Triathlon Training Tips for First Time Triathletes

Now that we are entering the triathlon racing off-season, it’s a great time for people considering on doing their first triathlon to start building a fitness base and getting familiar with their new sport. This posting is an abbreviated version of one I posted last summer and it’s better suited to winter and spring off season training here in Southern California.

My personal philosophy for triathlon success is less “purchase” and more “practice”. It’s based on a daily practice of training one’s body within the rhythms of one’s daily life that includes work and family. During the late spring and summer racing season I call this the “Daily Practice of Triathlon Training”. By “daily” I mean that each day during the racing season has a fitness purpose. It is either a training day (making me stronger/faster) for a particular sport or a recovery (non-training) day (making me stronger/faster by letting my body re-build). During the Spring and Summer I train in one of the three sports six days a week. The seventh day is a recovery day for all three of the triathlon sports.

These tips are geared towards those who live in Ojai and Ventura, California but if you replace the triathlon store name and local triathlon club or running club name with one in your town, I think this list can be helpful for most people. Also, there are many excellent online resources for information and athletic inspiration for beginners, too.

If you are interested in more details on training and sports nutrition, please checkout RunnersWorld.com or Active.com/triathlon. Both of those sites have links to training schedules and performance tips for running road or trail races and racing triathlons.

Here is my advice for training for one’s first triathlon in 2010:

1. Research the sport.

  • Talk to Triathletes The best information I ever got about doing triathlons was from people I met while training, buying gear and racing. You generally get un-biased information when speaking with people who don’t have anything to gain by you purchasing something.
  • Go onlineSocial Media Sites Twitter.com and search “#triathletes” is a good way to find triathlon information from triathletes. Most are regular people just like you, online. It’s neat to pose a question (in 140 characters or less) on Twitter and have triathletes from all over reply back with a tip. I found online training schedules on these training social media web sites: dailymile.com, endurancejunkies.com , and buckeyeoutdoors.com (you can embed your training schedule in your blog–I haven’t tried this yet) and MapMyRun.com. I use dailymile.com.

    Websites Websites such as Active.com/triathlon and Multisports.com feature free tips and triathlon training schedules (some must be purchased).

  • Books Get a good triathlon training book to get an overview of the basics the sport and time managing the multi-sport workouts. Here’s a good one that a friend found for me at a garage sale: Triathlete’s Training Bible. but, I’m sure there are others, too.
  • Magazines Checkout Triathlete Magazine. There’s great training and nutrition articles and the race and athlete profiles inspire. Be aware that this magazine is product advertising-supported.
  • Learn by doing. Now is the time to experiment with new shoes, try a friends bicycle and to have fun with triathlon training. During the off-season your goal is to buildup your base and find out what gear works best for you.Training for a triathlon is a daily practice and you will learn how to do it best by trial and error. There are core principals about physiology and nutrition but every body is unique. What works for the Dude at the Triathlon Shop Who Has Done Ironman 18 times 😉 may not work for you. It’s necessary to get to know what YOUR body needs and how it performs by doing it and listening to it. Do your first Brick Workout (bike ride followed immediately by a short run) and find out what you can ingest to keep your energy consistent that doesn’t make you feel sick. Go for a bike ride on borrowed bike to test it out. Do a mini-triathlon on your own from your local pool. Just do it. The cool thing with triathlon training is that it is cross-training so as your individual running or swimming mileage may be less, you will have the additional benefit of training and getting stronger from the other two sports.

3. Daily Practice of Triathlon Training.

  • Consistency is key. The off season is a good time to get used to training once a day, six days a week. Now is a good time to experiment with new gear. It’s also the time to build up one’s endurance base. Triathlon training is a Daily Practice that will take some getting used to.
  • During the spring and summer each day will be a workout day. By Spring you should be used to training six days a week and fitting it into your work, school or family schedules if you can. The Daily Practice includes: your daily work out, your pre-workout food/beverage that is mostly carbs and easy to digest, your post-workout recovery food/beverage and sleeping more.

4. Become a member of a local triathlon, running or athletic club.

  • This is a good and socially fun way find out about local road rides/open water swims and have better access to find other tri newbies. Plus, according to scientific research, you will get faster and stronger training with others than if training alone.* Being a member of a training club may translate into other benefits such as club discounts on gear and race entries. Some of the more experienced or long distance triathlon club members may seem a little arrogant or hardcore to a beginner. Just don’t take it personally. It takes a lot of mental and physical focus to be competitive in the Ironman triathlon distance these days and that can take a toll on one’s social skills. The qualifying times Ironman and Nationals has gotten a lot tougher than when I started doing triathlons in the free-wheeling late Eighties. It seemed more fun in those days. Though training was just as tough (and in some ways more difficult without all the energy supplements they have these days) there were less people to race against and the triathlon community was smaller and friendlier to each other as crazy kindred spirits. We were considered nuts by non-triathletes in the early days of the sport.*See the article “Get Fitter with Friends”, The Economist Magazine, September 19, 2009, P. 92.

5. Swimming

  • Swim Training If you are new-ish to swimming, try to get in the water (lap pool, lake or ocean) at least 2-3x/week (30 minutes each) to build up your form & confidence. Do intervals if you can when in the pool. (I have some beginner swim workouts you can do to break up the monotony, too] Check out Active.com and look up swim stroke technique web videos and tips there or on youtube.com. Sometimes having a few pointers & practicing some swim drills can really make a difference in swim efficiency.
  • Swim Suit For women, the two-piece swim suites with the draw string bottoms are good and one-piece suites are fine, too but can get hot when your running.
  • Swimming Wet Suit If you don’t have a swim wetsuit, a surf wet suit can still work but won’t have the range of motion in it’s fit nor the sleeker less-resistant material for is best for swimming. Great quality swim suits are at Inside Track Multisports in Ventura and Hazard Cycle Sports in Santa Barbara for new ones. Inside Track Multisports and GoForItSports.com offer used wetsuit rentals for sale for a fraction of their new retail price if you are on a budget. I’ve heard that retailer Play It Again Sports in Ventura has had swimming wetsuits, too. Craig’s List and Ebay have been used successfully by friends for getting good quality used wet suits and gear, also. Wetsuits are not cheap but a good one that fits can transform non-tropical open water swimming from cold misery to comfortable fun. Swim wetsuites add buoyancy and speed, too. That is always a plus for me. There are a lot of quality brands with slightly different fits for different body shapes such as 2xu, Blue Seventy, Quintana Roo and others. I wear a Woman’s Blue Seventy. When I open water swim in the ocean during the winter with my Blue Seventy wetsuit and matching swim booties and neoprene cap I may look ridiculous, but I am never cold. If you are new to open water swimming or swimming with faster people, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of swim fins. I swim with TYR Crossblades in the ocean sometimes. One more point about swimming open water: wear a swim cap. Sports Chalet and several online retailers such as Goforitsports.com sell them.I recommend wearing a brightly colored swim cap when open water swimming for two reasons:
  1. You will feel significantly warmer when swimming with a swim cap
  2. You will have a better chance of being seen and not run over by boater or surfer when wearing a bright colored swim cap

6. Cycling

  • Bike The bike, for non-road cyclists, can be tough hurdle for a beginner or cash-strapped first time triathlete. My best advice is to go to your local multisport or bike shop. A triathlon racing bike is not necessary to race in a triathlon. The tri-bike geometry has more severe angles for time trial efficiency on flat courses and with a proper fitting is slightly faster than a conventional road bike, but is not as comfortable to ride for long rides. A “traditional” road bike shop may not have the expertise in tri-bikes and their accessories. I ride 12-year old conventional road bike with “cross-country” geometry. To get faster, I train more. If you just need a bike, almost any bike that is safe to ride can help you achieve your goal of doing a short or Sprint triathlon this summer. You can even ride your mountain bike or a cross-bike. I don’t recommend riding a single-speed cruiser bike, though as they weigh a ton and you may need hand-brakes on the handlebars to compete in a triathlon. As long as you bought your bicycle from a reputable source and it has been safety checked by an established bike dealer such as Inside Track Multisports, Avery’s Open Air Bike Shop, or Trek Bicycles in Ventura or Hazard Cycle Shop in Santa Barbara, it should be fine. If you want to go fast on a bike, my best advise is to spend more time in the saddle, than buying expensive gear in a shop.
  • Bike Helmet You need a certified-for-safety bicyle helmet or you can’t participate in an organized triathlon race. Check out your local bike dealer or multisport shop for this. Your brain is the only one you got, so protect it with the best helmet you can afford. I’ve been in a bike crash before and my helmet (which hit the pavement–hard) probably saved my life.
  • Bike accessories to carry your food & water, etc. If you buy a new road bike you will need two water bottle cages, a seat pack with spare tube, allen tool & patch kit, frame pump, clipless pedals and shoes. You can wait on the clipless pedals and shoes but they allow you to make a more efficient (e.g. faster/more power) pedal stroke when riding. You can buy water bottles or re-use Gatorade bottles or small water bottles in an earth-friendly fashion.

7. Running

  • Races are “won” on the run Triathlons, at the elite level, are won and lost during the run. It’s during the last portion of the race, during the run, that the hours of daily training and preparation comes together. many triathlon pros believe that the last segment of the race, the run, is when real race begins. The cardiovascular conditioning benefits you get from running will transfer to swimming and cycling. However, your swimming and cycling muscular training won’t transfer to running. If your training time is limited (whose isn’t?), I recommend focusing on your running and swimming. You can’t “fake” either of these in a triathlon.
  • Local Running Clubs: Inside Track Running Club has daily groups running workouts for all levels of runners in Ventura and Santa Barbara Athletic Club is resource for local workouts in Santa Barbara.

8. Training for your first Sprint Triathlon

  • Plan ahead–at least six months before your first triathlon. Most Sprint distance triathlons also fill up so it’s a good idea to register for a race you are interested in as soon as you can. I usually register about six months before race day for the short races. For of the more popular and longer races (such as the Wild Flower Triathlon) you may have to register up to a year before. I think the Carpinteria Triathlon Sprint Course filled up about two months before the race this year (I registered for the September 27th race the first week of July).

 

  • If you are doing a Sprint Triathlon with a 5K run distance, I recommend going online to checkout a few 5K race training plans and modify them to your triathlon schedule. There’s a cardio-crossover benefit from cycling and swimming, so your running workouts should focus on building speed and endurance by doing intervals—but only after building up your base. Your “base” in reference to running, is how far you can run or jog comfortably for your longest run and run each week in total. Rule of thumb: do at least one speed or interval workout for running each week.

 

9. Weekly Triathlon Training Schedule for Sprint Triathlon

  • You can train for a triathlon in as little as 1 to 1 1/2 hours per day. Just make each day’s workout a quality workout and abide by the periodization principal (hard days followed by easy days, hard weeks followed by easy weeks, etc.)
  • Sample Training Week Here’s a sample week from my own standard training schedule from when I was racing regularly BC (“Before Children”).
  • Monday (Swim or Nothing–Recovery Day)
  • Tuesday (Run & Bike)
  • Wednesday (Swim)
  • Thursday (Run & Bike)
  • Friday (Swim or Run)
  • Saturday (Swim & Long Bike)
  • Sunday (Swim and Long Run, a triathlon or running race or Brick Workout (bike followed immediately after with a run, usually 10-24-mile bike/3-6-mile run)
  • Do not do a tough workout of the same type of activity two days in a row. When racing, I take Mondays off if I raced or did a tough Brick on Sunday. If I raced Saturday, I planned for Sunday being a recovery day, etc.

 

  • Brick Workout A Brick Workout (or just Brick for short) is when you combine a bike ride with a run afterwards in one long continuous work out with a few minute break just to change your shoes. Basically, you go for a bike ride, stop to change into your your running shoes (and drink water) and then start running down the road like you got rocks in your quadriceps. This sadistic workout prepares your body for race day both physically and mentally. It’s a tough workout and I recommend doing a recovery day/rest day after you do a Brick Workout.

 

10. Train with others if you can

  • It’s safer and you will usually be able to get a better workout when you train with others. This is especially true when open water swimming, trail running or road riding. And, it makes the workout time go by more quickly. In my experience, triathletes are usually just busier people in general (many run their businesses, have families, etc.) and training is their way of socializing, too. I’ve learned more over the years about training and racing from other triathletes while chatting in between workouts, than I ever have from a book, video, or web site. Word of mouth is best. And, it’s more fun, anyway.

11. Keep a Training Log or Schedule

  • Keep a training log. It keeps you on track when training towards a goal and it also gives one a sense of achievement. Even if it’s just jotting down “Run, 3 miles, hilly” or “Tuesday: Run- 5 miles, hilly, felt tired.” on your calendar, planner or Facebook profile or it’s worth the trouble. (You can also refer to your old training logs to track improvement progression or to help you remember how to train for a certain distance or weight loss or PR years later.) Good stuff.

12. Food & Beverages

  • Nutrition & fluid/electrolyte replacement: Don’t forget to drink enough water & always bring some source of carbohydrate for workouts longer than an hour (banana, bar, energy gel, cookies, orange, gummy bears, etc.). When it’s hot, make sure you replace electrolytes lost during perspiration (banana, a few saltines, Gatorade, PowerFul, enduro caps, Hammer HEED, etc) during rides or runs over an hour, too.
  • Sports nutrition is a practice: What and when you eat really does affect your training and can help or hinder your improvement. Triathlon is an endurance sport that requires a specific type of energy replenishment for your muscles while working out and for recovering from a workout. The most efficient form of energy for your body to process is carbohydrates. Triathletes, like runners, are known to eat lots of carbohydrate rich foods & food supplements that digest quickly: energy drinks, bagels, pasta, rice, energy gels, bananas, fig newtons, potatoes, etc. Monique Ryan and Liz Applegate are excellent sources of information of performance optimizing sports nutrition for endurance athletes. Check out Amazon.com for their books.
  • Before training/racing: Try to eat a easily digestible source of carbohydrate, about 200 calories for most folks, about 1-2 hours before working out. Give yourself about 16 oz. of water with your food to aid hydration and digestion. For long slow workouts, I can eat a banana or PowerBar while I’m running or riding. However, some people can’t eat when they run or bike. Trial and error is helpful here. Get to know what works for you.
  • After training/racing: You will recover faster and feel better if you get eat or drink a source of carbohydrates 30-45″ after a long (1 hour plus) workout or race. Just remember you have a 30″-45″ window after a tough workout to replenish with carbohydrates. Research shows that long distance (over 1 1/2 hours) training should be followed by carbohydrates and some protein) Even a food as simple as a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is a great recovery food to have after a long bike ride or run or swim. Cold pizza is good, too. Especially on hot days when you need to replace electrolytes lost through perspiration.
  • Avoid drinking any alcoholic beverages right after you work out. Consuming alcoholic beverages after working out retards your body’s ability to rehydrate and recover from the workout. Replenish with water and nutritious foods first. Be kind to your body. It needs to recover from the stresses of training and racing with good stuff. Not beer.

13. Sleep more

  • You will need more sleep if you train every day (six workout days + one recovery day). Your body will require more of sleep for new tissue growth to deal with the physical stresses of training and the mental stresses of managing workouts and racing. If you don’t get enough sleep your immune system will weaken and you will be more likely to catch something and get sick. You won’t recover as well from your workouts, either. And, you will be tired and grumpy which messes up relationships. So, try to get to bed at least an hour earlier this summer while you are training for your first triathlon. That means usually 8 hours of beautiful, healing sleep. (Maybe more if you can get away with it.) Naps are good, too.

14. Triathlon Terms:

  • PR: “Personal Record” (Your fastest race time.)
  • WR: “World Record” (I’m glad they invented the term PR for the rest of us!)
  • PW: “Personal Worst” (Your slowest race time.)
  • Bonk: to run out of energy while exercising; to have an over whelming desire to stop moving and lay on the couch. Symptoms include feeling exhausted, dizziness, confusion, sleepiness, an over-whelming desire to sit under a tree and take a nap, grumpiness and sometimes, even tears. This is what happens when your body runs out of accessible blood sugar called glycogen that it needs to powers your muscles and to think clearly. You can avoid this awful state by making sure you have a source of easily digestible energy and water handy when working out such as bananas, energy gels and water or an energy drink. A good pre-race practice that helps me is to consume a banana or energy gel with a 16-oz. bottle of water about 30 minutes before race start.
  • Carbo Load: This is a pre-race rite of commensality (ritual meal sharing) that features a large meal of mostly carbohydrate-rich foods such as pasta, potatos or rice. It is generally shared with family members, loved ones or with other triathletes. It’s stated purpose is to increase your body’s glycogen stores so you don’t bonk in the following day’s race. It also reinforces the social solidarity and specialness of the triathlete as he or she prepares to athletically test his or herself at publicly during the race the following day.
  • Trigeek: a triathlete or wannabe triathlete who takes their athletic training and race performances bit too seriously for his friends and believes that upgrading to newer and more expensive triathlon gear and racing is more important than anything else.


15: Triathlon Race Distances (USA):

  • Sprint: 0.5k-swim/15k-bike/5k-run
  • Olympic: 1.5k-swim/40k-bike/10k-run
  • Long Course Santa Barbara Triathlon: 1mi-swim, 34mi-bike, 10mi-run
  • 70.3 or Half Ironman: 1.2mi-swim,/56mi-bike/13.1mi-run
  • 140.6 or Full Ironman: 2.4mi-swim/112-bike/26.2mi-run
  • Double Ironman (a multi-day stage race of double the Ironman triathlon distances): 5.4-m swim, 224-m bike, 52.4-m run


16: Upcoming Local Triathlons and Multiport Races

The best way to find local races online is Active.com which has an online database of just about every “all comers” triathlon, road race and other sports competitions in the United States. Printed race entries and flyers can be found on the “race table” at Inside Track Multisports in Ventura, CA.

You can find my daily workouts & multisport musings at: Twitter.com/multisportmama and Dailymile.com/people/multisportmama .

🙂 A

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WWF funded study: We have five years to switch to a global clean-energy industrial economy or it’s too late

The world has just five years to change to a low-carbon industrial economy before climate change goes past the point of no return according to scientists at Climate Risk, an environmental research firm known for its work for global insurance companies. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) sponsored their study, titled Climate Solutions 2 that was publicized yesterday. It is the first modeling analysis that puts a timetable on reducing carbon emissions that answers the question: “How long will it take [for] clean-tech industries to deliver a low-carbon economy (Climate Risk 2009)?” The above photo is of local farmers showing us another dry well near Bodhgaya in Bihar, India. Photo by Angela Rockett Kirwin, KIRF

The scientists discovered that by 2014, projected industrial growth rates would make it impossible for countries to meet the carbon targets required to keep global warming below 2°C. The report also stated that market measures such as the European Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) of carbon credits would not be enough to stop global warming on its own (WWF 2009). Market measures need to be combined with other policies such as “energy efficiency standards, feed-in tariffs for renewable energy and an end to ‘perverse’ subsidies for fossil fuel use according to the WWF web site (WWF 2009)”

Climate Solutions 2 tells us that we need to start making the change to a low-carbon economy today,” said Kim Carstensen, who leads WWF’s Global Climate Initiative that sponsored the study. “The transformation will require sustained growth in clean and efficient industry in excess of 20 percent a year over a period of decades.”

Developed countries, known as Annex 1 countries during the United Nations Climate Change Talks, such as the United States, Australia, and Japan, are responsible for most of the global warming. However, Annex 1 countries have stalled in their commitments to reducing global warming. They committed to decreasing their emissions by only 11-18% by 2020 during the recent Climate Change Talks in Bangkok according to Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS) (Bevington 2009). Least Developed States (LDCs) and AOSIS members have the most to lose if there is runaway global warming. LDCs have sizable rural populations who rely on the weather for their agricultural subsistence. For example, in India alone, an estimated 450 million people live off of rain-fed agriculture (Economist Magazine 2009). The AOSIS nations will be under water as the sea levels rise due to global warming. At the current level of global warming of 0.8°C, the AOSIS island nations are already suffering from “coastal erosion, flooding, coral bleaching and more frequent and intense extreme weather events” according to their web site (AOSIS 2009). Photo above was found via Google Images from Progressivestates.org.

On a positive note, Climate Solutions 2 study predicts that renewable energies such as wind and solar power will become price competitive with fossil fuels between 2013 and 2025. This conservatively assumes no more than a 2% annual rise in fossil fuel prices (WWF 2009). “This analysis shows that we can win the fight against runaway climate change … by creating stable long-term investment environments that don’t seek immediate returns,” said Dr Stephan Singer of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF 2009).

The international agreement at COP15 this December will determine how its signatory nations will manage the “low-carbon industrial revolution” that is necessary to prevent catastrophic climate change. COP15 will be the successor agreement to the Kyoto Protocol signed in 1993. Hopefully the COP15 negotiators will come to an accord that will prevent runaway global warming in the next five years (COP15 2009).

Resources

AOSIS

2009 “AOSIS High-Level Summit on Climate Change,” Alliance of Small Island States, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.sidsnet.org/aosis/summit2009.html

Bevington, Cara

2009 “After Bangkok: the Roadblocks to Barcelona and Beyond,” Adopt-a-Negotiator for Climate Change, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://adoptanegotiator.org/2009/10/16/after-bangkok-the-roadblocks-on-the-way-to-barcelona-and-beyond/

Climate Risk

2009 “Climate Solutions 2,” Climate Risk > News, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.climaterisk.net

COP15

2009 “United Nations Climate Change Conference,” COP15 Copenhagen, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://en.cop15.dk/

Economist Magazine

2009 “When the Rains Fail,” Economist Magazine, September 12th, p.27.
Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.co /displaystory.cfm?story_id=14401149

UNFCCC

2009 “Emissions Trading,” United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://unfccc.int/kyoto_protocol/mechanisms/emissions_trading/items/2731.php

WWF

2009 “Deadlines loom for creating new economy to avoid climate catastrophe,” World Wildlife Fund, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://wwf.org.au/news/deadlines-climate-catastrophe/

Climate Change is a social justice issue for developing countries

It’s about time for America to wake up and realized that climate change is affecting real people now. And, that climate change = more poverty, more hunger, higher food prices, & more war unless something is done. Now.

Journalist Cara Bevington, attending the last UNFCCC Climate Change Talks conference in Bangkok last week for Adoptanegotiator.org, reported that wealthy countries such as the United States and Australia were (1) not committing themselves to climate change efforts at the levels spelled out in the Kyoto Protocol required to reduce global warming significantly and (2) were speaking in processual abstractions of measurements and compliance rather than commitments. She reported the plea of the lead negotiator from Lesotho, South Africa reflected the general perspective of climate change as a material social justice issue by many developing countries:

“The failure to combat climate change will increase poverty in my country, and right across Africa. The rights of my people, the rights of people from the most vulnerable countries, are compromised by climate change. We must act now,” the lead Climate Change Talks negotiator from Letho said.

Many developing countries still have a majority of their populations living as poor farmers and it’s important for non-farming Americans to remember this (only 2% of Americans work in Agriculture). For example, 80% of Tanzanians work in agriculture (CIA Factbook, 2009).* More than half of India’s 1.1 billion population are farmers and 25% of all Indians live below the poverty line (CIA World Factbook 2009)**. Also, about 43% of all Indian children suffer from malnutrition already according to a recent report in The Economist. The climate makes a direct impact on these people’s lives if it rains or not. For example, in India alone, an estimated 450 million people live off of rain-fed agriculture (The Economist 2009) Photo above was taken during 2006 drought crises in Bihar, India. Photo by Mark Kirwin of Kirwin International Relief Foundation

The weather affects whether or not they have a job and income at best, and at worst, enough food and water for their family to live on. It’s not like here in the United States where, for the average middle class person reading this blog posting, climate change may mean nothing more than higher energy and food prices…sometime later…in the future. An abstraction. Inconveniences. Right now, the most compelling image I see about climate change in the United States is an endangered polar bear. This is may galvinize the environmentally aware to take action, but it’s not motivating enough for many people in the United States struggling to make it through the current recession. They need to see a human face. They need to feel empathy.

In the primarily agrarian developing countries, climate change is not “An Inconvenient Truth” but a life or death issue.*** It is hurting people and wildlife now. It is creating more political insecurity globally now. I think climate change is a human rights story and a security issue and that is the story that needs to be told if the public is to be galvanized to action. There should be more publicity on the probable outcomes of the Climate Change Talks text negotiations. How does a certain amendment change affect people materially? What will happen to a typical Ethiopian farming family if the drought due to global warming continue? How many more families will suffer the same fate in East Africa? How does that affect our national security and resource interests in Ethiopia, Somalia, or Sudan where there are more and more anti-American terrorist groups attracting impoverished youths? Real lives are at stake. Action on climate change will require some altruistic action on the part of all nations as energy sources are switched to renewable and non-fossil fuel burning sources. To get altruistic action, environmentalists and policy makers will have to elicit empathy out of voters and stakeholders. The best way to do this is to translate climate change into material impacts that are affecting real people, right now.

I just read a griping story about resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan in last Sunday’s New York Times article “Held by the Taliban: 7 months, 10 days in captivity” by a journalist David Rohde. By living with the Taliban, as an unwilling prisoner, for nearly a year Rohde brought a human face to this conflict. A few of the terrorists are truly fundamentalist zealots and can’t be reasoned with–but those are the minority. It seems from his reports that most join the Taliban for better life, to pull themselves and their families out of poverty and out of fear of reprisal if they don’t join. It really comes down to poverty as the main driver of the growth of the Taliban’s political control in Pakistan and Afghanistan. What is poverty? Lack of adequate food and resources for a healthy life. Global warming is causing more poverty and ultimately, will be creating terrorist recruits.

If you want to fight terror, start with fighting poverty.

If you want to take care of the environment and help stop climate change, you must first take care of the people.

But to do this and get real action out of people, you need to show how real people and wildlife are suffering now due to climate change and solutions that will help them. Not enough people will care about climate change unless you to show real people suffering from it and tell their stories.

* I witnessed the devastating impact of the drought on children, the educational system (children can not attend school when it is hot and there is no water to drink) and the environment in rural areas near the Serengeti in Tanzania in July, 2006.

** I saw first hand the dry wells and hungry children in Bihar, India in December 2006.

***I am so grateful that Al Gore made the movie An Inconvenient Truth. That movie has done more for the welfare of people and wildlife than anything else media-wise in recent years. He is a hero.

References

Bevington, Cara
2009, “After Bangkok: the Roadblocks to Barcelona and Beyond,” Adopt-a-negotiator, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://adoptanegotiator.org/2009/10/16/after-bangkok-the-roadblocks-on-the-way-to-barcelona-and-beyond/

CIA
2009 “India,” The World Factbook, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
https://www.cia.gov /library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/in.html

CIA
2009, “Tanzania,” The World Factbook, retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/tz.html

Editors
2009 “East Africa Drought,” The Economist Magazine, September 24th,
retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.com/world/middleeast-africa/displayStory.cfm?story_id=14506436

Editors
2009 “When the Rains Fail,” The Economist Magazine, September 12th, p.27.
Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from:
http://www.economist.co /displaystory.cfm?story_id=14401149

Rohde, David
2009 “Held by the Taliban: 7 months, 10 days in captivity”, New York Times, Sunday, October 19, 2009, p. A1. Available online. Retrieved on October 19, 2009, from: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/18/world/asia/18hostage.html

6 Fun Projects Kids Can Do To Help Stop Climate Change

What can kids do to help stop global warming? How can busy parents respond to the climate change crises while juggling work and taking care of their kids? These are real concerns. And, global warming is a serious problem that has been proven by science to be caused by humans by the burning of fossil fuels and massive deforestation in the past 200 years. This is a big problem with serious consequences that are hurting animals and people today all over the world through loss of wildlife habit and human food production. However, I think that anyone can do their part to help stop global warming–even if they are only five years old. The photo (above) of a polar bear resting on a piece of melting iceberg is by Norwegian wildlife photographer Arne Navaera.*

We have been coordinating environmental youth community service projects personally and through our non-profit KIRF using the Roots & Shoots service learning model since our kids were in pre-school**. Each project we have done with kids has been a learning experience and has made a difference. I like doing youth service projects is that kids, and young people in general, seem to be more open to change and making a difference.

Since our first youth service project in 2004 (we participated in the Coastal Cleanup that fall) our kids have gotten older but the qualities of their favorite projects have not changed.

Each successful project has these qualities:

(1) It is fun
(2) It is social (it usually involves doing something with friends or other family members)
(3) It costs almost nothing
(4) It is easy to do

Below are a few fun activities with the above qualities that almost any kid can do to help stop global warming and climate change:

(1) Ride a bicycle at least once a week. Riding bikes together is a fun and playful activity in itself. And, if a parent works close to home, riding to work or school with their kids can make a morning commute a fun activity. I remember how happy my kids and I were after riding with my 3 year old daughter riding a Trail-a-bike hitched to my old Diamondback mountain bike and my son speeding along on his own bicycle when I used to ride to work and their pre-school/daycare. Another option is riding bikes together as a family on the weekends instead of driving someplace to have fun. Simply by riding a bicycle instead of having their parents drive, kids can reduce carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere. (Ages 3+–using a Trail-bike or bike seat for the young ones) The photo above is from the Adam’s Trail-a-bike web site.

(2) Turn the lights off. Nearly all of the electricity in our town’s local utility company comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels to generate electricity. If kids use less electricity from non-renewable energy powered sources then they are helping to stop global warming. This can be re-enforced by having your child do a run around to “check the lights” before leaving the house and turning the lights off after he or she leaves a room that is empty. (Ages 5+) The photo of the energy efficient light bulb on right is from Google images.

(3) Use reusable non-plastic bags when shopping and in bag lunches. What are plastic bags made out of? Petroleum products. We try not to use disposable plastic bags. For school lunches, the kids can use reusable lunch containers in their lunch box or reusable lunch bag. Schools and camps can re-enforce this choice by giving out “No Bag” lunch awards such as is done at our kids’ California Junior Lifeguard (JGs) summer camp programs. (Ages 5+, 9+ for JGs ) The photo on right of aluminum food storage containers is from Reusablebags.com.

(4) Make a reusable shopping bag out of an old t-shirt. This is really fun creative project using a kid’s t-shirt that they may have outgrown. As a resusable shopping bag the t-shirt can have a new life as bag for groceries, soccer clothes, beach stuff, taekwando clothes, almost anything. Using reusable shopping bags conserves paper and plastic which are produced using fossil fuels. (Ages 10+) The photo below is of three reusable bags I made out of our son’s old t-shirts. Photo by Angela Rockett Kirwin (me).

Time: 30-45 minutes per bag.
Supplies: old t-shirt, thread, sewing machine, scissors, pins.
Directions: Turn the t-shirt inside out. Pin the bottom open end together and sew it. Cut the sleaves off and cut the neck seam off and hem the arm holes and the neck hole. turn in inside-in and voila! You got a reusable shopping bag with handles and maybe cool graphics, too.

(5) Make a reusable gift bag out of an old piece of clothing. I got this idea from the reusable gift bags sold in Patagonia’s retail stores that are made of remnant cloth. Instead of throwing away the fabric scraps Patagonia reused them to make gift bags and added matching ribbon to serve as a tie. (Ages 8+) The photo below is a reusuable gift bag used as a swim suit+goggles bag that was made from one pant leg of a pair of old Patagonia boardshorts, Mens XL. It was made by a nine year old and is modeled by her cat. Photo is courtesy of Jeanne Tanner and was taken by her daughter.

Time: 30-45 minutes per bag
Supplies: thread, sewing machine, pins, scissors, ribbon and old pants, t-shirts, skirts…anything that you can get a large rectangular panel of cloth out of.
Directions: measure out how big a bag you need and then double the width and add 2 inches. (For example, for a small gift bag about 8″x10″ requires a fabric about 10″x 20″.) Fold, pin and then seam the top edge of the bag, wide side, sewing. Fold the fabric in half, inside in, top seams facing in, and sew the bottom part together. Stop, rotate the fabric 90 degrees and sew the side until you get 3/4 to the top. Stop. Take a piece of ribbon (for 10″ tie strings, cut off 20″ of ribbon), fold it in half and tuck it on the side seam’s path with the fold part sticking out (and the long strings inside your inside-in bag. Then continue with finishing the side seam and sewing in the ribbon. Turn your new bag reusable gift bag inside-in and you are done.

(6) Conserve paper. In addition to eschewing wrapping gifts in store-bought wrapping paper that ends up in the trash, kids can conserve all kinds of paper and recycle used paper. Kids can use GOOS (Good On One Side) plain white paper that is re-used from the printer for art projects. Another way for them to use less paper is have them use both sides of a piece of paper and type reports single-spaced for home work projects if it is appropriate for the assignment and okay with the teacher. Conserving paper helps stop global warming in two ways: (1) Less paper used means less trees destroyed and this is a good thing because trees are the best at absorbing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere* and (2) manufacturing and transporting paper requires burning fossil fuels which contribute to global warming. (Age 9+) The photo above shows a Maasai school girl watering her tree seedling that is guarded from goats with acacia thorns. She planted this tree for her Roots & Shoots reforestation project at her school in the Lake Eyasi region of NW Tanzania. Photo by Angela Rockett Kirwin (me).

Our young children have done all these activities with little assistance from adults, so I know that they are doable and fun.

I believe that our generation and the generations before ours created global warming and it is our generation and the generations after ours that can un-create it. I feel bad that our kids will inherit the mess that we are leaving them. It will take time but we owe it to our kids to teach them to learn from our mistakes that have caused climate change in the first place. Each person, even a five year old, can make a real difference. As environmental activist, humanitarian and primatologist Dr. Jane Goodall has said, “…every individual matters, every individual has a role to play and every individual makes a difference.”

Or in other words, “Be the change you want to see,” said Mahatma Gandhi.

🙂 A

* Read how wild polar bears are in danger of becoming extinct due to global warming: “On Thin Ice” by Daniel Glick, National Wildlife Federation.

** Find out about more age-appropriate community service projects for kids that help animals, the environment and the human community at rootsandshoots.org.

*** Learn about how all plants consume carbon dioxide but trees are best and what you can do at environment.about.com . You can read more about how forests mitigate global warming and a status update on the old growth redwood forests of the Pacific Northwest in the article “The Super Trees” in National Geographic Magazine, October 2009.