Thursday, October 30, 2008

Yoga For Triathletes - Pose Of The Week - Vajrasana

This week we are gonna show the cyclists out there some "Yoga Love" and focus on a pose that is primarily just for them. Though it isn't a bad pose for swimmers or runners either. For runners this is an excellent quad stretch, but is also a good compression for the achilles tendon providing and a good counter for the lower legs. For swimmers, the pose promotes ankle flexibilty. Personally I've found it good for developing a stronger kick.

But I've found Thunderbolt brings the most noticeable relief when I've come in from a long, hard bike ride. This pose is just so good for tired, overworked cycling legs. This is the reason Thunderbolt Pose, or Vajrasana, is one of my all time favorite poses ever. Mostly because it is easy, can be done almost anywhere, and provides instant verifiable relief for tired quads.

To get into the pose all you need to do is sit on your heels with the tops of your feet pressing into the floor. You want your knees to touch so that your legs are straight out in front of you lined up with your hips. In Yoga your hips are a key alignment point, and seated poses like Thunderbolt are no exception. You want your shoulders lined up with your hips to insure an upright posture. You can rest your hands on the tops of your thighs or on your knees. This can also help you position your torso properly. Once you have a sense of being centered, you can lean back a little and rest your hands on the floor slightly behind you to deepen the stretch. If you find your knees begin to lift off the ground position your torso more toward being upright. Your knees should always remain straight in front of you and in contact with the floor.

I also like to lean forward in this pose with my hands on the floor in front of me and gently rock my body from side to side on my shins. I find this also is very relaxing. I will point out, like most seated poses Vajrasana can be very intense for those who have sensitive knees and inflexible ankles. If you find this is an issue for you, you may want to try folding a blanket and placing it behind your knees so that you rest on that versus your heels. Here is a short video of the pose.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yoga For Triathletes - Pose Of The Week - Ardha Chandrasana

This week I've been thinking about the moon. Not the one circling around the planet, but the one I struggle with in Yoga classes. Ardha Chandrasana, or Half Moon, is one of the most challenging, yet satisfying, poses I can think of. It requires a mixture of flexibility, balance, strength, and probably more than just a little courage to pull off properly. One of the reasons I'm fond of this pose is because it was one that I had a lot of early success with when I started taking Yoga classes. I think this is because as a cyclist and a runner, it is one of the few poses where leg strength and endurance is a plus.

Why do I feel this is a worthwhile pose for endurance athletes? Personally, I think this is a "must" pose for anyone who runs a lot. While Half Moon is an excellent pose for creating length and muscular integration of the whole body, it is also a great foot and lower leg strengthener. Because of the nature of balancing on a single foot, the muscles in the foot and around the ankles are constantly active getting an intense workout in just a few moments. From my own practice, I've come to believe this pose goes a long way toward building strong durable feet and lower legs which can help to prevent injuries such as Shin Splints, Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonosis.

So how do we come into Half Moon? There are actually several different ways to do this but to me the easiest way to get into the pose is to start from a lunge (right foot forward with the foot in between the hands). From the lunge you will come up onto your fingertips and straighten the right leg which causes the left leg to naturally lift from the floor. At this point the left leg is extending straight back behind you with the toes pointing down toward the floor.

Leaving your left hand in contact with the floor move your right hand to a point on the floor just beneath your right shoulder. Your gaze can remain on the floor. Take your left hand off the floor and place it on your left hip. Now without taking your eyes off the floor or your left hand off of your hip, rotate your left hip up toward the ceiling. This should also rotate your left toes to the point where they are now at a 90 degree angle with the right leg (they are pointing out away from the mid-line of your body).

Now you're are essentially in Half Moon. Once you have your balance, you can add more challenge to the pose by taking the left arm from the hip and extending it straight up toward the ceiling. Perhaps if you feel stable here, you can try to lift your gaze from the floor to the ceiling following the left arm. Finally, with your gaze back on the floor, you can bring your right hand from the floor to your ankle to incorporate additional balance into the pose. Remember to only rotate your head at the neck so that your left hip remains pointed up toward the ceiling allowing you to keep both your balance and the integrity of the pose. You will want to stay in the pose for at least 10 breaths. After that you can try this again on the other leg.

If you are finding balance is an issue one thing that is possible is to practice the pose with the extended (in this case left foot) against a wall for additional support.

You can find a picture of the pose and additional guidance here.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Bike Review 2008 Moots Compact

Maybe you remember back in the day when Victor Kiam was all over the networks hawking Remington shavers with the slogan, "I liked it so much, I bought the company." Or maybe not. Well anyway take this as my full disclosure. I liked the Moots Compact so much I bought the bike. Over the course of my years as a cyclist and a triathlete, I've ridden a lot of bikes. Typically, with any bike purchase, I've ridden at least 6 bikes on route to a decision. And thanks to this blog, I've ridden a lot more bikes just to offer some perspective to someone else who might also be in the market for a new bike. So I've been on all types of frames from aluminum, to steel, to carbon fiber, to titanium. Personally, I like titanium's feel and durability the best. Especially given my heavy use of an indoor trainer in my workouts.

There is just no other way to say it. This was the hands down best bike I've ever ridden. Period. You know there are so many things that go into a good ride. And there are a lot of bikes out there that can provide that feeling. But what I experienced on this bike made me rethink some of the perceptions I had about every bike I'd been on before this. This bike was beyond good. In fact it was so far beyond good as to make "good" seem completely unacceptable.

The most noticeable thing right off the bat was the sense of ease I had pedalling. On most bikes I've tested or ridden, there is a distinct increase in effort when moving into the bigger gears. On the Moots, the increase is so slight as to be almost non-existent. (Hmmmm... Bigger gear, more speed, almost no effort??? Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner!!! DING!!!!)

But it was more than speed, or the ability to move bigger gears with ease, or feeling as though the 15 mph headwind I was riding into that day was a joke. No, it was way more than that. During my standard tests the bike outperformed every road or Tri bike I've ever been on. With nothing more than a carbon fork, the Moots' ride is very, very plush without being squishy. In fact the ride feels both solid and swift without beating you up. The Moots hangs tight in the corners with a steady confidence that almost reminds me of riding on rails. The acceleration out the back side is immediate and sure. Climbs are can be taken on with such confidence that all but the most mountainous terrain seems flat. Wow. Wow! Wow!!! Don't believe me check this out.

"...The titanium is timeless. It's bomb-proof. It's quiet, comfortable, fast, understated, won't rust, won't corrode, it's light. It's a bike that is completely unfazed by hype and glam because it is plainly and simply an amazing bicycle...."

If you are interested you can find the whole review here. Check out the other bikes these guys sell day by day and then you'll understand why I'm raving about the Moots. Moots offers both stock frame and custom options. And they also offer Ti stems and seat posts and a host of other Ti accessories such as spacers to give your bike a unique finishing touch. Last year when I was looking for a Tri bike, I was told they would make one if requested. I'll have to check on that option now. Looking over the Moots website I do not show a link for them. Bummer. I bet that would be one epic Tri bike. At any rate, I'll update this post after I've contacted Moots about the Tri frame. If they don't still make them, that would be a shame. But all I can say is if you are in the market for a quality, higher end road bike, you owe it to yourself to consider Moots.

Monday, October 6, 2008

After a Week of Tracking Calories...

I only have one thing to say. OK. That first sentence is a lie. But if I could keep my comments about tracking calories down to a single item, I'd probably say I should have done this a long time ago. I know I should have done it while I was doing P90X last winter (so if you are going to be trying P90X, take the time, calculate the calories, and watch the new you emerge). And I certainly should have done it when I was transitioning from racing to off season training. Jeez. The funny thing of it was, I had an inkling the off season weight gain was the result of my appetite and my training being out of sync. Basically my food intake was still at summer/racing levels, but my activity had gone into recovery/off season mode. The big thing that I find so amazing is just how little food 2000 or even 2500 calories actually amounts to. With that information alone, I'm able to better assess portion sizes and make better judgements on how much food is needed to fuel my body appropriately without excess.

I'm not really sure why I never looked at the discrepancy between how much I was eating and how much I actually needed to eat more closely. Perhaps it was no big deal a few years ago to shed 8 pounds in a month and start racing. Now of course losing that last 8 pounds has been like pulling teeth. And since I've already eliminated most culprits for stubborn and unwanted weight like HFC's (high fructose corn syrup), junk food of all persuasions (chips, cookies, desserts, ect.), and any and all processed foods from my diet, there actually wasn't much else I could do other than quit my job and work out more.

After a week of limiting my caloric intake, one thing is blatantly obvious. I was just eating way too much food. Based on my estimates from what I'm eating now and my current activity level, I'm eating about half of what I was eating before on some days. Granted there is about a 500 calorie deficit in the equation for losing a pound a week for 8 weeks. But as near as I can figure based on the size and frequency of meals I was eating prior to this, I had to be consuming between 3000 and 4000 calories a day. That's great if triathlon is your day job and you work out over 20 hours a week. But not if you aren't. The net result of this has been I'm simply amazed at how little food 2000 calories is. I'm not starving mind you. But this has really opened my eyes to how much food is necessary versus how much I was habitually eating.

Fortunately, it wasn't always this way for me. I'm also feeling 2000 calories was probably about what I was eating per day when I was younger. This all changed with the advent of a live-in girlfriend. When she left unfortunately my eating habits didn't go with her. Oh well. Live and learn. Hopefully, none of you will have to learn this lesson the way I did. I definitely chose the "hard" way on this one.

Oh, in case you were wondering what 2000 calories looks like, here is a day from last week. Another thing this has brought to my attention is the invisible "liquid" calories I was consuming.

Lemonade 8oz 110
Super Protein Juice 45
mushrooms 100
4 baby carrots 16
3 strawberrries 6
½ banana 50
pineapple 15
hemp protien 30
green food 20
Super Protein 6oz 95
Super Food 2oz 42
Greens Bar 12:30pm 250
Lemonade 8oz 110
½ veggieburger 8:30pm 170
½ fries 200
Lemon/Chive Drsg 1tsp 25
Switch Soda 140
Grapefruit 10:00pm 62
Smoothie 11:30pm 394

Total Calories: 1880