An athlete’s taper is just as individual, personal, and varied as their training plan. How you taper depends on how you have trained in the months preceding your race as well as what you and your coach decide is appropriate for you. Although we all train differently, the rules to tapering remain consistent. All the months and months of proper training and nutrition is at risk of sabotage if your taper is executed improperly. Nothing you do during your taper will make you any faster for race day, but breaking the basic taper rules will prevent you from performing at your best.
1. Proper Volume Reduction The amount that you reduce your volume (amount of time spent weekly in training) depends on your current training volume and the distance you race. The key to effective tapering is to cut back on training volume significantly. The optimal amount of training reduction is still debatable. Some studies suggest reducing training volume as much as 85% in the weeks leading up to your race. Regardless, gradually reducing training volume should be based on distance. The longer your race, the longer your taper. Below is a basic guide, based on race distance, for decreasing training volume.
4 weeks to race
3 weeks to race
2 weeks to race
10% ↓in volume
30% ↓in volume
50%↓ in volume
80%↓ in volume
Four weeks of a reduction in training volume may seem drastic, but keep in mind the amount of damage you have done to your body over the previous months. You have walked a very fine line of increased training and recovery, training hard and recovering less than is really needed. A proper reduction in training volume will allow your body to fully recover, adapt, and heal so that, come race day, you are ready to push your physical limits knowing you are ready to go!
2. Maintain Proper Training Intensity A decrease in training volume has proven invaluable in getting a proper taper and being race ready. But decreasing your training intensity too soon or too drastically will cause you to lose some of the fitness you have worked so hard to gain. Training intensity is the key to preserving your overall fitness as well as helping you to have a good muscle tension on race day. The two important factors of speed interval training during your taper are: decrease the frequency of these sessions in the weeks leading up to your race, and increase the rest between the speed intervals during the workouts.
In the weeks of your taper incorporate at least one sprint session, per sport, per week. The week of your race do your sprint workout 3-4 days before your race to give you enough time to recover, without the benefits waning before your race. Too long between your speed intervals and your race and your muscles will feel sluggish and heavy. Too soon and you won’t be sufficiently recovered to perform at maximal ability on race day.
A good running speed interval workout, I like to have my athletes perform the week of their race, is Decreasing Sprint Sets. This should be done following a complete warm up. On a track (alternating directions ½ way through the set) perform the following:
2 X 400m all out efforts, followed by 2 minutes of active recovery (i.e. easy jogging)
4 X 200m all out efforts, followed by 1:30 of active recovery
6 X 100m all out efforts, followed by 1:00 of active recovery
Follow with a good cool down. This is a shorter workout with high intensity and longer recoveries between intervals. The benefits of this kind of workout, during a taper, extend beyond increasing blood volume and increasing glycolytic enzymes. It is a perfect way to keep the pre-race blues at bay and work off some of that anxious energy without harming your taper.
3. Stick to Your Normal Diet Proper nutrition is a discipline all on its own. As athletes, we over complicate the “carbo-loading” phase of tapering. The truth is that carbo-loading is out-dated and doesn’t need to be over analyzed; much less incorporated into our taper. If we follow our normal, healthy diet and decrease our training volume we will be storing what we need for race day. Our bodies can only store so much glycogen; whatever is left over is stored at fat. How we have eaten during our training and what race distance we are training for, doesn’t determine at which point we should start eating more carbohydrates. If you start to eat too much early in your taper you will gain weight, feel sluggish, and perform below your level of ability.
The most important part of taper nutrition is the 24 hours leading up to your race. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to follow:
1. Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are flying to your race. Keep hydrated and avoid alcohol as it messes with glycogen storage.
2. Stick to what you know. Now is not the time to try the new restaurant in town. Avoid adding anything unfamiliar to your diet as you don’t yet know how your body will react.
3.Avoid high risk foods. Rare steak and sushi are among the most obvious, duh…
4.Keep it boring. Spicy foods, raw foods, high-fiber foods, gas producing foods, high fat, and high sugar foods should all be avoided the night before your
5.Don’t over eat. Sticking to a dinner of 800-1,000 calories is sufficient.
6.Eat what you always eat before a race. If you wake up early to eat a bowl of oatmeal on long training days, wake up early and eat a bowl of oatmeal before your race. If you wake up and toast a bagel, slather natural peanut butter on it, top it with sliced bananas, lick your lips and dive in, well… then I would highly recommend doing this on race day too! Sticking to 500-800 calories a few hours before a race is ideal for energy and to avoid swimming with food in your belly.
4. Avoid Taper Tantrums If you aren’t feeling grumpy, frustrated, anxious, extra tired, and tempted to go for a long bike ride during your taper, then you are probably not tapering correctly. These emotions are the result of a sudden decrease in training volume, a decrease in the physical and emotional outlets we have structured so carefully into our days. Add this to the race anticipation and anxiety and it’s obvious why triathletes can be so overly edgy during a taper. One minute we feel like we have no energy at all and there is NO WAY we will have the stamina to endure our 70.3, the next minute we have crazy energy and want to go do a brick that very moment! We start to doubt our training, our fitness, our goals, and the benefit of our training. Some ways to battle the tantrums are:
1. Prepare the details. Get your gear laid out and ready to go. Check and double check it. I like to lay it all out days in advance. I always find something, at the last minute, that I have forgotten. Funny, it’s usually the same thing. Do you have your boarding pass? Do you have your fuel? Go through it again and again then walk away for a day and come back to it later. It might sound odd, but I also like to re-arrange it all so that I get a new perspective and not start to “see” things that aren’t really there.
2. Organize a night out with other athletes. Talk about your upcoming races, what you’re feeling and get some advice from people who understand what you’re going through. Maybe some of them have competed in the race you’re training for and have some good advice. Surround yourself with people that are positive, fun, and share your love of triathlon. It might improve your mood.
3. Forecast. This is a little known and underestimated tool to improve your mental focus during your race. I think it’s even more valuable during a taper to keep you focused and stay sane. Get with your coach and/or a very trusted friend and talk through your race like it has already happened. Go through every detail, every possible instance and circumstance as if you are re-telling the race. Not only does this help prepare you mentally for the race, it is a great emotional tool in getting you through your taper “blues”.
4. Put as much effort into your taper as you have into your training. Be diligent in resting and eating properly. Get a massage and focus on preventative care. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are fully recovered and primed for race day.
A common taper tantrum is the phantom injury. As we get closer and closer to race day we start to feel little aches and pains that weren’t there before we started our taper. Don’t go try to run it out, avoid the need to test the nagging pain. If the pain increases with movement or exertion and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, go get it checked out. Sometimes it’s really there, sometimes it’s a little thing that we over exaggerate because we are in utter fear of getting hurt so close to our race. Be calm, ask your coach or trainer for advice and take it as it comes. More often than not it isn’t as bad as we imagine it is.
5. Program Recovery Workouts. Within the last few weeks of your taper there should be adequate use of recovery workouts. The purpose is to help maintain the aerobic fitness you have worked so hard for! As well as help with focus, mental race preparation, and aid in recovery. The length of these workouts will vary but the effort should be well below lactate threshold. A good swim recovery workout, for an Olympic, 70.3, or IM distance race is the following:
After a comprehensive warm up, add 20-30 seconds to your 100 yd. swim time and complete the following intervals. (I will use a base 100 yd. pace of 1:20 for an example). Whatever time is left in your interval is your recovery. Maintain a pace that doesn’t leave you too out of breath, you should have 15-20 seconds of recovery)
8 X 100 yd. on 1:50
4 X 200 yd. on 3:20
2 X 400 yd. on 6:40
1 X 800 yd. on 13:20
At any given point during a recovery workout, your heart rate should be 35-45 beats below LT or Zone 2-low Zone 3. You should never be out of breath and over exerting yourself. Remember, you are recovering and maintaining your fitness for your race. Nothing you do at this point will get you faster, but if you push these recovery workouts you won’t have time to recover before race day.
Tapering for a race can be the hardest part of an athlete’s training. When training volume drops and stress is elevated, it is tough to resist the urge to train more. Remember the science behind the taper, don’t forget the value of going into a race well rested, fully recovered, and mentally prepared to take it on. Put as much thought, planning, and effort into tapering as you did in your training. Avoid the common taper pitfalls and follow the taper rules so that when you get to your race you feel fresh and ready to do your best.
It can be exhilarating, a rush, it can be paralyzing and traumatizing: Fear. We have all experienced it. Where does it come from, how is it triggered, and how do you respond? Could fear become an ally instead of an enemy?
Fear can show up during a new situation, in an instant, there is that familiar, unwanted feeling. Like taking that first ski jump you haven’t been willing to try, signing up for your first marathon, or taking on something new in your life like a new job, having your first child, starting a new project at work, taking on a new sport or activity, all of which you have never done before.
Fear can also come from a previous accident or bad situation that has happened to you where your experience wasn’t good. Maybe it was a skiing accident, hitting the wall during your first attempt at a marathon, slipping and falling on ice, failing a test at school, loosing a job, or losing a spouse.
These types of triggers cause certain physiological side effects like a rapid heart beat, palms sweating, the sense of anxiety, breaking out into a sweat, feeling euphoric, feeling immobilized or feeling paralyzed. All of these reactions are normal and are part of our “fight or flight” mechanism. How does your experience of fear take over and how can you learn to experience fear in a better light.
Firstly, understand that the “fight or flight” pattern will be there in some way. It is how we respond to the situation that matters. It is important to remember that we have choices. Life is not about finding the right way or answer. It’s about discovering in the moment what choices and options are available to you. It all begins with awareness. Once you are aware, you begin to see there are choices and options and in a moment’s notice, the world can open up to you.
Knowing there are choices is the beginning to experiencing more freedom with fear. You can start to feel more open and can sense the space and time around you giving you the opportunity to discover what possibilities exist. Presence is critical at the point. You may realize that by noticing your options, you gain a feeling of relief. Your heartbeat can slow down, your sweating slowly disappears, your breathing becomes more normal as you begin to notice and think about the choices you have. It’s important to learn and to notice not only the first choice that resonates with you, but also other possibilities that resonate with you. The possibilities will give you an undeniable sense of freedom. Replying on only one option can be confining, limiting, and scary. Imagine if your one choice doesn’t work, what do you have to fall back on.
For example, imagine skiing down an expert (black diamond) ski run for the first time. It feels so steep, so scary. In that moment, panic sets in, takes over, and you become paralyzed. But what if you could start to breathe, look around and notice the terrain, observe others skiers and how they are getting down the run. As you take the time to look around, you begin to notice the different choices you have, how the terrain is different on one side compared to the other, you see how skiers are getting themselves down the hill differently. In this moment, space and time take over, you begin to feel more at ease and you can then search for the best option for you.
The same is true with your training. Are you stuck in a rut? Do you do the same routines year after year? Are you afraid to open up, mix it up, and try something new? What do you have to lose?
Recently my daughter was falling off the ledge at school, her grades became poor, she was trying very hard, but she wasn’t getting done what she needed to get done in several classes. I met with her counselor. During the meeting it became clear to me that she needed help, but a different kind of help. As the counselor was going over each class, I was drifting in and out of thought wondering, where is she going to get the kind of help? Like any parent, I began to feel scared not knowing the answer for my daughter. What is it she really needs? Where am I going to find the right kind of help? In this moment of uncertainty and fear, I suddenly got very clear, the person who needed to help her was me. She didn’t need another tutor or special school. I needed to help her but I had no idea how. I didn’t know what I was doing or what she needed but I was willing to be open, to trust and to discover what she needed. I was scared; there was no manual for this. What was clear to me was that no one could help her like I could.
At first, I felt angry. Why me? Why can’t the tutors help her? Then I realized that my anger came from my fear of failing. In that moment, I reflected on my work, teaching others to learn miraculous things, and found the courage to go for it. I had nothing to lose.
I stepped into the unknown and started seeing what she knew and didn’t know. I trusted that by being present, choices, options, and direction would present itself to me, and it did. It was like going off a ski jump for the first time. A rush took over inside of me and in that moment of anxiety there was exhilaration and a sense of freedom. The dance began; I learned about her and found a variety of ways to show her what she knew and needed to know by introducing thoughts, techniques to solve problems, concepts and direction. After some time, she discovered what worked for her.
Shortly thereafter my daughter brought all of her grades up to A’s and B’s. However, this isn’t really what is important, is it? What is important is that she began to learn new ways of understanding and solving problems. In her discovery, she started to feel more confident and exited about what she had done. As a mother, I can say that there is truly no better gift than to watch the world open up to your child by supporting them with patience.
From here, you can begin to look at some other fears in your life. Where do your fears lie? How could you approach a fear in your life? Perhaps you can begin this New Year by looking closely at your life, like you just looked at your training, and invite yourself to explore a fear. You will never know what’s truly possible until you open yourself up and try. One thing is certain, you can always go back to what you know and where you were, but if you never try you will never know. Do you have the courage to try? Courage is the greatest catalyst to Fear.
So where do you go from here? Where do your fears lie? How do you approach a fear in your life? Perhaps you can begin this New Year by looking closely at your life and inviting yourself to explore a fear of yours. You will never know what’s truly possible until you open yourself up and try. One thing is certain, you can always go back to what you know and where you were, but if you never try you will never know. Do you have the courage to try? Courage is the greatest catalyst to Fear.
Here are some helpful tips to assist you in moving forward to overcoming a fear in your training and in your life:
• Acknowledge and be able to describe the fear. This allows for you to have a clear awareness.
• Witness what you have chosen in the past as your response to this fear.
• Open your self up to be present, and notice other options or choices that are available to you.
• Have the courage to take a risk.
• Remember, you can always go back to your original response.
• Go for it! Take that first step in a new direction, perhaps into the unknown, be present and see what happens.
• Share and celebrate success for taking that first step towards greater freedom in your life!
There proves no debate. Triathletes are very fit, in one direction. In a forward plane of motion, triathletes can swim, bike, and run hours at a time. If fitness were defined by the ability to move forward for extended periods of time then yes, triathletes exemplify that fitness. As a triathlete you know that this sport is much more than an athlete’s ability to go and go and go towards a finish line. If you haven’t discovered loopholes in the above definition, either you are just starting out in triathlon, or you are missing key aspects of your training and cutting yourself short on performance. We sprint, we climb, we challenge the elements, we out maneuver each other, the waves, the undertow, the wind, rain, hills, and potholes. It no longer benefits an athlete to be fit in just a frontal plane of motion. These one-dimensional athletes are the athletes that get passed, get injured, and get bored. To enjoy the sport of triathlon, avoid getting injured, and excel in your performance you need multidimensional fitness. What does it mean to be a multidimensional athlete? Let’s start with what the true definition of fitness is. Fitness is complete balance throughout 10 vital and very different aspects. These are:
Cardiovascular/Respiratory Endurance – the ability to gather process and deliver oxygen in your body.
Stamina - the ability to process and utilize energy through the different systems in the body.
Strength – the ability of your muscles to apply force.
Power - your muscles ability to apply force in the least amount of time.
Speed – the shortest amount of time for a repeated cycle of movement.
Agility - being able to minimize the transition time from one movement to another.
Balance – the ability to control the body’s center of gravity in relation to its support base.
Coordination - combining several movements or patterns into one movement.
Flexibility - maximizing the range of movement of any given joint.
Accuracy - being able to control movements in any direction or intensity.
Think of the last triathlon you competed in and the details of the swim. Think of the people who you passed or those who climbed over you. Think of how it felt to take a turn too sharply on your bike. And remember how it felt to grind up that hill or land off-center on a rock or uneven street unexpectedly as you were running? Remember walking around the day after your race doing whatever it took to avoid flexing your feet because your calves were so stinking sore? And wondering how you were going to go up and down the stairs without looking like a puppet on strings lacking any kind of control, whatsoever, over your own legs.
Looking at the above list of the 10 aspects of fitness, is there one aspect you didn’t need during that race? Or is there one aspect that wouldn’t benefit you as an athlete? Betcha there are several aspects we can all improve on.
Achieving balanced fitness, across all 10 areas above, will create multidimensional fitness which will make you a better triathlete. How do you incorporate this training into your already busy training schedule? Continue to use resistance training along with your swim, bike, and run workouts, but do it right. Here are some rules to follow as you incorporate your resistance training into your schedule.
1. First of all you're not a body builder. You are an endurance athlete so why are you still doing three sets of 10-12 reps and alternating muscle groups every second day? You are in your competitive season and should be hitting the gym 3-5 days a week.
2. Avoid anything resembling a routine. If your workouts aren’t changing, neither are you.
3. Incorporate multi-joint or compound movements. Rarely do we ever only use one muscle at a time. This is where sports specific training is important.
4. Start out easy. As athletes we tend to think more is better. In this case more is just more. And it can really hurt us. Start out with lighter weights and at a cautious intensity as you figure out how you recover and adapt. Within a couple of weeks you will be able to increase your intensity and your weights.
5. Competition in the gym should only be about you competing with you. Save it for the race course and check your ego at the door. To avoid getting injured, focus on good and proper form in all your movements as you compete with yourself in the progression and improvement in your workouts.
All 10 aspects of fitness can be worked on throughout the week, not in a single day. Adequate recovery and proper programming is necessary for your body to gain the full benefits of this kind of training. The best part about incorporating this into your training is that your gym time is cut down to 20-30 minutes a day! These workouts are short, intense, and complete. Exactly what a busy triathlete needs as we struggle to find time anyway.
To get started, now is a perfect time in preparation for pre-season training. With a combined 27 years of experience and FREE workouts online that are created, designed, and programmed specifically to get you fit in all 10 aspects, you can check us out at www.gppfitness.com. We are happy to help answer any questions you might have.
Prepare to become a multi-dimensional athlete. Stronger, more powerful, more balanced, versatile, and healthier. It’s time.
It’s that time of the year when holidays and festivities are upon us and perhaps it is also a time when we have indulged in eating a variety of foods or drinking beverages that may not be so good for us- or should I say for our stomachs? With that being said, it is most likely not the beginning of your gut not feeling so good.
Your “inner gut” is the hardware that digests, absorbs, and transforms what you eat into fuel and nutrition, allowing you to have energy to live life. You may be surprised to learn that you could have an enemy living deep inside you, inside your gut.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
• Do you lack energy on a frequent basis, regardless of how much sleep you get?
• Do you ever have any muscular or connective tissue injuries?
• Are you frequently injured?
• Does your stomach bloat or feel irritated often?
• Do your muscles seem weaker more often than you’d expect from your training?
• Do you often feel like no matter how good your diet is, you still don’t feel as energized as you think you should?
• Are you experiencing hair loss or thinning?
• Do you eat wheat/bread products or sugary foods?
If you answered “yes” to a few of these questions, read on. Or maybe you know someone, a friend, your partner, or your child that falls into this category. You may be able to help yourself, and someone else too.
Your gut is the driver of optimal health. It is where foods and fluids are processed and then through proper digestion become the fuel your body relies on. If this magical engine is failing, you will suffer. How do you know if this is a problem? Did you answer “yes” to any of the questions above? Have you tried everything else?
Many of us have trimmed our diets down to perfection, and still haven’t had positive results. The reason is because inside the lining of our intestines is where we also carry bacteria. We have friendly bacteria, and then we have “not-so-friendly” bacteria called Candida. If you’re anything like me, Candida loves to rampantly take over the digestive tract time and time again.
The first signs of Candida are usually fatigue, no matter how much rest or sleep you get, and then bloating. The gut begins to swell and no matter what you eat or drink, even after drinking water, you never feel energized from the food source, and then you often crave sugars and caffeine for an instant pick-me-up.
Overtime you can begin to experience tissue injuries. Why? Because optimal nutrition is dependent on the absorption of the food and if you are no longer absorbing the nutrients you consume, your body becomes depleted and eventually will shut down.
There is a simple test you can do to find out if you have Candida. After trying this test for myself, I was surprised to learn I had it because I don’t eat dairy, gluten or wheat. It is important to do this test first thing in the morning before you eat, drink, or brush your teeth. Collect some saliva in your mouth and after you have a fair amount, gently spit into a glass of water and watch what it does. If your saliva stays afloat for 10-20 minutes, congratulations, you’re fine. If it begins to sink, either quickly or slowly over the next 10-20 minutes, you have Candida. Often it will be in tiny amounts that begin to break off and start to trickle down to the bottom.
Once you get started with removing Candida, you will begin to feel much better. Your energy will return and your physical, emotional and mental states will begin to become strong again. Often we don’t know how bad we are feeling until we start to make changes. We often think what we were experiencing is normal. From here you will improve your capacity to absorb proper nutrients, so you will get the most out of your diet, hydration and exercises. You will experience fewer injuries, have better recovery after your workouts; feel stronger, faster and leaner from your workouts as well.
Once you take this step of taking care of your insides, indulging won’t have such negative impacts on you. There is no time like the present to get your on track, to have a healthy and enjoyable season.
We have all said to ourselves “I want to be better next year.” Of course, being better is an excellent sentiment going forward, but what exactly does “being better” mean, and how do we get there? In terms of endurance sport training how does one “be better”? Should I suffer more? Should I train longer? Will I be better simply by spending more time training, or by working harder when I train?
Setting effective goals, rather than simply suffering more for longer periods of time, is the method to improve ourselves year after year. What is an effective goal? This question can be answered using the SMART goal setting model. The acronym SMART stands for: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Timed. Now, let’s break this down...
First, we must start with a main goal. Naturally, athletes either want to maintain or improve performance, so we’ll say that our goal is to “be faster next season.” Great! Being faster is good, but now what? How do we get there?
Let’s take a look at the Smart Model:
A goal must be specific to be effective. We have stated that our goal is to be faster next year, but how are we going to decrease our overall time? Is there one specific event I am struggling in? Is there any aspect of the race that I am not comfortable in? This is where we analyze our performance from last year, and tailor it to our weaknesses in order to improve those areas. Let’s say that, compared to other racers in my age group, I am much slower in the water. This is an area where I can improve, and should focus my efforts accordingly. Our goal now becomes “swim faster splits relative to this past season” (granted, there will likely be more than one area of improvement, but in interest of simplicity we will focus on one).
An effective goal must be measurable. In other words, how will we know we have succeeded in reaching our goal? If we have ambiguous or poorly defined measurements of success, we will never really know if we have achieved a higher level of performance. There are a number of different ways to measure a goal, however in this instance (as are many examples in athletics) it is related to time, so it is pretty straight forward. Our goal now becomes “decrease swim split time relative to this past season.”
This is by far the most difficult aspect of goal setting for competitive athletes to digest and accept. Committing to overly ambitious, and therefore unrealistic, goals is a major pitfall that should be avoided. In this instance, we will determine what a realistic level of improvement is, and apply that to our goal. For a new athlete, shaving 10-15 minutes off of a 50 minute swim time may well be realistic. For an elite athlete, however, shaving 10-15 minutes off of their swim is probably not humanly possible. For our example, we’ll say that I’ve determined it to be realistic to shave 5 minutes off of my swim time. My goal becomes “decrease swim split time by 5 minutes relative to last season.”
This part of the goal may seem silly, but it is important. This is where we tailor our training sessions in terms of length and intensity to our goal. If I am an Olympic distance triathlete, then swimming faster over a 2 mile course doesn’t really help me reach my goal; I need to be faster in a 1500 meter swim and will therefore focus on training for that distance. If we don’t ensure that our goals are relevant to our performance, then we will have a difficult time focusing on training that is relevant to our goals. Our goal now becomes “decrease Olympic distance swim times by 5 minutes relative to last season.”
This aspect of goal setting dictates when we will reach this goal. This is one of the most important aspects of goal setting because it implements a sense of accountability to our training. If we don’t set time limits to our goals, days, weeks, and even years may pass without us doing anything to train for our goal, let alone reach them. Let’s say an 'A' priority race takes place next July, and I want to beat my PR there. Our goal now becomes "decrease Olympic swim split time, relative to last season, by July 2013."
And there you have it! Our goal of "being faster" has transformed into “decrease Olympic swim split time, relative to last season, by July 2013”, giving it some real legs to stand on. Now we can formulate our training around this SMART goal to maximize improvement. Off-season training is a time of introspection, reflection, and vision for the future. By evaluating ourselves and what we want to do going forward, we give ourselves an opportunity to improve ourselves in an effective and efficient manner. Here’s to a better you in 2013!
We all know what it feels like to be full of energy and often times we think it is only available to the young. Each year we struggle to find the same level of energy we had the previous year. Where does our energy go? Is it really our age, or can we get it back?
Although age is a factor, I have found it to be a small factor. After just turning 49 I am running as fast as I was when I was 45 despite undergoing major knee surgery in March of 2011, and 13 previous surgeries after I was hit by a semi-truck while cycling at age 20.
I have found four factors that affect energy levels the most: diet, training, rest, and stress. This article focuses on two more areas where we tend to lose energy: rest and stress. (Read about the first two areas where we lose energy: Part I)
Rest & Sleep
Rest and sleep is the time when the body repairs and restores itself. I recommend 7-11 hours of sleep a night. If you do not get enough rest, your body doesn’t have enough time to restore and repair itself and is forced to use extra energy to push through the demands of your life. Lack of rest, like overtraining, is not a healthy way to treat your body or live your life. Sooner or later you will burn out and you may even damage your body.
A few signs that you are lacking rest, recovery, or time for your body to repair itself include the feeling of heaviness in your legs, arms, or throughout your body, feeling fatigued all of the time, feeling irritable, and feeling jittery throughout your body. If you notice any of these signs, it is critical to assess your rest habits and bring more sleep, rest, and recovery time back into your life.
Stress & Tension: Parasitic Effort
Stress and tension result from many things in our lives such as work, relationships, children, diet, lack of exercise, finances, etcetera. This list is ongoing and everyone has experienced some form of stress or tension. Oftentimes we are so caught up in our response to the stressors that we are not even aware of what is happening in our bodies.
Some of the most common places to hold stress and tension in our bodies are in our jaws, neck, shoulders, chest, fists, wrists, and in our breath. In the Feldenkrais Method, this is called parasitic effort. Parasitic effort is the unnecessary holding of tension or clenching of muscle groups. Runners for example, often clench their fists and jaws or grind their teeth while running. This clenching doesn’t help them run better; in fact it takes requires energy and effort to maintain, depleting the body of the energy it needs to run.
Here is an exercise to help you understand parasitic effort:
Make a fist with one of your hands. Continue to squeeze the fist as you read on. Notice the effects of squeezing and holding the fist. Is the clenching creating tightness in your arm or chest? What about your throat or neck area? Is this clenching necessary for you to read on, or does it make reading more difficult? All of us are exerting parasitic effort in some way or another all of the time because it is a very deep habit built into the nervous system.
(Keep clenching your fist…)
Why? As we are developing throughout our childhood, we hope to overcome this habit of tension through learning how to function in our world. However, many of us experience situations that stimulate this parasitic effort to kick in. If such situations continuously occur; the system continues to rely on the parasitic effort as a form of protection, hence a habit develops. The system believes the parasitic effort is actually helping the situation so it repeats the behavior.
Once parasitic effort develops into a habit that is continuously held, it is called a holding pattern. For some, holding patterns can become so habitual that they continue while one sleeps. Holding patterns consume a tremendous amount of energy to maintain and strip your body of freedom to move and of energy. About a decade ago, this form of parasitic effort became known as Fibromyalgia. Many people have suffered from this disease to the point of being unable to function on a daily basis due to pain, lack of sleep, and complete loss of energy.
(Are you still clenching your fist?)
Parasitic effort is, in most cases, the biggest leak in energy for people. The first step to combat it is to become aware of the stress and tension in your life. Let go and stop clenching your fist. What happened? Notice the sense of ease that begins to return to you. Which feels better? Clenching your fist or not clenching your fist? Notice where in your body you are holding or storing tension. Don’t worry about why, just notice it and begin to let go.
Here is an exercise to help you identify where you are holding tension in your body and maybe clenching, and most importantly where and how you can begin to let go: Lie down on your back, preferably on the floor. Close your eyes and notice how you are making contact with the floor, I call this a body scan. Start at the top of your head and then bring your awareness to your spine. Travel down your spine to the base of your skull to your tailbone and then pelvis. What kind of sense of your spine do you have? Which parts are touching the floor and which are not?
Now broaden your awareness to notice your shoulders. How does each shoulder rest on the floor? Continue to travel down your pelvis, moving your awareness at your own pace so you continue to develop a deep sense of yourself. What do you notice about yourself? What parts are making contact with the floor and which are held or suspended without touching? Notice how your arms are lying along your sides and how your legs are lying. Now, as you continue to maintain awareness, notice where you are holding tension. You may be holding somewhere if it feels like it is being suspended or if there is a sense of tension. Could you let go there? If you can let go, how does it feel now? Notice that just by becoming aware and wanting to let go, you let go. How do you feel? How is your breathing? How are you different? Notice that you are different and all it takes is awareness.
Download Sharon’s “Awareness Through Movement” audio lessons on her website, SharonStarika.com, under “Online Workshops.”
To read about the first two areas where we lose energy go to: Part I.
Don't worry, this is not an article about New Year's resolutions. This is about knowing that you are enough and it is enough. It refers to anything you do in your life. The amount you exercise each day, how hard you exercised, how fast you ran and the work you got done. Also, the chores you finished and the love you provided your children with. When do you decide? How do you decide it's enough?
Recently, I attended the Woman of the Year celebration in Park City. As I listened to all the accomplishments of the winner, I couldn't help from thinking, I could never do that much. I could never achieve so much. It seems almost impossible to do so much so well, and from there a sense of failure began to enter my mind. I challenged myself to continue to listen, to support her, to think good thoughts about myself. I found myself continuing to think, "Is this what we are about? How would my daughter feel right now in this room? Hopeless? Incapable? Do we focus on expectations so much we end up missing the moment? Are our standards or expectations so high that we are never able to obtain them? If we do obtain them do we really experience happiness and fulfillment?"
I left full of mixed emotions, wondering how I feel "It's enough." I've been pondering this question now for a few months listening, thinking, feeling and sensing. During this time I've come to wonder how many of us are lacking self- love and acceptance for whatever we did that day. Often I hear friends and colleagues say, "Oh, I should have run a faster PR. I should have been first in this race. I should have trained harder. I only ran 16 miles today. If I sleep in that's too lazy. I should add in another marathon because I only did five this year." These are just a few examples I witness daily.
Many of us are living with expectations and demands that cause us to miss out on the moment. How often have we heard or read the message of 'being present'? I'm speaking to the depth of the presence, which is to love, to accept and to embrace whatever you have done as perfect and good enough.
Trust me, I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't have goals or dreams. By all means they are truly important. They provide us with a sense of direction and determination. But even in a goal, when do we feel it is good enough? As I head out the door to run I'm given once again the opportunity to feel, to be present, to witness, to enjoy all that I am in that moment.
Over the past couple months, I have come to realize that one of the most precious gifts I received from The Feldenkrais Method, and in my training is discovering and developing self-image which includes self-regulation, knowing when to stop or back off or when I can go further. It's trusting my ability to know what is right for me at the moment and that what is right for me, is all that matters. It takes presence, awareness and a desire to be connected with one's self.
Perhaps you can begin discovering how you know when it's enough, how you self-regulate and how you honor and love yourself in the moment. It's enough.
"If you are human, your body will move better, improve it's ability to recover, tolerate increased physical effort and just feel better when you have improved elasticity."
"Don’t let what others are doing or saying distract you from what you are striving to accomplish. Stay inside your own head and stay focused on your goals."
"The fastest path to both physician and mental domination in Ironman triathlon is to race and compete in triathlons during your build-up to the big day."