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Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Why, What and When of Pre Event Nutrition

There is a lot of confusing information when it comes to what and when to eat before an event. Most people are nervous and /or excited enough without having to worry about this. And the last thing you want to do is mess up all that great training by having issues during the event.

First some back ground - if you want to skip to the end for the specifics that's fine but some people like to understand the science - and it helps to validate the recommendations.

Stored Energy.
There are essentially two systems in which the body stores energy - lipid (fat) and glycolic (sugar).

For high intensity exercise like a sprint distance triathlon or a Crossfit WOD the primary fuel is glycogen (sugar). Glycogen is stored both in the liver and muscles. Logically the more muscle mass you have the greater the amount of glycogen you can store but greater muscle mass burns more glycogen in order to move so it tends to average out. The liver stores around 100g (440 calories) and muscle ranges between 320g (1400 calories) and 450g (2000 calories). As mentioned more muscle means more glycogen but also a higher burn rate so regardless of the total maximum amount stored the body stores enough glycogen for around 1 hour and 40 minutes of exercise. MORE than enough for even a long WOD like Murph.

This means that ‘carb loading’ isn’t necessary for shorter events like a WOD or 5-10km running race etc. For longer events or when doing multi events on the same day it should be noted that it takes around 24 hours to reload glycogen (1). Note that it doesn’t take any longer than that so people that carb load for 3-4 days are really just looking for an excuse to eat donuts..

Digesting Food.
Your body burns a lot of calories (energy) solely on digesting food. For a person on a 2000 calorie a day diet approximately 250 calories is burnt purely digesting this food. Interesting different macros require more/less calories to digest - Protein is the highest with about 20-30% of the calories in protein going to digesting it. Fats require the least energy with around 0-3% used. The time to digest food also varies - on average the majority of foods are digested in less than two hours (fruit and vegetables being the fastest) but high protein foods like steak, fish and eggs can take significantly longer - up to 5 hours.

Exercise and digestion.
For digestion, blood moves to the stomach to assist in this metabolic process. When we exercise blood is required in the muscles. As running away from the lion is more important than digesting it priority is given to the muscles so blood moves away from the stomach to the muscles. In hot weather blood also moves to the skin for cooling (blood/skin/sweat work like an evaporative air conditioner). So when exercising and especially in a hot environment like a gym/box, digestion slows significantly to the point where digestion stops. Undigested food rots in the stomach which does not create a pleasant experience for either yourself or the person following you into the portaloo…

Bringing this all together.

  1. Food takes around two hours to digest
  2. It’s better to do a hard workout on an empty stomach
  3. Protein is slow to digest
  4. The body doesn’t realise any energy from protein - in fact it consumes a significant amount digesting it. 
What all this means is that you should plan to have your pre event meal around 2 hours before the event. This provides enough time for the food to pass through the stomach and for blood sugar / insulin levels to normalise.

The pre event meal should be low in protein - in fact protein consumption for the 12 hours prior to the event should be low.

A typical pre-event meal would be something like a bagel with peanut butter, bircher muesli, sweet potato chips, pasta with non meat sauce, vegetarian pizza. Apologies for stating the obvious though but this isn’t the time to try a food you haven’t tried before so don’t go experimenting with something new.

A final word on hydration. The human body isn’t a camel - we can’t store water beyond what is stored within the cells. So whilst we don’t want to be dehydrated there is also no point in trying to over hydrate - in fact it can be more dangerous to over hydrate (hyponatremia) so I typically recommend drinking to thirst prior to the event (and even during)

(1) Carbohydrate loading in human muscle: an improved 1 day protocol.

Bussau VA1, Fairchild TJ, Rao A, Steele P, Fournier PA.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

The Five Best Supplements for Crossfit

For fifteen years as a Triathlete and as a Sports Nutritionist I was always researching the latest supplements for Endurance Sports.  Having converted to Crossfit a year ago a similar interest was sparked.  Whilst there are commonalities between the two sports there are also some very distinct differences particularly in terms of what energy systems (lipid v anaerobic/anaerobic-alactate) and muscles fibres (Slow twitch v Fast twitch) are used.  It is interesting how many supplements have made their way from Endurance Sports into the Crossfit (and Body-Building) worlds almost by default.

By definition the word Supplement means in addition to. As they say you can't out-train a bad diet so there is an expectation that your general diet is sound. As Greg Glassman, the founder of Crossfit said in 2002 - Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.

Once your diet is correct then these five supplements can help with improving the quality of your training and recovery.

Creatine (strictly Creatine Monohydrate) is one of the oldest sports supplements around.  Well tested and well proven across multiple studies and over a long period of time (which is important in terms of side effects).  Creatine can be found in small amounts in animal products such as red meat and is often an important supplement for vegetarian athletes as there are no non-animal sources. 

It is used by the body as part of the ATP-CP cycle.  In simple terms it is used for the re-synthesis of Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) which is the the body's short term (5-10 sec) max effort energy system.  For weight training ATP is the primary energy source which is where Creatine becomes useful.  Supplementing with creatine allows you to push more weight for longer periods.  More work means more stress on the muscle which results in more muscle growth (assuming other nutrition factors are correct of course) or muscle fibre recruitment.

After intense exercise such as set of heavy squats ATP typically takes around 60-90 seconds to 'reload' into a muscle.  For that reason that duration is often the optimal rest between sets

It was originally thought that you needed to load with creatine - typically 20g per day for a week before settling on a maintenance dose of 5g per day which is approximately one teaspoon of Creatine.  More recent research has shown that this loading period isn't required which is good as higher doses of Creatine can cause some people gastro intestinal (GI) distress.

Note that Creatine ONLY assists in high power, 4-10 second output.  It has no real value to longer duration outputs.  As a Triathlete I only used creatine during the off-season when hitting the gym more frequently so as to build power primarily for cycling.

Interestingly some recent studies have also shown creatine acts as a neurotransmitter increasing concentration.

Loading:   No but should be continual to maintain levels
Dosage:    5g per day.
Timing:     Daily

Branch Chain Amino Acids
Branch Chain Amino Acids, or BCAA's for short are a great supplement for Crossfit but not for the reasons commonly thought (or advertised).  BCAA's consist of three of the Essential Amino Acids - Leucine, Isoleucine and Valine.  They are called Essential Amino Acids because they are required by the body but cannot be produced by the body itself (and must therefore be consumed)  There are in fact nine Essential Amino Acids for adults - twelve for children.  The correct ratio of these three Essential Aminos Acids as part of Branch Chain Amino Acids is 2:1:1. Some supplements use different ratios often 6:1:1.  This is typically done for cost reasons - include more of a cheaper product to fill the container and then come up with pseudo-science to justify.

BCAA's are often sold as assisting with muscular development or muscular recovery/rebuilding.  This isn't strictly correct as all nine amino acids are required for this.  If muscle development is the goal then it is best to supplement with Essential Amino Acids or complete proteins.  By definition a complete protein is one that contains all of the essential amino acids in sufficient levels (the 'complete' set).  Virtually all animal derived proteins are complete - no single plant based protein is complete so sometimes supplementation of individual amino acids is required to make those proteins complete - but I digress...

BCAA's first came to prominence in my previous sporting life in endurance sports.  Numerous studies with cyclists found that supplementing with BCAA's delayed the onset of Central Nervous Fatigue (CNF) increasing power output duration by up to 10%.  In essence they help delay mental fatigue when exercising.

Ever noticed in an AMRAP workout that the last round is one of the fastest ?  Or the last kilometre in a marathon is one of the quickest ?  This is due to Central Nervous Fatigue (CNF) in the middle rounds.  Once 'the end is in sight' CNF is easily overcome hence the quicker final round.  The fatigue in a longer workout often isn't muscular (if it was the final round wouldn't be quicker) but mental.

For longer work outs including multi-WOD sessions BCAA's can assist with delaying the onset of mental fatigue and maintaining power output.  Outside of the workout itself there is little value in supplementing with BCAA's

Loading:   No
Dosage:    10g per hour of exercise.
Timing:     During Exercise

Beta Alanine
Like BCAA's, Beta Alanine as a sports supplement's heritage is endurance sports.  Beta Alanine works by helping to increase Carnosine levels within the blood.  During sustained exercise the 'burn' that athletes feel is often incorrectly attributed to lactic acid where in fact it is a build up of Hydrogen ions in the blood in the muscle.  Carnosine assists in clearing these ions and reducing this burning feeling which assists with prolonging output.  Beta Alanine takes time to assist in building up Carnosine.  It is not an immediate dose/response effect and can take up to fourteen days to have a significant effect on carnosine levels.  Therefore it should loaded for around fourteen days and then dosage maintained.  Sports drinks which contain Beta Alanine are not particularly effective due to the time it takes for Carnosine to increase.  Beta Alanine, like BCAA's is most effective for longer term output (hence its endurance heritage) than for short term explosive output.

People who consume Beta Alanine often experience a tingling feeling at the skin.  Many athletes I work with actually call Beta Alanine their 'itchy pills'.  This is a histamine response and is completely harmless.

Loading:   Yes.  Approximately 14 days
Dosage:    4g per day.
Timing:     Daily

Casein Protein
Casein Protein is Whey Protein's lesser known Big brother.  Like Whey, Casein is derived from milk and is complete in terms of Essential Amino Acids. It's Whey's BIG brother as there is more Casein Protein in milk than there is Whey even though Whey is more popular.  The difference between Whey and Casein is that the later is digested more slowly resulting in higher levels of blood amino acids for a more sustained period of time. Amino Acid levels in the blood have been shown to be elevated for up to seven hours after consuming Casein protein.

This means from an overnight recovery perspective Casein protein is superior.  Immediately after a workout Whey is preferred as amino acids are required quickly however from an overall recovery perspective a slower, more sustained release of amino acids is preferrable.  Consuming Casein protein immediately before bed ensures that adequate amino acids are available whilst we recover over night.  Personally I have found that taking Casein immediately before bed lessens the incidence of muscle soreness such as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) the following day.

When performing endurance sports the volume of muscle breakdown is relatively low.  High Intensity sports and sports that involve moving heavy weight have a higher incidence of muscle breakdown and therefore need for amino acids for repair.  For these type of sports I generally recommend around 1.5g of complete protein per kilogram of bodyweight - for an 80kg athlete this means around 120 grams of protein per day.  Most people struggle to digest more than 30g of protein in a single serving and, in fact, excess protein consumption can actually down regulate protein absorption - in simple terms eating more protein can mean you digest LESS overall.  I typically recommend around 30g of Casein protein immediately before bed.

Loading: No
Dosage :  30g per day with consideration of overall daily protein consumption
Timing:  On days of high muscle damage workouts

Magnesium is a co-factor in over 350 enzymatic reactions in the body. It is necessary for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscular activity, heart function, temperature regulation, detoxification reactions, formation of healthy bones and improving insulin sensitivity.  Like Creatine, Magnesium is also used as part of the ATP-CP cycle to generate energy with muscles, it is required for the generation of hormones such as testosterone and Insulin Growth Factor (IGF-1) and even plays a role in protein synthesis.  Magnesium is also a muscle relaxant for recovery.  It is, as the key ingredient in laxettes, the ultimate muscle relaxant so care should be taken when consuming...

Magnesium is easily sourced from natural sources such as nuts and green vegetables however two things should be noted
1.  Modern farming techniques have meant less magnesium in the soil and therefore less magnesium is available in the food grown in them.
2.  Like creatine, a serious athletes Magnesium requirement can be much higher.

As magnesium supplementation has become more popular virtually every vitamin manufacturer has a magnesium supplement however many of these contain a 'cheap' form of magnesium such as Magnesium Oxide and Hydroxide.  Although inexpensive these forms of magnesium are poorly absorbed by the body.  In terms of absorption chelated magnesium is probably the best although Magnesium Sulphate (also known as Epsom Salts) is well absorbed through the skin.

The recommended dosage for Magnesium is around 400mg per day taken before bed.

Loading:   No
Dosage:    200-400mg
Timing:    Nightly

There are numerous other supplements that can be beneficial such as Omega 3 fish oil, Iron and Zinc however if your diet is good and contains a balance of meats such as fish and grass fed red meat, colored vegetables and nuts there can often be easily obtained without the need for supplementation.

Got a question on one of these or think I may have missed a key one ?  Just contact me on the link at the top of the page.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Top Five Books for Business, Sport and Life

I read a lot.  Typically about a book a fortnight - sometimes more. Probably less than 1% of these are fiction with the majority being related to physiology, nutrition and psychology.  I also pride myself on the fact that I try to read books on views that are diametrically opposed to mine just so I can understand others perspectives (and sometime the basis for people arguments).  As an example I strongly disagree with Vegan beliefs from a nutrition perspective (from an animals rights perspective it's a different story) but have read The China Study and Forks over Knives.  I'm always curious how many Vegans have read Primal Body, Primal Mind and The Real Meal Revolution.

From a business, career and self awareness perspective here are my Top-5 (in no particular order)

How to Win Friends and Influence People - Dale Carnegie 1936
The title is often used in the form of an insult ("Guess they've never read How to Win Friends and Influence People..") but the tips in the book are powerful in their simplicity.  Nearly eighty years since it was first published the messages around owning up to things before they are discovered (proactive accountability) and the secret of Socrates are as relevant now as they were in 1936

The Art of War - Sun Tzu 5th Century AD.
That's right - this manifest was written one and a half millennium ago and is still just as relevant.  Messages like:-
 "To know your enemy you must become your enemy" - to think the way your competition does in order to defeat their strategy 
"He who knows when he can fight and when he cannot will be victorious" - choose when to fight and when to ignore
are as relevant in business and life in the 21st century as they were in the 5th.  In a similar vein Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings published in 1645 similar applies Japanese battlefield strategy to business and life.

When Perfect isn't Good Enough - Martin Anthony and Richard Swinson 1998
When Perfect isn't Good Enough explores the line between attention to detail and perfectionism and
the negative impact on work and relationships of crossing that line.  There are many 'Aha' moments for most people in this book as it explains the difference between 'good' stress (which makes us productive) and bad stress and talks about how stress is in fact based on fear.  Being able to recognise this can significantly reduce the 'stress' and anxiety in many aspects of life.

The Antidote - Happiness for People who cant stand Positive Thinking - Oliver Burkeman 2006
Again a funny title distracts from the true value of this book. In many ways this book is the antithesis of "The Secret" as it explores concepts around applying negative thinking (working out worse case scenarios and defining whether they are that bad anyway) and the negative impact of regimented goals in terms of tunnel vision.

Sucking the Marrow out of Life - John Maclean 2005
Not a business book in the essence of the other four but incredibly powerful and motivating.  If you
ever feel like giving up read this book.  The perseverance around completing the Hawaii Ironman and swimming the English Channel will help put your (often) first world problem in perspective.

Monday, 27 June 2016

The Whyometrics of Plyometrics

You'll often seem me in the local gym jumping from foot to foot or over benches.  Apart from giving the meat-heads something to snigger at what am I actually doing and why ?  It's called Plyometrics.  Whilst the term plyometrics is accredited to the US runner Fred Wilt, plyometrics themselves were originally created by the Russian Yuri Verkhoshansky in the late 1960's, early 1970s.  Over the years a huge number of studies have found benefits to runners and triathletes in doing plyometrics (and that doesn't include for the amusement of others)

Ground Contact time.
The most efficient part of running is when the runner is in the air.  When the runner is on the ground as part of the stride, braking forces via friction are applied and the runner's movement is slowed.  If this ground contact time is reduced then this loss of momentum is also reduced and runner moves more efficiently.  In simple terms plyometrics reduces the time between landing and leaving - from a physiology perspective what this means is reducing the time between the eccentric (lengthening) and concentric (shortening) phase of the muscle movement.  It's important to remember this - we are trying to reduce the rebound time.  So when doing plyometric exercises it's important to mimic this.  For example jumping over a bench or box isn't strictly a plyometric exercise.  Jumping over a box or bench and then IMMEDIATELY jumping straight up and trying to touch the ceiling IS a plyometric exercise as we trying to reduce the time between eccentric and concentric contractions. It is therefore important when doing plyometric exercises to try and minimise time between landing and leaving the ground.

Plyometrics also help improve the elasticity of tendons.  When running, energy is stored within ligaments and tendons (kinetic energy) - plyometrics help improve the storage/release of this energy which further assists in 'spring' and in reducing ground contact time.

Some of the new Garmin watches like the 920XT and 735 measure and record ground contact time so it's easy to track improvements.

Stride Length.
In simple terms running velocity is cadence (how many times you turn your legs over per minute) multiplied by stride length.  Reducing ground contact time improves or increases cadence but there is a finite improvement and generally this is around 195-200spm (steps per minute).  Once cadence is optimal the only way to become faster is to increase stride length (and conversely when stride length is optimal the only way to become faster is increase cadence).  Beginner runners may have a stride length as low as 30-40 centimetres whereas Olympic marathon runners can be up to and even in excess of two metres (and they are typically not very tall either - their stride length is greater than their height).

So how does jumping around improve stride length ?

One of the biggest limiters to stride length is joint range of motion mostly around the hips and hip flexors.  Some people call this flexibility but whatever the term the issue is the same - lack of hip range of motion greatly impacts how long a stride you can take.  Plyometrics facilitates Dynamic Stretching (not to be confused with Ballistic Stretching which can be dangerous).  Dynamic stretching involves taking a muscle (or joint) progressively out to it's full range as opposed to Ballistic which can take a joint or muscle beyond it's range.  Dynamic stretching is more effective than static stretching too as it over-rides the brain in restricting muscle range via the golgi reflex.

For runners, plyometric exercises such as split lunge jumps dynamically stretch the hip flexors and glutes to quickly improve Range of Motion.  Split Lunge Jumps involve standing in a lunge position, jumping up in the air from that position, swapping legs in mid air and landing in the opposite lunge stance.  As mentioned above you then want to immediately jump and swap back to the original lunge position.

Injury Prevention / Support Muscle Recruitment.
Many injuries including the common ITB issues are caused by support muscle activation (or lack of).  Unfortunately a lot of physio exercises are focused on muscle strengthening rather than activation.  For example side leg raises are great for strengthening the glute medius muscle (which helps stops the knee dropping in and aggravating the ITB) but does little to help with ensuring the muscle 'switches on' at the right time when running.  By forcing the body to try and stabilise itself (or fall over giving the meat-heads further things to snigger about) plyometrics cause subconscious activation of the support muscles.

Rather than doing leg side raises for the glute medius I recommend lateral hops. Stand on one leg.  Hop to the opposite side as far as possible and land on the other leg.  Hop back.  If it takes you a long time to stabilise/balance it's a good indicator that your stabilising muscles aren't working or activating very well.

So whilst they look trivial and are often the sessions people 'miss' (funny how an athlete will get up at 4am and run two hours in the rain but are too 'busy' for a fifteen minute plyo session) plyometics can add more value than simply just running more and in a much more time efficient manner.  

What are some of my favorite plyometic exercises for runners ?  Here are a couple :-

- Split Lunge Jump (as mentioned under stride length)
- Lateral Hops (as mentioned under Injury Prevention)
- Jump down box springs (stand on a box or bench, jump down and on landing immediately jump up and touch the ceiling)
- Box Hops. (Standing on one leg hop forward towards a box and then immediately hop up onto the box)

Rather than reps it is better to use time ie complete as many reps of an exercise in sixty seconds.  This also facilitates increasing the speed at which you are doing the reps which, in turn, makes the exercise more effective.

Monday, 6 June 2016

The Personal Best (PB) Delimma

Before reading this I want you to do a simple test.

Write down your immediate response to this scenario.  Don't over think it, don't go back and change your answer.

You have a current half marathon running PB of 1 hour and 50 minutes.

You do a 5 kilometer running test.

Based on a well proven formula that has been used to coach Olympic runners and world record holders your coach tell you that you can run a half marathon in 1 hour and 39 minutes (4:41 minutes per kilometre) and tell you to run at that pace for a half marathon event this weekend.

Your IMMEDIATE response ?

About 10 percent of people, in my experience, answer with just one word - OK.  Of the remainder about one third say "I'll try" and the remainder answer "I'm not sure (or I don't think) I can do that"
And there in lies the delimma

For many people, in order to do something, they have to know or believe they can do it. The problem is that, if that is the case, they will never consciously improve their PB.  They 'know' they can run 21.1 kilometers at 5:13 pace so they can do it. They dont know, or havent proven, they can run that distance at 4:41min/km and therefore dont believe they can. This is especially true of milestone numbers like sub 1:30 in a Half Marathon or Sub 3, Sub 4 hours in a marathon.  Studies of result in runs show clumping of results around these milestone numbers

If you have to believe via proof that you can achieve something in order to do it then, by default, you will never set a PB.

The difference with the 10 percent of people who say OK - and in my experience then typically achieve what they are asked to do is not that they 'believe' they can do it.  After all they technically have no reason to but they a) trust in the information or data given to them based on the results of studies or others and/or b) do not doubt they can do it.  There is a big difference between self belief and lack of self doubt and typically the later is more important in achieving Personal Bests.

Quite often runners or endurance athletes are very analytic which is both a good and bad thing.  Bad in that over analyse things or are governed by their own imperical evidence.  Evidence is, by definition, what HAS happened and therefore what CAN happened is definined by this evidence.  It is interesting, without getting into a religious discussion, how many people believe in things like God or life on other planets with NO evidence to actually support this yet are massively sceptical when it comes to over things.

If you are not one of the 10 percent or one third that say "I'll try" then start to look at whether your need to 'believe' is actually limiting your performance.  Then ask what do you need, outside of the performance itself, to remove any doubts.  It could be talking to one of the 10 percent who have improved their PB's based on the same system that is being used to set your goals.  It could be a case of moving to being one of the 30 perfect and saying "You know what - I'll give it a try" - maybe do this in training rather than an 'A' race if you're not 100% committed.

But the simple, limiting fact is that if you need to do something in order to believe it's possible then you will never set a PB.

Hence the PB delimna.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Change your words - change your attitude.

As a coach I often receive messages from people stating that they can't make it to a session.  Usually these messages are quite simple.

"I cant make it to track tonight"

"I can't make the swim squad as I have to work late"

Quite simple and valid, but imagine rephrasing these statements to actually reflect what you are doing.

"I cant make it to track tonight" becomes "I am making the choice that something else is more important.  I acknowledge that if I don't achieve my goals it is because of these choices"

"I cant make the swim squad as I have to work" becomes "Work is more important and again I acknowledge that if I don't achieve my goals it is because of these choices"

That is not to say that the choice to prioritise one thing over another isn't incredibly important and needs to be done frequently and typically the reason IS more important but the difference in the wording is accountability.  By acknowledging that you have made the choice to give your training a lower priority in this case you are also acknowledging that you are accountable for the outcome of missing sessions.  Life happens and we cant hit 100% of sessions but must also acknowledge, and be accountable for, the fact that if we consistently prioritise one thing over another than the goal related to the later is compromised.  

We cannot have a goal that requires 'xxx' work, do only half of the work and expect to achieve the goal.  It is interesting people that don't do the work, don't achieve the goal but then blame others. As a coach clients sometimes leave because they are not improving at the rate they expect but when looking at their logs they miss a lot of sessions.  They change coaches but still don't improve - the issue isn't the program but their lack of accountability.

When people tell me they cant make a session as they are working a simple question comes to mind.  "What if you were going to your daughter's wedding ?", "What if it was a doctors appointment for a serious issue?"  Would you make those commitments ?  Again it is not the case of one thing preventing another but rather acknowledging (and being accountable for) the fact that you are making a choice. And again that choice may be absolutely valid.

Once you start becoming accountable for your decisions and acknowledge the impact of your choices you'll be amazed how much more thought you put into them and into your priorities. One of the biggest traits that defines successful people is not their VO2Max but their ACCOUNTABILITY.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Know Your Place

The Internet is full of wonderful motivational quotes.  If our success was based purely on implementing exactly what we see in those quotes then we'd all be mega-successful.  Many of those quotes are based on visualising success - on seeing ourselves as being successful, behaving as though those things are a fatal-completes.

Two of the most common quotes are the one in the image - what matters most is how you see yourself and to act like the job you want not the job you have.

In the corporate world these quotes often cause more problems than they create the next Donald Trumps.  Imagine a waiter acting like the restaurant owner ?  Well while he's doing that who's actually serving the customers?.  It's not about pecking order but rather about developing the skills and experience at a given level before progressing to the next level.

And therein lies how it relates to Triathlon (or indeed any sport).  It's not uncommon to see athletes behaving like they are Pros (or at least how they think Pro's behave) - strutting about and going on about their 'sponsors'.  The trouble is that, like the waiter, they focus more on behaving like a Pro and forget about the basics.

A simple rule is "Know Your Place"

It's great to have aspirations to be a Pro but at any given time you are where you are.  It's not uncommon to hear athletes say to their mates "Yeh - I'm a sub 10 hour Ironman".  In their mind they are the lion in the mirror but their race results and tests mean they are, in reality, the kitten.

And therefore need to do what the kitten needs to do to become the Lion.

A fourteen hour ironman needs to do what a fourteen hour ironman needs to do to become a thirteen hour ironman.  An eleven hour ironman needs to do what an eleven hour ironman needs to do etc.  Theres no point the fourteen hour athlete spending all their time doing the sub-10 stuff if they haven't yet developed the basics.

A simple task is to look at your last 3 results relative to the field.  That is where you are at NOW. You may be able to come up with an excuse but an excuse is really just something you havent developed yet.  It was hot ?  It was hot for everyone - some people have just developed the skill of dealing with it whether that be a physical or mental skill.  Frankly drop all the excuses and just look at the data.  THAT IS WHERE YOU ARE AT.  Then, like our 14 hour ironman, look at what THAT athlete needs to do to make the next step.  Yes it may be boring and not 'glamorous' but it is what someone of YOUR level needs to do.

Dreams and Goals are important and great motivators but unless you know your place you'll never achieve them.