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Exercise: Every Little Bit Counts

December 3rd, 2014


Short and sweet swim session with Lisa
Short and sweet swim session with Lisa "Rockfish" Ribes in the Endless pool (swimmer's treadmill, if you will).

For the better part of 30 years, I exercised 20-40 hours per week. 45-60 minute runs were the norm, and I never rode my bike for less than 90 minutes.  Like many of us, I became committed to a mindset that believed a 15-30 minute run or ride was a worthless endeavor.

In 2004, after transitioning into life with a real job (sort of) and a family, not only was it hard for me to accept that I only had time for 3-5, 30’ runs and 2-3 hours per week instead of 20-40 hours per week, but it was hard to fathom that 3-5, 30’ runs was even worth the effort.

Fortunately, my wise friends who had busy schedules yet realized the value in exercise, convinced me that when it comes to fitting a workout into our busy schedule - every little bit counts.  It took a year or two, but I eventually embraced the “short and sweet” mentality with regard to working out. Fast forward 10 years, and I’m still fit, faster, relative to my former self, than I thought I’d be, and my love of exercise has continued to grow.

I like to repeat this message over the holidays because free-time is limited and stress levels are high. As a result, many athletes who are used to spending more than 5 hours per week training, throw in the towel for the months of November and December, convinced that a, relatively speaking, nickle and dime workout routine is not worth the effort. 

Don’t do that this holiday season. Accept that a reduced (yet more intense) workout schedule is not only fine, but may even help to get you out of a training rut, and leave you recharged and in a better place when you do commence your event specific training plan during the New Year. Accept the notion that keeping exercise in your life will make you a better parent, partner, friend, more productive at work and at home, a better holiday shopper, and allow that short and sweet exercise bouts of physical activity count as exercise. 

Take advantage of any opportunity to move or get the heart rate up for a minute or five.  Furthermore, if your exercise bouts are short and sweet - and it doesn’t matter how old you are or how slow you are - put some umph into it! Run back to the car after dropping the kids at school or extracurricular activity. Walk with a purpose when holiday shopping.  RUN up the stairs instead of taking the elevator.  Walk around your office while talking on the phone.  Run 1 mile instead of 4, when you don’t have 30-40 minutes to spare - don’t even waste time putting running clothes on. Just step into a pair of running shoes and go!

Here’s some additional reading on the subject.

The bottom line: Just because circumstances prevent you from training as much as you’d like, doesn’t mean you should abandon exercise entirely. Be creative with your exercise, and remember that every little bit counts.

Thank You Kona

October 21st, 2014


Alex Zanardi
Alex Zanardi

A few years back, I completed most of the1987 IRONMAN World Championships.  Unfortunately, I left out the most important part – the finish line.  During the process of almost finishing, I learned a couple of things.  First, not finishing something that you start is a horrible feeling, and second, I don’t enjoy IRONMAN distance triathlons.

Immediately after almost completing the event, as I watched others finish what I did not, I learned a few more things.  Primarily, IRONMAN is a race, an event, and also a journey.  I sat and watched just about every single person cross that finish line – a subconscious penance, perhaps, yet an amazing and enlightening experience.  Each person’s face and body told a story.  Some of the stories were obvious, and some were not.  Trying to figure out the stories that were not obvious, and perhaps apply them to my life, was cathartic, and reminded me of why I got involved in sport in the first place.

I started my life as a triathlete out of admiration for a college professor, and because of intrigue into the process of testing oneself – the journey, if you will.  I did “short” triathlons – one to two hours.  What started out as journeys, gradually morphed into competitions.  Accordingly, my notion of success gradually shifted from the completion of the journey, to finishing before anyone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I loved that my results were directly tied to success – financial and otherwise.  But at some point, that drive obscures the real motivation.  My yearly pilgrimage to watch IRONMAN Kona reminded me that the challenge was the real reason I started.  Because of this reminder, I never tired of my life in sport.

This year in Kona, I listened to Alex Zanardi, one of the greatest sportsman of all time, who lost both of his legs in a horrific IndyCar crash, talk about his successes.  After finishing IRONMAN Kona, with no legs, in 9:47:14 (1:08, 6:07, 2:24), he was asked by a small group of inquisitive fans how he was able to go so fast.  He answered that he did not become an IndyCar Champion because he wanted to drive fast.  He drove fast because he loved the process of learning to drive a race car.  Of his experience in Kona, Mr. Zanardi said, “When I passed down that narrow lane I have never experienced anything like that. It was amazing. I was always close to crying. I am not an emotional guy for these types of things, but this was very special.”

Once again, I’m reminded – if you love the journey, you will enjoy success.

Thank you Kona.

Inside The France Camp Kitchen

October 17th, 2014

France Camp, first and foremost, is about cycling.  Food and friendship, however, are a close runner up.

Cycling up and down the mountains of the French alpes inspires tales of heroism and woe (the good kind), fosters comradery and a sense of community, and whets the appetite.

The France Camp dinner table provides both the remedy for ravenousness and the pulpit for tales.  The kitchen, of course, is the source of its delicious delectables.

At the heart of the kitchen are Chefs Michael and Alex who enthusiastically combine their love of all things food and wine, to expertly prepare what I like to call, France Camp cuisine – mostly French dishes with an English flare.

Their daily interplay, occasional debates about the source or origin of the night’s creation, and their knowledge of food, wine, and local history, are a big part of the France Camp culinary experience.

I hope you enjoy this glimpse into the France Camp kitchen and hope that it entices you to come and ride, eat, and tell stories with us next July (click here for France Camp details).


I’m Right. (Should a male triathlete shave his legs?)

January 6th, 2014


Men - we're hairy. Embrace it.
Men - we're hairy. Embrace it.

I enjoy a civil argument – especially when there’s no right or wrong answer, because then I’m always right.

With this in mind – tune in here to periodically weigh in on questions that have no right or wrong answer.  It’s always fun to argue when you can never be wrong!

Should a male triathlete shave his legs?

No, you should not shave your legs if you’re a male triathlete.

Shaving your legs will not make you a faster triathlete and is a colossal waste of time.

Swimmers shave visible body hair before key meets – at most, once or twice per year.  And I believe that the heightened sensation the results from shaving off a jungle of hair and the first layer of skin, may lead to improved “feel” for the water and therefore faster times.  However, the reason swimmers limit their shave-down to once or twice per year is because the more you shave, the less sensitized your skin feels – you become used to the feeling, in other words.

So any male triathlete who tells you that he is hairless because he will swim faster, is pulling the fur over your eyes.  Besides, 99% of triathlon swims are wetsuit swims!

I’ve heard it all: hairless legs make massage easier, hairless legs make road rash easier to take care of, hairless legs are more aerodynamic – all BS.

The only reason a male triathlete wants to shave his legs is because shaved legs look better – which is 100% true.  The ugliest legs will look less ugly sans pelt.  But that’s still no reason to spend time and money on a regular grooming routine if you’re a man.  On average, it takes a man 26 minutes to mow down the hairy equivalent of the rough at Augusta National.  Not to mention the fact that yearly razor and shaving cream costs will run you well into the three figures.

Furthermore, it’s a scientific fact that leg hair was put there for two primary reasons having to do with the survival of both the male and female species: warmth and traction.

Bottom line: Go for a three to four mile run instead of shaving your legs, and then bank the money you’ll save by not buying razors and shaving cream.  At the end of the year, you’ll have enough money to buy yourself a nice pair of running shoes (or two, if you’re extremely Sasquatch-like).

Racing For A Reason(s)

January 4th, 2014


Matthew and Madeline with Layla, a Tu Nidito child.
Matthew and Madeline with Layla, a Tu Nidito child.
Matthew, Madeline, and me.
Matthew, Madeline, and me.
The kids watched Ironman Kona this year. Next stop Tahoe!
The kids watched Ironman Kona this year. Next stop Tahoe!

During my 20-year career as a professional triathlete, I had just about zero desire to do the Ironman distance.  I was mildly intrigued at the start of my career, but by mile six of the run in the 1987 Ironman World Championships, I was over it.

I was so over it that I never attempted another Ironman nor thought about attempting one until the twilight of my career in 1999.  I’ve always been a quick learner and on that day in 1987, I learned two very important things about myself:

  1. I have a short attention span, and
  2. I suck at the Ironman distance.

To be blatantly honest, the only reason I considered an Ironman in 1999 was because I knew that I would be venturing into the coaching world and that I should probably finish one so that I would have a better idea of what those wacky enough to want to do an Ironman – over and over again, were going through.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the Ironman distance.  It’s just that at the time (in 1987 - after I got my butt handed to me by the race and by my peers) I decided that the life lessons learned from participating in an Ironman can be gleaned almost as well from the sidelines as from the field of play.  For me, the “doing” was limited to (much) shorter events.

But, since 1985, I have rarely missed spectating (in person) at the Kona Ironman World Championships.  During an Ironman, the race unfolds much slower than it does in the 1-2 hour events that were my bread and butter.  Because of this, we spectators are able to see many stories unfold – hundreds, if you paid attention.  You don’t get much of a story watching a 1-2 hour race.  Watching Kona each year reminded me why I started doing triathlons in the first place – for the test and for the journey.

Now, as a parent and coach, I want to teach my children, other children, AND adults, that the test and the journey are important.  In our world of technology (smartphones, ipads, ipods, video/computer games . . . ) and stimuli (facebook, twitter, instagram . . .) that make it harder to get up and move and easier to sit on your butt (pick your poison) – I want my children’s experiences to be felt and not be of the virtual variety.

Plus, this year - Tu Nidito, a charitable organization that is near and dear to my heart, has chosen the Ironman vehicle as a way to raise money and awareness for its mission - supporting children impacted by serious medical conditions and death.

Cutting to the chase – I’ve thrown my hat in the ring for Ironman Lake Tahoe.  I’m racing Ironman Lake Tahoe as part of Tu Nidito’s Tri for a Child team.

Many who knew me “way back when,” will find this amusing and perplexing.  Many of my “new” friends and family (our kids, mainly) will find this exciting and curious.

Me – I’m all of those.

Mainly, I want to lead by example again.  I’ve been sitting on the sidelines for too long.  I also want to raise funds and awareness for Tu Nidito because I believe so passionately in their mission and purpose.

And finally, for those of you who are wondering – mostly my friends from way back when – I’m not lumping myself into the “just want to finish” category … not that there’s anything wrong with that.  I am slapping my intentions firmly on the table for all to see.  If you’re 50 years old and racing in Tahoe – you better get your Shitzu together (as my 10-year-old daughter likes to say).  If you’re a “youngster,” you better watch your back.

And if you’re of any age and you’re looking to finish a real Ironman – Tahoe is your race.  It’s a true triathlete’s course – man/woman against the venue.  I watched last year, and the stories that I saw unfold in that race are rivaled only by those played out on the lava fields of Kona.

I want some of that.

If you want to join me, please consider being part of Tu Nidito’s Tri For A Child team.  Tu Nidito has entry spots for Ironman Tahoe (and sold-out Ironman Boulder).  As part of the Tri For A Child team, you’ll get a training plan designed by me, support at the race, the satisfaction of helping a child in need, and most important of all, you’ll learn, teach, and inspire – yourself and others.

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