I have always struggled with the pressures, anxiety, and stress that racing can produce. Over the years I have been able to overcome a great many of my short comings when it comes to controlling my anxiety/expectations associated with racing which has allowed me to continue to enjoy racing even when I am not placing well. I have always enjoyed that increadible natural high I get at the end of every race I am able to finish. However, I have also equally enjoyed training for every race. I enjoy the challenge and discipline it requires, the peace and solitude I find, and the ideas that always visit me on a long run, bike, or swim. It makes me feel alive and young and I learn a little something new about myself after each workout,,,, and even more so after each race. I make new friends and rivals and get to know them at a level few others can. Why do you train? Why do you race? Finding the answers to these questions will provide you with the motivation you may be lacking. So often I have read stories of professional athletes who quite their sport because they have lost sight of things. I am sure the average age grouper is no different here. We all train and race for different reasons. Some of them may sound silly or trite but it doesn't matter. If you race for yourself and can understand what really drives you and why you do what you do, you will be able to wake up at 4 am on a cold damp morning and complete that workout with a smile on your face no matter what place you happen to find yourself in come race day.
We commonly lift weights in order to over load our muscular system in order to create muscular strength gains that carry over into your specific sport being trained. We do squats to increase speed and power on the bike, core strength to increase run and swim economy, and we practice our speed/form/technique skills to improve our efficiency in sport (running, biking, swimming, golf, you name it.) It is often a given that our strength training will transfer over to functional strength in our desired sport. And it does... or else we wouldn't do it. The same goes for flexibility training as well as technique training. However, there is one component that is neglected. Balance Training. Have you ever noticed that when you first began bench pressing your "strength" increased dramatically in those first few months of training. Of course your "strength" was increasing but your balance and ability to "handle" the bar with weight may have really been what was increasing. Getting the movement down first when bench pressing is vital to throwing-up larger amounts of weight in the future. The same holds true to all the olympic lifts as well. Why don't we see more athletes balance training in addition to flexibility training, strength training, and technique training? Incorporating balance training into your workout is easy. Actually balance training, if done correctly, can be all three forms of training rolled up into one. Balance training incorporates more muscles which leads to greater strength. It also requires improved flexibility in order to perform the various movements and it ultimately will allow greater gains during technique/speed skill work due to a greater sense of body awareness in the various planes of movement. If this were not enough, balance training has been proven to significantly reduce sports related injury. Plus, 10-15 minutes of balance training can be done as your dynamic warm-up prior to more intense exercise or strength training. So get on the ball.
The above photo of "spinscan" found on computrainer is meant to illustrate why you might find yourself doing the one legged spin drill once a week for a speed skill workout on the bike. Until I finally got computrainer I never realized how much I was still mashing down on my downward pedal stroke. I actually took pride in having a powerful downstroke. Little did I know that as I mashed I also crashed...so to speak because I was wasting so much energy. I was not applying an even amount of force throughout the pedal stroke and this became very apparent once I finally found myself on the computrainer. After analyzing my own pedal stroke with spin scan. I found a whole new meaning to the one legged pedalling workout and now find myself focusing on my upstroke constantly. Once you begin to focus on eliminating your dead spots within your pedal stroke you will start to realize how much easier it is to maintain a higher power output with less energy. You really don't need a computrainer to work on your pedal stroke but it is quite beneficial to get on one for a workout or two just to see what it means to be applying equal force to the pedals.
If you want to add rocket fuel to your dreams then start focusing on goal setting. Setting goals, no matter what aspect of your life, has been proven to get you there faster and more efficiently. The same holds true in athletics. However, setting goals is not quite as easy as it may appear at first glance. There are different types of goals. Outcome Goals? Performance Goals? Weekly Goals? Three Month Goals? where do they fit in and how does one make sense of it all. Getting to the real essence of why you do what you do and defining that in your own personal terms is the seed of lasting motivation and peace of mind. Then, deciding on what it is that you really want to accomplish is the sunshine that makes the seed grow. Then you have to do the work of watering the seed every day and analyzing and measuring progress. As with any development, change is part of the process and as one grows towards a better understanding of their dreams, goals, and aspirations things become more clear. Distractions lessen. Focus becomes a normal state of being. Success happens as you define it to be. Just as a coach can help you with your training plan to reach your athletic/fitness goals, a coach must also listen and allow the athlete to define what those goals are and mean to you. In this case the sum of the parts (Training Plan & Goal Setting) are greater than the whole. Setting goals as they pertain to you (not the coach) is where real progress develops. Click here for an illustration of "how goal-setting works"
Taking those small steps towards a better diet, more rest, consistant training, less stress, and better overall life functioning will not only make you a better endurance athlete...it will also make you a happier one.
Please click to enlarge the above photo. This is meant to illustrate the usefulness of WKO+ analysis for your critical workouts and all races. The above picture is an example of the type of file you would receive if you were to request a workout or race anaylsis as a Balanced Training Solutions coached athlete. In order to create a file such as the one above, it is necessary for the athlete to have a device that measures power on the bike (ie. Power Tap) and/or a device that measures pace and heart rate on the run (ie. Garmin Edge 305). The above illustration is a track workout file I completed on myself to demonstrate the difference WKO+ can make in guiding training development. When looking at the above photo you will see a series of 5 intervals of 9 minutes in length with a one minute rest interval between each to be run at 1/2 marathon race pace. What is important to look at is how the subject's heart rate responds to pace and duration. In this case, it is evident that the first interval is a bit fast, which is typical of most first intervals. The subject was unable to maintain this pace on the subsequent intervals, however, heart rate was below lactate threshold for interval #1. The next interval's pace drops off by 20 +or- seconds which indicates pace is regressing to a more realistic level. Then on the next three intervals the pace stabilizes at 7 min. 24 seconds which is the pace this subject should shoot for in future interval training sessions of this type. Notice that heart rate stabilizes as well at around 161 beats per minute which also indicates that this pace is appropriate up to the 5th interval. However, if heart rate were to continue to increase it would indicate that the pace may still be too fast if this subject's goal was to remain below lactate threshold. The usefulness that this information provides is that it allows the coach to not just prescribe workouts but actually see minute by minute how those workouts are executed and the subjects response to the workouts. In this case it would be advised for the subject to stick to a pace of 7 min 30 seconds on this workout in the future. If in the future heart rate drops then the pace may be increased, indicating the subject has been adapting quite well to training stress.
Here is a photo of a recent swim clinic Balanced Training Solutions put on. I have to say I enjoy these as much as the participants and everyone seems to go away feeling more confident about their next open water swim leg. We commonly cover the following skills in a typical swim clinic; sighting, open water starts, beach starts, bouy turns, breathing, drafting, exiting to transition I, and usually complete a group swim at the end depending on how tired everyone is. I hope to take a photo of every clinic and post here along with a write up. Hope to see you at our next clinic most likely in April 2009.
I have been researching the effects that plyometric strength training, olympic weight lifting, and Vo2 threshold interval training (10 k run pace & 40 k time trial power output)have on an endurance athlete's performance. There seems to be two schools of thought on this issue. One being the traditional view of putting in exceptionally long hours in your respective sport or sports in order to develop your base and then sprinkling in some Vo2 max and lactate threshold workouts as the race approaches during your build I and II phase. The other school of thought is that if you don't have the time to train for hours then up the intensity and improve your Vo2max and lactate threshold by doing short and intense workouts that specifically target those systems. You don't even have to push it as hard as "Pukie" (see above picture) from Crossfit.com either. New evidence has been surfacing that considers doing less long slow workouts and more power/explosive training to get bigger, better, and faster results. This new training philosophy appears to be a modernization of those principles espoused by Bompa and can be seen in the emergence of training organizations such as Crossfit.com. Bompa's training principles still hold true in terms of recovery and adaptation. Afterall, we are not machines and the human body is a finely tuned instrument...not a blunt object you can hammer away at to your hearts content.
The ice seems to be breaking in the endurance world on when to perform the more intense training commonly found during the build I and II phases of most traditional training plans. This makes sense... after all when considering the early season training when it is most beneficial to focus on efficiency in bike, run and swim mechanics it only makes sense to perform some light plyometric work that is proven to improve run economy. However, one needs to realize weights, plyo work, and threshold intervals need to be used like salt on your food. Just a little will yeild great benefits. Not doing them at all will ultimately lead to your downfall as time progresses. Through my research I have found that the greatest benefits that come from these more intense workouts are to those athlete's that don't have the time to train consistantly for more than 10 hours a week. In these cases high intensity training appears to yeild the most bang for the buck. Just remember to mix it up and keep the body guessing. Oh yes, and see the boys and girls at Crossfit.com. They provide excellent ideas on how to "punish the specialist".
Getting the proper bike fit is critical to maximizing your potential. However, getting a bike fit is one of those things that people just don't have time to get done. After all, when you leave the fit you don't really have anything in your hands. However, not everything that has value can be held in your hand. A proper bike fit will not only make you a faster triathlete/cyclist. It will make you a more comfortable one and a healthier one and as a result a happier one. A proper bike fit takes into consideration your anatomical limits, flexibility, and skeletal make-up. You want the bike to fit your body not the other way around. This is why a dynamic bike fit is so important. Getting the proper seat heigth, seat angle, arm-rest drop, flex angle in the knee, hip and shoulder are all critical to fitting your bike to your body. Fitting the bike, riding the bike and making small adjustments are necessary in fine tuning the fit. Also, the human body is continuously changing and as a result a bike fit should be performed once per year in order to adjust for these changes. A good time to get a bikek fit is in the off season prior to intensive training. Making changes in mid-season is not a good idea though....unless things are obviously amiss.
This workout is for mid distance sprinters who desire to run the 400 of their life. Anyone who has run the 400 knows that this race is the ultimate in strength, power, speed-endurance, and flat out guts. Breaking 50 seconds has always been the gold standard while running it below 45 seconds puts you in an elite classification. I only wish I came across this workout 20 years ago. http://speedendurance.com/2008/07/29/400-meter-training-2-x-300m-or-2x40-second-workout/
This workout is meant for those high school, college, and masters runners who still love the thrill that only the 400 can deliver and find themselves dreaming of this race years after they have competed in it. Myself included.
Use of a metabolic analyzer allows for testing of Vo2 Max, Lactate Threshold, and Resting Metabolic Rate. This gives you insight to your personal Training Zones which help you train smarter, and race not only wiser but faster. It is common to determine lactate threshold heart rate zones by completing a 30 minute time trial or field test and taking the average heart rate for the last 20 minutes to extrapulate training zones. While this method is much better than nothing at all, it is far from accurate due to the fact that heart rates can be wildly inaccurate due to factors such as dehydration, fatigue/stress, illness, etc.... . A metabolic analyzer measures oxygen uptake and Co2 emmitted while on an ergometer (treadmill or bike trainer) during an 8-12 minute protocol. Lactate threshold is determined at the point where Co2 emmissions sky rocket and fat utilization as energy bottoms out sending you into an anaerobic state. The benefit of being tested with a metabolic analyzer is the ability to dial in your heart rate training zones in coordination with your power and your body's metabolic response to exercise. On top of that, you only have to test twice per year to determine zones and progress rather than completing those annoying time trial field tests every 3 weeks.
Will your next running shoe look like this? It has been suggested that buying a new pair of running shoes every 3 months is a good idea if you are a competitive runner. What should you do if you are a world class ethopian runner who doesn't train in shoes? There seems to be a contradiction here in that some of the best runners in the world have at one time or another done a great deal of barefoot running. If you notice most world class runners do not have shoes that are overly padded in the heel? They seem to be running in racing flats? Why is this? This flies in the face of what most running shoe companies are saying. I believe you will find future running shoes to have less padding in the heal and a more minamalist design. This gives credance to learning and practicing proper running form, completing speed skill drills once a week, and having a well balanced training plan that stresses a gradual (10%) increase in volume each week, along with a rest/recovery week every 4th week for those under 40 years of age, and every 3rd week for those over 40. A new pair of running shoes every month may still be a good idea but it is not a reason to neglect the afore mentioned training principles. In the end it isn't the shoes that make the runner.
How many of us have gone out and bought the latest and greatest bicycle/wetsuite/running shoes only to find that we still get dropped at the local group ride or come out of T1 down by 10 minutes. You are not alone. We have all fallen victim to this. The fact is, your equipment can only take you so far. Defining your limiters and improving on them while also maintaining your strengths is key to making those improvements you know you can make. Technique and economy on the bike, run, or swim is really where it is at. Some like to call this "free speed". But I understand,,,, you need to look cool also. So enjoy your new bike, but remember, there is no substitute for purposeful training in the right training/power zones.
Race more and train less. It is an interesting concept but I have found many triathlete's train a great deal for one or two races per year. The only way to make a knife sharp is to sharpen it, so get out there and start racing.