From Man To Machine: Outsourcing Your Fitness Training


I would venture a guess that most type A personalities like myself need some sort of end goal to work toward. This holds especially true when it comes to fitness and exercise. Sure you can motivate yourself to stick to some training plan and do the same exercises week after week, maybe getting results, but eventually plateauing and getting into a rut. I know from my own experience, I need some external force to help me progress in my physical fitness. That external force can be an event to train for, or simply a coach to motivate and guide you. For me, the event is a full Ironman in Nice, France next June. I competed in my first Olympic distance triathlon, The Mighty Montauk, this past June. I completed the 1 mile swim, 40K bike, and 10K run in just under 2 hours and 37 minutes. This past weekend I did my first 100 mile "century" bike ride, Jameson and I are competed in the Tough Mudder, a 12 mile obstacle course designed by the British special forces including a run through a field of fire, and then I have a Half Ironman in New Orleans in preparation for the big race. Getting your body and mind ready to tackle a 2.4 mile swim in open water, a 112 mile bike ride, and then a full marathon (26.2 miles) is difficult to do on your own. These are the tools I use to stay on track.

I'm A Couch Potato, Where Do I Start?

A little over a year ago, I was 34 pounds overweight and very unhealthy. I was going to the gym and lifting weights but I just could not get myself to do cardio no matter what I tried. I would get bored and give up, plus it was really hard for me. When I got to the point where walking up three flights of stairs would leave me winded, I knew something needed to change. I also knew that it had to be something drastic, intense, and sadistic. I actually put those three words into a Google search and came up with the Insanity workout. It's a 60 day, all cardio workout on 12 DVDs. You do it six days a week in the comfort of your own home. Too this day it's the hardest workout I can possibly do and after those first two months, I lost 24 pounds, my resting heart rate went down 20 BPM and my blood pressure went down 20%.

I'm Ready For Level Two!

So the DVD is the first step in outsourcing, you're following a plan set by someone else. Personal trainers can be very expensive and depending on the sport you are doing, may not be any more effective than a remote coach (a personal trainer won't spend 3 hours following you on a bicycle). My coach is Cami Stock of Wild Blue Racing, a professional triathlete for years, air force female athlete of the year 2004, and all around professional bad ass. That's my coach. I don't really have the space to post my entire workout schedule for the month here because she has me doing so much. It's very easy to make yourself accountable when the regimen is broken down into such small pieces. I report my results after each workout and Cami treats that as a moving target, analyzing and adapting to get me to race day healthy and happy.

How Do You Report Your Results?

This is where things get fun. There are several champions of the quantified self, recording every little bit of data in your life, then analyzing that data for fun and improvement. For tracking workouts I use two main tools. I use my Garmin Forerunner 310XT for tracking my more serious workouts and actual competitions. This wristop computer uses GPS to give me distance and pace, connects wirelessly to a speed and cadence sensor on my bike, as well as a heart rate monitor strapped to my chest. When I walk back into my home, the watch automatically connects to the USB stick in my computer and uploads it's data. It's really amazing because you can see very specifically on a map what the elevation was when you suddenly hit that hill and your heart rate skyrocketed. When I send this information to my coach she can do a very detailed analysis to see where my weak spots are and where I need to improve without ever seeing me on a bike. I usually double up by using RunKeeper on my iphone. I have a bluetooth headset so I don't have to worry about cords, and the app audibly tells me my distance and pace every five minutes. The most useful part is that you can create a very specific workout to follow. This morning, my coach had me start with a 15 minute warm up run, then 5 x 2:00 (1 minute fast, 1 minute easy) and then a 15 minute cool down. I put all that into the app and it gave me prompts at the correct moments. The best part is that it shows the split times for each of those segments. An additional cool feature is RunKeeper Live which lets friends or family track your progress live as you compete in a competition.

For tracking food I recommend DailyBurn, besides allowing you to track exercise, it offers the ability to pick from a database of hundreds of thousands of foods and tabulate everything you eat. I'm currently up to about 4,000 calories per day and loving it. They also offer a nifty food scanner app that lets you scan the barcodes of food (though I recommend cooking when you can) to speed up the process.

I use the Withings scale to track my weight and body fat. The scale is wifi connected and uploads it's info to a secure website which conveniently integrates into RunKeeper and DailyBurn.

Finally, you need to get enough rest for proper recovery. That's where Sleep Cycle comes in. You place your iPhone on the corner of your mattress at night and based on your movements, it can graph your sleep patterns and even wake you up when you are at your lightest level of sleep.