Triathlete Anna Hertel: No Longer Limited By the Pain of Muscle Cramps

Anna = abdominal cramps. A broken heart got triathlete Anna Hertel into triathlon in 2008. In her attempt to impress a boy, Anna figured if she managed to finish a triathlon he would surely want her back. She signed up for her first tri, a local sprint, and ended up winning her age group. Years later, Anna participated in her second triathlon in Hamburg, Germany. Soon, she was signed up for the inaugural Ironman Lake Tahoe 2013, and her life was changed forever. The athlete and owner of INTENTIO Fitness Coaching says triathlon has provided a sense of purpose she needed in order to live a fulfilled life, even with debilitating cramps. Here, she talks about staying level-headed in the competition and how HOTSHOT is helping her achieve PRs after years of cramping.

You have been trying to get rid of abdominal cramps for years, testing many different approaches — what have you tried?
For the last two years, I had been working on my nutrition protocols with coach Bob Seebohar. He has been a tremendous influence on my nutrition approach for this sport. His metabolic efficiency model transformed my body composition, fueling protocols, and healthy lifestyle approach. We tried many different angles for my cramping, including hydration, monitoring my heart rate, eating less before my run, racing in colder climates, cutting out coffee… and the last bit of advice was “give HOTSHOT a try.”

What happened when you tried HOTSHOT?
You know that feeling when you put on that perfect pair of jeans and that comfy heather-grey cotton-shirt and you match that feeling with smooth rolling hills on a crisp fall morning overlooking gorgeous landscape mixed with that sensation when you take the first sip of a perfect cup of coffee? Kind of like that but on ecstasy. I always knew I was capable of physically and mentally running faster off bike, but when you have pain to the right and slightly above your belly button as sharp as having swallowed needles, there is just no way you can run through that. My limiter was not my legs or lungs, but the cramps. Imagine arriving at the finish line and you know your legs still have power, but your abdomen quit on you. And it wasn’t digestion related. The first time I took HOTSHOT, the cramps never showed up! That particular training session included zone 3 and 4, so I pushed it. I couldn’t believe it! I ran a 7:50 pace for 4 miles off a hard bike!

You recently raced National Championships in Omaha with HOTSHOT and broke many PRs.  How is HOTSHOT taking your performance to the next level?
I always say, “I dream of getting my pro card.” In the meantime, I focus on being the best I can be with the body and time I have. Working with Matt Dixon from Purplepatch Fitness, I have come to understand the importance of focusing on the process and execution. Allow your goals to be the product of extremely hard work and commitment to being better every day.

HOTSHOT allows me to finally reach those higher Zone training runs (brick or no brick) without being limited by the excruciating pain of abdominal cramps. Just in the last few months, I have noticed a tremendous increase in my running fitness, and it may just be my imagination, but my leg muscles are adapting equally! Racing Omaha recently was special for me. Nothing in this sport comes easily to me, so I know I have worked hard to get here. Omaha is hot and humid. Well, the myth that heat causes my cramps has been busted, and I can confidently go out there and unleash the trained beast.


Anna Hertel HOTSHOT

With a nickname “Ironbabe” and as the founder of INTENTIO, you are regarded as an inspiring mentor in the triathlon world — can you share some of your tips?
My sister gave me that nickname! I believe in having a reason for everything we do. Having an “intention.” Hence I called my business INTENTIO. We ask our clients “What is your intent?” Education is therefore a large component of our model. If we focus on our training blocks day in and day out, we understand the reason for Zone 1 Recovery Flush sessions, intervals, endurance rides, etc… and understand how the human body is capable of so much. Then, training for a triathlon becomes far less intimidating. What it requires is patience, determination, consistency, graciousness, and direction. There is a science to this madness, so seek out those who understand what is needed, submerge yourself in the science of your goal and listen to your body. And then have fun and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Do you have a training schedule you stick to? Can you share some of your training routines?
I have managed a sustainable balance between achieving fitness, keeping injury at bay and fusing training with life. It took three years to learn just to let it be and move along. A few guidelines that determine my training routine/schedule:

  1. Sleep is #1. While everyone else is capable of getting to the pool at 5:30 am, it is just not possible with the other factors that are important to me in my life. I have to accept that.
  2. No swim is going to happen before 9 am and after 6 pm.
  3. Get business work done and take care of your responsibilities before you focus on training. As long as you are an amateur, your work is the vessel for training.
  4. Be there for the business in the morning (key hours), and train between 1-5pm. After 5 pm, attend to your writing hobby, recovery, relaxing and emails.
  5. Transparency in my training schedule with my team. The only things I plan now are training blocks, meetings and “must-get-done” items, but the rest is free. It is important to me that they know when I am training, so they understand my absence.


HOTSHOT At Leadville 100MTB: Marvin Sandoval talks about how HOTSHOT kept him cramp-free, and improved his performance.  

HOTSHOT Science: What causes a muscle cramp? Read here

7 Questions with Triathlon Coach Bob Seebohar:  The importance of strength training and muscle building, triathlon and his stance on HOTSHOT for muscle cramps. Read on