The training you take on as a member of the multi-sport community is not for the faint of heart. Mental toughness and an ability to persevere through discomfort is a must if you plan to improve your performance. But can toughness be developed and improved like skill, power, and stamina? TriDot Coaches Jeff Booher and Jeff Raines will help you learn to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Develop your GRIT Factor to train and race at your best.
TriDot Podcast .40:
Increasing Your GRIT Factor
Narrator: This is the TriDot podcast. TriDot uses your training data and genetic profile combined with predictive analytics and artificial intelligence to optimize your training, giving you better results in less time with fewer injuries. Our podcast is here to educate, inspire and entertain. We'll talk all things triathlon with expert coaches and special guests. Join the conversation and let's improve together.
Andrew: Welcome to the TriDot podcast. We've got a great show planned for today talking about what we at TriDot refer to as “grit factor”. It's no secret that the training we take on as members of the multi sport community is not always for the faint of heart. Developing mental toughness and an ability to last through discomfort and pain is a must if you plan to improve your performance. Today we have the two Jeff's with us. Jeff number one is TriDot founder and CEO, Jeff Booher. Jeff is the chief architect behind TriDot’s insight optimization technology that powers TriDot’s optimized training. He's a multiple Ironman finisher who has coached dozens of professional triathletes and national champions as well as hundreds of age groupers to podiums and PRs since he began coaching triathlon in 2003. Jeff, how's it going today?
Jeff Booher: It's going great Andrew, feeling pretty gritty, ready to get rolling. [overlap]
Andrew: Had grits for breakfast, eggs.
Jeff Booher: Yes.
Andrew: Next up is coach Jeff Raines. Jeff has a Master's of Science in exercise physiology, and was a successful D1 collegiate runner. He's qualified for the Boston Marathon multiple times and has raced over 120 triathlons from competitive sprints to full distance Ironmans. Jeff has been coaching runners and triathletes since 2009. Jeff, you've been wanting to do this episode for a while now. So are you pumped for today's podcast?
Jeff Raines: I cannot wait. We are diving deep into this. So buckle up everybody.
Andrew: It's going to get sciency. And who am I? I am Andrew the average triathlete, voice of the people and the captain of the middle of the pack. After our warm up, we will talk about how to push the effort in our workouts. And for today's cool down. I have a special submission that came in from a TriDot athlete who is showing a special kind of grit factor as she works towards her dream of finishing a half Ironman.
Narrator: Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: Whether it's a mountain biker in Washington State having an encounter with a cougar, an open water swimmer coming out of the water with a jellyfish sting, or a runner in Texas having a hairy moment with an overzealous coyote. Those of us who enjoy getting outside for exercise are bound to have a close encounter with the animal kind at some point. For today's warm up question, Jeff and Jeff, have you ever had an encounter with an animal affect a race or workout? Jeff Booher. We'll start with you.
Jeff Booher: That hasn't happened to me too often. One time, I was probably two or three years into the sport, I was going out in the country roads and a dog came running out and I didn't think it was going to get through the fence. But it was a little dog that ran straight through a hole, got out and then kind of ran up toward my front wheel. And then it just kind of got on the pavement and it started sliding, so he couldn't stop and he just slid right into my front wheel. And I couldn't stop and I didn't know where it was going to go. I just held on and went straight and I rolled right over him, just right over the dog but he jumped back up and kept chasing me so he's okay.
Andrew: You rolled over the dog?
Jeff Booher: Straight over the dog.
Andrew: You ran over it with the back wheel?
Jeff Booher: Yes. Right over his middle. And like I didn't know where he's going to go. It just happened so quick and--
Andrew: Almost like a squirrel. When you're driving.
Jeff Booher: It was crazy. When I you asked this question, I thought of another athlete. This is a funniest story I've ever heard here in Texas. And we got the note, he was training for Ironman something. He actually went to the hospital because he's on his training ride and ran into a deer. He ran smack in, T boned a deer. It ran out and he just plowed right into the deer, went to the hospital, all that stuff.He was okay after a while. And I was actually telling that story at our ambassador camp a few months ago to two guys and the guy is looking at me nodding his head. He goes, “The exact same thing happened to me.” I was like, those two guys that I've met before told the story about running smack into a deer.
Andrew: I wonder if they have their front bike light on?
Jeff Booher: I don't know.
Andrew: Maybe their front bike light caused like a deer in the headlights thing.
Jeff Booher: Yes, cannot imagine that.
Andrew: That would hurt.
Jeff Booher: Yes.
Andrew: You couldn't run over a deer like you ran over that small dog.
Jeff Booher: It messed her bike up, everything.
Jeff Raines: Alright. Jeff Raines. Have you had any encounters with animals out on a race course or training ride?
Jeff Raines: I have had tons of animal encounters on triathlon training adventures. So lots of deer stories. I mean, I've seen deer run out in front of me and hop a fence and get his back legs stuck and front flip over and fall. I mean just funny stuff, but I have to tell one quick story. I was on one ride. I rarely ride by myself ever. But this was one circumstance I just I needed to get out, I needed a ride. I needed to get it done so I was on a long 60 something mile ride was the route. I'm out by myself in the middle of nowhere. And this big truck drives by with a trailer, an open trailer behind it, and a hot water heater in the back. And right as he passes me, I guess he hit a pothole or something. And low and behold, an entire hot water heater bounces out of the back of this truck and he's going 60, 70 miles an hour. I'm on the shoulder and all of a sudden this hot water heater is just rolling right at me like perfectly and I'm thinking I cannot bunny hop my tri bike that high.
Andrew: This just became the most intense game of dodgeball you've ever played.
Jeff Raines: Exactly. And I'm like, is it going to go right, is it going to go left? I can't bunny hop this. I'm just I'm at the mercy of, you know, like—
Andrew: What it does.
Jeff Raines: Jesus take the wheel.
And at the last second, the very last second it literally turns, rolls and goes off into the ditch, and I'm fine. But of course I have this horrible adrenaline rush. And I’m kind of coasting, I'm probably still going 20 plus miles an hour. And I just remember like, kind of looking around like, please did anybody just see that? The guy in the truck had no idea that happened. He's just kept driving. He's gone. But then literally seconds after this happened. No joke, a deer hops a fence, runs right in front of me, and I almost T-boned it just like we were just talking about. And I at that point, I was like, oh my goodness.
Jeff Booher: At that point you just go home, right.
Jeff Raines: That's what I was thinking. I was like, I was probably 20 miles in, you know, so my U turn was at I think mile 30 and so I was like, well, you know, I'm kind of halfway out. I literally stopped, paused my watch and I'm looking around and again I'm like, please did anybody just see this? You can't make this up. I was fine and everything was fine and I did my ride and all that I'm just like, what are the odds that one of those happened let alone both.
Andrew: I guess having this conversation with Texans I should have expected some deer stories. I don't know why I wasn't thinking of deer. I know I live over near a lake and there's a bunch of parks by the lake so on runs, particularly at dusk, I'll see deer in some of the parks by the lake and saw bobcat one time, but never had any problems with them. There's a local sprint tri up just north of the Dallas Metroplex called Texas Man. And I was on the bike course just rural kind of farm roads out on the bike course. And there's cyclists going both ways on this particular road. And somebody’s dog, I don't know that it was a St. Bernard but it was a very St. Bernard looking dog. He was massive. He had that look of a St. Bernard. You're going by 10 miles an hour. I'm not a huge dog person to know if that's what it was. But that's what it looks like, okay, this huge dog is in the middle of the road like on the yellow stripe, and he's having the time of his life watching all the cyclists go by. Clearly no owner in sight and so one bike would come from one way and he kind of chase him for a second then a cyclist would go the other way. And he turned around and start chasing that one for a second and you could tell he wasn't aggressive. You could tell it wasn't menacing. It was just like, you know, a dog having a good time chasing a new toy. And all the triathletes out there on the racecourse were his new toys. And it's like, man, if this dog catches up to somebody, and wants to play with them, like it's going to be a bad day. It was a huge dog. And so it saw me when I was going by and started coming my direction for a second and you just kind of accelerated for a little bit and dropped it but it was like, oh, man, that thing was huge. It's funny because I put this warmup question on this format and I knew we were recording it today. And actually, I have Facebook up right now my computer. Eleven hours ago, one of our athletes here at TriDot, David Webb posted a photo. He lives in Idaho, and he was cycling down the road and his wife got a photo of him cycling down the road, I guess towards the house or wherever he started from wherever his wife was. And there's a dog on the road behind him chasing him. And he's on his bike and he's over the handlebars and he's looking back towards the dog. You can tell the dog is in mid run after him and he posted “interval training today Idaho style. My wife caught this pic of me today. I thought it was pretty cool.”And it's a pretty cool picture.Shout out to athlete David Webb.
Narrator: On to the main sets. Going in 3, 2, 1.
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Listen y’all, no one accidentally becomes a part of the multi sport community. If you are in this sport, you likely enjoy some aspects or hopefully even most aspects of the training it takes to improve fitness and compete. But even still, not every moment in training is rainbows and butterflies. We've all had those extra tough intervals, the training days we just want to cut it short. And the moments sweating out on a road somewhere all by ourselves being chased by a dog, wondering if today is the day that the workout will be tougher than we are.
How can we learn to push back when the workout pushes us? Can toughness be developed and improved, like speed, power and stamina? What can we do to make sure we are giving our best in our day to day training? That's what we're here to talk through today. And I'm glad to have TriDot’s two Jeffs with me to do it. So Jeff Raines, I've joked on the podcast before about how I want us to put out a TriDot t shirt with a sketch drawing of your face alongside big bold lettering that says “grit factor”, because I've heard you use that terminology so often with athletes.When you talk about this, what exactly do you mean by grit factor?
Jeff Raines: Grit factor can be hard to define, let's say. But if I have to put a definition on it, I actually wrote this one down so I'm going to read kind of what I somewhat created here as let's say the ideal definition. So it's a bunch of definitions all thrown in one here and my twist on it as well, and then I'll give the layman's term version. But grit factor is a personality trait that is one's perseverance of effort, combined with their intrinsically motivated passion to achieve a particular end result.
Andrew: So that's the Jeff Raines dictionary version of a definition of grit factor.
Jeff Raines: So what does that mean? So in other words, and my wife says this a lot just in general about the sport of triathlon, and I'll even say like, grit factor as it pertains to endurance exercise or endurance sports. Grit factor isn't always an all out effort. It can be just your ability to handle or tolerate you know a sub max effort but anyways, what she says a lot is triathlon is just learning to become more comfortable at being uncomfortable. So like when there's an obstacle in the way, like let's say fatigue, elevated heart rate, your perceived exertion is high and you know, when the going gets tough, the tough gets going, right. So that grit factor is your ability to endure or let's say just tolerate that pain, and not necessarily pain, but maybe tolerate that stress, and not let it affect the end result.
Andrew: Got it.
So as we talked about this, you know, grid factor isn't just a catchy, “go give 110%” kind of mentality.It's that we can actually take and measure effort output versus effort capable of being output. And we can study, you know, actual tangible data on this. So, Jeff Raines, how can we tell what our bodies are actually capable of doing in a workout?
Jeff Raines: You know, and we've talked about this on other podcasts but you know, not every workout the goal should be just to be absolutely you know, soaked with sweat. You know, some people think if they didn't see 180 heart rate in that workout it didn’t count.
I kind of use the saying like, you know, if the snot ain’t flying then you ain't trying so, you know. So not all workouts are at that aspect but you know, how can we tell what we're capable of in a workout? Max heart rate is a good example. And it's something that a lot of people don't super hone in on, you know, what was my average heart rate during this test or something like that. But let's just say for example, you know, your 20 minute FTP test, you know, your 20 minute bike test, you know, do you hit your max heart rate at 19 minutes and 59 In seconds? No not necessarily. I mean your max heart rate could be in minute 17, 16, 18. Typically it's in the later portions of that test or 5K or even race day, giving it your all towards the end. But certain people can hold a max heart rate for a longer duration. Some people's genetics, some people are more endurance prone to respond better to endurance. Some people have better kind of raw speed all out effort. And you can through training effect adapt those by all means. But we have some athletes that their all out 5k, their average pace per mile is within seconds of their all out 10K.
Jeff Raines: You know, but someone like myself, my 5K differential there, the delta would be significantly faster for a 5K than a 10K. I have a little bit, let's say better raw speed, raw power and the 5K, 10K.
Andrew: I think mine is about 20 seconds per mile different. If I think back to the last time I did a 10K assessment versus the last time we did a 5K assessment.
Jeff Raines: Where is grit factor and this internal purpose you know, trying to achieve a particular end result can be a factor in that equation and how well you do on race day. So kind of like the idea of “did I still have meat left on the bone” right? When you do a VO2 max test your oxygen consumption is a linear graph right. And so as the duration of a VO2 kind of an all out test, let's just say it's a 25 minute time to exhaustion, ramp protocol and you're going to go about 25 minutes into that protocol is where your max level is.
Andrew: And you're supposed to be exhausted at that moment.
Jeff Raines: Yes, and so like if you do a true all out max VO2 test you know, immediately when you get off the treadmill whether you fall off or someone catches you, you're instructed to ask your athlete there, an RPE Rate of Perceived Exertion scale of one to 20 you know, your last step of that test. What did you perceive your effort at? And a lot of people will say “20, 20, 20. Oh my gosh.”
Andrew: Because I just gave my all I just went to exhaustion. So yes, 20
Jeff Raines: And so what they thought was their 100% though and so like, there's a way in a graphical, you know, true VO2 test. There are certain we'll call them plateaus in that linear graph. So if you didn't see a certain plateau towards the end, that could arguably actually be close to their 95%. And so if you didn't see this little spike towards the end, then maybe they actually did have meat left on the bone. They just didn't know how to channel or be comfortable at being uncomfortable doing that.
Andrew: They thought they were done in their head but their body could have given more.
Jeff Raines: I use the analogy of your gas light in your vehicle. Just because the gas light comes on doesn't mean your car is about to turn off and you lose power steering and all that. You might have 20 miles to empty or whatever. Yes, so we'll dive deeper into this in just a second. But your body has kind of an autonomic nervous system, a defense mechanism. And so if you're patient, you can ride that out, and your body will get used to that feeling. And over time, you can actually channel that, let's say last 5%.
Jeff Booher: A lot of great things in what Jeff was just saying to me taking, you know, from the clinical, the lab to, as individual athletes are listening to this, it's important to remember that this is all relative to them and their perception. And we can look at these, you know, stats and graphs and that is happening. But when you're the athlete and you're looking at your data, and it's not lab data, so how do you in a session, push it and know. And so—
Andrew: How do you know what was actually your max?
Jeff Booher: Yes, like you know, there's people just like you said, they can do that high end, and they can get up to max. You know, they're very anaerobic. And they could do that easily, but it doesn't whether you are or whether you aren't, it's still are you pushing to your potential? You know, are you giving it all that you can give it? And so one of the first things, a lot of athletes when they're just start training, or maybe they've been training long time, they just may not be good at pacing is one thing. So they're doing intervals, just like Jeff mentioned. You know, it's not just the all out, it's not just the time trial, it's when you're doing eight repeats of six minutes each, you know, are you doing as good on the 7th and 8th? Are you able to hold that submaximal effort well? So that depends on them pacing the early ones correctly to know what that feels like. So if they don't know what it feels like, they may overcook themselves on one, two and three and really fade at the end. And they may have been pushed up—
Andrew: Which I know there's athletes listening right now, because I'm one of them who hear you say that and like, yep, I've done that. I can specifically think back to moments on the track where I got done with my first interval, first zone for interval out of six, and looked at what my pace was for that interval and thought to myself, “I'm going to pay for that later”, and I do.
Jeff Booher: Exactly so there's maturity, there's discipline. Again, that's a learned thing using your watch, your power meter or whatever it is or timing yourself if you just have time to track. But so it may not be, you get to the end and they're fading, it may not be a lack of effort at all, lack of pushing themselves.They just didn't pace themselves correctly. So you have to first start with the prescription of the workout, you do the workout right, as prescribed, you know, correctly for you. And then at the end, if you do all that correctly, then at the end, whatever that effort is, if it's one of those push days, hard days, then that's where you're going to develop that perception. And then realizing that just because you are perceiving your potential that doesn't mean that is your potential.
Jeff Booher:I was pretty early, I guess two years into triathlon training. I had a running background, never really cycled that much. So my first road bike other than, you know, 10 speed or whatever as a kid, and I was riding and pretty athletic in sports and the army and all that stuff. I'm used to doing that. But we were on hills and the guy was riding with Doug Shanahan, I remember he and I were out on some hills in North Texas. And he was saying, you know, you could push more, harder than that. And I was working pretty hard and I realized in my mind that I wasn't pushing as hard as I could because I was scared that, I'm going to lose it all and I'm not going to be able to finish. I'm not going to be able to get back. I'm going to fall off or whatever. And so he said, “I'm not going anywhere. if you blow up, you blow up and we'll ride back together.” And he said, “Just rip your legs off, as hard as you can go”. And he goes “Let’s just see what happens. You're going to recover quicker than you think you're going to recover.”
You know God designed us this way. We can outrun a horse, maybe not over a quarter mile but over 50 miles. Your legs recover and you just keep pushing them and pushing them and when you're supposed to rest, you're supposed to rest.
Andrew: I wonder how many athletes in their workouts you know, you kind of hold back, kind of the opposite of what I just talked about. Maybe you hold back on your initial intervals. Because you know, you're scared of “I’ve got eight more intervals today. Oh, man.” It's just as bad and you get to the eighth and you've got all the energy in the world for that eighth interval, because we held back in the earlier ones.
Jeff Booher: And you really aren't having to push. Yes, exactly. Right.
So that's back to, you know, executing the workout like it was designed to be executed. So you know, Doug saying that is still, almost 20 years later echoing in my mind. This time of year, I mean, we're in quarantine, a lot of people are, you know, not racing right now. This is a great opportunity to do some of these virtual races, some of these workouts, you're on the trainer.Test it.Blow up.You know, this is another thing for athletes, maybe go to a local sprint, if you're doing you know, here's my A priority race and you're doing some lower, just go do it with the goal of blowing up a little early. But then try to still hang on and just see what that limit is. Because there's so many athletes that leave extra out there and they don't know that they can do it.
Andrew: And to your point it’s different for each athlete. And so kind of realizing in yourself how you feel when you're starting to blow up. You can kind of identify that that feeling. And be that much smarter this time around, when it is your great race.
Jeff Booher: I see a lot of athletes who have a training background where they've been used to pushing. They've done other sports, maybe not even related, but they're used to suffering and pushing. And they come to the sport and they do well. They know how to do that. Some athletes have that. And I've seen runners that don't know how to push on the swim, swimmers that don't know how to push on the run. And I've worked with them and same thing. “What would you do right now in the workout, if this was a run? How would you be pushing yourself?” And you can see it on their face. Like, yes, I'm not pushing like I would, you know, because that's their confidence. And that's, they're used to doing that.
Jeff Raines: So actually, I've heard Andrew say he actually said this yesterday. He considers himself a pretty strong swimmer, a strong runner, and he calls it you know--
Andrew: Middle of the road swimmer, strong runner.
Jeff Raines: A mediocre cyclist, but I know and I know that he knows he's a better cyclist than he thinks he is. And you kind of said the same thing. When you started triathlon, you were a little unsure with your cycling and so what I'll even have people do, when I know they have that background, right, I know they have that in them because they do it on the run. Or maybe it's year two or three of me coaching an athlete. And so what I have them do in like a B or C race, I'll say, you know, go pick a, I don't know, a half Ironman or an Olympic, but I want you to absolutely time trial and go all out on the bike. Just see what you can do. You are allowed to DNF in T2, or we’ll strategically pick a run course that has two or three loops and see—
Andrew: You're allowed to walk the run.
Jeff Raines: Or after loop one of two or three, if you're just trashed, quit DNF you know, it's a C race. But what that does is nine times out of 10 they actually have a really good run off with the same run that they've had. And it shows them, oh, wow, I channeled that inner untapped potential of grit factor, so to speak, so that's something I'll do as a way to play around with that.
Andrew: I saw whatI thought was my limit and I saw I could go past what I thought was my limit.
Jeff Booher: So you know in the off disciplines that happens a lot. I remember how Brendan, you work alongside him and he has-
Andrew: Brendan Hansen, Olympic gold medalist.
Jeff Booher: A lot of sayings and motivational stuff. It's like he writes them, it's incredible. I've heard you Natasha and others just talk about, you know, being around him and just getting those. And one that kind of echoes to me working with athletes, especially with our off sport is Barb Lindquist, we were at the Olympic Training Center working with some collegiate athletes, and a lot of them were runners, swimmers. They came out, that was their single sport in college. And they all would say, well, I'm not really a swimmer, or I'm not really a runner, and they just don't see themselves as a runner. And I think it was her, it could have been another coach that was there, some other awesome coaches.But they said, “when you step on the pool deck, you're a swimmer. I don't want you to say I'm not a swimmer.”
Jeff Booher: If you're there, you're a swimmer. If you step on the track, you're a runner. It doesn't matter anything else you're a runner.
Andrew: You saddle upon that bike, you're a cyclist.
Jeff Booher: Yes. You're a cyclist, go be a cyclist.
Andrew: Your FTP is 97 watts. Cool, still a cyclist.
Jeff Booher: Exactly. And so just that, okay, I'm in it. I'm not going to qualify my participation here or put a caveat to my effort level or my anything—
Andrew: This is just preaching to me and ministering to my soul because I mean to what we talked about yesterday the conversation you reference, like I mean, I'm the weakest cyclist in like every group that I ride with. And granted like that's riding with you guys, you know that riding with some really gifted, hey, if I showed up and rode with like the youth kids, I'd probably still be the weakest cyclist out with the youth kid rides for the Tri4Him group that I help you coach a little bit. But you know, there's a lot of great athletes in the Dallas area that are podcast listeners that will out cycle me all day long and like, come to the track with me. And let me have my revenge. It's the one place I can get you. But I do need to be working on that and recognizing, hey, I'm a cyclist as well, because I'm a triathlete.
Jeff Booher: So that's definitely one technique or kind of thing that you can do practically to kind of discover where that perception is and get the right mindset. One other thing I'll add is, probably two. But one is a little technique and I call it chunking. So you're looking at the end of a workout, have a half mile ago or a quarter mile, two minutes.Sometimes you're going so hard, you're like, two minutes, I can't. and you start this negative. And so just focus on, just break it down to 30 seconds. I can do just that little chunk of time for 30 seconds, I'm going to hold it at the end of that, okay, just 30 seconds. And just keep that, just focus on what's right in front of you that you can control and see how far you go. And then just focus on that. When you keep it so far out, it doesn't feel like it's changing. You don't feel like you’re making progress.But you can get through that 15 whatever it is, and change it up. You know, the last minute do 20 seconds, 20 seconds, 20 seconds.Something that's just different mental engaged, focus on something more you can see, I'm getting there. Okay, that's one 20 second chunk, and then just break it down. So when you get that last part, you have something into smaller components that you can eat an elephant one bite at a time, you know, just kind of break it down.
Andrew: I'm going to take that into my 18 minute, you know, two by 18 minute zone four bike workouts, because those are the ones that really speaks to me.
Jeff Booher: And then lastly, I guess, kind of gets more into the mental, you know, the question to Jeff was more of the physiological “Can we?What is our limit?How can we measure that?” but realize that when you're going into workouts that we get to do this, that hard work is what it's for. This is a privilege to have the health, resources, the time, the energy, the motivation, the passion, and, you know, a lot of places and a lot of people all around the world don't get to do what we do. So just stepping out there. Just come in with that attitude, we get to do this. This is awesome.
Andrew: Having that perspective.
Jeff Booher: Yes.
Andrew: So when athletes start fading in a workout, and they're just aware, “hey, I was not able to give 100% effort down the stretch or that workout”. Is this usually, just scientifically, is this usually a lack of physical energy to complete the session, or is it a lack of mental focus deep into the workout or does it just vary by the situation?
Jeff Raines: I think it's more so the lack of mental focus, but I'm going to elaborate. Jeff number one referred to, you know,
Andrew: Instead of thing one and thing two, Jeff one and Jeff two shirts.
Jeff Raines: There's two main aspects to what we refer to as this grit factor. There's a psychological aspect, which is kind of what we're going to talk about now. And then there's a physiological, you know, can our bodies actually attain this? The answer typically is yes, if you have the psychological aspect and so there has to be a purpose behind it. The chunking aspect is great for the middle of a workout. How do I just get through this set? And how do I, you know, channel my inner grit factor? So do the chunking in a workout, but I would take it a bigger step. Look at your season, find stepping stones along the way. You know, if you want to break a 20 minute 5K, focus on getting down to that kind of, you know 6:30 ish minute pace for one mile first right is little things like that to stay motivated. Practice is how you develop your grit. Goal setting is how you increase that grit, right, you create those stepping stones along the way.
Jeff Booher: Now we all have these different sayings that we've heard, these mantras on all the posters or the, you know, everything for 20 years you stick up in your room when you're a teenager, you know, something that's going to motivate you with a saying or your, you know-
Andrew: Classic cat posters on the wall, hang in there something like that.
Jeff Booher: No.
Jeff Raines: Speak for yourself there, Andrew.
Jeff Booher: But all those sayings, I think it's important to have, you know, a couple or few that really speak to you. And I continue to hear some from athletes and other coaches, and just to have some that are like, ready as it's when you're in that session, and you need that motivation or it's the morning before the session before you even lace up your shoes or, you know, whatever it is. Have those ready to go and there's you know, beyond just “embrace the suck” or “suck it up Buttercup” or you know, some of those. In the army we used to say “pain is weakness leaving the body”, so visualizing pain that way, okay, great, the more I can suffer the more I can push myself. There's another saying, also in the army “the more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in war”. So that's kind of acknowledging that, that consequence. Fluid is going to become for your body one way or another, you know, to be sweat now or blood later. And so that's real. Even you know, another way is just scripture. You know, “consider pure joy my brothers and sisters when you face trials of many kind, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.Let perseverance finish its work that you may be mature, complete, not lacking anything.” So again, it's that perseverance and we're talking to different kinds of suffering here than they did you know 2000 years ago. But consider it joy, so much more persecution back then. But we're putting ourselves through this voluntarily but seeing the purpose you have to have just like Jeff said that purpose behind what you're doing. Like this perseverance, this pain these trials, these sufferings have a purpose. You know and so to have that vividly in your mind and know what that is going into workouts or having that saying whatever it is queued up in your mind, “okay, when I get to mile eight on this 10 mile run, I'm playing highlight reel one”.And I have my quotes. What are my go to mantras that I'm going to say. I’ll throw a couple others at you. One of these is from our junior team. Shout out to Steven Gar, one of his. And I have these when I'm working with them, they're pushing us all right and I'll have maybe a go around in between each set, “Alright, you got one for next set, you are responsible for our motivation”. You know so his is, “Pain is mental”. That's when he always goes “Pain is mental. It’s just in your mind. You're not going to die.” You know, there's obviously injury pain and they know that difference, which is pushing themselves. It's just mental. Just do it.
Andrew: And it was like the “shut up legs”. Just tell your legs to shut up.
Jeff Booher: Yes. And I asked him all the time I said, “Who's going to decide? So what are you going to let decide your effort level? Your legs or your brain? Your will or your limbs?” And then this next one, I really liked a lot. I heard it a couple years ago. This is from MJ Novelli. She says, “If you're not willing to sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes the sacrifice.”
Jeff Raines: That’s deep.
Jeff Booher: She told that to me, I think she was 11. But it was great. I asked them to think about a saying or something that you're going to hold on to this year. And she went on to be national champion last year. So Steven’s great too.Top 15 in the youth.They're rock stars. They have a whole team of them. They're all like that. I could have thrown out you know, three or four others but anyway, so just wherever it comes from, comes from the Bible, comes from the military, comes from your sports background, comes from youth athletes. There's just so many motivations and you've got to look for them and write them down. When you see something you're flipping through Facebook and you see a quote or something that's like really speaks to you, write it down and have it because sometimes over time, some of them can lose their appeal. They kind of said it so many times you know, you need something fresh. So have those sayings. And that's part of the just the mental preparation you prepare with your equipment, you prepare with your nutrition, you need to get your mind straight ahead of time. And then afterwards, recovery, you need to have nutrition, you need to rest, there's certain things you need to do after workout, you need to reinforce those good habits. If it was a tough workout don't dwell on the negatives. Take something from it, celebrate it. What worked well?Pat yourself on the back, reinforce that success, that visualization.And then you develop that habit of pushing and that grit over time. You know, that's what you are.
Andrew: So just scientifically, Jeff, just biologically and this is your specialty, Jeff Raines. How can an athlete's pain tolerance or time to exhaustion be increased in their training?
Jeff Raines: Good question.
Time to exhaustion or TTP is a variable that is kind of thrown into a lot of studies. And it's one that's kind of overlooked. You know people want to see like duration and time. You know V02 versus time you know, things like that. They look at like max heart rate, average heart rate, what is my power numbers but they don't look, you know, always into how far into like a protocol can you go. So time to exhaustion is a unique variable that people can start paying attention to and developing and wanting to know if they are increasing their grit factor. But what's going on like internally physiologically, scientifically, as we're kind of pushing or testing or enhancing that kind of, “grit” factor has to do with your endocrine versus your nervous system, and they both coincide together. So I'll keep it kind of short and sweet here, but what is going on hormonally, what is going on internally, as you're testing these boundaries, so let's dive in. So first of all, the endocrine system. So it's kind of like a control system, right. It regulates your hormones and the stressors that are being secreted into the bloodstream. So at different efforts, you know, as certain energy systems are kind of being, you know, tapped or drained, so to speak, certain stressors are being released in hormones into the bloodstream, right. These hormones are chemical messengers, right. And the hormones are sent to your tissues and your organs. The messages, though, that they deliver, they tell the tissue to either increase or decrease activity. Alright, so it's this chain effect here, right. And so the endocrine system is also linked directly to your nervous system. And that's kind of being utilized through the pituitary gland, alright. So that's kind of known as like your master gland, right? And so this is controlled by the hypothalamus.
And so through like progressive overload, your training, honing in on the exact precise amount of training, stress stimulation that one needs or what that one can handle during certain cycles of your training. So progressively overloading your nervous system, you know, in coordination with your endocrine system is how your homeostasis during exercise is controlled you know, it's also how the body's, you can think of it as like the body's capacity for handling these you know, physical and physiological stressors. And so, this is how grit factor is increased over time,These two systems simultaneously working together and over time, your body will produce less hormones at greater physiological efforts, right. And so that is our goal is to produce, you know, more result better outcome with less physiological effort over time, right. That's the goal of training.
Andrew: Yes, and when I hear the science of it broken down it, I mean, two things I'm reminded of right now just hearing you nerd out for a little bit, which I always love when we get kind of into the science of training, which we're passionate about here at TriDot. But it really goes to show you how the difference between training with TriDot and training with data and training intelligently versus just who I was before, just going out for runs, you know, just kind of haphazardly doing what I felt like doing each day, thinking I was improving. I mean, you can't accidentally improve your grit factor. You can't accidentally, you know, push these different systems to increase your body's tolerance to pain, right. It's very intentional.
Jeff Raines: It's a decision.
Andrew: And our training is designed to do that for where you are, it's supposed to meet you, who you are, where you are in your triathlon journey. It's going to meet you there and push you perfectly in that way. And so I'm just reminded of how complex the training is. And how well TriDot helps us get it right. But I'm also reminded of a book I read that now that I'm reminded of, I'm like, man, I wish I kind of perused this book a week or so ago, heading into this conversation. It's called, “Endure” by Alex Hutchinson.The tagline is “Mind body and the curiously elastic limits of human performance”. So Alex Hutchinson, the author has a PhD. And he really dives in each chapter into the science, kind of a deeper version of what you just did a very thorough, you know, 300 page version of diving into the science of what's happening in your body and your brain as you're exercising and how often it's the mental that's holding you back before, you know your mental brain is kind of like you said earlier. It's signaling your body that, “hey, we need to back off, we need to back off” way before you actually need to back off. And he really, you know, kind of does some studies with some ultra marathoners and does some studies with athletes from different disciplines and researches scientifically, what's happening and it's a great read. It's a fascinating book. It really nerds out on this stuff so I would encourage you if you're listening to this and you really find what we're talking about interesting go check out Endure by Alex Hutchinson because it's a great read. But anyway, so Jeff, thanks so much for being thorough in that and diving into the science a little bit there because we have athletes, Booher I think all the time you know you love the comments and athletes comment on, “Man I just finished a workout that I didn't actually think I could do.”
Jeff Booher: Yes, we saw one, it's been a couple months now, but it was just that point and it again stuck with me. You hear comments all the time about PR this PR that but the concrete way, and she said that, she said “I woke up and I saw I was supposed to do..” I can't recall what it was you know.
Andrew: Whatever the workout was.
Jeff Booher: Three miles in X amount of time. And she goes “I didn't think I could do it” and she goes “but wait, TriDot thinks I can do it. So I went out and I did it. And she goes“And not only did I you know do the workout but it was like a three mile in my one-mile time was my PR for my one mile. So she like PR upon PR but it had been building her up and that progressive overload and it's time to come back and do this workout that she'd done before, but hey at this new pace I don't believe I can do it. And so that's pushing that perception, that thing that's going on and whether you understand all of that or not, those things are going along in the prescription of your workouts.
Andrew: And that mentality also helps her do it because if she got into that workout saying, “okay, whatever TriDot, I'll try” she might not have done it. And so, you know, TriDot the data, knowing what she was capable of plus her attitude of rising to the challenge, helped her do it. So Raines, you really just dove into the science a little bit on helping ourselves develop grit factor and what's happening in our bodies and minds and, but tell me this, what are some of the tangible things athletes can do in their training to increase that time to exhaustion or their ability to be uncomfortable just a little bit longer?
Jeff Raines: Very good question. You know, we just touched on it but like, you know, TriDot optimizes our individual plans so thoroughly. We monitor it, the training, stressors, all these different things and it's dynamic, it's changing. So you are able to you know, progressively overload and build these factors but inside of all that what can we do inside of the plan and our day to day to help you know, enhance this this grit factor, right. So, a number of things like if you have a threshold set or maybe a zone four set inside of your workout you know the time you're supposed to hold it and the effort you're supposed to hold it, but you can be strategic and strategically place your zone four sets inside of a course, you know, in your neighborhood, right, so we can, you know if zone four is supposed to be somewhat of a hard effort, right. It's a threshold or maybe even a little above sometimes, but I can soft pedal up a hill in my easiest gear on my bike and I'm pushing zone four watts, but I'm just cruising, right. So the hill is creating the zone for me, right. But if I'm on a flat, I have to create that zone four effort, right. So there are ways to be strategic in how you place your zone four, so what I do is I have my athletes that start to get outside or they say, “Hey, this weekend, I'm going to go outdoors, here's the route I want to go.”We actually talk about it. Where are the hills on your route. Where are the flats, oh, your race coming up happens to be extremely hilly. Or maybe let's just say super, super flat. And so what I'll have them do is at a certain point in their season, I might have them create half of their zone four on a hill and then the other half you know on a flat where they're creating their own force, so they get a feel for that that kind of, not necessarily grit factor, but how it feels. The technical aspects of the grit factor.
Andrew: My natural inclination as an athlete is to always seek out the flatter downhills for my zone four stuff right. Because then it looks better on Strava later because look at my average pace I was holding.
Jeff Raines: I see what you’re doing.
Andrew: When I'm holding my zone four on a slight decline running versus trying to hold zone four effort on an uphill. I can't quite do it as well. But I'm seeing this other side that, hey sacrifice how it looks on Strava for that day, in order to build some grit and some tenacity.
Jeff Raines: Yes, is the downhill creating free gravity so to speak, is that downhill creating your zone four or you on a flat creating it? And so what I'll do is like, let's say, you know that athlete training for a flatter bike course let's say, well, as they get closer to race day, I may have them start to do 100% of their zone four sets on the flat because that's what they're going to have to do on race day, is get a feel for and create that white level or that resistance so you can be strategic in where you know, you place the quality over time. The first three months of your developmental phase or maybe the first three months of your season, what you can watch is not just your average heart rate inside of a set, but you can watch your max heart rate as well. So early into a season our strength isn't at our maximum, our peak. And so the first few months that you do tests or big workouts, you're going to see, you might see your max heart rate, you know, increase.Your average heart rate will be a little bit higher the first three months, so you do a test one month. And the next month, the average heart rate is much higher, you have gained strength. So now you can keep tension, let's say on the pedals for long enough to let the heart rate get higher. But what we want to see is maybe months four through six of that developmental phase, we want to see a trend when you test or some of these quality workouts, We want to see that average heart rate start to trend down. So you're able to do more work--
Andrew: At the same effort level.
Jeff Raines: Yes, or even the same effort but physiologically, the after average heart rate is lower. Those are trends that we can watch, we can talk about, but don't lose the max heart rate. A lot of people ignore that or even look at that. So that's something I talk about with my athletes. I won't dive all into like testing protocol. But—
Andrew: That's another podcast.
Jeff Raines: Yes.
And my last point here is visualization. And this is a whole podcast in itself, but visualizing yourself doing these efforts, knowing the course you're going to do the zone four that next day. You know, there are studies out there, I'm not going to get into them. But you can literally think about lifting weights for a number of weeks, and you can have muscle hypertrophy, muscle growth, and you don't even lift a weight. Now there's a cap or a plateau to that.
Andrew: With your muscles, just thinking about lifting weights.
Jeff Raines: Because you're sending a kind of like, “neurological”--
Andrew: Isn’t the body justcrazy, isn't the body, the human body just nuts
Jeff Raines: It's crazy. You can think about your quads, right. And you're actually sending, so to speak, some motor unit recruitment to that area, even though you're sitting static. And so visualization, knowing that weird turn that weird hill, you know, when you come to that in the moment your body reacts better, and that can help enhance your grit factor.
Andrew: So not every training session is meant to be done all out, full tilt, pedal to the metal. How can we know as athletes which sessions are the appropriate ones to really push ourselves and which ones we should leave feeling like we could have done more?
Jeff Booher: Yes, generally if there's zone three or above and a workout you know, you're supposed to be doing that harder effort. Anything in zone two you're really heart rate based. You're trying not to have it be taxing on your body, you're doing different things. So those are not the ones that, I mean grit doesn't come into play. If you want to have grit you know, as far as discipline, it's the restraint. It’s the maturity to not push it on those days.
So look at, that's the grittiness. Yes. So I'm going to restrain myself.
Andrew: I'm going to carry discipline to the workout.
Jeff Booher: Yes, I don't care what anyone around me thinks what pays what Strava says, I'm not trying to impress anybody. The purpose of this workout, you know, recognizing again, back to the purpose, you have to have a purpose to push for the grit. If you know what the purpose is, that the recovery and all that, you know, capitalization, mitochondrial, all that stuff that happens a lot in zone two. So you have to keep that in mind. That's being just as gritty. The other thing is the saying “no pain, no gain”. So a lot of people are like yes, no pain, no gain. And that is both true and untrue. It depends on the time horizon. If you say no pain, no gain over a week or two weeks, three weeks, if you don't have pain in there, you're not going to gain. I mean, you can't do all zone two. So there has to be pain somewhere for you to gain. But if you're going to reduce that time window to one workout, and saying, if I'm not going to feel pain in this workout, is it not a gain?Well, then that's not true, because the purpose on that day could be no pain. This is a recovery workout, it has other purposes. And so recognizing this as a pain day or a no pain day, and staying within that, to do the workout that's prescribed.
Andrew: The next question that I really wanted to get at when we're talking about kind of each session by session, you know, when the push when not to push. There's also a very fine line between pushing ourselves, you know, to get the most out of a session and pushing ourselves too hard and picking up an injury. So when we're deep into the heart of a tough training set, how can we distinguish where that line is, for us?
Jeff Raines: This goes back a little bit to that endocrine system. And what types of hormones are being delivered.
Andrew: Back into the science.
Jeff Raines: We have to go here. We have to a little bit. I'll keep it short and sweet, I promise.
But certain zones produce a certain stress. So let's just say that zone two that easy aerobic stress right, we start to increase to our you know, zone four threshold stress, zone five would be like more of a muscular stress as we start to get in that kind of more raw speed raw power shorter, quicker bursts. And then all out, you know, what most people think of as the “no pain no gain” or grit factor could be the neural stress which is like the cap or zone six. So at different types of stressors or zones, different types of hormones are released. And so I love what TriDot does is TriDot knows your capacity to handle each amount or types of these types of stressors and so the plan is generated in a way where you get just enough safely of each type of the stressors going deep into the endocrine system, knowing that certain hormones deliver certain types of responses. So anyways, you know, we've heard of like adrenaline, noradrenaline, growth hormone, cortisol, you know, there's all these types of hormones, they mobilize fuel for the production of like ATP or energy within the cell. And so there's certain zones, you only have so much, you know, energy to sustain. So anyways, like, the level of hormones in the blood, you know, and the strength of the bond between that hormone and the actual tissue affects the response of the tissues and in turn, your performance, you know, how fast can you hold that or how long or whatever and the biggest one is cortisol. I mean, you can read about it but like, if you look into any of this, you're going to see cortisol. And so the cortisol levels that are in your blood, they also send negative feedback to the hypothalamus and in turn like almost your brain. And so that's what kind of shuts that effort down or you know the time to exhaustion. I'm at my peak and I can't hold it anymore and so cortisol is a key player in like telling your body to like stop secreting those key hormones and—
Andrew: Natural governor.
Jeff Raines: There you go. There you go, it’s national governor like in the motor of your car, right. So overtraining in racing like harder than you can that like a lot of people will race harder than they train, right. And so in the middle of the race that that neurological stress--
Andrew: We always think today is going to be the day.
Jeff Raines: And actually, there's a lot of science coming out that like I've heard it said that 60% to 70% of cramping has nothing to do with salts. It's neuromuscular fatigue. And it's this endocrine and cortisol and all these things we're talking about. But you know, a lot of people race harder than they train right and all of these things, if there's a lot of cortisol levels in the blood even at rest day to day, week to week limits your recovery. Keeping those cortisol levels high hinders and your improvements, your fitness gains, you know, it diminishes your immunity. You can get sick. A lot of you know men tend to have T levels that start to drop. Women will even have a lossin red blood cell count or even anemia issues. So all of these things can hinder you know, even blood sugar, insulin, all these things can be hindered if you're pushing too much grit or pushing too hard. So there's a capacity there, you can't just push hard every day and get faster. Sometimes you've got to run slow to get fast we say. So knowing how much of each of these stressors or each of these heart rate zones that you need in your micro and macro cycles even are key so developing the correct training plan for you and following it to a T is going to give you this performance gain to its utmost.
Andrew: So when people talk about what makes professional athletes different from your more normal folk. One thing I've heard is that they just have a different level of pain that they're willing to tolerate. That they are described as being able to just push themselves further than others physically. Is this something that's just anecdotally believed, or is there some truth that elite athletes actually have a higher pain tolerance than amateur athletes?
Jeff Booher: Yes, I don't think there's a gene. Maybe there is for, you know, pain tolerance that we can check. But it's interesting that you mentioned that. One of our longtime coaches, he has a PhD, you know, physical therapy, DPT rather, BJ Leeper.And we've been studying, we have a lot of stuff that's coming out the next few years, but he has been doing a study back in I think 2012, 2013, somewhere like that. He did a study about I guess we had 12 or 13 of our pros, something like that. And then maybe three times that number of age group athletes, and he was doing screenings on them, physical screenings, mobility, functional movement, all these different kind of battery of assessments, just to see what the differences were.You know, you can see the performance difference. But then what physically is there. Because a lot of them have the same genetics.
Jeff Raines: Yes, better flexibility or whatever.
Jeff Booher: Yes, all of that. And there was literally he scored them, had a, you know, a protocol for measuring all these different things. And there's literally no difference between the pros, and the amateurs. But the one difference that was clear as day was pain tolerance, and that was in one of the tests was the planking, like a side plank or whatever, and they just sucked it up. And it was noticeable. I mean, it was just this big delta.
Andrew: It wasn't like they're holding on 10 seconds longer, like they were just--
Jeff Booher: Yes.
I mean, it's like the average, you know, a minute and a half or whatever, for amateurs, and they're going three and a half or four minutes. It was just a huge difference, all of them. And so they all whether it was innate, or learned, or for whatever reason, all of them had that. I don't know if it's to the person but you know, almost all of them.
Jeff Raines: Well, you can train the nervous system to, like not the check engine light but low gas light, some cars right it'll say 50 miles to empty when the light comes, some of them might say 20. And so what you can do is training the grit factor over time in this whole hormonal dump thing and all these things. So progressively overloading or maybe keeping the intensity the same but decreasing the rest periods in between over time stuff like that are ways that you can make that you know, low gas light turn on later into the plank or whatever.
Andrew: Fascinating. So let's kind of land the plane here today. And I don't want to dive too deep into this but I think I would be remiss to not mention race day. And digging a little deeper on race day. And I don't want to go too deep because we do plan on doing an entire episode on pushing yourself to the limit on race day, getting the most out of your performance on race day. But as we kind of talk about grit factor in our training. Is there anything we can do in our training to kind of improve our ability to tough it out on race day?
Jeff Booher: You know, to keep it brief, one concept is absolutely everything you do in training affects race day. So I'd say you practice, you know, it's not practice makes perfect. It's perfect practice makes perfect. So if you develop that grit in training, you're going to have it on race day. And the more you can do like those cues and those sayings and the mantras, the more during your training, you can visualize race day.When I'm working with athletes in our junior team especially, I say “Right now is winter. We're in the garage. We're on trainers. Visualize who you're racing right now. It's the last minutes of this, who's right beside you, who are you trying to catch? That's the time to visualize and develop the grit. And by the time the race gets there, you've already done it. You've already done it dozens of times.
Jeff Raines: One big thing for me is staying engaged in the moment on race day, and so you know, training by yourself in a pool. You're thinking about the high elbow catch, you're thinking about your body roll this or that. But the last thing you think about in a race, you know is the 2000 people around you swimming and bumping you and kicking you and you forget these things. And so, being intentional day to day in your training, and being able to translate that into, not always just race day, but like, not skipping your assessments is a good example, right. So creating race simulation environments in your training. So when you get to race day, you remember to do those things better but don't lose the intentionality, if that's a word, in the moment. So I say this all the time to my athletes, be intentional and be strategic, going into workouts, but also don't lose that in the moment. When the external factors hit. You get out on the road and there's cars or there's people or there's 20 people around you on a training session. Don't just ride with them. Don't blend your zone two and zone four, right into zone three, you know, don't forget the purpose. And in the moment stick to it.
Narrator: Great set everyone. Let's cool down
Andrew: At tridot.com/podcast we have a link where you can leave us a voicemail asking a question, telling us about your triathlon club or favorite race, or sharing your story. And for today's cool down I have a special submission that came in from a TriDot athlete who is showing a special kind of grit factor as she works towards her dream of finishing a half Ironman.
Zara Divya: Hi, my name is Zara Divya. Live in Pflugerville, Texas, been training for my dream race, 70.3 Waco. 2018 was diagnosed with ovarian cancer stage one C. Had to do six rounds of chemo, two operations, wasn't able to do my dream race and went ahead and signed up for Galveston 2020. My body was strong enough to start training again, ended up signing up with TriDot and got me ready for Galveston. Galveston got canceled due to COVID-19 and then ended up transferring my race to Waco once again, 2020. And I just recently found out that my cancer has returned. So, through this journey of wanting to reach my dream of doing a 70.3 Ironman race, things keep falling in my path, but I have to keep fighting and keep trying to do this race. I have felt so much love and care from our TriDot family, and appreciate all y’all’s support and TriDot has showed me so much about how to train smarter. So here's to beating cancer once more. I got five more rounds of chemo. And then we'll hopefully do Galveston 2021.
Andrew: Zara on behalf of the entire TriDot team, staff, coaches and athletes, I wish you nothing but the best as you continue to work towards your dream of finishing a half Ironman. Our prayers are with you as you continue your fight with cancer. Thank you for being a great first hand example of what it means to have grit factor as you continue to stay positive and keep training through it all. We can't wait to celebrate your next finish line.
Well that's it for today, folks. A big thanks to TriDot CEO Jeff Booher and coach Jeff Raines for talking about increasing our grit factor. Shout out to TriTats for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to tritats.com to get the race tattoos you need to show up to your next race styling like a pro.
Enjoying the show? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcastand click on, “submit feedback” to send us a message or click on “leave us a voicemail” to get your voice on the show. We'll do it again soon. Until then. Happy training.
Narrator: Thanks for joining us. Make sure to subscribe and share the TriDot podcast with your triathlon crew. For more great tri content and community, connect with us on Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Ready to optimize your training? Head tridot.com and start your free trial today. TriDot. The obvious and automatic choice for triathlon training.