Fun Times with Training Peaks and CTS

TrainingPeaks interviewed and filmed Matthew (AlphaDog Cycling)’s participation in Levi’s GranFondo as part of a feature promoting their coaching program, and the result is really inspiring. I also use Carmichael Training Systems (CTS) for running through TrainingPeaks, and have found it to be really helpful. Prior to signing up with CTS and TP, I was not being consistent and ended up developing a back chain and hip imbalance (glutes, hamstrings, hip flexors). These weaknesses caused me serious pain, including IT band sydrome and piriformis syndrome and made me scale back the mileage; it got so bad that I had pain after just sitting for work. Structured strength training and cross training has helped me start to resolve those issues, even if my coach and I argue about pool running, which is just annoying for so, so many reasons.

Metrics are at the heart of TP. I am a great believer in metrics and expert advice to drive training and learning (and decisions in general). In fact, in my real life job, I specialize in developing metrics to demonstrate quantitative change and program impact. Because of this background, and because I have been working out in one way or another since I was 15, I figured I could do it all myself. But no amount of downloading and cobbling together programs floating about the Internet helped me ramp up at the right speed and build a solid base for the higher performance I am targeting. While running metrics are evolving (for instance, see DC Rainmaker’s discussion of Stryd, a running power meter) and sometimes it isn’t exactly clear how we should use some of this information to drive change, I think if we build ways to measure individual performance the population implications will become clearer over time through a Big Data approach.

Both of these companies are really the best at what they do. I think expert counsel and good tools are especially important when you are an older athlete and recovery can be longer and the impact of injury is higher. Of course, sharing metrics with a benevolent coach means being honest about your (soooo slooow) pace and your particular hangups (like I really really hate pool running), but hey, that’s ok, it builds character. Right? Hello?

Non-dairy pumpkin pie filling

So, I’m lactose intolerant, and unfortunately for me, I still love dessert. I experimented with this pumpkin pie recipe that turned out really well for Thanksgiving; in fact, it was preferred to the standard pumpkin pie I have made in the past. I figured I would share because there are lots of folks who avoid dairy for several reasons.

I bought a graham-cracker crust pie shell so no promises about whether that is dairy-free, but the filling is.

This recipe uses the pie and cake queen Rose Beranbaum’s pumpkin pie recipe as its base with a few modifications. I highly recommend her book, The Pie and Pastry Bible. For my non-dairy modifications, I chose a combination of almond milk and coconut because the original recipe has fatted milk and heavy cream added. These non-dairy milk substitutions lighten up the pie as well but still add the fat needed.  I also messed with the spices a bit.  If you hate cloves, either leave them out or cut down the amount, but I love the depth that cloves give this recipe.  You get one 9″ pie with the filling measurements below.

Ingredients:

  • Pie crust (you’re on your own here for your particular dietary restrictions).  I liked a graham cracker crust with this pie, but you can also make it with regular pie dough, in which case the pizza stone below becomes really important.
  • 15 oz unsweetened pumpkin puree
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp cloves (buy whole and grind with a mortar and pestle)
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 4 grams (.14 oz) cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup coconut cream
  • 3 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and put a pizza stone in the oven to provide a flat surface with uniform heating.

In a saucepan, combine pumpkin, brown sugar, spices and salt. Stir until it becomes dark and thick, keep the heat relatively low. Then put the spice mixture in a mixer with a whip attachment and turn it on. Pour in milk and cream in a steady stream. Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. I whip it for a bit to add some air, which helps make it fluffy and less dense.

Let sit 30 minutes and pour into pie shell. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes and then 350 after until finished.

Stepping Over the Line

I spent some time talking to a friend today. Because she knows I’m “into this kind of thing,” she wanted to know how to convince her family (and herself) to really take the plunge and change their lifestyle to a more active one. We talked a little about strategies associated with making changes – like modeling the change you want to see, establishing a ‘team’ through use of fitness tracker data sharing and the like. Ultimately, though, change is not going to happen until a person is motivated to put substantial energy into that change, and that line may not be where another person thinks it should be.

People can tolerate a lot of the devil they know instead of dealing with a new situation, in order to stay mentally comfortable. Cognitive dissonance – or the stress people feel when they are forced to hold two competing ideas at the same time due to the introduction of new information – is perceived as so noxious sometimes that people may avoid it at all costs, even if that means distorting perceptions and creating wild justifications. Cognitive dissonance can also give rise to denial of the validity of new information and a failure to incorporate that information into one’s worldview as a solid defense against stress.

If a person has an illness and the illness’s effects are enhanced due to one’s lifestyle factors, logically…you would want to mitigate that illness’s effects by any means that you could control. Like taking medication, losing weight, seeing a specialist, exercising, or testing blood sugar, for instance.

But the fact is that people do not do things that are in their best interest for all kinds of reasons. In health psychology and in the general medical universe, adherence to regimens and medications prescribed is called “compliance.” Compliance is a negative word and removes patient autonomy and values from the equation, so I prefer to use ‘adherence’ instead. But many things keep people from adhering their doctors’ recommendations, and a lot of those are psychological. Of course, socioeconomic status, religious values and language/health literacy are huge factors in agreeing to a treatment regimen. But sometimes non-adherence is as basic as a teen with Type I diabetes not wanting to be different from his or her peers, so they do not test and they do not keep to their diet in an effort to be like everyone else. So they smile and nod at the doctor’s appointment and then leave their testing supplies behind when they go to school.

Non-adherence often leads to serious medical complications and/or a worsening of the condition. I know someone with Parkinson’s who refuses to do any kind of physical therapy. All this person’s doctors recommend PT. This person has major imbalances that could result in hip fractures after a fall, leaning, and pain — all that could improve with PT. And yet, no PT is happening. Why?

Because in this person’s mind, PT=”I am weak, and I refuse to see myself as needing help.” The irony is that without PT, a wheelchair is on the horizon, if not already overdue.  Rather than re-examine the assumption that PT makes him or her weak, actual physical pain is preferable to the psychological uncertainty.

So people’s timelines for acceptance and change action are uniquely personal things, and the discrepancy between others’ timelines and the individual’s is why families and supporters of the person frequently get so angry and frustrated, saying, “WHAT NEEDS TO HAPPEN FOR YOU TO WAKE UP?”

If you are the family member or supporter in this scenario, all you can do is be the kind of change or model you would like to see, and maybe at one point you will be asked, “how did you do it?” And the real dialogue can start.

My friend told me (because I am into this kind of thing), “You probably don’t understand, you think this is logical and easy, that we should just do it.” I see why she might think that, but I do understand. I had my own line for change, and at that point I had a LOT of cognitive dissonance and shame. But the real challenge is feeling that stress, not denying its importance or existence, and then transmogrifying it into something motivational and healing.

This kind of disconnect between people is why I started writing here, because my line in the sand is not and was not anyone else’s line, but that line can move closer if people feel that change is possible and are not overwhelmed with the idea of the process. Change, while hard, is definitely possible and cognitive dissonance does definitely not kill you. Instead, it is a puzzle to be solved, a motivator.

There is nothing easy about any of that.  Nothing at all.

Opening Bell

“ ‘There’s a saying, “Every man is put on Earth condemned to die, time and method of execution unknown’. Perhaps this is as it should be.”

 

– Ending narration for Escape Clause, ‘The Twilight Zone’, aired November 6th, 1959.

In the Twilight Zone’s Escape Clause, hypochondriac Walter Bedeker’s motivation for selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for immortality was his fear of death. In the end he realizes that fear of death is the only thing that gave his miserable life any meaning.

While I wouldn’t say my life was miserable, and I did have some workplace meaning, I didn’t have a ‘thing.’ I did feel like something was missing. And then one day I had a wake up call in the form of a medical scare as is common in middle age. I realized that while I couldn’t live forever, I knew perfectly well I could improve my situation and put health coins in the bank for the future. However, I felt overwhelmed and didn’t know where to start or what to do, and knew I was in lousy shape.  I had participated in a couple of sports previously but those were out of reach in my current situation, and in the case of weightlifting, I tended to get really bored, really fast.

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.

 

–Viktor Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning

My decision to start running came the day I was at Carmichael Training System’s climbing camp as moral support for Matthew in 2015. I looked around the table during dinner on the final day of camp. These were men and women of my age or even older, who dragged themselves up mountains on a bike for fun and considered road rash merely an occupational hazard and therefore not worth a lot of thought. Being exhausted was their idea of a good time, and they were all enthusiastic in an essentially human way – drinking wine, celebrating a hard week’s worth of work, talking about cycling trips and old races, gossiping about the pros.

I had no such thing in my life. At that moment I vowed to change that.

I believe strongly that not is only exercise preventive medicine, but it also helps facilitate independence in old age, can slow down the progression of chronic disease symptoms like in Parkinson’s disease (a disease that has hit my family particularly hard), and increase feelings of well-being. I used to be a health psychologist and have seen first hand how meaningful gains in independence and an increased sense of control are in a person’s perceived quality of life.  All too often we see exercise as punishment, or pointless, or unsustainable, and just generally as a way to ward off death.  Which really is going to happen anyway so what’s the point when…hey, pizza?

The gains of working towards a fitness goal may not be easily quantifiable but on an individual basis, they can be life-changing.  I’ve seen it in myself, and in others.

Besides the health psychology, exercise science, and general stuff related to fitness, this blog is about my own journey about learning to run at 44. I never ran in high school or college. I was that high school girl who stood so far out in the outfield in gym sometimes I missed the bell to come back inside. Anyone who liked running – well, there was something wrong with them.

Now there is something wrong with me too. And I am glad because I now have a ‘thing.’

I hope to share random thoughts and other cool things with you.  So nice to meet you and hopefully you hang around, ok?