BRITE COACHING

TRAIN SMART, CONQUER GOALS. Led by Christine Fletcher, Coach to Spirited Ultra-Endurance Athletes

Focus Constantly on Getting Better

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FOCUS CONSTANTLY ON GETTING BETTER

When athletes or "performers" focus on constantly getting better - be it through global health, relationships, nutrition, training, mindfulness or engaging both the internal an external worlds, one common thread is the journey has no end. The journey is constant, the goal is the path and the path is the goal. Below is an adapted list of 15 practices offered by author and expert in health and human performance, Brad Stulberg, on the path towards growth and development. 

STRESS
Stress is a stimulus for growth. Without stress living organisms don't adapt, don't change. So you need stress. But stress is only beneficial in the right dose and when you have the capacity, resources, and support to absorb it. And stress is only valuable when it's followed by rest.

REST
The space during which growth occurs. Without rest, we stand no chance at absorbing and growing from challenges we face. If you want to develop your body, mind, or soul you've got to understand that rest - that simply "being" - is every bit as important as doing.

WELLNESS
Health is multidimensional. It is physical and mental and emotional and spiritual. It is also integral to lasting progress. It is true that you can burn "brite" for a while without a foundation of health, but keep existing in this way and eventually you'll burnout. Sacrificing health is myopic. The long-game requires it.

COMMUNITY
Research shows that the people with whom you surround yourself influence your performance and wellbeing by up to 30 percent. When things are going well community pushes you and celebrates you and keeps you grounded. When things aren't going well a tribe of support is everything.

COACHING
A coach is there to see what you don't see and to point you in the direction of growth. The best coaching relationships are rooted in shared humility and caring. A good coach doesn't just show or tell. They walk with with you on your path - sometimes leading and sometimes following.

CONSISTENCY
Show up, even when you don't want to. Doing so makes you better not only at your craft - via compounding gains - but also at the skill of exerting effort itself. The path of mastery isn't about being consistently great. It's about being great at being consistent.

PRESENCE
In many ways, presence is synonymous with peak performance. When you are fully there - completely immersed in your pursuit with concentrated attention - you are almost always at your best. Practicing presence leads to a better body of work and a richer, more textured life.

CARING
If you really care about what you do you'll put your all into it. If you really care about the people with whom you interact you'll put your all into them. Caring serves as the cutting edge of personal and social evolution. Caring is quality. Caring is love. You've got to care.

HUMILITY
Once you think you know you cease to keep knowing. Once you think you're good you cease to keep getting better. But there is always more to know. Always room to get better. Without humility there can be no growth.
 

CONFIDENCE
It's knowing, based on a body of evidence, what you can and can't do, and then moving forward accordingly. Confidence isn't something that you have or you don't. It's not something you're born with. Confidence is something you build.

DRIVE
Drive means relentless pursuit. Often born out of insecurity, at its best it's fuelled by love. Drive must be channelled. It can be productive and beautiful and enlarging when pointed toward growth and development. It can be destructive and diminishing when pointed at external validation. The best drive comes from the inside.

PATIENCE
Patience is letting things happen instead of making them happen. Not to be confused with passivity, patience is about persistence. Gentle persistence. It's about surrendering to a process and being present as it unfolds. Staying on the path of mastery in any endeavour requires patience.

TOUGHNESS
Toughness is about doing the hard thing because it's the right thing. Sometimes this means putting your head down and grinding it out. Other times this means backing off and asking for help. Toughness lives on the inside. The people who don't act tough are generally the toughest of all.

ACCEPTANCE
You've got to be honest - and okay - with yourself. Acceptance does not mean doing nothing but rather acknowledging and starting where you are. Not where you think you should be. Not where you want to be. Where you are. Because if you don't start where you are, you'll never really get anywhere.
 

VULNERABILITY
Vulnerability starts with being honest with yourself. Why are you doing what you're doing? What are you seeking? What could you be doing better? Are you open to receiving help? Answering these questions - being vulnerable - is uncomfortable. But being uncomfortable leads to growth.

Brad's offers 10 Commandments to Peak Performance as well as 57 pages of key quotes from the book

 

Part III - Gut Health for the Endurance Athlete

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This is our final instalment of the 3-part series related to Nutrition, Hydration and Digestive Health in consideration of endurance athletes seeking peak performance. In Part I we discussed the role of Nutrition & Fuelling. In Part II we looked at Hydration Guidelines from Precision Hydration. We invite you to review and apply the guiding principles for this season's training and racing. 

Today, we take a shallow dive into the topic of Digestive Health.  Why a shallow dive? Well, because the topic of digestive health is deep, complex and rooted in one's unique micro-biome, cellular makeup and compounding life stressors.  While one athlete might experience bloating and gas, another athlete may experience irritable bowel syndrome and yet another athlete may experience overwhelming fatigue all of which we can trace back to some form of  gut dysbiosis.

What we hope to do here is underscore the importance of gut health and encourage athletes suffering from less than optimum digestion to seek solutions either through Brite Coaching's team of experts or your own network of specialists. 

The expression "I had a gut feeling" holds a lot of truth and worth tuning in to if you have an inkling that your inner garden needs some attention. 

PART III - HEALTHY DIGESTION & THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE

No matter how many kilometres you log as an endurance athlete, if you are passionate about going long and performing when it counts, you will do nearly anything to keep your streak going strong. Endurance athletes are often the ones that suffer from unidentified symptoms of gut distress be it seen in the lack of quality sleep, mental or emotional instability, unsettled tummy (aka: bloating or gas) in training and life, difficulty losing weight despite training load, suppressed immune system, re-occurring injuries and poor performance outcomes. 

Take a minute to think about a time (might be right now) when you felt a little off kilter, a little less "well" or a little out of sorts and what that felt like on global level. Chances are you can identify with some of the symptoms offered here or here. Healing from inner distress can be life changing as it relates to daily comfort and confidence and reaching new levels of athletic, personal, and professional performances. 

As a coach to the endurance community, the key markers I look for in declining global health likely related to digestion are chronic reports of poor sleep quality, frequent colds, constant stops during training runs due to loose stools, fluctuations in training consistency, irritability and moodiness, obsessive thoughts and behaviours, inability to hit targets in workouts, anxiety related to racing or performance, changes in appetite and most importantly, a dismal outlook on seeking optimal wellness. 

Our bodies and minds are very shifty. When they are not being served or nourished, they make a ruckus and throw everything off.  Recent research suggests that gut health and the connection between gut and brain is one of the most important aspects of wellness to address before anything else.  Ultra endurance athletes want to pay attention to this since their pursuit depends on assimilation and absorption of nutrients, fuel sources and hydration. If the digestive system is damaged, the body will be unable to support stress loads and thrive. Nutrients will go unabsorbed, the immune system will remain suppressed, the body will carry chronic inflammation in the gut lining and cognitive functions will be impaired. Current scientific interest in the athlete micro-biome  is discovering that many of our current ailments, from arthritis, psoriasis, Hashimoto's, depression, diabetes, asthma & even heart disease have some origins in the gut.

If you think you suffer from less than optimal digestion, experienced in a plethora of ways, we encourage you to look deeper into how to heal your gut. We love this resource for more in-depth information about healthy gut protocols, hormonal balancing, immunity support and gut-friendly recipes. Ultimately you want a diagnosis and protocol that addresses your specific issues as a result of testing and working with a team of specialists. 

Taking care of your digestive health and gut functions may be the single most important step you can take to support your endurance practice and help you live your happiest and healthiest days. 

 

 

Part II - HYDRATION FROM AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE'S PERSPECTIVE

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Why is starting hydrated so important? "Once you begin sweating you're generally going to be fighting a losing battle against fluid and electrolyte loss, so starting off properly hydrated can be extremely beneficial," says co-founder of Precision Hydration Andy Blow. "When you're properly hydrated you have a larger reservoir of fluid to draw from over time than if you're dehydrated."

PART II - HYDRATION FROM AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE'S PERSPECTIVE

In our Part II of our 3-part series related to Nutrition, Hydration and Gut Health for endurance athletes, we will focus on dynamic topic of hydration, electrolytes and the individualization of fluid balance. If you missed Part I (fuelling guidelines for the endurance athlete) please take some time to review the information as each aspect is optimized when working together. 

Becoming dehydrated during an endurance event can easily derail not only a potential breakthrough performance but it can also turn a functional athlete into a zombie stumbling aimlessly through a race course. Becoming dehydrated is subtle, cumulative and brings on very uncomfortable symptoms that are difficult if not impossible to reverse on the spot. Appropriate rehydration takes hours, sometimes days, due to the slow process of fluid uptake by the cells after severe dehydration kicks in. 

Similar to nutrition & fuelling resources, there is a plethora of information available to athletes about the role of hydration and strategies to manage fluid in-take and electrolyte balance. And, to be consistent in guidelines to athletes - there is no one strategy that works for everyone. With some of the information below (and more through Precision Hydration), we want to help athletes avoid severe dehydration as well as learn how to individualize hydration over the course of ultra endurance events. 

In Part III, we will discuss the role that gut health (and global stress) plays in athletic performance. Optimized gut health is at the root of everything related to energy, wellness and assimilating all hard work you do to become a performer on and off the race course.

Let's begin by discussing "the role of sports drinks" before moving into some guidelines and helpful resources. 

 

WHAT DO SPORTS DRINKS ACTUALLY DO? 

Content by Precision Hydration

Today you can get thousands of different sports drinks containing all manor of things. But what are they actually good for?

Well, your body burns energy when you're exercising because of the work involved in contracting your muscles and it also loses water and electrolytes through sweat. Whilst you have stores of all of these things, all three do need replacing if you exercise reasonably intensively for long enough.

Water, sodium and calories (in different proportions) are the three main things you need to keep the body going during prolonged activity. These are the bottom line ingredients a sports drink has to contain to address your body's needs when you're working hard and sweating. Most other things are just fluff.

There are some drinks containing additives with proven performance benefits, like caffeine, that can be somewhat useful as well, but at the core of it a sports drink is really just a delivery mechanism for water, salt and sugar.

Although the exact composition varies slightly from brand to brand, all of the major 'ades' (Gator and Power) offer a 'one size fits all' solution of approximately 6% carbohydrate and between 400-500mg of sodium per litre, flavoured to make them palatable (palatability matters when it comes to selling beverages).

Interestingly, this 'industry standard' is supposedly quite a bit more sugary and less salty than the very first iterations of Gatorade; perhaps catering more to taste and carbohydrate fuelling needs than maximising their ability to hydrate. This is especially interesting given the direction in which many sports drinks recipes are moving these days.

These drinks are generally termed 'isotonic' because they contain a similar amount of molecules to the body's own fluids (in the region of 285-295 milli-osmoles per kilogram), meaning they're a similar 'thickness' to your blood. As a result, they move across the gut wall into the blood stream at a fairly decent rate.

A good way to think of these industry standard isotonic formulations is that they are designed to be a jack of all trades. They aim to balance the delivery of digestible carbohydrate energy, some electrolytes and fluids to meet all of the main requirements of an exercising body.

To that end they can work pretty well in certain circumstances, for some people. However, this means that they are in fact the masters of no particular function. Despite their apparent versatility, they neither deliver energy nor fluids and electrolytes as effectively as products designed specifically to do one or the other.

They also fail to take into account the fact that calorie, fluid and electrolyte requirements are not synchronised. People's physiology, exercise habits and confounding factors (like the weather) all vary. This means that a single product with a set composition is sadly never going to work for all people, in all scenarios.

So, whilst traditional isotonic sports drinks might work fairly well in small amounts and for shorter activities, where they really start to struggle to deliver is in situations where exercise is prolonged, sweat rates are high and/or individual needs for components like sodium are on the higher side.

That's because, during these longer and sweatier activities, the balance of what your body needs to maintain performance starts to shift away from primarily carbohydrates (as is the case in relatively short, intensive endurance events) towards a greater emphasis on fluids and salts as losses of these finite resources start to mount up over time. This is when serious dehydration or electrolyte depletion becomes more of a threat.

If you're relying entirely on an isotonic drink to replace fluids and electrolytes and you simply increase your intake to meet your escalating needs when your sweat rate is high, gastro-intestinal distress (a.k.a 'gut rot') is often the unfortunate consequence.

That's something that has derailed many endurance athletes to say the least! This 'digestive unhappiness' happens because the stomach and intestines get overwhelmed with the high levels of sugar in the drink. Beyond a certain volume, most people will start to feel sick and bloated which is clearly no good for performance.

To avoid this scenario many athletes learn - often through simple trial and error - to dilute isotonic drinks down with water on hotter days or during longer events, making them hypotonic (i.e. a lower concentration than blood). This does make them easier to consume in large volumes and so helps to solve the fluid replacement issue to a degree, but it has the unwanted side effect of diluting the already minimal levels of electrolytes found in them down to largely insignificant levels.

And this is the reason why a select few modern sports drinks (including the Precision Hydration) have moved on to a hypotonic composition.  These tend to have lower levels of carbohydrate (around a 3% solution, rather than the 6% solution in isotonic drinks) and much higher electrolyte content. 

Whilst the lower level of carbohydrates in the drinks makes them slightly less effective for fuelling, it makes a lot more sense than using isotonic drinks to try to meet all of your needs at once, but not quite fully meeting any of them.

Athletes who drink hypotonic drinks meet the lions share of their fuelling needs through consuming solid or semi solid options like gels, energy bars or 'real' foods instead, depending on the event. In other words, by largely separating your fluid/electrolyte replacement needs from your energy requirements, you can dial both in to your individual physiology rather than finding a 'happy medium'.

If preventing excessive dehydration is the main role of a sports drink, then there's a strong case for looking at the substance it is trying to replace - sweat - to help determine the optimal composition.

The interesting thing about sweat is that how much sodium you lose in it varies dramatically from person to person. Whereas the intracellular electrolytes found in sweat (potassium, calcium and magnesium) tend to be lost in very tiny and consistent amounts in sweat, sodium loss (which is predominant ion in extracellular fluid) can vary 10 fold between individuals. It ranges between around 200mg per litre (32oz) of sweat and 2,000mg/l.

And, although it's so variable between one person and the next, sweat sodium concentration remains pretty stable within an individual, so your own sweat composition can be almost permanently categorised as Low, Moderate, High or Very High.

Coupled with differences in sweat rates (driven by genetics, work rate, environmental temperature and so on) and total sweat volume losses, over time sodium output can vary 30 fold between two athletes doing the same activity.

Because sodium plays such a critical role in fluid balance, nerve impulse transmission and muscular contraction, a truly effective sports drink needs to replace it at a level that takes into account this high level of variance in losses from one person to the next.

In other words, whilst a 'one size fits all' formulation might work for some of the people some of the time, it will never work for all of the people, all of the time. And this is especially true for the 'outliers' - those people whose sweat volume and sweat sodium concentrations are either very high or very low - as their needs are not well catered for by a single formulation of drink that aims to hit the middle of the bell curve.

All of which leads us to the point we're at now with sports drinks starting to become tailored to meet the physiological requirements of the individual athlete. 

Below are a few links to some great articles on the Precision Hydration Blog addressing some of the most common questions and offering further impetus to address your own personalized hydration needs.

You can train as hard as you wish, but if you ignore the fundamental nutrition and hydration habits then you will inevitably reduce adaptations, heighten stress and risk of injury, and also experience fluctuating daily energy. 

Links:

https://www.precisionhydration.com/blogs/hydration_advice/this-guy-shaved-25-minutes-off-his-im-time-by-finally-getting-his-hydration-strategy-right

Links:

https://www.precisionhydration.com/blogs/hydration_advice/should-you-drink-water-to-thirst

Links:

https://www.precisionhydration.com/blogs/hydration_advice/how-much-dehydration-can-you-tolerate-before-your-performance-suffers

Hydration Guidelines:

As detailed in our Nutrition Article (Part I), below are guidelines for hydration. Remember, you're not just fuelling & hydrating for training and racing, you're fuelling & hydrating for performance in everyday life as well. 

For starters, think of hydration in terms of two aspects:

  1. Training & Racing Hydration: Fluids consumed in training
  2. Life Hydration: Fluids consumed outside of training 

Training & Racing Hydration:

  • Sessions less than 60 minutes: drink to thirst with water. No need for sugary sports beverages. Women in high hormone phase or post menopausal will have dampened thirst sensation so utilizing a timer to cue when to hydrate can be beneficial.
  • Sessions over 60 minutes: consume one bottle per hour on average (will vary based on humidity, heat and other factors) or approximately 10-12 ml/kg body weight/hr.
  • Shoot for the higher end range when temperature is above 24 degrees Celsius.   
  • Aim for 3-4% concentration of carbohydrates in solution. 
  • When you consume calories, it is best to consume fluids with little hits, more consistently. Taking in large amounts of calories or fluid at one time may cause GI distress.
  • Sipping every 10-15 minutes.
  • The longer the session, the more important the hydration becomes.
  • Electrolytes balance will be based off your Precision Hydration results. 

Life Hydration - Fluids Consumed Outside of Training:

  • There is no place for sugar-laden drinks in daily life. 
  • Shoot for half of your body weight in fluid ounces.
  • Sip on water throughout the day.
  • If training heavily, add pinch of salt, a splash of maple syrup and a little bit of citrus in your water. The sugars from the maple syrup will help pull sodium into the cells as well as provide some natural minerals. Alternatively, invest in Precision Hydration sachets for ease and customization.

PRECISION HYDRATION SWEAT TEST

As many of you will learn at the Brite Camp on Fuelling the Hungry & Thirsty Endurance Athlete in Whistler, BC (June 29th to July 1st), Precision Hydration has been championing personalized hydration for years now and it's really starting to catch on. PH offers athletes an Advanced Sweat Test - which tells you exactly how much sodium you lose in your sweat and allows us to build a personalized hydration plan around that data. They also offer a free online Sweat Test  that'll help you get started with refining your hydration strategy through some good ol' fashioned trial and error in training.

NEXT UP...

PART III - HEALTHY DIGESTION & THE ENDURANCE ATHLETE

No matter how many kilometres you log as an endurance athlete, if you are passionate about going long and performing when it counts, you will do nearly anything to keep your streak going strong. Endurance athletes are often the ones that suffer from unidentified symptoms of gut distress be it seen in the lack of quality sleep, mental or emotional instability, unsettled tummy (aka: bloating or gas) in training and life, difficulty losing weight despite training load, suppressed immune system, re-occurring injuries and poor performance outcomes.  

Taking care of your digestive health and gut functions may be the single most important step you can take to support your endurance practice and help you live your happiest and healthiest days. In Part III, we will discuss the role the gut plays in an endurance athlete's life and the signs and symptoms that signal less than optimal functioning. While we will shed light into practical solutions and options, sometimes it takes a deeper look into how symptoms are showing up in your body, mood or performance. If you feel you are under performing or losing your edge, digestive health might be the key to your next breakthrough.

 

Part 1 - Defining Nutrition for The Performance Athlete

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In the lead up to the "Nutrition & Hydration Endurance Training Camp" hosted by Brite Coaching in Whistler, BC (June 29th to July 1st), we want to empower and educate athletes with some helpful information as it relates to fuelling and nourishing your training and daily activities.  This will be the first article of a three part series on nutrition, hydration and digestion health.

PART I - NUTRITION FROM AN ENDURANCE ATHLETE'S PERSPECTIVE

Endurance athletes are in fine company with each other as they experiment with diet cults, nutrition trends and a plethora of food choices to fuel their training and racing as well as nourish their bodies throughout the day. Nutrition to an endurance athlete is, after all, the substance that gives the body energy to perform work, recover and operate from minute to minute.

How can we better understand what our bodies need when and why?

Nutrition is a young science and seems to be changing all the time. If we dig deep into the various diet cults out there, they suggest similar benefits with a different prescription. Initially trying a new diet is novel and may produce "results" but over time the stress and social awkwardness of sticking to a specific dietary regime negates the benefits and the body revolts with signals of under nourishment and deprivation. Before digging into an entirely different rabbit hole, we will save the "diet cults" debate for another day. The purpose of this write up is to focus on the difference between nutrition and fuelling along with what the body goes through when undernourished after training or in our daily, often stress-filled, lives.

Let's boil this big topic down to two components.

For our purposes, nutrition encompasses:

Fuelling - calories consumed during training/racing and immediately following those sessions (as a recovery source).

Daily eating -main meals consisting of macronutrients (Fats, Proteins and Carbohydrates).

It's important to distinguish and isolate fuelling vs. daily eating as each have distinct habits which can make or break an athletes overall experience in endurance sport.

FUELLING

This component is everything for the training athlete and they must get it right if they are seeking performance gains throughout the season. While there are many more reasons why this is so, here are my top five:

  1. Proper fuelling, quite simply, enables performance during the session. It gives you energy.
  2. Proper fuelling helps the athlete manage their daily eating habits be it with portion control or food selections. The less ravenous you are the more likely you will choose wisely and consume in moderation.
  3. When we train, we produce appropriate circulating stress hormones, which serve a very important role in creating adaptations in strength, endurance and power. However when the session is done, we want to reduce these stress hormones and begin the recovery process immediately. If an athlete goes without fuelling following key sessions, they face the day with elevated stress load and negate or delay recovery and thus growth.
  4. Post training fuelling allows the body to recover and prepare for the very next training session.
  5. Last but not least, proper fuelling is the fundamental tool in your management of energy.

CONSEQUENCES OF TRAINING STRESS & FUELLING

Let's look at a typical high achiever, corporate executive and family man training for a 7-day cycling stage race along side his uber fit and competitive buddies. Over the winter he gained some weight, yoyo-ed with his eating habits and used starvation tactics to get "things under control." The result of such behaviours is consistently poor training performances and periodic evening binges. What he may not realize is that his athletic goals are hugely tied to his fuelling habits and must be corrected before any fancy training adaptations are implemented.  Training more and eating less is rarely the answer, for anyone.

Let's look at what happens to the body after training:

TRAIN: Hard or long (or both). Boom! Body is flooded with stress hormones. No post-training refuelling. "Short on time. Rushing to the office. Will get a coffee on the way and snack later."  The body is now hyped with circulating stress due to the training session and in anticipation of a full day. During a day of work, the stress levels remain elevated and the body finds calmness or balance, aka: system overdrive.

The above sequence of events is a typical example of when an athlete trains really well (appropriate stress to the system and muscular damage) yet has not implemented sufficient recovery to benefit from the energy expenditure. Without refuelling, the muscles cannot repair and the body cannot recover. Add to that, energy stores utilized during training are not replenished having a subsequent effect on future training episodes. In the long term, what this adds up to is a loss of muscle and tissue integrity as well as supressed physiological adaptations. We can't forget to mention the yoyo effect of performance in subsequent training episodes. The psychological effect of this experience creates a heightened sense of unpredictability and mistrust in how the body will perform in future. The brain cannot trust that energy will be in the tank thanks to past experiences.

Now let's turn to how this patterning affects daily eating habits.

Post workout, the metabolic rate is high and the body is highly efficient at absorbing carbohydrate and storing it as glycogen in the liver and muscles (energy packets). Protein is also required for muscle synthesis and repair. When athletes do not replenish they go into what is often called: Athletic Starvation. The body says "oh no...in starvation mode, I must send a signal to the brain that I need calories and fast!" And the cycle of over eating on poor food choices begins. Portion control goes out the window during times when the metabolic rate is low and the carbohydrates and sugars consumed are stored as excess body fat vs. being utilized to repair tissue or reduce stress hormones.

During times of starvation, the body, the brain and energy levels go for a roller-coaster ride. When starvation becomes habitual, athletes will experience energy fluctuations, body composition issues, brain fog, magnified stress and overall lethargy. Worse, athletes start to contemplate their training plan, unmet goals and creative ways to manipulate a very obvious solution.

FUELLING SOLUTIONS

Let's look at solutions and general guidelines for the endurance athlete to not only manage the above consequence of Athletic Starvation but to also thrive in training and racing. The next seven guidelines will help every athlete steer clear of unpredictable performances as a result of missed fuelling:

  • Always have a carbohydrate rich pre-workout snack of real food, low in fibre and high in nutrients 30-60mins prior to training.
  • Sessions 60mins or less, do not require calories unless the athletes is very hungry.
  • Sessions greater than 60mins with intensity do require caloric support. This is when sugar is your friend. Even the most low carb high fat athlete is going to consume sugar as their pre-dominant fuel source when training/racing.  In cases where the intensity is very low athletes may consume small amounts of macronutrients.
  • Refuel post-workout within 30minutes no matter the workout you JUST did. And focus on JERF (just eat real food).
  • Plan snacks throughout the day. Mid-morning, mid-afternoon and perhaps before bed.
  • Daily meals need to consistent of all three macronutrients (attach 5 Rules).
  • Evening meals should largely consist of plants, fats and protein with less emphasis on starchy carbohydrates.

The spin off benefits of implementing supportive fuelling habits around daily eating will ultimately help athletes experience consistent improvements in performance along with enhanced recovery from session to session not mention improved sleep quality and hormone balance.

DAILY EATING: MEALS & SNACKS OUTSIDE OF TRAINING SESSIONS

The goal of daily eating is to support global health. We want to maximize real foods that are minimally packaged and processed, nutrient dense, made of mixed macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat) clear of diet cults and evangelism. A good way to think of daily eating is "mostly good" with everything in moderation without elimination, weighing foods or living like a monk. However, daily eating habits will only be effective if you get your fuelling right and nailing your fuelling is wildly influential on your daily eating habits. The two components are intrinsically linked in a symbiotic relationship.

Daily eating supports:

  • Your platform of global health
  • Your immune system & resilience
  • Your cellular health by providing essential vitamins & minerals for bodily functions
  • Your muscular and tissue health (maintenance and repair)
  • Your energy management throughout your day

And yet...and yet...endurance athletes tend to share the following debilitating daily eating habits:

Do not consume enough calories to support the training load.

Select the wrong types of calories to support their training and health demands with an over reliance of starchy carbs and sugars.

Integrate "fuelling" sources into their daily feeding windows such as sugary drinks, bars and bloks instead of nutrient dense food.

Plain and simple, small tweaks in daily eating will go a long way if an athlete focused solely on eating real food, mainly plants.

MANAGING MEALS

We often think of daily eating as three square meals throughout the day. Athletes need more flexibility in how their eating habits are arranged. As a guiding principle, athletes should establish breakfast as the largest and most important, carbohydrate and protein rich meal of the day. It may also serve as a fuelling meal for an upcoming workout. As the day progresses, meals should taper in amounts and shift towards less starchy carbs (vegetables) with more emphasis on protein, good oils and fats. The less polarized your meals are throughout the day, the more consistent your energy levels will become.

FINAL THOUGHTS

If athletes take nothing else away from the guiding principles in this article, take this one: let calorie-counting go. Drop it today to focus 100% on habit generation. Zero in on macronutrients during mealtime and snacks while limiting high sugar foods and starchy carbohydrates. Think global health vs. immediate gratification with consequences down the line.

Nutrition (fuelling and daily eating) is a massive component in potential to perform. Training is an ongoing performance journey and therefore your eating should be too. Cement habits and always nail the fuelling. Figure out where you fall short in your nutrition habits and address those before revamping your training or diving into evangelism.  Often times, athletes with excess body fat need to train less and eat more to readjust their stress hormones and let the body know it's ok to shed fat.

Fuelling is a performance mindset. Daily eating is the platform of global health.

Part II will focus on hydration and how it too is affected by and affects nutrition and absorption of calories.

If you have questions about your own nutrition, fuelling, eating habits or how to join the Brite Coaching Training Camp, please contact me at christine@brite.coach or visit our website www.brite.coach

THE TRAINING LOG

christine fletcherComment

As a coach to high achievers seeking ultra endurance dominance, the two most asked question I have for my athletes are, “how did you feel?” and “are you motivated to train?”

Sometime ago you signed up for an ultra endurance race, be it a triathlon, a cycling stage race, an adventure race or maybe an ultra-marathon. The nature of the race, doesn’t matter. The countdown to the race doesn’t matter. What does matters is that you had the desire, intention and discipline of doing that event well.  Over the winter months, you went through the motions of training letting the “auto-uploads” log your daily training, thought about a comment you could write but you’ll do it later or just allowed the numbers to speak for themselves assuming that was good enough. Life got full, time was precious and conditions were undesirable for you to find two minutes to write helpful observations in your training log. Winter training seemed to matter less to you. "Champions are built in the off-season” doesn’t apply to you.

The pivotal ingredients to becoming a better, stronger, faster and smarter athlete are daily reflections and the desire to train, full stopNumbers and data help us quantify the dancing body and thinking mind.

How an athlete resonates with the training process is far more important to potential progress than mailing in a half-baked effort. How an athlete applies each training experience to a future session or a target race is far more beneficial than coloring boxes green. Simply going through the physical motions is the perfect path to unpleasant plateaus and staleness.

Training logs are the window into an athlete's mind, heart, emotions, fears, desire, motivation and spirit. Since ultra-endurance athletes spend exhaustive amounts of financial, physical and emotional resources on and in their sport, finding two minutes every day to look inward and reflect seems like a worthy effort given the return on investment. The discipline and habit of logging notes after each session is incredibly more constructive use of time than that five minutes spent creating a social media post about your run stats or FTP results, which are Just Not That Interesting.

We lost a running legend last week, Sir Roger Bannister. Best be sure, Roger did not have a social media feed, an ANT+ Garmin nor any fancy training software. His access to training devices was minimal but his reflections on what it took to run a mile in 4 minutes or less was highly calculated with observations and self-awareness.  We can also be sure he was communicating daily with his mentors and coaches on how each session felt, how his body was recovering, how he was managing injuries and how he would apply his practices when it counts.

Have a look at an example of Bill Rodgers’ 1974 training log https://runningscience.co.za/elite-athletes-training-log/bill-rodgers/

“Leg a little achey.”

“I’m getting back up there!! Ya-hoo”

“Did not run twice today. Too tired.”

Sometimes a few simple words says it all. Sometimes a deep dive into the color is required.  Write whatever helps you express your experience succinctly and with insight. With this new age of smart devices, software programs, entertainment gaming and social media access, athletes tend to escape reflections with technology challenges, Zwift malfunctions, fallen GPS signals, dead batteries or syncing issues.

Knowing and understanding effort is invaluable to athletes seeking performance. Devices help us quantify what was already qualified. When we can accurately bring the two worlds together, we gain a deeper look into the complete experience.

Taking time to write your training observations opens doors not only for your coach to coach you with more insight and understanding of you as a human being with budding athletic potential and goals but it also engages you with the process towards excellence and personal greatness. To recognize, to be aware, to be present in the moment and to connect with the chain of events in a written format is a fundamental part of endurance training.

So I ask you, “How did that feel?” “What was your desire to train today?” Write it. Daily.

IT’S JUST NOT THAT INTERESTING

christine fletcherComment

What was once a new riveting way to connect and communicate is now very much commonplace. What was once a past time is now irresistible and addictive. Seeking attention and getting accolades feels so good. Checking your account likes and comparing it to others feels productive. But does it really? Is it real? Is your image sustainable? Is it helping you develop into the athlete you initially set out to become? Have you noticed a growing desire for likes on your activities? Do you think people care THAT much? What’s the purpose of being an avid SM poster?

Social media is certainly here to stay and how we use it can dramatically affect our true experience with sport, training sessions, race performances and setting expectations.  Crafty titles on Strava or training selfies occasionally have a time and place, however, one need only observe accomplished and high level performers – elite or Olympic level athletes or business influencers – to notice that their messages are vastly different from the average Joe. They come from a place of passion and perseverance with a confident and sometimes vulnerable voice. Rarely would one sense any form of self-pimping, self-seeking or self-deprecating meaning from true leaders and achievers. What can we glean from them?

As written about this past summer, perseverance comes from passion. When pursued with internal motivation and drive vs. external accolades or attention seeking posts, people (everyone’s included) open space to experience fully the path they are on and the obstacles they will encounter. When all you think about is the title of your next Strava post or your photo shopped post-run Instagram the intention has been lost entirely.

From a coaching standpoint, social media has zero bearing on how an athlete is doing in the larger context of goals. What matters to a coach is rarely, if ever, going to show up on social media. 

So what does matter?

What matters is how an athlete truly feels in mind and body be it energy, sleep, motivation to train, fears, mind games, disruption to schedule, accountability, compliance, consistency, willingness to go deep, and injury resistance.  The juicy details are difficult to articulate because you must look under the hood vs. living on dopamine hits every 5 minutes. What matters takes thought and deep cognitive energy.  

Here’s what we all know to be true…

When the gun goes you are the only one on the line. No followers, no cheerleaders, no arch nemesis. It is only after the gun goes when athletes realize how well prepared they are for the mental fortitude required to give their best effort on the day that counts. Imagine dedicating your entire social media time and creative title crafting to mentally preparing for race day and execution planning? Imagine the possibilities.

Let social media serve you instead of hold you hostage. Far more inspiring and admirable are athletes that post to help others, spread important messages or share real life experiences. Frankly, no one really cares that much about your watts, how far you ran or what ungodly hours you swim.  People care about authentic experiences that not only enriched your life but theirs too.

 

What's Your Word?

christine fletcherComment

A friend of mine asked me what my goals were for 2018.  She wisely suggested we write them out, put ourselves out there, make them sticky and give them life. Her note to me was heartfelt. It was only after much self reflection, awareness and inward observations that she did come up with her word to encapsulate her theme for 2018.  Everything would flow from that word, that essence, that feeling she wanted to create for herself day in, day out. 

 

 

Contemplations like this always make me think of Brite athletes as they diligently train for races, balance family, be responsible at work and nurture intimate relationships. How do we pull it all together? How do we create the life we truly want to live? How can we live out our passion while being there for all the special moments, meetings, celebrations and people in our lives?  How can we become more present for both our training and everything else that matters?  How can we commit to greatness and all the elements that are part of that ecosystem including failure and letting go? There may not be one simple answer but surely connecting to an essence, a purpose and perhaps a word will set us on our way. 

 

If we do nothing else in the early days of 2018, we can at least ask ourselves how we can BE more vs. DO more. So may I ask you, what is your word(s)?

 

"We are far more than what we do...we need to be more...more authentic...more honest...more present...more grounded...let the doing flow from there. When that happens extraordinary things happen." - Dr. Michael Gervais, Sports Psychologist and Entrepreneur (Compete to Create).

 

Productive Failure & Excellence

christine fletcherComment

Athletes~

Today focuses on two areas that were swirling in my head whilst on a bike ride. Typically ideas are generated from recent athlete interactions, performance observations, training peaks logs or my own experiences. Hopefully you resonate with one of the paragraphs below.

PRODUCTIVE FAILURE

In theoretical terms, I have always understood that when things don’t go to “plan” there are always lessons to take away from it. You’ve been told by many that failure is the best way to learn. But isn’t that true only if we actually understand the lesson and apply it? If you are one of the lucky few that never repeat mistakes twice, I commend you. The failure-lesson paradigm suggests we make smarter decisions and choose differently based on our “failed” experience. 

It’s only when my hair started to turn grey that this “failure as growth” concept started to really sink in at a deeper level. I get it now. Applied to athletics, true learning, authentic skill development and fitness gains come almost exclusively from intense struggle, discomfort and failure. You can apply this anyway you want and you will this is in fact true. 

I was reading about a world class surfer - Nic Lamb. Surfing is a skill and sport I admire and would surely fail at numerous times before competency was even a consideration. He talked about seeking waves that scare him, stepping outside his comfort zone and getting comfortable being uncomfortable.  His mindset is “the opposite of complacency.”  Times when Lamb is supremely challenged (and maybe fails at an attempt) are the most valuable. He is stressed physically and psychologically which magnify areas he needs to work on. 

Another term for all this is called Productive Failure - be highly challenged, maybe fail, examine the problem, figure out a solution, improve next time, acquire the new skill. 

Great quote by Vern Gambetta, one of USA’s top track and field coaches:

"if you fail, fail forward, get up and keep moving. No need to try harder, try different but keep trying.”

EXCELLENCE

Here we are in the thick of the summer. Athletes are racing ferociously, training intently and maybe getting a bit obsessive about having everything just "so”.  Perfection, to me, is frustrating.  Excellence is a great substitute for perfectionists. Excellence means you are doing your best right now. Excellence means you are accepting yourself (your performance, your watts, your pace, your speed) whether or not you are achieving said “outcome.” 

Focusing on excellence is hard work, takes focus and may never get easier.  So maybe the real question is about your ability to excel? How good can you be? How fast can you become? How happy can you live? How responsible? How cultural? How healthy? How authentic? How humble? How evolved? 

TRAINING & RACING in the HEAT

Forecast looks warm for this weekend. Pay careful and close attention to your heat regulation & dissipation, hydration, and output. For those of you racing, keep in mind that by continually cooling the body, you will optimize blood flow to the gut to digest calories as well as to the working muscles to maintain workload. The key is to manage your heat load throughout the day. 

Be the one to take the sponge and ice from aid stations. Wear and re-apply sunscreen (in hair too) - this can be a life saver. Use cool water on muscles, armpits, hands and groin. Keep hands cool by carrying ice or a sponge. Did anyone see Jan Frodeno dunk his entire head in the ice bucket at an aid station in Kona? When asked about how he manages heat in the marathon:

"Walking through aid stations. And taking in heaps and heaps and heaps of liquid. Even stopping at one or the other ice boxes and throwing sponges over myself.”

When recounting his race, he gave much credit to his habit of walking through many aid stations on the run. He explained that slowing down to take in the hydration and nutrition and letting his core temperature cool down was just like his Olympic distance days when he trained running speed intervals on the track.

 

 

Athletic Success

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Athletes~

 

You can expect another two or three emails like this - athlete-centric and performance-based - over the next 6 days. 

Then I’ll spare you all more emails however I do hope you can all take away a nugget of information that sticks and helps ground you in the heat of the moment.

 

If you care to read or re-read any of last weeks’, please visit http://brite.coach/new-blog/ (People, Pods & Reads).

I continue to add more athletes to this list so please do visit my website for the back log of entries.

 

———————

Monday, July 24th

Athletic Success

The greatest challenge I face as a coach of endurance athletes is managing ‘athlete fatigue' levels and how it directly impacts and relates to consistency in training. What I have noticed is that athletes who successfully manage fatigue are more consistent with their training (and happier) and ultimately experience overall athletic success. By athletic success I mean their capacity to do the workouts as intended (volume and / or intensity) in training as well as having the ability to execute during races with a performance they are proud (usually fostered by confidence, self-belief and sans ego).

Whether your athletic career is built on the next 6 days, 6 weeks, 6 months or 6 years, every day presents an opportunity to develop constructive athletic behaviours. The ultimate goal is to manage the influx of stress load (fatigue) with sufficient recovery thereby allowing your true and honest fitness to rise (growth).

I’ll be brief on a few of the points that contribute to athletic success…

Chasing Fitness. 

Strava has really helps us out here, right? If you find yourself always chasing trophies, KOM’s or QOM’s, segment wins, personal bests in workouts or comparing yourself against “faster” athletes in a workout, save your energy. Rewards will be short-lived and completely delusional. If comparison is your game of choice, consider how little you truly know about that person and their training, athletic history, sleep patterns, life stressors, sacrifices, nutrition, family and genetics. Instead of chasing (that action alone is a stressor), focus on consistency in repeating efforts (back it up day in day out) and zooming out when the minutiae of irrelevant details cloud your vision. What actions, behaviours and efforts really affects your long-term goals? Focus there.

Training Partners. 

Choose your training partners wisely. Really consider who you are spending those long training hours with and what it is about them that brings out the best athletic behaviours in you. Think of the energy they create in your body and even in a group dynamic. Over the years, I have had a small handful of people would be considered as my go-to training partners. I gravitate to them because they are mentally strong, fun, can sometimes go with the flow, don’t race me and rarely try to change my focus for the day. In return, I offer them the same respect.  Whether we train side by side or just share the road together, we are in sync and equally committed to the work we have to do. 

Surround yourself by those that bring out the best in you. You will undoubtedly return the favour. 

Chasing Averages.

If you follow Hunter Allen’s Power-based Training Handbook to plan workouts or exclusively use numbers in the absence of what your body gives you on the day to direct your training (and then add 5-10% to the intensity), you will crack at some point.  This is speaking to those that use a power meter on their bike [or pace in running]. Prior to knowing what your average was for a ride or run, athletes tend to think they are always riding or running harder than they actually were. When we chase, our perception of effort is off kilter and usually inflated. 


This concept is especially important in racing longer endurance events. If you chase an average watt range (say 180-190watts), the majority of your ride will be well over that range and you’ll fail to notice the power spikes you are using to manipulate your average.  In other words, you are burning costly matches. At some point in the near future, your legs will shut off and watt averages won’t be the deciding factor for a performance.  I would rather hear you report that while your watts were steady, your perception of effort was much lower. That’s economy.

Use this week, to set up your devices so the readings give you all the information to mange your effort. Remove all the punchy, testing, ego driven spikes (unless they are planned into your training). Pay close attention to how you feel at what effort. Feel is an invaluable sensation…especially if the power meter drops out or garmin dies….the road is still there for you. The same road you may’ve ridden a billion times.

Be Deliberate.

Purpose feels good. Intention feels right. Very fit athletes have insatiable capacity to train a bit too hard. When done over and over and over, the recovery requirement increases dramatically and the training benefits are reduced significantly. 

If this is race week for you, your “training” is done. It’s time to let the fitness rise to the surface. If this is an important training block for you, color inside the lines of the workout, more is not always better. If you are recovering from a race, be deliberate with your recovery techniques. In all cases, your body will get stronger with consistency.

The final three points are maybe obvious but must be mentioned:
 

    • Sleep (see http://brite.coach/new-blog/20162017/047/0720/having-the-courage-to-rest). 

 

    • Life stress. Consciously choosing to do less in order to achieve more…thank you Seth Godin:

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2017/01/more-and-less.html

http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2011/12/the-more-or-less-approach-to-getting-and-keeping-a-job.html

 

    • Nutrition. Eat real food with minimal ingredients. 

Caring is Cool

christine fletcherComment

Today I learned who graffiti artist, political activist, and filmmaker Banksy is. His tweet…
 
“Our generation thinks it’s COOL NOT TO CARE. It's not. Effort is cool. Caring is cool. Staying loyal is cool. Try it out.” 

Athletes often pretend or say/suggest they don’t care about their “race” or how they do. I rarely believe them. It’s a safe front to use however. Let the world know that you are just “doing it for fun” or haven’t really trained for it so “going easy” or like to focus on the “comfort-zone” of race participation. There is an ever growing number of people that are “finishing” marathons or jumping into mass participation endurance events (in fact the slower you go the more fun and comfortable it is!). Surely we will all agree that anything that gets people moving is a very good thing. But is it really true that they don’t care? Or is it cool not to care? What happens if you do care? 

My response to many of my athletes that say they are nervous before a race is “yes, it’s because you care and caring is a good thing. It means this experience matters to you. You worked hard for something so nerves are a good sign. It means you care.” If nerves are generated from saving face and self imposed [unrealistic and pressure cooker] expectations, we are having a different conversation. 

This will be my final year racing as a professional triathlete. And I too am lining up on July 30th for Ironman Canada in Whistler, BC. I want to be in the trenches with the athletes and feel what they feel, see them on the course and hopefully exchange a few high fives. With that decision comes exposure, effort and a lot of caring. The easy route would be not to race and roll out this year until my pro license expires and avoid dealing with vulnerability, stepping into the arena with competitors some 15-20 years younger, feeling the discomfort of racing and risking failure. But I would rather care and jump in than pretend not to and watch on the side lines.

For those of you training hard, racing, preparing daily, opting out of destructive behaviour so that you can opt into constructive behaviour and elevating your game daily, go back to Banksy’s reminder. 
CARING IS COOL. The personal rewards for caring will propel you and those around you far more the impact of any one race or athletic endeavour. 

My all time favourite quote is by Theodore Roosevelt:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat. 

It’s a bit long to tape on your handlebar for inspiration but read it before your next race. 

Or tape this one (my second favourite):

Success is peace of mind, which is a direct result of self-satisfaction in knowing you did your best to become the best that you are capable of becoming.
- John Wooden, Coach. Winning 10 NCAA National Championships in a 12 year period while at UCLA - still unmatched by any other college basketball coach.
 

Effort

christine fletcherComment

This is day three of my writing short (ok moderate) posts of some random yet important topics that role through my head.

If you didn’t get Day 1 and Day 2 and would like to, I can forward to you or check my website www.brite.coach 

All will be posted there.

Since many of you have races or events coming up, I will spend another week reminding you and hopefully educating you on some nuances of endurance training. 

Like Sleep (Monday) and SmartPhones (Tuesday), the topics will hopefully surprise and enlighten you.

Today is about effort and our nature to go hard.

Most days, as an endurance coach, are spent asking athletes to ride smooth, minimize surges and use gears to flatten hilly roads. Whether a roadie, mountain biker, triathlete, runner, doesn’t matter…if you are an endurance athlete and 96.9% of your goal events are based on the development of your aerobic system and optimizing sustainable power, then maximizing your ability to hold a steady output is the skill we are after

Developing outstanding endurance is the starting point and with that comes exceptional aerobic economy (which I have written about this past winter).  If all your training is interval-based V02Max or Threshold efforts in place of aerobic base training, we are neither training endurance or economy. We are just getting tired. Now, that’s not to say you should never ride hard and do intervals. There is certainly a time, place and appropriateness for hard work (athlete dependent and training phase related) - blending aerobic development and intensity into an athletes training program is both an art and a science (and highly individual). For criterium riders, roadies, mountain bikers and even some triathletes/runners, you need the ability to change pace, recover and go again and maybe again and maybe again. A crit race often demands a rider to “accelerate” through corners 160+ times in the span of an hour! Intensity for these folks is critical! But they back it up with a ton of endurance work!

In long endurance races or multi-day stage events, success to the finish (aka: a strong finish) will only come from careful pacing and steady output. In cycling terms, every time we exceed our aerobic threshold we burn a match. Once the matchbook is all used up, we will have no fire in our legs for the later stages of the race, the run off the bike or the days following in a multi-day stage race. I find it most fascinating that despite many athletes knowing about this concept, they choose to ignore the consequences of it. Until they have buried themselves in a race, a training ride, or walked an entire Ironman marathon, the impact of burning matches or exceeding their aerobic threshold multiple times in dramatic fashion, the levity of this concept is lost on them. Some athletes learn the first time but more often than not it takes a few good reminders. 

This line of thinking and dialoguing with athletes led me to ask myself what is it about athletes/humans always pushing beyond what is sustainable? 

Self sabotaging their rides or training days but going out so hard? Surely ego is involved but there is something more natural and innocently naive about this behaviour.

 

I read a great thread that magnified our very nature. 

 

It went like this…

Why we go to hard is because our very evolution (to standing on two feet) has ingrained a certain ‘resistance reflex’ into us. Try this -- stand facing a person. Ask them to hold up their two hands to you. Place yours against them and then gently apply increasing pressure. They will push back with the same pressure. This is reflexive. That's why our natural instinct is to go harder up a hill, into the wind, surge to the front, etc. Part of ultra endurance training is unlearning that reflex — to keep constant effort rather than constant speed. 

 

Pacing yourself steadily and evenly, in ultra endurance, will pull back anyone and everyone that went out too hard. Be a champion at the end, not in the first 1/4. 

And, if you don’t reel in others you thought went out too hard, then they were in fact faster/stronger than you. So move on.

SmartPhones

christine fletcherComment

A few years ago, six to be exact, I commented to my coach at the time, that I was noticing my ability to focus in long workouts seemingly getting harder and harder. I loved intervals and things to “do” while training. When I was younger I was able to put my butt on a saddle and just ride. No music, no distractions, no need for special intervals to busy my mind. As phones and instant messaging starting to buzz in my pocket and the urgency of texting or accessing social media updates, I found my attention span was compromised. Coach looked at me like I had two heads since at the time it wasn’t nearly half as bad as it is now. But I knew something was up and might only get worse. 

Yesterday, we talked about sleep. Today, we will talk about stimulants.

Really smart people in the world with PHDs and stuff, designed your little phone with such sophistication that we are literally addicted to the dopamine response from checking it every 30seconds. Very similar to gambling and the addictive behaviours associated with the chase for a win-fall.

“Refresh” floods our system with dopamine and we can’t stop ourselves from going back for more. So how does this affect our performance?

Outstanding performance and execution comes as a result of complete focus. If our brains are wondering if “so and so” liked my post or replied to my text, we are far from focused. In fact we are so distracted we may as well just be on the couch on our phones. 

Like sleep, for the next two weeks, consider ways that you can check less, do more and use the cognitive energy in areas that help your performance vs hinder it. Studies show that simply turning the ringer off or putting your phone in your pocket is far from effective. We operate on will-power in those cases. And we know what happens when will-power is put to the test. Even reading paragraph is likely making you wonder about your phone. 

The best solution to detach from your phone is to remove it entirely from your body, vision and environment. When the phone is removed from an athletes environment, there is proof that performance increases and even the impact of the training session was enhanced. The domino affect of removing technology “instant” calls for attention will impact your ability and willingness to perform, your interest in real people and your awareness of life around you. 

What would you do with all that “checking, surfing, creeping and liking” time back in your life? 

Sleep more. Rest more. Recover more. Perform more and more often. 

Nice alternative.

 

Having The Courage to Rest

christine fletcherComment

Mid-July

You are either lining up for a full ironman, half ironman, fondo or recovering from an injury over the next couple of weeks. Or you are simply within an important training block in your season.  Over the next couple weeks, take time to focus on impactful ways to improve your bodies ability to perform when it counts.

For those of you racing in the next 6-14 days, resist the urge to constantly test yourself.  Always keep a little in reserve, mentally and physically.  Avoid max effort situations, if you make a mistake then do a little less, go a little easier.  It is far better to arrive a little too fresh than to find one’s self tired.

I was listening to an old youtube on the weekend with a prominent ironman legend and self-less experimenter in the ultra endurance world (Gordo Byrn). He made a few “rest” statements that not only struck the group of athletes he was speaking to but also prompted me to write each of you. 

In general, but especially in the last couple of weeks before a big event (or while you recover from an injury),  every athlete will benefit from finding a way to average 30 minutes or more of sleep per night versus trying to find room for an extra or harder training session. In other words, get more out of the work you are currently doing by showing up to the sessions fresher and more recovered. As it relates to racing and performing, optimal sleeping patterns and amounts will bring out both your athletic ability as well as your cognitive ability to make critical decisions, maintain perspective and operate at a significantly higher level for longer periods of time. We all want that.

If you were to ask some of the top performers (in any field), I suspect they have healthy sleep hygiene and that making sleep a priority was the one key difference in their success. The training and hard work stays the same but the ability to recover and grow is the game changer. Those who do not have good sleeping routines will ultimately not sustain their current level of output. It’s simply fact.

Here’s what I notice, after a couple days of compromised sleep, I am not only terrible at training, I am terrible at life. 

When I know that all I need to do is add sleep, I give myself 10-14days of extended mattress time and when possible, wake without an alarm. Life looks completely different when our bodies are rested and nourished. 

For two weeks, I invite you all to try:

- going to bed 10…20…30 minutes earlier.

- darken your room completely.

- avoid iPhones for at least 60-120minutes before bed.

- leave iPhone out of the bedroom.

- visualize the body completely relaxing into a sleep state.

- if and when possible, wake without an alarm.

At the same time, notice if you like people a little more, if your patience grows, if you start to welcome challenges in a new light, if you start to look forward to sleep more than you used to and if holding a healthy and positive perspective seems a bit easier (in the grand scheme of things).

Hammer or Nail

christine fletcherComment

Many people get into endurance sport, or sport in general, for the social aspect of spending time with others while also getting fit. We meet new people, we bond, we hurt, we laugh and we come back for more thanks to the camaraderie of others being there for us and us being there for them.  For athletes entering endurance sport or returning to fitness an audience can positively influence compliance and consistency.  Studies show that athletes train harder and focus longer when in the company of others. Athlete reliability skyrockets when they know someone is depending on them to show up.  The benefits of “exercising” socially cannot be disproven. So then what could ever be the problem with having training partners? The answer lies in context.

 

Over the years I have been apart of many training groups, clubs and teams. In my twenties I wore a “road racing” helmet and couldn’t imagine a ride without the company of twenty other cyclists dressed in the same kit and wearing the same socks with coaches at the front and back end of the group chomping at our wheel.  The team would end at the same café for a post ride latte and jam session.  Our goals were team-based sprinkled with race tactics and strategies to win as a result of a group effort. The comraderie was exceptional and when things came together in races, we knew the hard work in training together paid off.  Each season had a plan and each session had a purpose.  The whole was definitely greater than the sum of its parts.

 

Over time, my focus evolved, as did my desire to realize personal improvements and compete against the clock (gross simplification of 10-15 years).  To honor this desire, my training partners had to evolve, as did my training sessions and the specificity of each one. It was wildly motivating to train knowing that each session fit into a bigger picture and gratifying to experience unique improvements. Group rides at random speeds and punchy watts continued to be a huge part of my training. In fact, the more fit I became with solo workouts, the more I could enjoy some of those Hammerfest rides and even test a few riders that always tested me in past years. What changed was the approach and timing of group rides. What changed was who the hammer was and who the nail was.

 

All of you have goals for the season, for next season and even beyond. Whether you are doing haute route, gran fondos, staged mountain bike events, ironmans, half ironmans, du-athlons or marathons, having training partners can be a key ingredient to squeezing out more effort and pushing your power, pace or volume to new limits.  Group dynamics can also simulate race conditions by having others surround you, maybe uncomfortably so, forcing you to find comfort with proximity and the pressures of keeping up, holding your line, taking a pull or maintaining mental fortitude despite depths of fatigue and bleeding eyeballs.  For those observant few, riding with seasoned well-conditioned road tacticians offers an incredibly opportunity to learn and apply in your own training.  Whether you know it or not, chances are those seasoned riders also do, or have done, a fair amount of solo training to get where they are today. 

 

So back to my earlier comment about context. The use of training partners and social dynamics gets slippery for endurance-focused athletes when used as a crutch to deviate from their plan and what it really takes to go after real goals. 

 

As humans, we often look for the easy way to navigate challenges and do the least amount of work with the highest return on investment. In training, we are no different.  Sometimes training partners help make things easier for us. For the record, I’m not calling the kettle black - I have been there too, we all have. 

 

Here’s the thing…

 

Setting goals, having dreams of qualification, wanting to “race vs. complete” and becoming a competitive athlete is hard. It demands more of us, physically, emotionally and mentally, than we realize until the going really gets tough.  Using training partners to make things easier on us – be it to help us get out the door, to draft off, to chat with for long rides or runs (at their pace), to use them as an excuse not to do your prescribed workout that was written based on your goals (this is one I hear a lot) or to simply make the training session less uncomfortable for you - will only result in one outcome...comfort zone with no depth for physical or mental stamina. When you hit the front lines in races and the gun goes, you get what you trained for. The more you use social training as a crutch to color a box green, the more foreign racing will feel. 

 

As we head into the spring and the days are warmer, dryer and sunnier, you will have opportunities to train with others. Consider whether you are the hammer or nail? Some days you may even want to be the nail to practice responsiveness and get pushed. Some days you may want to be the hammer to push others and drive the pace. Some days you may need to opt out altogether and do what is right for you and your big picture.  Either way, keeping perspective and avoiding the trap of using training company as a crutch or dissing the prescribed session altogether because you choose to ride with others that had a different agenda (and thus you were obliged to follow).  When you do decide to “never mind” your training, no need to apologize to the coach. It is not them that miss out, it’s you. 

 

Remember this: The best training partners are the ones that support your goals and give you the freedom to get your work done even within a social dynamic.  Great training partners are few and far between.  If you take your goals seriously, also take time to screen those you might be spending long hours with on a bike. Best be on the same page about who is hammering and who is not. 

 

In closing, have a watch of a video posted from the 1970’s on David Gerth’s (Brite Coach & owner of Continental Repairs) blog.  It’s fair to say that bikes, gear, apparel and video capabilities have come along way. Athleticism was at an all time high!

http://continentalrepairs.com/?p=493

 

 

The Grit Equation

christine fletcherComment

This year more than ever I have been having conversations with athletes about the mental game in sport and specifically in endurance sport. As ultra endurance athletes, the mental is maybe the most important aspect of your training process. How you set your goals, how you envision your season, how you engage in the process, how you prioritize training and how every week, day, training hour fits into YOUR bigger picture. Lucky for me, I get to see many of you in a cycling studio under bright lights a few times a week. I can look into your eyes and see the wrinkles on your forehead as an insight into how you are doing on any given day. Some days I can tell that the athlete is “on” and working towards something greater than one pedal stroke. Some days I can tell that the athlete is completely disengaged and checked out. Those are always “red flag” signs of fatigue, distraction or temporarily lost passion. For athletes I can not see throughout the week, I poke a little further into their lives to find out more about their level of motivation and perspective. [Allow me to be a broken record in saying that the more detailed feedback we, as coaches, can receive from athletes, the more we can help grow you as an athlete seeking performance. When you allow yourself to be open and honest with your coach, the more you will get out of the relationship. You can rarely say too much in your log.]

 

This takes me to the topic that I wanted to cover in this “Brite Bite” email and that is passion vs perseverance. Some of you may have heard of Angela Duckworth’s book called Grit which I will loosely define as the combined of passion + perseverance. I recently finished reading this book and it really spoke to me as a coach to incredibly driven athletes. 

 

From an ultra endurance perspective, passion is expressed by athletes when they set a goal and press enter on their keyboard to pay buckets of money ;-) and put their name on a start line. Athletes are fired up and ready to rock = That’s PASSION. Huddle, huddle…1-2-3 go…PASSION overflows!

 

Perseverance…well, that’s the work. That’s the daily grind over a long period of time and staying connected to the passion of the sign up moment. However, preparing for ultra endurance events is rarely gratifying instantaneously.  One week is up, one week is down. So let me remind you that ultra endurance training is about the passion for the event, for your goals, for your potential, for what you see yourself doing and for the perseverance of following through on that passion. Perseverance is hard. Hence the term GRIT! When some days are not going in your favour but you continue to put your best foot forward and make it happen to the best of your ability = That’s PERSEVERANCE. Staying on top of your game and what you committed to on a daily basis = That’s PERSEVERANCE. When the alarm goes off at 5a.m. = That’s PERSEVERANCE

 

Now here is the kicker…Perseverance is the coaching part of the equation. No one else can ignite your passion, not even your coach. Maybe you and your coach discuss your goals and piece together what the best plan looks like but the fire burning in your belly comes from within you. Coaching is helping the athlete persevere day in day out, through the good and the rough, to progress further towards your goals over a long period of time. When an athlete lets go of that perseverance then you lose the benefits of having a coach as a resource and how much can be done together as a team.  Heaven knows the coach can’t train for you nor race for you. They can only help to prepare you to become your best performing self. 

 

With every athlete that comes on as a Brite star, the coach assume, rightly or wrongly, that “we” will persevere together towards that desired outcome. When the perseverance is unsettled, the athlete is the losing party since the coach is 100% focused on bettering them and they can’t do that without the athlete’s equal commitment. They have ZERO self interest in this incredible relationship. It is all about satisfying you, the athlete.  A nice opportunity to have all the attention!

 

For the next few weeks, tune into both your passion and perseverance. Get gritty and honest with yourself and your coach. Be vulnerable, bold and courageous. Let your goals and dreams have life even if it means saying no a few times to influencers in your life that don’t share your dreams. It starts with passion but can’t thrive without perseverance. 

 

TGIF. 

Brite.coach

Cycling Economy

christine fletcherComment

Thanks to a few Brite Stars asking me great questions recently about improving cycling this season, I decided to share my dialogue with all of you in a succinct write up. 

Note: this can also apply to those of you doing stage races like Haute Route or multi-day mountain bike races where you need to ride efficiently for repeated days on end. Economy and fuelling is critical.

Cycling Economy - What are we looking to improve?

All of you have different modalities to train the bike. If you are lucky enough to live in a warm climate, you mainly ride outside and get your interval work done on the road. For the others, we ride indoors throughout the winter in a studio environment or on your trainer at home. Enter Zwift, Trainer Road or any of app that wants to attempt to compete with them and we have entertainment at the same time. Either way, you are getting the work done. If you have not been formally tested for your threshold/zones, now is the time of year to get that done. The benefits we reap from knowing your zones helps both you and your coach determine the exact intensity to focus on for each workout. Getting tested in a lab environment is ideal but not essential so if you are wondering how to test yourself on the bike or run, please ask.

Day in day out you are all training. Some days you feel a little less motivated than others. Usually that happens when you a) get tired or b) you are disconnected from the “why”…why is your coach having you do these crazy efforts or why am I doing all this watt stuff etc. The list can be endless if mind chatter gets the better of you and when you have temporarily exited stage left from the process and your juicy goals set months ago.

When an athlete gets test results, they are provided with “zones” or training intensities scaled based on easy to aerobic to anaerobic to max effort. For endurance athletes we are largely interested in your aerobic threshold, aka: Zone 2, as well as your lactate threshold, aka T1/VT1. We are also interested in your max aerobic power (MAP) however this effort is used sparingly for endurance athletes. All the values are extremely important to know, honor and respect. I have simplified the terms above for ease to follow. Sports scientists would cringe as each terms means something very different to them. To the athlete, some terms can almost be interchangeable. Here is a quick overview on brief definitions of each.

Where things get complicated for an athlete is understanding what the long range goal is with training, how hard to train and what values to place emphasis on. Many of you look at the numbers and think the only sign of progress is the improvement of these values: i.e. if your threshold (T1) values do not increase, my training has not improved me as an athlete. 

For most developed athletes, if improving your lactate threshold value (T1) was the only marker of improvement, they would have stopped improving years ago. Most start a season at XXX watts and progress to only 3-7% higher. But, for some ODD reason these same athletes continue to improve in endurance sport without watts increasing. For under developed athletes, the goal is likely to improve all values and thus a different approach to endurance development would be applied. 

Here’s the kicker, for endurance athletes we are not looking to get “stronger”, we are looking to get more efficient and economical. For triathletes, this becomes even more important as they are running off the bike to the best of their ability.

What does this mean? It means 4 simple things/goals/outcomes:

1) We are looking to ride the bike in a triathlon at a lower cost. The lower your lactate accumulation below threshold T1 (flatter curve), the better you can hold wattages/efforts for a longer period of time below that marker. If you ride “better” below T1, you will get to the bike/run transition feeling better, and you will have a much higher likelihood to hold your usual training pace for running vs. the slog many of you see/feel on the run. This is all about lowering the cost at T1, not pushing it up.

 2) We are looking to hold a higher wattage relative to threshold T1. For example, if your T1 is 300 watts and you rode Ironman at 255 watts last year. Your goal is to push that number to 260, 265, 270 watts in the years to come. T1 may not change one watt yet your ability to sustain power with less lactate accumulation in the blood for longer is improving. Its called cycling economy: basically watts per pedal stroke. The balance between watts per pedal stroke your muscles can handle at a cadence your cardiovascular system can sustain.

3) We are looking to improve our ability to ‘tolerate’ surges and rollers within the race better: As we get more comfortable working below T1 wattages/effort, our ability to withstand relatively longer periods at above T1 increases. Why? Because our ability to hold a higher wattage/effort relative to T1. Therefore rollers, surges or short stretches in races do not knock us out when we are above T1 HR/Watts, nor do we feel intimidated by being there for a bit – we know we can recover and return to a longer, go all day effort without blowing up. This is the basis of any workouts you have that require short surges or subtle changes in intensity. You will face these demands in races (and group rides).

4) We are looking to determine an effort/intensity at which we can still maintain our nutrition and hydration: This is a key ingredient to our racing success. If we are riding at a lower cost, if there is less of an accumulation of lactate, if we are in optimal balance of muscular power producing pedaling force and the cardiovascular system delivering oxygen, fueling the muscles and removing waste products such as lactic acid, THEN our stomachs’ ability to process food, calories, electrolytes etc. is greatly improved. Think of that pace where all this remains in balance…wattage, HR, nutrition & hydration….THEN think of gradually increasing that pace…..through training. You have all been there: going a bit too hard to properly process the food. Then get to the run….and oops: bloated, sick or empty with no energy.

In sum, the training does NOT revolve around improving T1, it revolves around getting more efficient and economical at it. Each and EVERY one of you will have a GREAT season if you were to ride efficiently and effectively just below T1. It means a solid bike split (faster than you think!) and a solid run (one that you’ve always felt you are capable of but have not yet had)…

If T1 increases: Sure, this is an added benefit, but it does NOT mean you will be racing at a higher wattage/effort. Because we will still want to be in that efficient and economical ‘zone’ where all the above takes place. An increased T1 means we have plenty more work to do in the months and years to come.

As always, let your Brite Coach know of any questions.

 

Consistency

christine fletcherComment

Many athletes I encounter think there is a magic bullet. They believe that if they work really hard, almost kill themselves in training and aim for their best average watts every workout, their goals will be realized. It's just not so.  I remember telling one of my coaches years ago, "for this race, I am going to give 110%. You watch! I'm done with clowning around. I'm giving MORE than I have." He laughed at me. "Ok, Chrissy. Good luck with that cuz you only have 100%. There is no such thing as 110%." In single sports, it is easier to see what sessions affect others positively or negatively. High volume, intensity and load will eventually lead to fatigue. Typically you can build more load into an athlete in one sport since their energy isn't being reserved for anything else (other than life of course). In multi sports, we have competing disciplines demanding energy in completely different recruitment patterns thus becoming less clear what sessions affect others. Through trial and error, experience, some research studies, historical data, physiology and athlete feedback, we get a fairly good sense of how much one athlete can handle vs the next. The one theme that is repeated time and again by olympians, elites, and high level amateurs is that consistent application of training stimulus on a regular basis with some consideration to intensity, volume and frequency is the best formula for improved performance. Sebastian Kienle was interviewed by Bob Babbitt on his show last week. Great interview - Seb is hilarious and very thoughtful in his response. Bob kept asking him about his "turning point" as a professional athlete (he was after the "story" from a media perspective). Seb corrected Bob on multiple occasions, being a two time World 70.3 Champion and one time World Ironman Champion topping the heaps of other results and accolades he has accumulated over more than 15 years, that there was no turning point....rather there was a turning curve...an evolution...all his performances happened in due course and deservedly so. He credits his consistency to training (years and years of it) for his outstanding performances. Seb's website is: http://www.sebastiankienle.de/wp/en/erfolge/ 

Consider your training methodology and how frequently you practice the skill of movement, train your aerobic system and develop movement efficiency. Consistency rules. Its the volume and intensity that become the moving targets.

 

One More Decision I Don't Need to Make

christine fletcherComment

I'll start with a podcast I recently listened to between Tim Ferris and Seth Godin. I have never really followed Tim Ferris much. He impresses, go figure. Seth impresses even more. I love his clarity, vocabulary, insights, brilliance and vision. I also love his principles around value, time and how to use precious resources, namely time. Tim asks his what he eats for breakfast. Seth replies "ah, one more decision I don't have to make...I have a frozen banana, hemp seeds...ever single morning." Seth talks about his top audiobooks (including one of his own). Of course I scurried to the world wide web to look them up and order. That's how much I trust his option. He says they each "cause something to flip in your head" and prepare you to take your life in a new direction. Check out the list here.

Athletes, business executives, grandmothers, writers, everyone will gain some insights into the world around them by listening to this interview. Seth is paid to "notice" things. As athletes, we must notice things about ourselves, how we process our training load, how we balance our time with training, work, relationships and family and how we experience other athletes that we train with or are surrounded by.  The more we can shed pressure and useless drains of our energy, the more on task and fulfilled our athletic journey will be. 

 

 

 

 

 

Let's Begin

christine fletcherComment

 

For years (I mean 20 of them), I have been training indoors on a bicycle. From spin classes in the 80's to wind trainer rides with Troy Jacobson (Spinervals) in my living room to computrainer sessions in my garage mixed with indoor cycling workouts at my own studio. Environment and entertainment has been a big part of getting through these sessions. I used to listen to carefully crafted playlists or invite sorry suckers over to sweat, chatter and bond. When Spinervals came along, I had Coach Troy and his televised clan to bond with. Over time, I started to train more and more on my computrainer for the power feedback and consistency of training stimulus. Music started to bore me or irritate me if the beat wasn't just right for the tempo of my heart beat. So I turned to podcasts, Ted Talks and some times...audiobooks. Some days, I will listen to 3-5 podcasts on subjects of interest. It's a two in one - build fitness and learn. No time wasted. Every once in a while, I listen to an interview that changes my perspective. I've had many ah-ha moments at 200watts and always yearn to share that new learning with the people I care about. In this blog, I will share with you the amazing podcast episodes I have heard, books I have read or people that have rocked my world. Maybe, just maybe, they will rock yours too.