Aqua-jogging, Kenyans, Carbs and why do they keep winning, Winning mind-set and Musings. Weeks tidbits, February 16th 2017

Aqua jogging = new friends

It would seem that aqua jogging is the new social meetup (if you are in your 40s like me!) – I seem to be meeting the nicest of people now that I have my head above the water.

Here is more on aqua jogging and why it is good while you are rehabbing an injury like I am (ankle sprain from an accident)

7 of the Best Pool Running Workouts for Injured Runners


How to Run Like an Olympian in the Pool

Sport should be your passion, you should know your why, and training should elevate you


I met the coolest guy today; he was just finished his swim set and I guess I had been watching everyone so noticed that he looked like an athlete; LIKE A REAL ATHLETE. I won’t guess his age but a little bit older than me, and a fantastically fit body so I was kind of intrigued to get into this guys mind. Like I always do; every person is a lesson in life and an opportunity to learn in sport. We have the weirdest communal shower system in the 50m pool set up in the university of Limerick, but when you are used to it you see that everyone chats away. Jeez I even saw someone shaving last week… dude that was a fail FYI, BRING YOUR RAZOR HOME.

Anyhow given this guys physique I was expecting him to say masters swimmer, or triathlete or something extreme or awesome and international so I  was kind of taken aback when he said I hate competing; and then went into a spiel about the Irish water temperatures and racing in the cold   I HEAR YOU!

They say that the French are passionate they aren’t wrong. My friend described his training session and sport with a passion I haven’t heard in years. He swims, runs, boxes and there was probably more. He described the heart of it, the art of it, the flow, the perfection in the water, and the movement of running at one, and the effortless state that you go into when you have strength but don’t force, power without trying and a fit body just from doing and not trying. We discussed that never-ending quest for the perfect movement, perfect form, perfect flow, a state where it all just happens and well life force.

I agree, movement is an essential part of your life and how you connect with yourself and everything. I left my session inspired, this is how I feel about my running and my swimming, but not always (my bike 😦 ), and it felt good to have this incredibly knowledgeable and passionate French man remind me.

Je vous en remercie x


The Kenyan runners eat carbohydrates; a lot!

THIS IS VERY INTERESTING READ. I have always had a fascination about what are the fastest endurance athletes doing, on their plates, on the track and in their heads. In general these athletes are African. I read a book several years ago written about why The Kenyan athletes are so special. It couldn’t give a straight answer. They aren’t very different to us in many physiological ways.  But have you seen African runners? They just run, and they run beautifully.

We passed a chap when in South Africa while I was bike training for ironman 70.3. He was doing hill repeats on a steep major road hill outside Johannesburg. 90 minutes later he was still there; perfect form. You’d hate it only that you have to love it; it was the most beautiful running that I have ever seen in the flesh. I said to my boyfriend wow; he said did you see that guys form after 90 minutes. I said yes… and now I get it. These guys train hard – altitude, hills, and something else that they just have.

I absolutely with my heart believe in metabolic efficiency (ME) TM eating; I have studied it and I am currently doing further studies as part of a small group under Bob Seebohar and Dina Griffin in eNRG labs, Colorado. If you don’t know much about it read here: Basically it is adopting a style of eating in conjunction with your training that usually is lower in carbohydrates (but it depends) to optimise aerobic training adaptations, fat adaptation, glycogen sparing and fuelling efficiency. The end goal is improved performance, improved gastrointestinal health when racing and better health. The key in the ME approach is in the testing system that Bob and Dina have developed to quantify your fuel usage in a training simulated environment and hence to give advice, recommendations and support from here.

We know this (playing with carbohydrates and fats) works; we see athletes benefit from periods of low carbohydrate availability, or fasted training coordinated with periods of higher carbohydrate availability and add to this strategic racing strategies (This is the beauty of ME; it separates a diet for training adaptations with one for competition so that ultimately you perform better). Metabolic Efficiency testing shows the data on response to this style of eating and it is compelling. We are still learning more; and what we are learning is fascinating.

And then we have the other extreme; the incredibly high carbohydrate diets of the Kenyan and African athletes. This is, as a general, far higher than most other athletes venture and completely contrary to the low carb high fat fanatics (which FYI Metabolic Efficency eating is not).

I love this type of research; it makes us ask questions; it prompts further research and it spins my mind on how do we assimilate this.

My conclusion in all this is that we must take the individual athlete and their specific training and unique training response into account every single time we work with them and before we consider making recommendations for their diet and training. We must look at their training and diet history, we must consider their sport and goals, we must always pay heed to where they come from and food patterns and traits of their country, ethnicity, and ancestry and finally we must look at the person in front of us and their unique personality. So far it is the best that we have, and no amount of data can give us what an individual knows about themselves or the story that their training and performance tells, or what the intricacies of their biochemical and physiological testing data shows us. This is why I love my job because I have the time to delve into all this. 


Back to the article; click here to read.

Eating practices of the best endurance athletes in the world

Many top athletes eat carbohydrates and most African ones do; so are top-level athletes different to us normal ones? Do we change what we are doing or consider it and use it to tweak our own metabolically efficient eating plan?
I do wonder a few things: I’ve not been to Kenya and I have spent time in Africa. I would guess that they often don’t have an option when it comes to dinner and certainly not as many (healthy and unhealthy) options as we have. Food availability and over indulgence as happens in our society is not common, most foods are natural, seasonal, basic and access to fast food limited.
I would also guess many athletes are living at altitude (a lot of Kenya is at high elevation; but not all so I cannot make an assumption). I would ask whether most athletes ran or walked as a necessity to get to school and other places as a youngster. Most athletes have probably always been on the lean side, eaten at or below their daily calorie requirements and so not often been in a state of energy excess whereby insulin and glucose homeostasis has been stressed or as is common in USA, UK and other countries, hitting a point of metabolic derangement.
Obesity is not common in Kenya. The incidence of obesity in men in Kenya is 4.3% in 2015 compared to 30% in the USA (2013-2014) and 25.8% (2008 to 2010) in Ireland. (From Obesity prevalence world wide) This would indicate that most are not eating a calorie surplus or developing metabolic problems in relation to carbohydrate excess (diabetes incidence is less in Kenya than our western world countries). Furthermore, and I really believe this, genetics and factors that we do not yet know come into play. I was commenting on this article in a group of like-minded (amazing 😉 ) people and Ken Mierke developer of Evolution Running and author of The Triathlete’s Guide to Run Training (it’s on my shelf; I must read!) commented that the African runners have extraordinary running efficiency and he also reminded me that their fast times in marathon may not be a problem as regards to blood glucose provision and glycogen depletion nor necessitate more efficient fat oxidation capacity. Thank you Ken.
I believe that each ethic group probably has a way of eating that suits them best genetically; in terms of health and in terms of sports performance.

Some comments about the quoted diet (and I urge you to read the linked report it is very interesting).

  • The runners discussed in this article eat a LOT of carbohydrates in their daily diet; one that is at the upper end of the grams per Kg (g.Kg-1) daily recommended intake for active athletes. In fact closer to the intake that most of our athletes would only consider for a pre-endurance event carbohydrate load. So their daily carbohydrate intake tends to be more than most endurance athletes in Europe and the USA and massively higher than endurance athletes eating to fat adapt. The following photos depict the current recommendations by the Australian Institute of Sport for carbohydrate intake for athletes in daily training and in acute situations. In practice we see less carbohydrate in general and far less in fat adapted athletes.

This is a VERY complex topic if you really want to get into the nitty-gritty of how much, why and when and if you want to learn more with the intention of improving your training and fuelling efficiency please use the form below to contact the clinic. 

ais ais-2

  • It would be helpful if we differentiated between a fast marathon runner (~ 2 hours) and an ultra runner or triathlete operating at multiple hours. The former may not deplete glycogen significantly for it to be a major concern, nor require fat adaptation and the latter which benefits massively from fat adaptation and glycogen sparing efficiency. See the difference? This is what we address for athletes in the clinic wanting to improve their Metabolic efficiency and what their real world training and performance benefits will be.


  • They have an amazing intake of vegetables and also pulses  (= nutrients).
  • It is interesting about the sugar intake; yet it is a big step better than artificial sweeteners and I assume that sugar is consumed like this to get in the calories that they cannot afford in other ways (not great for dental health), please don’t start adding sugar to your diet 😉
  • I disagree with the author about saturated fats being unhealthy, quite the opposite when eaten in moderation. It is processed fats that are the main issue for our health as well as total (over) consumption.
  • I would have felt that protein and fats were slightly on the low side but we can not discount the fact that the Kenyans are probably eating a diet that works with their genetics; also their high carbohydrate intake will space protein. It would be interesting to know their blood work and whether anaemia is a common problem.
  • I dislike like when comparisons are made about the macro percentages (e.g. when discussing the differences between various countries diets). You could be eating a 700 calories or 7,000 calories with perfect macro breakdown but neither are conducive to health. g per kg is more relevant to us especially in relation to energy and carbohydrate demands of sport.

These athletes have more than likely never been overweight. In our carb-phobic and extreme-diet mad society we are probably balking at this diet as there is no question that is a high carbohydrate intake.

But ask yourself the question “are we too worried about the carbs in our diets” when for most of us a better start would be to eat appropriate calories, and to then focus on eating real foods (a low carb diet is not much good if the foods eaten to replace the carbs are junk), to start reducing total carbohydrates and making better carbohydrate choices (ie low GI versus high GI and improving the glycaemic load of the meal using metabolic efficiency eating strategies), and THEN to explore better carbohydrate:protein:fat ratios and from here to look at tweaking these ratios in relation to your daily training, your training week and your overall training and racing calendar.

It’s a long road but you have to start somewhere



Something that I have read elsewhere is that morning training sessions are always completed fasted. Although we don’t know all the fuelling dynamics this may somewhat improve fat oxidation. But we cannot be sure; and the Kenyans probably don’t need it.

Lots of questions!!

This is a brilliant article:

How to Be the Best in the World: Lessons from a Kenyan Running Camp

Especially this paragraph read it:

As an endurance athlete, I have long appreciated the power of the mind. My body has never let me down, but my mind does every day. Running is 50/50 mental/physical. Marathons are 80/20. Elite Marathons 90/10.

The Kenyans have the mental game down solid! Just watch them as they run their next race. It’s like they are on a different planet mentally. If the camera were to only focus on the upper half of their body, cutting off their legs, you wouldn’t even know they were running hard. And as a runner, I know they are hurting, suffering, and in pain. They just have some way of blocking all of the negative thoughts that must cross their mind as they run. Or at least that cross the mind of us mere mortals.

I think the scientists are looking at this amazing phenomenon of world champions the wrong way. We should be sending sports psychologists to Kenya to see how their mind works, and not looking for that extra muscle or hidden gene.

Their unbelievable confidence in their own ability, in combination with their desire, drive, body form, lifestyle, diet, and simplicity make the Kenyans the undisputed Champions of the World.

PS this is a good film about a town of runners in Ethiopia

** Ugali from Wikipedia the great 🙂 (also sometimes called Sima, Sembe, Obokima, Kaunga, Dona, Obusuma or Posho) is a dish made of maize flour (cornmeal), millet flour, or Sorghum flour (sometimes mixed with cassava flour) cooked in boiling liquid (water or Milk) to a porridge- or dough-like consistency. It is the most common staple starch featured in the local cuisines of the African Great Lakes region and Southern Africa. When ugali is made from another starch, it is usually given a specific regional name.

People get in their own way


Some musings to reflect on; I see so many athletes get in their own way with limited thinking. I see so many make these excuses:

1. Thinking that winning athletes are gifted, special and have it easy and then give themselves the get out of jail card that they will never win. NO winning athletes WORK HARDER, SMARTER AND MORE CONSISTENTLY THAN OTHERS AND THEY BELIEVE THAT THEY CAN AND WILL WIN. Even Usain Bolt has told people that it isn’t easy and that he has to work hard EVERY day; nothing comes easy.


2. Thinking that lean athletes achieve this with no work, hence giving ourselves the excuse for being overweight – NO….. your choices determine your health and success when it comes to body weight and body composition.


3. That our build means that we cannot achieve healthy weight and body composition. I have seen rugby players transform into lean triathletes, naturally skinny people improve their muscle mass to achieve a weight category (sailing in this example) – I have seen the body literally transform in ways that I didn’t expect due to different training types. Diet will help your training work more effectively. But don’t place a barrier in your mind that you cannot have a fit, lean, strong and good body composition….. note I did not say extreme…. we all have an optimal zone and doing things the right way allows this to be achieved.

4. That we will never be good at certain things, e.g. tell ourselves that I am a bad swimmer, or a weak cyclist. Well yes if you believe it and no if you decide to work at changing it.

Winners have strong minds; this is something I see consistently. They focus on the task, on what must be done, they train slow when the plan says train slow, they rest when the plan says rest, and they kill it when the plan says kill it, and they make the day work around their training and don’t let distractions or other people get in their way….. cool, calculated and focused… it is all about showing the world and yourself what you have on race day. Training is not the race, it is not where you prove yourself; it is the foundation…(see the article below on the Kenyan Runners: How to Be the Best in the World: Lessons from a Kenyan Running Camp).


So…. when do you make excuses? Where can you make better choices? I know many that eat an awesome diet but don’t train smartly and I know many that give training awesome consistency but don’t focus on the diet… and then there are others that get it sort of right but let lifestyle and stress get in the way.

We never get is perfect….. be gentle but tough on yourself but mostly be honest…..

Do you over control?

Sometimes over controlling the minor details leaves little time for the major ones…..

No one day is the same in your body, so try to be kind and stop treating it like a machine that needs the same calories and grams of xyz in every 24 hours regardless of what else is going on in your life….

Treat your body like the precious piece of magic that it is.

Move it to remind it to adapt to whatever may come its way

Nourish it to be healthy and resilient

Rest it to be stronger

Sleep to recover

Breath, smile, laugh, play: be alive

Think about it

Success doesn’t come easy. Your coach can write the plan, and your nutritionist can give you the tools but ultimately you must do the hard work yourself. Both take time, both are a process, both take commitment and both build on the other. Every individual is unique, a one size fits all plan rarely works to take you to the next level. Good coaches and good nutritionists need time to get to know each athlete as an individual and it takes weeks, months and years to build on a base. Athlete and coach and support all must work together as a team.

Your coach cannot do the training for you and your nutritionist cannot buy, cook or prepare the food for you. Neither can either of us make you sleep, rest, or ditch the drink etc.

No one can make you believe in yourself.

It is up to you to make space in your day and make amends to your lifestyle if you wish to reap the rewards…. THAT IS WHY THERE IS SO LITTLE SPACE ON THE NUMBER 1 PODIUM…. the winner works hard and there is only room for one.

Love ya’all



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