Four Habits of Successful Endurance Athletes

Anyone that spends a lot of time in the kitchen knows that there are three types of cooking:  using a recipe, using a formula or winging it. A recipe is perfect for repeating a dish in terms of flavor and consistency. A formula is necessary for anything involving a chemical reaction such as baking. Formula’s are much less forgiving than recipes and frequent tinkering often results in a baking disaster. Winging it is fun and leads to often terrific dishes that the chef is never able to replicate.

I know triathletes and business owners that generally fall into the three cooking categories. Many successful ones tend to fall into the recipe method. The truly outstanding ones seem to subscribe to the formula method.  

The most common formula of people that have repeatable great triathlon seasons:

Consistency. These people know how to work and train. Their friends often think they are boring. They do the work every day in every area of their life. They are predictable and steady. They don’t think about whether or not they have time to train today.  They make the time and have pride in getting it done. 

Strategy. These people have a plan and they work the plan. They may hire consultants/coaches to help them build the plan. They make sure the plan has goals, tests, and they review it frequently. These triathletes prepare to train. They don’t just read the goals for the day’s workouts but they search their database for their previous performance of a similar workout. They know what their zones are and they hit them. They compare testing results and track progress. These triathletes are always benchmarking where they are and where they are going.

Efficiency. These people have a lot going on in their life. This often includes successful careers, partners, children, mortgages, etc. They adapt and improvise by making their life and their training as efficient as possible. They use technology to pay bills, manage their training and order nutrition. Lots of it. They understand that every minute of every day counts and each has to be used in the most efficient way possible.

Recovery. These people understand that out of 24 hours they will workout an average of two to three hours per day. The other 10 waking hours need to be about getting their body prepared to perform at the highest level the next day and the day after it. Food, sleep, massage are all important parts of the real work; recovering to train. A well recovered body is one that stays healthy without injury or sickness.

Notice I didn’t mention diet, how many grams their wheels weigh or their CP5. It is not that these athletes don’t care about these details but rather that they have a formula that is simple and repeatable.  

I once had an opportunity to hear Pat Summitt (University of Tennessee Lady Vols Head Coach and one of the most successful basketball coaches in the nation) speak. She told the audience that she could tell them everything she practiced; from the daily drills to how to run their offense and defense. She went on to say that no one could duplicate their success. Why? No one executes like her and her team.  

My key to my best season ever? Executing my four habits. Every day. No excuses, only forward motion.

No Easy Way!

Injury Recovery

Gelatin for Tendon Injury and Health

I have run (every pun intended) with lots of injured athletes.  Most athletes with tendon injuries do the standard protocols.  Many of them haven’t heard about the research and benefits of using gelatin for tendon injury and health.  The best part?  The protocol is cheap and easy.  The info below is based on the work of Keith Baar Ph.D., a molecular exercise physiologist.  I had an opportunity to hear him speak on epigenetics and athletics at the ACSM conference.

Here is a very readable article on his work: Harness the Power of Your Muscle Matrix.  Also check out this article on Using Gelatin…  Asker Jeukendrop does a great job explaining complex nutrition research in a way that is easy to understand and apply.

Podcast interview: Keith Baar, PhD – Tendon Stiffness, Collagen Production & Gelatin for Performance & Injury

His recommendation for tendon injuries: 10-15g of gelatin with >50mg of vitamin C one hour before training.  Elites use it as a drink but you can use shot blocks too.  You then do six minutes of exercise loading (skip rope, eccentric heel lowering etc.). Repeat every six hours.

Dr. Baar hypothesizes that it may help athletes to use it to prevent further injuries.

I have noticed in some of my non-athletic reading that people are biohacking by using hydrolyzed collagen and canned oysters to help with aging and prevent injuries.  Same reason people are consuming bone broth however that can lead to them to consuming too much lead.

This reminds me of the line about athletes.  There are only two kinds of (insert your sport here); those who are injured and those who will be injured.

No easy way!

Injury Recovery

Diary of the Treatment of a Calf Strain

A plan to help you recover from a muscle or tendon strain.

Since a few people have asked, I thought I would detail how I overcame my calf strain a few weeks before my A race (to end up winning my age group at Ironman Louisville). First and foremost, I STOPPED RUNNING when the strain happened during my last long run.  I could have kept going but I decided the “walk of shame” was worth recovering in time for my big race.

Immediately (please note, I am not a medical professional.  I highly suggest you connect with your own physicians regarding your treatment plan):

  • Ibuprofen (800mg) around the clock for the first 48 hours
  • ART (Active Release Technique) within 24 hours for calf and posterior chain. Continued treatments Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
  • Ice cups (fill paper cups with water, freeze, and then rub over calf for fifteen minutes).  Alternate ice and heat (hot tub) after 48 hours.
  • Stick for self massage (focus on whole calf, not just acute injury area)
  • Calf sleeve for compression
  • Wore my highest drop (heel height much higher than forefoot height) running shoes for walking and moving.  This provided less stress on the calf and achilles.

As soon as the acute pain was reduced, we (Coach, Physician and ART Chiropractor) slowly introduced a very limited amount of easy running on a treadmill with no incline. We also implemented a focused program on various exercises for my calf as well as everything two joints above my calf (hamstrings, hip flexors, glutes, knee, hip/lower back etc.).

Here is the list of exercises.  It looks overwhelming but really takes 20-30 minutes at most.  I started each exercise with minimum time or reps.  I executed daily and increased time and reps accordingly.

  • Monster walks for time
  • Side monster walks for time
  • Foam roll glutes
  • Foam roll hamstrings
  • Foam roll calves
  • Eccentric hamstring raises (up on a two count/down on a six count)
  • Clam shells
  • Single knee pull up while lying down on the floor
  • Hip flexor stretch
  • Piriformos stretch
  • Eccentric heel focused raises (up on two feet, down on one) on a step.  Very gently!
  • Gentle angles ankle board stretches
  • Big toe pulls with band.  Feet should be angled out.
  • Towel scrunches.  With bare feet, pull a towel towards you by scrunching.
  • Alphabet.  Write the alphabet with your feet while seated on a couch.  Forwards and backwards.
  • Stick to massage hamstrings
  • Stick to massage calves

We continued Ibuprofen only at bedtime for approximately a week.  I am having a therapeutic massage focusing on my back once per week and have added a core program 3x per week.

The good part about an injury is that it reminded me how lucky I am to be able to do the sport I love.  I do not take this journey for granted.  If you have any questions, you can reach me at

Some questions I have received after I published this article:

When your calf was strained, what did you do instead of running?  Elliptical?

No, I did not elliptical.  After a few days we added very short, very easy runs on the treadmill.  I would stop if there was any sharp pain.  I was amazed how well I was able to run at Louisville despite the limited running before the race.  Trust the process.  Your run will be there on race day.

How did you manage your bike workouts?

Bike I would do as tolerated but avoided big gear or lots of climbing.  I would make sure your cleats are new and properly positioned on your shoes.  It can be very helpful to your calf and achilles to push the cleat as far towards your heel as possible.

Did you just swim with a pull buoy all the time?

With swimming, I either just swam or used the pull buoy.  No kicking drills and no using that leg to push off the wall.  Fortunately, I have a 50 meter outdoor pool near my house which reduces the number of flip turns.