Jul 10, 2008

From Seat 2A to IRONMAN

Building and running a consulting and training company has taken me around the country and the globe. Usually in First Class.

My favorite seat is 2A.

Sometimes I'd get quite irritable when crammed into the very small seats in the commuter jets that are the only way to get to certain clients. And why wouldn't I? I was a very big guy. I didn't need a seat belt extender...but I was getting pretty close on some of those planes.

So whenever possible, I always tried to secure the extra space available in First Class, seat 2A. A window seat where no one would be stepping over me. It was roomy and of course there was all the free beer and salty snacks I desired.

I learned that the beer always gave me a headache. But by the time I took my return trip, it seems that I always forgot how bad the headache was on the flight over. "Coors Light, Please, I'm watching my carbs."

For me, "Seat 2A" is synonymous with the fast-paced, soft lifestyle I was enjoying.

Great food and plenty of it. Desert? Sure! But who has time for working out?

Naturally gifted in running and soccer in high school, I really didn't start gaining weight until my late 30s. Following high school, I really did nothing consistently for a period of at least 25 years. But as my metabolism changed and my business prospered the weight piled on quickly.

It's pretty easy to hide those extra pounds in a suit. In fact, it is REMARKABLY easy to hide the weight. Keep that jacket buttoned, and no one has a clue that your waist has grown by 6 - 10 inches.

But the face does not lie.

The face, cheeks, jowls are a sure give-away if you are gaining weight.

And my face had gradually blown-up like a balloon. Literally! Take a look at those BEFORE side photos!

So what caused me to stop and suddenly make this lifestyle change?

As I have posted before, I literally tried every crazy scheme, every diet, every pill, every Internet program, no carbs, etc.

I was impatient and wanted quick results. I got quick results in terms of losing water weight. I skipped meals and lost a lot of muscle, exacerbating my problem as my metabolism slowed to a crawl. I stupidly believed that skipping meals meant fewer calories, and I actually thought that was the way to lose weight.

I enjoyed watching The Biggest Loser tv show and found that very motivating. For the first time I saw how hard work, along with diet, was having amazing, dramatic results. Just unbelievable. I think that show is just amazing. Of course, I really hate that artificial suspense but I suffered through each show monitoring their progress.

That was a start on this path.

But for me, it was all about committing to something and being held accountable by friends and others. So I signed up for a triathlon and interviewed a lot of triathlon coaches to work with me.
The accountability of a coach made all the difference in the world.

I tried working on my own, but that was far too easy to skip a workout and there were no consequences.

So From 2A to Ironman is my way of referencing the journey from corporate excess and sloth to a disciplined and consistent program leading to my goal of completing a full Ironman Triathlon in Tempe Arizona in November 2008.

Jul 9, 2008

Hard Work, without Discipline, spells Disaster!

The other morning I was running on the beautiful Cal State Long Beach 400 meter composite oval track. It was so early that I had the track completely to myself in the final pre-dawn minutes.

I had ridden my fixed gear bike to the track in the dark and after a solid warm up, I was feeling pretty good.

This morning was set aside for 6-minute repeats where the workout called for me to build up to heart rate zone 3, but not slip into zone 4; that requires careful monitoring and pacing to be pulled off correctly.

But as I’m doing my first repeat, I am feeling so good and fresh (legs felt very light, strong and springy) that I made the decision on the fly to try and set a new record for a mile.

Granted, the workout called for 6-minute repeats and to build to HR zone 3, which in my case means to keep a 1 minute pace for every 200 meters (an 8 minute mile pace). I normally check my HR monitor every 200 meters to see that I am on pace and the HR is within range.

But not today.

After the first lap, I just decided to go for it and not look at the monitor, just max out at a full-on sprint and instead of running the typical 3 laps, go for the full mile at full tilt.


As I was running in the pre-dawn I am thinking of Peter Reid’s comment in that documentary on his triathlon training. He was so proud of riding his bike in the snow because he knew that “nobody else was working this hard, so I am gaining fitness over them!”

Sometimes we mistake hard work for effectiveness. Especially Triathletes.

Working hard without Discipline, is a recipe for disaster. Just pushing harder and harder, without the discipline of rest, diet, stretching, hydration, fueling/nutrition and staying within our abilities or our prescribed HR zones can lead to huge problems, including serious injuries, bonking on rides, a plateau in our improvements or even a trip to the hospital in the case of serious hydration deficiencies.

We must have the discipline to stay within our abilities and the discipline to tell ourselves “NO” especially when coming up with some hair-brained idea in the middle of the workout.

Examples? Sure, I have plenty!!

-Trying to set a new mile record on the track without being warmed up, pulling a calf muscle and having to end the entire next three days of workouts;

-Not picking up a water bottle or nutrition if it drops on the road and either bonking or suffering from dehydration;

-Deciding that it might be interesting to ride the 112 miles from Long Beach to Santa Barbara (on a whim) without the proper cycling base and in the middle of a horrible winter windstorm. Not turning around when it really got cold and extremely windy because that would be “admitting defeat.”

-While on a recovery day, getting into a heated race with a cyclist who passed me on Pacific Coast Highway and chasing him down to Laguna Canyon, only to find myself totally spent and barely able to make the return ride home;

-Trying to set a new record during my weight lifting session and pulling so hard, so quickly, that I threw out my back and had to be helped off of the machine by others in the gym!

-Trying to ride to the top of a mountain just to be able to point and say I conquered that peak, even when I was unprepared and woefully under-trained for the extreme grade;

-Thinking that it would really be great bragging rights to say that I ran from Carpinteria to Ventura (16 miles) when my longest run prior to that was only about 6 miles. (This idiotic move cost dearly: I lost 4 toenails and developed plantar fasciitis; setting me back at least a month!).

I could go on and on.

Point is that we need to be disciplined about our training; hard work alone, is not the answer

We must be disciplined to say “NO” to the fun and exciting diversions or “tests” if they are not part of our overall training plan and strategy. Sometimes, that is really hard to do because you will have a lot of extra energy and feel totally capable to do more, to ride further, to lift more weights, to run faster, etc. But any of these could lead to the unanticipated injury which could really set your training back by days or even weeks or months.

We all work hard. But champions, I believe, have that extra bit of discipline to hold back despite the strong desire to push even harder. Champions understand that training is a process, not a single event.

Champions are patient, disciplined and they work hard when that’s what their workout calls for. It’s my belief that you really need all three.
Hard work without the discipline to hold back can only lead to disappointment, and ultimately, injury.

Jul 6, 2008

What about the Time Commitment?

Sometimes the time commitment required to complete all the training workouts can really be a drag.

Fifteen hours a week may not seem like that much on paper, but believe me, by the time you fill up your water bottles, prep your bike, get your heart rate monitor set up, plan your route, get all of your gear together, etc., you really need to add as much as 15 additional minutes per workout.

Of course, you also need to add in the "procrastination factor" which is the little internal debate about whether it is:

-Too Cold
-Too Early
-Too Dark
-Too much Rain
-Too Hot
-Too Late
-Too Close to Dinner
-Too Windy

The "procrastination factor" is just one more thing you have to fight off to get yourself moving.
Depending on the day, this factor can add another 5 minutes to several hours (especially if you have a more exciting project to work on!)

I wouldn't double the time commitment, but I might say it could be another 1/3rd more when you add-in all these other things. So a 15-hour workout week is actually about 20 hours. And as I write this, I am silently nodding, thinking, "Yep. That really does sound about right, and maybe even a little bit light when you factor-in additional stretching, special meal and shake preparation, etc."

OK, so a 20-hour commitment may not see all that much, but when you consider that to train properly, you really must get a minimum of 7 - 8 hours of sleep each night, that only leaves about 16 hours each day for everything else. After work, personal hygiene, meals, commutes, family time, etc., there is really very little else that one can do other than these workouts.

Here we are at the beach house on vacation. I brought all kinds of reading and some great triathlon and biking magazines to read, plus I have every intention of watching the Tour de France.

But none of this will get done because my workouts, and all related preparation, must take priority.

As I have posted before, if I don't do the workouts first thing, the day will quickly fill with other things and I will have no opportunity to fit them in.

So now I must pull myself away from this computer having already exhausted 10 minutes toward my "procrastination factor" this morning!

Plus, there is a big fire raging in Goleta, just 20 miles up the coast, and it's really overcast today, so maybe......

Jul 5, 2008

My Friend, the Beetle

I was running mile repeats the other morning on the Cal State Long Beach track. It's a beautiful location and a great rubber surface, so it's easy on my old knees.

These are tougher workouts, as I have to run 4 - 5 miles at a specific pace and I check that pace every half-lap to make sure I'm on target. These are hard runs and require focused concentration to ensure that I stay on pace while also staying relaxed to keep my heart rate within a very specific zone.

It was early morning and I was the only person at all on the track. It was grand. As my imagination kicked in running around that track, I pretended I was Bill Gates and this was my own private track...all to myself.

Myself and the only living thing in sight, a very large beetle.

This beetle was struggling mightily as well. But his battle was to simply make it across the rubber surface of the track trying to get to the grassy infield area.

Each time I would make my lap around the track, I would notice that my little beetle friend had made progress, just as I had. He was moving very, very slowly, but with each passing lap, I noticed that he was making progress.

I paid special attention to make certain that I did not step on this little guy. I felt like we were brothers in this battle to reach our respective objectives.

Lap after lap after lap, I would look for this little guy and smile as I saw him.

Late in my workout, with just about 1 mile to go, a group of runners took to the track and it was no longer just me and my little beetle friend that had been with me for such a long, hard workout.

With just a few laps to go, when I was struggling the most, I looked forward to monitoring the progress of my beetle friend, again making certain to avoid him when I got to that one section of the curved portion of the track.

Then on my last lap, on the last final turn, looking forward to see my beetle friend for the last time, I discovered that one of the runners who had recently started jogging around the track had just squashed this little guy as flat as a pancake.

He certainly felt no pain to be sure, as he was summarily squashed with a hard quick stomp.

I was really surprised how much that bothered me.

It was almost as if they had killed my pet.

Something happens to us when we struggle hard and suffer together with a friend. Be it in workouts, group rides or a race.

We are brothers in sport, in pain, in suffering, in accomplishment. It's a bond that only those who suffer can understand.

And so that day, I lost a brother to a careless runner who thought nothing of stomping my running partner.

Just a beetle? What's the big deal? This fellow was my workout partner in my book and I was sad to lose him. I looked forward to watching and monitoring his progress.

I was really disappointed that he didn't make it to the infield.

Jul 2, 2008


I tried everything.

Every pill. Every diet. Every scheme.

Every Internet program. Every weight loss book and protein shake.

I have done it all.

Nothing worked permanently until I stopped looking for the easy way out and buckled down for the hard, long road back to health and fitness.

Friends, there is no easy, quick, safe weight loss program.

I really don't know why we all look for the quick fix, but when it comes to safe weight loss, there is nothing simple or quick about it. To be totally candid, losing weight is hard work. Damn hard work and it takes a lot of discipline and focus. The moment you take your eye off the prize, the weight starts creeping back!

I do have the answer for permanent weight loss, most won't like this answer, but here goes:

It takes a combination of a lot of exercise where you are breathing relatively hard and sweating. You also need to lift weights or do isomentric exercises for muscle development. Finally, you really need to watch what you eat and how often you eat.

Portion control, timing of meals, the right mix of food types, the number of meals per day, etc. These are all critical factors.

Please understand that no pill will ever melt your fat away.

It will take a lot of hard work, a lot of exercise, a lot of sweating, a lot of discipline and a tremendous focus. I think that most people do not stick with their programs because it is simply a lot of work. So if you think about it as "work" you are probably doomed.

For me, I needed to set deadlines and events.

I knew I was training for an event, and I told a lot of people about it. If I did not finish, then I would have to tell everyone that I quit, and I certainly didn't want to face that! So my event was the Hawaii Ironman 70.3 and my next major event is the full Ironman 140.6 in Tempe Arizona in November 2008.

I also needed the additional accountability of a coach to make sure I stayed on track and did all the workouts.