Friday, December 6, 2019

Fast Food - It's Not As Fast As You Think: Eat Real, Eat Well, Save Time

For those of you who enjoy a race challenge, here's a great one you can take on any time of year.  You can do this race with anyone you work or hang out with, whether they are any kind of athlete or not, no special skills or training needed for this one!  Here's the challenge:
- Let's have a lunchtime race:  you go to your choice of fast food joints and I'll head to the kitchen and make my lunch. 
The overall winner can be picked based purely on time to complete the task but we can add in nutrient quality and satiation objective measurements too.  Here's the trick:  if you love this recipe, it doesn't matter who wins the lunchtime race. 

 1-2-3 Go - The Race Is On!

I brought my stuff for lunch but I still have to prepare it. I am making a chicken & rice bowl with fresh veg and avocado and a Sesame Coconut Thai dressing.  I added the ingredients to my weekly shopping list and brought them to the office.  The only real prep I did at home is that I grilled enough chicken for 4 lunches for the week and packaged them to take to work. 


  1. Heat up the rice in the pouch, 2 minutes.
  2. While that is happening, cut the chicken into cubes.
  3. Put half of the rice packet into the bottom of the serving bowl.
  4. Heat up the chicken for about 30 seconds (optional but I prefer it).
  5. Layer the rest of bowl with 
  • - the chopped, heated chicken on top of the rice.
  • -  a handful of fresh greens. Any kind work but I usually use Arugula-Spinach blend.
  • -  half an avocado (also optional)
  • -  sometimes I add nuts or seeds for something crunchy.
  • -  pour on 2 tablespoons of sauce.  Right now, I'm using a Sesame Coconut Thai sauce but Goddess Dressing is also pretty fantastic.
That's all there is to it. Stir and eat.  Here's where my meal might take longer:  I will chew on the rice, chicken and sauce and savour every bite.  I'm going to take my time with this as much as I can, it's just that good. 

Race Results

Is your buddy back from picking up fast food yet?  Like I say above, if you like this recipe, it doesn't matter if fast food is faster.  For me, this recipe is the winner over fast food.   
In terms of nutrition quality, this isn't a super low-calorie dish. It is arguably a little high in fat and sodium content but a lof those two levels are from the sauce or dressing.  You could choose a different sauce or dressing and/or reduce the amount of dressing to address those points. I'm not on any weight loss diet and my sodium intake is moderate so, on those two measurements, this recipe works just fine for me.
This bowl delivers 34g of protein and complex carbs which I'm happy with it.   But I hope the takeaway here is that with a little planning, you can have an easy, nutrient-dense meal in just a few minutes.  It only takes a small amount of time to eat real and eat well. 

 Note: The nutrition label was generated at using their free recipe analyzer tool.  

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Don't Let Aging Slow You Down: 10 Commandments For Masters Athletes

There is no more powerful anti-ageing drug than fitness and health.  Now that we're here, all we have to do is work hard to stay here.

1. Go to the gym and lift. 

This is not an option but a necessity for maintaining strength and power.  You will lose muscle fibres as you get older. It's a fact and, before you've even given it a thought, that process has already begun.  In fact, it starts when we are in our 20's, back when we thought we had lots of time; we thought we were in the prime of our lives. The only way to avoid losing strength and power as muscle fibres die off is to do some heavy lifting to increase power capacity of all those muscle fibres we have left.   The benefits will extend to improved skeletal strength and density as well. Do the work and you will be rewarded with stronger muscles and bones.  Stronger muscles will allow you to continue to swim, bike and run with power as you age.  

2. Eat well. 

Food is your fuel so in order to fuel your body well.  As much and as often as possible, we should choose nutrient-dense food.  There's not much more that I can add that you haven't already heard and you already know most of it so I will leave you with a few of the rules I follow:
- We buy most of our groceries from the outside edges of the grocery store:  the produce, dairy and meat sections.  
- Stay out of the aisles as much as possible with these limited exceptions:  cereal, baking supplies, nut butters and, of course, coffee.
-  Get in the habit of reading food labels. Look for nutrient breakdown, the number of ingredients, whether it includes more real food or more chemicals
-  If it has trans fats, put the box back on the shelf.
-  If you bake it yourself, you know what's in it.

3. Accept reality.  Then move on.

Yes, we generally do get slower as we age so don’t sweat it much.  While we can train hard to fight the natural ageing process, we will still have to accept that performance in terms of overall and top end speed and power will decline as we age.  There are enough sources for stress in the world already so let's try to not add any extra to the pool.  Having said that, accepting reality also means taking steps to slow the performance decline as much as possible.  

4. Don’t accept ageing as an excuse for performance declines. 

See #3 above?  Well, dig your heels in a fight it with everything you have.  Many of the our generation of lifelong performance athletes have a very limited pool of role models.  Masters athletes aren't often seen in media coverage and female masters athletes even less so.  That takes my thoughts in a few directions but, in terms of performance, each of us have so few media references that we really don't know the full extent of our capabilities. I like to say that each of us are a sample size of one.  So, while we can accept that our performance will decline with age, we have little evidence to support the extent of that decline.  On the other hand, there is little to show us what is possible either.  That is where I choose to focus:  our limits aren't yet known and they haven't been written so we are free to see what our potential is.  I choose to see what is possible and I choose to swim, bike and run with anyone.  So far, I'm holding my own and I plan to keep working on it. 

5. Just say "NO!" to fad diets. 

Hopefully, you'd figured that one out already.  They straight up don’t work and can cause longer-term negative health effects. Why add more potential complications?  

And, please, please, please, use your common sense when you are looking to the internet for advice.  Yes, there is some great nutrition information out there and here are a few hints on how to identify the good stuff and weed out the bogus:

  • The author has an actual degree in the subject matter.
  • The source is an actual scientific paper
  • The source doesn't make any promises.  There is no one thing that will change your life and change your performance, no matter how enticing the promise sounds. And the simpler fix, the more enticing it sounds, the more likely it is to be false.
  • You don't have to go through a 10-minute video that talks about their unique system that you can buy for just a fraction of its purported value.  
  • If it is a buffed-up male personal trainer* addressing menopausal women and telling them he has the solution, take a hard pass on that one.  
(* My apologies to those of you who think you fit into this category. I mean no disrespect to any individual but if anyone says there is just one thing or trick or secret, they're either selling you fiction or they don't understand that there's too much going on for one thing to be the singular solution.)

6. More isn’t always better. Better is better. Train smart.

High volume training is the norm in endurance sports like ironman triathlon and ultra running.  With more volume as well as changing physiology, we are more susceptible to overuse syndromes and injuries.  Strength training can help to combat the age-related decline in of our muscle volume but we also lose our top-end speed potential unless we train specific systems to maintain explosive strength and power. Smart training should incorporate the following:

  • Threshold interval training to maintain aerobic & anaerobic systems.
  •  Plyometric training to develop and maintain muscle elasticity.
  •  Smart stretching to maintain the range of motion of joints and muscles.
  • Continued focus on technique. (We might as well use the wisdom of our years, right?) 

Smart training incorporating a regular protocol of quality intervals, yoga and strength training will have better long term results than a diet of LSD (long, slow distance).

7. Older and wiser:  use your years of experience to your best benefit. Good technique can make you more efficient and prevent injury.

You know the saying "older and wiser"?   Applying this to training to swim, bike and run, I like to say our wisdom can come in terms of refined technique.  

We all know that technique counts for a lot in swimming but improvements in technique can also make you a better cyclist and maybe even a better runner.  Seek out experts if you haven't already and learn better technique. In swimming where technique is so important, it is common to see masters athletes continue to perform at high levels. There was a local swimmer who competed into his late-70's in masters' meets and was still swimming sub-30 second for 50m in freestyle, backstroke and butterfly.  Now, he was a world-class swimmer and was capable of far faster times than most of us could ever dream of but the point of it is that his swim stroke was technically so good, so beautiful to watch, that his superior technique allowed him to counter age-related declines in performance.  I will never swim at his level but I saw him swim many times and he worked on technique in every single workout to keep his swim stroke in perfect form.  That is a lesson we can all carry into our daily training.

8. If it hurts, look into it now. 

Don’t waste time on this one or hope that it will just go away. Pay attention to aches and pains and try to sort out which are the ones that need attention.  Masking pain with NSAID's can allow you to get through a few workouts in the short term but they can mask underlying injuries that require rest and rehabilitation.  Ignoring an injury that really needs some type of intervention can unnecessarily shorten your career as an athlete. Life is too short for that, I say!

9. Get some sleep.

It's no secret that much of our repair and recovery happens while we sleep. So, make sure you get quality sleep as much as you can.  Unfortunately for women, changes with ageing make this a little challenging and hormonal changes include the drop in naturally occurring melatonin among other things.  I read recently that up to 60% of menopausal women have issues with insomnia.  I can attest to this being an issue for me and it is frustrating.  Unfortunately, when you are training hard, difficulty sleeping makes it more challenging to recover and rebuild after training.  One hope is that you can tire yourself out enough that sleep comes peacefully. If that doesn't work, do some research and try to find some solutions that can help.  There are lots of resources out there that can help you find a sleep solution that works but here are some of the ones that you'll find:

  • Have a routine time of the evening to prepare to sleep.
  • Power off or turn off electronics, particularly anything with a blue screen.
  • Avoid caffeine late in the day.
  • Try a soothing drink like camomile tea.
  • Try melatonin supplements or tart cherry juice (which is high in melatonin)
  • Try a warm bath or warm milk. 

For the record, none of these seem to work consistently for me but I've learned that I can get through a few days with very little sleep and then, by the third or fourth night, exhaustion takes over. I know it's not ideal in terms of promoting great recovery but I'm working on it.

10. Treat yourself. Sometimes, it’s OK to relax and have fun.

Chillax once in a while. Kick back and enjoy some time off training, grab a beverage with some friends, even indulge in a treat here and there.  If we don't sit back and enjoy your life once in a while, what are we doing this for anyway?

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Element Cycling & Multisport. Any content or comments in this article or any article in this blog are not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual or anyone or anything.  

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ten Tips For Keeping On Track During The Holiday Season

There are always hurdles and mishaps that happen on the way to race season and the biggest one for many of us is the holiday season.  There are still only 24 hours in a day and personal and work obligations keep chugging along.  Then, the holiday season throws in a family, work and business parties, gifts and office snacks.  More food, more fun, more family and we end up with less time to train and often some messed up diet plans. 

1. Plan a workout with a friend or friends
The more people that are in on it, the harder it will be to get out of it.

2.  Eat well first.
If you have a party to go to that you know will have lots of delicious treats and libation, stick with your usual quality, nutrient dense diets for at breakfast and lunch.  

3 - 10 to follow.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

I Was An Accidental Triathlete - How It All Started

When I first started training for triathlons, I honestly didn't even realize that's what I was doing.  I had some friends I had been running with who started swimming a few mornings a week and they asked if I wanted to join them.  I had swum a little as a kid, having spent two years on a summer swim team when I was 10 and 11 years old so I was pretty confident I wouldn't drown.  Again, being honest, the biggest reason I decided to join them was just because they asked.  Cycling happened pretty much the same way.  Spring and summer rolled around and they started riding road bikes around town.  One of the members of the groups got a new bike so they asked me if I wanted to hop on the spare bike and join them on a ride.  I literally went along for the ride.  Within 6 months, I went from running with a few friends to swimming, biking and running with them.  As you sometimes do when the opportunity presents itself, err on the side of saying "yes".  That's how I became an accidental triathlete.
All I had done myself was add some swimming and biking to my run routine without really giving it a thought. Then, someone else in the group signed up for a triathlon.   That's when I realized what we'd been doing. Without giving it a conscious intent or plan of my own, I was training for a triathlon.  My training program at the time was a spontaneous thing just evolved from doing stuff with my friends. Not only did my accidental program work well enough to get me through my first year in triathlon but it could also be a simple example of another DIY Triathlon Training Plan.

My Very First DIY Triathlon Training Plan, circa 1993

As we started to train with others, we did different workouts but there was no overriding training program or plan.  We were just doing it for fun and challenge.   Now, don't get me wrong - some of the crew had a pretty serious approach to racing:  they were there to win.   And since I was quite literally along for the ride, I guess I was as prepared as they were so I went as hard as I could.  Man, it was fun!  If challenge and fun are what you are looking for in triathlon, maybe a plan like my first DIY Triathlon Training Plan can work for you.  Here's pretty much what it looked like:
My basic training week now vs then has one thing in common:
  • If I had hired a coach then or if I took one on now, other than fine-tuning the content of some of the workouts, there's not much they could do differently. Once you put real life on a calendar and try to fit the rest around it, the training options are limited.

Sometimes, all you have to do is say "Yes" and jump in to get started.  What does your plan look like?

How To Get Faster In The Swim, Bike & Run - This Trick Really Works!

I got you to read this far so clearly that got your attention.  Swim, bike & run training has one thing in common with diet trends:  people are often looking for that quick fix, that trick, that will give them big results with just a little something.  Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, there is no trick, there is no instant miracle to gain more speed with no extra effort.  At least, you won't find it here and I certainly haven't found it yet.   But if you want to get faster in the swim, there is something you can do.

The 'Trick'

So, here's the 'trick' I read in an article on (which inspired this article):  in order to swim better, you should swim more.  Yup, that's it.  No surprises, no tricks, just more work.  They explain it very well and succinctly:  form declines during a workout or a race for one of two reasons:
  1. You've reached the limits of your endurance. 
  2. You've lost your focus and your form falls apart as your mind wanders.

The training effect from more swimming, biking and running will build your endurance so you can maintain form for the duration of your event.  Or doing yoga, rowing or climbing for that matter.

Do Quality Workouts 

As for mental focus, there is a technique that will work and will help kick up your fitness level at the same time:  mix it up with intervals.  Quality workouts not only break up the tedium of a longer set or session that causes mental drift but it also tests your physiology and ups your fitness levels.  There are decades of studies and evidence to support this so trust the science and do the harder work.   I've always said:

More isn't necessarily better; better is better.

If your next question is what intervals to do, consider these points:
  1. Intervals are just durations of time over and under a certain benchmark.
  2. How long you spend over and how long you spend under that benchmark will test different thresholds.
  3. Harder intervals will be shorter and require more recovery relative to a less stressful interval.
  4. You can get scientific and test VO2Max, heart rate limits, even FTP (Functional Threshold Power) on the bike but even without testing to figure out what your benchmarks are, you know what 'uncomfortable' means and know how to get your body there.
  5. You can also get scientific in determining which type and duration of intervals to do when and in what discipline but, even without all that technicality, just doing something is better than doing nothing.
  6. With intervals, failure is an option. If you get there, you know you'll have tested your limits.
Summary:  Do at least one challenging interval workout in each discipline each week.  It almost doesn't matter what you do and when you do it as long as you get started.  That is the only real trick.

Tips To Keep It Interesting

Here's my last list for today.  Here's what I've found works for me:
  1. For swim workouts, I always have a plan for pool sessions.  I find it too boring to just do mindless laps so I always break it up into sets with different intensities and durations.
  2. Ditto for treadmill workouts on the run.  I run on the treadmill a lot, a lot, in the winter. I live in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and I don't like cold weather. I am a total weather wimp.  Even a short 30 minute run will be broken up with changes in incline and speed.
  3. I ride 3 to 4 times a week indoors and most of those will be interval based, and at least 2 of those sessions will have high-intensity sets. It kills me but the sessions are short so I don't spend a lot of mindless hours on the trainer. For indoor training, I always choose quality over quantity always on the bike. ("Quality" doesn't mean hard all the time. It means the right thing at the right time.)
  4. I ride on Zwift and have a few new followers every week. Now that I know I am part of a new tribe on Zwift, I know any of them can check up on me to make sure I'm still working hard.  I find that level of accountability motivating. I want to keep getting "Ride On"s from my people.
You find the system that works for you and hopefully some of my 'tricks' will give you some ideas.
(If you want more suggestions, even some of my specific workouts, you know all you have to do is ask!)

Thank you!

There are so many blogs out there talking triathlon, cycling & swimming, covering issues ranging from training to gear to motivation.  Seriously, if read them all, you'd never have time to train.  How you found me,fact, I'm not sure but entirely thankful that you've taken the time to find us here and read along.  Thank you for reading this and I hope you found something you can use to add spice to your training diet.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

We All Need Help Sometimes - 10 Lessons Learned On The Way To An Ironman

We all need help sometimes. I've had lots of help in the past.

Here's a summary:
  • I've had a few triathlon coaches in the past. I still do some of the key workouts I picked up along the way.
  • I've bought packaged online training programs.  
  • I've taken fitness classes at the gym.
  • I've trained with different masters swim groups.
  • I've worked with a personal trainer who understood my goals.
  • I've studied sports nutrition to be more informed about the true science of nutrition.
  • I've taken triathlon coaching courses.  
  • I've engaged in self-study beyond training courses.  Investing time, effort and sometimes a few dollars in your own education will never be a waste of any of those resources.  
  • I've fretted over potential race results until my husband told me no one cares how I do in any race.  It was a revelation that took a ton of stress away. 

Does it make me sound flakey that I haven't stuck with coaches, classes or a trainer forever?  I don't think so. My goals changed and my needs changed as I transitioned from one phase to another. There was a time where I was a pretty competitive triathlete (insert spit take here from anyone who trained or raced with me back then who remembers the focused, bitchy competitor that I was).  Life got busy, time for training became shorter and, to some extent, my body needed a bit of a break, physically, mentally and emotionally.  Quite honestly, I'm ready to get back to it physically but I'm not sure my head is in the same space and that's OK.

The point I'm trying to make is that we shouldn't be hesitant or afraid to change what we're doing when our goals change.

  • Maybe the challenge is to recognize when it's time to move on and try it another way.  
  • Maybe something pivotal happens that brings about that awareness.  

There are lots of maybes but the point is that sometimes it's time to move on.

Where do you go?   That's your question to answer.  But moving on doesn't mean abandoning the principles that worked in the past. Takeaway lessons from good training experiences will serve you well in ways you might not anticipate.

  1. Identify your core workouts, the ones that work, and stick with them. You can vary them up a bit, but they aren't fancy, they aren't a magic bullet and they aren't easy.  They just get the job done.  I still do some of the key workouts prescribed by a few of my former triathlon coaches. (Truthfully, most of the 'keepers' are from one coach - TLM, you know who you are!)
  2.  Hit the gym.  If you think you don't have time, make the time.  Gym work is important.  I sorted out a few workouts to do in the gym in order to support the demands of triathlon training.  
  3. I learned I can do it on my own but it's more fun to have company along the way. Friends and coaches provide support, accountability and sometimes a few laughs.
  4. I learned that not all coaches deliver the right messages the right way for my needs. 
  5. Likewise, I'm not the right coach for everyone.
  6. You have to have faith in your coach to guide you along the way but you also have to be aware enough to know when it's not working.
  7. Regardless of how you train, alone or in a group, who you train with, one of the best mantras is still to just get the job done.   For me, the hardest thing is to get started. I will finish once the first step has been taken.  
  8. Treat every workout like it's the most important one you have to do. 
  9. Train with purpose every session.  
  10. You have to fuel your body well and properly but there's nothing wrong with a little chocolate therapy along the way.
How can I help you?  I have some experience and some skills that I've picked up over the years that you might be able to benefit from.  If you have a question you want me to try to answer, just ask!!

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Indoor Ride Essentials - Set Up To Ride In Just 4 Steps

1.  Your Bike

Get it ready.  Seems pretty obvious but it might require a bit of consideration.

Trainer Tire:

 If you have a wheel on trainer, consider whethere you need to swap your rear tire for a trainer tire. There was a time when trainer tires were notably less expensive than a lot of every day road worthy tires but that it no longer a hard and fast rule. Still, it's still a good idea to make the switch. Trainer tires are made from softer rubber that will get better adherence to the resistance roller on your mag or fluid trainer.   Sure, you can skip this step and ride your regular tires but be prepared to replace that tire before you hit the open road again in the spring.

Trainer tires are usually a colour other than black so it's easy to tell which is which.  Don't ride this tire outside!!

Clean it

If your weather was anything like ours, you might have been caught in some rain or mist sometime during the last few months of riding.  Clean it all off for a few reasons. For one, why bring extra dirt into the house?  But, more importantly, get the grit off your chain to prevent unnecessary wear and tear.

MucOff has a few products you can use to clean your bike and protect if from sweat accumulation.

WD40 has bike wash in an easy to use spray bottle.   All you need to add is a soft, lint-free cloth.

These wipe cloths are so easy to use.  Just keep a few handy in your training space and use it after a ride.

Treat it 

We use an anti-corrosion treatment like Muc-Off Sweat Protect on the frame, bars, even your trainer.  It will help repel sweat, spit and drink mix from your bike. And pay attention to the bike over the training season.  If you notice spots accumulating on your bike and it's no longer wiping down cleanly, it's time for another cleaning and protection coating.  (Pictured above).

2. Your Trainer

You'll need to decide what kind of trainer will best suit your needs so that might be the first thing you need to do.  But if you already have a trainer, it's time to dig it out and dust it off.   Like your bike, it could probably use a good cleaning and a quick application of Sweat Protect (or similar product). If you are investing in a new Smart interactive trainer, check out our Septemer 2019 article at to sort out which trainer is best for your needs You can find it here.   And you can any of buy our 4 best valued trainers here.

3. Set Up Your Training Protocol

How are you training this year? Make a plan, set some goals and put into place the metrics you need in order to meet your goals.  Here are some good options (use as many as you want):

  • - Zwift (I'm on it - look for me and we can ride together!)
  • - TrainerRoad
  • - Sufferfest (the name scares me but in a good way)
  • - Rouvy (real road videos that you can ride with your virtual bike)
  • - BKool (features real roads and video feed, similar to Rouvy)
  • - proprierary software from companies like Elite and Tacx 

Most of these training platforms are available as a monthly subscription but some new trainer purchases come with some kinds of subscriptions for free for a month or more.  If you find the right training platform for your goals and preferences, the right training platform can really elevate your indoor training experience. I know it's worked for me. I love the level of engagement and the challenges.

Zwift app is loading and getting ready for my workout.

Ready to ride!

If you want your own custom Zwift wall decal for your training space, just ask and we'll make one for you!

4.  Your Training Space (the 'Pain Cave')

The easier it is to get your training started every session, the more likely you are to get it done.  Having a dedicated space in your house, a friend's house or a other designated location will give you the commitment to get started.  I know that once I start a workout, I'll finish it. As with any workout, the biggest challenge is often to just get started.  So, set up a training space that makes it as easy as possible to get started.  Our next article will talk about setting up your training space to make it work.