Swim Anxiety, Building Confidence, and Silencing Critics

Swim Anxiety, Building Confidence, and Silencing Critics

I used to be the poster-child for swim anxiety.  Every time I got out of the water in a race, I felt like my chest would explode.  Then I’d spend the first 5 miles of the bike getting back to normal.

This went on for a few years, then I discovered the power of frequency.

Before Ironman Louisville I spent nearly 3 weeks swimming every day.  Not terribly long, but usually 1500 or so.

Two things happened:
– I got very comfortable and relaxed in the water
– I got faster

I’m a firm believer the latter is deeply connected to the former, and I think this holds true for all three disciplines in triathlon.

The more you do it, the more comfortable you are.

I swam a 1:06 that day in Louisville, by far my fastest Ironman swim.  The main thing I remember was how patient I was in the water.  I wasn’t trying to “race” but stay in my box and relax.

Frequent swimming gave me the confidence I needed to get out of the water fresh.  I still remember the feeling I had running to my bike after that swim. I had a genuine bounce to my step.

Now, what happened after that swim on a scorching hot summer day in Louisville is a different story, but that had more to do with neglecting the bike and run in training.  Hence the eternal dilemma of triathlon and why it’s so difficult to build confidence in all three sports.

On our latest podcast we take a deeper dive into swim and cycling anxiety, building overall triathlon confidence and silencing the critics who can seem threatened by your growth.

We appreciate all the email to CrushingIron@gmail.com and the great reviews on iTunes.  Thanks for listening.

How To Not Suck At Cycling

How To Not Suck At Cycling

I’ll never forget the first time I was on a triathlon TT bike, I felt like an idiot.  It was nothing like my childhood days of riding to pool.  It was a stiff, awkward, and uncomfortable experience . . . never mind trying to lay down in the aero bars.

Eventually my body adapted and I learned to “tolerate” riding on my fancy new tri-bike. But I made a lot of mistakes that could have made my cycling a lot more enjoyable.

Cycling is probably the most complex of the three sports in triathlon.  It also takes the most time, which is why it’s important to simplify as much as possible.

In today’s podcast we dive into the nuts and bolts of cycling in a way that helps you become a better cyclist without all the confusion.

For example, it’s not uncommon to spend hours researching and buying an expensive helmet that will do far less for you than getting a good bike fit.  We also talk about a major mistake most people make when training in effort zones.  There’s some good stuff that I think will re-callibrate your riding senses.

Also covered in this podcast:

– Choosing the right bike
– What results you need from a bike fit
– Solid Baselines for your training
– Understanding Zones 1-5
– Why you’re likely making a common training Zone Mistake
– Training with RPE, HR, and Power Meters
– Picking the right helmet
– Buying a suit
– Hydration set up
– Race Wheels

Let us know what you think at CrushingIron@gmail.com.  Also check out our popular series “How To Not Suck At Swimming.”

Listening To Your Body

Listening To Your Body

Yesterday I was driving by the YMCA and decided to go for a swim.  It was a chilly day and I stood in front of my locker in underwear, shivering.

My gym bag and swim trunks were sitting on the floor and I was literally 30 steps from being in the pool.  That’s when my mind started with the games.

“Maybe you should just go for a run, or better yet, hop on the trainer in the warm living room when you get home.”

I was dumbfounded by the ridiculous, but powerful dialogue that nearly convinced me to get dressed and leave.  Thankfully I remembered Steven Pressfield’s book “Do The Work.”

Pressfield talks about what he calls “resistance” and how it’s on a  constant mission to keep you separated from your dreams and goals.  He labels resistance as: fear, self-doubt, procrastination, addiction, distraction, timidity, ego and narcissism, self-loathing, perfectionism, etc.

Somehow I managed to beat resistance by simply reaching down, sliding into my cold shorts, and walking toward the pool.  What happened next turned into one of my better swims of the year.

How do we go from having virtually zero physical desire to excelling in the swim, bike or run that follows?  It made me wonder if in those moments we are holding onto massive tension in the form of pent-up energy that is disguised as lethargy and disinterest.

It was different than “being tired” or feeling overworked.  I felt more tense and constricted.  That cold-kinda-feeling that says, “stay in bed.”

It was a perfect example of “not” listening to my body, but more often than not, I do.

I have a long history of stopping a workout when I know that I could go further.  Yesterday’s swim was a good example.

I’m still working back into swim shape, so I set out to go 2,000 meters.  A comfortable, controlled swim to re-gain form and confidence.  Around 1200 I felt an excellent rhythm and decided to stop while I was ahead.

Two thousand meters felt like it was in the bag, but I wasn’t in the mood to risk any kind of exhaustion.  It was all I needed and in the Ironman-game, pulling back is one of the toughest things to do.

It’s kind of like wearing a watch to make sure you go slow enough.

Finishing an Ironman doesn’t happen in one day.  Sometimes it takes years to do it right, but a lot of us, including me, tend to rush it.  Not only the first, but the next and next.  This is a sure fire way to burnout.

On today’s podcast, we talk about long-term progression, maintaining the spark, and when putting off Ironman for shorter races is a good decision.

We also talk about why Lionel Sanders (the man with the fastest Ironman time in history, 7:44:29) is passing on KONA in 2017.

And, there’s Mary Keitany of Kenya who’s won the New York City Marathon three consecutive times, but seemingly scoffs at the idea of any real “formal” training.

Enjoy our latest podcast: Listening To Your Body

Triathlon: Chasing a Dream, or . . .

Below is a picture I posted on Facebook 5 years ago. I was the heaviest I’d been in my life and depression was my new buzzword. I posted this picture as a “carb-loading” joke the night before starting a Couch to 5k running program. We did 6 sets of 60 seconds of jogging followed by 60 seconds of walking that first day. Since then I’ve finished 4 Ironman races and will likely do more. I’m almost positive you could do something similar if you put your mind to it.carbloading

As I reflect on that day, I remember how obsessed I became with the quest, to first, be a runner, then an Ironman.

There were a lot of pictures like the one above.  Posts of my Garmin after workouts, race results, or anything else to do with my new found love of transformation.

But, after about a year of that, I started getting self-conscious of my quest.  I remember how I would covertly steer seemingly every conversation around to Ironman, then I’d launch into a diatribe about how “amazing” everything was in my life because of triathlon.  But it wasn’t.

I was still struggling with many of the same issues and triathlon was mainly an addictive substitution.  My life balance was still out of whack.

I was definitely on a better path, but had to figure out how to balance the incredibly demanding sport of triathlon with other passions in my life.  And more importantly, how to use the momentum for personal growth.

I can honestly say I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  But I have been on a path of finding contentment in the simpler things in life.

I’m feeling more comfortable in my skin and finding clarity in the idea that this process is for myself.  Most people could care less if I just had a kick-ass 8 mile run, or swam 3,000 meters in the pool.

But some do.  And it’s those people I feel most comfortable with.  The ones who take genuine action towards being a better person, not only in triathlon, but business, creative pursuits, and exploration.  The ones that know it’s a long road and change, privilege, and understanding  doesn’t happen overnight.  The ones who realize we’re all flawed and life is a work in progress.

This is kind of the tone for our latest podcast.  We talk about the delicate balance between endurance sports and life.  The price of isolation, addiction, and obsession.  We ask questions like, “How can we trek 138 miles, ache in every inch of our body, and be sad an Ironman is almost over?”

I just love the drive and desire of people who take up triathlon.  I truly believe they are the type of person who wants to get the most of life through action.

Commitment to change is never easy, but it helps to have like-minded people in your corner.  Hope you enjoy this discussion.

De-Mystifying Swimming

De-Mystifying Swimming

Without question the biggest mystery for triathletes in training, is swimming.  The fact that you literally cannot breath half the time can be tricky, and the fact that drowning is a real possibility probably doesn’t help.

When our breathing gets out of control on the bike or run, we instinctively know how to slow down without fear.  But slowing down in the water isn’t as natural.

In each of my first four races I slowed to either a breast stroke or started treading water to catch my breath and slow my heart rate.  There are not many feelings worse!

That’s why I made it my mission to get that anxiety-piece out of my triathlon-puzzle.  I became obsessed with learning how to relax in the water.

The biggest breakthrough came when I committed to swimming every day for two straight weeks.  I didn’t go long (usually between 1-2,000 meters) but the repetitive nature of my practice made a huge difference.

I naturally got faster, but I really think it was because I was more relaxed. Being “tight” in the water (and land for that matter) is my biggest enemy.

After about 7 straight days of swimming I noticed a very simple thing: That first plunge into the water didn’t feel cold or weird or uncomfortable.  My body had adapted, and I really think that’s the biggest win you can have as a swimmer.

In today’s podcast we go back into the water for a follow up piece to “How To Not Suck At Swimming.” Part 2 takes a closer look at swimming technique, and more importantly ways to remove the mystery.

Coach Robbie lives and breathes open water swimming and he’s back with another round of great insight to becoming faster, stronger, and more efficient in open water.  Topics covered today are:

– Proper breathing – How and When
– Body Positioning and how to get it right
– Hand entry and exit – How and When
– How to deprogram from bad advice, including workouts that get you there
– How to structure a swim week of workouts
– Should you join a Master’s Team?
– Swimming square and why you swim crooked
– A big announcement from Coach Robbie
– Which country has the second most Crushing Iron listeners

If you feel you’re getting some good information, please subscribe and review on iTunes.

Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

Triathlon 101: In The Beginning

It was the morning of my first triathlon and I was understandably nervous. So many fears:  My first open-water swim, the unknown of running off the bike, and walking around in public wearing head-to-toe spandex.

It was actually lycra, but the self-awareness was frightening.  I stood on fast-warming concrete and waited with about 600 others to enter the water. Truth be told, I still didn’t really know how to swim and I was about to jump into the fast moving Cumberland River in downtown Nashville.

We filed down the pier and soon my number was called.  With an exhilarating (and fearful) scream, I plunged into the murky water for a 300 yard swim.  Six minutes later I fought the current with all my might just to get to the ladder with a VERY high step.  I couldn’t get my foot on there and did more of a pull-up-to-body-flop onto dry land.

Everything about that day was a trip.  The feeling of running to my bike was wild.  Gasping for air as I tried not to lose my balance.  Trying to remember what to take off, leave on . . . and put on.  I didn’t know anything about transition and started running out without my helmet, of course.

We hear all this stuff about nutrition, aero bars, race wheels, and on and on, but so much of it is overkill in the beginning.  If I had to do it over again, I would probably do everything in my power to think of my first time as a practice race.

Again, this was a sprint, so the run was 3.1 miles, but it was . . . um . . . weird. I wasn’t yet used to the feeling of running off the bike.  This feeling stayed with me for a few races, but now I almost look forward to running after loosening up the legs.

I finished the race that day and it was genuinely one of the best feelings I’ve ever had.  I thought I’d just scaled a mountain but it was just the beginning.  I was hooked.

I’ve gone on to do many Olympics, several 1/2 Ironman, 4 fulls, and yes, more Sprints.  I love them all.

I think the key is to keep moving forward is to have patience with our development.  It doesn’t happen overnight, but it eventually happens.  You will fall in love with the sport and hopefully with how it makes you feel.

In today’s podcast we talk about the most important things to consider before doing your first triathlon and how you can stay in the game for a long time.  We also share ways to make starting triathlon a LOT less expensive.

Here’s an outline of our podcast:

  • Things to consider before signing up for your first race
    – location
    – brand
    – race management
    – time of year
  • What made you want to do a “triathlon” in the first place – Finding your “why”
  • Gear: Items you HAVE to have, would be nice to have , and items that are just  because you WANT to have them
  • How to set up a plan for success
  • How to know if you are ready to go to the next distance 

New Crushing Iron Video Trailer

New Crushing Iron Video Trailer

Tomorrow marks the 19th Crushing Iron podcast.  With that, I thought I’d make a little trailer showcasing some of the comments we’ve got from listeners.

Thanks to everyone who is listening and there are a lot of you!  If you haven’t please check one out and let us know what you think at crushingiron@gmail.com.

You can listen to any of our podcasts here or better yet, subscribe and comment on iTunes.

Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Triathlon Trends: Fraud or For Real?

Everyone’s looking for an advantage, and that’s certainly true of triathletes.  But sometimes you have to wonder if we’re taking placebos.

There is an endless supply of accessories, nutritional options, and advice, but where should it stop?  Or should it keep going?

That’s the topic for today’s podcast, and it will certainly ruffle a few feathers, but it is genuinely an open and honest discussion about which trends are fraud and which are for real. There’s a lot of gray area in this stuff and we address most of it.

Fraud of For Real?

  • Compression Socks
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Stretching
  • Ice Baths
  • Altitude Training
  • Heat Training
  • Oxygen Masks
  • Coca Cola
  • Pull Buoys
  • Wind Breakers
  • And all of the intricacies that could actually make some frauds for real.

Here are the reference links discussed in the podcast:
Chocolate Milk
Stretching
Ice Baths
Compression Socks

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

Tackling Your Bike To Save Your Run

When I think back to training for my first Ironman, there’s one word that always pops up: uncertainty.  It’s just such a great unknown that there’s no way to really assure yourself you’re going to finish.  And yes, while I floated in Lake Monona that cool Fall morning waiting for the Ironman Wisconsin cannon there was a lot of doubt.

I mean, how can you know?  I never came close to completing 140.6 miles in one day of training.

But there were signs along the way.  Doing an Ironman 70.3 in Muncie definitely gave me a glimmer of hope.  Even still, that was only HALF of the distance.

Then, shortly after that 70.3 I rode my first Century Ride to the tune of 120 miles on the challenging terrain of Natchez Trace in Nashville.  It was also raining much of that day, and while I was absolutely fried, I began to “see” the possibilities in my mind.

And I think that’s the key.  Something has to click.

Going into that first Ironman, my furthest run of my life was only 14 miles, but for some reason I instinctively knew that I could slog my way through the marathon.  Especially if my legs were strong from riding.

I was still building base in every discipline, but spent a ton of hours on spin bikes and the trainer.  Ultimately, I believe it was the purposeful 1.5 – 2 hour trainer rides that made the difference for me.  The hard crunching big gears and the sweat dripping high cadence rides not only produced a strong bike at Wisconsin, but a solid run despite never coming close to a marathon beforehand.

I feel like the marathon looms in everyone’s head, but the true anxiety of Ironman is in the swim and bike.  To me, that is the exact reason the swim and bike should be the first two priorities, especially for age groupers doing their first Ironman.

That’s exactly what we talk about with fellow age grouper, Blaik, who was the first guest on our Crushing Iron podcast (embedded below).

Blaik was training for Ironman Lake Placid (his first) and putting much of his faith in Coach Robbie, who didn’t seem to be prescribing enough running.  Blaik isn’t a huge fan of running, but was still a little unsure why his training was so bike heavy with very few long runs.

As it turned out, Blaik ended up negative splitting his marathon at Lake Placid, and while it wasn’t his best time, he felt like it was his best marathon performance to date.

On this podcast Blaik walks us through how he responded to a full year off due to injury and turned up his swim and bike on the way to his first Ironman finish in Lake Placid.

Here are just a few of the things we talk about:

  • Breaking your bike into two in one day
  • Cycling workouts that are best for your run
  • The best way to attack your trainer workouts
  • The great cadence debate – high rpm or low rpm?
  • From Injury to a negative split run at Ironman Lake Placid.
  • How to “use” your 70.3 effectively when 140.6 is next
  • Is your long weekend run overrated?
  • Finding that breakout moment to give you confidence.
  • Single leg drills

The Holidays and Rest

The Holidays and Rest

Two weeks ago I got a head and chest cold and have been battling it ever since. It’s been a tough pill to swallow because I wanted to keep my swim, bike, run routine tuned up, and hit the new year with a solid base.  But I’ve been worn down and bummed out.

The other day I stumbled onto this article, and it gave me hope.  And let’s face it, what’s more powerful than hope?

It’s a piece by the Urban Monk that talks about the seasons being a conversion of yin and yang. As the Winter Solstice begins, Yin energy is at its peak but will soon be replaced by Yang energy which we should should ride with new projects and a return to workouts.

Sometimes this stuff is a little hard to explain, but essentially they’re saying not only should we be resting at this time, it is essential if we want to attack the next wave.  From the article:

“So why rest? Here’s the rub. Winter is for hibernation. It is a time to be introspective and to gather all of our Qi so we can recover from the previous season…so we can have the energy and wherewithal to consciously participate in life through the next season and fulfill our heart’s desires. So where’s the rub? Look around you. People spend the tail end of the year getting drunk with coworkers in ridiculous red sweaters and frantically racing through shopping malls looking for plastic things made in China that promise to make our loved ones happy. Nobody actually rests. Any wonder why most Americans are sleep walking through their lives?”

I’ve always had a little trouble with holidays because they seem to hit right when I want to be crushing all my dreams, but in reality they are a great “forced” rest and recovery time.  And holidays should be experienced without guilt.

Guilt is a powerful motivator but, like anything else, too much can derail the best of plans.  So much of living right is about living free.  Harboring workout-guilt can be poison.

With all the crazy-over-hyped “workout motivators” in this world it’s easy to get sucked into the 24-7 “crush it mentality” but sometimes is more important to crush a nap.  And that’s exactly what I plan to do now.


Coach Robbie and I would like to thank everyone who’s listening to the podcast.  It’s really gaining steam and we appreciate all the feedback.  Please help us spread the word by sharing and from everyone at Crushing Iron, have a Merry Christmas.  Be back with you soon.