Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Nothing Like Starting Out With A Clean Slate

So here I am at the beginning of my training again. And dare I say, hopefully a more committed schedule of everything from writing in this blog, to my strength and yoga work, as well as a more focused nutrition strategy. This winter after IMAZ, I decided I wanted to deal with making my body as healthy as possible prior to getting back into months of serious training. To that end I decided to do a couple of cleanses.

I'm no stranger to clearing things out. For the past couple of years I've done at least one liver/gallbladder flush and at least one kidney cleanse. But this time I'm also going to work on clearing out my intestines and then progressing on to the other two cleanses. The reason for this is simple. If I can clear out all of the crap in my system that these organs deal with then they will function better and I will be a healthier human being. From the perspective of this blog, what this means to me as a triathlete, by clearing out and improving the function of these bodily systems, my body will be able to handle the by products of training (read waste products).

We start with the digestive system because this is where it all begins. If your digestion is less than optimal, then everything goes south from there. For starters it is estimated that as much as 60% of your immune function resides in your gut function, and as endurance athletes we all know what that means. If your digestion is less than optimal, then your immune system function suffers. This means the potential for infection or allergy is heightened and the potential for unscheduled downtime is greater.

The other thing is if the digestion is affected and sub par then the liver and kidneys have to work harder to do their jobs. So once the digestion is supported then I'll turn my attention to the other two organs. So while this is going on my workouts are quite gentle, but frequent. Today there were two runs and two swims. The first was 30-35 min The second one was 15 min on the treadmill. The first swim was with T3 and about 90 min. The second one was 30 min of drills.

Friday, December 24, 2010

IMAZ Race Report And Looking Forward

I'm not really sure what to say about this race. The picture above is pretty representative of my day. I'm not in the picture, but I know how these folks felt. I spent my whole day wondering where the heck I was and what I was doing there. I suppose my finish time of 15:01 could be a source of disappointment. I was shooting for something in the range of 12:30 - 13:30 based on my estimated level of fitness going into the race. But this is triathlon and things happen. And a race is so much more than the sum distance of each of its events. And that is what keeps us going back for more. At least that is what keeps me going back anyway.

What I think I'll take away from this race is the fact that I overcame a whole new level of negative thinking plaguing me throughout the day. I've been doing tri's, running and cycling events for a long time and I don't think I've ever experienced anywhere near the volume and duration of negative thinking going on in my head as I moved through IMAZ.

It started with the swim. I was prepared for the cold water. The water is always cold in IMAZ. What I was not prepared for was not being able to sight or rely on swimmers who could sight in order to move around the course. I'm not lying when I say I only saw about 4 buoy's on the entire course and that I resigned myself pretty early on to just swim from bridge to bridge and back again in my own personal approximation of 2.4 miles.

But I made it out of the water about 12 minutes slower than last year. Seeing that probably started the negative thinking but there were some positive take aways:

1. Less overall fatigue coming out of the water
2. No hamstrings destroyed from swimming with massive cramping like last year
3. I felt stronger in the water and felt like I was moving further per stroke (next year we will focus on swimming in a straight line)

Out on the bike were where my inner demons really began to take hold. It was windy. Really, really windy. And it was cold. And even though I'd just used the bathroom my bladder was full. Again. So aside from the wind, I would need to stop about ever 15 to 20 minutes or so to empty it for the entire first loop of the bike. And when I wasn't going to the bathroom, there was always the wind.

At the end of the first loop, my bladder calmed down and I put in a solid bit of riding, I was catching and passing everyone that I'd been losing time to during the first loop and this was fun. I wasn't tired and even though I wasn't enjoying the wind I didn't seem to be slowing me down too much. Then the water bottle cages behind my seat fell off. This had 2/3 of my nutrition so I went back to pick it up and search for the pieces to put it back together. I found them and rode holding everything to the next aid station where I got a set of hex wrenches from one of the volunteers and put the cages back together.

Somewhere at the beginning of my third loop, I put the seat cages came apart again from a different bolt. This time I was not near an aid station and had to ride for a few miles before I spotted a couple of cyclists watching the race and asked them for the necessary tools, which thankfully they had but it was slow going putting the mount back together this time because some parts were bent. But I was able to rig everything together and get going once again.

Because my nutrition was good and in the right amounts I was feeling stronger and stronger on the ride and I was actually picking up the pace even though at times I was riding through rain, hail and even at one point, a sandstorm. Then at mile 104, I had a flat. Somewhere with all of the trouble with my bottle cages I'd lost my spare and tools so I had to wait for a repair vehicle to assist me. After they changed the tire we were unable to inflate it because I no longer had a valve extender. So I sat for what seemed like for ever until a guy with the exact same wheel set as mine came along and loaned us his.

Tire inflated, I road the last 8 miles into transition and seriously considered quitting. Physically I was fine but psychologically I was spent and frustrated. My time goal was now completely out of reach. I wanted to hand my chip and number to the nearest volunteer and go bath and go to bed. As I sat in the changing tent, for some reason I remembered that my grandfather had never seen me race. For some reason this got me moving with the thought of "Lets just see how this goes..."

One the run I made sure to stay aerobic and take in nutrition and hydrate. I also followed my overall plan of not having any water during the day and drinking only electrolyte drinks. I didn't break any land speed records but I was able to run most of the marathon except for a few time where I had a bit of IT band pain or got some coke. The IT band pain really didn't start up until about mile 25 so at that point I walked a bit to loosen the leg then jogged the last 300 meters or so across the finish. Technically without the mechanicals, I would have finished in range of my goal time but given the day I was having, I'm surprised I kept racing at all. I have lots build on for next season. And I now know that I'm pretty mentally tough. Plus my nutrition was perfect both in execution and nutritional make up. I was never hungry the whole day and I didn't cramp at all. That alone was worth finding out.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Longish Day

Today was a big day. I wish I could have done more but there are limits when balancing recovery and continued training. My day went like this 2 hours running. 1 hour of power intervals on the bike. 1.25 hours swimming. This and lots of food and hydration. Tomorrow is an easy 3 hour bike ride before work but now its time to call it a day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Longhorn70.3 Race Report

I'm not sure why I like this picture a friend took of me at Longhorn, but I do. Perhaps because it represents how I felt during the race, clear on my reasons for being there, but just a bit out of focus.

I had quite a bit go right last weekend but I also had some things go wrong. First and foremost what went really right. I really want to thank Chef Dina Knight for assisting me with my race prep, nutrition and post race recovery. For a race where I ate nothing but raw natural food and drank absolutely no water, I must say I'm stunned. When Dina said, "Remember, NO WATER today!" To say I was skeptical would be an understatement. But her reasoning was sound. Water, she said, would throw off the nutrient electrolyte balance in my system and hinder performance. Okay, I was sold. Nothing to do but go out and test that theory in the field during a Half IM. I have to admit, I think it worked.

This was the first race I can remember not having to deal with at least the "threat" of a muscle cramp. I was also not thirsty all day. This isn't to say I didn't drink. On the bike I had coconut water. On the run when I ran out of that, I had gatorade.

My swim felt effortless and I came out of the water about 30 seconds ahead of what I'd done last year. My transition was also faster which I chalked up to being less taxed on the swim. I've been going to a stroke clinic so I'm gonna place the credit for the effortless swim there. Thanks Coach Maurice over at T3!

Heading out of T1 I noticed my I'd dropped my chain. I'm not sure how long I took getting it back on but that and a bathroom break at about mile 20 were the only things that really slowed me down. I had a goal to keep my heart rate aerobic on the bike, so I let most of the steep climbs come to me versus attack them. I kept a steady cadence and managed to cruise through about 5 miles every 14:30 during the first half of the bike. The back half is a bit more challenging coming back into the wind and some gradually climbs but I was still moving at about 15min for every 5 miles while keeping my heart rate around 148.

At the time I thought that was pretty good, but in retrospect I perhaps should have kept my heart rate on the bike at about 145. The second half of the bike was definitely more challenging than the first and around mile 50 I was feeling some fatigue in my legs even though I was maintaining the same pace without too much extra effort.

Out of T2 my legs felt tired but they were turning over and my stride seemed normal. I have to attribute coming off the bike with any turnover at all to the work I've done on my running form with yoga and to Chef Dina's nutrition plan. This has to be the first time I've ever raced with a completely full tummy.

The first half of the 13.1 mile run went "OK" but somewhere around mile eight I really started to struggle and my legs just felt toasted. I was having problems with my left shoe which was causing me to alter my running form. This in turn was punishing my left IT band. I kept stopping to deal with the shoe and finally decided to take it easy on the off road sections and walk a bit on those rather than risk a more serious injury.

After the off road stuff was done on the second loop, I focused on my form and foot placement and jogged the rest of the way in. All in all it was a solid effort. I had a great swim and bike and my nutrition and hydration seemed in line. My aerobic fitness is continuing to progress and I have a load of information to process and take into Arizona and next season.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Training Day 10/13/10

I feel as though I've lived this year in a series of fits and starts. I've learned a lot but I can't say I've ever gone so long without completing a race. Or at least that is the way it feels to me right now. I'd be lying if I couldn't, or didn't admit a big part of me wants to skip the rest of this season and just train to get ready for next year. But that's the way of things I suppose. We have goals or set intentions and life happens and we do the best we can. At least that's the way I'm going to look at it.

This weekend I'm doing the Longhorn 70.3 race in Austin. In some respects I feel completely under prepared for this race. The odd thing about this is I've been training consistently but with all of the changes I've made to my diet and lifestyle this year my confidence is all over the map. So far I've just decided to look at the bright side. And the bright side is I know my endurance is improving daily. I've been running consistently. And I'm leaner than I've been in years. My diet is good so I'm just gonna take those things and call my overall year a win.

Today, I had a pretty light training load. I slept in until almost 9am, got up and made a vanilla, avocado smoothie for breakfast (about 800 calories that took me the better part of an hour to finish off) then did some household chores. At about noon I took a nap. My first workout was at 3pm which was a tempo workout on the bike. This was 60 minutes and the effort was there whether I wanted it or not. It was pretty windy out and I worked with a larger gear than I would normally push under those conditions.

When the wind was at my back, I tried to spin out of my biggest gear to work my cadence. All in all the effort was solid. I could have done more but stuck with an hour and went home and had my first dinner before my swimming workout.

Dinner consisted of marinated mushrooms, lentil mash, mushroom gravy, some stuffing, and green tea. About 450 calories.

Swimming was about 90 minutes with swimming interspersed with a healthy dose of drill work mainly consisting of sculling and catch up drills with a bit of balance stuff thrown in for good measure.

After that was a snack along with my second dinner which was basically identical to the first dinner before my swim but the snack added an additional 150 calories. My total caloric intake for the day was about 2300. My calories expended during exercise were about 2000

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An Interesting Take On Running Form

I'm pretty tired so I'll post some observations about this later. But for now this is a good reference for running form and economy.

Thanks to Brett over at Zentri for finding and posting this.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday - New Workout Template

So, by nature I'm sort of curious. To that I end a week or so ago I decided to change the structure of my training to see what gains could be had with more frequency of training with more structured recovery and nutrition spaced in between. To be honest, I'm going to make this up as I go along and so the potential for a huge, miserable failure is quite possible. But I believe that failure can provide valuable insights on the path toward success so I'm going to try this out and see how it goes. Basically I want to see how much I can train in a day if I eat and recover in between the sessions. Today there were 4 workouts. 2 swims (1 in a wetsuit in open water), 1 run and 1 bike session. Each workout was done at a comfortable pace though as I get used to it I will intersperse some intensity in the mix. After each workout I ate then took a nap or rested on the couch and watched a video. I also did a bit of yoga after the run to keep myself loose. The last swim is more of a restorative easy continuous 1500 meters after about 1000 meters of drills.

Here is some of the food I had today:

1st Breakfast Vanilla Spirulina Milkshake:

2nd Breakfast, Coconut Chia Pudding:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Training To Eat, Eating To Train

So this year I've been training smarter. And I've focused most of my attention though on some days or weeks it has seemed, all of my attention, on diet and recovery. This year I wanted to see how far I could take my fitness gains if I worked my training from the other side of the equation. Instead of breaking my body down and allowing it to recover, I decided to build my body up physically and nutritionally first then exploit this heightened "wellness" to then train harder and longer.

I know that some athletes have started to make the connection that food is fuel, but I've been trying to take my food beyond that. I've been using my food as fuel, as a restorative , and as medicine. To that end I put my beliefs and money where my mouth was this year and began working with raw/vegan food chef Dina Knight.

At first all I was looking for was someone to help me up the quality of my meals when my time became more constrained like on the days I have to travel 35 miles to the office to work. I figured if I could just have someone help me prepare a few meals on those 2 or 3 days, the rest of my week would take care of itself. I wanted to stop eating "whatever I had time for" on those days and eat as purposefully as I was when I was off. For me what sealed the deal was Chef Dina's knowledge of nutrition honed during her own personal wellness journey, her work with people attempting to lose weight in a healthy balanced fashion, and her philosophy of making the food as nutritious as possible and then making it tast delicious.

I have to admit, even though I've been a vegetarian for years, I really didn't know what I'd be getting myself into. I had my habits of eating just like everyone else. And I while I had been exposed to raw foods in the past and had several books on the subject in the house, I'd sort of dismissed the raw diet even in spots as impractical for an athlete.

What I can say now, after having eating this way for the past 6 weeks is taste is always going to be king when it comes to food and what we choose to put in our mouths. And if that food is also nourishing, cleansing and healing along with tasting amazing then that is when change in not only practical but easy. The food I've been eating has been the best food I've ever tasted anywhere. And it comes from my own kitchen with very simple ingredients. It is so easy to leave things at the store or drive by a restaurant now because I have more nutritious and better tasting food at home.

The pictures in this post are to give you an idea of what I've been feasting on. I'll make an effort to post some of the recipes as I've decided to post this stuff weekly after my work with Chef Dina. Train well!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Race Report Jack's Generic Tri, Austin TX

So yesterday was the annual Jack's Generic Triathlon. I must say this has to be one of the best run big (in terms of the number of participants) little (in terms of distance 500m open water swim, 13.8 mi bike, 3 mi run) around. I think the reason I like Jack's is it reminds me of all the reasons I started doing tri's in the first place - fun, swag, camaraderie, and food. The course is well done, there is ready aid everywhere, and the course is challenging even though it isn't long which means it is as good a race for beginners as it is for seasoned athletes. All of this is probably because this is truly a race done by athletes for athletes and its back to basics formula works.

At any rate, I was using Jack's Generic as sort of a systems/equipment check. I wanted to get back on the the tri bike and see how it felt to fire on all cylinders. And I was using a new tri top and short combo that I bought last year but thought I was still just a bit too big for (everything seems to fit perfectly now ;) ). I was also interested to see if my new diet would have a noticeable impact while my body was experiencing the stresses of racing.

What I can say I noticed right off the bat, when I woke up is I felt really relaxed and all of the body tension from the prior week's training seemed to have dissipated. I really didn't feel the need to stretch or create some blood flow to jump start things which is a completely new sensation for me on race morning.

On my way to the race, at about 5:45 AM, the freeway was completely shut down and all traffic was diverted onto the feeder. This didn't look too good but as luck would have it I made all the right choices and was back on my way in pretty short order. I got to the race site a bit later than I would have liked and most of the rack space in my age group was taken but I was able to squeeze my bike in thanks to a kind soul who made some space for me.

I quickly got my stuff arranged and then went down to try out the water. The water was a touch warm considering all the rain we've had here lately but it was also not as smelly as I've remembered it being in the past. I got a good idea of the layout of the buoys and then got ready for my wave.

As I mentioned earlier, this has to be one of the most relaxed pre race mornings I've ever had. The sense of ease in my body was amazing. In fact if I was going to freak out about something it would have been how much at ease I was feeling. I mean there was a lot to I could find to be nervous about. My running though, happening again was way behind schedule due to the dislocated bone in my foot. And the first 3 week block of speed work on the track hadn't happened at all. Work responsibilities had ruined two weeks of training in the pool and on the bike making it possible to only do the bare minimum of work on a single sport per day. Then of course there is the normal apprehension that closely follows a period like that. And I had recently decided to experiment with my diet even more than normal by taking classes from Raw/Vegan Chef Dina Knight. Lower than normal training volume, recent injury, overtime work obligations, and experimenting with a completely new diet all should have added up to a catastrophic racing failure. So there was a lot to be nervous about, but here I was pre race and I was completely at ease.

The swim was pretty uneventful. I was never at all distressed and I came out of the water pretty much in the middle of my wave. Had I pushed the issue I could have finished sooner but I was working on my stroke mechanics and trying out racing using bilateral breathing for the first time ever. I know, I know... Next offseason, I'll start working on flip turns too.

At any rate, I think I had a fairly speedy transition as a result of not being spent on the swim. But the first mile or so on the bike was a bit sketchy and this is where my first small bit of doubt set in. I was feeling some fatigue in my legs and wondered if perhaps my training for the week was going to catch up with me? I had done a couple of sessions of power intervals and a time trial early on in the week. But after a couple of relaxed breaths, my legs loosened up and I settled into a nice cadence. I checked my heart rate monitor and it read 152 - a bit high but way below aerobic threshold so I decided not to fret. My legs felt great and I just started to feel stronger and stronger. The first miles where a blur and I passed about 8 guys in my age group, most as if they were standing still.

Somewhere between mile four and five, I caught one guy in my age group and we battled back and forth. I realized I was a much better climber than he so, I began to really work the inclines. At this point my heart rate had dropped to about 147 and the distress I'd felt at the beginning of the bike was nothing but a distant memory. So I pushed several climbs in a row and lost my shadow around mile 8.

I was still flying, coming up out of a valley and into the last series of hills before the mad downhill sprint to transition when I felt the instability in my rear wheel. Crap! As I rode past a guy in one of the prior waves, I asked him to check my back tire. Yep, he confirms that it's flat. Basically that ended my race. I wasn't able to change the tire because I was running my racing wheels and hadn't brought a tube with a long enough stem.

A couple of days later, looking over the results I saw that at the time of my flat I was in 3rd place in my age group and about 12 minutes up on time from the prior year. I'm pretty happy with that. I felt I was having a good race. And I was enjoying myself. I think the strategy of paying more attention to my diet and recovery this year is paying off.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Can Food Make You Fitter?

So I've finally been able to start running and have done 2 runs in the last 3 days over 30 minutes without foot pain. Basically while seeing my acupuncturist for some help sleeping, I was able to get some help with the last bit of swelling/trauma in my foot from the dislocation in Boulder. 3 weeks off of running doesn't appear to have hurt me at all. Today's run of close to an hour could have gone longer if I'd eaten more. But hey, I'll take what I got. I'll run again tomorrow after my bike ride and swim to finish out the day.

Recently, I renewed my commitment to eat more nutrient dense food. And while I ate relatively well during the week when I was off work, my choices on the weekends while working weren't always the best due to time constraints and energy levels. I think I did a great job last year making changes that made me a stronger and more capable athlete with the eating pattern I used in the 8 weeks leading up to Ironman Arizona. And while I still adhere to those eating principles now, I have wondered what would happen if I went even further? What if I took better care with my meals during my work week? What if I added more variety and nutrient density? What if I gave up things that probably weren't serving my overall goal to become fitter? And could food make me fitter?

Well to find out I hired a personal chef. A vegan/raw personal chef who would not only assist me with making food for me to eat during my work week (Friday through Sunday), but would also show me how make this type of food for myself. Honestly, I had no idea what I was getting into. But as it turned out, this is one of those things you sometimes do with only the vaguest of notions yet becomes something more than you could have ever dreamed.

To put it simply, I have never felt stronger or healthier in my life. Last year when I changed my diet and started my eating pattern in the weeks before Ironman, that change did more for me in 2 weeks than 9 months of training. It was huge. More lean muscle, less fatigue, faster recovery, you name it. But this, change goes beyond even that. The food I have been eating is delicious, and filling, and good for me. It seems both restorative and supportive at the same time. I have more energy and I feel stronger. I know this week I was lifting more weight easily in my workout and running and cycling have felt effortless.

I certainly can't speak for everyone, but in my experience paying attention to my diet is paying a lot higher rate of return than killing myself with volume and intensity. Who knew?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Wednesday Is Fuel Day

So there was no training today. Well that's not entirely true. I spent the afternoon and early evening "training" with vegan/raw food chef Dina Knight. She is working with me to optimize my nutrition while simultaneously reducing my food preparation time. No small feat. But she managed to help me organize my kitchen and show me how to make these tasty raw fajitas.

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Monday, July 5, 2010

Monday - Power Intervals And Progress

So now that I'm back from Colorado the real training begins. For the most part I've really just been tooling around running and riding and swimming without too much stress placed on the body except for the normal amount of stress that comes with the accumulation of increased volume over time. And I have to say I'm pretty happy with the results I've created from my decision to train in this manner. This is the first season I can remember where I've managed to stay healthy and motivated and so I'm actually looking forward to racing later this year.

Well almost healthy. I did step on a rock while I was in Boulder when I was wearing my Vibrams and managed to dislocate a "new" bone in my foot. My only real issue with this was I was in Boulder and didn't have access to my "magical" chiropractor to put it back in. The guy I saw in Boulder, while well meaning, couldn't tell if the foot had a dislocated bone or stress fracture. But at least he didn't charge me for the "sort of" diagnosis.

The difficult part for me was I managed to find said rock on my first day in town so I didn't get to run for the rest of the week and had to limp around town for the next 7 days. But it didn't stop me from riding. ;) So the blessing in disguise was probably that I spent a lot more time on the bike than I had planned and as a result also spent a lot more time in bed with my foot elevated to keep swelling to a minimum when I wasn't out riding. A total win on both counts.

All of this gets me to the title of this post. Today I start my more focused block of training which on the bike means power intervals on the trainer and longer steady state rides outdoors. This also means it is time for some testing to get the appropriate training intensities. Because I do the same stuff from year to year and keep decent enough notes, I was pretty happy to discover an improvement over last years work of about 25 watts. This is average power and so is a sustained power improvement. I am also about 7 pounds lighter than I was at this time last year which means not only am I able to work harder, I do not need to move as much body weight while I'm working. On top of the lighter body weight, and 25 additional watts, I also recorded a lower heart rate by about 3 bpm. Again all good news.

I still have a long way to go but starting my season out prior to the focused work which tends to produce the most noticeable gains in power threshold and fitness is pretty exciting. So my work for today had me doing a two part work out. The first section was an hour with a 30 min block of power interval work at high cadence (over 100 rpms sustaining prescribed wattage for 5 minute sets). The second block was an hour recovery ride keeping heart rate below 145.

Both blocks went well and I feel good going into tomorrow's workouts. The foot is feeling much better after getting the bone put back in place this weekend. But I'm giving it a couple of days to let the swelling and trauma resolve after it had been out for almost 2 weeks. But like I said, it gave me time to really focus on my cycling so I'm not too upset about not running.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Sunday - Denver Century

5000 feet of climbing in the first 50 miles. 1700 calories burned in the first 20 miles. Fred, you are no longer in Texas.

This was hands down the toughest 100 mile ride I've ever done. But I have to say the work I've done so far on technique and at MAF is paying off.

Now when I get back home I'll begin my first round of testing to move into a more race structured bit of training.

Happy Father's Day everyone!

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Saturday, June 19, 2010

Boulder and Saturday

Got out for a ride of around 40ish miles. Felt good the whole way. Tomorrow is a 100 mile effort. Not my first, but my first at altitude.

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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Wednesday Is "Gain" Day

Awhile back I was at Jack and Adams talking to Zane Castro about training. He was telling me about some conversations he was sharing with some coaches in the sport. Basically what I walked away from our conversation with where these four words:

"Did you make the gain?"

The work I do on Wednesday has been relatively the same for the past 2 and 1/2 months. I get up and ride my bike then I hang out at the house taking it easy getting ready to go to the track and test my MAF. I told myself this year if there was one workout I was going show up for week in and week out it would be my MAF test at the track. And I must say I've done a pretty good job of this only missing when the weather wouldn't allow going outside.

But today I got started late and even though the day started out cloudy, it was sunny and a full on 93 degrees about half way through my workout on the bike. I needed/wanted 2 hours which is about 3 laps and some piddling around on my modified South Mopac loop. I modify the loop so I can add milage, stay out of traffic, and climb more.

The break down of the loops looked like this:
  1. First Loop - 35:00.4 Ave HR 120 Max HR 135
  2. Second Loop - 35:07.8 Ave HR 124 Max HR 137
  3. Third Loop - 31:57 Ave HR 124 Max HR 135
So after the third loop I just rode around and cooled down. But I have no idea where that third lap came from. And I sat at a signal light for a bit during it. Long enough, I might add for me to roll up onto the sidewalk and push the crossing button. I thought it was some sort of fluke. Then I went to the track.

I won't belabor this, but the same thing happened on the track. Now I will freely admit the temperature dropped while I was on the track from 94 degrees down to about 74 while I was running, but even so I started doing these workouts in February (when the average temperature was consistently in the 50's) and the fastest I could run then at a HR less than 150 was a 10:35 pace which is about 2:39 per 400. Today my slowest lap (while it was still over 90 degrees was a 2:25. My fastest lap today was my last at 2:09 (it was very windy by the way as the front that ended my workout at 3 miles was coming in fast) and my pace for the workout was a 9:13. Average HR 148.

But the thing is that last lap, even with wind was so like the last loop on the bike earlier. It was soooo easy, like I was just going with it and I wasn't putting in any effort at all. For me, as I write about it now, the gain isn't as much in the numbers as it is in the sense of ease needed to produce them. That is where the gain is. It reminds me of the feeling I had last October when I could literally "feel" body say "I can do and Ironman now." But this time the feeling is coming in June. How cool is that???

At any rate the point of making the gain and realizing you have made it is knowing when to shift training focus so that progress remains steady and does not plateau. So now I may rethink my training for the next several weeks to introduce new stimuli. Things appear to be shaping up nicely.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010


Today was another solid day of training. I think I'm finally getting into a groove now that I've resolved my mysterious fatigue from a couple of weeks ago. Nothing really special to report. A 1 hour 20 min run with an embedded 15 min vertical stair running set. The protocol was to simply run up and down two flights of stairs until my heart rate reached my MAF threshold of 145 bpm. The last time I did this workout with a 30 minute pre run, I was only able to stay under 145 for about 7 minutes so, I'm happy with the results.

My second workout of the day was a 1 hour 20 minute bike also with a MAF emphasis. What I am noticing is how my cycling is speeding up and my technique is becoming more and more effortless.

This brings up the reason I've focused so heavily on training slowly and deliberately this year. While I was on the bike today I watched a guy fly by me in aero position pushing a much bigger gear than I was using but when the road started to incline, he stopped pulling away and I pulled closer. I experience this a lot. My effort never changes, my heart rate stays steady and yet I gain ground on people who fly by me otherwise. I have noticed I also can gain ground or pull closer in a headwind.

The thing is most training programs focus a great deal of time and energy directing athletes on ways to increase and maintain effort. And I don't deny there is a place for this in training. What I don't understand is why in most cases it precedes developing efficiency - both muscular and aerobic. And this is what I was seeing as I rode uphill into the wind and gained on my timetrialing friend.

A funny thing happens when you ride and run slow. If you can get past how slowly you are moving, you can notice just what is necessary to move you as quickly as possible, what muscles are needed to contract and which ones you must relax. You learn how to use free momentum. You learn how to just feel speed and separate it from effort. And in the world of triathlon, this is a good thing.

Train well.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Thursday And Friday

So my focus for Thursday and Friday is primarily strength.

This Thursday was 90 min upper body and core workout that started with a 20 - 30 min light jog to warm up (about 10 - 11 min pace, HR in the 125-135 range). Then the fun began. I did 2 rounds of variations of pushup and pullup sets averaging about 20 pushups and 10 pullups for each variation. Along with this there were several jump rope sets interspersed throughout while I waited on my shoulders and arms to recover. All of the pullups were assisted because I had done a full pullup routine and added some dips for good measure on Wednesday after my track workout.

I trained strength again on Friday focusing on my legs. But my work, while including needed movements for the quads and hamstrings to insure both strength and balance, also incorporates movements to open and support the joints and the knees and ankles. This meant along with squats, leg extensions and curls, step ups, lunges (in varying directions) there were also circular movements, taken from yoga, martial arts, and Tai Chi.

This work has been instrumental I believe in restoring my speed and strength as well as resolving a knee issue I've lived with on the bike for over 10 years. I can't wait to see how this plays out in my cycling and running this year but for now I'm content knowing that I'm feeling better and training consistently and well.

After my leg work I went for an easy swim focused on a single rotation drill and kicking. All in all just a pretty good day.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday - Post Recovery

So today was my first day back after a 3 day unscheduled hiatus from training. I'm not really sure what to make of what happened. So for 3 days, I was just tired. sleeping 12 hours a day tired and that is not including the 2 hour naps. As far as I could tell I wasn't fighting off an infection. My heart rate was pretty normal. And to be honest, I wasn't "tired". But I was abnormally sleepy.

My mantra from when I was working over night is to never train when I'm sleepy. That's how I got to 3 days off. I would wake up after 8 hours of sleep and still be yawing. So I'd have breakfast then go take about an hour nap. I'd work on some video projects for a couple of hours, then I'd be ready for nap number 2. 3 days of this was killing me. But in the scheme of things we'll see how this plays out for my training.

Wednesday is my normal day to go to the track and check the results of my MAF (maximum aerobic function) work. Things looked pretty good for the first mile but I think the heat and the wind were a bit much for me and my heart rate started to climb out of the zone for the test. I think this is where discipline comes in. I could have held on to the pace I normally am able to run out of pride but I want this work to pay off long term so, I sucked it up and slowed way down to get my heart rate back down. The cool thing is I didn't have to walk to do it. So if there is a moral victory to be had anywhere, I'd say that would be it.

I also rode my bike this morning but only for about 45 minutes in attempting to keep my first day back moderate while sticking to the training pattern I like to follow on Wednesdays.

After the track MAF, I went down to the shore and did some pullups. I think about 60 total. And I did a few sets of dips. So tomorrow I'll lighten up on the pullups and enhance the core work during my strength training. I'll do a 20 minute run to warm up for the strength work.

And I suppose I'll get to bed now. I'm sleepy again. Peace and train well!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Monday and Tuesday

Well both days were pretty much the same. And then again, pretty much not. I finally sat down and wrote out a training schedule. I know. I know. I know.

I always do much better by putting down a set schedule in writing. But for some reason, I seem to need some sort of dire threat each year to make me actually sit down and do it. And it didn't even take long. 5 minutes tops.

But now I have training "appointments" and I don't ever miss those unless I'm tired or sleepy. If you need my help with something or want to talk during these blocks of time I'm not available. And if they are in my calendar, I show up, do the work and go home. Case closed.

What I think is a mystery for most athletes is what exactly to do with these blocks of time and how many of them to schedule. Personally I like to think long term, which conversely makes much of the type of training to do moot.

In a nutshell my goal for the last several years was to change my body composition. Now that my average weight is between 146 and 148 pounds off season (previously it was 155 - 160), I can turn my attention to the overall process of building the engine necessary to actually train for an Ironman. So my only goal this year is creating the aerobic engine combined with the structural integrity in musculature, tendons and joints to be able to "train" properly for an Ironman distance race. Once I have the body and the aerobic and physiological structure in place, combined with proper nutrition and training, then I can think about "racing" an Ironman.

This is definitely not how most people approach their training, though reading that paragraph they might like to say they do. The reason I say this is because in order to take the approach I'm advocating, you give up a lot of short term accolades such as age group victories during the early years or just beating your buddies to the next stop sign in a sprint. But I'm cool with that.
Last week at the track I was talking to a guy in his late fifties who was telling me he didn't do Maximum Aerobic Function work because it forced him to run too slowly. He didn't feel like he was getting a workout and thus couldn't see the benefit. His fastest recent 10k was about 40 minutes and some change. All winter I've watched this guy lap me on the track as he runs his 400 meter intervals at close to 6 minute pace. He does his weekend long runs at a "slow 7:30 minute per mile pace, closing the session at about 7 minute pace. He does this year round. I don't even have to ask him if he's getting any faster.

At any rate, I on the other hand am getting faster and more efficient at running slowly. My MAF pace is almost a full minute per mile faster than when I started. And this is what makes what I actually do with my training appointments so easy. I train either at, as I do on the track, or below, as I do elsewhere, MAF. The only variable is the time spent. Easy.

So yesterday was an hour on the bike, this time on the stationary trainer maintaining easy cadence. The goal here is technique. I've been working on my connection to my feet in both cycling and running as a way to maximize power with less effort. And this is one of the unseen benefits of training at lower intensities. You are able to make real connection to the movement you are carrying out so that when you do speed up you can keep that connection and thus efficiency. Higher power output at lower effort = better end results.

After the bike there was an hour run. This was also easy. During the middle of the run I went "vertical" for 15 minutes and hit some stairs. Again the challenge here is to attack the stairs efficiently so that my heart rate stays low and I keep moving. No easy feet but I'm getting better at it. When I started these vertical runs I could only do about 7 minutes before my heart rate forced me to stop between ascents. Now I'm up to 15 minutes.

Today was the same except the bike and the run were 90 minutes a piece. This time the run was just on a flat road and the bike was outdoors. I had some trouble with my heart rate on the run because I didn't space the workouts apart do to some personal commitments and thus didn't properly hydrate but I was still aerobic. Tomorrow is more of the same and back on the track again. I start my swim cycle with strength work on Thursday. Train Well everyone!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

First Failure, Then Progress

I didn't write a blog post last week. At first it was because I was busy. But that was only the first two days of the week. The plan was to write a post on Wednesday because I had two workouts scheduled and figured out of the two of them I'd have something interesting to write about. And I did. I just didn't write anything because by Wednesday evening, I was pissed off.

Last week's bike ride went fine. In fact I'd say I was really happy about it because I could feel a bit of speed creeping into my legs even though I'm still riding very easily. The ride was around 2 hours and when I was done I didn't feel as though I'd ridden at all. That was in the morning, which even though I got a bit of a late start was still relatively cool temperature wise. In retrospect my late start on the bike would be the beginning of my undoing training wise for the day.

It just so happened, that I was out of some of my key food items that day and really needed to go to the store. Because of this I didn't eat properly before my ride and after my ride (which started and ended late) I had to go shop for things to eat. The only stores that carry some of the things I use, were across town.

By the time I shopped, ate and took a very short nap, it was time for my track MAF workout in the afternoon. When I got to the track this is where things just went completely south. My heart rate, while still aerobic, was nowhere near my MAF zone even walking. I was so frustrated, I wound up bagging the MAF test and running a single 600m interval in 1:53 with a max HR of 186, then thinking better of it ran stairs, stopping and walking when my HR crested 153. Needless to say it was frustrating because every week prior to this I had seen improvement in my speed at MAF and now I was basically reduced to walking.

I think this is why so many athletes avoid this type of training or don't stick with it very long if they do try it. It is humiliating to run so slow, then find out it isn't slow "enough."

So I left the track pretty upset even though the 600 meter split was nothing to sneeze about, I was comfortable throughout the 400m and accelerated through the line during the entire last 200m. I could have gone much faster. But that has never been my problem. So I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about the MAF test I flunked. And I was pissed off so, no blog posts until I calmed down.

It was Sunday when I decided I needed to do some things differently. For starters get all my food ready so I didn't need to shop. Then get to bed so I could get up early enough for my morning ride and get back in time to eat and nap. Then go to the track. This week was a complete reversal from the week before. I dropped 10 seconds per mile from my last MAF and 1bpm in average heart rate.

Needless to say I'm happy again, and blogging can continue.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Yoga, Stretching, and Athletes

So when you think of yoga, you might normally think of people with stick figure bodies who are able to take themselves into shapes that would injure a pretzel. Or quite possibly you think it would be great to be more flexible, that the additional flexibility may help prevent injury and improve both training and recovery. And you could have come to the conclusion that incorporating yoga into your training routine would be way to accomplish that. Quite honestly though, aside from the extreme, bendy postures, you may not see much difference between yoga and some of the more common stretches you've seen or read about. As a triathlete I know I didn't until I'd done yoga for a few weeks. That's when I got a taste of just how deep the rabbit hole that is yoga really goes. Let me explain.

The most notable difference between yoga and simple static stretches is the sequencing. Most good yoga classes follow a well thought out progression moving the body deeper and deeper into similar but more challenging positions. In fact many of the common poses you may be familiar with such as Downward Dog, Crow Pose, or even a simple Forward Fold are actually "preparations" for deeper yoga poses. The same is also true of many static stretches many of us have come to know and use regularly. Most common stretches are variations or simplified Yoga poses. Often what is going on in these variations or modifications is the pose is made more accessible by taking several dimensional components out of it so that they become available for someone new to using their bodies in an unfamiliar way. Static stretches (and most weight machines) often remove the coordinated muscle recruitment that relates to stability. The removal of this component, while making the stretch simple, has the undesirable side affect of doing less to actually strengthen the body.

One pose which illustrates this clearly is Uttanasana or Standing Forward Fold. When commonly presented, even in yoga classes, this posture is usually referred to as a mere hamstring stretch. And to see it performed it is easy to get that impression. If you were to merely fold forward without any direction, you would notice the pull at the back of your legs as you attempt to bring your chest in toward your thighs. But there is much more going on in this forward fold than meets the eye or a casual experience. For the fold to happen properly the hips are engaged as a hinge allowing the torso to move forward as the hips shift back. The spine extends out from the tailbone through the top of the head. As the torso is brought closer to the thighs, the thighs will have an inward rotation creating space for the chest. To deepen and hold the fold, the core must be engaged. This entire process allows the hamstrings to "release". Not stretch, "release".

This act of consciously "releasing" muscles is a distinction that gets lost in discussions of yoga versus static stretching routines. In this instance the difference between a forward fold stretch and Uttanasana is Uttanasana is in reality a handstand preparation where more and more weight is removed from the legs and feet and placed into the palms until the hips are directly over the shoulders and the legs are lifted from the floor. You can watch this same process outside a yoga studio in Olympic platform divers as they move into handstands prior to an inverted dive. The purpose isn't to stretch the hamstrings but to gain the ability to release them at will.

Downward Dog works in much the same way, encouraging access through the core, releasing the hamstrings, and preparing the body for the forward folds, handstands, and "floats" to seated positions and arm balances. These are all complex, coordinated movements, much like swimming so the connection is obvious, but mastering these movements can also greatly impact running and cycling by improving strength, range of motion, and economy.

A regular yoga practice can restore the coordinated function to many of the common stretches you already know about and to the other complex muscular activities you engage in. And it will aid tremendously in your recovery between workouts. One of the primary reasons for triathletes to get massages and take ice baths is to increase blood flow and fight inflammation after tough workouts. Think of yoga as an internal massage and an inflammation fighter too. By gaining coordinated muscular access, you recruit muscles more efficiently to perform all tasks from walking up a flight of stairs to riding 112 miles on a bike.

Monday, April 12, 2010


Busy day today. Just training but some good stuff. I'm getting stronger and I know my patience is paying off. I'm really listening to my body and just going for technique, strength and endurance. And enjoying the process along the way. I keep getting these little signs my fitness is improving and that's cool.

Today was a simple 1 hour bike ride. Nothing special just spinning easy with a friend while chatting. But she tends to like to get as much bang for her buck as possible and rides primarily in her big ring. I was able to keep up without much effort even spinning in a small gear all the while keeping my heart rate lower than 130.

Then it was back to the house for some food and out for a 1 hour walk with a friend. I decided after Arizona last year I was going to "train" walking so I walked for an hour, then ran for 10 minutes. After that it was back home for some more food and take care of the cats.

After that, I went for a 30 minute easy run as a warm up prior to my strength work. The run was easy in both intent and actuality. My heart rate stayed low throughout and I actually was able to see my form has improved due to my focus on the feet this year.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Yoga For Triathletes Getting (and Staying) Aero on the Bike Part 2

Aside from talking to folks in my yoga classes about getting and staying aero on the bike, I've been spending a lot of time watching triathlon bike footage on the internet. This has really helped me in my thinking about what it takes to have and comfortably maintain good aero positioning on the bike.

Some components of the position are:

  1. a strong and stable core.

  2. open hips.

  3. Length in the hamstrings.

  4. Open shoulders.

  5. Space in the front body/hip flexors.

This next pose we will explore in this series is a bang for your buck pose if ever there was one. The traditional pose is an forearm balance called Pincha Mayurasana. But we don't need to come into the full expression of that pose for our purposes. As is the case with most yoga poses, sometimes the preparatory pose is more beneficial (read challenging) in developing the attributes of strength, muscular integration and access we are looking for than the actual full expression of the pose itself.

Pincha Mayurasana is no exception. If you've been following along through the last couple of posts in this series we can move easily from Bakasana or Crow Pose into Pincha Mayurasana prep. Of course you can do all of this work as stand alone poses or you can put them together during a strength workout or a stretching routine to augment other work.

From Crow Pose, you would bring the feet back to the floor and come back into the original squat we started out in. From here you would come to your hands and knees with the palms under the shoulders. Then lower the elbows to the ground keeping the forearms parallel to one another. You want to make sure you keep the forearms from rotating inward to one another. They should rest flat on the floor extending out in a straight line from the elbows. Keeping this alignment will be important as we come into Pincha Mayurasana prep as the alignment is what promotes the shoulder opening we are working toward. If you have tight shoulders perfectly parallel forearms might not be possible but you want to keep the arms as close to this ideal as comfortably possible.

Once you have your forearms situated, you will keep your gaze up between your hands as you raise your hips toward the ceiling straightening your legs. At this point you will walk the feet in a few inches. The head will naturally drop but keep the eyes forward looking in between the hands. You want to use your forearms and engage them from the hands all the way back into the elbows. This will create the lift as you engage the core to facilitate the posture.

Try to hold this pose anywhere from 5 to 8 breaths. Come out of it by bending the knees and lowering back to the ground. You will want to repeat this posture 3 to 5 times. As you get better and your shoulders, hips and hamstrings open up and your core gets stronger, you can add more challenge/intensity by raising a leg in the air.

Ultimately, as you gain strength and your body opens, you will be able to use the raised leg to bring the hips over the shoulders. At this point the full expression of the pose can be explored. But if all you want to do is be more comfortable on the bike, what I've shown you here will be more than adequate for your training.

Ultimately, as you gain strength and your body opens, you will be able to use the raised leg to bring the hips over the shoulders. At this point the full expression of the pose can be explored. But if all you want to do is be more comfortable on the bike, what I've shown you here will be more than adequate for your training. If you are finding keeping your arms parallel is an issue, then you could try using a yoga block. Most men may need two due to the width of their shoulders. If a yoga block isn't available I've used books if I could find one the correct width. The thing to keep in mind is just try to keep the arms a little straighter than they would be if you let them do what they wanted. In time you should see improvement both in the practice and in your position on the bike.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sunday And Monday

Sunday I was up before 5am so I went for a swim. This must have been exactly what I needed because now I'm officially adding it back into my training. Not that it was ever really "out" of my training, but If I was going to bail on a workout, swimming would be first, cycling would be second, and running would be a distant third. I think the cold has something to do with it. And because warmer temperatures seem to be here to stay in Austin, Texas, I think I'm in the water to stay.

The swim went well and I've gone back to my efforts at being efficient in the water. (As if I'd ever left them). But I am starting to think more along the lines of is a workout just a workout? Or sort of like are all calories created equal? I'm really feeling not. If I told people what my longest swim from last year was, they'd probably either laugh at me or just not believe me. Especially if they found out that was the kind of volume I went into a 2.4 mile swim with. But that's the point. I'm wondering if all the volume with out real purpose isn't defeating all efforts at getting better?

I mean, I get it. Volume is really easy. It looks cool in the log book. And it gets a lot attention at parties. But I'm starting to wonder if there are some caveats? Like I would never say not to do any distance in training for events like the Ironman. But I am starting to consider trying to find out what ENOUGH is and doing no more than that.

The reason I say this is because there was a point last year in my training where I could almost feel my body say, "You can do this all day". And I think I could have listened to that more closely. If I had I might have actually trained less but more specifically from that point on. I would have put my money in the sharpening basket versus obsessing over more and more volume.

But live and learn. Which is why I'm swimming now instead of obsessing about it in January and February when I really didn't feel like doing it. And why I'm starting to get out on the bike more consistently. Soon I'll be up to running every day and that will be nice.

So Today I biked and swam. Both were short sessions. The bike was just 45 min of maintaining consistent pressure on the pedals so that the shift from one leg to the other was uninterrupted. The swim was 30 min working on my left arm pull which isn't as efficient as my right. I will say a 30 min swim is a big deal for me. Especially at this point in the year. Last year about this time I was all about 15 and 20 min swims and "worked" my way up to 30 min much later in the season. Who knows at this rate I may actually stay in the water for an hour this year. But only if the work is of good quality.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Thursday And Friday

Thursday was a day off. I don't normally take days "off" when I'm training as much as let my body decide when and how long to rest. This was a day off. I wrote it down before hand, wasn't particularly tired, and just took it.

Friday on the other hand is my normal strength day focusing on the legs. But because last week I maxed out all of my sets, I took today easy and dropped the weight back down to prior levels. The weight I did today was still heavier than what I was doing last season, so I'm seeing progress. While I am using weight now, I will switch to more body weight leg work in the future as I start to focus on my triathlon training. The reason for this is I am using the weight now to monitor progress as I work on balancing out the difference in strength between my right and left legs.

In my case what I've come to learn is that this disparity was actually caused by instability in my left knee. So just as flexibility can be influenced by mobility in the joints so can strength and muscular balance. To that end I've been doing a slew of new movements to improve things.

What I didn't expect was the comment from my Rolfer when she saw me this week, "Your feet look a million times better!"

Coming from a Rolfer that is a "functional movement" junky who is obsessed with feet, this was high praise. All I know is it is easier to run faster and I'm just happy about that.

After my leg work, it was time to swim and start focusing on dialing in my technique for the upcoming season. I felt really good in the water and have been toying with the idea of having a single drill be the sole focus of my workout for the day. Today's swim was about 30min but focusing only on extending my arm out in front of me as I floated was more challenging as it sounds. After a few lengths of this, I was pooped but I managed a good solid half hour in the water. When I moved back into freestyle after the drills, I felt strong and balanced. I think the next drill I work on is the catch underwater.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Tuesday And Wednesday

Nothing really spectacular. Just some quality work. Tuesday was an easy 90 minute bike. I decided not to run because of time constraints and I usually like to do an imbedded "vertical" set in the middle of my hour long Tuesday run. But do to my unexpected quality 5k session in the midst of Monday's run I decided to call it a day after cycling.

Wednesday was supposed to be a MAF run on the track, but I got a call from my buddy DuShun asking if I wanted to go ride. Up to this point all of my rides have been at heart rates below 135bpm and averaging about 124bpm for most sessions. DuShun, the most gifted cyclist I have ever seen anywhere with a max heart rate somewhere near 220 at 43 is not someone to ride with if you intend on watching your heart rate.

So I was tempted to leave my monitor at home. What I wound up doing instead was wearing it and ignoring the numbers that flashed across my screen.

All in all, I was pleasantly surprised. I wound up keeping pace with him on all but the steepest climbs and was able to bridge back up to him easily on the flats. This tells me my strength training is paying off. What I have lost is the efficient, high cadence that can allow me to climb at a pace that can match his. I don't know if I'll ever have the power he can generate, but with better endurance, strength and technique riding with him won't destroy me.

This ride sort of reminded of Monday's run because I pushed harder than even I expected (DuShun had called promising an easy ride in order to allow his sore knee to recover). But I was able to both hang on and push the pace dealing out my share of punishment too. I lost the final sprint, but I didn't go down without a fight. It's shaping up to be a great 2010 already. Train well!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Getting Back On Track

So today was Monday and after another weekend where my job stole precious time I could have used for training or recovery or various other things I "could" have been doing, my buddy Celeste sent me an email at 8 this morning and asked if I wanted to go for a run.

Of course I said, "Yeah!"

She was doing a 9:30 AM yoga class and I typically do a class at the same studio at noon so, we decided to meet at 11. This could have been the perfect compromise except we ran out a little further than normal and thus had to really turn on the jets to make it back in time for my class. But here's the thing. After running leisurely for about 40 min, I was able to crank out an 18:30ish 5k in order to get to class before the door was locked. And while this wasn't a what I would consider a hilly route, it certainly wasn't flat either. Especially not the last 1000m or so, which was all up hill.

While I am lightyears from where I want to be fitness wise, I am starting to see things fall into place. All of my "Ironman-itis'" appear to have resolved themselves. The groin pull is almost nonexistent, the stuff with my feet from all of last year is completely gone, and the strength in both of my legs is balanced. What I felt today while I was running to make the yoga class was a strength in my legs I was sure belonged solely to my younger, 35 year old self. I was barely breathing and my legs had no intention of stopping until I was ready. Jeez that felt good.

The rest of the day after yoga was an easy 30 min spin on the trainer and some upper body functional strength work. Tomorrow will be more running, a longer ride and some easy swimming. Feels great to be back!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Endurance Yoga - Getting and Staying Aero on the Bike Part 1: Bakasana (Crow Pose)

Recently, I was asked by one of my students if there was anything they could do to help them get ready for staying in aero position on the bike for long races like 70.3 and the Ironman distance. I smiled and told him, "Yes."

I don't think he knew what he was asking for when he asked if we could spend a couple of classes working on being comfortable for long periods of time in aero position. Last month I wrote about a pose called Malasana, or Garland Pose, which is essentially a deep squat. At any rate, we were using Malasana in order to both open the hips and experience a greater connection to our feet which can be useful in running for moving with greater ease (especially after a hard bike leg) and generating more power resulting from greater range of motion.

Like many yoga poses Malasana can be a preparation for or a segue into other more challenging but very useful poses. And as it turns out it can also be a great beginning to an exploration of getting and staying aero on the bike. So what we are going to do over the next few posts is move from Malasana into a few more poses that can be added in sequence to promote the necessary bodily transformations that can make long bike legs less difficult from a positioning standpoint which in turn, ultimately, can lead to more efficient runs.

The next pose we explore in our sequence of aerodynamic building yoga poses is a pose called Bakasana or Crow Pose. The reason this pose is so important in our quest for aerodynamics is that it can promote the necessary core integration we need to support our torso out on the aerobars. Although in yoga Bakasana is an arm balance and when you first see it you might think it is a pose for strengthening the arms. Nothing could be further from the truth. By and large arm balances in yoga are core cultivators. And for our purpose of getting aero and being comfortable on the bike, Bakasana can train us to properly engage our core to provide the "lift" we need to comfortably maintain a flat back.

To come into Bakasana, we start in Malasana - a deep squat with our heels together. Place your palms on the floor out in front of you about a foot and a half away from your feet. You want your knees up even with your triceps. Shift your body forward bringing your weight fully onto your hands. Bending your elbows keep shifting more and more of your weight into your hands while keeping head up and your gaze on the floor in front of you. With your body centered over the palms, try bringing one foot off the ground. Engaging your core by bringing your navel in and up toward the spine as though you are lifting and filling the area near the kidneys with air. It is this internal movement that provides the lift in the hips and keeps the knees high up on the triceps. Technically for our purposes, you could stop at this point and work the pose by alternating between lifting your right and left feet off the ground and bringing them up toward your hips. Trust me 3 to 5 reps with each foot is a workout.

If you are comfortable with balancing on your hands and have no problem with the pose while one foot is on the ground, then try taking both feet off the ground at the same time. Again, be sure to keep your head up with your gaze out in front of you and in between your hands. If you have open hips and can get the sense of lift through your core you may find you are able to get quite a bit of height in the pose. If so try holding the pose for about 6 to 8 unhurried breaths before bringing our feet back to the ground.

If for some reason the arm balance doesn't work for you, say balance is an issue, or you have weak wrists, you can still reap the benefits of the pose by taking the balance aspect out of it and practicing Bakasana on your back. In fact almost all yoga arm balances can be practiced while on your back allowing you to strengthen the core as you work your way up toward practicing the actual arm balance.

Coming into Bakasana on your back is very similar to practicing it upright. Start with your heels together and your knees apart. Your back will be flat against the ground. First you will rotate your pelvis up toward the ceiling which will cause your knees to rotate toward your shoulders. Now, as if you were doing crunches, bring your shoulders off the floor and move the torso up toward your knees. Hook your elbows on the insides of your knees and draw your navel down and in toward your spine. This will assist in deepening the fold. Hold the position for anywhere from 4 to 8 breaths, then relax. Repeat the movement 3 to 5 times.

Working Bakasana regularly, aside from being a neat trick you can show your Tri-minded friends, will give you the core awareness and integrity that we will need for the next pose in our aero building sequence. There aren't to many issues with practicing Bakasana other than wrist issues and fear of falling so if you have any reservations, try the version where you explore the pose on your back for a while. I actually find that version more difficult. Until next time, train well....

Monday, February 22, 2010

Know Thy Body

The subtitle for this post "could be" Triathlon Taoism 101. Last week I was getting ready to go to the track with the Wed night RunTex group. I teach a short yoga class after this workout which is in retrospect the only reason I should have been there.

Aside from teaching the yoga class, I like doing this group simply because it forces me to go to the track at least once a week. I think I was on the track maybe 3 times all last year. But there was a reason for that. I wasn't running for most of it so there was no need to be on the track. At any rate that isn't the point of this post. The point is as I was standing in the store before the warm up jog up to the School for the Deaf where the workout is held, I look at my heart rate monitor and it is reading 98bpm! I walk 20 or so feet to the bathroom and come back its 121! It should be like 55~60bpm at this time of day if I'm standing around. Crap!

I'm pretty annoyed by this because there can only be 3 reasons for it. I'm nervous - I've had this happen before races and it usually goes away when the gun goes off. I'm panicked (see nervous, but on a scale of 1 - 10 a 10) and that has only happened once with my standing heart rate coming in at about 140, so not applicable here. Or I'm fighting off an infection of some sort. Its probably the latter because I've been helping a sick friend lately or I've been exposed to something at work (also highly likely) or both. Crap!

Normally something like this would not bother me much. I'd just go home and rest. If I'm going to come down with something (which pretty much NEVER happens anyway) I'd rather it be this time of year when I'm not racing than later when I am. The only reason it is bothering me now is because I want to find out what pace I can run at MAF. I've been waiting for the last 3 weeks to do this test and the weather has been uncooperative serving up large doses of rain and cold. So I was there, the track was there, the weather was cooperating, I had my HR monitor. Resting HR? 98bmp! Crap!

So what did I do? I go to the track and do the test anyway. Why? Because I wasn't going to be running hard and I would get data for when my system was understress. I also went because I want that to be a weekly test and I wanted it to become a habit. And I think on a deeper level, it was sort of the sense that I needed to accept where my fitness was at that moment, so I could start learning to accept it at any given moment. The funny thing was, after warming up, and struggling through the first mile keeping my heart rate under MAF (I had to walk quite a bit the first mile), the second and third mile got progressively faster and I wound up averaging 10:35 pace at a 144 HR for 3 miles. That really surprised me because, to be honest, that is about what I expected without the jacked up resting HR. And granted if I throw out the first mile and only focus on the last 2, my pace drops considerably to get me that overall average at the end. But my heart rate sticks right at 144 even though I was running faster.

I'm more familiar with that type of response on the bike because I've been more consistent in training this way while riding. One of the things I've noticed over time, which is why I've been able to ride at lower heart rates without becoming overly concerned about losing fitness, is for me slower movements seem to lead to the discovery of more efficient movement patterns. And aside from the changes that happen chemically in the body allowing for more efficient fuel usage, discovering these efficient patterns of movement can also be beneficial. I think this is what happened on the track. I certainly didn't speed (this term is relative) up because I was running "harder." So I think I'm going to explore this more as I run more this year.

The rest of the week I rested swimming a bit and doing a couple of yoga classes. I was sleepy all week and took that as a sign that I indeed was fighting off something. I kept my training minimal and slept as much as possible, going to bed as early as 8pm some nights. I think sleeping more and my diet kept whatever it was from developing into something nasty. My friend had a fever for almost 10 days.

Oh yeah, the Taoist theme for this post could be:

"Deal with it before it happens
Set things in order before there is confusion..."

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Monday, Tuesday

So I've got the new website up and functioning. You can check it out here. Right now its basically a reorganization of this blog. But that will change as I start to shift my emphasis in what I write. But for now its just a matter of organizing things. I feel like I'm moving in to a new house. But the good thing is now that the site is up, I can get back to the matter at hand and that is simply training. I've gone back to doing my strength work. I'm pretty consistant about working out my lower body but I tend to stop working the upper body except for my core as racing season approaches. This is largely because I find I'm not as flexible which negatively impacts my swimming. But I'm not racing now so that excuse is baseless.

I like to do my upper body strength training on Monday because its the beginning of the week and I like to get it out of the way first thing. Probably because I don't like it. And because it hurts. And if there is anything I will find an excuse not to do it is this workout. The session isn't very complex, it just hurts is all. So here's what I did:

  1. 2 x 30 sec max rep push ups
  2. 2 x 30 sec max rep pull ups
  3. 2 x 30 sec max rep mil push ups
  4. 2 x 30 sec max rep rev grip chin ups
  5. 2 x 30 sec max rep decline push ups
  6. 2 x 30 sec max rep close grip pull ups
  7. 2 x 30 sec max rep diamond push ups
  8. 2 x 30 sec max rep towel pull ups
  9. 2 x max rep divebomber
  10. 2 x 30 sec max rep isometric chest press
Then I went to an hour and a half all levels yoga class. The class just so happened to be pretty core intensive and included a lot of standing poses which really emphasize leg strength and balance. Later that day did an indoor MAF ride for half an hour which included two sets of single leg drills.

Today, I ran for an hour with an average heart rate of 140. I've been training at completely MAF (maximum aerobic function) for the last couple of weeks. A lot of folks discount this type of training or don't stick with it for very long, but I've seen the results and am willing to do it. Then I came home and got on the trainer for 40 min also at MAF with an average heart rate of 127. That was today's work. Gonna swim and run tomorrow.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Yoga For Triathletes - Malasana

One of the popular workouts these days for athletes of all disciplines is the "Core" workout. This type of work goes far beyond the 6 pack ab craze that came before it. There is a great benefit to be had in all endurance activities by strengthening the core. But once we've done the work and strengthened our core, our next question should become, "How can we access that strength and put it to work for us?"

To be honest, that question, the one about gaining "access" is a far deeper rabbit hole than a single post about a single pose can cover. That's because it is one thing to "tighten your core " or "keep it tight" (something that is commonly said when referring to the gross muscles comprising the mid section during activity), but accessing strength through the core to produce a desired muscular response while running, cycling, or swimming is something else. Understanding this, my goal is to simply get you started thinking about this concept of "gaining access" to the core and integrating it into the other movements that comprise your sport of choice.

To start us on our way to gaining access to the core, we need more access to our feet. And our feet need to gain a sense of being firmly engaged into the ground. Said another way we want to have a sensation of what it is like to have our feet "planted" (as in deeply rooted) into the ground. And for that we are going to explore a pose called Malasana or Garland Pose.

Essentially Garland pose is a deep squat. If you've travelled, especially in countries like India and throughout Asia, you will notice people sitting low to the ground, squatting deeply. This has several benefits, one of which is an opening of the hips. Another benefit of the pose is the opening of the ankles which can allow for a better connection to the ground by engaging through the feet for balance.

  • Malasana Variation where the feet are separated and point out 45 degrees

To come into the variation of Malasana that is most accessible, we start with our feet a bit wider than hip distance apart (the toes should be pointing forward but can be rotated out to about 45 degrees to facilitate lowering into the pose if needed). Then with the arms extended out straight in front of you for balance, lower your body bending at the knees. The torso should remain upright as the hips drop below the knees. If you hadn't started with the toes rotated out at 45 degrees initially it may become necessary to rotate them out as your hips move closer to the floor. You may need to widen your stance as well once you get your hips closer to being level with your ankles. You want to hold this position for about 8 even breaths if you can. If you can't don't sweat it, hold it as long as is comfortable. You should be able to stay in the pose for longer and longer periods of time if you work the pose consistently.

Now for some housekeeping. These are some things you want to keep in mind. Throughout this movement the spine should be kept long even though the torso can have a tendency to tilt forward. You can get and keep more length in the spine once in the squat by bringing your hands together in prayer position and using the connection of the elbows to the shins for a bit of leverage to articulate the pelvis by bringing the navel in to the spine. It is possible that as you lower down even after rotating your toes out to 45 degrees and widening your stance, you cannot come into the full squat without your heels leaving the ground. If this is happening you can still work in the pose by placing a rolled up blanket or towel under the heels and then lowering down onto that. While this will change the sensation of grounding somewhat, it does not diminish the effectiveness of the pose.

  • A rolled up towel or blanket can be used as a wedge if the heels don't reach the ground.

If you still find it difficult to maintain your balance in Malasana, another option is to practice it inside a doorway. I use this when I want to experience the squat with my feet and shins together holding on to the door frame as I lower my hips to my heels. This allows me to get a sense of the opening in my ankles and hips necessary to access this movement now while I wait for my body to allow me to do it without assistance. To come out of the pose simply ground into the feet and straighten the legs or bring your palms to the floor and come to all fours. Lastly use good judgement when doing this pose. Save the pose for strength days at the gym or lower intensity training days. Because of the deep squat, if you have knee or ankle issues Malasana is not recommended.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday

To say I've been busy would be an understatement. Lately I've been working to move this blog, or at least certain parts of it to its own domain. That way I'll have more control over how it looks and hopefully create a more easily navigated site. So I've been setting all of that up. Currently I plan to leave this blog up primarily for those folks still looking for P90x reviews but the new site will focus more specifically on endurance athletes and performance related information. I'll keep you posted as this process progresses.

Man where did the week go? It's a good thing I wrote things down or there would be nothing to post. At any rate I've been working my way back into a routine. At this time of year I attend to things like strength, flexibility and endurance. I also focus a ton on technique. So, except were technique gets difficult, the majority of my work is deeply aerobic. To make sure it stayed that way, I had a brief email conversation with runner/blogger Lucho. We talked about MAF (Maximum Aerobic Function) specifically where it pertains to swimming intensity at this point in my training cycle.

Somewhere I'd read that swimming was a sport where intensity could be high year round (don't ask me where - I don't remember). But after reading a bit more about MAF, I came to the conclusion that this could not be right so, I checked with Lucho who is a big proponent of MAF and his results speak volumes as to the soundness of the protocol. As a result of our conversation my swim plans for the next few months have changed. I will be training in the pool the way I did last year which was something on the order of 90% drill 10% swim until about 8 weeks out from my goal race. I had planned to join a masters swim group this winter, and I still may to break up the monotony of the drill work. I just won't make interval swimming a steady diet in training until much later this year.

So here's what I've been up to this week. Monday was a 75 min bike ride and 90 min of yoga. Tue was a 1 hour run followed by a 45 min walk, then a 60 min bike ride followed by a 30 min drill swim session. Wednesday was a 2 hour run then 30 min of yoga. Nothing fancy but I'm feeling more and more like an athlete again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday Rest Day; Tuesday Vertical Running and Bike

Today, I did nothing. Not because anything was wrong. I wanted to start to solidify my training for the season. I find it hard to "plan" and train at the same time. So I decided to just plan today.

Yesterday, I got vertical and ran up and down a flight and a half of stairs for about half an hour. Then I rode my bike for about 45 min. The key is to keep these efforts strictly aerobic, deeply aerobic if possible. On the bike I can tell my ability to govern this low intensity effort is coming back. I was able to ride at about 4 beats per minute lower than I was on Monday. I find to do this type of work, I really need to turn my focus inward. Typically, I've used an Ipod to facilitate this type of riding, but the last few times I've worked on just working with my own breath.

I think this has some benefit because I was able to discover, for example, that I've been riding with a slight amount of tension in my lower left leg and foot. So I spent most of the ride working out a strategy to counteract this and learn to relax the leg. I can only imagine the amount of tension I hold in the leg when I'm racing. But that is one of the lessor known benefits of training at low heart rate. You can actually feel what is going on in your body. So I found if I just concentrate on my big toe and the one next to it, my whole left leg relaxes. Again it is the whole thing about connecting through the feet.

As for the vertical running (basically up and down a flight of stairs for almost 30 minutes) that is going to take some work to get my heart rate to stay under aerobic threshold. But all it means is that instead of a continuous set like I did on Tuesday, I'll just do intervals until I get within 10 beats of AT and then walk until it comes down. That way I get to keep doing a workout I find more beneficial for my running overall than straight distance as well as work at burning fat as a fuel source.