Wednesday, August 30, 2006
TRIATHLON - 1/2K swim, 15K bike, 3.2 mile run
Time Overall 1:19:25
Swim + T1: 0:14:01
Bike + T2: 0:36:11
Place (not that it really matters):
My post-mortem analysis:
My overall time was okay, and I had a good race, felt strong, and had a good time.
My swim time seems really, really slow. But when I figure that it includes T1 and that the surf was especially bad, I guess it wasn't that bad.
Bike: Don't really think I could have done much better. I'm happy with this time for where I am right now.
Run: W.T.F.?! My running has been getting slower and slower. I felt like I maintained a good pace and good form, and I normally don't run almost 10 min/miles. It's way past the time I start hitting the track for some speed workouts!!!
Monday, August 28, 2006
At 6:00, I made myself stop, change, and head out the door for a nice, gentle 4-mile run. Ah, the gorgeous sun setting over the Pacific as I ran along Torrey Pines. The smell of freshly cut grass emanating from the Torrey Pines Golf course. Do I actually live here? I'm glad I made myself do it. If I can just do a little something every day.
Now, back to work....Anyone want to hear about ApoAI, HDL, and reverse cholesterol transport?
Sunday, August 27, 2006
Finish time ~1:20
Finish time: ~50 min
I've been gradually returning to normal after my horrendous 3-week illness which set me back and ultimately caused me to forgo AFC's 1/2 marathon last weekend. It's been a slippery uphill slope. On a day-to-day basis, I can't gauge my improvement. But on a weekly basis, I can see I have more energy and am feeling better and better. I think a combination of overtraining causing a weakened immune system and an ill-fated gastric infection from the dairy farm (plus another virus to boot) caused me to fall flat on my back. However, it's been unusually difficult to beat the fatigue and get back to my perky self. It could be the virus in my system plus the stomach bug just took a large toll that my body will need a few months to reover from (many viruses can cause fatigue in patients lasting several weeks).
Just to be safe, I went to the doctor and had some tests done. My blood tests came back normal (almost). Turns out, I may have low thyroid (see below for more info on low thyroid). At age 28! My whole family has low thyroid and though I don't display some of the more common symptoms (weight gain), I do have a hard time keeping warm and have been extremely tired lately. So the doc ran a simple blood test. My thyroid hormone was on the low side (0.8) but not out of the normal range (0.8 to 1.6). But my TSH was almost 30. What? Off the charts! Anything over 4 "merits treatment." The doc wanted to start me on a high dose of daily thryoid medication. However, it's a pretty serious drug with some potentially adverse side effects (erratic heart beat was the one that caught my eye) so I went and got a 2nd opinion from a more conservative doc. This one will probably recommend thyroid treatment as well but he'll probably start me off on a lower dose. Plus, he's comparing these results to results 2 years ago (normal), and he's redoing the lab work (yea! needles!) in a few weeks to make sure. Hey, I'm a scientist. I need something more than an n of 1 to confirm off-the-chart results before getting excited. 29 just seems too high to be believable. Plus, the 2nd doc said illness could cause fluctuations in thyroid levels. Hmmmm. Did the illness cause the thyroid issues or the other way around. Hmmm.
I like the 2nd doc much better than the first one. The first one just wanted to get me on drugs and out of the office. Not acceptable. You really have to be your own health care advocate these days. Do the research. Know your body and your symptoms. Don't be afraid to get a 2nd opinion. Take the time to find a doctor you trust and can work with. Your doctor should respect your symptoms and your previous knowledge of your body. You know it better than anyone else. But I digress...
Anyway, I'm addressing my ridiculous fatigue. I'm doing all the right things, and I'm getting it figured out. I figure, if it's low thyroid, I've probably been developing it for some time and can hold off treatment for a few more weeks (zzzz) while I take the time to do the lab work correctly to confirm that is actually what's wrong.
In the meantime, I've been addressing my fatigue in other ways. I avoid caffeine late in the day. I go to bed early. I avoid naps like the plague, even if it means I'm a mega-bitch in the afternoons. I try to eat small, healthy meals frequently throughout the day. I make myself take breaks and restrain myself from going overboard on any one activity, which I'm prone to doing. I exercise almost every day but don't overdo it. Sigh. This level of discipline is tiring in and of itself but it does seem to keep me productive and functional as I get my fatigue figured out.
Another possibility is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), which is basically overwhelming fatigue and symptoms similar to the flu without having any indications otherwise (that can be detected) that there is anything physically wrong. Experts believe it could be due to a poorly functioning immune system or triggered by a virus but no one is really sure.
What struck me in reading about CFS was its similarity to overtraining syndrome. Indeed, in some articles about possible triggers for CFS, overtraining was actually listed. Interesting. In addition, in reading about overtraining, some articles stated that if overtraining was not addressed (by rest), symptoms could become chronic. I don't think I have CFS because my symptoms are not persistent enough and have not lasted for long enough. But it's just another illustration of what could happen if I ignored what my body is telling me. I think all the racing and hard training days I did back-to-back this summer took its toll. It's just another warning to myself to pull back, take it easy, and let my body recover. I'm amazed at how easy it is to trick yourself into overtraining mode in triathlon.
Overall, I feel really good about this week. 1. I found a doctor I like and who I can work with, and 2. I think I found a solution to my long-lasting fatiuge. 3. I've been able to control my fatigue somewhat through more rest, pacing myself, and nutrition and 4. was able to have a productive week both in lab, at home, and in training. 5. I did a workout almost every day--ran on Monday, swam on Tuesday, biked on Wednesday, did a club Aquathlon on Thursday, rested (smart) on Fri and Sat, and did the Imperial Beach Tri on Sunday. Tonight, I'm resting, eating, doing a little housework catching-up, a little reading for lab, and a lot of petting the buns.
By the way, the Aquathlon on Thursday was great. As always, I saw lots of great people, which is one of the best reasons to attend these things. I also met new people, including, Paul, which was awesome. Always good to meet fellow bloggers! I had a good, strong swim and run. I wasn't fast but I was steady. My base is still there, and that's what matters. The water was very inviting and warm. I saw lots of sting rays and leopard sharks! They're harmless but they swim in such shallow water; it's kind of freaky to see these long, skinny fish zipping under your arm. Yikes! The run was tough--on sand and a 2-lap course, which is mentally tough. But I actually felt better and better as I ran. I think the first 2 miles for me always suck. I'm such a long, slow distance person now. Guess it comes from the training.
On Sunday, I woke up, rarin' to go for the Imperial Beach Triathlon. I felt well-rested and prepared. It was "just" a sprint, and I can finally say that I can do a sprint and it doesn't kill me anymore. I can actually go out there and relax and have fun and put forth a good effort. It feels good to reflect on how far I've come. There weren't that many people there, which gave it a laid-back, friendly atmosphere. The swim was surprisingly tough. Even though the water looked gentle and calm the day before and had felt warm, Sunday morning brought some rough surf and FREEZING cold water. I forced myself to warm-up, vital for a sprint when the swim is over before it begins. Hurried to the start and got completely pummeled by a wave coming in. I hate when a big wave sneaks up from behind and you get caught in just the wrong way. You get sucked under and don't know which way is up or down. I try to let myself go limp, and I can feel the force and power of the ocean taking my body and bending it forward and backward at its whim. There's always that terrifying moment when I'm not sure if the wave is going to snap me in two or bash my head on the ground (in addition to breathing in a ton of water). I stay calm and zen out, and sure enough, I always end up popping up like a drowned rat, with the ebbing surf giggling after me. After getting spun around and swallowing a good deal of salt water, I shook it off and lined up on the start. The actual swim itself was pretty uneventful after my traumatic warm-up. I had no problem jumping on the bike and pedaling off, although I had to yell twice at people (spectators) to get off the course. Oh, and another time when a volunteer waved a bus through an intersection that I was barreling through. Hello! I'm riding here! But I kept my road rage in check. The bike felt awesome. It was over so quickly. Then, I was off and running. Found my stride and felt myself relax into it. I ended up pacing next to another woman in my age group I introduced myself and we chatted the rest of the way. It's so nice to meet people like that at these events. Makes it a little less lonely. I had a great surge across the finish and met someone else in a tri club uniform afterwards. I'm constantly amazed at how friendly everyone is in this sport in San Diego and how easy it is to meet good people. It's very refreshing. Especially b/c that hasn't always been my experience.
The rest of the day has been sleeping and relaxing. I'm going to hang back and restrain myself now to focus on training and being healthy. I'm gearing up for the San Jose Rock 'N Roll 1/2 Marathon Oct. 8th. Already have done most of the training since I just missed the last one so I really just want to maintain my base and have fun. After that, it's season wrap-up time (even though the season never really ends in San Diego) and a little rest before gearing up for next season. I'm already writing up a list of races I want to do (I have to cut several. sigh. too many. a happy problem) for 2007.
Informative websites on low thyroid:
Symptoms of Low Thyroid:
- lethargy and decreased energy
- cold intolerance
- muscle cramps
- muscle pain and stiffness
- weight gain
- dry skin
- mental slowing
- course hair and skin
Symptoms of CFS:
Four or more of the following symptoms must have been present for longer than six months:
- Short-term memory loss or a severe inability to concentrate that affects work, school, or other normal activities.
- Sore throat.
- Swollen lymph nodes in the neck or armpits.
- Muscle pain or weakness.
- Pain without redness or swelling in a number of joints.
- Intense or changing patterns of headaches.
- Unrefreshing sleep.
- After any exertion, weariness that lasts for more than a day.
2. The fatigue must be severe as indicated by the following:
- Sleep or rest does not relieve it.
- The fatigue is not the result of excessive work or exercise.
- The fatigue substantially impairs a person's ability to function normally at home, at work, and in social occasions.
- Even mild exercise often makes the symptoms, especially fatigue, much worse.
3. The fatigue must be a new, not lifelong, condition with a definite time of onset. Often, the condition first appears as a viral upper respiratory tract infection marked by some combination of fever, headache, muscle aches, sore throat, earache, congestion, runny nose, cough, diarrhea, and fatigue. Typically, the initial illness is no more severe than any cold or flu.
4. The symptoms must persist. In ordinary infections, symptoms go away after a few days, but in CFS, fatigue and other symptoms recur or continue for months to years. Many patients experience symptoms as recurring bouts of flu-like illness, with each attack lasting from hours to weeks.
Note: Other symptoms reported with CFS but not part of the criteria include intolerance to alcohol, irritable bowel syndrome, dry eyes and mouth, impaired circulation in the hands and feet, visual disturbances, and painful menstrual periods in women.
Overtraining and CFS:
Friday, August 25, 2006
2. Forget your water bottle and be too lazy to go back inside and get it.
(The security guard locked me out, and I would have had to clip-clop all the way around the building in my bike shoes).
3. Forget that the sun is setting earlier now that it's late summer and that it no longer stays light until 8 or 8:30.
4. Feel really good at the turn-around point and say, "Screw it! Let's go out just a bit longer."
5. When you reach the turn-around point, decide you feel SO good that you should make a loop instead of an out-and-back ride.
6. Decide to "find" this loop by doing some exploring and ride down roads never ridden before (a.k.a. basically, get lost on purpose).
Note to self: Just because a road starts out going in the right direction doesn't mean it's going to stay that way.
7. Aforementioned never-ridden-before roads are windy, narrow, and have no bike lanes.
8. And of course, these roads have lots of traffic and are super hilly.
9. Oh, and ride by yourself.
10. Neglect to have any sort of lights for night riding or luminescence whatsoever.
At mile, 21 as dusk had more than fallen and all the cars passing me now had their headlights on, I realized I still had a good 8-or-so miles to go before reaching home. I decided to surrender. I pulled over into a restaurant parking lot, noting the name of the restaurant, the road I was on, and the intersecting street. I then pulled out my handy cell phone and called Jason to come and rescue me. Sigh. It was a great ride despite my brazen idiocracy. He brought the bike rack, a lock, and a change of clothes and took me out to eat at a local brewery and restaurant (Rock Bottom), which put a nice finishing touch on the evening.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
Note: Thanks for all the great responses to the fat-burning post. You may want to check it out again. I added yet another "expert" response and a "recap" section to the bottom to sort out all the info.
Congrats to my friend J. and my husband, Jason, who both completed America's Finest City Half Marathon yesterday! I was kind of bummed not to be doing it myself but it was nice to go and support Jason. He finished looking very strong. Plus, I decided to volunteer. It was actually a privelege. I led the handicapped division on my bike to show them the way. Not only did I get to see the race from an awesome perspective (the front--one place I could never be except in a situation like this), but I got a bike ride in too! Because it was a one-way course, Jason dropped me off at the start, and I biked to the front, which was the workout. Then, I just relaxed and did a sort of recovery ride the other way, leading the handicapped division.
Let me just say, that the handicapped athletes were not at all handicapped! They were much faster than I could ever hope to be! One athlete ran with a prosthetic, and we passed mile marker 1 in under 5 minutes! Unbelieavable. The other 3 handicapped athletes were double leg amputees and zipped down the course in wheelchairs. Although going uphill was sometimes a challenge (all arms!), there were several times I had to push it to keep ahead. I did not expect to be getting that much of a workout! Fantastic. Plus, at one point, one of the athletes dropped a velcro strap which I turned around and sprinted to retrieve before the other runners caught up.
We started 5 minutes before the runners, and the lead runner didn't pass us until well after mile 11. It was incredible. I was transfixed, watching the lead Kenyan run away from me. His biomechanics were flawless. Each leg landed directly under him in a fixed rhythm. He looked like he was floating. He wasn't even breathing hard, and this was going up the hellish 1-mile hill at mile 12. He finished the race in under 1:03!!! He had flown in from Kenyan Friday night! I wonder what he runs like when he's not jet-lagged!
"Wilson Chebet, a Kenyan racing for the first time on American soil, and Russian Tatiana Chulakh who defended her title on Sunday. Chebet won in 1 hour, 2 minutes, 38 seconds, the second fastest time in the race's history and 14 seconds shy of the course record, while Chulakh ran 1:14:12. Both athletes were awarded $1500 for their victories. Over 5,948 participants enjoyed the hilly but scenic point-to-point course under mercifully-cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 60s."
Runner's Web news
Oh, and the athletes in the handicapped division? We came in shortly after, in under 1:10!!! After we finished, I went over and congratulated the athletes in the handicapped division. They were from Brazil and spoke limited English but fluent Spanish. Hablo piquito espanol so all I could manage was "Muy bien!" very enthusiastically. I definitely have a reinforced respect for physically challenged athletes. They are more fit than I am, and I have 4 functional limbs!
I then settled in by the finishing chute and watched the competitors sprint in. Yes, sprint. They made it look so easy. It was amazing to see such finely toned, highly-muscled legs. This one woman came floating past, and a crowd of fans cheered her on. I thought they were saying, "Kaylie," but than the announcer came on and said it was "Michellie Jones." Wow. I actually got to see her. And that's just a small training workout for her. She's been in many of the same races I've done this season since she lives in the area but I never got to see her before since she's always done by the time I start. It was so cool to actually see her. Very inspiring. Now, I just want to get out and go for a run!
Friday, August 18, 2006
Question: fat burning zone???
Does anyone know how and if this really works? I went for a run (if>you can call it that) with a friend and it was the most painful thing>to do becuase we were staying in our "fat burning zone". Her father>lost over 30 lbs using a monitor and staying in the FBZ, so he bought>her one. She has always been a runner and nothing has changed on her>body until she started staying in her FBZ. She was 131lbs, 27% body>fat and now she's 122lbs, 22% body fat. She lost 9lbs in 1.5 months.>This is completely different then I've evered trained. It was so hard>to go that slow and easy. But all the "hard" training I do has not>helped me get rid of the extra weight I would like to so I can improve>as a triathlete. I wonder if I should incorporate some of these>slower, steadier workouts in.
From what I've heard, the "experts" in the exercise community advocate exercising at a higher intensity rather than staying in the "fat burning zone." The original rationale behind the fat burning zone was that when you're exercising at a slower rate, your heart rate is slower, and the calories burned come from a larger percentage of fat than from glycogen (glucose). That is why long-distance triathletes also train at a slower pace. They want to avoid using up their limited glycogen stores since our fat stores are much greater and can provide a lot more energy than glucose. The downside is that it takes longer to break down fat to use for energy so when we begin training at a faster pace, our heart rates rise, our needs for energy increase, and the time it takes to breakdown fat is too slow to completely meet the demands of the body. As we train a bit harder, our energy comes from both fat and glycogen. Then, if we do a flat-out sprint, our body depends purely (100%) on glycogen at this point, which we can do for a very limited amount of time (under a minute). This is termed "anaerobic" and is not very useful for triathletes.
How does this apply to weight loss? For weight loss and exercise, your main concern is burning calories. It doesn't matter whether it comes from fat or glycogen. This is partly because glycogen can become fat and fat can become glycogen. In addition, our bodies use a mixture of both all the time. Basically, a calorie is a calorie and a net loss will lead to shedding of pounds. The more intensely you exercise, the more calories you burn so that is why exercise gurus advocate exercising at a higher intensity than the "fat-burning zone." You will burn more calories if you exercise at a higher intensity than a slower, fat-burning one during the same time period. On the other hand, the longer you exercise, the more calories you burn too. You don't want to go all-out and have to quit 5 minutes into your workout.
A lot of trainers nowadays are advocating interval training, where you alternate higher-intensity periods with low-intensity "recovery" periods. For instance, if you were biking, you could go hard for 5 minutes and then recover for 1 minute. The idea is that you can sustain this for a long period of time and still workout at a higher intensity. It also challenges your body more than if you were to maintain the same pace the whole time, which works different muscles, and also toasts calories.
These were other responses from some "experts" (excerise physiologists, nutritionists, etc.)
Something I have noted from personal experience is that by doing high intensity training you increase your tolerance for discomfort and depending on the level of intensity improve your anaerobic threshold. As this improves you are able to train harder for the same period of time and burn more calories or train at the same level of intensity for longer. Basically the fitter a person is the more calories then can efficiently burn in the same time period. You will see fitness improvements with low fbz training but eventually you will be limited by lack of anaerobic fitness, this will really start to hurt athletic performances that are common in a triathlon. FBZ (fat burning zone) training is great for easing into to the world of exercise and fitness as will initially help prevent discouragement due to discomfort and early training injuries when people do too much too fast. However I doubt you will ever get down to 5-10% body fat or perform very well in competitions without mixing in some higher intensity stuff. I also feel that after a high intensity workout you continue to burn more calories for longer during the recovery period.
The analogy I use is as follows:
Sit on the couch and we’ll burn the highest percentage of fat but obviously this training technique is not as effective as training in the FBZ. In the long run, 3500 calories equals 1 pound of fat and we burn the most calories per hour when we train “out of our comfort zone” or at higher intensities. The weight loss your friend has seen has to do with energy balance so obviously there was a situation where she was burning more than she was consuming too to allow for that weight loss to occur
This is actually a big misconception, and if you're looking for a "training effect" for triathlon, then this FBZ training is not for you. The misconception is that you "burn more fat". Yes, you burn a greater percentage of fat when training at that slower pace, but you DO NOT ACTUALLY BURN MORE FAT than training with more intensity.
When you increase the intensities of your workouts, you will burn a greater percentage of glycogen, and less percentage of fat, but the amount of ACTUAL FAT BURNED will be greater than going slower, or staying in the FBZ, and you will also get a better training effect. I can't quite recall any specific numbers from the research I've done, but it's not a significant percentage difference, and the intensity makes a BIG difference in the results of the workout!
If you're trying to get faster for triathlon, then you need to be focused on your intensity, not FBZ. Does this mean you should not include any Zone 1 workouts in your training? No, you should! But it should not be the focus of your training. This will also be dependent on your triathlon race goals, such as sprint distance vs. Ironman.
As with many concepts related to exercise training and the many related benefits, the effects and the rate of change can be quite specific to each individual, especially when we are talking about weight loss or body fat changes. However, there are recommendations that are backed by science that can be helpful when trying to maximize the fat burn training effect without jeopardizing your health or endurance performance level.
Specifically, related to your question "should I workout slower to optimize" fat burning?" Let me suggest to you that there is indeed a specific zone of intensity where you will burn the highest amount of fat calories per minute. Unfortunately, depending on the individual, those fat calories may not add up very quickly.
For example: during metabolic exercise testing and through a method call indirect calorimetry, scientists can evaluate the concentration of fat and carbohydrates that are utilized for energy at different intensities. Usually, during rest and at the lower exercise intensities we see the highest percentage of fat utilized. Keep in mind though, at rest and low intensity the overall calorie burn is quite low. So, if you are exercising in zone 1 you may be burning mostly fat, but your calories expended will take a lot longer to add up. Additionally, if you are not at a high fitness level you may be burning even less fat because you are doing even less work. For example, an elite level triathlete may be able to run an 8-minute mile pace with his or her heart rate in zone one (i.e., very lowintensity). Running at that speed will require a very generous amount of calories to sustain and most of it will be derived from fat. Alternatively, if I were running an 8-minute mile pace my level of intensity would be much higher and closer to, if not exceeding, the lactate threshold. That would put me at a zone 3 or 4 intensity level, which would require mostly carbohydrates since I'm already exceeding my fat burning zone. NOW KEEP IN MIND if I weighed the same as the elite athlete we would be burning close to the same amount of total calories to run that 8-minute mile pace. If we both ran an hour the elite athlete will have burned most of his or her calories from fat while I will have depleted much of my carbohydrate stores and very little fat due to "harder training".
QUICK REVEIW: As exercise intensity goes up so does the overall calorie expenditure, however the fat burn will usually increase only to a limited expenditure rate as other energy systems need to take over. Often, as your intensity approaches and surpasses the lactate threshold, metabolic testing reveals little to no fat calories expended and energy is derived from nearly100% carbohydrates. So, according to the above analogy you might surmise that I need to slow down if I am going to burn fat and ultimately lose body fat. However, things are not always how they seem. In reality my goal should be to become fitter so that when I run in zone 1 or 2 I am not doing a shuffle step or walk to keep my heart rate down. I do this by training at levels that stimulate continued improvement in my lactate threshold (LT). Training to increase my LT or sometimes referred to as the anaerobic threshold has been shown to be most effective when combining a variety of training levels. Specifically, sometimes I should train at or slightly above the lactate threshold (zones3-4) to stimulate LT overload adaptations and other times during longer bouts (zone 1-2) to enhance aerobic kinetics and fat burning adaptations. So there are different adapations at different intensities (i.e.,specificity of training).
Special Note: Recovery after the harder workouts is a key to seeing threshold improvements. As my threshold improves so does my sustainable pace and so does my ability to burn more fat calories and the total calories during exercise. Also, keep in mind the fact that burning off the extra body fat is dependent on how many total calories you expend at the end of the day as compared to how many you take in from food. So the additive effect of all exercise and activity will promote body fat loss.
Let me introduce a couple more energy/training related concepts that mighthelp you further understand the mechanisms involved with burning caloriesand losing body fat.
1. In the lab exercise scientists have discovered that exercise that is intense but sustainable (at or around your LT) for bouts up to an hour can have significant effects on how many calories you burn post exercise. There is a term for this called EPOC or excess post oxygen consumption. This concept suggests that you not only can burn calories during exercise but when sufficient work levels are sustained we can see additional calories, specifically fat, burned for several hours after exercise. However, usually individuals who are not very fit will have limited benefit from extra fat burned post exercise because they are generally not able to sustain work rates high enough to accumulate much of an additive effect from the fat burned.
SPECIAL NOTE: hard sustained exercise creates higher EPOC which alsorequires a longer recovery period because of the stress on the system and depleted energy stores.
2. There are studies that show elite endurance athletes who burn well over4,000 kcals per day often may only consume 2500-3000 kcals. These athletes continue to function and train for months on end and didn't necessarily continue to lose body fat (note: this low calorie intake is quite common among endurance athletes). Studies observed that the athlete’s metabolism adjusted to adapt to the limited energy intake by holding on to the stored fat. It was suggested that the training effect was also compromised due tothe lower fuel intake. The point I am making here is that how much and when you fuel your body can have an effect on your ability to use and burn fat. High stress loads with limited fuel restoration and recovery can affect metabolism for the worse. In summary, how to maximize your body fat burn is a comprehensive approach, not usually accomplished by quick and easy methods. We've all heard that there are no quick solutions like pills and starvation diets. Similarly, even the "fat burn zone" by itself is not as easy an answer as we might like.
Wow! That's a lot of great info. If you are overwhelmed, like me, here's a quick summary:
1. Basically, a calorie is a calorie and a net loss will lead to shedding of pounds.
We burn the most calories per hour when we train “out of our comfort zone” or at higher intensities. You burn a greater percentage of fat when training at that slower pace, but you DO NOT ACTUALLY BURN MORE FAT than training with more intensity. Burning off the extra body fat is dependent on how many total calories you expend at the end of the day compared to how many you take in from food. So the additive effect of all exercise and activity will promote body fat loss.
2. Alternate higher-intensity periods with low-intensity "recovery" periods.
If you're trying to get faster for triathlon, then you need to be focused on your intensity, not FBZ.
Specifically, sometimes I should train at or slightly above the lactate threshold (zones3-4) to stimulate LT overload adaptations and other times during longer bouts (zone 1-2) to enhance aerobic kinetics and fat burning adaptations.
Wednesday, August 16, 2006
For some of us, popping an aspirin is as common as brushing our teeth. But what are we really doing to our bodies when we treat an ache or a pain with some ibuprofen or break out the ice pack?
I've learned a lot about inflammation in the last few months since I joined the Immunology Department as a postdoc. In addition, our lab studies the connection between inflammation and atherosclerosis (accumulation of plaques in the arteries). Contrary to traditional belief, atherosclerosis is more than just a metabolic disease. It is also a chronic inflammatory disease, similar to arthritis or asthma. But I digress...
First off, what are NSAIDs? They are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, including aspirin (salicylate), Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil, etc.), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and COX-2 specific inhibitors, such as Vioxx or Celebrex. Although they all act on the same pathway, each drug has slightly different effects for unclear reasons.
Efficacy of Different NSAIDs:
For instance, in addition to pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory properties, aspirin is also the most potent at preventing clotting, which is why patients are advised not to take it before a surgery. In addition, people suffering from symptoms of a heart attack have been advised to take an aspiring while waiting for the ambulance. The reasoning behind this suggestion is that if the heart attack is being induced by a clot, the aspirin will thin the blood and potentially break up the clot. Acetaminophen is least effective in anti-inflammatory properties but is still effective as an anti-pyrogenic (preventing fever). In addition, acetaminophin is renowned for being gentle on the tummy. Ibuprofen is typically most effective in relieving aches and pains associated with soft tissue injuries and joint pain (overuse injuries from training).
How do NSAIDs work?
Invariably, all these drugs block pain by inhibiting the enzyme COX-2 (cyclooxygenase-2). This enzyme converts arachidonic acid (a type of fatty acid) into prostaglandins. There are several different types of prostaglandins, all of which have important functions in various pathways, such as stimulating cell growth, inhibiting cell death, stimulating the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis), recruitment of platelets (clotting), pain, swelling, and inflammation. Because COX-2 is involved in tissue repair and wound healing, studies have been done to investigate whether inhibition of COX-2 activity with NSAIDs might delay healing.
Sidenote--NSAIDs and fever:
"For the most common disorders associated with fever, however, there's no convincing evidence that fever itself hastens recovery from common infections or that it correlates with a better outcome. There's experimental evidence that higher temperatures are harmful to certain bacteria, but medical experts disagree about whether this translates into a role for fever improving our ability to fight infection. In fact, most experts do agree that suppressing fever (for example, with acetaminophen) is not harmful, may be helpful, and they would never suggest trying to raise body temperature when fever is present...Since higher body temperature doesn't contribute to recovery, efforts to raise body temperature during a fever aren't advisable and may even be dangerous. And while one's appetite may be poor when a fever accompanies illness, there's no clear benefit (and there may be harm) to the strategy of trying to "starve a fever.""
Sidenote--Side-effects NSAIDs (COX-1):
NSAIDs and Muscle Injuries:
In addition, if you have chronic inflammatory condition, like arthritis or tendonitis, the use of NSAIDs may actually be beneficial. In this instance, your body's immune system has tried (and failed; hey, we're not perfect!) to heal the injury but is now in a vicious, futile cycle of a chronic inflammatory state, which can actually weaken your body overall. The immune system can't be as good as a sentinel at warding off infection when its investing so much energy in inflammation for a chronic injury that's never going to heal.
Along similar lines, use of ice to reduce inflammation directly over the injured area, is also an effective measure of minimizing pain, reducing inflammation, and perhaps preventing onset of muscle trauma, soreness, and injury. Many Olympic and pro athletes, such as Olympic marathoners, Paula Radcliffe and Deena Kastor, swear by "ice baths" and actually lower their entire body into a literal bath of ice after a hard workout. Now that's hard-core! Cold reduces swelling and initially restricts blood flow, providing a natural compress on the microscopic tears in the tissue that are leaking blood into the traumatized area. Shortly, the body will recruit new blood to the cold area that flushes out metabolic wastes and lactic acid - byproducts of heavy muscle activity.
Other informative websites on NSAIDs:
Common Exercise Myths
OTC Pain Medication (Univ of Chicago)
NSAIDs and Musculoskeletal Treatment
NSAIDs and sports injury (Physioroom)
Ice Therapy websites:
Ice in Your Bath (Squashsite)
Research articles (NSAIDs and Treatment Injured Muscle):
1. Vignaud A, Cebrian J, Martelly I, Caruelle JP. Effect of anti-inflammatory and antioxidant drugs on the long-term repair of severely injured mouse skeletal muscle. 2005. Exp Physiol. 90(4):487-495.
2. Baldwin Lanier A. Use of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs following exercise-induced muscle injury. 2003. Sports Med. 33(3):177-185.
3. Dudley GA, Czerkawski J, Meinrod A, Gillis G, Baldwin A, Scarpone M. Efficacy of naproxen sodium for exercise-induced dysfunction muscle injury and soreness. 1997. Clin J Sports Med. 7(1):3-10.
Monday, August 14, 2006
Quitting is SO hard. But this is a situation in which I think dropping out is a good idea. I'm signed up for America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon. I was doing really well with my training. I had been running 3x/week, spacing it out, including 1 long run on the weekends. I was up to 10 miles, which I had done twice without any problems (surprisingly). I was feeling strong and proud of myself.
Then, I got my interesting stomach bug + fever-virus-thingie, and was laid up for almost 3 weeks. I went for a run for the first time since then this weekend. 4 miles. Felt great. Felt awesome, in fact. I'm amazed at how much I still have in me.
Now that the adrenaline is pumping, I'm frothing at the bit. I know I could probably do the 1/2 marathon next weekend. The plan was to try to do another 10 mile run this weekend, assess how it went, and then if all went well, do the 1/2 marathon next weekend verrrry slowly, maybe even walking the first few miles.
Sunday, we mapped out a 10-mile run. I have my new orthotics readjusted and put into a fresh pair of running shoes. Problem is, I'm having some pain in my outer right knee. Kind of odd b/c it started when I stopped training, which surprised me. I think it might be accumulated stress from doing the long runs the day after a race so many weeks in a row. I just didn't start noticing it until it stiffened up during the time off. It probably is an IT band issue since the pain is right on the outside knob of the knee that the tendons run over. I've had this before and I know exactly what I need to do: stretching, appropriate, targeted weight training, massage, new running shoes (yup), ice, NSAIDs, etc. So I know what to do with it.
However, my knee has convinced me it's not a good idea to do a half-marathon next weekend. I probably could do it. I know I could do it. And I want to really badly. But I just know if I do, I will need even more time off afterwards to heal from a running injury. If not my knee, something else. It's just not worth it. For the first time in my life, I'm going to hold back, and drop out of the race. I've never done this before. I hate it. I feel like I'm giving up. Like I'm quitting. But I know, in my gut, I'm doing the right thing. My body will thank me later for it. Did I make the right decision?
Friday, August 11, 2006
I'm feeling 200% better! Thank God! Tried to go for a run on Friday. I was ready. We went for 4 miles, and it felt wonderful. I felt zippy and excited. Jason kept telling me to stop skipping and jumping around or I was going to hurt myself. Like a filly out of the barn after a long winter! I did some quick weights afterwards just to get my muscles feeling it again. Saturday, we jumped in the pool, and I did some easy sets while helping to coach Jason with some drills. Again, it felt wonderful to slip through the water. I love that slippery feeling. Saturday afternoon we hit the roads with our bikes for a gentle 20 mile, flat ride. It all feels so good to be back in the saddle again!
I love how working out makes me feel. It gets all the juices flowing. I have all sorts of ideas running through my head about everything. It's like they were all backlogged and the run just sort of dislodged them. I'm having to write everything down. I think the downtime was good for me. Now, I feel rested and excited to get back at it again. That's lesson #1: Time off is good. Sometimes, time off, like a few weeks, is really good for the mind, soul, and body. Before, I felt so guilty about all the fitness I was losing. Now, I realize I didn't lose as much as I thought. I don't think it will be long before I was back to where I left off. That's lesson #2: Don't feel guilty about taking time off. I needed it. As a matter of fact, TAKE time off. Finally, I was panicky about all the workouts missed. I really wanted to double up on workouts to make up for lost time, even though I knew that was stupid. Now, I realize (get ready for lesson #3) you CAN'T make up for lost time. It's like Cliff said: don't cry over spilled milk. So move forward. I'm not going to beat myself up over where I was before anymore. Each day is a new day. Each workout is a new opportunity. I'm putting myself back in the Prep phase to get my body used to it again and to reassess how much I've lost. Hopefully, I'll return to the base phase next week.
The bike ride was very interesting, by the way. We didn't get going until early evening (6:30). I figured we had plenty of time to make a loop around Mission Bay and get back home before dark at 8 pm. Of course, as usual, I underestimate how much time everything takes. I also thought the ride would be 18 miles but it ended up being 24. We headed down the Rose Canyon Bike Path. Everything was fine. Just a slightly annoying bump, bump, bump in the bike tire because there's one damn spot that's not even for some reason (despite trying to seat the tube and deflate/inflate it, move it around, etc. repeatedly)....but I digress. We head down the second part of the path, which is more sketchy than the first. It's pretty routine to see graffitti and homeless people's piles of stuff under the bridges (as well as the inviting aroma of urine) in a couple of spots but since I've seen so many other bicyclists and joggers on the path and since so many people use it, I just sort of have been closing my eyes and disregarding it. It's such a great way to get down to Mission Bay without having to weave in and out of heavy traffic. Under the second bridge, five or six kids were hanging out on mountain bikes, blocking the narrow path. I screeched to a halt, clipped out, and politely asked them to move. The boys just made catcalls and wouldn't move. (Actually, they hooted, "Arriba, arriba!" which makes no sense. What are they, Speedy Gonzalez?) The girl started giving me crap about my jersey, which sported the Mexican flag (apparently, this is offensive to some). "You goin' to Mexico?" I asked them to move again, more firmly this time. "Chill out, homes," was the response. I think Jason's presence behind them convinced them to move out of the way. We finally were through. As we rode off they called out, "This is our neighborhood. Our home. You can't ride here!" Okay. Fine. You want the piss-filled, trash-covered strip of cement under the freeway? You can have it! After getting harrassed by the street gang, we decided to try and head back a different way. I'm pretty bad with sense of direction, and I kept going up the wrong street. By this time, it was getting dark. Plus, there's always a lot of traffic in that area so I wasn't happy at all. We decided to go back the way we knew how. As we were turning onto the bike path, I recognized the street that would have bypassed the trail (very out-of-the-way, traffic-laden, and not easy to get to--but it has a bike lane at least). We just wanted to get home at this point since it was dusk. Luckily, they had moved on when we returned. I've never pedaled so fast in my life! Nothing like the threat of being stabbed to get the adrenaline flowing and the legs pumping! It was quite the harrowing ride.
Thursday, August 10, 2006
in our backyard in St. Louis. It was cool b/c I planted
these flowers by seed so I felt like I had "created" the
Bottom--The Science of Things:
A flourescent micrograph of a cultured adipocyte (fat cell) stained with
an antibody that recognizes the tag on FATP1 overexpressed in these cells.
FATP1 stands for fatty acid transport protein 1, which is
expressed on the cell surface and endosomes. It is expressed in
fat cells, skeletal and heart muscle (among some other tissues) and
has several family members. FATP1 functions primarily in trafficking
fatty acids into the cell for storage or utilization.
This is what I spent 5 years in St. Louis studying for my thesis.
As you can see, there is a bit of art in everything. Even science. And a bit of science in art. And a bit of science and art in my life. Okay. Maybe a lot of both.
Don't forget to read the post below about the Tao of Tri!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
I'm beginning to develop a new philosophy. Life is all about balance. If you have the right mix of everything and can hold it all together at that magical apex, you can achieve nirvana. The trick is to stay there. Life really is a seesaw where we swing one way and then back the other. Maybe at some point, we can linger blissfully in the center for a moment before swinging out of control again. It's all about figuring out what makes that pendulum dwindle just a big longer at that center point each time.
To find balance, you have to mix the right amount of ingredients into the bowl. A bit of career, family, social life, and an extracurricular activity or two, and whallah! Just figuring out the right mix is the trick. This has always been very hard for me since I enjoy, no, strike that, am impassioned about many, many things. To simplify things, I like to have 3 main categories to balance--mind, body, and spirit. Ideally, each thing you spend time on embodies all 3, but if not, you make up for it in other ways.
Triathlon definitely is mind, body, and spirit. The body part is obvious. The mind part is the planning, the reading, the strategizing we all do before race day. The spirit part is what allows us to love the sport as much as we all do. When I train, I realize how much my spirit is pulsating throughout. For once in my busy day, I can slow down, and just listen. And appreciate. And be a part. That's the spirit part of it. In just a small sense.
And that's when I realized that triathlon (my analogy for life) is about the right mix of art and scinece. Kind of like the ying and the yen. Everything has a bit of art and science. We all know the science approach to triathlon. Finding the right recipe for an energy drink. The perfect training plan for a half IM race. We've all paced ourselves against the clock on the track or in the pool. We've all strapped on the heart rate monitors, the GPSs, the power meters. We've graphed our training rides and calcualted our average herat rate or max speed or figured out the standard deviation in our average training mileage from week to week or month to month. Okay, maybe I'm the only one figuring out std dev here, but you get the point.
I think the art part of triathlon often gets overlooked. This is the listening and trusting your body part. It's how we apply all that knowledge to how we train. The magic ingredients that made Mark Allen the godfather of triathlon or that makes someone like Michellie Jones a speed demon on the mountain bike is not going to work for you or I. Although there is a ton of information out there to use as a foundation, only through trial and error and experimentation, are we going to figure out what works for us. It's all about listening to your body. And I obviously have a long way to go. And a lot to learn.
I've had a lot of downtime lately. A lot. That gives me too much time to think. My stomach is 80% back to normal. I can eat...just not anything fun like coffee or chocolate. My fever is gone but I've been extremely tired. Unbelievably tired. It takes everything just to go into lab and put in 3/4 of a day. Plus, my glands are swollen, and I feel achy all over. Today, it took everything to get out of bed, take a shower, and get dressed. I gave up and went back to bed and called in sic. I go to the doctor tomorrow to get a bunch of tests done. It will be nice to get this over with. I just don't want to be sick anymore. I'm thinking I picked up something from the farm in Wisconsin and am having a hard time fighting it off. I'm just sick of being sick.
In addition to all this, Oscar is sick (big, black bunny). His stomach is hurting too. He went into the vet yesterday, and I've been force feeding him as often as I can manage as well as giving him all sorts of medications that's making him hate me. He is feeling a bit better today but he's never taken this long to recover before. Plus, the vet said his liver enzymes are way-high and he's anemic. He's on the older side, but he's also been sick and dehydrated. I'm hoping when he goes back in to get retested, he's back to normal. Maybe he's been doing marathons behind my back when I'm sleeping? Anyway, it's been very exhausting to try and deal with him and me at the same time.
I haven't worked out in over 2 weeks, and I'm totally freaking. I know that's irrational but my mind is very irrational right now. I hate how out-of-shape I was at the beginning of the season. Even though I was finishing my Ph.D. and moving across the country and changing jobs, I didn't consider that an excuse to stop exercising. There simply is no excuse. Ever. I had to work my tail off just to build back some sembalnce of a base. Just when I started to feel a bit stronger. boom. Sick and flat on my back. And here I am sick and not exercising. Resting. As I should be.
Nonetheless, I feel guilty and angry with myself. Angry that I can't exercise. Angry that I haven't forced myself anyway. Angry that I'm going to lose everything I've worked so hard to gain back. Angry that I'm going to miss the half marathon 10 days from now that I've already signed up for (America's Finest City). I was at the 10 mile point and feeling good. I just bought new shoes. I haven't worn them yet. On top of it all, I feel frustrated that after being as sick as I have been for as long as I have been, I haven't lost a single pound. Talk about unfair. That's usually the only perk.
I had forgotten how much exercise did for my mental well-being. I have been feeling very depressed lately. Frustrated. I can't seem to get anything done. My life is completely out of balance. And that is the ultimate goal. Balance.
Out of all this negative thinking, came some positive reflection as well. After reading several articles about overtraining in Triathlete and Runner's World, it occurred to me that I may have overestimated how much training and racing I was asking my body to do. Afterall, I distinctly remember being surprised I wasn't more sore after my workouts. Surprised I could "handle" such a large load so quickly after taking so much time off.
Afterall, this is only my 3rd season of triathlon, and my 2nd season was verrrry light b/c of the whole PhD-thing. After an early spring half marathon in 2005, I took the rest of the season off, only to fight to get some of it back mid summer. I regained enough to do a sprint triathlon, 10K, and sprint duathlon in July, and then from August until January...nothing. That's right. Nothing.
I got back into it in a hurry. Injured myself repeatedly. I hate being out of shape and remembering where I was. It's a sore reminder of how much I've lost every time I get out there. By the time spring 2006 came round, was itching to race. Did some early spring road races, and a duathlon. Kicked off the tri season with a sprint in May. Then, it seemed the races came pouring in, and I hated when I missed one. I was out of town for one of them, and I was so mad at myself. I compulsively feel like I have to do every one. About this time, I joined the tri club and started going to as many workouts as I could. By the time the Camp Pendleton International Tri rolled around, I was exhausted. I remember feeling disappointed that the race took as much out of me as it did. Upon reflection, I realize now that it probably wasn't lack of training or fitness but lack of rest and taper beforehand.
Now, I'm flat on my back and forced to reflect. At first, I didn't see any connection. Afterall, I have IBS, and I have gotten sick from the farm before. That's nothing new. But it's never taken this long to recover. I now realize I may have been pushing myself too hard. No, I know I was pushing it too hard. But instead of sore muscles or a change in heart rate or burnout or overuse injury, the toll on my body and fatigue accumulated over time, weakening my immune system. And now, I'm taking forever to recover from this bug. So that's my psychoanalysis and diagnosis. Prognosis? Very good. As long as I rest and stop being so doggone hard on myself.
It's time to take a step back and re-plan my training plan and re-think my training goals. I need to figure out how to hold back a little more. My new creed is becoming: little and often. If I can do a little most every day, it will be a consistent routine that won't overtax my body. So that's where I am now. Replanning stage.
Sunday, August 06, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thanks for all your support! I'm fine. Doing lots better. The last two weeks have been hard. Really hard. Seems I picked up some sort of stomach bug while in Wisconsin, and it's taken about this long to get it through my system. I'm sort of in survival mode right now.
My groin feels 100% better. It healed within 3-5 days. Unfortunately, between lab being crazy-busy and my gut keeping me otherwise-bed-ridden, I haven't been able to do anything. I'm hating myself for it and fear I'm going to have to start over from scratch.
Lab has really picked up. It's good but these last two weeks have been solid 12 hour-days. I'm sick of getting into lab at 6 a.m. after only having gone home at 9 p.m. the night before. That has to stop. Luckily, that was only necessary for a short time. I still have a crap-ton-pile of work to do at lab but I have to pace myself or I know I will get sick again. Plus, I hate doing nothing else. It really screws with my mind. I thrive on balance and routine in my life, and that is not it.
The stomach bug was a quietier, lingering sort this time around. I have IBS so I'm quite familiar with ailments of the G.I. but I thought whatever it was would flush itself out in a few days. Don't worry. Jason and my mom insisted I speak with my doc, and I did, and we're in rest, drink lots of fluids, and wait-and-see mode. Basically, a bunch of disgusting things usually associated with a sick gut happened to me over these last two weeks (why can't I just get a respiratory cold like everyone else where I can comfortably talk about a runny nose or a cough or something without everyone getting grossed out?), which seemed to end in a grand finale of a 104 degree fever last night, which freaked everyone out. Some Tylenol, soup, and chamomile tea kept everything under control. Today, I've been resting all day and drinking lots of fluids. Still have a headache and feel a little tired but am definitely eating better. I'm hoping tomorrow I might feel well enough to go for a much-needed run.