Tuesday, October 10, 2017

How to structure your off season!

For most athletes they are now entering or about to enter their off season. How an athlete structures the off season will have a direct impact on their success for next season. Here are some tips on how we at E-Endurance approach the off season.

The first step is to set goals for next season. Many athletes, especially ones coming off racing Ironmans, find it difficult to find their motivation to continue to train. It is important to take some time off, but one needs to be careful as two weeks off can become one month, then 2 months, and then 4 and the longer one takes off, the longer it will take to get your fitness back. By having goals it will allow you to map out your training plan and give purpose to your workouts. 

Whatever your goal race, determine how many weeks will be needed for a specific build to that race. It maybe a 12, 16, 20, or 24 week build. Count backwards and determine when the build will start. If its a late season race, you may find the build starts in May or June.

With your build to your goal race figured out, you can now plan the off season. There are many ways this can be approached. If your build does not start till May or June, there maybe a spring race you can peak for. Or perhaps a spring half marathon so can improve your run. Cyclocross is another option. Not only will you improve your biking, but you will also improve upon your bike handling skills. The Illinois Masters swimming state meet is in April every year. Work on improving your time in the 500 and 1650 free and watch how it improves your swim in a triathlon. 

Regardless if you plan to do a spring race or not, its is important to take some time off. Normally we will require athletes to take 2 weeks completely off before moving into a couple weeks of light training with little structure. This allows not only the body to heal, but the mind to rest as well. 

Its a good time to work on getting rid of any nagging injuries or pains. You may need to do physical therapy. Take the time to get completely healthy. Build in strength training. It will be important to build up the body so it will be able to handle the strain you will put on it. 

If you find getting in the pool, biking, or running is a little to much, find something else you like to enjoy. If you like to kayak, get it in while it is still warm enough out. Perhaps you always wanted to snow shoe or do more down hill skiing. Perhaps you were an ice hockey player at one time or a soccer player. Find a hockey or indoor soccer league. It does not matter what you do as long as you stay active. 

Finally, now is a good time to spend time with family and friends. Training can take up a lot of your time. use extra time you currently have to spend it with those who support you.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Training with Illness

Racing season is coming to an end, the leaves are starting to change color, and the temperatures are starting to cool off and that can mean only one thing, flu season and dealing with illness. I recently have had athletes reach out to me and ask what they should do since they have gotten sick. Should they push through, take time off, or reduce what their training load is and continue to workout. They have a big race coming up and do not want to take time off. Here are two points to help you get through being sick.

1.  Don't panic: If you have been consistently training, don't worry, a couple days off will not cause you to loose fitness. Training breaks your body down. If you are sick and you go out and do a hard workout, you may do more harm then good. If you are sick and need time off, take the time off and don't rush yourself back. Be patient and smart. Think of it this way, if you need to take 2 days off to get healthy, but you don't take the time off, it will take you longer to get health. That 2 days may become 4 days. During that time you are doing more damage to your body, risking injury and it will take you longer to get back to normal training. 

2. Be patient: The amount of time that you missed should be, at a minimum, equal to the time that was missed. If you are out for 2 days, then take 2 easier days to get yourself back into training. From there you can see how you are feeling. If it takes an extra day, then take the extra day. Better to be healthy and your body ready before putting heavy demand back on to it. Keeping the first point in mind, would you rather miss 2 days, take 2 days to build back into training, and be back to full training on day 5, or be sick for 4 days with crappy training, risk injury, and then only be back to full training in 8 days. Training is all about optimizing your recovery so you can push your body again as soon as possible. If you get sick you need to do the same.  

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Preparation and planning for race day.

Preparation and planning for race day.
By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.
-          Benjamin Franklin.

I remember hearing a story of a stage actress (sorry, her name slips my mind) who, before every show would go on stage and run through every line, every movement, and hit every mark before the show started. Without fail, she did this every show, even if the show ran for several months. One would think that after so many shows, she would stop this routine. But there she was, every night before the curtain raised, going through every line on stage.
        This really stuck with me when I heard it. It was her dedication to her craft and the seriousness that she took her job. Her excellence may have been seen as talent, something she was born with, but what no one saw were the hours of work she put in.
What would a theater production and stage actress have to do with a triathlon or any race for that matter? Great ideas, focus, determination, and preparation are important in everything we do if we want to achieve success. 
                It is coming to the end of the season. Everyone’s “A’ races are just around the corner, whether it is your first race, a local 5k, World Championships, Wisconsin, Kona, Arizona, or any number of other races. What I have come across recently are many athletes who have put in a lot of training, but outside of nutrition, heart rate, or power data, they have no real race plan. They know little about the course. They know what they will have for breakfast, which is good, but only know if it is a flat bike or hilly run, etc.  When you go into a race, leave as little to chance as possible. Here are some areas to think about when coming up with a race plan.
1.       Know your course. When I did Ironman Wisconsin, I knew the bike route like the back of my hand. I rode it with friends many times before and I went up to ride the loop several times before I raced it. Every time I rode the course, I planned out my race. I knew when the roads were fast, I knew when they were slow. Everything was planned out, from how to take a corner so it was fast to the large rollers- carry speed down and use momentum to carry myself over the top as to not use too much energy climbing. I never rode the entire route out and back, but I did drive it.  A big mistake I made when training for Wisconsin was never looking at Observatory hill. It would have been easy for me to bike most of the run course on one of many trips up there and that little extra riding would have helped on race day. Every Olympic I have raced, I drive the course a day or two out. At one pre race dinner I was telling other Pro’s about the bike course and warned about a dangerous turn. Sure enough on race day a very famous triathlete was being loaded into an ambulance on that same corner (he was not in our discussion). I don’t know if he ever drove the course, but I knew a hard turn there would end in a possible accident.  Riding the run course is part of my day before race prep. Knowing where the turnaround is on an out and back can be a huge mental advantage. Knowing of any hills, exposed areas to the sun with no shade can help prepare for the run. You may not be able to see the entire course, but there are maps out there. Study them. Look at elevations and where on the maps any climbs are. You may not be good at reading elevation maps, but will have a better idea of what to expect.
2.       Segment the course: I tell all my athletes to segment the course. Break it down into parts. This makes it a lot easier on race day from a mental approach. 112 miles can sound daunting. If you break it into 4 x 28 miles stretches, it does not sound as bad. Wisconsin is an easy course to segment on the bike. There is the ride out, and then each loop, and finally the ride back in. If you focus on each section then the parts are easier to handle then the whole. Break your swim up by buoys and turns. The bike and run can be done by aid stations and out and backs. The longer the race, the more important it is. During Hell Week for Navy Seal Training, where the candidates get very little sleep, they are told, just make it to each meal. Breakfast, lunch, dinner. When it gets difficult, if you focus on each individual segment, it becomes a lot easier to stay motivated and keep moving through each section..  
3.       Train to your race strategy: Once you have a race strategy and know your course, train to it. If there is a bike course that has a lot of turns (ITU World Champs in Chicago for example), work on your cornering and pickups out of those corners. If you go into a race without working on small spikes in power for a race with a lot of corners (you spike in power as you get back up to speed), then when the run comes, your legs are going to feel flat. If there are hills, do some practice on hills or simulate hills in some way. What is the history of the swim venue? Is it usually choppy, flat like glass? Make sure to prepare yourself at least mentally for the conditions you will race in.

4.       Practice every situation: What are you going to do if you get a flat during your race? Have you practiced changing a flat so you are quick and efficient and there is not panic? Prepared if it is a non wet suit swim? Do you know what to do if you throw your chain? Preparing for as many situations as possible will not only make correcting the situation faster, but will also keep you calm.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Life and Training

              How does one train with a full time job and a family? It’s a question I get from my family and friends and as new father I find myself asking this question. You would like to race and compete, but you also do not want to take away time from your family. Anytime you are training or away from your family, you may feel guilty since it’s time you can be spending with them. When I think of this I keep coming to 3 key areas for you to consider. What is it you value, how much time do you have, and what are you willing to sacrifice?
                What is it you value? Before taking on a goal, I would suggest looking at your life and consider what it is you value and make a list. Put everything in order. This list will mostly likely include your family, your relationship with friends and extended family, and living a healthy life so you can see your children have their own children one day. It can even include that 6 am morning coffee before your family wakes up as that is your quiet time to think, reflect, and helps you keep your sanity. Everything should be written down. Think of what you do in a given week. Do you stay up late waiting for Jimmy Fallon to come on? How much do you value this? Fantasy football, poker night with the buddies? What makes up your week, months, and year?
                How much time do you have? Take a look at your week and month and think of when you have time to workout and train. Evaluate how much time there is day to day. Make sure you are honest with yourself and a week you can do 95% of the year without making major changes. What days do you have the least amount of time, what days would you have the most amount of time. If you look at your week, you may find that you can get in 2 hours per week, or perhaps it’s 10 or more. Maybe it’s more, maybe it’s less. This will be important on what race or goal you under take. If you have 2 hours to commit you can do a 5k, 10K, swim meet, etc. If you only have 2 hours a week I would not suggest trying to take on an ironman.
                What are you willing to sacrifice? Whenever we take something on, whether it’s a new job, training program, having a family, there will be something that you give up. You may find that in your current week you have little time to workout or enough time to accomplish your goals. That means something will have to be given up. You won’t want to give up what you value the most, but you may be willing to give up those poker nights, the late night Friday and/or Saturday dinner plans. The late night T.V. or changing your weekend sleep by going to bed early and getting up early. If you find that you still don’t have the time to accomplish your goals, you may want to reevaluate them. If you want to do an ironman, but your children are still young, you may want to wait a couple of years until they are more independent and focus on sprints since they don’t take as much time.
                The final step is to be creative and try to look at your week differently. If your child goes to bed at 8 pm, can you go to bed at the same time so you can workout early in the morning. Can you squeeze in 30 to 60 min of exercise over your lunch period by coming in a little earlier and leaving a little later? Is it possible to run or bike to work to mix your commute with your training? Do you find that traffic is so bad after work that if you leave 30 minutes later you will get home at the same time because traffic has cleared up? That is 30 minutes that you may be able to run or swim at a local pool and you are not losing any time in your day. Are your children old enough to bike? Have them bike with you as you run and ask them about their day. This allows you to spend time with them and running at a conversational pace will help you on those easy days. Do you drop your kids off at practice and you find yourself chatting with other parents the entire time? Can you use that time to get in a short workout?
                  Three are many ways to find time to train if you put your mind to it. Sometimes you may have to be realistic and put off a goal for a couple of years. However, if you always find reasons not to pursue a goal (to busy, its raining out, to cold, to hot, next year, etc.) versus finding reasons to achieve your goals, you will find your opportunity has passed.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

To Kick or not to kick. That is the question.

One debate I seem to come across often in regards to triathlon training for the swim is whether triathletes should kick or not. I feel each triathlete will find better overall results if they learn an efficient kick.

Triathletes as a general observation seem to hate to kick (many swimmers do as well). The main reason I hear is because triathletes want to save their legs for the bike and run. By not kicking you are actually not saving your legs more for the bike and run as much as you may think and are hurting your over all performance. Lets explore why.

Creating lift: The kick itself does not normally create enough propulsion to make a swimmer faster, so why kick? What it does do is create lift in the legs, as a result, the swimmer is now swimming higher in the water which creates less drag making the swimmer faster while using less over all energy. If I told you you can get from point A to point B faster while using less energy, wouldn't you find that a benefit. I know some are thinking, "most races are wet suit legal, so the wet suit creates all the lift I need." This brings me to my next point.

Rotation: It is common knowledge that a swimmer who rotates will swim faster by generating more power by using their core to swim and not just their arms and legs. By kicking, this helps the rotation. Almost all athletes use their core to generate power in their respective sports. A pitcher in baseball and a quarterback in football are the best examples when compared to swimming. To help generate power they need an anchoring point. A pitcher uses the mound as leverage, the quarterback uses the ground. If they are lifted off the ground, their power is greatly diminished as they no longer have the anchor. When watching a football game, the announcers may say that the quarterback did not set their feet and as a result did not have a good throw. The quarterback was not able to generate their normal power as a result of not having a good anchor.

The kick for a swimmer acts the same way, it creates an anchor to help the swimmer rotate their body and generate more power from the core. Next time you are in the pool, tie your feet together and swim a length of the pool and have someone video tape you (they are also their to make sure you are safe as you have just tied your feet together). You will probably find that it is harder for you to swim, to rotate your core. Also observe the lower part of your body in the video. As you are not able to engage your core as much your legs as a result are fish tailing behind you. This extra side to side movement is creating additional drag and slowing you down. By not kicking you are using more energy while creating additional drag to slow you down and in turn it is taking you longer to get from point A to point B while using more energy.

Saving the legs: An efficient kick will not tax your legs so much that you will have less of a bike or run. If you are over kicking, yes, you will be more fatigued. Kicking efficiently will not create the muscle fatigue that some triathletes are worried about. If you are over kicking, it will tax your cardiovascular system to the point that it will negatively effect your race. So how do you know? A good way is to have a coach watch you and give you feed back. If you are on your own, your kick should not feel like you have to put extra effort on it. For a triathlete work on keeping a steady beat/rhythm.

What the Pro's do: If none of this convinces you, then there may be nothing I can say that will. But since there are many articles that have the head line, "What the Pro's do" then I will use it as well. Find me one top level triathlete that does not kick. They all utilize their kick, they just don't over kick.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Fitting Training into Life

  When talking with athletes about training for an event, whether its completing their first 5K race or doing an Ironman, a major concern is how will it effect their life. They do not want to have to put so much time and effort into something that they miss out on other aspects of their life, mainly their friends and family.
  The first and most important thing I tell them is to consider how much time it will take to train for their race. Many times someone who has a goal of running a 5K feels they do not have the time, with family, work, etc, to train. Their reference many times is a friend who races marathons (not 5K's) all the time and how much time they train. Or they hear how much a college athlete trains and tells themselves there is no way they can dedicate that much time to training. If your goal is to complete your first 5K, you don't have to commit the same amount of time. 
   If your goal is to do an Ironman, that will take a much larger time commitment and will take a lot of time away from your family and friends. You will have to evaluate if you are willing to commit this time. I encourage everyone to live an active life, but not at the expense of your happiness or your families.
   To fit your training into your everyday life does not mean that you have to separate them. Encourage your significant other or friends to workout with you or do the same race. It will give you an opportunity to spend time with them. If you have children, get a running stroller. If they are older, have them go for a bike ride while you jog. You could do a 30 minute run while they bike at a pace you can chat with them (you can even do this with your significant other if they are willing to bike while you run). It will be a good pace for you to build some miles and spend time with your children. At the same time they get some exercise in as well. Get up early on a Saturday or a Sunday, get a workout in and then come home and make pancakes (or whatever your favorite breakfast is) for you and your kids. You will enjoy the breakfast and time with your family. 
   It is possible to fit training into your everyday life. Evaluate your goals and your time, but be honest with yourself. For the amount of time you can devote to training each week should not be any more then what you can do for 48-50 of the 52 weeks out of the year without having to make major sacrifices or changes to your life. When you train, to get the time in, be creative. Maybe there is a way you can train and spend time with your friends and family. 

Swimming Tips

I have recently been receiving a lot of questions on training for triathlons and the number one concern for most triathletes is, “how do I improve my swim to reach my goals.” To evaluate this, one first needs to be clear on their goals. If you do not have clear defined goals, then it will be difficult to structure your workouts to obtain them and you may end up swimming endless yards without a clear purpose. Always be aware, goals will vary from athlete to athlete. An athlete who is trying to complete their first triathlon and has little to no swimming experience will have different workouts than an athlete who is trying to improve their swim to move up in their age-group. So never compare what you are doing in your training with what someone else is doing as your goals and workouts will vary.  Since most triathletes with a swimming background normally do not ask this question, this entry will focus on two types of athletes. The first athlete is someone who has little to no swimming experience and is trying to complete their first triathlon and the other is the athlete who has done triathlons and is looking to improve their swim and want to move up in the placing of their age-group or trying to improve their personal record (PR).
                My first tip for anyone is to get in the water now. If you put the time in early on, then you will have greater success in your training and you can focus more on your endurance and speed later in the season instead of just getting into shape or attempting a quick build up at the end of the season to reach your goals. Waiting for a couple weeks or months before your event will only leave you scrambling to get to the level you need to reach to achieve your goals, but is also setting yourself up for failure. Always plan for success, do not set yourself up for failure. You will feel better about your training and have more confidence going into your race.
                Whether you are a first time triathlete trying to improve your swim to complete a race or you have done several triathlons and are just trying to improve your PR, try to find a masters swim team to swim with. A masters swim team is similar to an age-group team, but for adults. In a masters team you will find similar athletes with similar goals. They can assist you in your training and give tips on how to train, along with helping you with your technique. A couple things to look for when looking for a masters swim team. First, look for a team that has a good reputation (you can ask a fellow triathlete or swimmer friend) and has a coach on deck. Some are athlete run and the duties of writing the practices will rotate through the certain team members and will be in the water training, so you may not receive the attention and consistent progression you are looking for. When looking at the masters program, make sure they have a lane for your ability level (beginner, intermediate, etc) that will teach you to swim and will help you meet your needs. Check with the team for private lessons or group lessons that you can take or if they have a suggestion of a local organization that can help. These can be great options as good lessons will be based off the progress of the group or the individual and not just following a plan that is one size fits all. In these settings you will receive more individual attention which will improve your learning curve.  If you are taking group or individual lessons, don’t rely solely on the lessons to get better as many times you may only take a class once a week. If you only swim once a week, you will not improve at a rate that will meet your needs. In addition, lessons are designed with a strong focus on technique and will make you a good technical swimmer for a short distance such as a 25 or a 50, but the lessons alone will not build you up to the distance or fitness level you will need for your race. Get out and practice what you have learned in the lessons either on your own or in a combination with a masters program. They only way to get better is by putting in the time. Ask the coach or instructor teaching the lessons for “homework,” practices you can do on your own outside of the lessons.
                If you don’t have the option for a masters swim team, there are couple simple of tips on how to structure your workout that can help. First, always start with a warm up. The warm up will be different for everyone. An example is, if you are an Olympic distance swimmer, you may warm up 2000-3000 yards before you really get started on your workout. For a beginner, that can more be an entire workout.  So don’t base your warm up off of what someone else does. It is up to your ability. It may be as short as doing 100-300 yards for the initial warm up and that is fine.
                Next I would get in a drill set or a secondary warm up. If you are doing more of a recovery day, this can be a longer set or even the main set. If the drill set takes up a larger portion of the practice, then the initial warm up can be shortened as the drills will accomplish the same as the initial warm up. If you are a beginner swimmer, you can start off with the drilling as the main warm up, doing sets of 25’s, 50’s or 100’s to reinforce good technique. As part of the drill set/secondary warm up mix in some build ups or faster swimming to get the body ready for the main set. These are very similar to doing strides when running. When doing the build ups or faster swimming, don’t swim any faster than what you can do to maintain good technique. Don’t swim sloppy, have bad technique, and become short and choppy.  Focus on your technique but don’t try to be so perfect when swimming fast that you are focusing on every little placement and pull of the hand that you are not swimming any faster than you would in warm ups. One tip I always tell swimmers to focus on is big fast strokes and to try and swim taller than then are. Example would be if you are 5’ 10”, try to swim like you are 6’4.”
                Next have a main set, your main focus of the day, the number one objective you are trying to achieve in the workout. No matter what you are doing I would encourage you to have a focus for every workout, even if it is longer swimming so it becomes more than just garbage yardage. This will give you something to focus on while you swim, which will help keep you motivated and make the practice seem like it goes a little faster. This could be something as simple as focusing on a high elbow catch on your pull or making sure you breathe to your week side by breathing every 3 or on every other length. If your goal for the main set is to build up to a certain distance so that you can complete the swim portion of your race, you can break that distance up and take short breaks and over time swim longer and longer. If you are trying to complete the distance, build up to longer than the distance you are going to be swimming. A pool has many walls, but open water does not. Even if you are quick off your walls you are still getting a short break after each length. If your swim is a 400 meter swim and you swim in a 25 yard pool, I would suggest trying to build up to a 600-800 yard swim. This will not only get you used to swimming the distance, but it will build your confidence for the swim as you have completed a distance farther than you will be racing. Being able to swim farther than the distance you will race will be good practice as well so when you do race, you will have more energy to bike and run.  If you are trying to improve your swim time to move up in your age group or achieve a new PR, many of the sets can be built around increasing your speed. Doing repeats of 100’s or 200’s faster than your race pace can be beneficial. Doing longer sets of 400’s or 500’s at race pace can help get a feel for your desired speed. But remember, when swimming in a pool the walls will make you faster, so you will want to be a couple seconds faster per 100 then your open water goal pace. Example is, if you are a 1:30 per 100 open water swimmer, your pool pace maybe around 1:28 per 100 for race pace. One tip I encourage everyone to remember is to be patient with your progression and enjoy the process. What I mean by this is, if you are a 1:30 per 100 swimmer and you want to be a 1:10 per 100, don’t write and do your workouts as a 1:10 swimmer. You may see some early results, but in the end, you are trying to swim way past your current abilities and this will only leave you feeling frustrated, tired, and broken down by the time you reach your main race and when you don’t got your goal time in the swim, you will feel as if your race was a disappointment. Set your times in practice to where you are at now. You will see progress in your swimming, you will feel better about your swimming, have more motivation and most likely you will extend your triathlon career by avoiding burn out.
                After the mains set, you may want to add an additional drill set. This can be good to do as you will be reinforcing good technique while you are tired. I will sometimes have swimmers do a set of 50’s working on Distance Per Stroke (DPS), counting the number of strokes per 50 they do and trying to reduce that number on ever 50 as they progress through the set. Again, working on good technique and efficiency while being tired so that when they are racing or getting tired in practice, they will rely on the good technique instead of letting their stroke become sloppy.
                Always finish will a cool down. This will help you feel better for your next workout. If you have a shorter workout where you are working more on sprints, make sure you do a longer cool down. Many times a sprint workout requires a longer cool down then a distance workout does. It does not have to be a longer swim, you can break it down into 25’s with 10-20 seconds rest between each one, this allows you to enjoy the cool down and feeling good about the workout you just completed and you may be more inclined to complete the cool down then if you were doing a straight swim.
                As I mentioned earlier, enjoy the progress and be patient. I feel it is a good thing to try and push yourself and to test your limits, occasionally doing a workout you are not sure if you can do, but understand you cannot do this in every workout. You may see quick results, but by the end of the season you will find yourself frustrated, tired, and wanting to quit the sport. Swimming tends to be the hardest discipline to pick up of all three, but through hard work, focus, patients, and smart training, you can achieve your goals.