Sunday, January 23, 2011

"Godfather of Fitness" Jack LaLanne Dies at 96

A young Jack LaLanne.

Below is the Reuters article about Jack LaLanne.  I first heard about Jack on one of his amazing birthday fitness stunts.  Then in high school, my varsity swimming coach gave us very difficult sets or dry land and he would tell us "Jack Lalanne would do this set".  Sets like 25 push-ups touching your chest to a cone that was about 6" below two benches, 25 yards swimming underwater and then 25 dips on another set of benches.  After the circuit of these you couldn't feel your arms.

Jack was quite simply an amazing person.  He inspired many to try fitness and to try to eat in a healthy manner.  Once, I was in the same room with him along with 500 others.  What I remember was his smile and energy brightened the room.  

My thoughts are with Mr. LaLanne's family during this time. 

Fitness guru Jack LaLanne dies at 96 in California

Fitness pioneer Jack LaLanne (C) pumps his fist after receiving a Spirit of California Medal from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) during the California Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at The California Museum in Sacramento, California December 15, 2008. REUTERS/The California Museum/Handout
LOS ANGELES | Sun Jan 23, 2011 10:34pm EST
(Reuters) - Jack LaLanne, a one-time sugar-holic who became a television fitness guru preaching exercise and healthy diet to a generation of American housewives, died on Sunday at age 96, his daughter said.
LaLanne, who became U.S. television fixture in his close-fitting jumpsuit starting in 1959 and came to be regarded as the father of the modern fitness movement, succumbed to pneumonia following a brief illness at his home in Morro Bay, along the California's central coast.
"He was surrounded by his family and passed very peacefully and in no distress ... and with the football game on Sunday, so everything was normal," Yvonne LaLanne, 66, told Reuters.
She said her father had remained active until a few months ago, including the taping of a recent public TV special.
Well into his 90s, LaLanne exercised for two hours a day. A typical workout would be 90 minutes of weightlifting and 30 minutes of swimming, changing his routine every 30 days.
He preached the gospel of exercise, raw vegetables and clean living long after his contemporaries had traded in their bicycles for nursing home beds.
"I can't die," LaLanne would say. "It would ruin my image."
LaLanne was born Francois Henri LaLanne on September 26, 1914, in San Francisco, the son of French immigrants. He said he grew into a "sugar-holic" who suffered terrible headaches, mood swings and depression.
In desperation when he was 14, LaLanne's mother took him to hear health lecturer Paul Bragg, who urged followers to exercise and eat unprocessed foods.
The young LaLanne swore off white flour, most fat and sugar and began eating more fruits and vegetables. By age 15, he had built a backyard gym of climbing ropes, chin-up bars, sit-up machines and weights.
Soon, LaLanne, who was only 5 feet, 6 inches tall, was playing high school football. He added weight-lifting to recover from a football injury and was hooked.
LaLanne opened the nation's first modern health club in Oakland, California, in 1936. It had a gym, juice bar and health food store. Soon there were 100 gyms nationwide.
Without bothering with patents, LaLanne designed his own exercise equipment, which he had built by a blacksmith. In 1951, he started using television to get the first generation of couch potatoes to try jumping jacks, push-ups and sit-ups.
"The Jack LaLanne Show," which went national in 1959, showed housewives how to work out and eat right, becoming a staple of U.S. daytime television during a 34-year run.
He also was known for a series of promotional fitness stunts. At age 45, in 1959, he did 1,000 push-ups and 1,000 chin-ups in 86 minutes. In 1984 a 70-year-old LaLanne had himself shackled and handcuffed and towed 70 boats 1.5 miles in Long Beach Harbor.

Friday, January 14, 2011

6th Annual Cycle for ALS - Chicago

What if nobody survived a disease and the illness was so terrible that it completely exhausted the families, extended families and communities?  That's ALS.

21,000,000 dead

0 survivors

Chance of any treatment once diagnosed = 0% 

Well, you have a chance to change all that.  Across the country for the sixth year in a row, triathletes are doing something about it.

Why should a "healthy" triathlete or endurance athlete care about ALS?
Did you know that ALS, statistically, is "off the charts" as far as the odds you'll get this disease as an endurance athlete?  It is hitting younger and younger too.  Regrettably know eight triathletes, all under the age of 35 who have ALS.

What if the next ALS patient was you?  
Would you be interested then?

Come on out on the Advocate Good Shepard Wellness Center in Barrington, IL on 2/26 from 7am to 3pm.  Wear your team shirt.  A sponsor's shirt.  Your lucky shirt.

Join us in the fight against ALS.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ground Breaking Triathlon Thoughts Debunked

"Eating is cheating"
A friend of mine recently Tweeted, "I'm hungry, but eating is cheating."  I'm pretty sure I know what is holding him back from being an elite amateur triathlete.  Disordered eating is no joke.  Quotes like this are not something I overlook.  You don't need to starve yourself in order to succeed.

While she is significantly bigger than her competition. Her endurance doesn't suffer.  She's an athlete.

I was lucky enough to workout with a few elite females in my early days of triathlon.  The more successful ones ate more than I did.  The less successful one, who dominated her level of triathlon and won several races overall, would go on a four hour bike ride and come back to the condo and eat a fist full of salad.  (She has never been coached by me.)  The next day she was suffering like a dog.  She was completely out of fuel.  She was "leaning out" but not the right way.  Later that season she had a complete endocrine system collapse and has been out of the sport since.  I've started to get some emails from her.  She learned the hard way about proper diet.

Anorexia is a serious medical condition.  A few years ago it seemed a lot of people were too thin in Kona.  Guess what?  The times were slower.  In 2009 people seemed to have more muscle mass as a whole and times were faster on average.  I tell my athletes to be an athlete.  Not a triathlete, more about this later in this blog entry.

"That course is known for drafting."
Allow me to not mince words. Bullsh*t!

Yeah... the course is totally drafting here dude.  How many fouls do you see here?

In five years of being a course marshal for USAT and WTC events I have never issued a penalty to a course.  Not once was the course following too close for too long, littering, peeing on someone's front yard, giving aid to their spouse, cutting the distance it was supposed to do and courses don't blow off the penalty tent.  Nope - all those things were done by athletes.  If the big boys can follow the rules (aka: see the pro men's lead chase pack in Kona) then everyone else can do it if they learn how or aren't blatantly cheating.  The top pro men in Kona are riding VERY HARD (duh) and they ride legally (most of the time) a) because we have a marshal right there b) because there are photographers EVERYWHERE c) because they are that good.  These guys are watching the guy in front of them very closely.  They know where they are in the line and how many watts it takes to stay there.  Hit the SRM website to see what it takes at that level.  

"You need to train harder."
This argument is counter intuitive.  This is where heart rate training (combined with power) becomes king.  Endurance is the number one piece of any triathlete's fitness.  Why is it so "hard" to develop?  Simply, it is challenging because it means that an athlete will have to slow down from balls to the wall (this is actually a flying term - when pilots push the throttle all the way up a ball hits the "wall" of the instrument panel) training that their buddies are doing in order to effectively develop their aerobic engine guided by their heart rate.  I use heart rate and power to guide my athletes.  It works.  There is no argument.  Old, young, fat, skinny - don't care who you are.  Watts are watts and the corresponding heart rate data doesn't lie - EVER.

This means swimming, cycling and running AND checking your ego at the door.  I did this just last week in the pool.  I left the "fast lane" to go down to a lane that would be more suited to where my fitness is for that particular main set.  EVERYONE questioned what I was doing - until the set was over.

If you want to maximize your potential you simply need to listen to that heart rate monitor like it is God.  Without getting all religious on you... your body was programmed by a higher power, so indirectly, you are listening to God. (That was for my mother especially.)

The heart rate monitor will help you shed those pounds and will enable you to do so without ripping yourself in two or starving yourself at the dinner table (aka: the training table).

I come from a swimming background.  In the 1980's we had a big sign in the office, "No Pain, No Gain" motto.  Our coaches gave us workouts that were designed to get our heart rates up and HOLD THEM there for 20, 40, 60 minutes or longer for hours on end.  This is partially why I stayed away from anything resembling organized exercise for nearly 10 years after college graduation.  I was toast.  It would might have been different if my college head coach wasn't an abusive alcoholic.  I remember swimming in a meet after mid-term exams with a 103 F fever.  He put me in the 1,000 Freestyle.  I was second to last (of 6) with a 10:50 or so; I remember that it was just about a 1:05/100 yard avg.  It was 65% effort according to his effort chart based on lifetime best times in the 100.  I sat in a chair and a trainer put a pulse oximeter

At Christmas break, swimmers got 48 hours to go home.  How special.  Then it was off to Estes Park, CO and training at altitude.  Those workouts I remember taking a nap or going to sleep with my body completely numb.  Week after week of punishing intervals sets was my life for four years.  It was all I knew.

I swam in a big regional meet with my club coach.  We were missing fast guys for the 800 free relay and had already paid the entry fee so why not race my coach convinced me?  My best 200 SCY free was 1:43.  The first two guys got us about a 40 meter lead and then it came to me.  I swam a 1:53, easily the slowest on my relay that day. Converted to yards that is a 1:38.92 - call it a 1:40 when you take out a rolling relay start and round a bit upward.  A three second drop in my PR.  We didn't win.  I think we came in third that day.  I was totally ready to get chewed out.  It was no doubt to anyone in the pool that day who the weakest link of the relay was.  Ed shook my hand and congratulated me like we had won.  "What a swim you guys!"  Ed used a system of power and heart rate.  Every person on that relay dropped between one and three seconds off their best.  Pure genius: a) seeing the good in our efforts in spite of "losing", and b) understanding the athletes he was working with.  You know who else Ed trained? Jars Jorgensen - the Ironman Hawaii swim course record holder.

When I entered triathlon, my mentality was to "throttle up" the whole way.  When I got my first coach, the first thing Troy had me do was SLOW DOWN.  The results started to improve.  I got away from that until recently with Coach Jeff.  He is bringing me back.  We come from the same background - NCAA Div I swimming.  The difference?  His coach didn't have him training the same crazy way.

I have one athlete in his early 50s who is coming back from a pretty bad crash and hasn't ridden since June.  He tested in October.  Then again in November and again here in January.  His FTP has gone up nearly 30 points.  Why?  His sessions are aerobic mainly and he is doing adaptation workout sessions which don't force his heart rate sky high.  It can be done.

Nothing about these workouts are sexy, fun - they are rather boring - or cool; however, I'm seeing him pull more wattage at lower heart rates very quickly.  What?! (you may say) Power AND heart rate?  Yes, in this case there is an "Easter Bunny".  I've found it and it is working in my athletes.

Power and adaptation sets, combined with heart rate will get you stronger AND improve your endurance.

"Be an athlete.  Not a triathlete."
A friend from Europe and I had an interesting iChat the other day.  He was calling his group a bunch of "athletes".  Here, I think many people who race triathlon would call their group "triathletes".  The difference?  When I think of an athlete, I think of an Olympic decathlete or someone who is good (or would be good) at just about any sport they do.  THAT is an athlete.

A triathlete is someone who does triathlon.  Maybe very well - but ask them to hit a curve ball, sink a free throw or hit a 2-iron onto a green and they couldn't do it.  Some of my cycling friends/clients are adding things like "handle a bike, change a tire, disassemble a bike" to this list as they read it.

My strength coach Ingrid has me doing things that are making me a stronger ATHLETE.  Look at the picture of Serena Williams above.  Now think about other women's tennis players.  Skills being equal, who is going to win?  At the pointy end of ANY field a better athlete will usually win or at the very least, have a better shot at winning.

Bottom line - build your endurance and aerobic engine first.

I know... these are just crazy thoughts.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Winter Triathlon Training: The More You Do The More You Want

I put in a solid workout this morning.  Soon I'll be off for the dreaded lunch time swim test.  Since my base building period started in late October (mostly ~30 mile weeks of solid aerobic work) I'm starting to shake off several layers of fat and feel some snap buried in there somewhere.  I know... you're happy for me.  I try to keep my training numbers out of this blog, but sometimes it does prove my point.  If you're a serious triathlete, you'll understand that these numbers are clearly age group and by no stretch elite.  Gotta do what you can with the time available.

What's the lesson here?  The purpose of my training and racing is to "walk the walk and talk the talk" so that I can relate my personal training and racing experiences seen through the fog of fatigue.  Here is the key:

The more you train the easier it is to train.  When the endorphins kick in (they always come through) the more you will WANT to train.  A body in motion stays in motion.

Endurance sports training has another edge to this sword, what happens when you start gaining in each workout and then (for whatever reason) you cannot get to the gym, pool, bike class, trainer, etc?  It's hard to get "into the groove" and get back isn't it.  I know... I've been away for four years.

Much of this is due to physiological adaptations to aerobic endurance exercise.  I'm not even talking about fat here either.  I'm talking about your oxidative enzymes that get like a well warmed up engine when you are trained.  That combined with the higher blood plasma levels you experience help to make you feel better each workout (well... to a certain extent).  In base building periods, many elite runners run 100+ miles a week, elite swimmers swim doubles and truly insane number of meters and elite cyclists spend "8 hours a day on my bike busting my ass" daily.  The physiological adaptations to the volume make them feel stronger.  The Finnish Olympic team proved that in the 1972 Olympics.  Their team had done massive base miles and were far more fit than the average Olympian.  The US team focused on power, speed, strength.  When both athletes were fatigued... the Finns pulled away.  This can be overdone.  Overtraining is worse than under training, so you have to be cautious and listen to your body.  Some athletes can go hard daily.  Others need more rest.  From my college swimming and water polo experience I can tell you that I can take a beating in training and physically (water polo) and keep coming at you.  What I learned is that if we were smarter with this enormous training load our college swimming team could have been outstanding.  The talent was there in the pool.

A lot of athletes hate tapering.  Perhaps that is an understatement.  Look at MLB baseball teams who handle the daily grind of games, win their division and then fail in the playoffs.  They feel overly sluggish and on the important days (or in our case- race day) they are stiff, clumsy, "thick" and lethargic. That's why each athlete needs to figure out what works best for them.  That's why some people who "jump into" a race last minute without a taper do fine and others don't.  The best example of this is my friend Tony who was training for Kona.  In August, he did a 100 mile bike ride followed by a 1 hour run and a swim.  That night he got into the Chicago Triathlon (never mind how).  The very next day he PR'd for the international distance riding a 58 minute 40km.  Not all athletes can do that.  He was that fit.

I'm looking forward to this swim test.  I'm also looking forward to an easy 4 mile run afterwards.  Hope I get that 'runners high' that comes with consistency.  The more you train... the easier it is to train and the more you WANT to train.  Keep the momentum everyone.  Races are closer than they appear.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Whoa... I Don't Play Defense - Eating Part II

Paleo diet, South Beach diet, Atkins diet, "goin' vegan"...  all have their methodology.

My cousin Sarah went vegan for her beliefs - she is an animal rights activist and a future vet or something or another to do with animal care.  Makes sense to me.  I can honestly say I'm pretty proud of her conviction.  Sarah is pretty smart - even if she does go to the Univ. of Illinois.  I won't hold that against her.   (U of I and I go way back... )

Do you need one of these fad diets?  Hell no.  Do you always need to eat organic?  Of course not.  Moderation is the key just like everything in life.  Your body will find homeostasis.

What do do?  This is what is working for me.  Eat more veggies than cheese.  Eat fish at least once every week or so.  Stay away from corn syrup no matter what the commercials the industry puts out say.  If you go to Starbucks - order actual coffee and not 1,600 calories of foam.  Eat a balanced meal - a plate full of rice or pasta and cheese is not a meal.

For best results:

1) Write down what you actually put in your mouth. I use (the free account) and sent the ID and password to several close friends and coach.

2) Plan your meals.  If changes occur, use to help you plan your next meal or calories.

3) Write down what you felt when you were eating.  (Why are you eating? - bored? - nervous? - time on the clock?  - biologically hungry?  - missing key foods out of your diet? (usually comes from analysis)

It's not rocket surgery.  (Get it? rocket science + brain surgery)

Image credit:

Friday, January 7, 2011

Whoa... I Don't Play Defense Basic Eating Part I

Courtesy of  memorable quote from Space Jam

Michael Jordan: Bill! We're on defense! 
Bill Murray: Whoa hoa hoa! I don't play defense. 

On Monday, January 3rd everyone is a world champion.  "January World Champions" are seldom there when the "A" race rolls around.  I was talking to a guy and a gal (totally different training groups); both are doing Ironman Wisconsin.  Both are overtraining.  Self coach as they are - they are doing more miles than they should in January.  By March "training camp", they are "hoping to be re-energized by the excitement of camp".  Good luck with that.  

These same two athletes after telling me bragging about their "epic volume" told me that they were going to get "hot wings for dinner because I've earned it".  Now, I live in a glass house so to speak, however, if you are as committed as you just stated to your goal - go all the way.  

Nutrition is often referred to as the 4th discipline.  I would argue it is the first. 

Without good health - which starts with nutrition - you won't make it to the starting line.  We cannot survive without eating regularly.  Check out out the writings of Bob Seebohar.  Bob has gotten me back on track in my nutrition.  Noticeably, my energy is up.  My skin is clearer and I feel significantly better.

It all starts with what you eat.  I'm not talking about PowerBars, Clif Bars or any other processed (even if organic) food.  I think its funny how people are all over different protein powders instead of just having some trail mix. Which is cheaper?  Which gets processed faster?  Which would you rather look at if exposed to air for 24 hours?

The best offense is a great defense.  By eating right, you help your body's immune system.

We play defense here again.