Monday, February 1, 2016


Fast and Deep

Every year, we give our daughter and our nephews an adventure for Christmas. One year, we decided that the adventure would be white river rafting in the Gauley River. We had a hint of things to come when the guide asked to discuss the day’s adventure privately with us.

He pointed out that we had a great day ahead -- actually, a world class day. The river was almost at its highest level due to recent storms. A few more feet, and the river would be closed. He informed us that almost the whole ride would be Class V rapids which increased the level of danger.

After some debate (my partner is the cautious one operating out of the Worst Case Scenario Guidebook), we elected to take the trip.

Training in Kauai

I recently returned from Hawaii and wanted to share tips in case you find yourself cycling or training for triathlon on the island of Kauai. The island is a special place with a different vibe than you’ll find on the more crowded islands.

Athletes and Statins

In a previous article, I wrote about the general issue of serum cholesterol and lipid levels and I’ve always encouraged athletes to “know their numbers.” I'd like to extend that conversation and talk about the most common scenario I hear about: the athlete who has a high low-density lipoprotein (LDL) level and who is encouraged to take a statin medication for treatment.

Tackling Weaknesses for a Breakthrough

You know those sessions that cause you to just cringe in fear if anyone even mentions them? We all have them. The coach says, "Okay, today we are going to do a solo bike TT for one hour, best possible pace," or "1500m TT in the pool," and you get that shudder.

Breakthrough Training: Four Key Lessons for the Serious, Frustrated Athlete

As far as triathlon coaches go, I think I have a fairly homogenous group of athletes that I tend to work with. They are typically guys who have been plugging away with relatively high levels of annual volume for a number of years and have had either inconsistent results or results not in line with they work put in.

Since my sample of athletes are fairly uniform in athletic history, the key to attaining a breakthrough performance for these athletes more often than not comes down to a few slight tweaks to the way they have been doing things.

Mental Toughness Takes Many Forms

Mental toughness comes in many forms. Often, mental toughness is defined as the ability to suffer more than the competition during a race.

Years of training, racing and coaching have expanded my perspective of mental toughness. It definitely pays to be mentally tough when you’re 20 miles into the ironman marathon and you feel like you can’t possibly take another step. But mental toughness is needed long before the 20-mile mark, or even the starting line. It is mental toughness that helps to build real, race day fitness.

Mental Rawhide

What subject could be more germane to a group of endurance athletes than mental toughness? After all, given the vast evidence supporting the central governor theory of fatigue, it follows that increasing mental toughness will boost performance. I propose further that we are all tough on crime, we dole out tough love and even our cleaning products are tough on stains, so c’mon: let’s all get tough.

Similar to many aspects of common sense, it’s hard to really define what we mean by mental toughness. This is pretty important, since most of us hope to enhance our mental toughness and it’s hard to enhance what you cannot describe.

Being Tough... When You Need to Be

When trying to become a successful athlete it’s not hard to drive yourself into submission thinking you need to be physically tough every minute of every day. The reality is we need to learn when to be physically tough, when to be mentally tough, and at times, when to be neither. Then again, being neither often takes a bit of mental fortitude. As a result, not being tough can be the toughest thing for a lot of us. The key to athletic success is not only deciding how to be tough, but what tough really is and in what scenario. There are a variety of ways to make yourself strong, durable, and in the process a better athlete

Mental Toughness: A Physiologist’s Perspective

A few of you may know that I began my college studies with a view to a career in sport psychology. After a few years of study it became clear to me that my mechanistic mindset was far better suited to exercise physiology and so I left matters of the mind behind. Or so I thought…

What is Mental Toughness?

In case you hadn’t noticed, April is “Mental Toughness” month on Endurance Corner. When I learned about the theme, I thought, “This is me; this will be good.” After all, I think of myself as pretty tough.

I’ve come from the “slow class” at a below average high school which was nearly closed down the year I graduated to getting an honours degree in a tough subject. I’ve beaten alcoholism and stayed away even when I’ve been homeless. I’ve been attacked with knives on several occasions. I’ve worked 16-hour overnight shifts with only a 20-minute break picking orders in warehouses. I’ve spent winters without hot water and days without food. I’ve run through a heart attack in a sprint triathlon (winning my age group). And I’ve sat through a Nelly Furtado gig for a girl.

I’d like to think all of that was for something -- even the pop concert was a learning experience -- but is this sort of toughness required for Kona?

The Will to Win

In my business, I spend most of my time with college students. Many of them are young, unproven and searching for their paths. On occasion someone special shows up. Despite his or her youth, the individual radiates strength and purpose. That person ends up being a cornerstone of our team.

As I get to know these individuals, I find they usually have a story with a crucible moment. Something happened to someone they love dearly or to themselves that involved making a tremendously hard choice. These are the individuals that go on to great success on their chosen path.

Training Around Injury Is Different Than Training Through Injury

During my time as an athlete I have experienced a few injuries. My personal experience reminds me that pain tolerance cannot be trusted when a physician or coach is evaluating an injured athlete’s ability to safely train.

As a coach and chiropractor who gives advice professionally to super motivated athletes I always recommend training around an injury. I get very uncomfortable (some might say emotional) when an athlete tries to train through an injury.

I am very willing to explore a healthy, motivated athlete’s limits. Likewise, I am willing to explore his or her limits as we safely train around injury. What follows is an ongoing case study.

Coaching Styles

Years ago on a visit to Paris, desperate for some exercise, I accompanied my mother to her Parisian health club. The club was set in an old stone building, and a well-coiffed instructor led me into an exercise studio with exposed brick walls and rich wooden floors. Accustomed to American fitness classes that are sprinkled liberally with chirps of “good job” and “nice work,” I was taken aback when the French instructor’s first comment to the group was “Vous etes nules!” -- literally informing us that we were all zeros. The feedback just got more critical from there.

Be Tough

When people talk about being tough, they tend to think about gritting their teeth, sucking it up, pushing through the pain and displaying to themselves and those looking on that they go hard all the time. They do not rest or take it easy; surely this is the result of a strong mind that allows them to push through the pain.

From my viewpoint, this couldn’t be further from the truth, nor is it what makes someone mentally tough.

Our Favorite Workouts: Swim to Bike Transition

This workout is a session geared towards those short course speedsters, people who struggle with that first 30 minutes from swim to ride or races that require you to hop right onto your bike and be geared to race it from the start.

Everyday Toughness

It looked miserable outside, overcast and grey, large spots of rain splashed against the window; indoors was warm and comfortable, watching TV seemed far more appealing than going for a run. But I had committed to a schedule I couldn't break -- the challenge of running for 30 consecutive days. So I dug out a long sleeve top and threw on a vest for warmth before forcing myself to step out into the rain and close the front door behind me. Thirty damp minutes later I was back, glad I hadn't stayed on the couch. The conditions weren't perfect, but neither were they that bad -- I'd actually enjoyed my run.

Leadville Mountain Bike - Prep

Following on from my last piece on the Leadville Mountain Bike race, I want to dig deeper into how I’m preparing for the event.

The Defining Moment

Throughout my athletic career, there have been defining moments that will be forever marked in my mind. I had one of those occurrences recently near the end of my first sub-3-hour marathon.

When I began my eight week preparation for the race, I had no idea what I was capable of doing from a time perspective but as the training unfolded, it appeared as if sub-3 might be possible.

As I stood on the starting line, waiting for the gun to go off, I went over my plan: "I will run by heart rate and I will let the conditions and the terrain dictate my pace."

Leadville Mountain Bike - Overview

As you’ll read on my personal blog, I’m navigating a life shift these days. The realities of having a house filled with small children have led me towards reducing my training load. That said, the desire to train and perform remains, so I was stoked when the opportunity to participate in the Leadville 100 mountain bike race appeared.

Farming Fitness

Almost five years ago, I wrote a piece for Gordo on taking a break from ironman. In that article, I wondered if I would ever do an ironman again.

Well, I’m signed up for IMC this year and appear to be stringing together some consistent training. In full disclosure, I have signed up for and cancelled out of two other ironman races in the last five years, but this one seems to be sticking.

In my trip back to ironman fitness, I’m attempting to follow the advice I laid out five years ago: to train as much as I can consistently train.

Mental Skills for Racing

If you are already doing everything you can on the physical side to prepare for racing and are looking for the next step to reach your goals, consider looking at your mental game plan. Here is a simple step by step strategy to improving your mental skills that you can practice in training and put in place come race day.

Who's Got the Bacon?

Last month a group of investigators from the Harvard School of Public Health, headed by An Pan, PhD, published a report in the Archives of Internal Medicine, entitled “Red Meat Consumption and Mortality”.

The report received a great deal of media attention. But how much of what was reported in the news should concern you?

Amygdala - Use Your Mind to be Strong

A good buddy once told me that the place where I live above the polar circle is not the best place for triathlon. He may be right. At that time I agreed with him and was actually considering relocation. These days I change my thinking to be: "I am training for a rough winter day. This is toughening me up." In ultras there is no room for you to be a weenie. So, following that train of thought, Norway is probably a good place to toughen up.

My general take on the ultra build up is covered in a past column, Ultraman the Viking Way. What I did not cover in that article is how I trained my mind to cope with the fact that I was signed up for Ultraman.

An Ultra Life

This is a year of celebrations for me: my business is 15 years old, we’re celebrating our 15th anniversary in our relationship and my daughter graduates from high school to attend the college of her choice this fall.

Yes, I am smiling today. On one hand, I believe my life is really the result of a lot of luck. On the other hand, I have been fortunate to be surrounded by some excellent teachers.

Try Going a Little Farther

Ultra distance races are getting more and more popular and that is a good thing. Ironman is a pretty amazing distance to race but there is more to endurance sport than getting your iron-distance time down or qualifying for Kona.

To excel at ironman means you will have built the capacity to go further if you needed. For the fast guys, getting round isn’t a big deal -- hell, there is as almost much racing going as there would be at the Ethiopian Olympic Marathon Trials! The reason so many pros don’t do the ultras is more of a factor of prize money and sponsorship obligations than physical ability. If you’re not a pro there is nothing stopping you; so look around to see what sounds fun.

Low Back Pain on the Bike

As North America emerges from winter cold, cyclist are going to be getting longer hours in the saddle. Warmer weather provides opportunities for group volume camps like those Endurance Corner does so well. We can also build a camp of our own that covers seven to fourteen days. I advise half a dozen athletes who are in the middle of or just finished 25-to-60-hour volume camps. In addition to the fatigue we accrue many of us experience discomfort in the wrist, neck, butt and low back as we adjust to the workloads and the different positions we experience riding outside. Typically, a cyclist can ride through these types of aches and pains and adapt. For some, low back discomfort is a longer lasting issue.

Belief Systems

In sport, there’s nothing as addictive as our first experiences with looking better or racing faster than we ever thought possible.

In early March, I wrote a personal blog about sources of motivation. If you want to balance satisfaction with sustained performance then understanding your true motivators is essential. If your successes in life leave you feeling unsatisfied, then your efforts may not be directed towards your inner values.

An Interview on Ultra

by Mike Corona

March is “Ultra” month at Endurance Corner and due to my limited exposure in that area, I took the opportunity to reach out to a friend who I met through the sport so I could learn more about the distance and share my discoveries with the readers here.

Adam Peruta, a Syracuse native and professor at Ithaca College, has been involved in endurance sports for five years. He recently discovered a passion for the ultra distance events, including Ultraman.

The length of the event intrigues me, and I was curious as to how the prep differs from events the typical long course athlete is accustomed. When I caught up with Adam, he was just finishing up a new experience on the StartupBus, which consists of 25 people on a bus, where the group splits into small teams to launch a new startup idea from conception to life. In essence, it is three days without sleep, pitching ideas, designing and coding. What drew Adam to the StartupBus is the same internal question that drove him to Ultraman: "I've never done this before; I wonder if I can I do it?”

He completed Ultraman Canada in 2010, and when he crossed the line, he thought, "Why would anyone want to do that again?!" But when he received an invitation to back up his Canada performance with Ultraman Hawaii, he said he instantly knew he wanted to do it, because of that “Can I do it?” question.

It seems that is the central driving force for his decisions and race schedule; to constantly push his limits and discover whether he can achieve the goal. The aspect I was most interested in was his training, and how it differs from ironman prep. His main point was that although it is more than two-and-a-half times the distance, you do not have to accomplish two-and-a-half times the training. Instead, based on his research, he "stacks" his training to help trick his body into thinking it's doing more than it is. A typical stack for Adam looks like this:

Power Up

by Bob Albright, D.O.

It’s been an unusual winter in the upper Midwest. Fortunately, it seems winter and now spring has been cancelled due to lack of interest. This has meant a unique opportunity to get outside and hit the roads and trails really early. So let’s turn the volume up and get cracking on the base miles, right?

Maybe, but in a continuation of last month’s quest for understanding bone health, we might wish to stay in the gym a tad bit longer.

Additionally, Gordo wanted a bit of information for you folks: What’s the amount of weight bearing exercise (running) in terms of frequency and duration it takes to prevent low bone mass among endurance athletes?

Borrowing from our country’s current politicians' traditional tactic, I will provide an answer. Perhaps it will not be the answer to the question asked, but an answer nonetheless.

As we age, we tend to loose both muscle and bone mass. What mitigates this? Weight bearing and torsional skeletal stress (through the ligamentous and tendinous muscular attachments to the skeleton) stimulates bone remodeling and hence, increases bone strength. Traditionally, bone strength is indirectly measured as bone mineral density (BMD).

Where do we fit on the scale of BMD as endurance athletes to begin with?