Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Periodization and Body Composition - Offseason and Weight Loss

Congratulations! You just finished your big race last year. You did ok, but think you could do better next year at B2B. For right now, the important part is basking in the glow of that finish line. Maybe have a celebration with family and friends and start the recovery process.

I have to force myself to take an entire month off from everything after a full ironman. During the big day, my body sort of expands; like the joints all get very loose, and it takes about a month for everything to come back together. One time I started swimming too soon after Ironman, and my ankles were killing me by the end of the warmup. How do your ankles hurt from swimming? makes no sense.

The offseason is the time to cut loose. Nutritionally, cheeseburgers and chicken wings are ok. Bring on the beers. Re-introduce yourself to your friends and family. It's a good time to burn your ex's house down (kidding).  But I do feel like it's important to note here that we are not dogs. We don't need to use food as a reward. I just try not to feel guilty about enjoying the Standard American Diet during the offseason.

Your racing weight is not supposed to be a number that can be maintained all year round. It's supposed to be a target that you can hit and sustain for one day to give you the best chance at a successful race. There is nothing wrong with a little weight gain after the big day.

Training during the offseason is only supposed to be the fun stuff. No structure, no plan, just do whatever you want whenever it feels right. We get into this crazy multisport lifestyle because we enjoy 3 sports and training hard for 3 sports at the same time. Some people want to run marathons during the offseason. Some choose a structured weight training program. So do what you want.

One thing I can highly recommend. Speed follows endurance, so after months of slow training for a really long triathlon you might be surprised at the speed that is laying dormant right now. Jump into the next local 5k just to see what happens. I set my last 2 PR's each a month after an Ironman. It was surprising and fun.

There are two ways for the offseason to come to a close. My favorite was always hitting my Maximum Allowable Offseason Weight (MAOW). In 2010 I was losing weight in preparation for Ironman training, and I got under 190 lbs for the first time since before the turn of the century. As a reward I got the giant cherry tree tattoo on my right shoulder. That means now when my weight creeps up close to 190 lbs it's time to go into a weight loss phase. Anything else would be to disrespect my tattoo and my body. And sure enough, January 2016 is the only time since then that I've gone over 190 lbs.

The offseason is also a great time to write up your training plan. For our B2B half ironman race, let's assume the training plan is written for 20 weeks. Let's assume we already know our racing weight target for B2B, and assume we know our training weight for the start of the training plan. My weight loss phase typically averages 2 lbs per week of fat loss, so if I'm 14 lbs over my training weight right now and plan to hold that through the offseason, then I need to start my weight loss phase 7 weeks before my training plan starts.

My racing weight is 165 lbs, but I usually come in closer to 168-170. My training weight is 175 lbs, that's always my target for starting the training plan. Typically I'm in a weight loss phase (for 10 to 14 lbs) around February into March or April, and spend my summer in a heavy training plan and between 170 - 175 lbs. But that's only typical for me.

The weight loss phase has a very specific structure. I want to go into some detail here, but it is important to note that every body is different and responds differently to the same stimuli. I've tried every diet plan that I can find to determine what works best for me, and you should too. Check with your doctor if you have more than 20 lbs to lose or have concerns about heart disease or how certain diets will affect your medications. I don't regularly take any medications and I do know my family medical history. I am not a medical doctor, just a former unhealthy fatass. My advice is what worked best for me, and I can certainly do other posts about weight loss or health trends that did not work out for me. Disclaimer over.

Tracking your progress is very important for a weight loss phase. I highly suggest using a scale that will show weight as well as body fat percentage. Especially if you did a bunch of strength training over the offseason, the purpose of the weight loss phase is really to lose body fat, not just pounds. So yes, I want to go from 188 lbs to 175, but I also want to see the scale go from 21% bodyfat down to 16%. Then I can also multiply those two numbers together to get the amount of bodyfat (in pounds) that I'm currently carrying around. For reference, visible abdominal musculature appears in men who have a maximum of about 11% bodyfat, and for me that's around 17 lbs if my weight is down to 162 lbs and I can maintain some muscle mass.

Everything has a starting point, and it is important to record your starting point. Take pictures if you want to. Start tracking your weight and bodyfat percentage (weekly) even if you need to buy a new scale. Find a food and fitness tracker and start logging what you eat. I use My Fitness Pal, but have used others in the past including the Livestrong tracker. Input EVERYTHING that goes into your face-hole and every workout you perform to establish a baseline of how you got fat. This will show you which foods are "bad" for you, and which foods are "good" for you. MFP also has a calculator to help determine my resting metabolic rate and helps me identify which meals were too big and pushed me over my limits for that day.

My structure for the weight loss phase is limiting myself to 1800 calories a day and going vegetarian. After a few weeks of logging everything into MFP I get used to what works, establish the patterns of portion control and learn what my high calorie treats can be.

Going vegetarian has a ton of benefits. Most Americans don't get enough fiber. Most vegetarians do get enough fiber. That's what happens when you eat a lot of plants. You can also get a lot of bulk out of your food when it's all plants. How big is a 16 oz steak? better get a couple of sides with that. Bust into an entire 1 lb bag of spinach and you'll fill up before getting the whole thing down. And the spinach has more protein, less fat, and plenty of iron. Spinach is really one of my power foods, I can't take in too much.

Take a closer look at how bodyfat gets released. You hear the phrase "burning calories" a lot, and what happens when something burns? It generates smoke and leaves ashes behind. The mass that was once something solid turns mostly into smoke and the resulting ash (waste product) carries a small percentage of the original mass. So literally when we lose weight by burning fat (high consistent metabolism) it leaves the body by exhaling.

That's right, up to 75% of weight loss is breathing. The rest of the waste product gets collected by the blood stream, delivered to the colon through our filtration systems (kidneys, liver, etc) and pooped out. That's why fiber is so important. It acts like a toothbrush for your colon.

I'm also pretty big on keeping it low fat. Avacados are pretty high on my normal diet, but in a weight loss phase I will even curb those. Calories from fat just don't get the job done for me. Some people love it, but I prefer sugar/salt instead. My youngest kid is all about the butter but thinks ketchup is too sweet. So this is what works for me. Low fat, high fiber, 1800 calories a day vegetarian.

One last trick.... Some people call it intermittent fasting, or just cutting out the late night snacks, or timing your meals. But if you try to pick a 12 hour window during the day to get your food in, then it will end up better in the long run. It has to be timed with your workout, but I tend to eat breakfast around 7 am. If dinner is done by 7 pm then don't eat anything after then. Going to bed hungry (but not too hungry) is a good thing. Eating right before bed forces your body to process/digest that food during sleep, when it should be doing other things like muscle repair from the workouts. 

Workouts during the weight loss phase are more about consistency than volume. Don't do too much! The time for 3 hour bike rides is during the build phase of the training plan. Weight loss workouts should be no more than 45 minutes in duration. Anything longer than that, and you will have to eat more than 1800 calories to recover from the workout. Even my beloved Masters Swim Team practices go for an hour and 15 minutes, and afterwards I need to eat about 300 calories. My favorite weight loss workout is a 5 mile run. Run 5 miles, 5 days a week, and maybe sneak in a 45 minute bike ride one other day and it's done. Funny thing about doing a ton of 5 mile runs while you keep getting lighter - you end up getting a lot faster too. This is how I went from10 minute miles down to 8 minute miles regularly.

That's what worked for me. Low fat, high fiber, 1800 calories, vegetarian, 45 minute workout. Plus maybe some stretching/yoga to keep my mind sharp.

So here's the breakdown of a typical day:

Breakfast: 7 am
Oatmeal (1/2 c instant oats, 1/2 c milk, 1/2 c water microwave for 2 min) topped with a banana, rasins, cinnamon
385 calories

7:30 am yoga/light stretching/meditation - prepare for today!

11:30 am lunch
Amy's organic veggie burrito (frozen), usually around 280 calories
1 actual serving size of potato chips, even if it's only like 10 chips
around 400 calories

snack or after lunch or pre-workout:
1 greek yogurt, usually about 200 calories

1 banana before workout (100 calories)

5 pm leave work and hit that 5 mile run (burn 600 calories)

7 pm dinner
spinach, preferably
roasted veggies, beans, quinoa, fruit, tons of delish vegetarian recipes out there.
fill the plate with healthy plants! be full and happy, but not over-stuffed like thanksgiving day.
about 500 calories

If you are still too hungry at it's at least an hour before bedtime, go for some fruit, another banana, maybe a string cheese stick. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner add up to about 1300 calories, snacks make up another 300 or so leaving you under the 1800 max on this sample day. Sometimes for lunch I'll have a salad or some leftover veggies from last night's dinner instead of the burrito.

Tracking is important at the end as well. You want to see the weight and bodyfat percentage both drop over time. Multiply those together and you should see that number drop as well. That way you know you are burning off fat as well as just getting lighter.

Be sure you drink enough water. I start every day with a 24 oz bike bottle of clean water, then drink at least 32 oz while I'm at the office, a glass with lunch and dinner, another bottle during the workout, and another bottle after dinner. Water helps the fiber move through the body, and that's really where the weight loss comes from.

So this is what I do for the offseason and the weight loss phase. There are lots of other points I could add here about specific recipes, portion control, recovery protocols, and resting metabolic rate. But this has gone on long enough. I hope this helps explain how to prepare your body for a heavy training plan, because when the hard work starts, it really gets going. Next up: how to build our 20 week triathlon training plan for B2B!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Periodization and Body Composition Overview

Editors note: This is the first in a series of posts that I have been rolling around in the noodle for a while. Now that I'm not running triathlons anymore, I'm going to brain dump some knowledge here. It may turn into a book later.

A couple of years ago I was at a local seminar put on by a triathlon race director, a triathlon coach, and a nutritionist at a restaurant that was sponsoring the series of triathlons I usually participate in. The nutritionist got caught in traffic and was unable to participate, but we talked a lot about race day nutrition. Then one of the other participants asked "So what do we eat every other day?" and the coach didn't know how to answer that so she just gave a basic "you know... eat healthy stuff" kind of answer and they went on to the next question. I wish I had thrown up a hand to answer that one, because it sparked this chain of posts. and it's really cool.

Triathletes tend to be very goal oriented people. My plan for this series is to identify the different phases we go through in a typical year to achieve a goal, then specifically look at different goals to identify within those phases. The primary focus is on strategies to achieve those goals, how to set appropriate goals for you, and what you can realistically expect to get out of a year in triathlon. It's a broad range of very specific topics. I'm going to begin with the end in mind, then work my way backwards, then forwards again.

The Big Hairy Goal
It starts, you guessed it, by picking your "A" race for the year. For my example, I want to pick a 70.3 mile triathlon in the fall. WTC has purchased the Beach 2 Battleship race, so that is now known as Ironman North Carolina Beach 2 Battleship, and it is going down on October 22 this year.This is a popular race, it's a fast course, but you have to really train for it. They run a full and half iron on the same day, so it's a perfect example.

Mentally, picking the goal can be the hardest part of the entire process. You want to pick a race that will play to your strengths, the right location for you, the right time of year for you.

A good triathlon coach can help you:
  • pick the right race
  • with a training plan that will get you ready for that race
  • calculate what your weight should be at the starting line
  • calculate what your weight should be when you start a training plan
  • calculate what your ideal bodyfat percentage should be and how to lower it
You want to have the best race you possibly can have. Racing starts with a plan, then you go execute that plan on race day. You have to know your limits, know what you are capable of doing on the big day.

Triathlon coaches that I know and/or have used in the past include Malone Coaching, TriMarni Coaching, One Step Beyond (Marty Gaal), and QT2 Systems coaches Doug Maclean and Rodney Scott, and Endurance Nation. Marni Sunbal in particular is relevant to this discussion because she is certified as a nutritionist and registered dietician as well as a triathlon coach. There's a lot of letters after that name.

So if the big day is set we can start working backwards. Periodization is the concept that you don't do the same thing all year round, instead we split up the year into different phases (or periods). Each phase has specific and very different goals and approaches to nutrition and training. Specifically the phases break down as follows:

Last year's "A" race is in the books, so that leads strait into the Offseason. There should be some weight gain during the offseason, so this presents a starting point for the Weight Loss Phase when the time is right. The training plan should be established right after registering for IM70.3 NC, and for a half iron that is usually a 20 week training plan. So the Training Phase will take you right up until Race Day.  And this half iron will lead straight into a celebration cheeseburger and the offseason.

Body Composition
We can define body composition as the ratio of muscle mass to body fat, or measuring your body fat percentage and optimizing your power to weight ratio. Muscle contains power. To push our bodies for 70.3 miles will take lots of endurance training. Strength will play a big role in being able to get and stay fast through the entire race day. Bodyfat will only slow you down.

Triathlete's typically go after "that" body. We want the 6 pack abs, Lord knows I've been chasing them for years. Each pound of excess fat costs you 3 seconds per mile when running. That means if we hit the starting line 10 lbs too heavy, it's costing us 30 seconds per mile or about 7 extra minutes of running over the half marathon.

So we start at the end. Your weight on race day is known as your Racing Weight. 20 weeks (in our sample) before Oct 22 means our training plan kicks off around June 4th. Your weight when you begin the training phase is called your training weight. Ironman training in particular will build so high in volume that the training will naturally take off those last 10 lbs or so. Before training can begin in earnest, you have to hit that target weight by losing 2 lbs on average per week  during the weight loss phase. So take the number of weeks left until training starts and you can figure out when the offseason ends and the weight loss phase begins.

For me, at 6'1" when I was trying to finish my first ironman, my racing weight was 165 lbs. At 165 and 14% bodyfat I was as lean and fast as I ever needed to be. So that's how I hit the starting line of IMFL back in 2011. My training weight is 175 lbs, those last 10 did melt off during the 24 weeks of my Ironman training plan. My maximum allowable offseason weight is 190 lbs. So every winter after my big race for the year, the offseason comes. And when it takes me up close to 188 lbs then it's time to start the weight loss phase. The 13 lbs between 188 and 175 will take about 7 weeks to release, then I'm ready to start that years training plan. Sometimes the offseason weight determines when I pick up again, sometimes the calendar does. But it's easy to be consistent year over year.

The next post in this series will look at the offseason and weight loss phase, comparing the approach to training and nutrition during those phases.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Random July pics edition

The kids went to Golf camp early in July

Evil Genius finally getting in the deep end at Pullen Park Pool

Ella too! 14' deep!

She got very relaxed

First day of 6th grade! Can't believe I have a middle schooler now.

First day of 4th grade!

EG on a mechanical bull at a birthday party

daring new heights

the annual birthday picture with her beau

Flex Friday? seemed like a good idea at the time.

Ella can stack

EG can stack too

Mom has HUGE tomatoes in her garden

And 8' tall tom plants? Come on mom, that's insane.

We got some cousin time in since Michael and family were in town as well

And no summer Greenville time is complete without getting in the pool.
I figured I would try doing a flip off of the diving board since I've been doing flip turns in swim practice really consistently during the last year. Well, I almost made it.

These were the fun parts of July!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Made it!

Thank God July is OVER! We made it through, people. The worst is behind us, at least until August gets here. Ok fine, August is usually the worst month for me. But this July was terrible and I'm glad it's in the rear view.

Swim: 32,800 yards, 10 swims, 1 race
Bike: zero, thankfully
Run: 104 miles, 17 runs
Strength: 4 times
Yoga: 6 times

The only race in July was the Little Uno open water swim. Almost 33k in the water is a ton of yards, so that's really going great. My masters coach found a flaw in my left arm motion when I'm breathing to the right, so fixing that has really helped the last week or so. July was also the first time since Umstead 100 training back in March that I have topped 100 miles in a month. I guess really that means that April, May, and June were under that magic number, but I'm glad to be back on a marathon training plan nonetheless. Strength training and yoga are consistent with expectations, I wish I could do more.

There was a couple of cool speed milestones in July. First I've already written about the 5k running time trial where I ended up with a 21:48 treadmill PR. I felt good at the end of it too, not my normal "hold on until death" thing that typically happens at that speed.

Then Friday 7/29 in the pool I got a nice breakthrough. We did an 1100 yard warmup, then coach said "1000 freestyle for time. Go." and we took off. AFTER THAT he wanted to do 25 yard sprints. after that. ugh. Now 2 years ago those times were always around 20 seconds. Last year I did all of that volume getting ready for the Swim Around Charleston and got those times down around 16 seconds consistently, and a few times got 15 seconds. Friday I hit 14 seconds 6 of 8 times, and even nailed a 13.8 second sprint!! That's insane. For reference, the olympians are barely breaking 12 seconds.

Friday night I came down with some kind of sinus thing that kept me in the recliner on Saturday. But Sunday I did make it to church then hit the gym for the 10k time trial on my training plan. Again this is on the treadmill since it's nearly impossible to walk from the car to the gym door without melting. I did the first half at an 8.0 mph speed, then increased to 8.1, 8.2, and did the last mile at 8.3. I think the total time was 45:40, which again is a new *treadmill PR for that distance.

August Cometh
I am so ready for this heat to break. August is usually the worst month of the year for the heat, but I can't imagine it can be any worse than July. Humidity was over 90% most of the month, heat index was typically between 112* and 118* - TYPICALLY. There is no rational explanation for that. I have no races scheduled for August. The end of August typically brings us the start of College Football, so that's really all I have to look forward to this month. That and lots more treadmill miles. Maybe this heat will break? please?

12 in 8 marathons update
Turns out, the deferment we got last year for the Kiawah Island marathon only got us a discount on this years race. On top of that, it looks like my brother is going to be moving out of the area soon anyway so we'd have to pay for a hotel room. And together that pushes any Charleston races out of the budget. I hate that, because I absolutely love going down to Charleston to race, but it is what it is.

I did get registered for the New River Trail 50k in Galax VA on October 1st. This is the race that my training plan is designed for, and was the first race on my spreadsheet for the streak. Very glad to have this one on the books. I'm definitely registered for 3 of the 12 now.

I'm thinking about replacing Kiawah with the North Central Trail Marathon in Maryland. Anyone ever heard of this? it seems like a small race, but could be a fun part of the state between DC and Baltimore. It's on trails, November 29, so everything else seems like it will fit my schedule.

Topless Year
I got a few pics with the top down in July. It wasn't easy. A black leather interior in a convertible is a terrible idea.

July 4th, topless and tanked for the holiday

7/24, my niece Kaileigh was in town for her birthday
That is it for now. Keep your head up, I hope you are having a good summer. I'm still blue and waiting for fall when I can run outside again.