Life Stuff with Mike Shaffer

By | Fitness, Life Stuff, Swimming, Triathlon, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

If you’ve enjoyed reading about how fellow athletes have overcome adversity in this Life Stuff series, you are in for another treat! Mike Shaffer is a lifelong high-performing athlete with an impressive competitive resume in swimming, triathlon, and aquabike. His journey has not been without its share of valleys, though.

In 1994, Mike was nearly killed when he was struck head-on by a drunk driver during a training ride. After hitting the hood and going through the windshield of the Ford Escort, his injuries included a severed left quad, broken right foot, and knees that required reconstruction. In a 2006 interview with USMS Swimmer, Mike recalls that he returned to the pool 3 months after the accident using a one-legged turn and buoy to keep his legs afloat.

From there, he used small, realistic goals in the pool to keep himself motivated and incrementally improving.

“I was determined. I kept setting goals: 40-second 50s today…It refreshed me. I think it helped to light a fire again. Every week I was trying a new challenge.”

The following month, he completed his annual One Hour USMS swim relying almost entirely on his upper body. Another 6 months later (10 months post-accident), Mike completed Ironman Canada, setting a personal best time and a race swim course record of 43 minutes and 54 seconds. During the same season, he was awarded the USA Triathlon Comeback Award as well as gold and silver medals in the FINA Masters World Swimming Championships.

Mike claims a positive outlook and refusal to give up were the key ingredients in his return to competition. “It may take time, but stick with it” he says.

About a decade after his “comeback” into triathlon, Mike was all but forced out of the sport again. In 2004, his doctor told him to ‘stop running now or we can go ahead and schedule your knee replacement surgeries.’ Mike’s triathlon career ended soon after that discussion. However, just a few months later USAT would announce an aquabike pilot program starting in 2005. “It was a perfect transition for me” he recalls.

Mike claims 1st Overall at Aquabike Age Group Nationals in Miami, 2016

Since aquabike’s official launch, “Aquabike Mike” has earned national and world titles in the sport. At the same time, he has remained competitive in the pool where he regularly wins national titles and sets national standards on the way. As someone who has witnessed many of Mike’s training sessions and competitions first-hand, I can say that to observe him in the pool (and ocean) or on a bike is to see a masterpiece being painted. His chosen canvas is the water and the road.


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One of my goals is to live a simple life.  Some things that I aspire to live out:

  1. quitting is okay (sometimes). it can make newer, simpler, better opportunities open up.
  2. get a good great organizer/planner. online vs. paper is super cool. I like this one.
  3. declutter your life (mental/physical/emotional). only keep what you really want and need.
  4. declutter your closet. start with getting rid of one item every week.
  5. when you think about doing something, do it…before it adds another thing to your “to-do” pile.
  6. take a break. even if only for 20 seconds. breathe.
  7. journal. write out all of your thoughts. make a list. write a poem, free verse, or song. talk it out. pray. be honest. get it out.
  8. be you. be genuinely you and only you.
  9. just say no. you cannot please everyone. remember that saying yes to something is simultaneously saying no to other things.
  10. know what you really want.  make sure you really want it. go after it. do not settle for less.
  11. stop worrying. there is no room for that (see below). be like a child.

Matthew 6:25-34New International Version (NIV)

Do Not Worry

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[a]?

28 “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Triathloning on a Budget

By | Coaching, Triathlon, Uncategorized | No Comments

After growing up swimming, running cross country in High School, swimming a bit more, and running my first marathon in 2007, a friend suggested I try triathlon.  While hesitant at first, I slowly began attending UCLA Triathlon Club swim and run practices, eventually bought my first road bike, and gradually acclimatized into the tri culture.  I have been triathloning pretty much ever since, and I have concluded that triathlon is an inexpensive hobby.

Just kidding.  It is a huge investment–especially at first.  There are a lot of “big” items needed in triathlon training and racing.  Then, there are even more “not so big” items that are equally necessary.  Then, there are heaps of big and small items/services that aren’t required, but are highly encouraged.  Finally, if you are still not scared off, and you are really into it, you can invest in even more optional things to (hopefully) enhance your aerodynamics and/or performance.

This can be a bit overwhelming.  For example, I recently had a friend come to me for a little advice.  She had just signed up for her first triathlon.  Naturally, I bombarded her with lists upon lists of the items she should start buying and things she should start doing in preparation.  Note to triathletes: Never do this if you ever want your friends to do triathlons too!  If I ever have a friend ask me for help in this area again, I will probably send them some slightly-less-intimidating lists somewhat like the ones below…

Splurge on things that are worth investing in:

[Quality Equipment]
  • Road bike: If you are just “checking out” triathlon, I recommend borrowing or buying a used road bike vs. paying for a super fancy one.
  • Helmet, new and CPSC approved (if you ever race ITU, the CPSC approval sticker is required)
  • Run shoes: Get a qualified run shoe expert to watch you run in them before you buy–most specialty run stores do this.
  • Bike shoes, cleats & clipless pedals, if you are comfortable with that…otherwise, just use run shoes and a platform pedal.
  • Cycling gloves, to protect your hands
  • Swim cap, preferably silicone (they can last for years)
  • Goggles that fit your face (try before you buy).  I love these.
  • Watch with desired functions (heart rate, GPS, etc)
[Quality (and comfortable, well-fitting) Clothing]
  • Swimsuit, one piece or two piece that won’t fall off while training! Check out Swim Outlet for deals.
  • Cycling Jersey with pockets
  • Cycling Shorts with padding
  • Run Shorts–preferably with a small pocket to stash your key and maybe even a mid-run snack
  • Run/Cycling Socks that don’t give you blisters
  • Triathlon race kit (optional)–or just race in your swimsuit with shorts on top
[Quality Services]
  • Custom, frequently adjusted, training program to avoid over-training (Can be private or group-style coaching)
  • Technical instruction in private or group environment (again, highly recommended, especially for those who are new to running, biking, and/or swimming)

Save on the rest:

  • Run Top–you can use plain old t-shirts for now.  After you’ve done a few races, you’ll end up with more race tech shirts than you can count!
  • Simple strength training tools (surgical tubing, Theraband, hills)
  • Super snazzy race tattoo remover tool (aka. duct tape)
  • Super duper snazzy race belt (aka. shoe string with safety pins)
  • Homemade Sports Drink: 1/4 c. boiling water + 1/4 c. sugar + 1 t. salt + 1/2 c. orange juice + juice of 1/2 lemon + 2.5 c. cold water to fill 1/4 gallon jug
  • Homemade Pre-workout snacks: banana, oatmeal, crackers, dates, cereal, toast, bagel, juice, etc.
  • Homemade During-workout Fuel: banana, pb&j, cookies, crackers, gummy candy, licorice, cooked sweet potato, etc.
  • Homemade Post-workout Fuel: chocolate milk, cereal, pasta with meat sauce, turkey sandwich, etc.
  • Borrow or rent a triathlon wetsuit, if one is needed, for your event.  Just make sure it fits, first.  If you plan to be in the sport for a while, buy one that fits comfortably.
  • Use Vaseline, Blistex, or Carmex on your spots that tend to chafe (e.g. neck, underarms, inner thighs) instead of buying the anti-chafe sticks/sprays.
  • Cheap Sunglasses for eye protection on the bike (like these), if you prefer not to invest $50-$200 in cycling shades.
  • Self/Spousal massage: Avoid overuse injury with regular massage of your legs, back, and shoulders.  Self-massage equipment–foam rollers, lacrosse ball, etc–works great.  That being said, an occasional professional massage is a special treat!
  • Local races: Stay nearby as much as possible to avoid large travel/hotel/food expenses.
  • Single sport races, e.g. cyling TT, 5k run race, Masters swim meet: Add some extra races to your season without the heightened cost of a triathlon race.
  • Outdoor/living room gym: SO much strength can be gained with just your body weight and a couple of simple pieces of equipment, if desired.
  • YouTube or blog tutorials for a plethora of triathlon-related skills, tips, and tricks.

Okay, so maybe these lists are still frighteningly long.  I am not sure this insanity can be avoided, since triathlon is a combination of three sports, plus transitions and nutrition and recovery–so kinda like 6 sports.  Anyways, I hope this helps your future triathlete friends.  I’m sure that I’ve left out some things, so please let me know of any other ways to be a frugal triathlete that I haven’t listed.

On another note, I cannot mention the relative expensiveness of triathlon without being oh so grateful to all who have helped me along the way.  I have been incredibly blessed with phenomenal gifts of training/racing equipment, coaching, advising, massage, chiropractic, and other services–not to mention ridiculous amounts of support from my family and training buddies throughout the years.  Thank you (you know who you are)!


By | Coaching, Fitness, Fuel, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

I am thrilled to share the new BrittFit Coaching and Sports Nutrition site – It was designed with much love by a very good friend and fellow athlete.

What’s new:

Services: I’ve rearranged some of my packages, and added a few more. I am now offering 5k/10k Run Training Programs as well as customized Swim Training Plans. A new private coaching package, BrittFit Performance, is designed to help you perform with confidence by catering to your specific needs.
Videos: Get from Starting Line to T-1 more quickly, without sacrificing the rest of your race. Check out these swim technique and drill videos from the BrittFit YouTube Channel.
Testimonials: Soak up some snippets of kind sentiments expressed by BrittFit athletes.
Contact: Ready to get BrittFit? Connect with me and schedule your session here.
BrittFuel: A yummy treat – Coming soon!

I hope that you enjoy this new site as much as I do. Please tell me what you think in the comments below!

– Britt