Now that she's an Ironman, we asked Sarah to reflect on her experiences and share what she learnt from the day. Here are her top 5 tips for anyone out there embarking on their own first Ironman journey.
STICK TO THE PLAN!! The days leading up to the race and particularly on race day, you'll be a ball of nerves and not thinking clearly at all. No matter what advice you receive from the well-meaning seasoned athletes who have done a billion Ironman races already... Never, ever, steer away from the plan. DO WHAT YOUR DIETITIAN TELLS YOU. The golden rule of racing - never try anything new on race day!
ENJOY YOURSELF. Make sure you enjoy every second of the race because the day goes by way too fast. On the day you are so busy caught up in staying focused that the hours just fly by you. No matter how exhausted you are, take in that finish line chute because they really make you feel like a rockstar.
DON'T EVER DOUBT YOURSELF! When you taper, your head will start to try and convince you that you aren't ready to take on this event. You will start to worry about things that have never even crossed your mind. Trust your program, trust your training and always back yourself.
THANK THE VOLUNTEERS. Those people are just incredible and the lengths they go to to help you out are just amazing. When it's getting late into the night and a lot of spectators have gone home with their athletes, the volunteers will still be out there screaming cheers for you, giving you water and food and going above and beyond to help get you to the finish line.
BE POSITIVE. When it starts to get tough on course, reflect back to all the achievements you have made to get to the start line. Think of the sacrifices, the hours spent on the bike, the laps in the pool and the pavement you pounded every day... You are better than your head it telling you, stay on track and go get it!
Intermittent Fasting; the latest in diet trends. Claiming health benefits from weight loss to prevention of chronic disease. Is it really the answer to the world’s health problems? We take a look at the evidence...
What is intermittent fasting?
Intermittent fasting encompasses several different dietary behaviours, all of which focus on controlling the period in which food is consumed. These behaviours dictate a fasting and feeding schedule of various lengths. However, there isn't a restriction placed on the TYPES of foods consumed during feeding times.
Different types of intermittent fasting:
The three most popular methods that are circulating the health and fitness industry are:
Time-Restricted Feeding Daily fasting for a minimum of 12 hours (the most common fast is 16 hours, with 8 hours during the day to eat, for example only eating between 11am and 7pm).
Alternate Day Fasting Involves cycling between one day of “fasting” and one day of consuming your regular diet. On the “fasting” day, you consume less than ~25% of your daily energy requirements. For an average adult this equates to ~2175kJ – or roughly equivalent to your lunchtime chicken sandwich.
The 5 and 2 Method This involves energy restriction to less than 25% of requirements for two non-consecutive days per week. While 5 days you eat as per usual.
The health benefits
Intermittent fasting has been shown to cause significant weight loss in short-term studies, varying from 4-8% loss of body weight within 6-12 weeks (3-5, 7). However, when this was compared to a constant control of energy intake there appears to be no difference in weight loss between the groups (3-5). Findings did point to less loss of fat-free mass (our muscle) during intermittent fasting, demonstrating that it may be a more efficient method to prevent loss of lean muscle mass during weight loss periods (4-5).
Intermittent fasting has been linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, however with the current research available it is difficult to observe if benefits are unique to fasting, or if they simply occur as a result of weight loss. These benefits include improvements in cholesterol (lowered LDL and total cholesterol), triglycerides, blood pressure, and inflammatory and oxidative stress markers (3-4). Fat loss also produces changes in circulating levels or certain adipokine’s (proteins released by fat cells) which has a protective effect on the progression of cardiovascular disease and cancer (3-4). Fasting has also shown decreases in fasting insulin levels and insulin resistance, good news for the prevention and management of Type 2 Diabetes (3-4). Despite these preliminary benefits, current research remains largely inconclusive, highlighting a need for further long-term human studies.
Is it an option for athletes?
When considering changing up your dietary routine, one of the most important questions to ask is, “is it sustainable in the long term for your lifestyle?”. Whether a recreational athlete or a serious competitor, having enough fuel in the tank is essential to get through long, hard training sessions. Incorporating extended periods of fasting and depleting fuel stores, while continuing to attempt a high training load is counterproductive.
We know that lower intensity exercise draws predominantly on fat as a fuel source. While higher intensities have an increased reliance on carbohydrate as a fuel. With insufficient fuel at high intensities, you slow down to allow the body to utilise more fat as a fuel. In both professional and recreational athletes, VO2 max decreased by up to 12% during an intermittent fasting routine (2). However, regardless of type or intensity of exercise, all athletes reported feeling higher levels of fatigue (1-2).
So if your daily training routine is more aerobic, slow and steady style, then fasting may not impact too much on performance; although you might not feel quite as light on your feet! Planning rest days or shorter, easier, recovery type sessions on fasting days could be the way around this. If you’re more interested in short, sharp, high-intensity sessions, you would struggle to get the best performance out of your session in a prolonged fasted state.
Recovery is also significantly impacted if you’re not able to refuel after a session. The ingestion of protein and carbohydrate post-exercise increases muscle synthesis and replenishes glycogen stores. If you’re unable to adequately refuel post-exercise or even during the following 24 hours, this can result in muscle breakdown and inadequate energy stores to complete training on subsequent days (8). In summary, it would be difficult to incorporate intermittent fasting with a heavy training load, however, there are certain adjustments you could make to try and minimise negative effects:
Choose time-restricted feeding over other fasting patterns, this allows for adequate fuel intake EVERY day and will have the smallest negative impact on recovery.
If choosing a fasting technique where intake on certain days is less than 25% of requirements, ensure protein intake is adequate to prevent muscle breakdown after training. Intake of 20-30g of protein following a session and regularly distributed throughout the day is a good place to start! (8)
Plan training sessions OUTSIDE of fasting times if possible to minimise the effect on performance.
Stay HYDRATED to prevent further fatigue on your body. Sometimes when we’re not eating we also forget to drink!
Playing devil's advocate
In our opinion, any form of dietary restriction should come with a big fat warning sign! These behaviours can result in increased hunger levels and overeating outside of fasting times. We commonly see people on the 2 and 5 diet binge eat on their 5 days of “normal” eating, completely negating any effect of the 2 days of fasting! Our body is great at playing catch up. Other negative effects to highlight include irritability and an inability to focus, so proceed with caution as everyone is different and fasting may not suit you (or your family!). Extra effort should also be placed on consuming a balanced diet in the hours of feeding to ensure you are still getting everything you need.
The final word
Although intermittent fasting is praised at times, there is still inadequate research to promote it globally as a superior method for weight loss or prevention of chronic disease. Yes, there are several proposed benefits, however, these could simply be seen as a result of weight loss itself. Fasting also requires significant effort to ensure dietary intake is adequately met and for athletes, alterations to your training schedule so performance is minimally affected. The best diet is the one you can stick to! If fasting is something you want to consider - see an Accredited Dietitian who can ensure you’re getting everything you need across the week, no matter what fasting program you’re on.
(1) Chaouachi, J., Coutts, P., Chamari, P., Wong, P., Chaouachi, P., Chtara, P., Roky, P., et al. (2009). Effect of Ramadan Intermittent Fasting on Aerobic and Anaerobic Performance and Perception of Fatigue in Male Elite Judo Athletes. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, 23(9), 2702–2709. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181bc17fc
(2) Chaouachi, A., Leiper, J., Chtourou, H., Aziz, A., & Chamari, K. (2012). The effects of Ramadan intermittent fasting on athletic performance: Recommendations for the maintenance of physical fitness. Journal of Sports Sciences, 30, S53. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/1026565523/
(3) Patterson, R., & Sears, D. (n.d.). Metabolic Effects of Intermittent Fasting. Annual Review of Nutrition, 37, 371–393. doi:10.1146/annurev-nutr-071816-064634
(4) Anton, S., Moehl, K., Donahoo, W., Marosi, K., Lee, S., Mainous, A., Leeuwenburgh, C., et al. (2018, February). Flipping the Metabolic Switch: Understanding and Applying the Health Benefits of Fasting. Obesity. doi:10.1002/oby.22065
(5) Harvie, M., & Howell, A. (2017). Potential Benefits and Harms of Intermittent Energy Restriction and Intermittent Fasting Amongst Obese, Overweight and Normal Weight Subjects-A Narrative Review of Human and Animal Evidence. Behavioral Sciences, 7(1), 4. doi:10.3390/bs7010004
(6) Maughan, R., Fallah, J., & Coyle, E. (2010). The effects of fasting on metabolism and performance. British Journal of Sports Medicine, 44(7), 490. doi:10.1136/bjsm.2010.072181
(7) Varady, K. (2011). Intermittent versus daily calorie restriction: which diet regimen is more effective for weight loss? Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 12(7), e593. doi:10.1111/j.1467-789X.2011.00873.x
(8) Burke, L. (2010). Fasting and recovery from exercise. British Journal of Sports Medicine. 44,502-508. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2007.071472
Sleep is essential for general health and wellbeing.
The more we learn, the more we realise that increased sleep duration and quality is associated with better performance in sport and life. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults get between 7-9 hours of sleep each day for optimal health (1). But it's not clear exactly how much sleep athletes need. It's been suggested athletes require more - closer to 9-10 hours (2). But duration is not the only factor - sleep quality is also important. Getting the right amount of good quality sleep has some incredible benefits for athletic performance. Let's take a deeper look...
Image source: Getty images
For an athlete, sleep is the ultimate form of recovery. It's like a big sponge that soaks up fatigue overnight. This sponge assists with the recovery process so we can adapt from and absorb hard training. The bigger the sponge (sleep duration), the more water (fatigue) it can soak up.
It's in the deep sleep phases (Stage 3 and 4 NREM) during the first half of the night that we do most of our physical recovery and repair.
The light sleep stages which make up approximately 50% of a total nights sleep (Stage 1 and 2) are also key to both physical and neural recharge overnight. If we don't spend enough time in these phases, we wake up feeling foggy.
Sleep is a WEAPON
— Jason Bourne
Reaction time, coordination and accuracy
It's in Stage 5 (REM) sleep where our brains recovery, learning and development occurs. We create new nerve pathways to consolidate and repair memories, skills and process information. Side note - it's also where we release testosterone (in both men and women). Research suggests that sleep deprivation delays the signals which travel along these pathways, decreasing our coordination and accuracy (2). So much so that inadequate sleep has been likened to being drunk! Williamson and Feyer (2000) demonstrated the longer the duration without sleep (up to 23 hours), performance in cognitive tasks, motor skills, speed and accuracy decreased to levels equivalent to a blood alcohol content of 0.1%. Twice the legal driving limit in Australia!
The duration of REM sleep increases as the night progresses, with the longest duration occurring just before waking. So get to bed early to ensure you get the beneficial effects on mental performance more REM sleep brings.
Injury & illness
Decreased sleep has been associated with an increased risk of injury and illness. Inadequate sleep is immunosuppressive, increasing our risk of upper respiratory tract infections. In a study of 164 adults administered nasal drops containing rhinovirus, those who slept for less than 5hrs were 4.5 times more likely to develop an illness than those that slept for greater than 7hrs (4).
Being sick or injured reduces training availability and is obviously something we want to avoid. The underlying mechanism for increased injury with sleep loss is unclear but is likely due to cognitive impairment and decreased reaction time, along with higher levels of fatigue. All of which can increase an athletes risk of injury.
Mental stamina and mood
Striving to be fitter, faster and stronger doesn’t just require physical effort, it also requires mental stamina. Feeling mentally drained will impact your mood and we all know that missing out on a good nights rest can alter how we think and feel. People who sleep for less than five hours are often sadder, angrier and more stressed (2) which is linked with low motivation and decreased sports performance (5).
Not a lot is known about sleep deprivation and its effect on short, sharp, anaerobic power type exercise, but a number of studies have shown decreased endurance performance (6, 7, 8, 9). Sleep loss clearly resulted in increasing 3km time trial duration in cyclists (7), decreased time to exhaustion in volleyball players (6) and decreased treadmill run distance covered in a 30 minutes self-paced test (9). This appears to be due to an increase in our perception of effort (how hard you feel you're working) (8). It may also be due to an alteration in substrate availability as pre-exercise muscle glycogen (our carbohydrate fuel tank) has been found to be decreased after sleep deprivation (10).
Improve sleep efficiency
Multiple studies show the significant implications sleep deprivation has on performance. From impaired accuracy, coordination and reaction time, fatigue, inadequate recovery, to increased risk of injury and illness. So what can we do to improve our sleep efficiency - both duration and quality?
Get to bed earlier, aiming to get 7-9 hours of sleep every night.
Stop using your phone in bed. The blue light it emits affects our normal sleep hormone production (melatonin)
Ensure all of your devises are set up with night mode so they switch to a more warm, orange hue after sunset.
Make your sleep environment comfortable, dark, cool and quiet
Establish a regular sleep routine
Eat foods that assist with promoting sleep - more on this next time!
Next up - we take a look at food to boost sleep performance. Stay tuned!
1. Hirshkowitz et al., (2015). National Sleep Foundation's updated sleep duration recommendations: final report. Sleep Health: The Journal of the National Sleep Foundation. 1(4), 233-243
2. Bird, S, P. (2013). Sleep, recovery, and athletic performance: a brief review and recommendations. Journal of Strength and Conditioning. 35:43-47.
3. Williamson, A., Feyer, A. (2001). Moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication. Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 57: 649-655.
4. Prather, A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M. and Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviuorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. Sleep. 38: 1353-1359.
5. Totterdell, P., Reynolds, S., Parkinson, B., & Briner, R. (1994). Associations of Sleep with Everyday Mood, Minor Symptoms and Social Interaction Experience. Sleep, 17(5), 466-475.
6. Azboy, O, Kaygisiz Z. (2009). Effects of sleep deprivation on cardiorespiratory functions of the runners and volleyball players during rest and exercise. Acta Physiologica Hungarica. 96, 29-36.
7. Chase et al. (2017). One night of sleep restriction following heavy exercise impairs 3-km cycling time-trial performance in the morning. Applied physiology, nutrition, and metabolism. 1-7
8. Fullagar, H, H, Skorski S, Duffield R, et al. (2015). Sleep and athletic performance: the effects of sleep loss on exercise performance, and physiological and cognitive responses to exercise. Sports Med. 45, 161-86.
9. Oliver, S, Costa, R, Laing, S, et al. (2009). One night of sleep deprivation decreases treadmill endurance performance. European Journal of Applied Physiology. 107, 155-61.
10. Skein, M, Duffield, R, Edge, J., et al. (2011). Intermittent-sprint performance and muscle glycogen after 30 h of sleep deprivation. Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise; 43: 1301-11.
11. Watson, A. (2017). Sleep and Athletic Performance. Current Sports Medicine Reports, 16(6), 413-418.
Many of us think of sleep as a time when the mind and body shut down, but in fact what happens when our head hits the pillow is quite the opposite. Sleep is a dynamic process – our brain changes its state many times as we pass through the five stages of sleep in approximately 90-minute cycles. The first four stages of sleep make up our non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep and the fifth stage is when rapid eye-movement (REM) sleep occurs.
Across NREM sleep we move from very light sleep during Stage 1 to very deep sleep in Stage 4. It’s very difficult to wake a person who is in Stage 4 sleep. Typically, our eyes do not move during NREM and we have low muscle activity, although all of our muscles are still able to function.
Stage 1 – Very Light sleep: We drift in and out of sleep and can be awakened easily.
Stage 2 – Light sleep: Where eye movement ceases.
Stage 3 & 4 – Deep sleep: We’re difficult to wake and have no eye movement or muscle activity.
Stage 5 – REM sleep
During Stage 5 or REM sleep our brain waves are as active as when we are awake and breathing becomes more rapid. The limb muscles are temporarily paralysed, our body does not move, eyes can dart rapidly in all directions and we dream vividly.
A typical night under the covers isn’t simply four to six of these 90-minute sleep cycles pieced together. In the first two to three cycles of shut-eye we spend most of our time in deep Stage 3 and Stage 4 (NREM) sleep. During the final two to three cycles we enter more REM sleep which is accompanied by some lighter NREM sleep.
Cycling through the sleep stages is important for preventing tiredness and irritability the next day and maximising the benefits of sleep. Next up, we’re taking a look at how sleep can boost performance. Stay tuned!
Sarah came to see us in August 2017 with the primary goal to get off the couch and keep Hubby happy on the weekends after big training sessions. She's gone from strength to strength and is gearing up for her Ironman debut at Port Macq in a few weeks time. We're excited to share her story with you and can't wait to see her become an IronWoman next month.
Name: Sarah Leuenberger
Current home location (where you live): Brisvegas
Profession/Educational background: Assistant bean counter studying to be an official bean counter (accounting)
Sport of Choice: Triathlon
How many years have you been training and competing in your sport? 3 years since my first triathlon
What got you into it in the first place? I have always been interested in triathlon but was never brave enough to try one (plus I couldn’t run down the street even if a pack of wolves were chasing me :). My work offered free entry to a friendly non-competitive corporate triathlon which was a nice enticer distance. Even though I thought I was going to have a heart attack during the 4km run, I finished it with a smile and was completely hooked.
What’s your favourite training session? I always enjoy my bike sessions. I love exploring and taking in my surroundings. Rides are always therapeutic especially as they generally end with a caffeine fix.
Main Competition/Event/s for 2018: Ironman Australia on the 6th May; it will be my first Ironman distance event!
Looking ahead to 2019 and beyond, what are your bigger goals for your sporting career: My main goal is to continually improve and always try new challenges. I love the feeling of doing something amazing and I also love getting out of my comfort zone. I haven’t thought too much about what my next event will be, I just want to keep having fun and keep inspiring my kids and friends to get active and involved in fitness.
What’s your biggest achievement in your sport so far: Hmmm that’s a tough one as if you asked 5 years ago Sarah if she could do half of the things 2018 Sarah has achieved then she would laugh in your face and tell you that “you cray cray”. I think my stand out moment would be when I rode my bike from Brisbane to Sydney with some friends. We did the trip over 6 days and we had the best time. It was very challenging at times and backing up each day was hard work but we got to see some parts of Australia that you just can’t appreciate as much when you drive through in a car.
Do you have a saying or motto you live your life by? My very favourite quote is one said by Audrey Hepburn and it is, “Nothing is impossible, the word itself says I’m possible”. I try and remind myself of this quote each and every day. The only thing stopping me from being great is the doubts I allow to enter my head. Get rid of those doubts and anything is achievable.
What are one or two things you do in your day to day training life that you feel are keys to your success?
Like I said, I never doubt myself, as soon as I let the negative thoughts enter my head then it’s game over.
Always be open to push out of your comfort zone, no matter how scary it seems. Like they say, out of your comfort zone is where the magic happens.
Three things you can’t live without? My family, coffee and my bike.
Favourite food: Mexican for suuuure! Love it, the more spice the better…now I want some Mexican food immediately…damn it.
Favourite post-training meal or snack? Sarah’s Secret Smoothie, I would tell you what’s in it but then I’d have to kill you. Let’s just say it may or may not involve a banana, a shot of coffee, a hit of protein and milk.
What’s the number 1 (or 2) thing you’ve learnt about sports nutrition for performance in your sport?
How to use food to fuel! My number one thing I asked Taryn to help me with when I first met her was, how to prevent myself from becoming a useless heap, asleep on the couch after any big sessions. We have nailed this perfectly!! Yay team!!!
The right foods to eat to keep me full and stop me heading for those binge sessions at the fridge. Healthy grazing options have been my saviour when it comes to getting down to race weight.
Yeah yeah, we’re the fun police, we get it. Take it or leave it, but at the end of the day, alcohol is a toxin. Here are three major reasons why alcohol is not your friend.
Increased energy intake
Pure alcohol is energy dense, containing 29 kilojoules per gram – almost equalling fat which contains 37 kilojoules per gram. Alcohols kilojoules are known as ‘empty kilojoules’ as they fail to provide nutrients that our body requires to perform important physiological functions. These kilojoules tend to stack up quickly because they are consumed in liquid form – liquid kilojoules don't elicit the same feeling or level of satiety as kilojoules from food. Because our hunger is not suppressed by alcohol we don’t compensate by reducing our food intake and our overall energy intake can increase significantly.
Altered brain chemistry
When we consume alcohol, our brain responds by releasing the feel-good chemical dopamine into our brains reward centre. The brain typically uses dopamine to reinforce healthy behaviours, however, alcohol triggers the release of very high amounts of dopamine. Excessive levels of dopamine block the expression of our negative emotions such as anxiety, fear, stress or insecurity and as a result, we feel relaxed and uninhibited. Because our inhibitions are lower, assessing our appetite and restraining from unhealthy food choices isn’t a priority. This is why after a drink (or six) you feel more comfortable reaching for a handful of chips or saying yes to that 2am dirty kebab. Far more comfortable than you did before drinking.
To make matters worse, alcohol is an excellent appetite stimulant. The body reacts to ethanol as a poison, prioritising its breakdown and removal over the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat. Breaking down alcohol is a demanding task that requires the full attention of the liver. This means that the liver ceases to perform other important jobs such as the release of glucose to maintain our blood glucose levels. Eventually, our blood glucose levels dip and we become hypoglycaemic (low blood glucose levels) – triggering intense feelings of hunger.
The combination of alcohols high energy content with its un-inhibiting and appetite-stimulating effects often lead to weight gain in the short and long-term. Reducing your alcohol intake is a small but realistic change which, when combined with healthy eating and regular exercise, will promote weight loss.
Drink in moderation and enjoy a glass of wine or a beer with friends in a social setting. If you drink every night sitting at home, perhaps explore why you reach for alcohol at the end of the day. Our Healthy Lifestyle Challenge will help you learn what habits you’ve trained yourself to have in this space.
It was the night before my first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon. After 10 months of preparation, I was ready, albeit incredibly nervous. Sitting down to a home-cooked dinner with my support crew, I felt like the biggest kid eating my large bowl of pasta, side of garlic bread, all washed down with pasito (dietitians orders). As I forced it down (nerves!) I looked enviously at my friends casually enjoying their pizza and wine without a care in the world. All I wanted to do was grab the Shiraz and neck it myself! I called it an early night and before I knew it, the alarm was going off. With a blink it was race day. Ahhhh!!!
My first thought that morning was, “I can’t wait to wake up tomorrow and not feel so nervous”. I knew I was prepared and I knew I would finish, but that didn’t stop the pre-race butterflies. I got myself ready, feeling like livestock being marked up; right arm tattoo, left calf tattoo, left ankle tag… It was soon time to leave for the final transition set up.
I couldn’t have asked for a better race day. Noosa definitely turned on the weather and whilst it was hot, the conditions were in my favour. Time flew that morning and before I knew it, I was standing nervously on the beach waiting for my wave to start, surrounded by my friends and family doing their best to distract me.
The swim, my weakest and biggest concern, unexpectedly turned out to be my favourite. The water was beautiful and clear. We were off and I found my own space, settling in quickly. I kept on course (mostly), made a bee-line for the beach and was stoked to finish in 30 minutes without drowning.
Quick transition (well, as quick as I could without doing a flying mount) and I was onto the bike course. I felt fatigue in my quads straight away so perhaps my taper wasn’t enough in the week leading up. Still, I was determined to maintain an average speed ~ 30km/hr and used everything I could to push through the burn, conscious to save a little for the run. Descending Garmin hill was my highlight and I even cracked a new PB top speed on the bike; it was so much fun! Coming off the bike, I checked to see I had done enough to hit my goal time of 1hr 20. Right on target.
I did some quick maths and realised that sub-3 hours was within reach. Yass! Running is my strength but it was hot (~27°C), my feet were burning, and my body was tired. Learning the hard way in previous run races, I knew I had to pace sensibly…These lessons paid off as it soon became apparent the run was going to be far more challenging than I’d thought. I needed every ounce of energy to make it to the finish line. A friend had given me some valuable advice the day before and this mantra repeated in my head; “Pain is temporary. Glory lasts forever”. I kept to a consistent pace and somehow even managed a sprint finish.
I went into race day hoping to finish around 3 hours. As I crossed the finish line, I sneaked a peep at my watch to see the time 2:55! I couldn’t believe it! I was ecstatic! Thank you Noosa,!
Whilst I exceeded my expectations at Noosa, there is always room for improvement.
Some of the key things I learnt from race day…
Go over the entire swim course (not just the first half) in your head before the start
Revisit taper week to ensure I’m feeling fresh and ready come race day
Stick more to the left on the bike course around tight turns. There were a couple of close calls…
Tighten up transitions and learn how to flying mount
I’ve definitely caught the triathlon bug and after having the time of my life on Sunday, all that’s left to decide now is …which race to do next!?
I stumbled across triathlon a little differently to most…
Last November my partner at the time encouraged me to sign up for Noosa Triathlon with him. You’re kidding right?! I couldn’t run 5km let alone 10km, could barely swim 1.5km, had never swum in the open water, am a little (OK a lot) afraid of bluebottles AND had only ridden a bike maybe 3 times since I was a kid. He persisted though and promised to help me with training so I thought, why not? Maybe it was time to try something new and with someone to help, how hard could it be? Half nervous and half excited, I signed up.
Three weeks later, he broke up with me. Not only was I completely heartbroken, I now had a $300 Noosa registration with no skills to use it. I deliberated for a few months about what to do. Some of my friends were incredibly encouraging whilst others disappointingly discouraging with comments like “Triathlon?! You can’t do that, you don’t even own a bike!” Gee thanks guys…Eventually after doing some confidence building laps in the pool, I decided it was time to bite the bullet. I was going to do Noosa; and I was going to do it for me.
I had ten months to train and teach myself three sports before putting them all together. Sounds simple, right? As my journey unfolded, it became very obvious I had a lot of work to do and absolutely no idea how to do it. There are shoes that clip you into a bike?!
I threw caution to the wind and entered a 1km open water swim. I nervously stood on the beach waiting for my race, feeling intimidated and out of place. There was an electric buzz in the air as everyone seemed to know each other, chatting away about “the chop”. What that meant, I had no idea and the thought quickly escaped my mind as the person standing next to me just mentioned the ‘B’ word; bluebottle. My Dad had surprised me and come to watch (I think he had to see it to believe it!) and I found myself at the age of 32, standing on a beach in my togs being counselled about what to do if I got stung mid-race. Not my finest adult moment, but thanks Dad…. I swam my little heart out and survived to tell the story. To this day, that swim is my 1km PB in both the pool and open water.
As time went on, I started to realise that there was more to this training than doing a session or two a week in each sport. The terms “double-session days”, “brick session” and “run off the bike” got thrown around. It also became very apparent that doing an Olympic Distance Triathlon as my first ever race wasn’t the smartest idea... My aunty Stacy, a seasoned triathlete, suggested I do a couple of smaller races for practice and exposure. Putting this all together with enduring guidance and support from her is how I found my coach, Dan McTainsh. It’s been the best decision I’ve made.
I can honestly say that I’ve never been so far out of my comfort zone. There has been blood, a couple of tears and a lot of sweat. There have been so many times where things haven’t gone to plan, but people have been there to pick me up off the ground when I’ve fallen, literally. These cleat things are hard! As time has gone on, I no longer freeze just thinking about getting on my bike and cycling has become my favourite of the three disciplines. I’m still pretty shaky and clumsy clipping in but once I’m clipped in, I’m off! I love every second.
If it wasn’t for the incredible support and encouragement from the people surrounding me, I may have thrown in the towel, making up some excuse to pull out. They have answered my endless questions (and I mean endless), helped with nutrition, training programs, fed me when I’ve been too exhausted to cook and given me kudos galore on Strava. This wonderful triathlon community has been so positive and encouraging when my “negative thought committee” has been in full-swing and believed in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.
I am so thankful to have such amazing people in my life who have helped me get to this point today. All of the hard work has been done and it’s just me and my mental game on race day this Sunday. Whilst I may have started this journey with a heavy heart, some fear, and a lot of self-disbelief, I’m ending it with a massive smile, huge sense of accomplishment, stronger relationships with old friends and family, many new friendships, believing that anything is possible, and a new-found love for this crazy world of triathlon. Honestly, what more could a girl want?
Many of my friends, colleagues and family have mentioned along the way how inspiring they’ve found watching my journey unfold. At first, I didn’t give it too much thought but as time has gone by, I’ve recognised that so many people have dreams and aspirations that they never start or finish because they’re so scared of failure. People worry that they’ll be judged, or are discouraged by others. It’s always so hard taking that first step but once you do, the world is your oyster. I hope to inspire you to take that step and don’t look back. The sense of accomplishment and empowerment is incredible.
Game face set
Stay tuned for Erin's recap after her first ever Olympic Distance Triathlon at Noosa this weekend! Good luck Erin!
Our body is made up of approximately 60% water. Our brain is ~85% water, blood is ~80% water and approximately 70% of lean muscle mass is water. Water plays an important role in all of these major systems and without water, they don't function efficiently. Even a mere 2% reduction in body water can decrease performance, affect short-term memory, focus and increase fatigue.
Some of the most important roles of water in the body include:Maintaining blood volume, nutrient transportation and waste removal
Water is the main component of blood and essential for transportation of nutrients and removal of waste in the body. Blood delivers nutrients such as glucose, sodium, potassium and amino acids to our tissues for cell life and function. Blood also carries toxins and waste products away from our cells to our kidneys and liver for filtration and removal. The kidneys regulate how much water we excrete or conserve to maintain blood volume and concentration.
Chemical and metabolic reactions
Water participates in hundreds of important metabolic reactions that occur in the body known as ‘hydrolysis reactions’. These reactions break down the carbohydrates, fats and proteins in our food so that our body can use them for energy and create the building blocks of life.
Protects tissues and joints
Water helps keep sensitive tissues such as your eyes, nose, mouth and brain moist. It also functions like a lubricant and cushions joints like your spine and knee so they can easily move against each other.
Water has a large heat capacity which helps control body temperature and allows us to adapt to changes in environmental temperatures. If the environmental temperature increases above body temperature, the body begins to sweat. Sweat evaporates off the skin surface which releases heat and cools the body down efficiently.
Consuming water regularly throughout the day is important to prevent dehydration. We lose water through sweat and breathing (insensible losses) and of course, urine. The insensible losses account for ~50% of the total water turnover.
The average adult requires roughly 2-3L of water per day to maintain water balance and keep the body systems functioning efficiently. This will of course vary with different environmental conditions, physical activity and your individual metabolism.
For ideas on how to drink more water, check out our 7 tips.
A ‘diet’ is a restrictive eating program used temporarily to lose weight. Diets are often gimmicky or have a certain theme such as the elimination of particular food groups or assigning points to foods. Some diets can be nonsensical, unscientific and downright dangerous – detoxes or juice cleanses anyone? *facepalm. Yes, these diets are restrictive, yes they may produce short term results, but why don’t they work long term?
We see so many clients with a history of yo-yo dieting. They’ve tried everything! Only to fall off the bandwagon, gaining more weight than they started with in the first place! It’s a shame they only come to see a Dietitian AFTER years of trying and failing at all these programs…
Weight loss is based on the first law of thermodynamics:
“Energy cannot be created nor destroyed, but rather transformed from one state to another”
More affectionately rephrased as “calories in, calories out”. This, in theory, is true. When we consistently consume less energy than our body uses each day, weight loss follows.
So why don’t diets work?
The human body is smart. It thrives on balance or homeostasis. Our body has inbuilt appetite and weight regulating systems which constantly strive to restore the balance.
The role of hormones in hunger
There are two hormones responsible for regulating our appetite: ghrelin and leptin.
Ghrelin is our appetite stimulating hormone; it is released into the stomach and sends hunger signals to the brain to produce ‘hunger pangs’.
Leptin is our appetite suppressing hormone, it is released by our fat cells after eating to send the signal that we’re full.
When we restrict our intake to lose weight, leptin levels plummet and ghrelin levels rise meaning our appetite soars. You’re up against strong feelings of hunger and it can become very difficult to resist extra snacks (or meals). Especially if you’re constantly thinking about what you can’t eat.
The role of metabolism
Our metabolism is clever and highly adaptable. It will respond to how much energy (calories or kilojoules) we consume. When our energy intake is high, the speed of our metabolism increases to ‘keep up’ with its energy workload. When our energy intake is reduced – our metabolism slows. One of the major reasons why metabolism slows relates to the effects of dieting on our body composition…
Losing weight on the scale doesn’t mean you’re only losing fat
Our body relies on energy from the macronutrients in our food (carbohydrates, proteins and fats) to perform lots of everyday body functions such as breathing and digesting. Stripping kilojoules from our diet forces the body to utilise fat from our fat cells to fuel some of these physiological functions – hence the term ‘burning fat’. But poorly planned and restrictive diets can go too far and deprive the body of energy to take care of day-to-day tasks. This forces the body to increase the activity of catabolic hormones and break down muscle reserves to produce energy instead. So while the weight on the scales may go down, this can be a combination of a reduction of fat tissue AND muscle tissue – not ideal. Lean body mass or muscle tissue is very energy-demanding and losing lean body mass decreases your metabolism significantly. A dietitian can help you with a meal plan to ensure you’re only losing fat with weight loss and not valuable, metabolism driving muscle.
When we inevitably fall off the bandwagon due to our insatiable appetite or stop the diet, our metabolism is sluggish and we can gain weight quickly, typically as fat. Cue the vicious cycle of dieting, weight loss, weight re-gain and back to dieting again which leaves most people feeling defeated.
But it’s not all doom and gloom! Take a more holistic approach to your health which can help you achieve and maintain a healthy weight long term. Enter the Dietitian Approved Healthy Lifestyle Challenge! A challenge designed to put in place consistent, daily habits for overall health. Nothing to do with dieting. People do lose weight on our challenge, which is a by product of these healthy habits.
Here are a few tips for more holistic and sustainable weight loss:
Ditch the food rules and concepts of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods. Incorporate a wide variety of fresh fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, lean meat, fish, dairy, legumes, nuts and seeds into your diet and allow yourself to eat foods which you enjoy in moderation mindfully.
Become more aware of your hunger and satiety cues and allow these cues to guide when to begin and stop eating. If you’re full, stop eating. You don’t need to finish what’s on your plate despite what your mother may tell you.
Be patient and take your time. Everyone wants to lose 5kg yesterday. Losing weight slowly is not only more maintainable, it prevents your weight loss from plateauing and allows your metabolism to adapt to its reduced energy workload. It's also far more socially enjoyable than severe restrictions.