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Advice on New Year Training and Blueberry Pancakes

By Marni Sumbal

Now is the time when the weather makes it hard to get out of bed but thankfully, we have a new year to keep us motivated with our fitness routines. Perhaps you are gearing up for an upcoming race or have your eyes set on a few personal fitness/body composition goals. Whatever the case may be, don't rush the journey.

pancakeThat may be a saying that is often repeated and overused but I am a firm believer that the process shouldn't be rushed.

Considering that I work with a lot of different types of athletes and receive emails from active individuals wanting to step up their training and/or exercise routine, I wanted to offer one bit of advice for getting back to (or starting) a training plan.

Start with two weeks of "intro." It's very easy for athletes to get excited about training again and feel the need to wait for the perfect time to start, or feel guilty or lazy after a break and go all-out in the beginning part of a training plan. When it comes to training or simply sticking to an exercise routine, we can often make it easy to fail or feel defeated by simply expecting too much out of our mind and body. Like anything else in life, when we learn to do something new, we adapt by doing something over and over again. Just like in a sport or in training, we must train ourselves to perform optimally. Why this becomes so confusing for people, especially goal-oriented individuals who love to exercise, is that in order to adapt to training stress, training has to be consistent.

Giving yourself an intro week or two is a great way to remove the pressure that you have to be perfect with every workout and it also gives you a good marker of where your fitness is at this point. You can do a heart rate or pace test to assess fitness, or my favorite: perceived exertion to give yourself a marker of what you are able to handle right now. Also, this intro week allows you to remove the need to push hard seven days a week and gives ample time to work on skills and drills which are fundamental in quality training.

Whether you ate a bit too much over the holidays, are ready for the “reward” food because you earned it (we will save that topic for another time) or are feeling excitedly nervous for your upcoming racing season, consider the stress you are about to put on your body and use a few weeks ahead of you to assess any weaknesses in your training schedule which may keep you from being consistent as the months progress. The number one problem I see from athletes is being caught in the miles or time spent training, and they forget about taking the smartest road to success. Sadly, athletes often take the long road which includes junk miles, injuries, burnout, feeling like a zombie by the end of the week and even social isolation. It never has to be this way if you are gearing up for an event or striving to change body composition and certainly you should never be feeling this way by week 3-4 of a new training routine.

So, as you enjoy some of my homemade pancakes, consider sitting down with a piece of paper (if you coach yourself) or with your coach to decide on the best racing plan for your year and the best training plan to keep you energized, motivated and excited for this new year.

Blueberry Pancakes
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oats (uncooked)
1 Tbsp flax seeds
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup water
1 Tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries

  1. In large bowl, whisk together flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, flax and salt.
  2. In separate bowl, mix together milk, water, honey and vanilla extract.While mixing, slowly add the blueberries.
  3. Make a well in flour mixture and pour wet to dry and mix until smooth. Add a little extra water for easy spooning for pancakes onto skillet.
  4. On a non-stick skillet, medium/low heat, drizzle a little oil or use non stick spray. Pour ~ 1/4 cup batter on to tray and with the back of your spoon, smooth to make a flat pancake.
  5. Cook for 1:30-2 minutes or until bottom begins to turn golden and flip. Cook other side for 1 minute.

Marni Sumbal, MS, RD, is the owner of Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition and works part-time as a clinical dietitian. She holds a Master of Science in Exercise Physiology and is a USA Triathlon Level I Certified Coach, 5x Ironman finisher, 2x Ironman World Championship finisher and a Hammer Nutrition, 110% Play Harder, Brooks ID and Oakley Women brand ambassador. She has monthly columns on, LAVA online and, contributes to several magazines and enjoys inspiring, motivating and educating others to reach personal performance and health goals. To contact Marni:

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and not necessarily the practices of USA Triathlon. Before starting any new diet or exercise program, you should check with your physician and/or coach.