The Off-Season

By Debbie
October 21, 2014 on 1:51 pm | In Life at TriSports.com, Product Information, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Liz Miller. The off-season is coming, so what are you going to do about it? Check out Liz’s blog or follow her on Twitter – FeWmnLiz (can you tell she’s a geologist?).

Some people dread the off-season, and other people love it. I usually feel a little bit of both excitement and anxiety when it’s time to transition to the off-season. Excitement because the off-season typically means sleeping in, weekends away without my swim, bike, and run gear, and maybe more than just an occasional glass of wine. Dread because the off-season also means shorter days, potential lack of motivation, and the occasional unwanted weight gain (especially around the holidays!).

In preparation for my off-season, I started looking around for some fun activities that didn’t necessarily involve swimming, biking, or running, or least not all 3 activities in the same race! Here are a few ideas for those of you who are getting ready to start your off-season, or maybe just looking for a few ideas to refresh your off-season routine.

Find a new type of race

I recently participated in my very first ultra-marathon. I have always been intrigued by ultra-marathons, but I typically need to save my quads and knees for quality long runs during Ironman training. This means that running 50K on trails is out of the question! But once your triathlon season is done, an ultra-marathon is a great way to put your fitness into something new and different.

I had a blast in my first ultra-marathon, not to mention the fact that since I wasn’t running with the goal of winning, I had more than enough time to stop and take pictures! Who can complain about running 50K when you have beautiful scenery like this?

The view during the Mt. Taylor 50K on 9/27/2014 (mttaylor50k.com)

Also, if you live somewhere with snow, look for some winter racing options. Snowshoe and cross country ski races are a great way to have some fun and challenge yourself without the pressure or stress that can sometimes be involved with a triathlon.

The ski to snowshoe transition during the Mt. Taylor Quad a few years ago (mttaylorquad.org)

Lastly, the winter can be a great time to try a swim meet or two! I participated in my first swim meet two years ago, and while I got DQ’ed from one event and certainly didn’t win any of the other events that I entered, I had a good time and enjoyed the challenge. Check out the U.S. Masters website for a list of local Masters groups that might be sponsoring an upcoming meet.

Try something new (or go back to something old!)

A few years ago, I took an “Introduction to Kettlebells” class that was required before participating in the local YMCA’s kettlebell course. I was hooked! It was a great mix of strength training and cardio work, and the 6 AM class was a great way to kick off the workday. The off-season is the perfect time to work on strength training (which is often overlooked during triathlon training), and kettlebells is a great way to do that.

Other strength training classes include TRX, Cross Fit, and other local YMCA or gym classes. I have found that TRX is another butt-kicker of a workout, relying mostly on body weight rather than weights, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that it’s easy!

Yoga and Pilates are additional options for new and different workouts that offer a nice variety to your typical swim, bike, and run schedule. Power and Bikram yoga can both be very challenging if you feel that you need a harder workout, and Pilates can really help with core strength, which can translate into better cycling form and faster running.

Most importantly, enjoy yourself!

The off-season shouldn’t be about constantly watching your food intake, weeks of difficult workouts, and a lack of social life. The off-season should be about kicking back, enjoying a treat now and then, and maybe sitting on the couch to watch a little more football than what is reasonable. Even more importantly, the off-season is about giving your mind and body a break from the rigors of triathlon training, to have some fun and not be too worried about missing a workout here and there.

Kicking back during a week-long canoe trip on Lake Mead during my winter off-season, 2012

The off-season also gives all of us triathletes time to step back, reflect on our performances over the season, and set new goals for the next year. And it’s important to remember that while we might lose a bit of fitness during the off-season, we’ll quickly gain it back at the start of the season, along with a renewed excitement for the sport and exciting goals to keep us motivated for the season.

Getting Faster in the Water

By Debbie
October 13, 2014 on 10:00 am | In Product Information, Training, Water | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Tom Golden. He’ll blow most peoples’ doors off in the water, so read on and get fast.

Much like a drug addict wanting a greater high, every year we, as triathletes, evaluate how to get to get more out of our addiction and take it to the next level.  For me, I think about that every year when it comes to running, which is my need-to-improve sport.  Fortunately, I grew up as a distance swimmer and consider it the lethal part of my race. More often than not, I hear from fellow triathletes, “I wish I had your swim” and “I just can’t seem to get faster.”  When I ask what they are doing in the water, I usually hear the same thing and think to myself, “no wonder your swim has not improved, you’re not really pushing your swim.”  I am by no means an expert but I have a very simple way to improve over the course of a season.  In fact, if you have 3 months left this year you still have time.

First, get in a masters swim program. [Editor's note: Many triathletes are intimidated by the thought of joining a Masters swim group, mostly because of the name...don't be. There are lanes for the very fast, but also the very slow, and they welcome everyone!] There are several really reasons for this. I know it costs money, but if you get in a good program, it’s worth every penny.  I used to swim on my own and it did the trick, but getting in the water and being pushed to race others in practice is a sure fire way to improve. It builds consistency at each workout.   You also gain the confidence of swimming tactfully.  You gain insight on how to wear someone out by changing your pace, or pacing with someone and then trying to drop them as they tire out.  You also gain knowledge from other, more experienced swimmers around you.  Having a coach from the deck to correct your stroke is essential, as well. Get the right equipment – kickboard, fins, paddles, buoy, your favorite goggles, and sometimes even a snorkel, and you’ll be ready to go.

A coach on deck can really help you improve your stroke

Second, it’s important to know that most masters programs are not designed for triathletes or distance swimming of 1.2 or 2.4 miles.  Most programs are tailored to a mid-distance sprint of a 200 or 500 yard race.  As a distance swimmer, you may think you need to be doing long sets of 800 repeats, and sometimes that’s good, but more importantly you need to learn how to pace and hold that pace. In a masters program, you will need to modify what you are doing so that you can work on pacing.  For instance, let’s say the set calls for 8×200 descend 1-4, 5-8.  You would adapt that set to holding a solid steady pace on each repeat and then get after the last one. Or going out moderate on the first 100 and negative split by 2 seconds on the second 100.  This will teach your body how to hold a pace, which is what you want to do in a race.  Be sure to be aware of others around you who are doing the set the way the coach called for and make sure that you don’t get in their way.

Use other swimmers to learn how to pace

Third, you need to adapt over time working in a tighter interval.  For example, each season, after all the fitness is gone and I get back in the water after a month break, I will start out in the 1:15 per 100 threshold lane. I focus on that concept of holding a pace no matter what the set calls for.  After about a week, I move to the 1:10 per 100 lane, again working on holding a pace. I will spend about a month letting my body adapt to shorter rest intervals.  Then I will move to the 1:05 threshold lane and do the same for the majority of my season.  Now to be honest, the first month in that lane sucks and I may barely make the interval but that’s exactly what you want to do.  Hold a pace and let your body adapt.  Hang with it, be consistent and it will pay off.

And pay off it does...the author exiting the water at 2013 IMAZ in a faster time than most of the pro field

Finally, like the other two sports, having good form and being efficient in the water is important and should not be sacrificed.  To this day, in every workout in every set on every repeat, I am thinking about reaching out and finishing through on my stroke. How I am breathing, rotating through the water, snapping my hips and how I am catching the water.  All the tips in the world are useless if your form is a mess.  So take the time to get instruction and watch good swimmers in the water.  Good luck and I hope you get fast!

The swim is just the start of what can be a very long day...make it as easy on yourself as possible!

The Urban Triathlete

By Debbie
September 8, 2014 on 3:34 pm | In Community, Life at TriSports.com, Random Musings, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Anthony Bagnetto. Pay attention all you city-folk! Check out Anthony’s blog or follow him on Twitter – anthonybagnetto.

Being a triathlete is difficult.  Let’s face it, it’s a huge reason we all do it. ‘Easy’ bores us, only one discipline bores us (what, no transitions!?). Early mornings, inclement weather, technical and nutritional failures are all par for our course. But there is yet another subset of us who face an additional challenge in preparing for races which, time wise, is 95% of being a triathlete.

I’m speaking of us inner city dwellers. No, not the townhouse owners on the city’s edge with driveways and parking but us brave-hearted souls who dream of a second bedroom so we can not have bikes hanging precariously from the wall over our beds as we sleep. The barriers we face on top of the difficulties inherent in our endeavors require a lot of creativity and close intimacy with repetition.

The concrete jungle

I live in the heart of New York City, and happily, there is a strong, thriving triathlete community here with no fewer than 8 solid Tri teams, organizations, and countless cycling and running teams. The community is strong, the will is there–the space isn’t. We are up against each other every morning, runners darting out into cyclists, cyclists swerving into running paths. And, of course, the tens of thousands of tourists that descend, making going fast dangerous and nearly impossible.

This all happens on a 6 mile circle between the hours of 5-7:30am every weekday morning in our training ground, THE ONLY training ground, Central Park. OK, that’s not totally true. There are several spacious parks in the other boroughs, but if you’re centrally located, the commuting time might take longer than your workout time.

Central Park - triathlete training grounds

I’ve broken down challenges and clever ways we city-folk create to overcome them by discipline.

Swimming:

Being in the northeast and surrounded by concrete, the idea of an outdoor 8-lane Olympic sized pool is a pipe dream. Access to a 25 yard or a 25 or 50 meter pool is supremely hard, or at least very expensive, as they come with mandatory gyms fees attached (by my count, there are 3 Olympic lane swimming pools in Manhattan, none of them easy to reach). One way triathletes get around this is through those tri teams that we belong to. They often have relationships with different facilities, so if you are going to do mostly group workouts, you are allowed to use the pool with the group as part of your membership. Some private triathlon coaches, like myself, have these relationships, as well, and can get you in for private lessons.

Some are lucky/rich enough to have a pool in their doorman building, and I’ve had clients in a lot of them. While this sounds awesome, it really isn’t. I haven’t found one yet that’s actually 25 yards long. So being good at both math and flip turns is essential.

As for open water practice, you can head way out to one of the Brooklyn beaches and brave the waves but as for anywhere else, as they say there, “fuggedaboutit”

Biking:

Here in Manhattan there are 3 options, and only 2 of them really useful for any kind of speed work. The West Side Highway has a very nice bike/running path but therein lies the problem. Runners, walkers and aerobar’d speedster triathletes competing for space within 5 feet of each other isn’t ideal for anything other than slow recovery rides. Which leaves that 6 mile loop of Central Park I mentioned and that’s only useful during non-tourist hours before 8:30am. If you are a long course triathlete, it’s off to Jersey, along the well-ridden 9W route. While this option is great (wide shoulders, frequent cyclist-friendly coffee shops and bathrooms) it can become mind-numbingly repetitive. Plus, depending on where you live in NYC, the commute to get out over the George Washington bridge (read: warmup) can be over a half hour each way.

Want to really bike? Then get out of town!

There are a handful of growing indoor cycling studios with computrainers and flatscreens that welcome both teams and individuals for different workouts, and they become very popular in the winter offseason. Even these are cramped, though, and few have shower or changing facilities.

Running:

This is really where my city (or really any other city) shines for triathletes as it is much easier to lace up some shoes and be running just outside your door in only minutes. On foot there is no need to stick to the boring 6 mile drive in Central Park since you can veer onto any number of the hundreds of trails that crisscross the many iconic acres. Running with traffic can be challenging, but it’s a skill easily learned and, unless you are doing speed work, you can generally work the traffic lights so that there is minimal stopping. The people-watching is unrivaled and, with each neighborhood sometimes seeming like a separate country, boredom is never an issue.

Endless possibilities for run training

No matter which leg of a triathlon you are training for, in a city it’s difficult to escape the glass, steel and concrete bearing down on you every day. So when you are at those races in the country and you see a few of us looking up at the clear wide open sky in astonishment, just remember, this is our escape both figuratively and literally. We won’t let it slow us down, though, we just take it in faster.

Life (and Training) on the Road

By Debbie
August 28, 2014 on 11:14 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Don Quinn. He’s the guy who rolls up to the race in the RV, and you’re jealous because he gets to sleep in later than you. Follow Don’s blog or on Twitter – donpquinn3.

“It must be tough to train while traveling all the time.” I hear that a lot. You see, this family of six just happens to live in an RV, and travel the country full-time. Going on four years now. I’m not going to lie, it’s a pretty sweet way to live! It can be very challenging, however, to commit to a training plan while going from point A to point B. Finding places to swim is especially difficult, but we do get to run and bike in some amazing places.

So, how can you get an effective workout while juggling the different needs of your spouse and kids, whether you’re on the road or not? I’ll give you some examples of what works for us, and you may find they work for your family, or training group.

The Yo-Yo Run

After a warm-up together, we each run at our own pace. When the lead runners reach the next trail intersection (or sign, or really any predetermined distance or time) they “turn-n-burn,” high-tailing  it to the back of the pack, while exchanging fives and words of encouragement with fellow runners, naturally. Then, after a brief recovery, regular pace is resumed until the next turnaround point. This pattern continues until the end of the run. We start together and finish together, and in the middle we all do our own thing.

The Yo-Yo allows each runner to reach his or her own distance and speed goals, while simultaneously enjoying some of that vital “alone with my thoughts” time so many of us crave while running. As a husband and father, it provides some peace of mind knowing I will have regular check-ins with the family. The level of peace of mind is directly proportional to the number of man-eating predators roaming the woods. There are times when the predators are just too numerous, so we stick to the family hike and call it cross-training.

The Yo-Yo can also be applied to a family hike, with some members running ahead while the hikers (aka “mules” because they carry the extra supplies) keep a steady pace. And on a point-to-point hike, one of us will drop the others at the trailhead, drive to the other end and start running to meet up with the rest of the group, and then the Yo-Yo begins.

The Yo-Yo can also be done on the bike, but the turnarounds can be a bit more dangerous on busy roads, so be careful.

The Yo-Yo Run

The Playground (PG) Run

Some of our favorite workouts involve playgrounds. When there are multiple PGs within our running distance, we stop at each one for a variety of exercises, or hit the same one multiple times. Ever since our kids were in backpacks and strollers, I’ve scanned playground equipment for exercise possibilities; now I’m rewarded with seeing my kids do the same thing: “Hey Dad, that looks like a good spot for pullups.”

A fan favorite is the “Spartan Around.” We start at one end of the equipment and have to climb all the way around the absolute outside and back to the start without falling in the “lava” (touching the ground). It’s an excellent full-body workout for everyone, and you’ll never hear the kids ask if we’re done yet. Plus, you’ll be ready for your next obstacle race, or whatever life throws at you. Give it a try, whether you have kids or not, and you’ll be hooked.

Before or after your near-death lava experience, find a convenient pull-up spot and get ready for a fun challenge. This can be done individually, as a single team, or as teams going head-to-head. We’ll pick a goal, say, 100 pull-ups total for the six of us. Then, we each go to failure one at a time in quick succession until we reach our team goal. The one goal for the whole team enables each person to do what he or she feels comfortable with, without the pressure of direct competition with others.

And now, scan the equipment to discover what else is possible. Prove to your kids that you do actually have a creative bone in your body. Really, anything involving body weight and grip strength will serve you well. Think outside the box. Speaking of which, I’m sure you’ll find a spot for box jumps. How about split box runs? Start with one foot on top of the bench or box (the other on the ground) and quickly switch feet like you’re running up stairs, pumping your arms in time. It won’t take much to get your heart rate up.

Some other exercises to consider: dips; rows; push-ups (of course, but try a variety of hand placements); Bulgarian split-squats; and ab curl-ups. For the ab curl-ups, grab the set of rings and get inverted (throw in some upside-down pull-ups, while you’re at it), then curl back down with your knees tucked to your chest as slowly as you can. Feel that? Oh yeah! Now do five more.

Amazing what you can do with playground equipment!

Walmart (aka “Make Do With What You Have”)

That’s right. As full-time RVers we occasionally stay overnight in Walmart parking lots, and other odd spots. With the right attitude, it can be a fun adventure, and you can still get a workout. A recent stay at a Walmart in Minnesota had us doing burpees and then sprinting up and down a hill. A little friendly competition. A couple days later (at another Walmart), we chose a plyo workout that included: power skips, for height and then distance; two-footed hops, again, for height and then distance; and multi-directional “jops” (jump off two feet onto one, and back, in four directions).

And we have a full set of resistance bands that sees regular use; a great way to keep the swimming muscles in shape when you can’t get to a pool. When all else fails, we have our “Hundreds,” so called because they started as four sets of twenty-five repetitions of squats, push-ups, and ab work. Any number of exercises can be substituted, such as, step-back lunges, or one-legged squats and deadlifts. And rotating a variety of exercises will help keep it fresh. Most times, we work one side of the body at a time, forcing us to engage the core to balance.

Resistance bands, benches and RVs, oh my!

The bottom line: Whether you travel a lot, have kids or not, life tends to throw speed bumps and potholes at all of us along the way. Stay flexible in your training, and you will weather the bumps more easily. Do what you can, when you can, and don’t sweat the rest. And if your training includes a spouse, kids, or anyone else really, always try to stay positive, supportive, and considerate. It’s a fine line between motivating and discouraging. With a little creativity, you can get a decent workout anywhere and anytime.

The Importance of Keeping an Eye on Your Shoes

By Debbie
November 5, 2013 on 12:15 am | In Product Information, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Clyde Messiah, who now makes sure he always has an extra pair of shoes at the ready. Check out his blog!

Whether you’re a triathlete, runner, or just someone who likes to stay active and fit, it’s important to have shoes that fit your foot type and gait. If you’re a runner or triathlete, you probably already have that covered; if not, get to your nearest high end running store ASAP!

Keeping track of your shoe wear is, however, equally, if not more, important. Last year I learned this lesson the hard way. I was racing Ironman 70.3 Kansas. Once I hit mile 3 of the run, I started to experience awful pain, mainly in my ankle joints and the bones of my feet. It was the classic symptoms of worn out shoes (sudden joint and bone pain). Trust me, mile 3 of a half-marathon that’s following a 1.2 mile swim and a 56 mile bike ride is not the time you want to find out your running shoes are worn out!

Shoe wear chart

So how can you tell when your shoes are done? Most running shoes have a life of 300-500 miles (but can vary based on the type of shoe, the terrain and the type of runner you are). An easy solution is to keep track of your shoe mileage. This can be done by simply looking at your regular running/training log, if you keep one; or if you average the same mileage each week, you can keep track of that. Once you get close to 300, it might not be a bad idea to buy a new pair so you have them ready. You can also check the wear patterns. Below are 2 pictures comparing worn out shoes to new shoes. For reference, you can take a good picture of your shoes when they’re brand new, or take your shoes into a running store and compare them with a new pair (an employee at a high end running store will usually be glad to help you, as well). There’s also an illustration above of the spots to monitor for wear based on the type of foot motion you have. An important thing to note is that even if you’re naturally an over-pronator or under-pronator (also called supinator), if you have the right shoe and orthotic combination you’ll most likely have a normal wear pattern. On the same note, if you do have the wear pattern of an over-pronator or under-pronator while using an orthotic, then you may want to get your shoe and orthotic combination re-evaluated to keep you healthy and prevent injury.

Forefoot wear comparison

Heel wear comparison

Remember, keeping track of your shoe wear patterns is just as important as keeping up with your nutrition and bike maintenance, and can help prevent injury, keeping you on the road and in top training and racing shape!

My Secret Weapon (shhhh!)

By Debbie
October 22, 2013 on 2:58 pm | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion and former TriSports.com employee Kris Armstrong. Hope you are enjoying that MI winter, Kris (you know you regret leaving Tucson when this time of year hits)!

One of the most common reasons for becoming a triathlete is to cross train. Swimming, biking and running provides a variety  in training that is very attractive to those bored with doing one or the other solo. The problem is that after 13 years of tri training, I am a triathlete and no long benefit like I did a few years ago. I have adapted to swimming, biking and running and even transitioning from one to the other. So what can a triathlete do to again experience cross training benefits like injury prevention/rehabilitation, improved performance and greater enjoyment of our sport? The answer for me, my secret weapon, is Triad Health and Fitness in Farmington Hills, Michigan, owned and operated by Kirk Vickers, a former trainer of the Detroit Red Wings professional hockey team. Kirk has a variety of clients, ranging from high school to professional athletes, as well as amateur athletes of all ages and those recovering from injuries. I had the privilege of working with Kirk during one of my internships for my degree in exercise science. Working with Kirk Vickers at Triad has helped me recover from injury, improved my performance and made training and competing a whole lot more fun!

Injury Prevention and Rehab

I have one injury that has been recurring since I was hiking in Arches National Park in Utah in February of 2010. It was a simple rolling of the ankle, pretty common, but whenever I pushed off the wall too hard swimming, biked a lot of hills or ran long distances or trails, my ankle would swell and be in such pain I had to take days off to recover. I found myself doing fewer activities to protect the ankle instead of solving the cause of the problem. Working with Kirk I learned that it might not be the ankle that’s the problem but could be instability in the hip allowing the ankle to roll. He also suggested lateral exercises to help stabilize the ankle, knee and hip – conditioning triathletes don’t get from swimming, biking and running. Kirk started me with some simple side steps that progressed to hula hoop jumps, two feet in two feet out. Currently I am doing 6 inch lateral hurdle jumps that have a cone at each end to touch and then return in the opposite direction. Kirk’s favorite remedy for pain is ice, which I use whenever the ankle acts up on occasion. The best thing about my ankle, knee and hip stability is my return to trail running which is one of the few things we can do outside during the long Michigan winter.

Lateral hurdles...great for ankle, knee & hip stabilization

Improved Performance

One of my favorite bike rides is Mt. Lemmon in Tucson, Arizona. If you climb all the way to the top, it’s at 9000 feet, an elevation gain of over 6000 feet from the base of the mountain. As difficult as this is on a bike, my most memorable performance improvement was realized during the Mt. Lemmon Marathon. My training not only helped me finish this, as advertised “Toughest Marathon in the World,” but actually do a pretty respectable time. The exercises that prepared me for this event were simple but very effective. The two exercises that I thought of while running were walking lunges and hip drives. For hip drives I used a weight lifting bench with one foot on the bench and the other on the floor. The arm on the side of the benched foot starts behind and the arm of the floored foot starts in front like a running stance. As the benched leg drives up the arm swings forward then returns to starting position. After 15 reps change sides. I also used a slide with hand weights. Place the hand weights in an upside down STEP, used for step aerobics, using the weights as handles push the slide ten yards. Immediately change direction and push back to start. Five reps of this drill are usually plenty depending on how much weight you choose.

Greater Enjoyment

Working-out in a gym is usually very boring to me. I like to be outside as much as possible which is why I like triathlon so much. But working out at Triad is fun and I look forward to each visit because I always learn something new and Kirk makes it challenging. If someone else is working out at the same time he will put us together to push each other. A little friendly competition is always fun. I usually do a warm-up then 5 drills and then a cool down. My 5 drills include something to improve stride, lateral stability, explosive power, core rotation strength and stability, and upper body strength. Normally these are done one at a time with breaks in between to recover, but sometimes it’s fun to run these drills as a circuit. Add a friend or two and time each station and switch every 30 seconds or every minute.

Cross training is very important when preventing and recovering from injury and improving our performance, but I must admit that it’s the fun factor that keeps me coming back for more time and again. Have fun!

Running off the Bike…Master it in the Off-Season

By Debbie
October 15, 2013 on 1:35 am | In Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Ed Ten Eyck, who is a kick-ass duathlete and coach. Check out his blog or follow him on Twitter – ed_teneyck.

Not too long ago I was invited to an event at one of my local bike shops as an information night for Irongirl. I was to present information about running off the bike and how to avoid the feeling of heavy, or dead, legs. Being a standard distance duathlete and exercise physiologist I thought nothing of the matter as I could talk about running on or off the bike for hours. Since I only had 15 minutes I compiled a very well manicured list that can keep most people out of trouble! I will outline the different sections and then get into more detail later about each one.

  • Bricks
  • Bike efficiency
    • Pacing
    • Cadence
  • Better running form

Bricks are the most common and possibly the most feared workout that new multisport athletes encounter. What is a brick? A brick is when you combine 2 workouts into 1. Whether it is a swim/bike, bike/run, whatever the combination you come up with you have a brick. So how can this help your run off the bike?

The dreaded "brick"

Specificity of training states that training should be relative and pertinent to the sport in which you are training. If you are going to bike and then run in competition, you should train that way so your body is used to the stress demands placed on it. By incorporating brick workouts into your training you are stressing the muscles in the same way that you will during a race. This allows your body to adapt to the stress more efficiently. This alone will not prevent you from having the feeling of heavy legs, but it is one of the tools used to help.

Bike efficiency is a very broad category but we will focus on pacing and cadence.

Pacing is the hardest thing for most, if not all, athletes who compete. The reason? We are all competitive and we all want to win. That being said, pacing on the swim or run followed by pacing on the bike can help you set yourself up for a successful run off the bike. Pacing can be done using a variety of tools; HRM, power meter, RPE, speed, and cadence. Personally I feel a power meter can be the best tool when planning your pacing strategy for the bike portion of a race. It is the only true direct measurement of effort you can monitor. So what is proper pacing? Pacing depends on a number of factors but if we just look at the bike portion of a race we would have to look at the distance that the bike portion is, the terrain, and what your goals are coming off the bike into the run. For shorter distance bike courses you will be able to ride at a higher pace than if you were riding a full IM course. The same can be said about flats versus hills. When it comes to the run off the bike, if you are looking for a solid overall performance and want to negative split the run, then pacing on the bike is key.

Cadence is the other side of bike efficiency. The faster you turn over the pedals the less stress per pedal stroke is placed on the muscle; however, more stress is placed on the cardiovascular system. What is the optimal cycling cadence? That is the never-ending question. A lot of research has come out supporting a cadence between 86-96 RPM. Is this perfect for everyone, no, but it is a general range that the majority of people will fall into. The more experience you have the easier it tends to be to maintain a cadence in this range. Some studies have shown that slightly higher cadence can benefit riders; however, there is a good deal of training that would be needed to adapt to the demands. Winter is a great time to practice this on an indoor trainer.

For the focus of multisport I feel the range of 86-96 RPM is ideal because when you get off the bike and you run at about the same RPM, your body is used to moving at that pace. When it comes to running, you are more efficient when running at a higher cadence because at lower cadence, the stored energy in the muscles is not used as effectively. Also, when you spin a higher cadence on the bike you are giving your muscles a break because you aren’t generating as much force per stroke. So the take home from this section is that your bike and run cadences should match, which will decrease the likelihood of feeling the onset of “heavy legs.”

I believe better run form is one of the best off-season training tools you can use to your advantage if you are new to the multisport or endurance world. Having inefficient running form forces you to work harder and can increase the likelihood of injury. It takes time and patience to become a more efficient runner, but usually after 6 months of dedication and focus on form you will begin to see the results. So what is better running form and why is it more efficient? A natural running position is when your kinetic chain is in alignment and you are landing more over the center of your body. This is typically the result of landing more mid-foot versus having a heel to toe gait pattern. When landing heel to toe, the majority of people are landing behind their center of mass enough that they have to overcome the compression and gravity pushing them backwards to continue the running motion. This results in a decrease in efficiency. When you land more mid-foot or with a landing closer to the center of mass, then you are propelling yourself forwards. Correcting your running form is something that takes time and energy to do. It is something that can be done during the off-season and help you prepare for the upcoming season, but I wouldn’t ever recommend attempting to overhaul your running form during the race season.

Proper vs. Improper Running Form

In closing, these are just a few of the ways that you can feel more fresh coming off the bike going into your run. By working diligently on this during the off-season and pre-season, you will go into your races knowing you have new tools to help you PR the run portion of any multisport event.

Slow Down and Try Some Yoga!

By Debbie
October 7, 2013 on 10:57 am | In Community, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | No Comments

This blog brought to you by TriSports Champion Monica Pagels, who wrote this much earlier this season and who has, now, completed that first Ironman she mentions. As the off-season begins for many, we thought this a fitting blog to get you strong during the winter months.

Ommmm….. yes, we’ve all heard it, the ever popular meditation sounds that so often accompany a just as stimulating yoga class. Runners and triathletes alike have heard it for years, “try yoga, it will help with your injuries.”  But most of us who thrive on the adrenaline rush of zipping through the trails in our newest and coolest trail shoes, or racing down a hill in our aerobars hoping to hit a new high speed, cringe at the thought of placing our feet (or our head or our hands, or all 3 at once) on the mat and inhaling and exhaling to a count of 8! While the benefits are well documented: stress relief, improved mood and well being, improved flexibility, improved digestion, improved sleep… the list goes on and on… for some reason, it is still tough to convince us cardio-junkies to forgo a one hour brick workout where our legs will feel like lead for an hour of gentle relaxation and meditation.  We are conditioned to believe that in order to set a new PR or achieve that highly sought after age group place, we must push harder, put in more hours, do more hill work or add speed work.  While there is no compromise for hard work (you get what you put in), it is time to re-condition our minds when it comes to how we think of yoga.  What if we had the mindset that the more yoga we practiced, the better we could bike, or the faster we could swim? Well, fellow tri-geeks, it’s true! Yoga really can make you into a “warrior.”  I was the first to stake my claim against it, I thought, “Who has time for one more activity?” And who wants to sit around with their legs twisted like a pretzel becoming one with the universe? That is, until I tried it!

Looks easy, but it's not!

Tired of the long winter full of indoor bike rides and treadmill runs, I headed to the group fitness studio for a Yoga Fusion class. This sounded at least a little more fitness based and not as meditative. To my surprise, I struggled through most of the class! I am an 8 time 70.3 veteran, run more marathons than I care to count, and I am training for my first full Ironman. I had been putting in about 7-8 hours a week of base training and thought the yoga class might be a nice stretching break for my sore, tired muscles. Instead, I found myself in plank, pigeon and half moon, shaking to hold the poses.  Shocked at my lack of apparent strength and balance, I began attending 2 yoga classes a week.  Within 2 weeks I noticed remarkable improvements and had to admit to its benefits. As my IM training progressed, I entered a 70.3. It was very early in the season when you come from Michigan and have only had a month of outdoor riding. To add to that, the bike course was the hilliest and toughest of any I have done.

St George bike elevation...ouch!

As I started on the course and climbed the hills, I felt very strong and quickly passed people. Hill after hill, the same result, I was strong and pushed with ease to the top of them. My bike split was faster than on most courses, despite its difficulty.  What’s more, my legs recovered quickly after the ride and my run (hills, again) split was consistent with my others. Yoga has not only improved my strength and balance, which no doubt helped me climb those hills, it has given me a sense of control over my body.  It has taught me how to breathe deep and remain calm amidst chaos.  Now, triathletes, hear me when I say: this is worth far more than it sounds! In mile 90 out of 112, when your neck and shoulders ache and your legs are burning, if you can put your mind into that place where you feel calm and in control, your focus shifts from the here and now (“I still have to run 26.2 miles..”) to a place where you have a greater awareness of just you moving through space, in a world much bigger than just you pedaling on a bike.  If that is what it takes to get you to T2, and ultimately, the finish line, isn’t it worth considering?

Yoga teaches you to become aware of your surroundings and to feel weightless as if you were part of those surroundings.  This is achieved by challenging yourself to complete the strength and balance poses, breathing through them, and accomplishing a little more with each session. Yoga practice can mean different things to different people. For me, it was at first the humbling experience of inadequacy that convinced me to continue, but eventually the benefits carried over into my first passion, triathlon. Once I began to feel the strength and control of my body, and my race times improved, I knew yoga was for me.  While I may never feel the meditative power many achieve from yoga practice, knowing I am stronger and more aware of my body I will continue to practice. I urge all of you cardio-junkies that can’t get enough of the wind whipping past your face and feel the need to be in your target heart rate zone for hours at a time, give yoga a try and see how it can improve all aspects of your life, not just your athletic performance.

Learn more about the benefits, and different types of yoga.

Beauty and balance

Head Games

By Debbie
September 11, 2013 on 9:37 am | In Community, Races, Random Musings, Sponsorship, Training | 3 Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Ramsbey. Check out her blog at www.nicoleramsbey.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoleramsbey.

I raced a sprint tri the other weekend and was not in peak form to say the least.  I managed to perform, and perform not too badly, which led me to thinking about a few things.  One of the things I started thinking about was how much of triathlon is physical fitness and how much is mental fitness? At this point in the season when you may be approaching your ‘A’ race, now’s the time to figure it out.

Finished, and Done

I guess my first thought was, how many people, when they reach a tough moment, give in to the negative Nancy talk?  I hit many negative points throughout racing, but rarely do I “give in” to those thoughts.  Say you are coming up on a big hill during a sprint tri, you’re maxing out your heart rate and you get halfway up…what’s the first thing that you typically hear in your head?   Is it, “I can’t do this anymore, I have to walk”?  If that’s a typical thought process for you, how do you respond to it?

If you respond by giving up the race in your mind and walking, then I’d have to say your mental toughness might need a swift kick in the @**.  I may get this thought once in a while, but I immediately counter it with a positive thought.  During the sprint tri, I had my own mental battle, but I won.  Every time a negative thought comes to mind, I always attempt to counter it with a positive.  Last weekend when I hit the hill, I had to remind myself that I can do anything for a mile.  My responses are almost automatic now, and if yours aren’t they will get to be that way if you continually work at it.

I’d say mental toughness is at least half of triathlon…if you can’t handle the mental stuff then the fitness won’t matter.  Even though you may not be physically fit, if you are mentally fit going into a race, you can still do well.   Imagine the day that you are physically AND mentally fit…you can OWN that day like no other.  Don’t short change yourself, and remember it’s not always about how many miles you’ve logged.

Race with a Smile

Stay Cool, Stay Hydrated!

By Debbie
August 21, 2013 on 11:19 am | In Nutrition Tips, Product Information, Training, Water | No Comments

This blog brought to you by Team TriSports athlete Nicole Truxes (rhymes with “success”). Check out her blog at www.nicole-stateofmind.blogspot.com and follow her on Twitter – nicoletruxes.

It’s heating up here in the desert, as I’m sure it is for much of the country.  Summer time BBQs filled with burgers, watermelons, and margaritas are just around the corner!  Everyone loves summer, with more hours of sunlight, less clothing, great tan lines – especially us triathletes ;) – and (for most) no school!  Even with all we have to look forward to in the summer, all the sweating during those hard miles does take a toll on your body, one that you may not be used to coming out of your winter training.

Getting hot, must hydrate!

Staying hydrated is one of the most important parts of our training, and it’s one of the easiest ones to forget.  First thing in the morning, aside from the hunger I’m sure many of you experience, you should be thinking about a glass of water.  You don’t have to overdo it, especially if you have a workout shortly after you rise (gotta beat the heat!), one 4-8 oz glass is fine depending on what you can handle and the duration of your workout.

If you think about it, the adult body is made up of about 60% water; wouldn’t it make sense to make it a key ingredient in our daily nutrition regimen?  Many of the metabolic processes necessary for training and recovery require the proper amount of water to happen, so why wouldn’t you supply your body with this integral piece of training equipment?

Your body is made up of about 60% water

Another important thing to consider is the amount of electrolytes you’re getting.  This word is thrown around a lot, but do you know what all of the electrolytes are and how to figure out if you’re low on any of them?

  • Sodium- the most common, most demonized, but very necessary electrolyte.  Sodium gets a bad rap because of all the high blood pressure and heart disease we have in this country; however, as an endurance athlete you need to be very aware of how much sodium you get because you may not be getting enough!  If you often get confused, or dazed when doing a hard workout (particularly one where you sweat a lot), you’re covered in white, and your skin tastes like salt—you might be in need of some sodium, pronto!  This confusion you’re experiencing is one of the first signs of hyponatremia, which can be very serious if you do not take care of it. When your sodium levels drop in your blood and you do nothing to bring them back up it can cause you to go from confusion to vomiting to more serious things such as cardiac arrest, pulmonary edema, or even death.  This has happened in many of the major marathon events and can even be caused by having too much plain water and not enough electrolyte supplementation.
  • Potassium- just eat some bananas, right?! For the most part, yes.  Potassium is much different than sodium in that when your blood levels first drop, it is difficult to tell that they are low.  It is not until real problems begin and your muscles are already cramping that you know you are very low in potassium.  This can also cause GI distress (mainly constipation) along with the muscle cramps, so be sure to eat your ‘nanners.
  • Calcium- Stress fracture fighter no. 1! It may come as a surprise that some of the most avid runners have some of the lowest calcium and therefore weakest bones.  But running is weight bearing? Yes, running is a weight bearing exercise, but sometimes runners (particularly female) have such low hormone levels that it causes their calcium to go down and therefore their bones become weak and brittle, allowing for stress fractures to happen much more easily.  Calcium can be taken in a supplement daily to help raise these levels and prevent against stress fractures; however, vitamin D is very important to take along with it to help boost absorption into your blood!
  • Magnesium- Seldom talked about, but very important!  Magnesium is a mineral we don’t generally hear a ton about.  However, it is very important to carbohydrate metabolism and muscle strength (two very important things for an endurance athlete).  Magnesium deficiency can decrease endurance by fatiguing muscles and decreasing the efficiency of carbohydrate metabolism.  The symptoms of low magnesium are difficult to distinguish from those of potassium or sodium, so it is important to supplement magnesium along with the other electrolytes!
  • Phosphate- Generally phosphate is not a problem for athletes.  It is very common in our diet and usually not lost in mass quantities when exercising.  The only time this electrolyte is a problem is when an athlete has an eating disorder or other severe disease of some kind, in which case they should seek medical attention anyway.

So that is a quick and dirty breakdown of the electrolytes. Many triathletes supplement with electrolytes caps. A great source of hydration and energy that I like is Fluid Performance. Check yourself every once in a while, monitor your electrolyte intake and determine if you have any of the beginning stages of any of these electrolyte deficiencies.  Not only will this increase your performance, but it could save your life!

Stay hydrated everyone!!

(I’m sure many people have seen this memorable finish…these ladies could have definitely used some electrolytes!!)

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