Shut Up & Tri

Getting you inspired and motivated to do your first triathlon

Learn From My First Triathlon Swim: Inhaling Pool Water Can Be a Fun Killer — 22/09/2016

Learn From My First Triathlon Swim: Inhaling Pool Water Can Be a Fun Killer

“Why did I bother training for the swim leg at all?” I think to myself, standing in one corner of the lane at the wall. All I knew was all my training did not prepare me for what’s to come. I have no way to replicate these conditions except to take mental notes and keep going: swimming with six other people is not fun; encountering a wake from both left and right messes with breathing and swimming technique; not all walls are created equal; some pools are apparently one-depth-only the entire length, good thing I’m tall and I can stand with my mouth above the water, everyone else has to hold the wall, the rope, or tread water.

The damn tiled wall is slippery, like it had a layer of algae growing on top of it. But it was a chlorinated indoor pool! My feet could not get a grip on the wall, and all my pushes ended up being wasted energy. Oh, and I get to go first in the wave of 7, no biggie.

The volunteer yells out, “Go!” I attempt to push off but my feet slip, I get dunked under water, and then have to go as quickly as possible because the next person is going to be 3 seconds behind me.

It’s only been 10 meters and I get a tap on my foot which distracts me. I lose my rhythm, I slow to almost a halt to let whoever it is just pass me, and now my stroke is all messed up and I have to try to get moving from almost a complete stop. I let that person pass me, didn’t I? But they didn’t pass!

touching-toes

I realize I’m in a peloton of 6 other swimmers and we are drafting off each other. They were swimming a faster pace than what we all signed up for: 20-22 minutes. The whole thing is throwing me off. I lost count of the number of laps I’ve done, let’s just hope the volunteers are keeping accurate count. I feel like I’m playing real life this:

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I need to think quickly about this situation I am in. I did go out pretty hard for the first few laps, so I can afford to slow down. If I slow down, then the peloton can be one length ahead of me and I’ll be flying solo the rest of the way. Seems like a sound idea.

I hit the wall and let the group go. I take a couple of breaths and instead of freestyle I switch over to breaststroke. My strategy works! I am swimming my own swim! Or am I? This older fella had the same idea. We weren’t going to get trapped into racing with others. This was our race and we’re going to swim our own swim.

A new problem develops from this strategy, though: every time I take a breath during my freestyle, no matter what side, I am met with a wake from the group going one way, and the other group of swimmers in the other lane going the other way. Each time I try to take a breath I swallow water; no, that’s not right, I breathe in water and that, in turn, aggravates my asthma and now conspires against me! I’m not going to get passed the swim leg! I’ll be hit with a big DNF by my name in my first triathlon! No way that is going to happen!

Time to throw out the technique I’ve trained and developed out the window and make adjustments on the fly so I don’t suffocate. My streamlined freestyle with just enough body and head roll for each breath is now a full twist of my torso and head. My mouth resembles a blowhole on a whale: pointing straight up! This causes my legs to dip down creating a lot of drag.

My legs scissor-kick as a result of having to twist so much; my arms overreach; my energy is draining fast. That increase in drag is very noticeable. This is what I must have looked like from the observation deck, just not as severely sunburnt:

over-rotation

I have to play the interval game if I’m to make it out alive: Freestyle one length, breast stroke the other length coming back. The new technique is robbing me of energy and leaves me with little choice but to apply that strategy. It works. I even end up passing a few folks who didn’t stick to their pacing. Wonder what that looked like, some guy doing breaststroke passing others doing freestyle?

Oh wow, one guy just quit and is heading to the change rooms. Damn, that could be me!

“Four laps to go!” The volunteer kindly informs me. I didn’t believe her. But what was I to go on? I lost count pretty much at the beginning. Hey, I’m not arguing or complaining. I’m glad it’s only 200 meters.

All of a sudden I have a new found rush of energy and I go freestyle the entire time while hitting my anerobic threshold, passing the peloton and lapping this poor guy – twice. My shoulders start to burn just as my breathing rate is about to rise, I crash the wall and with relief I climb the ladder and leave the swim behind me.

My swim time: 21 minutes to complete 750m.

I walk the catwalk towards the transition area, yank off my cap, googles, and earplugs and take the time to go through, in my head, the process I need to do in Transition 1 (T1).

My asthma is lingering, but it’s very mild. On the way out I see someone’s towel on the ground with his or her inhaler lying right on top. Just one puff, hope they won’t mind. I sweep that ridiculous thought aside. What a crazy thought! I’ll live through it on the bike ride.

 

Yoda Told Me the Truth About My First Triathlon Bike Ride – Why Shifting Training Focus to Cycling Makes Sense — 21/09/2016

Yoda Told Me the Truth About My First Triathlon Bike Ride – Why Shifting Training Focus to Cycling Makes Sense

I got through the swim leg without passing out! Sure I’m a bit wheezy from breathing in chlorinated water, but I’ll manage. I have to focus on Transition 1 (T1) right this instant!

Good thing I marked where my spot is, better yet, I have somewhat of an idydic memory. Trust me when I say this, it’s both a blessing and a curse.

My stuff is still there! Earlier, a volunteer was yelling at us trying to find the person who set up their transition area with some kind of box or bin. Not really sure what the problem was. I mean, I brought a small cooler with me, but apparently my setup was ok while the other person’s was not.

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Inside my cooler is ice and water. In the squeeze bike bottle, I filled it with Gatorade. My little running bottle with the red top is plain water. On top of the entire package is my running hat chilling in the ice-water.

First thing’s first, open the cooler and toss my swimming paraphernalia into the ice and water slurry. Then, pull out the squeeze-bottle filled with Gatorade and take a nice big sip before putting it in the cage on my bike. After, take out the ice-chilled water bottle filled with water and pour it all over my head, body, and legs. So refreshing!!! Now I have to put on my top.

“Yo, how was the swim?” I hear. It’s my best friend who is standing in the spectator area taking pictures.

“Oh man, it was a lot more difficult than I expected,” I say as I struggle to put my stupid top on. My wet back is causing the shirt to roll. “Damnit! I’m having a wardrobe malfunction!” I laugh.

“I can see that,” he laughs with me. “I noticed you switching strokes in the pool.”

“I had to. The swim was way harder than I thought because of all the people.”

“We need to try and train for that, I guess?”

Finally I manage to get my top on. I put on my sunglasses then my brain bowl, snap the straps under my chin. img_0004I grab my towel and dry off my feet so I can roll on pre-rolled socks and slip my feet into my bike shoes. I don’t need socks for the bike leg, but I figure it’s better to eat up some time during T1 than in T2. I also prefer the look and feel of wearing double socks to prevent my feet from blistering.img_0007I take another drink.

This is what my T1 looked like. Sorry, no photos of my actual area on race day. Kinda hard to carry a camera and snap some pics when pressed for time.img_0002

“Not sure how we can. Talk to you after!” I un-rack my bike and walk to the mounting area.

I pass the mounting zone, clip into the pedals and I’m off! I hit start on my Garmin that I pre-mounted on my bike.

My breathing is still heavy, although my asthma seems to have all but disappeared. I settle on a moderate intensity where I’m balancing my aerobic and anaerobic energy systems. Yet, I feel slow. My speedometer says I’m going my average speed, but something feels off. The swim must have taken much more out of me than I thought. I feel like I’m operating on empty. Looks like I will need to eat the energy bar I stowed in my Bento box after all.

All us riders are ascending this slight 2%-3% hill; most are scaling it slowly, few are scaling it like it were a decline! What!? This girl passes me as I’m passing someone else. Not even a sound of some kind of motor either. I’m sure this is what she looks like as she laughs at everyone she passes thinking:

She must be going 50 km/h because I’m going 30 km/h, and within a few minutes she was gone off in the distance, suddenly melting over some distant horizon. How? “My bike is a piece of junk!” gf_rail_10_zThat’s what I think. In reality, I’m not a rider, I don’t spend nearly enough time in the saddle. Oh look! A quick search finds this site giving it a raving and wonderful 2.5/5 stars! Good thing I got the bike at 60% off.

Mental note: I need to train longer and harder on cycling during the offseason. AND the bike is good enough.

f24c1aa18bce4b843f34d7ea4228f7d1Thanks Uncle Yoda for your always wise advice. The lil’ green Jedi Ultra-master makes a point, though. In any distance triathlon the bike leg is the longest. It makes sense to spend a good deal of our training time on the saddle.

The hill seems like it is endless. It keeps going and going with no breaks. I use this time to eat my pre-cut energy bar stashed away in my Bento box. Clif Bar White Chocolate and Macadamia, yum! Plus the box was on sale, so how could I say no?

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I take a larger chunk out the Bento and toss it in my mouth and begin to chew.

Holy crap! It’s damn near impossible to eat this stuff! It’s like I’ve tossed a handful of dry flour and corn starch in my mouth! Well this is funny, there’s a medical term for it:

xerostomia-4-728Xerostomia. Subjective? My ass! I can’t eat this chalk cookie! No one can (great generalization)!

Lesson learned: the body stops producing saliva during activity. Did. Not. Know. That.

I have to take massive sips of my Gatorade to get the cookie soft enough to swallow. I need to eat half of my bar now so it will be available for my run later. This is going to be a challenge and I also didn’t want to drink all my Gatorade all at once at this point of the race. And of course, I didn’t bring water with me, so what choice do I have? I’ll try to leave a bit to drink at Transition 2 (T2).

Oh no! Someone is off their bike and walking back towards the Transition Area. Damn, her race is finished. I look down on my Garmin, it was only 5 km into the ride. That really sucks. I can’t help but wonder what went wrong.

A seemingly uneventful stretch of road has me look down on my Garmin to see what distance I’ve covered. Big mistake. It’s been around 25 minutes and I’m only closing in on the halfway mark. That can’t be right. I’m on pace to do a 50 minute 20 km ride? All my training sessions have been around 40-42 minutes and that’s on steeper hills! I’ve lost 10 minutes somehow! Now my ass is starting to hurt. sore-buttThat’s what happens when I decide to forgo wearing my riding shorts over my swim jammers. A pair of riding shorts would be real nice right about now, that it will! 1b158b4087c6c461431cbfc7e3758242

I see the roundabout up ahead and my Garmin display indicates that that was an 8 km uphill battle, yet this isn’t the midway point.

The good news is now that uphill is going to be a fast downhill! Sweet! I can finally eat something quick for the run leg, that’s if I can chew and force myself to swallow these little nuggets of cotton balls! But I gotta do it now or else it won’t take effect by the time I go for the run.

I’m passing a lot of riders on the way back. It’s hard to imagine that all these people were in two waves before me. What’s impressive, however, is I’m being passed by athletes who started after me. No time to think about how in the hell they do that!f24c1aa18bce4b843f34d7ea4228f7d1GO AWAY, YODA! I know I ignored the bike portion in my training to focus more on swimming and running. My mistake! I’ll make up for it during the offseason, okay?

My butt is hurting more and more as the end of the ride draws near. The pain has now progressed to this: saddle-sores

40 minutes and 17 km in, I have 3 km to go! My legs are feeling ok but I decide to lighten the gear and opt for a faster cadence which should make the running leg more bearable. Still, my rear is really not happy with my decision to go in my swim shorts.

Closing in on the transition area a volunteer has a car stopped to let riders through. Except for me, of course. In a panic or fit of confusion, she signals me for a stop and just as she was about to signal the car to go through, she flips her sign and signals the car to stop instead to let me go. At this point I’d already begun to do an emergency slow down, which is a huge NO! I am in the wrong gear. The race rules say that riders have the right of way, and now I have to exert more energy to get going again. This can spell trouble, only I don’t know how it will affect me.

“You made me slow down! You freaking made me slow down!” I shout at her, “but thank you!” No use in arguing, I’ve got a run to tackle soon. Besides, I’m not sure what it’s like to be a volunteer in one of these events, and I admit, I was a bit frustrated, but I quickly realized that I have no clue how to do their job, so that’s why I still thanked them. Not only am I frustrated, but now my ass feels like I’ve been riding on this:cyp212-knowdps-sadl1_prev-1200-80

I hit the dismount zone, unclip my shoes, and… I was going to say run to my transition spot but that would be a lie… try to not fall down under my jelly legs. I have to pretend my legs are there and have a leap of faith that they won’t give out while I walk to my spot. In hindsight, I should have been in a higher gear with a higher candence when I was about 10 minutes away from the transition zone. That additional time at an easy gear could have relaxed my legs and hip flexors and get blood moving. Not doing so made my hips and quads quite tense.2420709c07f7ee706c1d0894f508154c

I’m reaching to undo my helmet when some huge alarm inside my head went off telling me not to. Close call! Doing so would have given me a warning, or time penalty, or worse, a disqualification!

I rack up my bike, pull out the little Gatorade I had left and drink it all. Helmet pops off. I open my baby cooler and pull out my running hat that’s been chilling the entire time. The chilled water drips and trickles down my head and body as I slap it on my head. Damn, does that ever feel good. I kick off my cycling shoes and use the cooler as a step stool to help me put my running shoes on. I pull off the Garmin seated on my bike and slap the thing on my wrist. I pour cold ice water over my head. My legs are wobbly, but I’m ready!

Just one more leg and I’d have graduated from triathlete in training to triathlete.

By the way, 47 minutes was my total time on the bike + transition 1 time.

Do You Wonder Why We Get Shin Splints and Do You Want to Learn How to Never Get Them Again? Find Out What You Can Do Today to Get Running Again — 14/09/2016

Do You Wonder Why We Get Shin Splints and Do You Want to Learn How to Never Get Them Again? Find Out What You Can Do Today to Get Running Again

This article discusses the condition some of us have experienced. This is not an article about “foot striking – which one is better?” This is my hypothesis along with anecdotal evidence on how transitioning into a new form cured me from shin splints. The transition took a lot of time (6 months) and work (I ran slower, at first) so please understand that this is not a quick fix. What I do know and what I’ve gathered from all my research is that it doesn’t matter if you land heel or mid or fore foot. What matters is your form, gait, posture, over kicking, speed, and how you would naturally land. The operative word here is “naturally.” My transition must have corrected all those things as a byproduct, although I may not have been thoroughly aware.

Let’s Begin:

Damn, shin splints twice in two weeks. Both times, after a 10 km run. Both times, taking a week to recover.

“It’s all part of being a runner,” I thought. Surely ALL runners suffer from this ailment, right? WRONG!

I was a heel striker for a good long time, maybe 10 years, give or take a couple. The running shoe companies created those space shoes with, you know, the air bubbles, shock absorbers, three-inch padding all placed at the heel. I thought there must be good reasoning backed with research and development into creating these technologically advanced shoes that all promote heel striking form. And for $200 shouldn’t these shoes make me a better, faster, stronger, and more importantly, injury free runner. At the very least! Right?

After all, the marketing posters in virtually all running ads show one or two runners, smiling, having a great run session in some trail or park, with one leg fully extended in front, the foot dorsi-flexed (toes pointed up), about to HEEL strike the hard ground. “That’s the way you’re supposed to run,” is what’s implied by these companies.saucony_find_your_strong_5

Well, I became very frustrated in that my running progress was continually being hindered by shin splints. As you sufferers know, shin splints are almost impossible to stretch out, and virtually impossible to massage. Resting, ice, and NSAIDs seems the only way to get rid of shin splints, and it often took two days or more to relieve the condition. Even if I managed to relieve my shins, I knew they’d return. So it got me thinking.

WHAT IS NATURE’s SOLUTION?

I mean, those spaced out shoes are not natural at all. So, if I were in the cave man days and I had to run away from a man-eating Stegosaurus (yes I know, wrong era and Stegosaurus was a herbivore) what would have been my running technique?

Off to the nearest park I went to test out what the form would be! 

I kicked off my shoes, removed my socks, and for the first time in probably all my life I felt the cool, dry grass under my feet and it… felt… great! Actually, I felt like an eight year old kid again. Then I went for a run.

I literally took one running step in my heel strike form and stopped immediately. I stopped to see where that car went that hit me, but there was no car. Allow me to describe the feeling in detail:

I felt as though I were uppercut by Mike Tyson.mar2016uppercut My entire body was jolted, my spine felt like it were being compacted one-vertebrae-at-a-time as the shock wave terminated at the base of my skull and the impact made my brain slosh around in my skull. And my teeth crashed against each other.

Something was not right. I needed to shake off the jolt and took a nice stroll around the field. It gave me time to think. I’m no kinesiology major but simple thought processes lead me to this revelation:

Heel striking activates the smallest muscles in the legs; shins, and hip flexors. None of the major muscle groups are being used, or rather, used to their full potential: gluteus, quads, gastrocnemius, and soleus. The glutes are extended; the quads are surprisingly relaxed; the calves are elongated. Interestingly enough, the hamstrings are unaffected.

Next was to test a form that incorporated the bigger muscles, which lead me to the fore-foot “strike” (I use this term loosely as proper form results in a much softer “landing”). No longer were my shin muscles being activated, in fact, the muscles were relaxed. My gluteus had a more relaxed and freer motion, my quads flexed and became a part of this shock absorber system which allowed for less stress on my knees and provided knee stability, and my calves were firing and were also were contributing to this shock absorber system.

My concern, however, was the drastic reduction in my stride length. In order to land on my fore foot I couldn’t extend to reach my leg out. To increase my stride I had to rely on my glutes, quads, and calves on the back kick to launch forward.

I ran around the field for a good 5 minutes. I couldn’t go further because my feet, my quads, and especially my calves were getting sore. I laced up my shoes and went home.

Then a question came up: 

How do Olympic athletes run?” These people are the best of the best in the world! I did a quick search on the Tube and looked at video-after-video of athletes in marathons, 10km, 5km, and sprints and noticed a remarkable similarity:

THE TOP RUNNERS IN THE WORLD RUN ON THEIR FORE-FOOT. (except for Usain Bolt, he flies)85249423_boltwinning_getty

Notice Usain Bolt’s back leg. His quads and his calves are active. We can infer that his gluteus is working as well. Also notice his front leg how relaxed the foot and the rest of his leg is.

OK, I admit, not all elite athletes run fore-foot. There are elite athletes who do run with a heel-strike form. They aren’t Olympic Champions, though. And the percent of these heel-strike athletes compared to mid and forefoot landing athletes is like 10-20%. That’s 10-20% of a total number of like 1-2% of ALL runners in the world. So there’s not a lot of them.

Interestingly, a separate study conducted on the other 98% of us running marathons showed that a staggering 93% of all runners landed on their heels. My thoughts on this are:

It’s the damn shoes and shoe companies producing these space shoes that promote heel striking form. The majority of the population are not professionally trained or coached. We receive tips and advice from shoe store clerks and people conducting running clinics and we see massive insulation on the heels of shoes and we create our own conclusions that that is where we are supposed to land, on our heels.

Now, I was on a mission to do further testing to see if changing form from heel striking to fore-foot landing would eliminate my shin splints.

My hypothesis was:

Altering my running form from heel strike to fore-foot strike will transfer the load from the shins to the calves (small muscles to much larger muscles). Changing form will result in a relaxed foot and most of the weight will be carried through the shock absorber system consisting of the:

  • Foot and soleus/gastrocnemius 
  • Quadriceps 
  • Gluteus Maximus 

But that would mean only using this new form over several months to gather enough data and be running in various conditions. I had nothing to lose except those painful shin splints and the top runners in the world all run the same, so I made the decision to change and put my hypothesis to the test.

First Run Was Disastrous:

My first run in this new fore-foot form was a disaster. I couldn’t run for even a kilometre. Not because I was out of shape or tired. Mind you, I was running 10km prior to all this experimenting. No, I couldn’t run in this new form because my calves were atrophied from underuse. My calves were weak.

I had to devise a strategy to make my transition easy and painless. I ended up swallowing my pride and ego and tackled this by pretending I was a new runner and knew nothing about running. In essence, I relearned how to run, again.

My training sessions started with 5 minutes of barefoot running at the park followed by 25 minutes running with shoes. I still used my heel-strike shoes for this.

Subsequent training sessions extended my time barefoot while reducing my time in shoes. I did this until I was able to go for 15 minutes barefoot. This process took a couple weeks. I won’t lie, my calves were frequently tight and sore and I spent a great deal of time stretching. I paid careful attention to my Achilles during this phase, as well.

Then, I went to the shoe store and picked up some Vibrams Five Fingers and New Balance Minimus shoes. I wore these shoes at work, when I went for a run, walking the dogs, and pretty much anywhere and everywhere. At first, my feet were screaming in pain and I could only wear them for 10 minutes at a time. I brought an extra pair of shoes to work so I can switch out my shoes. Eventually, I was able to wear these shoes all day. However, let me be clear with you:

IT TOOK ME SIX MONTHS TO ACHIEVE THAT MILESTONE.

Ok. So where were we? Ah, yes. Six months of testing later. My persistent training in my new running form finally got me to running 10km, albeit, at a much slower time than my heel-striking time. I was running 10 km in about 46 minutes in heel-strike form, while my time in fore-foot form was closer to 55-60 minutes. However!!!

I did not have one single shin splint flare up during the six month transition!!!

Fast forward eight years, a 16 minute 5km personal best, a 45 minute 10km personal best, a sprint triathlon under my belt and not another painful shin splint. Not one.

My findings and very scientific (not really) study is that switching from heel-striking to fore-foot landing eliminates shin splints. Yes, yes, this all is very anecdotal, but I didn’t have much to lose and my thought process was logical. Also, if the top runners in the world have similar form there must be a reason.

Now, here is what I noticed in my running after switching forms:

– Faster and more involvement in the larger muscle groups

– No more knee pain due to having a bend in the knee as opposed to being locked straight out

– Faster cadence from not having to reach forward in my stride and to compensate for a reduction in my stride length

– Higher launch and stronger forward thrust leading to longer air time resulting in free speed due to gravity

– No more shin splints!

Final Thoughts:

If you suffer from shin splints, consider your shoes and false advertising as the culprit, as well as, your running form. And if you do decide to transition into the fore-foot form, please do so very slowly and with knowing it will take six months or longer. That time you invest, however, will keep you in the race and enjoying running once again and for longer.

If you heel strike and don’t want to switch, meaning this is your natural form, looking into your posture, reducing your overreach in your forward leg kick, and increasing your cadence can help to resolve some issues. Higher cadence, not necessarily increased speed, alone will drastically reduce your impact on the ground making you run lighter. Also, relaxing the foot and avoiding dorsi-flexion can also help prevent or reduce the occurrence of shin splints.

Shut Up & Tri — 13/09/2016

Shut Up & Tri

My calves were burning like I’ve never ran in my life, let alone 10 steps. That stupid 5%  decline at the start of the run leg decimated my thighs for a good kilometre. I never got my legs back the whole run. That 5% decline became an incline at the end of the run. I got up half way and said, “screw it! I could probably walk faster.” And so I did. At the top of the hill I made a dash for the finish. By then I couldn’t feel my legs except the burn from all the lactic acid built up. I couldn’t even raise my arms for the finish photo!

I finished my first triathlon, ever.

My time? An hour and thirty-three minutes. I’d become a thriathlete “in training” to a triathlete. The sport hooked another one.

My goal I set in 2008 became a reality in 2016. 8 years! Not because I am lazy, or fearful of the challenge, or anything, but I was sidelined by a major injury, a very long and painful recovery, a major illness, and lack of motivation. Until…

My best friend said, “let’s do a triathlon.” He would go from couch to Sprint Triathlon. Whereas, I’d be going from no motivation to do an event to registering for one and doing it.

My friend’s endurance was non-existent. In fact, he still is not ready to do even a Super-sprint. As for me, I picked up my training and upped the intensity, perfected my sleep schedule, ate more cleanly, and tapered correctly, and practiced my transitions.

Who knew that clicking “Register” would cause all that motivation!?

Technically, I pretty much just Shut Up & Tri. And now I’m hooked to the point I’ve checked out the events in my province and mapped out the events I want to do next year! All by that one motion of clicking “Register”.

I figure if I got motivated, then maybe I can motivate even just one person to take up the sport. Or at worst, you take up only one of the three sports and stick with it. That would mean I made one person more fit and more healthy than they were just yesterday. And that is fine by me.

This is my journey…

Starting (again) – Walk/Run —

Starting (again) – Walk/Run

“Did a bone break and come out from my foot?” I stop at the 5 km mark of the 10 km Turkey Trot in Granville Island, Vancouver, British Columbia. I look down at my right foot. There’s no bone sticking out. Strange, because it feels like it. Well, at least that’s what it would feel like if a broken bone did. All those runners I passed a good long while ago are passing me now. I was in the lead pack and now I’m going to get a big DNF next to my name.

I’m put into the Meat Wagon that will take me to the medical tent. The attendee says, “looks like one of two things. Severe tendinitis, or a torn ligament.” No broken bone. That’s good news. But I don’t like the sound of “torn ligament” because the Medical Laboratory Technologist in me knows that sort of injury takes forever to heal and requires a long time of rehabilitation.

My friend drives me to Delta Hospital and the doctor confirms that no bone is broken. He says to me, “one of two things, tendinitis or ruptured ligament. Neither, as you know, don’t show up on X-ray. All I can tell you is you’re going to need to be off your foot and take NSAID, heat and ice, and if it clears up after three months, then it was your tendon and you can go back to regular activities. If it hasn’t improved after three months, then it is your ligament and you are going to be off as long as six months or longer.”

I end up being off my foot for a year. All my hard work in training to run a 16 minute 5K and an under 45 minute 10K was gone. Rehabilitation took another six months to just be able to walk and fear of another injury held me back another six months.

Fear of injury is very real. I no longer wanted to push myself, even just a little. If I felt even a little bit of pain, I stopped and called it quits and went home.

This was unacceptable. I became my own prisoner. Trapped behind an injury that was no longer there. I’d become conditioned by an invisible tether. And that’s when I made the decision. I needed to be a runner again. I needed to remind myself what it was like to be brand new (again) and that in order to move forwards I needed to take two steps back.

I set my watch for 30 minutes and did what I had done when I first began as a runner: I ran for 1:00 and walked for 1:00 and repeated this until my timer beeped at me like some sort of congratulations!

My foot and legs were quite sore and I took a full week of rest before my next outing. As for my next outing, I changed things up slightly and ran for 1:30 and walked for 1:00 and repeated this until I was congratulated again for my efforts.

The following week I ran for 2:00 and walked for 1:00. After that I was running for 3:00 and resting for only 0:30. I kept upping my run time the following weeks until I eventually was capable of running the whole 30 minutes.

I extended this excercise to run 60 minutes. I broke up my sessions into intervals of running and walking, and kicking up my run time in small increments while decreasing my walking time.

This strategy works and it is something I use still: to help my friends and family get started in running without injuring them; and after I get sick and my body is still working hard to recover.

How does this play in to the Shut Up & Tri theme? Easy! Running is part of the triathlon sport! In a more serious note, this strategy is useful for swimming and biking and can boost confidence by breaking down a bigger goal into much more smaller intervals that are obtainable. Matter of fact, this can be applied to pretty much all sports and training.

So if you are looking to do a half-marathon, then break down that distance. You can start by running and walking until you can run nonstop for 5 km. Then run/walk until you can tackle 10 km nonstop. Or instead of using distance you can substitute it for time. HUGE WARNING!!! Do not increase your distance or time by more than 10% and round up. Endurance training should not hurt. If it does, stop. Rest. Reassess and come up with a new plan. Come back even stronger. Smile. Have fun!

Note: seek medical attention and get yourself a good clean bill of health before you dive into sports or training. Also, endurance training should never be hard nor should it hurt. Er on the side of caution. If something hurts, don’t push through the pain like I did. Don’t set yourself up to fail and lose out on all the training you put in to yourself. It would be a terrible shame for you to invest so much time, effort, and money only to be sidelined by a major injury that could have been prevented if you’d only listened to you body.

 

The Truth on Exercise Induced Muscle Cramps — 14/12/2016

The Truth on Exercise Induced Muscle Cramps

You’re training hard and all systems are a go. Then out of nowhere, no warning, and almost instantaneous you get a painful cramp.

It’s quite rare to get a cramp. In fact, the exact conditions to force a cramp is difficult to reproduce. No one training session, however equal, will induce a cramp. You can train hard for weeks on end and never suffer a cramp. Then one day it hits you.

So why, then, do we cramp at all? If you are like me, I bought into the “theory” that it has something to do with dehydration and a loss of electrolytes. I bought into this theory without question and logic. The messed up part, I’m a medical laboratory geek!

Amazingly, no true study has been conducted due to the random and non reproducible quality of cramps, as well as the difficulty it is to force one. Every research study has been anecdotal. Eat more bananas. Stretch before and after every workout. Drink more water. Drink our Sports Drink (TM). Sure, those things seem to relieve cramps but it actually doesn’t prevent them from happening.

I’m not going to get into the details regarding the myth of cramps and electrolytes because the guys at Sports Scientists do such a wonderful and articulated job blowing the whole electrolyte, dehydration myth out of the water (excuse the pun). Well worth the read.

I will summarize here for you the important points I found interesting:

  • Electrolyte and dehydration is not a factor in cramps
  • Cramps may be due to a misfiring of nerves
  • Cramps may occur during fatigue, but not always
  • Dehydration causes an increase in electrolyte concentration
  • Sweat contains little amounts of salts to be considered negligible
  • If electrolytes were the cause for cramps, then why does it only affect one muscle or area?
  • Electrolytes is uniform in concentration and therefore all muscles should equally cramp
  • If electrolytes were the cause for cramps then why does our heart not cramp?
  • Tests with very cold water and hot spice is showing some unusual results in calming the nerves

So drop the electrolyte sports drinks, they don’t do much in preventing cramps. They can rehydrate and provide some carbs for those long training days. But if a cramp comes on, it’s most likely a tired muscle or a taxed nervous system.

There is no definitive answer as to the cause of cramps, but we know enough to rule out dehydration and electrolyte deficiency. More studies are being performed and the findings are pointing to the nervous system. As to how to stop cramps from happening, it looks like, again, there is no definitive answer. At the onset of a cramp, the remedy still remains to stop, stretch the muscle until the nerve relaxes, and hydrate.

I know some of you will swear that eating a banana, or drinking some sports drink works. Awesome! If it works for you, go for it. It is still anecdotal and your experience could totally be a placebo effect.

 

Mantras — 05/12/2016

Mantras

A “Mantra” (/ˈmæntrə, ˈmɑːn-, ˈmʌn-/ (Sanskrit: मंत्र);) is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning. – taken from Wikipedia

“Ohm…”

“I believe!”

“Breathe out pain and suffering. Breathe in relaxation and peace.”

Mantras. Whether we use them or not or believe in their power the results may be due to placebo effect or perhaps we just needed that psychological kick to move forward.

Endurance training is something like 20% physical and 80% mental by the tail end of a session. Those last few minutes or last few kilometres can feel like hours or an additional 10 kilometres before we hit the finish line.

What do I do when I face that wall? I mentally repeat mantras that function similarly like a coach offering me guidance and support to push those last minutes or kilometres when my legs are feeling heavy and sore.

“Relax and breathe. Give in and let go.” I tend to tense up near the end of a long session. This one reminds me to let my body go and allow gravity to do some work for me. This also prevents me from breathing from my chest and loosens my tummy to breathe “diaphragmatically” (I’m like my sister who loves to make up new words, probably like this one).

“Make this your best session ever!” Completing a hard session and realizing this will be a new personal best is a huge boost to motivation and self esteem. Being on the verge of stopping to rest, if this session is going to be my best I will skip the break and set my aim higher.

“Don’t quit. Fail instead. It’s much better.” I hate quitting but I don’t mind failing. When I fail, it is a failure for that session only. The next session will see an improvement. But if I quit, I won’t see that improvement. Plus, I’ll hate myself for quitting.

“Head up?” This one is a constant for me as I have this tendency to look down. I pose it as a question because I have to give an answer with an action. I don’t know why I look down all the time, but this question corrects my posture and gets me standing taller.

“Reach!” I use this one for swimming. The coach tells me to reach further because I have long arms. Think of “orange orangutan arms”. My reach has an advantage of catching more water to propel me further using less strokes.

“Feel the surface. Kick harder.” Last one. My legs sink and that’s because I suck at kicking. I have a hard time clinching my butt and kicking at the same time. However, I learned recently how hard I should be kicking with a simple exercise and it has made a significant improvement to my kick.

These are mantras I use when I train. I know some may not sound like mantras, but that’s because I use the shortened version of what I have here; such as, “Don’t quit!” or “Push hard!” and “Let it all go.”

Does it work? For me they do. These have helped me improve my game and often times it is enough of a push to correct my form when fatigue makes me lazy. A couple words to get me back in focus, or keep me motivated when fatigue sets in can sometimes help. If I’m faced with the thought of, say, “Still got another half to go?! Fuck me!” I can use a mantra to switch that thought to something more positive and motivating, such as, “Stay calm and focus on the now.”

When things seem hard and difficult in our training, most of the time it’s all mental. I push my body into the upper limits quite often, to the point my muscles will misfire and then fire due to failure, so I know where that limit is for me. The body likes to remain safe, cozy, and comfortable and will do everything imaginable to stay that way, well below the upper limits of your capabilities. Using mantras will quiet the mind and put the mind and body at ease which will allow for you to complete your set or workout.

Share with me some of your mantras. I may just use yours in my sessions and it may well be what I need to get over the final minutes or final kilometres of a training session.

 

Excuses, You May Not Even Know You’re Making Them, But… — 30/11/2016

Excuses, You May Not Even Know You’re Making Them, But…

…they get in the way of happiness and enjoyment. They impede greatness and achievements. They ruin chances of living and being alive.

If it’s one thing that’s on my list that makes me sick then that would be excuses. I hate them. Like really hate them. If someone gives me an excuse I tend to become an ass and call them out. Your excuses are no different. By the end of this article your excuses will be worth nothing, actually, you’ll end up owing instead; not to me, you’ll be owing yourself!

I come from a family of over achievers: NFL, CFL, WHL, NHL, and Olympic-qualifying caliber type of family members. I won’t name drop because it’s not really my thing.

Being around people of that quality can have two outcomes:

  1. Jealousy and inadequacy
  2. Motivation and inspiration.

I’m not the jealous type. And I’m quite the perfectionist and over achiever, to a severe fault. Asked what my weakness is and I’d tell you, “I work harder than anyone and I don’t know when to quit or give up.” You might think that would be a strength, but I went so far once that I tore a ligament in my foot about eight years ago that messed me up and it still affects me even to this day.

I’m also a huge admirer of people who overcome adversity, trials, challenges, and continue to do so against all odds. There are world record holding swimmers in the club I joined and they’re seniors! I read about this 80 year old grandma who ran a 5km race in an impressive time of 33 minutes! There was this Sikh man who turned 100 and decided to do a marathon. He ended up up doing I think 3.

I don’t understand people who constantly blame and complain about things that are out of their control. I really don’t understand how people use time as an excuse, either. No one is that busy each and every single day. No one! Their problem is time management and priorities. Or worse, they have a mental illness and suffer from insomnia that leaves them exhausted, drained, and fatigued. Which would be a medical condition rather than an excuse.

I hate it when someone says to me that they’re too old to be active, and I point to my uncle who is in his 80s and he still kite surfs! He told me he’s taken it a lot easier these days because his joints are not how they used to be but he still hits the water. How fucking awesome is that?!

Or someone just creates shit for the other person doing something incredible like they know the motivation of that person! What the fuck? “OH, well, she probably must have blah blah blah to still be able to run.” Or, “He probably was blessed with good genes.” Maybe! But that’s not a good excuse. And how is THEIR genes even an excuse for YOU to not do something?! And it sure isn’t the reason he did something great or continues to do something! Imagine them saying, “I’m 75 and I still swim, bike and run because I have good genes.” Not likely! It’s more likely, “So what? I’m 75. I enjoy doing all those things. Beats being trapped at home doing nothing. And I’ll continue doing these things until my body gives out.”

When I point out to the person that they’re creating excuses out of nothing I eventually end up getting blamed (for fucking whatever reason that makes no sense to me at all) and I get yelled at because they always end up running out of excuses. It is when they run out of excuses that I get the best excuse on the planet: “You don’t understand because you’re not me. You don’t know me!” The only thing left for them is ad Hominem, or to attack. Does it change them? Nope! I’m not them, but trust me, I know and I understand completely.

People everyday do remarkable things. They don’t make excuses. They don’t let excuses get in the way of happiness or enjoyment. Greatness often came from working and trying. I’ve yet to read or know of someone who achieved greatness from making excuses.

My family member, I’ll call him J, played professional football and got wrecked by a defence man all on live TV. This guy cracked J’s rib and it affected his breathing. One day, at a family party, I tapped him on the chest and he flinched! This 6’5″ 250 lbs guy flinched by a tiny me, a 5’10” 140 lbs skinny guy. But he never used that as an excuse. Sure, he politely asked us not to make him laugh too much that day, but he still cracked jokes. He said that if it didn’t hurt so much to breathe he’d play. I see his point, kinda need to breathe, dontcha think? Besides, it was the coach that wanted him healthy and was ultimately the deciding factor for not letting J play. You know what J did instead? He still showed up to practice and he still hit the gym and he still made it to games!

I come from a very debilitating place filled with trauma and I force myself to do things my mind hates me for doing. My mind hates me so much it bombards me with thoughts of suicide. Yet, I still go on.

I fight a never ending battle with my mind. I have a disease called clinical (major) depression with severe post-traumatic stress and sometimes I can be so severely affected I become debilitated. I’ve never used my illness as an excuse for anything until my support group told me that it’s a damn good excuse to use. I still don’t use it as an excuse unless I’m feeling really shitty and suicidal. Even then, I still train, I still show up and I give it everything I’ve got even when my mind is kicking my ass. And even when I’m feeling that shitty I just say, “I don’t feel good.” That’s it.

About a year ago I wrote a short-film and found a producer to make it. They set up everything. I just had to show up on set ready to direct my little project. The day before filming started I was hit with a major depressive episode that left me feeling really sick and suicidal (I ended up reaching out to some stranger on the suicide hotline, something I’ve never done before). I almost did the unthinkable and pulled a no show (you can interpret this however you want). However, it took a tremendous amount of effort to face the stressful task of filming over a couple of days. Two 12-16 hour days plus weeks-upon-weeks of editing while severely sick was so frustrating and daunting. To make matters worse, my film was a comedy!!! Try finding humour and laughter when you’re depressed!

When I was injured with a ruptured right foot ligament, I relied on crutches to get around. One night at a party, my friend kicked my crutches from under me and I fell on the hardwood floor. I was pissed off and in a lot of pain. He told everyone not to help me up. He told everyone he didn’t want to hear any excuses and a lot of people were a bit concerned. They were defending me by telling him that I can’t walk because I ripped my ligament. He didn’t want to hear any of it. Instead, he presented me with a cane. He proceeded to tell me about when he crashed on his motorcycle and broke his leg in four places that the doctors said he may never walk properly again. He said, “Fuck that!” And he ditched his wheel chair and fast-tracked his rehabilitation and ended up walking and running faster than the doctors predicted. He only wanted the same for me.

Wanna know something else about my friend? He was fighting cancer at the time. Wanna know what else? He lost his battle to cancer but he was still a fighter to his dying day.

His final weeks he stayed in the hospital under palliative care. I knew he had a crazy sweet tooth and I bought him a bag full of chocolate bars and candy. He was so pissed at me because 1) he couldn’t resist and 2) he had steroid induced diabetes. A few days later when I returned to visit him, he didn’t say anything about the candy, in fact, he still behaved angrily towards me for bringing them in the first place. But everyone told me he would ask for candy after eating his meals. The bastard! He knew he was going to die, but he chose to live instead even if it meant dying along the way. He wasn’t scared of death. He was more frightened of not doing the things he always wanted while still alive and leaving his wife behind. Instead, he died knowing that he lived while giving his wife great moments to hold on to.

Maybe your excuses are preventing you from living? So, what’s your excuse, again? Thought so.

Failure is a Sign of Progress – If You’re Gonna Fail, Might as Well Fail Well — 22/11/2016

Failure is a Sign of Progress – If You’re Gonna Fail, Might as Well Fail Well

I’ve been working this sub-45 10km plan for a number of weeks (running 10km in under 45 minutes). Prior to that, I was running 10km just under 50. I started the plan before my first Sprint Triathlon (happened to be my very first triathlon ever). Several things I noticed in my pursuit of trying to run faster while training for a triathlon and participating in an event:

  • Sacrifices are to be made in one or more of the three sports
  • The strictly running plan will need to be altered to accommodate the other two sports, somehow
  • An extended rest break will probably be required
  • Very high intensity workouts need to be adequately spaced among the three disciplines or suffer from overtraining
  • It is going to be hard, very hard.

Sacrifice 

The sacrifices were very difficult to decide upon. Since swimming is already pretty challenging and more pool time along with more quality swim sessions equal a pretty good triathlon start, I really didn’t want to cut my pool time short. Also, now it’s the offseason, and I’ve joined a Master’s Club so those sessions are set in stone.

Instead, my bike time took a massive hit. I reduced my saddle time to half, so instead of about 2 hours a week, I was down to 1 hour a week, sometimes less if I were working on biking hill sprints or doing intervals. This would turn out to be a huge mistake which hurt me big time in my first sprint triathlon.

My running sessions increased and my speed and endurance on my feet was very noticeable, however.

Altering the Run Plan

The plan I’m working is strictly running only. The active rest days is running. But I train on the bike and in the pool, as well. My pool time is set in stone for every Tuesday and Thursday with a Master’s Swimming Club. The problem I face is with running and biking. Spacing out High Intensity Interval Training sessions is a bit of a logistical nightmare considering both biking and running use the legs; therefore, it is possible to overtrain. As of this post, I am still trying to sort out my plan to best serve my goals.

Bellow is a photo of my schedule. Ignore the magnet on the fridge holding my plan up. I’m not from Toronto (the city everyone loves… to hate).

Note that my original plan is crossed out. That particular plan was too intense and it left me feeling drained after the second week forcing me to take a rest week early.


What I’m having trouble with is being able to fit once weekly a high intensity running session and a high intensity bike session, while training six days a week on a three week cycle, taking one full week off for complete rest except for swimming. This schedule is brutal! My body seems to require more and more rest, and I require anywhere from 9-12 hours of sleep! Obviously I’m doing something seriously stupid and I need to work on an intensity vs. volume scale (see graph bellow) and work my way up to the higher intensities.

How this would work is:

Week 1 – I start off with a 6 day week of High Volume with Low Intensity. For example, 90 minute run or bike all done at an easy pace/intensity and 30 or so minutes of active rest in between the long days. I’ve done a few sessions of this work where I didn’t even break a sweat but my muscles still received a good workout. Another example could be some sort of brick work where I will do 30-45 minutes easy biking and immediately transition into 15-30 minutes easy running.

Week 2 – The following week will see a reduction in volume but a moderate increase in intensity. Instead of a 6 day week, I’ll be on a 4-5 day week. But my sessions will be done in my higher aerobic zone and anaerobic threshold. Again, 30-60 minute active rest in between sessions or complete rest.

Week 3 – The third week will be drastically cut to 2 sessions but the intensity will be exponentially increased. In this week, I may opt to do active rest or take the day off completely.

Week 4 – The fourth week will be dedicated to rest to allow fo adaptations to take place. This week I will still be doing foam rolling, core work, and brisk hiking, but nothing intense.

hyperstrpowpeak
Extended Rest Days

High intensity workouts can be rather taxing. Doing two high intensity sessions in one week is very demanding and sometimes the body requires an additional day to recover. This is what I’m currently finding in my training towards faster biking and running. If I followed my plan of two HIIT sessions a week every week for three week cycles, I found myself struggling, lethargic, and fatigued by the end of the second week and skipping the third week to rest instead.

I have to space out as far as possible my running and bike sessions, but still have enough days for active and complete rest while also factoring in that I might do a HIIT session that utterly destroys me forcing me to take a rest day over a workout. Sometimes I’m so destroyed that I have to take a week off.

Actually, I’m also finding doing a long training session, such as, 90 minutes easy/low intensity running, can leave me feeling pretty beat up afterwards, but I won’t be sore or heavy, just feeling tired and worn out. Or it may well be I’m at the cusp of overtraining in which case I need to take an entire week off (which I am doing).

When I did my first triathlon, I went pretty much all out and left everything on the field. I had made plans to execute my running plan the day after, but those plans were dashed. My body was so beat up that I required two days of complete rest. And even then, my legs felt like lead for an entire week after the event.

High Intensity Workouts

In order to go faster in virtually all sports it is usually suggested to, well, go faster. This means doing more sprints, intervals, tempo sessions, and other gruelling techniques that push our bodies to limits we never thought we could hit. I’m talking about training at heart rate zone 5 levels (90-100% maximum heart rate). All the while playing a teeter-totter game between adequate rest and the state of overreaching.

I need to mention here that high intensity workouts can lead to overreaching, which, if not monitored, can lead to overtraining. Overreaching is fine. This is where athletes push towards peak performance. Overtraining however, is serious and has many negative effects on performance, overall health, reduced immune response, and can affect us psychologically. In fact, overtraining can have similar symptoms as clinical depression. This aspect of overtraining is doubly troubling for me since I already suffer from clinical depression, therefore, recognizing if I’m overtraining or relapsing can be difficult.

Click on the two links above to get a very thorough and in-depth look on overreaching and a really great, three-stage look at overtraining syndrome. I think overtraining syndrome is much more important to understand because of its insidious nature, but also because of its potential to cause a great deal of harm and suffering. Knowing what symptoms to look for can literally save your life.

It is Going to be Very, Very Hard

It’s going to be hard! When I say hard, I want to clarify that it is possible, and very likely, to fail a workout. Like, a big “F” on a test paper, FAIL!

In my first week into my sub-45 10km plan, I did an intense interval training session of:

  1. 10 minute warm up
  2. 6 X 2km @4:35 min/km with 60-90 seconds active rests in between
  3. 10 minute light run

Step two looked harmless on paper, but in practice, I got to the halfway point and was about to throw in the towel. I was fooled for the first 2 sets. I handled them rather easily. It was the third set that broke my back. I failed that set and I dreaded knowing I had three more to go. That feeling is very real and it is almost enough to make a grown person want to give up and quit.

However, I didn’t quit! Instead, I accepted this session as a failure, and I did not give the last remaining sets a half-ass effort, either.

“If I am going to fail, I might as well fail well.”

In the end my averages over the entire session clocked me in at 4:36 min/km. I failed by 0.01 min/km!!! I didn’t fail as bad as I had imagined.

Fast forward to today and I have been off of training for a good 2-3 weeks because I caught a pretty nasty bacterial sinus and chest infection, plus a week of antibiotics, and slowly working my way back to normal running form, which took another week. For you readers, this is to illustrate that real life does happen.

When I was back to normal or close to, I executed my running plan where I had left off which was a 5km time trial of under 22:30 minutes. I hit 22:00 which also happened to be my seasonal best. Yay me! I passed! But it was hard. I had to stay right at the edge of my anaerobic threshold the entire time.

After that milestone, the plan had me do some easy runs; 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes. After a couple of days of these easy sessions it was time for another interval run. This time it called for:

  1. 10 minutes warm up.
  2. 3 x 5 minutes @ 10km race pace (4:30/km) with 1 minute active rest in between (light run).
  3. 10 minutes cool down.

15 minutes of total hard running. HA! I could nail that easy! No problem!

Or so I thought…

I was able to complete 2 of the 5 minute @ 10km pace sets. But after the second set, with 30 seconds remaining for rest time, I hit the pause button! I was so gassed. An observer would think I were hyperventilating or suffering from some sort of heart attack. My legs felt like jello. I ended up walking about another minute to lower my breathing rate before hitting start to complete the final set.

I gave the final set everything I had left, of course. It was so hard. This may have been the first time I’ve ever felt the need to puke.

Nevertheless, I completed the workout and I took that big “F” with pride (or humility).

After this hard workout the plan ends with a 10-15km race. There won’t be any race for me since I’m winding down and settling into offseason training. However, since I failed the plan, I have to go all the way back to the start and execute the plan again. Lucky me, right?

I took a week off opting for active rest (very easy biking or running for 30-60 minutes breathing through the nose the entire time). My first day back in training I did a 10 km time trial on a hilly course. I did it in 46:37 with moderate effort. A seasonal best and almost a new personal best. Not too bad for failing this plan, not once, not twice, but three times (10km time trial counts towards that failure).

I’m sure had I gave it my full effort I would have passed the trial but there’s no sense in trying to kill myself just to push the bar higher. I’d rather do the cycle again and pass each phase than try and pass the finals only to fail real hard, real bad on the next plan which is a sub-40 plan.

Warning! Making Your Own Vegetarian Peanut Butter Protein Bars Can Make You Addicted — 18/11/2016

Warning! Making Your Own Vegetarian Peanut Butter Protein Bars Can Make You Addicted

I might have a problem. Not sure if I should consider it a serious one, or I’m sitting in some sort of creative bubble for now. I’m making protein bars at home and testing ingredients to determine what’s good and what’s not so good.

I’ll just jump right to it.

Ingredients:

2 scoops of vegan protein powder (I used vanilla, but chocolate works too)

1 cup of peanut butter

1 tablespoon raw honey (add more if you want some sweetness)

2/3 cup almond milk

2 tablespoons coconut flour

2 cups instant oats

Instruction Manual:

Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit.

In a small pot over low heat on a stove, combine protein powder, peanut butter, honey, and milk and mix until smooth. Keep the temperature low only to keep mixture warm. Do not cook the mixture.

Add coconut flour and half of the oats and mix well. Add the remaining half of the oats and give it a good mix.

Mixture should be stiff and almost crumbly. If it is too wet then add a little bit of coconut flour (tiny amounts like one teaspoon at a time) or add more oats. If the mixture is too dry, add more milk.

Remove from stove and transfer mixture into a baking pan or sheet. Spread and flatten.

Bake in oven for 15 minutes. This slightly binds the dough together. Baking too long can lead to the protein denaturing and becoming rubbery like a hard-boiled egg.

Allow for the pan to cool and then cut the cake into bars. Wrap the bars in cellophane and store in the fridge.

Thoughts and Ideas:

These bars taste pretty good. Not too sweet. I like the texture of these bars, the oats do give it a nice weight to it.

What I find missing is perhaps some chewiness and sporadic sweetness like if I were to add some dried fruits. A nice bit of crunch could make these bars perfect by adding nuts and seeds. But if I were to do that I’d find myself with a stomach ache after eating the whole batch in one sitting!!! It is very possible!

I like making stuff with my protein powders because it extends the number of “doses” I can get out of one bottle. I only share the recipes that turn out good. I’ve had a bad recipe before and I ended up tossing the whole thing out, including 4 cups, not scoops, of protein powder out. But not this recipe!

Give this one a try and add or take away from it. I can honestly say to you that this is pretty darn good.

My Cheap Homemade and “Not-So-Bad-Tasting” Protein Bars — 15/11/2016

My Cheap Homemade and “Not-So-Bad-Tasting” Protein Bars

When I was kid I loved to bake. One of my favourite things to bake were chocolate chip cookies. Then I learned about cookie dough, raw! It was probably better tasting than cooked! At least it was when I was a kid. Another favourite of mine growing up was cookie dough ice cream. I loved the flavour and the unique texture of the frozen dough, chocolate chunks, and cold ice cream.

Now I’m an old fart and I still act and behave like a kid sometimes, but cookie dough munching is left to the real kids. Also, my views regarding milk and dairy products have been rewritten by observing none other than nature herself.

Today it seems we are in a perpetual busy mode. Pressed for time; need convenience; muscles are screaming for protein; grab something quick like a protein bar.

Protein bars can definitely fill that need but maybe in not so healthy ways. Sure we get the boost in protein that we look for in a candy bar, but in some bars we get a ton of filler and sweeteners to mask the actual flavour of a protein source. In essence, the benefits are heavily outweighed by junk.

I bit into a Clif Builder Peanut Butter and Chocolate Bar and was floored! It was so good! It did not taste anything like all the other protein bars I’ve eaten. Too damn good to be true? Bet my damn ass it was! That whopping goodness had over 20 grams of sugar in various forms. Don’t get me wrong, I live on sugar, in fact I can get hypoglycaemic and get blackouts and dizzy spells when my sugar levels reach critical. But 20 grams of sugar in a single bar? A bit overkill even to my standards (which are pretty high), and a bit too much still as an energy bar.

I’m an anti-milk/dairy guy because its consumption defies everything in that nature shows, illustrates, demonstrates to us about dairy in the animal world. The thing about the protein supplement industry is a lot of companies go for whey protein because it is accessible and easy to process and it is cheap. But it still has milk in it. Most protein bars are made with whey and I can’t and won’t eat dairy or any of it’s derivatives.

My solution was to make my own protein bars using almost the next best thing: plant based protein. My top choice would have been to use egg protein, but I wanted to try something vegetarian. My recipe uses honey so it ain’t vegan. Oh, and you don’t want my thoughts regarding vegans and their veganism religion. Let’s just say it is categorized as as an -ism and we all know what that means, right? If not, just think “extremism” and all the words that have that suffix and you will see that anything extreme carries dangers and risks.

Below is my recipe for what I consider “not-bad-tasting” but it’s not because of the homemade nature of the bar, but because I used an ingredient that I find disgusting and it almost ruined my batch. However, that’s just me and my relationship with dark chocolate. I’m sure my recipe as it is would be great for people who like the taste of dark chocolate.

Peanut Butter and Choclate Chip Cookie Dough Protein Bars:

Makes 9 bars.

4 scoops Vegan Vanilla Protein Powder

4 Tablespoons Coconut Flour

2-3 Tablespoons Peanut Butter

125-150 mls Free Ranged Raised Almond Milk

1 Teaspoon Cinnamon

2-3 Tablespoons Raw Canadian Honey

1 Bar of 85% Chocolate

Tools:

Medium mixing bowl

Mixer or some muscle and a fork

Baking sheet or dish

Measuring cups and spoons

Cellophane

Freezer

Instructions:

  1. Mix together the protein powder, coconut flour, peanut butter, and almond milk well. Dough should be stiff and almost crumbly.
  2. If the mixture is too dry, add some almond milk. If the mixture is too wet, add a small teaspoon of coconut flour and mix well. Coconut flour is an efficient sponge, use a little.
  3. Add the cinnamon and honey. The honey may need to be warmed up slightly to be able to mix.
  4. Take half the chocolate bar and break into small pieces and mix into dough.
  5. Dig into the dough and make some bars. Line the bars on the baking sheet or dish.
  6. Melt the remaining chocolate by breaking into small bits and putting them in a small bowl. Take a slightly bigger bowl and add some hot water. Place the small bowl with chocolate into the larger bowl with hot water. Mix the chocolate to melt.
  7. Drizzle chocolate on bars. Or dip the bars in the chocolate.
  8. Put the bars in the freezer for about an hour to set.

Wrap the bars in cellophane and store in the fridge or freezer.

Things I will do differently next batch:

I hate dark chocolate. It’s disgusting. So I’ll be seeing what sort of alternatives there are, perhaps I might be able to find vegan/vegetarian white chocolate chips or something.

The bars are very doughy, so I might add something as a medium fill, kinda like gravel is a binder to cement. I am leaning towards rice crisps or a healthy cereal.

The recipe I used could benefit with another tablespoon or two of honey. Sure it seems like a lot of honey, but keep in mind, this recipe will yield 9 bars. It may not be a lot in the end. Although, I may be thinking I need more honey because of the bitterness of the chocolate screwing everything up.

Overall, I’m happy with this DIY project. Despite the bitter aftertaste of the chocolate, the bars are really quite good.

I don’t know exactly how much protein is in a single bar, but from my estimates it is some where between 12-15 grams. It isn’t 20 grams like the commercial brands, but it is cheaper, convenient, and a lot better in terms of the amount of sugars added like the Clif Builder.

Bad Weather; Even Worse Drivers; All the More to Invest in a Trainer — 14/11/2016

Bad Weather; Even Worse Drivers; All the More to Invest in a Trainer

I’m terrible on the bike. A few reasons why would include inexperience and fear.

It’s not rocket science to know what to do to remedy inexperience. Riding more will take care of that. Playing with gears and maintaining power will help bridge the gap. Sitting in the saddle for longer periods of time will eventually take care of any discomfort felt sitting on a something that is totally unnatural.

Now fear is something that can be overcome by facing it directly. Sure, the fear of catching a flat tire, or two even, in the middle of a ride is always there, and that’s easily handled by being prepared and also knowing how to use a repair kit. There’s also the fear of some crazy dog running up to greet you with a bite to the leg, but in my experience, that occurrence is so rare that it has happened to me exactly zero times!

No, I’m talking about the fear of hitting loose gravel during a turn while travelling at 70-80 km/h and wiping out during a solo ride. I’m also talking about the shitty drivers who think that failing to give way to a cyclist is funny, or that it will somehow deliver some sort of message to the rider. Or the dumbass drivers who intentionally try to nudge a rider with their side mirrors like it’s some sort of game fucking around with another human being’s safety and life.

On one of my rides I had this guy in a big Caterpillar Truck that had side mirrors that stuck out about a foot or so and he nearly clipped my head. He got to about one inch from knocking me. I caught up to this asshole at the light and confronted him. You know what he did? He tried to run me over with his truck as he said, “I hate you fucking bikers!” Yeah, as if my riding in the dedicated bike lane is causing him severe suffering. My hand slammed down on the hood of the truck, causing my hand to swell, in defence and it helped me to push off as I jumped backwards. With Spidey Senses tingling, I had a feeling this guy wanted my blood and was intent on hitting me, I moved out of his way and he sped off. Long story short, I called the cops. Not sure what transpired afterwards, but I sure didn’t want to be a rider with drivers like that on the road.

For the last ride of the season my buddy joined me on a long ride. I took him to a neighbourhood with lots of hills. Since it was early morning, there was very little traffic. About midway through I lost my buddy somehow, so I pulled over to wait. I saw him off in the distance closing in and things appeared fine. When he caught up to me he told me some guy was reversing out of his driveway and wasn’t paying attention and nearly hit him.

Lets not forget the countless news reports of cyclist hit and killed by motorists. It’s senseless, and fucking maddening.

I’m an experienced motorcyclist. Even on a motorbike I had my great share of stupid drivers. I saw drivers that didn’t check their mirrors or blind spots or shoulder check. I’ve had drivers squeeze into my lane. I’ve also had drivers who thought they could outrun a motorcycle. I’ve also had drivers try to hit me intentionally by slamming on their brakes.

If drivers are that bad when I’m on a 500 lbs motorbike, well they’re worse when I’m on a 25 lbs bicycle. I needed to ride, but doing so outdoors was beginning to take on a certain risk that would qualify for Fear Factor. And no Joe Rogan, I’ll take my chances with eating worms than go riding.

There was my dilemma. How do I continue to train on my bike to take care of my inexperience, especially when the weather turns bad, but also keeps me safe from the stupid drivers on the road?

Research led me to this contraption that I was never aware about called a Bike Trainer or Turbo Trainer. Basically it turns a bicycle into a stationary workout bike by clamping the rear wheel that is in contact with a fly wheel that provides resistance. Genius! I needed one!

There was one more trainer on the market that had rollers where you had to bike to stay upright. This was akin to a treadmill, but for bikes. Freaking crazy!

More research on this training tool was required because there are three varieties available and within these are different designs and technology that can get really complicated quickly and as you might guess, costs can rise quickly depending on the trainer.

Three Types of Trainers:

  1. Fan
  2. Magnet
  3. Fluid

The adjustable resistance on the fly wheel is applied by either fan, magnet, or hydraulic fluid, and the loudness of the unit decreases with the fan type being the loudest and fluid being the quietest. Costs go from cheapest at the top to more expensive with the fluid models.

Some makes and models have the ability to use virtual reality and can mimic your ride through any segment of the Tour de France, for example. Of course, this option is expensive and probably best suited to those who take cycling very seriously. But how cool is that? You’re parked in front of your TV riding a course through France and your trainer automatically adjusts for hill climbs and descents!

I’m not that serious to invest in something like that, but a quick look on Craigslist can dig up some buried treasures. I got lucky and found a brand new one for cheap and this (pictured at top) is a respectable unit. It has a magnet fly wheel with 10 adjustable settings for resistance and it’s quiet!

For a beginner like me, brand new isn’t practical, neither would a top of the line model be either. I’d have to do so much riding each month in order to outgrow the model I have right now. When I work on hill climbs I have the setting at 5 and that’s pretty challenging. I have another 5 levels of resistance available to keep me challenged.

Really consider a pre-owned to test things out before making a big purchase. How I see it, $50 or $100 on a unit is a small investment that may end up back on Craigslist, or it will last for a few years before requiring an upgrade. And there’s no tax!

Also, you may be the type of person that needs to be outdoors. Obviously an indoor trainer isn’t for you. However, I’ve seen people take their trainers outside when the weather is nice.

Anyway…

What sort of things can be done on a trainer? Training on a trainer, I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be long and boring. By adding variety to the program it is possible to grind out a long ride or bust out a super intense short session.

Right now I have several programs that I follow to address the many facets of cycling.

  • The long and easy bike rides (I’m up to 75 minutes before my ass starts to rebel).
  • The sprint intervals where I’m spinning my legs like crazy.
  • The ladder program where I spin at a moderate cadence and at various times I increase the gear I’m on but maintain the cadence, and then reverse the process.
  • The killer hill attack program that takes my heart rate to max and gasping for air.

Other things to consider?

Training on a trainer is very different than riding outside. Unless the trainer itself is built to allow for side-to-side tilting, you’re stuck upright making standing attacks somewhat challenging.

Being indoors and stationary also means no wind. Having one or two fans will help keep things cool. The rear wheel tends to get really hot during intense sessions and having a fan pointed to the fly wheel can reduce some of the heat and prevent the rubber from burning.

Have lots of water or electrolytes since trainer workouts tend to make you sweat a lot. This also means having a mat or towel underneath and a small towel on the bike to catch sweat.

For the easy rides, having a movie or several episodes on deck will make time fly much faster and it will reduce the boredom factor. Or putting on a pair of headphones to listen to music or an audiobook is another viable option.

There are bike trainer DVDs available to watch and will help you work out hard. There’s also an app available for subscription that are virtual reality, challenging, and motivating.

One last thing: no helmet required.

 

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That! – You’d Find Time if You Knew You Were On the Verge of Having a Heart Attack, Wouldn’t You? — 10/11/2016

Ain’t Nobody Got Time For That! – You’d Find Time if You Knew You Were On the Verge of Having a Heart Attack, Wouldn’t You?

We all have lives. We all work (sometimes on a fixed scheduled, sometimes on shift rotations). Some of us have children: newborns, toddlers, kids, teens, fur babies. We all have “stuff” to do.

I get it. I really do. The “struggle” is real. However, let me ask you this:

Where is your “me” time amongst all the time spent on and for others?

Our health is even more important these days, especially you folks who have a family to take care of. We already know that eating healthy takes care of the engine; physical training takes care of the body; and we can’t ignore the psychological either, which takes care of the systems and computer.

Heaping Dose of Reality:

My uncle was a MVP basketball player in a professional league in another country. Pretty cool, huh? Once he retired from the sport, he picked up some bad habits. He started smoking heavily, and he ate a lot of unhealthy stuff, and he only played basketball with friends – occasionally. That shit caught up to him and he had a quadruple bypass a year ago. He was only 46. That scared his family and his only son who is just finishing college. He’s still recovering from the surgery and still struggling to do physical activities and eating well and has had to take extended time off from work. I can only imagine what it would be like to be his son losing his father. His mother abandoned them a very long time ago.

I’m sure a lot of us think that training for a triathlon or any event (or just plain training) requires a huge time expenditure. I mean, three disciplines to be relatively proficient in all at once just to participate in a triathlon event? Pretty tall order.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Hear Me Out:

If finish time isn’t your focus, but rather, crossing the finish line is, then even one hour a week will get you there.

Furthermore consider this, training even for one hour a week is surprisingly more than what a great portion of the population does. This report shows that only a quarter of all Canadians are considered moderately active. That was done in 2005. I don’t think that number has changed much in 11 years. I know for a fact there hasn’t been a population explosion of athletes in my area.

If a quadruple bypass doesn’t scare you or if the numbers aren’t enough to get you active – I know I’m not motivated by numbers all that much – then consider the ones I came up with as a few good reasons to try:

1. Boredom

Boredom is a killer.

There’s nothing on TV or they’re all reruns, plus everybody’s got PVR and Netflix, so all your shows ain’t going nowhere.

There’s only so many chores in a day you can do until boredom sinks in.

Lousy weather is making you stay in, but you can only stay cooped up for only so long before you begin getting restless.

The blogs you follow don’t have new posts and you don’t feel like reading a book.

The mall can get boring really fast.

Playing your MMO will leave you with nothing to do in the evening.

You’re bored… There’s nothing to do… Sigh/Cry…

What about swimming? Running? Biking? What about joining a club or Master’s club? Take your family to the pool and have fun! Go for a run or bike ride if it’s nice out or use your stationary bike and treadmill if it’s not. Hit the gym if that’s what you want to do. Go skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, or cross country skiing (great aerobic exercise, second to swimming by the way).

Any activity is better than boredom. Unless of course you’re just being lazy, in which case you need to Shut Up & Tri!

2. Get Away from the Kids, but also do it for the Kids

I know people who still go on dates even after being married with kids. They even call them that – date night. I think it’s awesome and it works great for these people. They do it to keep the relationship open. They do it to keep things vibrant. But I think they do it to get away from the kids.

I know one guy in my Master’s Swim Club who uses that one hour, three times a week for himself. He gets away from his kid and wife to focus on his health and be around likeminded people. It’s what’s his. You know what’s his wife’s thing? She enjoys walking their 15 year old Jack Russell for an hour each day.

My brother in law commits to Crossfit 3-4 times a week to focus on himself, but it also gets him away from his hyper, headache inducing kids for an hour each day. It also helps him defeat boredom since he’s the type that can and will play video games all day if allowed to do so (he played COD for 8 hours/day for almost a week!). Being a business owner isn’t always being busy, I guess. And there’s not much going on when the kids are in school, either.

All these people do it to get away from their kids, but they do it for their kids as well. Parents still dating is a sign that they are working together to maintain a relationship and the kids see that effort. Swimming with a club is a positive role model for their children and the father can teach/coach his kids outside of club time so they can learn an invaluable lesson/skill and spend quality time together. A father doing Crossfit is making sure he stays healthy and fit so that he can ensure he’ll be around to watch his two sons growing up and also so he can have the energy to keep up with them!

3. Scratch that Competitive Itch

Being human and being naturally competitive, even if we say we aren’t, is healthy. Constantly setting goals, improving ourselves, and watching our progress can be quite uplifting to our self esteem. However, there aren’t a lot of outlets for us to scratch that itch.

Corporate settings will often pit us against our own friends and coworkers, which is, in my opinion, pretty disgusting. We all want that one position, that one promotion, but we need to be a “team player” and yet we must compete with our own teammates. Politics and emotions can run wild. I know, I’ve seen it. Those who were once good friends are no longer due to something work related, like trying to go for the same job.

Those yearly performance reviews all point out flaws and weaknesses that upper management wants you to work on and they want to see you work harder, but they never see your personal progress or strengths. I wonder why?

Jealousy, sadness, anger, frustration, feelings of inadequacy, and lack of having control is commonly felt, but seldom shown. These are all not very good and quite unhealthy. Bottled up emotions can be one emotion away from popping off!

Training for an event, or even better, training against yourself can relieve that itch. Imagine you ran a 30 minute 5km. You can compete with yourself by creating a goal, planning, and training and doing “events” to try and beat your previous times (you can map out a course and use that as your time trial). You’re now in control and responsible for your own results. You are accountable to yourself. Kinda sounds like being an entrepreneur, doesn’t it?

Trying to be better than your “yesterday’s ” self is your competition. Everything else work related is baggage left at the door. Training can be what you look forward to after a rough day at work. It is very hard to focus on your training while thinking about what happened at work, and vice versa.

Forbes magazine did an article about triathletes in the corporate world and found that these people developed skills that would make them successful or would make great CEOs. Something to think about.

4. Stress Relief 

Unless you’ve been living under a rock or off-grid, it is a well known fact that moderate exercise can reduce stress. I don’t need to link research articles from the Mayo Clinic or Harvard Medical to prove that moderate exercise can reduce stress (see what I did there?)

We live in a time where people are facing high levels of stress. There is no more such thing as job security – STRESS. The economy keeps tanking – STRESS. Mortgages and amortizations are getting higher and longer – STRESS. Education is getting more costly – STRESS. Children and teens are behaving much worse than previous generations – ANGER, DISAPPOINTMENT, STRESS. And more… STRESS!

Focusing on your own thing can be a huge stress reducer. Focusing on three disciplines allows for flexibility and versatility in your training schedule, for example. You choose what you want to do – you are in control. Alternatively, you can relinquish control over to an instructor/coach/personal trainer/sensei and be free of one less thing while they do their work on you.

Training will reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone), increase cardiopulmonary efficiency, decrease your resting heart rate, and pump up endorphins (“feel good” neurological chemical) to name a few. If you do boxing or martial arts, you can even let off some steam by working the heavy bag or pads or take things out on your sparring partner (go easy on them though, they’re not really your enemy… Or are they?).

There is another form of stress that is often overlooked that can be reduced by training and that is stress on the joints and skeletal system. Endurance and strength training can fortify bones and make us leaner, which takes off excess stresses on our knees, back, shoulders, etc. Stronger muscles can improve stability and our posture.

5. You Don’t Have to Actually Do an Event

You don’t.

I trained for years running. I trained on the bike casually for a couple of years. And I’ve only started taking my swimming seriously just this year, but I was swimming off and on for maybe two years.

I did a handful of running events, but nothing serious. I then got injured (I ruptured a ligament in my right foot) and it took a very long time to recover and then when I finally got healthy I did a sprint triathlon.

The only reason I did the triathlon in the first place was because my buddy said, “we should do a triathlon.” He didn’t do one – yet. But I did.

Although, I never would have done a triathlon had he not said anything. I would have continued to run. I would have seldomly biked, since biking isn’t much my sport. And I would have swam maybe once or twice a month to change things up. All the training I was doing was because I enjoyed doing them, I needed to keep my body healthy so my mind could focus on its self (depression is a real bitch), not because I signed up for an event.

I’m a runner. I love running. I love being outdoors and beating my previous times and running faster, further. This is the one sport where I love to push myself and see progress.

I’m not a cyclist. I’m really slow. But I do love exploring new areas in my neighbourhood or conquering massive, steep hills. However, I don’t love the stupid drivers on the road: Me on a 25 pound bike versus a 3000 pound car, no thank you!

I’m a terrible swimmer. I’m self-taught and it shows. But there’s something about being in the water that’s refreshing. It’s also fun to face the challenge of being in a completely unnatural environment (for humans) and learning to swim fast, efficiently, and effortlessly. This is one sport where there is always something to work on, to improve, and progress is often seen.

Nothing in my training had triathlon as the end goal. I just happen to do the three sports, that’s all. Triathlon was merely a byproduct.

Each sport has a low barrier of entry, except for swimming, perhaps. But anyone with ambition can sign up for lessons and coaching and within a few months be swimming laps in the pool (once you sign up for lessons and coaching you are committed unless you decide not to show up). If you have a bike and a helmet, you can hit the road or trails and start biking. And virtually anyone can get proper fitting running shoes and start off with a walk/run program. And if you want to do an event, that’s your choice. But know this: If you sign up for an event your motivation to prepare for it will skyrocket!

One Simple Swimming Exercise to Demonstrate How (Hard) to Kick — 09/11/2016

One Simple Swimming Exercise to Demonstrate How (Hard) to Kick

“You know what your problem is?” He says to me with a really cool and rolling Slovakian accent. “Come here, I’ll show it to you.” I swim under the ropes and meet him in his lane. He proceeds to show me how I kick, which is rather embarrassing. I knew I was bad, but I had no idea!!! He showed me something that resembled me drunk and having turrets. “You’re all over the place!”

“OK, I show you an ok kick. I’m not very good, but it’s better than what you’re doing. Now watch me underwater.” I take a deep breath and dunk my head underwater to observe him kick. This big beer bellied guy is moving his legs, but they’re whipping under the water like weeping willow branches. It almost looks like his legs are made of rubber by the way they bend through the water.

“Did you see? I didn’t use my legs at all. It starts at the hips, then the legs follow. It takes practice to relax the legs and let the hips do all the work.”

Yeah, his hips were moving so quickly I had a difficult time seeing what exactly… I don’t know.

“Now you try,” as he hands me a kick board.

I. AM. NOT. MOVING! I’m kicking and I’m going nowhere. He’s trying not to laugh at me. “Your legs are sinking.” Yeah, my whole body is sinking!

“Take a look at Susan. She is a powerful kicker.” She sure is. I slink underwater to observe. She makes it look so simple. Hips are moving but the legs are just going with the flow.

“Learning how to kick? Once you figure it out it never leaves you,” she says.

“Do you have a lesson you can teach him?”

“Oh! It’s a pretty hard one but it will teach you how hard to kick. This is great to learn because a lot of people think they’re kicking but they really aren’t. Let’s teach him the vertical.”

The Vertical:

While upright in the deep end of a pool, arms either at your sides or up in the air. Kick! Don’t tread water. Just kick! Only use the hips. Try and keep the upper body still. Play around with speed (cadence) and kick stroke (length).

If you sink or your head goes below the surface, kick harder!

That’s it. Basically you try not to drown.

This simple exercise demonstrated to me that what I considered kicking was in fact an illusion that only resembled kicking. I kicked like a pansy. No, not like a girl! Because it was a girl who taught me how to kick! A soggy newspaper had more power than my sorry excuse for a kick!

Of course when we kick upright, we are fighting gravity and all the weight of the water and our bodies. When we translate this kick to swimming, we won’t need to kick as hard when our bodies are horizontal. But this exercise will tell us the gap in power we need to bridge, and it’s a big bridge in my case.

This eye opening technique improved my position relative to the water’s surface and I noticed an improvement in my speed. Of course, making this change in form permanent will take a while, but it works!

You Wouldn’t Tell a Cancer Patient That They Need to Get a Job, Would You? — 07/11/2016

You Wouldn’t Tell a Cancer Patient That They Need to Get a Job, Would You?

I’m still very ill. I think I’m getting worse. Even with a bunch of medications. It’s what the psychiatrists say, “the depression is punching through the medication.”

Just right now my mother said I need to find a job and like a seemingly empty room filled with odourless gas a spark was lit and all that emptiness was filled with a fiery explosion. Fuck! Not how I wanted to start my morning. It took me nearly an hour to extinguish the flames.

My mother is an ignorant person. Highly ignorant. She refuses to wipe away her ignorance with knowledge and information. She won’t talk to her doctor to learn about depression and PTSD. She believes “God” and prayer will take care of it for her and will magically make me better so I can return to my old career that was so considerate towards me by kicking me out when I was suffering in the middle of a major depressive episode.

See, depression is invisible and it is difficult to prove. There’s no tests or markers, just a doctor’s opinion and a checklist with boxes to tick and the patient’s responsiveness to treatment.

I had a major depressive episode in college that ended with my being suspended for a year. My psychiatrist insisted that I was able to work after he told me, as I walked in his office, “You don’t look so good.” Then he just dropped me as his patient with no reason or warning that very day.

My new doctor thinks I can seek employment, but that was a few months ago when the treatments seemed to be doing a fine job. I was excited that maybe this is it and I was already hunting on the job boards. But fast forward to today and I’m a depressed mess. There is no way I would be fit to do any work in the condition that I’m in.

I don’t know when my depression will rear its ugly head, sneaking over my shoulder ready to fuck up my day, week, month, shit maybe my year! It just shows up. This unpredictability would make it hard for an employer to rely on my being there to work, reliably. How do I tell an employer who is looking to hire that my schedule may or may not have me missing days, weeks, or months. How? They won’t hire me! They don’t want unpredictability and unreliability!

I had this crazy thought that if instead of mental illness I had cancer then I’d be treated very differently. Both are diseases. One is invisible. One is visible. The prognosis for either can be the same. There is a possibility of relapse in both. One can die of cancer. One can die of depression.

No one tells a cancer patient to suck it up, to get over it, or that they’re doing it to get attention! And I’ve never heard any of my friends, and I’ve surely never told a cancer patient, or my best friend who died from cancer that they needed to get a job!

Then why is that people who are severely mentally ill are different? Sometimes illness can be quite debilitating depending on the illness. When my depression kicks in I have no motivation to live, to maintain hygiene, to eat or drink, nothing! A person with anxiety may be functional, in the comfort of his home, but may face crippling debilitation if he is forced to go outside.

Suicide isn’t enough of a symptom to warrant an otherwise alternative path for employment. I know for a fact that when I was working in the medical laboratory and I wanted to kill myself, my mind wasn’t on the patients I was caring for (ever heard of “no care healthcare”?) I know that if I were thrust into a stressful situation, such as, being called in for a “code blue” (cardiac arrest) there could be a probability I could cave in under all the pressure to save a person’s life. And what would happen to me if the team lost that patient? I know that, in the past, when we lost a patient I felt a tremendous amount of grief and guilt because I thought maybe I didn’t work hard enough or fast enough.

What do I do when my career was stressful and that is the only thing I’m qualified to do? What is the alternative? I’m still sick as fuck. If I return to my profession and I end up let go, fired, suspended, or whatever, then what? In my profession if I fuck up I could get sued! How is that contributing to my mental wellbeing? Fired? Talk about added stress to anyone’s mental health and a complete annihilation of self-esteem over a fucking invisible disease!

No one wants to talk about it. No one wants to listen. They say they do, but really they don’t. Because if they do, they can’t let you go for “insubordination” or “unprofessional conduct”. They’ll have to accommodate you and integrate you somehow. And that’s not what they want. Then they’ll offer a severance and other services as well as make you sign a NDA (non-disclosure agreement) to cover their asses, completely ignoring the fact that their employee is very sick. Also, forget about references and reference letters.

But if instead the above scenario had the employee with cancer, none of that shit would happen! The employers would take a more compassionate direction and do everything they can to make things easier for their employee. I’ve never in my life heard of an employer relieve an employee for having cancer. That would be preposterous and illegal (in Canada)! Not sure how it works in other parts of the world.

Stigma and ignorance can be just as debilitating. A person like me suffering greatly doesn’t have the energy to smack that shit out of someone’s head. We suffer in silence because if it gets out and it lands in the ears of someone ignorant, well, the fallout can be just as devastating as the spark.

Mental illness called any other name…

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