I used to dread the Winter months in Kansas City – the bitter cold weather forced me to train indoors which did not allow for long bike rides or high-intensity runs. I now realize the importance of that time, however, and want to share that with you. Just as the body needs to be properly stressed with training in order to change for the better during the season, it requires rest and resistance training to develop sufficient base strength and efficiency in the off-season. Read the list below for a few ways you can avoid the off-season blues and improve next year’s performance:
Take a transition period of 2-4 weeks consisting completely of light, unstructured training.
Pick a passion from the past and revisit it – e.g. join a soccer league if you played in high school or college (go to www.govavi.com for adult social leagues in San Diego).
Visit a Physical Therapist/Coach who can identify limitations in strength, flexibility and biomechanics that may lead to future injury.
Follow a strength & conditioning program that will alleviate limitations and balance out your body allowing for stronger training next season.
Focus on proper technique in all of the endurance disciplines to improve your efficiency.
Invest in a stationary trainer for your bike and work on your single-leg drills to smooth out your pedal stroke on both sides.
Change up your cadence and train 15 to 20 RPMs more or less than your average cadences during racing.
Develop your core strength . . . and I’m not talking about crunches. (Read our Core Connection Article).
Write ”Thank You’s” to all those who played a part in your previous season . . . I call this: Investments in next season’s fan bank!
Hire a professional coach and plan ahead. Make this upcoming year exceptional by seeking out a coach who will help set goals that motivate you based on your talents!
Train with the off-season in mind! I have molded my off-season training periods from Chris Carmichael’s cycles; there are four training periods (or cycles) and each one addresses a different energy system or skill.
Yearly Training Periods & Training Goals
General Aerobic & Strength Development
Aerobic Capacity/LT Development
Active Physical Regeneration
Foundation Period: RU calls this the “Filling the Tank” phase. This is the active rest period that allows you to build your aerobic engine. Longer, slower rides, runs and swims are essential during this period of training. Train with a relatively low intensity and with a heart rate (HR) ceiling to allow you to just enjoy the excursion, work on your pedal stroke and mechanics, single leg drills, or other skill work. An excellent partner to the “filling the tank” phase is strength building to increase muscle volume and improve aerobic capacity.
Preparation Period: This is where your focus of training begins to build. Volume and intensity also gradually increase during this phase. The Foundation Period prepares your skeletal, muscular, and cardiorespiratory systems for this increase and avoids overtraining and that fatigue feeling from these changes. Much of your rides, runs, swims will be around your lactate threshold (LT) or HR zone 4/5 to learn how to sustain these efforts come race season.
Specialization: This is typically the period is when you are primed and ready – this is RU race phase. Intensity will be highest during this phase, while volume will somewhat decrease based on your specific races. Throughout the race season – volume and intensity may increase and decrease in a non-linear (or undulating) fashion; this allows increases in power and stamina during the long endurance sport season. Surges and sustained efforts at or above race pace are introduced to give you the confidence that you can maintain this intensity during an event.
Transition: This is sometimes considered a “Taper”, but the RU coaches like to think of this as priming the pump. Transition periods include an overall decrease in volume and intensity, but include some very short, intense efforts to remind the body of its strength and power potential.
Ultimately, the purpose of this article is to give you purpose. So many endurance athletes lack structure and a periodized plan. It is important to view the entire year as multiple parts making up the whole. By having structure and sticking to it you will be much happier come race time. Your body will respond when it should, you will be able to hold your efforts longer, go faster, keep your HR lower, and redefine yourself as an athlete.
For more on these principals or details on coaching, contactBryan.
This is the second installment of RU's 5-part Off-Season Training Handbook Next Week: "The Off-Season Top 10"
For those of you racing the full or half marathon this weekend, here are a few last-minute Rock 'n' Roll Las Vegas Survival Tips:
Join Rehab United for a group dynamic warm-up: 5:30am in front of the Luxor Hotel (street side by the small sphinx statues). Look for the yellow "Run-Fit" shirts.
Bring cold weather gear: arm warmers (yes the ones you wear on your bike), cheap cotton gloves (so you don't mind if you lose them), ear warmer (a beanie will make you too warm), and an extra large trash bag to wear like a poncho (keeps in body heat and you can ditch it around mile 2).
Bring your own nutrition (fuel belt, gels etc.) or drink Cytomax during your last tune up workouts over the next 2 days. Never try any new nutrition on race day. Important note - the Cytomax RTD (in the bottle) is different from the powder; the powder has more carbohydrate, whereas the bottle has artificial sweetener. They will likely have the powder on the course.
Try to negative split the race. This is a flat, fast course - so it will be easy to start out fast, but if you conserve early you should have an awesome second half of the race (it may take you that long to truly warm up). Finish strong, finish fast, but most importantly - FINISH WITH A SMILE ON YOUR FACE.
Have fun! You spent $145 on this race - so you might as well make the most of it.
Enjoy the weekend in Sin City . . . I know I will!
Whether you are blowing off a few workouts here and there, hitting up some cycle-cross races, or still waking up from your Thanksgiving Day food coma . . . the OFF-SEASON has arrived. This time of year most endurance athletes have completed their goal races and are left wondering . . . what’s next? For some San Diegans, a true “off-season” is a distant thought since the beautiful weather allows for an offering of at least 3-4 events each month. Abandoning your off-season, though, can lead to an abundance of overtraining injuries for us “mere mortals” who workout for pure enjoyment, to keep weight off, or to escape the stresses of work.
Rehab United (RU) believes athletes are made in the off-season – our Off-Season Training Handbook begins with the “The Four R’s.”
Restoration. “REST” can be one of the hardest things for an athlete to do, but this is the time of the year you must force the issue. It is difficult to let another biker or runner on the trail pass you, when you are thinking “I could take ‘em” – however, it is essential to keep your heart rate low, take it easy, and enjoy the off-season while you can (because it does not last long in San Diego). Implement functional strength training into your off-season routine to rebuild the muscle mass you may have lost throughout the year and restore joint and tissue strength to allow for in-season training intensity. RU offers complete off-season training programs for these specific purposes.
Recovery. Every athlete experiences some discomforts or physical issues, but just because you can make it through a season does not mean you should ignore the issues that may keep you from taking your racing to the next level. I recommend scheduling a full-body injury screen with one of RU’s physical therapists (after all, it’s FREE). This allows you to address your ailments and allow time to treat the cause of your injuries rather than just symptoms. This is the foundation of health you need for your 2011.
Reflection. This is a solid time to review your 2010. Did you meet your goals? Stay healthy? Stay happy? What would you like to change? We review these critical questions with every one of our athletes to determine a benchmark for the future. We learn from each and every experience that we encounter, so you must look over your training log to find out what worked and what did not. This may also be a convenient time to find a coach – Catalyst Endurance Coaching has multiple coaches who are ready to help you achieve your fitness goals for the 2011 season.
Readiness. Preparation precedes success. Now is the opportune time to look ahead to determine what is next for you and establish a plan to encourage that reality. This year RU is hosting an “EnduraCamp” at Palm Springs in February (e-mail Bryan for details). This is a great early season event to help our athletes prepare for their upcoming multiple sport season.
This is the first installment of RU's 5-part Off-Season Training Handbook Next Week: "Periodization and Planning"
I recently had a client ask me to write the benefits of exercise on a whiteboard to help motivate her. This struck me as funny since I assume that everyone knows the benefits of exercise. Thus, in an attempt to excite and motivate the rest of you about exercise, here is a list for your whiteboard!
Improved Health Status: Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, higher “good” cholesterol (HDL), improved glucose tolerance, musculoskeletal maintenance (nerves, muscles, bones), and lower risk of chronic disease (e.g. cancer, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis)
Higher Fitness: Ability to complete daily activities with more ease & vigor, Increased sports performance
Improved Physical Appearance: Who doesn't mind looking good?
Improved Mental Health: decreased risk for depression, greater self-efficacy (the “I can do anything!” feeling), Alzheimer’s Prevention.
So get out there and get it done, accumulate 30+ minutes of moderate-to-high intensity or 60+ minutes of low-to-moderate activity every single day – your heart, lungs, brain, and every other organ in your body will thank you.
Get your co-workers excited about exercise too! Click Here to learn more about RU's Corporate Weight Loss Challenge!
At Rehab United, we apply a 3-dimensional approach to all aspects of our rehabilitation, training and conditioning. In regards to nutrition, the 3-D model represents energy intake, storage and expenditure.
Intake: Energy intake includes calories from foods and beverages (calories from beverages add up quicker than any others). Carbohydrates and protein contain 4 Calories (kcal) per gram, fat contains 9 per gram, and alcohol contains 7 per gram.
Storage: We store energy in our body as carbohydrate (glucose and glycogen), protein (muscle tissue), and fat (adipose tissue). How we store energy affects our expenditure, i.e. muscle tissue requires more energy at rest than fat; therefore, increasing muscle mass can increase metabolism and accelerate weight loss.
Expenditure: We expend energy as structured activity (running, cycling, weight training, etc.) or unstructured activity (activities of daily living). For most people, though, our metabolism (Resting Energy Expenditure) comprises the greatest contribution of energy expenditure.
In short, energy intake has the greatest effect on weight management; i.e. reducing intake by 500-1000 kcal per day is typically easier than expending an extra 500-1000 kcal.
Want to learn more? Come to our FREE NUTRITION SEMINAR – Monday, November 8th @ RU 1 (Kearny Mesa) from 7:15-8:15pm.
“Energy – The Truth about Calories, Exercise, and Weight management” presented by Justin Robinson, Registered Dietitian.
Rumor has it that when Chuck Norris does push-ups, he doesn't lift himself up, but rather pushes the Earth down. This is likely because Chuck Norris always trains in all three planes of motion (Sagittal-Frontal-Transverse). So, if you want to do push-ups like Chuck Norris, try these variations:
7-Position Push-ups (2-5 repetitions at each position):
As athletes (recreational or elite), we regularly consider our training protocol – we put a lot thought and effort into our pre, during, and post-workout regimens, but how often do we neglect the rest of the day? Busy, hectic schedules can increase stress, allow us to not eat properly and skip workouts. The key to a healthy diet and lifestyle does not involve a complete menu and routine overhaul, but rather small, permanent changes.
10 quick tips to improve the quality of your workday:
Eat half your sandwich at lunch and save the other half for an afternoon snack.
Replace potato chips or crackers with air-popped popcorn or baked chips.
Find a lunch spot close to your work and walk.
Use mustard (any variety), hummus, or lowfat mayo instead of regular mayo or dressings
Try a cup of hot tea instead of an energy drink for that late-afternoon pick-me-up (yerba mate tea has a higher caffeine content than green and black). 1-2 teaspoons of sugar, honey, or agave add negligible Calories.
Pre-cut and package your own fruits and vegetables (cucumber, jicama, celery, carrots, bell peppers, strawberries, grapes). Make several bags on Sunday evening and grab 1-2 on your way out the door each morning.
If you know you will have a busy day, make an extra helping of dinner and bring the leftovers.
Use subliminal messages – keep your running shoes on the floor next to your desk as a reminder to walk/run during lunch or immediately after work.
Perfect your pizza – ask for ½ the normal amount of cheese, skip the meat and pile on fruits/vegetables: onions, bell peppers, olives, mushrooms, zucchini, broccoli, tomato, pineapple.
Go the extra mile – use the bathroom on the next floor each time you have to go.
Take a few steps each day (literally and figuratively) towards improved health and better training!
Cadence is your pedaling speed or the number of times your legs complete a full pedal strokes in 60 seconds (measured in Revolutions Per Minute).
As a cycling coach, athletes often ask - "what is the ideal cadence?" I always respond, "it depends". This usually gets a groan at first, but no magical cadence exists for a number of reasons:
People with greater lower-body muscle mass often spin at lower cadences because they can apply the torque necessary to turn harder gears.
Smaller cyclists with less muscle mass often spin at higher cadences because they can not generate the torque necessary to turn harder gears without overtaxing their muscular system.
When racing, a higher cadence will provide the ability to adjust to pace changes and repeated accelerations quicker than pushing a bigger gear
Riding at lower cadences requires more skeletal muscle strength whereas riding at higher cadences relies on fatigue-resistant systems such as the heart and lungs.
The higher torque associated with low cadence can increase forces across the knees. Thus, if you are prone to knee injuries a higher cadence may help.
Shifting is easier when pedaling with higher cadences because the lower torque places less stress on the drive train (crank, chain, derailleurs).
Different cycling disciplines (mountain biking, time trialing, criterium racing, etc.) require different strategies and energy systems and therefore, different cadences.
Most cyclists likely spin within 70-90 RPM while doing the majority of their riding. Once again - no ideal number exists, so I highly recommend that you examine your current cadence and work outside of your comfort zone, i.e. use low-cadence drills to develop strength and power and high-cadence drills to develop efficiency.
High-Cadence Intervals: Try 5 x 1-minute intervals during your next ride at your highest possible cadence. During these intervals, maintain contact with the saddle and avoid bouncing. If you do not own a bike computer, determine your cadence by counting the number of times one knee passes over the top tube in six seconds and multiply the number by ten. After mastering the ability to ride comfortably for an hour at a cadence above 85 RPM, begin incorporating lower-cadence drills to build strength.
Low-Cadence Drills: Try 5 x 1-minute intervals at 60-65 RPM (shift 3-4 gears harder). This allows your body to coordinate and develop efficiency with your pedal stroke and ease into tolerating increased forces across your joints.
If you have any questions or would like to improve your cycling technique, try a FREE session of Pedal Power™on Wednesday nights in San Diego for a little practice.
At RU Sports Performance Center, we employ the motto “train the way you play,” meaning your training should reflect your sporting event. It may appear that running at a steady, constant pace is the best way to train for a half or full marathon. Distance racing, however, is much more dynamic than just steadily truckin’ along, so if you want to run faster, you need to learn how to increase the pace of your training – enter speed work.
Here are some ways to incorporate speed work into your training:
Intervals – On the road or on the treadmill, run much faster than you typically would for much shorter periods of time (1-2 minutes). Take a quick rest, then repeat the speed bout. Start with a 2:1 rest-to-work ratio and progress to a 1:2 ratio. This will help get your body used to running at a faster pace, and improve your endurance.
Speed Ladder – Use the speed ladder to help increase your turnover or stride frequency. Incorporate various 3-dimensional patterns to decrease muscular imbalance and overuse (ex. running laterally through the ladder vs. the basic forward).
Track Work – Find a local high school or community college track and run some shorter, faster bouts (Ex: 400 m – 1 mile). Your total track workout should last 45-60 minutes and total 2-4 miles. In addition to speed, track running allows provides tremendous metabolic (anaerobic and aerobic) benefits.
At Rehab United Sports Performance Center, when discussing training with runners we find a similarity: they run, run, and run some more, sometimes throw in a little stretching and lift weights once in a while. We rarely meet a runner who incorporates year-round strength training into his/her program as a performance enhancer and injury prevention tool.
Runners often fear the words “Strength Training” because they believe they will gain size or that it will take too much time away from running. Running-specific strength training, however, improves performance and decreases the risk of injury.
Running-Specific Strength Training:
Train running movement patterns. Although it works multiple-joints, the leg press in a gym is not functional for runners . . . if it doesn’t look or feel like running, it probably won’t make you a faster runner. Example: Try step ups on a box with an exaggerated arm swing.
Drive exercises in all three dimensions. Even though it appears that we run straight forward (the Sagittal plane), to decrease muscular imbalance and overuse resistance training should be completed 3-dimensionally, which includes the frontal (side-to-side movements) and transverse (rotational movements) planes. Example: Add lateral and rotational lunges to your typical forward lunge.
Combine strength training with mobility. Flexibility and strength can, and must, coexist. Example: 1) Add some resistance (dumbbells, medicine ball) to stretches you would typically do before or after your run; 2) Perform a body-weight-only routine – include squats and lunges through a full range of motion. Complete either of these sessions in place of a recovery run for a good dose of injury prevention.
Follow a periodization program. You can strength train year round, but give your body planned periods of rest and do not increase your mileage and strength training volume simultaneously. Strength training two-three days per week during lighter training phases and one-two days per week during heavy phases is essential for an injury-free and fun race day.
It's happened to the best of us - you show up in transition on race morning, ready to go . . . with one exception . . . your wetsuit is hanging in the garage. To help you remember everything you need on race morning, the coaches at RU Sports Performance Center put together a race day checklist (complete with important pre-race stretching routine).
Everyone eventually hurts themselves horsing around with friends - just ask Chris Coghlan of the Florida Marlins, who recently tore his meniscus during a post-game celebration. You may ask - how does a professional athlete, who is expected to land safely after scaling the outfield wall bust up his knee while smashing a shaving cream pie into his teammate's face?
Coghlan's story raises a better question of how injury prevention is being built into the training of professional athletes, if at all. Risk of injury is associated with any sport or activity, therefore you must include an injury prevention program (or "pre-hab") in your training if you plan to avoid the disabled list.
3 Keys to Injury Prevention:
Proper Warm-up. There's no better way get injured than going out for a run on cold, tight muscles. Include dynamic stretching in all 3 planes of motion: Sagittal (front-to-back), Frontal (side-to-side), and Transverse (rotational).
Prepare for Chaos. Sports are chaotic and unpredictable, so to reduce your injury risk, prepare for anything your sport may throw at you (literally and figuratively). Train your body to develop a "been there, done that" mentality and have the ability to effectively react to unpredictable situations.
Follow a Comprehensive Program. Include functional strength training, cardio, and flexibility in any program. Comprehensive also implies that your training is tailored to your specific activity, and once again, is comprised of motions driven in all 3-dimensions!
Injury is certainly inherent with all sports and activities, however, a comprehensive injury prevention program can make you feel safer while training, competing, and the next time you want initiate a friendly pie smashing!
How Many Calories? How much Sodium? In a previous blog post, I discussed the importance of raceday nutrition - that the "simple truths" of exercise include that we burn energy and loose electrolytes (among others). Here are a few specific keys to optimal intake during endurance exercise:
Sodium is King: All electrolytes are important for muscle function (sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium) however - sodium is by far the most important.
Throughout your Day: Keep Calories and sodium about the same level. Ex: 2,000 Calories and <2,500 mg sodium.
During a Race: Aim for a minimum of 50-100 Calories per hour (almost entirely from carbohydrate, which has 4 Calories per gram - so 100 Calories is 25g of carbohydrate). Trained athletes intake up to 300 Calories per hour.
During a Race: Consume at least 2:1 ratio of sodium to Calories. Ex: 100 Calories per hour and 200 mg sodium per hour. During long events (half ironman, ironman) and/or events in hot and humid conditions, sodium needs may be as high as 1,000 mg per hour.
Tri Season is in full swing, so I compiled a few tips to reduce leg fatigue and ultimately improve your run splits:
The only way to truly improve run splits is more brick training (or smarter brick training, rather). I highly suggest alternating your bricks during training; i.e. long ride followed by short run and later in the week a short ride followed by a long run.
Start your run with a shorter, quicker stride, for at least the first half mile. Neuromuscular-wise, this cadence simulates the bike and thus, will allow time for your muscles to adapt. Once the legs don't feel as "heavy", relax into a longer stride - with the emphasis on staying relaxed
Tight hamstrings and hip flexors are common culprits of leg and back pain (since the hips spent the last 9-112 miles in a shortened position). Stretching for a few seconds during T-2 can help the hamstrings and low back release/relax.
3D Hip Flexor Stretch: Put one leg in front of the other, with the front knee bent (lunge position) and the back knee locked out and back toe pointed straight. Drive your arms (3-10 reps in each direction): 1- Straight overhead, 2-Overhead to the right, and 3-Overhead to the left.
3D Hamstring Stretch: "Sit" onto on leg and fully extend the other leg with the toe pointed up and towards you (lengthening the calf and hamstring). Alternate your reaches in three directions (3-10 reps each): 1) Straight out to the toe, 2) Right hand to the left side, and 3) Left hand to the right side.
The dynamic rotation/twisting while stretching truly makes the difference; taking 10-15 seconds to do these stretches (especially during a 70.3 or Full Ironman) can save you a lot of pain, effort, and time later in the run