I finished my last summer race in mid-July, desperately in need of some time away from my typical tr...

Training Update August/September 2016

I finished my last summer race in mid-July, desperately in need of some time away from my typical training schedule. I love training with my coach, Guenter, and the training plans he provides are some of the most sensible I've ever seen, BUT they get a little bit repetitive after three years.

So, I ventured off on my own, in the hopes of improving my 5k running PR while staying at least mildly fit during my time away. The first three weeks of solo training were super successful. I won a local 5k race, trained almost every day, had a great time, and earned a huge PR on another 5k, breaking 20 minutes in the process.

Then, things started to fall apart. First, the Olympics were being televised. Late nights watching led to late mornings which led to deleted workouts and more late nights. Second, we were spending time with family, and my priorities were with seeing them, not maintaining my training schedule.

A cross-country road trip quickly turned into a solidly sedentary week.

Was it worth it? Absolutely. I spent about 6 weeks away from Guenter's plan, training well and then half assedly and then not at all. And I came back ready to go.

Part of me feel that those six weeks were wasted time, when I could have been improving the parts of my fitness that have been lacking these past four years. But the sane part of me understands the need for balance and joy in life. I had a really solid September of training, and I have to at least partially blame that on the time I took off in August.

So what did September look like?

It started with a couple of grueling weeks, as my body re-adjusted to training. I registered a pretty low anaerobic threshold (4mmol blood lactate/L) after our first week of training, but a solid 2mmol/L level. I was also close to my PRs in the weight room, which was encouraging, if uncomfortable.

A 6k erg test after two weeks of training was humbling and embarrassing to share. One of my goals for the fall season is to accept where I am, and work from there. This 6k test was great, terrible, wonderful, awful practice.

Now, five weeks in, I'm starting to regain my confidence. My normal splits have returned on easy rows. I can hold my technique for more than 25 minutes.

And the workouts are starting to feel really, truly productive, in a way they haven't before.

I have been on a fitness plateau for a while now. My last big improvement on a 2k was in early 2015, and I've only made minor progress on my 6k as well. I spent much of last year regaining the fitness and strength base that I lost in the summer of 2015, and now I finally, finally, finally get to use that base to have some real fun.

Follow along on social media (@lightweighteats) to see how my training progresses. I'll post race results, my next 6k erg test, and too many workout selfies.

In rowing, fall is the time for goal setting. By New Year's Day, you've already lost month...

Fall Goals and Racing Schedule

In rowing, fall is the time for goal setting. By New Year's Day, you've already lost months of valuable time and are entering the scramble to prepare for spring racing.

I always start my goal brainstorming with outcome goals: 2k PRs, big wins and gold medals. But to reach those targets, I also set process goals.

This fall, I've got a big process goal, something I can work on every day for the next three months.

What does that look like for me? Sleeping more (including a midday nap), stretching after each practice, rehydrating and refueling more effectively, and ultimately trusting the training plan.

This is a really difficult process to stick to. Because I'm more rested going into each session, the temptation is to use that energy doing more work or adding other activities into my day. It's helpful to remind myself of all the times in the past that this has failed. This fall, I am embracing patience and balance.

If you'd like to follow along with my fall racing, here is my race schedule.

Head of the Riverfront - October 2nd - Hartford, CT
Last year, I won the open 1x in ridiculously slow headwind/current conditions. I loved this race as a low-key fall season opener. I'm entering the single again. If you're interested in covering the $55 entry fee through a tax deductible donation, send me an email or visit the Northeast High Performance Rowing Foundation website directly.

Head of the Housatonic - October 8th - Derby, CT
By the afternoon that entries opened, there was already a waitlist for the women's open 1x. If I make it off the waitlist, I'll be making my debut at this regatta. This is a slightly bigger race than Head of the Riverfront, so it will be good preparation for Head of the Charles.

Head of the Charles - October 22nd - Boston, MA
Last year, Morgan McGovern and I won the lightweight championship double. This year, we'll be back to defend our title—a tall order as we will be competing against the Swiss national team. A generous donation (thanks Chris!) covered the entry fee and gas money for this regatta; a friend's couch is covering housing.

Fall Speed Order - November 5th and 6th - Princeton, NJ
This is my least favorite race of the year. Since it is a two day affair and far from CT, it requires a two night hotel stay, which is expensive. It also involves a weigh-in and an erg test. And attendance is usually very low, with lots of last minute scratches. Attendance at this regatta is undecided.

Newtown Turkey Trot - November 24th - Newtown, CT
Back to the roads! The 2015 winner ran the 5k in 19:20, so I will have to have a big PR if I want to take the win. In any case, I'll definitely earn my Tofurkey.

What's on your race schedule? Will I see you at any of these regattas??

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Your coach gave you a training plan. You're following it, but you're impatient. You want to ...

So you wanna PR?

Your coach gave you a training plan. You're following it, but you're impatient. You want to hit that PR asap, and you're motivated to do more. Where do you start?

Trophies are not won the day of the race.

Adding in a lot of extra work can really mess with the flow of a good training plan. Instead, try adding in just 10 minutes a day of extra work. Here's my suggestion:

Add in 10 minutes of:
Day 1. steady state
Day 2. stretching
Day 3. strength

Day 4. steady state
Day 5. stretching
Day 6. strength

Day 7. sleep

Here's the catch, though—you have to actually DO it. On paper, adding in ten minutes a day seems really easy, but it's much easier to add in 70 minutes once a week. The hard part is making the little bit extra a part of your habits, and that means coming back to it over and over again—even when you've stopped.

Some best practices:

Steady State
This is super easy work tacked on to the beginning or end of an existing workout. It can be 10 minutes of drills after a hard row, or an easy jog/bike after an erg workout. It's not enough to mess with the training plan, but over the course of a year, you're adding an extra 1,000 minutes of work. Think of it as setting yourself up for next year's PR.

The pace should be easy enough to take selfies and wear sweatpants.
If you have mobility issues, this is a no-brainer. But if flexibility doesn't limit your stroke, it can be hard to remember to stretch. I find that 10 minutes of stretching right after practice or right before bed helps me sleep better, which makes all the difference in the world. I like stretches that focus on the hip area.

Here's an easy 10 minute strength session you can do: 2x1' each of body weight squats, planks, super-mans, pushups (or pull-ups, if you have a bar—assisted if necessary), rest.
If you're already lifting weights on the reg, change this to 10 minutes of easy core work: 2x1' sit-ups, bicycles, supermans, planks, rest.

Yup. That's right. Wanna get faster? Use those ten minutes to sleep a little bit longer. In fact, if you're not feeling jazzed about steady state, stretching or strength work, feel free to sub in 10 extra minutes of sleep any day of the week. It's that important. Can't sleep well? Use this time to practice (or just lie down and relax).

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If you've ever read a women's magazine, you'll know that a typical dinner for women is a...

Healthy Meals for Hungry Athletes

If you've ever read a women's magazine, you'll know that a typical dinner for women is an egg white omelette with broccoli. Not! It turns out, even if you want to keep a trim figure, you have to actually eat, y'know, calories.

Believe me, I've tried skimping at meals. I ended up making up all of those calories at snack time on much less well-rounded foods.

So, here's how you put together a well-rounded meal that will actually satisfy your caloric needs. If you're a normal, active human being, you probably need to be eating 500-750 calories per meal. (Pro-tip: that's a LOT of egg whites and broccoli. Not recommended.) Let's assume you need about 700 calories, to make the math easy.

The Basic Components
1. Starchy food - 300-400 calories
That's a lot of food. We're talking two cups of cooked rice, 3 medium flour tortillas, about a quarter pound of pasta, or half of a baguette. Other options include quinoa, oatmeal, pita bread, polenta, potatoes, soba noodles, tortilla chips, pretzels, graham crackers, cold cereal, bagels, etc.

2. Protein-rich food - 100-200 calories
A solid meal has 20-30 grams of protein. Starchy foods and vegetables usually have some protein, so aim for 15-20g in this ingredient and you're doing well. Some examples: a half block of tofu, a half can of beans, 16 ounces of soy milk, half of a Tofurky sausage, a quarter cup of nutritional yeast, a serving of protein powder, or a Gardein beefless burger patty.

3. A plant or two - 50-100 calories
Vegetables and fruits definitely need to make an appearance on your plate, but they also don't have many calories. They should be a part of your meal—not the whole thing. I like to have fruit with breakfast and snacks, and veggies with lunch and dinner.

4. Sauce - 50-150 calories
Sauces make the meal. They're also a great way to adjust the calorie count on your plate. If you're looking to gain weight, use the sauce to add fat and calories. If you'd rather eat more pasta, go light on sauce or use a veggie-based sauce.

Some sample meals:
- Three cups of corn flakes with walnuts, soy milk and frozen blueberries
- Two cups of rice, half block of tofu, broccoli and teriyaki sauce
- Three tacos with a half can of black beans, cabbage slaw, salsa and/or guacamole
- A big pile of pretzels and veggie sticks with a bean dip (like hummus or black bean dip)
- Savory oatmeal with two tablespoons of nutritional yeast, two tablespoons of sunflower seeds, fresh spinach and cashew cheese

Veggie and tofu stir fry + rice 
Bagel + PB + berries + banana 

You'll need to eat THREE of these meals a day to fuel a decently athletic lifestyle, plus snacks if you work out a lot. If you're not exercising much, scale these meals back to the low end of the calorie range, or eat smaller snacks.

Advanced tips:
- Mix a starchy protein with a fatty protein to make a well-rounded meal without a specific starch (e.g. chickpeas and walnuts on a salad)
- Use whole grains in at least one of your three meals
- Vary your starches, proteins and veggies over the week to get a good mix of nutrients (i.e. don't eat rice, tofu, broccoli and teriyaki sauce at every. single. meal.)

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If you follow rowing in the United States, you'll know that our women's national team is a d...

The Olympics - Team USA - Women's Rowing

If you follow rowing in the United States, you'll know that our women's national team is a dominating force, from the smallest boat class to the largest. In 2015:
  • Our women's eight won its 10th consecutive world title
  • Gevvie Stone reached the A-final in ultra competitive women's single
  • The women qualified every. single. boat class. for Rio 2016, the only country to do so
Whoa. That's incredible!

Get excited to watch these ladies blaze down the race course in Rio de Janeiro—racing starts this weekend. Don't be surprised if all six of these boats find themselves in the A-final. Here's a little bit of what to expect.

W1x - Gevvie Stone
If you're looking for a rower to #fangirl (other than me, of course), Gevvie is a good start. She was seventh at London 2012, but has been consistently in A-finals at the World Championships this cycle. A medal is definitely a possibility, but there are a lot of women flirting with silver and bronze. (Kim Brennan of Australia has been winning all of the gold medals.)

W2- - Grace Luczak, Felice Mueller
Felice raced this boat class to a bronze medal at the World Championships last year. Grace and Felice were U23 World Champions in this event. The British pair have set the standard in this event for quite some time, including a win over the US pair earlier this year. However, the US is certainly capable of a silver medal in this event, and will likely be looking to challenge for gold.

W2x - Ellen Tomek, Meghan O'Leary
Ellen and Meghan are the only line-up on this list to have raced together at every World Championship this cycle. Their results have been inconsistent, everywhere from silver medals at World Cups to 11th place at last year's World Championships. Their goal is to medal at the Olympics; hopefully this doesn't take focus from their first challenge: make the A-final.

LW2x - Kate Bertko, Devery Karz
This is a new combination. Devery qualified the boat class last year with Michelle Sechser, placing 11th at the World Championships. Kate is ostensibly faster, having beaten Michelle for her seat earlier this year. While they posted fast times at Olympic Trials, their first international regatta in May saw them scratching from the C-final. If they are healthy and fit for the games, they should feature in the A-final.

W4x - Adrienne Martelli, Megan Kalmoe, Tracy Eisser, Grace Latz
The USA scored a surprise win over reigning world champions Germany at last year's World Championships. Two of that crew, Megan Kalmoe and Tracy Eisser, return to the boat. I expect Germany will be out for revenge, but this crew is capable of earning a gold medal.

W8 - Katelin Snyder, Amanda Elmore, Eleanor Logan, Meghan Musnicki, Tessa Gobbo, Lauren Schmetterling, Emily Regan, Kerry Simmonds, Amanda Polk
The line-up changes. The result stays the same. This crew would be disappointed with silver, and rightly so.

The schedule of events can be found on Wikipedia, because duh. Racing starts August 6th, and online live streaming coverage begins at 7:30AM EST on NBC Olympics. This year, USA Network will be the home of rowing coverage, so figure out which channel it is!

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My last race in Princeton, I missed every single goal on my checklist. This time, I nailed all but o...

2016 Worlds Trials Recap

My last race in Princeton, I missed every single goal on my checklist. This time, I nailed all but one. My goal coming into this regatta was, first and foremost, to learn a lot. A tight race in the heats between me and Cara Stawicki checked that one off easily.

Things are looking up for me. pc: Dan Copenhaver
Before the heats, I was so nervous I thought I might throw up. I'd beaten Cara in the time trial the night before, but not by much.

The time trial was 1900 meters.
Off the start, I knew Cara would be fast. I didn't want to let her get too far away, but the pace was smoking hot. I had to make a decision to let her go, even though Guenter told me not to. I was a boat length down, plus maybe some open water, coming into the halfway point, and definitely scared.

But I did what I came to do—go fast. I kept my head in my boat and let the speed come to me instead of forcing it. As I moved to level in the 3rd 500 meters, I definitely had some doubts. Again, I refocused on the present and put in an awesome sprint for the win in the heats. (I crossed the line at 40 strokes per minute and 1:49/500m pace.)

That win earned me the day off on Wednesday (and helped me get my nerves under control). I went to the race course anyways, to spectate and mingle.

While I was there, I got to watch the quad from Potomac (whose selection camp I skipped) qualify for Worlds. I'm super excited for all of the girls in that boat but it was definitely difficult to know that their choices had led them to a place where I so want to be someday—Team USA.

Watching that race definitely revved me up for my race the next day: the FINAL! Although a win was never realistic for me, I knew that one of my other goals was to set myself up for next year. Coming in second place overall was crucial to achieving that goal, and the closer I could be to Mary Jones, the eventual winner, the better.

The final was similar to the heat—I was down at the start, and moved through both Cara and Kat Schiro over the middle 1000m of the race.

In the end, I was 11 seconds behind Mary. I would have liked to sneak under 7:50, especially as many of my training paces indicated that was reasonable, but I was ecstatic with second place. I know I have my work cut out for me, narrowing that 11-second margin

For the month of August, I am scaling back my time in boats and giving myself a mental break from the grind of training. I will be running, lifting, and occasionally picking up some oars, but also trying to do all of the things I don't normally get to do—gardening, visiting family, hiking, maybe drinking some alcohol?

I will also be running some road races and posting some of my workouts on Twitter—follow me (@lightweighteats) if you want to see what a "fun" month is for an elite athlete.

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ICYMI, I've been racing at World Championship Trials all week! A link to results should be poste...

My 2015/2016 Weight Plan

ICYMI, I've been racing at World Championship Trials all week! A link to results should be posted on the US Rowing website and available from herenow.com
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Good weight management has been a foundation to my athletic success. I've found a place where I can put the scale away for a month or two in the fall and winter, but still get myself within 100 grams of my target weight on race day. I'm really proud of how I've achieved precision without obsession.

A big part of that is knowing the plan in advance. So, here was my weight plan for the past season, with feedback for myself below.

I came out of 2015 Seniors Trials in June. I weighed in around 56kg (123 pounds), but I played a lot of tricks with salt and carbs to get there. I pretty quickly came up to 58kg and then put the scale away and slowly gained weight until September.

Start: end of September - 133-134 pounds

--> two and a half weeks to lose 1-2 pounds
**October 17 - Head of the Charles - 132 pounds

--> 3 weeks to lose 2 pounds
**November 7 - Fall Speed Order - 130 pounds
**November/December/January - 132-136 pounds

In preparation for trials, I scheduled weigh-ins about every two and a half weeks, starting February 10th. These were just for me—no coaches involved—but the weigh ins helped me stay accountable.
--->10-12 weeks to lose 10 pounds

Weigh in reminder in my training log...
...and weight recorded the next day.

Weigh-in date --- goal weight --- actual weight
Feb 11 --- 60kg (132.2lbs) --- 60kg (132.2lbs)
Feb 29 --- 59kg (130.0lbs) --- 60kg (132.2lbs) <-- oops!
Mar 18 --- 58kg (127.8lbs) --- 59kg (130.0lbs)
April 5 --- 57kg (125.6lbs) --- 57.8 kg (127.6lbs)
April 19 --- 56kg (123.4lbs) --- 56.5kg (124.6lbs)

**April 21-24 - Olympic Trials - 55-56kg / 121-123 pounds
[n.b. to make this weight, I did NOT lose 2-3 pounds of fat in two days. I lost some water weight via reduced salt/carbs and sweat out 1-2 pounds in the mornings, pre-weigh-in.]

--> come up to 125-126 quickly, then slowly gain 2-3 pounds
**July 18th - Worlds Trials - 128-129 pounds

I did better than expected managing my weight in December and January when I was visiting family. I didn't have a scale for most of that time, and came back late January at 133-134 pounds despite copious holiday eating.

I fell behind on weight loss in February, but instead of freaking out, I adjusted my plan. Instead of the original plan of losing 1kg every 2.5 weeks, I adjusted my goal to 1.2kg every 2.5 weeks, or about a pound a week. Since my original plan was a little generous, I ended up losing weight in a very sustainable way.

March through July have gone great. I didn't lose too much muscle coming down to 56kg. That has allowed me to add muscle compared to where I was in February, as I come up to single racing weight. What fun.

I really struggled with the October and November portion of the plan. Losing weight as it gets colder is always difficult for me, and I had to work harder than expected to make weight at Head of the Charles. Coming down another 2-3 pounds for speed order was even less fun, and as a result my weight bounced up really quickly afterwards.

Even though I came down to weight smartly, I haven't had my period since February. Boo! Although my doctor has said it is ok for to lose my period for months at a time, it's still concerning. I have to imagine that if my body can't perform its natural functions, it is barely handling the training load I'm giving it. I was hoping that I would get my period back as I came up to 128 or 129 pounds, but as of yet no luck.

I am also having trouble accepting the way my body is changing. At 123 pounds, I felt like a certifiable badass—I looked the way I expect an elite athlete to look. Now at 129, although my muscles are bigger, my muscle definition is significantly reduced. Clothing fits differently, as well, and is oftentimes uncomfortable because my summer wardrobe is sized for me to be 125 pounds. I would also feel embarrassed to have been at 123 in April and struggle to make 130 in July, even though my body has clearly indicated that 130+ is a happier weight for me. These are emotions and self-criticisms I need to examine, because I train to go fast, not to look good.

Looking super lean at 125lbs for 2015 Elite Nationals.

If you race as a lightweight, I'd love to hear how your plan is the same or different. Questions, comments and feedback are always welcome! This is something that not a lot of lightweights address publicly, and I get a lot of questions about it.

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