Which one are you?
Which one are you?
The Question isn’t Can You? It’s Will You!!!?
Avoid common swimming mistakes with help from these visual cues.
The experts at SwimLabs use creative analogies to illustrate and explain technique tweaks. Some of our favorites:
Problem: Not properly finishing the stroke.
Do this: Press the hand to the hips and think kayak paddling—the paddle finishes right next to the boat and it helps align and straighten it out. The same goes for swimming. Finish strong to help your other arm set up the top of the stroke.
Problem: Crossing over.
Do this: Picture “riding the rail”—keep hands following the side of the body to the hips like railroad tracks. And try the Elbow Pop Drill: Put one hand on a kickboard, preferably using a snorkel, then upon entry, track your arm from shoulder to hips. Pause at shoulder position to give yourself time to make sure fingertips are pointing down and elbow is lower than your shoulder.
Problem: A flat hand entry. Many swimmers also lead with the thumb and their hands end up way outside the shoulder in an “outsweep” motion.
Do this: Adjust ever so slightly having the pinkie down so you start the stroke closer to the shoulder.
Problem: Rushing the stroke. Don’t flail your arms like an old-fashioned pinwheel, instead slow down to swim fast.
Do this: Reach Out Drill. Extend your arm forward, setting up the beginning of the stroke, with your hand below the elbow and elbow below shoulder. Do a two-count, then bend the elbow to start the catch.
Problem: “Riding the bike” as you kick.
Do this: Focus on a straight-leg kick, initiated from the hip not the knees. Think “crack the whip” and let the ankle flex to finish the kick.
Runner becomes Triathlete!
If you think all those hours of training are only preparing you for one thing, think again.
by Lisa Barnes
The decision to start a family tends to put personal goals like finishing an endurance event on the backburner. Time and money get reallocated to everything that welcoming a new life brings. It’s easy to cast an IRONMAN race into the “someday” pile when it comes to priorities, but the experience of training for a 140.6-mile race can actually give you a leg up as a parent.
How? After having been through both myself, and talking to others who have as well—including pros and new parents Jesse Thomas and Michael Lovato—here is a list of ways IRONMAN helped prepare me for parenthood, using my own “little man” as an example.
1. You learn that there are good days and bad days.
IRONMAN: Some days, you’re headed into hour five on your bike marveling in the beauty of the countryside. Others, you’ve only pedaled a few miles before you’re thinking about all the places you’ll need Aquaphor later on.
Little man: Some days your baby is all smiles and belly laughs, others he’s an explosion of pureed squash and snot.
→ The leg up: You’re confident. Bad days don’t make you any less of a parent, just like crappy workouts didn’t make you any less of an athlete.
2. You’re an expert at researching and shopping for gear.
IRONMAN: Wheels, wetsuits, and watches. What are the must-haves?
Little man: Strollers, bottles, and toys. What’s best for baby?
→ The leg up: You’re resourceful. Learning the art of online research and tapping into trustworthy social circles is key, whether you’re gearing up for multisport or parenthood.
3. You know all about sacrifice.
IRONMAN: Happy hour means more miles and less margaritas—the last time you heard the phrase, “Last call!” was in the transition area.
Little man: Happy hour means giving your kid a bath before bedtime followed by a drink on the couch, and going out means you’ll spend more money on the babysitter than you will at the bar.
→ The leg up: You’re comfortable. Getting used to a new lifestyle can be a tough adjustment, but it’s easier when you focus on what you’ll gain from the experience, rather than dwelling on what you’ve given up.
4. You’ve mastered the art of the daily plan-and-pack.
IRONMAN: A long brick workout tomorrow means laying all your gear out the night before, making sure your drinks are mixed, gels are packed and your watch is charged.
Little man: Play date at the zoo tomorrow means packing the diaper bag with a change of clothes, a bag of Cheerios, a sippee cup and a favorite toy.
→ The leg up: You’re efficient. Preparing ahead of time is key to good workouts and good play dates. Your habit of toting snacks with you wherever you go comes in handy with parenting, too. “Always have spare food on you. You never know when a meltdown is coming,” says professional triathlete and new dad Michael Lovato, pictured below.
5. You appreciate your body in new ways.
IRONMAN: Looking good in a bathing suit seems silly compared to feeling good at mile 20 of a long run. Strength and perseverance trump the attributes of superficial sex appeal.
Little man: Looking good in a bathing suit seems silly compared to a healthy pregnancy and recovery after birth. Strength and perseverance change the way we feel about our bodies and what they are capable of.
→ The leg up: Healthy self-esteem. Pushing the body’s limits—whether it’s to meet new goals, or create new life—causes you to redefine strength and beauty. It also help you feel comfortable talking about your body more openly. Lovato reminds us that the conversation can (and will) go anywhere: “You have no trouble whatsoever talking about vomit, poop, pee or sometimes all three.” And as is sometimes the case with triathlon, “you’re also okay with it getting pretty much everywhere.”
6. You’ll build the endurance you need to be a great parent.
IRONMAN: Long runs, miles of swimming and hours on the bike. Every weekend.
Little man: Long nights, round-the-clock feedings and hours of crying. Every day for a year.
→ The leg up: You can persevere. Functioning while sore and sleep-deprived, and planning essential moments of recovery, is key to covering 140.6 miles as an athlete and 365 days as a new parent. “You understand that being tired is part of life now,” says Lovato.
7. Your playful side will flourish.
IRONMAN: Hammering your trainer and swimming laps around the same floating Band-Aid in the pool every morning gets old. You learn to stay motivated by using your imagination to keep the miles interesting (and ignore the Band-Aid).
Little man: Reading The Hungry Caterpillar every day, and playing 156 rounds of “Where’s daddy?” can be mind-numbing. Adding variation and flare to toddler time will help maintain your sanity.
→ The leg up: You’re creative. Repetition comes with the territory for triathletes and parents. An open mind gives you the power to revitalize the same-old routines.
8. You’ll form positive life-long habits.
IRONMAN: Training for an IRONMAN race means doing what it takes to be ready for race day. Discipline helps you listen to your body to avoid injury, feel fresh and stay focused on your goal.
Little man: Parenting means you do what it takes to be there for your family. Discipline helps you make smarter decisions for long-term health, find balance in your life and be a solid role model for your children.
→ The leg up: You’re committed. Meeting long-term goals requires ongoing attention to correct and define what’s best for the bigger picture.
9. You realize how little control you actually have.
IRONMAN: Race day is a living, breathing thing with its own personality and energy. You cannot control who is in the field or what the weather will bring. You can only control the way you’ll handle it.
Little man: Very little about pregnancy or birth will be in your control. Sudden emergencies, hormonal tidal waves of emotion, and yes—the weather—can all influence the experience.
→ The leg up: You’re pragmatic. Preparing for children (like preparing for races) is an exercise in managing the factors you can count on and control, while having a great attitude about the things you cannot.
10. You will appreciate the reward more than you imagined.
IRONMAN: They say nothing compares to crossing an IRONMAN finish line.
Little man: They say you never know love until you become a parent.
I may not be there yet, but I’m closer than I was yesterday..
By Ian Stokell (Read Part I here.)
While the need to be gluten-free if you have celiac disease, or are gluten or wheat intolerant is obvious, benefits for those without negative reactions to gluten are less concrete, even for pro triathletes.
For current XTERRA world champion Lesley Paterson and multiple IRONMAN 70.3 champion Timothy O’Donnell, —both gluten intolerant, and multiple IRONMAN and 70.3 champion Heather Wurtele—who has a wheat allergy, the results of going gluten free have been striking.
“I basically feel very fatigued,” Paterson says of gluten’s effect on her body. “It’s almost like I have flu symptoms with achy muscles, headaches, chills, heat and cold sensitivity.”
It’s a similar situation for O’Donnell. “My gluten intolerance struck me on many levels,” he says. “It caused nausea, bloating, digestive issues, acid reflux and vomiting during races. It also caused general lethargy.”
Wurtele experienced digestive problems connected to her wheat allergy. “Before going gluten free I found that painful gas and cramping was an almost daily occurrence,” she says. “I just sort of accepted that a sore stomach was my thing. I would almost always have to dive into the bushes for any run over an hour. My digestive system was just irritated.”
For other pro triathletes that don’t have specific gluten or wheat conditions, such as Olympic gold medalist Simon Whitfield and multiple IRONMAN champion Luke McKenzie, the decision to go gluten free was less obvious.
Whitfield, for example, just wanted to see if it made a difference. Though not as strict anymore, he says he still avoids pasta and over-indulging in bread. “I’m surprised by the ‘gluten defenders,’” adds Whitfield. “It’s almost like a ‘gluten mafia,’ protecting bread and bragging about how much gluten they eat. I don’t really care. I noticed a difference for me.”
“I’m not 100 percent gluten free and have never been diagnosed as a celiac,” says McKenzie. “I just went gluten free as a suggestion to losing a little body weight and to generally feel better, which I did. I try keep my diet as gluten free as possible, but I treat myself from time to time which I feel hasn’t done me much harm.”
Dr. Alexander Shikhman, rheumatologist and founder of the Institute for Specialized Medicine and Gluten-Free Remedies says that the beneficial effects of eliminating gluten on physical performance are not incidental. He explains that when gluten protein is digested, something called exorphins are produced. When exorphins penetrate the blood-brain barrier, they interact with brain nerve cells and behave much like narcotics. This can lead to attention deficit, fatigue, mood swings and miscommunication between your brain and muscles. He says because of this, anyone can improve his or her performance by avoiding gluten.
Going gluten free isn’t easy. Paterson avoids anything containing gluten or soy. “I’m religious about it, so eating out with me is no fun,” she adds. O’Donnell says he avoids all gluten as much as he can, steering clear of breads, pastas, and beer.
Finding gluten-free foods is becoming easier, thanks to the popularization of the diet and the availability of products. Many grocery stores now include entire aisle sections of gluten-free foods, and most mainstream products feature gluten-free alternatives for their high profile brands.
Paterson says she eats lots of rice, as well as gluten-free bagels, bars, and cereal from Udis. Proteins (other than soy), veggies, fruit, and dairy are all allowed. “There are lots of choices really,” she says. “I mainly eat meats, fruits, nuts, and yogurt,” O’Donnell adds. “I eat a lot of gluten-free specific products too, such as granola and other treats.” Whitfield has his own list that includes chia seeds, yams, bacon, Greek yogurt, and steak.
For professional triathletes and middle-of-the-pack age-groupers alike, there seems to be a pattern to the benefits of going gluten free. “The best way to describe it is that I feel free and clear,” Patterson says. “I can access my energy and feel excited about life.”
O’Donnell says that since adopting the diet, all of his physical symptoms are gone. “My GI system works much better in races, and after taking Zantac for over a decade for acid reflux, I no longer need to take it. I feel clear-headed and motivated to train and race.”
Digestion is key for Wurtele, who says she has a “generally happier digestive system, and less painful gas and stomach cramps.” She says it’s also easier to maintain a better body composition.
Whitfield, even though he’s not totally gluten-free, says he’s noticed better sleeping habits, less bloating on runs, and a proclivity to make better food choices in general. McKenzie reports less bloating and gas, and an easier time maintaining a body weight 2-3 kilograms lower.
For those who suffer from celiac disease, gluten intolerance, and wheat allergies, avoiding gluten is a necessity. But there is considerable anecdotal evidence from non-sufferers as well, many of whom are quick to list the diet’s benefits. Perhaps the best way to find out if a gluten-free diet will benefit you is to try it.
Next month, part three of this gluten-free series looks at diagnosis, testing, and the process of going gluten-free. (Read Part I here.)
Ian Stokell holds a MA in Physical Education from Chico State University, with an emphasis on coaching. He has coached a variety of sports from running to volleyball to soccer, where he holds national certifications. Currently, he is directing his efforts toward motivating and coaching triathletes.
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