Thursday, January 31, 2013

What Do You Do In The Off-Season?

Photo-credit: Running Shots
You are 10 months out from your first major, multi-sport, long-distance triathlon - how do you prepare for it?

In the off-peak season, you build your aerobic fitness - that is, your base-fitness. Aerobic fitness is the cornerstone and foundation of your performance. According to Phil Maffetone, TRAINING = WORK + REST. You work out, with emphasis on your aerobic fitness (Zone 1 and 2, of your heart-rate). Maffetone recommends a conservative formula of 180-AGE, for your maximum aerobic heart-rate. It is, cruelly, slow at times of your aerobic fitness is weak, however you will improve steadily when you keep at it. Your reliance on sugar will drop, as your body begins to burn fat efficiently.

It may be, contrarian in thinking, to bludgeon your body with high mileage or duration over all three disciplines in triathlons. Working a 20-hour week may be counter-productive, if it promotes fatigue, depletion of energy stores, and a confusion of energy systems. There is a time and place for this volume of training, even as a time-crunched triathlete. The off-season could be spent working on building base-fitness and proper techniques,

It is all about working your Kreb's Cycle, which occurs inside your mitochondria (energy factory of your cells). You can activate aerobic or the anaerobic systems. To train your body to be energy-efficient, you will need to accustom it to various activities and heart-rate zones. Your aerobic fitness supports your anaerobic (strength/power/zone 3-4) efforts. When you reduce the gap between both systems, you will have reconciled your fitness disparity.

In endurance sports, it is easier to walk a race then to run it. Train your body to run at your fast-walking heart-rate. That's the goal of training smartly.

Leadership Lessons: Train smartly. Be smart in your training. Educate yourself to apply what you have learnt.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Coaching Advice

I am not a full-time coach, however I enjoy teaching neophytes what I have learnt. I believe that sharing expands on my ability to teach, train and consult. You can't be an effective educator or teacher without being generous in your sharing of knowledge and skills.

Having spent my first three years of my working career as a gym-instructor (precursor of personal trainers), gym-manager and as a dance-exercise instructor (IDEA-ACE), I have cut my teeth teaching exercise instruction to members 14-75 years. Personalised instruction from a certified trainer/instructor is vital to your ability to teach safely and soundly.

I believe in the relevance of a coach. You can learn much from an online coach, or one face-to-face. An experienced coach is one who has taught and learnt from his own experiences. He ensures that you work within your limitations, work around your concerns, and enhance your capability. An effective coach attends to your goals, with a realistic, yet optimistic approach. He interviews your thoroughly, makes a educated diagnosis, before proposing a prescription that works around your time, goals, and abilities. 

To deny yourself of such an expert/expertise is to restrict your potential. You are then left with a barrage of possible disappointments, mistakes, fatigue and misplaced intentions. Seek the assistance of a coach, and enjoy continued progress.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Mega-Tri Race 2013 (Part 2)

Photo-credit: Alex Chong
The Swim: It was a four-loop, L-shaped swim, done in a clockwise fashion. There were several lifeguards on kayaks, placed at the turning points. It became a crowded affair, after the mega-distance, participants were flagged off in waves. The, subsequent, waves that followed meant that the different categories overlapped each other at some point in the swim course.
Photo-credit: Joyce Chang
Open-water swimming requires a measure of confidence, found outside of the chlorinated outdoor pools. The often, close body contact can incur fear at the price of finding the shortest route. The ability to sight the next buoy (and even the ones beyond), breathe deeply, and keep a rhythm are key factors for open-water swimming. It is also easy to lose your patience and tolerance for nervous and enthusiastic swimmers, who draft too closely and make bodily contact with you. 
Photo-Credit: Running Shots
There was enough space in the farthest, long stretch, and had a line of prominent buoys that stood out in the dark morning. I was hoping that the warming horn for lightning and heavy rain would not sound. The box protecting my ankle-chip broke apart after the first lap, and the swim-course officials assured me that my tagging-device was intact. It was the only physical distraction for the remainder of my race.
Photo-credit: Pictureart 60
The Ride: This was an 8-loop, 102km, course. I took it easy for the first two laps, opting to keep my heart-rate below 150bpm. It spiked after my moderate-paced swim. Once under control, I kept my pace within my higher aerobic/low anaerobic threshold. I decided to spin smoothly and keep my pace aerobic. The weeks spent exclusively on the indoor-trainer translated to a different kind of confidence in my cardiovascular fitness. As I overtook riders, I felt more assured that my slow-paced training translated into actual muscular endurance I would find useful during my next Ironman triathlon.
Photo-credit: Key Power International
The sight of friends cheering me on, at the return turnaround point, made the repetitive course more engaging. I made better progress on my last three loops as I refueled my body with only water (I picked them on the first of two stations; the other served electrolytes only) and my bidon of Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum mixture. I had a safe, ride, with no incidents and I was pleased for that.
Photo-credit: Alex Chong
The Run: It was a 2.5-lap, 27km for the Mega-Distance. This is an unusual format, as the Ironman 70.3 fetches 21k/half-marathon. We started with two larger 10km loops, followed by a shorter, 7km finishing loop. There was no drama for this, except we witnessed those doing the OD and 2XOD distances, complete before us. Some of them were using our shared track, to commute home by bikes. Some of these finishers waved at us, and egged us on.A light drizzle permeated the still air and overcast day. It was all mental, with each runner focused on completing their loops as quickly as they could. I ran into the finishing-chute, at a moderate pace, to no fanfare; just glad to complete a long training day. I met friends where supporting and participants who completed. I got back my $50 deposit for my race-chip, and after a quick recovery, braved the rain and cool breeze to ride another 15km home.
Photo-credit: Charles Teng

Be Disappointed, Then Get Over It!

Our disappointments lead us to being emotional. Allowed to fester, we brood over it prolonged and this creates the possibility of doubts and worry. Life is a series of hits and misses. When it hit the mark, it feels great! When we fall below our expectations, we tend to bash ourselves, and focus on our mistakes and missed opportunities. 

Instead of lapsing into inactivity and self-pity, we can shift gears and focus on what we have done well. The cliche 'at least we've got our health' can be adopted. We have much to be grateful for: a safe sporting event, minimal abrasions, attentive volunteers, and cheerful spectators. At times, another 'voice of reason' and alternative perspectives, help shift our mindsets and attitudes towards more useful directions and outcomes.

Macca writes about his approach to getting over his disappointments.

Leadership Lessons: Learn to get over your disappointments sooner. Do spent time reflecting on the positives, rather then mostly on the negatives. Resilience is about bouncing back from a fall. It makes us stronger for our next challenge and goal. Celebrate your successes, and learn from your disappointments.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mega-Tri 2013 Race Report (Part 1)

Photo-credit: Lynn Woo
After two years, the Mega-Tri returned with three categories: Olympic Distance (OD), 2XOD, and 3XOD. I participated in the long-distance triathlon that comprised a 3km swim, 102km ride, and 27km run.

I joined a group registration, organised by my friend Charles. I attended the race briefing two evenings before, conducted by Deca-Ironman (that's 10 Ironman triathlons over 10 consecutive days), Kua Harn Wei. A recent, first-time father, of twins Dr Kua walked us through the race course for those present at the Carbo-Party. The buffet spread was better than most M-Dot races I have attended, and it kept us occupied before the briefing. Held in a slightly different direction and location than in 2011, this event saw runners run on a park-connector (parallel path) towards the farthest end of the airport runway.

My race-kit included a sling-bag with my Adidas Adizero, race-bib/race-belt; Elite Razor (custom-made) tri-bike with bento-box (4 Hammer Nutrition energy gels, 14 Hammer Nutrition Endurolytes capsules), water-bottle (Hammer Nutrition Perpeteum mixture), water-bottle (filled), and a easy-inflate cannister. I used Continental Competition tubulars (last used on 15 July in Ironman Switzerland). I also relied on my Garmin 310XT heart-rate monitor/watch to strictly stick to my aerobic threshold. At 5.30am, mounted on my riding-shoes/cleats and light breakfast (cup of coffee, and a mug of Perpeteum), I set off for the 15km ride to the race venue at Changi Ferry Terminal...(to be continued)...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Nutrition On The Go

Nutrition is the fourth discipline. It is the make-or-break for many triathletes. When athletes experience the 'bonk', it reveals their lack of consideration for their nutritional needs while racing or training. You can ward off premature fatigue, successfully, from proper refueling and replenishment.

These are some points to consider for your nutritional plan (when racing):

1) Make it a Nutritional Plan. Plan what you will consume, the amount, frequency for each leg.
2) Ensure you actually test the nutritional product in training. Assess how you respond to each food supplement, at various levels of intensities.
3) Carry more-than-enough. It is better to be over-fed than under-fed. Energy is the choice of fuel.
4) Fluid, electrolytes and carbohydrates are the main sources of nutrients you will require in a race.
5) Utilise your Special Needs option. Pack an extra serving of carbohydrate and electrolyte (salt). You can also include solid food, mainly comfort food (that is removed from dull swallows of gels and sports-drinks).
6) If you have the urge to pee, you are probably well-hydrated.
7) Frequent symptoms of cramping, suggest over-exertion and a need for nutritional salts. Electrolytes are a staple of racing. Pack 2 tablets per hour of exertion on the ride and run. Use an electrolyte formulation with sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium (in descending order of quantity).
8) You can pack powdered fuel in a water-bottle, and fill it to level (upon entering the transition area) before or after the swim. Protein-based energy drinks suffer staleness in prolonged heat and containment. 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Drawing Upon Inspiration

Chris 'Macca' McCormack: Ironman World Champion, 2006/2010.
Craig 'Crowie' Alexander: Ironman World Champion 2008, 2009, 2011.
Mr Kor Hong Fatt: oldest marathoner in Singapore, and Boston Finisher.
Norman Stadler 'Norminator': Ironman World Champion, 2004/2006

I have always drawn inspiration from the performance of people. Amateurs, professionals and Everyday-Person provide me with optimism, hope, and a sense of purpose. Here are some past-champions (in endurance sports) who continue to invoke a sense of awe and admiration in me.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Checking Credentials

How do you build your credentials? How often do you update your resume? More importantly, how often do you update your skills?

I read many LinkedIn resumes, and they are suitably impressive. I appreciate the many years put into building professional value and employability. Many also describe their impressive and inspiring stories. I enjoy reading them, and aspiring to emulate some of these skills and experiences.

I am not a professional sports-coach. I am passionate about endurance sports, especially triathlons. I offer my assistance and time to neophytes and seasoned competitors. What I have learnt, I learnt from my experience racing since 2004. I can only offer my tacit experience and wisdom of staying sustainable in the sport. I focus on appeal on the mature athlete, as I empathise and relate strongly to an aging body. I have my fair share of injuries, rest and recovery issues, experience strict working schedules and challenges associated with being focused and passionate in these sports. 

In my first profession and job, I worked in an international fitness and recreation facility within a five-star hotel. I also managed gyms, taught dance-exercise/aerobics, and gave sports massage treatment. I have a working diploma in fitness and recreation; certificates in exercise, nutrition, and exercise instruction; my post-graduate is in education management. I trust these qualifications support my commitment to helping others in a safe, assuring and relevant way. My racing history provides me a platform to test out, evaluate and prescribe exercise prescription. Of course, I am also being coached by elite athletes and experts. My working schedule and lifestyle allows me to travel, frequently, to race and compete with the best in my age-group. I am grateful for these opportunities to benchmark and learn from these amazingly enthusiastic and highly committed athletes.

Making continued progress in my training and  racing performance is also my validation. I believe that by sharing with my readers and friends, I earn more value for my time and knowledge. When I tweet, blog and post I seek the counsel of others. Other opinions matter to me. Let me know how I may help.

Leadership Lessons: Build your credibility. Move from credibility to incredibility. Not the other way around. Move from acquiring knowledge to applying knowledge. Enhance your skills, and build on your potential.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Squeeze It All In!

You are time-crunched. You need to work. Yet, you need to train. How would you resolve that?

The time-tight triathlete can engage his/her flexibility. That is, create choices for yourself. Something is better than nothing. Less may be more. More rest could be conducive to your recovery and, subsequent, performance. Here are some suggestions for staying aligned to your long-term goals:

1) Do something useful and purposeful everyday: rest, recover, train, walk, visualise, meditate.
2) Vary your duration. 20 minutes or two hours. Work it in, during your free slot.
3) Heavy easy, moderate and hard days. Heavy and hard days drain your body, and activates fatigue.
4) Make a substitute. Rest today, and train a little more tomorrow.
5) Complete your intended total training hours within the week. Complete most it as soon as possible. 
6) Rest up once you hit your target hours of training. A little more may be useless, if it serves to sap you of your energy and much-needed rest and recovery.

Leadership Lessons: Make it happen. Do something useful. Act on it. Distract from your procrastination. Consistency of action is the way to mastery and being master over your condition.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Giving Back As Giving Forward

One of the principles of influence (Robert Cialdini, PhD.) is Reciprocity. This is the notion of 'give and take'. It is so easy to receive, however how often do you give back? 

To take, but not return is tantamount to being parasitic. These are people who leech on others, draining of energy, information, finances and their goodwill. Energy is a currency for circulation, without which stasis and staleness set in. When we move goodwill around, by various ways of contribution and concession, we redistribute equity, fairness and equality. Imbalances occur when we hoard, and hoarders can be excessive in retaining surplus.

You can also pay it forward. In this approach, you help somebody new by way of favour or deed. Acts of charity are part of this; as well as rendering assistance to the needy and needful. Coaching new triathletes and runners online and via Social Media is one way I pay back for my the gratitude I hold for my coaches and mentors. When budding entrepreneurs and businesspeople seek my advice, I share my knowledge and perceptions with them over intensive and intimate conversations. I have benefitted much from giving; you give out without giving up anything harmful to yourself.

There are seven weeks left, before I attempt my 15th Ironman triathlon in Taupo, New Zealand. I will be attempting to raise more funds for my charity of choice. I have supported Cystic Fibrosis For Kids (CF4Kids) since 2010, and will continue to help them raise funds for the children to exercise their dis-ease away. Every bit and gesture helps. Please help me spread the word on my fundraiser's web-page. Thank you all!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Massively Hard To Move Molded Minds

I watched part 2 of a two-parter of Hotel Hell, a reality-TV programme on inn-keepers helmed by the easily-irritable Chef Gordon Ramsay ('Hell's Kitchen', 'Top Chef' and 'The F-Word'). In the parting shot by the European inn-owner, he said that 'It is hard to shift moulded minds.'

The molded mind is our paradigm: our beliefs, and mental models. What we believe in, coupled with mental instructions (mental programs) reinforce our stubborn-ness. That is why we can hold on strongly to our strongest beliefs, refusing to budge even under pressure.

Weekend athletes as well as professional athletes are no different. One of the most widely held beliefs are 'Why change, when it is not harming me?' and 'If it ain't broken, why fix it?' These beliefs extend and expand from our consciousness to our unconsciousness. The latter makes our behaviors, reflexive and automatic.

One of the prevailing beliefs propagated in the 1980's was 'No pain, no gain'; promoted by the exercise-gurus who sprouted like popular high-protein and vegan diets. Intensive exercise taxes our adrenal glands at three levels - salt, sugar and sex - three levels and depth of impact on our hormonal system dealing with stress. Thus, we need to focus on more rest after a tough anaerobic session (interval training, hill-running, sprint sets, and the like). We recover within 24 hours of a light, aerobic session, while an anaerobic session can draw upon 2-3 days of complete rest. Muscle-soreness, heavy legs, insomnia, fatigue, irritability and injuries are evidence of an over-taxed body.

Rest and recovery is the other major part of sports performance. Training and recovery (through) rest leads to enhance physical and mental performance. Limit intensive, anaerobic sessions to 2-3 maximum per week. It is useful to factor at least one day of rest, per week. Continuous training, without rest (especially adequate sleep of 7-8 hours daily) can only lead to a downward spiral. Even in your 20's, you are still vulnerable to fatigue, injury and the impact and effects of stress. You do not want to tax your adrenal glands (situated on your kidneys) overly; it produces important stress and sex hormones controlling our electrolyte and sugar levels, tissue repair as well as our libido.

Do review your mindset about hard training and recovery. Rest is vital to balancing your efforts with your results. Give yourself a break!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Books I Am Reading

I will be reviewing this book about self-publishing by Guy Kawasaki shortly. APE means Author, Publisher and Entrepreneur. It may be the definitive guide to your first e-book.
The controversial book about the spectacular 1989 Ironman triathlon world championships. Both Mark Allen (The Grip) and Dave Scott (The Man) denounced the book and the author. It delves into an unauthorised  biography of the two Ironman Hall-of-Fame legends, their psyche and motivational strategies. It is part drama, part psychoanalytical treatment, and sports science case study. The reviews on are a good read, too.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Play It B.I.G. - Bold, Integrated, Goals!

Start setting goals and achieving them! Procrastination robs you of the joy of enjoying your achievements and accomplishments. Plan ahead, and plunge headlong into new experiences, insights, sensibility and ability.

Set out B.I.G. Bold, Integrated, Goals. Play it big. Play small, and make incremental gains. Play it large, and you may enjoy accelerated and amplified results and outcomes.

Commit to playing it BIG! You can immerse yourself in some serious goal-setting and goal-scoring. Consider these possibilities:

1) Seek new knowledge, and apply it.
2) Earn and learn from further education.
3) Learn new skills.
4) Achieve mastery in an existing skill/ability.
5) Join a tribe: Band together for a common purpose.
6) Support a community benefit/cause.
7) Active network and build an active network of connections.
8) Remove traces of useless procrastination.
9) Test your tensions, tolerances and thresholds.
10) Explore and discover new worlds and mysteries.

However, to ensure success of these goals we can enlist the help of a support group. Engage close friends and confidants who are honestly critical and fiercely insistent of our success. They can be our guide to attaining goals, and create tangible value for those around us, whilst making people around us feel valued. Goals can extend and expand their relevance and meaning, when we involve others and have them share our values.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Dream B.I.G. for 2013!

Happy New Year!

Thank you for supporting this blog over the year. I have, deliberately, reduced its intensity of release because I have met my three-year target. However, in the prospect of sharing more new research and discoveries in personal leadership and endurance sports, I will continue with the flow of thinking and acute observation.

As has been covered, resolutions are not the best way to go for the new year. Instead, clear, relevant, and measurable goals are. Marry your goals with your dreams and aspirations, and this Integrated Goal (IG) assumes new meaning and life. Make it B.I.G.: Bigger Integrated Goals, by collaborating with others on. Help others fulfill their dreams while you are at it. This is my BIG for 2 March.

Do up a simple list of your goals and dreams for the year. What would you like to achieve? Which new experiences do you relish doing? Which one skill would you like to learn (Mastery)? Which club or society would you like to volunteer or assist in? Who would you like to meet? Which Purpose or Cause would you like to support? Which Tribe would you connect with (Common Vision)?

Dream big. Achieve bigger. Get to work on your list.