Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Training The Glutes

As triathlon, cycling, and running coaches - we rarely work with athletes who are too strong, too powerful or too flexible; therefore, we recognize the benefits of functional strength training. The glutes (gluteus maximus, gluteus medius, gluteus minimus) are an extremely powerful muscle group - arguably the "powerhouse" of the entire body for sport movements. When functioning properly, the glutes improve performance in any sport that involves using the legs and can also prevent injury, such as low-back, knee pain, and calf/foot pain.

Our August training tips centered around the glutes and included exercises to strengthen the glutes (any many other lower-extremity muscle groups) in all three planes of motion (front-to-back, side-to-side, and rotational).

Click Below for handouts a video of functional training exercises for the glutes:

  • Training the Glutes - Video
  • Training the Glutes - Lunge With Rotation (see below)
  • Training the Glutes - Lunge Hop (see below)

Catalyst Endurance Coaching

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Variety = Injury Prevention

Weekly Training Tip:

Variety is the spice of life and the key to preventing injuries. Jen Rhines, 3-Time US Olympian Runner, agrees with this philosophy - in the June 2012 issue of Competitor Magazine, she answered the following question:

What advice would you give to age-group runners? "I always encourage recreational runners to do some extra things instead of doing the exact same thing every day. Doing more stretching, drills or work in the weight room can make you a better runner and prevent overuse injuries and burnout."

For the recreational runner, your week should involve 3-4 "key" workouts, at least 1 day of active rest and at least 1 day of total rest.  Below is an example:

Monday: Rest

Tuesday (Key): Speed/Interval Run (emphasis on form and threshold running)
Wednesday: Strength Training
Thursday (Key): Tempo Run (emphasis on quality, sub-threshold running)
Friday: Active Rest
Saturday (Key): Long Run (emphasis on distance, not speed)
Sunday: Active Rest or Cross-Training

Yes - you can train for a race of any distance (even a marathon) with only 3-4 days of running per week.  Proper rest and quality workouts are each far more important than the volume (quantity) of your workouts.  If you would like to put this philosophy into practice, CEC offers year-round Group Classes and group or individual Training Programs.

Train hard, but have fun!

Catalyst Endurance Coaching

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Raceday Preparation for Runners

Recover: Training for any event can drain the mind, body and spirit.  The weeks and days prior to raceday are meant for tapering, not cramming; you can not get in shape in one or two weeks, but you can get hurt.  You have likely spent the last 12-18 weeks in “perma-soreness,” so you deserve to run with fresh legs on raceday!  Proper recovery includes decreased duration and intensity of exercise, one or two extra days of rest, increased mobility exercises and increased hydration.  All of this (as apposes to a week of complete rest) will allow the healing and refreshing needed to make raceday enjoyable.

PrepareMake a checklist before packing your raceday bag – include even the obvious items such as shoes, socks, race bib and timing chip/strap.  Raceday is already hectic enough: finding parking (or riding a shuttle that takes forever), checking in your bag (which can be a half mile from the start), waiting in line for the port-o-potty (maybe even twice), wading your way through the crowd to your starting corral . . . after all of this, you have very little energy to focus on anything else.  Do all you can in advance to limit raceday anxiety.

FuelWith a wake-up call sometime around 4:30, travel to the race, and the aforementioned “hectic” events on raceday, it is easy to neglect proper fueling.  The only “perfect” raceday breakfast is the one your body is used to consuming.  Eat a larger meal (300-500 Calories) about two hours before the start of the race and then a “jumpstart” snack 15-30 minutes before the start (50-100 Calories, mostly carbohydrate).  It is okay to have some caffeine on raceday – but once again, make sure you know how your body responds.

HydrateSimilarly to fueling, it is easy to start your race under-hydrated.  Between breakfast and your warm-up, drink at least 20 ounces of fluid (a standard water bottle).  Between your warm-up and the start of your race, drink at least another 12 ounces (half of another water bottle).  Since your body needs a combination of water, carbohydrate and electrolytes – have a sports drink OR water along with carbs and sodium.  The body can load (store) muscles with both energy and water – so your fueling and hydration program begins days before your race, not in the morning.

Warm-up: The #1 way to prevent injury is a proper warm-up – the #1 task people skip on raceday is the warm-up (a few stretches while waiting for the port-o-potty do not count).  As with your nutrition and hydration, you should complete a warm-up routine you have done before.  The ideal warm-up includes exercises that: increase heart rate, increase muscle temperature, take your joints through a greater-than-normal range of motion and involve dynamic movements (as running is dynamic, not static).  Equally important, the warm-up preps the mind for the upcoming 3.1 to 26.2 miles.  Always finish your warm-up with a smile, applause, and/or high-5’s – your friends can use the encouragement as much as you!

Mantra: Never try anything new on raceday!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

The "Core Connection"

So what exactly is the connection?  Think of your body as one long chain with each muscle group representing a link.  The core muscles (rectus abdominus, obliques, transverse abdominus, latissiumus dorsi, hip flexors, and a few others) connect the upper and lower extremities and serve as an energy transfer segment from the one end of the “chain” to the other.During activity, a muscle lengthens before it contracts (shortens), which is called a transformational zone (TZ).

During athletic movements TZ are necessary for locomotion.  In the core, TZ are at the end range of torso extension, lateral flexion and/or rotation and it is very important to train through these TZ to minimize injury risk and maximize strength.

Practical Application
Envision a baseball pitcher – the legs and hips generate a great deal of force during the wind up which is transferred through the core to the shoulders and finally to the hand where the ball is released at high velocity. A pitcher further relies on the core to decelerate the arm and body during follow through.  Pitchers, therefore, must go through several TZ in one pitch, all involving the core to either enhance loading (lengthening) or unloading (shortening) of muscles in all three planes of motion. A strong core will maintain proper posture and maximize energy transmission, whereas a weak core is a poor energy conductor that compromises technique which further decreases pitch velocity or increases injury risk.  Also consider how often a pitcher stops moving all other muscles and performs an abdominal crunch motion.  This crunch, or any isolated muscle movement, does not occur in sport. Obviously, throwing a baseball greatly differs from running a marathon, but the concept of sports-specific training applies to all athletic movements.  During running, energy transfer works from the top of the chain down, i.e. the arms, shoulders, and chest generate force that is transferred through the core to the legs and finally to the ground.  Likewise a weak core, or a core with poor endurance, can decrease performance by compromising form.

When selecting core exercises, make sure at least 75% are ground-based (standing on your feet) and performed at speeds mimicking the sport (e.g. baseball and football players should perform core exercises explosively).  Also understand that numerous exercises will engage the core without isolating it – push ups, squats, lunges, standing shoulder press, and nearly any other ground-based, free-weight exercise requires core stability.

Yoga, Pilates, and Mat Exercises
Yoga has been around, well longer than you and me and maintains its popularity through improving mind, body, and spirit.  Similarly, Pilates improves core strength, flexibility, and mental focus but neither practice alone improves running-specific strength.  Has a running coach ever encouraged you to move as slow as possible as a Pilates instructor might?  Have you ever run while lying on your back?

Yoga, Pilates, and traditional “abs” exercises should account for the other 20-25% of your core training and are best performed on active recovery days or at the end of a workout.  They complement training well, but lack sport-specific adaptations.

Training the core involves a lot more than just working the abs. Crunches will increase abdominal strength and may help you get a six-pack, but as an athlete (elite or recreational) sport-specific strength should be the priority. To achieve this sport-specific core strength, perform the majority of your exercises:

1) While standing on the ground
2) In all three planes of motion (sagittal, frontal, transverse)
3) Through the full range of motion (into each TZ)

Mat-based exercises have their place in training, but alone are not effective in improving athletic movement.

Click Here for Exercise Examples (and print version of this article)

Justin Robinson, MA,RD,CSSD,CSCS,FAFS
Coach - Catalyst Endurance Coaching
Director of Strength & Conditioning - RU Sports Performance Center

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Bike Should I Buy?

As a triathlon coach, I do my best to promote the sport - which often includes converting my personal training clients and runners into beginner triathletes.  In doing so, I have to answer a slew of questions - how much training does it take, how hard are they, how do I conquer my fear of open-water swimming  . . . all valid inquiries, and as you might imagine - I provide a slightly different answer for each person.

Lately, though, I have been bombarded with the question of "what bike should I buy?"  I initially provide my typical response to any fitness/nutrition question that "it depends."  And bike choice is highly dependent - bicycles can range from $50-$15,000 in price, can get you from point A to B, down the Kamikaze at Mammoth, or 112 miles across the Hawaiian desert.

To better answer the question, though, I ask a few questions myself:

1) How much do you have to spend?
When discussing price, I recommend to set two limits: a "soft" limit (how much you would like to spend) and a "hard" limit (the amount you absolutely can not exceed).  These limits are imperative when walking into a bike shop - in fact, this will be one of the first questions they will ask you.  Some aspects of a bike are more more important than others; for example, it's worth spending a little extra money on the components (brakes, gears, shifters) than on race wheels.  In short - select a bike with Shimano 105, Ultegra, or DuraAce components or any SRAM components.  Shimano Tiagra and Sora components are of much lesser value.  And for an entry-level bike, either an aluminum or carbon frame will work well.

Good bicycles (worthy of triathlon races) start around $1,000, but if you want a competitive bike that will will be happy with for multiple years, expect to spend in the $2,000 range.  The good news is that is somewhat levels off from there - the difference between $1,000 bike and a $2,000 is pretty significant; however, the difference between a $2,000 bike and a $10,000 bike is rather small (unless you are an elite athlete).

Note: do not forget to consider sales tax, pedals, shoes, and helmet when planning your finances.

2) What distance of triathlon do you plan to do?
If you want to just try out a triathlon and plan to do one sprint-distance race (bike course is 15 miles or less) before committing to anything else - a mountain bike (or borrowed road bike) will service you just fine.  If you do race on a mountain bike, though, it is well-worth spending $30-$40 on "road slicks" (smooth tires) as they will save you a considerable amount of time and energy.  If you plan to compete in an Olympic distance race (or greater) or try a season of triathlon racing - you will need a road or triathlon bike (more on those differences below).

3) What other riding do you plan to do (bike racing, century rides, commuting)?
This question has to do with the type of bike you purchase.  The three main types of bicycles are Mountain Bikes, Road Bikes, and Triathlon (aka Time Trial or TT bikes).  Mountain bikes are suitable for short commutes or off-road riding.  Road bikes are the most versatile - they built for a combination of comfort and speed ("comfort" is a relative term, especially if you have never ridden a road bike) and can be used in a triathlon or road race.  Triathlon bikes are built for speed, but are not legal in road bike racing and might be uncomfortable for longer rides (over 70 miles).  Frame geometry is the main difference between road and triathlon bikes.  If you are unsure what you want to do - buy a road bike.  If you know you only want to race triathlons and want to go as fast as possible, buy a triathlon bike.  Most enthusiasts, though, have at least one of each, so if you get bit by the endurance-sport bug, chances are you will have three+ bikes within three years.

4) How long do you plan to keep the bike?
This question related to the price question.  If you are satisfied with upgrading to a new bike in a year or two - it's okay to spend $1,000 or less (for a used or new bike with lesser components).  For the average athlete, spending $2,000 will get you a ride that you may never outgrow.

Most Important Part!
Above all, the absolute most important factor in bike selection is the "Bike Fit".  A carbon-frame bike, with SRAM Red components, and Zipp 808 race wheels is useless if you are uncomfortable on it.  Getting fit to a bike is much more complicated than standing over the top tube and making sure you have 4-fingers of clearance (frame size, in fact, is only a small consideration of the fit).  A bike fit (by a certified professional) should be the first step in selecting a bike.  Most shops can narrow your choice of bikes to 3-4 based on your fit and price range.

San Diego has a plethora of quality bike shops - I recommend two: Moment Cycle Sport (Point Loma) or Nytro (Encinitas).  Browse through either of their websites to read more about bike-fitting philosophy.

To summarize, selecting a bike depends on a number of factors - the two most important are your budget and the bike fit.

I hope this helps - the discussion of how to get into triathlon is a lengthy one, but the coaches at CEC are always happy to offer advice.

Good luck!

Justin Robinson, MA,RD,CSSD,FAFS,CSCS
Triathlon, Running Coach

Catalyst Endurance Coaching