I wrote a recent column on balance exercises. Not only do these exercises help your balance and strengthen your ankles, they help with balancing coordination right to left side.
There’s an easy way to add balance work to your dailyhabits. It works best if you have an electronic toothbrush that alerts you to 30-second segments to brush each section of your teeth.
With each segment (inner lower teeth, outer lower teeth, inner upper teeth, and outer upper teeth) alternate left leg, right leg, left leg and right leg for 30-second segments. Of course you can go for one-minute per leg too.
Depending on how often you brush your teeth, you can get some two to six minutes of balance work accomplished every day!
Thanks to Janet Saxon for this trick.
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon andcycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlonplans found here.
For the athletes that I’ve coached for at least one season and for those with no access to a gym facility, I’ve added walking lunges to their strength training programs this off-season (base or preparation periods).
I’ve done this for several reasons:
It’s an easy exercise to do anywhere
You can use hand-held barbells or home-made weights (including rocks in a backpack) rather than a squat bar.
This exercise is dynamic and works not only the gluteus maxiumus, but also quadriceps, adductor magnus (for those that had adductor cramps last season, working these muscles may help), soleus, hamstrings, gastrocnemius and also uses several other muscles as stabilizers.
You can find the simple strength training plan I use for my athletes under the free supporting download documents section here.
A fellow coach, Steve Diggs, sent me the link to this research paper. Several years ago, Steve and I had a discussion about high intensity training (HIT) programs that other coaches were using, as well as repeated training for Ironman distance events. The short of the discussion is that we both had a gut feeling that there is some top limit for the volume of HIT and overall volume of endurance training where if you go over that limit, it is harmful to your health.
Now there is research that is backing up our gut feelings. Here are a few key plucks from the research paper:
· Mohlenkamp et al studied 108 middle-aged German long-term marathon runners and compared them with matched nonrunner controls. They observed a greater atherosclerotic burden in the marathoners as documented by higher coronary artery calcium (CAC) scores.
· Indeed, long-term sustained vigorous aerobic exercise training such as marathon or ultramarathon running or professional cycling has been associated with as much as a 5-fold increase in the prevalence of atrial fibrillation.
The conclusion of the investigation follows:
In some individuals, long-term excessive endurance exercise training may cause adverse structural and electrical cardiac remodeling, including fibrosis and stiffening of the atria, right ventricle, and large arteries. This theoretically might provide a substrate for atrial and ventricular arrhythmias and increase cardiovascular risk. Further investigation is warranted to identify the exercise threshold for potential toxicity, screening for at-risk individuals, and ideal exercise training regimens for optimizing cardiovascular health. For now, on the basis of animal and human data, cardiovascular benefits of vigorous aerobic exercise training appear to accrue in a dose-dependent fashion up to about 1 hour daily, beyond which further exertion produces diminishing returns and may even cause adverse cardiovascular effects in some individuals.
While it currently appears the researchers are saying “some individuals” – the endurance sports and intensities that some of us do repeatedly “may not” be good for overall health.
If it turns out that anything over an hour a day is bad for you – will you give up doing the distances and intensities you love so much?
Or – will you say everyone must die of something and if doing endurance sports year after year does it, I’m okay with that? (Comments can be added on Facebook. )
Note: Find the full article here, including a video interview with the author. The short video is worth watching.
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plans found here.
A few weeks back when I knew I needed my appendix removed, I asked the surgeon what to expect after the surgery and how long it would be before I could get back to doing normal workouts. In this blog, I outlined what might be expected for me.
Before Igive you details of what I did, I want you to understand this is no recommendation for anyone else. It is just the details of my recovery. I know there are plenty of people that take longer and probably some that take less time as well.
That written, all workouts below were aerobic. The early workouts were what I would call uncomfortable, nothing was painful. I expected some discomfort early in the game.
Surgery Day –The surgery went well and I was home a little over 3 hours after heading out to the hospital. I took ½ of a narcotic pain medication to bridge a gap until I could take ibuprofen. Obviously no workouts today.
Day 1 – Ibuprofen only, no narcotic meds. No workouts.
Day 2 –Ibuprofen, 30-minute walk.
Day 3 – Reduced levels of ibuprofen, 30-minute indoor trainer ride. (This felt fantastic and seemed to help removed some of the CO2 bubble below my diaphragm.)
Day 4 – No more ibuprofen from this day forward. Did a 40-minute indoor ride followed by 10 minutes on an elliptical trainer. The elliptical experience was enough to know I don’t want to run yet. (After this workout the CO2 bubble was gone. Hooray for getting the blood moving.)
Day 5 – Didn’t feel like an aerobic workout so did a 20-minute walk.
Day 6 – 45 minutes of indoor cycling followed by 3 sets of walking lunges and 3 set of squats (body weight only).
Day 7 – Very easy 90 minutes on the road bike. (Outside, yeah!)
Day 8 – 38 minutes of a run/walk combination. I felt better at the end of the session than at the beginning. It seemed that my abs needed to be stretched out a bit and get some blood moving into them – which didn’t seem to be happening on the bike.
Day 9 – 75 minutes road bike.
Day 10 – 60-minute swim and 30-minute run later in the day.
Day 12 – Road bike to Estes Park, one way, for a total ride time of 2:40. (This is half the distance and a bit over half the time of what was “normal” for me on a weekly basis prior to the surgery. No, I don't ride to Estes each week, but similar distances and times.) I capped intensity at the top of Zone 2 on this ride and felt great the entire time. I had no issues whatsoever.
Day 13 – Had the post-surgery exam and everything looks great.
Additional items I did that may or may not have helped: I wore travel compression stockings through Day 3 since I wasn’t doing much moving. I consumed fresh pineapple (for the anti-inflammatory properties) through Day 10. I supplemented with Branch Chain Amino Acids and L-Glutamine through Day 10 (and four days preceding the surgery). Though no fun, I iced my belly Day 1. They did recommend ice on the day of surgery “if I feel like it” – I didn’t. I suspect this would have helped with healing the stretched out abdominal muscles even more, but…
I was sleeping around 10 hours per night the first five days and taking a nap each day. Sleep is critical to recovery. I will say I didn’t sleep “well” until Day 8.
I’ll stay away from lifting any weights until after Day 14. When starting back to weights, I’ll keep it light. (The concern is getting a hernia.) There are no restrictions now on mountain biking, skiing, running or riding.
If you have to do some type of non-emergency abdominal surgery, consider going into the surgery not exhausted from training. Don’t view your last few workouts as an opportunity to binge on volume or intensity because you’ll be off workouts for awhile.Instead, go into surgery well rested so you can get back to workouts more quickly. When you visit the surgeon, let him or her know what is normal for youbefore the procedure and what you might expect afterwards.
If you’re reading this prior to heading for a procedure, all the best to you ~
In yesterday’s blog I covered the wide variation in recovery time and costs for an appendectomy. I told you I’d let you know what the surgeon told me to expect.
Most likely if you’re reading this blog, you understand that once you’ve reached a certain level of fitness it is easy to maintain that level and most importantly – you feel good. You also understand that doing nothing for several days or weeks means a loss of fitness, endorphins and you just don’t feel good.
When I went to visit the surgeon to find out details about an upcoming appendectomy, I wanted to know how much downtime to expect. Doing some research prior to my visit to his office, I expected to have him tell me it would be two weeks before I could do much of anything.
I was pleasantly surprised by his answer.
Before asking him what I could do post-procedure, I told him my current routine that I’ve carried for more years than I can remember. That is strength train once or twice per week, swim two to three times, run two or three days and ride two or three days. Weekly hours are between eight and 10 this time of year, more in the summer.
Given my current fitness and history, here are my guidelines
I will likely be on pain meds of some kind for three to five days. As soon as I’m off pain meds, I can run and ride.
The incisions close in two or three days, but don’t start back to swimming for a week to be safe.
Avoid weights for two weeks.
Initial workouts should all be less than an hour and all aerobic. I’ll be on an indoor bike and treadmill to be sure all is well before heading outside.
The primary goal of workouts is to speed recovery.
A secondary goal is to minimize loss of aerobic fitness.
Getting back to light workouts in some three days or so is a target for me. We’ll see how it all pans out.
Detailed off-season plans for triathlon and cycling, along with event-specific running, cycling and more triathlon plansfound here.
Summarizing the hours from the first three days of the bike tour, we rode 278.4 miles, climbed 17,283 ft, ride time was 19 hours and elapsed time was around 24. (Elasped time on Garmin Connect was incorrect on the first three days because of operator error.)
At the end of day 3, we saw people (I assume triathletes - and specifically Ironman athletes) putting on running shoes after riding 119+ miles. A cyclist asked me if there are significant training benefits for Ironman athletes to run after riding for three days and accumulating some 19ish hours of ride time.
My answer was, “No significant training benefits.”
The cyclist asked, “Then, why do triathletes feel compelled to run after long bike tour rides? Are they just ego maniacs looking for attention?”
Ah, an interesting question.
I think some triathletes get a warm fuzzy feeling by running after a long ride, believing that it somehow helps them be faster Ironman athletes. Know that I’ve coached endurance athletes for over 25 years and I’ve never seen any benefit from running for 10-30 minutes after a huge bike tour ride. That is never – not one time.
If you are a triathlete feeling compelled to run during a huge volume training week provided by a bike tour, then do it on your day off or after a shorter ride. I’ve coached plenty of Ironman athletes that eliminated all swimming and running during a bike tour. They focused on the bike and put all quality training time towards a strong ride. They were better triathletes for it.
Isn’t that why an Ironman athlete is doing a bike tour – to be a better triathlete?
A few years back there was a self-announced “serious” triathlete that rode one of the longest days of the tour in his speedo. He was doing this because he “needed to train the same way he was going to race.”
Ah yes, he was the talk of every aid station and the butt of many jokes about triathletes. What would have made the whole picture better was if he would have been wearing arm coolers, compression lower leg socks and a heart rate monitor strap. But, that was before the days of coolers and compression wear.
Are triathletes, specifically Ironman triathletes, just ego maniacs?
The first time I was introduced to this type of exercise, it was to rehabilitate a sprained ankle. One purpose of the exercise is to strengthen the tendons and ligaments in the ankle. That’s just the beginning.
You can also use these exercises to build strength in the ankles to help prevent serious ankle sprains. Sure, at one time or another you’ll rollan ankle, but having strong tendons and ligaments might keep an otherwise minor sprain from being a bigger problem. You can also build some strength in all of the stabilizing muscles in the lower leg.
In addition to strength, you need balance. As a runner you do land on each foot and that foot is expected to hold your body weight and keep you balanced until the other foot takes over. As a skier, particularly a Nordic skier, you must commit your body weight to a foot and glide on that foot (ski) for more than the brief moment. In fact in contrast to skiers, the fastest runners want to spend the least amount of time touching the ground. The fastest skiers get the most glide from each ski placement which requires a sort of strength and balance endurance. It doesn't matter whether you walk, run or ski, these exercises can help you.
(A view from Shock Hill at Breckenridge Nordic Center 12-30-11)
Boiled down, you stand on one foot. Seems pretty easy, doesn’t it? I’ve never met anyone that could “easily” (never tapping the airborne foot down to secure balance) do these exercises the first time. Below are four variations of standing on one foot to build strength and balance. Start with the first one and progress as you gain skill.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count 1001, 1002, 1003, 1004, 1005. Switch feet. Repeat five to 10 times. The non-weight-bearing foot can be anywhere – begin with it close to the ground. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
Looking forward, stand on one foot and count to five. Remain on that foot, look over your right shoulder and count to five. Remaining on that foot, look over your left shoulder and count to five. (The weight-bearing foot gets a count of 15 total before resting.) Switch feet. Repeat each foot five to 10 times.
Do progression number 2 with your eyes closed.Tougher than you thought, eh?
While standing on one foot, raise your knee until your femur is parallel to the ground. Count to five. Repeat five to 10 times. As you progress, build up to 30 seconds per foot.
If you’re following one of my training plans, you can easily add one of the exercises below into your strength training session, starting as early as the Anatomical Adaptation (AA) phase. If your plan doesn’t call for strength training, do the exercise before you do a cycling or running session.
Doing just one variation of these exercises one to three times per week can make a difference. If you do it, let me know how it goes and the changes you notice. (You can comment on my Facebook link, but not yet on Active due to hackers.)
PS…I’m guessing you will need to try this right now, just to prove I’m wrong and that you are special and can easily balance on one leg with your eyes closed and move your head and airborne leg anywhere you please. You won't prove me wrong.
Q: In my training I usually keep a weight training routine (usually following what's in your training plans). One of my friends said that her trainer recommended that she not do any weights. For me it's beneficial because it maintains a base strength. I just change it to match my goals. Any thoughts?
A: For strength training, I too use the routine from my books and it seems to be affective for me and many of the athletes I coach. I keep one day of weights in my routine throughout the summer, changing the sets and reps and noted in the training plans. I’ve tried seasons without weights at all and I thought I lost power and speed because of it.
The summer routine, as you know, lightens the weights some, changes set numbers and repetitions to keep from having the gym affect your endurance work.
All that written, I do have some athletes that stop weights in the summer. They run and/or ride enough hills that it doesn’t seem to make a difference – best we can tell.
I think keeping strength training in a summer routine, or not, boils down to:
Training time available
Individual response to strength training
It seems you respond well to strength training and you have the time to do it. If it helps you and doesn’t negatively affect your swimming, cycling or running; it appears to be a good investment of your time.
As we head into the last quarter of the year, some triathletes are racing while others are taking a break before beginning a new training block. Those that are taking a break will often ask, “How can I keep some of my hard-earned speed, while still taking the break I need to allow my body to recover?”
No one, not even the world’s top athletes, can maintain race form all year round. Though you can’t keep top form all year, you can minimize fitness losses. One way to keep some speed work included in your running, without doing mentally and physically exhausting intervals is to include race-pace, or slightly faster, running in their program at least twice per month. Some will include these intervals once per week.
You can do this on the road if you have a monitor that displays pace or you can go to the track. After a good warm-up, do 3 to 6 fast run segments that are 20 to 60 seconds long. Make the fast segments at race pace or slightly faster.
These short, fast run segments keep your legs and head used to the feeling of running fast without the fatigue of interval sessions reserved for race season.
When you go to add speed work back to your training mix, you'll find the time required to feel like running fast again is significantly reduced, compared to when you spend your off season running slow, easy miles.
In the last month I received three requests for a listing of the columns I've written, by category. I figured three requests was some sort of signal that people needed information in a way that I wasn't providing, so I went to work. Below, you'll find a listing of most of the columns I've written for the Active Network organized by category and title to make it easier for you to find the information you need. Every few months I'll update this blog with new links. I believe if you are a column subscriber you should get notice when the blog is updated.
Athletes ~ Thanks for reading and thanks for asking ~