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by Tzatzil LeMair on December 12th, 2017

What are your New Year's Resolutions?

​If you are like me, you are probably rushing to get things done before the Holidays and have not taken the time yet to plan your New Year's resolutions. But you should try to set aside sometime to sit down and write some goals. I'm usually good about that. I had a fantastic 2016 full of personal best performances from 5K to Ironman and even qualified for the Boston Marathon! I ended the year with a bang but in all the excitement, I failed to plan for 2017.

The new year rolled in and I never found my "mojo". Without a plan, or goals, I felt unmotivated. I jumped into a couple of races without properly training for them (not fun). Then, in April, I went for a walk in London wearing cute boots. I walked and walked enjoying the city, but the next day my heel hurt. And it hasn't stopped hurting since. I'm in a boot right now, but this time is not the cute kind but the kind you get at the doctor's office. The irony of it all is that after 20 years of running I finally qualified to run the Boston Marathon, but I can't even run a mile right now, and I'm not sure I will be able to run in April.

So, onto 2018! As I set my New Year's resolutions, this time around I will be focusing on my health, healing and helping women achieve their fitness goals! For starters, we've partner with Athleta and Zooma Texas, Austin's only women's road race, to offer a new 5K, 10K and Half Marathon training program and discounted race entries! Our 3-month plan starts January 3rd! Additionally, we're also partnering with Dr. Victor Pena who is offering a special introductory 10-week health coaching program at a fraction of the regular price exclusively to Tough Cookies!

So if you don't have a plan yet, join us this January 3rd and kick start 2018 with a plan to walk, run or run-walk Zooma Austin! You know what they say; if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I won't make that mistake again. Let's get planning for 2018!

by Tzatzil LeMair on September 5th, 2017

And so, it began.

​Twenty years ago, this fall, I ran the New York City Marathon. It was my first time running 26.2 miles. There was a hurricane moving up the east coast dumping rain on us all day long, flooding the streets, blowing trash around and making street signs sway in the wind. Somewhere in the Bronx, with just a few miles to go, I clearly remember saying “Never again!” and “What was I thinking?” But stored right next to that memory, is also the uplifting sounds and sights of the crowds along Central Park South cheering us on that last stretch, and I am light as a feather, elated, sprinting across the finish line with my arms up in the air! And so, it began, my love-hate relationship with marathoning.

Over the past twenty years, I’ve heard myself say “This is my last marathon!” more times than I can count. Yet, I keep coming back for more. Most of the time I say that during the last six miles of the marathon, but that’s expected as I’m usually depleted, tired, sore, and slightly delusional by then. During the last six miles of a marathon is hard to recall the reasons you signed up in the first place.

In the months leading to the race, there are many moments that make you question the decision to train for a marathon, like when your alarm goes off at ungodly hours on weekends when everyone else is asleep, or the moment you step out into a cold rainy morning wearing nothing more than a singlet and shorts. There is a laundry list of reasons to hate running including black toe nails, chaffing, port-a-potties, energy gels, blisters, and of course…GRAVITY.

But, with all the complaining and whining, I keep signing up for marathons. What is it about running 26.2 miles that’s so enticing? I remember once at a gathering, I mentioned excitedly I was getting ready to run the NYC marathon. To my surprise the person replied, “Why would anyone want to do that?” I remember being put off by the question and not being able to give him a good answer, although I doubt he was expecting one. I probably listed many reasons why I loved running, like “it helps me stay in shape” and “it helps me clear my mind”, etc. but that didn’t address the question of why 26.2 miles.

Not everyone CAN run a marathon. Even if your doctor gives you the thumbs up and says you’re perfectly healthy, training for a marathon is hard. It requires discipline, dedication, drive and most importantly, grit. You will experience exhaustion, hunger, and you will feel pain. It will test your endurance, your will. It will keep you honest. You can’t fake it. There will be set backs and curve balls that will challenge your dedication, your drive. But because it is hard, the rewards will be all the sweeter. You will feel stronger, empowered, accomplished and elated every day you train. Sure, you’ll have ups and downs, but you’ll know you’re one step closer to achieving your goal. And when you cross the finish line and accomplish your goal, you will want to do it all over again.

So here I am 20 years later, waiting eagerly for registration to open for the 2018 Boston Marathon (It only took me 20 years to run a qualifying time!) I was a young 20 something girl when I ran my first marathon, and here I am, a young 40 something mom of 4, and I am just as excited as I was the day I lined up in central park to sign-up for the NYC marathon. And so, I revisit the question “Why would anyone want to do that?” and I know my answer now. Because I CAN.

by Tzatzil LeMair on June 28th, 2017

Last weekend I took my family to ride the Southern Walnut Creek trail for the first time. This is a 7 mile stretch from Govalle Park to the Austin Tennis Center on Johnny Morris. We decided to ride north to south in the direction we will be heading on July 1st at our Tough Cookie Cycling 101 Clinic and Ride.

We picked the hottest time of the day with temperatures hovering around 100 degrees which was not a smart move. My riding partners that day were my husband and four boys ranging in ages from 9 to 18. The ride starts with a long mile and a half downhill that was just pure fun. My youngest son, Diego, was squealing with joy “We need to do this ride every weekend! Weeeeeeeee!” I, however, was more concerned with the fact that we would have to ride back up that hill at the end of the ride, and wondered if he would be able to make it...
tzatzil lemair, southern walnut creek trail
After the initial downhill, the path flattens and winds around following the natural path of Walnut Creek. About two miles into the ride we reached the YMCA trail access point which might be a more central starting point for some folks. As we continued our ride we were impressed by the wooded scenery to the point that it didn't seem we were in Austin anymore.

The rest of the 10 foot-wide concrete path was mostly flat with some rolling hills and only one road crossing. The boys particularly enjoyed all the little bridges and under passes that allow this ride to be virtually car-free by going over or under the roads.

​We eventually arrived at Govalle Park which featured a nice creek-side picnic area and playground. Here we took a little break on a picnic table and when the boys started horsing around and squirting water on each other I knew it was time to start our ride back up the trail.
southern walnut creek trail
On the way back, Diego started slowing down but was still in good spirits. This was Diego’s first solo ride, since he usually rides tandem with my husband. Although Diego rides his bike around the neighborhood regularly, he had never gone this far. The last two miles were long and hot and Diego started to struggle (see photo below). I was trying to find ways to encourage him to keep going and prevent him from having a negative experience on his first solo ride. I tried distracting him and we started talking about space. Diego wants to be an astronaut and go to Mars, so I told him how important learning to “endure” and pushing himself beyond his “comfort zone” was going to be in his career. This seemed to click, and continued to push and managed to complete the last uphill mile and a half.

During our entire ride, we only encountered two other cyclists on the path, I'm sure in part because it was the hottest time of day! The boys really enjoyed this trail and are looking forward to riding it again this summer. It was a nice, peaceful alternative to often crowded Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail, or as I still like to call it Town Lake. I highly recommend you ride the Southern Walnut Creek Trail if you are looking for a traffic free, paved bike path, where you can focus on cycling and nature and not on watching out for cars. I’m looking forward to our Cycling 101 Clinic next weekend and to sharing this great new bike path with new cyclists!

Southern Walnut Creek Trail Map

by Tzatzil LeMair on June 15th, 2017

Last Monday we we hosted the first event of our Free Women-Only Triathlon Clinic Series in celebration of our 15th Anniversary. Our opening event, an Open Water Swim Clinic at Pure Austin Quarry Lake, exceeded our expectations in every way but also reminded us of how terrifying swimming in open water can be for many first timers. The event, which is part of USA Triathlon's Women's Initiative (WIN), featured a "brief lecture" prior to the swim session. My challenge was condensing 20 years of triathlon experience and "Lessons Learned" into a  20 minute talk. The result was this list of Top 3 Tips which, if you master it, can make all the difference in your open water swim experience.

The Goal

Your main goal during the swim should be to have the most efficient stroke technique so you can swim effortlessly, master sighting techniques so you can swim the shortest distance, and keep your heart rate down by staying relaxed and calm throughout the swim. If you can master these three skills, you should be able to come out of the water ready to rock the bike and run!

The Strategies

1) Maximize your efficiency

If you are new to triathlon and have never learned proper freestyle stroke, you need to invest in lessons or join a masters swim team. There is no point in spending hours training in the pool if all you are doing is reinforcing bad swimming form. Swimming is all about technique. Without proper body alignment and stroke technique you will be working twice as hard and you will come out of the water exhausted and not ready to bike and run.
  • Make yourself long and sleek through the water - think "fish-like”
  • Balance your body "on top" on the water perfectly parallel to the bottom of the lake - push your chest into the water if your hips and legs are sinking
  • Kick from the hips – Flutter kick generating small bubbles (like boiling water) and not a big splash - just enough to keep your lower body from sinking
  • Rotate your body to fully extend your leading arm as it begins to pull then roll back to the other side as your hand passes your hips
  • Utilize your “paddle” from your elbow bend to the tip of your fingers to pull through the water - Keep your hand relaxed and fingers in a natural position (do not cup your hands)
  • Complete the stroke - make sure you are not starting the next stroke too soon - you want to maximize the distance per stroke by taking long powerful strokes. Make every stroke count!

2) Swim the shortest distance possible

If this sounds like an obvious tip that's because it is. However, I am always surprised by how little time most triathletes spend practicing and mastering sighting techniques and by how few actually incorporate sighting into their technique. Mastering sighting technique - incorporating sighting into your freestyle stroke and sighting often - will enable you to swim the shortest distance between buoys and prevent having to correct your course and adding extra yardage to your swim.
  • Use "Hippo Eyes" when sighting. No need to lift your head out of the water, just peek with your "hippo eyes" between breaths to make sure there's a straight line between you and the next buoy at all times.
  • Sight often! Every 8-10 strokes, the more you do it the better you'll get at it.
  • Draft off of slightly faster swimmers. Don’t swim right behind them but to the side of them somewhere between their waist and feet.

3) Keep calm and swim on

Staying relaxed and calm during the swim is essential in having a successful swim. You can minimize physical contact with other swimmers by positioning yourself in the right place at the start of the swim. Swimming around a pack instead of through it might be worth the extra couple of strokes to avoid the “excitement” of physical contact and heart rate spike that goes along with it.
  • Position yourself to avoid getting stuck in a bad group, preferably on the outside of the wave. Swim wide around the buoys to avoid crowding then cut straight to the next buoy.
  • Protect your face – always have one arm in front at all times and replace it with your next stroke arm
  • Count strokes to keep your mind busy and stroke rate tempo constant
  • Focus on technique and not speed to stay calm and focused 
The more you practice these skills the better you'll get at it and the more comfortable you'll feel during the swim. Don't let the swim-start mayhem get the best of you! Keep your mind calm and your body relaxed by focusing on your technique instead. Before you know it, you'll be coming out of the water fully energized and ready to conquer the bike and run!

by Tzatzil LeMair on December 30th, 2016

​Lately, I’ve seen some articles circulating on social media on how training for Ironman or marathons “made people fat". These articles are not written by professional writers, registered dietitians or certified coaches, these “articles” are usually blog posts written by people who have experienced weight gain while training for endurance events. On the articles I read, the writers, feeling frustrated, give up their endurance training, start a completely new routine focusing on strength training and high intensity interval training, adopt a new clean diet with reduced carbohydrates start seeing results and immediately claim “marathon training was making me fat!” Um, no, marathon training was not making you fat, overeating while marathon training was making you fat.   

It's not (entirely) our fault

Overeating while marathon training is very common and very easy to do. I must admit; the running community doesn’t always help. Example; You just trained for and ran your first 5K. You did your research and carbo-loaded the day before, you consumed an energy gel and a sports drink the morning of, you ran a great race and as you make your way through the finish line chute you are immediately offered a myriad of post-race junk food; cookies, potato chips, cheese & peanut butter crackers, pizza, you name it! Yes, you may find bananas and if you are lucky, oranges too! But can they compete with a breakfast taco? And since you ran a race today, you might go celebrate with your friends and have pancakes ignoring the fact that running three miles burns approximately 300 calories, the equivalent of ONE medium size pancake with butter and syrup. And the longer the race the bigger the splurge.  Trust me, I know. Whenever I’m training for a marathon, I feel like a hero after every double-digit run and, for the rest of the day, I continue to eat as much as my teenage sons if I don’t stop myself.

​​“But I need to Carbo-load!”

What’s the deal with carbo-loading anyway? Yes, it’s true that carbs are the body’s preferred source of energy, but we hear that and immediately envision stacks and stacks of pancakes and enormous bowls of pasta and buttery garlic bread. The problem is that we tend overestimate calories burned and underestimate calories consumed. You can carbo-load by consuming a large sweet potato and fruit salad for dessert. But if you prefer pasta and pancakes that’s fine too, just watch the serving portions and make sure you are getting enough nutrients from other sources too.

"​I’m always starving!”

I hear this all the time! When my athletes tell me they are starving, I know they are not getting enough nutrients in their diet. If your diet is nutritionally lacking and doesn’t include enough nutrients (protein, fat, fruits and vegetable) you will feel hungry. It helps to track what you are eating to see what you’re missing in your diet.  There are many apps that can help you track not just calories but nutrients as well.

I always advise my athletes to take advantage of marathon training to adopt some new healthier eating habits such as tracking their food intake and focusing on food as “fuel” and strive for optimum nutrition. Ideally, avoid processed food, get enough protein, healthy fats and nuts, and strive to get most of your carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables. Eliminating or minimizing processed food will help you sleep better, recover faster, and keep your calories in check. Remember you cannot outrun a bad diet.

Marathon training will provide you with numerous health benefits, both physical and mental, including the possibility of losing weight but only if you implement healthy eating habits too.  Training for endurance events such as marathons or Ironman races is NOT a free pass to eat whatever you want. And if losing weight is the sole reason you’ve chosen to jump on the endurance bandwagon, you might be in for a disappointment and totally missing out on all the other wonderful benefits of marathon training.

Happy Running!