Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Book review: "Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life" by Ben Greenfield

In the course of my day job (you can find that here) I spend a good amount of time reading through research reports, listening to webcasts, and talking to both clients and industry professionals. By taking the time out to be as informed as possible I can help my clients have a comfort level with their investments relate to their financial plan.

Away from the world of work, I consider myself to be someone who takes care of his personal being - both physically and mentally. I am physically active, for sure, but taking care of one's self is more than just getting in some exercise and hoping for the best. Instead, I take the time out to stay as informed as possible on health and wellness. Thus, I spend a fair amount of my free time away from work and swim/bike/run reading up on what is going on in the sport of triathlon as well as all things healthy. It is this pursuit of well being that led me to Ben Greenfield's latest book, Beyond Training.

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life 

by Ben Greenfield

We live in the goodness of the information age. It allows anyone with computer access to have more data and research available than any one person could possibly consume. On top of that, just because information is available, it does not mean said information is good information. Like you, I don't want to waste my time, effort, and possibly money on ideas that are not going to help me improve. Fortunately, there is a hack for that.

In both my business life and personal life I have come to lean on others to do the heavy lifting of reading through much of the primary research. The key is finding people who specialize in different areas of research you can trust. In my case, I look to find people who have a passion for what they do, have no problem challenging conventional thought, but challenge from a position of science and facts.

I stumbled upon Ben Greenfield via his podcast as well as the Endurance Planet podcast a few years ago. I found the variety of topics he addressed to be interesting along with the bevy of guests he would speak with on some unique topics. Greenfield (can I call you Ben?) is/was a triathlete who is educated in sports science and exercise physiology (complete background here). Which, in my mind, is a good start, but not what made me come to trust him as a source of information. No, what convinced me was the volume and scope of research he consumes every week and his ability to apply that research to health and sport.

Beyond Training is broken down into five parts - Fitness, Recovery, Nutrition, Lifestyle, The Brain - all of which are useful. Quite amazingly, each of the 24 chapters are densely packed with useful, highly researched information, yet it is not a hard read. Don't get me wrong, it's not an "easy" read. But, really, Greenfield has done a great job of taking some complicated material and making it understandable without dumbing it down.

As a triathlete I found the section on fitness to be the most controversial. In case you aren't familiar with Greenfield, he has been very successful training for Ironman distance triathlons utilizing unconventional means. As a result, you are going to get a definite point of view on the type of training one should do when training for endurance. That view (spoiler alert) does not have you training in a typical Triathlete Magazine  training plan. Nor is it based on the methods of Phil Maffetone or the other proponents of volume training. I'm not saying he is right or wrong, I'm just saying he is coming from a different point of view, based on research and his own experience. His methods are worth a read and maybe even a try. Just understand, it's different than what you are probably used to doing.

One of the areas where this book shines is Chapter 8 "Twenty-six ways to recover from workouts and injuries with lightning speed." Over twenty three pages he outlines recovery techniques, recovery gear, recovery nutrition, as well as a dive into the issues of using NSAIDs for injury and recovery and adrenal fatigue. As a 40-something year old triathlete who has dug himself into a hole, I can appreciate the need to recover. As a type-A triathlete, I can appreciate the desire to use all means necessary to speed the recovery process.

Another unique aspect to Beyond Training is that, unlike any other book I have purchased, the information presented here goes beyond what is printed on the 480 pages. Just as research continues to evolve, so does Greenfield and this book via the internet. When you purchase the book you receive free access to his ongoing research for every topic covered at a special website. So in 5 or 10 years when you pick the book up to look for information on a subject and it sounds a bit out of date, have no fear. Just head on over to the website and see what the latest research says. Ends up, Beyond Training is the book that will stay relevant as long as Greenfield continues to update his website.

Beyond Training is the culmination of the work Greenfield has done over the years and I am grateful he took the time to bring all the information together in one place. A lot of what he discusses is pretty cutting edge stuff, for sure. Which I find very compelling, but also a bit overwhelming. Some of it a bit over the edge for me. But that's OK. I would much rather read about what is considered to be "cutting edge" or "far out there" than the same old blah, blah blah you get just about anywhere else. Health and fitness is a personal journey. In that journey we all need to make choices that fit our needs, our lifestyle. Greenfield's research gives you choices. It has a place on my bookshelf, and it should have a place on yours as well.

Beyond Training: Mastering Endurance, Health, & Life can be purchased here.

Disclaimer: I purchased this book on my own.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Rule #10: It Doesn't Suck, It's a Challenge, It's an Opportunity

"I hated every minute of training, but I said, 'Don't quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life a champion.'" - Muhammad Ali

"Adversity causes some men to break; others to break records." - William A. Ward

"Embrace the suck." - Chris "Macca" McCormack

After work the other day I headed down the street to LA Fitness to knock off one of my three weekly swim sessions. After changing into my jammers I entered the pool area to see two of the three lanes filled with floaters. No, not the kind of floater from Caddyshack, but the kind who take a lane while not really exercising. You know, just floating around. Third lane was available, but I had to share it with a woman doing breast stroke. Not the best person to share a lane with, but at least she could swim a straight line and we could stay out of each others way.

Anyway, I sat on the side of the pool really wanting to just go home and watch some TV. It didn't get any better when I started my warm-up. Still, I invoked the 20-minute rule (Rule #4) and carried on. After my warm up, still not feeling good, I started my main set of 15x100 on 1:35. The first 100 really, really sucked. I hit the wall, feeling like hell, knowing if I continued on it probably wasn't going to get any better. For about 3 seconds I contemplated calling it a day.

Well, maybe a bit more than 3 seconds ...

My Garmin showed it was time to push off so off I went. As I pushed off the wall three words entered my mind - f#$k this $hit.  Instantly my mindset changed.

Jon Soden - The Complex Triathlete
Sometimes, this is what the final 10k of an
Ironman can look like. At least the scenery
was nice to look at.
Grind it out, one at a time became my mantra. Don't think ahead. Stay in the present.

Hundred by hundred I was able to hit my times, even a few seconds faster for the last three reps.

It sucked, but I got through it.

Train for an endurance sport and you are bound to encounter something that sucks - a set of intervals, a freezing cold pool, injury, the last 6 miles of the Ironman run - on a fairly regular basis. How successful you are in reaching your potential at sport (or in life) can be attributed to how you handle those moments that absolutely suck. Anyone who has trained for an marathon can drop the hammer for 26.2 miles with blue skies and a light cool breeze. Putting out your best when it's 38 degrees and raining ... that's something you really have to embrace.

Those moments when things suck, when you just want to hang it up, when you feel like you are at the very end of the rope ... those are the moments that make you strong, physically, and probably more importantly, mentally. Yes, that 15x100 did my body some good. What I took from that workout, however, was that I could do the work, continue to push forward, at a time I clearly wanted to be doing something much less stressful on the body. Mentally I made it to the other side.

This goes beyond pushing through some intervals or those low moments in a race. What is your reaction in the days/weeks after suffering an injury? How do you handle a flat tire at mile 47 of an Ironman? Don't think that can ruin your day if you let it? Ask Norman Stadler.

Something that sucks - adversity - will show up when you least expect it. How you deal with it will determine your fate. Do you give in and call it a day? Or do you take whatever is happening as a challenge, an opportunity?

This rule is both different than and an extension of Rule #5. It is different in that Rule #5 is about more than fear to push the limits (harden the f#$k up and do it). Rule #10 is about the understanding of those moments, embracing them, then dealing with it in a business-like fashion. Rule #10 is about how you develop and, ultimately, how you put it together on race day. Rule #10 is impossible without fully embracing Rule #5.

The essence of Rule #10 is this: the moments that determine who you are, what you are made of, how you perform on race day, come not from the moments when things are going good, but when things are going bad. These are the times you have the opportunity to create personal greatness.

Handle these moments with grace and determination? You're a champion. Wilt like an unwatered Florida lawn in July? Never gonna happen.

Train hard. Stay Focused.

Related Posts:

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Ironman Training Review: June, 2014

Normalcy. It's what I have been wanting to have in my training all year. Normalcy, in my world, is swim-bike-run-eat-sleep repeat week in and week out. When the winter weather breaks, with a few exceptions, training is done outdoors, and my basic week looks the same. Week, after week, after week. Not that I don't like change ... but I really don't like change when it comes to my routine.

I love my routine!!!

And the routine I oh so love, well, it has evolved into what it is over the past 15 years or so. Really, since I started training for my first Ironman in 2006 things have/had been steady, consistent. I take Rule #2 very serious.

After dealing with the crappiest winter we have seen in Pennsylvania in a long time, then injury, the first five months of this year were less than consistent to say the least. June, however, changed all that, hopefully for good. I've been back at it on a regular basis, even raced a bit.

Here's how June worked out:

Swim: Three to four times each week I was at LA Fitness, in the pool. With Ironman CDA off the table I backed off my weekly volume, opting for shorter, harder sessions. I didn't test this month so I kept my CSS pace at 1:21/100. It has been there for a while now, which I'm totally OK with. Normally when bike and run volume pick up I struggle in the pool. Tired legs and all. This year it feels a bit different. I don't know if it is the lower run volume coming off the layoff, but my swim pacing hasn't deteriorated. In fact, I PRed a few of my standard workouts this month. Whatever it is, I'll take it and call it a win in the pool.

Jonathan Soden - Eagleman 70.3
Eagleman 70.3
Bike: My riding has been pretty darn good. I pre-planned my DNF at Eagleman 70.3 on June 8, riding within myself at a PR time of 2:22:xx. I didn't/couldn't run, but felt great coming into T2. If I could have physically run I feel like I had a good run in me. Could it be the limited run mileage? Maybe. Could it be delusion? Maybe, but I don't think so.

This season I have done two things with bike training a bit different than in years past. First, I have taken interval training seriously. I really enjoy riding my bike and, in years past, would get a lot of miles in. Those miles tended to be more exercising than training, if you know what I mean. Last season I decided I needed to train more and exercise less, so intervals became more of a regular presence. At the Great Six Flags Triathlon I broke a long standing PR at the Olympic distance (40k) on a technical course that featured 1000 feet of vertical that I attribute to the interval work (race report). It seemed to work so I kept on doing it.

The second thing I have done is more climbing, even though it's not my favorite thing. In the past I have shied away from a lot of climbing when I am on my own. If I have a choice between doing some nice steady-state riding or up and down all day, put me in the aerobars and let me go. Not that I'm a bad climber ... it's just not my preference.

On most Wednesdays and Sundays I have been out on group rides that force me to hit the hills. Even better, one ride meets in Easton, riding mainly in Western NJ, while the other group rides in Lehigh County, PA. The Lehigh Valley and the surrounding area has some great roads for riding with climbs of all sorts. These two rides have really been a big help. As an added bonus: I get to suffer while making others suffer with me!!!

Overall mileage and intensity has been good, consistent from week to week. Let's call this a win.

Jonathan Soden - Eagleman 70.3
Eagleman Pre-Race
Run: Coming off knee surgery I have been slowly reintroducing the run back into my routine. In June I ran 2-3 times each week, separating runs with 1-3 days. As the month progressed I was able to lengthen the distance from 1-2 miles up to 4 miles each run. Reality is I don't want to have any setbacks so I have not been aggressive. My fear has been that after four months with little to no time on my feet there is a real risk of problems other than my knee. I would rather slowly gear it back up than suffer a calf strain or hamstring issue that keeps me from running for a few weeks.

Overall mileage is low and runs are of the just gettin' it the miles variety. Not what I would like, but better than it could be at this point in time. Not there yet so I call this a draw.

Overall: Fitness is coming back. When I raced Eagleman I really raced on base fitness. By the end of June I feel like I am starting to get into better shape and will be prepared to start my Ironman specific prep for Ironman Florida on time. July will be a continuation of June, building strength and rebuilding fitness.

I have two races planned for July - Firecracker 4-Miler (run) and Steelman OWS (swim) - and then two Olympic distance triathlons in August (Steelman and TriRock Asbury Park) to test my fitness and durability.

Train hard. Stay focused.

Related Posts:

Ironman Training Review: April & May, 2014

Ironman training Review: March, 2014

Ironman Training Review: February, 2014

Ironman Training Review: January, 2014

2014 - The Year for Ironman Racing

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Ironman Couer D'Alane was Sunday and I Wasn't There ...

This past Sunday I woke up early, grabbed some food, stretched and was on my bike at 7:16 am. After 10 miles on my own I met up with a group of friends I have been riding with on many Sunday mornings. We rode mostly on the Jersey side of the boarder, stopping in Millford for a mid-ride snack. The group ended up breaking up due to a newer rider missing a turn, but the morning was relatively uneventful. I ended up with 65 miles of riding. An enjoyable morning, for sure.

Just not the Sunday I had planned to have on this late June morning.

On Sunday I was supposed to be in Couer d'Alene, ID to race Ironman CDA for the second time. Plans fell through this winter when knee troubles led to surgery in April. Months ago The Queen made it perfectly clear that nothing good would come from attempting to run a marathon after a 7 hour warmup. I agreed and bagged the race.

Jonathan Soden - IMCDA
Shortly after finishing IMCDA in 2008
I followed the race online as I do on occasion. The weather was pretty ideal - high was 67 degrees - and the pro race looked like a good one. Looking at the results, my age group (45-49) was crazy competitive, with the slowest Kona spot being a 10:03 finish time. Clearly there were some fast old men.

You would think that this would be a bummer for me ... and it was. But not as bad as you would think.

See, at the end of the day, IMCDA was just a race. One race.

Sometimes we can get so caught up in our own stuff that we start to think these things we do for pleasure are more important than they really are. We get caught up in the planning, the training, the racing. Everything has to be perfect. Everything has to do with this one day. We become obsessed, losing sight of the bigger picture.

Because at the end of the day it is just one race.

I would be lying if I told you I didn't give it some thought. Maybe even more than a little. Besides being out $1,000 and finding out that the new Ironman switch policies are not all that WTA would like you to believe, not towing the line on Sunday morning crossed my mind. Would I have rather of been racing on the other side of the country? Absolutely. Would it have been the right thing to do? Hell. No.

Here's the deal: there are more races. Lots of races in fact. Come November I will be in Panama City Beach, Florida with Em racing Ironman Florida. Between now and then I will race a few Olympic distance triathlons, a 70.3 and running race or two. And in the future, you can expect me to be back in CDA to give that course another go. Because there are always other races.

More important than that one race is to make sure you are healthy and focused on doing what has to get done for the long term. From my first doctor's appointment my main focus had been directed at correcting the problem. In fact, after figuring out what the problem was, I directly asked if I should bag the early season Ironman.

Over the years I have been the guy who always showed up to train. There were minor injuries, but never anything too serious. When friends would go down with a something that would put them on the shelf for some time I felt compelled to encourage them to do what they needed to do to resolve the issue quickly and permanently. I would always tell people that everyone has their day, that my day would eventually come.

In 2014, my turn came. Disappointed that I missed a big race I am happy to report that things are going good. I have recovered quickly from surgery and am slowly getting my fitness back. More important than that, I'm healthy, and I have a better understanding of my body and what I need to do to continue racing and training with my buds for many, many years. At the end of the day, health and wellness is what's really important.

Could I have toed the line this past weekend? Yes I could have. Would it have been a smart thing to do? Hell. No. If I were in CDA this past weekend I would have given it my all. In the process I would have surely had a less than optimal day (being that my longest run since coming back is less than 5 miles) and surely did some long-term damage for no good reason.

Because again, it is just one race.

Train hard. Stay focused.