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Getting in Touch with Your Inner Penguin- How to Race in Cold Water Temperatures

July 18th, 2009

refridge-not-freze1 All swimmers need to be in touch with their inner-penguin. Sometimes the water temperatures are more artic-like than tropical-like and swimmers need to be prepared.

How to approach a swim on race day when water temperatures are very cold is not something triathletes and swimmers give too much thought to. Cold temperatures definitely impact race strategy, as I learned first hand this past weekend at the Blackfly Triathlon in beautiful Waterville Valley, NH. This was the first ever Blackfly tri put on by Keith Jordan of Endorfun (although it was not the first time Waterville Valley was used as a venue– the first Mooseman tri was held there a few years back). With all the rain and cool, cloudy conditions we’ve had this year in New England combined with the fact that the pond for the swim is mountain stream-fed, water temperatures for the swim were a balmy 53 degrees. That’s a few degrees colder than most folks are used to swimming in this time of year (at least in fresh water– the ocean in New England can remain quite chilly throughout the summer).

So, what should you do when the water temps for the swim are icy cold (besides pray that they cancel or shorten the swim– in the case of the Blackfly this year, the swim was shortened from two loops to one)? Let you inner penguin come out! Namely:

  • Don the ‘ol tuxedo- Penguins have built-in insulation and buoyancy. You need the same when the conditions are cold, so slap on the wetsuit (full sleeve preferably). Wet suits are legal in USAT-sanctioned and most other sanctioned triathlons (pure swimming races can vary– check with the rules for the event), so wearing a wet suit should be at the top of the list. Not only will the wetsuit protect you from the cold temps, but also provide you additional buoyancy, which will help you complete the race faster. Also, wear a neoprene cap (your race cap can go over this) to protect your head from the cold. This is especially true for the hair-challenged people (like me). Finally, get a pair of neoprene booties that will protect your feet. Neoprene gloves also exist, but are not legal at USAT races and most other tris and swimming events, so leave them at home. Finally, practice ahead of time swimming with the wetsuit, neoprene cap and booties, especially if you know you will use them in race conditions. You want to be sure you are used to the swimming motion with this gear (especially the wetsuit) and not have any suprises on race day.
  • Flap around a bit- When you first enter the water your body is going to go into a bit of shock– your heart is going to try work harder to push blood throughout your core to help warm up your body, which will cause you to feel a bit out of breath initially. It takes a few minutes for this to effect to wear off as your body adapts. In the meantime, it can be a bit uncomfortable to swim. Use this time to gather your bearings– try breaststroking a bit, which will keep your head above the water (freestyle keeps your head under making it a bit harder to breath). You can also try flipping over onto your back, which will expose your face upward. The goal is to keep your face out of the water so you can breath better and get used to your environs. I needed to do this last week at the Blackfly. It not only helped with my breathing, but also helped my face warm up a bit, which was ice cold from the water. After about 30-45 seconds I felt a lot better and swam onward. The few seconds you take to do this will make up for any time you would have lost had you not done it.
  • Get your feathers ruffled- Before you even start the swim, it’s a good idea to get your muscles warmed up a bit (pre-race warm-up should be part of your routine in any case). Warm, loose muscles will perform better when you enter the cold water, helping your body avoid any initial shortness of breath when entering and priming it for a full swim race effort. I would recommend warming up outside of the water by running or biking a bit (probably about 10 minutes until you have worked up a slight sweat). Ideally, you’d do this about 10 minutes before you have to enter water so you don’t cool down prior to entering the water. You could also try warming up by swimming in the water itself– not a bad idea, but it probably won’t be as quick as going for a run or bike.
  • Don’t waddle, but run- When coming out of the water, don’t waddle like a penguin, but rather run! Do a strong run to transition (T1), which will help keep your body nice and warmed up as you get ready for the bike, especially if it is a cooler day. Some races will provide a warming tent where you can get warmed up coming out of the water and before going to the transition area (they did this at the Blackfly). However, unless you are super-cold and see good reason for it, don’t spend the time getting warmed up in the tent. Rather run hard directly to your gear in transition to generate heat as you go to T1 and onto your bike.
Finish line at the Blackfly Triathlon

Finish line at the Blackfly Triathlon

Hopefully it will be rare occasions when you have to swim in water temperatures that are in the low 50s or even lower. If you live in cold weather environments, like anywhere in the northern part of the US or Europe, you need to be prepared. It may not be Antartica, but it is helpful to act like one of the best swimmers from that part of the world, the penguin.

Ascending Athlete #1: Robin Saitz

July 14th, 2009

I’ve started a series called “Ascending Athletes”, which features people achieving great things in their lives and/or impacting the lives of others through athletics. I’m featuring athletes of all backgrounds, sports and skill levels. Everyone has a story to tell– whether a recreational or beginner just starting to work out or a hardcore athlete who is competing at an elite level. The goal of the Ascending Athlete series is to capture these stories and inspire others to seek similar challenges and rewards. If you would like to share your story or would like to nominate someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know.

Robin Saitz

Robin Saitz (left) getting ready for the PMC

Robin Saitz (left) getting ready for the PMC

One of the most profound and inspirational ways individuals can use athletics to drive themselves to new levels and at the same time impact the lives of others is through event fundraising. There are millions of people worldwide who suffer from debilitating diseases that limit or eliminate their ability to compete in athletics and impact the quality of their lives. Fortunately, there are millions more who seek to help them by raising money for research, raising awareness and most importantly, demonstrating that they care. One of those people is Robin Saitz. I met Robin a few months back through the social media circles in the Boston area. Robin is the type of person who is full of enthusiasm, which rubs off on the people around her. Her enthusiasm tends to get people to join in her in various efforts, one of which is the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC), a non-profit organization dedicated to raising money for cancer research and treatment at the Dana Farber Institute through an annual bike-a-thon across the state of Massachusetts. Since 1980, thousands of riders have raised nearly $240 million dollars by riding a 190 mile, two-day bike course across the state, as well as shorter distance options. This year’s event takes place August 1st and 2nd, 2009.

Robin will riding her 16th PMC, and serving as the captain of her company’s team, PTC. You can learn more about Robin’s efforts and help sponsor this great event at her website (www.pmc.org/profile/RS0022).

Robin was gracious enough to answer some questions and share some of her thoughts on what makes her an Ascending Athlete:
Why are athletics important to you?

Growing up, athletics were not important to me at all. It took going to college and gaining the “freshman 15” that made me take a look in the mirror and decide I needed to exercise. So I started walking….a lot. The summer after freshman year I walked everyday about 10 miles and I joined a gym (a dive, I might add, where I ultimately met my husband) and started lifting and doing the stairs and even running. I really got into great shape and felt great when I worked out. I have been working out ever since. Now I have bad day if DON’T work out, that’s how addicted I’ve become to the aerobic activity and the endorphins.

Why did you decide to ride the PMC?

As I said, I met my husband at the gym and I quickly figured out if I was going to keep up with him I’d have to pick up cycling. We knew people who had done the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC) and loved it, but honestly, we were a little intimidated by the fundraising, then the minimum was $900, and I was intimidated by the distance. But I got over both hurdles and have been riding the PMC for 16 years. The first year we were motivated more by cycling the distance than the actual cause. But once you ride the PMC, you realize it has nothing to do with cycling and it’s ALL about raising money for life-saving cancer research.

Are you riding in the name or memory of someone you know who has had cancer?

Over the years we have dedicated our ride and fundraising efforts to many people in our lives: Monica Weinstein, who lost her battle to breast cancer at the young age of 40 years old; Carl Ockerbloom and Cheun Lee, both colleagues from PTC who succumbed to cancer at young ages; Janet Baldassarre, who has successfully beat cancer not once, but twice; Flo Plotkin, my aunt who lost her battle to lung cancer; and this year we are dedicating our fundraising to the doctors, nurses, and technicians of the Dana Farber/Children’s Hospital Cancer Care Center, who responded quickly to a recent scare we had with our 13-year old son. Fortunately, it turned out not to be cancer, but this team of specialists assembled quickly, gathered information in a non-invasive way, investigated his case thoroughly, and, in a matter of 5 days (which felt like a long time to us) determined that he did not have cancer.


What are some future goal(s) or event(s) you’d like to participate in?

I am eager to see my children, now 11 and 13, ride in the PMC. To date they have organized an annual lemonade stand/bake sale to help us with our fundraising and they have participated in the PMC Kids ride in Newton. But I really look forward to the day, maybe in the next couple of years, where they can join me and my husband in this life-changing event.
Tell us about one interesting fact or story that makes you unique and interesting

While this is my 16th year riding the PMC, this is the 8th year I have captained a team from my company, PTC. This is especially rewarding to me because we are able to involve the entire PTC community in the team, from jersey design, to volunteers at the event, to fundraising. We have tremendous support from our executives, some who have joined us on the ride, others who have donated fun items to our auction (i.e. parking spaces for month, golf with the CEO), and have sponsored the team. Team PTC has raised over $640K for life-saving cancer research in memory of our colleagues and at the same time we have created a meaningful connection around an important cause for our employees.

Thanks to Robin for her inspiring story– she’s truly an Ascending Athlete!

To learn more about Ascend Sports Conditioning, our mission, focus and dedication to helping people ascend to new levels through athletics, please visit www.ascendsportsconditioning.com

Ascending Athletes – Tell Your Story!

July 13th, 2009

Are you (or do you know someone) doing great things through athletics in life? If so, I want to know about it! I’ll be profiling athletes on my blog (this blog!) periodically who are are achieving success in their lives and impacting the lives of others through athletics. I call these folks “Ascending Athletes”. You don’t have to be a client of Ascend Sports Conditioning to be an Ascending Athlete (although that would be welcome & encouraged), but simply someone– no matter at what level or what sport– who is active in athletics and be able to demonstrate how your activities are having a positive impact upon yourself or others. You could be a hardcore athlete who just summited Everest or completed a double Ironman or a beginner who just started jogging or going to the gym– doesn’t matter…if you’ve got a story, I want to know about it!

Why am I doing this? It’s really simple: I love the impact athletics has on a person’s life and want to tell those stories. These stories are inspirational & provide motivation for others. The reason why I coach is to help foster these positive, life-changing impacts & help others create these inspirational stories. Profiling these folks are a way to get these stories out & inspire others.

So, if you are interested or if you know others who are interested, please spread the word. The only thing you’ll need to do is answer a few questions– that’s it! If you’d like to be contacted or could recommend someone as an Ascending Athlete, please let me know by adding a comment to this blog, or contact me through a variety of ways in the socialsphere (email, Twitter, etc.).

I look forward to hearing from you!

Overcoming adversity like a moose!

June 8th, 2009
Mooseman Half Ironman race finish

Mooseman Half Ironman race finish

One of my favorite races was this past weekend– the Mooseman Half Ironman on Newfound Lake, NH. This was my third time doing the Mooseman Half Ironman (I’ve done the international distance a couple of times before as well, when it was known as Granite Ledges), and this race always seems to pose a major challenge for me. Last year it was the intense heat (90+ degrees and high humidity) and this year it was a flat tire on the bike. The race got me thinking about adversity during the race and how to deal with it (like a moose!).

I love doing the Mooseman for multiple reasons, one of the main ones being that the race organizer, Keith Jordan, does an absolutely fantastic job organizing the race– it’s a ‘must do’ for any triathlete (and worth traveling to if you’re from out of state). Keith really focuses on the little details, which make a huge difference. From entertainment along the course to well-laid out aid stations to a fantastic post-race spread, his events are the best (check out his other events at www.timbermantri.com).

However, none of Keith’s attention to detail changes the fact that it is a very challenging course. With it’s rolling hills-dominated bike and a not-so-flat run, the Mooseman will provide you a good test for you to overcome. The swim is in beautiful Lake Newfound, which is one of the cleanest lakes in North America, but can be a bit on the cool side (yesterday was about 59 degrees) in early June. From the onset, you have to be ready to deal with the challenges of the course.

In my case, my main challenge came when I flatted at mile 40 and had some difficulties getting the tire on and off (new tires tend to be less flexible), which added a bunch of time to my bike and overall results. In the scheme of things, I can’t complain as it’s my first flat ever in a race. Considering how many races I’ve done, one flat is pretty good. Nonetheless, it is frustrating when you’ve trained so hard for the event to have a flat throw a big monkey wrench into your plans.

Bike in Transition Area- Before the Flat Tire

Bike in Transition Area- Before the Flat Tire

Adversity is part of the sport and it’s important to have a game plan for dealing with it. Some things to think about if you find yourself facing an unplanned for adverse situation, such as a flat tire, lost goggles, or even a crash on the bike:

  • assess the situation & put safety first- Before anything else, your health and safety come first. Forget about trying to achieve a specific time or beating your main competitor– none of that means anything if you risk serious injury or worse. If you’re injured or risk further injury that will prevent you from additional training or racing, drop out and seek medical attention.
  • remain mentally focused- When you’ve got a race goal in mind and are cranking along, nothing can be more deflating than an unforseen adverse situation (mechanical failure, etc.). However, it’s not the end of the race. It’s important that you remind yourself that it’s a temporary setback and that you need to deal with it. Keep a positive mindset & reinforce it with positive visualization of you dealing with the adverse situation and continuing on with the race. That’s precisely what I did when I got my flat yesterday– I just said to myself, “I’ll just deal with this and be back on the bike in no time. I’ll be happy with whatever time I get.”. Of course I was frustrated, but I quickly dealt with that and moved forward. Hopefully you have a race strategy for every big race and part of it should be having realistic goals and dealing with adversity.
  • conduct a post-race evaluation- Once the race is over, take some time to think about what happened so that you can pull some lessons from the situation and be better prepared next time. Are there things you could have done differently? (Maybe inspected your bike more closely, swim more defensively, worn blister-prevention socks on the run, etc.). Could you have reacted differently? If you maintain a journal, write down your evaluation and key lessons learned. Apply the lessons learned for future events and try to avoid the situation again in the future!

What has worked for you in overcoming adversity in a race?

Five Keys to Improving Your Ice Climbing Skills

March 18th, 2009

The conditions continue to be great for climbing up in northern New England, so I’ve delayed my long weekend training for the upcoming triathlons to take advantage of some ice. We ended up back at the Flume, hoping to catch a climb at the Pool called Swain’s Pillar, a 4+ climb, but unfortunately it is exposed in the sun and got baked out (not to mention the riverbed was exposed). It would have been a great climb had it been in since you need to be lowered to it and climb up a nice ice pillar. As a result, we hiked around to the main crag at the Flume and climbed some grade 3 ice (which is normally grade 4, but given the warm temps and soft ice, it was more like a 3). We found an ice cave along the way (see videos below).

While climbing (and often times battling) up the climbs this weekend at the Flume, I got thinking about what it takes to improve your ice climbing skills. I think it boils down to five main things:

1. Natural ability- okay, this is something that is out of your control, but there’s no doubt if if you are a natural athlete and a natural climber, you will be a better climber. There are things you can do to fine tune your natural ability, which is where the next four come into play.

2. Practice, practice, practice- I firmly believe how you progress is a function of how often you go. The more you go, the better you become. This seems like a no-brainer, but climbing is one of those things that takes coordination and planning to do, so you need to be focused in terms of when you’re going to go. If you go once a week, don’t expect to see much improvement. Twice a week is much better, allowing the muscles a chance to adapt and you to work on your skills.

3. Rock climbing- You will only get better at ice climbing if you rock climb. With rock climbing, you cannot make your own holds, and you are forced to think about your moves and get your body into the right sequence. These skills are directly transferable to ice climbing, particularly on harder, more sustained and/or mixed routes.

4. Strength training- Climbing itself will allow you to become stronger, but you need to supplment it with a regular regiment of strength training. You don’t have to load on the weight, but rather work on more power movements that simulate climbing. It’s not about bulking up, but rather building explosive power.

5. Mental skills- Climbing more than any other sport perhaps, is a mental game. The reasons should be obvious– you’re dealing with a number of conditions that aren’t natural for humans all at once– being up high, ice in your face, getting balance and moving upward, often times extreme cold and wind, among other things. This requires you to tune your mind to deal with the adversity and remain focused.

Certainly there are other things that you can do to improve your ice climbing skills, but at an individual level, these are the main five.

Spring Conditions

March 12th, 2009

Springtime hit northern New England this past weekend, with highs soaring into the upper 40s. It made for some prime ice climbing at the Flume in Franconia Notch, NH. The ice was really wet and plastic-like, thus making the routes much easier than normal. My friend and fellow climber, Mike Coote and I did laps up several routes in the Flume. Here’s a few videos of the conditions.

We also ran into Susanne and Connie from NEMO Equipment as they were climbing.

I’m not envisioning this being the end of the ice climbing season 2009 quite yet. Certainly with the warm temps, we’ve seen things come down in the valleys, but in the ravines it should still be quite good for some time.

Cross-country skiing, however is another story…..Skiing was not great on Sunday at Bretton Woods, but nonetheless it was great to get out and get the HR up. It was also good to get Mike Coote skate skiing for the first time!

Take advantage of the spring conditions. This time of year is fantastic with the warmer temps and longer days with more sunlight so you can stay out longer. Most of us are eager to whip out our bikes and get ready for the cycling and tri season (which you should be doing anyway!), but don’t miss the opportunity to get out and take advantage of the conditions in March and April in the mountains.

It’s Fun to Explore from Your Armchair Sometimes

February 25th, 2009

Last night I attended the Banff Mountain Film Festival’s World Tour 2009, in it’s local stop at the Regent’s Theater in the Boston area. Attending the film festival is an annual event for me. It’s absolutely fantastic and reminds me of why I love adventure and the outdoors. Sometimes it’s fun to explore the outdoors as an armchair warrior. You get to kick back and see what crazy, fun and inspirational stuff people out there are doing. There were a number of films shown worth mentioning, but my favorites were “Psyche: Patagonian Winter“, by Andy Kirkpatrick and Ian Parnell, two British climbers who attempted to climb Torre Egger during the winter in Argentina’s Patagonia. Below is a short trailer.

Their story reminded me of my expeditions to South America, and the harshness of climbing at altitude. I never attempted anything quite as difficult as Torre Egger, but had similar experiences that they had with severe weather, being grounded at camp, dealing with health issues, among other things. One of the things that struck me most was their positive attitude throughout their experience. Mountaineering, like triathlon and other endurance sports is very much a mental game and having a positive attitude makes or breaks your experience.

Another of my favorites was “The Last Frontier: Conservation and Exploration in Papua New Gineau”. Below is a short trailer.

This film in support of Rivers in Demand, told the story of a group of American kayakers and conservationists, led by Trip Jennings, who kayaked one of the world’s last unexplored river’s in New Britain, Papau New Gineau. Besides the amazing white water and scenery, what made this film so special was the emphasis on local cultures and the importance of saving those cultures and the world’s critical ecosystems. I should also point out, another cool thing was that the kayakers in the film were using tents supplied by Nemo Equipment, owned and operated by my friend Cam Bremsinger. It was great to see the tents in the footage.

If you have an opportunity, get out and see these films, and explore some of the great film, literature, and other art coming out of the Banff Centre up in Canada. You’ll carry the inspiration into your own workouts and every day life.

The Case for Winter: Multisport at it’s Best

January 28th, 2009

gary-ice-climbingI’m a huge fan of the winter. It’s a great time to diversify your workout routine, get outside and explore. I have many friends and colleagues who don’t like winter, mainly because they choose to hibernate. (Hibernation is for bears). I also have many friends (and some clients), who continue to do the same activities they do in the summer, except they do it indoors on a machine. Don’t get me wrong– it’s important to continue to train your sport year round depending upon what your goals and objectives are (I myself spend lots of time on my bike trainer and in the pool during the winter), but at the same time, it’s important to supplement those workouts with other activities to challenge your body in new ways, vary up your normal activities thus making it more interesting, as well as take advantage of the conditions are around you. There’s no better opportunity to do so than the winter.

If you’re a triathlete, a runner, a cyclist, a swimmer or any other type of endurance athlete, here are some ideas for winter outdoor activities that you can do:

1. Nordic skiing- There’s possibly no better exercise in the winter for endurance athletes. Nordic skiing is a low-impact, full-body workout where it’s easy to manage the intensity levels. I prefer skate skiing since I like the motion and the speed, but classic cross-country skiing is also fantastic. In the winter, I substitute some of my runs with cross country skiing. I also continue to run in the winter, but find skate skiing a good way to break up the routine as well as give my body a break from the pounding of running.

Skate skiing- hight intensity and fun!

Skate skiing- hight intensity and fun!

2. Hiking/snowshoeing- Winter hiking is much more fun than the summer. Not only do you not have the black flies, but there are also fewer people around, not to mention that hiking in the winter is much easier on the body since the snow pack is soft (not hard, like the rocks you typically hike on in the summer). Winter hiking is an aerobic endurance workout, but also an anaerobic endurance workout, especially if you are carrying a pack going up steep terrain. I will often intentionally load up a heavy pack, find a steep mountain (typically in the White of New Hampshire) and feel my hear rate go up and my glutes burn up as I take steps up the peak. While you can choose to go hiking up a mountain, you don’t necessarily need to be gaining vertical height in order to go hiking in the winter. There is great hiking in many cities, mainly in parks. In fact, my wife (in the photo) and I went out for a snowshoe today in Great Brook State Park, which is right outside of Boston. We got a great workout on relatively flat terrain.

Leslie snowshoeing-- great winter workout for endurance atheletes
Leslie snowshoeing– great winter workout for endurance atheletes

3. Backcountry skiing- One of the best (and most fun) winter activities is backcountry skiing (skiing at a resort is okay if you conditions in the backcountry aren’t good). Backcountry skiing develops your aerobic endurance (since most of the time you need to skin up what you’re going to ski down), as well as your strength and balance on the run down (particularly in the backcountry where there are more obstacles you need to manuever around). Living in New England, it’s a bit tough to find great backcountry ski conditions, and when you do, it’s a limited window, so I don’t go as much as I’d like. However, when I do, it’s always a fantastic adventure, and one where I come back exhausted and exhilirated.

4. Ice climbing- “What?!”, you say, “ice climbing?!”. Yes, ice climbing. And, no, it’s not as dangerous as you think. Of course, you need to understand the basics of climbing and how to safely climb. Once you have mastered that, ice climbing is a fantastic aerobic endurance (yes, aerobic), as well as anaerobic endurance workout. Ice climbing develops core strength and balance, as well as forces you to sharpen your mental skills and stamina (many claim that ice climbing is 80% mental). In the winter, I try to ice climb once a week, not only because it’s a great workout, but also it gets you outdoors and to places you wouldn’t otherwise see (such as the ice-filled ravines of Mount Washington, NH).

Climbing at Echo Crag, NH- great aerobic (yes, aerobic) workout

Climbing at Echo Crag, NH- great aerobic (yes, aerobic) workout

I’ve listed just a few activities you can do in the winter– there are certainly many others. What winter outdoor activities do you like?

The Love of Coaching

December 30th, 2008

I am excited to launch my new website in support of Ascend Sports Conditioning (ASC), including a new logo (thanks to Brenda Riddell of Graphic Details!), as well as my new blog, Ascending Higher.The goal of this blog is to inspire.It’s really that simple. Personal coaching of any sort—whether it’s for athletic, nutritional and mental skills training (which is what we do at ASC), life coaching, professional development in the workplace, instruction in the classroom, or any other area, should always aim to inspire the person or people being coached (athletes, employees, students, customers, etc.).Coaching means leadership and leadership means inspiration. I’ll seek to use Ascending Higher as a way to inspire my athletes, but also those who are not my athletes or clients and who are seeking to learn something new about multisport.That something new could be a variety of things, such as new training techniques and workouts, nutritional program design, mental skills training, great areas to train and climb in New England or around the world, race reports, what I have found inspirational in my own daily life in training and events, or a whole number of other multisport adventure topics.Comments and feedback are whole-heartedly welcome, of course.I want this to be a conversation with YOU, so please comment away on any and all of the blog posts and let me know what you’re thinking!
With that stated, I thought a great place to start would to describe why I coach.I think this is a great place to start for two reasons:1) so that you can better understand Ascend Sports Conditioning and what we’re all about, and along the way, 2) help you focus on the key things you should be looking for when selecting a coach.Selecting a coach to work with is a big decision, with the most important factor being how much you can relate to and trust the coach. How you relate to and why you trust the coach is tied directly to what motivates that individual to be a coach.If you can identify with the motivations and reasons why someone coaches, chances are that person would be a good coach for you.
I’ve tried to keep it simple.There are four fundamental reasons why I coach:

Reason #1: A passion for teaching

People always ask me, “So, why do you do it? Why do you coach?”. I never hesitate in my answer, supplying my #1 reason: I love to teach. I love to work with others and help them achieve their goals and do things that they never thought possible.There is nothing more rewarding in life. The most important quality you can have as a coach is being a good teacher—everything else is secondary.I know great, world renowned athletes who are fantastic at their sport, but are not great teachers, and hence they would not make great coaches.Conversely, I know athletes who would consider themselves ‘average to below average’ at their sport, but are fantastic teachers, and hence would make great coaches.While it’s important to have the experience and knowledge of the discipline that you coach (in fact, you can’t coach without that knowledge!), it’s more important to have the skill to successfully communicate that knowledge in a simple, interesting and motivating manner.

Reason #2: Because You CAN do it

When I was growing up, I was not the most athletic person among my peers.In fact, I was often the kid picked last in gym class.Since then, however, I have accomplished many athletic feats, including Ironman triathlon events, scaling high peaks of the Andes, Himalaya and other mountain ranges, cycled countless century rides, and many other things I never thought possible. What drove me was a combination of many things, but mainly confidence in myself. I derived this confidence from self-discipline, but more importantly from interaction with others– from cycling, running and swimming friends, to climbing partners, to supportive friends and family. Through showing me proper technique, going out on long training workouts, urging me to sign up for a variety of events, and being supportive in every way possible, they taught me that I COULD do it. And if I could do it, then anyone could do it! This realization is one of the key things that led me to coaching and what drives me as a coach. With proper self-discipline, good health and an ability to remain injury-free, anyone can achieve any athletic goal they wish, whether it be to complete an Ironman triathlon, run a marathon, or climb to 20,000+ feet. My goal as a coach is to not only supply the physical, nutritional and mental tools for my clients, but also the motivation and reinforcement of self-confidence.

Reason #3: Community and the love of adventure & exploration

Being a multisport coach requires you to maintain a certain level of knowledge and a high level of interaction with athletes, other coaches, and experts in all area of the sport (doctors, physical therapists, nutritionists, etc.). I can leverage the collective intelligence of this community to help my coaching, and at the same time contribute back to this community, helping others along the way.

Being part of this community, however, also has additional important meaning. Simply put, the multisport community is a lot of fun. The folks who are part of this community have an unparalleled zest for life, which you will not find in any other walk of life. There’s an unending desire for adventure and exploration. It’s refreshing and inspirational. It makes you feel alive. There’s an instant, electric connection between people who love do adventure sports. Someone once described it to me: “Once I know someone loves to train hard and get dirty, I know we’ll get along just fine.” I feel the same way. Once I find out someone loves to run, ice climb, kayak, skate ski, or do any other similar adventure activity, I immediately know they share the same attitude and that we have a common bond. Being a coach allows me to not only establish these bonds, but also maintain them and be an integral part of the larger multisport community.

Reason #4: On-going learning

You never stop learning as a coach. This on-going learning is one of the most rewarding aspects of being a coach and one of the main reasons why I do it. I not only continually learn through the formal training and experience I have completed and continue to undertake every year (USA Triathlon, USA Cycling and other courses), but perhaps more importantly, the informal learning I receive from other coaches, experts, as well as my athletes. This on-going learning is critical in a discipline like multisport, where you need to have an understanding of the science and the art of the sport. It’s not only all about heart rate zones, lactate threshold, number of reps and amount of calories, but also the anecdotal lessons learned through experience—the experience of other coaches, experts and athletes. One of the major reasons why I coach is the learning received from these lessons, which enrich me as an individual, and also allow me to be a better, more inspirational coach.

There are lots of other reasons why I love to coach, but most of them would be supporting reasons to the main four outlined above. I am hoping these reasons resonate with you and you will elect to be part of the journey on Ascending Higher.