Monday, February 1, 2016


Heat Training Revisited

It gets hot for almost everyone at least some part of the year. With my background training and racing in hot conditions, I’ve come to develop a number of strategies for maintaining quality, consistent training without getting wiped out by the heat.

Depression and the Endurance Athlete

Last month’s column looked at some of the potentially common biologic pathways in depression and athletic underperformance syndrome. To follow up on this, many athletes expressed interest in understanding more about depression; specifically how to recognize it, and what can be done if you observe symptoms in yourself or a friend.

Compromise and Group Training

For the most part, people are inherently social. Because of that, it's not uncommon for many triathletes to stay in “social mode” and gravitate toward group training. I often have to say to my athletes, “When it comes to group training, you are going to have to compromise.”

This isn't always a bad thing, it's just a fact, and it can be a good thing if you "use" the group correctly. When I say compromise, it's a reference to possibly not doing the exact training you need to optimize performance. So what do most people compromise?

Ultraman Crewing: A Minimalist Perspective

I've had the opportunity to work with a crew most recently at Ultraman Canada 2010. I have also worked with crews several times in long course adventure racing. I believe I've learned some best practices which I'd like to share with you.

To be fair, my crew might not agree with the "minimalist" part in the title. This guide is probably best for the MOP racer whose quest is to finish. The racers at the pointy end of the stick with the podium and sponsors in mind likely have a very different mindset.

Cold Water Adaptation

by Jan Hugo Svendsen

When racing in cold water it is easy to get caught up in the mindset to just, "Jump in and do it." That is a mistake! You need to adopt a plan for adjusting to and racing in cold water.

My Plan for Cold Water Racing
You want to get used to the cold water with adopting in training with a little bit of swimming each day. If entering directly without adapting to cold water, my experience is that you won't be able to push your HR up because of "panic" in your system and breath pattern. Swim at the course the days leading up to the race. When I was racing at Ultraman UK I swam in Bala Lake for the five days before the race; anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes a day. The intention was to set up my breath pattern and get used to the cold water.

When entering for the first time, it's a shock for the system and your body may go into panic. After a few minutes when the reflex settles down everything should be fine with your breathing.

Here's my recommended list and tips that were part of my game plan for UMUK:

  1. Wear a wetsuit with sleeves, neoprene cap with a race cap on top, neoprene booties and ear plugs to avoid dizziness from cold water in your ear.

  2. Don't wear gloves: they put extra weights on your arms.

  3. Warm up on the beach with wetsuit on before entering the water.

  4. Put warm water from a thermos in the wetsuit before the gun goes off. Instead of filling the wetsuit up with cold water when entering the water you will have somewhat warm water there instead. This makes a big difference for your core temperature.

A Degree in Triathlon

I was recently speaking with a young triathlete who was lamenting his “relationship” with his coach. He was complaining that his coach has been hard on him lately for not following the workouts. He then went on to complain about how he has some strong weeks of training and then ends up injured. I find these conversations interesting as a business owner, coach and “mature” (as in over 35) triathlete.

You Will Survive

We just had the pleasure of hosting another great EC training camp with another amazing group of athletes.

One thing I can recall saying more than once throughout the training camp to people is, "You will survive."

The ABCs of Your Coaching Business

Recently, a successful business owner shared an insight on time management. I’ll paraphrase his opinions to get the ball rolling:

We value ourselves more than we think. We are not all that valuable. We spend a lot of busy work doing just that -- busy work; non-productive.

My first manager had me focus on my time:

A-time is revenue producing. Meeting with clients.
B-time is prospecting, doing seminars, doing prospect interviews.
C-time is admin. Paperwork, analysis, planning.

Have you considered the ABCs of your business? I have.

Me 2.0

Two days prior to racing Kona last year, I bumped into a friend as I was about to enter the water for a practice swim and I immediately had a revelation: I'd become complacent.

As my friend stood there talking to me, I couldn't hear a word he was saying because my mind was flooded with thoughts of how I've accepted mediocrity.

It wasn't long ago that I had the taste of blood in my mouth and that alone was enough to fuel my training. But only a few years after achieving some of my goals, I'd gone soft.

Crewing an Ultra

Ultraman is like any other long race or adventure we sign up for where we have that little voice saying, “Crap I gotta start training for this race,” the second we hit the “submit” button. So off we go training hard until about a week before the race when we finally decide to pay attention to the small details such as packing, travel logistics and nutrition. For any ironman or 24-hour mountain bike race you can get by with this last minute planning. But in Ultraman it's not going to cut it.

Keep Training or Rest?

A four hour flight took me from miserable grey clouds and drizzle to warmth and sunshine. The first training camp of the new season came with high expectations -- a big week to wake me from my winter slumber and kick start the year ahead. If nothing else I would enjoy the simple pleasures of replacing thermal layers with shorts and t-shirts and the sun tanning my anemic skin.

On arrival in Lanzarote I sniffed, then sneezed; before I'd put foot to pedal the signs of a cold appeared. It was the season's make-or-break camp and I was ill. There was too much at stake, I'd been here before and trained through far worse; I could carry on as planned.

How Do I Do It?

On occasion I get asked the following question in one form or another:

"How do you make time for training with everything you've got going on?"

Before I try to answer this question, let me make one thing very clear: I do not consider myself out of the ordinary. While I do have a lot going on, I know plenty of people who have a lot more going on than me, and I amazed at how they manage to get everything done.

Be Better

The optimal plan is often suboptimal.
- Dr. Tom Evans, husband, father, multiple Ironman champion

Here at Endurance Corner, our most popular content talks about living optimally. Optimal nutrition, training, race strategy, body fat percentages, pacing -- those are the most popular topics on our site.

How many of us can live optimally?

Refining Your Training

At the end of every year, the CFO for my business and I have “the talk.” What worked? What didn’t? Where do I need to improve? Once you have a finished profit and loss statement, it is a very straightforward conversation. As the owner and president, it is my performance review.

When I finish a triathlon season, I have a similar analysis about my performance. This year ended up very positive with the only change being “more of the same.” As I enter my 2012 season, my training involves changes in millimeters rather than kilometers.

Basic Limiters: Mobility

by Alan Couzens, MS (Sports Science)

Part I
Part II - Strength
Part III - Work Capacity

In this final article in the Basic Limiters series I want to talk about the most overlooked of the three: mobility.

Mobility is kind of a catch-all phrase that incorporates all aspects of functional flexibility -- the factors that may restrict an athlete’s range of motion in their chosen sport and general functional tasks. As such it incorporates:

  • Muscular tightness
  • Soft tissue restriction
  • Joint capsule restriction
  • And neuromuscular restriction/faulty movement patterns

It is a very important quality to the endurance athlete for two big reasons:

  1. Injury prevention
  2. Economy

Injury Prevention
Endurance sports are, more or less, whole body activities. On the positive, this fact enables the athlete to put sufficient demand on the body that they get a true systemic training response. All of the systems of the body from circulatory to metabolic to endocrine get a “workout” and, providing appropriate loading and recovery patterns are adhered to, the general health of these systems is enhanced.

The downsides of whole body activities are that:

  • The movements are generally more complex
  • The opportunity for faulty compensation is rife

Take running for example, say Joe Middleage arises from his slumber on January 1 one year resolved to begin running for fitness. He takes his first few loping strides and his body realizes (unconsciously) that he no longer has the ankle flexibility to drop his heel to the ground at the completion of each stride.

Eventful Journeys

There is a fine line between experience and over-confidence -- one I crossed traveling to my early season training camp in Lanzarote last month. I've traveled to a lot of training camps and races, I know the routine, I could pack, check-in and board in my sleep, waking on arrival at my destination; two hours is more than enough time to prepare. That is unless -- in a damning indictment of my winter maintenance -- my bike decides to break.

Road Tripping for Athletes

I have always loved road trips. Pack the car, grab a map (or not), and hit the open road. In the years since the endurance sports bug infected me for good, most of these trips have involved training, racing, or both. Although more time-consuming than flying to a training destination or race, driving can be less expensive, less gear restrictive, more spontaneous and much more fun. However, it can also be much more tiring and the unwary road-tripping triathlete can find him or herself more exhausted from the travel than the actual training.

So how can we enjoy the benefits of the road trip without compromising training volume, quality and recovery?

Can’t Drive with a Broken Back… Fractures and You

His absence was glaring. "He" is a former Division I collegiate swimmer and now a colleague of mine. He is always at the pool. He swims fast… really, really fast. So where was he?

He was in the DEXA scanner that morning -- I learned later -- having been diagnosed with a wrist and vertebral compression fracture the prior weekend.

Travel to Train

When I look over the past year and where I have been, the biggest "bang for my buck" on my travel dollar was a training camp with the crew at Endurance Corner.

The last time I was in Boulder, it was a ski trip for my college spring break. If I had been told then the next time I would be back it would be for 30 hours of exercise, I would have not have believed it!

Before I joined Endurance Corner, I would often send e-mails to some of the advisors of the team to learn. Never did I imagine I would have the opportunity to train with them side by side. As it turns out, it is quite simple for anyone!

Travel and Training Balance

When travel becomes a necessary part of a dedicated triathlete’s schedule it “disrupts” the delicate balance we have created in our everyday life routine. I know the conversation that goes on inside most people’s heads when they look at an upcoming trip that in return takes them out of that routine. With a little creativity it’s not difficult to manage your training and fit it around travel schedules.

The Frequent Flyer's Training Dilemma

by Nick Mathers

I spent two years traveling between my job in New York City and my home in West Texas -- flying one way or the other about every five days. Those trips required at least one connecting flight and my East Coast legs were into or out some of the worst U.S. airports for flight delays. Work required many late night flights with even later night arrivals. During my big travel years, I PRed across all triathlon distance but I also experienced an overuse knee injury that left me unable to run for three months and a shoulder injury that limited my swimming.

While healing those injuries, my physical therapist and I came to the conclusion that they were related to my frequent travel, weakness and tightness in key areas and overuse from trying to “hit it” when I had the time to train. If you find yourself traveling quite a bit, here are some of the things I learned from trial and error to help you get those PRs but keep yourself off the injured list.

In the first few months of managing travel, my training was consistent... consistently sporadic. It took me a while to find a groove and even longer to figure out the most appropriate training that would keep me healthy and allow me to race well.

In my initial zeal to make up for lost training due to travel time, I essentially stripped out all easy and steady from my workouts. Not surprisingly, I broke myself -- first screwing up my knee to the point that I couldn’t run or ride, then overdoing the swimming. In the long run, those injuries led to a regular flexibility, stability and core strengthening routine, but it took a painful convalescence and a blow to the ego to get there.

Depression and Underperformance Syndrome: Is There a Common Denominator?

In recent psychiatric news, a new blood test may accurately determine whether a person is depressed.

Interestingly, some of the diagnostic markers for depression come from the same domains that are affected with underperformance syndrome.

Going Nowhere to Run Fast

I am a bit of an oddity in our local running scene. We live in a spectacular area for running with the beautiful Indiana University Campus and a new City of Bloomington rails to trails route. With all these options available, one day a week you will find me running in circles. Lots of circles.

Sometimes it will be a local track (if I can find one open) but most often you will find me running around the IU football stadium. I will do this for anywhere from one to three hours. Why? Because I want to win.

Staying Loose While Traveling to a Race

A few years ago, I traveled to Ironman Brazil. In the Florianopolis airport, I stood waiting for luggage with another athlete… and his wife and five children. I was baffled. I could barely handle the stress of traveling alone and this man brought a huge family to a race. I vowed to find ways to make travel less stressful. I wondered if I could even make it a positive experience that sets me up well for a race. It took several years -- and I’m not fully there -- but I’ve come a long way in reducing travel stress and staying loose in preparation for race day.

Survival Tactics

One of my recent articles touched on the overload required to qualify for World Champs. If you want to achieve your very best, the article lays out what’s required for success, particularly at training camps.

For most of us, life is about a lot more than being fast. That said, it is a lot of fun to hang around with fast people. This week, I write about how to train above your fitness level.

Plan Ahead to Keep Travel Stress Low

When people think about traveling for races, what they sometimes mean is packing all the right stuff. If you get the packing right, everything else is easy. Putting everything you need for the day in a rucksack isn’t hard; nobody stresses when getting stuff ready for a swim session.

So why does packing for a race cause so much stress?

Short-Term and Long-Term Injury to the Heart with Exercise

The topic of short-term (acute) and long-term (chronic) injury to the heart with exercise has been in the news again because of a new, provocative study of endurance athletes. This is the most detailed study yet on this topic and deserves our review.

Boulder Bound

by Justin Daerr

In the spring of 2002, I was a junior at Texas A&M. As I was closing in on the tail end of time there, I figured that I had better try and find something to do after graduation. One day I was flipping through the back of Inside Triathlon magazine (the Internet wasn’t as awesome then) and I came across a tiny little ad for internships at the Inside Communications office (now part of Competitor Group). The fact that the internship was in Boulder meant little to me at the time, but its nearly 10 years later and I’m still here.

After that first summer, I went back to Texas and proceeded to return to Boulder every summer for the next few years. After bouncing around between couches in Arizona, Florida, Texas and Colorado I decided I wanted to live in Boulder full time. I know a lot of triathletes who have had success chasing warm weather training, but I grew tired of that lifestyle.

Boulder is busting at the seams with triathletes and cyclists in the summer months, but fewer athletes choose to call it home year round. I cannot speak for everyone, but the reasons I chose to make it home are as follows:

  1. The Athletic Community - Boulder not only has a lot of people to train with (and at all hours of the day), but it also serves as the headquarters for industry leaders, coaching businesses, bike fitters, sports medicine specialists, bike and run shops, etc. The resources that are available within the city limits are hard to beat and that makes life as an athlete and a coach much easier. I’ve seen similar resources available in other locations in the US, but not in a smaller city the size of Boulder.

Basic Limiters: Work Capacity

As the third installment in this series on Basic Limiters, I want to explore one of the most important and yet misunderstood abilities that is the prime focus of an athlete’s Base Period.

Athletes vary markedly in the approach they take to early season training, ranging from doing super long endurance building sessions to hitting the trainer for some "bleed through the eyeballs" intensity fests. Both are inappropriate for this time of year and miss the point of general preparation.

So what is the point of general preparation?

The Numbers Don't Lie

"Have a good time and focus on finishing." Isn't that what we tell first timers? How many of us accept that? I didn't. I wanted to win. But I was willing to settle for sub-11.

When I think about how I came up with that time goal, it makes me laugh because it wasn't based on my training or something logical. It just sounded good.