How fit are you?

Running up a mountain

By Guy Petruzelli

The purpose of this post is to discuss the things that most runners or endurance athletes hate – taking a really hard look at all the things that they aren’t doing, or that they suck at, and why it’s so critical to address those issues right now. Avoiding things like strength and mobility work will undoubtedly help rear the ugly head of injury. This is coming from experience – 6 years ago I was on a very steady diet of high mileage swim, bike, run, with little to no strength, and even less mobility. And sure enough, I found myself in a PT office more than once. When I came across Crossfit my mentality towards fitness changed dramatically. Now, this isn’t a post about why you should do Crossfit. I like to think of it as functional fitness and its added years to my racing, as well as improved my health and wellness for anything life might throw my way.

So, what is your level of fitness?

I'm not talking about in your specific sport. I don't look at the winner of Kona and think "that's the height of fitness", actually, far from it. Yes, they are very fit in the very narrow sense of swim, bike, run, but, that doesn't make them fit. Let’s define fitness as - the ability to do things well across broad time and modal domains.

  1. Take an assessment. Can you do a squat, with shins staying vertical, knees out, getting below 90 degrees? Can you do a full push up? How about a full range of motion sit up? What about a pull up? Burpee? All these movements have value and purpose to your training - they provide strength, stability, more range of motion, the incorporation of the correct muscle groups when you are focusing on your sport.If you are a quad monster, odds are, you don't get your posterior chain to do enough of the work in the run and bike. You're giving away potential with every step or pedal stroke. If any of the above movements give you trouble, it’s going to affect how you race. But more importantly, it’s going to affect your everyday life.
  2. How's your nutrition? Not race day, or training day, but your everyday nutrition? The way I eat follows some very simple principles, and has been proven to be the road to better overall health. It changes a bit as the season progresses, but knowing what my baseline should be, I know how to tweak it for different times of the year. It ensures that I'm staying healthy during cold and flu season, and provides me the much needed fuel for training, no matter the level of intensity.So be honest, do you have a good understanding of your own personal nutrition? If not, then it behooves you to figure what it should be. Do you know what your macronutrient intake is, or should be? Do you suffer from bouts of digestive issues, or energy level swings? That's your nutrition. You can train like a champ, but if you eat like shit, it doesn't matter. There are several apps out there like MyPlate that allow you to see what you eat, and how it breaks down. I am an advocate of a 30-40-30 - 30% carb, 40% protein, 30% fat, diet.
  3. Sleep. This is another one that always gets people. How much uninterrupted sleep do you get a night? There is a ton to say on this topic, but to me, the suggested 8 hours a night is completely legit. Plus, it’s important to note, you can't "catch up" on your sleep. You can't go 6 days straight of 5 hours a night then think sleeping 10 on one day will matter. That’s not how it works. I recommend the book "Lights out, sleep, sugar, survival" by T.S. Wiley.
  4. When was the last time you had a physical? Blood drawn, the whole bit? It pays to do so. And if your insurance covers it, ask for a VAT test, a much more comprehensive blood draw that will show you what essential minerals you are lacking. There is value in knowing where you stand, so you can make choices accordingly.

To be successful at anything, you have to attack your weaknesses. You need to make friends with them, then destroy them. When you become friends with your weakness, you understand it better, you know how it affects you, what it makes you do, or not do. That way you can eliminate it completely. Don't avoid what you suck at. And that includes the above. Every single day is an opportunity to fix those issues. I call it chasing rabbits. To improve, I have to chase down the rabbit hole as far as is necessary to eventually slay that dragon. Think about how you want to do the same. Want to read more from Guy? Check out his personal blog here.