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Nutrition On Long Bike Rides By Lauren Antonucci


Q: How should I be approaching my on-the-bike hydration?

A: The first step is to assess your fluid needs. Test and know your sweat rate (the average is 24–32 ounces an hour, or at least one bottle per hour), then determine how much fluid you will need to carry for a race. Find out the specifics for your race; for example, sprint tris often do not supply fluid on the bike course, so you’ll need to carry your own. Olympic-distance races may have one, two (or no) bottle refill stations, so you’ll need to carry enough fluid to either complete your race, or make it between aid stations.

Next, address your bike frame size and setup to determine how much fluid you can hold and where you can stash it. For example, my tri bike can only hold one bottle cage on my downtube; larger bikes can hold two. Aerobars allow for front-mount bottles you can reach and drink while staying in the aero position. Rear-mount bottles allow for “easy reach” when in the aero position, provided you feel comfortable reaching behind you while riding. Regardless of which you choose, I’d recommend one bottle of plain water to drink with gels, bars and chews, and one to two bottles of sports drink (with 50–70 calories and 200mg sodium per 8 ounces). I advise my athletes to rely mostly on their sports drink (for fluid, calories and sodium in each gulp) and add extra water once calorie needs are reached or in excessive heat conditions for those with higher fluid volume needs. Just be sure to have your hydration setup and plan ironed out before you race.

Clinical nutritionist and certified sports dietitian Lauren Antonucci is the owner/director of Nutrition Energy in New York City.

13 April 2017

6 Things Successful Swimmers Do By Sara McLarty

Not seeing meaningful progress in the pool? Review these rules of successful swimmers to see where you might be standing—or swimming—in your own way. 

1. Technique comes first. Always.

My favorite adage when working with new swimmers is, “You can put 100 motors onto a barge, and it still won’t be a speed boat.” The only thing that is guaranteed when you spend more energy in the water is that you will tire quicker. Swimming, much like golf, is a skill sport, meaning that success comes more from technique than from effort. Spend time mastering the fundamentals of the stroke before focusing on power and speed.

2. They seek out support.

The best in the world do not achieve greatness by themselves. They work with multiple teachers over many years to educate themselves and consistently be pushed to improve and grow. Use your resources to locate and start working with local triathlon, swimming and endurance specialists. Tap into the already existing knowledge in your area and reap the benefits.

3. The pool is their hangout.

Elite swimmers are in the water 7–11 times each week. They are rarely out of the water for more than 36 hours between sessions. Getting in the water often and on a regular basis will improve your “feel” for the water. Basically, swimming more often will allow your body to better remember and retain the fine motor movements involved with good technique.

4. They value quality over quantity.

I was lucky as a young swimmer to have a coach who valued quality training over large quantities of yardage to produce successful swimmers. As a result, I watched as 8 of the 12 women I started collegiate swimming with quit before the end of the first year from mental burnout and overuse injuries. Swimming just 10 laps with perfect technique is a better swim practice than 100 laps with poor technique. When things start getting tough in the race, you will return to how you executed a majority of your training. Make excellence your default setting.

5. They train with purpose.

Every lap and every stroke of swim practice should have a purpose or a goal attached to it. The objectives can vary from swimming slow for warm-up or recovery, to swimming fast to build aerobic endurance, or mastering a drill to improve one aspect of stroke technique. Know why you are doing each lap, and then focus on achieving that one goal as a small step toward greatness.

6. They have fun.

Success and enjoyment are often synonymous. It is very hard to succeed at something that takes hours of sweating and training if you do not find pleasure while doing it. Playtime in the water helps create a positive mental view of being in the water. This positive view of the water will make it easier to get out of bed in the morning for practice. Playtime can be monkeying around in the water with your kids or adding goofy drills during warm-up and cool-down.


08 March 2017

Rethinking The Pull Buoy By Gerry Rodrigues

Generally the pull buoy is a triathlete’s crutch. But when used properly, it can be a critical tool for gaining power in the water.

The pull buoy, traditionally used by coaches to build power and strength, is often deployed with the swimmer wearing massive-sized paddles. However, this usage is improper for most triathletes—at least those averaging slower than 1:15 per 100—because most age-groupers without swim backgrounds simply have not developed the specific muscular endurance or strength to use paddles correctly. If you aren’t yet swimming in the fast lane, try pulling without paddles or, if you do use them, start with small ones.

The quantity of pulling built into a training plan and its ratio to freestyle swimming depends upon time of season, the stage of an athlete’s development, and the purpose of a specific workout.

The three reasons to pull

1. Technical advancement and assistance
A pull buoy helps develop and advance proper skill as well as assist in flotation of the hips and legs for underdeveloped athletes.

Using an ankle strap to prohibit kicking along with a swimmer’s snorkel, the pull buoy helps float the hips and legs. Purpose: Use the buoyancy subsidy for assistance with total alignment; keeping head, hips and feet in a straight line while body is held taut. You can find a Speedo ankle strap ($9) and a Finis swim snorkel ($37) at Swimmall.com or your local tri shop.

I have my athletes do the majority of their pulling sets focusing on three technical aspects: body alignment, elongation and reduction of the massive rotation that has become an epidemic in triathlon.

2. Recovery 
Due to buoyancy subsidy from the buoy, pulling can be used for recovery during significant load phases in training, and/or to break up large main workout sets.

3. To build power
Removing the buoy and pulling with secured ankles is very challenging. Its application builds both technique and fitness, as the athlete works on core tautness, a higher stroke rate and increasing power. Without a kick or buoy, significant load is placed on the swimming muscles of the upper body.
Pull Set

Follow the main set below based on pace:
• 1:20 base/100 swimmer and faster: 4×1000
• 1:20–1:45 base/100: 4×800
• 1:50 base/100 and slower: 4×600

Between each main set, insert the sets below. The pulling sets help to develop technique and serve as recovery during the workout.

#1: Pull 4 x 250/200/150 at progressive effort, emphasizing body alignment with 30 sec rest
#2: 10/8/6 x 100 at threshold or 85% effort on a 10 sec rest interval
#3: Pull 2 x 500/400/300 at 75% recovery with technical emphasis of body tautness or alignment
#4: 10/8/6 x 100 at 90% with 40 sec rest


22 October 2016

The Best Recovery Practices For Endurance Athletes. By Lynda Wallenf

You know that sensation, when you have bottomless power, breathing is deep, and pushing hard feels so good? When you are strong, motivated, and invincible. These are the days when you slay your training and smash your race goals.

The secret to these training days and hitting race day in peak form is nailing your recovery.  Two recovery practices are foundational and must-not be missed:

(null) Nutrition

(null) Sleep

While there are many more accessory recovery techniques that can be used to complement nutrition and sleep, if you are not getting in the right nutrition and enough sleep, the accessory recovery techniques will have minimal advantage. You should focus your efforts on getting those two recovery habits perfected to get the most bang for your buck.

Post-Exercise Recovery Nutrition

For weekend warrior athletes training two to three times per week, following a normal daily nutrition plan with no special additions is sufficient for optimal recovery before the next training session. For athletes training once per day or more often, refueling for the next workout as quickly as possible is crucial. Refueling accurately and consistently after workouts will restore muscle and liver glycogen stores, replace fluid and electrolytes lost in sweat, promote muscle repair and bolster the immune system. Athletes who optimize post-exercise nutrition will perform better in their next training session and accumulate more high quality sessions than athletes skipping post-exercise recovery fueling.

There are two post-exercise recovery fueling windows. The first is within 30 minutes of a hard or long training session. The second is in the two to three hours post-exercise. Short easy training sessions do not require special recovery nutrition. Athletes are best sticking to their daily nutrition plan with a normal whole foods meal after easy training sessions.

30 Minute Post-exercise

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates and protein are the foundation of proper recovery nutrition. Immediately on finishing a workout, start replacing fluid and electrolyte losses with a sodium containing drink or water plus sodium containing food. Estimate fluid losses by weighing yourself before and after training and drinking 16 to 24 ounces of fluid for every one pound lost.

To restore muscle glycogen and promote protein synthesis, consume 0.8g per kg of body weight of carbohydrate and 0.2g per kg of body weight of protein within 30 minutes of finishing exercise. For a 70kg or 154lb athlete this would be 56g of carbohydrate and 14g of protein.

Fluid, electrolytes, carbohydrates, and protein can be replaced with a commercial recovery drink, a homemade smoothie or with real food plus water.  

Additionally, antioxidants such as vitamin C and vitamin A, probiotics, medium chain triglycerides and L-Glutamine can shorten recovery duration and are good additions to a recovery drink or snack.

Two to Three Hours Post-exercise

Continue your recovery nutrition two to three hours post-exercise by eating a whole foods meal. It is OK to eat earlier than this if you are hungry but do not delay this post-exercise meal more than three hours. This meal should contain a combination of carbohydrate, about 20g of protein and some fat. Dividing daily protein intake into four or more 20g meals has been shown to have a greater stimulus on protein synthesis than two big meals with 40g protein per meal or 8 smaller meals with 10g per meal. A 20g feeding of protein is the sweet spot to maximally stimulate muscle protein synthesis.

After a training session on a hot day, immediately cool your body down if your core temp feels hot by drinking cool fluids, sitting in cool water or air conditioning and pouring iced water over your head. Cooling off will halt continued dehydration and increase your appetite.

The Benefits of Good Sleep

Studies have shown increasing duration asleep leads to increased performance and mental well-being in athletes. We also know chronic sleep debt impairs performance and reduces motivation to excel.

Foundation sleep recommendations for adult athletes are 8 to 10 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap between 2 to 4 PM. I know that is a tough call for most athletes to achieve along with all the other responsibilities of life. Junior athletes need even more sleep with 9 hours per night plus a 30 minute nap in the afternoon.

Increasing Your Sleep Quality and Duration

Along with sleep duration, sleep quality and sleep phase also affect the regenerative qualities of sleep. Sleep quality can be improved by reducing disturbances by wearing earplugs and sleeping in a cool, dark room. Following a pre-sleep routine of relaxing activities, avoiding light exposure from screens in the hour before bed, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine after noon and alcohol in the evening may increase your sleep quality and duration. Restless leg syndrome can occur in athletes with low serum iron levels and disrupt normal sleep patterns.

Exercising late in the day can make sleep elusive for some athletes. Summertime evening group training or local races make sleep especially hard to come by. Following up an intense evening session with inadequate sleep is a poor combination. Athletes losing sleep after these evening sessions are advised to switch their intense training sessions to the morning and put their evening hours towards lower intensity activities such as yoga, stretching, and massage.

Measuring Your Sleep

If you can measure it, you can improve it! Use a sleep tracking app to measure your sleep duration and quality then identify factors that improve it. I was able to identify that red wine helps me fall asleep more quickly but it reduces my sleep quality and duration. I confirmed much to my dismay that avoiding screens in the hour before bed dramatically improves both my sleep quality and duration.

It is easier to sleep in the spring, fall and winter than mid-summer due to long days. Cover your bedroom windows with foil or install light blocking curtains to darken your bedroom and help extend your sleep time.

Accessory Recovery Techniques

After you have taken care of the big two, nutrition and sleep, there are many accessory recovery techniques to add to your routine; stress reduction, massage, compression, active recovery, stretching, foam rolling, yoga, meditation, acupuncture, rolfing, cupping, cryotherapy, hydrotherapy, sauna, dry needling, supplements such as tart cherry juice, and more.

Stress reduction is one of the more important accessory recovery techniques. Trying to add too many accessory recovery techniques on top of an already busy schedule may add stress and be counterproductive. Pick a few accessory recovery techniques you enjoy and have easy access to, rather than trying to fit every single one of them into your schedule. For example, dipping your nightly sleep time below 8 hours to log 30 minutes in the sauna is not a good trade off.

Take Rest and Recovery Seriously

We are all busy. A common mistake many athletes make is to use their rest days to run endless errands and their recovery weeks to tackle bigger projects. One of my athletes built a deck behind his house in a recovery week! He ended the week sore and exhausted and we had to follow that week up with another recovery week in order for any quality training to get done. On your rest days and recovery weeks, plan massages and lots of downtime, put your feet up and really unload fatigue. Recover as hard as you train.

Example of a Post-exercise Recovery Routine

(null) Finish race or hard training bout and grab a recovery drink to sip during your cool down

(null) Take a 10 minute ice-bath or cold river soak

(null) Clean up and shower

(null) 10 minute stretch

(null) 20 minute compression legs such as Elevated Legs

(null) 30 minute nap

(null) Meal with 20g protein and a combination of carbohydrate and fat

(null) Go to bed with enough time to get 8 hours of sleep

Eat well, sleep well and recover fast because your competitors probably are doing it!

25 September 2016

How To Improve Foot Strength

The feet are an important link in the kinetic chain that we sometimes forget about. The foot is a dynamic structure that needs to be strong and stable while also being soft and malleable. Thanks to its design and muscular attachments, it can store and utilise elastic energy with each footstrike. The strength and stability of the arch, referred to as the “foot core,” are required for proper foot function.

Both local and global muscles control the shape and function of the arch. The local muscles are primarily stabilisers known as the intrinsic foot muscles and are smaller in cross-sectional area. The global muscles are primarily prime movers of the foot and are larger in cross-sectional area. With each footstep and running stride, the local foot stabilisers function to control the amount and speed of arch deformation. Dysfunction of these muscles can result in an unstable arch and abnormal foot movement. Excessive deformation of the foot has been linked to plantar fasciitis and other lower limb injuries.

Traditional foot strengthening exercises usually involve curling the toes to pull a towel toward you or picking up marbles with your toes. These types of exercises will target the local foot muscles but will also involve the global muscles. Ideally “foot core” training should only target the local foot stabiliser muscles.

Enter the short foot exercise.

The goal of the short foot exercise is to “shorten” the foot by contracting the intrinsic muscles to raise the medial longitudinal arch, or in science-speak, pulling the first metatarsophalangeal joint toward the calcaneus (heel bone). Care should be taken to ensure the foot is in neutral alignment and that the toes are not flexed or extended. The short foot exercise is best learned seated and can be progressed to bilateral standing, single-leg standing then to functional activities such as squats, deadlift, lunges and hops. It should also be noted that being completely barefoot would enhance sensory input detection from the plantar surface of the foot and help you develop the sense of creating the short foot posture.

Your Arch Strengthening Routine
This routine consists of some exercises that can be performed daily (e.g. short foot, toe splaying and big toe presses) and exercises that can be performed 2-3 times per week (e.g. leg swings and calf raise to big toe press).

Short Foot Exercise
Sit in a chair in your bare feet. Form a 90-degree angle at your knees and ankles. Without crunching your toes, try to shorten your foot by doming the arches in your feet. You can focus on one foot at a time or do both at once. Try not to curl or extend your toes and keep your foot neutral. It’s harder than you think! Practice this throughout the day. You can even practice while sitting at your desk. Once you become competent in performing the short foot sitting, attempt the exercise standing on two legs then on one leg. (See an image here)

Toe Splaying
Try moving your toes away from each other but be careful not to curl or extend them. Practice throughout the day.

Big Toe Presses
Press your big toe into the floor while extending your other four toes. Hold each press for 8 seconds and perform 12-15 reps per foot.

Leg Swings
Dissimilar to dynamic leg swings that are commonly performed with a large amplitude, these legs swings are performed with a small amplitude to challenge your balance and hip and ankle stability. Stand on one leg in your bare feet and attempt to create the short foot posture. Swing the non-stance leg forward and backward 15 times. Without rest, swing the same leg left and right in front of your stance leg, also 15 times. Repeat this sequence without resting, then repeat on your opposite leg.

Calf Raise to Big Toe Press
Stand on the edge of a stair in your bare feet. Let your heels drop below the level of the stair. Then perform a traditional calf raise, but then proceed and press onto your big toe. This part is difficult for most. Feel free to hang on to something for balance. Perform 12-15 reps.

About the Author: Jon-Erik Kawamoto, MSc, CSCS

14 September 2016

Creatine | What is it? How does it work? Benefits? Side Effects?

Creatine may be considered the gold standard supplement for athletes and recreational lifters, based on its scientifically proven effects on strength, power and lean muscle tissue. Creatine is a nitrogen-containing organic compound naturally produced in the human body, predominantly in the liver, but also in smaller amounts in the kidneys and pancreas.

It’s produced in the body using the amino acids glycine, arginine and methionine at a rate of about 1-2g per day. Approximately 98% of creatine is stored within skeletal muscle, with the remaining 2% in the heart, brain and testes.

Creatine can also be obtained through diet, with the average person consuming around 1g per day through sources such as fish and meat. Increasing dietary availability of creatine serves to increase intramuscular storage of Creatine Phosphate (CP), and as you’ll find out this could be a pretty big deal!

How Does Creatine Work?

Creatine, in the form of CP has an extremely important role in the production of energy for short-duration high-intensity exercise. Short of giving a science lesson; CP is used as a substrate for the formation of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) by re-phosphorylating adenosine diphosphate (ADP). In short, if ADP can be converted quicker and more efficiently in to ATP either through the body’s natural sources of CP or by supplementing with Creatine; more energy would become available for intense exercise!

Theoretically, by supplementing with creatine, intramuscular stores of CP could be increased or ‘topped-up’ thereby feeding the phosphagen/alactic energy system leading to enhanced performance!

Effects of Creatine on Exercise Performance

According to a position statement released by the International Society of Sports Nutrition (Buford et al. 2007); creatine is the most effective ergogenic nutritional supplement that’s currently available to athletes to increase high-intensity exercise capacity and muscle mass during training.

There are currently around 500 peer-reviewed research papers examining the effects of creatine supplementation on exercise. Of those papers around 70% have concluded that creatine supplementation is effective at producing increases in high-intensity exercise performance, including interval training, sprints, and strength and power exercise. From controlled lab studies results have shown that creatine supplementation appears to improve average sprint time and resistance to fatigue during repeated sprints of around 30 seconds. However, over single sprints the results are less conclusive.

The effects on longer duration exercise over 90 seconds is also inconclusive, although not surprising since CP has little influence on the body’s aerobic energy systems. Short-term creatine ingestion (i.e., typically less than a week of  use) has  shown performance-enhancing effects on sprint cycling power as well as resistance exercise, including total amount of work and repetitions performed during the bench press and back squat.

Long-term adaptations (i.e., typically more than 4 weeks) combining creatine supplementation with resistance training have demonstrated increases in:

 Strength and power

Sprint performance

Rate of force development

Muscle size

 Lean body mass.

So… good for lifters, sprinters and intermittent sport athletes, but it probably won’t knock minutes off your next marathon!

Effects of Creatine on Muscle Mass

Many of us train for a specific purpose, and although for some; gains in muscular strength, power and overall athleticism could be considered enough; increases in lean mass, muscle size and achieving an ideal physique is often the main goal.

And luckily for you… long-term creatine supplementation has been shown to increase these qualities! Specifically, over several months of hard training research subjects have experienced gains in up to twice the lean mass of subjects ingesting a placebo supplement. In essence the subjects of these various studies experienced TWICE THE GAINS IN  MUSCLE MASS WHILST USING CREATINE, versus subjects that weren’t!

In one study a twelve week resistance training programme combined with creatine supplementation produced an increase in muscle fibre diameter by 35% in both Type I and II muscle fibres versus only 6–15% in a placebo group (Volek et al. 1999).

Gains in lean muscle mass from creatine supplementation appear to be as a result of an improved ability to perform resistance exercise at a higher intensity for longer. Creatine can also produce muscle cell swelling; cellular swelling has recently been shown to be a potent stimulus for muscle hypertrophy.

Considerations When Using Creatine?

Now considering the amount of evidence that supports the effectiveness of creatine, you may want to now know the ‘F-A-C-T-S’. F-A-C-T-S is an anagram I like to use when recommending any supplement, and stands for Frequency/Timing, Amount, Complimentary Nutrients, Type, and Side Effects/Safety. Let’s briefly explore each one as it relates to creatine:

Frequency & Timing 

This is how often you use it and when. When using creatine, particularly creatine monohydrate, a ‘loading’ phase is often recommended consisting of 20g per day spread out over 4 servings, ideally at meal times. This would usually last for 5 days, followed by a ‘maintenance’ phase of 4-10g daily. Alternatively a small amount of research has shown that a loading phase may not be necessary, and just consuming 4-10g daily will achieve the desired results. The best times of day to supplement with creatine would be around 30 minutes before your training session and immediately after as part of your post-workout shake or meal.

Amount/Creatine Dosage

This is the recommended optimal dose. 20g per day during a 5 day loading phase split in to 4 x 5g servings, backing down to 4-10g per day as a maintenance dose split in to 2 x 2-5g servings. Or just 4-10g per day (2 x 2-5g servings) if you choose not to complete a loading phase.

Additional note: You should always read the recommended serving size on the packet to provide you with a guideline.

Complimentary Nutrients

 These are other nutrients, such as supplements or macronutrients that may enhance the effects or absorbsion of another supplement. It’s recommended that creatine should be consumed with ‘fast-acting’ high glycaemic carbohydrates in order to maximise its absorbsion. For example a combination dextrose, waxy maize starch or maltodextrin. The amino acid Glycine has also been shown to increase the absorbsion of creatine. Additionally, of note combining creatine with arginine has demonstrated some impressive results in recent research, and would make an ideal pre-workout cocktail!

Types of Creatine? 

Many supplements come in different forms, and creatine among them. The most proven comes in the form of Creatine Monohydrate. However newer forms of creatine have also emerged on the market with various advantages, including: Kre-Alkalyn, Creatine Ethyl Ester, Creatine Gluconate, Effervescent Creatine and Creatine Malate. The moral of the story is to find the one that gives you the best results.

Safety/Side-Effects

Creatine supplementation has had no serious side-effects reported within research. However there have been a host of reports from users of gastrointestinal discomfort, and muscular problems including mild cramps. Bloating and water retention have also been reported by some. Controlled studies have been unable to document any significant side-effects or safety issues for extended periods of use lasting up to 12 weeks. Many users do choose to cycle their use of creatine (e.g., 6 weeks on, 6 weeks off), however there are no reports that cycling creatine is more beneficial than consistent use. Increases in lean body mass have sometimes been referred to as “unwanted” side effects, but many would consider this what they desired it for in the first place!

Take Home Message

Creatine has been suggested as the gold standard for which other supplements should be weighed against, both for its effects on exercise performance and body composition.

If optimising your time spent training is in your list of to-dos, and you are looking to maximise your results then creatine use is highly research-proven and recommended!

23 April 2016

How To Get Faster in The Water on 3 Swims a Week

How To Get Faster in The Water on 3 Swims a Week

Getting in the water more frequently, however, will increase your “feel” for the water, improve your endurance, and, if you do the right ratio of drills to intensity, your speed.

However, not everyone can get to the pool 8-10 times a week, nor can they fit in the necessary distance in the time allotted. Unless you own your own pool, swim hours and trips to the pool are tight and precious. If you are one of the lucky few who can manage 4 or 5 swims per week, go for it. But if you are like the rest of us, it becomes even more important to use the time you have to the fullest.

Having said all that, intermediate level swimmers can still gain a tremendous amount of fitness and speed by only swimming 3 times a week.

We know you’re excited to find out how to get faster, but before you read on, if you haven’t gone through parts 1 and 2, you may need to get through these drills and trainings before implementing what is in this article, depending on what level you are currently. These are a starting point for your foundation in freestyle. (You can get the full program at triswimcoach.com)

Focus and flow are two important elements here. We’ll explain what we mean by that below.

A few things to note. You can usually make more gains on 4 days a week. If you have the time, and really want to improve quickly, add in that extra day in the water.

Also, it is important to be doing enough volume if you are training for a longer distance race, such as an Ironman, which involves a 2.4 mile swim. You will want to be nearing or surpassing that distance if you are 8 weeks or so out from your event.

Ok, let’s get back to getting faster on 3 swims a week.

First, each swim workout has a specific purpose with no junk laps, thus optimizing your time in the pool. Each day hits upon a single weakness that many swimmers face: strength, high end endurance, and speed. 

The first of these three weekly swims is called “Mega Muscle Mondays”. Hey let’s not take this stuff TOO seriously!

So Mondays are strength and endurance days. You get to rest your legs a bit and do a mix of paddle work/arm isolation, and of course, drills.

But these drills are targeted and focused…again nothing “junky” about them.

These drills will give you a workout, not just help your form. We’re talking about:

•Doggie paddle freestyle

•Fist drill

•Ankle bands (pulling)

It’s important to include some intervals on Mondays, with the goal of making your intervals.

Here’s a sample workout for a Muscle Monday:

WARM UP:

• 300 Loosen Up

•DRILL:

•6x75s done as 50 with your hands in fists, 25 swim :10 rest in between each 75

•4x50s done as 25 doggie paddle, 25 swim :10 rest in between each 50

MAIN:

Do this set 4 times though:

•2x100s free on a challenging interval

•2x50s with ankle bands*. Rest 15-20 secs between each 50.

WARM DOWN:

•200 Easy swim

*If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

Next Up: Endurance

Endurance is commonly misunderstood as being able to go all day but at a slow pace. At Tri Swim Coach, we don’t understand the point of that!

You are not going to be racing at a “comfortable pace”. Endurance, therefore, is being able to go at a moderately fast pace for long periods of time without fatiguing or having your form fall apart.

This day, the second training day of the week, will focus on race paces for distances of 400 and above.

To design a workout around endurance, you want to first choose a distance between 400-1600. Then choose a number of reps; you should target or exceed the distance of your “A” race. If you are racing an Ironman™, for example, then you would want something like 10×400 compared to an Olympic for which it would be better to do 5×500 since you want to overshoot the distance a little.

Next, you need to set a pace to hold. Find a speed that isn’t “all out”, but still challenges you and is close to your goal race pace. You also need to be able to hold that time for each and every rep.

If you are going off of base times from a time trial, you will want to add 5-7 seconds per 100 to your time trial pace.

Pacing is critical- you do not want to go too easy, but at the same time do not want to kill yourself or wear down on the first rep and then “die” by the end of the set. Try to keep your times within about 5% of your initial pace.

Also keep your rest at 15 seconds or less. This will give you enough time to catch your breath, evaluate your pace, make adjustments, but not give you a full recovery.

Here’s a sample workout:

WARM UP:

•300 Loosen Up

•DRILL:

•6x100s Fist/Swim by 50

•Rest= :10 between each 100

MAIN:

•4x400

Rest: Take your 100 base or cruise interval and multiply by 4. For example, if you can make 100s on 2:00 with about 10 seconds rest, try 400s on 8:00.

WARM DOWN:

•200 Easy swim

*If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

As you cycle through each training block try to repeat the workout you construct to track improvements. Aim not only to get faster but also to be more consistent in your splits.

The Need for SPEED

Ok we’re finally here! We all need speed, but this is where many endurance athletes get tripped up. They may be able to hold a slow, moderate pace for long periods of time, but that pace is far from where their race pace. So when they get into their race, they fatigue quickly. 

Therefore, working on those “top gears”, combined with practicing the other two areas we have covered, will assure that you have done everything you can to prepare for faster swimming in a race.

Like the endurance work from day #2, the distance of the main set(s) for this workout (day #3, or “Fast Fridays”) should be around or greater than the distance of the event with the exception of a full Ironman. Today, we keep the rep distance under 200, as after that you are venturing into endurance land. Reps should be high. For example, you could do 10×200, 15-20×100, 20×50, or a combination of all three. When you cut down the distance, try to cut down your times as well.

The key to “Fast Fridays” is to not hold back. Rests are usually longer than the first two days’s workouts, since the point is to go all out- so you will need that extra recovery time.

This is also where a faster cadence comes into play. Your hands should always be in motion. Not gliding, but do not shorten your extension or hip rotation. Shortening either or both of these will actually make you slower, while tiring you out more quickly.

Here’s a sample Fast Friday workout:

WARM UP:

•300 Loosen + 100 build to 80%

DRILL:

•10x50s Alternate Doggie Paddle drill/Free by 25

Rest= :10

MAIN:

•15x100s

Rest= An interval that gives you about 1:00 rest in between

WARM DOWN:

•200 Easy swim

*If you don’t have bands, do your best to keep your legs from kicking.

Remember: Fast Friday workouts are meant to wear you out, but it’s important not to count yards/meters on this day. Instead, just measure your effort. Maybe you were only in the water 30 minutes, but if you gave it your all, you will feel it! Just be careful exiting the pool.

16 April 2016

How To Beat Piriformis Syndrome By Thomas C. Michaud, D.C

The piriformis is a small muscle in the back of the hip that is notorious for causing trouble in high-mileage runners. The word piriformis is Latin for pear-shaped, since the muscle’s wide base and tapered attachment resembles a pear.

While most orthopedic surgeons claim the piriformis muscle is unimportant while running (surgeons routinely cut this muscle from its attachment to treat this syndrome), the paleoanthropol­ogist Owen Lovejoy proved otherwise. After meticulously reconstructing the pelvis of our ancient ancestor Lucy, Lovejoy confirmed the piriformis muscle reinforces the femoral neck and prevents it from bending while we walk and run. Without a properly functioning piriformis muscle, our hips would routinely fracture with the forces associated with running.

Despite its importance in protecting our femoral necks, the piriformis muscle causes a lot of trouble in runners because it sits directly on top of the sciatic nerve. In an unfortunate 2 percent of the population, the sciatic nerve runs straight through the middle of the piriformis muscle, increasing the potential for sciatic nerve injury. Because running increases activity in the piriformis muscle, high mileage running can allow the muscle to compress the sciatic nerve with so much force that the nerve becomes damaged. Common symptoms associated with piriformis-related sciatica include a toothache type of pain along the outside of the leg and/or a tingling that can travel all the way to the foot.

To differentiate piriformis syndrome from other causes of sciatica (such as a herniated disc in the low back), a simple test you can do on yourself is to pull your knee toward your opposite shoulder while lying on your back. Hold the involved knee towards the opposite shoulder for about 30 seconds and if piriformis syndrome is present, you’ll feel a slight tingling along the outside of your leg. In my experience, piriformis syndrome is much more common than herniated discs in runners.

To treat piriformis syndrome, the vast majority of sports practitioners emphasise stretching and massaging the piriformis to soften the muscle and reduce tension on the sciatic nerve. The most effective method to lengthen the piriformis is with the dynamic stretching. Prior to performing this stretch, consider using a softball to massage the piriformis muscle. Because this muscle is thickest where it leaves the sacrum, it is important to loosen this specific area prior to stretching.

You should be careful while massaging the piriformis muscle to make sure you don’t irritate the sciatic nerve by focusing the massage near the sacrum and along the outside of the hip. You can tell if you’re accidentally hitting the sciatic nerve because your leg will go slightly numb. To avoid irritating the nerve, it is important to hold stretches for no more than 20 or 30 seconds, since a prolonged stretch can also pinch the nerve. As a rule, the stretches should be done frequently throughout the day for short durations only.

Even though most sports doctors suggest that piriformis syndrome can be corrected with stretches alone, any injured runner will tell you that stretching and deep tissue massage often provide only temporary relief. In an attempt to improve clinical outcomes, a group of sports physical therapists came up with an alternate theory for the development of piriformis syndrome. These PTs claim that because gluteus maximus is the hip’s most powerful rotator, weakness of this muscle may allow the hip to twist in excessively while running, resulting in higher forces being transferred to the piriformis muscle. While attempting to compensate for the weak glute max, the piriformis muscle becomes overworked and stretched, eventually irritating the neighboring sciatic nerve.

To test their theory that glute weakness can cause a piriformis syndrome, researchers had an athlete with a two-year history of piriformis syndrome perform specific exercises to strengthen the hip. Following this structured exercise intervention, the athlete reported 100 percent pain relief that continued to the one-year follow-up. After reviewing the literature on piriformis syndrome, these authors made the interesting observation that although nine different studies reported that hip weakness was associated with piriformis syndrome, only two authors recommended strengthening exercises, with one study pointing out that that incorporating hip abduction exercises “seems to hasten recovery” from a piriformis syndrome.

Figure 5 reviews specific exercises that target the important hip muscles. After reading this research, I began treating runners with piriformis syndrome with the exercises in figure 5 and noticed significantly faster recovery times and reduced re-injury rates.

In addition to stretches and strengthening exercises, runners with piriformis syndrome often have to change the way they sit and sleep. Because rotating the hip up and out reduces tension in the piriformis muscle, runners with this injury tend to sit and sleep with their legs folded in a figure 4 position; i.e., with the foot of the involved side touching the opposite knee. Even though this position reduces tension on the sciatic nerve and feels comfortable, it causes problems because it allows the piriformis muscle to tighten even more, worsening the discomfort while running. Most runners are unaware they are rotating the injured side outward and it can take months to correct the faulty sitting and sleeping positions.

To reduce the potential for chronicity, runners with piriformis syndromes should sleep on their side with a pillow folded between their knees, and sit with their knees straight. Because a piriformis syndrome tends to produce low grade discomfort that can go on for months, it is usually possible to continue running with this injury. To reduce strain on the piriformis muscle while running, consider shortening your stride by increasing your cadence 10 percent. Also consider switching to a midfoot strike pattern. By correcting common perpetuating patterns and improving hip strength and flexibility, most piriformis syndromes can easily be resolved in a few months.

14 April 2016

Train Smart In Sickness And In Health By Kristin Harrison

Triathletes refuse to miss workouts—no matter how sick we get. But there are times when training during illness can be unwise, not to mention counterproductive. This cold and flu season, follow a few key guidelines to train smart and, if you do fall ill, recover fast.

A few months ago while training for a marathon, I came down with all the symptoms of a common cold—runny nose, headache, sneezing. I also had a cough that lasted for a week, then two weeks, then on to three.

I kept working out, increasing my mileage and maintaining my usual frenetic schedule despite the exhaustion I felt. But then, that so-called cold pushed back. On a run that should have been 12 miles, I felt like I was running through concrete by mile three. At mile six, I began wheezing and gasping and had to stop. That finally got my attention.

My doctor diagnosed me with walking pneumonia, a bacterial infection of the lungs. With a stack of prescriptions, an inhaler and a stern order for rest, I headed home.

During the next four weeks of my slow recovery, I had to wonder: Had my training made me sicker? Should I have stopped exercising sooner? To find out, I dove into the research and interviewed numerous doctors and exercise immunology experts.

Here’s their best advice for navigating the cold and flu season so you don’t miss weeks of training like I did.

Stay healthy by training smart.
As triathletes, we like to train and race hard. But sometimes, this can make us more susceptible to getting sick. While moderate exercise can benefit the body, researchers have shown that intense exercise can decrease the body’s ability to fight off viruses.

David Nieman, Ph.D., a leading expert in the field of exercise immunology at the Human Performance Labs at Appalachian State University, proved this with his famous study of runners in the 1987 Los Angeles Marathon.

He and his colleagues followed 2,311 runners for two months before and for one week after the Los Angeles Marathon. They found that during the week after running, the marathon runners became sick at a rate six times greater than those who didn’t run. Numerous studies since have made similar findings, including a 1997 study of 42 triathletes who completed an Olympic-distance race and Nieman’s 2009 study of ultra-marathoners who competed in the 100-mile Western States
Endurance Run. How much exercise can compromise your immune system and increase your chance of getting sick? For most of us, it seems to come after prolonged, heavy exertion of more than 90 minutes. Additionally, runners who trained more than 60 miles per week doubled their odds of getting sick compared with those training less than 20 miles per week, according to Nieman’s research.

But this doesn’t mean you have to stop competing. Instead, follow a well-designed training plan and avoid overtraining; be sure to eat a healthy, balanced diet; get adequate sleep; and avoid excessive stress, says Jason Glowney, M.D., a sports doctor at the Boulder Centre for Sports Medicine. In addition, be particularly vigilant about washing your hands.

In general, no one knows your body better than you. As University of Houston exercise and immunology researcher Thomas Lowder, Ph.D., puts it: “There is a great quote by Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart, who said, ‘I can’t define pornography, but I know it when I see it.’ This relates to athletes. You won’t become a stronger athlete in a week, but you can certainly become a weaker athlete by training when you’re sick.”

You can train with a common cold—in moderation.
By exercising regularly, you are already taking a positive step to reduce your chance of getting the common cold. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle followed 115 women for a year and found that those who exercised moderately and consistently (45 minutes five days a week) experienced half as many colds as those in a sedentary control group.

But it’s almost inevitable that you’ll get at least one cold this year. According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Britons suffer two to four colds per adult per year. And if you’re like me, you push through the sneezing and congestion and keep swimming, biking and running. But should we?

Thomas Weidner, Ph.D., director of the Athletic Training Laboratory at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, conducted a study in 2002 to answer this question. He inoculated 50 people with rhinovirus, the common cold, and then divided them into two groups—one group exercised for 40 minutes every day, while the other group rested and remained sedentary. His findings were surprising: Neither group differed in the severity of symptoms or length of their colds.

“Nobody feels good when they have a head cold, but research says people can exercise,” Weidner says. “We found that cold symptoms do not get worse after working out.”

But this doesn’t give you a green light to exercise as hard as you can. It’s vital to pay close attention to your symptoms and your effort level during workouts. “Light to moderate exercise is okay with a minor illness like a cold,” says Glowney. “But intense exercise has the propensity to make a relatively minor illness more severe.”

According to the article “Exercise and the Immune System” published in Clinics in Sports Medicine, most experts define “moderate exercise” as 40 per cent to 60 per cent of your aerobic capacity and “vigorous exercise” as 70 per cent to 80 per cent of your aerobic capacity. But each athlete is different and must judge his effort based on how he feels. For triathletes, this can vary greatly by sport. If you are a weak swimmer, you might work a lot harder aerobically during an easy workout than you would on your bike, so you should adapt your training accordingly.

If you do exercise with a cold, it’s more important than usual to pay attention to your hydration, says Andrew Hunt, M.D., medical director for USA Triathlon. You need “at least one good clear urination per day,” he says. Also, keep in mind that chlorine can be an irritant to your nose and lungs, so swimming in an over-chlorinated pool can cause additional discomfort with a cold.

Take time off with symptoms below the neck. Experts generally tell athletes to use the “neck rule” to help determine whether they are too sick to train. This means, if you experience symptoms above the neck—a runny nose, nasal congestion or sneezing—light to mild exercise might be of some benefit, says Dr. Glowney. But if you experience body-wide symptoms or any in your chest and lungs such as a fever, cough that’s not from post-nasal drip, fatigue or stomach issues, Glowney says, “A break from exercise is the best approach.”

Why? Because below-the-neck symptoms can denote more serious illness – bronchitis, influenza, pneumonia—that, in their most serious forms, can require hospitalisation and many weeks of downtime.

As Dr. Hunt says, “Running while you experience symptoms below the neck won’t cause pneumonia. It might be pneumonia.”

During illnesses like this, “The lining of the respiratory tract breaks down as infected cells slough off,” says Glowney, “leaving you more susceptible to a bacterial super infection on top of the pre-existing viral one.” There have also been reports of sudden death in athletes who were found post-mortem to have been suffering from bacterial pneumonia, another reason to back off.

The bottom line: If you have a fever, shortness of breath, a heavy cough, vomiting or diarrhea, or feel exhausted even when not exercising, stop training until your symptoms improve.

11 December 2015

Swim Speed Series: Conquer The Swim Kick

If there is one skill that most differentiates the fast swimmers from the not-so-fast swimmers, it would be the strength of the kick. As a triathlete, one of the biggest dilemmas, given the limited amount of swim training time you have, is how much time and effort you should spend trying to improve your kick. I believe focusing on the legs is one of the best ways to improve as a swimmer.

The kick plays a huge role in overall speed because it provides four important functions:

1. Depending on the strength and fitness level of the legs and the ankle flexibility, it creates propulsion.

2. Because the kick is not symmetrical, it creates lift—the downward phase of the kick is more powerful than the upward.

3. Since the most powerful of the down kicks coincides with the end of the underwater pull, it helps stabilize the counter-rotation of the body.

4. In a six-beat kick, there is virtually no recovery time, generating a steadier propulsive force. (Only use a two-beat kick if you do not choose to focus on your legs to improve your swim time.)

Note: Even though a wetsuit handles one of the primary functions (creating lift) during a triathlon, a good kicker can still benefit from the other three functions.

Throughout the season, we will dedicate two full workouts a week entirely to the legs. Some consider them very challenging (or borderline torture), but we have created some unique ways to work the kick in both directions and sustain the motion. The best kickers utilize both the down and the up kicks to sustain propulsion at all times—never “letting go” of the water.

The good news about kicking is that if you don’t have good flexibility in your ankles, you can develop it very quickly (within weeks) and increase your propulsion without swimming harder. Start with simple exercises like kneeling on the tops of your feet for two minutes at a time. The anterior ligaments and tendons of the ankle are some of the most stretchable in the human body.

The best way to kick is with the Finis alignment board and the Finis Snorkel. When used together, you are not only working your legs in the correct body position (straight), but you are also simultaneously working on streamlining and proper head position (down). I also recommend that you limit your fin kicking in freestyle to no more than 35 percent of your total kick volume.

By doing dry-land stretches and focusing more on your legs in training, your swim will get faster. Having your legs in better kicking shape will not only help your swim time, but will give you more confidence to finish the bike and run faster.

Read more at http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com

05 December 2015

Ask The Phsyio: Bike Pain

The off-season is well and truly here, and there’s a good chance that the body has started to recover from a long, hard year. To help the recovery process ace physio (and top age group triathlete) Laura Fidler is going to be answering your questions about aches and pains. If you’ve got a question either Tweet it to us at @triathleteurope, write it in the Comments at the foot of this page, or post it on our Facebook page. Today we’re looking at discomfort on the bike…

Question: I can ride for hundred miles staying mostly on the airobars with the normal discomfort and aches. But on other days I will have back cramps and pain with my back seizing up requiring me to have to get off the bike and try to relax before I can breath properly and for my back to relax enough to stand then stretch. Is there anything can do?

Answer: Ummmmm, I would take a look at what you are doing leading up the rides where this spasm happens. Do you find that there is any pattern in terms of activities, time of day etc? A common problem amongst the majority of Age Group triathletes is that we are constantly trying to fit our training in around full or part time jobs, often which will have an impact on the training that we do.

Making a few assumptions, the majority of people do desk based work these days which results in long periods (8-10hrs per day) of sitting. We then often try to cram lots of time on the bike at weekends as this is the only opportunity to get the long rides done.

Firstly the sustained sitting can put a lot of strain on our back muscles and can also lead to an ischemic (relative lack of blood flow) response in the muscles and soft tissues which can lead to tightness and spasm by itself, which will build and accumulate the more we sit. This combination of this relative inactivity during the week followed by long mileage at the weekend on the bike, which is also a flexion based activity, i.e forward bend at the hips can further emphasise the issue. Its therefore REALLY important that you ensure that you are regularly (every 40-50mins) changing position or going for a quick wander to circulate your blood and stretch the tissues during the day at work. I would then recommend trying some stretching prior to your training session. Check out this link, it’s got some really good info: www.tourdegaggs.com/docs/cycling_stretch.pdf

If this doesn’t seem to be the case I would maybe suggest thinking about your bike set-up. There may be an issue with the position that you are in- do you always ride the same bike or have you noticed a difference in this? Going on the basis that you can ride for up to 100miles pain free on other days I would guess that this is maybe not the case but certainly worth thinking about. Finally, spasm can typically be in response to fatigue in the muscles, so if you have ridden 100 miles the previous day, you may struggle the next day with spasm if you’re not used to backing up sessions and allowing your body time to recover? Just some ideas so let us know how you get on?!

Read more at http://triathlete-europe.competitor.com/

04 December 2015

Caffeine’s Benefits, Risks And Performance Benefits

When used correctly, caffeine can give you a big performance boost on race day.

Three out of four Americans consume coffee regularly, and I’d venture to say triathletes are in line with the national average. The average consumption is 200 milligrams of caffeine daily (or about two cups of regular drip coffee). Here’s what triathletes need to know about caffeine’s benefits, risks and race-day performance benefits.

Major Benefits

Numerous studies on well-trained endurance athletes have shown positive responses like the ones below from about 2 cups of coffee (or 1.5–4 milligrams per pound of body weight).

„Decreased RPE (rate of perceived exertion). Drinking caffeine can make you feel like you are not working as hard.

„Increased time to exhaustion. Caffeine has also been shown to spare muscle glycogen, thereby boosting endurance.

When to Consume

To make the most of its performance-enhancing effects, drinking coffee about 1 hour before a training session or race is ideal for most triathletes. Caffeine is absorbed by the stomach and small intestine and peaks about 45–60 minutes after ingestion, then lasts for 1–2 hours (or longer, as individual responses vary). The first few days an athlete drinks caffeine, he or she may experience a small increase in urine output and increased blood pressure and pulse rate, in addition to increased alertness. After about four days a tolerance builds, and all effects (good and bad) equalise except for the increased stomach acid, which persists.

Many athletes will try to give up caffeine in the days leading up to a race in hopes of gaining the most “bang for their buck” when resuming it on race day. However, as most of you who have either tried to give up caffeine or not taken it in for 1–2 days are well aware, abruptly stopping often leads to withdrawal symptoms including headache and fatigue. You may want to gradually decrease your caffeine intake over the 4–7 days prior to your race and then re-up your intake to the “optimal dose” of 100–300mg, (1–3 mg/kg), on race day to maximise effects. Test this in training as you don’t want to experiment on race day.

Use the “less is more” approach when adding caffeine to your race-day nutrition plan. Many triathletes will drink their morning coffee, then include 1–2 servings of caffeinated products late in the race to offset fatigue. Others will take only a small amount pre-race and more spread throughout the race. Both can work but require practice. Keep in mind that the side-effects of excessive caffeine intake may include abdominal cramping, diarrhea, increased blood pressure and pulse rate and anxiety.

Unless you have fine-tuned your specific ideal race day, most triathletes should remember that they will already be amped up on race morning, so they may want to decrease their usual caffeine intake by up to 50 percent to avoid overexcitement and excess bowel activity during the race.

Myth Buster! Is caffeine dehydrating? In a word, no! All regular caffeine drinkers can count your cup(s) of Joe or tea as part of your daily fluids.

Filter Coffee
225ml  serving
80–135mg of caffeine
2 calories

Black tea
225ml serving
40–60mg of caffeine
0 calories

Espresso
56ml  serving
100mg of caffeine
6 calories

17 October 2015

Navy's own jet-sets for triathlon holy grail

This lady is on a mission, no sooner is home she is back on a plane and off the Kona. Competing in Chicago at the ITU World Triathlon Championships in the Olympic distance for the first time (while training for IronMan World Championships) she placed a very respectable 16th in the world in her age group. Only missing out on a top ten spot by a couple minutes, up until the last five kilometers she was holding sixth but the fatigue got the better of her.

That was four weeks ago and now on Sunday she will be lining up with 2999 other people on the start line at the IronMan World Championships held at Kona hoping to do just as well if not better. She has been training like a demand and punching out what I give with little complaint, this will aid her tremendously in achieving her goals come Sunday.

28 September 2015

Why You Should Train With A Power Meter

Endurance sports are in an era where technology is running rampant. Technology is so great, in some cases, that it can be difficult to decipher the mountains of data that are flooding in. While some technologies may be avoided for reasons like cost, ease of use, etc., owning a power meter is something that is viable and useful for all athletes. For those who have resisted until now, below are eight reasons to buy a power meter.

This article first appeared on TrainingPeaks.com. For more click here.

1. More Accurate Training Measurement
Before heart rate, many coaches prescribed workouts by distance or speed. Over time, however, they realised this method was highly inaccurate. Likewise, coaches and athletes are discovering the same with heart rate. Heart rate has three main flaws. First, it takes a great exertion to increase your heart rate, but it doesn’t require much output to maintain this higher level (whereas power shows your exact value instantaneously and can thus establish a much steadier profile). Second, heart rate takes quite some time to climb and is thus useless for short intervals because your body cannot respond before the interval is over. Finally, there are a multitude of external factors that affect your heart rate. These factors included: stress, sleep quantity and quality, hydration, caffeine intake, and others. This makes comparing even the same effort duration very difficult.

2. Quantify Your Training Load
With training intensities and volumes varying daily, it can be very difficult to compare the physiological stress between sessions. By implementing power into your training, you’ll be better equipped to quantify how taxing the workouts are to best calculate training stress. Once you measure this stress, you can then utilise the Performance Management Chart (PMC) to track your fitness, fatigue and form over time.

3. Training Specificity
When training for an event, an athlete will want to prepare for the specific course demands on race day. To do so, interval workouts must be very precise to mimic the outputs required to be successful. As an example, if I have a rider completing an event, I will look for other athletes who have been successful there previously and request to see their power file to review and analyse. I then work backwards to devise a workout that uses specific watts per kilogram (w/kg) calculations at critical race points to prepare my athlete.

4. Improve Training Efficiency and Quality
As a coach, I understand that athletes are busy with their careers, families, friends, and other obligations. Because of that, I want to maximise their time spent training to reap the greatest gains. By introducing power to an athlete’s training, we’re able to eliminate ‘junk’ miles and focus exclusively on high quality sessions. These sessions commonly include precise intervals meant to stress the athlete’s body from which they’ll net an adaptation without accumulating unnecessary fatigue. This training can then be analysed post-activity to find areas of improvement for the future.

5. Quantify Improvement Over Time
Because heart rate values fluctuate little over time, it can be very difficult to track improvement and define how training has been progressing using this method. Instead, power allows the user to determine increases over specific durations to gauge improvement. Further, this applies to testing one’s Functional Threshold Power (FTP) to calculate very accurate and applicable training zones. This principle can also be used to gauge what training techniques best suit a rider year to year for maximal gains over time.

6. Best Identify Strengths and Weaknesses
Once a rider introduces power into their training and racing, they can better determine their strengths and weaknesses. Without power, a rider simply knows where/when they feel weakest but doesn’t understand why. An athlete can utilise the Power Profile Chart to visualise their strengths and weaknesses over different durations to tweak and adjust their training accordingly. Power allows a coach to conclusively say what needs attention in future training sessions/blocks.

7. Race Day Planning and Prediction
Without the use of a power meter, predicting goal race times for time trials and triathlons can be near impossible. With variable terrain, wind and temperature variations, etc. simply going off speed and heart rate is not doing yourself justice. However, a power meter and Best Bike Split enables a rider to now enter race day best prepared with an accurate duration goal for the event. This new and improved goal setting technique allows riders to honestly reflect on their performance to best determine if it was a good event or not.

8. Use of the Latest Scientific Models
Better science and more resources are being poured into endurance sports at greater levels than ever before. The benefit, of course, is these scientific models are now at the fingertips of athletes everywhere to implement within their own training and racing. This science includes race prediction through Best Bike Split, fitness and form quantification in TrainingPeaks, or any number of new models in WKO4 (Power Duration Curve and modelled FTP (mFTP)), to name a few. However, these models are following the technological trend and can best be applied (sometimes exclusively applied) to those training and racing with a power meter.

Though some coaches and athletes continue to be proponents of heart rate training, there are better options available. Previously, the costs of units were prohibitive to many athletes but this has come down significantly in recent years. Of course, owning a power meter is only half the battle – the real benefits come post-activity through analysis and reflection. By collecting your ride data and analysing it, you’ll be able to unlock your full potential and make the greatest strides in this sport.

14 September 2015

The real cause of muscle cramps

It feels as if you’ve been blind-sided. When a muscle painfully seizes up during training or competition, your forward motion comes to a screeching, and sometimes screaming, halt until the cramp subsides and you gingerly resume. Nearly everyone has experienced muscle cramps- a painful, involuntary, and sustained contraction of one or more muscles that can lead to the abrupt cessation of your physical activity. You may experience a lingering soreness, reduction in normal muscle function, and even signs and symptoms of muscle damage. You know the pain but what about the root cause of a cramp? You know the popular home treatments: bananas, salt pills and electrolytes. But what is the hard science of prevention and treatment? Scientists have started to solve the mystery of a condition as old as competition itself

Cramps Are Nothing New
Not surprisingly, written accounts of muscle cramps date back at least a century1. One thing is certain in history- muscles don’t cramp on their own.

The normal chain of events is that when you decide to move, your brain sends signals to nerve cells in your spinal cord that connect to your muscles. The stimulated muscles contract and off you go. When the nervous input to muscles ceases, so does muscle contraction. This simplified explanation leaves out many details, including the important fact that as muscles contract, a lot of information is sent from the muscles and their tendons back to the spinal cord to keep the central nervous system informed about joint position, muscle length, tendon tension, muscle temperature, and the surrounding chemical environment. Your body is a complex circuit board, constantly adjusting to new inputs.

Cramps Are A Failure of Neuromuscular Performance
When the neuromuscular system (your nerves plus muscles) works in sync, your exercise routine can continue for hours. You feel unstoppable. But when the system is perturbed by low blood glucose, muscle glycogen depletion, dehydration, accumulated muscle damage, high body temperature, severe salt loss, accumulation of metabolites, or reduced muscle blood flow, fatigue will gradually or suddenly sets in. The neuromuscular system becomes unstable. Muscle cramps are often associated with fatigue, a painful example of a failure in neuromuscular performance.

As a fuller picture of the etiology (cause) of muscle cramps is emerging through studies by researchers such as Dr. Rod MacKinnon, a Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, there are new insights that will help prevent or minimize cramps. First, the cramp is not your fault. Most likely, your cramp had nothing to do with preparation or fitness. As we’re learning, the breakthrough in solving the cramp mystery is in understanding the root of the problem. It’s not the muscle; it’s the nerve.

It’s Not The Muscle; It’s The Nerve
Skeletal muscle cells, as opposed to cardiac muscle cells in the heart and smooth muscle cells in the lining of blood vessels and the intestine, are under voluntary control. You will a muscle to contract and it obeys.

But all those hours you spent training can be for naught with just one ill-timed muscle cramp. You can’t finish a race or complete a training session. Regardless of the conditions that provoke it, muscles cramp because of hyper-excited nerves, alpha motoneurons to be more precise, the nerve cells that project from the spinal cord directly to many skeletal muscle fibers. The motoneuron and the connected muscle cells go haywire, the motor unit malfunctions. In the laboratory, muscles can be made to cramp by electrically stimulating motoneurons, a simple way to illustrate the point that your muscles are slaves to your nervous system.

Maintaining Neuromuscular Performance
Some important clues have surfaced over the past few years that lend support to the notion that “calming” hyper-excited nerves will prevent muscle cramps. An initial finding is that cramp-prone subjects require less electrical stimulation to produce a cramp, suggesting that their neuromuscular systems are more sensitive to cramping2. This observation helps explain why some athletes are haunted by cramps, while others rarely have a problem.

There have been many proposed “cures” for muscle cramps, including eating mustard and drinking pickle juice. At first, the effectiveness of pickle juice baffled scientists, but laboratory studies confirmed its benefit, at least on small muscle groups in the foot that were electrically stimulated to cramp3. Those results led scientists to speculate that pickle juice might activate sensory fibers in the mouth and throat and send signals to the nervous system that calm down hyper-exitable motoneurons and reduce the duration of a cramp.

This mouth-to-spine-to-muscle connection is not as far-fetched as it may sound. We have all experienced how the nervous system reacts to icy-cold drinks, acidic solutions such as pickle juice, and hot spices. For example, “brain freeze” often occurs as a result of quickly drinking ice-cold beverages because of rapid cooling of the sphenopalatine ganglion, a cluster of nerves adjacent to the roof of the mouth. For similar reasons, certain spices and other natural ingredients may be good anti-cramp candidates because spices such as capsaicin in red peppers activate specific membrane channels in sensory nerves called TRP channels that are found in the oropharyngeal region (mouth and throat) and esophagus that project to the spinal cord and indirectly inhibit hyper-excited alpha motoneurons.

This theory came to MacKinnon, who is an endurance athlete and sea kayaker himself, after a bout of debilitating cramps on the open ocean. The experience reminded him that, aside from being a painful nuisance, muscle cramps could mean the difference between life and death in some situations. MacKinnon won the 2003 Nobel Prize in chemistry for his work in understanding how channels in cell membranes work to move ions such as potassium from one side of a membrane to the other. Building on this, he reasoned that the right combination of natural TRP channels activators could switch on nerves that could in turn inhibit the over-active alpha motoneurons that cause cramping.

MacKinnon’s original idea has triggered a wave of laboratory and field research, with recent results demonstrating that the frequency and duration of cramps can be reduced when subjects ingest a specially formulated spicy beverage before exercise.

As a result of this research, we are coming closer to the understanding the true cause of cramping. So, while electrolytes, hydration, and fitness certainly matter for performance, athletes should not be looking to those elements to cure their cramping issue. As we continue to learn more about the root cause of cramps, we will also begin to understand how we can prevent them.

References
Minetto MA, A Holobar, A Botter, D Farina. (2013) Origin and development of muscle cramps. Exerc Sports Sci Rev 41(1):3-10.
Minetto MA, A Botter. Elicitability of muscle cramps in different leg and foot muscles. (2009) Muscle Nerve 40:535-544.
Miller KC, GW Mack, KL Knight, JT Hopkins, DO Draper, PJ Fields, I Hunter. (2010) Reflex inhibition of electrically induced muscle cramps in hypohydrated humans.

18 August 2015

Bike Fitting

Here at WILKO-fit we use Bike Fast Fit which allows us to help adjust your bicycle (road or triathlon) to improve comfort and efficiency and reduce potential for injury. We use video analysis to provide insight into your cycling movement and body position.

It's a quick and effective way to ensure you are setup correctly and at the end you are provided with a PDF with all your measurements for future reference.

16 August 2015

Training at 9000ft in the comfort of my garage
Training at 9000ft in the comfort of my garage

Want To Take Your Training To That Next Level

The secret of truly elite athletes isn’t the amount of time spent working out, the intensity of the workout, or the determination to push one’s body to the limits. No, world-class athletes are beating their competition thanks to the effects of high-altitude training.

When the air is thinner, your body works harder, increasing your ability to process oxygen. When you return to lower elevations, your performance will show substantial increases in strength, endurance and speed. It’s as if you were wearing a suit of armor while working out and then removed it for the competition.

It used to be that most athletes who wanted that edge were out of luck. Unless they lived near very high mountains, or had an enormous amount of money to travel to training facilities there, they had to settle for the benefits of a hard workout at sea level.

That was then. Now there’s a way to get the benefits of high-altitude training without heading to the mountaintop.

Training Mask will make your workout so efficient, you can actually cut the amount of time spent in training by as much as two-thirds. Simply strap it on and begin your normal work out. Within days, you’ll see the difference!

It’s really simple science. By conditioning your lungs and creating pulmonary resistance, your diaphragm is strengthened, thereby making your lungs work harder. When lungs work harder, the surface area and elasticity in the alveoli is increased, thus increasing your stamina and ability to go harder at your sport – or simply have increased energy for daily living.

While your body adapts, your lungs will be trained to take deeper breaths and use the available oxygen more efficiently. Increasing your alveoli’s surface area could help transport more oxygen via your red blood cells and carry it to the extremities.

Altitude Training Mask

14 July 2015

U/16 WA state champs. Finished 3rd
U/16 WA state champs. Finished 3rd

A Look In The Past

I'm a firm believer of "Do as I do" and I try to pass that on in my coaching. I have met a lot of people through out the years and they all like to say how long they have been doing the sport of triathlons but can't show you. Well I can. My first race was when I was 12, 1990, and I can stone cold last by 5 minutes in the open male category because there was no such thing as juniors. The photo shows me going out on the bike leg in Perth as part of the WA state champs U/16 category where I finish third.

Like I said I've been around awhile and have more than the T-shirt to prove it.

03 July 2015

Food For Thought

You’ve likely heard that many foods carry medicinal properties to reduce risk for disease and improve overall health. Considering the amazing anti-inflammatory, detoxifying, hormone-balancing and antioxidant properties found in real food, focus your energy on key foods that will not only support metabolic processes but will also improve health to unlock great performances.

Ginger
Aromatic and spicy, ginger acts as a natural anti-inflammatory. Ginger may reduce nausea and GI distress, and boost the immune system. Fresh ginger will offer more gingerol (anti-inflammatory compound) compared to the spice in dried form. Peel with a paring knife and add 1 tablespoon (sliced or minced) to smoothies, salads, stir-fry dishes, soups and teas.

Omega-3s
Reduce inflammation and improve neurosystem and cardiovascular health with flax seeds, cold-water fish, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard seeds, soybeans and tofu. (Omega-3 fatty acids are very susceptible to free radical damage, so be sure to store these foods in a dark, airtight, cool environment.) Aim for at least 500 milligrams per day of total omega-3s (EPA and DHA are two such fatty acids).

Pineapple
The bromelain extract in this fruit offers anti-inflammatory properties, antioxidant protection and immune support. Pineapple can curb a sweet tooth as well as help with digestion. For the most antioxidants, choose a fully ripened pineapple that is heavy for its size. For faster recovery post-workout, add 1 cup of fresh chunks to your favourite protein-rich smoothie recipe.

Fermented dairy
Yogurt is high in calcium, thiamine, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, selenium vitamin B12 and protein whereas kefir is rich in vitamin A, B1, B2, B6 B12, K2 and folic acid as well as calcium, iron and protein. Yogurt probiotics help boost the immune system and assist in a healthy digestive tract. As dessert, a recovery snack or part of a meal, add 1 cup of kefir or yogurt to enjoy the health benefits of these exceptional lactic acid fermentation foods.

Dark, leafy greens
Rich in vitamin K1, dark, leafy greens assist in blood clotting as well as activating osteocalcin, a protein that promotes healthy bones. Kale, spinach, broccoli, parsley, asparagus, celery, tomatoes, Swiss chard and leeks are also excellent sources of vitamin K. Because vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient, you’ll maximise nutrition if you combine heart-healthy fats (olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado) with your dark leafy greens.

Berries
Fresh or frozen, berries are rich in antioxidants and are also beneficial for brain health and reducing inflammation. With a low glycemic index, they help maintain blood sugar control. Rich in vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, fibre and copper, berries are a superstar food. Add 1 cup of berries to your favourite smoothie or oatmeal creation or add to pancake and muffin recipes. Or, enjoy fresh or frozen berries as a between- meals snack.

Are anti-inflammatories helping or hurting your training and racing?
One of the most common setbacks for an athlete is extreme inflammation and the discomfort and restriction of proper range of motion that it causes. NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) block chemicals in the body that trigger pain and inflammation (and also act as anticlotting agents). Other over-the-counter pain relievers, like acetaminophen, may reduce muscle aches or inflammation. When taken occasionally, athletes should not worry about side effects, but religiously popping a pill before or after training or during racing is not advised. These pain relievers increase the risk for stomach and intestinal bleeding, ulcers, stomach pain and GI distress, and an overuse (which is often the case for an injured or overtrained athlete) may also delay recovery in soft tissues, including muscles, ligaments, tendons and cartilage. Also, when combined with alcohol, they may increase liver damage. Long-term use or excessive intake may increase the risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney damage.

Many triathletes rely on pain relievers during an Ironman, which may do more harm than good. Because the immune system is closely linked to the neuroendocrine system which controls the release of stress hormones, keep in mind that strenuous training and racing naturally imposes a big stress on your body and pain relievers are not advised.

Be sure to follow a smart training and fuelling regimen to develop a body that adapts well to training stress, instead of just swallowing a pill to mask any discomfort.

(null) By Marni Sumbal, R.D.


30 June 2015

Program Sample

A lot of programs can be confusing to follow with no idea of weekly totals. Mine are simple and easy to follow. All sent out out in PDF so you can open them anyway in the world to check what is coming up

29 June 2015