New Video: Stability & Mobility (Total Body)

Grab a tennis ball and/or a light weight for this gentle total body session! The goal of this 15 minute workout is to improve range of motion, function, and balance. Enjoy dynamic movements that simulate activities of daily life (like lifting or reaching/rotating) and include sport-specific movements. You should feel better after completing this session; a great warm up before a challenging lift or great before/after a cardio session or sport practice.

All levels welcome!


Race Weight & Healthy Body Image

Written By Ironman Certified Coach Becca Kawaoka, Elite Triathlete, Cyclist, and USA Swim Coach

As a coach and competitor, I often hear commentary on weight and size. Endurance sports like swimming, cycling, running, rowing, and triathlon are often associated with words like “lean, light, and skinny.” One of the most commonly asked questions I get from my athletes is “What should my race weight be?” Perhaps you’ve asked yourself or your coach that question, or perhaps you were given misinformation as a child and are still experiencing trauma from that experience as an adult. Let’s talk about it.

The Number One priority for any athlete should be mental, emotion, and physical health as a result of balanced and structured training, eating, and sleep. I could probably end this blog on that statement, but if you know me you know I love to elaborate. A coach holds a lot of power on how an athlete views themselves, and sadly this power can be misused. Its far easier to spit out a random calorie recommendation than sit down with an athlete for an in-depth nutrition analysis. Its far easier to tell an athlete to lose weight then to take personal responsibility for training stimuli or discuss unhealthy sleeping patterns or stress levels.

I understand that its appealing to hear a coach say “let’s get you to X weight in X amount of time and I’ll hold you accountable!” I’ve had coaches say that to me. The truth is that coach isn’t around when key decisions are being made, such as wake up and bed time, meal choice, etc. A more proactive approach is to discuss lifestyle rituals, mental mantras, etc. so the athlete develops autonomy and self-confidence. Remember: it’s not up to your coach, it’s up to you. I want to share the proactive approach I take with myself and my athletes regarding weight and body image.

  • A coach should start by getting the full picture. This means reviewing performance goals, current training intensity and load, current nutrition and fueling strategy, potential resting/active metabolic testing, stress load (work, school, etc), and sleeping patterns. If your coach spits out a competition weight or daily calorie intake for you, or even makes comments on your current size without going over any of these items, please walk away. 
  • After getting the full picture, a coach should discuss 1-3 daily rituals to the athlete could try implementing. This could mean aiming for 8-10 hours of sleep, eating breakfast, fueling properly before and during workouts to prevent overconsumption or bonking, and/or coping strategies to decrease stress from unhealthy or challenging relationships. It may be as simple as positive mental mantra’s to try when experiencing negative self-talk or pre competition/workout anxiety. A good coach will follow up regularly with the athlete and potentially incorporate ways to benchmark progress, such as mood tracking, sleep or nutrition journal, and/or performance benchmarks.
  • From here, an athlete will either make an effort to improve the areas discussed or continue in unhealthy patterns of training, eating, and sleeping. If there is marked improvement in mood, performance, etc., a rapport has been most likely been established between coach and athlete. This is a fantastic platform to continue building and progressing the athlete in a healthy dynamic. If an athlete does not report improvements, its important the coach follows up with WHY. Is there another route to take? Are you barking up the wrong tree? Is this the wrong time for this athlete to have said goals in training and competing? Would another coach or professional of expertise be more impactful? A great coach won’t give up on an athlete, but rather take responsibility for the approach and commit to setting them up for success even if it means parting ways.

From my perspective as a fierce competitor AND proactive coach, an athletes weight and their relationship with their weight is very important. Weight is something almost everyone is aware of, and likely feels either positive or negative about it. Weight, and one’s relationship with weight, can certainly positively or negative affect performance. I may be beating a dead horse here, but a healthy and confident weight is a result of specific training load and intensity, intentional fueling before during and after exercise, healthy consistent sleeping patterns, and stress management. A competitive triathlete will not be successful if he/she completes 20-25 hours of training a week but fuels with bacon double cheeseburgers or only maintains 5-6 hours of sleep at night. A runner won’t PR in a marathon if she is significantly under-weight and experiencing amenorrhea. It’s important to have a good coach to look over the details and patterns in an athlete to promote a healthy self-perception. I truly believe a healthy “race weight” will be a result of those action items.

I often encourage my athletes to ditch the scale for a training cycle, and when they feel at their best on all three platforms (mental, physical, emotion) they can step back on and observe what their body is telling them. Then, we can discuss the result together in a positive and controlled environment. Maybe they went through a huge volume cycle and lost a few pounds, but they have good energy without signs of burn out and training data is headed in the right direction. Perhaps the athlete is in out season training, so peak power and weight training are the focus point, and the athlete gains a few pounds while consuming healthy foods and getting more sleep than usual. The scale may not move at all, but performance metrics point to improvement … or an athlete simply realizes they feel great at that weight. All scenarios mentioned are wins.

In conclusion, please hear me acknowledge that weight does matter, for some people and specific sports (I see you rowing!) than others. The approach is critical, and coaches are responsible for taking a proactive and dynamic approach with their athlete(s). It’s ok to refer an athlete to another coach or professional for help. It’s ok to try one way, backtrack, and try another way. Its ok for you, the athlete, to have highs and lows in training and competing. You are not alone, there is a way to find success with your body and your sport while improving your relationship with yourself. Please don’t carry that burden alone; communicate with your coach, family, and friends. Lastly, it’s ok to ask for help, both as a coach and an athlete! No one has all the answers. Let’s help each other out and move forward together.

Wishing you all the best. Please let me know if you have any questions, I’m here for you!

Love,

Coach Bec


New Video: Core & Mobility

Join Coach Becca for a wonderful series of functional mobility and core movements! This session is a great way to open things up after a strenuous segment of training, or as a fun way to kickstart your day. Enjoy voice over cues on form with options for beginners and advanced alike. No equipment needed.

Thanks for coming along on our weekly posting – see you next week for another fun, free, functional session!


New Video: Flexibility & Mobility [Full, Post-Swim]

Join Coach Becca for a 10 minute spine and shoulder mobility session! New movements in this session are brought to you by Coach Becca’s friends at Ignite Performance in Phoenix in addition to her friends at The Upgrade Guys 💪🏽 Keep things new, fresh, and focused on building a strong foundation. All you need is a chair or Bench, moderate weight, PVC pipe or broomstick, and an optional ball. All levels are welcome; even those who are not swimmers will benefit from these sequences! Be sure to check out both Ignite and The Upgrade Guys on social media – and see you next week!


New Video: Pre-Ride Mobility for Cyclists

Join me, Coach Becca, for a pre ride routine designed to mobilize the body from the bottom up with cycling specific movements! Enjoy basic strength moves with a fun twist along with dynamic movements to help your body stand up to the demands of cycling. All you need is a step, bench or chair that can support you standing on it! 🙂 All levels welcome!




Salem 70.3 Race Review

“Be Patient. Be Present. Be Gentle. Be Kind.”

Let me start by saying what an incredible blessing the sport of triathlon has been to me. I have grown exponentially in the past 4+ years of training and racing, physically, mentally and emotionally. Working side by side through the highs and lows of competition with my husband has undoubtedly brought us closer together; this past weekend was no exception!

We knew going into the inaugural Salem 70.3 that it was going to be an interesting day. The swim is downriver and would essentially wipe out any potential gains a strong swimmer would typically make. Elliot and I started together, near the front, and stayed together for the most part. I didn’t really have to swim, just tried to stay calm. Several of us got swept to the opposing side of the river onto a sandbar at the start due to the current, but a simple jog over the rocks and bellyflop back into the raging river was my quick response. I think it threw some people off, but it didn’t bother me much. I knew we were all going to swim about the same speed regardless. The current was fast! I knew we were moving quickly by how rapid the buoys went by. My main focus was staying calm and smooth, staying near the buoys, and keeping track of where I was so the current wouldn’t sweep me past the swim exit buoy! It would be one tough swim upstream if that happened. Thankfully, all went to plan, and I set an unbeatable personal swim best time of 22:47. LOL. I saw Elliot in transition for the first time ever (he is always 2-10 minutes up on me depending on the swim distance!) which confirmed it was going to be a weird day.

The bike course was flat and fast into the rustic Oregon countryside. Lovely fields, vineyards, and barns dotted the countryside. I remembered my race theme: be patient, be present, be gentle, be kind. I took this mantra from Headspace – a guided meditation app I’ve been using. Despite pushing the upper end of my “sweet spot” or threshold effort, I tried to take focused breaths, enjoy the views, and exchange kind words to my fellow competitors on the course (unless they were drafting, in which case I was not as kind!) I always race the bike hard, and I felt it was especially important to race the bike like I plan to at 70.3 Worlds in a few months. I had worried about the flat bike course before the race (perhaps being small and powerful would be less advantageous without hills?) but after discussing the matter with a good friend and respected pro triathlete Paul Stevenson (you’re the man, Paul!) I decided to race hard but within myself in preparation for the more important race of the year: Worlds.

Both the bike and run course were straightforward out and backs, so I could count the girls in front of me at the turnaround. I saw Elliot not too far ahead, and at least 5 women to catch. I gritted my teeth and kept the gas pedal on. I held about 10 watts higher than planned the first half of the bike but committed to settling in a bit to prepare for the run. I know I have one of the strongest runs in the field, so after making significant ground in the first 28 miles, I felt like it was wise to get into a touch easier, uncomfortably comfortable rhythm in the back 28 miles. There were lonely stretches out there in No Man’s Land, but I didn’t mind. I felt prepared, present, and determined to go for the top step by putting together all three sports instead of having one stand out leg.

Off the bike in 2:28 with gas in the tank for the run. After a quick transition to the run, I was feeling excited to chase! In past races this year, I didn’t have as many women around me on the bike or in transition. I saw several girls in transition off the bike near me, and just up ahead on the run, but I expected that. A flat course with bull sh*t swim means everyone stays pretty close together, so I wasn’t fazed! I kept Miranda Carfrae’s advice in my head as I completed the first 5k: “Running off the bike always hurts at first, may as well hurt AND go fast.” I was out in 19:28 for my first 5k (disclaimer, it trended downhill!) with just 2 women left to pick off. By mile 5 I had taken the lead. I knew I was running the fastest – to my knowledge – in the women’s field. Ironman provides a volunteer on a mountain bike to the Lead Female during the run, so I had a volunteer on a bike supporting me the rest of the run, which was pretty cool. She radioed my position back to the finish line every time we went by a mile marker, so I trusted they would be watching the virtual lead in case it changed. Everyone was so supportive of me on the course! People had their phones out taking pictures as I came through, and the crowd was amazing when I headed back into town. My pre- race mantra came back to me often on those lonely 8 miles at the front: “Be patient, you have this. Be present, enjoy this experience- it may not ever happen again. Be gentle to yourself, but keep the legs moving. Be kind to others, they will remember how you responded to them.”

I saw Elliot just before the halfway point of the run and could tell he was fighting to stay strong. I was really proud he got to see me in the lead with the Lead Female bike tailing me. After the turnaround, I took note of my competition on the way back. Everyone was still running slower, and the gaps were big. A mile or so after the turnaround, I noticed one girl running well. She looked young, and was running fast, but seemed so far back I counted her out. (Mistake!). I was holding pace for a 1:22 half marathon through mile 8. I allowed myself a few seconds per mile with the lead I had built up, not knowing the girl I had written off was running an unheard of 1:20 pace. Elliot had told me before the race to break 1:25 on the run, and I will probably have the win. So, I held a pace good enough to break 1:25, and kept a little in the tank in case someone ran up on me. My official run split was 1:25:03 (petty sidenote: I started my watch at my bike in transition, so my half marathon split was 1:24:48, which means I did as I was told! 😉

No one ran up on me, physically. Virtually, however, that girl was. I’ll give her credit, she put together an insane run. I’ve never seen an amateur run a 1:25, let alone a 1:20. She deserves a lot of credit for the chase she gave! She has my respect. Would I have liked to run side by side with her and go to battle? Absolutely. By my calculations, we would have met at around mile 12.5 had we started together in the swim. I had enough in the tank to battle. I’ve run an official 1:21 half marathon before, deep in training, and I would like to think we could have been the next Iron War. We will never know.

The experience of finishing first (physically) was unforgettable despite the hard news I would hear after I finished. I got tears in my eyes as I saw the red carpet, finish line arch, and the winning tape rolled out in front of me to break. I took a final look over my shoulder, saw no one, and crossed the line first with the banner over my head, proud. I did it! I executed the course to the best of my knowledge and ability. Five years of hard work and dreaming finally coming true! Photos were being snapped, and Elliot came running up to congratulate me.

Then…

The girl chasing in second came in about a minute later and the announcers told us her virtual time was a few seconds faster. The rolling swim start presented the illusion she was farther down than she really was but, on paper, she did beat me. I felt stupid; what did I do wrong? I never settled in, but I allowed myself some time due to the cushion I thought I had with the knowledge of amateur run field splits and taking note of everyone at the halfway turnaround. I was sad, mad, and frustrated that I had just been told I got beat, without really being physically beaten, and there was nothing I could do about it.

Since the race has passed, I’m more at peace now. I’m a competitor, so it will always sting. It’s no one’s fault: the swim has to start that way due safety concerns for the large age group fields, she deserves to feel happy about winning, and in some way so do I. Anyone in my position would have done what I did and would feel the way I feel. I raced at the front, I took chances that I thought they paid off (and maybe they did….) I raced from the gun to the tape, like any athlete would. We all completed the whirlwind swim where the best swimmers swam the same as average swimmers (like me). I pushed the bike and set standard on the run. It isn’t my fault that someone got to start later and pip me at the line after I had finished. That isn’t a real race if you ask me.

No, I don’t count it as a win. I don’t count it as a loss. I count it as an experience that taught me what to expect as an amateur that wants to win, and if I don’t like that it’s not a live race then it’s time to consider cashing in on the pro license I earned back in May. No, I don’t think I’m ready for pro level racing. I don’t think I’d like it if I wasn’t in the mix. I know I’m a fast age grouper but a middle of the pack to back of the pack level pro. If an age grouper can beat me, even by seconds unknown at the time, I don’t think it’s the best option to go pro. So, we just have to put our heads down, go back to work, and continue building for what has been the objective for the past 2.5 years: Compete with an international, championship level field in St. George at 70.3 Worlds in September. I have one more training block to build all three disciplines, with the fire burning stronger than ever. It just may be the best thing that ever happened to me. Nothing hurts more than being a winner for 60 seconds just to be told you’re the first loser, and I don’t anticipate feeling that way again if there is ANYTHING I can do about it.

Elliot finished well, considering how hard he pushed himself in his build to Kona after qualifying a month ago at Ironman Coeur D’Alene. He wasn’t satisfied with it, but that’s why I love him. He honestly assesses a performance, his athlete’s and his own, and goes to work to improve any shortcomings. It was fun to experience a significant high that turned out to be a significant low with Elliot while he worked through what he would describe as a lackluster performance.

We do this sport for so many reasons: health, structure, fun, etc. Winning age groups, overall, or qualifying for a pro license or championship race are all just bonuses that come with this amazing lifestyle we get to live, both on the good days and the hard days. We still love each other a lot and are incredibly proud of the ability to fight through anything- a quality we both possess and are attracted to in one another. ❤ On to the next!

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk J

Stay present, patient, gentle, and kind folks.

Best,

Bec