6 Months without Coffee

Today marks the day that I’ve been off the coffee for 6 months and I thought it might be a good time to talk a bit about it. I’ll tell why I quit and what that brought me both in work, private life and endurance sports.

I’ve been speaking to a number of people recently about the pros and cons of coffee and have come to the conclusion that at this stage of my life it just isn’t wise to make coffee a part of my diet.

The main perceived benefit of drinking coffee are that it kickstarts you in the morning and keeps you more sharp during the day.

Well, let me tell you – that just isn’t so. There is contradicting scientific evidence – at best – that supports those claims. You might as well be chewing bubble gum – it’s all in your mind.

That dawned on me, as I kept experiencing caffeine-interrupted sleep, digestion issues, and elevated heart rate and blood pressure. These things impact all other areas of how I function as a human being and how I perform in those areas.

I listen to a podcast and read a blog by coach Brett and he’s spoken from time to time about his love/hate relationship with caffeine, and how it took a bit of experimenting on his part to find out about the impact coffee has on him specifically.

And so I decided to see what it would be like to not drink coffee.

After the first few weeks of headaches from not getting my coffee shot I started to see improvements.

  • improved nutrition and digestion, especially since the time where I used to drink coffee now has been replaced by drinking less negatively impactful drinks;
  • improved well-being: I just wake up and Go! No coffee needed to kickstart this engine;
  • improved sleep…
  • …which leads to improved sharpness during the day, so I don’t need the perceived benefits of coffee, and don’t need to go for one more cup;
  • no jittery feeling of having slightly increased heart rate or blood pressure after the 5th cup of coffee and too much caffeine.

Also shortly after I quit coffee I dropped 5 kilo’s to arrive at my early-twenties weight, but much fitter than then. I can’t explain why that should be attributed to coffee as the calory count for even several cups of coffee is limited. Still, it strikes me as odd, that it happened at the same time.

The whole experience made me feel more healthy and reinforced my motivation to be consistent about my training. The thought was along the lines of: “I’m doing something which is good for my body and it feels good. Let’s give it some more”.

Now and then I will have to turn an invitation to drink a cup of coffee down and get a glass of water or whatever else is available.

You might be thinking “why didn’t he just scale back”, but that would have never worked. One cup a day would have become a two-cups-just-today-exception, which would quickly become the new limit. That would soon move up to three, four, and five cups a day at least putting me right back where I started. 0 is easy to measure. There’s no “how many cups DID I have today, OK I can have one”. It’ just “none”, which works great for me.

Only problem I have now is what to change inmy diet next…

Triathlon Swim Training and Racing

Just picked up a really good tip for those of you working on improving your swimming technique related to triathlon.

The TriSwimCoach podcast episode 19 packs an interview with Glenn Mills from GoSwim.tv.

They cover plenty of nice tips for beginner and intermediary triathletes, so you might want to check out the podcast. Two things in particular stood out for me.

First of all, they mention how you can’t win a triathlon in the swim, but you can loose it. That reminded me of my swim at the Triathlon Aalsmeer earlier this year. It’s the only triathlon race I will eventually do in 2010 and I remember standing on the beach being very excited and wanting to go. The gun went off, and I think it wasn’t until about 100 meters into the swim that I thought: I went too fast, I can’t sustain this.

And that’s exactly what they’re talking about in the podcast. When you’re toing the line, ready to go, remember that this is a MULTI-sport event and make sure you’ve got a little something left for bike and run (not to mention the rest of the swim).

The second tip was the awesome swim videos they’ve put on their website. They GoSwim also has an iPhone app which should feature swim technique videos, but it didn’t work on my iPad. Go to their website and have a look or go to youtube and search for “Go Swim”. That should give you food for thought on improving your swim.

This wraps up a slow week in terms of training. Did some swim technique training on Monday, got teeth pulled on Tuesday and have been taking it pretty easy since then. Hope to get back into things some time next week, when the pain subsides. I seem to have lost a few kilos as well which I attribute to eating different after having teeth pulled. Really want things to get back to normal, though.

How to Avoid Endurance Overtraining

Over the past few weeks I’ve had conversations with a few people about starting training or taking training to the next level.

Often the new goal of going somewhere new with training is one that the athlete eagerly wants to get to. A common mistake is to let the efforts in training match the desire to get to the goal.

While that is certainly understandable, it could well lead to a too steep increase in both intensity and duration of trainings. This is certainly a mistake I’ve often made in the past.

For the 2010 season I set out to avoid injury by following a few rules that I wanted to share with you:
– set your seasonal goal below your dream. For instance if your goal is to complete a marathon, then set a goal for this season of completing a half marathon and push the marathon to next year.
– never increase your training intensity or training time by more than 10% week over week – the body just can’t handle it.
– at the first sign of any type of injury, back down and either stop training or take the training down to a level which provides room for reecovery. And stretch – particularly the part of the body which is in danger of injury.
– recover! Make sure to rest well, get your night’s sleep.

I’m doing pretty well on the first two, but am still working on the last point. i’ll go do that now.

Garmin confuses with Forerunner 110

Garmin Forerunner 110 is now available, but is the entry-level runners GPS-watch a good buy?

Some 4 weeks ago Garmin announced a new model in its lineup of heart rate, speed and distance measurement devices – the Garmin Forerunner 110. The 110 is a runners watch with no cycling support whatsoever. Sure, you can use it on the bike, but there are no options for adding cadence.

That pretty much seems to be the story for the Garmin Forerunner 110. It impresses with simplicity: the display holds less information than for instance the 405/405cx which has previously been written about here, there’s less of a setup hazzle and in simple terms you could this a back to basics design.

Comparing the 110 to the Garmin Forerunner 405 is fairly interesting. The 110 has a lot less features than the 405 and as far as I can judge only heart rate based calory usage is the only feature of the 110 holds that is missing on the 405.

Many have so far mentioned that they see the Garmin Forerunner 110 as an entry-level watch, but the price of around €229 for the version with heart rate is HIGH for entry-level! I have found the Garmin Forerunner 405 for just €259 with heart rate monitor. For just €30 price difference you’ll get a whole lot more with the 405, and so the conclusion must be that the Garmin Forerunner 110 will flop despite the nice marketing.

It’s a basic entry-level heart rate monitor with speed and distance and interesting features for the runners, but comes at far too high a price. Leave it and instead read a later review on entry level GPS, heart-rate monitors on this blog.

Garmin Forerunner 405/405cx vs Polar RS800cx G3

For the gadget-happy athletes, the comparison of Garmin Forerunner 405CX and Polar RS800CX.

A while back I read a Garmin Forerunner 405/405cx review which was pro- the device. This text was intended as a comment on that review, but grew a bit out of hand for a comment. Here first a few words on the Garmin – just for context. Garmin, the word is yours:

“The Forerunner 405/405CX is the evolution of GPS-enabled training. This sleek sport watch tracks your distance, pace and heart rate, then wirelessly sends the data to your PC for later analysis. The 405CX features heart rate-based calorie computation and comes with a second wrist band option suitable for smaller wrists”.
For a comparison on the Garmin Forerunner 405 and the 405CX I suggest you go here:
https://buy.garmin.com/shop/compare.do?cID=141&compareProduct=31859&compareProduct=11039

Now, while all that Garmin marketing and the products themselves certainly do make you think about how you can use one of them in your training, there are a few things that should make you think twice. For instance the battery life of Garmin 405/405CX is not impressive and will require frequent charging. If you go somewhere far away for training or competition, do you really want to have to worry about charging your heart rate monitor too?

If you compare the Garmin 405 to the Polar RS800CX with G3 (GPS) sensor – the premium product from Finnish company Polar you’ll find both pros and cons for both. Let’s start with some of the Polar’s weak points:

  • too many devices: heart rate band, wrist unit, GPS-unit;
  • since recently: the Polar is a very closed platform with no current options of exporting Polar data to other platforms – although I haven’t tested it, the Garmin does offer export to Endomondo and other tools that allow for mapping and sharing of training routes and data through various social networks.

The advantages of Polar vs Garmin are:

  • The disadvantage for the Polar can also be turned against the Garmin: More devices in the Polar solution also ensures that if for instance the GPS runs out of battery during training you will still get heart rate data for the remaining session. Not so with the Garmin where it’s all lights out if the wrist unit dies. Furthermore the Polar’s battery will take you MUCH further than the Garmin battery – probably because the battery doesn’t need to support the same amount of functions.
  • Final comment on the battery: Battery change with the Polar doesn’t happen often, is easy, and relatively cheap.
  • Soft heart rate strap on the Polar. With the Garmin the heart rate strap is hard and a soft is only available for an additional $70.

I’m missing more information on social network integration. The Polar is completely unfit for any type of social network interaction. The Garmin has an own network with a few shortfalls, but more importantly allows exporting training files to services external to Garmin.

Conclusion: For me Polar wins this battle. The shortcomings in the Garmin package are a source of irritation if experienced while training. I have a feeling that I might find myself without battery really often.

Still, one has to often if Polar is fighting the right battles. Presumably the consumer market is where they get most of their money and they might want to watch it more closely and avoid what has happened to the Navigation device manufacturers: Mobile devices with minor additions grabbing market share with free software.

It’s happening in the training device market already: mobile devices from Apple, Nokia, HTC and more now include GPS for positioning and speed data, software for the tracking and uploading, and finally all they need is a 3rd party bluetooth heart rate monitor and off you go. I’m not aware of any heart rate straps that will do the trick, but as soon as they come out, Polar should get worried.

More about that in a future post.

Nokia Sports Tracker – now with maps

Many Nokia users will recognize the Nokia Sports Tracker applicaton – especially popular with Nokia users with GPS-enabled phones. In fact Nokia has taken this great little application and added integration between the Polar Wearlink Belt for Nokia and the Nokia N79, so training freaks can now be 100% mobile with their phone while training: listen to music, receive calls, know the distance and how the body reacts to the entire thing.

Now, for those of us not lucky enough to have an N79 or the special Wearlink Belt from Polar, there’s no need to be too disappointed. Nokia added a missing feature to its Sports Tracker Beta v. 1.82 in October of 2008 – they now support maps!

Little known to many, but posted here, the “new” beta is not available of the official Nokia Sports Tracker website. You have to go to Nokia Research and download it. Then install it to your Nokia S60 3.1 device (N82, E71, N95, etc…).

If you’re completely new to how Nokia Sports Tracker works go ahead and have a look at their website and of course make sure to look at some of our family runs – like this and this. Looking forward to more like this from the good folks at Nokia (and Polar).

New Interval Training Exercise

I’m trying to pick up a regular workout scheme again and this week I’m back in the gym again. Yesterday morning Lucy gave me this exercise that she thought would be good for me, and I wanted to share it with you for your own training pleasure.

It’s a cardio exercise with a strong focus on intervals. The setup is a gym with a stepper, treadmill, cross-trainer, cardio bike, rowing machine, and an Arc Trainer from Cybex, but you can use a cardio setup of your own choice.

Essentially it’s quite simple and goes like this. Start on any machine and rotate through the other machines until you’ve done them all in the following way:

1. 1 minute of hard workout, 1 minute relax
2. 45 second hard workout, 45 seconds relax
3. 30 seconds hard workout, 30 seconds relax
4. 15 seconds hard workout, 15 seconds relax
5. Move to next piece of equipment
6. Repeat

This is tough and I wouldn’t recommend doing this if you’re just picking up working out. Do it if you want to increase your cardiovascular capacity, burn more fat than with longer – lower intensity exercises, and increase performance. Enjoy the ride…

Go for it!

Just spend a few minutes reading off a post on Stephan Derksen’s blog. Stephan is a sales professional and draws on his experience when adding content to the blog.

The most recent blog post with the title “Set yourself up for success” ties nicely into my vision of continuous self-development, so I thought I’d quote the key part of his post here. This is what it comes down to when developing yourself, making sure you have what it takes to do what you wish on short term and long term. It goes like this:

1) Dream your dreams
2) Set your goals (1yr, 5 yrs, 10yrs, lifetime) to make your dreams come true, and share them with your environment (to create accountability, and allow others to help)
3) Break those goals down into realistic timeframes (half year, quarter, month, week, day)
4) Plan your day with those goals in mind (priority setting)
5) Make it happen, by being faithful to the daily targets you set (discipline)
6) Celebrate your milestones (don’t make them too easy, and don’t make them unattainable either)
7) Repeat

Stephan covers issues which are now more important than ever. With increased globalization the only one who’s now driving you to reach your goals – is you. Noone else is going to push you. You’re on your own – like you should be.

To get you started on managing your own goals, I found a website listing all sorts of goal management tools:
http://www.kaboodle.com/rcavin/goal-management.html. Now it’s time for you to go set your own goals.

Have ambition and make it happen!

Amsterdam Marathon 2007


SportTracks Feb 25th 2007

2007 will be the year of my first marathon! To support that I’ve been equipped with new shoes and with what’s probably the most advanced piece of self-monitoring equipment I’ve had.

The Timex Ironman Triathlon Bodylink comes with heart rate monitor, GPS for speed & pace, and an optional data recorder to upload information to my PC. Everything works fine, and the most amazing new feature comes from the software tool SportTracks!

This software doesn’t just help you log how far you’ve run, at which heart rate etc., etc. It also shows you where you’ve been by either using a map or a Google Earth satellite photo.

So today has resulted in being 17km closer to running a marathon – the blue line in the images is my route from today. This is going to be a quite hard, and I wonder if Tor and Peter meanwhile started their marathon training. Maybe I better calculate how many kilometers I really need to train before I finally have my first attempt at running 42,195 kilometers.