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.