AFM FitTalks: “Decide Your Distance/Script Your Success”

By Sara Sanchez – January 1, 2014
Carrie Barrett. (Jake North Photography)

Not even the impending “snowpocalypse” could keep Austin's fitness community away from Austin Fit Magazine’s new panel discussion, AFM FitTalks.

Thursday's FitTalks was the first of 2014 and was held at Bicycle Sport Shop on Lamar. The talk focused on the topic "Decide Your Distance/Script Your Success" and featured six panelists from different fitness backgrounds in Austin. The free talk also included beer and raffle prizes, which included gift cards to Bicycle Sport Shop, a Pelican iPhone 5 case, and a pair of Yurbuds.

John Conley speaking. (Jake North Photography)The panel included six fitness powerhouses: Steve Sisson, co-founder of Rogue Running and All-American collegiate athlete; Jamie Cleveland, head coach at Texas Iron and Ironman Florida champion; John Conley, CEO at Conley Sports and race director of the Austin Marathon; Dr. Tim Zeddies, sports psychologist; Dr. Martha Pyron, team physician at Medicine in Motion; and Claudia Spooner, USA Triathlon-certified coach and elite age-group triathlete.

Emcee Carrie Barrett, an author, coach, and Austin Fit Magazine columnist, led the panel through four different areas of discussions: motivations, physical aptitude and experience, cost, and balance.

Most of the panelists agreed that motivation was one of the most important parts of training, no matter what distance. They agreed that finding out what motivates an athlete can help in training and deciding on a distance. The panelists also advised on avoiding getting caught up in technology, which could end up hindering your training rather than helping it. Spooner pointed out that going without Garmins and other fitness gadgets helps to do away with problems caused by technology malfunction. “I love going old school,” she said.  “I love knowing how I feel. In the end, you’ve gotta feel it to get it done.” Martha Pyron. (Jake North Photography)Cleveland addressed the mental side of training and racing results: “I give 24 hours to enjoy or mourn that race, and then it’s time to move on.”

There was back and forth among the group about the necessity of a training group, with Sisson firmly in support of training with others. “Having a team, a group of people, is really essential,” he said. “Whether it’s love, hate, camaraderie, people really get a kick out of that.” Conley mentioned “it’s rare to see truly good elite athletes or age groupers who are true lone wolves.” Cleveland, on the other hand, pointed out that there is often a “wolf pack” mentality that can lead to people training out of their comfort zones. Pyron agreed, stating that she has seen athletes “get caught up in ‘everybody is doing it’ “and may ignore or deny that they are hurt so they don’t get behind. When this happens, “Injuries last longer; it’s hard to get 100 percent back,” she explained.

During the discussion on physical aptitude and experience, the topic of dealing with setbacks from injury was further addressed, and Pyron said that she encouraged goal-oriented athletes to “focus on the healing process” as part of training. Steve Sisson. (Jake North Photography)Sisson went on to say that “the best workout” is to stay healthy.  And when it comes to injury, Zeddies urged athletes to accept their injuries. "The injury needed to happen. Why? Because it did [happen]," said Zeddies.

When the topic of cost came up, both panelists and audience members nodded in solidarity at how expensive races can be. Conley helped explain reasons why prices in Austin have gone up, which includes the cost of liability and risk management in a post-Boston Marathon 2013 environment, demanding customer expectations, and regulatory environment found when dealing with the Austin officials. Panelists gave shout-outs to several Austin races (Cleveland pointed out what he referred to as “Mom and Pop races”: small, locally run events, such as the Summer Sunstroke Stampede and Vern’s No Frills 5K) as possible low-cost alternatives.

Spooner offered tips on how to budget for triathlons, which included knowing where to get the best price on gear. "I know what if feels like to not have money and want to race," she said.  Cleveland also touched on how the cost of racing and training doesn't only refer to finances—it also encompasses relationships. He said you have to be able to come up with training and racing schedules that work for both athletes and their loved ones.

This led the panelists to discuss balance. They agreed that communication was an important part of managing training and other aspects of life. Tim Zeddies. (Jake North Photography)In fact, Sisson stated that it is imperative to have a coach who not only communicates with you but with whom you can communicate. When it comes to relationships, Zeddies stated, "Make sure you're making near amounts of deposits as well as withdrawals." He also added that if there was too much unhappiness it could ultimately affect training. Pyron stated that “Exercise is medicine.”

Barrett summed up the salient points from the discussion and took several questions from the crowd.


You can find a video of “Decide Your Distance/Script Your Success” at To find out about upcoming AFM FitTalks, sign up for the weekly AFM newsletter and check the AFM Facebook page for information.


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