Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Sleep Like a Puppy

Boy do I wish I could sleep like my puppy Sophie does! She plays hard, runs around like a little maniac, tries a thousand times to steal my shoes, then abruptly winds down and crashes into a deep untroubled slumber.

However, since she arrived, I myself have been getting less than optimal sleep. A puppy is, of course, just a baby. It's been enough years now that I had forgotten what nights with babies are like... sleepless! Now that she's 12 weeks old, she's down to only waking up once or twice a night, but the first week or two she was up three and four times. And since I'm not the world's best sleeper in the first place, it takes me a half an hour or so to get back to sleep each time. That adds up to one sleep-deprived Robin.

It's amazing how badly everything suffers when you get inadequate sleep. Workouts of course are the first to go. Intensity, stamina, strength, and brain power all suffer mightily when you don't sleep enough. I guess it's a good reminder to try to get those eight good hours in every night. Karate has been the worst because not only is it physically intense, it's very mentally taxing. My poor partners have had to be patient as I stand there with a blank look trying to recall the particular sequence of moves I'm supposed to be doing. It should be right there in my muscle memory, just ready to spill out of my hands and feet and into action. But apparently muscle memory is still memory and still subject to the inadequacies of a sleep-deprived brain.

I'm seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now. This weekend the family took pity on me and let me sleep in until 9:00 on Sunday morning, and Sophie only woke once last night, so today I feel almost totally human again. With a puppy face like this though, don't you think she's totally worth it??

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Doing the Deck Work

I'm having fun with creative swim workouts lately, and this week was no exception: a new Crossfit-inspired swim workout that I think left everyone feeling taxed in new and unexpected ways. Give it a try if you are tired of just plain old yardage that's not getting you anywhere and want to really feel tapped to your last muscle fiber!

First of all, I'm doing something new with the Master's swimmers. Each week focusing on a certain skill with one specific drill to target it. This week's skill was the High-Elbow Catch, meaning that you shouldn't drop your elbow at any point in the underwater progression from catch to exit. The reasoning is this (try this at home if you don't believe me): as soon as you drop your elbow, you've placed all of your propulsive power in your arm muscles, mostly biceps. Keep your elbow high and you've moved it to the much bigger muscle groupings in your back - especially the lats. The drill for this is the "surfboard" drill - swim like you're paddling a surfboard. No glide portion, just a high elbow catch as if there's a surfboard underneath you. Yes, this is a big exaggeration, but it should give you the feeling of where your catch should be coming from.

Warm Up
300 Drill/Swim by 25s, 100 Kick on Back, 300 Pull, 100 Kick on Side
300 Swim, 100 Kick on Front

1200 y

Main Set

3 x 200 Desc. @ 3:15 (fastest one should be med-fast, we're getting warmed up for the really hard stuff to come)

25 then get out of the water and do 10 pushups, or alternatively do pool pushups from underwater to straight arms on the side of the pool)
50 + 10 pushups
75 + 10 pushups
100 + 10 pushups

50 EZ
2100 y

3 x 150 Desc. @ 2:30 (again, fastest should not be all out but should be med-fast)

25 + 10 pushups
50 + 10 pushups
75 + 10 pushups
100 + 10 pushups

3 x 100 Desc.

50 EZ

5 x 50 Get long – lower stroke count each

3400 y

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Full Neoprene Jacket

Let me just state categorically that getting older SUCKS. Okay, not all of it. I like having some control over my emotions and less impatience, I love watching my kids grow up, all of that kind of thing. But the actual effects of the aging process on the body, now those SUCK.

And I'm not talking about the usual stuff that the media hypes - I don't stay up late at night worrying about my crow's feet, grey hairs, or cellulite. But it bugs the crap outta me when I can't do a workout because something that I injured a decade or two ago is acting up. I get tired of feeling like a whiner when I have to ask someone at karate to go easy on my wrist or tell my crossfit coach that I can't do some exercise because of my hip. The thing is, when I stick to triathlon training, I can feel like I really haven't changed all that much in the last few decades. Endurance sports you may lose a little time here and there, and maybe have to sleep a bit more or take another couple of recovery days a month, but other than that it's pretty painless to age up. But sports that require fast or powerful movements? Volleyball, basketball, tennis, martial arts, Crossfit... in stuff like that there is an enormous difference between say 30 and 45 years old. Things that used to be springy no longer snap back so easily. Or the springs go sprooooiiiingggg, and then it hurts.

I've got neoprene wrist braces, knee braces, ankle braces and elbow braces. How long before I have to show up in a full neoprene suit just to work out?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

My Next Running Partner

I think little Sophie here is going to be a great little running partner in about 6 months or so. She's definitely not short on energy or enthusiasm, and she's already walking pretty well on a leash. I'm not in a hurry for this puppy cuteness to wear off though...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

At Least in Triathlon I Don't Have to Think

I asked my karate sensei the other day what one thing I need to improve on the most, the thing that would be most likely to keep me from getting my black belt. She says I overthink everything, and sometimes I have to pause and remember what I'm doing in the middle of kata or bunkai. Yep, although I'm older than most of the people in my class (often by decades), it's not my body... it's my brain that's the problem.

I'm off to buy some gingko biloba now, thank you very much.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Yep, it's the off-season...when triathletes sit back, relax, wait until after the holidays to start base-building again...

Nope. It's the combo of Crossfit and karate that's killing me. Right now by Friday afternoon each week I feel like I've been hit by a bus. Then I swim on the weekend, get all good and recovered and stretched out, and get ready to be run over by the same bus all over again come Monday.

But I'll be all the stronger for it. Right???

Seriously, 2010 is going to be the Year of the Black Belt. I think I am seriously going to commit to not doing a triathlon until that belt o' black is tied around my waist. That will ensure that I attack it with the necessary fervor to accomplish the goal. Right now, I'm aiming my sights at June 2010. If I manage to pull that off, I can still grab a late summer triathlon or two afterwards.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Sweat!

It's happened three times in the last couple of weeks: someone has directly correlated amount of effort in a workout with amount of sweat. As non-sweater I might just start taking offense one of these days. The latest was tonight when our karate sensei had us watch a movie of a karate dojo in Okinawa where a guy wrings his shirt out with sweat. He then asked us all if we would be able to do that, implying that if we worked out hard enough we should all be wringing out our gi's. I answered honestly that there's no way I could. I might be able to work out that hard, but I will never ever fill a t-shirt with sweat. Afterwards, I hoped that he didn't think I was being flip, because I wasn't. I just don't sweat.

Believe me, this isn't necessarily a good thing. I have to pick my triathlons carefully for instance, because above a certain temperature my body just can't cool itself down. While other athletes begin to glow, then positively shimmer with sweat, all of my capillaries are dilating and turning me a brilliant lobstery red in an effort to shed heat while my skin stays dry as toast. I have been out running in the summer and had people shout at me that I was getting sunburnt. "No", I thank them "I just turn this color when I run." It also affects how many calories I can take in via sports drinks. Because I don't sweat much, I can't drink much unless I want to stop at every porta-potty on the course. That leaves me with a nutritional planning challenge that better sweaters don't face.

Interestingly, research has shown that sweat rates vary with ethnicity and gender (as a Nordic-ish blonde woman I must be doubly-cursed since distance from equator in your ancestry as well as the female gender are correlated with reduced sweat rates). Sweat rates are highly variable, ranging from .4 liters per hour to the highest recorded sweat rate for an athlete in an exercise situation: 3.7 liters (125 oz.) per hour, recorded by Alberto Salazar while preparing for the 1984 Summer Olympics. No wonder he stayed cool under pressure.

As for me, I've exercised until I puked. I've pushed myself 'til I passed out. I spent all night once in a Lakotah sweat lodge. All without breaking a sweat. I've never even owned a stick of anti-perspirant. So for all you coaches out there, don't sweat it if your athletes aren't sweating. They might be working just as hard.