The Importance of Sleep


Photo from Bellingrath Gardens in Alabama

I clutched the steering wheel of the Crown Victoria on my way to graduate school classes at Kent State University, keeping my eyes wide open. Red light. My head bobbed and hit the steering wheel; my foot slipped off the brake pedal, and the car drifted forward. Tires squealed. I slammed on the brake just in time before hitting the car in front of me. Obviously, I was too tired to drive even if it meant being late to my eight AM class.

A gas station to my right looked like a good place to pull over and stop, so that’s just what I did. I called my mom to have her call me in 15 minutes after I took a short nap in my parked car; this was in the 90s before cell phones had alarms on them. I needed sleep.

Sleep is just as important to me today as it was when I attended graduate school. In fact, all the training and nutrition I can muster is nothing compared to a good night’s sleep. So, why is sleep so elusive for me? Some people thought I was narcoleptic, falling asleep at the wheel of the car, in class during a lecture, on an airplane at take-off, in waiting rooms, on the train. You name the place, and I could fall asleep within 10 minutes of sitting down. No. I am not narcoleptic, but I do have mild sleep apnea that has been untreated for years.

Last year, I finally did an at-home sleep study to confirm what Phil had been hearing all night long–the snoring, the pause, and then the gasp for air. To alleviate symptoms, I’m having a mouth guard made by my dentist that will keep my airway open. I can’t wait. And that’s not sarcasm. I want to know what it’s like to wake up refreshed instead of tired. To go through the day awake instead of in zombie mode. To train when my body has the rest it needs. Hello, sleep! I’ve missed you.

What I’m saying is that when you look at your training plan and your nutrition, take a look at the quality and amount of rest you are getting too. It might just change your life. And, maybe your race times will get faster too.

Strength Training for Triathletes

StrengthSince it’s still the off season for most triathletes, now is the best time to focus on strength training. Workouts are less intense on the swim, bike, and run, which means that you can really build some muscle in the gym that will propel you forward in the upcoming season.

Here’s a sample workout you can do in the off season. Just remember to choose weights heavy enough to make it difficult to complete the last repetition of each set. Rest for one full minute in between sets and reps. Rest is a key ingredient in strength training.

Strength Workout- 30-40 minutes

  1. Warm up for 10 minutes on the bike or treadmill before lifting.
  2. Do three sets of eight for the following exercises: deadlift OR squats, hamstring or leg curl, skater lunges. One minute rest in between sets and exercises.
  3. Superset–alternate exercises for the next exercises: push ups and seated row. Do 3 sets of 8-10, alternating. Rest for one minute. OR Shoulder press and upright row.
  4. Superset: single leg deadlift and bridges.
  5. For the last set of exercises, you can do 3 sets of 8-10: plank rows, V-ups, and Russian twists.
  6. If you still want to do more, add some box jumps, jump rope, wall balls with a jump, or mountain climbers.

After a strength session, my favorite sport is swimming since I’m already at the gym.

Swim Analysis

SwimAnalysis Running and cycling efficiency certainly can be improved through an evaluation of technique; however, swimming is even more reliant on proper form to be successful.

There are three main parts of an efficient freestyle: entry, catch, and pull. Upon entry, your hand should not cross the center of your head; your arm should be almost fully extended, but not too much, and your hand should be in such a position that it appears like you are reaching into a high mailbox instead of turning your thumb. Once your hand enters the water, use a high elbow catch to maximize the amount of water you will push back, rather than down. Your elbow will hinge, using the full power of your paddle that includes your hand and forearm. Push the water back until your hand exits the water.

Think of these three things to improve your stroke and consider a swim analysis. I’ll post a video of my swimming technique soon. In the mean time, contact me if you would like a swim analysis of your stroke. Swim happy! And fast!

The Importance of Flip Turns

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Triathletes tend to believe certain myths when it comes to swimming. The one I hear most often is not to kick at all on the swim in order to save your legs for the bike and the run. Another one I hear is that there is no point in doing flip turns since the race will more than likely be held in open water where there are no walls, duh. And the last one is why bother doing other strokes when freestyle is the stroke of choice?

Well, those are all wrong.

If you are swimming, you need to kick. I’m not saying to kick as hard as you would for a 50 meter sprint, but you do have to kick, and if you don’t practice kicking you will be super fatigued on your open water swim. Because, guess what? You will kick in a race whether you like it or not. Kicking is your motor while you swim, and if you have to pass another athlete in the water, you’re going to need to turn that motor on. In addition, kicking keeps your body in alignment for a faster and more efficient stroke. Practice kicking. End of story.

Now, if you swim in a pool, do those flip turns. Here’s why you should do them: flip turns keep your from taking a break at the wall when you would do an open turn, and they help you swim faster in the pool. It’s a win win! To do a flip turn, approach the wall with one arm extended, dolphin kick your legs over and do a half somersault, push off the wall on your back (or side in my case), and then turn over onto your stomach and keep swimming. Practice without a wall first and don’t forget to blow air out of your nose and mouth.

Lastly, swim all the strokes. Backstroke helps your freestyle: if you have a good backstroke, you have a strong freestyle. Getting comfortable on your back will be helpful in a triathlon if you need to fix your goggles, work out a cramp, or breathe if the waves are terrible. Breaststroke is a resting stroke and can be useful for seeing above the waves or sighting. Butterfly will make your shoulders stronger in practice, but don’t do it in a race. That’s it!

New Swim Session

YPoolCome swim with us at the Haverford Area YMCA for a new swim session. The training starts on January 8 from 9:00am-10:00am and will be at the same time every Monday. I’ll have about 3,000 yards planned, but you swim what you can. Lanes 5 and 6 will be reserved for us.

If you can’t make it for Monday’s workout, I coach swimming on Thursdays from 5:00am-6:00am and 6:50-7:30pm and then on Saturdays from 8:00am-9:00am. I’ll see you in the pool!

Happy 2018!



In preparation for Ironman Chattanooga, I plan to clean up my nutrition a bit. I’m not one to count calories, nor am I concerned with writing down everything I eat and drink, but I find a food journal to be helpful for a few days to a week in order to look for patterns. And you know what I found? I found some sugar bombs! Holy cow! I mean, Holy chocolate!

Anyway, I already follow a few simple rules when it comes to eating (not that I follow them 100% of the time): eat a salad with protein for one meal, no snacking on cereal more than once a day, don’t drink calories, and half of my plate should be vegetables. Simple, right? Nah. I’m a Starbucks and coffee addict, so my once a week trip to the ‘Bucks has cost me more than just dollars (hint: I go there more than once a week and order a mocha of all things). Also, I absolutely LOVE chocolate, so chocolate chips are often one of my snacks during the day. Add the Starbucks mocha to the chocolate chips plus the copious amounts of honey I put in my one bowl of hot cereal or plain yogurt, and I have a recipe for sugar bombs.

So, to clean up my nutrition and possibly shed some extra pounds here’s what I’ve done:

NO GO FOODS: honey, chocolate chips, and salad dressing (includes desserts and sweets of any kind unless it’s a rare occasion)

LIMIT: nuts, protein shakes, and Gatorade to heavy endurance and workout days

MUST DO: drink coffee black and tea plain (I already do this) and switch to oil and vinegar in moderation for salads

I’m doing all of this to limit my sugar intake and to make sure that I’m eating healthy foods to refuel my body after workouts.

My other goals for the New Year include:

  1. Getting my memoir published (it’s finished now).
  2. Read, write, and workout every day.
  3. Complete a full Ironman in Chattanooga (already signed up).
  4. Travel and spend time with family, which means putting the phone down.

What are your goals for the New Year?