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I observe things all the time in endurance sports workouts, at the gym or elsewhere, that either completely miss the boat of performance efficiency or make a really good effort, but maybe miss a simple principle that takes away from the rest of the effort in a major way. Best performance comes from understanding and implementing all of the elements together to make one injury resistant, efficient, powerful body that's capable of doing work. I'm going to call these blogs: Performance POVs. In other words: observations on day to day happenings from the point of view of true performance and movement efficiency.


This Performance POV is based on observations from two track workouts I did recently with two different triathlon teams.


Doing running drills as part of the workout = GREAT

Doing them mediocre or wrong = A WASTE OF TIME



1. Hurdle drills are great for joint mobility and muscle elasticity when done correctly. What I saw was athletes crunching at the waist, hunching their back over, neglecting their posture and any power through their pillar just to get their leg over the hurdle in a somewhat sloppy sing-songy kind of cadence. Posture should be the number one priority in any exercise if you want to maximize your efforts. In this case you could lower the hurdles or do skipping drills that allow you to maintain great posture.


2. Running form drills are great when done correctly. What I saw was athletes sent out for 2 loops of the track, doing a drill on the straights and jogging through the curves. Coaches weren't coaching and athletes (on the whole) were chit chatting away not focused on their body or the drill. Here's my thoughts: drills should be purposeful, coached, and run over shorter distances so attention can stay focused on the drill at hand. It gets hard to maintain good form with drills over long distances. It's a coaches job to understand how to coach the drills given to athletes and coach them through it. Athletes if you want to make the most of your time, focus on your body and the running drill, don't chit chat.


Defining "WARM-UP"


Picture a group of athletes, having been doing running drills for at least 30 minutes, sweating, hearts racing, looking at each other like, "I'm WORKED! And we haven't even gotten to the track workout yet!" I was stoked to see the running drills not only incorporated but actually taught, and taught well. Then there came what I've come to call a "so close and yet so far" moment. The coach asks: "How many of you warmed-up jogged for 30 minutes? 20 minutes? 10 minutes or less?" Most people raised their hands for 10 min or less. At this point the group was scolded for not having warmed-up enough. I thought, oh geez, really? These athletes are not "warmed-up" enough? Ha!


Is warm-up defined as simply jog for 20 minutes? Maybe its to "get your heart rate up."


If you understand running, you understand that there's a whole lot more to your performance than higher than average heart rate. Posture, glute activation, joint mobility, stability, elasticity, strength and proper running mechanics all go into every running step you take. Those athletes in that track workout had done all of that and yet were being told they hadn't warmed up enough.


The term warm-up is a bit one-dimensional. I prefer to "prepare my body to move" and give some physiological purpose to my preparation. My movement preparation involves little running. I prefer spending my 10-20 minutes with functional exercises, running drills, and a few strides. Even 5 minutes of it does a body good.


More PERFORMANCE POVs to come.

1,422 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: running, endurance, running_form, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland

The sandwich i got at Quiznos today on my drive in the middle of nowhere Arizona, was awful. It looked awful and tasted awful - nothing like the ingredients that it was made of. Crazy part is, not awful enough for me to not eat it, opting not to cause a scene since i was traveling on business and wanted to enjoy a nice conversation instead of being the negative ninny. I am horrified at what people consider food these days. Poor quality concoctions being engineered that are not only accepted as edible, but accepted in business to sell and serve. Right down to our kids school lunches. My sandwich was nothing compared to the poor quality, poor taste, and nutritional content, or lack there of, that our children are being fed. This is what they are LEARNING about food. Talk about mediocrity. Thank goodness for the school garden projects, helping kids see food as it should be from conception to ingestion, though they are far and few between.


Believe me, i've had my fair share of processed foods, but i attempt to minimize, always, in the hopes of building up the right habits to eliminate completely. So, about half way through last year i adopted one of my Can Do Rules to kick off my get-back-on-the-right-nutrition-track since i was then just getting back into training. I couldn't take it all on at once (planning out # of calories, timing, etc.) so my first rule became, "I don't care what/when/how you eat, but whatever you put in your mouth has to be quality, whole, nutritionally dense food." That means either the ingredients are never in packaging or if they are, there are few, and i can understand all of the ingredients, and more often than not, can point directly to them in the food i'm eating. For example, energy bars. A few of my newfound favorites are:


Go Raw: Sprouted Organic Buckwheat Groats, Sprouted Organic Sunflower Seeds,

Sprouted Organic Flax Seeds, Sprouted Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic

Raisins Organic Dates


LARABAR: Dates, Almonds, Unsweetened Cherries


CLIF Bar Nectar Bar: Organic Apricots, Organic Dates, Organic Almonds, Organic Cranberries, Organic Apple Juice Concentrate.


They are so tasty, and it's amazing to actually be able to taste the actual ingredients, one by one, in them!


Talk about things people are calling food lately: My mom was given a Fiber One bar recently, and, having been told she should be increasing her fiber intake, thought it would be a good addition. She commented on how super sweet and candybar-like the Fiber One bar was. We must've gotten talking about ingredients and when she looked, she couldn't believe what she saw. She's a healthy eater too, but never thought to check. Mac Daddy Marketing did their job. This is what she saw (enjoy my narration):


Fiber One Bar Ingredients: Chicory root extract (what?), chocolate chips with confectioners shellac (what?) (chocolate chips, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, dextrose, milk fat, soy lecithin, ethanol, shellac, hydrogenated coconut oil), rolled oats (ok, i can live with that one), crisp rice (oh, but not JUST crisp rice: rice

flour, sugar, malt, salt), barley flakes (can handle that too), high maltose corn syrup, but that's not all, also, high fructose corn syrup, more sugar, canola oil (#3 not so bad), honey (#4 acceptable), glycerin...and that's only half of the list...i can't take it any more.


I'll leave it at that, for now. Read labels. Pay an extra buck - sometimes not even. Are you worth it to you?


Also, it's not only nutrition we get from these quality bars. Log onto for example and you don't see flashy advertisments, but a simple note mentioning their partnership with Project Education Sudan: to build a kitchen and dining facility at a secondary school in MAAR, Sudan. Or CLIF Bar with their many big picture partnerships like Leave No Trace or Winter Wildlands Alliance. I'm commited to not only enjoying this awesome food, but supporting people and companies who are making a difference, not just a buck. Hope you'll join me.


Enjoy your eats!!



2,355 Views 4 Comments Permalink Tags: nutrition, jessi_stensland

Here are a few movement preparation exercises that I do before hopping in the water to make sure my body has got the mobility it needs to get through my swim stroke efficiently.  Only takes about 3-5 minutes.  Click on names for link to video of the exercises.


1. Forward Lunge with Twist.


In place or walking.  Take a step forward into the lunge position and then twist your torso by reaching the arm of back leg across the body and down alongside the opposite lower leg.    Be sure to keep hips parallel to ground, abs and glutes engaged and hip/knee/ankle in line. 4-6 on each side.


2. Standing Ts.


To open up the chest and warm up/strengthen the rotator cuff.  Standing in a split stance (step one leg forward about 2 feet) raise arms out to sides, parallel to the ground, turn thumbs toward the back, and engage (squeeze) the scapula in toward the spine and slightly downward.  Hold for 1-2 seconds then release and repeat. 6-10 times.


3. 90/90 Stretch.


For rotational stability.  Lying on the ground on your side, with the lower leg straight, and the upper leg bent so the hip and knee are both at approx. 90 degrees.  Extend your arms out in front of you - to the side you are facing so they are perpendicular to your body and your palms are touching.  Press your bent knee into the ground and maintain it there while you take your upper arm up and over toward the opposite side, rotating the spine as you go.  Key is to engage your abs/glute to keep the knee on the ground so you can reach as far as you can with your spine (led by your arm.)  Ideally you will end up with both arms/shoulders and back flat on the ground, arms in a T, with the knee still engaged into the ground.  Hold for 1-2 seconds, return to starting position, and repeat x 4-6 on each side.


4. Quadruped rocking w/ back flexion/extension.


On the ground, on all fours, sit back into your hips while keeping your abs engaged.  Return to starting position, flex and extend your spine like a cat stretch.  Repeat 6 times.







2,098 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: training, swimming, endurance, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland, functional_training, movement_prep

It was a really hard, XTERRA-y kind of way. Its the kind of race you love to hate and probably hate to love! There's really nothing easy about it...but that's what we all sign up for right?


I had prepared for it as much as I could and was super excited to race, for a few reasons. One, I love to race. Two, I wanted a reality check against the pros. Three, I wanted to figure out at what level I REALLY wanted to be competing at this season and be able to go forward with my training and racing having nailed my performance goals down a bit more.


I'd crammed a bit of mountain biking in beforehand that increased my comfort level, competency and strength dramatically...though that's not saying much...against longtime mountain bikers that is! Still after a 2nd place in Cat 2 of the NORBA sanctioned Mountain States Cup MTB race the other day, I was content. However just as in ITU racing, where you've got the likes of Olympic gold medal swimmers and NCAA All-Americans, in XTERRA you've got World and National Champion mountain bikers. And when the swim takes 20 minutes and the bike between 1hr 30 to can see the challenge against these girls! That said, I'm stoked to get stronger and more skilled on the mountain bike. I know its going to take a lot of time in the saddle on the mountain. I'm loving it and think it will compliment my road biking a ton.


I've definitely been roughing it with my introduction to mountain biking. I think I've been out only ten days this year, five of those being races! And although its true that you do need to just get out there and ride in order to learn, a more efficient way would be to also commit to a mountain bike skills clinic or camp. I know they're all over the place and I'm working on getting to one. I'm also working on hitting up my friends for their expertise. I need to convince (coerce?) them to get out on a ride that's meant for skills and not just me trying to keep up with them!






The day before the race, we pre-rode a bit of the course. That only confirmed how hard the race would be. But glad we did it. Pre-ride is a new common word in my race vocabulary. As you can imagine with the intricacies and dynamic nature of mountain biking, it is extremely helpful, and often necessary, to know the course before you race it. On the other hand, pre-riding (or driving) a road bike course, although certainly useful to get familiar and visualize turns and the occasional advance shifting needed for a blind turn or climb, is not typically decisive for race day.



Since I hadn't planned to be gone from home for the entire 4 weeks leading up to the race, I had to do a bit of scrambling for gear. XTERRA Wetsuits overnighted me a Vortex to race in...THANK YOU! My friend Brandyn, oddly enough had brought me a race top of mine that I'd left in Maui at the 2007 XTERRA World Championships (things happen for a reason!) and she also had an extra race belt. Turns out Intense Cycles had organized to bring their Demo Truck to the race, so I had full support for my Spider FRO, which needed it, having been on the road, and trained and raced on over 4 weeks. I was SUPER thankful for that. I like to be very careful when it comes to the bike and keeping it dialed in for training and racing, both for injury prevention AND performance! My goggles were the only other missing link. The only ones I had with me were an old pair of Swedish goggles: those low-profile ones with no padding that lay perfectly within the eye socket. I've worn them for years in training, but ever since one of my first triathlons, Wildflower 1998, when I got smacked in the face and the goggles split my eyebrow open I've opted for more open-water and slap/kick friendly pairs. However, knowing this would not be a super aggressive start (swimming is the weak link for most XTERRA pros) I didn't go out of my way to find another pair, and wore them. More on that below...






Should I admit I hadn't done a swim workout since December? Not ideal, but I had other priorities in my training, many of which help my swim performance anyway. It worked out. I was still out with or ahead of the eventual top 2 finishers. The googles ended up working out fine, except for that they were so worn that I couldn't see well at all in them (and the course wasn't very sighting friendly but luckily the feet I was following stayed on course well.) There were a couple times I made a quick stop to clear them and even one time when, thinking of Chris McCormack who I've seen swim races without goggles at all, I pulled them up on my forehead to take a couple strokes without them to see if that would be better. It wasn't.



Of course that was the least of my worries. The bike and run were going to be the story of the day...






It wasn't super technical, but as a new mountain biker, my view is that there is a level of technical to all mountain biking terrain, save for a wide open fire road, which this hardly was. The hard part on this course was the super steep and soft climbs and decents. There were a few. Mostly in the first few miles of the 9 mile loop. Think: Escape from Alcatraz Sand Ladder - only having to run up it AFTER having climbed up a monster hill just as long and then running up even steeper stairs, pushing a 20+lb mountain bike up it. Then after a quick decent (oh why does it have to take so much less time to go down than up?) do the same thing on a similar climb. My calves were screaming. I was TRYING to get my effort into my glutes somehow and take the pressure off but it was really impossible with the angle of the hill and the soft sand and leaning over to push the bike up! That was something they weren't ready for. I'll remember next time. Ha...If there is one! The second loop was not as bad. That's been typical for me in every MTB race I've done so far. I think its the steep learning curve I'm experiencing...and maybe being more warmed into the bike ride. Hmmm.



As usual, on the second loop I was technically better. Meaning I got up the climbs farther by holding a straight line longer before I had to step off. At some points it really was just my overall fatigue, and not technical skill that caused me to step off. Mountain biking is killer, in a good way. I also tend to take chances more on the second loop in places where I know I won't kill myself if I gun it. Usually that little extra confidence and momentum works. There was one time however where I went for it, decending down a single track shoot with super soft sand and a bit of a turn at the bottom. I'd crashed the first loop. And crashed again on the second loop, only this time my quad completely cramped up! (I rarely have gotten cramps in my career. I think it was the dry air. Needed more hydration. I was super salty.) I felt like I couldn't move off the course, but also knew that if someone decended down the slope without seeing me, and nailed me while I was lying there, that impact would hurt worse than the cramp, so i pushed the bike out of the way and rolled over into the brush with it, off the trail. The cramp subsided and I went on. Fell off again shortly after because my chain had seized up. Looked pretty funny stuck in some bushes while other riders went by (asking if I was fine of course...) Whew. I'd had fun, but was ready to get off the bike and on to the run. I don't know what I was thinking...






Pretty much h-e-double hockey sticks. The course looked like it and felt like it! Monotone, treeless, rocky twisty turny, mostly uphill it seemed. There was hill after hill after steep hill to climb. (I've noticed that XTERRA races, triathlon and trail running, seem to break the what-goes-up-must-come-down rule.) My body was rebelling from imbalance of electrolytes and fluids so all the cells in my body seemed to be collectively saying, "Um, no." LOL. Much of the decending was steep, soft, rocky sand. None of it felt easy. The second loop was much harder than the first. Turned into a bit of a death march, run, walk thing. Dare I admit. I will say, I hadn't done much running other than my interval work, and I can see how I need to start incorporating some longer, stronger intervals in my training now that my body is dialed and ready to handle it. I'm excited to not have that run be so hard next time!



Cold water never felt so good at the finish.






XTERRA is legit. Nothing like road triathlon racing yet I know it will be super complimentary to my road performance, due to the strength, efficiency in cycling pedal strokes, and because I'm thinking everything else will seem like a piece of cake! Ok, I won't take it that far, but I'm curious to see the overlap.



While I decided I won't be running around the country competing on the entire XTERRA Cup Circuit until I bridge the gap to those stellar MTBers, I will definitely be mixing up my on and off-road racing this season. Lookin forward.



Hope you're also having a fantastic start to your own racing season!



891 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: triathlon, mountain_biking, xterra, off-road, jessi_stensland, jessi, stensland