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NIFS Healthy Living Blog

Crystal Anne Belen

Recent Posts by Crystal Anne Belen:

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 3)

IMG_9672.jpgWe have followed NIFS trainer Crystal Anne Belen throughout her triathlon training program experience (see part 1 and part 2). It’s finally time for the race, the moment the entire group has been waiting for and anticipating for the past 2½ months. Let’s hear from Crystal about her experience!

It’s the week of the race and training is complete. A lot of preparation has happened over the last 10 weeks. The hard part is over. Hydrating, breathing drills, staying healthy, visualization, staying positive, and relaxing were my areas of focus. By the end of training, I was feeling confident with my transitions and prepared for the race.

Goal: 500m Swim, 10-Mile Bike, 3-Mile Run

At the start of the race, I felt the excitement in the atmosphere! Almost 400 athletes were there to compete, and everyone had worked so hard for this moment. From my perspective, the distance didn’t look that far to swim in the open water. As I stood there waiting for my time to enter the reservoir, I was determined to conquer it, and there wasn’t anything that was going to stop me. However, the swim turned out a lot harder than I expected. I unfortunately found myself going kayak-to-kayak, needing assistance, and eventually met George, a gentleman who stuck with me as far as I could go. He encouraged me as I went along and said that he was there for me whenever I needed him. No matter how long it was going to take me, I was determined to finish the swimming portion.

I swam about halfway through the 500m, and there came a point where I was taking too long in the water and was told that I had to be picked up in the boat to catch up with the rest of the swimmers. Along with a few other ladies, sitting in the boat in tears, I was disappointed in myself. The official who picked us up offered that if we wanted to swim the last 50m, we could get back in. I wasn’t about to end the swim in total defeat, so I got back in the water and swam the rest of the way in.

The Ride

While I thought that the obstacles were over for me, the bike portion of the race brought even more roadblocks. I started off with a nice, quick transition to begin the ride. Determined to make up some time from the swim and knowing that I couldn't let the swim get to me, I came upon the first hill of the race and ended up running into a problem immediately. As I shifted gears, my chain came off my bike and I ended up having to pull off the road to put my chain back on.

After getting my chain back on, I rode for the next 6 miles, passing a few ladies, but then another unexpected mishap took place. As I shifted gears on another hill, my bike came to an abrupt stop. Emotionally done, I had had enough, and the disappointment of all the training I did for nothing was overwhelming. Another gentleman came and asked if I needed any help. He tried to see what was wrong with it, spent a few minutes looking at it, and ended up telling me that I was going to have to walk my bike the rest of the race. My derailleur flipped over and would catch in my spindle, not even allowing me to pedal. Beyond frustrated and embarrassed, I wasn’t able to keep the positive mindset I had been working toward, although I was still determined to complete the course. It had to happen.

While walking the rest of the course, an unexpected turn of events took place. I caught up to a woman who was also walking with her bike. I felt so frustrated and defeated but as we began to talk, I was grateful for this time. She said, “I’m sorry to hear about your bike, but I'm thankful that you are walking with me.” In that instant, my mindset completely changed. In the full-throttle of my stress, someone needed my help more.

The next thing I knew, the trainer in me ended up encouraging her to keep persevering. I was no longer thinking about the struggles I was going through. I walked with her the rest of the 3 miles, and she eventually rode back on her bike to complete the remainder of the race. Finishing in last place in the biking portion allowed me to put things in perspective, and I was so thankful that I had the opportunity to help another athlete. I was no longer mad at myself, and I kept telling myself that the only thing left to do was the 3-mile run, my strongest portion of this triathlon.

The Last Leg

Running indeed was my strongest event as I completed the 3 miles without any major incidents and ran the entire way. I finished my run in 28 minutes with an overall race time of 2 hours 12 minutes and 10 seconds.

With the rollercoaster of events that took place, I'm very grateful for accepting the challenge, going through the experience, and stepping outside of my comfort zone, and especially grateful for the people I've met along the way. I’ve learned that there are things that happen in life that you can’t control, things happen in which you have a decision to make, for which your attitude can instantly determine the path that you will travel on. As a trainer, I work with many individuals who go through their own challenge on a daily basis, and this has given me more appreciation and a fresh perspective on the process it takes to overcome a difficult part in your life.

With how I completed the race, I've been asked if I'd do another one. Surprisingly, yes, I would do another one. Knowing what it takes and where I currently stand, I can work to improve. So the journey continues, I am tentatively planning on completing another triathlon on September 30, in Illinois, to write a new chapter in this book.

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This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: running swimming nifs staff race challenge biking triathlon training program

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge (Part 2)

IMG_5313.jpgTriathlon training is past the halfway point (see part 1 of my blog) and has been quite the journey! With long days of juggling my work schedule, the training plan, a dog, a home life, and trying to find time in there to rest, training for this triathlon has been quite challenging! In addition to the training plan that I am following, I have analyzed areas where I need to improve, especially in the swim portion of the race. I have noticed that not only the physical aspect of the triathlon training needs work, but my attitude does as well.

Back to the Basics

How do I tackle this without being overwhelmed with the other 50 things running through my mind that need to be done, and then keeping a positive mindset about my energy to top it off? I have decided to break it down and take each segment one step at a time, in order to not become so stressed out. I have taken the mindset of going back to the basics of training and mastering those first.

Mastering Swimming Basics

On our first swim training, one immediate thing I noticed was how my heart rate skyrockets when I’m in the water. My quads are on fire from kicking incorrectly, my breathing and head are uncontrolled, and I tend to hold onto the edge of the pool in order to not drown. Even worse, this all seems to happen within a 50-meter stretch in the pool! While I wanted to quickly bail, I was reminded to take it one step at a time.

Something that really helped to reassure me was that our coach mentioned to our group, “The hardest part is getting in the water; once you’re in, you’ve accomplished half of the battle. The key is not swimming faster, but it is to concentrate on your form and technique.” Needless to say, I’ve been focusing on those basic tips and am beginning to feel more comfortable in the water and see my swimming improve!

Biking: Getting to Know the Bike

I ride my bike for recreational commuting purposes but have never raced competitively. One of our first rides as a group was focused around getting to know your bike. We had to check our seat height and the air in our tires (and know how to fill them up), learn the gearshifts, and learn a few other tricks about knowing our own bikes. This was a huge help for me.

Another training day we were working on mounting and dismounting our bikes in order to learn to be efficient with our transitions between the swim-to-bike and bike-to-run. A few seconds in your time makes a difference. I ended up having a nice bruise on my leg as my pedal caught my knee on my first try. On the plus side, the convenience of working at NIFS and being downtown has enabled me to run errands and train with my bike, accumulating cycling miles over the course of the week. This has helped me to be more comfortable on my bike and learn how to get on and off quickly.

Improving My Running

Running is probably my strongest event in the triathlon. Last year I ran competitively in the Indianapolis Mini-Marathon, although I have not kept up with a consistent cardio program until now. My goal is to increase my pace in hopes of making up for where I am challenged in swimming and biking, but without running out of energy before I cross the finish line. Getting back into a running program is hard! I’ve battled plantar fasciitis in my left foot and a mild case of low back pain. I’ve mixed my workouts with weight training prior to running, sprints, and longer-distance runs in hopes of mimicking the fatigue that I will feel from swimming and biking on race day.

My Top Triathlon Tips

I have learned through this triathlon training program so much about myself and the importance of not stressing over the big picture, but instead focusing on each segment of the training and race. As a trainer and a first-time triathlete in training, here are a few tips I’d like to share:  

  • Use a coach to help you. It’s hard to see your technique when you are swimming, biking, and running, and a few simple tips will make a big difference. You can always improve.
  • Warming up is essential. Techniques such as foam rolling, tension release, dynamic stretching, and letting your body adjust to the environment have made such a big difference in my workouts.
  • Bring on the food. Don’t get me wrong; eating healthy, meal prepping, and portion control are all essential to my daily way of living. However, what I’ve noticed is that I’m hungrier and my body has been leaning out and getting toned from the additional training. I’ve had to increase my food/calorie intake so that I can stay energized throughout the whole day.

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This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS running swimming triathlon cycling nifs staff triathlon training program personal trainer

NIFS Personal Trainer Takes on a Triathlon Challenge

Crystal-1.jpgOne of my greatest passions is health and fitness. It has always been a part of my life, from studying it in school to choosing it as my career path. This year I have decided to try something that I have not done before: a triathlon! I’m excited to share with you my career as a personal trainer and health fitness instructor and my journey in training for the Indianapolis Go Girl Triathlon that will take place August 26.

Taking Time to Achieve My Own Goal

As a fitness professional, one of the ways that I measure success is when I’ve helped an individual or group reach their goals. Knowing that others obtained their dream is more rewarding than reaching my own personal goals. Getting to know a client’s strengths and weaknesses, and guiding them to overcome hurdles that they never thought they could achieve, is so gratifying. As a client seeks my advice and help, I believe it’s just as important that I practice what I’m teaching while working to connect it to current research and trends in the fitness and health realm. With all these different things on my plate, sometimes my own training and goal achievement gets pushed aside.

When considering what my own personal goals were for this year, I decided it was time I took on a new challenge for myself, completing my first ever triathlon. At first, the idea intimidated me because several thoughts came to mind:

  • “That’s a lot of cardio.”
  • “What if I drown in the open water?”
  • I’m not a swimmer.”
  • “I can’t even float.”

I instantly felt afraid, and the thought of a new challenge that I’d never considered doing crept up on me. On the other hand, that’s what also has enticed me to take on this race. Doing something that I’ve never done before actually excites me, and it’s what pushed me to make the decision to give it a try. I have decided to fully accept that challenge and have a coach help lead and guide me to reach my goal.

The Impact of Attitude

In addition to my adventurous and ambitious personality, the experience of surviving leukemia as a child has allowed me to take a look at life from a different perspective—a second opportunity in this world. I believe that your mind is one of the most powerful influences on your daily decisions; what you feed your mind, your thoughts, self-talk, “fight-or-flight” reactions, and which outside influences you believe all play a part in who you choose to be on a daily basis. The bottom line is this: When you tell yourself you can or can’t do something, you make that decision right then and there, because it all comes down to your will to take the next step outside your comfort zone and take action.

I look forward to sharing with you my experience of taking on this challenge and training for a triathlon, and I encourage you to follow my series on this blog.

Like what you've just read? Click here to subscribe to our blog!

This blog was written by Crystal Anne Belen, personal trainer and health fitness instructor at NIFS. To read more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.

Topics: NIFS triathlon nifs staff challenge Indianapolis goals personal trainer