Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When you DON'T want to feel the burn.....

After a roasty toasty Memorial Day here in the Midwest, two of my clients showed up to our training sessions today with lobster red sunburns.  It was the first thing I noticed about them and the first topic of conversation they brought up.  Although you are never too old to GET sunburn, we are too old to be allowing it to happen.  Here are my must know tips for training in the heat of summer:
1)  Get it done early!  Once it gets hot and sun gets strong, your best bet is to get your workout done before 10 am.  This goes nicely with my theory that we are all more apt to workout if we roll out of bed and just do it.  Not only is your workout out of the way, but it won't be as hot and the sun won't be as strong and rough on your skin.
2)  Dress appropriately! Been eyeing those cute tanks and running skirts at Lulu?  Go for it!  Technical fabrics really do make a difference.  Having a material that lets your skin breath is imperative when the mercury rises.     Let this be my blessing to you to go spend $48 on a tank top.
3)  Drink!  Here in Chicago we are blessed with a lakefront path that has water fountains almost every half mile.  I have been to other cities that are not as lucky.  If that is case and the temps are high, invest in an ergonomic water bottle or fuel belt so you can carry at least some liquids with you.  It will allow you to workout longer and more efficiently without becoming dehydrated. 
4) Be Smart!  There are days in every city where it just does not make sense to workout outside.   When the government is issuing heat warnings, the temp doesn’t drop below 90 even at night and you can fry an egg on the sidewalk , just stay inside.   No one is going to judge you if you spend a day on your couch enjoying your AC or if you do a half- assed treadmill workout.   It’s hot!
5) And of course, wear sunscreen….My personal favorite is Banana Boat Sport Dri-Block.   It goes on as a lotion but is not greasy and it has kept me sunburn free during countless workouts and an IRONMAN.  If that is not a good quality test, I don’t know what is.
Here’s to it finally feeling like summer!  -Coach A www.sparkmultisport.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Kettlebells, anyone?

If you are looking to spice up your workout routine (like the ADORABLE baby above clearly is) kettlebells are a great addition to your repertoire.  Here are Coach A’s favorite things about this Soviet- invented exercise tool.

·         One piece of equipment is all you need for a killer workout.  Give me a kettlebell and a little space and I will have you sweating in no time. 
·         It is a change from your usual strength training routine.  Swinging around a cast-iron weight makes you feel powerful and invigorated.  A big change from the same old dumbbell curls and presses.
·         Kettlebells are comfortable- the handle on the weight makes it very easy to mimic real world movements and also explosive movements that wouldn’t work so well with a dumbbell or medicine ball. 
·         It’s like cardio on steroids.  Want to feel your heart working and also that burn you get from pumping iron?  Do a set of cleans or snatches and you will know what I mean!
·         The most basic kettlebell exercise, the swing, hits you ALL over your body.  Your quads, glutes, shoulders, biceps, triceps, abs, and lots of little stabilizers are all getting a workout while you just look like a badass.

Want to try it out?  Spark has kettlebells!  With kettlebells it is especially important to have good form and engage the proper muscles, so learning from an expert is imperative.  Get in touch if you want to try out this fun form of exercise!

-Coach A www.sparkmultisport.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top 3 Questions Beginner Triathletes are Embarrassed to Ask (and the answers!)

The following are questions I often get from newbies, usually with a sheepish, embarrassed grin.  If you are a beginner triathlete, read below and act like you know what you are doing!

1.  What am I supposed to wear during the race?  Do I have to change my clothes in front of the opposite sex?  Unless you are doing an Ironman for your first race (which I would NEVER recommend) you will not need to change your clothes at all.  The standard attire for a triathlon is:
Tri Shorts- spandex shorts with thin padding that will give you a little cushion on the bike, but won't fill with water on the swim and make you look like you are wearing a diaper
Tri Top- spandex top you can wear during the swim (with our without a wetsuit) and the bike and run.  Most ladies will need to wear a sports bra underneath. 
That is it!   No wrestling with shirts while you are soaking wet, no mooning the guy next to you in transition.  It's easy!
PS- At Ironman races many athletes like to change clothes between disciplines- they do have changing tents for each sex.

2.  What about bike shoes?  Do I need them?  Will I kill myself?  For good reason, riding clipless pedals (called that even though you "clip in" and "clip out" of them) is one of the scariest, most daunting steps to becoming a "real" triathlete.  I will never forget trying to learn how to clip in and out in an alley in Chicago.  SCARY.  I will also never forget the dozens of times I have fallen (and the dozen more times to come) at a crowded intersection in the city when I forget to take my foot out.  EMBARASSING.  My advice to those of you about to take it to the next step is just do it.  You will never be able to keep up with other bikers unless you are clipped in.  It is faster, more efficient, and you just feel better.  My advice once you start learning is to keep moving and just practice getting your foot in and out over and over and over until it is second nature.  It will get easier.

3. Can I really finish a triathlon?  YES!  You can finish a triathlon.  Many people do not realize quite how short a sprint triathlon is.  If you are in reasonably healthy shape and willing to workout at least 4 days a week, you can even finish a sprint triathlon well.  The sprint distance is about 1/2 mile swim, 12-15 mile bike, and 5 k run.  It takes people about 90 minutes to 2 hours their first time.   This is totally doable if you train properly for 8-12 weeks.  Are you thinking about it?  Want to do it?  It is not too late to pick a race and train for this season.

Let's train!
-Coach A http://www.sparkmultisport.com/

Thursday, May 19, 2011

To Wetsuit or not to Wetsuit.....

and if you do wetsuit, what type to get?  With the opening of Lake Michigan looming in the near future, I have been getting this question from lots of my friends and clients.   Here is how I help them come to a conclusion:

Once you have decided if you need one, there is the decision of sleeveless or long sleeve.  Here is my take:

Sleeveless:  Does not offer the same speed advantage  or warmth of full sleeve but you may feel like you have better shoulder range of motion.  Conversely, it can cause some serious underarm chafe.  

Full-sleeve: Offer more speed advantage and warmth.  Will not chafe your underarms.  Only downfall is if you buy a low end long sleeve it may not be super comfortable in your shoulders.   Might be worth splurging on a mid range or high end suit.

I hope I have helped you come to a decision.  If not, you know where to find me.
-Coach A www.sparkmultisport.com

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Midwest Race Reviews

I always get a lot of questions about race recommendations, so I thought I would share my opinion on a few of the Midwest's most popular races.  If you are on the fence about where to compete this summer,
 maybe this will help you out.

Galena Triathlon-   This is a beautiful sprint race about 3 hrs west of Chicago.   This is a VERY hilly course and can be pretty challenging for anyone, especially beginners.  It is also a point to point race, which means 2 transition areas and lots of setup.  In my opinion, a point to point race is more work than it is worth.  Also, because this race is so early in the season, the weather is pretty iffy and the swim has been canceled before.  If you are a strong swimmer, this race will not be your favorite because the swim is very short.  Despite all this, more often than not the day is sunny, the field is fast, and everyone has a great time.  Best of all, its on a Saturday morning, so you can celebrate with a night in the quaint town of Galena.

Bigfoot Triathlon- Bigfoot is a fun race in Lake Geneva with sprint and olympic options.  It always has a fantastic goody bag and a good field of competitors.  The swim is in Lake Geneva- in the past it has been in pretty shallow waters and swimmers could actually walk instead of swim.  Not so fair, but strong swimmers and still beat the walkers.  The ride is on fast country roads with enough rolling hills to keep you challenged.  The most fun part of this race is the trail run.  The trail running keeps things interesting as you weave in and out of the woods.  Overall a very well run race and Lake Geneva is a great place to visit!

Pleasant Prairie Triathlon- This sprint/olympic race takes place in my hometown and has always been one of my favorites.  Sadly, it now takes place the same day as Bigfoot so you have to decide which race to do!  The swim at PP takes place in a man made lake that is usually the perfect temp, very calm and a pretty fast swim.  The bike course takes you through flat, fast country roads.  The run is on a cement path around the lake with a couple of detours for the Olympic course.  Overall, this is an extremely well run race and leads to very fast times. 

Trek Women's Triathlon- If you are a women who has always wanted to do a triathlon, there is NOTHING to be intimidated about on this sprint course.  This race is at the same venue as PP (above) and is a fast course.  The only difference with this race is that it is all women, and a lot of them.  For some, the estrogen level may be running a little high- there is typically a lot of people yelling "Girl Power" and high fiving each other.  Despite that, it is very well run and you can fit in as an experienced triathlete or as a first timer. 

Racine70.3-  This race switched from a local half IM race to a 70.3 a couple of years ago.  This is a very fast half IM course with a point to point swim in Lake Michigan.  It is not unusal for the water here to be in the mid to upper 50's, which can lead to a painful, and then numb, swim.   The hardest part of this race is the 50 yd dash through the sand to transition after the swim.  Not easy.  Once you are on the bike you are flying through WI farmland on flat roads.  The run is flat except for a small incline that you have at the beginning of both loops.  This is a good spectator race as they can hang out at the beautiful North Beach all day and see you a few times on the run.

Chicago Triathlon-  Touted as "The World's Largest Tri," this race that takes place in downtown Chicago has sprint and olympic options.  I tell all my clients they have to do this race once.  It is a long day- transition CLOSES at 5:30 am and there is no bike racking the night before.  The race begins at 6 am with the sprint, the olympic usually starts around 8 am and there are waves starting until 10 am.  Some people go home and nap after they rack their bike in the morning.  Despite that, the swim is crowded but fairly easy, as it is along a harbor wall.  The bike is fast on straight, flat Lakeshore Drive (just look out for potholes) and the run is flat as well.  Times here usually are not too fast as transition is 1/4 mile away from the swim and is ginormous.   This race usually brings out great athletes, and pros from all over the world race around 11 am, so it is fun for spectators.   Do it once- it is an experience!

What races are you doing this summer?

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

TRI-ctionary Post #1

I have a friend who speaks English as a second language.  When we say something to him that he doesn't quite get, he likes to go to www.urbandictionary.com to get an explanation.  These interpretations of our slang are pretty funny, but always spot on.  Likewise, when I'm talking about triathlons I tend to throw a lot of the tri-slang around like everyone knows what it means, which may not be fair to some of the newbies.  In the spirit of Urban Dictionary, below are a few definitions from my first TRI-ctionary post.

Speed Workout (n)- a running workout alternating between short intervals of fast running and rest.  I nearly hurled and definitely wanted to kill my coach after my last speed workout of half mile repeats.

Gel (n)-  a relatively disgusting form of calories that gives a quick energy fix in the form of carbohydrates.  Gels come in many flavors but have the consistency of eating toothpaste.  While most of America is trying to limit calories, triathletes are eating gels during their workouts to get some extra calories as quickly as possible.   Gross. 

Brick (n)-  a bike workout, followed immediately by a run.  Coined a brick because that is precisely how your legs feel when you start running.  When I explained to my friend why my bike/run workout is called a brick, he called me insane.   

Chafe- (n)- the irritated, bloody, rugburnlike sore you get when your clothing or equipment rubs you a few too many times.  I got the worst chafe on my thighs when I wore my running shorts for the first time.

Body Glide- (n)- the miracle stick of lube that prevents the above chafe.  If one wants to prevent chafe, one can never put on too much Body Glide.

Let me know if there are any terms YOU have questions about!
-Coach A www.sparkmultisport.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Get Outside and Workout!

It is hot in the city today with temps hitting 90 degrees downtown.  Typical Chicago skipping right from freezing to sizzling summer temps.  I trained one of my clients outdoors today and the park was buzzing- people of all shapes and sizes outside getting exercise.  It was fantastic!

If you got home from work tonight and wanted to do something active, but were at a loss for ideas, read below for a fast and furious kick butt workout that you can do anywhere outside.  

5-10 minute walk or run to your nearest park
15 squats
Pushups to failure
Shuttle Run - 45 seconds
16 Reverse lunges alternating legs
Pullups to failure (negative pullups if necessary)- use the monkey bars!
Side Shuffles- 45 seconds
Side, middle, side plank (20-30 seconds each position)
Cariocas- 45 seconds
5-10 minute walk or run home
If you are feeling good, repeat those exercises twice.  If you are crunched for time, one set is great.  This is a no-nonsense, equipment free, get-it-done workout. 

Not sure what these exercises are?  Let's get together!  Mention this blog post and get a complimentary training session when you purchase a session. 
Now is the time to get that spark in your fitness!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

The First Ride of the Season

Okay, being a triathlon coach and all I am a little embarassed to admit this, but I was on my bike for this first time this weekend since the 2010 Chicago Triathlon.  To my credit, I had been gearing up for Masters Nationals and the weather has been crummy, but I could have at least been on my trainer.   Oh well, all the more reason to get my butt in gear and ride seriously over the coming weeks. 

While I did not miss my bike over the past several months, the second I was in the saddle and off riding, I was in love.  The wind in my face, the burn in my legs and the world whizzing past me quickly reminded my of why I put all those long hours of training in each season.  For me, riding a fast bike on desolate country road is a beautiful way to see nature, exercise my body, and get some very valuable alone time.  Today I had 90 minutes of blissful time to be alone with my thoughts.   When I was done with my ride I felt settled, focused and ready for my day.

What outlet do you use to challenge your body and rejuvenate your mind?  Whether it is playing a musical instrument or heading out for a round of golf, we all need something that relaxes and energizes us.  Identify YOUR outlet and make it a priority at least a few times a week- the people in your lives will surely thank you for it.  For me, swimming, biking and running all make me physically stronger, but more importantly, make me a better wife, coach and Mommy.   

Happy Mother's Day to all the Mommies out there- You rock!
-Coach A  http://www.sparkmultisport.com/

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Six Tips for Beginner Triathletes

Today I had three friends randomly message me with questions about triathlons- not through my website, not current clients, just a couple old friends who had burning questions.  That tells me that things are starting to heat up in the Midwest and people are getting bitten by the tri-bug.  Here are my "Six Tips for Beginner Triathletes."

1. Do it!  You won't regret it!  Every year I train a group of women for the Trek Triathlon.  Every year I get a couple of ladies who join the group "just to get fit, not to race."  Every year I talk those women into racing and NEVER has anyone regretted it.  There is no better feeling than crossing a finish line.  If you are thinking about doing a Tri, register now and get your training on track tomorrow. 
2. Don't do too much, too fast. I have heard that overuse injuries are on the rise.  I also know that thousands of people are jumping on to the triathlon and marathon bandwagon, which is fabulous!  Just don’t go all out your first week of training.  Train smart- hire a coach!
3. Ask around for first race recommendations.  There are hundreds of triathlons out there to choose from. Some are perfect for beginners, others not so great.  Before you register know what to expect- Hills? Thousands of people?  A race so small you are not sure which way to turn on the run?  It is better if you know what you are getting into. 
4. Go bare bones on your first race.  Triathlon is three sports in one, which makes it about three times more expensive than the average sport.   You don’t need all the fancy gear for your first sprint.  Goggles, tri shorts/top, bike w/water bottle, and running shoes are truly sufficient.  Once you are hooked (which you will be) you can make small investments each year. 
5.  Sit down with an experienced triathlete to talk about race day.  Besides being able to finish the three disciplines, there is a lot to know on race day.  Transitions and what to wear can make up an hour conversation just by themselves.  Go over the game plan before you get there. 
6.  Get someone on board to see you through to the end.  Triathlons are intimidating.  To the newbie, triathletes are scary, fit, type A people.  If I had not recruited my husband to come with me to my first race 11 years ago I would have certainly turned around and not done the race.  Have someone there to support you through the training and race whether it be a friend, coach or training group.

I have a lot more info to share…Let’s talk!
-Coach A  www.sparkmultisport.com

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Spark: Proud New Sponsor of TriWisconsin

Spark Multisport Coaching and Personal Training is officially sponsoring TriWisconsin, one of the nation's largest triathlon club.  Spark will be offering TriWi's members 25% off all services and is excited to be on board!

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Swim Meet is Over- What's Next?

It was a fantastic weekend in Mesa, but now I am hanging up my goggles after a few months of pretty serious swimming.  I have been swimming four or five days a week training for this event and am looking forward to being a little more relaxed when it comes to my pool workouts.  The good news, however, is that I have triathlons to look forward to all summer.  I celebrated the meet with my teammates last night, took today off and will be hitting the pavement tomorrow.

Have you ever worked so hard for something to find it come and go so quickly that you are left wondering, "What's next?"  This can happen with holidays, vacations and definitely with endurance events.  You put weeks and months of training into a race and when it is over you are not quite sure what to do with yourself.  While time off from training is valuable for your mind as well as your body, having a secondary goal or off-season plan is imperative to maintaining a healthy lifestyle and your overall fitness. 

The next time you set a big goal for yourself, also plan what you are going to do once you have reached that goal.  Not only will that help you prevent "post-race depression" but it keeps you active, motivated and mentally fresh. 
What is your next goal?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Reporting Live from USMS Nationals: Day #2

Kino Aquatic Center- Mesa, AZ
What is your normal?
Spending the last two days at this amazing aquatic center got me to thinking about how lucky these Arizonans are with a facility like this.  This pool has 24 lanes, plus an "extra" 6 lane pool, zero-depth kiddy pool, and even a water slide.  The real kicker is that it is a Jr High swimming pool!  I can only imagine the college facility.  However, the reality is that the people who live around here don't think twice about it.  It is their normal, just like for us Midwesterners it is normal to hunker down in our homes for 6 months out of the year to avoid the frigid temps.

On a smaller scale, what is your normal?   Is it getting by on barely 6 hours of sleep, being a weekend warrior at the gym and picking up fast food on the way home from work?  Or are you a runner who gets plenty of sleep, but just can't avoid that junk food?  Whatever your "normal" is, when it gets thrown off, there is a good chance you don't feel like yourself.  You may be amazed at how great you feel on the weekend when you get 8 hours of sleep and start your day at the gym.  Or how awful you feel the next day after you are up with your child for 2 hours in the middle of the night. 

Think about how you can make your normal a little bit healthier.  A small change, such as cooking healthier meals or getting just a little bit more sleep may completely change how you feel on a daily basis.   Check out my previous post  on "Implementing your Plan" for some great ideas to make small changes in your lifestyle.  I challenge you to make your normal a healthier one- have a great Sunday!