Wednesday, October 30, 2013

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Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Welcome to Family - Sport - Life

Thanks to an overwhelming response to this blog, we have made the move to a new domain.  Please click on the logo to be redirected there.  Thank you so much for making this possible.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Oyster Bay Junior Triathlon

One of the things I (we) hope to achieve through living a healthy, active and fitness oriented lifestyle is that our kids pick up on the subtle cues they are exposed to each day and make it part of the rest of their lives.  Tara and I grew up in a generation where our parents were fairly naive to many of healthier choices that we now view as common knowledge.  Hence, our decade long struggle to obtain versus maintain a healthy lifestyle.  From the onset, we were determined to show our kids a better way, giving them the tools to live their life without limits and filled with health and happiness.

Our kids are no different than any other 8 and 5 year olds.  They want to play with their friends, eat junk food, watch TV and they give us a fight at homework time.  However, by seeing firsthand the active lives that Tara and I lead, they are exposed to situations that their peers are typically not.  Case in point, I get up at 4:00 AM every morning (7 days a week) to train.  Because I do that, I need to go to bed at 9:15 PM which makes the kid's bedtime around 7:45 PM.  My kids just accept this as "normal".  But what they don't know is that other kids are staying up way later, watching more TV and eating junk food on a daily basis.  In this case, it's good that they are in the dark.

What they also see as "normal" is the participation in endurance sports and activities.  To them, triathlon is just something we do, not the suffer-fest it really is.  Despite the seemingly short distances in kid's races, it is all relative and a 1-mile kids fun run could be the equivalent of an adult 10K.  They work just as hard, it hurts them just as much and they are just as wrecked as we are at the finish line.  This is why I am so proud of both my kids, especially Alasdair for competing in his first triathlon.  By the way, Avery is chomping at the bit to do these events, but she is still a bit too young!

The lead up to the race was actually unintended.  A few months ago, I stumbled upon a link for a junior triathlon training camp, sponsored by The Runner's Edge, The Greater Long Island Running Club (GLIRC) and supported by the Town of Oyster Bay.  I asked Alasdair if he wanted to go to the pre-camp info meeting to see what it was all about.  To our surprise, the camp was being run and coached by some of the more elite USAT coaches (and athletes) in our area.  The kicker was that this program was for 8 weeks, held on Saturday evenings (a time that worked well for this busy family) and the total cost was $25.  No, not for each week, for ALL 8 WEEKS!  How could we possibly say no to this?  We registered on the spot.

The point of the camp was to expose kids to a sport they probably have zero experience in, so it was tailored just right.  Starting with the basics of how to put on a swim cap, the basic freestyle swim stroke, how to set up transition, how to get out of transition quickly, bike handling skills and running technique.  The coaches worked with the kids each week, making it fun and educational, while still pushing them to complete the sessions.  Remember, this is still an endurance sport.  I cannot think of any team sports that have 8-year old kids running and biking MILES each session.  The kids rose to the occasion, dug deep at times and completed the sessions with smiles on their faces.

The camp was designed to introduce kids to the world of triathlon and train them to complete a junior triathlon race in the same venue.  To me, this was a novel idea.  For eight weeks, the kids practically ran the race that they were going to do at the end of the camp.  On race day, every kid that participated in the camp was primed and ready to go.  They just had to do what they have been doing for the last two months.  I can't thank the coaches enough for their patience, expertise, guidance and dedication to making it a great experience for both the kids and the parents.

Race day

Family and gear packed up in the family truckster, we headed out to the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial Park in Oyster Bay, NY.  Alasdair was overflowing with excitement when we arrived and he realized that he would have to check in, get body marked and activate his timing chip, just like I have done.  I think this was one of the most exciting parts for him as he realized that this was not one of those "fun runs" that he has done, but a real-life, adult-like triathlon!

I helped him set up his transition area, where he LOVED my little trick of pouring baby powder on a towel and then folding it over to cover it up.  When he entered T1, all he would have to do it unfold the towel and stomp his feet in the powder covered towel to dry his feet from the swim.  We then walked transition a few times, getting him familiar with where his bike, entries and exits were.  Then, the pre-race briefing.  Again, the kids loved this because they were being treated like real athletes.

There were over 200 kids participating in the event, ranging in age from 7 to 14.  The best way to assure the safety of all the kids was to break the race up into 3 waves and wait for each wave to complete the course before the next wave started.  This meant that each wave would be starting about 20 minutes apart from each other.  Although it made for a long wait, it was the right call.

Obviously, when you get over fifty 7,8 and 9 year old kids geared up, in the water and then ask them to wait almost 40 minutes, kids will be kids.  They were all jumping around, diving under water and basically expending energy they would need to race.  They just didn't care, they were having fun!  One side effect of this playing around is that it was all done in shallow water.  This meant that all the silt from the ground was kicked up and turned the water very murky.  Once the kids started their swim, they were all covered in black dirt.  Every kid exited the water with black faces and filthy clothing.

Alasdair did a great job swimming.  Although he did walk a few times, he always went back into a swim stroke.  Finishing in the middle of the pack, I think that was the best we have seen him swim to date.  He emerged from the water (covered in silt) and made a mad dash for T1.  The kid was pumped and ready to hit the bike.

T1 was super smooth.  He did everything we practiced and was out on the bike course in no time.  Alasdair rode well, didn't go crazy and had a great 3-lap bike split.  It was great to see the kids break out huge smiles when they rounded the area where the parents were cheering them on.  We were cheering loudly for every kid as they came around and I am sure that it sounded like thousands of people to them.  Some kids were so excited that they got lost in the joy and almost crashed into the parents!

Alasdair finished the bike and went into T2 with a full head of steam.  He headed out on to the run course in a full sprint.  Because of the way it was set up, it was difficult for us to see the kids on the run.  We positioned ourselves near the finish, so we really didn't get to see him running.  When he rounded the corner for the last 200 yards, he was running hard.  As soon as he saw the finish line and the spectator lined finishing chute, he broke out into an all out sprint!  After 20+ minutes of racing, he poured every last bit of energy into his finish and crossed the finish line at max speed.

He got his medal, had his timing chip removed and grabbed a water from one of the volunteers.  As I embraced him at the finish line, I was on the verge of tears, so proud of what he did, the effort he put in and his accomplishment.  I started to tell him how proud I was, but he quickly interrupted me to ask where the free bagels were!  Ahh, the mind of an 8-year old boy!

Since Alasdair was the only 7-year old in the race, he actually won his age group!  He finished in about 24 minutes and loved every second of it.  I have to say that every one of those kids did an incredible job.  This was not an easy task for most, but they all found it in themselves to finish the race with a smile.

Tara and I encourage our kids to participate in events like this as often as we can.  It is difficult to balance encouragement with being overly pushy, but we try our best.  We feel that experiences like this build character and have long-lasting effects throughout other parts of their lives.

Both of my kids have also been skiing since they were 3 years old.  Last year, Alasdair had a breakout season and really honed his skills.  By accident, we wound up in a very precarious situation last year at Jay Peak Resort in Vermont.  We took a lift to the top of the mountain.  Although I did see the sign stating that a particular trail was closed, it failed to register that the closed trail was the ONLY reasonable way down.  We had no choice but to take one of the most difficult trails on the mountain to the bottom.  Alasdair took it in stride, overcame his initial hesitation and killed it on the run down.

I now reference the skiing incident and the completion of this triathlon from time to time.  My argument is that if you can do those things, how hard can a math or spelling test actually be?  His response has always been positive.

Alasdair is now looking forward to his next event, the Carl Hart Fall Duathlon in October, where Tara will also be making her multi-sport event debut!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Want to be more Organized?

I recognize that not everyone is an "organizer".  It has been my experience that people fall on a spectrum at any given moment in their (busy) lives: Over Organized, Organized, Wannabe Organized, and Who gives a #$%& (enter your favorite expletive).  I am Organized.  With a tendency to be Over Organized.  At which point I throw my hands up in the air and fall into Who gives a #$%&.  EXCEPT I don't stay in the land of Who Gives a #$%& for very long.  Mainly because organization goes hand in hand with productivity.  Productivity is important because it allows me to carve out space and time for the things (and people) I love.

Here is what I have learned from riding the Organization spectrum:

1. Don't over organize: yes, it is possible to over organize.  I have been there, done that.  Over organizing adds steps, time, thought, space which minimize the efficacy of the organizational solution.  Over organizing makes it hard to maintain your process and maintenance is KEY. Examples of OVER organization:
  • Archive folders in Outlook: I used to have archive folders in Outlook for my work email categorized by many main topics: my boss, functional areas (Employee Relations, Compensation, Benefits), and by projects.  This was overkill and took extra time to think before I archived.  Why was this over organized? Outlook has a great search feature which would allow me to search words in the To, From, Subject Line, Body, etc.  You could also sort by date, subject line, who the email is from.  Now I just have ONE archive folder per year (i.e. 2013 Archive) and I can easily search within that folder.  If it's in there, I can find it.
  • Closet Organization: Don't you just love when your closet is color coordinated?  All like colors with like colors? NO! This is over organized.  It takes too much time to maintain color distinctions and to think through what to do with patterned tops, etc.  I realize some of you are gasping right now but I maintain a more simple approach works just fine (i.e. pants, tops, sweaters, dresses).
    Color coordinated...No.
2. Don't be a perfectionist (or don't invest a lot of time in the solution): We all like when things look "just so".  Getting things "just so" takes time.  Time that can be better spent doing something you love!
  • I have spent more time than you know making sure my kids have checklists with pretty font, appealing colors, and adorable clip art (if clip art can be adorable). I like things to look pretty and if that is where you want to spend your time...that is fine.  I am not judging.  From my experience, my kids are no more or less likely to follow a checklist because it looks prettier than a black/white checklist (without graphic). They comply with the checklist because they are either intrinsically or extrinsically motivated to do so.
    Somewhere in between elaborate
    and a black/white checklist
  • I have also spent a lot of time making sure my organizational components look design magazine worthy.  If you like to do that, again, this is fine.  At some point we have to know the difference between organized, functional and productive.
    Not necessarily making a big splash
    in Better Homes and Gardens but looks clean
3. Don't be inflexible: Finding an organizational solution that works for you may take some time.  
  • You need to be flexible and open minded in your approach.  If something doesn't work, don't get defeated.    I have executed a number of organizational solutions that just did not work.  They didn't perform the way I expected, too hard to maintain, too complex for others to buy in to. You name it.  If at first you don't succeed, try try again.
4. Don't bite off more than you can chew: We ALL do this!! 
  • In a moment of disorganized hysteria, you decide everything is offending you so EVERYTHING needs to addressed NOW.  You turn drawers, closets, bins, and baskets upside down.  Now what do you have?  A big overwhelming mess! You can't see the organization through the piles of debris.  At this point you kick it off to the side and leave it for another day...maybe 6 months down the line.  Sound familiar?  Pick ONE project and execute it flawlessly from thought to finish.  Plan it out.  Mull it over.  Do some research.  Research saves REWORK.
5. Don't over complicate it: 
  • KISS - Keep it Simple Silly!  Everyone in the house, in my case this includes outside caregivers and children, need to be able to understand, get "on-board" with, and execute the organizational strategy.  This is especially challenging with kids.    
  • Most of the time an elegant solution will arise from a simple material.  Clipboards are a favorite of mine.  I have even found clipboards in the $1 section at Target.  Hang said clipboard on a push pin and voila...home office solution success. An added bonus is my kids LOVE clipboards.  If I put a checklist for them on a clipboard, they will follow it.  
  • Simple solutions tend to be friendlier on your pocket book allowing you tackle a multitude of projects.  Like me, I am sure you have no shortage of nooks and crannies that require a keen eye (and a few dollars) to organize.
    Streamlined Workstation
  • Mommy's Command Center!!

Each Clipboard is labeled with
a child's name

Keep Calm and Organize On!
Where do you fall on the Spectrum of Organization? What are some of your favorite solutions? Have a question, ask away!
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Friday, August 23, 2013

6 Happiness Observations

As I was driving in to work this morning my mind was wandering on thoughts of happiness.  I was having an abundance of upbeat, spirited, happy thoughts.  Then I realized this has been my norm lately.  No, not every day is as perky and peppy as today but this is becoming more my norm.

There is a strong part of my personality that likes to drag me to the depths of darkness.  It used to be such a fight to stay on the lighter side of life.  Never was I clinically depressed but I had a way of getting mired in limiting thoughts.  And I have a story, we all do, of times less fortunate and less happy.  Times that were trying, terrifying, and tumultuous.  These weren't times of me being pessimistic.  These were real life, legitimate circumstances for grief.  Like I said, we all have our moments.  Life is not always unicorns and rainbows.

Having my moment has certainly taught me a number of things including having compassion for myself and others.  As well as not judging people for their actions because you never know what is behind those actions.  It has also taught me a lot about happiness and how to generate a flow of intoxicating merriment (too happy?). You get my point.

This morning I started to think about what contributes to my happiness.  What actions should I maintain to ensure continued contentment?  Here are my observations on something as esoteric as happiness:
  • Frame of mind: our thought patterns have an impact on our state of happiness.  There are times when negative thought patterns of doubt, fear, anxiety, regret, guilt, shame, etc creep into our brains.  Find a way to banish these thoughts quickly and don't let them linger.  They are most likely untruths anyway.  Pick a mantra to help you reframe your thoughts.  I love Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life.  In there she suggests some good positive affirmations such as "All is well in my life.  Everything is as it should be."  This is great for irrational anxiety.  When Mommy guilt creeps in, I remind myself of all that I do for and with my children instead of focusing on the one little thing I don't do.  My mother was famous for saying to me "what will it matter in 100 years?"  However, my experience has taught me "what will it matter in 7 days?"  
  • Get enough sleep: I am talking to you ladies!! I am sure men have their sleep issues too but I have girl parts so I am speaking to the ladies.  We try to cram everything we need to do into one day and will stay up all night to do it.  I know for a fact some of you are folding laundry until midnight or straightening up the playroom.  We are also falling into the TV trap.  How many of you are up to all hours watching The Bachelor or some Real Housewives nonsense?  When the to do list runs long, the easiest sacrifice is always sleep.  DON'T do it.  WebMD says average adults need between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep a night.  Depending on where you are in life, you may need more sleep.  I have spent years underestimating the impact of interrupted sleep when my kids wake me up in the middle of the night. Don't cheat yourself, establish a nighttime routine that works for you and gets you into a healthy sleep pattern.
  • Move your body: whatever your jig is, just do it (I know, cliche)! Yoga, walking, zumba, dance, run, weights, etc.  Physical movement and exertion.  Numerous studies have shown that aerobic exercise will increase serotonin and assist in its release.  Studies have shown that yoga works too.  Don't trust me, google it.  In my opinion, exercise is key as it will also help you change your frame of mind AND help you sleep.  It's like a happiness life hack!  Moving your body will also create more body awareness, aid your physical health, and build your self-confidence.  I credit moving my body to resolving most of my mental and physical issues.
  • Eat clean: I am not interested in your dietary dogma (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, fruitarian, etc).  Just eat clean.  Clear out the preservatives, packaged food, artificial flavors/sweeteners, SUGAR, etc.  Eat real food.  Eat whole food. Eat a rainbow everyday.  However you want to say it.  Cut the crap from your diet and you will experience a mood boost almost immediately...well after the initial detox.  It will be well worth the time and effort it takes to clear your pantry.  Oh, and EAT FAT! Healthy fats won't make you fat...they will make you HAPPY (and leaner).  Again, you can google this one but I will give you a link to this article from Psychology Today about increased brain function from eating fat. Also, a good source for nutrition information is Dietician Cassie's website.  She recently appeared on the America's Angriest Trainer podcast with Vinnie Tortorich and Anna Voccino.
  • Take time for yourself: Plain and simple...put you first.  No, you aren't being selfish.  Most likely you spend 80% of your time taking care of others...children, spouses, friends, parents, siblings, pets, houses, clients.  Carve out some time each day to focus on you.  Use your time wisely to exercise, read, journal, meditate, stretch, sip coffee in silence.  Whatever your passion or pleasure is, spend time doing it.  EVERY single day!    Admittedly, I need a lot of time for myself.  I like to take the time to process my thoughts, organize myself, exercise, get enough sleep, eat well.  This all takes time.  I don't feel guilty about the time it may or may not take away from others.  I know I am a better partner, mother, daughter, business partner if I manage my time to ensure proper self care.  You will be more happy, patient, compassionate, creative.  You will be the person YOU want to be not the person everyone expects you to be. You most likely need to start with learning how to say "no" this.  Which leads me to my last observation:
  • Be Authentic: I am happiest being me.  I believe that I operate from a place of benevolent intent, self-truth and do no (intentional) harm to others (or myself).  When I operate from this place inside me, I don't second guess my decisions or worry about how others may perceive my actions.  Here is a list of 25 ways to live more authentically.
I am by no means a "Happiness Expert".  I am just a girl on a journey like many of you.  Based on my experiences, happiness is a way of being, a choice, a desire.  Happiness is within your control and is a direct correlation to how you chose to address the rigors of life.  Command yourself to go forth and be happy. 

Dream big.  Have faith.  Love life. 
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Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Experiment in Self-Exploration

Sunday ended my second week with an official training plan.  As I mentioned in a previous post, last week was emotionally, mentally, and physically draining.  I spoke about the anxiety I had before every work out. Some of this improved during week two.  The week was less emotional and there was less pre workout anxiety.  

The one thing that didn't get better this week was the physical EXHAUSTION.  It possibly got worse.  Monday was a glorious rest day but the feeling of well restedness was gone by Tuesday's track workout (my new favorite workout).

I bagged my three swims this week due to a nagging shoulder.  Nothing serious.  I went from barely stringing together a few lengths to swimming 2000 yards in three weeks.  Fairly certain Mr. Right Shoulder was having a WTF moment.

Wednesday was a solid 75 minutes of harder efforts on the bike trainer (which I LOVED) and strength training.  I feel like I am nailing (at a beginner level) the track workouts, trainer sessions and strength training.    

By Thursday, a run day, I had brain fog.  I snapped this picture of me at work around 2 pm.  It was becoming increasingly hard for me to concentrate on anything but the mundane and even then...
For the record, I don't sleep at my desk
and don't think sleeping at your desk is
a good idea.
Friday, long run day, was a total shitshow.  I just have to call it what it was.  Lead legs, mental exhaustion and a headache were my hurdles.  It was suppose to be a Zone 2 run but if I ran at Zone 2 pace my legs didn't want to move.  Picking up my pace taxed my heart rate, stressing out an already stressed out system.  I quit the run and felt miserable (emotionally and physically). I realize there is discomfort while running and part of our training is to learn how to embrace the pain and discomfort.  There is a fine line between pushing through discomfort and knowing when you are totally depleted.  My mental game just wasn't there.  I got into bed.  In the middle of the day.  On a weekday...and there I slept for 2.5 hours (No children were harmed in my napping, they were at camp). The only reason why I woke up was because I had to get my eyebrows waxed.  Priorities people! 

Saturday I had a 10-15 mile ride on the road scheduled.  I was really looking forward to this ride because I am eager to get comfortable with my bike on the road.  I was also meeting up with someone I met through social media and blogging.  It was fun to talk family, sport, life, and writing.  Jackie, who blogs over at Muscle Up Mom, is a much stronger rider than I am.  I greatly appreciated her patience while I crept along.  Together we rode 21 miles (more than my plan called out) on a really gorgeous morning.  After refueling and running around with the kids, I found myself in bed AGAIN! I honestly haven't been this tired since I was pregnant.  And NO I am NOT pregnant now.

I would say this was a low point but I was just too exhausted to care for more than a few moments.  I briefly thought of the athletes in my life and their accomplishments.  Then I looked at myself and thought of how I am struggling with a fraction of the training.  My Type A Personality started to flare with indignation.  Deep down I knew the truth.  These athletes have been at this a lot longer than me.  And some are naturally gifted athletes (not me!).  I know they have struggled, plateaued, got injured and still have bad days.  

In the midst of a hate spiral nothing seemed logical.  I took a few deep breaths and reframed my thoughts.  Let's have a moment of honesty, my goals and associated training are just a mechanism of self exploration.  There is no pro card, no prize money, and no front of the pack.  I am not in it to prove anything to anyone except MYSELF.  This is an opportunity to bond with my husband over something that we both find interesting and exciting.  This is an opportunity to expand on what defines me...something other than mother, wife, professional, or Ironwidow.  This is an opportunity to expand on my independence and explore fearlessness.  If my goals come at the expense of my personal happiness, create physical strain, or induce anxiety than the goals need to be reevaluated.

So in the great big world of self improvement and personal change this week was a tremendous success.  It created self awareness and acceptance, the cornerstones of personal growth.

"Above all; To thine own self be true" - William Shakespere

Can't remember where I found this...on Facebook
somewhere.  Truth!

What are your goals? What steps are you taking to achieve them? Any light bulb moments along the way?

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Monday, August 19, 2013

Zone 2 Training Works...But Not Today

Over the last two years or so, the topic of Zone 2 ("Z2") training has been mentioned, discussed and written about all over the web and in almost every endurance sport related podcast.  I (John) have been training with Z2 for the better part of 2013 with tremendous results.  I thought it was worth sharing my experience(s) and how it could help you in your training.

***** Disclaimer: I am not a trained health or fitness professional.  The following is simply my experience with a particular training method. *****

A good place to start is with a definition of Z2 training.  Zone 2 refers to your aerobic heart rate range, and specifically training within that zone.  Typically, endurance athletes use five (5) heart rate zones to identify the level of effort and exertion while training or racing.  You can use a good heart rate zone calculator to find out the upper and lower heart rate limits for each zone.  It is also advisable to recalculate your zones periodically.  Monitor your resting heart rate and then comb through your data for your max effort heart rate (typically from a race).  I would say every 4-6 months would be sufficient.

In order to effectively utilize Z2 training, you must first check your ego at the door and then adjust your perception of a training session.  I used to plan my training by targeting speeds and distances.  "I am going to run 6 miles at an 8 minute/mile pace."  The following week, I would up the mileage a little, and hope to maintain the same pace.  If the pace dropped, I must be having a bad day.  If the pace increased, I must be getting stronger; until I increase the mileage again.

This whole cycle brought me right to the point of mediocrity, also known as a plateau.  I just couldn't go any faster or farther.  The idea of ever running a full marathon was painfully out of reach.  Enter Z2 training.

Check Your Ego At The Door

To get the most out of this system, I realized I needed to be humble.  In the beginning, I averaged 15 minutes/mile on my runs and 15 miles/hour on the bike, much slower than I was "comfortable" with.  Soccer Moms with jogging strollers and teenagers on BMX bikes passed me by on the slightest of inclines.  I had to stop running at that breakneck pace of 15 min/mile to walk for 100 yards.  And when my neighbor was standing in their yard while I shuffled on by, I wanted to bury my head in shame.  Handling the humility of Z2 training was probably the most difficult aspect.  I wanted to bag the whole concept, but thankfully I didn't.

Change Your Perception Of A Training Session

Once I had my ego in check, I had to look at training sessions a little differently.  I was now training by heart rate and time.  Notice, I didn't mention distance or speed.  That's the difference.  I scheduled sessions such as "run for an hour in zone 2" with no regard for distance and/or speed.  I simply had to move my body while keeping my heart rate in the right zone for a specified period of time.

Typically, I will run "out" for 30 minutes and "back" for 30 minutes.  If my heart rate starts to creep toward zone 3, I slow it down a bit to stay in zone 2.  Since I have heart rate alerts on my Garmin device, I set the alert a few beats below the top of zone 2.  This informed me when I was getting close, giving me some time to get my heart rate down before going over the limit.  I still employ this practice today.

My goal was always to get 100% of my training time in zone 2.  Obviously, I spent some in zone 1 as I warmed up and possibly touched zone 3 if I overdid it a little.  Not too much of an issue, because this got better and easier.

Stay Indoors At First

When I started this type of training, I threw away my hatred of the treadmill or bike trainer.  Since it is a much more controlled and static environment, it allowed me to truly hit the target for workouts and trained my body to work more efficiently across larger blocks of time.  A good time of year to really commit to Z2 training is the late fall, going into winter.  Most of my training would be indoors anyway, so I got to make the most of it.

Be Patient

This was not a quick-fix, overnight plan that made me a better endurance athlete in a few weeks.  It took time.  It took a lot of time.  I started to see small benefits in about 3 months.  At about 5 months, I started to see some huge gains.

For example, here is a breakdown of a treadmill run on March 20th:

  • Total Time: 60:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 03:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 57:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 14:22 min/mile
  • Average HR: 124 BPM

A few months later on June 7th (treadmill):
  • Total Time: 90:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 11:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 1:19:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 13:39 min/mile
  • Average HR: 123 BPM

A few weeks ago on August 1st (outside):
  • Total Time: 50:00 minutes
  • Zone 1: 03:00 minutes
  • Zone 2: 47:00 minutes
  • Average Pace: 09:57 min/mile
  • Average HR: 125 BPM

It took 5 months, but I broke a 10 minute mile all in zones 1 and 2.  At this point, I could basically run all day in zone 2, and do it at around a 10 min/mile pace.  That is a huge improvement in my aerobic engine.  I am hoping to be able to run a 3:30:00 marathon by this time next year, all in zone 2.  The progress that I have made thus far, gives me confidence that I can.

Eat More Fat

Another aspect of training that coincides with Z2 training is diet.  When I train in Z2, I am primarily burning fat.  I sparingly trickle small amounts of natural sugar sources when I am training or racing in the higher zones.  By primarily training in Z2 and consuming a lot more fat from healthy sources, my body has become much more metabolically efficient.

I substantially increased my fat intake earlier this year and routinely do 3 and 4 hour training sessions in a fasted state.  I will consume about 150 calories throughout the training session and hydrate with Nuun.  I no longer have a need (or desire) for gels or sugary sports drinks.  Fat as fuel is the way to go.  No bonks, no sugar crashes.

Mix It Up

By no means is this the only training I do.  It is the vast majority of the hours, but I still need to get my body ready to go fast.  I throw in intervals, speed work, hill repeats and strength workouts, but spend most of my time in Z2.  I also found that when I do let the hammer down, I have more horsepower at my disposal.  But I am very careful not to overdo it.  I use Training Effect on my Garmin to limit myself and allow for ample recovery.  You can read more about Training Effect ("TE") here.

This is my HR Zone breakdown for the last 4 months.  Zones 1 and 2
make up over 66% of my total training time.
Avoid Injuries

An added benefit of training the Z2 way is I tend to avoid injuries.  Long gone are the days of pounding my knees and legs into the ground with hours of tempo and threshold efforts.  Training at lower intensities allowed me to focus on form much more often.  I went from a heel-striker to a mid-foot stride in a very short period of time.

I have also incorporated the use of a weight vest during my Z2 runs.  This is a very dangerous practice if not done correctly, so I would not recommend it to newbies or anyone that has not done a ton of research.  I will compose a post on the use of a weight vest in the near future.

I have not had a single injury or even a "niggle" this year, and I can attribute that to extensive Z2 training.

Z2 Versus Maffetone

To the best of my knowledge, and through extensive research, Z2 training and Phil Maffetone's method ("MAF") are essentially the same thing.  They only differ in the zone calculation.  The MAF zone will typically be slightly higher than a Z2.  However, they are both rooted in the same concept of training in your aerobic zone, below the point where your body flips from burning mostly fat to burning mostly carbohydrates.

For most people, Z2 and MAF would be interchangeable with regards to building a solid aerobic base.  I have chosen the Z2 method, but I am sure MAF would have yielded similar results.

Starting Out

When I first started out training with Z2, I had a tremendous difficulty keeping my heart rate in the correct zone.  One little trick that I used was to forget the numbers for a while and train by feel.  I did this by using the way I speak as a gauge.  Before I started a training session (at rest), I would speak my full home address, "123 Main Street, MyTown, New York" in a normal, conversational speed and tone.  I could speak this aloud on one breath when I was at rest.

Once I started the training session, I would periodically recite my address in the same fashion as before.  When I got to a point where I either needed to take a breath mid-sentence, or had to speed it up to get it all out on one breath, I knew I was out of that aerobic zone.  That is when I backed it down a bit to where I could recite it correctly.

Although I would record my heart rate data, it was not the driver of these sessions.  After a few weeks, I could see that data showed improvement.  30% in zone 2, then 35%, then 40% and so on until I was ready to start training BY my heart rate, rather than WITH my heart rate.

What Is The Goal?

Although Z2 training encompasses a large portion of my training volume, I also do a fair amount of hard interval, tempo, threshold and "to failure" training.  With all of these variations, I am able to concurrently build endurance, speed and strength.  So the question is, "what is the goal of Z2 training?"

The main goal of Z2 training is to build a solid aerobic base for endurance activities and events.  The longer the event, the more beneficial Z2 training becomes.  For example, Z2 training has almost no impact on my sprint distance races, a moderate effect on my Olympic distance, a great impact on my 70.3 and will play a HUGE role in my full Ironman next year.

My training goal is to get my Z2 paces to be my expected race paces.  I figure if I can do 75% of each leg in Z2 while achieving my desired race pace, I can drop the hammer for the last 25% and have the horsepower available that others will not.  Effective Z2 training should prevent me from blowing up prior to the finish line.

I have established time goals for Ironman Lake Placid next year.  One of them is to run the marathon segment in 4 hours or less.  That equates to running at a 9:10 pace for 26 miles.  As of this week, I can run at a 9:58 pace for 2+ hours.  With a full year ahead of me, I am very optimistic about meeting or exceeding this goal.  Only time will tell, and I have the time and patience to do it.


For me, a competitive triathlete, Z2 training has been the difference between a "middle-of-the-packer" and the podium.  It is something that anyone can employ with a little discipline and patience.  I have also come to understand that this method is a long-term way of perpetually gaining fitness without the risk of a huge burn out at the end of each season.  It is the perfect method if you are just starting out, have hit a plateau or just want to go longer.

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