race. I suspect that I could have run a sub-44 minutes and earned a podium finish, if it were my A-race. However, as a training session, this was as good as would be.
Would you believe that Andrew (in blue, 2nd from front) was on his training run?
I hit the first two kilometres in less than nine minutes, so it was too soon to risk fatigue. I held back my speed, as the long slope was to welcome us. I was pleased to receive encouragement from Andrew Ngo, who happened to run with us on his 20K training session. He increased his lead soon, and I was left to trail and overtake the runners just ahead of me. I was surprised to see my upstairs neighbour (with his daughter) who came to support his son (who did 1:06). After the slope, most of the descents were fast and furious. I held back, attempting to engage my ‘second wind’. The inner working of the Kreb’s Cycle was never far from my mind.
The middle section was more of recovery, and I relaxed my pace on the flat section of the course. I was joined by tri-buddy Kumar on the last 3K, and we ran side-by-side for while, until I decided to tear away from him at the last 200 metres. I crossed the line in about 44:30, spent but satisfied. I still had residual speed, and kept a sub-4:30min/K average pace throughout the race.
Jayson eager to attack the course after a PB in his last run.
After the race, I connected with familiar faces and offered recognition to the winners. Matthew Wong and I adjourned for breakfast, and chatted about his Diploma course in Sports Science. Wilson Ang and he will test me on sub-maximal fitness testing over the next two weekends.
A very fit, Terrence (in blue vest) ran a sub-43 minute race.
Congratulations to Rachel Wen Li for another top-10 (5th) podium placing. She ran with her equally fit husband, Poon Zi Li. Terrence D’Silva also ran another splendid race; he did well at the Sundown 21K Run a fortnight ago, with 1:36++. Thank you Runevent Shots and Eye-See-Eye-Shoot for their lovely photographs of my friends and I.
Just posted: My race results. Missed the top-10 prizes again. I was 13th last year. Perhaps, next year...
I have the TRI-Factor 21K to run a week before Zurich, and that will be last big hit before my 226K triathlon.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Running Barefoot Means No Footwear

The definitive book to get you started on running barefoot.
For most parts of Asia, being barefoot around the home is quite common. In countries blessed with winter months, the use of footwear and the laying of carpeted floors provide warm relief for cold feet. As such, protective feet are seldom released regularly to enjoy the freedom of movement that nature intended it to. With the increasing technological advances in performance shoes for runners and athletes, inroads have been made and proposed on minimalist types of shoes. The paradigm has shifted from highly supported and light, to less supported and lighter.

If you are considering including barefoot running as part of your strength and conditioning program as a runner, here are some guidelines:

1)    Read Barefoot Ted’s book on how to approach this style of running safely. It is fully illustrated and qualified with scientific and anecdotal evidence.
2)    Using minimalist shoes like Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) is NOT considered barefoot running. Using socks only is still not considered barefoot. You must expose the naked skin of your soles entirely.
3)    Barefoot running allows you to engage all your proprioceptors and receptors of your skin.
4)    Barefoot running can be painful, initially, so take it easy with short sessions beginning with 10 minutes, and work up in increments of five minutes at a session. Your tendons, ligaments, muscles and muscle fascia of your feet will take time to adapt to the new forces impressed on them.
5)    You will learn to land low and lightly when barefoot.
6)    There is no need to lean forward. You tend to stay more upright when dynamic (moving).
7)    You will experience a slightly more pronounced bent knee. I have noticed that barefoot runners have more developed muscles of their legs, unlike skinny ones from shod (shoed) runners.
8)    Essentially, the motion and mechanics of barefoot running works from toe-to-heel.
9)    My minor contribution to the art and science of barefoot running is to run in the swimming pool. Running at chest-level water allows you to pump your arms and increase footfall cadence. Running at thigh-level water allows you to simulate uphill running.
10)To increase speed, increase your cadence.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

What Is Your Achilles Heel?

‘Then you better strengthen every part of your body.’ ~ BRUCE LEE

In the film ‘Troy’, the fearless warrior Achilles is finally subdued when an arrow severs his tendon. Thus, the term ‘Achilles Heel’ is used in our language today as a potential ‘weakness’.

Through the rehabilitative sciences, we learn through ‘muscle-testing’ and the treating of injuries that muscle imbalances can be a major cause for muscle damage. When agonist and antagonists are heavily imbalanced, muscle sprains and strains can occur. This is akin to conflict within relationships. Push or pull, may lead to strain and pain. The purpose of holistic and systematic training and monitoring is to ensure the best performance while reducing the risks associated with doing your best.

By focusing on strengthening yourself (body, mind and ‘spirit’), you will then reduce the ‘chinks in your armour’. When you go into battle (of the mind or body), you need to ensure that you are armed and ready. Your training prepares you for most eventualities, so that you stay alert and attentive to every opportunity to strike. In a conversation, you express your strength through values like conviction, strength of purpose, and fortitude. You can also express your strength through your assertiveness. In this way, you can strengthen your relationships through time with your shared knowledge, wisdom, and related experiences. One useful way of  strengthening your relationships is to propagate and promote a community of learning on the social media platform.

Leadership Lessons: What is your Achilles Heel? What do you have weakness for? Are you able to suspend your personal desires for professionalism? What are you doing to develop capability? How are you reducing potential risks to your profession, career and business? How do you position yourself in order to win in the 'battle for the minds'?

Strengthening Your Weak Points

‘Training for strength and flexibility is a must. You must use it to support your techniques. Techniques alone are no good if you don’t support them with strength and flexibility.’ ~ BRUCE LEE

In Bruce Lee’s book ‘The Art of Expressing The Human Body’, the late-great martial artist was lauded by his wife, Linda Caldwell-Lee: ‘The greatest talent Bruce Lee brought to realizing his dreams were intelligence and curiosity, dedication and perseverance, and focus.
This book shares Bruce Lee's complete strength and conditioning workouts, including how he developed his muscularity, speed and agility.
Weaknesses, by definition, can be a potential source of distress when these cripple you. Athletes learn from painful experience, that weaknesses need to be addressed early during rehabilitation or training, or they manifest themselves as major disappointments. A weakness limits us, and prevents from reaching our full potential. It can impede, restrict and affect range of your movements. Thus, our flexibility is curtailed and we care sidelined by injury, resistance and immobility. The same goes for the responsiveness of others to our behavioral weaknesses and inflexibility.
Photo-credit: Runevent Shots (Catching up from behind my pack: Weeks of strength-sessions on the saddle seemed to give me a salient edge)
I have shared with you how I have focused on my two major weaknesses in recent years: my swimming and my riding. Focused attention on correcting my swim techniques and specific strengthening drills/workouts seems to be addressing my concerns when I am in the water. With specific strength training, I have begun to enjoy a higher average speed, as well as fresher legs on the run. Strength gains come fast or slow, depending on your current level of conditioning. Some make incremental gains while others experience exponential gains.
Photo-credit: Runevent Shots (Here, I am seen leading my pack in Sunday's TRI-Factor Cycling race)
How you strengthen your weakness also reflects on the strength of your values: purpose, resolve, commitment and determination. As you consciously exercise your body to become stronger, you are in effect strengthening your mind and spirit to strengthen these values, and your character.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Integrity Matters Everywhere

‘Honesty is the best policy, until you are married.’ ~ Anonymous

Do honesty, truthfulness and trust matter to you? How much so?

Can we be too honest? Honesty is an analogous process: it is measured from 0-100 percent. ‘Darling, what do you think of my new hair-style?’ Lest you venture a response, think through thoroughly your response. She may not be expecting your total honesty. This is not Simon Cowell at his controversial and critical best. The truth may hurt, but at what expense? Even if it is not intended to be malicious, the damage criticism creates can be psychologically and emotionally permanent.

Trust is digital: all or nothing. If you have been betrayed before, how willing are you to trust that person again. Integrity combines trust and honesty, yet it is also about the amalgam and structural stability of these values combined.

Here, on this blog we aim to report on what is accurate as possible. Although the truth is out there, we are responsible for sourcing it out. Seeking our resources is part of being resourceful*.
I just completed reading the biography ‘Sweet Revenge: The Intimate Life of Simon Cowell’, who is the producer of ‘X-Factor’ and was the lead-judge in ‘American Idol’. An investigative reporter wrote the book that proposes penetrating insight and frankness. Cowell’s rise from failed recording company executive to television celebrity and media icon, is fodder for tabloids and mainstream news. There is more than meets the eye on television. I leave you to be judge over his style and approach to business.
*Once I gain copyright permission from a few photographers, I will post some pictures from Sunday's TRI-Factor Cycling race.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Working It Out As A Partner

Macca, in his book ‘I’m Here To Win’ described how he used to make deals while riding with his adversaries. Instead of being adversarial, he elected to play the role of a partner, working out how they could stay in the lead while making it more challenging for some competitors. Their actions were legal, meaning no drafting during a draft-illegal race, but creating physical and psychological advantages for themselves during the race. He is one who has failed countless number of times, yet picked up, dusted off, and pursued his next goal. This article describes lessons we can learn from Macca’s failures.

Making deals are a common thing. We call them by many names like ‘negotiate’, ‘make a deal’, ‘work out something’, or ‘make it worth your while’. It is about creating winning formulae for success. It involves collaboration, cooperation, and synergistic partnering. Given time, most issues and problems can be worked out and resolved. It may involve work and effort, yet these are the ingredients for success to brew and come true.

As written some time ago, leaders can choose to ‘pull the rest along’ or ‘sit behind in the pack’ as a ‘sweeper’. The latter means taking care of the slow ones or stragglers. In cycling, this are the common approaches of working within a team. Yesterday, at the TRI-Factor Cycling race I witnessed ‘pack behavior’. Together with fellow riders, I was able to identify the various personality types during competition. There were sportsman-like as well as un-sportsman-like behaviors. While most played it ‘safe’, some were unaware of their reckless behaviors and how it could impact others, in dangerous ways. Roadies, triathletes and recreational riders have different and differing mindsets, attitudes and skillsets. We have to contend ourselves with respecting these differences and ‘share the road’.
My results for yesterday's race (my first riding race: 16th out of about 66 participants). My assessment leads to me conclude that my strength-riding sessions are translating into higher power and speed. Plus, I worked within my lactate threshold speed. I am encouraged by my progress for Ironman Switzerland.
It is during moments like this, that you are called upon to assert your authority as a fellow competitor. Do you caution them? Do you educate them afterwards? Do you give corrective feedback that you consider useful? Do you play pedestrian, play deaf or play dumb? Or, do you place a sticker on the road that screams ‘My Grandfather’s Road’?

Leadership Lessons: What is your leadership stance within your team? How do you work with pack mentality? How do you deal with the Alpha-Leaders? How do you maintain your pace and composure when working with adversarial people? How do you apply your patience and work through differences and conflict?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Five Weeks Out & Sticking To The Plan

It is less than five weeks to Ironman Zurich – my next A-race in my endurance assessment. I have decided to aim for better times, and the results of this 226K triathlon will be a useful assessment of my overall multi-disciplinary fitness.

This evening, while running on my minimalist Vibram Five Fingers (VFF) with my friend Kenneth Tan, we chatted about the Masters-category athletes (since we fall within this bandwidth). I was glad that despite our deliberate, slower pace (Ken was apologetic about his relative lack of speed of 6 min/K), we did achieve 11.5K (in an easy 75 minutes). It was my longest ‘barefoot’ road-run, although I have done barefoot pool-running for up to 75 minutes. I am pleased to announce that after running a total of 2X21K runs (at 1:54 & 1:48 respectively on Tuesday and Thursday) within 48 hours, this completes my 53 hours of consecutive runs within a week. For my body, this mileage is adequate as I can focus on a weekend of consecutive rides and swims.

Tomorrow, I will do a moderate-distance ride (lactate-threshold, aerobic session) and on I will do a 60K cycling race on Sunday morning (an anaerobic/strength session). What I am mindful is I have to complete my longest sessions for ride and run, as the main deal-breaker for an overall PB time are the last two disciplines. I have a 10K hilly run next Sunday, and a 21K run race a week before Zurich, so these will useful tuners for my racing mindset. So far, all is well and intend to maintain my slow but sure progress. I am getting enough quality sleep, and amplified my protein intake (including high-quality whey protein), essential fatty acids (krill oil), and antioxidants (plant-based, and the algae asthaxantin). My body fat is dropping, muscle tone is enhanced, and core strength is still reliable.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Power of Self-Assessment (But A Little Feedback Helps Heaps, Too)

Measurement is a critical aspect of determining progress and progression. How well have you performed lately? How did you assess that?

Schools and educational institutions administer tests and examinations, to assess the effectiveness of the educational and learning processes. How students fare in their tests, gives a reliable measure of rote learning and their study methods. Whether actual learning has taken place leaves much to be desired. Michael Fulan wrote: ‘There is so much education going on this country, but very little learning!’ referring to the Canadian educational system. This observation can be extended to other countries, too.

Self-assessment is another way of measuring improvements and results. Athletes who use the scientific method to measure their progress, may glean enough useful information to assist them in adjusting their training programs, so as to meet their need for competition and races. With the use watches and monitoring instruments, we can gather feedback/data on heart-rate, cadence, speed/pace, distance, location, terrain profile, average moving speeds, and power. Increases in total distance, average speed and recovery heart-rates help in empirical assessments. Other non-instrument based measurements include recovery rates, muscle soreness, appetite, ability to sleep uninterruptedly, hydration levels, cramping, nutritional needs and feedback from your coach, are other factors that contribute to the total performance equation. Performance = Work + Rest.

Leadership Lessons: What are your tools for assessing your performance? How do you know you are still making progress? How do you monitor for stagnancy and stasis? Which tools would you consider reliable in assessing your growth and development? How much are you doing to develop your competencies and capabilities?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Excesses & Excessiveness

Training for triathlons and endurance sports can be deemed excessive for those around us. Perspectives differ, as we choose to wear a diversity of lenses that focus and filter our images. We are constantly comparing both our internal pictures, with those on our outside. These comparisons are relative in strength, so preparing for a double-Ironman triathlon may be seen as more hardcore than a single, or an ultra-marathon is more intense than a standard (?) 42.195K run. Enough versus excessive: how do you assess that? Who determines the yardstick of enough and inadequate?

In anything that requires endurance (a long-term project, lifelong commitment, It can be excessive, however you look at it. If it exceeds the norm, then it can be interpreted as too much. The benchmarks for normalcy have shifted positions and gears, so we tend to be more adventurous in our life and lifestyle. Nearly everyone wants a chance to play ‘hero’ or ‘heroine’ for a day. The event may have passed, yet the memories remain as a strong part of us. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger?

The indulgences we allow ourselves to immerse in may affect those around us. Be mindful of how our actions impact on them. Learn to hold back, decelerate, refocus, and re-align ourselves to our real sense of purpose. When our indulgences become hard to control, and we do not know when to hold back, then it may have morphed into an addiction. Addictions are mostly beyond our control, and when we are out of control we are inviting insanity, recklessness, and inconsideration.

Aerobic activity, and that includes endurance sports, have been linked with serious health disorders. Some scientific evidence points towards the stresses it places on our heart. Other sources indicate premature aging. However, if something that you enjoy provides you more benefits than risks, would you continue doing it? John Cooke writes an amusing piece about the lifestyle of an E-Lite athlete.

Leadership Lessons: When you are time-crunched, how do you integrate your priorities? When does a priority cease to be your priority? How often do you stop to show appreciation to those who indulge in you, and allow you to indulge in your excessiveness? When do you know when to reduce the risks?