Strength and conditioning for runners and triathletes 7

Another video to help runners and triathletes get stronger, faster and avoid injury.  This one targets the hips, core/back and upper legs.  Brought to you by:

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strength and conditioning for runners and triathletes 5

Another strength and conditioning video.  This time I threw in swiss balls routine and a homemade TRX routine.  After all, most triathletes are flat broke, so I made my own using supplies from any home improvement store.  2 lashing straps, caribeaner, PVC piping, and rope.  $20-ish vs over a $100 for store bought TRX bands.  Works just as well too.

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slow down and get faster

You know that old sayings: “Work smarter, not harder” and “changing is hard”?  I think these saying ring especially true in the winter season for triathletes.  I think that most triathletes would agree that changing is hard and would like to work smarter not harder, but unfortunately I don’t think many triathletes believe it enough to influence their actions/training in the off season.

Humans are creatures of habit.  We love getting into our routine and getting comfortable.  Triathletes take that to the extreme by making certain days of the week swim days, or bike days, or cross training days.  Or, even worse, triathletes get stuck doing the same old workouts day after day, week after week, and year after year, and then expect better results.  Aimlessly logging miles for the sake of logging miles (which I think the club challenge by USAT triathlon over the winter months encourages to do.  Ironically, at the same time, USAT sends out several emails to work on form, strength/conditioning etc. over the winter season).  This is not only asking for injuries, but it also the definition of insanity (doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results).  So, I’m challenging all my readers to stop repeating the same routine as years past, but slow down and get faster this winter, like the Lakeside Seahawks have done with me last month.


About a month ago, the coaches at Lakeside Seahawks Senior group (Nate, Gord, and Lee) stopped us from doing 100’s and 200’s for about 30 minutes and worked with us on form.  The drill they had us do was to body balance in the water and then hang our arms at the elbows over the lane lines then pull the water to bring our body to the other side of the lane.  Sounds silly, right?  I thought so too.  But at this point, I’ve learned to trust that everything we do in practice (whether I know why we are doing it or not) has a good reason behind it.  That drill… that simple drill, finally made things click that we have done in several over drills in the last year I’ve swam with them.  Everything clicked and I was instantly faster because I slowed down, worked on technique and listened to the coach’s advice and guidance.

Then just last week, they were doing underwater video taping for kids.  The kids were doing starts from the block and analyzing their entry into the water and efficiency of their dolphin kick.  I approached Nate and asked him to video my stroke from under water at the end of practice and give me a couple pointers.  I waited around for about 15 minutes, and then it was my turn.

Nate saw things I would have never seen to improve my stroke even more.  He told me I was over rotating in the hips and shoulders.  He told me the hips should only rock back and forth every so slightly like in running (he has found that comparing things to running for me helps me understand better) and that my shoulder rotation should only be about 30 degrees.  This would allow everything from the shoulders down the core and into the hips to act as one and provide a lot more power.

The next swim I completed I had to do on my own because I couldn’t make it to swim practice with the Seahawks due to plans that evening.  I focused on what Nate told me to work on.  Swimming slow at first getting the feel for the change.  Then slowly increasing the effort.  I eventually worked down to what felt like race pace and did several 100’s.  Just a few months ago, I would average about 1:18-1:19/100 meters. Now, with a little tweak in my stroke, I’m holding 1:15/100 meters at the same effort.  Those 3-4 seconds will really add up over the course of a 1.2 or 2.4 mile swim.  Plus with drafting off faster guys in open water, I could probably hold 1:12-1:13.

I’m really looking forward the 2015 season.  This change will definitely make a different.  I think this will be a game changer not only for the swim, but also for the bike.  I will now be able to get out of the water with the faster swimmers and bikers and be able to pace off them.



Work the core in the off season

About a month ago, I started running with Spalding University Cross Country and Track team located in Louisville, KY.  Although running is my strongest of the three disciplines, I thought I should even make it better and run with runners.  However, I realized I needed more than just running with runners.  I needed to hit the gym with runners.


The assistant coach, Bradley not only joins in on the morning runs written by the head coach, Kevin, but he prescribes the strength and conditioning workouts following the runs.  None of them require much more than your body, a medicine ball, and a swiss ball.  However, I’ve noticed my hips being a little sore the day following these routines.  I know that I’ve neglected doing this stuff for a long time and think that maybe this stuff may be the key to bring my running to the next level.

I decided to record the workouts and make them available to you so that you can become a stronger runner/triathlete and prevent injury.  Bare with me as I learn the ins and outs of this video making… hope you enjoy it.


2014 triathlon season in review

My first attempt at a video blog.  Hope you all enjoy it.  Thanks to everyone that had a part to play in this last season… already looking forward to 2015!

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Turn, Turn, Turn – Enve Wheels

Since I first started in triathlons about 10 years ago, I have ridden several different wheelsets for both training and racing.  Wheelsets such as Mavic, Spinergy, Blackwell Design, Zipp, and most recently Enve Composites.  All these wheels were ridden at different points in my progression in the sport from amateur to professional.  And almost every season, I had a different pair than the year before, hoping that I could gain some sort of advantage from the newest model.  Or perhaps, I used a different brand for training and racing.  But, I finally found a wheelset that can handle all my training rides and races:  Enve Wheels.  Anything I could throw at these wheels, they handled tremendously.

While thinking about this, I realized that for every type of riding I did this year (group rides, hilly races, windy races, etc.), Enve wheels kept turning as if nothing bothered them.  Turn, Turn, Turn… over and over again, never wanting to slow down, slicing the air, staying stiff while climbing and cornering, and, probably most importantly, staying true (no wobbling from side to side from a bent rim/spoke).  Over the course of this last season, I put thousands of miles on my wheels.  I hit some pretty nasty things along the way, but the wheels stayed true and never cracked.

I also did a lot of training with some roadies from the Louisville area.  One of them is well known in the region and does really well in races all over the country.  The wheels were super responsive and stiff with the accelerations that roadies do in training and racing.  I managed to hang with the group, and did my fair share of pulling them around the country roads surrounding Louisville, many of which are full of curves, fast descents and fast climbs.

Racing with the 8.9’s, was no different.  The triathlons I did over the course of the year had some that lay at each end of the spectrum of hilly, windy, technical, etc.  The first race I did this year was New Orleans 70.3.  I managed to pull out a PR that day with really windy conditions.  The wheels handled the crosswinds fantastic.  The next race(s) I did was the Triple T in southern Ohio.  These courses are the most technical someone could find for an on-road triathlon.  Several switchbacks, steep climbing, sharp cornering going down hill… my wheels did great all weekend here.  And I managed to be at the top of the fastest bike splits for all of the 4 races over the weekend.  Then, in my last race of the season, IM Louisville, I got another PR on the bike (and a course PR as well).  Louisville is a very unique course… not too technical (maybe a turn or two on the entire course), lots of hills, and a couple steep climbs.  Just a little bit of everything.  The Enve wheels kept turning for those 112-miles and helped set me up fora 4th male pro finish!

I’m not the only one that thinks Enve Wheels are the best out there.  Triathlete Magazine named Enve Wheels the Best in Class for 2014 for wheel choice!

Enve wheels are your wheel of choice for everything out there. Not just this season, or next season.  Not just this ride, or a the group ride.  Every ride… every season… every course.  Unlike the song by the Byrds, Turn Turn Turn… Enve wheels are your choice wheelset for every time!


Rotor Qrings Review

I have been cycling with power since the fall of 2011.  Power meters are a great tool for any cyclist (as long as you or your coach knows how to interpret the numbers and apply them to your training).  It keeps you honest by giving you data to know the difference between feeling like quitting because you feel like your struggling, but instead to keep pushing through it when the numbers are still within the goal  Power meters also let you know when to quit.  If RPE is sky high, but watts and HR is low, then you’re body is depleted and you’re better off bagging the remainder of the workout.

I had been riding with SRAM Quarq power meter from 2011-2013.  My training was revolutionized when I started training and racing with power.  I was able to pace myself better in races (especially 70.3 and 140.6 distances).  However, this year I made the switch to the Rotor Q-rings.  After one ride on with the Q-rings, I was a believer in all their claims they made on their website.  Here is what I’ve noticed in the first few rides on the rings:

1.  20-25 watts higher at the same RPE – During my hard intervals that I’ve done on the trainer, I noticed that my RPE that used to produce about 300-310 watts (slightly over HIM pace) is now about 320-330 watts.  I am confident that I should be able to hold 310 watts now on a HIM race, which is about 20-25 watts higher than last year.  This, according to some on-line calculators, translates into about 4 minutes faster for for a 56 mile ride.  For an IM race, assuming the watts are consistently 20-25 watts higher, that is a little more than 8 minutes faster for 112 miles.

2.  The cranks are more beneficial at higher power outputs – While riding in Z2 and Z3 yesterday, I could see some difference in the amount of power being produced from my level of exertion.  But this morning when I was riding at threshold, I could see a much bigger increase in the power in comparison to the SRAM Quarq I had used the last 2.5 seasons.  It is consistent with their findings on the website.

3.  Although my watts are higher, my recovery time is the same or less – One would think that if the watts are higher, more lactate is produced by the body.  However, Rotor broke that rule.  Studies show that Q-rings help riders produce more power and produce less lactate.

I’m sure that as time goes on, my body will become more adapted to the elliptical chain rings and produce even more power as the season progresses.  And the data on their website agrees with that assumption.

I’m super excited about what this season could hold for me with the improved power on the Argon E-118 bike, the Rotor Cranks, and the Enve wheels.  Couple that with my swim times being about 5 seconds faster per 100 meters than the end of last season (thank you Lakeside Seahawks), and I should finally break that 4 hour mark.

Thanks again to VO2 Multisport for building the bike fore me… couldn’t be happier with it.

Rotor Bikes – Q Rings a Road Cycling video by Rotor


Pure fit – Increase your functional strength

I’ve been going to Pure Fit for just over a year now.   Pure Fit is a boot camp style gym that focuses on building lean muscle, decreasing body fat percentage, and increasing/improving functional strength.  One of the key things they focus on during the classes is doing two or more movements within each exercise to create muscle confusion, increase coordination, and see results faster.  The other thing I like about going to these boot camp sessions is that I never know what I’m going to be doing.  It’s very different all the time.  I don’t need to plan anything… just showing up is the key and doing the work.

Here are some of the things that I’ve noticed since starting to go to Pure Fit in November of 2012:

1.  My swim times starting getting faster.  – I think some of this had to do with increasing my upper body strength.  But I think the majority of it came from improving my core strength.  Swimming is probably about 70% technique and 30% aerobic fitness.  With a stronger core, I’m able to maintain a better body position in the water and get a better “grip” (or catch) on the water and move myself through the water more efficiently.

2.  No more back pain.  –  By the time that heavy Ironman training would roll around every year prior to Pure Fit, my lower back would be really tight from riding in the areobars all the time and frequent running.  This year, none of that happened.  Again, I believe that it was all the functional strength exercises that helped improve my posture and core strength.  I could ride bent over in the areobars much easier, longer, and with no pain afterwards.

3.  No more nagging injuries. – This one coincides a little with the back pain, but I believe that since I started going to Pure Fit, my risk for injury has significantly decreased.  My smaller, accessory muscles are stronger and help with stability.  So when that time comes when I could have rolled my ankle, tripped and fell, or needed a quick reaction on the bike to keep the rubber on the road, I 100% believe that Pure Fit helped with that.


So, many of us are in the off season now and maybe just starting to pick up the aerobic training again.  For those of you in the Louisville area, I would highly recommend getting started in a strength conditioning program to help you achieve the goals for the 2014 season.  I saw dramatic improvement from my 2012 season to the 2013 season.

Pure Fit will also do “challenges” from time to time that you can sign up for.  I believe most of them last for about 8 weeks.  During this challenge they give you a certain metric (say, body fat for example) to measure and compare from the beginning to the end of the workout.  They will take time with you to help you figure out the nutrition aspect of reaching those goals too.

A typical schedule for boot camps are listed here.

Come check out Pure Fit at any of those time time listed in the link.  I can guarantee two things:  It will be tough, but fun.  And, you will see results!



Signs of Over Training

Overtraining is something that we are all guilty of at some point.  I know that it happens to me a couple times a year and I’ve seen it happen to several people while training for their races, especially Iron distance racing.  With the Ironman distance racing just around the corner for several of us I thought this would be a very appropiate thing to blog about.
If you took advantage of the Ironman Louisville deal where you signed up during a certain time frame to recieve a free training plan you may want to take that plan with a grain of salt.  The problem with a group training plan is that it doesn’t take several things into account such as: current fitness level, athletic history, work hours per week, type of work someone does, and countless other things that influence the total load on the body and what the body can handle.  A simple equation may look like this for load of an athlete while training:
Volume + Intensity + life = work load
Different people can handle different volumes of each depending on, but not limited to, the above listed factors.  Someone might be able to handle a max of 18 hours of training at the peak of their Ironman training if the rest of their life allows them to.  For example, when I was working 3 days per week I found that the max I could train per week was around 19-20 hours max and still be able to recover and function in my daily life.  However, now that I’ve cut down to 2 days per week, I can handle about 5 more hours of training per week.  As the stressors in my daily life decreased I am now able to add more volume or intensity to my training, maintaining the total workload as before when I was working three days per week.  As time goes on and my body adjusts the the training load, I may be able to increase it more.  But for now, this is where I’m at.
So, just because you handle 15 hours one week doesn’t mean that 15 hours another week is equal.  If you spend more time at work on your feet than normal, have family obligations or anything else that adds a little extra to your plate, you may find that your body will start becoming over trained.
So what are the signs of over training?  The first few signs are something that you may not even notice, but your friends/family will pick up on right away.  Irritability and lack of motivation are two of the first two things to show up when the body is not recovering from training adequately.  The next thing you may notice is being overly tired and lacking energy just to do the daily activities of life.  I’m not saying that setting the alarm and waking up at 4 am is ever going to feel good,  but you have to know the difference between just waking up early and feeling overly fatigued/over trained.
As you progress into your over training cycle, more signs will start to show up.  If you train with a heart rate monitor you should notice that your precieved effort just doesn’t align with your HR while training.  When someone is training properly, an RPE of 7 or 8 out of 10 should be right around the person’s lactic threshold.  However, when someone is over training, their RPE might be a 7 or 8 and the HR will barely be above Zone 3.  This indicates that the heart is tired.  The heart is a muscle and needs to rest just like our skeletal muscle does every now and then.  If you train with a power meter on the bike, you’ll notice similar things with the RPE being constant, but the HR and wattage output is lower than normal.  If you notice these things and just get can’t the numbers to align like you know they should, consider bagging the workout.
Also, if you check your resting HR in the morning consistently, this will also help in detecting over training before it goes too far.  If someone’s HR in the morning is about 55 BPM on average, but one morning they wake up and its 62 BPM (greater than a 5% change), it could point to overtraining (or maybe the person has some other outside stressor that is raising the HR).  The reason behind this is that the skeletal muscles are demanding more oxygen and nutrients while sleeping, forcing the HR to elevate to meet those needs.
A real life example from my training that incorporates a few of these examples:  Last week I made a trip to Michigan to visit family after working a couple days in a row.  I was up before 6 am every day to get training in before work or by early afternoon so I could have the afternoons free to spend with the family or friends.  I was also up later than normal.  I returned home on Sunday evening.  After getting about 5 hours of sleep, I woke up at 4:30 to go to masters swim practice, and from there went to boot camp.  I spent the rest of the day getting my life organized after getting back from Michigan… running errands, cooking food, laundry, etc.  I squeezed in a run that afternoon trying to run the main set at half marathon for an hour.  I noticed my RPE and HR were not matching up.  I had a hard time getting my HR above the low 160’s and after about 30 minutes I noticed my pace was significantly less than what it should be.  I finished the workout and made sure to eat well afterwards to help with recovery.  The next day I had an easy 7 mile run along with a 3 hour bike scheduled.  My HR was still low for the recovery run, and I was exhuasted afterwards.  I nearly fell asleep stretching after the workout.  I decided to bag the afternoon workout and take a nap… a nice long 4 hour nap.  I was still tired after sleeping that long and got a good nights sleep that evening as well.  Yeah, i missed a workout, but the bike workout wouldn’t have been quality, and only would have deteriorated my body even more.  Today, I feel a 100% better and got back on the training plan.
If someone doesn’t heed the warning signs of over training, it could lead to a much longer recovery, or even injury.  As an athlete and coach, I’m always looking for signs of over training in myself and the clients that I coach.  Every now and then, a coach will push an athlete beyond his/her limit… but a good coach will pick up on the signs of over training from the data that is uploaded to the athlete’s on-line training journal, such as training peaks.

Increasing the Training Load

The last couple weeks have felt a bit different than the last couple years of training.  Which is good after a humbling experience in Panama.

Before going into the Panama, I knew I needed to shake things up after the race and get a new coach.  I didn’t know who to go with, but I had a few people in mind that I wanted to talk to when getting back from my trip.

Before leaving for Panama, I made a detour to Tucson, AZ for an FCA camp.  When a friend of mine asked me to go, I was a little hesitant from a financial perspective since if I don’t work I don’t get paid since going PRN at the hospital.  However, I decided that 2013 was going to be different for me and not be so conservative with money.  I figured that the opportunity that I have now won’t be here forever and I should take advantage of it.  With that thought process, I found myself boarding a plane to Tucson before going to Panama and spent a week out there.

While I was there, I met a coach named Brian Grasky who is a lot like me (a big numbers person, likes using power meters for training, but also laid back).  He also race professionally for a bit before getting injured and was forced into an early retirement from the sport.  I was able to talk to him before leaving for Panama and we worked out the logistics of coaching.

Fast forward to the week I got home from Panama and I found my training load increasing, which is exactly what I wanted and felt I needed.  I went PRN at the hospital to allow me more time to train properly and recover better.  Brian did a fantastic job picking up where I was at training-wise and got me on course for making 2013 a successful season.  My training hours have jumped from mid-teens to low 20’s right now, and I expect them to slowly increase to the mid-20’s eventually.

I have increased my time in the pool to 4 or 5 days per week and also running/cycling about one more day per week as well.  In just three weeks of this, I’ve noticed some improvement.  For example, in masters a couple days ago we had to do a few 200 meters all out and I completed them about 2 seconds faster than I could before leaving for Panama.

The feedback I get from Brian is fantastic as well.  It’s refreshing to have that communication.

Even though it wasn’t the smartest thing to not work for a pay period (no pay check for a month sucks!), I feel that God had a purpose for me to go to FCA Endurance camp for several reasons.  I was able to get to know some friends from Louisville better and spend some time with them outside of organizing local events and training.  I was also blessed by all the friends that I met out there during the week and also was able to meet my new coach and spend time with him before he knew I was looking for a new one.

I looking forward to working with Brian more in the future, and hopefully make one or two trips out to AZ this summer for some training and testing.

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