The Triangle – Exercise, Sleep, & Nutrition

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If your life is unbalanced, then it’s like driving a car on square wheels… it will get you to the finish line, but you sure as heck won’t enjoy the ride as well if it were round and balanced!

I often see people get on a new workout routine, a new diet, or most often just plain devoid themselves of proper sleep daily. I RARELY see people choose to do all three disciplines simultaneously in the proper dosages. While the New Year’s resolutions are still fresh in people’s minds and hopefully haven’t yet been discarded, I wanted to talk about the merits of what I call “The Triangle”.

For a summary, skip to the bottom

See what happens is that we typically only pick one of the three disciplines and in fact may sacrifice the other two in order to make time for this new found goal. So we exercise and lose a little weight and then after a short duration begin to plateau and wonder why we keep at the same intensity but aren’t losing weight at the same pace. In fact, we may shorten our nightly sleep in order to get up early enough to hit the gym before heading off to work. After a period of time that lack of sleep catches up with us and makes us moody, prevents us from losing weight as quickly or gaining muscle because we aren’t giving ourselves enough time to properly heal and recover through sleep. Top it off with a poor diet and it’s no wonder that we get sick and then just plain give up on the goal altogether. I could go through many other scenario’s, but the effect has been made as you can hopefully see; paying attention to only one or two of the three can lead you to a bumpy road.

So, simply put, listen to your body
regarding sleep. Each person varies, but the standard is about 8 hours. I only need about 6 hours daily unless I’m in race season and training for anything beyond a ½ Ironman event. Then, my body will tell me that there are many days I need to sleep 9 hours, not 6! Perhaps that’s also because I’m burning on average about 6,000 calories minimum a day and consuming food like it’s going out of style. There are many applications out there now that can monitor your sleep habits and help you determine where you should be. Personally, I’ve used an application called VidaOne MySportTraining for many many years now. I love this application because it can track my sleeping habits (quality & time), my activity level for the day, mood (Great, Fine, Sick, Injured, Tired, etc.) along with a ton of other features. This way I can run a report and see if I am feeling fatigued whether I am overtraining and under sleeping, drinking enough water, eating enough calories or too many, etc.

Yes, I am aware of the million reasons we all sacrifice on our sleep, but that’s for your psychologist to solve, not me. J The fact is you need it just like you need air, it’s up to you.


For most people, an average workout can be achieved so long as you aren’t devouring on food throughout the day. Again, I’ll turn to VidaOne since it also tracks my diet. There are many other options out there (Calorie King, Training Peaks, etc.), but if you want to keep track of how much food you eat and how much fluid you consume, then you need something reliable and easy to access. Be realistic, you aren’t going to keep using a product that lets you input your meals on your desktop only. Why, because who’s really going to remember everything they ate throughout the day and the time they ate and how many cookies (was it 4 or 5)… I mean carrots! J So find a solution that let’s you easily enter the information on the fly, at your desk, at a guest computer, on a piece of paper, wherever you like; so long as you keep it consistently and accurately. I can enter all this information on my cell phone or desktop and sync the information to each other without conflicts.

Nutrition is my Achilles heel of the three disciplines. I like my baby back ribs, pizza, cake, etc. If I only ate Sushi, carrots, and the other healthy items on the menu, then I’d bet my overall performance would increase by 5-10%. It isn’t worth it to me. I’d recommend you speak with a dietitian on how to best accomplish a nutritious diet, but my general rule of thumb that keeps me healthy is to choose the dessert or the wine, not both. I try to eat small meals 5 times a day, not 3 big meals. If you eat small at the start of the day and a big dinner you’ll look like scenario 1 below. Rather try to eat a good breakfast and smaller meals towards the end and you’ll look like scenario 2.

This guy is way fat!!

We like this guy!

Follow the rules on water consumption based on my height and weight, not just 8 glasses a day. For my height 5’7″ and weight 152 pounds, that means I drink a minimum of 80 ounces of water a day. It’s easy to measure with a reusable water bottle and an application. Also, if you drink all that “pure” clean water, or softened water, it probably removed all those necessary minerals, so take a supplement that puts all those minerals back into your system. A multi-vitamin won’t cut it. Personally, I like the solutions from First Endurance MultiV which is a vitamin and multi-nutrient.


This is my favorite part and most often the topics of my Blog. I’m on the rather extreme side of the fitness chart as I realize that Ironman events aren’t rational or for the average bear. So, again my rule of thumb is get the heart rate up there in zone 3 & 4 to hit your anaerobic targets and zones 1 & 2 for your Aerobic. Don’t know where you are or what heart rates equals your zones?

If you want to burn more calories stay in zone 1 & 2 and briefly hit zone 3 for short durations in your workout. Want to build your endurance and overall health better? Hit Zones 3 & 4 and peak into Zone 5 through some sprints to really get yourself cooking. There are arguments on this that go back and forth, therefore, my general rule of thumb: Just get out there and exercise! Mix it up, you’ll waste your money at the gym if you do the same routine all the time. Why? Because you’re going to get bored and stop going, but that contract will keep you paying!!!! If you live in season climates, then use that to change up your sports or exercise routine. I went out for a snow shoe run on Sunday and man was that not only a blast, but a great change in routine. If you hit the weights, change the routine or you will plateau. See my prior blog entry on winter and vacation exercise options for more suggestions.

Better yet, set a goal of completing a race to keep you on track. There’s nothing better

than signing up for an event

and then telling everyone about it to keep you on your goal. You’ve spent the money on the entry fee, the gear, the training plan, and everyone you know is rooting you on! It’s a heck of a lot harder to back out now. To maximize your potential of completing that goal, join with a friend. There’s nothing better than a workout buddy to keep you honest. It’s much tougher to say “I’m not working out today” when you have to answer to your workout partner.

Yes, once again I turn to my software application to track my workouts. This is probably the most motivating source of joy I have when it comes to working out. I can look at my workout calendar results and it gets me all excited to see that I’ve worked hard this month (or for months) and to see the results. I also can look at the calendar and see by color code if I have been pushing myself too hard and that’s why I am fatigued. I can run reports galore to analyze the data and see where I need to make a tweak. For most people this is overkill, but the point is that you can pick the items you want and it likely will have the answer. You don’t have to go overboard, just keep it simple.


Finally, it’s a choice to make this a priority in your life. I take the approach of “I get to do this!!!” vs. “I have to do this.” What a difference in attitude and what a difference in outcome. Remember, life is an endurance sport, it’s not a sprint. The joy is in the journey, so remember to enjoy what you’re doing. If you can implement “The Triangle”, I can guarantee you will have more energy, clarity of mind, and be more fulfilled on a regular basis.

If your life is unbalanced, then it’s like driving a car on a square wheel… it will get you to the finish line, but you sure as heck won’t enjoy the ride as well if it were round and balanced!

  1. Listen to your body
  2. Sleep at least 8 hours if you’re an average person
  3. Eat small meals 5 times a day
  4. Choose the dessert or the wine, not both
  5. Drink a minimum of 80 ounces of water a day
  6. Multi-Nutrient with your multi-vitamin.
  7. Just get out there and exercise
  8. Determine your Heart Rate Target Zones
  9. Sign up for an event
  10. Join with a friend to keep you going.
  • I Get to do this vs. I have to do this.
  • Balance it all so that you make it a lifestyle!

Comments 9

  1. Great post Chad! This really helps with my motivation on these blah snowy days. I think I am going to do some abs now 🙂 I was going to call it a rest day since the gym was closed today and was just going to use it as an excuse to do nothing!

  2. this is a great write up. I love it. I need to think more in the form of the triangle. I think I’m going to try out that software too. I need to do a better job of tracking my input… as I don’t think it’s enough already and I’m not even into the real meat of training.. not even close. 😉 Thanks for this!

  3. I like the triangle charts! Great way to show how meal portions should look like. I’ve been using VidaOne for about five years now, first on the Palm OS and now on my iPod. It’s a great piece of software. Every year when I have my general physical I’ll print up my sleep hours chart, saturated fat intake chart, and blood pressure charts and show them to my doctor. He’s always impressed that I’ve been able to keep track of everything.

    I am hoping though that one day VidaOne decides to use a cloud server for their data because sometimes when I travel and store my data on my PDA, I worry that I’ll lose the device, or it’ll crash, etc and all of my trainings and meals for that period will just vanish. Mind you, it hasn’t happened yet, but it’s always in the back of my mind.

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