Archive for February, 2010


How to be present

February 27, 2010

A discussion went around on the Train-This Triathlon Team google group the other day, involving thinking too much. Gretchen sent out a great article linked right here that detailed changing and creating habits. The reason we have our google group is for fun things and discussions between our athletes, just like the one that followed. Our athletes have become online family to one another in many ways.

The conversation turned to controlling the thoughts in our head, or rather stopping the thoughts in our head. I remember in fourth grade staring out the window. Sister Virginia called upon me and asked me what I was thinking about. I told her I was thinking about nothing. IMPOSSIBLE ! She cried out. But no….. really I was thinking about nothing. It hadn’t been the first time and it was not the last time.

Thinking about nothing perhaps is the greatest gift I had ever been given. I started thinking a lot after that for many years, particularly through the years of my eating disorder. But those times in the pool…. that’s when my mind quieted. I had thoughts of course, but I would acknowledge them and then let them go. They’d just pass through me.

The same thing happens for me now in training and in competition. I don’t go by thoughts in my mind I go by feelings in my heart. Admittedly I got a little away from that for a while, but last year I tapped back in. This week, turning off the data….. I was there again. Thinking nothing, just being present.

We talk a lot about being present in yoga. This is the most difficult thing for me to articulate also because of the view that many people, especially athletes….. especially triathletes have about yoga.

Many come into a class with a preset judgement. They think their was through poses, get irritated if the class is to mellow, judge and inspect the instructor, the music, the style, the entire thing. Personally I get something out of any class that I go to. If I leave a class disappointed then it’s my fault, never the teacher’s.

The style of yoga I teach is called Baptiste Power Vinyaysa. It’s flow yoga, athletic yoga, be prepared to do a million push ups. It’s 90 degrees. It’s fast. Because I have practiced power vinyasa for so long….. I have excellent functional strength. The TRX…. is very easy for me. I balance on my hands every single day. I end up using the TRX for a warm up.

Back to presence.

The foundation to any yoga practice is the breath. Ujjayi breath is what you will often hear….. (that’s Sanskrit for victorious breath)…. some refer to it as the Darth Vader breath. Either way is fine with me. It’s a reverse whisper oceanic like sounding breath that your draw in from the back of the throat. Try whispering the word HA. The whisper it with your mouth closed. Now as you whisper HA with your mouth closed bring the breath to the back of your throat. Draw it in to the diaphragm, which is below your ribcage. Now as you are breathing this way set your eyes on once spot in front of you. Breathe. Keep that same breath and close your eyes. Bring your attention to the space between your eyes. That’s the third eye or your inner drishti.

Notice this….. this simple act of breathing. The simple act of even focusing your thoughts on this victorious breath…… has already unplugged you from your brain, the space between your ears. It’s slowed down the constant turning of the mental hamster wheel. (Notice this: I have said nothing about balance or flexibility. Yoga happens on and off of a mat.)

You feel irritation and anxiety and thought start to bubble to your surface…… acknowledge it….. let it pass through…… but focus on your breath. That will pass.

Now you begin to combine this breath to some movement. All yoga in my opinion is absolutely awesome. So if gentle hatha is your style, good. If Bikram is your style…. good. Yoga Fit? Fine. Yoga elitists exist just like multisport elitist do as well. Do what you do in that arena…. ignore them. If you want to make your own yoga practice and style….. good. Whatever gets you moving and breathing and your mind slowing down.

Poses teach us lessons. They have for hundreds of years longer than swimming, cycling and running have. Take Utkatasana (chair pose) for example. By the way cyclists love this pose because it really taps their strengths. You come into this pose and hold it for 10 breaths. Things can happen along the way. Thought wants to creep in.

There are other things I could be doing.

This hurts

This is stupid.

Why doesn’t the instructor do the pose with us.

This music is creepy.

Wait till I blog about this!

Acknowledge those thoughts. See them, wave hello and let them pass on by. They are the devil on your shoulder. Instead come into your breath. Treat those thoughts like the kids in the back seat of your car. See them, acknowledge them, and then get back to what you are doing. Breathing.

Poses, asanas, vinyasas teach us patience, how to be in the moment, how to be comfortable in uncomfortable situations, how to just….. be present.

Now bring the same thing into your sport.

You are on your trainer with 3 sets of big gear tempo efforts. You are in the middle of number two, about to lose your cookies. Your thoughts become like the devil on your shoulder.

This hurts.

I hate winter.

How many miles have I ridden on this bastard trainer?

I am tired.

I am going nowhere.

My coach is an ass.

See your thoughts, feel them pass by. Focus on your breathing, no matter how hard it may be at the time. Because you are on the trainer you can close your eyes. find that inner drishti. Give it 2 minutes. are you wearing an iPod? Follow the beat of the drum. Try it.  You will be in a different place.

That’s how you become present. You don’t have to only find it on a mat. In a  studio. It’s available everywhere. On a  bike. Ona  run. In the pool. In the car with screaming kids in the background.

It’s actually a choice. I personally love the way that yoga helps me find it.

I am in recovery for Bulimia Nervosa. I have been in recovery for 16 years now. I don’t go to a therapist or a support group. I am done talking about it. I have a good life. I dont’ need to analyze anything. Instead…… I practice yoga.

I can’t express it without sounding like an elitist yoga person, but I have found presence in my life that’s been there for a long time. I work to cultivate it every single day. I practice yoga every single day. I practice at least 20 minutes. I love when I can practice for 75. I can’t do that often enough.

Presence truly is a choice. Just like pedaling. Just like working on running biomechanics. It’s all a choice.

So before you judge it, give it a shot. It’s a better way of being, I can promise that.

Stop trying so hard. Try easier. Be easier.


Snow Day

February 26, 2010

This amount of snow is not impressive. At all. But the “sky is falling” mindset of the local weatherman is rather impressive. You’d think the apocalypse was occurring. The one good thing about the snow day though is that our rate of car accidents will hopefully be lower when I am at work later on today. Should lighten up the witching hour of 5pm, and I will be home before the next one at 8pm.

With this kind of weather comes closings. Pool closings, school closings, parents scrambling to figure out work issues. I am lucky enough to have a husband who can work remotely. So when school is closed on the one of 2 days a week I actually have to work, we are okay. I am really really blessed like that.

The “worst” thing that happens to me is that I flip flop today and tomorrow’s workouts. Gasp! Not a problem.

My long ride yesterday was a bit mentally challenging. I still nailed it without data but I looked outside and felt cabin fever setting in. Just a few more weeks of this…. I promised myself, just a few more weeks.

I long….. absolutely long to feel the air on my skin as I ride the road for endless hours. I long to see the road pass beneath my wheel. It’s coming. It’s coming. Soon I will be in Texas, and the sun will greet me and my friends and I will celebrate. And I will put my fitness to the test. It’s feeling really good!


Snow Bath

February 25, 2010

Tuesday I did something I never do. I moved a workout. Gasp. I know I know. But the week is created a certain way, it’s not meant for shuffling around. But I had a rough go of hill bounding on Tuesday. The training started off great, the tempo bike was nailed without even looking. My best one ever. I set out for the hills, the seven hills of hell as I like to call them. The roads were bad yet I was overdressed. I did the first one and called it a day. It felt horrible.

I could barely run up the hill.

I have been around long enough to know never to panic or have a freak out about one workout. It means it wasn’t the day for it. So I switched Wednesday and Tuesday’s runs.

Wednesday I was ready.

Last week I hit these hills….. from the light pole before the tree to the yellow diamond sign at the top of the hill in an average of 1:23. Wednesday I averaged 1:16. I ended the season last year at those times. Now I begin it with them.

 These hills and I are becoming better friends. My form has greatly improved. My mind on running has greatly improved and I am in love with no data week (but still recording it at the end!!!)

During the induction of this vertical phase I am sore. Very sore. I have started the ice baths, however with a different twist. SNOW. Snow baths. I have snow all around me and apparently I have more coming tonight. I fill a basin with a boatload of snow and I drop it in the water with me for a good 58 degree bath. I have come to the agreement with myself that I have to snow bath for a bit almost every single day until my fitness adapts to this.

And I am super psyched.



February 24, 2010

Our son is considered to have special needs, and often the question I am asked is “what’s wrong with him?” of “what’s his diagnosis?”….. I don’t give one. I don’t believe in classifying children or identifying children by their disabilities. Diagnosing is the medical profession’s way of categorizing into treatment modalities, the educational system’s way of categorizing into classrooms or getting services, and the world’s way to bill for all of it.

Many times parents will come to me either as a nurse or as a mother of a child with special needs and introduce them as…. This is Charlie, he has ADHD. If my parents had walked me around and said This is Mary, she’s Bulimic……. I would have died. They didn’t introduce my brother as the Diabetic or my sister as the girl with the tumor in her leg.

I don’t introduce Luc that way. Can you imagine? Hi this is my child and here is what is wrong with him. That teaches a child that not only is something wrong with them…… but that something is wrong with them!!!!! There is nothing wrong with any child. There are differences, but nothing wrong.

That also insinuates that if something is wrong….. then it can be fixed. It’s not that we need to fix something, or cure something….. we just need to roll with it. There is nothing to fix in these kids.

Many offer a diagnosis as an excuse for behavior. Charlie is running around…. oh well, he’s Got ADHD, ODD and PDQRX. My son is expected to have good behavior regardless of a diagnosis. A diagnosis of anything is not an excuse for a child to be rude, inconsiderate or impolite. Or at least mine. And he knows that.

We are often complimented on his manners. When he meets someone he shakes their hand. We’ve been at the YMCA a few times where he has introduced himself to a kid, and when he shakes their hand they have asked me if something is wrong with him.

If someone shakes their hand…. something must be wrong with him? Wow.

I spent years focusing on what our son was behind on. I spent years looking for help from specialists, books, internet, but a year ago when I had to pull him out of a school that was essentially abusing him….. I know that’s bold to say but if you knew what he went through you’d understand…….. I realized that the only people who can really navigate this with him…. is us. His parents.

I began focusing on everything that was right with him. He doesn’t have his balance yet, so he rides his bike with training wheels. So he competes in triathlons with training wheels. He is at grade level with his reading (for years he was behind)… so we read 3rd grade level books. That sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? I just know too many folks who insist their kids read above grade level, they struggle and hate reading.

He swims like a fish. He is thriving in his new school. He’s learning again.

For a long time he was in such a bad situation and place educationally it was unbelievable that he learned anything at all. He was portrayed as a bad kid. They placed heavy restrictions on him, he was a square peg they tried and tried to fit into a round hole. If he inhaled when they said exhale…. they called the crisis team (and really…. thats not much of an exaggeration).

So when I yanked him out of that school one day, we changed everything by focusing on what he can do and slowly nurturing those things. we put so much focus on people’s limitations rather than their strengths.

Bill Gates focused on his strengths…. and look where he is now.

Michael Phelps focused on his strengths….. and look where he is now.

If we tried to make Phelps into a runner and Gates into a hair stylist…. just because those were their weaknesses….. how on earth would they ever be happy?

Why do we do that to kids?

Why do we introduce them with a disability?

What I am not articulating very well is that….. as a parent of a kid with some needs…..  I have learned the hard way that my husband and I are the best possible advocates for him and for his growth. Doctors and treatments can help, but we are his front lines. It means encouraging him to play his strengths, allow his limitations to come around as they come around. We’ve got therapists for those we don’t need to make those the highlight of his day. It means continuing to teach him morals and values, and not allowing his limitations to become excuses for behavior. It means focusing on the growth that he experiences every single day. It means keeping him in academic situations like he is now that foster learning and don’t try to stuff him into a round hole. He’s a square peg and he won’t fit. So we highlight that he’s his own person, he’s a square peg, and that’s a beautiful thing.

I dont’ seek treatments, I seek opportunities. I don’t identify him as X, I identify him as the beautiful young man he’s becoming.

His world is more challenging than for others. And yet his is easier than many more. The fine line of supporting him and letting him find his was is in fact a fine line. But it’s his path.It’s not something wrong with him, or that needs treatment, it’s just part of life.

Honestly I wouldn’t want him any other way.



February 23, 2010

To begin with today, click here for a really well written blog post by Chuckie V on Success.

I placed the black electrical tape strategically over my Ergomo to cover the heart rate and wattage data, and I chuckled to myself. Triathletes + Electrical tape. Such a funny sport we are in sometimes.

The tempo ride was pretty standard as far as tempo rides go. The main set was 2 X 20 minutes tempo with 5 minutes of recovery in between. In one form or another I have done this set a billion times. Today may have been the first without data to look at. So I snuggled my earbuds in my ears, and started to pedal.

The feeling I feel for while riding tempo is that feeling of going hard…… wanting to go harder….. sitting a bit on the edge…… but knowing that if my worst enemy in the world….. if you have ever watched Seinfeld I call this person my very own personal Newman….. if they came up to me I could drop them like a damn brick.

That’s the only way I can describe it. The feeling of teetering right on that edge, having the taste for going harder but staying in the box. The sweet spot.

Now to answer a question…… this little test of mine is not Wizard approved. That’s why I am still recording the data at the end. He knows about it, hasn’t weighed in one way or another….. but I know it’s something I have to explore. If the power meter dies, or I should say when it does, when the Garmin won’t turn on, I don’t want to be lost.

I want to be found. But I want to be found today not when I need to be 100% focused.

I nailed the tempo ride better and more evenly than I have ever nailed it by watching power. I think many times, not all the time we get caught up in the numbers game. The numbers should teach us, not dictate us. Guide us not govern us. Electronics fail, my spirit never will.

This afternoon is a hill bounding run. The beauty of this run is that I always only wear a watch. I don’t need a HRM or garmin to tell me I am running in zone 310-C on a 22% grade hill.



February 22, 2010

Two days in and all is great. I have done 2 workouts so far with electrical tape covering any data except for time. I have nailed each one. But they have been easy workouts. I’m very glad to know I can hit my easy paces so far.

So far it’s a great feeling. I literally close my eyes, allow myself to be quiet and just listen. Your body knows much more than a heart rate monitor or a garmin or a power meter. Those are just tools. Use them to teach you but never become dependant.

It’s like full time yoga. My breath, my movement and my body. Tomorrow will be the real test as I have tempo efforts and hill bounding.

So far I like the freedom but the security of knowing I can look at what I need to at the end. To reassure myself that I in fact do know myself.

In other news our new website is live for Train-This! Please click here for a look! In recent years our awesome friends over at TWIN Advertising have been in charge of designing and hosting our site. Their company has changed and grown so much that their accounts are much bigger than ours! In this economy that’s freaking GREAT! So we decided to try our hand at some design with some help from our friends at Logical Solutions.

Bottom line….. you need some advertising help? TWIN is your place. Johnny G has been a great friend to me and my favorite part of our friendship is busting on him on the field and in his office. Frighteningly there is a giant poster sized picture of me on TWINS wall, which is so darn weird! Now if Johnny G would let me have at his swim stroke…..

So lots is going on, check out the new site, we’ve got some good programs going on and coming! And stay tuned for the data-ess updates!



February 21, 2010

I love new challenges and chances ….. opportunities to excel. So I am issuing a challenge to myself this week. For 7 days I will not look at a heart rate monitor, a power meter, a computrainer or a garmin. Oh I will still wear them and record every workout just like I always do…. but they will be covered with electrical tape. I will not even look at them until the end of the workout to see how I did and how finely I can or can not still tune into my body.

Typically I pride myself with being tuned in, but at the same time I fear that I have become too reliant on all the gadgetry of this sport. The gadgets have taught me so much, now it’s time to take them to the next level. When I spot check myself I can tune into the right pace, heart rate and power….. but can I do that for an entire week?

And how would that feel to be so disconnectedly connected?

These devices ultimately fail. I have seen one too many people standing in transition trying to “locate” their Garmin, spending the first miles of a run fidgeting around with the electronics rather than enjoying the race itself. I do not want to ever spend a moment doing that. I haven’t, but I don’t want to get caught up.

I want to know that when it counts and batteries die….. that I know myself better than anything that runs on battery ever does. I want to know at mile 18 at Ironman Florida that I am on pace without having to even look at the Garmin, or time the miles. I want to know…. that I can know.

Call it the week of going naked. I think I might like this.