"The Complete Nutrition Guide for Triathletes"
By Dr. Jamie A. Cooper
Available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble a bookstore near you and many more.
"Age and Sex Differences Pertaining to Modes of Locomotion in Triathlon"
"Variables Associated with Half-Ironman Triathlon Performance"
CNS Athlete of the Month
Sondra, please tell us a little about yourself:My family is from South Carolina, but I mainly grew up in the Chicago area. However, for the most part I have been in Texas since attending college at Texas A&M. (Yikes, I just realized that being an Aggie means many of you will stop reading now). I have been married for over 25 years with two sons, ages 21 and 17. While it is a little chaotic I absolutely love being in a house full of men! For every time they make me want to scream, there are ten times they make me laugh. In terms of work, I am a Professor and Program Chair of Government at Midland College. I absolutely love my job and feel so lucky to work and learn in an academic environment with students and colleagues who keep me young in mind and spirit.
How long have you been involved in endurance sports?I do not have a long history in athletics, I swam and played basketball through high school, but I was always the kid who made the team because I tried hard. There was never any suggestion of talent that would propel me to becoming a stand-out on the team. I exercised some to control my weight through graduate school and after having children. However, that changed about 12 years ago. Just before turning 40, I had a conversation with a friend that inspired me to tackle a sprint triathlon for my 40th birthday. At the time, I said I would NEVER race a half or full distance triathlon. HA!! Now the 70.3 distance is my favorite! Over the years, triathlon has just become part of my life. Certainly, there have wonderful and exciting years of training, as well challenging years of training with some failures to meet my goals, but they have all been great years.
What type of races do you do and what are some of your proudest race accomplishments?My focus tends to be half-distance triathlons, although I will throw in a few olympic distance triathlons each season, as well as half-marathons during the triathlon off-season. While I plan to complete another full distance triathlon, so far, I have only participated in one full distance triathlon -- Ironman Texas 2012. I think I may be proudest of this race accomplishment, if only because I finished (barely). I had the flu (with fever) up to two days before the race. While it was not the race I trained for nor a race that reflects my ability, despite the physical challenges created by the recent illness, it is a race that I used mental toughness to finish. My boys will tell you I was questionably upright and more of a walking zombie during much of the run, but I am still proud of the accomplishment because it demonstrates the development of both the mental and physical strength needed for endurance sports. When one system lets you down -- mental or physical -- you have to adapt, adjust your goals and depend on your training to keep you in the race. Now, I am excited about finding that sweet spot in my life that allows me to compete in another full distance triathlon -- one that reflects my effort and training with the CNS team!
How has your training and nutrition changed since working with the coaches at CNS?In terms of training, the biggest change I have made is from self-coaching to working with Nicole. I have to say that having Nicole as a coach is such a treat. The stress of working full time, being a mom and training can add up. With Nicole, I have totally let go of the stress associated with the “what ifs” of training. I have confidence in the plan and the coaching. When I miss a workout, travel or become sick -- I have much less anxiety because I know Nicole will make the adjustments necessary for me to stay on track. Most importantly, the support, encouragement and problem solving attitude that Nicole provides is so important. She radiates positive energy and that has to help any athlete through the “good” days and the “bad” days of training. I know she is on my team. In terms of nutrition, the major change I have made is committing to pre and post workout nutrition. I find that committing to “good” nutrition, especially post-workout, has not only improved my recovery, but my overall mood! Skimping on those post-workout calories often left me feeling tired and cranky and led to making poor choices and overeating later in the day. While I was resistant to adding those calories, Jamie talked me into it. And, of course, she was right!
Why do you do endurance sports?On any given day, my answer to this question may change, because endurance sports “step up” to meet me where I am in my life. For example, when the boys were younger, endurance sports gave me the opportunity to spend time alone outside with time to breath and reflect. I always came back calmer, with the resources to be a present and engaged mom. Furthermore, as training times increased, particularly those long bike rides, I found that spending those hours out there challenging my body stripped away a lot of the nonsense in my head, enabling me to learn about myself in a real and genuine way. While to some people it sounds a little “new age-y” (is that even a word?), training for endurance sports allowed me to understand myself in ways I might not have ever imagined. Additionally, like many triathletes, I tend to fall on the “Type A” or “control freak” side of the spectrum. Ironically, triathlons have substantially decreased my freaky need for control. In this sport, there are so many variables we cannot control. As a result, I have learned to let go of those variables in order to focus on what I can control. There is a conscious effort to control the self-talk in my brain, to stop focusing on the worry and start focusing on those things I can influence or change. My focus changes from controlling to problem solving. Endurance sports has provided this lesson that translates to my life at home and at work. Re-reading these paragraphs, I realize it sounds like I have it all figured out. Yikes! That is so not true. On any given day, I might forget the lessons I am learning. But, that brings me to the last point I will make about why I do endurance sports or why I love endurance sports. We are always given a chance to try again and get better. When I cannot execute a run or I feel defeated on a bike ride, I know there will be another day. Just by challenging myself, I am progressing.
What advice would you have for those just starting out in endurance sports?“Take the journey to enjoy the view” -- Jeffrey Benjamin While my view is not often from a podium, I have learned to let that go and to enjoy the journey itself. It is important to me to keep my life balanced -- mind, body and spirit. When I lose sight of that and focus on the competition, then I lose the joy. For me, sometimes that just means stopping to appreciate what my 51 year old body can do and what it can still accomplish. Sometimes that means soaking in the sun and feeling the breeze. Sometimes that means skipping a workout to spend time with my boys. I guess the point is -- that everyone’s journey is so personal and individual. So, if competition brings you joy, by all means focus on your competitive spirit. Whether you prefer training alone or in the company of friends, take the journey and enjoy the view. There are multiple paths that lead to your personal definition of success in endurance sports. Just love what you do!
What are you future race goals or plans?I still believe my fastest half distance triathlon is out there waiting for me to “take” it. In pursuit of my PR, I will be competing in the following races (perhaps one or two more) -- Tri Fort Worth, Buffalo Springs 70.3, and Redman (as either a half or a full) this year. Additionally, whether this year or next year I want to compete in another full distance triathlon and while that distance is never easy, I want a race that reflects my training and my ability on that day.