Training stress causes soreness and fatigue in the name of improvement. But other types of stress can undermine your efforts. TriDot coaches John Mayfield and Elizabeth James discuss the differences between stress and eustress and the way you react biologically. Apply this practical information to mitigate the negative effects of stress on your triathlon training.
TriDot Podcast .042:
The Impact of Stress on Your Triathlon Training
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: Hey folks, welcome to today's edition of the TriDot podcast. Really interesting topic--today we'll be talking about the effects mental stress can have on our body's physical ability to train. Joining us for this conversation is coach John Mayfield. A successful Ironman athlete himself John leads TriDot athlete services ambassador and coaching programs. He has coached hundreds of athletes ranging from first timers to Kona qualifiers and professional triathletes. John has been using TriDot since 2010 and coaching with TriDot since 2012. John, how's it going for you on this fine Monday?
John: Going good. The week is off to a good start. So it's going to be a good week.
Andrew: Next up is pro triathlete and coach Elizabeth James. Elizabeth came to the sport from a soccer background and quickly rose through the triathlon ranks using TriDot. From a beginner to a top age grouper to a professional triathlete. She's a Kona and Boston Marathon qualifier who has coached triathletes with TriDot since 2014. Elizabeth, thanks for joining us.
Elizabeth: My pleasure, Andrew. Thanks for having me.
Andrew: And who am I? I'm Andrew, the average triathlete voice of the people and a captain of the middle of the pack. Today, we'll get warmed up and then we'll talk about mental stress and its training implications. We'll cool down today with a little one on one conversation between me and an athlete named Chris Hess, who just so happens to be the winner of our TrainX challenge. He’s going to fill us in on the cool toys that he won and how his training is going for his upcoming event. Lots of good stuff. Let's get to it.
Time to warm up. Let's get moving.
Andrew: Professional athletes and industry influencers have long made extra cash through endorsement deals and sponsorships. And out of the thousands of such deals in place with athletes worldwide, there exists a sort of upper echelon of endorsements, where an athlete becomes so synonymous with an industry that they get their own line of product released, and their name and honor. For basketball and soccer players we often see this with shoe or cleat deals. Even unrelated to sports. There are guys like boxer George Foreman with his trademark George Foreman Grills. In endurance sports Michael Phelps has his own goggle line. Peter (2:50) Sagan has his own line of slick 100% sunglasses. Legendary cyclist, Chris Boardman and (3:00) Eddie Merckx have their own bike brands. And marathoner Meb Keflezighi for a while had his own line of go Meb running shoes, put out by Skechers. With all of this in mind for today's warm up question, after you inevitably reach sports celebrity status from your race winnings, and your time on the TriDot podcast, what type of product line would you be most interested in launching with your name on it? As a professional athlete in the TriDot podcast family, Elizabeth, I'm going to start with you.
Elizabeth: So probably not as cool as like your own bike brand, but the first thing that came to mind was like 100% has to do with hats. More often than not, I'm wearing a hat. It's kind of the perfect cover-up for triathletes, as we're going from one workout to the next when we don't have time to fix our hair.
Andrew: Yes, absolutely.
Elizabeth: Yes. Put a put a hat on that. I think that would be my product line.
Andrew: And I do have to mention a little bit this either always in a TriDot hat or I've seen you in your Kona hat. That’s kind of one of your go-tos, right. I think we all have a couple go to hats. And so I have to say this because Elizabeth, you recently were interviewed as a pro triathlete and TriDot coach on another YouTube channel.
Elizabeth: Had a hat. [laugh]
Andrew: You had a hat on. So I was fully expecting, like when that went live, I was fully expecting you to be wearing your Kona hat. Because that unlike a podcast, you were actually on video. And so guys, you can go check out Elizabeth's interview with Troy Jacobson on YouTube. And she represented TriDot really well, got to talk about it a little bit. He just interviewed her as a pro triathlete, but I was fully expecting you and I went to watch your interview to be wearing your Kona hat and you weren't and I was like, ah.
Elizabeth: But you fully expected a hat.
Andrew: I fully expected a hat. And delivered on that so yes, a line of Elizabeth James hats. And you clearly would have to have our graphic design guy make you a little EJay logo.
Elizabeth: There we go, I like this idea.
Andrew: Fun different designs and yes, we can really flesh this out later off the podcast and make this a reality. So John Mayfield for you, what would be your line of products with John Mayfield's name on them?
John: Man, so I think I'm going to be kind of cool and something a couple musicians have done (not that I'm a musician at all) is a line of tequila. So one of my favorites is actually a tequila from a little company obviously down in Mexico that George Strait got behind. It's called Codigo great tequila. And so I think it would be kind of cool to have a nice aged tequila kind of combine my love of Texas culture and Mexican culture along with some of the whiskey that I enjoy from the Tennessee and Kentucky area. So kind of a marriage of everything that I love all wrapped up into one tequila.
Andrew: That is absolutely in the time I've known you go to cuisine of choice whenever we let John pick where we're going to go eat. It's always a Mexican Tex Mex.
John: I'm glad you didn't say tequila.
Andrew: That absolutely goes with it. So I think that's a great choice for you, John, I would I would fully back that and I'm sure we would have many athletes in the TriDot podcast family that would love to order some John Mayfield tequila. So yeah, my choice…And so I was trying to think of what is the thing that I love the most, that has to do kind of sort of with our sport, and the first thing that I thought of instantly was like this is it--coffee. I mean, coffee and multi sport is synonymous like that the coffee shop stop midway through a long ride is just a trademark of the cycling industry. We all know that coffee and caffeine gets us to the starting line of those long training Saturday morning training sessions so much. But I just have become a huge coffee head in the last couple years of my adult life, right. And I specifically would just love like an espresso roast. I'm big Americano fan, big espresso fan. I love kind of those dark rich coffees. And so if I could have an Andrew Harley espresso line that came out that would just be the pick for me.
John: I'm down with caps and coffee.
On to the main set, going in 3, 2, 1.
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We all know that there are some days that just wear on you more than others. We've all had those times where the moments of the day leave us feeling depleted before we even get to the next training session. We all experience different forms of stress in our weeks and thus we all need to know how to navigate mental stress with the physical training load we take on as members of the multi-sport community. So guys, as we approach this conversation today, just to kind of kick us off, let's kind of personalize this a little bit. Do you both have maybe any recent or even fairly recent examples where you or maybe one of the athletes you coach had some of their training affected by stress in their life?
Elizabeth: Yes. So both me, personally, as an athlete and with the athletes that I coach as well. And I really think that the reality is that if an athlete hasn't experienced this yet, they likely will at some point. There are just so many stressors that we encounter and any one of them can impact our training, let alone kind of a combination of them too. So just to give a few examples, and I mean, the research on this topic will categorize stressors in various ways, but just to give us a little context of some of the things that could impact training, as you've mentioned, there's structural stress, so where a structure of the body is actually impacted, such as like a new injury or a previous injury, chronic pain.
Andrew: That calf strain that won't go away, right. That metatarsal in your foot that keeps hurting.
Elizabeth: Yes. And then there's biochemical stress. So illness, infection, irregular hormone cycles, digestive disorders, and I mean, those can also be a result of, or an impact from other stressors as well.
Andrew: So your body's under some sort of stress that that isn't caused by a workout and isn't caused by maybe mental stress, but your body is still is going through something because it's fighting. something going on.
Elizabeth: Yes. And then there's emotional stress. And I think that that's going to be kind of where we really dive into today and the main focus for our discussion. And emotional stress can come from, you know, challenging relationships, death, divorce, worry, pressures from work, anger, financial uncertainty. I mean, there's a long list there.
Andrew: Worldwide pandemics.
Elizabeth: Yes. I mean, unfortunately, there's a lot of stressors. So you know, approximately one in five people are going to experience some extreme stress and there are billions of dollars that are spent in healthcare every year due to stress related illness. So kind of going back to your question because stress is so prevalent I can cite a number of examples in my own training and with the athletes that I work with where we've needed to account for the impact of those stressors and the kind of effects that they have on our training.
John: Recently obviously, as we've dealt with the COVID epidemic, we've all been under a certain amount of stress. We've all had changes to our lifestyle. For a lot of people it was job uncertainty, or even job loss or others, it's physical illness. Maybe it's just having the kids around more than we're used to. So all those things change our schedule and change our routine. Things like canceled races or uncertainty of what's going to happened to a race really changes motivations and our schedule, but they also are stress inducing sometimes the things when we just don't know or when we get out of our groove, our established routine, it becomes a stressful situation. So I think really, all of us have dealt with this to one degree or another in these last several months. So I think we can all see that it does actually impact our ability to train--our consistency in training, the effectiveness of the sessions that we get in and just what we're able to put into the sessions.
Andrew: Yes. And John, I love that you're talking and you're bringing up about, you know how much that we've all been faced with different stressors lately that we're not even used to. And so everybody and from one time or another, regardless of how prone you are to stress, you know, eventually you are going to face something that will stress you and I love recently, and this isn't why we decided to do this podcast, but when I was doing the research for this USA triathlon sent out an email where they have now partnered with a thing called Talk Space. And it literally is like online therapy, you can subscribe to a plan and you can connect with a therapist from the privacy of your own home and you can kind of Elizabeth what you're talking about--mental health goes so much deeper than just being stressed. But if you are stressed if you are having some emotional stress in your life, USA triathlon has partnered with a great way for you to get help with that and I thought that was so cool of them to do that. So guys check that out if you're interested at all, if you're finding yourself just stressed and needing someone to talk to, that's a really cool thing that USA a triathlon just partnered with. So when we're facing emotional stress, you know, when we feel kind of weighed down by baggage, what is it that is actually biologically happening in our bodies?
Elizabeth: Well, just as a disclaimer, I, you know, I have no medical degree, but I did ace every biology course that I took.
Andrew: Solid. Good enough for me.
Elizabeth: I have far too much experience with the effects of stress as well. So I think I can still speak to this here. Biologically, you know, stress is actually a very healthy and normal response to any stressor or trigger. I mean, stress primes our body for defense against a threat. So, you know, historically there were stressors like escaping predators, and that caused a necessary and helpful reaction from the body to survive. It's a survival instinct. Now today stressors are quite different. But the body's reaction…
Andrew: There's some athletes in the Pacific Northwest doing some trail running or mountain biking or some hiking that might still have to escape a predator.
Elizabeth: They are still have to escaping predators, true. And, you know, that's that fight or flight response. I'm sure most athletes have heard of that before and that's s the body's reaction to stress. So when we're under stress, I mean, physically, the sympathetic nervous system kicks in and triggers the pituitary gland to release a number of hormones and neurotransmitters such as like adrenaline and cortisol.
Andrew: And those are what trigger that fight or flight?
Elizabeth: Yes. So those hormones trigger the body to kind of pull blood away from functions that are not immediately necessary. So like our immune system, our digestive system, and those resources that are pulled away from like the immune system, digestive system are then sent to the brain and our muscles. So we come like we become in this high alert state. And that's why you feel like your heart rate increase, our feelings of pain are reduced, the blood actually thickens a little bit as it anticipates the potential need to clot.
Andrew: That's interesting.
Elizabeth: And yes, this is all part of that fight or flight response that we mentioned. Now, you know, this can be helpful in short term situations. This is, you know, what kicks in when somebody cuts you off in traffic and you have to react quickly. But it's troublesome and this is often where it begins to impact training when it's chronic stress, and it's, you know, something that is much more long term.
Andrew: So what impact can mental stress like actually have on our bodies because like, when we talk about emotional stress, I mean, you're being stressed from maybe a promotion at work or being stressed from just a lot going on in your personal life or from somebody you know being sick or from a worldwide pandemic just sweeping the globe. I mean that's all stress that occurs in your mind and releases those hormones. But can that actually start to affect what our muscles and what our bodies are physically capable of in training.
Elizabeth: The body is incredibly smart. So there's going to be a physical reaction for, you know, these stressors. Think about the last presentation that you gave when you were stressed out for. Your mouth gets dry, your heart rate quickens. I mean you've got a physical response right there.
Andrew: Yes, that’s so true.
Elizabeth: Heart rate quickens, need drink a water. But you know, those physical reactions are going to pass as the stressor is removed. But if you're always under stress, then you know, that's where we're talking about kind of that chronic stress and those bigger implications. You know, when your cortisol is always up, your immune system is always down. And for me, this is what I call finals week flu. I got sick every single finals week, all through high school, all through college.
Andrew: You just building up to those tests, building up to those big projects at the end of the semester you were just constantly under stress for weeks getting ready right as opposed just like one day or two days like it was—
Elizabeth: Yes. It was kind of the culmination of all of the stress leading into you know, the end of the semester.
Andrew: And I think as you're sharing that about yourself I mean everybody listening right now knows okay when you're stressed like, you know some people carry it in their back in their back start aching some people carry it in, you know, they'll get stomach aches when they're stressed, right. Everybody knows what your body's responses to being stressed over time. But there is a response.
Elizabeth: Yes, definitely. And I mean, for me, it was that finals week flu other others sometimes referred to this as leisure sickness, where they're, they're so stressed out at work, like, I have to get everything done. They're wrapping up some big projects so that they can take a week vacation, and then they spend their week vacation sick, because, their immune system has just not been, you know, functioning as they're under all of this stress. They finally get to go on vacation, take a step back, and then that's the body saying whoa, okay, our immune system is functioning again and it realizes Is that you've just been in overdrive. So there's a big physical impact to some of those stressors.
Andrew: So John, as Elizabeth is sharing, I think she's already kind of let on to the fact that she's a little bit more prone to stressing, which that tracks with her personality. I mean, she just likes to have all of her ducks in a row, likes to be on top of everything so a little bit of stress comes with that. I, John, am on the opposite end of that. I used to work for a television network. And when you came on staff at the television network, they would have you go through a personality profile test, it would spit out a 23 page report, but you know, here's your on a piece of paper. And one of the list items that it would tell you about yourself from a zero to 100 scale, how prone you are to stress. I came in, I clocked in as a two. So I'm at two out of 100 on how prone I am to stress. I get stressed. I have seasons where I stress out. I just internalize it and I just I don't know…like, to me, whatever is going on in my life, all I can do is the best I can do with time that I have and I just let the Lord take the rest, right. Jesus take the wheel on the rest of it. And so it takes a lot for me to have stress over time. And it happens. John, where do you land on that? Are you somebody who gets stressed?
John: I'm probably a three.
John: But yes, I'm kind of like you I'm pretty laid back. I tend to roll with things fairly well. But certainly, I think for me and probably the same for you, would be my guess, is it tends to culminate in an almost like a bubble that will pop and it tends to build over time. Sometimes don't even realize it's building but yes, so it certainly comes but you know, for me and it's kind of seasonal. Where, I'll just have it's, I think it's just that culmination that that accumulation of all that stress that maybe I've deferred or maybe I've ignored and then it all comes at once and. So yes, it's I'm kind of like you I'm pretty laid back I roll with the punches, but you know, certainly not immune from the effects of the stress.
Andrew: So whether someone is an Elizabeth at one end of the spectrum or an Andrew, John at the other end or somewhere in the middle, which is probably a healthier spot to be. I think we all recognize that wherever we are in that spectrum, mental stress can fatigue us considerably. But does mental stress have the same ability to wear on our actual bodies and muscles as physical training does. You know we've talked about there's hormones released we talked about, you know, chronic stress over time can do things to our bodies. But when we talk about our actual muscles, you know, what were the legs we’re using in a bike trainer ride the arms that are pumping, you know, in the pool, doing laps, can those be worn down by mental and emotional stress?
John: So it's going to have less implication directly on the body's physical ability to perform, it's going to be more so in its capacity to do so it's going to be reflected more in the cardiovascular system. Because each of us has a certain capacity for stress and the source of stress is largely irrelevant. So once we've reached our stress capacity, then we're there. We've utilized all that we have. So it doesn't matter if the body is stressed from these lifestyle type events that we've been discussing. Or if you've reached your training, stress capacity, and really what we have to do is balance the two of these together because none of us is in a vacuum where we only have training stress or we only have lifestyle stress. As triathletes, we're spending a considerable amount of time every week training but this is also done so with the rest of our lives, our jobs, our families, our finances, all these things that that are stressing us in a good way or a bad way, or somewhere in between. And so I think that's one of the important roles as a coach is to work with the athletes to ensure that the training stress that they're doing in their daily sessions is productive and works well with the amount of lifestyle stress that they have. So a coach is always having to consider things like what type of profession is the athlete in. Do they have a high stress job, are they in a high stress situation at home? And that always really reduces an athlete's capacity for training stress. So it's kind of a balancing act of the amount of training that we're able to do combined with just the amount of lifestyle stress that we have already.
Elizabeth: And I think that's good to really differentiate between you know, the training stress and the lifestyle stress because not all stress is productive. You know, because you're using TriDot, you know that your training stress is productive. There's, you know, predictable and desired outcomes that are coming from that. But those external stressors are not always producing those desired outcomes. And that's where—
Andrew: You mean getting sick from being mentally stressed is not a productive outcome?
Elizabeth: No. And that's definitely not a desired outcome either.
Andrew: Yes, Elizabeth, and I think it's a great point. Because when you think about it, I mean, not all stress is bad stress. You hear the word stress and you think of that as typically a negative thing, right. I mean, there can be…Training stress is good stress. Like we're intentionally putting our muscles and our bodies under stress so that we grow our muscles become stronger, become faster. But even lifestyle stress, it's not always bad. I mean, if you get a promotion at work that's going to come with certain stresses in learning the job. That's a good life thing that's occurring to you. Coach Jeff Raines and I were talking the other day. We both just went through moves. I moved, you know, 15 minutes from one city, from one suburb of Dallas to another suburb of Dallas. Jeff Raines and his family are moving four hours from one city to another city. And there's certain stress that comes with that. It's a positive thing that's happening in your life. But it's still hold stressors, whereas there is to what you were talking about, Elizabeth, undesirable stress. So have you guys found in your experience working with athletes, is there a difference on the way it weighs on us if the source of the stress is kind of a positive, you know, stressor or a negative stressor?
John: Yes, so certainly there are those negative stresses and then there's the positives. Those are the eustress. And oftentimes, they can offset one another they can help.
Andrew: So there is an actual term for positive stress?
John: Yes, so generally, we tend to correlate stress as a negative, something that is a sometimes has those negative ramifications, but eustress are the things that stress us but also have more of that positive connotation.
Andrew: Is that you stress like y-o-u are stressed?
John: No, that would probably be the negative side.
So eustress or things like you mentioned, like the promotions and moves These are things that we tend to celebrate and look forward to but they also reduce our capacity for stress. So everyone handles these differently. I think this goes back to what we were just discussing on whether you're someone that tends to be high stress or low stress. But certainly yes, there are the positive stresses, there are the negative stresses. Each impacts our ability to train and our ability to recover in different ways but they all need to be considered in the overall scheme of what we're doing.
Andrew: So guys, while coach John Mayfield was saying all that and educating us, I googled eustress because I was just curious, and it is in fact, spelled e-u-s-t-r-e-s-s. It is a type of stress that's classified. I thought I was being clever, John, I thought was bringing up there’s positive stress and negative stress. This is a good thought and science has already figured it out and classified it and given it a term so thank you for--
John: It wasn't me so…
Andrew: So guys, when we're heading into a training session, and this is I think as athletes what we're probably more interested in, when we're heading into a training session or maybe even a training week, and we know we are fatigued by some of these outside stressors, some of these mental stressors, emotional stressors, what adjustments should we make to our training when we're under that kind of stress?
Elizabeth: Definitely listen to your body. It's much better to take a day or two off than having to take an extended period of time off later. And as an example, when I was teaching, I knew that the week of state testing was going to be somewhat stressful. I mean to put it lightly.
Andrew: For you, for the students?
Elizabeth: Both yes, everybody. All around. And so I knew that that week for my triathlon training was going to be best spent doing some aerobics sessions after the school day, I still needed to take some time for me, I wanted to be active, but I was coming out of those school days already very worn down. And so that was an adjustment that I knew I needed to make because of some of those outside stressors.
John: So a good rule of thumb is anytime that your training capacity is diminished, regardless of why, I kind of have a progression of things to work through. So whether it is a stressful week where your overall capacity for training stress is reduced because of those other lifestyle stresses. It could be an illness, whether you're getting sick or coming out of an illness, maybe it's an injury, anything that is reducing your ability to train at 100%. The first thing you need to do is reduce the intensity duration. So where you would say normally do maybe eight minutes of high intensity running, drop it down to maybe six minutes, five minutes, whatever you're capable of. If you're not able to do that, reduce the intensity level. So instead of maybe doing threshold type work, maybe it's doing more aerobic work to reduce that overall stress and then reduce the volume. So if you reduce the intensity, but you still even at that easy effort, cut back on the time that you're doing. So maybe instead of 60 minutes, it's 30 minutes. And that's kind of what Elizabeth was mentioning, where on those stressful days at work, she didn't have the capacity to go and do a bunch of hard sessions, but it was still good to go and do some of the easy sessions just for some of the benefits of doing that. So reduce the intensity and then reduce the time if necessary. And then on the way back out as you recover and regain that capacity for stress work back kind of backwards through that. So work back up to full volume and then increase the amount or the level of intensity and then increase the time of intensity until you're able to get back on track to where you were.
Andrew: That's super helpful. I mean, I think if anybody like, you know, if you take anything out of this podcast, it's those that 90 seconds right there. Because that's the application like that is the, hey, you're going to have moments in your life where you're stressed. And when you do, you still you're trying to train, you're trying to stay healthy, you're trying to stay on top of your fitness, here's the guidelines. And that's what you just gave us.
John: Yes. Generally something is better than nothing. Now there will come a time where nothing is what is appropriate. And oftentimes, we don't have good, solid, objective metrics to tell us exactly how much capacity we have in a certain day. We have some guidelines that we can use, and there are some metrics out there. But oftentimes, it's kind of figuring out what do I have today. And it was kind of like, what you mentioned is, I know, I don't have this, but let me see if I have something less than that. And you know, it's being flexible in that. Well, I was going to try for…I knew I didn't have 16 minutes, but I was going to try for 10 but maybe five is all I've got today. There's nothing wrong with that. It's all about getting in what you can and not pushing to the extreme to that point where it does become counterproductive. So we want to make sure everything we do is productive, is healthy, is producing results. So you know, it's working with that, finding what that is, and just allowing grace in that as well.
Andrew: What is maybe what while we're talking about this, what would you say are the signs of you being at the point where you're just so overloaded with stress that it does become more beneficial to just kind of just hold off on training for a day or two or a period of time?
John: As Elizabeth mentioned earlier, it's about listening to the body, it's knowing your body knowing those signals and paying attention to them and not ignoring them. Because oftentimes as driven type A athletes, we get so into what's on the training plan for a particular day we get so driven on making gains and working every day where sometimes they become counterproductive. So listen to the body, what is your body saying, what are those signs? Oftentimes, it's a just a feeling, you just feel tired, you feel exhausted, more so than the normal I think we all can kind of relate to that. We know when we're tired just because we've had a couple hard days of training, or maybe we're a little sleep deprived. And then there's also that feeling of just that fatigue that comes with stress and worry and whatever else may be going on. So it's just knowing the signals of the body and listening to it and kind of dialing in on that. And you know, I think, too, we know what a session should feel like. So maybe if it's trying to get in a session, and you're 10 minutes into a bike ride, you know what it feels like to be 10 minutes into a bike ride. If it's just not there, it's just not happening, that's when we're getting those cues from the body. Maybe it's an elevated heart rate where that's more of that objective feedback that we get, but oftentimes, we have to kind of look at the subjective, it's how do we feel and what do I really want to achieve today and how can I best maximize this time, and oftentimes, it's getting off the bike and going to relax, take a nap, do something that you enjoy. Some of those eustress activities that are those positive stresses are great at mediating some of that negative stress as well. And sometimes, you know, just maybe time with the family is better spent than the time on the bike to help alleviate that stress, but listen to the body and do what you need to do to get back to full capacity.
Andrew: I remember in college the times I would be stressed, and there's definitely some people out there that are going to relate to this. But you know, have ever just been so busy and had so much on your agenda and just so much to accomplish that day that the first thing you do was take a nap because that was college Andrew Harley. And sometimes the most productive thing that you could do is say, oh my gosh, like there's so much going on. I've just got so much in my head right now. I just need to detach for a second I need to…in college, it was taking a nap. And now it might be what you're talking about, you know, hey, unplug from it. Instead of doing that training session go connect with the family. You know, go binge an episode or two that show you love. Go unwind with 30 minutes of yoga or something more, you know, more just kind of body… body maintenance, you know, kind of activities, and maybe that can be more productive. So there is one scenario kind of in particular I want to ask about because I think a lot of athletes face this. When an athlete is going into a training session, and they know, they just aren't 100% as they head into the session but they decide to give it a go anyway and maybe they fight admirably through the first few tough intervals, but they still have some hard quality work left to do. And they know they just won't quite be able to hit the paces, or the power prescribed. Is it better for us as athletes to kind of call it quits early in a session like this, or is it best to maybe try to do the remaining work the remaining intervals, even if we come up a little bit short on the power or the pace prescribed?
Elizabeth: This is a great question, and I'm so glad that you asked it. It's also a tough one, though. It's tough because we want to acknowledge the impact of stress without allowing that to be our excuse, and just say like, oh, I'm stressed, I, you know, I can't do the other intervals. For me this is, I mean, one of many great benefits of working with a coach, there have been times where going into a workout I just didn't feel like I had it there. And it's been so helpful to have John's opinion and that other perspective to say, you know, Elizabeth, if you've had a tough week, like, yes, we need to cut the duration or the intensity down on this one.
John: So one of my favorite saying, we talk about it all the time is training and results are really about consistency and not perfection. So this is one of those great cases where the body of work really is what's going to produce those results. So know the difference between being tired and just being done when you just don't have anything left in the tank to give. And again, I think most of us kind of know where that is. Especially if we're honest with ourselves. We know like I just-there are times where I may not be feeling a session but that's just for whatever reason. You go out there and you do it and you're 100% glad that you did and the session is over. But it's also important to know the times where you're just done, you just don't have it in you for the day. And those are the days where you just really need to have grace with yourself and not feel guilty about it. Just acknowledge that today it's just not there and resolve to do those things to get back to it. So maybe it's tomorrow, maybe it's the next day, but just know that races and triathlon careers are not made in a single session. They're made with consistent training over time, as we often say, it's doing the right training right. And that's a day in and day out thing. So cutting back on one session, skipping one session is all part of the plan. That's all built in, you're still going to have great results. Consistently do the right training right. And when it's just not there, that's completely fine.
Andrew: So if you find yourself like maybe multiple sessions in a row multi sessions, you know, this week next week, the week after, you know, tempted to call it quits. Maybe at that point, you just need to go back and listen to Episode 40, about grit factor. And just get a little tougher, right. Because you're I mean, if have, you know, 6, 7, 8 intervals on the track, and you're always going to be a little tired heading into the last intervals, but that's the point, like you need to see it through to grow. But if it's just the kind of anomaly, the off day is a real thing. So if it's just an off day, give yourself the grace. But if you see that off day being a reoccurring thing, you just probably need to toughen up a little bit, right.
John: Yes, that's certainly a possibility.
Andrew: So as coaches, when you know one of your athletes is in a stressful week, or in a stressful kind of season of life. Do you kind of change anything about the way that you coach them through that time?
Elizabeth: Trick question yes or no. So it doesn't change the way that I coach because looking at those environmental stressors is always going to be a part of the conversation. But are accommodations made when those stressors are high? Yes, absolutely. So not necessarily change, but always a part of the conversation.
John: That communication really is what is imperative. And that's one of the most important things that exists between a coach and an athlete is that ability to communicate and for the athlete to be able to convey what they're experiencing, and for the coach to be able to understand what it is they're experiencing, and then make the adjustments accordingly. So that's why we always emphasize communication and we value that as coaches. It allows us to provide a higher level, a better level of service to the athletes that we work with. And it also allows us to know the athletes so it provides that insight into what they're telling us because it may come across as a text message or an email. And then sometimes that loses context. But when the coach knows the athlete and the athlete knows the coach, then we're able to see into it and see is this something that is pertinent to today's session? Where we need to say, hey, hang on before you go out and do this session, let's talk about this. Let's see how you're feeling. Let's see what your capacity is for the day, or other times it may just be, it was a rough day, but you'll go enjoy your session and you'll knock it out. But, yes, it's all about communicating where the athlete is, and then adjusting accordingly.
Andrew: So we may not be able to take away the stimuli causing us the mental stress. But is there anything we can do as athletes to mitigate the effects stress can have on our training?
Elizabeth: I would say the best thing you can do is you know, get a good night's sleep.
Andrew: Exactly what college Andrew believed. Take a nap.
Elizabeth: Your nap right there. I mean, it does. It puts things in perspective. You know, from a physical standpoint and all of the benefits and biology of sleep and the good that it does for your body, really the best thing you can do is get a good night's sleep. I'd say you know, next in line is staying hydrated, staying moving. So, you know, just give the body what it wants, stay hydrated, get those exercise released endorphins. That's going to help with those stressors as well.
John: So the good stress activities, those eustresses will help offset some of the negative impacts of stress, relax, relaxation, meditation, having fun, going out and doing things that you enjoy. If you have all this amount of stress to the point that you can't get into your training sessions a question to ask is, when's the last time you had some fun? When was the last time you really kind of let go relax, get out of your workspace or whatever it is, that's causing the stress. Get out of that and go enjoy yourself and then do what you can to set yourself up going forward. So again, it's mitigating that stress in such a way that set yourself up for success going forward.
Great set everyone. Let's cool down.
Andrew: All through this spring of 2020 TriDot ran the first ever TrainX challenge, where for 22 weeks, we gave away a top of the line, Tacx Neo 2T trainer to one athlete that had done the right training right for that particular week. For each TriDot training session, athletes are given a score one to 100. Based on how well they executed the purpose of that session. At the end of the week, every athlete that averaged a 60 or higher was entered into a random drawing where one person would win the prize. It was super great to see athletes learn better training habits from focusing on doing each session right and super fun to see folks win dope prizes along the way. At the end of the 22 weeks, the final drawing took place where one athlete would walk away from the triathlon preseason with over $22,000 worth of multi-sport related prizes from brands like Cervelo, Roca, Garmin, Rudy Project, Tacx, Tri Tats, Generation UCAN, Tri Bike Transport and State Wheels. For today's cool down I asked TrainX challenge winner, Chris Hess from Blacksburg, Virginia to talk with us about what went through his mind when he found out he was the grand prize winner. So, Chris, where were you when you found out you were the TrainX challenge winner and how did you react?
Chris: it was one of those long work days where, you know, the end goal of the day was to get outside you know, everybody's stuck inside and quarantined these days and I don't actually check my personal email all that often. You know, I spend so much time thinking about work email, and right before we were going to go out I flipped over to my personal email and I saw something come in from Elizabeth. It said that I was a winner and I was like oh well, this is interesting. Maybe I won one of those weekly TrainX challenge. And my wife was yelling at me to come out, we're going to walk up to the meadow and get some fresh air. And I said, hold on a second, I think I won something. And then I was like, holy Toledo, I won something really big.
Andrew: You didn't win something you won everything.
Chris: Right. And it wasn't really on my radar, Andrew. I was like, you know, I was, like most people in the current state of affairs. I wasn't swimming. I was trying to hit all of my bike workouts and all of my run workouts. So my TrainX scores weren't great and what you had to hit 60 I think to make it to the raffle. And so I was probably averaging right around 60 every week. TriDot was kind of like an anchor for me to hang on to in all the chaos of the world. And, but I wasn't feeling like I was, you know, crushing it by any means. I was doing what I could do to stay with it.
Andrew: And to your point, the week that you won that particular entry into the pod you had a TrainX score of 62 so just above that cutoff point and that won you $22,000 in triathlon toys.
Chris: Yes, so sorry to all the people that were killing it but I made it into the raffle and you know, I think it's just a tribute to like, sticking with it, right. If you stick with it and you guys say this all the time, you know, it's not about necessarily hitting every workout perfectly but sticking to the program and that was my mentality. So it certainly more than paid off in this case.
Andrew: I mean, some of the bigger items you know, were…I'm not going to cover everything…but you know, you got a Cervelo time trial bike, Tacx Neo 2 indoor trainer, a pair of state carbon wheels to go on the Cervelo, Roca’s Maverick X you know high end wetsuit, a Garmin Phoenix six multi sport watch, Garmin vector three power pedals. $500 worth of UCAN Performance nutrition for the year, a Rudy Project arrow helmet and more. I mean that's just part of the list right. And so you do have all of your winnings in so far? What's it been like to get all those things one by one in the mail?
Chris: I mean it's like Christmas coming multiple times throughout the year. I mean the bike was the biggest one. This is just something that probably wouldn't have been on my radar to buy you know, I have a nice $800 road bike and now I have a $8,000 you know, crazy machine.
Chris: And it takes a lot of getting used to, I mean, we were talking earlier it's like going from a Subaru which is what I drive for real and moving into a drag racer. But it's wow it's fun and you know that plus the you know, the pedals and the trainer you know. I had a nice trainer but I got to replace it with this one that's way better and all this stuff is very cool. And the thing I don't know that we've talked about much, but it's just such a validation of the effort, you know, like I'm not going to miss a workout now. I feel like man, I can't skimp on this. I owe TriDot 100% effort on every one of these darn workouts going forward for sure.
Andrew: So like many athletes, your big A race for the year was affected by COVID-19. And so on the weekend that you were supposed to race 70.3 Blue Ridge in Virginia. Instead, you went for a long run through the woods. Tell us about your decision to replace race day with a cool trail run?
Chris: Yes, you know, as most of the folks that do these types of events, you're really motivated by some end goal and so I didn't feel like I wanted to drop the training and I didn't want to…you know, I'm just motivated by some something on the calendar. I think everybody is for the most part and so If I wasn't going to be able to ride that crazy hill and stuff on the Blue Ridge, I was like, well, there's a really great trail run, ride or hike in our area called the Virginia Triple Crown. So you go up three different peaks. It's about 35 or 36 miles. And so I got myself a new pair of trail shoes. And we went out, you know, on a Monday because crowds were sparser then and we ran hiked that. Got to take advantage of some UCAN on that for sure. I think the moving time was something like 10.5 hours. But the time on trail was 14 hours it took us to get over that 36 miles.
Andrew: I mean, that’s the kind of day that UCAN is made for right?
Chris: Yes. And I did. I didn't feel you know, I was exhausted at the end because it was a huge amount of effort. There was like almost 10,000 foot of elevation gain over the course of it. But there's one point and we probably we didn't set this up the best where you can-you go into a decision point where it's a half a mile back to the car and you know, I had a nice beer waiting for me and some ribs I had smoked that I was looking forward to that I'd put in a cooler. Or you could go up and do a five mile loop up to the top of the peak called Dragon's Tooth. And it's by far the hardest part of the whole trip. It was really one of those moments where you were like, you get to that fork in the road and you think, you know, it'd be really nice to go to that car and, and partake of what's in that cooler. But, you know, you'd always regret that and I think we all face those things in these endurance challenges. That's the give up point. But most of us don't give up because we, you know, that's the mentality.
Andrew: Switching gears a little bit, because this is kind of fun for us as a staff to find out. You know, we at TriDot we recently launched PhysiogenomiX, you know, where we taking athletes DNA data, and utilize it to further customize training for that athlete. And Chris you just so happen to have a PhD in genetics. So as a professional in that industry, what are your thoughts on TriDot’s PhysiogenomiX?
Chris: Well, you know, this is, I mean, I'll be honest, I was like, are these guys…when I first saw this…I was like, are these guys just, is this a bunch of baloney? You know, is it hot air? And I took a look at it, and the website's quite impressive. I mean, the way that they've set it up is pretty interesting. I mean, it's not saying that we know everything about you, and there's a lot that's still to be known about, you know…
Chris: There's a great podcast that you guys have already done on this that talks about snips and how these things work, but I think it is so aligned with the TriDot brand and mentality of taking all of the information that you have and using it in a productive way, right. So much of the training is just based upon your performance, but now it's based upon these underlying things. Is every bit of your ability in part, defined by your experience plus your genetics? Of course, but genetics is a huge part of it. And I think it's really cool that that is being plugged into the whole program. You know, people, there's a tendency, and we see this a little bit on the Facebook page where people have a tendency to get a little bit frustrated when it says, oh, I have a high propensity for injury or I have a low aerobic capacity. I think, there's plenty of examples where that is something you can overcome. So don't be you know, I wasn't too discouraged. And to be honest, mine weren't like, this guy's a superstar. I think most of them were average or slightly below average. But what's cool is TriDot will take those into account and say if you have a high injury propensity, then it'll make sure that it gives you slightly more recovery. That's a good thing, right. That's really taking advantage of all the information that's there.
Andrew: If your body needs it, you need to know that.
Chris: Right.Yes, that's good. That's good information. It doesn't mean that you like anybody that takes that information says, well, maybe I'm not going to tackle a full Iron Man. Look, you could still do a full Iron Man, no matter what. That's more about just sticking to the training and deciding that that's what you want to do.
Andrew: Yes, absolutely. When you listened to the podcast episode about PhysiogenomiX how did you feel about TriDot founder Jeff Booher and coach John Mayfield, did they know what they're talking about in everything they covered?
Chris: Yes, I think they did a really good job. I was really impressed with Jeff in particular, because this is not…it's the jargon-iest is sort of stuff that you get into—
Andrew: It’s not light reading.
Chris: No, I think there was like one thing where he said, “heterogeneous” and he probably should have said heterozygous, but, you know, like only a super egghead like me would have noticed that. He did a really good job. It was super impressive to have somebody only take maybe three or four years to learn all that stuff. And he showed well, no doubt. And you know that's the website is very well thought out and I think it's a nice mix of accessible plus you know some pretty high end information. It’s pretty neat.
Andrew: So part of your winnings was one full year of a premium TriDot subscription for free. And I was more than happy to jump into your triathlon journey when they asked me if I would like to coach you for the year. So as we head into this year together, and you and I, of course have already talked about this, but just for the audience to hear, you know, what are your goals for the upcoming year of triathlon?
Chris: Well, you know, the first thing I was like a lot of the people I was like, well, let's try to get a new, you know, big race on the calendar and we discussed that and, you know, there's a lot of skepticism of whether big races are going to happen in 2020. And I was thinking back to one of the earlier episodes that talked about strength before length and that sort of business. And look, you call yourself the captain of the middle of the pack. I'm definitely a middle of the pack sort of guy.
Andrew: We belong together.
Chris: Yes, we're pretty similar. You're actually faster than me on the run, give yourself credit, and on the swim, but, you know, I thought, well, let's just, you know, you suggested this and I like the idea…we’re to spend…my big race is deferred till next June. I'm going to do that same race next year, as long as all goes well. And we're going to spend the whole year just working on building on my power and strength on the running and swimming and bike and then, you know, I think this is one of those rare opportunities in life. So if that's in June, you know, there's maybe an opportunity to extend the maybe I'll actually, you know, pay it back to TriDot and keep the coaching going and think about a full Ironman late season race next year. So that's, I feel like I kind of like would like to see how it almost like get back on maybe here again and talk about how it's been going for a year of taking advantage of all the things that TriDot has done for me, but I really feel like it's a really cool opportunity. I wouldn't have thought of doing those things. But you know, it's like maybe this accelerates the timeline, right. It's, you know, you take advantage of the good hand that you've been dealt. And yes, I aim to do that. We'll probably throw in, you know, maybe I'll do a half marathon or some Olympic distance stuff, but the main thing is to really focus on dialing in that speed work so that we can get me stronger and faster. And yes, if like other TriDoters, I need to put something on the calendar just to scratch that itch. Maybe we'll do that but the big ones are going to wait and we're going to be patient with the training and do the training right. And I think it'll be really fun to see how that pays off in ’21.
Andrew: Yes, I love it. And, you know, I'm obviously going to be spearheading you know your coaching team but I'm already kind of planning on you know, getting Jeff Raines’s expert eyes on your running form and getting Jeff Booher’s expert eyes on your swimming form and we're going to make sure that you are set up to make the most out of your year on premium. So super pumped to be working with you, man, and just super happy for you. I know you've been posting on the TriDot Facebook group quite a bit to kind of show you know, the bike you won and the stuff you won and all the athletes really enjoy seeing that right. We love living vicariously through other athletes when they get a new bike or get some new gear and so I know everybody's going to be really excited to follow your journey and see where it takes you this year, Chris.
Chris: Well, thanks. I'm just you know, I can't say how thankful I am for all the kindness that you guys have given me and it's not just, you know, material goods, it's just a nice reminder of the generosity of people, you know, with their time with their thoughtfulness and, yes, the TriDot group has been great, you know, like I had this sort of weird feeling at the beginning like, almost like, oh, look at what I got, you know, lucky me. I wanted to be thankful because I am really thankful and I wanted to just show my support for the program because I do believe in, I was a zealot kind of before and people would corroborate that if you ask them before I won this thing, but it really is just a good example of the good things about humanity and a time where, you know, we're maybe not seeing that displayed all the time. Thanks, guys.
Andrew: Well, that's it for today, folks. I want to thank pro triathlete Elizabeth James and coach John Mayfield for talking us through the effect stress can have on our ability to train. A big thanks also to athlete Chris Hess for taking some time to share his experience with the TrainX challenge and TriDot training. Shout out to generation UCAN for partnering with us on today's episode. Head to you ucan.com to find out what superstar product is the best fit to fuel your training and racing.
Enjoying the podcast? Have any questions or topics you want to hear us talk about? Head to tridot.com/podcast to send us an email or record your voice for the show. We'll do it all again soon. Until then. Happy training.
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