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Blog, Journey

With all the hype and excitement prior to this big event I made sure to arrive a few days ahead of the race to give myself enough time to prepare and join in on some of the pre-events that the race has to offer. I was in Roth as a spectator last year so I knew how crazy it will get come race day.

Training wise I had cut down a lot on volume and intensity in the last 3 weeks leading into the race. Learning from last year’s Ironman where I felt a little bit tired and not 100% fresh on race day. This year I wanted to be 100% fresh and race ready, trusting in my hard work that I have put in the months before.

The days before the race I felt very relaxed and comfortable but at the same time I was also very focused and determine. My biggest worry was the weather forecast to be honest. It was predicted to be a very hot day and I know that racing in heat can be a big limiter. But rather than worrying too much I tried to focus on the things that I can control such as my pacing strategy and the fuelling. I had put down a plan for that so I said to myself there is nothing to worry about. On my 5-hour drive to Roth the days before I was listening to some of the podcasts from Matt where he discussed how to race in the heat and how to manage the terrain. That gave me some more confidence going into the race. I was well prepared.

To make sure I didn’t fall into a lethargic state prior to race day I kept the body active by doing an open water swim to check out the swim course, rode some of challenging parts of the bike course and went on two more runs. Nothing crazy really. The body felt good and that removed the worries. I was ready for it and probably in the best fitness and readiness shape that I have ever been so far.

 

Race Morning

I arrived very early on race morning to give myself a lot of time to set everything up and spend some more time with my friends and family who joined me in the morning. Everything went smooth and by the time I finished setting up T1 I had more than 1 hour to go before my wave went off. The place around T1 was filling up quickly with spectators and I have never seen so many people lining up to watch the swim start of a race. It was brilliant and the atmosphere was electric.

The warmup area didn’t really allow to do a proper warmup, so I did a few mobility drills to loosen up my shoulder joints and some breathing exercises to calm down the nerves and get focused. In the warmup area, there were also all the pros getting ready so it gave the feeling that we are all in this together as we must go through the same.

You could tell that the tension was building up and everyone was ready to race. The place by this time was pumping. Thousands of people lined up along the canal and on the bridge and it gave me some goose pumps when I entered the water to start the swim. I have never seen such a big crowd in a race before.

The Swim

Once the gun went off for my wave I let the fast guys take off and then I settled into my own rhythm. It was a big group with a lot of guys so the first few hundred meters were a bit hectic. I didn’t let myself get distracted and just focused on my own swimming. Finding a rhythm wasn’t that easy but after a few hundred meters I got into it and started to swim smooth and very controlled. Knowing that it will be a long and hot day out there I was swimming at a comfortable place. The rest of the swim was pretty un event full. It was an almost straight-line swim with 2 turns. By the time I was making my way back to the swim start I thought that it was a slower swim than usual. On the last few hundred meters you could hear the noise of all the spectators. Every now and then I took a glimpse on the side and there were just people everywhere. It was unreal!

When I exited the water, and ran into T1 I just had a look at my watch and too my surprise it showed a time of 59 minutes. That was a 1 minute quicker than my last Ironman swim. Happy with that I flew through T1 and by the big applause of all the spectators I got onto my bike and off I went for lap one of the 2 lap bike course.

The Bike

My plan for the bike was to not go out too hard on the first 15km and stick to my power. I was surprised how quickly I got into a good rhythm so it was hard to hold back and not get too excited. I managed the first 2 inclines on the first 20km well and my legs felt good. The road to the first longer climb in Greding was mostly flat. I put my head down and settled into a strong but sustainable effort. I was passing a lot of riders on the first 50km. Prior to the race I rode the Kalvarienberg climb so I knew what to expect. On the day, it was filled with a lot of spectators who were pushing you up the hill. I sticked to my plan and didn’t go overboard on this one. Controlled and strong, lower cadence, higher power, getting out of the saddle and pushing over the top of the hill. Easy stuff I thought, it felt good and the climb didn’t do much damage. From there onwards the ride continued to be smooth. I managed the technical downhill sections not too bad this time. Listening a couple of times to Matt’s and Paul’s talk about managing terrain helped 😉 Riding downhill is still a weakness where I lose time, so more practice needed. The road conditions were perfect and there were not too many riders on the road, so I kept some good momentum on the downhill parts.

One of the highlights was definitely Solar Hill. When I took the last turn before the climb I couldn’t believe what I saw (or didn’t see haha). There were just spectators everywhere. Thousands of them and it was almost impossible to see the road as it was just packed with people. I had no one in front of me riding when I started my Solar Hill climb and the crowd just went ballistic. I had a big smile on my face as I was climbing up the hill. Amongst the big crowd I spotted my family and friends which was awesome. I could tell they had as much fun as I did. I soaked up the energy I got from the crowd and it felt great. The last 20km of the first lap went by way too quick and I couldn’t believe that I was already on my second lap. This was too easy, right?

After the first lap, I did a quick check how I was progressing. My average power was spot on where expected it to be and I was also happy with my average speed knowing that I haven’t overcooked the first lap and still have plenty of energy left for lap two. I continued my second lap and pretty much executed it the same way as the first one. After the race, I checked my data and my second lap was only 20 seconds slower than the first one. I thought that was pretty good.

The first time I noticed a little bit of fatigue in my legs was on the last 10km into T2. It was expected but looking back I think I paced the ride well. Here are some data stats from my ride

Avg.Power: 182 Watts (FTP: ~250 Watts)
IF: 0.728
TSS: 267
Avg. Pace: 35.2km/h
Avg.HR: 145 bpm

Nutrition wise I stuck to my plan. I just drank a little bit more water than usual but calorie wise I stuck to the plan. There were no signs of any gastro issues and my energy level was normal. One change I made from my last Ironman was to use more fluid nutrition rather than solid food. I had 1 Clif Bar and the rest was liquid calories and 2 gels using my trusted source of fuelling from Hammer Nutrition. Added to that I had my electrolytes and plenty of water (Maybe a bit too much water, as I had a to take a toilette stop before I started the run to release some of the pressure that was building up at the end of the ride)

The Run

Before the race I put big hopes into my run performance as I have developed some good resilience and run fitness in the last couple of months. Looking back at my first Ironman experience last year, I experienced firsthand what it’s like to run a marathon in an Ironman. So, I was prepared to suffer and struggle but trusted in all the work that I have done.

It took me 2-3 km until I found a good rhythm. First, I experienced some pain in my left food sole which just dissolved and never returned during the race. I took on some nutrition at the start of the run and my plan was to stick with Gel + Water as long as possible. The first 10km went by pretty quickly and I felt really good holding my target race pace of 4:45min/km. I was confident to maintain that pace as the heat was not as bad as initially thought.

The new run course in Roth has its new challenges. In the 2 lap course there are longer inclines that are quite challenging. Once I passed km 15 I started to notice a level of fatigue and heaviness in my legs building up. At this stage I wasn’t overly worried and kept pushing. As the run went on it was harder and harder to maintain a good rhythm and pace. The up and downhill running made it difficult to maintain a good pace and I started to struggle. My pace dropped to about 5:00-5:10 min/km and it was a battle to hold it. After the first two laps (km22) my energy levels dropped again and I knew that very soon I need to get more sugar into my body to stay alert and focused. The temperature started to raise as well and at the km 25 mark the pain was real and the mental game was full on. The great support and the massive crowds on the run course helped me a lot to get through this part of the race. Knowing I still had to run out to Büchenbach on the last lap was hard to swallow (that is a long incline), especially as you run past the finish a couple of times during the race. I had to put my act together at this point. I took walk breaks at every aid station to take in nutrition. Coke and water on the last 1hr of the run. I cooled down the body as much as possible to avoid overheating. The legs were in limbo state and very stiff and heavy. Turning the legs over became a real struggle but I said to myself, it’s only 1 hr to go. Other runners on the course, the atmosphere and the thought of the pre-race food and massage lifted my spirit. I pushed through the pain and fatigue and was even able to pick up the pace again on the last few km.

The last 2km to the finish line were awesome. You run through the city centre where thousands of people are celebrating and cheering you on. It was such a good moment in my triathlon career. I really enjoyed that part the most, knowing I am so close to home and delivered a good race. I was just happy and satisfied. On the last few hundred meters I saw my parents and friends, I hugged them and everyone was just happy and proud as well. Passing the finish line in Roth was a moment in my life I will always remember. Crossing the finish line in the biggest and most spectacular triathlon in the world, was a good reminder why I love this sport so much.

 

Some after thoughts

At the end of the day everyone participating in such a race has their own reasons. I think you need to have a strong “WHY” to be successful in this sport in your own terms. I realised that when I watched the last finisher crossing the line and the emotions, celebrations and feelings that go along with that. It’s not about winning or setting PBs that make you a great athlete, it’s about what you create for yourself and other people around you. I was inspired by people who didn’t race to win, I was inspired by the impact they can have on other people. We are very privileged to be able to do this sport and I think to give back some of that inspiration and positivity to other people is very important. At least for me and I hope that my journey in this sport can inspire and influence as many people as possible so that they can find their own path to live a more passionate, fulfilling and happy life!

For now, I am going to enjoy 2 easy weeks of no structured training before I get all my energy focused again for the last built for Ironman Italy End of September.

Race Splits

Swim: 00:59:17
T1: 00:02:29
Bike: 05:03:59
T2: 00:03:12
Run: 03:27:41

Overal: 09:36:36

Overal Rank: 147 of 3456
Division Rank: 34 of 437
3rd Best Austrian of 98

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Blog, Training

In the first part of this serie I talked about the concept behind Foundation Training and why it’s useful in particular for triathletes. If you haven’t read the article please go ahead and check it out first before you continue reading – Founadtion Training for triathletes – Part 1

In this part I would like to talk about how I personally use Foundation Training in my daily routine. I am a big fan of daily routines and the Foundation Training excercises are great as a morning kick start routine. I keep the excercises short, as I don’t want them to consume too much of my time in the morning. 

The reason why I’d like to do these excercises in the morning after I wake up is to loosen up those muscles in my lower back. It’s also a breathing excercise at the same time, so I can combine some muscle strengthing and activation with some deep breathing. 

It’s important before you begin doing the excercises to properly study and learn them. They are not difficult but it needs a bit of training first to make sure you do them correctly. The right posture is very important to get the most out of the excerise. 

I have purchased the Foundation Training Videos from their website. You can download them for $59 from hereThey teach you every single excercise in a very simple and easy to understand way. If you don’t want to purchase the videos I recommend to check out some youtube videos or visit the website www.vancesimpson.com where you’ll find good introduction materials.

My morning routine

To keep things simple, I basically run the following 6 sequences in the morning. Each sequence takes about 1-2 minutes. I stay in each position for 3 slow deep breaths. 

After I finished the sequences I usually engage in some more deep breathing excercises and some medidation. I find these excercises to be really helpful in strenghtening my back, in particular the lumbar area. I noticed some improvements already after doing the excercises for a few weeks.

Does it translate to better performance in triathlon? Well I can’t answer this question yet but as I get stronger in my back it has definitelly helped in my cycling where I sometimes experienced some lower back tightness on those longer rides. I feel my overall posture has improved as well. 

As I will continue with Foundation Training I will keep you updated how it goes and provide some more insights in my next post of this serie. 

If you have already used Foundation Training and have some personal impressions, please feel free to share them with me, as I am curious how other people go with this training. 

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Blog, Training

In this 3 part series I want to talk a little bit about my experience with Foundation Training and how I use it to help me with injury prevention and to increase performance. I just came across the foundation training method while listening to one of Ben Greenfield’s podcasts where he was talking about it and how it can help athletes and everyday people.

Get more grounded and become a more resilient and injury free athlete
Foundation-Training-Athletes-199x300

The main idea behind Foundation Training is to live pain free, restore movement patterns and improve performance if you are an athlete. It’s a safe and effective excercise program to help you change the movement patterns that are hurting you. The excericses are simple and desigend in a way to naturally heal back pain. You do not need any special equipment and it can be easily added to your daily life. What I instantly liked about the concept was that it’s easy and short in duration and can be added to your existing training program. It only takes a few minutes of your time every day, either in the morning, during your work break or before you go out to do your training. I find it as a good addition to Yoga as well. Foundation Training is all about your core, basically anything that connects to your pevlis, including your hamstrings, glutes and adductor muscles. It teaches all those muscles to work together through specific full body movements and breathing patterns. In times like these where a lot of people suffer from back pain issues and sitting all day infront of a desk, this training addresses all these issues and helps you banish back pain and to restore nerve and lower back function to be able to live pain free. It basically trains your shoulders, back, butt and legs – the large posterior chain muscle groups. The creator of this training, Dr. Eric Goodman, explains on his website that the Foundation Training is:

“(an) innovative movement improvement program designed specifically to help you roll back the damage done and, more importantly, to help you become that pain-free and more powerful person we all aspire to be.”

 

A quick briefing on Foundation Training

For a further good introduction to Foundation Training, check out the video below with Dr. Eric Goodman

What’s in for you as a triathlete

We all know that “core” work is important and should be incorporated into your strength training routine. Very often when we think of “the core” we just think about the abs. Yes they are part of it but they are just one of many muscle groups that define the core. For endurance athletes a strong core contributes to better athletic performance and strengthing the muscles that surround the spine needs special attention. The Foundation Training does help here with activating and strengthening of the primary muscle groups that are important for triathletes. In the next part I will share some of the excercise routines that I use before training and in the morning. If you want to learn more in the meantime about Foundation Training, here are some good links for some follow up reading and watching.

 

https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/07/what-is-foundation-training/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZcZenvWBlg&feature=youtu.be

http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/01/03/updated-foundation-training.aspx

https://www.amazon.de/True-Form-Foundation-Training-Sustained/dp/0062315315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470741250&sr=8-1&keywords=foundation+training

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Blog, Ironman, Journey, Races

“Nothing comes easy, if you want something bad enough, you will get it, but don’t wait for it to come to you, you have to get up, get going and go after it.”

When the nerves kicked in a couple of days before the race, I always reminded myself of the hard work I have put in to get to the start line. I trusted in my training and I knew I was fit and in good shape. The excitement was definitely higher than for any other race I have done so far and my lead up to the race was good. No big setbacks like injuries or sickness, I could follow the training plan through which gave me enough confidence to race. But anyway, I was nervous and excited, which I think is normal and a good thing, as long as you can use it for your advantage. Alright, let’s jump into the race and how it all went. It was a long day in the office for everyone, not just me. My whole support crew did a massive job as well in supporting me throughout the day. I think without them, the race experience would not have been the same! You guys know who you are, so a very big Thank You at this point! You are legends! P1050820DSC_2869 Picture credit goes to Pia Dirnberger and Gernot Wiesinger http://gernot-wiesinger.at/

PRE RACE

Race morning was very well planned, so I felt relaxed after an early 3am wakeup call. The last thing you want is a bad surprise that messes up with your plan. A little something usually happens to me, so I was prepared. Well, this time I couldn’t find my race watch for the bike mount. It somehow disappeared and I spend a couple of minutes in the transition area trying to find it. It somehow slipped into one of my bike shoes. Luckily I checked again before I left transition and found it. A few deep breaths and I was ready to head to the swim start. I did my run warmup, toilette stop and then headed to the start where I did another swim warmup. After that it was time to give one last hug to my family and friends. I was running a little bit late, so I missed the queue for my rolling swim start wave. It wasn’t a big deal, I only had to start in one of the later waves and had to wait a bit longer. It didn’t really bother me too much. I was very calm, relaxed and focused. One thing my coach told me is to deal with the immediate task at hand. Don’t worry about the outcome, focus on the process. I think this is a great mantra for every triathlete. We tend to start asking our self a lot of questions during the race and lose focus on the immediate task at hand! DSC_2691

SWIM

I felt relaxed entering the water and my plan was to start smooth and controlled. I focused on my stroke, breathing and sighting for the first few minutes. I found a good rhythm quite quickly and settled into a solid and strong but controlled effort. There were plenty of buoys on the first 1.3km going out so sighting was quite easy. I overtook a lot of swimmers and felt good coming to the first left turn. After the first turn I picked up the pace a little bit to reach the next turn which was about 500m away. After the second turn we were already heading back and we had the sun in our eyes. That made it really hard to sight, so I followed a huge group of swimmers which were about 100 meters in front of me. I sighted more often on the way back to make sure I stay in line with the group. The gap to the group got smaller and a few hundred meters away from the shore I could spot the flags which mark the entrance to the lend canal Once I hit the canal I noticed the people lining up left and right of the canal. About 100m in the canal I could hear voices shouting my name. What the hell?? I turned to the right and spotted my whole support crew!!! I was literally swimming 2 meters beside them, all the way until the exit of the swim. Without much thinking my stroke rate increased and I was speeding past a lot of swimmers. I was in the zone! It felt awesome and the cheering helped me a lot. It was fun and I was thinking to myself, boy this is going to be a great day! After the last sharp right turn there was already the swim exit. I slowly walked up the carpet which led you out of the water before I started my run into transition 1. A quick look at my watch confirmed my good feeling. A 1hr swim! Bang, game on! DSC_2693DSC_2718

TRANSITION 1

It was a long run to the transition zone. I quickly located my transition bag and entered the tent to change into my cycling gear. I took my time. I wanted to make sure everything is in place before I got on my bike for the 180km ride. That was intentionally. Don’t rush and forget something, this is not a sprint distance race. After more than 5 mins in transition I was on my bike. Looking at my times after the race I think I left a little bit too much time there:-/

BIKE

My plan was to stay on the conservative side on the first loop and be vigilant about my fuelling and hydration. I wasn’t pushing any big gears on the first 15mins of the ride. Focus was to get comfortable on the bike and focus on pedalling and form. First it felt strange riding my bike after swimming for 1h and it took me a while until I found my legs and the power. I waited with nutrition and hydration for 30 mins. After that, I consumed water + food every 15 mins throughout the ride. For the most part I had solid food in the form of energy bars. No gels! Just real food and water and electrolytes. I pretty much stuck to that until the last hour before I introduced fluid nutrition (gels + carb diluted water). I was able to follow my nutrition plan throughout the ride and didn’t have any weird gut issues. It was all looking good. The first 20km were mostly flat with a few little inclines before we hit the first climb after km 30. Nothing too bad really. I kept a solid pace, my heart rate was in the right zone. The only issue I had pretty much right from the start was my neck! Damn, it was sore from the swim. This was bothering me and I tried to stretch it out to release some tension. It got a little bit better as the ride went on but it was still quite annoying. On the flats I kept the cadence high and made sure I had good tension on the chain. On the climbs I kept the power a bit higher but avoided heart rate spikes. The course is very technical and varies a lot in terrain, so you need to adjust and use all the tools and skills you’ve got. You can’t ride that course with the same power all the way through. The course gets really fast on the long and steady downhill sections, that’s where you need the big gears. My body composition didn’t really provide an advantage here so I had to work harder than the bigger and stronger riders on the downhill. I knew this is where I can make or lose a lot of time. I thought the first 90km took ages. I felt ok but not great! After starting my second lap I checked my time and pace. My avg. speed was about 34.5 km/h. That gave me confidence for the second lap. DSC_2842DSC_2919 Going through lap 2 I felt better than on the 1st lap. I tried to stick with some of the stronger riders on the flat sections. Towards km 140 rain set in. It was pouring down quite heavily which made the downhill sections very dangerous. I was surprised how some of the guys speeded down on that slippery and wet road. I saw the ambulance twice and I intentional took out the speed on the winding downhill sections. The risk of an accident was just too high and not worth it at any cost. I stayed conservative and my plan was to get to T2 in one piece. The last 2 climbs on the second lap were tough. I could feel my quads burning going up the Rupertiberg. It’s not a very long and steep climb but it’s still enough to suck out a lot of energy. Once I reached the top of the last climb it was time to take in some more nutrition before I made my way back to the finish. With 30km to go it was one more time to put in some solid effort on the descents coming into Klagenfurt. On the last 10km my focus was slowly switching towards the run. I tried to stretch out my back, got out of the saddle a few times and kept the cadence high to prepare my legs for the run. Before I reached T2 I had a quick check on my second lap time, it was slower than the first one which I expected considering the rain and some drop of power on those climbs. I was feeling good though and was glad to get off the bike and start the run!

TRANSITION 2

Similar to T1 everything went smoothly. Maybe I took a bit too much time tying my shoe laces and putting on my running socks. There is definitely some time to shave off in those transitions. But hey, I was a first timer 😉

RUN

So there I was, approaching my Ironman run. Some would say that’s when the race starts. The swim and bike was the warm up, now it’s time to get into the pain cave for a couple of hours. I was mentally prepared and ready. I did a lot mental preparation beforehand and went through some worst case scenarios and how to deal with it. My mantra was. Think positive, move forward, don’t stop, and keep going. I am strong, I have worked hard for that, I can do it. Let’s get going, have fun and embrace the pain! The first 15 mins are crucial in the run, it sets you up for a good or bad day. My coach told me to focus on form, posture, food speed. Run upright and don’t worry about your pace. Find a comfortable rhythm, have good posture and form and the legs will come to you automatically. That’s exactly what I did and I got into a good rhythm very quickly. I felt good, really good and I was running smoothly. After 2.5km I had a quick look on my watch. It was all looking good. I was sitting on a 4:40min/km pace and my heart rate was right there were it should be. All good I thought, if it continues like that this will be a walk in the park I thought. Well let me tell you this, things changed pretty quickly and I was up for a rollercoaster ride.DSC_2954 After the second aid station I felt some urge to do a toilette stop. No big deal I thought, I have practiced that in training. Stop and go. I was a little bit worried that I took in too many calories on the last part of the bike. Hence I avoided any calories on the run for the first 40 minutes or so. I had water, electrolytes and watermelon at the aid station. After my toilette stop things started to get worse. My legs felt stiff and heavy. I was struggling to get back into my rhythm and my pace. It was getting harder and harder to keep my target pace. From km 5 – km 20 it was an up and down. For a while I felt good but then my mood went down pretty quickly and the mind games started. I knew that if mood drops, it’s a sign of a lack of calories. So I topped up my calories with gels at the aid stations. It was too early for coke. Not yet. I can still manage it. From km 20 onwards things got worse. It was soo damn hard to keep the pace, it dropped, and I was forced to go a bit slower than anticipated. At that point I didn’t give a damn about my time or pace. All I wanted to do is to keep going, even if it’s slow. Don’t stop, keep moving forward. I can’t recall too much between km20-30. I was in big struggle town. I walked through every single aid station! The way I split up my run was to run from one aid station to the next. Set small goals. The support on the course was phenomenal. Everyone was cheering you on and every time I came past my family and friends my mood went up and I felt proud to take part at this crazy event. On a few occasions I was laughing to myself, thinking we are all a bunch of idots doing such a stupid race. DSC_2965 I watched other runners as well and I didn’t find anyone who was not struggling. We were all in this together. My crew was amazing, they pushed me forward. I was loving it that they had fun. I tried to look good when I passed them, didn’t want them to think I am struggling. It’s all good thumbs up. (Yeah if they knew in how much pain I was) I got this. When I started the last lap at km mark 32 I knew I will make it. I got a rush of energy from somewhere. At this point it was the first time I had a look at my overall time. Where was I sitting, what’s the time? I quickly did some calculations in my head and thought, well if you keep running with that pace a sub 10hr is no problem. Just keep doing what you’ve been doing. That’s what I did on the last 10km. I enjoyed it, I got comfortable with the pain. It was still bloody hard and painful but manageable. 5km until the finish line, that’s awesome. Enjoy it. I saw my folks one last time before I took the turn towards the finish chute. We high5’d, everyone was soo excited, pumped up. What an achievement. The last 100m before I crossed the finish line were epic. It’s hard to explain what it feels like. It’s a rush of adrenaline that goes through your body. It’s that mix of pain, fatigue, relief and pride. For a few moments you feel like a hero. You have accomplished something special, all that hard work you’ve put in over the last months pays out at that very moment. This was a special moment and I enjoyed every second of it. I gave high 5s to people on my way to the finish line, goose bump moments. im finish pic After I crossed the finish I needed something to hold on to. I spotted me sister, she was at the fence waiting for me. I was totally exhausted and tired. After a few minutes my legs shut down and I could barely walk to the support tent. Once I reached the tent I just lay down and relaxed for a few minutes. I was so glad that it was over and done. DSC_2972 I spent a very long time in the tent, eating and drinking, taking a shower, relaxed my legs in the cold water. I fully enjoyed this moment. I was proud of what I have achieved. After the race it was time with my support crew, we exchanged stories, laughed and just had a very good time all together. I think everyone enjoyed the day, it was great, everything just came together nicely in the end. Thanks Ironman Austria for organising this amazing race, thanks to all the volunteers who put in such a good work. I was so surprised of how friendly and helpful the people were. You could tell, they had as much fun as we had. I am sure I will be back racing in Klagenfurt once again but maybe not next year 😉 DSC_1769 P1050822

REFLECTIONS AND OUTLOOK

People asked me a lot about my target time. I answered them that I don’t have one, I just want to enjoy the day and give my best and then we will see what’s going to happen. This was not quite true. I indeed had a time in my mind that I thought would be realistic. I thought I can go sub 10hrs. In the end I missed it by just 2 minutes. I blame the 2 minutes on my toilette stops, the long transition times and my watch that was showing the wrong time. Had I known, I would have pushed harder on the last 10km to make it happen. There was still something in the tank. Well I guess for my next Ironman I have a pretty clear target 😉 I learned a lot in this race about my limiters and weaknesses and what I have to work on. There are things to improve but this will take time. Time and consistency is the key in these long distance races. So I will be patient and keep working. I think if I keep training consistent, next season could be a really good one for another Ironman attempt. Before the race I wasn’t even sure if the Ironman distance is a good distance for me. I think it is, I did well and I am quite surprised how well my body recovered after the race. It took me a couple of days until the sore muscles were gone. I didn’t suffer any injuries. A week after the race I am back to normal, feeling really good. No sign of post-race blues. I am quite amazed how well my body handled all that stress. I think my secret is that I really looked after my body. I want to be fit yes but not at all cost. Being healthy is way more important. My nutrition has played a key role here. I have noticed it during training, I’ve hardly suffered from hard workouts for too long. My body bounced back really quickly. During all that training I haven’t had any injuries or sick days. Again nutrition and proper recovery is key. Often people are quite surprised when I tell them that I live on a plant based/vegan diet and train for an Ironman. They raise their eyebrows and get worried. I get the usual questions but I find it entertaining, yes sometimes a bit annoying as well but I am happy to share my experiences and tell what works well for me. If I can help someone else that’s great but in the end it’s up to everyone else to find out the right nutrition for them. Moving forward I’ll take two weeks off training to recharge the batteries before I move into my last build of this season. I have still 3 outstanding races (1 Olympic distance and 2 Half Ironman races) where I want to perform well. I am looking forward to do more speed and higher intensity work again and I want to have a good crack at the next races to get some new PBs. Will I do another Ironman? Yes I will but not this season. I will look into some races for mid/late next season. My big goal is Kona one day but I think it will take some time to get there. But that’s fine because I enjoy the journey and training. The right time will come one day so until then I keep moving forward and take one step at a time in the right direction. I hope you enjoyed reading, please feel free to leave a comment and some feedback. Cheers, AndyG IRONMAN AUSTRIA TIME SPLITS SWIM: 1:00:24 BIKE: 05:18:04 RUN: 03:32:05 OVERALL: 10:02:12 Division Rank: 73/337 Overall Rank: 342/2862

5

Blog, Strength

As we get older our muscles can become smaller and weaker. Beyond the age of 30, we lose approximately 3kg of muscle mass per decade. Research findings indicate that interventions designed to increase skeletal muscle mass (such as weight training) may prove to be a critical weapon in the fight against obesity and other health issues such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, hypertension and cancer!

I came across this interesting research paper that looked into strength training for older adults and how it can help to live longer and lower the odds of dying. The study is the first to demonstrate the association in a large, nationally representative sample over an extended time period, particularly in an older population.

exercise-1235019_960_720If you are interested in the details check out the following article here.
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160420090406.htm

A key take away message from this article is that weight training, due to its recruitment of type II muscle fibres, appears to be more effective than cardio, endurance and aerobics for fat loss, weight control, essentially converting the cells into a fat burning machine.

It’s an interesting finding because up to this point health benefits of basic physical activity and aerobic exercise (cycling, running, swimming, walking, etc.) have been well established, less data has been collected on strength training and how it can improve longevity and anti-aging.

The outcomes of this recent study showed the following

“…older adults who strength trained at least twice a week had 46 percent lower odds of death for any reason than those who did not. They also had 41 percent lower odds of cardiac death and 19 percent lower odds of dying from cancer. Older adults who met strength training guidelines were, on average, slightly younger, and were more likely to be married white males with higher levels of education. They were also more likely to have normal body weight, to engage in aerobic exercise and to abstain from alcohol and tobacco.”

The outcome of this study is that strength training in older adults is beneficial for anti-aging, and goes way above and beyond improving muscle strength and physical function.

A lot of people don’t like the idea of doing strength training and sign up for a gym membership or join strength exercise classes and spend a lot of money and time on this.

Also lot of people think you need heavy weights and expensive equipment to do strength training. This is not quite true, it’s possible to get fit and strong without going to a gym by simply doing a few effective strength exercises at home. You don’t need to spend hours in the gym to get your strength exercises in. Lifting weights is good but you need proper guidance from a personal training to make sure you do them right.

For me as an endurance athlete strength training is very important and I do at least 2-3 times a week some form of functional strength training.

To get you started and help you I have put together 4 simple exercises that you can do at home, 2-3 times a week. It doesn’t require much time, all you need is a good intention and to take the first step and try it out. Do it for 2-3 weeks and see how you feel.

Exercise 1: Warm Up

Exercise 2: Plank Variation

Exercise 3: Super Slow Push Up

Exercise 4: Back Extension

References:
https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/05/the-fittest-old-people/
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160420090406.htm
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18091019
http://www.cbass.com/Strengthtrainingandtelomeres.htm

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Blog, Motivation

The alarm goes off at 5am, I get pulled out of my sleep, the bed is so nice and warm, it’s still dark and cold outside…no you don’t want to get up, you rather stay in bed and sleep in. My inner voice is talking to me… why the hell on earth are you doing this, what are you thinking, just take it easy. You don’t want to get on this bike now and push yourself. No you rather stay in bed and sleep in, that’s what you should do yes.

I get up, take a deep breath, smile and tell my inner voice to shut up. I am not here to waste my time and be mediocre. I want to make things happen, push myself and get out of my comfort zone. That’s where the magic happens. In order to get there we need to hustle. Let’s talk about hustle and why I think it’s so important.

I still remember the times when I was in high school. That little and skinny boy with a bit of low self esteem. I wanted to be one of the cool kids, to be part of something, to be accepted and valued. I think we all want to feel worthy in the eyes of others, like we matter and that what we do is meaningful. I learned to put in the hard work, studying harder than the rest, ran around like a madman on the soccer field, use my talent and hard work to get accepted by my team mates.

I always felt I had to work harder than the rest and I was willing to take sacrifice unlike other kids back then. Especially when it came to studying, I felt like I had to put in more work to get the same results. I wasn’t good in high school or one of the smart kids but I learned that hard work and dedication can get you a long way. So I had worked my way from a weak mediocre high school student to a respected and high regarded uni student. I had to hustle and to do what others were unwilling to do. Sacrifice, in some form, I think it is necessary and part of the process, and whoever is more willing to sacrifice for the hustle will succeed in the long run.

This still applies to me now. I am not always going to be the fastest, strongest or smartest, so I need to figure out a way to overcome that, no matter the circumstances. Whether that means having the most energy, passion or desire. I am willing to put in the time and energy because I can still remember what it was like in primary or high school.

So hustle. It’s not about working smarter instead of harder. I think it’s about doing both. You need to take action, don’t wait or hope or pray for it to come or that someone else will hand it to you. YOU need to take action.

I like the following Japanese proverb which says:

“Vision without action is a dream. Action without a vision is a nightmare.”

You need both vision and action to achieve great things. Vision guides you, action propels you.

I think having dreams is great but they have one down sight. They are free and easy. They don’t require action or hustle. Training for triathlons have thought me so many things about hustle and action!

I have times where I hate training and don’t enjoy it at all (not too often but still sometimes haha). Believe me, it sucks. But I always say to myself. Be grateful and do not quit. Suffer now and live as your own true champion for the rest of your life. For me hard training and suffering, that is the hustle!

You don’t have to train for an Ironman or do crazy amount of training but I think you need some form of hustle! Something that gets you way out of your comfort zone, that challenges you physically and mentally,

Triathlon training requires consistency over a long time to see success. I think hustle is about taking consistent action over a period of time to build momentum which over time makes things easier in your life. But it’s not just about consistent actions, it’s also important to take smart actions as well. With smart actions I refer to taking care of the following 4 areas

  • Your body
  • Your mind
  • Your relationships
  • Your skills

As with everything it takes time to develop, so the best thing is to embrace it and fall in love with the process. It won’t happen overnight and that’s a good thing. It’s the journey and not the end goal that counts.

Like if I wouldn’t enjoy my journey to complete my first Ironman and would just focus on the end goal to cross that finish line, I think I would miss the objective. I embrace myself into the training and have developed a positive attitude towards it. The daily journey of developing and improving yourself is in fact hustle and over the time I am sure to see massive results from it.

So my massage to you: Go out there and hustle, stay consistent, embrace the journey, create a healthy environment to work and live in. Have love, passion and a greater story in your life!

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Blog, Recovery, Training, Triathlon

In two of my previous posts I have talked about the importance of recovery and how to use HRV to measure your fatigue and your level of recovery. I want to expand on this topic a little bit more as I think it’s really important when it comes to endurance training.

A while ago I came across the website RestwiseTheir mission is to provide athletes a tool to increase their performance through intelligent recovery. That caught my attention and I decided to give it a try to see what it is all about. As it says on their website…

Using evidence-based research, rigorously-tested variable weightings and a proprietary algorithm, Restwise has defined a patent-pending solution to the question that plagues every athlete: “am I training too hard… or not hard enough?” Make better training decisions, and do so with confidence

As athletes we should all understand the importance of recovery but even this understanding makes it really difficult to strike the right balance between recovery and training. What is the right dose of training and recovery? Am I training too much and have too little recovery? Or do I have too much recovery and don’t get any fitter, stronger or faster? These are all interesting questions that we ask ourselves quite often during our training.

What I found out is that we all love to track our training progress, as we do on training platforms such as training peaks. These are great tools and help to plan and structure your training but in my opinion it doesn’t give you much capabilities and insights to monitor and track your recovery levels. It doesn’t factor in things such as

  • Sleep time and quality
  • Resting heart rate
  • HRV
  • SP02
  • Weight
  • Your energy levels, your mood state, your appetite, muscle soreness, injuries etc…

That’s where a tool such as Restwise becomes really interesting as it’s trying to close that gap between monitoring Training + Recovery. Their solution is quite simple but effective

  • They identify the research-based markers that relate to recovery and over training
  • They determine their relative importance and build an algorithm which puts all the data together in a way that the resulting calculation is meaningful
  • They wrap it into a web-based tool that doesn’t require a PhD to understand and make it accessible for athletes and coaches
  • The tool generates a score that tells an athlete how prepared their body is for hard training (this is the key)

I think from an athlete perspective this is an interesting way get more insights into your training adaptations but I reckon the real benefit here is for coaches. They have the ability to track the recovery levels across all their athletes and see how “ready” they are for training! They can use that data to design and adjust the training plan accordingly to maximise the training outcome for their athletes. That way they can make sure their athletes are fully recovered come race day to perform at their best. For individual coached athletes this could be helpful to decide it a hard training session should be skipped or changed to an easier session to limit the risk of injury, over training and more fatigue.

So how do you get started using Restwise. It’s pretty simple. You need to subscribe to one of their plans they offer on their website. They provide a 30 days free trial and then you can continue on a 12/6 or month by month subscription. It’s $19 per month but you get it cheaper if you buy a 12 months subscription for $149.

To get the full benefit out of Restwise you should also invest in a pulse oximeter ($20 on Amazon). Unfortunately Restwise does not use HRV in their algorithm at this stage. Based on the information on their website this will be included soon. Despite that missing feature I still use HRV on a daily basis as it is still one of the best measurement tools for your fatigue level in my opinion. You can still enter and track your HRV scores on Restwise. For more information on HRV check out my blog article here

Once you have a subscription you can download the Restwise app for your smartphone. I usually check my Resting HR, SP02, HRV, Sleep time & quality after I get up. I try to do it first thing in the morning to have consistent data over a longer time. You then have to enter the data into the app (you can also do it on their website if you prefer). It will ask you a few questions that you need to answer

  • Resting heart rate
  • SP02 (Oxygen saturation level)
  • Weight
  • Hours slept
  • How well did you sleep
  • Energy level today
  • Mood state today
  • Yesterday’s training performance
  • Your appetite
  • Do you have any sore throat, headache or other illness
  • Do you have muscle soreness
  • Any injuries that are affecting your training
  • Urine shade

Once you enter all the data (be very honest here with yourself when answering the questions) you can upload them and Restwise will provide you with a test score and some recommendations in regards to your training. If you have the coach subscription you will be able to add all your athletes to your profile to track their results. That’s a pretty handy tool for a coach in my opinion.
restwise1

restwise2

If your coach is not using Restwise but is tracking your training on training peaks, you can upload your results to your training profile. That way your coach can analyse your results and make recommendations in regards to your training. Very handy indeed.

Wrap up

I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to using the tool. I use it at the moment and find it interesting but it might be an overkill for some of us.

Ok, from an individual perspective, I think it’s interesting for self quantification. You get feedback on how your body responds to training load. It can help to prevent over or under training if you are honest with yourself and the information you put in. Obviously it’s easy to fake your results (oh I had a shitty sleep tonight and feel sore this morning but I still want to have a good recovery score so that I don’t have an excuse to miss my training session today and slack off). Again, this tool relies heavily on your input, so if you cheat and fake your answers the results are pretty much useless.

In my opinion Restwise is a very interesting tool when it comes to tracking athletic performance and recovery. I think it is mainly targeted for professional athletes and sport teams, rather than the recreational amateur athletes. Saying that I still think there can be some benefits for high performing age group athletes. Especially if they are coached or on a specific training program and aiming to optimise their performance and get the most out of their training investment. I think the real benefit comes in for a coach, who needs to design training plans an track the progress and development of these athletes. Using this data could help to adjust training load, volume and intensity for individual sessions based on the recovery level of each athlete.

If you are a high performing age group athlete and love to analyse data, this might be something for you. There are some good videos on the Restwise website that are worth checking out. I have posted them underneath in case you are interested.

For Athletes

For Coaches

0

Blog, Lifestyle

Reading time: 10 minutes

Over the time I have created some useful and healthy habits that I use on a daily basis. It’s like a little tool kit that adds some more quality to your life! It’s handy and very practical. Let me share them with you and tell you how I integrate them in my life and what the secret behind a perfect day itinerary is.

In general it’s fair to say that these good habits have helped me in a few ways. Improved health and fitness, reduced stress levels, more productivity at work and sport, more time for things I enjoy doing and overall more fulfillment and purpose in life to name a few.

Here is a list things that I incorporate into day to day life. I make them a priority, make room for them. Don’t worry, I am not doing all of this every day, it’s just a repository and I pick the activities that work best for me in my current situation. Everyone is at different stages and places in life, so think about what could work for you to improve your day!
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— WAKE UP EARLY —

Believe me, I was never a morning person, I enjoyed my long sleep ins and was too lazy to get up! I changed that (I guess my triathlon training played a role in that) and now it’s a habit. Even if I have “sleep in” days and don’t necessarily have to wake up for training, I hardly get out of bed later than 7am. It depends on the time of the year but in summer I usually wake up at 5am. It has helped me to become more efficient and make room for a lot of other good things. Give it a try and test it out for an extended period. If you don’t wake up early you probably gonna miss out on some valuable time for yourself.

— MEDITATION—

Do early morning or before you go to bed meditation. It’s a great way to reduce stress, promote creativity, improve focus and self control, reduce anxiety. The list goes on. Even research is now catching up and finding evidence supporting the many benefits of meditation. How does it work? Well, as everything in life it needs practice. I personally use an app on my smart phone which guides you through your meditation. I can highly recommend to check out the Headspace app. Basically Headspace is your very own personal trainer to help you train your mind! What a great invention!

— BREATHING—

I practice different breathing exercises, usually in the morning or before I go to sleep. Sometimes when I feel stressed out at work, I stop doing what I am doing and just breath. It’s amazing what I does to your body and mind. It’s an easy way to calm down and get focused. It helps to remove that anxiety and angriness and get more relaxed and let go of things So chill out, relax and breath.

Usually I practice different types Pranayama breathing, Box and Kapalabhati breathing. It’s powerful. I was really impressed by a guy called Wim Hof who use breathing to withstand extreme cold. Read more on The Iceman – Wim HofA really fascinating guy.

— YOGA —

Go and do Yoga, Period! It’s great and helps in so many ways. Even if you just do a few minutes every day. It will help to reduce blood pressure and stress and makes you more aware of your breathing and body. A few rounds of sun salutation moves in the morning. It’s a great way to start your day and get your cardiovascular system going. I usually do at least 1 longer (1h) yoga session per week.

— STRENGTH EXERCISES —

Every day I include 1 or 2 strength exercises. Usually in the morning, after my mediation or yoga I engage in some strength work. Keep it simple. A few push ups, chinups, squads, planks or lunges will do the trick. No need for a gym. This is just to activate your cardiovascular system and to bring up your heart rate.

— COLD SHOWERS —

OK, this one might sound weird and crazy. Why would you take a cold shower in the morning after you wake up?. Well actually I admit it’s not comfortable in the first place and takes a bit of effort to get over it but once you have done it a few times and see the health benefits you want to stick to it. It’s no secret to science of the many benefits a cold shower can provide. Do a quick research yourself but here a few of the benefits: Improve your immune system, stimulates weight loss and fat burning, reduce stress, increase alertness.

I take my cold shower after I get up. Usually for 2-5 minutes. After that, jump back into your bed and lie down for a couple of minutes to relax. Engage in some deep breathing or meditation.The deep breathing in response to our body’s shock will warm you up again and it increases our overall oxygen intake. What an amazing feeling. I feel fresh, full of energy and with a sense of satisfaction. Now I am ready to get my day started!

— GLASS OF WATER —

Before I have my breakfast, I have one glass of room temperature, filtered water on my empty stomach. I usually add some organic apple cider vinegar (make sure it’s raw, organic and unfiltered). Alternatively you can squeeze in some lemon if you don’t have ACV at home.

— HAVE A GREEN SMOOTHIE —

There is hardly a day that passes by where I don’t drink my green smoothie. Make sure it’s packed with leafy green vegetables (no refined sugar or diary please) Keep it green! Add some fruit if you want. The green smoothie is usually so filling and packed with so many nutrients that it becomes a full breakfast. I am just eating plant based (vegan) but I am not saying everyone should eat that way. I just think it would be a good idea to make vegetables and fruits the main food sources in your diet. Eat your fruits and veggies guys!

— WRITING IN YOUR JOURNAL —

This is a new thing that I have just started doing, it’s not quite a daily habit yet but I can see the benefits of it doing. I try to write down a few things every day that I am grateful for or great things that I’d like to make happen. These can be small things like, e.g. having a nice conversation with someone in the office, smile more often, go for a walk after lunch break. I have come across this 5 minute journal which sounds interesting and quite helpful.

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I often get asked how I fit all this into my daily life. We have all said that before, way too often when it comes to creating healthy habits – “Yeah, it  sounds all nice and good but I don’t have time for that. I am too busy with work, family and kids etc…”. You name it.

In my opinion we always come up with excuses first, trying to find ways to avoid changes or implementing new habits in our life. Change is usually related to fear of the unknown. I have changed my perspective on change and relate to it with positive thoughts rather than negative ones. It comes down to your priorities in life and what is really important to you and the people you care about. For me health, being fit, having a purpose in what I am doing, people I care about and happiness in general are very important aspects, so I try to work hard to achieve that!

I got inspired by a book from Lewis Howes – The School of Greatness where he says that creating a perfect day itinerary is probably one of the most powerful things you can ever do for yourself to create the life you really want. In one of his exercises he explains how to map out what your perfect day should look like to align it with your path to achieve your vision and goals in life. It simply starts with a series of questions to answer (be honest here when answering):

  • How do I want every day to look?
  • How do I want to feel every single day?
  • What am I creating daily?
  • Whom am I spending my time with?
  • What places am I exposing myself to?
  • What passions am I fulfilling?

He suggests to write down a detailed itinerary for your perfect day. This should include everything you want to do and have to do and exactly how and when you want to do it. I really love this idea, as I am someone who likes structure and routine and a plan I can rely on. I think that every successful person has a plan which is designed to lead them to achieve their goals and their vision. So for me personally I have created a daily itinerary which includes a lot my the healthy habits I mentioned above. This might look different for everyone but I want to give an example on how such a itinerary could look like. Try it out yourself. It’s a fun thing to do as well!

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Perfect Day Itinerary (I should say it’s not perfect yet, still working on it)

5:00 a.m. 
– Wake up and drink a glass of water
– Take a cold shower
– Find a quite place, sit down and meditate for 10-15 minutes

5:30 a.m.
– Engage in some light physical exercise (e.g. yoga, go for a walk, run, do some strength exercises). I usually do all my light training sessions in the morning

7:00 a.m.
– Take a shower (yeah I shower quite a few times during the day) and prepare a healthy breakfast or green smoothie
– Sit down and enjoy your breakfast, take your time, listening to some relaxing music, write in your journal, browser your social networks

8:30 a.m.
– Go to work or do whatever you want to do

9:30 a.m. 
– Go for a walk and grab a coffee with colleagues

12:00 p.m.
– Have lunch, eat something light and healthy

02:00 p.m. 
– Go for an afternoon walk in the park to refresh your mind

6:00 p.m.
– After finishing work do some physical exercise or training (I usually do my intense training sessions in the evening where my energy levels are the highest)
– Swim, bike, run, play with your kids outdoors, go for a walk, work out, play tennis, etc..

7:30 p.m.
– Cook a healthy dinner at home or dine out with a friend, socialize

9:00 p.m.
– Prepare for bed – turn off all electronic devices (tv, phone, laptop, etc..), take a shower, relax, read a book, meditate, write in your journal

9:30 p.m.
– Lights off, sleep, dream and recover

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I structure my day in a way to make room for my habits. I make them a priority, schedule them in. It helps to print out your itinerary and put it somewhere so that you get reminded every day. Obviously everyone’s day looks different, we all have different commitments, jobs etc. but we all have 24h available each day. Write down a list of things that you currently do every day. Things you must do (like going to work e.g., bringing kids to school, eat), things you should to do and the things you’d like to do but can’t fit in to your day.

One thing that I noticed is that I’ve wasted a lot of time doing things that don’t really benefit myself, so I’ve started to cut them out completely or reduce them to a minimum to make up more time for the really important things.

  • Stop watching TV. I hardly watch TV any more
  • Reduce your exposure to news, they just make you angry and sad and don’t benefit you in anyway
  • Stop playing computer games
  • Stop eating unhealthy food that make you fuel, sluggish, tired. Avoid any heavy meals late in the evening.
  • Reduce your time you spend on social media like Facebook or Instagram. I try to make dedicated times for it in the morning and evening and during lunch breaks. It still needs improvement
  • Reduce browsing the internet, reading news or other irrelevant stuff that doesn’t benefit you
  • Learn to say NO, don’t over commit and feel you have to join every party, social event or invite.
  • Look after yourself and hang out with people you care about and who really care about you.
  • Hang out with people that inspire you.
  • Stop worrying about things you can’t change or have influence. Stop over analyzing things and don’t get attached to them.

It’s a challenge and I think we have 2 choices. Do Nothing, let it overwhelm you and fall victim to your circumstances or embrace the challenge, turn it to your advantage and make it part of your own success story.

I hope I could give you some ideas and inspirations. Feel free to leave a comment or drop me an email. I would love some feedback or get some ideas from you. It’s always nice to hear stories from other people. Make your day count!

namaste 

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Blog, Recovery

Quite often when people hear the word recovery in sports, they jump to the conclusion that it’s just an excuse to make training easier.
In fact, recovery is not a shortcut to improve your performance in any way and it’s not making your journey to become a better athlete any easier. What I have learned is that recovery is an enabler to train more consistently and harder. Consistent and hard training is the fundamental element for better performance, so recovery is your key to unlock that door.

There are different elements that make up recovery in your training.

The first one is your training plan and how it incorporates recovery. A smart training plan will allow enough room to integrate recovery on a weekly, monthly and whole season basis.

Another important element is your lifestyle. Some things are out of your control to change or influence so you want to look at two aspects that you can control. Sleep and nutrition. They are key elements and should never be neglected. Get enough and good quality sleep, make it a priority and make sure you eat enough and healthy.

The next one are recovery modalities that we can use on a regular basis and incorporate into our training program.

Here is a list of my preferred methods that I use on a regular basis.

  • Massages: Get a massage on a regular basis. I prefer frequency over duration. So once every 2 weeks. Try different ones such as remedial deep tissue, trigger point, thai, sports massage etc…
  • Acupuncture: A good alternative to a massage, good for pain relief and also good to clear energy blockages.
  • Hot and Cold therapies: Big fan of this, I use both quite regularly. Having cold showers on a daily basis and sitting in a hot dry sauna after a workout. Great way to wind down.
  • Compression gear: I use it after a big workout, usually not during racing. Always a must wear when travelling on a plane.
  • Foam rolling: I use foam rolling rather than stretching to release muscle tension. At least once a week I do a longer foam rolling session.
  • Trigger point balls: Mainly use it to treat specific areas such as glutes, upper back and neck to release stiffness and knots
  • Kinesiotape: Good in combination with compression gear post workout to increase the blood flow and reduce inflammation
  • Massage stick rollers: A very handy tool to have in your bag when travelling. Can’t get as deep as a foam roller but good for calves, forearms, necks and hips.
  • Yoga and meditation: Both are great ways for stress relief. Should be part of every training program or life in general 🙂

If you are serious about endurance sports and performance, recovery should be high up on your list and not just an add-on to your regular training. Make it a priority!

There is a lot of good information out there on the web and for me personally it’s a lot of trial and error. You need to find out what work best for you. A very good resource that I refer to quite often when I want to try out new things and geek out a little bit is Ben Greenfield’s Recovery guide. It’s worth checking out as it gives a very broad overview of recovery methods, even though some of the methods described might be a bit too extraordinary or simply too expensive to afford.

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Recovery, Training

A while ago while researching different topics on training stress, fatigue and recovery, I stumbled across HRV  (Heart Rate Variability) and how it is used to enhance athletic performance. This got my attention and I wanted to find out more about it.

When it comes to recovery, most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to improve fitness and performance, still many of us over train and feel guilty when taking a day off. Rest is as important as training and necessary so that the muscles can repair and strengthen. If that part is neglected, continuous training can actually weaken the athlete. Not what we really want right.

Coaches tell us to listen to our body, check our RHR (Resting Heart Rate) to decide when it’s necessary to take a day off or skip a session. We have training plans which incorporate easy workouts and recovery days to avoid over training. That’s all good and important but in the end it is an individual decision when recovery is needed. For example there are genetic factors, age, gender and baseline fitness which are determinants of individual differences. That makes it difficult to draw a general approach to recovery. I have often wondered when I felt a bit flat, if it’s fatigue or just a lack of motivation. To get optimal adaptions from your training, fatigue is an important aspect that needs to be considered.

Hence I was looking into something more reliable, a method or tool that gives me more insight into my body and how it reacts to training. I was looking for a way to control my training load in a better way in order to achieve better outcomes! That’s when I learned more about the power of HRV.

So what is HRV?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_variability

From a fitness standpoint, we know that the heart rate increases when we exercise, because the heart needs to pump faster to deliver oxygen to our muscles. The autonomic nervous system plays a role in speeding up and slowing down HR. There are basically two branches to the ANS that influences heart rate:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
    speeds up the heart rate
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
    responsible for slowing the heart rate

SNS is often referred to “Fight or Flight”, and PNS to “Rest and Repair”. These 2 branches can now be measured using HRV analysis and permit insight into this control mechanism.The way I see it, these 2 components need to work well together, we need the SNS to accelerate and PNS to break, like with a car. If these two are not in balance or working properly we run into problems.

I have added some links at the bottom of the post if you are interested in the science behind it in more depth. I am no expert by any means in this field but find the science behind it incredibly interesting. Nowadays modern technology offers us an easy and very convenient way to measure HRV.

What do you need to measure your own HRV?

It’s actually quite, we can use an app on our smart phones to do that.There are huge number of different apps available that you can choose from. I personally use the Sweet Beat HRV app on my iPhone (it’s not a free app but can be purchased for $9.99, sorry only for iPhone). Other apps which I personally haven’t used are e.g. iThleteBioForce HRV, HRV beta, Elite HRV

The other equipment you need is a heart rate monitor that is Bluetooth compatible. Here is a list of compatible devices. I currently use the Polar H7 monitor.

How to measure your daily HRV

There are a few important variables measuring your HRV such as: Time of the day, movement, mood, food and sleep. I measure my HRV at the same time every day to get more useful results over a longer period of time. It’s right after I wake up. So my usual routine looks like this.

  1. After I wake up I put my heart rate monitor on
  2. I lay down on my back and start the app
  3. I breathe normally in and out through my nose and let the app run. I keep my eyes shut and concentrate on my breathing
  4. The app will run for about 3 minutes. Once it’s finished you can check your numbers on the screen. The higher the HRV score the better it is.

It will take a few days of measuring until the numbers make sense and will be more meaningful. I add my HRV numbers into my training plan to be able to compare and find correlations between my workout days.

Lately I have experimented a little bit to see if I can increase my HRV. The following things seem to help improving it

  1. Meditation and Yoga – Measuring HRV after a yoga or mediation session has a positive effect. Especially on the Parasympathetic Nervous System
  2. Cold Showers – Straight out of bed and into the shower. Shower with cold water for a few minutes, go back to bed and measure. I was surprised how much my HRV improves by taking ice cold showers.

Here are a few screenshots of some of my HRV readings with an explanation beneath:

image1image3

image2

image4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Screenshot #1 – This shows the HRV, Heart Rate and Stress level over a period of time. (blue line = HRV, orange = Stress level, green = HR)

Screenshot #2 – These are the power frequency readings (SNS, PNS) over a period of time. This was during the lead up to a big race. As the chart shows, in the last week which was the race week, my power readings sky rocketed. That is a good indicator that I was fully rested and recovered come race day.

Screenshot #3 – HRV reading a day before a big race. Both LF, which is the power frequency of my Sympathetic Nervous system and HF which represents the Parasympathetic Nervous System  are well balanced. The LF/HF ratio is almost 1, which is a good indicator that your nervous system is well balanced. HRV score is 97 which is a very high score for me.

Screenshot #4 – Compared to the reading in the previous screenshot, this one clearly indicates that I am in a fatigue state. Both LF and HF are low and more importantly the ratio LF/HF is way out of balance. HRV is 68 which is quite low. I had low HRV readings for 2 days in a row and the app suggested to take a day off to recover. Even though my heart rate is in normal range which would not raise a concern by itself. Most likely I would have continued training if I just considered my HR but looking at the HRV it’s a clear sign to take some rest and recover.

Conclusion

It’s really interesting to see how sleep, food, stress and training can affect your heart rate variability and your overall fatigue level. In my opinion recovery is a crucial component in endurance sports and thanks to modern technology it’s very easy and affordable to measure it. So why not making use of it?! It’s a relatively simple measure that you can use to tract how well you are recovering. It helps you to prevent over training, reduces your risk of getting sick and in the long run makes you are stronger, healthier and fitter athlete.


 

References

Further articles to read

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