Category Archives: Training

Water Running

I can’t believe I am writing this post but I am a running water convert. I injured my foot 3 weeks ago …. running. I’m still not sure what contributed to it. I started a new training program to get ready for the Canadian Age Group Triathlon Nationals, the way I run or the fact that my right toe is so arthritic I am unable to get full mobility. It’s probably all the above.

Either way I was starting a set of intervals on the treadmill and started instantly feeling a lot of pain in my midfoot around my third toe or third metatarsal. By the next day I couldn’t walk on my foot and found myself in urgent care with the Doctor telling me it looks like a stress fracture, sounds like a stress fracture, feels like a stress fracture but I would have to wait several days for a bone scan for it to show. Until then, off my foot!

Introducing water running. It takes a bit to get the technique down but by the end of the second week I could do away with the float belt and run steady or intervals. Man, it is a hard and effective workout and I strongly suggest everyone should try it – especially if you are recovering from an injury or have joint issues.

I’ve been able to keep my endurance and strength up. Actually, I think I’ve improved my strength. I just heard back from the doctor and I have bruised the bone in my foot and have some soft tissue damage. It means I am back on my bike but my foot is still too sore to run on so I am going to keep up the water running. The true test will be when I start running again which will hopefully will be soon.

I have used this training guide to have structure to my workouts in the pool. Other than the steady run which can be mind numbingly boring in the pool, the workouts are fun and challenging. I will definitely be keeping water running as part of training program when my foot is healed. It will allow me to increase my running volume without risking injury and it builds leg strength. It’s fantastic cross training. Give it a try!

What A Great Turn Out!

Set up

London Calling was an absolute blast! We had a full house Saturday morning and the competition was fierce. Cat calling, trash talk and cheering could be heard from every corner. We had 6 bikes to a station with 3 stations. One dedicated to computrainers and the remaining two stations had a variety of trainers giving everybody a chance to try something new. We raced on Tour de Giro’s 24km short course with some wicked hills to add some kick to our ride.

Scott and Derek from Rock and Road Cycle in Burlington came to check us out and encourage the riders. Thanks again for all of your support, both on the day and leading up to the event. A special thank you also to Hammer Nutrition and Preferred Nutrition who provided our prizes and the goodies in the swag bags.

And of course, a special thank you to Eric and Art of Tour de Giro who ran around making everything work and giving everyone a great ride. If you haven’t checked out the site, you have to. It really is the best and only way to train indoors.image-3

Here are the pictures from the event and the video that my very talented brother-in-law put together for your enjoyment.
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Down and Out

I have to start off by apologizing for not writing lately. I’ve been in a slump and I’ve been doing a crappy job of remembering my lessons learned. I was hit with a nasty sinus cold 3 weeks ago. Nasty because it is never-ending! And worse, I am well enough to go about my day but am not strong enough to train. On a good day I can carry out a light aerobic workout and on a bad day I’m at the top of the stairs wheezing for air. My last swim session was one of those wheezing episodes.

I know I have to go back to the doctors and try a second treatment that is hopefully effective but I can’t help feeling bummed out at the moment. Not because I feel like I’m losing time and speed (well maybe partly) but it’s mostly because being active everyday has become such an integral part of my day and a part of who I am.

I love the feeling of a great sweaty workout. The sense of accomplishment, of being alive, of being strong. It is completely addictive and it is my drug. There is nothing better than hitting a point in your workout and thinking I can’t do this. It’s not going to happen today and to then just do it. (Yes, I’m quoting Nike.) It’s awesome and I’m missing it big time.

My favorite workouts are my plyometric sessions and intervals. Running intervals specifically. I love getting out of my comfort zone when running. I haven’t figured out why I can’t seem to transfer that same love to cycling and swimming yet but I’m working on it. Maybe it’s because I’m a runner first or I already have a moderate amount of success in running so I see the gains sooner. But either way, the high I get from running intervals and the absolute satisfaction is second to none.

I have my first 5k race the CMCC Backs in Motion at the end of April so this is when I start to switch from hill repeats to track (if the track is clear) or treadmill intervals. I know logically that 3 weeks of easy to moderate exercise 2-3 times a week isn’t going to slow me down but the irrational part of me is saying … COME ON already. Do you see that calendar? The days are ticking by. Or REALLY, that’s the best you’ve got today? Go home and crawl back into bed, that sucked!! My inner voice isn’t the most supportive at times. It needs an attitude adjustment.

So the past few weeks have been less than stellar and I’ve been sulking like a preschooler. Sorry. I promise to give my head a shake and have a little chat with my inner voice. My next post will be more upbeat, like my usual self. I did manage to go for a unique bike fitting and I have some exciting news about my next fundraiser to share with all of you.

Stay tuned!

Getting into the Swing of Things

It’s been several weeks since I wrote about writing out a training plan. I hate to say it but I haven’t been following my own advice. I am recovering from a sore hamstring and an injured foot. I’ve used these injuries as an excuse to ease off. It’s been blissful to train about 4 hours a week, doing mostly swimming and strength training. I think I underestimated how hard I worked this past year and that it had taken its toll on my body, my family and my friendships. I’ve been able to stay active, work with my physiotherapist and actually enjoy a cup of tea with my friends while catching up on the gossip.
But it’s time to get back to work. Like I wrote last week, I’m writing out my goals and how I am going to accomplish them. I am picking people’s brains on diet and I look forward to talking with Brad King from Preferred Nutrition about how my new supplements will fit into a more fine tuned diet. I will share his insights with you in a later post.
I have also been trolling through the internet and podcasts looking for new ideas. I stumbled on this podcast from Ben Greenfield with Christopher Walker about how hormones affect your performance and how to use your diet to positively affect them. But most importantly it’s a fellow athlete with the same pituitary tumor! I know this is corny but I felt like I was listening to a kindred spirit. Like me, the tumor is asymptomatic and as long as it stays that way he is going to pursue his dreams. Not worry about the what if’s. What if I get sick again? What if I can’t control the symptoms? What if?
During the podcast Christopher talks about how physical stress from exercise can affect your hormone levels and how to effectively train around it. Ironically, I’ve used this training strategy. Not because of my health but because of my time limitations. My training is always quality over quantity which it turns out positively effects your cortisol levels. Nonetheless, it’s a reminder of how training smart instead of training long is important to every athlete, at every level.
My goal this week is to train 9 hours. I’m 2 days in and I’ve completed 3 hours of training so far. Best of all I’ve been back on my bike and my hamstring is feeling much better.

Winter riding …. :o)

Hopefully up to an hour and half of riding by next week – pain-free. Wish me luck!
And even though I consider myself a time crunched athlete I surprised myself at how much training I actually accomplished this year. I’ve looked at my year or year volume on beginnertriathlete.com (an online training log that I use) and I’ve improved in each category. I think it’s mostly do to my amazing friends and my husband who have all stepped in help me train. My IOU for babysitting by the end of 2013 will be massive!!
Check out the link to Ben Greenfield. His podcasts are always informative and you will learn a bit more about pituitary tumors. I’ll let you know how the week goes and if I took my own advice and stuck to my plan. ;o) The picture bellow is for my brother who’s been asking me to post my training numbers for a while. Love you Ian!

It’s not the destination but the journey.

It’s not New Year’s Eve yet but I’m starting to write down my goals for the upcoming season. To be honest I hate the idea that you can only make changes at the beginning of a new year. I love setting goals and I have always been goal oriented. I don’t believe that any success I have achieved in my life has stemmed from luck or talent. I believe my success has always been do to my dogged determination. It’s amazing what you can achieve when you whisper a dream (ie. goal) and breathe life into.
We all have secret bucket lists, dreams and aspirations. Some are maybe a little unrealistic. I can pray to the lottery gods but I’m probably not going to win more than a free ticket. But most of our dreams are achievable and the thing that stops us from realizing them is an action plan. A step by step process of how you are going to reach your goal.
My husband said it best, “It’s not the destination but the journey.” I think the biggest part of achieving your goal is the journey it took to get there. Last year I wrote down on a piece of paper what my ideal race would look like. I wrote down my target swim time, bike speed and running pace. I taped that piece of paper to my fridge door and it stayed there for 6 months until I raced Leamington. A daily reminder of what I wanted to accomplish. It motivated me to get outside and get to work, even when I didn’t feel like it.
Next, I wrote out a detailed training schedule that week by week brought me closer to my goal. Every once in a while I had a test race or training session where I put myself through the paces to make sure I was on track. It was also a great way to reward myself. 6 months of training is long and tedious. It can feel like you aren’t progressing or even going backwards. These “test days” boosted my confidence and revitalized my training. I’d be hungry to get back to training and see how much more I could improve. When I went to Leamington I felt ready, confident that I would have my ideal race. As most of you know I had a few hiccups at Leamington but I think it was my training that enabled me to get through those hiccups and succeed.
So this year my goals are even bigger and I’m writing out a new plan. There is a new piece of paper taped to my fridge. I’ve given myself some pretty hefty goals and if I have to, I will revisit them half way through my training to make sure they are realistic. Being realistic is crucial. You only set yourself up for defeat if you set unrealistic goals. By giving myself “test days” throughout the training period I can measure if I am on track and if I have realistic expectations.
What dreams do you have? What would you like to accomplish? Do me a favor. Don’t wait until the New Year. Write it down. Look at it and realize it is possible. You can do it. Now, write down step by step how you are going to achieve it because you can. With a plan the possibilities are endless. Just remember it’s the journey not necessarily the destination.

How do I learn to let go?

Anxiety can be a motivating factor or a debilitating one. For me its debilitating. Today I was swimming 200m timed sets with Mat Reid, my swim coach, working on improving my endurance. I’ve been learning how to flip turn and I was supposed to be flipping at the end of each lap but by the end of the second set I was feeling anxious and I was struggling with my swim. We decided to cut out the flip turn and poof, suddenly I’m swimming faster, stronger and more confident. I reduced my time by 20 seconds between my 2nd and 3rd set. I actually continued to get stronger with each set, having by best time in the 5th set.

The panic I was starting to feel with each lap is the same panic I feel during a race in open water. I’ve struggled since that first race when I was 5 months pregnant with youngest swimming in open water. Granted swimming in open water is daunting for most triathletes. There are no little black lines to follow along the bottom of the lake, the water is murky, it can be wavy, there are weeds, it’s freezing and you are swimming with 100-1000 of your closest friends. For most that anxiety gives them that extra adrenaline rush that they need to get through the swim. When the gun goes off I run into the water, dive in and start to swim to only pop my head up around 50-100m in a 750m swim feeling like I can’t breathe, can’t settle my heart rate and can’t calm my thoughts. Notice all the can’ts.

The worst time was during the provincial championships this year. That morning there had been a massive thunderstorm roll through. It delayed the race and compressed the waves. The water was churned up and choppy. Plus we were boxed in by a ferry and a break wall. I was wound before I even got in the water. When the gun sounded I started to swim but I didn’t even make it 25m before I was popping my head up and hyper ventilating. I could hear Peter screaming “YOU ARE FINE!” I’d try to put my head back in the water but two strokes later I was up again saying I could’t breathe which is ironic because I could breathe enough to talk. Somehow I managed to get to the first buoy. The leaders in the second wave had passed me and I was just trying to survive by this point. I was begging with myself to just start swimming. To just put my face in the water. That I can’t give up. I was terrified of disappointing everyone who believed in me, had sacrificed for me and most importantly I was terrified of realizing every insecurity I was secretly trying to ignore. You know, that little voice in the deep recess of your head smirking at you with that I told you so look.

Just when I was going to give in to the smirk a different voice started to filter through. It was the voice of my friend Jen who keeps me company in the pool and during open water swims. She lovingly swims over, under and around me to help with my anxiety. I could hear her to tell me: “breathe every first and third stroke.” I held onto her voice until I dragged myself out of the water. When I got to the bike rack there was only 5 bikes left on the rack and one of them was mine. All the 30-39 women were out of the water and I had a lot of work to do. But instead of throwing in the towel I rode my bike with absolute determination. Every person in front of me was just another target to hunt down. I gained my advantage back on that bike course, and ended up coming in third.

How I did that was by not giving up when I was having a full blown panic attack. But what I realized in the pool today is that although I overcame my anxiety that day, it hasn’t gone away and I need to conquer my fear for good.

Mat and I started talking about how I feel when I do a flip turn. How is it similar to when I’m swimming in open water? Why am I slowing in anticipation of the turn? I know I feel short of breath, like I can’t breathe. I think part of it is that instinctual need to breathe and I believe I’m not skilled enough to do the turn and get enough air in time. In other words, I don’t believe in myself. The other part is the control, perfectionist, all around annoying part of me that needs to get it right. I put pressure on myself to get it right the first time while telling myself I can’t do it. In a race scenario I build myself into a ball of anxiety.

Mat said I need to let go of the emotion. What I heard is: I need to let go of the baggage. But how? And I really need to figure it out because I see the same need to be perfect and in control in my daughter. I watched her break down into tears practicing her spelling words this week. I asked her why she was crying and she said “I just wanted to get it right. All of it!” She broke my heart and I didn’t know what to do. It wasn’t until I was walking away from the pool today that I realized her and I are two peas in a pod for better and worse. I need to learn to let go so that I can be a better role model to my daughter, to teach her how to relax and let go.

Functional Strength

I’m a mum, a wife, a triathlete and a personal trainer at the YMCA. I don’t usually talk about being a personal trainer. I work on a very part time basis at the YMCA, especially during race season. To be honest, I’m extremely lucky to have such a compassionate and enthusiastic employer. The YMCA has completely supported my dream of going to England to compete while balancing my family life. It is an organization that stands behind their mission statement 100% and I find it so rewarding to give back by training people, showing each person their true potential. Plus, I just started teaching a core class on a weekly basis and a bootcamp class when a sub is needed. I love it! I get to put my triathlon spin on these classes. Giving people a chance to rethink their existing workout routines and try something new by doing more body weight activities.

The exercises I love to teach and use in my own strength training programs are full body exercises that use your own body weight as resistance. My absolute favourite is plank because it strengthens your core from the inside out, starting with the transverse muscles and ending with your rectus abdominis (your 6 pack).

Once you can hold plank for 30 seconds at a time you can start adding in any number of variations that target every part of your body.  When you hold plank your body should look like a flat board. To do this you want to relax your shoulders, pull your pelvic floor up by doing a kegel, pull your belly button in towards your spine and engage your glutes (your bum). You should be evenly distributing your weight so as the time ticks by try to push your heels to the ground. It lengthens your body and helps distribute the weight.

Once you have plank down the next version you need to learn is side plank. You start in plank position and rotate yourself to the side. Your feet can either be stacked on top of each other or resting side by side making a straight line. Again, your body is as straight as a board not allowing your hips to dip towards the floor. Your arms will form a straight line, keeping your shoulder blades squeezed together so that you don’t slump forward. This targets your internal and external obliques.

Now you are ready for my video demonstrating a plank to side plank variation. This combo helps build on your rotation in your swim stroke. The more you can cut through the water the faster you will swim. A strong rotation enables you to extend your reach, lengthening your body and improve your ability to slice through the water. This has been my achilles heel for several years but working with a series of plank variations starting with this one I have been able to steadily improve my rotation and pull in my stroke. My focus on functional strength training has been the key to improving my swim times in the pool. Over the next few weeks I will post a new video demonstrating some of my favourite plank variations. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

Plank/ Side Plank Variation

The Best Laid Plans

This is my third draft today about training plans which is about as successful as I’ve been in trying to write my actual training plan this week. And yes, I know it’s the off season but that’s when your training schedule is most needed. It’s easy to lose focus in the off season. Whether you raced your first tri this year or your a veteran you worked hard this summer and the fall is when you get to take a break, reduce your intensity, maybe even try a new activity but you need to keep moving. That’s where your training plan comes into play.

In saying that I hate training plans; well not the plan itself, I hate writing training plans. I struggle finding that balance of the right training volume, my children’s needs, my husband’s work schedule and his training schedule, and time with my friends. Housework …. it’s a last thought and my house is a testament to that. But traditional training plans just don’t cut it.

I spent hours searching the web last year trying to find a plan that would get me to my goal of qualifying for Worlds while fitting my lifestyle requirements and I came up empty handed. The underlying problem with all of the plans was an assumption of having blocked time to train (ie. 2hrs+) and an ability to consistently train each day. I have neither. Simply put they aren’t flexible. I need a plan that is fluid and adaptable.

Peter is out of the house by 5:00am and he doesn’t get home until after 5:00pm. My older two are at school but I still have my youngest. I try to fit in 3 swims, 3 bikes, 3 runs and 2-3 strength training sessions a week. For the next 3-4 months my focus is on aerobic capacity and strength training, so I need longer blocks of time to do that. The question is how to make it work and that brings me back to why I hate writing training plans. I spent more time than I’d like to admit swearing at the computer trying to make it all fit. It’s like trying to put together a puzzle but the picture keeps changing. By the end of last night I came up with a plan that I think will work. I have 11 hours of training per week when everything is going to plan.

And that’s why I need a flexible schedule. Today I was supposed to be at the pool working on my homework (distance sets of 400m) while my baby girl was playing in kinder gym. Maybe even a run after. Instead, she has a sky high fever, has puked on me and overall she’s having a rough day. So right now I’m sitting on my trainer listing to the “I feel like superman” mix on Songza typing this post while she is watching Sagwa the Siamese Cat on PBS and the dog is lying at my feet trying to not to get hit by my pedals.

The best laid plans, right?

Excuses

I don’t know about you but I’m riddled with them. I pretty much have an excuse for everything –  especially when it comes to swimming. My fail safe excuse is my core or lack of core. Every woman has her scars or war wounds after having kids. Mine is a separated abdomen. My abs are separated by about a 2 1/2 inch gap, originally 4 inches and a herniated belly button.

It started with my first child and my doctor at the time chuckled lightly, saying that everything will go back to normal with time. Needless to say she was wrong. No one told me what the gap in my stomach was or that there were exercises to help knit my muscles back together. Instead I was told to let nature take its course. By the time I had my third child I had a gap that was almost 4 inches wide and the entire length of my abdomen. Nature definitely took its course.

I have let this be my crutch every time I struggle or fail in the pool. I am not denying that it’s a hurdle and my core will always be weaker. In fact, I will eventually have to have surgery to knit my abs back together. My stomach will continue to bow over time and put greater and greater strain on my back but that doesn’t mean I get to roll over and yell uncle – which is exactly what I have been doing.

I realized this week training with my swim coach, Mat Reid, that enough is enough. I have spent 3 years telling myself I am NOT a good swimmer. That I will NEVER be a good swimmer. It’s not my core that has been holding me back but my negative attitude. Resting in between swim sets we talked about my goals for this year and by the end of the conversation we had decided that I will be swimming a sub 1:30 pace per 100m by next July. Not my hopes or dreams but what I WILL accomplish!

The light finally went off in my thick head, I have in 3 short years learned how to properly swim freestyle and have continually improved my speed so that I am now discussing my goal for World’s. It’s time to let go of the core excuse because the truth of the matter is I have a strong core. It’s not perfect but what is. If I’m going to move forward I need to let it go. Plus, I’m sure I can always think of a new excuse. ;o)

 What excuse are you ready to let go?

Welcome to TriMom!

Thank you for visiting my site. I guess I should start off by telling you a bit about myself and why I am so passionate about triathlon. Most people know me as the woman who raced my first triathlon 5 months pregnant. What most people don’t know is why I raced that day. After the birth of my second child I became quite ill and no one really knew what was wrong. I felt like I was drowning. I was exhausted beyond reason. I remember sitting in my doctor’s office crying because I was so tired I was afraid to drive home. Essentially she told me that I was an overwhelmed mother.

The thing is I kept getting worse and it wasn’t postpartum. I developed a constant headache and then my right eye became sensitive to the touch, leading to my peripheral vision in the eye diminishing and my vision being blurred from time to time. It was my eye doctor who realised that it was more than being overwhelmed. He could see that my optic nerve was actually swollen and sent me to an eye surgeon. It was the surgeon who diagnosed me with hypothyroidism. My condition had gone undiagnosed for so long a feedback loop had been created in my body that had caused my pituitary gland to swell, putting pressure on my optic nerve. And for a short while I started to feel better, but the headaches started to come back – stronger and longer. I was sent for an MRI and it was discovered that I had a tumor on my pituitary gland. It wasn’t cancerous but they couldn’t tell if it was an adenoma or a cyst and I would have to wait for more tests to find out what it was exactly.

In the meantime, I had watched my brother race a triathlon in the summer and was blown away by him, by the environment and by the commitment of the people who raced that day. I could see what my brother had been talking about, the camaraderie and the determination it took to race. I decided that I wanted to try.

I was so tired of being in pain all the time and feeling completely out of control, so training for a triathlon seemed like a way to get my life back while we waited.

I joined my local Y’s triathlon group through Second Wind Conditioning and started training for a triathlon. A few months in I found out I was pregnant with my third child.  My husband, Peter, and I decided that I would keep training with the group under my new doctor’s direction. The funny thing is I started to feel better as each week passed by. Slowly the headaches started to recede, my memory started to improve, my energy started to return. It felt like my baby girl was healing me from the inside out. My coach and Peter were amazing. Peter went to the local junk yard and took the parts from 4 bikes to make me one road bike. Painted pink as per my eldest daughter’s request. We called it the Junk Yard Gem. So 5 months pregnant I lined up with all the try-a-triers and raced my first try-a-tri. I came almost dead last but I finished and waiting at the finish line was Peter and the kids. I felt on top of the world!

 

After my baby girl was born, I went back to training and signed up for the same race. This time I came 4th in my age group. I’ve been totally hooked since. At every race I hear my 3 monkeys screaming “go mummy, go!” with their cattle bells and see Peter beaming with pride. He calls himself the Elite Spectator. He can pick me out of the pack in the water and knows exactly where I should be on the course. He knows all my splits before the results are posted. He is my backbone!

 

It’s been three years, since then I’ve traded the junk yard gem in for a road bike and a TT (time trial bike), setting a new goal for myself this year. I wanted to qualify for the Canadian National Team to compete at the ITU World Championships as an age grouper. The race is in London, England next year where my family is from and where most of them still live, including my grandparents. My grandmother follows all my races and to have the chance to race in front of her is a dream come true. I qualified in Leamington, Ontario at the Leamington Triathlon Weekend this year and she was the first person I called.

This is where most people assume I have some kind of athletic background but the truth is I was a bookworm throughout school. My athletic activities were sailing and recreational tennis. After my son was born I joined my local YMCA, mostly to meet other moms and introduce the kids to other children their age. I started going up to the fitness area with my girlfriend. I was clueless how anything worked or what I was suppose to do. I would stalk her to figure out how to turn a treadmill on or how to use the ellipticals. Last fall I took the personal training courses at the Y and am now a trainer there. Now I train her!

Race season is over. There are only two seasons for triathletes, race season and training season. So now the real work begins as I start to train for world’s. I hope you will follow me as I talk about the highs and lows of training, the struggles and joys of doing it while balancing my family life and competing.

See you at the finish line,

Amy