Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Is that a plus?

You can also read this at my newly launched website, chrishagueracing.com. Until I get that sight fully operational, I am going to be continuing to post on this website as well.

Occasionally, I will take a break from blogging about training and triathlon and branch into body image and psychological distortions. This post is one of those. It has nothing to do with triathlon, racing, gear, or training, but still is an important issue to discuss in my opinion.

If you are a Disney-raised kid like me, you can most likely list off the majority of Disney princesses:
From right to left (see if you can do this by memory): Cinderella, Belle, Mulan, Arial, Rapunzel, Jasmine, Snow White, Pocahontas, Tiana, Aurora.

Look at the line up and while they have become more ethnically and racially diverse since Snow White first appeared, they nevertheless share one common trait: unnatural body composition, which is the polite way of saying busty, hour glass, frames that make young boys swoon.

Recently, a high school junior started an online petition for Disney to include a plus size princess in its line up. Similar to how people advocated for stronger female protagonists (no more damsel in distress and dumb blondes) and a more diverse showing, she is asking that Disney get away from the thin, Barbie style projection of what a woman "should" look like and instead have a plus size princess. According to her (and research supports this), girls need a self-confident, realistic, plus size role model to look up to especially since they are assaulted with air brushed images of perfect women in every other media outlet.

Similar to Barbie, Disney princesses may be sending a bad message to young women about how women look. I remember one feminist group made a life sized Barbie that was exactly proportional to the dolls; it could not stand on its own because its breasts made it too top heavy and its waist was too thin. If you look again at the picture above, the princesses have a similar, unnatural, bodily proportions. Are we sending the message to young children that to be a princess, get prince charming, and have a "fairytale life," you also need to be thin?

I am not sure though that having a plus sized all for getting rid of body expectations in the media. In fact it could send the wrong message. Yes, girls and boys as well should not grow up with unrealistic ideals about what a body "should be" or look like. At the same time, though, children should not grow up with the idea that it is alright to be unhealthfully overweight.

To prevent either from occurring, the responsibility lies not only in companies but also and more heavily on the the parents. Parents need to take an active role in educating their children on what is real and what is not real. These are cartoons and fairytales, and parents need to tell their children such. Growing up with an delusional body ideal is just as dangerous as delusional ideas about how the world works.

How can parents encourage healthier body image perspectives in kids? I am not entirely sure but simple things can go a long way:

  • Demonstrating a healthy relationship with food (eating and enjoying vegetables)
  • Demonstrating a healthy relationship with exercise 
  • Not pushing your diet onto your kids
  • Respecting your own body through exercise. Kids will see this and model it themselves
  • Avoiding fat shaming comments
  • Model healthful and mindful eating (actually eating at least one meal a day with them at a table without technology present instead of pushing a cereal bar in their face as you rush out the door to school or sports practice) 
  • Keeping healthful foods in the house (this is not to say that you should demonize junk food, which will only backfire because kids will find a way to get junk food and binge on them when they go to friend's houses). 
  • Show that occasional treats are OK but make sure they stay as treats (i.e. not everyday) 

Now I am not a parent nor am I telling you how to raise your kids, but it is impossible to avoid and shelter your kids from all the negative and distorted images in the world. It is possible though to give them  the right mindset to dicier for themselves what is real, healthy, and beautiful, and what is just a fairytale...but that is just my two watts.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summertime Happiness

I have no idea what Lena Del Ray was talking about, but summertime sadness does not exist. As of last Friday, I am a free man. No more class prep, grading, pesky kids, or parent-teacher conferences for two whole months, which means I will not have a lot of time on my hands. To me, more free time means more training time. Since the first time since college, I will be able to focus on nothing but training, eating, and sleeping without having to rush a workout to get to work. So what do I have planned? Like a kid on Summer Break, a bunch!

This will be a great time to focus on the things I have neglected because I do not have enough time during the school year. I will be able to focus not only on training more but more importantly on recovery with extra sleep, stretching, foam rolling, and meditation exercises (like yoga, journaling, etc). Although I would say that I have successfully adapted to waking up at 2am to swim, sleeping in a bit will be nice. As I have said before there is no point in training like a pro if you cannot recover like a pro. But what does training like a pro mean?

That is a hard question to answer since all the pros train differently because, well, their bodies are different. Some thrive on 15 hours a week while other push the limits of 25-35 hours. It all depends on injury tendency, years in the sport, sport specific strengths/weaknesses, and other commitments. Both strategies obviously work for them; they are professionals for goodness sake and wouldn't be if they did not know how their bodies work and what training works best for them.

In my personal dictionary, "training like a pro" means focusing 100% on training and recovery without other significant job/life obligations. This definition obviously differs from pro to pro and athlete to athlete, I encourage you to define it yourself.

For me this summer, my training will look like this:
  • Training 20-30hrs a week (what this breaks down to in swim/bike/run/strength hours, intensity, and sleep we will find out) with a recovery week or half week thrown in periodically. This is where my coach comes in. She knows her stuff and I trust her 100%, which means I do not have to worry too much about tearing myself apart. She reads my data like a NASA scientist and knows exactly when the red lights start to flash even a day before my body registers it. 
  • Doing at least 2hrs of strength a week
  • Sleeping 8+ hrs a night and a daily nap 
  • 20-30 minutes a day of mobility, stretching, and core strength
While having so much free time is nice, I do like constancy and structure; I thrive on it. Free time is dangerous for me both mentally and physically. When I have large unstructured blocks my mind begins to chatter and usually begins to drift towards negativity, so I need to create a schedule. As my father always said: "Idle hands are the devil's playground." (Fits with him being a minister and brought up in Dutch tradition).

Now this does not mean that I am trying to cover up fears, doubts, and problems with mindless activities; I am not running away from anything. Rather, I am tackling goals and task head on by setting out blocks of times to do one activity and focus just on that including meditation, self-analysis, and improvement.

Here is what my schedule will look like:
  • 4am: Wake up, coffee, and train 
  • 7am: Stretch and foam roll followed by breakfast
  • 8-11: Blog and write, more coffee
  • 11ish: Lunch followed by a nap
  • 2:30: Train again, core work, and more stretching, recovery snack 
  • Random activity having nothing to do with health, fitness, triathlon, or anything else
  • 6:30 Dinner
  • Bed
This will obviously change from day to day depending on what my coach has me doing, but this will at least give me an outline to follow. Note that I included time to completely get my mind off training at least for a little bit. This is important so that I do not burn out.

In my next blog I am going to be talking about goal setting which is important to take into consideration for goal setting, so stay posted.

Now, onto my summer plans (this is an update for family and friends so feel free go back to work now):

First off, I will be spending the rest of June in the Devil's bum hole also known as Phoenix. Training will be done in the early morning and late night to keep out of the heat of the day which will be a nice and toasty 100+ degrees. I have a three week build that will be concluded with VO2 max test on the trainer and treadmill as well as another DEXA scan. I had this done back in January (74 ml/(kg*min))  and March (7.6% BF) respectively so it should be interesting to see my numbers again after some good, quality volume.

 I will then be traveling to San Diego for three weeks where I will be doing another training block partially under the guidance of my coach and hopefully with my other Wattie teammates. I am looking forward to some cooler weather, open water ocean swims, and adjusting to California life.

After some "California love," I am returning to my roots back east and flying to DC then driving up with my Momma Bear to Mount Desert Island, ME, paradise on earth especially for an athlete. I spent my summer months there as a child, and I try to return every summer to recharge my batteries. Being on the boarder of Acadia National Park, it has some of the best running trails (crushed, gravel bridal paths). While I will be renting a bike and will have access to the ocean, I will be focusing on my run and there is no better place to. A wonderful place to get in touch with my "Chi" on top of a mountain looking over the Ocean after running up Cadillac mountain.

I then fly back to DC for two hours then back to Cali, where I will pack up my bike and fly to Bend for an epic Wattie Camp sponsored by 10 Barrel Brewing Co., Speedfil, Herbalife, ISM saddles, and coached by none other than Flannigan and Black Dragon Coaching, a bad ass if there ever was one. After I have HTFU and been whipped into Wattie ink. shape, I am "going back to Cali" for two more weeks then on to LA LA land to prep for my new job--a math teaching position at a private school in Hollywood.

Yes I know this is another move--the third in 2 years, but hopefully this will be the last one for a long time. Moving has taken a big toll on my training because I thrive on consistency and little stress. Fortunately this move is going to be a breeze compared my others because of my significantly decreased wardrobe and amount of stuff.

Welcome to the next episode....

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Golden-linings Playbook

This year has been a series of unfortunate events when it has come to racing. Getting food poisoning the night before the PF Changs half marathon in January, only to pull my left hip flexor the week of the Phoenix marathon, made me cancel my two early season A races. That pull turned into a nasty case of tendinitis that I am just now recovering from. The pull really messed with me physically and mentally in addition to restructuring my whole racing year. However, that pull has transformed me for the better. Let me explain from the beginning....

Since October I have put on a significant amount of muscle, which has seriously hurt my run.  As I lost my runner's body, I slowed down significantly. My body simply was not used to carrying and cooling so much extra weight. This was tough to deal with mentally because I felt that I was losing my strength. I felt like the one leg of triathlon that I know I could do well in was lost. I was determined to get my run and my run times back, so I would stupidly pushed myself more on easy runs and forgot the basic joys of running. When I was was not getting faster, I just pushed myself more.

Then the injury happened and I landed on the couch unable to work on the one thing I wanted to improve. Since focusing on what you can't do, only made matters worse, my coach and I focused on what I could do. Injuries have their own timeline, and all I could do was be smart and let my body take its time. Rushing back would do me no favors, which left me with a decision to make: what was I going to do with my Eagleman and Boulder?

I love racing, and not racing kills me inside. Moreover, these were two big races that I hoped would launch me into the next level of competition, but I knew that if I left them on the schedule and tried to train for them, I would continue to train injured and not be able to recovery fully. Instead I would limp along at 66% getting nowhere and not improving my run, which is what I really wanted. I therefore had to pull the plug and take them off the calendar. It was a tough call but a wise one. Without those races looming over of me, I did not feel rushed or pressure to get back to training. I also did not have to worry about the dreaded scarlet letters, DNF. I could focus on my recovery and getting stronger instead of stressing about the start line. Those races will be there next year as well and I am even stronger and can give them 110%.

Such a call made all the difference. Stress free training is the best training, and it has shown in not only my run but also my swim and bike, which would not have improved if I had not taken some time off running. Now, I am just getting back to running and I feel great both in actually being able to run (regardless of times) and injury free. I have to be patient though or I will relapse. That means I have to remember to be conservative on my runs, not push my times, and stitch/foam roll/mobilize after. My splits will come back naturally and with consistency. If this means going off feel and telling my Garmin to shut up, then so be it.

Comparing myself to what I ran to before is stupid, irrational, and illogical. This is a golden opportunity to remake myself not back into a runner, but into a triathlete. As my friend pointed out, I have 12 years of running muscle memory built up in my legs and that will not go away with more muscle or weight. What I have to do now is get my legs used to running with more weight and apply some WD-40 to kick off the rust. It will take time but time I have.

To summarize, here is what I have gained from being injured:

  1. Don't take your frustrations out in training especially easy runs; it will only lead to injury. 
  2. When injury does come, focus on what you can do and not on what you cannot. I focused on improving my swim efficiency and boosting my FTP, both of which I did. 
  3. Recognize that you can not will or force recovery; it is on its own independent timeline. Pushing though pain achieves very little
  4. Use your injury to come back stronger so the same injury does not occur again. Injuries are stepping stones for growth. 
  5. Racing can wait. If you race injured and have to stagger across the finish line or DNF then you will only make your self more frustrated. 
  6. Consistency is essential when making a come back. It is better to make small steps consistently than large steps that make you then make you take some steps backward
  7. Focus more on feel and the times will follow. Forget about the numbers and just enjoy being back at running 
  8. Trust the process

Monday, April 28, 2014

Rule Number II: Trust the program

For you nerds out there, this is from "Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade."
Huge nerd points for getting that. 

Training and nutrition are very much like religion. We know where we want to go; the guidelines that we should follow; the "rights" and "wrongs" of training. We practice our devotion daily and trust (or have faith, hence the picture) that what we are doing will get us closer to our goals even though there is NO guarantee that we will get there in the planned time or the planed same path. There is no perfect trajectory to the end; anything could happen and when it does we have to accept it as part of the process. 

To make things even more frustrating, none of us are on the same path. All these paths might converge at the end, but my path is completely different from yours. Meaning your training is and should be different from mine. This can be aggravating because there is always that voice of doubt in our mind slyly asking us "Are you sure you are doing the right thing?" 

My second law therefore is to "trust the process." Like my first rule of training, I have to remind myself almost daily to do so. Especially when I may have had a bad workout or am fed up with my numbers or, like recently, get injured, I have to throw up my hands and say to myself: "It may not look like it right now, but I am on the right path. Something will happen if I keep on working."

The end result is still unknown, but I can only pray that I will arrive in the "promised" land. It is that self doubt that will get me off the path. If I start thinking another path is better or will be faster, I start to stray from the path, but...that is just my two watts.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

My Five Rules of Training: Rule 1: Never Compare

I am hardly a definite source of training, racing, nutrition, education, love, relationships (definitely on this one), happiness or pretty much any topic except maybe 90's kids movies and sitcoms (think Boy Meets World, Family Matters, Rookie of the Year, Angels in the Outfield, and The Pagemaster to name only a few).

However, I have developed my own rules of training that I hope you can find helpful. These are rules that I have to remind myself every so often to keep me, my ego, and mind in check and prevent them from sabotaging what really matters.
Most things are apples to oranges. I am more of an apple guy

It is hard when training to not do this; it's hard in life too! I am not sure about you, but I have a horrible tendency to look at a workout and beat myself up that my normalized power was less, or I was not going as fast as I did last week or last year. The thing is though that mental commentary and criticism is pointless and does nothing. 

The world changes too quickly to compare yourself to anything in your past because you are not the same person that you were yesterday let alone last workout. There are so many different variables to consider that comparing yourself becomes futile. You may be more tired, the conditions could be worse, your coffee could have been weaker; your work/life/relationship stress could have stressed you out. The list of effects are endless, so forget the comparisons and focus on giving your best on the day for that particular workout; if that workout happens to be worse than one in the past then give what you got. Not every workout is going to be perfect.  

(Note: This is not to say that data is pointless; it is actually quite valuable. What is more important though is not the individual workouts but the overall trends.)    

It is even harder not to do compare yourself when you are training and some jerk completely decked out in an Ironman race kit (note that they do not stitch your place or time on these kits) comes racing by you when you, exhausted after 5 hours of intervals and hill repeats, are finishing up a ride, sputters "You know, just an easy zone 1 recovery ride" in between gasps of air, and then pedals off. After such encounters I usually think "Damn, he is fast; I wish I could be that..." then I catch myself. "I do not know him, nor what he has done today, nor what he has done this week in training, so it is POINTLESS to compare myself.

Then there is social media. When people post their workouts, how much they weigh, how much (or little) they ate, it is near impossible not to look and feel worthless. You may have just come in from an awesome workout where you hit all your goals then see John Shmoe-Pro (God, I hate him; he is such an ass!) did double that!  It makes me feel insignificant.

Once again I have to remind myself that this is just stupid talk. I did not think I or my workout was bad until I saw that post meaning it was my comparison that destroyed my high not the workout being bad itself. How irrational!

Overall, I need to focus on the only person I know for sure: me in this moment. I know where I have been, where I am, and a vague, blurry picture of the future, and thus am the only person who can judge.
Comparisons will not lead me to where I want to go; in fact, with all of their negativity and doubt inducing thought patterns, they might move me further away.

I think Marcus Aurelius says it pretty well:

“How much time he gains who does not look to see what his neighbour says or does or thinks, but only at what he does himself, to make it just and holy.” 
― Marcus Aurelius, Meditations
As well as Daisaku Ikeda: 

“I cannot say this too strongly: Do not compare [yourself] to others. Be true to who you are, and continue to learn with all your might.” 
― Daisaku Ikeda, Discussions on Youth

#word...but that is just my two watts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

My Lenten Discipline

While I may have a lot of Catholic guilt in my psyche, I am not Catholic. I think a lot of Christians and non Christians alike use lent as an excuse to crash diet for forty days without really knowing what it means or why; then, once Lent ends they go back to their old ways. Regardless, I do like following and participating in the season of Lent, the period of 40 days and 40 night leading up to Easter in which Christians usually refrain from a certain worldly pleasure (sex, sugar, alcohol, video games, etc.) to instead refocus on God. 

Collecting dust 
To me as not a believer in God in the traditional sense, it is time to examine what habits in my life are interfering with my life and connecting with my true, centered "self" (you could also call this my "higher power" but what ever floats your boat). It is also a time to prove that I am stronger than my urges. 

The typical disciplines of giving up sweets, caffeine, or meat, were tempting to go to but these things are not hurting my life or performance. I have entered into a heavy training block right now so changing up my diet significantly would hurt my training homeostasis; I can play with my diet in the offseason. Moreover, I do not think I would learn anything from giving any of these up. 

After thinking about  this further and analyzing what bad habits I have, I settled on weighing myself and my food as well as counting calories. This may seem like a piece of cake for some  but for someone who has weighed himself and micromanaged food for years, it was and is a struggle. 

It was especially hard at first. I actually had to cannibalize the batteries for my Quarq to prevent me from cheating. I was so used to plugging in every calorie into a database and managing my macros. After about 3 days though, I began to ease up. I forgot about trying to do the math in my head and instead listened to what my body was craving. I did not have to worry about the bottom line or percentages instead could focus on what my body wanted. I also did not have to worry about recording my slipups on paper. If I had a cookie or two post workout, I did not have to see it glaring back at me in my log after. 

Weighing myself too was tough but once I got used to it,  my mind stopped focusing on the number and instead strictly on my performance. The number on the power meter mattered more than one on the scale. 

I have only had a couple slip ups: one when I had to get my DEXA scan done, once time during my heavy training week when I wanted to see how much water weight I lost during  long ride, and once when I had to track my calories for my nutritionist but besides that I have stepped away from the scales completely. In doing so, I have felt that the scales have tilted in my favor. 

Overall my anxiety is down; I am enjoying myself more; I am listening to my body and what it needs. With just under two weeks to go to Easter I know that I can finish this challenge strong. I am not sure yet whether I will give it up completely but this experiment has been a good thing as I continue to move forward on this journey.