Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Even the Loan Wolf Has to Howl with the Pack

This morning I woke up feeling a bit fragile. A poor night’s sleep, stress from a number of directions and, of course, the reality of these pandemic times all weighed a little heavier than in recent days. No matter how polished our skills are at gripping on to perspective we’re all human and things can and will finally catch up with us. Some days perspective simply seems a little out of reach. 

Three things helped to bring perspective back into reach this morning: family, music and coffee. Coffee is easily understood. A little stimulant to open my eyes to the world and put a poor night’s sleep behind me can be a good thing. Listening to a favourite song made a difference as well though the reasons for that are likely too complex to explore here. More importantly it was when my family came downstairs that things really turned around. 

Getting a Boost

We are social animals and no matter our personality we all need to connect, some need very little contact while others need considerably more. I’m somewhere slightly to the ‘need little’ side of that spectrum and often underestimate how important social contact is to me. But here is the simple fact of how I function: when I teach an online class I leave feeling happier than when I arrived. This was always the same with my in-person coaching as well.

There’s no question that the exercise itself makes a difference as it fires many biological processes that result in an enhanced mood. We can’t underestimate the simple social benefit of a workout as well, though. In my case I can tell you that even when I coach in a static manner, not working out myself, I still leave the experience in a better mood. 

I have spent the last twenty years helping to build community in our city through sport but my own workouts are, more often than not, performed solo. In fact, I’ve even done a solo marathon and more than one solo decathlon. I mention that as a means of reaching out to those who are like me and enjoy working out alone. My message for you is that mixing in some social workouts can do you a world of good. You can be actively social, chatting with others, or passive and just take in the banter around you. Either way, sharing time with others in a shared pursuit can have a powerful effect, soon turning that one workout into a weekly highlight in your calendar. 

Scouting New Friends

The benefits to group workouts can go far beyond the immediate. Listening to others speak of their lives and experiences can not only help you to gain knowledge but also draw you into new friendships. The fact is that in adulthood it can be hard to make new friends. Through our 30’s and beyond we have other priorities that top the list like family and career. But more so we spend less time in structured communities like schools where there are ample opportunities to gather with others in clubs, on teams or just in casual gatherings. This is where exercise-related pastimes can play a key role for adults.

There is another reason that some have for shying away from investing in new friendships in adulthood and that is their own personal history. We have all likely had people in our lives that we maybe spent a little too much time with, time that detracted from our wellness instead of enhancing it. This means we carry some caution with us when it comes to investing in new friendships. Again though, the social experience of exercise classes or clubs offers just the right opportunity. You can opt to sit back and play observer, learning more and more about those around you as the weeks go by.

Moving It Into the Real World

Beyond the game or workout, perhaps there is a trip to the pub that gives you the chance to see individuals in a different setting to further learn about them. Then, with all that knowledge, perhaps there is someone with whom you think the chemistry is there for friendship. You are then ready to step out from the existing structure and test the waters in your personal world. 

Life is challenging at the best of times, let alone during a pandemic. Staying healthy physically and emotionally is more difficult now than ever for everyone. Just remember that one possible option to enhance your wellness is to join a sport or exercise-related club or class. Not only will it feed your body and soul each week, it would help to enrich your life for years to come.

To close I wanted to share with you a list of some of my favourite clubs here in Ottawa.

How Often Should I Workout?

Our workouts are underway with online classes on the schedule each day of the week. It didn’t take long before the question arose from members: Should I workout everyday? Here’s the answer I shared with them.

Exercising once a week is great.

Most people don’t do that. If you can dedicate yourself to a weekly workout that using a variety of movement patterns and raises your heart rate a little, you will be a far fitter and healthier individual than if you do nothing.

Two workouts a week is amazing.

This increase in frequency or range of movements can make a big difference and help further develop or maintain your fitness, depending on where you’re starting from. It can also inject some variety by featuring two totally different activities which can add even more enjoyment and motivation.

Three times is considered ideal.

For the typical adult, three workouts a week is considered ideal by many. This allows both increased adaptive stimuli and the critical component of recovery time if you have one day off in between workouts. Of course, if you enjoy the other elements of the workout, the social side for example, doing it more improves your mental health more too!

Four-plus workouts per week needs some planning.

Four-plus workouts per week is really good but now you need to start to think about balancing your overall workload. If your body isn’t given time to rebuild, you will simply become overtired and progress will stall. When working out on consecutive days, make sure both are not hard or taxing workouts. For example, if you do our Athletic Strength classes (resistance exercise, gentle plyometrics, agility moves) on back to back days, take it really easy in the second one, keep the loads and effort light. Or, perhaps just do part of the class to get activated and loosen up. Such light workouts on the in between days are highly beneficial.

The above guidance is summarized by our philosophy of following the path of the JETI – do Just Enough To Improve. Always remember that consistency is the key to progress so set yourself up for success by establishing a sustainable weekly schedule. More consistent exercise means better health, physically and mentally.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Find It and Fix It

Many triathletes are heading into the off season now with physical limitations; the very same problems they will finish next season with because they ignore them. They know they have this ‘thing’ with their right leg but they were able to still run and bike pretty well so it can’t be that bad. If ‘pretty well’ is your goal in life then I guess you’re on the right path. However, if your goal is to be the best you can be and to continue doing it for a long time to come, then you better fix the problem. A small strength or mobility issue can very quickly become a big problem that can leave you on the sidelines.

Some athletes aren’t even aware they have a problem so step one is to uncover it. Just as we have an annual physical (you do have an annual physical, right?) I recommend that triathletes have an annual check up with a trainer or Physiotherapist to check their muscular function and mobility. One tool these professionals may use is the Functional Movement Screen. This is a seven test procedure that brilliantly analyzes all of the bodies key muscular and mobility function. If your core is not firing properly, it will show. If your right leg is stronger than the left, it will show. If your left shoulder is lacking mobility, you’ll find out.

Find out what your weaknesses are and now, in the off season, get to work to fix them with strength and mobility exercises. That way, you’ll be stronger, fitter and faster next year and, you’ll be able to continue in triathlon for many years to come. (This post originally appeared on

Monday, October 15, 2012

Electing Ironman

So, you watched the Hawaii Ironman over the weekend and now fancy a go yourself. You’re not alone. Many people set a goal to do an IM but some do so without much knowledge of what is involved. It’s like saying I’m going to be a become mayor and make a difference in this town without realizing an election is involved.

Crossing the finish line at your first Ironman triathlon (or Iron Distance if it’s not a race owned by the WTC) is one of those life events that will never be forgotten. But crossing the finish line is just the end of a journey and you want to make sure you enjoy the journey, right? I was speaking to a friend once who was nearing her Ironman event and I asked her how it was going. She shared with me words so simple yet powerful, so poetic yet clear, that I offer them for consideration to anyone considering this daunting event. She said, “I’m in the best shape of my life, but my life is not in very good shape.”

You will need to make many sacrifices along the way. The training time will be accompanied by ‘thinking time’. When you’re not training you’ll find yourself thinking about training. You talk about the things you think about so, you will be talking a lot about Ironman. Those around you need to be prepared for all of this.

My Ironman story features a journey that I value even more than the finish line. I managed to keep it all in balance but it was a challenge. For Ironman, the life plan comes before the training plan. (This post originally appeared on

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Teach Your Children Well

Earlier this year one of the most promising young talents in triathlon decided to retire at the age of 22. Hollie Avil was an Olympian and two-time world champion but she was desperately unhappy. Despite being incredibly blessed as an athlete, as a young woman Hollie had been crushed by the pressure to fit the mold of what many around her believed a triathlete should look like. What started with counting calories soon became a full blown eating disorder. While she continued to race after starting to heal herself, Hollie found she must leave the sport of triathlon to truly recover.

The physical is only part of the success equation for a triathlete. The mental strength required to tap into that potential is the real key. Hollie has shown this year that she has greater strength than most any athlete out there for she has walked away. But more impressive than that is the manner in which she has shared her story to help others. (This post originally appeared on

Hollie’s original explanation of her retirement from The Observer.

Here’s a recent blog post in which she shares important lessons learned.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Renovating a Triathlete

My friend renovates old homes so his job is just like that of a triathlon coach. He looks at every variable, does a thorough blueprint plan for all the work, and then sets about executing. While a great planner, his greatest skills surface when facing the constant challenges that arise during the job, the surprises laying within the walls. These problems always seem to be unique so he goes about adapting the plan to still reach the desired end result.

Taking a set 16 week triathlon training plan from a book seems sensible enough yet you have no idea what is within your walls; you have no idea day in and day out how your body will react to it. If you charted the results of 100 individuals following a set 16 week plan, you’d have 100 unique charts. A set plan doesn’t change so that next workout is there whether it’s right for you or not. The art of coaching is in the ability to constantly adapt the plan, and that is the most important element that Triton offers. The plan is always changing based on how your body reacted to the previous workouts.

A overall plan is important because you need to know where you’re going. The key to success though, lay in committing to the process and executing the plan intelligently. The intelligence comes in the ability to adapt to make sure you reach success, be that a beautiful new addition to your house or a beautiful new addition to your collection of finisher medals. (This post originally appeared on

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Old Guy

I have a triathlon dream. Ok, I have many triathlon dreams, but this may be the one I most relish. I want to be the old guy at the events, the guy everyone knows and of whom people say ‘Wow, he’s amazing! They say he’s been doing these local events for 60 years!’. (Let’s be clear about this: this will be the only way the word ‘amazing’ will every be linked to my triathlon career.) My first race was in 1986 so that means I’d be 81 and still swimming, biking and running. The environment of a triathlon is something special – so positive and celebratory. Who wouldn’t want to make that an ongoing part of one’s long, healthy life? Add to that the fact that once I’m a little older I won’t be as inclined to run so hard I vomit, the whole picture is looking pretty good to me. Easy swim, easy bike, easy run and then I hop back into my flying car and return to home to my space pod (it’s 2046, after all).

Today we salute Sister Madonna Buder. A few weeks ago, at age 82, she became the oldest person to ever complete an Ironman triathlon. What a way to cap off a career. But wait – no, she’s not done yet. She’s preparing to do the Hawaii Ironman on October 13th. That is one cool lady. And, she’s a great writer. Read her race report here:  (This post originally appeared on