Register to Run and Enter to Win a $25 Amazon Gift Certificate
I don’t usually spam the blog, but wanted to share this really cool challenge we have going on over at Marathon Nation (www.marathonnation.us). It’s basically a virtual event, were folks can sign up to run a leg of a marathon over the weekend of 5/15 and 5/16.
It’s entirely free and the prizes are for fun stuff, not speed (as in Best Relay Outfit), so everyone can have a shot at “winning.”
To learn more about the challenge, please head over to the Marathon Nation blog (here); feel free to pass this on to your friends and training partners!
Running improvement can be physical, mental and even emotional. Regardless of where you are on the performance curve, you can improve with a renewed focus on the fundamentals. Join the email list before 5/3 and you’ll get one email a day, for thirty days, to help you take your running game to the next level.
Register via the form on the right, and we’ll be in touch in early May!
Swimming is one of the most challenging aspects of being a triathlete. It’s a great way to recover and pile on aerobic training when the biking and running becomes too much, but actually building swimming fitness is another project altogether. Some folks spend a lifetime — or at least the better part of their first 20 years on this planet — striving to reach their potential.
You, on the other hand, only have a few seasons of triathlon in you to get as good as you can. Inside Endurance Nation, we advise you against setting out to climb the entire mountain of swim fitness, as the sheer amount of time required to improve is outside the realm of possibility. Instead, we advocate you take time off for the winter, investing the extra hours into sleep, home tasks or even active recovery from quality outseason bike and run sessions.
If you have taken time off from swimming, whether you planned it or not, here’s a road map to getting your swim mojo back.
Don’t think in terms of X yards per week, but rather X amount of work to be ready.
#1 — It’s Not About the Yards
It’s all too easy to fall into a plan that just spits out training sessions and yardage because it gives you something to do. Heck, these plans are crazy easy for coaches to write; all you have to do is add a few parentheses and the workout times/distances double! But the allure of yardage doesn’t necessarily correlate to swim fitness.
Just counting yards won’t get you ready to race. But getting back in the water will. Place your focus on building technique first, fitness second, and you’ll be on a much improved path.
On a macro level, this translates to the first 4-6 weeks of your re-entry. During this time, you are swimming 2-3 times a week and the bulk of the work you are doing is drills and mindful swimming (slow, and deliberate).
On a micro level, this translates to a regular swim warm up that you develop at the beginning of your season. This will become compressed as your focus eventually begins to switch more to fitness (anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks prior to your A race), but the focus points should be the same. This makes it easy to remember and improves the chances that you’ll actually do it.
In other words, create your own swim workout “ritual.” Think of it as the 6 or 8 or 10 steps you take every time you swim before you are ready to swim. Just like you drive to the pool, find a locker, put on your suit, shower off, pick a lane, etc…you can develop a process for good swimming prepararation. Here’s an example 500 warm up.
Swim 100 easy, very slow pace and low effort.
Swim 100 as 25 stroke, 25 free.
Drill 200 as 4 x 50.
Swim 100 easy, very slow pace and low effort.
#2 — Get Educated / Advised
Summary: Improving your swim is a serious undertaking. Doing so on your own is downright daunting. Prepare for this challenge by really doing your research; and don’t be afraid to talk to your fellow triathletes…even they have to deal with the swim!
Advice: First identify what type of “learner” you are. Some folks are highly visual, so watching videos of good swimming is helpful. Others are more hands on and need to be physically manipulated into the right position (and reminded!). Some triathletes are very intellectual and just get better by reading about proper swimming…really. A visually oriented learner could:
Scour the inter-webs and YouTube for free videos.
Shop Amazon for triathlon swimming video resources.
You can always go private with a 1:1 swim instructor.
#3 — Get Race Specific Fast
Summary: The temptation of many a novice swimmer is to do just what the swimmers do. So you join a masters swim group and end up banging out lots of 50s and 100s, including tons of other strokes. These are very “interesting” workouts, as in you won’t get bored, but they aren’t going to help you get ready for your race.
Advice: Your goal on race day is to be able to swim as well as you can for as long as you can. Hoping, of course, that the actual course is shorter than your current swim fitness!
Swimming solo is just fine right now; save the adrenaline for race day.
Include one “longer” swim set per session. Yes shorter sets allow you to maintain form, but they also don’t allow you to learn to swim tired. Get the best of both worlds by putting both into any given workout. For a Half Iron athlete, this set could be anywhere from 500-1000 yds of continuous swimming and/or pulling (pull buoy); for an Ironman athletes the distance could go up to 2000 yds.
Of course, you can also complement your swimming with a Dryland Focus, choosing to master critical skill that you can then take to the pool. Whatever you decide to do, make sure that you are consistent and that you resist biting off more than you can chew. Be measured and deliberate in your approach and you’ll see results before you know it!
Please note the Swim Membership Link above is an affiliate link, so I get some of the proceeds if you do decide to buy something. I definitely recommend this course if you’re looking to change your swimming for the better in 2010. Kevin’s one of the best and his new site is very impressive.
Improving your efficiency as a swimmer is one of the hardest parts of being a triathlete. Not because swimming is that incredibly hard, but because proper swimming is a skill-oriented exercise. All the fitness in the world won’t help you if only 5% of that strength is contributing to your forward motion in the water.
For many, learning to swim is the equivalent of learning a foreign language. What comes easily as a child – or perhaps after hundreds of thousands of yards in the pool – simply doesn’t process the same way for adults. Our muscle memory patterns are almost hard-wired, we don’t have the time to dedicate to training and, more often than not, our brains tend to get in the way of what our body wants to do.
We need short cuts, and we need them to be both simple to practice but to implement as well.
Here are two great exercises you can do to improve your triathlon swimming, and neither one of them requires a trip to the pool! Review and implement them consistently for a few weeks and your in-water experience will most certainly improve!
Swim Catch Drill / Exercise The most elusive part of the swim stroke for the adult novice swimmer, the catch can take many years to properly master. Ultimately your goal is to “anchor” your hand and forearm in the water and move your body past that point. Finding this right point takes and incredible amount of patience and self awareness, making this dryland exercise very valuable.
Most beginner swimmers mistake any form of tension for the right thing, and tend to pull massive windmill stokes through the water. This shotgun approach is very ineffective and places a great deal of stress on your shoulder.
Instead, learn to position your body almost perpendicular to the bottom of the pool to “open” your shoulder and forearm for a much easier catch process. Watch the video here:
Swim Cord Drill / Exercise Once you have upgraded your catch to “work in progress”, it’s time to add some actual work to the process. This can be achieved by using swim cords.
Following the same approach as in the first drill, you can position your body to extend at the catch. Then you engage your back muscles / lats and pull through. Be sure to reinforce the initiation of the pull using the (bigger, stronger) back muscles so you can work on bringing that into your pool stroke.
These cords are typically flexible tubing available from any swim catalog or also found online via medical supply companies (especially good for bulk orders). Watch the video here:
Finally, Fast Track Your Triathlon Swim: My friend Kevin Koskella, one of the best swim coaches for triathletes on the planet, has created a new online learning space where triathletes can improve their swimming through video tutorials, written guidance, coach support and feedback and much more. It’s called TriSwimSecrets, and for the next 14 days, Kevin is opening the doors to a select group of folks. If you want to learn more, or are even considering signing up, simply visit TriSwimSecrets here to see the first video.
This is an affiliate link, so I get some of the proceeds if you do decide to buy something. I definitely recommend this course if you’re looking to change your swimming for the better in 2010. Kevin’s one of the best and his new site is very impressive.
Continued Learning If you’d like to learn more about proper swimming, there are tons of online resources available out there. Each works slightly differently and some might fit you better that others, be sure to do all your research first…and good luck!
Here’s a simple exercise. Add up all the hours you trained in your biggest week and then divide that by the total number of hours in the entire week (168). The results should be humbling. Even a massive 24 hours of training in a single week is only 14.2% of that week. In other words, you spend 85% of your time doing stuff other than exercise.
Almost every training plan or coach I know includes a taper before the big event. The goal is to recover, absorb fitness, and prepare for a day of super-performance. If all goes well, the athlete will be able to perform at or just above the ability demonstrated in training. But if all we do is cut back on your training load and manage your intensity…ignoring the other 85% of your life…exactly how effective do you think that taper protocol will be?
It’s Not Just About the Training From my experience working with athletes, the pre-race period is rife with additional stressors not present in daily life. There’s upcoming travel to the event and the logistics associated with family and equipment. There’s the challenges associated with walking away from our work and personal lives for a few days. There’s the pressure of performance, equally as heavy whether you are a paid professional or a committed age grouper. And let’s not forget the fact that you actually need to race!
Here are a few tips on how I counsel people to manage the taper period. Take what you can use, ignore the rest, and add your own tips via the comments below…thanks!
The Travel Schedule
Summary: Getting to your event, equipment and family and self intact, is in and of itself an amazing feat. Really. The number of potential roadblocks — from packing to security to food to sleep to directions to money — far outnumber the forces operating on your side. The event itself aside, this is quite possibly the biggest stressor in your season.
Advice: Narrow your focus down to what critically matters. Empower and/or eqiup those traveling with you to take charge of their own situation, and do as much before you leave the house as possible:
Do all your critical pre-trip shopping for last-minute gear and travel food the weekend before your race, so you can eliminate last minute dashes to the store.
Pack your equipment about 24 hours before you need it, giving you time to shop / fix any last minute issues so you can travel worry free.
Print your travel itinerary, final directions, and any other key logistical information. Then keep it in a manilla folder with your name on it; or better yet put it on your smart phone (thanks, evernote).
The Work Strategy
Summary: Fresh off the sting of you leaving for training vacations, your envious colleagues now have to deal with another absence. Better yet, you are only racing for a few hours but need to leave for five days…that’s just not fair! And let’s not forget anxious clients and the inevitable project that just won’t go away. It’s a wonder you’ll be able to do the race without an earpiece in!
Advice: Set expectations as early as possible regarding the importance of your event and what you’ll need to do. This includes for your boss as well as your colleagues; leave no one out of the loop.
Give your contact info to those who need it, but stress that your availability is limited.
Set an autoresponder and/or voicemail that leaves explicit instructions on how folks can reach others in your absence who can solve their problem(s).
Do everyone a favor and don’t leave anything until the last minute. At the very least leave everything with a next action step and a date for when you will get to it (upon your return).
Really do your best to get away. It’s actually good for you and your team, and you can repay the favor when someone else in the office is chasing a valued personal goal (reciprocity rules!).
Summary: Your harshest critic; your toughest training partner; your arch enemy (at times)…these people all have one thing in common: YOU. The time and energy and money that goes into a proper training cycle for a big event are the “big three” — the things that conspire to put inordinate pressure on you pre-race. Succumb to their pull and risk blowing things before you even start.
Advice: Maintain perspective. This is a hobby. You do this sport for fun; you aren’t getting paid for it! I am not saying don’t try hard, just avoid totally geeking out. After days / weeks / months of doing what you love daily…most likely early, alone and in the dark…you now get to celebrate your passion by competing with hundreds and thousands of other folks just like you. It’s not pressure, this is a party!
Know that the only person who really cares how you do is you. Your friends and family just want you to be safe and happy. You owe them that.
Keep a smile on your face all day; you are blessed to be physically and financially able to compete this event. There are many others who couldn’t even dream of being in your shoes their lives are so hard.
Focs externally on the other folks during your week, saying hi to the other athletes and thanking the volunteers and local establishments who make your event possible. It will keep the good karma flowing and keep you in check.
The only time that matters is what the clock says at the end of the day. There will be challenges throughout your endurance day, it’s what’s supposed to happen! You ability to handle them quickly and effectively will ensure you spend less time on the course and get to the finish line faster.
About Those Workouts
Summary: The entire goal of a taper period for an endurance event can be boiled down to this: getting you rested and ready to race. There really isn’t any “peaking” or last-minute speed gains to speak of…that’s for this super-short, high end events. For most of us, the taper exists to facilitate the absorption of the work we have done and to keep us sane before the event.
Advice: Stop looking for magical workouts; the “work” is officially done. Instead focus on being rested and relaxed; ask yourself daily if you have achieved both, and if not, if your workout will help you towards either goal. If not, then just chill out!
Have a schedule in place, but check in with your body daily to see if the workout is the right thing to do.
Be extra vigilant. Riding through your town while your brain is off envisioning your race is a very, very bad place to be. Safety is number one.
Focus on race set up (especially if you have new gear related to the race) and form/technique. These things are conduits for your fitness. Don’t be one of those folks who has a fantastic “engine” ready for race day, but doesn’t have the right “wheels” to make the work happen.
No one has ever said, man, I was just too rested and ready to race today. Strive to be that person.
——————— As always, I just wanted to thank you for subscribing. This blog is a success because of you and your support. Here’s to your fitness!
As the early big races of the season are approaching, it’s time to once again consider perhaps the hardest part of your training: the taper. While almost every triathlete has heard of tapering, very few actually get it right. This article has two goals: to help you understand your personal needs and cues for tapering based on your event, and to give you active steps you can take to implement your taper. Before we begin, two caveats:
Those of you looking for number crunching and data-driven analyses will have to go elsewhere. In my experience as a coach, each individual and indeed each specific taper is different — formulas are nothing more than a slightly more specific guideline.
I believe the taper is equal parts physiology and psychology; understanding and incorporating both elements into your pre-race plan is the only way to build the ideal taper for you.
“Not Doing” and the Type A Athlete The hardest part about executing a proper paper is understanding when doing more actually yields less. There is a distinct point of diminishing returns, and a true taper begins when you actively stop working to create fatigue. By that I mean you are legitimately focused on what we would call recovery and sharpening. The first phase of your taper is recovering, letting the work that you have most recently done — some of your longest bikes, runs, and swims of the entire year — be absorbed.
Once your body is well along the path of absorbing that work, only then can you move to sharpening. This is where you can begin to add a little bit of intensity back into the equation. Perhaps even including some race pace efforts, as these will help to acclimatize your body to where you want it to be by the time the race day arrives.
Testing Your Fitness One of the biggest challenges that endurance athletes face as their key event gets closer is a desire to test their fitness. In many ways a large part of the exercise in preparing for an endurance event involves spending weeks and months building your fitness in preparation for a single day. The nature of the event itself, however, prevents you from actually doing your event in training.
It’s not like a 5K race for example, where you can go out and do a bunch of 5K racing to get ready to do more 5K races. As a result, when your race day approaches, you really have no sense of where you are in terms of how you’re going to be able to put your race together. The temptation then, as the race gets closer, is to go out and do a couple of key workouts.
Perhaps, for example, if you’re doing a Half Ironman, you might be tempted to go out and ride 56 miles (or something close to it) at your goal race pace just to make sure you can really do it.
Or maybe you have a time in mind. You’re going to go out and do whatever it takes to earn that time despite the fact that you’re on a test course in a non-race environment. And you’re not rested. Your body will respond to that call for action. And it will deliverable the goods most of the time. The problem being that now you’ve proven you’ve got the goods means you will now most likely not have the goods by the time you need them to race!
Trust your plan, trust your taper. Take confidence in the fact that you have done tons of training and that you have a very long day — up to 140.6 miles — to demonstrate how well you have prepared.
Last Minute Speed Lastly, there is often a last minute desire to put in some kind of speed work to become a little bit faster. You’re maybe six to eight weeks out from your race, you’ve done a couple of key workouts, put in a big block of training, and now that you’re starting to taper you’re looking at where you’ve been. You’re looking at what you’ve done. And in looking at where you want to be…there’s a little bit of a gap.
How can I taper suddenly becomes, “Can I please go out and do some work?” “Can I please go out and put in another block of training, do a little bit more intensity, and then reap those results on race day?” And the quick answer to that is what you already know: absolutely not. Any extra work you do now during the taper period is only going to interfere with your body’s ability to absorb the work that you’ve already done.
It’s very tempting to allow your brain to take over the taper process. From your brain’s perspective the only workout that really is still on your mind is the one you did just yesterday or the day before. But your body speaks in a much more holistic and long-term manner. It’s still dealing with workouts you put in the bank three weeks ago and the residual fatigue from that work.
If your fitness is a lake, each workout then is a giant stone that you drop into the water. The effects of that work are the ripples that spread out across the surface. That’s what happens from each workout, and every additional workout you do is another stone you put in that pond. More ripples, and ripples upon ripples. Those add up over time and in some cases, like a miniature butterfly effect, even seemingly unconnected events can have a significant fatigue wave to them. And if you don’t take the requisite recovery you’re going to be facing a seriously underwhelming race day.
If you are concerned about getting some last minute speed, there are some things you can do to get that speed.
Number one, the easiest thing to do is obviously to rest. The more rest you can get, the better off you will be.
Number two, body composition. If you could do anything in the last two to three weeks to keep the weight down, or perhaps take a little bit of weight off in a sensible way, you will absolutely reap the benefits of that work and you will be fast on race day just by virtue of having to carry less of you around.
Another option for you of course is to check into your equipment. Is everything dialed in? Do you need to put a new wheel set on your bike? Perhaps new tires. Perhaps you can lube things up, take care of your bike. If you’re doing another type of adventure race, maybe you can look into new equipment or just cleaning up and tightening the bolts on all the equipment you do have. The point being that you can be fast on race day simply by having better equipment and using that equipment better during the race situation.
The Only Two Race Morning Goals That Matter The entire point your taper is to get you 100% physically and mentally ready to race. That’s it. It’s very tempting to think about the need to gain speed, to look for a miracle workout that’s going to prove that you really are ready, but ultimately the goal of the taper is to make sure you are rested.
After months of training, you now have to focus your attention and energy towards the not doing, towards things that are going to promote your ability to have a full stock of energy when you need it on race day.
Making that switch is very difficult to do; a lot of people really get confused and really suffer because they are unable to manage that execution and to do the work that’s really required to be as fast as you can be on race day. There’s so much that it comes down to getting yourself ready.
So, you need to sit down and really start thinking about what it is that you need to line up from a mental standpoint, as well as a physical standpoint, to be ready to execute on the day. You can review your training logs to make sure you’ve done the good work. You can go ahead and review your equipment and feel confident about what you have. You can go ahead and outline the race plan to make sure that you know what you’re going to do on the day. You can make sure that your travel arrangements are all lined up, everything’s printed out, all the itineraries, family friends, everyone else knows what they need to do.
Good luck on race day and remember to smile and have fun!
Where does the time go? I can’t even remember the last time I posted here and it’s not because I am slacking. Quite the opposite; 2010 is shaping up to be a pretty awesome year. Endurance Nation is growing steadily (we just shipped over 100 singlets!), my new book on Endurance Lifestyle Design is due out soon (no really it is!), and in just a few days, we’ll be opening the doors to Marathon Nation.
Since I haven’t really spoken about it in detail here, forgive me for sharing a few more details with you about Marathon Nation.
If you’ve been around for a while, you know I’ve been very careful and deliberate with the growth of my online businesses. Marathon Nation is no different.
This is my first comprehensive resource for runners, and I want to be careful about opening it up too broadly at first. Therefore, I’m going to open it for one day only. Just 26 hours (get it?), and then that’s it for at least a month.
Why the mysterious deadline? I want to work a bit more closely with the first group of members. After the 26-hour window closes, we’ll spend the next four weeks getting everyone integrated and set up in the community and with our plans. There will be several live video chats where we’ll go through every single question in detail — no matter how long it takes.
After we’ve had a month to get up to speed and improve with the feedback from first group of members, we’ll do another launch to a broader audience. There won’t be as much hand-holding the next time, and the price of membership will probably go up as well.
I’ve worked on this community for the past few months, and I know it is really going to help people take a big step towards improving their running fitness and experience.
Another crazy week, this one marred by my first serious injury of 2010 (yes, I assume there will be more!) and filled by the crazy work preparing for the launch of Marathon Nation. For those of you not following me on Twitter, somehow I managed to tweak my back putting in a swingset for the kids. A huge win for them and a pretty solid setback for me…but I am being as proactive as I can around taking care of it. Turns out my cats love the foam roller, so everyone is happy!
The Launch We open the doors to 100 Beta Testers on Monday 4/5, which means the better part of the last week has been focused on getting everything ready. If you are a marathon runner, or know one, Marathon Nation is going to change the running game: new training plans, specific guidance and a huge focus on training and racing Return On Investment. There are no more invites, but you can download our race execution resource for an idea of where we are coming from. And if you fan us on Facebook you just might get a special sneek peek before we truly go live later this month. It pays to be a fan!
Lifestyle My personal focus has switched to damage control this week, with my back, and I have been paying a great deal of attention to what young Leigh Boyle has to say about self-care. Here’s a great post on posterior hip, and there’s more if you keep digging.
Entrepreneur If you are a start up type of person or think you might want to be, I encourage you to check out the Art of Non Conformity blog. The author, Chris G, will be launching his “Empire Building Kit” next week. If it’s remotely as good as his prior stuff, it will be a game-changer.
Here we are with the second half of our look at triathlon bike safety. In Part One I looked at the macro-level elements of riding safely; in this post we’ll look at more specific steps you can take to improve your chances of riding unscathed. While some of these tips are obvious, I hope you can take away some new things…feel free to add your comments below!
Obey The Traffic Laws Simple enough, yet so few bicycle riders actually do it. There is no quicker way to lose the respect of other riders and motorists than to blitz through a red light or cut someone off with no forewarning. Being on two wheels instead of four doesn’t automatically exempt you from the rules of the road. The bottom line is this: If you wouldn’t do it in a car, don’t do it on a bike. Period.
Assert Yourself Riding with confidence is a huge part of remaining safe on the road. Don’t wobble all over the place, commit to a line and stick with it. Ride tall and visibly in the road; brightly colored outfits are totally fine if they help you control your riding space. Don’t be afraid to express with your hands or body (no, not that universal sign!); show clearly whether or not you are turning by pointing in that direction. Warn cars pulling out of side roads or backing out of driveways with a loud “BIKE!” Remember that at 18+ mph, you really only get one syllable to express yourself clearly, so keep it simple!
Plan Ahead Know where you are going and how you want to get there. Hitting an intersection at 20mph at rush hour in traffic is most certainly not the time to reconsider your options. Last minute directional changes are a great way to get into — or cause — an accident. If necessary, stand down on the side of the road and figure out your plan before implementing it.
Be Aware A large part of being safe is about knowing where you are and what it means to get be there right now. Are you on a busy road at rush hour? A deserted country road? A street with parked cars and high foot traffic? Each of these situations calls for a different response, and as a responsible safe cyclist you need to have the appropriate response on hand for each scenario.
When on a busy road at rush hour…
Use clear hand signals to express your intent.
Beware cars going around other cars on the shoulder.
Beware early morning joggers heading at you.
Don’t look for signals/blinkers, look at the actual cars themselves.
Beware cars turning left through stopped traffic (and across your lane).
Frame the traffic as a driver; what would you do if you were that car up ahead? Plan accordingly…
When in the middle of nowhere…
Don’t get too complacent; cars drive faster in the middle of nowhere!
Watch the terrain.
Know good places to stop / find help should the need arise.
When in urban setting with parked cars…
Look at the headrest of parked cars to see if someone is in the driver’s seat.
Look for brake lights.
Stay out of your aerobars.
Be extra vigilant at crossroads/intersections.
Anticipate If you can stay one step ahead of the driver’s around you, you’ll be in a pretty safe place. You can achieve this by knowing the true things to look for, for example when riding next to a car, don’t look for a blinker but at the right front wheel to see if it’s going to turn.
If you see an obstacle up ahead, begin moving as soon as possible to avoid it. Sit up and look around; your body language might not translate to drivers, but they’ll know something is up. Whatever you do, avoid last minute swerving. It’s better to take a hard bump than to get bumped by a car!
You don’t have to check for traffic coming up behind you all the time. When you see an oncoming car you’ll know that any cars approaching behind will have trouble passing. This is when you need to check what’s going on around you and make sure you are in the good.
The life of the 21st century athlete is all about doing more. We want to be faster and stronger even as we get older. We want to do more, learn more, work more, earn more, even as the amount of time we have to do each of these things gets smaller with each additional focus. The popular solution of choice appears to be multitasking: I can drive and shave, I can shop and talk, I can run and watch the news.
But multitasking is really only effective in limited situations, very few of them applicable to endurance sports. Show me a runner yammering on a cell phone and I’ll show you someone who’s having a sub-par run and conversation! To truly change your exercise lifestyle and realize your athletic potential, you will need to reconfigure specific areas of your life to have context that maps with your fitness goals.
The Television Dilemma The best way to dig deeper is to take a real-world example to explain what I mean by “reconfigure” and “context.” We all have a room in our house where a television lives. Formally known as the Living Room, this is where members of the family gather alone or together to pretty much sit down and zone out. Worse yet, there’s usually some kind of snack or junk food involved with this ritual. It’s no longer a living room, it’s a sit-here-and-stuff-my-face-while-zoning-out room.
But why does this happen? Why don’t we connect any more with one another?
The television has become the focal point of the room. With the advent of flat screen televisions, the latest models are ginormous and dominate the physical space of the room. And if wall-mounted, they also replace any other artwork or visual elements of the room. Aunt Ginny’s portrait is cute but dwarfed by your 58-inch plasma.
When we walk into the living room, then, the default activity is to turn on the TV. I do this all the time at home, sitting down on the sofa with my wife, one of us always seems to bring the remote and/or open the hutch (where the TV lives). We are working our way “away” from this by confining our TV time to the laptop — making it on-demand and very turn-off- and put-away-able.
Objects vs Context So you know you need to do more with your time, and so you want to stack your activities. From a functional space perspective, most of us address this challenge as follows:
I need to improve my flexibility. I have a foam roller behind my sofa and roll my hips while watching television. Therefore, my living room is both a place to relax and a place to stretch…mission accomplished, right?
The problem here, of course, is that the foam roller is BEHIND the sofa — it’s not present. There are no cues to stretch, other than perhaps tightness in your hips. And chances are if that’s your cue, you’ll only address it after it’s already a problem and you’ll stop doing it once the issue is resolved. If you leave it out as a reminder, chances are you won’t earn any bonus points with your significant other.
Building A Context for Change There are more subtle cues that can facilitate the change or behavior you want to encourage. I call this concept Physical Potential Energy, which I define as follows:
Physical Potential Energy is…the energy stored within a physical space as a result of the position or configuration of the different parts of that space.
The best example of this I could recall from an email conversation I had recently, where I asked my good friend and architect / triathlete / entrepreneur Rex Ingram (LinkedIn) how he has built a more “fit life.” I was thinking he’d talk about building an addition or adding a skylight or something…but his answer was far more profound:
“I made a coaster for my coffee table of a guy doing a handstand.”
Simple. Cheap. Effective. Brilliant.
Of course I had to investigate more deeply, so I reached out to Rex to talk more about his coffee table, why he doesn’t own a Solo-Bow-Flex-Master-9000 and to learn more about what he calls “Fit Space” – a project where he tackles the challenge of integrating space and the active lifestyle.
The people who want to change the most are already fit. Chances are you don’t have to make massive changes to enable your fitness lifestyle, if you are at this crossroads, then you are really looking for subtle tweaks, not to lose 150 lbs!
Your body doesn’t go to the gym to get fit. Your body can get fit anywhere. You to the gym as predominantly a mental exercise – putting yourself in a space where you are now ready to get fit. Insteady consider putting a pull-up bar in your entryway. Do 3-4 pull ups everytime you enter/exit that door and you’ll notice a real difference without necessarily breaking a sweat!
This isn’t for all types of fitness. Hard to build endurance in your house, but you can increase strength, range of motion and flexibility.
Consider mapping out specific activities in specific areas. Think of oppositional movements: push stations and pull stations. You can even have a flexibility station. Perhaps these are denoted by different colors, where the colors serve as highlights to draw attention to the space.
I also managed to pin Rex down to ask for the top three things he thinks can make a difference for runners.
Have A Library of Places to Go. Think of this as understanding the full physical potential of where you live.
Organize Your Gear. Having a ton of stuff is not a benefit if you can’t find it to use it! Know what goes on when, know your most commonly used gear, and have things ready to go so you area mere minutes away from getting out of the house!
Associate Space with Routines. Even if you can’t redo your living room, you can certainly “re-brand” it as your core strength room and set challenges for yourself to complete fixed activities when entering, exiting, or just sitting there!
Conclusion We are a culture bent on action; measuring it…doing it. But sometimes the preparations for action are more important than the action itself. Set yourself up for success by eliminating obstacles and unleashing the potential in the space you already occupy. Who knows what will happen!
This week has simply flown by…returning from Austin and getting back to basics with the family was awesome, but simultaneously amazingly hard. We have held a Women’s Open House for Endurance Nation and I have launched a new marathon focused site: Marathon Nation (but more on that later).
Multisport World Expo on Saturday 3/20
This is going to be a great event, although it could be sabotaged by the great weather we are having. Coach P will be there all day just inside the entrance at the EN table. Stop by to say Hi, represent EN, come to his talk @ 10:45 AM or watch him suffer at the indoor TT @ 12:15. Maybe you’d prefer to wait until 4pm to meet him at the Asgard for a beer? That’s okay too…see you soon!
Lots of writing but very little to show for it. I will have some new articles soon, but in the meantime please get ready for my Fit Life eBook (Free). It will be released this weekend and I think you’ll like it a lot. If you pay attention to my blog you’ll find it popping up there shortly.
Two points on the entrepreneurial front, this week. First it was totally inspirational to be at the conference last week in Minneapolis. In very short order the participants took a bunch of ideas and built a (relatively) viable business. Very cool to meet such smart folks and rub elbows with them. I want to give big props to my good friend Dan Socie whose new line of embrocation products via Soigneur is just awesome. I also would like to thank Linda Patch who has really been a great mentor over the last few weeks / months as I consider what it means to be an entrepreneur and to help others.
Finally, an update on my latest project: Marathon Nation. Here’s the official lingo:
Inside Marathon Nation, we all work together to help every single one of us realize our running potential. What binds us together is a desire to train hard and smart. We want to be part of a supportive community that cares about each other in sport and in life, a community that provides opportunities to grow both personally and athletically. At the end of the day, the cutting edge plans and multimedia resources we use are only a small part of what makes the Marathon Nation experience so powerful. We are a brand new online community of runners who will redefine what it means to be on a Team.
If you are a marathon runner, or know one, Marathon Nation is going to rock your world. New training plans, specific guidance and a huge focus on training and racing Return On Investment. We are in the pre-launch phase right now, but we do have 100 beta invites and a race execution resource you can download right now.
The challenge of improving run speed falls primarily to two main physical derivatives: your cadence and the length of your stride. And, either increasing your cadence or increasing the length of your stride — both of those will, or a combination of the two — will lead to an improved overall run speed. But becoming a better runner is more than just improving the speed at which you run.
It is also about improving comfort and your ability to sustain any given pace for a longer period of time. This is where technique can have a role in your running. While there are many different things you can do to improve your technique, here are my top three.
The first one is to improve that cadence. You can go out right now, start running, and get up your cadence between 90 and 92 foot strikes per minute (or RPMs). If you have a GPS device with a cadence sensor, your work is practically already done. If you don’t have a cadence sensor, you can use your stopwatch, and every 15 seconds just count the number of times one foot hits the ground. You want to strike the ground between 22 and 23 times every 15 seconds. Once you get that cadence up between 90 and 92 rpms your body begins to assume a lot of the proper positioning. You are not inclined to over-stride; you are forced to have a slightly more efficient gait. And you can do that right now as you lace up your shoes and walk out the door.
Number two, you can learn to breath from your belly. A lot of people tend to run at a low Zone 3 or moderate tempo pace. This is just hard enough that you need to change how you breathe, but not hard enough to really induce any specific fitness adaptation. One of the characteristics of this level of intensity is what I call “tension” of breath. It’s a subtle tensing, part of what makes us feel like we are “working,” and it happens in your upper chest. What I want you to do on your next run is to move that breath down. Relax your diaphragm — just below the front of your rib cage and just above your belly button — and really try and do your best to get your breath to naturally come from that space. Let the diaphragm do its own work without forcing it (as you do when breathing within your chest). That relaxation process is going to translate to an overall relaxed posture throughout the body, enabling you to become much more comfortable at your given pace.
The number three thing you can do to start improving your running technique today is to take off the watch. Remove the watch, put it on the table and slowly back away. Stop focusing on time; stop benchmarking yourself in every single run you do. Take a period of time to get back to the basics: it could be two or three days, maybe you need a week. Discover why you enjoy running. Find some new places to run. As you do this, focus on your cadence and focus on that relaxed breathing.
Some combination of these three elements can help you create the conditions in which you can improve your running technique…and the best part is you can start today.
It’s been a while since I put up my weekly training summary, and I wanted to quickly update all of you who have been poking me to find out what’s going on. Bottom line is things are just crazy busy and while I am training, I have had minimal time to log it all in…sound familiar?
In retrospect I was very pleased with my Half Marathon time — it put my vDOT back up to 56 or where I was for most of last year, and it was a 3.5 minute improvement over essentially the same course less than 9 months ago. I took some down time and have been staying as consistent as possible on the bike given the need to run more with Boston Marathon right around the corner (will you be there? if so, let me know). I put in a 17 miler on Monday at about 7:20 pace, which felt good but I was still fatigued from the race the weekend before.
This week I have been on the road to consult in Minneapolis and now down to Austin to train. I have been active, but not on the OutSeason schedule and a bit lighter knowing I have some good training to do this weekend. Without a doubt I have not been training to the volume standards of previous years — as limited as those years were. But the benchmarks are there.
This is the basic strategy known as raising the left and filling in the right. For users of WKO+, you are familiar with the mean maximal power curve. The shorter the time frame the higher the power…the longer the efforts become the lower the power goes (i.e. my 30-second power is much higher then my 3 hour power). Now that I have raised the left to levels consistent with what I was able to put out two years ago in my Ironman prime (10:04 at IM CDA and Kona) I am breaking to do some filling in of the right. I will put in three solid days of big aerobic training and then return to Boston for similarly focused work through the Boston marathon. Then it will be time to go hard again for 4 weeks before heading out to the Tour of California for a slightly longer endurance block.
Of course, planning is one thing, execution is another. I want to crush myself this weekend, but there are many potential conflicts (new town, new weather, rented bike). Whatever plays out, I know it will be fun and I will be shelled. I can’t wait.
If you’d like to follow my training exploits, please find me on Twitter (www.twitter.com/pmccrann). If you are in Austin and want to meet up we are doing so on Friday night from 5-7pm, just hit me on Twitter for last minute info.
Before I forget, some quick notes on what’s on my radar this week. I wanted to thank the folks who participated in the consulting project I attended – you all brought your A-game and it showed. In particular Sally McKenzie (@mckenziesa, Michael Silberman at EchoDitto (blog), and Dan Cramer at grassrootssolutions.com). I haven’t read it yet, but plan to get a copy of ReWork by 37signals as soon as I can — these guys simply transformed the way I work about two years ago and I have never looked back. Someone just showed me the TaxiMagic app for my iPhone that lets me order — and pay! — for cabs in certain cities right from my phone. I am halfway through The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable by Nassim Taleb, a birthday book that is really a mental mouthful, I love it. What are you up to and, more importantly, what should I be checking out???
With my late arrival from Minneapolis on Thursday night, I knew my early AM plans were already in jeopardy. Surprisingly though, I was up by 4:30 and managed to get some work done before heading off to the pool. I ended up choosing Big Stacy as the pool, and it was awesome. The pool is 100 feet long, but there was an open lane and it was a gorgeous day. Given the length I couldn’t really do the math, so I just swam steady. I put in about 3000 yds in just over 45 minutes.
A quick change at the car saw me head out to Lady Bird Lake, running on the “east” side. I did a total of 6.25 miles. It was a bit urban at the start, but then I got to the lake with a great path and so much more. Joy!
It was time for a work break at Starbucks, and a coffee+scone later I was off to Jack and Adams Bike Shop. These guys hooked me up big time, putting me on a sweet Felt. I was amazed at how busy the shop was…a great experience without being overwhelming. I headed out on the “Dam Loop” and put in 65 hilly and windy miles over some great terrain.
Daily Totals: 5 hours, 3k swim, 6.25 run, 65 bike.
Day Two found me just a little bit tired from the Friday afternoon bike ride…dowh! I got up early and got in a quick 4 miles + 100 pushups + Crunches. Some quick coffee and it was off to Fitzburgh Road. Some of the Austin Sleeper Cell let me know it was good, and Margot was kind enough to lead me out. Barely any traffic, plenty of hills and great scenery — this was awesome!
The road was a simple out and back, 30 miles each way. There was a slight headwind on the way out (got worse on lap two!) but it made for a faster ride home each time. I really enjoyed the terrain, and I was pleasantly surprised at how well I rode considering I haven’t ridden longer than 20 miles in months (save for yesterday when I did 65). Just a great overall ride!
Day Two Totals: 4 miles run and 120 miles bike. Totals Thus far: 3k swim, 10.25 miles run and 185 miles on the bike
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