Back On Track

Yesterday was my first official track session in years. I knew it was coming, and have been looking forward to blowing the cobwebs off the track shoes. This is just one piece of the progressive build towards my sub five mile attempt in a few months, and I have to say I came away with mixed results.

Taking it with a grain of salt that I have not done ANY speed specific work for years, I heading in with at least an excuse in the back pocket if things didn’t go exactly as I hoped. The workout core was 3 x 5 for 200m at race pace or slightly better (37ish seconds). Equal recovery between intervals and a lap jog between sets. This seems like a lot of volume in the overall number being fairly high, but 200’s are quick and it actually wasn’t too bad.

When I rolled up to the track I headed out on an easy warmup mile. Super slow just trying to get the blood moving and wake up the muscles. One thing I have learned over the years is to really open up my hips and legs after I do an easy jog. My goto routine involves alternating lunges with my hands on my hips followed by forward and sideways leg swings. I’ll do this maybe 2 or 3 times before a hard effort, and the motion I am able to produce expands with each one. After those, and a few more standard calf, ham, quad, and shoulder stretches I felt good to go.

I was worried about heading out too fast on my first interval. I had no real measure of what 37 might feel like, so I did my best to guess at the pace. As the opposite corner of the track came I clicked the lap button and looked down. 40 seconds! Way off pace. That’s only a 5:20 mile and it actually felt pretty fast. No worry, only 14 more to try and dial in the proper speed…

The limited rest was not as big a factor as I thought it might be, and by the end of the first set, I was hanging in there. The 400 recovery was nice, and I felt good for set two. Determined to run this a bit faster, I started to turn to the toes for the back stretches of each interval. What does that mean? Well, most people when they are sprinting at high speed will get on their toes. I liken it to how a boat will plane in the water. Once I am on the toes there are not many more gears in the transmission. I also started to really pump the arms towards the end of the runs. This helped carry me over the line, and the times saw a small bump to under 40 for most of them.

On the last set I turned the hat around, bit down and was just about on pace for the first 4 with the last one being just under goal pace at 36. I was happy to be done, but did quite enjoy the workout. Short, sweet and to the point.

Here a day later, my calves are slightly tender haha. I think a Normatec session is called for later. It is a rest day, but I am almost considering an easier spin on the bike just to stay active. Maybe a swim would be better though.

In terms of my output, and hitting my goal pace for 1/8th of the full distance, I won’t read too into it yet. Was I overall behind, yes, but I think that will come, and it is a slow build. I know I can’t run my goal today which I why I need to keep pushing and keep working until I can. It is good to be challenged, and frankly if this was easy, I probably wouldn’t want to do it.

For now it is back to the grind. Stronger each week, better each day.

The Most Important Piece of Bike Gear

Helmets. A good friend of mine, and someone I have always looked up to was recently in a motorcycle accident. This is someone who coached me in my first triathlon. Someone who I have logged thousands of weekend bike miles with. Someone that I have traveled with and who taught me a lot about racing and friendship. He wasn’t wearing a helmet.

When I heard the news I was shocked and I was sad. It was with disbelief I heard he had no helmet on. We always cycled together with helmets. Always. Why a motorcycle would be be different I don’t know.

Sadly accidents on the bike are not an isolated incident. All of my friends that ride outside have had a significant crash or been hit by a car. Some more than once. I myself have had a number of very close calls when out solo. Luckily, I have always kept the bike upright and avoided testing my helmet capabilities first hand. But for those less fortunate the results of the crashes have varied from some cuts and scrapes, to hospitalization, and in one case death.

Frankly, biking on the road is a dangerous prospect. Many cars are in a hurry and will take big risks passing cyclists. Last year a head-on collision along the Lake Placid bike course (not during the race) resulted in a motorist death. Drivers may not appreciate that a shoulder isn’t always rideable. Sand, debris, storm grates and many other obstacles prevent people from staying in the shoulder. Sometimes these conditions go into the middle of a lane or beyond forcing riders to swing wide with little notice.

The safe thing to do as a good rider is to spot the issue, look back to see if it is safe to swing out, and either slow or make a move. This is defensive riding. Sometimes that just isn’t how it goes. You are focused on power, speed, and positioning and don’t see something until the last moment. Riding in packs can also cause this if the people in front are not using proper hand signals.

Then there are just bad drivers. People who pull out to slow down. Drivers that block your path on a downhill. The ones that don’t see you taking a left and smack into your back. These are the ones that worry me the most. Distracted, unfocused, and dangerous.

If we know the chances of a crash exist, is there any argument that helmets are important? The risks are there for an accident so why not get the best brain bucket possible?

Helmets have come quite a ways over the years. Aero, road, mountain, there are alot of choices. For racing my favorite helmet is a low key Specialized aero job. Much more subtle that the previous trend of aero helmets with a long tail covering your neck and part of your back. Like a helmet with a mullet. My race helmet has a nice feature in a magnetic clasp that is easy to open and close on the run. The drawback to this helmet though is that despite the claims of air flow, it does get hot. Hot = sweat = the need for more nutrition management. But for most days even when not racing I have no issues wearing it out, and find myself using it more often than not.

Another Specialized helmet I have is a pretty standard road helmet. Adjustable tightness and a buckle clip, but very open on top. Not meant for aerodynamics but more comfortable on hot days.

Growing up, we never wore helmets, but then again I don’t think we wore seat belts either. My kids know they need a helmet when they are on their bikes or someones else’s. They know to wear one on a skateboard, quad, or scooter. It is just something we have drilled home, and it is natural to them. We also all wear helmets skiing and snowboarding, and as I have told many of my non-helmeted Winter sport friends, it is so much better. The helmet keeps you warmer. Bonus!

Putting on the the right gear and staying safe is a great lesson we can teach others and lead with. Nobody wants to be forced into doing something, and having a choice is good, but choosing to skip wearing a helmet is not on the table. With today’s many options out there, go to your LBS and figure out what is best for your needs. Just make sure it fits well and you wear it.

Late and Early Season Swimming (yeah it’s cold)

One of the challenges of living in the Northeast is that we have seasons. With these seasons comes shorter days colder nights, and inevitably freezing fricken pools. Yeah yeah, you can go to the Y or some other club to swim indoors, but that takes time and isn’t as cool when you have your own pool or lake.

For some points of reference, I have raced in pretty cold water. Both Rotterdam and Greece were close to 60 degrees. I have also raced in really warm water, I think Miamiman last year was around 80 degrees. I might say I prefer the colder water overall, but warming up in 60 degree fluid can be rough. It can also be hard to train in, so here are a few things I have found to help at various times.

First up, my limit for swimming is water around 55 degrees. I know there doesn’t seem like alot of difference between 55 and 60, but let me tell you there is. In the Spring we normally open the pool towards the end of April and once the water shows 55 I dive in. Granted most of my swims at this point are still shorter there are times when I am putting in an hour at a clip. The first level of defense for me is a wetsuit. I will use this from about 55-68 degrees in my pool in the Spring. Later in the year I am more acclimated and can tolerate lower temps, but up front I get soft. It happens. If I am swimming open water I will were a wetsuit until mid 70’s, except for if the air temp is also high. Cooler water with a high air temp is very pleasant.

The next layer of warmth comes from a swim cap. For some reason cold water and my ears just don’t get along. I will have splitting headaches almost like brain freeze until I am used to the temps. For colder swims I use a neoprene cap which works a bit better than a standard cap. I have also tried ear plugs in the past, but have found them to be annoying and if anything I would rather put waterproof earbuds in.

My final piece of gear is thermal swim socks. Man do I love these. I came across the Blueseventy model on Amazon last Fall while preparing for a November race. While my core and head were fine, I found my feet were completely numb. The swim socks made a huge difference, I was able to comfortably use them with fins on as well.

Another thing I try to be cognizant of is hypothermia. There is no sense in training to be fit but risking your health or life in the process. There are a number of signs of hypothermia such as confusion, slurred speach, shivering, clumsiness etc. I like to test my dexterity by touching my thumb to each finger on the same hand. If I am not able to do that, it is time to warm up. Most of the things I have seen say an hour in 50-60 degree water is ok, and with the proper gear you should be ok, but it is very important not to swim outside of your ability or without supervision if you are unsure. Luckily my wife can look out the window from the couch and see me flopping around. If I was in open water, I would not go it alone.

There are a few more levels such as jelly for your face and other products to keep you warm that can be applied to the skin. For a really cold Lake Placid 70.3 race I put on embrocation cream under my wetsuit to keep warm. More so for the bike but I figured it wouldn’t hurt on the swim. There is also the old pee-in-the-wetsuit move. Can’t say I know anyone who does that, none at all.

As for recovery afterwards, there are two paths you can take. After an annual January polar plunge a friend of mine will take out a propane heater and some bourbon which does a great job of warming you up. The other more athletic method is to jump in a hot shower, sauna, or spa. You shouldn’t be too cold or you were in too long, but either way, get some heat back in the system and get ready for the next one.

On The Road Again

With triathlon season over, and Le Tour on TV, it is time to drag the old road bike back out. The weather this long weekend was picture perfect, and Saturday was a great day to put in a brick ride on Knight Rider (I call my road bike Knight Rider, yeah I grew up in the 80’s so what). Swap the wheels out, put a repair kit on, check air in the tires, and out the door for some fun.

I headed out for an easier loop around a local reservoir that has some great steady climbs. No major grunts, but enough to put some lead in the legs for a few minutes at a time. It was so nice to be upright on a bike and not feel guilty for giving up aero position. I really look forward to days when I don’t have to crush it and can just enjoy being outside and playing.

Getting back on the road bike is also a great transition for me. First off the bike is considerably lighter than my tri bike, generally more comfortable to ride, and just feels good taking aggressive turns and downhills. In my haste to get out the door though, I didn’t really give things a good once over. The bottle cage was very loose and my bike computer was dead. I did double check my repair kit though to make sure all the important bits were included: tube, air, tire levers, inflator, check.

The ride itself was a bit uneventful until about a mile from home when I looked back to check for traffic and noticed a bike was about 50 yards behind me. Bright light blinking away, someone had almost ridden up to my wheel. It. Is. On. It’s very funny how quickly a casual fun ride turns into a muscle train down Champs Elysee, but I wasn’t about to get caught let alone passed on my home turf. So I tried to casually saunter my way into a turn for home and put down a bunch more power. After holding steady for a few minutes, I took a quick glance back at a stop sign, and liked what I saw. Competitor vanquished. Back to soft pedaling the rest of the way to the house, about a mile or so.

As I pulled into the driveway and began pedaling back to HQ I looked down to the road, and there she was again, apparently just behind me steadily cranking away. I am not sure what impressed me more, the speed she managed, or her ninja like stealthiness. A nod of the cap regardless for the nudge to pick it up a bit more and let the competitive side out of the cage albeit only for a few minutes.

Once home I swapped the bike shoe velcro for laces and did an easy run. Nothing extreme. Saving that for the big run of the weekend.

My Favorite Exercises To Hate

A favorite part of my week is doing personal training sessions with my nine year old son. Since March when the schools went remote he has joined me once or twice a week. It is great to spend the time together and I think it has been really good for him since most of his extracurriculars have been canceled.

Yesterday my coach gave us an option of two exercises to choose from and my son asked which was harder because that was what he wanted to do. That was a great response and it made me think about some of the exercises we choose to avoid or do halfway. We are all guilty of cheating a bit but that is the reason I love fitness so much. It is honest. If you slack off your fitness does too. You can’t fake your body into doing more pushups or running more miles. Either you do the work or you don’t.

So while it hurts and is hard to do, sticking with the things we are weak in helps us the most. Because triathlon is really a full body event I work all areas on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean everything is uniformly strong though. In fact there are a number of exercises I cringe at but know they are the ones that will help the most.

First up is lunges. There are many variations of these but my least favorite is reverse lunges with a dumbbell in each hand. I’ll normally do 15 per leg for three or four sets. These work my hamstrings, something I have neglected for most of my life. Playing catchup is hard but worth it.

My next up is the squat shoulder press. The key to this is using your legs to push the weights up, but when you are tired, this is hard. This exercise will also drive my heart rate up quite a bit. Keeping the shoulders and back strong is a plus for swimming, while the core and legs benefit you in all disciplines.

Another fun one that I learned of lately and have been doing quite a bit are ‘man makers’. What is a man maker? I can best describe it as Burpess 2.0. You start in a pushup position with a dumbbell in each hand. You do a weighted row that goes straight into a pushup. After that you bring your feet in, stand up and do a shoulder press with the weights. Back down into pushup position and repeat until exhausted. This works the whole body and drives the heart rate up quickly. It is hard because it incorporates other things that are hard for me, and there is constant movement the whole time. Nothing gets a break.

A surpise addition to this list are frog jumps. I like to finish these quickly and will normally jump as far as I can each time. That hurts more but is for less time. I’ll often do these with a weight as well, because, you know, I need to feel the burn. This is another good one for hamstrings, quads, and glutes.

A last one for this list is the kettlebell swing. I will often do this for time and it seems to hurt from the start. It works basically everything and for me the only relief is the downward arc of the swing. By the end of my set my forearms are just about to explode and send the kettlebell across the room.

These are the things I have the strongest love hate relationship with. I know they count the most because they are the hardest for me. I could avoid them but instead I try my best to focus on them and do them right. Working my weaknesses makes me stronger and less prone to injury. It is something I see alot of people struggle with. Swimmers focus on the swim and runners focus on the run too much. People head to the gym and go right to the equipment they are best at. If you are going to put the time in, you may as well make the most of it.

Spending time on your struggles will yield more growth and improvement vs. the same amount of time invested on your strengths. Knowing you can push through the pain and being more well rounded is just icing on the cake.

Breaking Down A Run Goal to Gain Speed

As detailed in an earlier post, I have set a big goal to work on over the next three months The hope is an end result of a sub-five mile, something I haven’t done in over 20 years, but I think it is an attractive number and will parlay well into 5k’s if they ever start back up. But seeing the end and seeing the start leaves alot of distance in between. So we need to break down the goal into bite sized chunks easy to understand and focus on.

I apply this to alot of goals and projects that I work on. Set an end point, and work backwards. What do I need and how do I check each piece off. Sometimes there are multi-step elements but it is much easier to visualize the individual building block then it is to see the whole building. Here is a ball park of my strategy for hitting the 4:59 or better, and this can be applied to any run goal.

I am going to put the run into three big buckets: speed, endurance, and strength. There are certainly overlaps between each, and they will compliment each other, but for purposes of focus and smaller goals, I will leave them separate for now.

The first step in running a fast mile, is being able to run a mile itself. Endurance is key because it allows us to maintain a pace for a period of time and conditions the body to perform for extended periods of time. At this time, I am able to run a mile, but if the goal was an ultra distance event, I may need to focus on my base more. While my running volume is not very high this year, I can comfortably run a half marathon at any given point, and most of my runs are around an hour where I bounce around zone 3 or 4.

As for strength I have put in alot of time working on my weaknesses and have seen steady progress and overall gains. It is probably fair to say I am stronger than I have ever been because of the consistency since Covid ended racing. I had more time to work on new things without worrying about a specific race. That has been a huge blessing because it has kept me injury free, gotten me stronger, and set me up nicely for big challenges.

With the first two in an ok place for now, speed needs to be addressed. Speed is not normally needed during the marathon run leg of an Ironman. Last season I think I only ran a single 5k and that was on Thanksgiving with my 8 year old son. So it has been quite some time since I was on the track or did any serious intervals.

Because I am basically starting fresh, the first goal is getting the leg speed up. Being able to actually hit the pace I am aiming for needs to be the first priority. Because just like the endurance piece, if you can’t run above 12mph, you can’t actually run a sub-five. Since I am about a week into the training adjustment, my coach has me working on very short intervals that focus on leg speed. This is a great strategy and one I used in the past quite a bit.

Let’s say your goal is an 8:00/minute mile. My strategy would be to run intervals at the longest period you can maintain that pace for. If you can hold it for 800m, then 800/400m intervals will be great. If you can only do 400m, then focus on 400/200m repeats and so on down to a point where you are actually running at the desired speed. The other two factors (strength and endurance) will help immensely when you look to expand the distance and drop the rest, but for now, we are just looking at leg speed and target pacing.

So for me, because I have always had a good top end and hitting 12mph is doable, but not for extended periods just yet. I am also still just working turnover, so the treadmill is a great tool to force the legs to go. A recent workout was 15 minute warm up followed by 3x(6 x 30 seconds at goal pace, 30 seconds recovery) with a moderate jog in between each set, followed by a descending cool down. All in an hour, but 9 minutes at my goal pace of 5:00.

Could I go harder and faster, yes, but there is a big risk of injury when you play at your top end speeds. Add to that the fact that this is a considerable shift in training goals, it is better to ease into it. And to be honest, I probably don’t have all that much more speed or endurance in me at this point. I would say the above workout is maybe a 6 or 7 effort, but I don’t really like to go much beyond an 8 in training. I find too many big workouts drains me, leads to worsening quality and demotivation. While I think alot of people can ’embrace the suck’, it is hard to do it consistently. Two quality efforts beats one big one any day.

So over the next few weeks I will continue the initial leg speed build, and start mixing in outdoor track sessions. Of course the treadmill is much different especially at higher speeds, but it is a tool to use. My outside equivalent is a slight downhill to keep the speeds up. Muscle memory can’t form if you never get to where you want! Sadly, my treadmill only goes to 12 and so for this endeavor it won’t be enough long term. For now though, I’ll enjoy the shorter stuff, pretend it is easy, and keep plugging along like I am 20 again.

3 Big Goals Before Turkey Day

In the last few weeks since my training camp I have been looking for some interesting goals to push me outside of my comfort zone. Last year at this time I was still racing and getting ready for USAT Nat’s in Miami. Of course that is off for this year but that is no reason to relax. So I am setting 3 big goals to conquer before or maybe on Thanksgiving. The goals are all stretches but doable if I focus. Here they are:

Goal 1: One set of 25 clean non-kipping continous wide grip pullups. This is my strength goal. I have put in alot of strength training since March and think this is a good indicator of overall functional strength for me. I recently did a max set and was at 18. Another 7 may seem easy but there are alot of people who can’t even do 7 to begin with.

Goal 2: 120% of my FTP for 10 minutes on the bike. This will be difficult because it isn’t a set wattage. So no matter how strong I am it will scale and be just as hard. Biking has always been a struggle for me, but I have put in a ton of work this year and it is starting to show. I think this may be the easiest goal and if I try it early and can knock it out I may adjust upwards. These goals should not be possible to hit right now. So if I can do it I may expand the timing which will challenge me more than a higher percentage.

Goal 3: Sub 5 minute mile. This is the most interesting one for me. Having been a runner in high school and college I consider this my strength, but I have been focused on long course racing for several years now. As a fun challenge on New Year’s morning after a few hours of sleep (3?) I did a road mile near the house. I ran in the 5:30’s with no specific training or rest so I think I have it in me, but there is a big gap in that 30 seconds.

So there they are. Each will be hard and push me to some new limits. I hope to use these as a step to even better results and as a chance to work on things I have not tried in the past. And let’s be honest what else do we have to do these days

Goals are good. Writing them down is better. It keeps them front of mind and for many people creates almost a type of contract with themselves. I am also a huge believer in manifestation, and writing and repeating a goal is a key technique in generating results.

Goals are also personal. Some people will look at my goals and say, “Meh that’s it?” To others they may be on another planet. What my goals are based on is MY effort. How hard do I have to work, and how much time will I need to put in? My effort and your effort can be the same with different results. As Ray Lewis said, “Effort is between you and you.” Nobody else can judge your output and only you know when you are or are not putting 100%. I value effort over results. Every. Single. Time.

Timing these for Thanksgiving is a bit arbitrary but there has to be a line in the sand and I figure 3 months should be a good amount of time. I will keep myself honest and share the final results good or bad. But no matter the results there will be big gains to put in the fitness bank. With these even a loss is a win.

A New Running Partner

The last week has been a blur. A couple of birthdays, some big goals, and a new addition to the clan. We brought home a new puppy! The little guy has been adjusting nicely into a routine, and is really loved by everyone who meets him.

This addition wasn’t fully scripted, and although we have been looking for a puppy for some time now, it wasn’t something that was planned that morning. But we are spontaneous go with the gut people, and sometimes that means when you meet a dog you like, you run with it.

My hope is that he will become my training partner for some of my trail runs and keep me company in the woods. Although I admittedly am new to the Cocker Spaniel breed, research seems to say that they are athletic and agile enough to handle most of the exercise I would throw at him. They are also not great in the heat which works out well because neither am I. But they are hardy enough to handle the cold within reason when we are up in Lake Placid over the Winter.

At this point I am just trying to keep him from eating sticks around the yard, but as he gets bigger and stronger, and the training progresses to where we can walk and hike as a team, I will share some of the learnings I experience along the way. For now, here is one: make sure you have a treat to reward the dog when they do something you like. I have been keeping a treat in my hand and walking with it next to my leg to give him a target to shoot for. Loose leash walking for me is the starting point. Obedience and other commands will come in time, but only after we can do laps in the yard to keep the energy levels in check.

He is still too puppyish to take on a hike, but I am hopeful that will change in a few more weeks as he begins to outgrow eating and biting everything new he sees. It will be a slow progression just like training a person would be, but it is important to do right. Although I would love to head out for an epic run right now, patience will be important. Build the trust and behavior in the beginning, and reap the rewards later.

What Type of Racer Are You?

People are funny and racing brings out the best of different people. The bigger the race, the more personalities you will see, but even in the smaller ones, if you look close enough, you just might see some of the elusive racers types out there.

Racer type #1: The Sprinter. This fellow racer will take off like a shot out of a cannon at the start of the race. Completely unaware of pacing, they quickly fizzle out and start the long process of walking until someone new catches up to them, at which point they begin to sprint and repeat the process all over again. They tend to finish strong racing past the finish line and down the chute.

Racer type #2: The Socializer. These are normally packs of friends that have no intention on actually racing. They line up abreast of each other creating a human obstacle for anyway approaching from behind. They also enjoy sauntering through aid stations like it is a Sunday brunch buffet.

Racer type #3: The Sandbagger. The magnificent sandbagger will intentionally start at the complete back of the race, only to weave in and out of traffic nearly knocking down everyone in their zeal to reach the front. This is a glorious racer who will humbly state their lack of training and intent to go easy, only to find the hidden gear at go time.

Racer type #4: The Overachiever Family. Overachievers are often led by another more accomplished or seasoned parent or older sibling. Many times they feel their inexperienced partners are the newest star in the making, and drag them to the front of the pack without pity or regard. This normally ends poorly, sometimes looking similar to the Sprinter.

Racer type #5: Bengay Guy. There is always one in the group. Normally they are oiled up and wafting out with topical pain relief due to some old nagging injury, but are still out there to play hard. You know who you are.

Racer type #6: Stretchy McStretcher. Proper warm up is key to proper racing. McStretcher doesn’t mind a good standing stretch even if they are in a crowded pack of people. You don’t want to pull a hammy after all.

Racer type #7: KT Taper. Similar to the Bengay Guy, the KT Taper wears their bright tape everywhere there is a muscle. Shoulder pain before a 5k, put some tape on it. This personality is more subdued in a crowded group than the Bengay Guy, but just as ready to work hard.

Racer type #8: Under / Over Dressers. Sometimes weather is hard to predict. The people who tend to get it wrong stand in the starting corral shivering, or peel clothes like a yard sale once the race starts. Layers be damned!

Racer type #9: The Sleeper. Sometimes home on a break from college, or just looking to dominate, the Sleeper comes in to rewrite course records and leaves never to be seen again. Look for guys with shaved legs and anyone with a matching kit normally at the front of the line. Sometimes they travel in packs, another dead giveaway.

Racer type #10: Man’s Best Friend. Dogs love to run, so it’s natural to bring them to races right? In fact, dogs, crowds, leashes, and running seems like a lot of fun for everyone involved, even the cat people.

Racer type #11: Professional Amateur. New shoes, check. Latest new watch to record all body statistics, check. Coach, check. Personal trainer, check. Triathlon magazine subscription check. Age grouper with day job and no actual way of ever turning a middle of the pack performance into a financial gain, check. The Professional Amateur will approach each event with the seriousness of an end of season A race. They are laser focused, and will be seen simply pacing before the starting gun with a game face on. Focus!

These are only a few of the many types of people out for a friendly competition any given weekend. We all fall into some category, I am clearly a Professional Amateur. 😀

Push Harder on Workouts: Micro-deals

Although I am still in a recovery phase, I am already thinking about the next build cycle. This was supposed to be my big KQ ITU double WC year. Of course that is pushed out 12 months, but now is the time to be smart, work on the weaknesses and get out in front of next year.

One of the things that comes with big goals is usually big efforts. Day in and day out always pushing to maintain quality is very difficult. It is hard to explain to others why getting up at 4:30am to suffer before work is worth it. Most of the time it is hard to explain to myself. I came up with a term to describe how I get through the hardest bits, the spots when all you want to do is quit. I call it ‘micro-deals’.

What is a micro-deal? Well it is the tiniest breakdown of an overall goal. It is the compromises we make on a very small level. Now I have two techniques I call upon frequently in my hardest workouts. One is counting and one is time based. Both are just simple things to preoccupy the mind when the pain is highest and the brain wants to shut it down.

My first go to is normally done when running although it works for any sport really. I use it more often when I am covering a workout going for time. Because my run cadence is pretty steady at around 174 steps a minute, and my pace is normally consistent during a run, I can count the number of steps on one leg and know I just ticked off a minute. Count to 87 twice, two minutes down. Simple. If you are running 8 minute pace, that is a quarter mile in the books. I always work around 2 minute counts when I am in the most trouble. Get through one cadence count on each leg and take stock from there. Keep repeating this or switch it up and go backwards, like a countdown timer. Trust me it just works.

My next move is similar but smaller and for when I am at the absolute edges of what I can do. Let’s say you are on the last set of intervals, sweaty, exhausted, and ready to quit. Before you do, set some smaller on-the-fly goals. If you have ten minutes left, maybe tell yourself, I am going to get two minutes done and then I can quit guilt free. If two minutes is too big, and sometimes it is, I will tell myself, I can do ANYTHING for 30 seconds. Once 30 seconds passes, do it again, and you are halfway done. Keep pushing, keep setting attainable goals inside of the workouts if you need to.

You will feel much better if you can finish the full intended workout of course, but sometimes we have off days. The one thing nobody but you can judge is effort. You know when you give it your all and when you don’t. It is easy to quit when it hurts, but that is the best time to push through, hone the mental toughness, and see what you are made of. Next time, you are on the verge of falling short, try one of these out, and see if you can wring just a bit more out of yourself.