Neurogenesis. The process of the brain producing new brain cells. This was believed for decades to not exist–Despite case-study evidence to the contrary. At any rate, this is the first step in reprogramming your brain.
For the Warrior, neurogenesis provides a unique opportunity to reprogram the brain. Exercise contributes to neurogenesis–it induces the growth of new brain cells. This is great because we are already training and exercising. New brain cells are already being generated. However, this is not enough.
New brain cells alone will not make things different. These are raw cells that need to learn stuff. They can learn what you already know. Or you can program them with new information, habits, behaviors, reactions.
Bottom line: New brain cells need to be programmed with something–this can be negative habits or new, positive behaviors.
Your move. You’ve got these new brain cells. What are you going to program them with? You need to consciously decide what learning, what habits, what behaviors you’re going to expose these new brain cells to.
You can pick up a new book. You can take a class. You can Meditate. Meditation, with its own effects on the brain, seems like a great way to double-down. You can continue your old, bad habits.
Scott Herrick, talks about the necessity of keeping your supply train running smoothly during training, especially for Ironman. Here, he is referring to all the myriad activities which are necessary just so you can show up each day, ready to train. Washing training gear, washing water bottles, buying food, preparing homemade concoctions, resupplying worn gear, shopping, scheduling training, bike maintenance–the list is long–and then, doing all these things well in advance.
There is a training effect from wrestling these decidedly non-training tasks into place. Whereas, being in the best shape of my life is definitely a boon for my general health, well being, and balanced mind-state, the supporting activities are also a boon for the pure organization of my life and my mind.
Simply being forced to think about fitting all the pieces together, and the ensuing effort to fit them together, has made my life in general more organized and simplified.
This has been a progressive adaptation. Much like muscular development: I started out small, adapted, increased intensity, adapted, and progressed. Beginning years ago with a gym program, then getting increasingly back into running, then layering on triathlon, then longer distances of triathlon and more races, now Ironman, which I consider a separate category due to the unique pressures of its training.
I am more thoughtful about my commitments. I am more organized. My day-to-day activities are streamlined and simplified. I have been forced to actually abide by my MIT task-management philosophy. My mental state is clearer. Not to mention, my laundry not only gets washed, but even folded.
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Confession: I weigh myself on a scale several times per week.
The scale, or more specifically, body weight, is something of a loaded subject in our modern ego-driven, hyper-sexualized, glamour driven, air-brushed, before -and-after culture. Most people associate its use singularly with weight-loss. Weight loss being about as pervasive, yet non-specific a topic as can be found in health discourse.
I do not weigh myself with the aim to lose any weight. A few things I am looking for:
- Significant fluctuations, and corresponding behaviors
- Ensure my nutritional intake is in line with my training volume: specifically to stay in a certain range above what I’ve determined to be my best racing (fighting) weight.
- As a figure in calculating body-fat percentage. Again monitoring body-fat for significant fluctuations, and to stay in a certain range.
- To keep my training weight a couple of pounds over my race weight. My race weight being that number I was at when I felt the strongest in a race. Not sluggish, and not depleted. This is only known by tracking weight against performance, along with some other numbers, and adjustments for other impacts on weight like detox and cleanse.
What I don’t care about is the number for its own sake. I don’t care about height weight charts. I don’t care what other guys at the gym weigh (many are bigger and weigh more, but can’t lift more). If the FDA or USDA said it, I probably don’t care about it, and will likely do the opposite, knowing how wrong they are. I don’t care what some guy in Men’s Health looks like, as he probably can’t out-lift, out-run, out-swim, out-survive me, especially once the airbrush work is done. (Wow, how’s that for some vanity)
I track body weight in correlation with several factors, and have determined what is healthy for me.
For example, after Augusta last year, I noted a significant weight loss. I also discovered I was overtrained. The low body weight began before Augusta and also accompanied an increased resting heart rate for a few months post race. My deduction from all this was that I had overtrained going into Augusta. It was likely the result of injuries a month or so ahead of the race, and then my push to compensate for the lost training time.
Lesson: Carefully monitor my training volumes against my recovery times and nutrition, using several measurements to augment my own intuitive sense.
Another use for body weight it determining my hydration levels. If my weight is low, and my body-fat numbers are screwy, despite how I feel, I’m likely dehydrated. It could be my plasma hydration is fine, but my general electrolyte levels are off, affecting my muscle hydration.
Low body weight (below my training weight), can indicate I’m not taking in enough calories, or maybe my protein intake is off. Each of which can cause training to be a negative, or can lead to overtraining.
As mentioned a couple of times above, I track body-fat composition and use that as an indicator for several things.
A pop in body weight, especially after an out-of-town trip, can indicate I was eating too much crap on the road, and am now bloated. Time to flush my system.
Almost all of these indicators are accompanied by a feeling, that if I tune into, my body will tell me what is going on. However, one of the things about being an athlete, is ignoring certain signals our body sends us, despite how loud they may be screaming.
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Another great day at the Georgia Veterans Triathlon (Sprint). I managed to put up a personal best for this race, despite sucky swim and bike conditions.
My previous posts for this race:
This may be my last prep race before Augusta 70.3 and then, Ironman Florida. My main goals were to test some recent equipment changes, some transition tweaks, and nutrition strategies. From those respects, everything went very nicely.
Down and Dirty
I really enjoy this race. It was my first triathlon. This is my third time doing it. The swim, swim transition, bike course, and run course are all very friendly, and conducive to the first-timer, or the vet looking for something fun. This time around, the weather was less than friendly with recent thunderstorms creating choppy lake water, and wet bike pavement. There was a slight drizzle for the swim start, but it was gone by the time we got out of the water. The roads were wet for the bike, making navigation on the older road beds tricky. However, the roads had dried a good bit by the run start. I put up a personal best on this course, despite these issues. It was a good day.
Distances: 400 yard swim, 13.6 mile bike, 5k run. With relay team option, also
Course: Loop 400 yard swim in Lake Blackshear;
13.6 mile loop bike, no aid stations;
5k out and back run, 2 aid stations (can hit them going each way).
Registration: $55, early mail-in, USAT member. I hate online registration through those thieves at Active.com .
Host: Georgia Multisport
Weather: I could see thunderstorms in distance on the road to the race. It had clearly recently rained, and the race start was delayed 30 min, due to the delay in clearing the course from the recent thunderstorms. (good thing too, because a tree had evidently needed to be cleared from the bike course roadway). It was drizzling as we waited to start the swim, but that ended before we got out of the water. The wind did, however, create the choppiest swim conditions I’ve seen to this point. Even more difficult than Turtle Crawl. Good training though–we can’t predict what race conditions will be for any future race, and it is necessary to train and be prepared for all sorts of things. Same goes for the bike. The road was wet, and at least one guy I passed got some road rash. He stated all was good, though. My front tire was skipping on the older eroded sections of asphalt. Perhaps I could have taken a few pounds of pressure out of the front tire, but then again it was fine on the smooth sections which make up maybe three-quarters of the course. Weather for the run ended up being ideal, and I was blowing past people at a high rate of speed.
- Swim–Start at a sandy boat ramp. A simple out for 150 or so yards, hang a right for 100 or so, and back.
- Bike–Fairly flat. The first third to half is twisty and mildly technical. A couple of slow risers on the second half. Virtually dead flat on the last stretch.
- Run–Fairly flat also, a couple of short rollers between mile 1.5 and 2.5. Punch it after the last turn.
Competition: Mixed bag of super fast guys, and first-timers.
My results: Mid pack on swim, Mid pack on bike, and front on run. An improvement for me all things considered. My greatest opportunities still lie in the swim and bike. Need to work on muscular endurance for swim to better overcome tough swim conditions. Once warmed up on the bike, I was able to build speed and hold it. On the run, I kept my strokes short, and continued to build speed after first mile.
General Impression: I really enjoy this race. It is well organized. Safety, especially on the tricky portion of the bike is a priority. There is roadway traffic, but it is light with no jerks. Nice looking t-shirt.
Room for improvement: No complaints.
This time I made the three hour drive from home race day morning with no hotel stay. This year it is important that I control my expense with two very expensive races on the calendar. The previous two years I’ve spent the night before in a local hotel. Also, with more experience, for these shorter races, I can wake up early, make the road trip, bust a race, ride back, all in one day. Trick being, as with all races, to get a really good night’s sleep the second night before. How many races can you really get a good night’s sleep the night before anyhow?
My goals were to test some things in preparation for Florida.
- I had recently installed an new wheel set, which works beautifully, however the new gearing had some kinks to work out.
- I’ve been training in Vibrams, but don’t want to race in them for a couple of reasons, hence I recently bought some Saucony Hattoris and wanted to test them in a race scenario.
- New water bottle configuration, and homemade sports drink.
- New bungee swim goggle straps, which have been working great in the pool, also worked great in the lake.
I woke up about 3am, got packed, out the door, and on the road by 4am. Arrived at the venue right at 7am, set up transition, chilled out for a while. Got a good warm up swim. Bust the race. Ate some post race food. Saw I had no chance of medalling, and made the three hour drive to the princess’s soccer tournament. After the tournament, drove home one hour. Showered and made it to Keb Mo / Aaron Neville concert not too late.
Such is the life.
It was a good day.
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First the low down: Just came in at 9.8% body fat, at about three pounds over my fighting weight.
I have been ostensibly following the slow-carb diet–of which I have had some success, first going under 10% briefly a few months ago. I say ostensibly because in Ironman training, my calorie burn, delivery and demands are fairly high–not so easy to fulfill on Tim Ferris’s guidelines. My monthly training calorie burn had been around 15,000 for the past six months, and just spiked to 25,000 in July. I expect it to stay in the 25,000-35,000 range until I race. I have not dropped weight, but I’ve been hovering around 11% the last few months.
The main diet rules I’ve been actually adhering to are:
- Food selections very similar to my old simple diet rules
- High protein breakfast, and no fast carbs–generally 4 eggs, and often 1/2 can of black beans. Coffee is a must.
- High protein meals throughout the day.
- No fast carbs in the morning.
- I’ll increase starch consumption, if necessary, later in the day.
- Virtually no sugar throughout the week.
- Religiously observe my cheat day on Saturday–often including two dozen chocolate chip, or peanut butter cookies.
- Drink virtually nothing but water and coffee through the week. I don’t even really hit sodas on my cheat days.
- Consume massive amounts of yogurt (home made, organic)
- Make my own sports bars.
- Make my own sports drinks.
- Drink mucho agua, especially during workouts.
- Maintain my weightlifting regimen, especially olympic and heavy lifts.
- Not to mention the 6-10 additional training sessions each week.
Well there are some more, especially surrounding food selection, but these are the gist. Many of the points above could be technically grouped together, but I’ve separated details for clarity.
For those who’ve paid attention, there are many rules I am breaking. However, adhering to these above is working.
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Wow. I’ve been on this road for 250 days. Today my hams, glutes, right knee and left achilles are bugging me. The hams and glutes are from a return to heavy deadlifts this week. The knee is from my ride last Sunday which revealed some mechanical adjustments I need to make to my set up. The achilles is a flexibility issue, radiating down into my ankle. I ran 6.8 miles yesterday at 11+ pace. Not very impressive.
Taking all this into account, it doesn’t feel like I’m making great progress. However, when I look at my training charts, I can see that I’m posting bigger everything than I ever have, even the month of 70.3 Augusta last year–particularly when I look at overall effort, which I tracked very simply as calories burned. There are a couple of outlier weeks–like the actual week of Augusta, and the week of Warner Robbins 13.1. On the other hand, weeks of other races, which used to be outliers, Olympic distances, for example, now look like normal training volumes.
The great insight in all this? I couldn’t tell you, really. I do know that according to my volumes, I’m ready for Augusta right now–8 weeks out. My prep for Augusta, is really my full Ironman plan, pushed up by 6 weeks. Thus, though it does not feel like it–I’m on track to be good for Florida.
Maybe the insight is trust the training. What do you think?