coaching Archives - Britt Fit

Mental Roadway Congestion

By | Coaching, Thoughts, Triathlon | No Comments
[Disclaimer: I am not a professional in the field of psychology. All blog posts are pure opinion from my personal coaching, triathlon, and life experience.]

If your brain were likened to a highway would you consider it jammed, pothole-laden and confusing, or open, smooth and straightforward? Is it clogged up with rubberneckers and parked cars, stuck in a dead-end or roundabout without exit? How would you think differently if you had more space and clarity in your mind? How much more capability could you uncover by changing the thoroughfare of your thoughts?

Neural Roadblocks

In many respects, what you can’t change and what you can’t control are a waste of your time, energy, and precious mental space. Focusing on these things often leads to a sense of neurological stickiness. Shifting your focus to yourself and what is in your control will not only free up storage in your head; it will allow you to access the power of clearly focusing on your personal growth and purpose in life. This heightened sense of purpose can be a major force multiplier.

Avoid fixating on past performances to predict future results. This goes for your own performances and others’. You don’t know what would have happened “if only _____” and you don’t know what might happen next. All you can do is to prepare yourself in the best way that you know in order to have the best possible outcome…regardless of what happens outside of your control.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example…

Tony vs. Bobby

Tony and Bobby are both competing in a marathon. Tony recalls that Bobby only started training for marathons relatively recently and was not nearly at Tony’s level in their local 5k last summer. Tony has already envisioned himself crossing the line minutes in front of Bobby.

When Bobby passes Tony in the race, Tony has not mentally prepared for the possibility of this outcome. He had expectations based on previous results which were no longer relevant. He was stuck in the past rather than showing up to the race in front of him. He mentally falters and his pace slows as he watches Bobby fade into the foreground. Tony feels progressively worse and comes across the finish line physically, mentally, and emotionally defeated.

Tony was looking at his past self in comparison to Bobby’s past self, failing to see that both Tony and Bobby were no longer the past versions of themselves! He was so focused on Bobby’s progress (something out of his control) that he neglected to celebrate his own growth; he failed to learn from and improve his personal process and mindset (things in his control).

Don’t be like Tony. Instead, recognize that others have their own story and path to navigate. It’s a waste of your mental space to focus on their trajectory or to form expectations for their performance based on their past. Let them focus on them. Your process is enough of an adventure to pursue and merits your complete attention!

Tony vs. Tony

As with the comparison-to-others roadblock, it’s equally ineffective to focus on your own past performances as a means of predicting your future results. Taking Bobby out of the equation, Tony was still basing his expectation on his own past performance, which weakened his ability to fully focus on and race in the present moment.


Each time we approach a new day, training session, or start line, we can create a new outcome regardless of what’s happened in the past. Step into each situation anew. Practice approaching each moment with your full focus rather than allowing your thoughts to drift toward uncontrollables (e.g. other people, the past, etc). Show up and meet the specific demands of the day–race day, training day, or recovery day.

Train in the moment to race in the moment. Train your mind and body for all potential challenges that race day may bring by showing up to training with the same focus. You’ll gain confidence in your ability to make smart decisions in the moment by practicing this skill daily. Then, you have the luxury of familiarity on race day and the freedom to race as if it is “just another training session”.

Focus Pocus

By | Coaching | 2 Comments
Have you ever felt that you would be so much more productive, efficient, successful, if you were able to focus better?

I have been thinking about what “focus” really is, why it might be important, and how it is cultivated. I wrote a draft of this post on Halloween, hence the themed blog title.

[Disclaimer: I am not a professional in the field of psychology. All blog posts are pure opinion from my personal coaching, triathlon, and life experience.]
What does it mean to be focused? 

I think that a person who is focused on something is able to block out distractions–to turn on their tunnel vision–during critical moments in pursuit of the object of said focus. The technical definition of the noun focus is: “the center of interest or activity” while as a verb, to focus means to “adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.”

The verb “to focus” as described by the above definition involves adaptation. To focus is something that is done on purpose, not at random or by accident. I also like that focus involves the unveiling of our object as it becomes increasingly clear to us.

If we want to make something our focus, we have to choose to fix our eyes on it, and to adjust our eyes to see all of the finer details. 

How can this focus be applied to athletic pursuits?

I liken my focus to a goal. I want to purposely keep my eyes on my goal. At first my goal may seem vague, but as I take each step to sharpen my line of vision and cut out the peripheral distractions, it comes increasingly into focus. Eventually it is perfectly clear to me. I must keep it in focus or risk getting off track.

The geometrical definition is equally cool– the focus is:

one of the fixed points from which the distances to any point of a given curve, such as an ellipse or parabola, are connected by a linear relation.

If the focus is an athletic goal, it becomes a goal toward which every aspect of your life must draw a line to. To me, this means that if I proclaim something to be my goal I must align everything in my life toward that ultimate goal. For example, if my goal is to finish an ultra-endurance triathlon, I have to train my body and mind, sleep well, eat well, have a plan, sign up for a race, etc.

I believe that we are all focused on something at any given time, whether it be ourselves, others, possessions, power, politics, problems, gratitude, wonder, dreams, etc, our mind grabs onto something that it can fixate on. I admit that most of the time I am in a state of mental ambiguity and distraction, or am trying to focus on multiple things at once, having no clear focus. Pure focus is difficult! But, when done right, we can enter the gloriously productive and creative “flow state” where we become so purely present with our work that we seemingly become the work itself.

I like sport because it allows us to put away other life things to be fully present with our physical task. Breathe. Step. Kick. Pedal. I like the simplicity of it. Athletic goals challenge me to improve my ability to stay in the moment even when my mind wants to run off and consider how nice it would be to be back in bed. They challenge me to make the small and seemingly insignificant decisions everyday that are connected by a linear relation to my goal: Pack your bag. Wake up. Put on your socks. Walk out the door. Dive into the pool. Kick. Exhale. Eat. Go to bed.

Now that we have a working definition…

Why is the ability to focus important?

If we can’t see our goal clearly, how will we know what our desired outcome looks like–let alone how to arrive at it? Without the ability to focus on our goal, all of the distractions of life (and there are many!) are going to get in our way. We are going to get off track. We will end up in the wrong place and not even know where the right place was to begin with; shooting at an ambiguous, ever-moving, target.

How can we improve our ability to focus?

By practicing it. We don’t suddenly end up in the most critical moments with magical laser-focusing capabilities. If the goal is clear and in focus in all of the small things everyday, it is more likely to be in focus in defining moments. If it is out-of-focus more often than not, we may walk off the course and straight to the hamburger stand in the middle of our next Ironman competition when we have no logical reason for not finishing (not to mention any names…).

Focus takes practice!

When things get blurry, look again. Change your angle. Squint your eyelids. Adapt to the prevailing level of light and become able to see clearly.

Meet the Athlete: John (#2)

By | Coaching, Fitness, Fuel, Meet the Athlete, Triathlon | One Comment

Introducing: John #2, BrittFit athlete since 2014.

What’s with the name/number? John joined the Swimming for Triathletes class in Ventura, CA, he was given the nickname “#2” to avoid confusion with the other John (#1) in the class.

Current place of residence: Kamuela, HI
Favorite place you’ve lived thus far: Kamuela, HI
Day job: Family Physician
Current (2015) triathlon goal: IM Boulder, finish time 12:00
Best race leg: Run (usually)
Favorite pre-race fuel: Spaghetti and meatballs the night before
Favorite post-workout treat: Chocolate milk
Dream race: I’ll dream big and say IM Kailua Kona, World Championships
Race day mantra: Race smart!

When/how did you start triathlon? I started triathlon in 2012 at the Lifetime Fitness Chicago Triathlon. It was always something I wanted to do and so I started big; I did the Olympic distance and have been addicted to triathlons ever since.

Hardest race or workout you’ve ever completed: Kamuela, HI, 54 mile ride from Kamuela to Waipi ‘o Valley, for a total of 6,000 ft of elevation gain. It was also the most gorgeous ride I’ve ever done.

Most memorable race moment: Malibu Triathlon 2014, bike course going southbound on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) as you descend on Leo Carillo, it was a sight of pure beauty: the sun shining down on the ocean and sand, gentle waves crashing into the shore with a gentle breeze, all to the sweet sound of bicycles on the highway.

Words of wisdom to someone considering training for their first triathlon: Be patient. So many people want the quick fix and fast results but the key to getting better at anything, especially triathlon, is patience and consistency. So if you’re doing triathlons to lose weight, or to become the fastest in your age group or to qualify for World Championships, be patient with yourself, keep with it, train SMART and watch all of your times get faster and your weight drop GRADUALLY. If you’re patient, you’ll have the success you’re after and you will have fun in the process.

Something you’ve learned about yourself from triathlon: I can do ANYTHING as long as I have the right (smart) plan.

Pick one:
Long ride or long run? Long ride
Ocean or pool swim? Ocean
Chocolate or cheese? Definitely CHOCOLATE
Watch on your left wrist or right? Left
Morning or evening workout? Morning
T1 or T2? T2
Hat or visor? Neither (for now)
Speedo or jammers? Jammers
Swim cap or no cap? Swim cap

Want to see yourself featured in a future edition of M.T.A.? All BrittFit Athletes are eligible. You could be next!

Scientific Training

By | Coaching, Fitness, Triathlon | No Comments

In early 2013, I wrote a blog post series on the lactate-based training that my coach, Gareth Thomas, implements from his Los Angeles sports science facility: Trio. The first post includes a blurb on how I met Coach Gareth, while the second goes into depth on the scientific basis of his lactate-based approach to endurance training.

Lactate Blog Post #1
Lactate Blog Post #2

Now that nearly 2 years have gone by, I’d like to report some exciting results in the TRIO lab. First, a bit of my training background:

2004-2006: High School Cross Country + Club Swimming
2006-2007: D-1 Womens’ Swim Team Walk-on + Completed 1st Marathon run (with terrible training, and at least one injury)
2007-2008: Dabbled in Collegiate Club Triathlon + Talked myself into buying a road bike
2008-2010: College Triathlon “glory days” (best triathlon shape of my life), coached & mentored by Coach Gareth
2010-2011: Took a break from training, taught swimming lessons in New Zealand, decided to do a couple more triathlons, got humbled by Wildflower & Long Course Worlds (first DNF ever)
2012: Trained on my own, finished a few more triathlons, got humbled some more (almost DNF’d again)
2013: Return to Coach Gareth for HELP! Made some solid improvements, then took a couple of months off to re-evaluate and recharge mentally
2014-2015: Got married, and decided to really get into this whole triathlon thing again, this time with a brand new last name

Now, for the good stuff. Since I came back under Coach Gareth’s wing in early 2013, I have seen a general trend of improvement in my training and racing performance, which is paralleled in my lactate testing results. As I have had a bit of inconsistency (2-month break after 2013 season), and since training fluctuates to accommodate periods of resting and racing, some tests have shown that my fitness has taken a minor “step back”. Yet, the big steps forward, and overall gains, are my reason to trust in this scientific training philosophy.

I have plotted out lactate test data from 2013-2015. Run test data includes my average running speed (mph) at each of my assigned training “zones” (based on blood lactate profile observed in the lab). Cycling test data includes my average power output (W) at each zone.


image (1)

Note the general speed and power improvements within each training zone from 2013-2015. Also note the substantial dip in fitness during my break at the end of 2013. It’s been 2 steps forward, 1 step back, 3 steps forward, and…TBD. Seeing my progress plotted graphically is a very tangible way for Gareth and I to gauge the effects of each training period–to see what is working best for me, what needs to be adjusted, and where we need to focus moving forward.

I am super grateful for Gareth’s support throughout the years, and excited to put in the work this season to continue improving. I will keep you updated.

Train smart!