Category Archives: Training

Don’t over-think the brick

The pinnacle workout in triathlon training is the brick. A brick is a workout where you do two of the disciplines of swim/bike/run back-to-back. Usually this is the bike/run combo, but there’s certainly value in doing the swim-to-bike and even a full race simulation.

A triathlete client and another triathlete friend of mine told me that usually the run part of the brick is only 1-1.5 miles long, just enough to catch and train that transition part of the run. Still fairly new to triathlon I heard what they said and I think I understand the thinking but I also prefer to do as much of the run as I think my body can take. First of all of the three disciplines, running is my strongest. Secondly I know where my fitness level is and how much any given workout should be to get me ready for the two spring triathlons I’m doing this fall.

Who knows, maybe next year I see training completely differently. But right now I’m trying not to overthink the brick. Exercise science is a beautiful thing but exercise art is under appreciated. In fact just today I was talking with a client about deciding between a beginner plan and an intermediate plan. I suggested it’s better to decrease the intermediate plan (which is pretty advanced) rather than add to the beginner plan. But in reality he’s skilled enough to do either. The point is to know right were you’re at, where you’re going, and confirm with a team or a coach if your plan makes sense. Sometimes it isn’t the plan that you stick to, it’s whether or not you stuck to the plan.

Listen to your body and your mind and good things will happen. Coaches really help, too.

Your Goals + My Plan + Your Execution: Our Team’s Formula for Success

Don’t compare. You have no idea where that other person is at. You have no idea how far you can go. You and I have enough to worry about just dealing with our own stories. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else.

When I am coaching clients I often use this equation: your goals + my plan + your execution is our recipe for success. Don’t waste your time with anyone else’s goals. What do you want to accomplish? What will it take to get there? What will you do when you experience an injury or a set-back? Do you have an expert plan in place? And then can you execute that plan? That’s where a coach and/or a team come into play.

Before you retire for the day, get a notecard and a pen and write down your goal for the end of the year. Of course you know I preach long-term pursuit, but we need to start with a short term goal to build momentum. My goal is to finish two triathlons and finish the year with a new understanding, appreciation, and pursuit of nutrition and strength training. So far, so good.

All about that brick: 12.13 + 2.5

At the finish of my workout today I was feeling very accomplished, challenged, and progressing nicely for my two triathlons coming up in a couple weeks. The brick was a 12.13 mile bike followed by a 2.5 mile run. The reason for the extra energy after the workout was that I was pushed by Phil, an experienced triathlete who just competed an Olympic distance triathlon so his cardio and power is pretty dialed in right now.

I’m still learning a lot about triathlon. I know how important the brick workout is (two disciples in one workouts, mostly the bike-run combo) but I’m still working through what distances to train at and how to manage the transition. So you can imagine it’s nice to have an experience athlete like Phil to train with.

Today we talked about how typical bricks include a long bike and only 1.25-2.0 on the run. I’m sure that might be a typical brick but as a beginner I want to feel as much of that run after a long bike as possible. Today’s bike was at race pace and even though it was a couple miles less that race distance, I want to feel the challenge of running at race pace after that push on the bike. And like I said, my accomplishment after the workout came because I was pushed and responded well.

Anxiety in the water

I am much more efficient in the water than I’ve ever been. And yet in the middle of my workout yesterday I was reminded how much anxiety I have in one aspect of the swim: opposite side breathing.

Triathletes need to be able to breathe on both sides of their body in case there’s waves, sun, or competitors on the strong side. For me this is a challenge for two reasons. First my form is terrible when I breathe on my left. I’m actually kind of shocked at how hard it is to replicate the breathing on my right side. But more critical to my training is the fact that breathing on my left side is often filled with lots of anxiety; since my form is so bad, I always worry that my poor form will lead to me subluxing my shoulder. Both of my shoulders are loose and when I pull so much in the water, that’s a lot of stress on the joint. Additionally if I start pulling too soon (with my body rotated), I put myself at increased risk for subluxation. It’s a mind game. I’m winning the game but it’s a big battle.

Building on the bike

Yesterday I rode another “longest ride ever” distance on the bike. I had a decent 60+ mile week last week and though this week wasn’t as full I went a single distance longer than I’d ever done before, so that’s training. And to be honest it was easy, only limited by time and poor hydration preparation. Starting a new discipline or a new event or workout always produces these kinds of firsts. It’s motivating, but then the question is how do you continue that progress. Not only do you need to continue with longer rides but you also need to continue the regular mid-week rides that support that longer ride on the weekend. This is training, this is the process, this is what I’m falling in love with all over again.

It’s been quite a few years since I’ve had races on my calendar. That’s means training has taken a toll on me. I’ve worked out just for the sake of working out, trying to stay healthy. It’s a battle that I can endure for a season, but I’d much rather be training for something. If I’m going to do a couple triathlons this year then I need to continue having weeks of lots of miles and rides with most miles ever. That’s how training works, that’s how life works.

Easiest 1500 meters ever

Today I swam 1500 meters without any real problem. The purpose of this post is to demonstrate that with proper (progressive) training you can feel the benefits of all your hard work quicker than you may expect. Swimming is hard for me but once I committed to the workouts, I got better each time both physically and mentally. Yes, there’s a lot of mental training happening for me in the pool.

Swim on!

My first group ride: it included a burger and fries

Last week Matt Hanson invited me out for a Burger ride with his cycling team. I know what you’re thinking: Is a burger ride what I think it is? Yes. We ride to a burger joint, have the American classic, and ride home. I opted for the grilled chicken sandwich because I’m smart like that. But not so fast… I still had the fries. And I had my first Blue Moon in forever. With the warm temps in Madison lately, that beer went down just fine.

The ride was very short – six miles one way. I wanted to go faster but I had enough learning to do with the hand signals. I didn’t put up the “brake” sign and a lady right behind me almost rear-ended me – oops. Plus the bike path is a little narrow so with oncoming bikers it gets a little thin out there. Nonetheless it was a nice introduction to group riding.

Fit and Fabulous (part 1)

A couple weeks ago I was the first guest on a new segment on a local radio station here in Madison, 93.1 JAMZ. The segment is called Fit and Fabulous and it’s hosted by Krista, a client of mine, along with Corrina and Jessa from Girl Talk (channel 57). The idea is to bring in guests with an area of expertise that will help the (primarily female demographic) feel… you guessed it, fit and fabulous!

When I was asked to be a part of the segment I immediately anticipated the struggle of speaking to an audience I’d never met, that couldn’t see me, and that I couldn’t feed off. As a trainer I’m very comfortable with instruction, coaching and adjusting to clients. But this medium would be a new challenge. Sign me up!

I knew I needed to bring my training expertise to the table but at the same time I couldn’t assume that many listeners were necessary ready to jump on board with what I was suggesting (more on that later). So I decided to create a Facebook group so that interested listeners could immediately participate with me and ask additional questions. We already have ten members.

I’m scheduled to appear three more times on Fit and Fabulous. I structured the 4-part series to assume listeners were starting from ground zero. I introduced the Faithful Four, four exercises that are ‘faithful’ because they’re with you where ever you go: push-ups, sit-ups, squats and lunges. I shot a quick video for the Facebook group to demonstrate and put a face to their new trainer. We’re off to a great start!

You can watch the Facebook Live broadcast here. If you read this and want to join the Facebook group, please drop me a line and let me know this post closed the deal!

Goals in the right place

Today when I asked a client about her goals, she said she wants to lose weight and “lean out” in a certain body region. “Spot reduction is not possible. I know, not a popular statement but very true: your body (and his body and her body and my body) will burn fat wherever it wants. All you can do is get into a calorie deficit and repeat.”

You’ve been active for a long time. You’ve participated in sports. Or you’re just getting back into it after a few seasons (or years) off. Now there’s extra weight in areas you want to just zap away. You immediately implicate the muscles underneath that fat but that’s not how fat burning works. Caloric deficit is a systemic issue – your whole body takes in calories, burns calories, and the whole body will respond by shedding fat in its own unique way. Again, not popular but very true.

The solution? First, it’s important to build a great routine that just gets longer and stronger over the next six months. ”Six months, Hans??!!” That’s right, I’m trying to get all my clients to play the long game; be in this exercise and fitness to get results in December. I don’t care about summer and I certainly don’t care about the next few weeks of spring. This is a process, this is a grind, this will take serious work.

Once your routine is set, the second thing you need is to build into 4-6 days per week. Remember that phrase from earlier: caloric deficit. To expect weight loss we need to burn more calories than we consume. Seems obvious and even ‘easy’ but in my experience the “calories in” are more than we think, the calories burned are less than we think. The body does a great job finding homeostasis and resisting change. So let’s step up to the challenge and bring some serious change!

The third aspect is keep the challenge high. Switch things up. So many people come into a gym or into a workout and get their 30 minutes of cardio and call it a day. I’m not suggesting every workout kicks your butt, but you should be challenged each day. Strength training is more important than you’ve giving it credit for. Your steady state cardio can get 10% longer for ten straight weeks. That’s going from 30 minutes to 78! Try it! Adjust as necessary.

Spot reduction does not work. To see where you lose the weight first, let’s get into that caloric deficit. Try this template: each week includes three days of strength training, one day of intervals or shorter steady-state cardio, and one day of longer steady-state cardio.

If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Workout Refresh

A group of four ladies have been taking classes and doing their own workouts here at Pinnacle for quite a few years. A couple weeks ago they decided they needed a refresh so they contacted me. We found a time that works for everyone and last week we started our first of ten sessions together.

The energy in this group is fantastic. I don’t do a lot of small groups but this is off to a great start! It certainly helps that they all know each other. I’ve asked them all to give me a briefing on where they’re at in their fitness journey and then consider what I can do to coach them to the next level as we move forward. That’s the one-on-one stuff. As a group, they do a nice job cheering each other on and there’s a silent motivation working also; when you’re sweating and grinding with your team, the goal is to get through the challenge Coach put out there and your teammates are all you have. Can you hear the athlete in me coming out? Every once in awhile we al need to tap into that competitive juice and see how far we can push.

One of my main responsibilities as an exercise specialist is to change up people’s workouts. Not just changing it up for the sake of change, but to keep them challenged and thus getting better. That’s where these ladies nailed it: they stepped out of their comfort zone, identified a need and made an adjustment.