Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Monday Musings on a Tuesday: When Opportunity Knocks

I had a hangover yesterday.

But it wasn't THAT kind of hangover.  It was an exercise hangover, ha ha.  This past weekend was nothing short of amazing.  Actually, the last 4 days have been amazing.  All because I offered up my time.

This past weekend, I got the opportunity to be a part of a Peaks Coaching Group Women's cycling camp led by the one and only Hunter Allen.  He's kind of a big deal in the world of cycling with power.  It all came about on Wednesday when a friend of a friend here in Clermont posted that she was looking for another female rider that was willing to cover off her "C" group of riders.  I thought why the heck not.  I'm always looking for new people to ride with AND, it was all ladies which is even better AND, I'd get to learn from one of the best in the business.

The camp was an intro to power and cycling skills camp.  I've been training with power for almost 4 years now so I understand the basics but in terms of real in depth analysis, I feel I have some gaps in my knowledge.  And I know my cycling skills need some work as well.  What better person to learn from than Hunter and what better environment than with a group of likeminded women.  It was a no brainer.

It also gave me the opportunity to meet Julie McKenzie, who is the friend of my friend Marianne.  Julie added me on Facebook shortly after my second trip to Clermont in October 2016.  I never got a chance to meet her last year so when she posted on Facebook that she needed some help with this camp, I jumped at the chance.  It was one of the best impulsive decisions I've ever made.  You know when you say yes to something and then you second guess yourself and think oh shit what have I done?  Every single bit of worry or apprehension I had completely evaporated within 10 minutes of meeting the awesome group of ladies I would be spending the next 3 days with.

There were 14 ladies in total, not including me.  One from Canada (Winnipeg to be exact), one from Bermuda and the rest from various places across the US.  It was a diverse group in terms of abilities but all of these ladies knew their way around a bike.  A few of them were racers, a handful were triathletes and the rest were just women that really enjoyed riding their bikes.  All of them were there for the same reason - to improve their skills and their knowledge.

The camp started on Thursday night with a 2 hour talk about cycling skills and the basics of power and why it was a more reliable metric than heart rate.  Hunter touched a bit on the metrics in Training Peaks but the big ones he focused on were TSS and IF (Intensity Factor).  That two hours flew by.  I have notes scribbled in a notebook that I have to decipher when my brain is up to the task, ha ha.

The next day was divided up into two main workouts.  The first 2 hours of the day were spent doing drills, getting the group comfortable riding in a group with other people around them and learning how to handle their bikes in a group.  We did some wheel touching and shoulder leans while riding in circles on grass.  That was incredibly unnerving but my partner, Sarah, and I managed to do it.  Not without a lot of nervous laughter though.  We then headed off to a parking lot to practice steering and cornering.  I haven't gotten the hang of the steering technique that Hunter taught us, but the cornering was much better.  Especially cornering to my right.  I'm much more comfortable going fast that way vs. cornering left.  I now know what I need to work on.

The best kind of bike gang!
From the parking lot, we headed off onto the newly paved Hancock Trail to learn how to pace line.  We rode along there and then up the back of Sugarloaf Mountain and then down the front side.  I had such a blast on that descent.

Coming back along the Hancock Trail

Heading out to Sugarloaf Mountain
We then turned around and headed back to the hotel for lunch and a group data analysis session.  I found these sessions to be so insightful. Hunter would download everyone's Garmins and upload the files to WK04 and then analyze areas he thought people did really well on and areas where they could improve.  He then gave suggestions on things they could do to improve.

Post Ride data analysis
Saturday was our longer ride (90km) that consisted of a 1 minute power test (up a hill) as well as a 20 minute FTP test.  I have never done an FTP test outside.  It was evil and awesome all at the same time.  The course they mapped out had some good climbs but some good descents as well.  We were also dealing with a massive headwind and a lot of heat.  This past weekend temps were in the high 20's low 30's.  It was hot.  We did that after close to 45km of riding already.  It was hard.  I'm not used to doing a TT on my road bike either.  I came away with an FTP of 207w according to Hunter.  He went with my normalized power (218w) for the 20 minute segment because the course was hilly and it wasn't a steady state effort like it would be on the trainer.   It's not where I was last year but it's getting closer.  I suspect by the time I come back from Florida it will be close to where I was heading into my peak training last year.

Megumi taking off on the start of her 20 minute test.  You can see the first climb in the distance
Sunday was spent learning about rotating pace lines.  It was a little touch and go at first but once we got going, we did a pretty good job.  It's not an easy skill to learn and if you are nervous in a group or you're unsure of the skills of the people that you're riding with, it makes it challenging.   Once we had that down, we stopped on a flat stretch of road and learned how to sprint.  We practiced learning how to shift in the drops while being out of the saddle (AHHH), how to let the bike rock back and forth.  We then started sprinting.  We did some sprints in the small ring and surprisingly that's where I had my best power effort of the day, ha ha.  We then moved to big ring sprints.  Once we had practiced those, we started racing each other.  Julie and another woman, Mia, who is an elite road racer and coach from Wisconsin, raced against each other and the speed was just incredible.  Mia hit 1000w.  ONE THOUSAND WATTS.  I can't even FATHOM that.  I think my max was 586w.

Sarah and I sprinting
After we had sprinted our hearts out, Hunter broke us into groups.  I was with Julie's group.  We strategized, rode down to the start and rolled out.

Our plan was for Julie to cover the breaks and then the rest of us had to keep Katherine, our sprinter sheltered.  But the other team went on the attack right away and threw us for a loop so we all just ended up chasing people down the road.  For the second race Hunter gave us a strategy he wanted us to stick to.  We were going man to man so Julie assigned each one of us a person to mark.  We rolled out again and the jostling for position started.  This really felt like a race, there was a lot of moving around.  Katherine, who has raced for years, knew what to watch for as the rest of us were just hanging on for dear life.  I was near her at one point and I could hear her saying they were forming a lead out line.  I watched to see what Mia, a veteran racer, was doing and she was obviously pulling Lynda, who was the woman that I had to mark.  So I stuck to Lynda's wheel like glue.  I could see them moving up through the group and over to the right hand side of the road.  I kept on Lynda's wheel.  Mia was getting closer to the front.  I knew if she got past the front of the group, that would be it.  A small gap started to open up on the right.  We were getting close to the finish line.  I was pretty sure I heard Katherine saying watch Mia and Lynda.  The gap opened up a bit more so I thought I'd catch them off guard, shoot the gap and sprint to the line.  I didn't think Lynda could out sprint me if I got the jump on her so I went for it.   I didn't hear or see anyone coming after me but I knew someone would.  Sure enough, just as I got to the finish line, I see Mia's wheel come up beside me.  I'm pretty sure she caught me right at the line.  Had I waited another 15-20s, I think I would have gotten to the line first.  But DAMN was that ever exciting.  I totally get the adrenaline rush.  That was a LOT of fun.

Back at the hotel we went over our data again.  I got some insights into where my weaknesses are and  how I can improve them, which was immensely helpful.  Hunter also looked at people's overall fitness trends if they had a lot of data on their Garmins.  I only had data from the end of December so there wasn't a lot to look at but you can definitely see the training load build over the last little while, ha ha.  This weekend resulted in a massive peak in fatigue so we'll see how the next few days go.  You know you're tired when your Training Peaks app tells you that you should consider taking a rest day, ha ha.  So I took yesterday off and was still feeling a fair bit of fatigue this morning so I skipped my swim.  I may go later in the day as long as it doesn't rain.

I covered 239km on two wheels last week, the majority of it over the weekend.  That also included 1844m of climbing!  It's been a long time since I've cycled 3 days in a row or climbed that much in 3 days (hello indoor riding!)  It wasn't what I had planned for the weekend, it was a million times better.

I can't even begin to thank Julie enough for bringing me in to the camp and letting me stick around for the weekend.  It was an experience I won't soon forget.  I hope to cross paths with these ladies again.

Dinner out at the Crooked Spoon

Thursday, February 8, 2018

What I've Tried: Heart Rate Variability Monitoring

If you've seen my IG stories then you will have seen snippets of me talking about HRV.  What exactly is HRV?  HRV stands for heart rate variability and it is the variation in time from one heart beat to another.   I'm sure you're now wondering why you should care about it.  Well....I'm going to get up on my heart rate training soapbox now and tell you why.

Despite how good exercise makes us feel, we have to remember that it is a stress on the body.  Our bodies can't distinguish between exercise stress and other stress.  If you train with heart rate and pay attention to your data, you will notice changes in your resting heart rate over a point in time.  This can be due to increased cardiovascular fitness (your heart rate becomes lower) impending sickness (your resting heart rate is higher than normal) or dehydration (resting HR will also be higher than normal).  Many things can affect your heart rate.

Your heart is controlled by your autonomic nervous system (ANS), which is the involuntary part of your nervous system.  This system breaks into two more branches, called the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches.  When you're under stress, the sympathetic part of your ANS is active.  It puts all systems on alert.  The other branch, the parasympathetic branch, is the relaxed part that just goes about it's business when you're in a relaxed state.  When your heart rate increases, that means the sympathetic branch is more active.  Your heart rate beats in a more regular rhythm when you're stressed.  That also means that your HRV (time between heart beats) decreases. (source)

When you're more relaxed, your heart rate decreases and beats only to meet the body's requirements.   If you've ever taken your heart rate manually, I'm sure you've noticed that your heart rate doesn't always beat like a metronome.  In this state, your HRV increases.  Meaning that the time between beats increases.   Because of these differences, HRV is a great indicator of the balance between the activity of the 2 branches of the autonomic nervous system and therefore it's an indirect measurement of stress.  Higher HRV means lower stress.  Lower HRV means higher stress (source)

Heart rate offers athletes as to how their body is responding to the stress of exercise as well as any other stressors they have in their life.  Garmin and Polar have factored this into their watch technology with their versions of recovery advisors.   They measure the stress put on your heart through your effort and give you an estimated time to full recovery.  I say estimated because everyone is different.  Some people recover faster than others.  Also, what you do post activity will greatly affect your ability to recovery.  If you don't eat and rehydrate immediately after a workout, that will delay your recovery.  If you don't sleep well, that will also affect your recovery.  There are several external factors that can affect how well you recover.

How do you know when you're fully recovered?  That's the tough part for a lot of athletes.  These days with all the technology available to track our fitness, there really is no excuse not to track your recovery.  The latest Garmin (735xt) has an HRV recovery feature in it.  And you can download various apps that will also track your recovery by monitoring heart rate variability.

For the last year I have been using HRV4Training.  It is an app that I downloaded on my phone.  I think it was $13.  I chose this one because it didn't require a heart rate strap.  The last thing I wanted to do was to sleep with my heart rate strap on.  No thank you.  Instead, this app takes a reading from your fingertip.  According to the creators, this is just as accurate as using your heart rate strap because "current generation phones can be used to detect changes in blood volume during a cardiac cycle by illuminating the skin and measuring changes in light absorption using the camera"  (source).


How it works:

When I get up in the morning, I go and get my phone (I don't keep it in the bedroom) then go back and lie down.  I fully relax and let my heart rate come back down before I take the measurement.  The measurement takes 1 minute and it's quite bright since the uses light in addition to the camera.  The app can link to Strava and Training Peaks so it can collect your workout data for analysis.  Once the measurement is done, you answer a series of questions based on your training, how you feel, how your training was, if you're sore, if you drank any alcohol the night before etc.  Based on your answers and your HRV, it will tell you if you're good to go, if you should limit intensity or take a rest day.

The app also allows you to track your CTL and ATL (fitness and fatigue).  It gives you a V02 max estimate.  You can analyze correlations between various things like sleep and heart rate.  You can analyze HRV trends to see if you're adapting to your training.  There is SO much information and data in this app.  If you're a data junkie, then you'll love this app.

Current bike fitness over the last 2 months.  As you can see I've had a few hard bike workouts in there.

This is based on my last 2 months of riding.  Some de-conditioning happening + going a bit too hard on my last two rides means that I have to be careful with my effort over the next little while.
Even though I'm in the moderate category for injury, my training is still considered well polarized.  
So how does this affect my training?  I still plan my workouts for the week, but I will adjust my intensity accordingly depending on how well I've recovered.   So there is always a plan B depending on what my HRV score says in the morning.   No more powering through workouts when I really should be taking it easy.  No more dogging it on days that I am totally able to go hard.  The thing that really changed in terms of my training schedule is my regularly scheduled day off.  I used to schedule one day off a week religiously regardless of whether or not I needed it.  Now, I will do a short easy workout, usually a swim or a restorative yoga class vs taking the entire day off.  Sometimes there are days where I mentally don't feel like doing anything and I'm feeling a bit tired so even if my HRV is within normal ranges, I will still take a day off because while I may not need to physically recharge, I need the mental break from training.   As a result, my training has become a bit more fluid and I have yet to feel any sort of burn out.

Training this way has definitely made me pay more attention to recovery and patterns that start to emerge when I don't necessarily take the best care of myself.  The older I get, the more important tracking recovery becomes.

How to you track your recovery?  By feel?  By resting heart rate?  Or not at all?

Monday, February 5, 2018

Monday Musings: Finding my Groove


I can't believe we've been here for a week already.  It feels like longer.  Probably because we're fairly familiar with Clermont.  We've settled into the house quickly.  I'm still working on figuring out a routine as I have friends down there that are on different training schedules so I'm trying to work in company for workouts when I can.  Especially bike workouts.  I'm comfortable riding on the Trail on my own but not out on the roads outside Clermont.  There are a fair bit of bike lanes here but I don't know exactly where all of them are.  That being said I have mapped a few routes on Strava that I think I'd be ok doing on my own so we'll see how I fare over the next few weeks.  I've also got to finalize our camp routes as well.

Surprisingly it was Wednesday before I actually got out on my bike!  Monday wasn't the nicest day so I finished running around getting groceries and house supplies and then went to the NTC to do a weight workout.  Tuesday was chilly and my friend Marianne asked me if I wanted to join her for a run on the clay trail and since I hadn't done a long run the week before I figured I might as well.  I didn't want to miss out on an opportunity to run the trail with some company.  G isn't running right now due to his knee so I wasn't sure when I'd get the opportunity to run it.  Wednesday was the first really nice day of the week so I took to the trail and rode into Winter Garden.  I can't believe how much has changed in the last year.  There is so much new development along the trail it's crazy.  I do think if we are going to bite the bullet and buy a place here, we need to do it in the next couple of years before prices start to get higher.  We did end up spending some of Saturday afternoon driving around looking at houses in some of the new developments.  I can't get over what you can get here for under $300,000 USD.  It's insane.   Realistically if we really want to make this snow bird thing work, we'd really have to downsize in Toronto into a condo.  OR, we move out of the city.  Both not really ideal right now.  So, looks like I need to start buying lottery tickets, haha.

Sunday was a day off for me and G was still taking it easy so we went to the local farmers market in downtown Clermont, stopped at The Energy Lab for the BEST coffee ever and sat on the patio for a bit.  We dropped our purchases off at the house, hopped back in the car and went exploring.  We ended up in Tavares at the worst Wendy's in the world.  From there we opted to head to Mount Dora to check it out again.  We went last year but didn't see anything of interest.  Turns out we actually missed the turn to go into the historic part of the city.  D'oh.  We didn't miss it this year.  As we drove in we realized that this weekend was the 35th annual Mount Dora Art Festival so the town was HOPPING even though it was raining.  We'll definitely be back to explore further.  There looked to be a lot of interesting shops and a bunch of awesome restaurants.  It's only about a 45 minute drive from Clermont so it may even warrant a bike ride out there for lunch or coffee.

Mount Dora Art Festival

Mount Dora Art Festival
I watched some of the Super Bowl, but went to bed with about 10 minutes left.  I was happy wake up  to see that the Eagles won.   Tom Brady has won enough, it's nice to see someone else at the top, ha ha.  My fave commercials of the night:  The Doritos Battle Rap followed closely by the NFL commercial with Eli Manning and Odell Beckham dancing.  SO funny.  All in all it was a lovely first week here.  

This is what went down workout wise:

Monday:  45 minute lower body strength session with a 3km run.  1.5km run to the gym and 1.5km run back

Tuesday:  16km clay trail run, followed by a 30 minute mobility class.  SO good!

Wednesday:  48.8km ride to Winter Garden for coffee.  I went out in the afternoon and it was SO windy.  I had forgotten just how windy it gets here.   It made that ride fairly challenging!

Thursday:  SLAP swim in the 50m pool.  Holy smokes, that was so hard.  I hadn't swam in over a week and this was a tough workout.  I do love swimming at the NTC though.  So awesome.

Friday:  Run to and from the gym - 3km, 60 minute full body workout then a really easy 20km spin with G on the trail

Saturday:  Another ride to Winter Garden with the Cycling Hub.  53.4km  And of course a stop for coffee afterwards.

Sunday:  OFF

Swim:  2500m
Bike:  123km
Run:  22.4km

Total time:  9h 43 minutes.   I was supposed to be on a recovery week this week time wise (just under 7 hours) but I was just so excited to be able to be outside I got a little carried away.  Luckily my workouts were mostly all easy with the exception of my swim so my training stress wasn't too high.

This week, I'll be getting much more stuck in with my training along with working on some other blog post ideas I've had swimming around in my head so stay tuned for that!

Happy Monday gang!  Don't dread Monday - look at it as another opportunity to create something amazing.  Master your mindset!

~ Coach PK

Monday, January 29, 2018

Monday Musings: We have arrived

Hello from somewhat sunny Florida, ha ha.  It's overcast this morning but it's WARM so that's a-ok with me.

We left Toronto on Friday and had a pretty uneventful drive down to the US.  G had to do his visa at the border so we had to stop for a bit.  The process was pretty smooth, I think we were in and out in 30 minutes or so.  The weather was awesome on Friday, sunny and 3 degrees when we started and it climbed steadily the further south we went, so we had a really smooth drive.   We drove into Charleston West Virginia on Friday night after spending the majority of the day on the road.   Saturday was our big day on the road (almost 9 hours of driving).  We drove from Charleston to St. Augustine, Florida.  Last year we stopped in Savannah but it was still roughly 6 hours to Clermont from there so this year we opted to at least get to the top of Florida so we only had a couple of hours drive to Clermont.  That way we could spend a bit of time exploring in the morning before we hit the road.  We did a day trip to St. Augustine last year and loved it so we thought it would be nice to stay the night there.  G and I went for a bit of walk on the beach in the morning and then I left G to continue his walk and I went for a very sweaty run.  It was 17 degrees and very muggy.  I only had my tights and a short sleeve dry-fit t-shirt in my overnight bag so that's what I ran in.  OMG I was drenched.  At least it got me used to the heat. 

Going through West Virginia on our first night

Walking along the beach in St. Augustine yesterday morning
The house we’re in this year in pretty freaking awesome.  It’s in a newer development within walking distance to the NTC.  Being in a newer development, it also has a POOL.  WAHOOOO.  The house we stayed in last year was a very old home with no real useful outdoor space which was a shame given how awesome the weather was.  This year, I intend to take full advantage of the upgraded outdoor space.  Here's hoping the weather cooperates!  

This past week was nuts.  For some reason I thought it would be smart to schedule all my appointments in the week before we left.  UGH.  So much scrambling!  It meant a lot of missed workouts but whatever, I know the next two months will give me more than enough time to get some solid work in.   My back was also causing me some grief so I opted to skip a swim to let it rest.  I really wanted to come to Florida feeling as good as possible.  I don't want to spend my time here sitting on the sidelines.  So let's just say I had a really good recovery week, ha ha.  I'm going to spend my morning planning out my next few weeks here.  

So, this is how my big time recovery week went:

Monday:  OFF

Tuesday:  9km run with 4km at tempo

Wednesday:  2450m swim

Thursday:  45 minute ride, 1 hour of strength training

Friday:  OFF

Saturday:  OFF

Sunday:  6km run around St. Augustine with 2km at tempo pace.  Easy to do on the flats!

Total time:  3h and 50 minutes.  I am clearly very well rested, haha.

Today I'm headed to the NTC for a swim and probably some strength training and then the afternoon will be a Training Peaks review day.  Last night we met up with a couple of our friends from here (Hi Marianne & Butch!) and I was talked into doing the Cherry Lake Duathlon this weekend.  I always say make sure your first race of the season isn't your first brick.  OOPS.  I had planned on starting brick workouts this week so, looks like I'll get ONE in before the race on Saturday.

Now it's off to Target to do some grocery shopping.

Happy Monday gang!

~ Coach PK

Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday Musings: Hitting the Road

Happy Monday!

Well Mother Nature blessed us with a reprieve from the polar vortex this weekend.  It felt like spring out it was so nice!  I hope you managed to get out and take advantage of it.  Looks like the brutally cold temps will be staying away for the next week, which means we *should* have a fairly uneventful drive down south.  Yup, we're headed back to Clermont for two months.   I'm super excited!  But first, the massive task of packing.  UGH.  And of course this coming week is when I scheduled all my appointments.  Because I somehow thought that would be a good idea. Ha.

I have some exciting news to share!  I have been accepted as a Lole Ambassador!  They were looking for a female run coach to round out their roster of Ambassadors so I got the spot!  This means I get to host 4 (or more) events at the Lole Yorkville store, all running related.  It also means that I get a discount on my favourite clothing brand.  I live in their stuff.  I also train and run in it so this is a huge win / win for me.  The most fun part?  I will be hosting a clothing party as well!  I'm not sure where or when just yet but I have some ideas so stay tuned for that.  Guests will get a discount too.  WOOHOO.

Anyway, I'm trying to head to Florida as healthy as possible since I will be away from my normal health care practitioners for a couple of months and I don't want to have to go and see someone down there as it more than likely won't be covered on our extended benefits.  So, I'm trying to get 'tuned up" as much as possible, ha ha.

Speaking of which, I had another fascial stretch therapy session this past week and she focussed on my upper body.  Wow.  I am feeling SO much better in the pool.  My chest feels so much more open and my shoulders don't feel as tight.  My shoulders were a bit of a mess.  So much so that my therapist took a picture of the difference.

Crazy right???

I'm definitely feeling much better through my chest and upper back.  I could still use a bit more mobility through my t-spine but I'm sure that will come if I keep working at it.  I can really feel the difference in the pool, which is fantastic.  G commented that I'm swimming much better.  I think my form is a bit better too.  Now I just need to work on my catch a bit more.  My goal is to be able to swim between 1:40-1:45 in a half ironman distance swim.  So I've got a bit more work to do.

I had a big week of workouts planned but by Friday I was feeling a bit run down.  I hadn't slept well for a couple of nights (thank you hormones!) and it caught up with my on Friday.  I had a swim and a run on tap and I did neither.  Saturday I thought I felt better (my HRV said otherwise but I ignored it) and I got on the bike and tried to ride for 2.5 hours.

I made it 10 minutes in and couldn't settle my heart rate so I pulled the pin.  This time next week I will be able to ride outside for as long as I want so I am not going to worry about trying to cram anything in this week.

So instead of the monster week I was hoping to have before we leave, I had a meh kinda week.  But it's better than nothing.  This is what went down:

Monday:  1 hour sweet spot ride.  Felt really good.

Tuesday:  35 minute run (6.7km).  I was supposed to have some tempo work in there but some poor food choices for lunch made that NOT happen.  I followed that up with 15 minutes of lower body work.

Wednesday:  2750m swim.  This felt good.  I was a bit sore from the FST treatment the night before but otherwise I felt ok.

Thursday:  60 minute strength session.  I did almost the entire workout I had my class do.  55 minute V02 max ride in the p.m.  That didn't go over so well.  My legs were toast (not surprising given I did my strength work first, duh).  The hard riding also bugged my lower back.  So I made it through half of the intervals and then called it a day.

Friday:  OFF

Saturday: OFF

Sunday:  2650m hard swim,  followed by a 13km run home in the a.m.  Then I did 60 minutes of strength work with my class in the p.m.   The GoPro came to the pool yesterday so there was some goofing around.

Totals for the week:

Swim:  5400m
Bike:  71km
Run:  19.7km

Total time:  8h 10 minutes.  

How was your week of training?  Have you had poor food choices ruin one of your workouts?  What did it for you?  Mine was having Chipotle for lunch.

Happy Monday!

~ Coach PK.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Monday Musings: Back at it


I know some of you enjoyed reading about my weekly workouts so I'm bringing Monday Musings back for my build up to my two 70.3 races this year.  It's definitely going to be an interesting year given that my two big races are 5 weeks apart.  We'll see how this old bod of mine holds up to that.

This past week was my first really solid week of training since the beginning of the year.  I'm feeling pretty good save for my low back, specifically my right side around my SI joint.   It seems to get stuck and irritated and I'm still trying to figure out why.  Some of it is core control for sure but I also feel that my lack of rotation in my T-spine doesn't help.  So I'm slowly working on fixing that.  Thankfully it's not preventing me from working out but there are days that I feel it and it bothers me.

This was my first week of experimenting with 10 day hard / easy format to see how I feel and how my body reacts.  After 10 days I'll probably take a rest day, just to play it "safe" even if I am feeling ok.  Sometimes I find taking a rest day a mental necessity vs a physical necessity.  I'm being much more "intuitive" with my training right now.  By intuitive, I mean if I feel good physically and mentally on my scheduled rest day, instead of taking the day off completely, I'll do an easy activity, usually a swim or yoga.  Something that isn't overly taxing.   I'm also using HRV4Training which monitors my heart rate variability to let me know whether or not I'm fully recovered and can proceed as planned or if I need to limit my intensity for the day.  It hasn't steered me wrong yet and I've been using it for a year now.

So, on to the fun stuff.  What did I get up to this week?

Monday:  Upper body strength workout

Tuesday:  13km long run

Wednesday:  2300m swim in the am, and a 1 hour endurance ride, short upper body workout in the p.m.

Thursday:  40 minute zone 2 run and a 1 hour mostly lower body workout - I actually did most of the workout I was teaching, which was a blast.

Friday:  1900m swim with sprints, 1 hour sweet spot ride.  My legs were feeling pretty sore from my strength class, ha ha.

Saturday:  2 hour mostly endurance based ride.  I had planned on doing lower body work afterwards but my body decided it needed a nap.  So I slept for about 40 minutes and then wasn't motivated to do anything else afterwards, ha ha.

Sunday:  2650m swim.  I had a 35 minute run on the schedule and put it off until after my Strength clinic.  Big mistake,  because once I got back from that, I had no desire to get my running stuff and go out for a run.  LOL.  So much for the Lululemon 40/80 challenge badge on Strava.

Totals for the week:

Swimming:  6,850m 
Cycling:  4h 13 minutes
Running:  20.6 km 

Total time:  10h 22 minutes 

That's slightly higher than normal volume for me this time of year but I'm building my time up for when I get to Florida.  I know I'll probably be between 12-14 hours / week of training if it's anything like last year.  When you have the opportunity to ride outside for two months in the winter, you take full advantage of it.

How was your week of training?  Who else is chasing some big goals this year?

~ Coach PK

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

What I've Tried: Fascial Stretch Therapy

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that I am a big proponent of self care, from regular foam rolling, to mobility work to massage, it's all an integral part of being a healthy injury free athlete.

Sometimes, you get to a point where these modalities may not be enough to help you feel or move better.  That was where I was at the end of last year.  I was having nagging SI joint issues, so I started working on engaging my core.  I also noticed that the range of motion in my legs had changed.  I felt like my hips and hamstrings were so tight that I couldn't stride efficiently.  Massage helped a little bit but within a few days I would be right back to where I was before my massage.  Something was up.

I read about fascia a few years ago as more and more research was being done on it's function and role it plays in mobility in the body.  Fascia is essentially a web that runs around our muscles.  It is a band of connective tissue that is found beneath the skin and it attaches, stabilizes, encloses and separates muscles and internal organs.

Fascia will thicken and shorten when any of your tissues are under stress, whether that be from poor posture, injury, surgery or long term exercise.   Shortened fascia can result in limited range of motion.  And limited range of motion can cause a host of other issues in your body.  It's a domino affect.

So how do you stretch fascia?  Doesn't regular passive stretching help with stretching your fascia?  It can help a little bit if done correctly but most of us stretch too deeply, usually to the point where were feel a bit of pain.  Your muscle will respond to that by tightening up, thus defeating the purpose of stretching in the first place.  And since fascia is deep within the muscle, it's very difficult to target it effectively without some assistance.

Enter Fascial Stretch Therapy, or FST for short.

What exactly is fascial stretch therapy?

The simple explanation is that it is assisted stretching, performed on a table, using stabilization straps to hold limbs in place.  Traction is a major component of the therapy.  This is the description from Performance Bodywork:  The therapist will apply gentle traction to the joint being targeted, opening up the joint and creating space for increased range of motion before taking the limb through the movement pattern, paying attention to the fascia restrictions that may need to be addressed.  

I have to say I've never experienced anything quite like it.  It is not meant to be painful and if I felt pain, I had to let my therapist know.  There were points where it was uncomfortable but if I managed my breathing, it helped with the discomfort.  I was twisted into all sorts of positions that I wouldn't have been able to get into myself.  After the treatment, I felt looser and lighter.  When I went for a run the next day, I felt like an entirely new person.  All of the restriction I had been feeling was GONE.  Even my SI joint pain felt better.   This was a game changer for me.

Why is it so effective?

FST targets fascia at the deepest level, which is around your joint capsule.  This forces the muscles around your joint capsules to relax.  If your joints start to get restricted, your mobility becomes compromised.  Compromised mobility leads to a feeling of stiffness and you'll notice decreases in performance.  As we age, we also begin to lose flexibility.  All of this can create a recipe for injury.

Currently, FST isn't covered under most extended benefit plans unless it is performed by an RMT (registered massage therapist).  Many personal / athletic trainers offer it as a service and several pilates studios also have practitioners.  I went to Body Harmonics, which is a pilates studio, for my treatment.  You can find your closest practitioner on the Stretch to Win website.  There are different levels and types of practitioners from level 1 to level 3, fitness specialists, which are usually athletic trainers, or medical specialists, which are usually RMTs, kinesiologists or physiotherapists.  I saw a level 3 fitness specialist.  She was amazing.  The higher the experience generally the more expensive the therapist, at least at Body Harmonics.  A level 3 practitioner is $115 for an hour and a level 2 practitioner is $105 an hour.  It was worth every penny.  That being said in future I may try to find a registered RMT so I can claim it through my extended benefit plan because if you're in rough shape, like I am, it's going to take more than one treatment to sort everything out.

I feel like FST has given my body a re-set.  As someone who has struggled with mobility issues and nagging injuries over the last couple of years, I feel like I am getting close to being back to where I was 5 years ago in terms of my mobility level.  I'm starting to feel like I'm physically ready to rise to the challenges I've set for myself in 2018.

Has anyone else tried FST?  Was it a game changer for you? 

Thursday, January 4, 2018

2018: The Year of Purpose

Happy New Year!

Alright, I'm a bit late to the party but I was seriously enjoying my down time over the last few days.  New Year's Day was spent in my lounge clothes, watching movies and making pretty things for my new side hustle.  G took Tuesday off so we got a ride in, took the Christmas Tree down and then tackled the storage cupboard under the stairs in the basement.  It was filled with SO. MUCH.  CRAP. that we haven't touched since we moved in so we did a huge purge.  Now there's room to actually hang some coats and put away our winter boots.

There's something about a good closet cleaning that just makes you feel lighter.  Less tethered to shit. I am always amazed at how much crap we accumulate.  It feels good to get rid of all the unnecessary stuff.

Which brings me to the reason behind this post.  Over the years I've seen people talk about setting intentions for the New Year vs. resolutions or goals.  One of the ways to set intentions is to choose a word that will guide you throughout the year.  That really resonated with me this year so I thought about it for a while.  I always have goals but they are usually only athletically oriented.  I wanted something that was a bit more all encompassing.  So, I asked myself, how did I want to live in 2018?

My answer:  with purpose

So I chose PURPOSE as my word for the year.  I chose it because of its duality.  It is both a noun and a verb.  You can have purpose and you can be purposeful.

noun:  the reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists

verb:  have as one's intention or objective

Last year was an exploratory year - it was about creating a path.  The path has been created, now it's time to move forward with purpose. 

Here's to a happy, healthy and purpose-FULL 2018

Have you ever chosen a word of the year to live by?  If so, what was it?  What is your word this year?

~ Coach PK 

Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: You Were a Good One

Happy New Year!

I'm still alive!  I know I've been M.I.A these last couple of months but I haven't felt like I've had much to share and truth be told, I've been busy focusing on building my coaching business and working on a bit of side hustle as well (more on that down the road).  I've been spending more time on Instagram, telling snippets of stories there.  But I will come back to blogging in 2018.

I hope everyone had a fabulous Christmas.   Ours was pretty low key, especially since G was sick.  That meant I went to my parents on my own.  He's starting to feel better but it's been a pretty slow process.  I'm crossing my fingers I don't get it.  I've dialled back the workouts these last two weeks just to balance out all the other activities.  I find this time of year we can really stretch ourselves far too thin and then we try to cram in training and we inevitably get sick.  I didn't want that to happen this year so I skipped a few swims, did some easier effort rides vs anything too hard and made sure I got adequate amounts of sleep.  A "few" swims turned into two weeks out of the pool but I will get back there soon.  😁  Especially since I've got a big ass goal for 2018.  I put it out on Instagram a couple of weeks ago and I'm putting it out there again.  It scares the crap outta me but I want it.  And you HAVE to WANT it, especially if it's a longer distance race and you know you're going to have to put in the time in less than ideal training conditions.

So what is the big ass goal?  I want to qualify for the 2019 70.3 World Championships.  I have chosen Muskoka as my A-race, which means I need to put in a lot of time in the HILLS this year because I want to absolutely crush that bike.  My run needs to improve a fair bit as well.  I am currently working out the kinks in my body to help provide a much more stable core for when I start to add regular speed work.  I've seen some glimmers of my old running self so I have high hopes that I will be able to find some of that lost speed.  I just have to make sure I remain healthy.  That is KEY.

The fact that I made it through a very successful season of racing with no major issues was huge, especially after my disappointing 2016 season.   As I said on Instagram, 2017 was fan-fucking-tastic.  It exceeded my expectations many times over.  My main goal was to get to the start line of Tremblant 70.3 healthy and ready to race.  Everything else was just a bonus.

My 2017 instagram #bestnine 
Professionally, this has certainly been a year of growth.   I have to pinch myself sometimes because I can't believe I'm finally doing my own thing.  People keep asking me if I miss my old job and the resounding answer is NO.  I miss the people but I do not miss the business at all.  I am still finding my way and figuring out what works and what doesn't in terms of running a business.  It's taken me a long time to get into a groove and I'm still working on developing a solid routine.

I am thrilled with how well this first year has gone and I'm SO thankful to all the athletes that have trusted me with their training this year.   It hasn't been all sunshine and roses however.  There has been some self doubt.  Things have seemed daunting at times.  But as the saying goes, Rome wasn't built in a day and I have learned to plan accordingly.

I'm looking forward to planning some fun events for 2018, in addition to the two I've already got on the calendar:  The Limitless Tri / PKPC  Fun in the Sun training camp in March and a beginner's swim clinic with Coach Jason from Tri-Train on January 20th.  Today's first annual Fun Run was awesome and my crew has given me some excellent ideas for 2018 events.  They may or may not involve beer and running.  😃

A handful of the PKPC crew!
Thanks so much to everyone that has read my ramblings this past year.  I know I have been a very sporadic blogger this year but I am aiming to change that in 2018.

Here's to a happy, healthy and KICK ASS 2018.

~ Coach PK

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Root of the Problem

I'm still here! I've been struggling with my focus lately.  I feel like I've got too many irons in the fire and I'm not sure which one to pull out first.  I also haven't really had the time to sit down an properly WRITE.  So I've decided to put myself on a weekly schedule where I allocate ONE full day a week to writing.  Hopefully that will breathe some life back into this space!

If you follow me on Instagram stories, you will have seen an underlying theme for the last few weeks.  I have not been myself.  I have not felt like myself.  I don't know how else to explain it other than I felt "off" both in body and in mind.   The fact that my body has felt off has kept me from moving the way I would like to.  I have not been able to do much without some kind of pain afterwards, whether it be in my knees, my shoulders or my lower back.  My plan was to get back to lifting weights but I couldn't even manage to do that without pain.  I was starting to get incredibly frustrated and very discouraged.   When things you love to do start causing you pain, you start to feel a bit lost.

I went to see my osteopath and sure enough my pelvis was slightly twisted.  That was causing me to compensate elsewhere.  My osteo helped fix things and get me back to my normal but I knew there was still work to be done.   I needed to figure out what the root of the problem was.

Enter my friend Lauren, The Running Physio.   I needed someone that could assess things and give me the tools to get back to normal.   Given my complaints and my symptoms, she suspected that things were stemming from my lack of core activation.  The fact that I have had two abdominal laparoscopies also comes into play (I had endometriosis).  There was never any sort of rehab after those surgeries because they were considered "minor".  I would beg to differ given how long it took me to recover after my first one.  I never gave those surgeries a second thought.  They solved one problem but probably created another.

So in addition to the mobility work that I have been doing, I am now doing physio work.  I'm really trying to focus on the mind / muscle connection.  I know that probably sounds kinda hokey but it's really SO important.  Muscle activation is controlled by the brain and our nerves.  When a muscle contracts, that's your brain sending a spark through your neural pathways.  Generally we can feel a muscle when it's working, especially our larger muscles.   But sometimes we can't.  In those instances, I've found that putting pressure on the muscle itself will help trigger it to start firing.  I do this a lot with my left glute when I'm trying to activate it in a single leg stance.  I used to get a lot of funny looks when I did this at the gym, ha ha.  I didn't care, I was going to do whatever it took to get that sucker firing!

My current self care arsenal...

The physio work I'm doing is targeting my deep core muscles.  I'm not doing crunches or leg lifts.  Nope.  The movements are so much more subtle.  They have to be in order to re-program my body.  That's essentially what this is.  A giant reboot from inside out, ha ha.  In the week and a bit I've been doing these exercises I'm feeling much better all around.  I'm running better and I'm actually swimming better.  Amazingly I'm starting to be able to rotate in the water, which was a problem for me previously.

So here's to doing all the little things that will hopefully add up to a stronger and healthier me in 2018.  Cause I've got some goals to crush next year.  More on that in another post down the road.  Right now, I'm here:

What little things are you doing to make you stronger?  

~ Coach PK