Strength Training for Runners Clinic at John’s Run Walk Shop

Coaching, Health, Strength Training, TRX, fitness, runner No Comments »

The response to the clinic at John’s Run Walk Shop last week was even better than we could have imagined! The number of people that showed up (approximately 55 runners) along with the people that stayed longer to ask questions and then the emails we have received since that night.

We would like to continue this discussion with as many of the local runners as we can. The best way I see to facilitate that is by using this blog. If you have questions, comments or thoughts regarding the topic of strength training and running - just leave a comment in this blog.

To get you thinking about the ideas we covered, here is a summary of the clinic’s points and then a few links to previous posts we’ve written that address the idea of foam rolling and hip stability and strength:

Clinic Summary:

1. Think : Health - Fitness — Performance

2. Health is multi-dimensional (emotional, mental, social, spiritual, physical) and all components impact performance at some level.

3. Fitness is developed by implementation of consistent exercise, not from incorporating a short term application of “optimal program”.

4. A dedication to becoming a “fit” runner must precede a desire to become “fast” runner.

5. A runner’s physical health involves: muscular durability, skeletal structure/durability, functional movement, flexibility / range-of-motion, cardiovascular fitness, metabolic fitness and immune/endocrine/hormonal integrity.

6. Self Myofascial Release (foam rolling) + Strength Training = ability to address specific muscular imbalances, movement dysfunctions, range-of-motion issues and muscular/skeletal durability.

Relevant Articles:

Hip Strength in Females and Patellofemoral Pain
The article that I reviewed today discussed the question from another angle, Is there a difference in hip strength in females that have patellofemoral pain versus those that don’t?

Click Here to read more of this article

Patellofemoral Pain and the benefits of Physical Therapy and Strength Training
One of the first things I found interesting was that in the introduction they say that patellofemoral pain is the most common diagnosis cited by many authors. And that while it is a common issue to be seen and treated, the “pathologic origin of this disorder is not clearly understood.”

Click Here to read more of this article

Risk Factors and Injury Prevention Interventions for Patellofemoral Pain and Achilles Tendinopathy

Risk Factors they associated with this are: 1. muscle weakness and imbalance and inflexibility including quadriceps shortening  2. trauma, overuse, training errors or previous injury  3. patellar hypermobility 4. hip muscle weakness

Click Here to read more of this article

Impact of words, twitter and emotional recovery.

Health, Sport Psychology, Stress Management & Wellness, behavior change, fatigue, stress management, wellness 5 Comments »

This past week was interesting for me in so many ways that I almost don’t know where to start. Let’s start with the value and impact of the words we use:

Written: I write a lot of things throughout the week. I sit down and write out directions to athletes for workouts, I communicate on the EnduranceBaseCamp forums, I post status updates on Facebook, I send multiple tweets everyday, I send a few hundred emails, I send a few hundred texts messages and I often write things that end up in a blog post.

The point that I’m trying to make by listing all of those mediums is that I put out a lot of myself in writing each week. The one place that I no longer write is in my personal journals. This means that the majority of my own self discovery done through writing (which is my preferred method) is now done in an open forum.

What I have found interesting over the past couple weeks is that these words actually make it into the conciousness of some people. A few quick examples:

1. I was sitting at Panera Bread Friday evening with a guy that is looking towards a half iron distance triathlon. We were talking about his summer plans and what amount of fitness and skills would be necessary to participate in this type of endurance event, when a guy and his daughter came by our table. I personally didn’t recognize the gentleman (nor his daughter) but he came by and said, “I enjoy reading your blog.”

It kind of caught me off guard, so my response was a pretty quick “thanks”. After trying to think of a time in my past where I met the gentlemen I realized that he must have just come across the blog. It’s too bad I wasn’t quicker in my response because it would have been interesting to see where / when / who and what about this blog resonates with this guy. Maybe next time?

2. Twitter. Two weeks after a less-than-thoughtful tweet I received an email from a guy that Nikki and I know responding to that specific tweet. Yikes. I put so little thought into those messages. It might be scary to start piecing together patterns of thought and see how my impromptu mind works. (This response has actually turned into a good exchange of emails and phone call about things important to me.)

3. Race Reports. On Sunday I met a friend at the grocery store that mentioned he read my TTT race report. Not surprising really, but I have not seen this friend in months so it wouldn’t be surprising to also find out that he stopped checking in.

These are just a few ways I’ve seen the power of words displayed to me this week. None of these people came to me and said that their lives had completely changed or been turned around by my written thoughts, but each of them found it significant enough that they mentioned they had read something I wrote.

This was an important reminder that whether you are blogging, using a message board, micro-blogging or writing a note to your spouse, the messages you send have impact. Especially if the person receiving the message has given you some authority on a subject matter, such as some of my athletes and clients give to me in regards to wellness and performance.

Verbal: As much as I write, I talk even more. I hate talking on the phone, but I end up talking hours each day with clients. We talk about their eating habits, their sleep patterns, the latest news story, the weather and just about anything we need to talk about to keep motivation up during a training session so they can complete their tasks for the day.

As much as I enjoy writing, I find talking to be quite difficult to be effective. It probably has to do with structure? I try to have a beginning, middle and end to the things I write. While talking… it just falls out of my mouth. And while my verbal filter has become better over the years, it still lacks.

One example of how our choice of verbiage can create impact - is within my marriage. Nikki and I have been through the book The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. In that book we learned pretty clearly that I can best express my commitment to Nikki by sharing “words of affirmation”. Sounds like an easy task, but it can (and has) been a challenge at times. It is not challenging because I don’t want to express love to her, nor because she makes it hard to love her. It can prove to be challenging because speaking heartfelt and caring words is probably the most difficult form of communication for me to use. (Time, Gifts, Touch, and Acts of Service are the other four in case you were curious. I’m a “time” guy.)

This means that the words I use when talking to Nikki need to be well thought out and she needs to be positively affirmed often. The impact of the words I choose to use when communicating with her create either harmony or disharmony in our lives, marriage and relationship. (And because we work together, run a business together, train together and race together… our harmony is the most important variable in each others lives.)

Consumption of words: I realize that we often don’t consider words to be something we “consume”, but the truth is that we choose everyday what we are going to fill ourselves up with.

Today was a perfect example for me: On my way to work I had the local news playing. The first story was of a local doctor that killed his wife. The story was that they had been fighting and he pushed her off their boat. In an attempt to scare her, he ended up running her over and killing her. The second news story was even more sad. A 22 month old baby had died by drinking drain cleaner that the parents had left on their table. They had drain cleaner on the table because they were making meth. As if the story wasn’t sad enough, the father was 19 and the mother was only 14 years old.

At that moment I realized I had to make a change and turned the radio off. Why the morning news always has to focus on the robberies, deaths and accidents is not understood by me (but I bet a Waffle House or gas station gets robbed tonight and it will be the first story at 6am.)

It is in these moments that we can choose to consume or not consume these stories. This is one reason why Nikki and I also decided to get rid of our cable in 2009. In 2008, I was letting the CNBC talking heads determine my perception of the future - and it wasn’t looking very bright.

As we get bombarded with messages, news stories, sale pitches, advertisments, magazines, books and blogs - remember that what we choose to read and consume will impact us in some way. So choose wisely in what you consume. This also means you need to be wise in who you decide to associate with because in many ways your are choosing to infer meaning from their words and opinions.

Words you speak to yourself: I’ve written about the value of speaking positive affirmations, so I’ll post a link to that post here: Talk yourself into a better triathlon performance.

Our self image can be driven by the words we use in our own internal conversations.

Emotional Recovery: so what does any of this have to do with performance, triathlon or running? Well a positive self image, confidence and positive self affirmations have a lot of impact on performance.

But I have found this past week interesting from an “emotional recovery” point-of-view also. By emotional recovery, I mean my ability to wade through these oceans of words, stories and imagery and remain emotionally stable.

The American Triple T is now 9 days gone. This past Saturday (6 days out) I finally felt physically able to do a workout that I would consider “normal”. While my body seems to be coming around, my ability to mentally and emotionally recover has proven to be somewhat slower. Here are a few clues and symptoms that I’ve seen that make me consider this:

1. My mind is still trying to gravitate to the negative when I work out. “Your not going fast enough”, “You’ve lost fitness.” “You shouldn’t be this tired”, etc.

2. My ability to be empathetic is fairly limited.

3. My care taking ability has run out. Nikki had her wisdom teeth taken out on Friday of last week, by yesterday (Monday) afternoon my ability to filter out “production and work” and fit in “care taker” was gone. (Have I mentioned that I have the most patient wife ever? This is something all triathletes need to consider before deciding to make Ironman a regular and passionate pursuit.)

4. My mental ability to remain focused is limited to 30 to 40 minutes at best. And why this post has taken 3 days to write.

Final Thoughts:
a. The words that you decide to write or speak mean something to someone, so make sure they mean something to you.

b. When you decide to listen, watch or read materials, be careful that they are leaving an impact upon you that you are willing to accept.

c. If you find yourself taking in discussions, stories or television that you don’t find beneficial: change the conversation, change the channel or leave the room.

d. When you have internal dialogue - be positive.

e. If you find the ability to effectively monitor your internal conversations to be difficult, examine your physical fatigue.

f. If you find the ability to show empathy and remain sympathetic difficult, examine your physical fatigue and be very cautious with who you interact with and how you interact with them.

All lessons that I’m trying to absorb this week myself.

American Triple T Race Report

American Triple T, race report, triathlon No Comments »

[note: if you want to see our pictures of the event, you'll have to come on over to my facebook page - Gary's Facebook]

It would probably be a good idea to begin by describing what events make up the American Triple T weekend.

1. Friday Evening Prologue: 250m swim, 5mile bike, 1mile run
2. Saturday Morning Individual Time Trial: 1500m swim, 40k bike, 6.55mile run
3. Saturday Afternoon Team Triathlon: 40k bike, 1500m swim, 6.55mile run
4. Sunday Team Time Trial (Half Iron): 1.2mile swim, 55.5mile bike, 13.1mile run

Looking at the different races and the distances over the entire weekend it can be a little intimidating, but in all honesty it isn’t the distances that you soon find out is the challenging part of this event. The two biggest challenges that were faced over the weekend were:

A - The terrain.
B - The intensity of the early races and the impact upon the Sunday race.

The Terrain:
It says on the website to be prepared for a tough weekend of cycling. I knew others that had completed the weekend or had just done the Sunday half iron distance race and they said to be prepared for the climbing on the bike. While respectful, it didn’t worry me too much because I have always felt steady through hills. In fact, I often feel better at climbing than I do at descending (fear factor?).

What seems to be under appreciated was the difficulty of the run course. The run course was challenging due to the terrain change, but also because it was on trail. The trail was also not exactly what I expected. I guess I anticipated a more groomed trail that allowed for better footing (more on this later).

The Intensity:
One thing that I feel is my strength in Ironman racing is my ability to work within my ability early in the race, which allows me to use my potential at the end of the marathon. A skill that can be difficult to learn, but the one triathlon skill I feel I’ve developed. This weekend presented two situations that don’t allow this “go easy and build” strategy to be implemented well.

1. Teammates. I signed up to race the Triple T as a team. This meant that each race I was counted on to do well so that my teammate could also do well. This is a very different concept for many triathletes. I was also signed up with Jeff Buhr who is a better triathlete, better swimmer, better cyclist and better runner than I am. So not only did I have to hold up my end of the partnership, but during the team events, I knew I was going to have to push as hard (and smart) as I could while he could race a little below normal.

2. Race Design. As shown above the fast / quick races start the weekend and build into the half iron distance race. The interesting thing is that for the prologue I had an average heart rate of 181bpm which actually felt comfortable. By the time Sunday rolled around, I was lucky to be able to pick up my heart rate into the 160’s on the bike (I did hit 170bpm on the run). What feels easy early is often not easy, it’s just a function of being prepared to race and knowing that the race is going to be over soon. Even with the knowledge of 3 or 2 more races ahead, it’s difficult to control the urge to go fast.

My Races

Day 1 Prologue:
This race is a blast. It is very quick which makes me very nervous. This was actually my first triathlon shorter than a half iron distance race since July of 2003 (Tri America in Louisville). Despite the short swim, I still decided to wear my wetsuit, most did not.

Data: swim - 6:12, bike - 12:21, run - 5:54, total - 24:26
Heart Rates: hrave - 181bpm, hrmax - 195bpm (no splits)

Day 2 (Saturday) Race 1:
This was not a great race for our team. I got a flat about 17 or 18 miles into the bike which was frustrating for an Olympic distance race, especially because I had put a lot of effort into the bike already hoping to have a great race. It’s interesting what thoughts go through your head when you are faced with a situation like this. I thought about riding to ride and hope it wouldn’t go completely flat (it did, quickly). Then when I stopped I thought about putting a little air in and seeing if it was slow enough to get me back (I tried and it was way too fast). In the end, I found something that allowed me to keep my cool and remember that the weekend was a long event and that I just needed to finish this race. I found a little saying that really helped me get through this situation while I was changing the tire and after I got back on the bike (and was extremely worried it would flat again).

I kept saying to myself “Be Chrissie, not Norman!” , “Be Chrissie, not Norman!”

I also remembered back to Ironman Canada (2004?) when Gordo Byrn flatted towards the end of the bike and his response during that race and post race. It probably cost me 6 to 7 mins? I mistakenly dumped my bag on the ground costing me another minute or so picking up my co2’s, second spare and allen wrenches.

My teammate crashed during this race… it didn’t cause a lot of road rash but a lot of soreness.

The biggest mistake that I made during this race was not respecting the type of trail we had to run on. Disappointed with my bike, I went through T2 pretty quickly and chose to skip the socks. MISTAKE! The trail tore my feet up. It was a pretty rookie mistake.

Data: swim - 27:00, bike - 1:25:14 / 17.2mph, run - 43:55 / 6:43min/mile, total - 2:37:55
Heart Rates:
swim hrave - 152bpm, hrmax - 172bpm
bike hrave - 159bpm, hrmax - 179bpm (stopped for approx 6/7 mins with flat)
run hrave - 173bpm, hrmax - 184bpm

Day 2 (Saturday) Race 2:
I really need to learn to descend well on the bike. While it may not be wise to cannonball downhill some places on the course, I give up loads of momentum, time and speed because I am unable to descend at even an average level. It was really apparent during this race. My teammate was able to do this race after the morning crash, he ended up being a good motivator for me.

Data: bike - 1:14:32 / 20.0mph, swim - 29:09, run - 45:20 / 6:56mile/min, total - 2:32:18
Heart Rates:
bike hrave - 157bpm, hrmax - 177bpm
that’s all I got… didn’t get a lap after swim and didn’t stop watch after race?

Day 3 Half Iron Distance Race:
I did this race solo because my teammate decided that healing and being ready for Kansas70.3 was wiser. It took quite a bit of pressure off me. My race was an exemplar of what my racing strategy has always been. Steady swim (sadly this swim was pretty poor, not sure what happened because I didn’t feel terrible in the water?)

Bike steady - by this time of the weekend my body had definate limits. Pushing on the bike was limited and even when I would “work hard” my body wasn’t responding and heart rates weren’t climbing (fatigue). Needless to say I think I left all the “speed” in had in me for cycling on the course on Saturday. My climbing gears still allowed me to pass people (until they flew by me on the descents).

Run - My goal was to run under 1:40 for this half. I ran steady throughout the day and went 1:39:11. Very happy with that which gives me confidence. Surprisingly I have not been running as much as in the past .. I just feel confident running, which helps.

Data: swim - 36:30, bike - 3:17:27 / 16.9mph, 1:39:11 / 7:35min/mile, total - 5:35:24
Heart Rates:
total race - hrave - 147bpm, hrmax - 183bpm

I only got the total race and the time on my watch says 5:50, when my time was 5:35 - so it includes about 15mins of post race resting? I don’t remember when I stopped the heart rate monitor b/c I was so focused on running a specific pace on the run with my Timex watch taking laps at the loop.

Lessons to take to IMLOU:
1. swim, swim, swim (open water when possible)

2. bike (my longest ride this year was 4 hours with 2 at very easy, so I’m hoping this will come around these last 14 weeks.)

3. even when things seem like they are not going my way, the run rarely fails on me. that gives me a lot of confidence heading into a traditionally very hot/humid and slow marathon in Louisville.

Final Thoughts:
A great weekend that was probably more difficult than any Ironman I’ve done so far. It would compare mentally to the EndureChallenge that I created and finished last year, just do to the shear speed required to do the events. I can go all day… getting fast is the trick!

Benefits of Foam Rolling and Self-Myofascial Release

Sport Performance No Comments »

When I was in graduate school, I finally had the time, financial stability and energy to train more. We also had a good group of triathletes and runners here in Lexington, Kentucky (and it’s only getting better). The combination of more time and more training partners meant that I was putting my body through periods of training it had never been through before.

As a direct result of this I had some good race results, including moving my marathon personal best from 3:28 to 3:04 that first year I was here. The other direct result that I saw was a need to improve my recovery. I’ve shared in this blog previously how I felt that my dedication to mental preparation, yoga along with adequate amounts of sleep were key in my development.

I still wanted something to alleviate those few aches and pains that I couldn’t seem to leave behind. Everyone suggested that I try massage, but as a graduate student living on a stipend, that was not financially possible on a consistent basis. Eventually someone suggested I try to use self-massage or self-myofascial release.

I ended up checking out some instructional videos from the nursing library, along with some text books from the medical library to learn some techniques and the ideas behind the methods. After using a foam roller for a few days, I gave up. Why? Because it hurt to roll out my legs and I didn’t want to deal with the pain.

This past summer, Nikki and I went to Houston, Texas to go through the NASM’s OPT for Performance Workshop. We walked away from the workshop with some good information about the NASM’s philosophies on training for sports performance, but the best thing that happened that weekend was I walked away with a renewed commitment to using the foam roller for self-massage.

When I use the foam roller:

I like to use the foam roller at 3 specific times of the day:

  • a. early in the day to help release tension in my hips and legs prior to any activity, including work
  • b. just before a cycling or running workout to release tightness, allowing for a better workout
  • c. soon after a run or bike workout to help promote recovery

How the foam roller helps you recover:

By using some simple foam rolling techniques you can begin to correct or re-establish normal soft tissue function.  The main benefits that I’ve seen personally and with clients is a release of tension around joints (often around the knee), release of tension in the IT Band and TFL, release of iliopsoas tightness and deep glut release.

It will depend on your personal areas of need as to what you should focus on.  I often see long time runners begin using the foam roller and think that everything is going to be fine because they “stretch”.  Once they start to roll their ITBand out for a few seconds, they quickly realize that their soft tissue maybe in more need of help than they think.

I also see beginning runners benefit early on because using the foam rolling techniques allows them to properly recover and they can stay away from several of the common injuries that runners face; such as shin pain and knee pain.

The recovery benefits come from the ability to “work” on soft tissue areas that just are not easily managed by static stretching (like ITB, psoas, etc).  The other benefit that foam rolling offers over a static stretch is the compression that the foam roller applies to the soft tissue.  The compression from your body weight on the foam roll provides a release similar to what you might get from massage or trigger point therapy.

By providing this release of tension within specific muscles and other soft tissue elements, an athlete can regain their full functional range of motion.  This improved range of motion (or maintaining adequate ROM) allows an athlete to train without compensating or altering their natual movement patterns, which will ultimately allow them to train without further developing muscle imbalances or greater muscular tension.

My personal examples:

I have two very recent examples of how the foam roller is helping me.  In February and March, I was running regularly during the week with a back-to-back long run weekend.  This meant that I was running 12 - 15 miles on Saturday followed by 8 - 10 miles on Sunday.  While I ran comfortably on Saturdays, I often had trouble even walking pain free after the run.  I decided to not only use the foam roller several times a week, I began using it every morning and immediately post run (every run).  After a couple weeks I began to walk pain free 100% of the time, even post runs.

What did I do?  I stopped using the foam roller everyday and began using it a few times a week.  I also started riding my triathlon bike outdoors during this time.  I soon found that I had not only knee pain post workout, but I had hip flexor pain.  Ironciallly, it would get much worse from sitting and driving in a car.  After two weeks of regular foam rolling, I am 95% pain free again.

In my case, I know that I have to be diligent because I have weak hip abduction.  Combine the weak hip abduction with tight iliopsoas and tight ITB/TFL and it quickly becomes knee and hip pain.

Final Thought:

Consider adding foam rolling to your regular routine.  After being a semi-believer for the previous 5 years, I have seen too many people really benefit from using these techniques over the last 9 months to keep quite.  If you’ve been around me within the last 9 months, you’ve heard my speech.  I have all the Ironman Louisville group using them and as many of my running clients as I can convince.

Combine foam rolling with a semi regular massage or ART and you really have a program of recovery built around your program of training.

Where to get a foam roller?

  • Locally in Lexington, KY:  John’s Run Walk Shop carries the 1′ foam roller with a instructional dvd
  • Perform Better : I have been using the molded foam, but have heard the EVA rollers are nice?
  • Amazon : lot’s of options, make sure you make note of the length and density

Other sources:

Why the Farmer’s Market is a triathlete’s best friend.

behavior change, farmer's market, nutrition, organic food, triathlon 1 Comment »

The spring season is in full swing and as of this past Saturday (April 11th), the farmer’s market is open here in Lexington, Kentucky. This is really good news for Nikki and I as it is a sign that our participation in the Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program at Elmwood Stock Farm is just about ready to begin.

Spring is one of my favorite times of year because our bodies are anxious to get outdoors and experience something besides treadmills, bike trainers and 25 yard pools.  It is also a time when the harvests are just beginning to start taking place and the early season vegetables are going to be available to fuel those outdoor adventures.

I wrote about our CSA participation a couple years ago when we first signed up.  (CSA’s and Eating for Fitness)  Now that we are entering our third year of participation, I thought I would go back and review some general thoughts about what our participation has meant to our nutritional habits and the benefits this participation has on training for triathlon.

… the more things stay the same:

As the years change and as time moves on, it is interesting to see how the same questions and issues come up again and again.  The big nutritional question that I get asked often goes something like this, “What is the perfect mix of calories I should take in to fuel my training?”

The question may not specifically include the word “perfect”, but essentially that is what I’m being asked to answer.  The questioner is often someone that nails each workout, day-after-day, often thinking that they may not be training enough.  In this way, they want to take a very detailed kcal-by-kcal approach to their nutritional intake.

Once you start asking questions such as:

1.  How many servings of vegetables do you eat?
2.  Do you eat a variety of fruits, or are bananas your only fruit?
3.  What do you eat to get your protein?
4.  What is your dependence upon sports nutrition products and sugar, during the times you are not working out?

It often doesn’t take too much probing into the athlete’s everyday nutritional behaviors to realize that a strict account of dietary choices is not necessary; what they need is a commitment to the basic nutritional habits that support their health.

How the CSA and Farmer’s Market forces us to focus on the basics of healthy nutrition:

Benefit #1 - We get a variety of foods to eat that support our health, automatically. No choices, no decisions.  It’s like an automatic savings plan with your bank….

As a part of our participation in the CSA, we get a full basket of fresh vegetables each week.  I’ll be honest and say that during our first year of participation, we had many varieties of vegetables I had never tried or cooked.  These new and different varieties is part of the benefit of the CSA.  It forces us to use, cook, eat a whole new group of foods that I wouldn’t normally try if they were not handed to me in a basket each week.  I also know that if I was left to my own devices to buy our vegetables from the grocery store, I simply wouldn’t choose many of these items, if I chose any vegetables at all.

Benefit #2 - Our diets naturally gravitate to a healthy diet plan because we need to use the food the farm delivers to us.

Nikki and I are just two people.  And while we eat a lot of food during the summer to fuel our active lifestyle, we often find it difficult to work through the entire basket of food before getting our basket the next week.  This is a great benefit for the make up of our diets as a whole because we end up filling more of our total dietary intake with these fresh and mostly organicaly grown food (a few items are still not certified organic).

Final thoughts:

The advice that I give athletes all the time regarding their swimming, biking and running is this:  “Be consistent!”  As a coach, there is no workout I can put into an athlete’s schedule that will “magically” boost their fitness and performance if they don’t swim/bike/run regularly.

When it comes to training for endurance sports there are no shortcuts.  An athlete that is out there doing the work month-after-month and more realistically, year-after-year, is going to outperform the athlete that kills themselves for 6 weeks thinking they are doing every session necessary to be successful.

This same paradigm can be said about your dietary habits and behaviors as a triathlete.  Get the basics done, week-after-week, year-after-year and you’ll be in a better position than if you spend all your time looking for the best diet to follow for 8 weeks or sports nutrition supplement to start consuming 3 times a day.

So start making a behavioral change by making a commitment to attending the local farmer’s market.  Just the process of attending the market and sorting through the vendors and food options will begin to make you more aware about what you are eating.  If you enjoy the food and the market enough, maybe you can decide to join a local CSA program too?

If you are looking for a CSA program in your area, visit - Local Havest.  It’s a great place to start looking online.

Training anxiety and data analysis

Ironman, Sport Psychology, data, kentucky, louisville, performance, training, triathlon 1 Comment »
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img by : retrofuture, click image to see at flickr

Training Anxiety:

I’ve had a lot of anxious days with my training over the last few weeks. Most of the anxiety is not over what I’m doing or how my training is going but with my analysis of what I’m doing and what is “optimal”.

A few weeks ago I got really anxious about my personal workouts as I started thinking about the optimal way to train for an Ironman. Specifically, the most effective way to train for an Ironman to reach the goals I have set out to accomplish this year. The interesting thing for me as a coach is that many of the same anxieties that I have about my own training are shared by the triathletes that I’m coaching.

The truth of the matter is that my anxiety had less to do with my knowledge of how to train for Ironman, then it did with being 100% accountable for all of my personal workouts and training analysis. As I sat down to write this training phase for the Ironman Louisville group I followed the steps that I normally follow:

  1. look over the annual training calendar and review what our training goals are for this phase
  2. review the benchmarks or fitness tests that were most recently completed by the athletes and see where they are at and if they are ready to move on (I do this for swim, bike, run)
  3. review conversations that I’ve had with the triathletes and see if I pick up on training issues that maybe going unnoticed: tired too often, consistently poor nutrition choices, stressed at home or work, etc
  4. take the key workouts for the training phase and put them on the training calendar
  5. complete the training schedule to fulfill both psychological training needs and to continue improving the triathlete’s fitness and physiological / metabolic profile to meet the Ironman’s requirements

What I found was that while I could sit back and answer these questions for my Ironman triathletes, I was having some difficulty answering them for myself?  It was difficult to be objective and honest.  It was impossible to be unbiased.  As I looked at the answers I was emailing and discussing with those triathletes that I coach, I realized it was sometimes the opposite advice I was incorporating into my own training.

Here are some of the inconsistencies I saw:

  • I’d tell my athlete to “be patient” and trust in their developing fitness, but I’d tell myself “you need to start running faster on this run every week”
  • I’d tell my athlete to “recover well and eat well” when they felt tired, but I’d tell myself that I “didn’t have time to rest up this week” (really bad the 2 weeks I had a cold)
  • I’d tell my athletes to remember what our goal is this year - Ironman Louisville, it is 26 weeks away (at the time) and we have several months to continue to develop fitness before we get into specfic Ironman Louisville prep.  But I told myself, “You’re not in the best shape of your life right now, how are you going to be your best at Ironman Louisville”.

In the end analysis, I had convinced myself that somehow my training needs were different.  I was different.  When in reality what I needed was an objective voice, a voice of reason.  What I needed was the ability to step back and review my own benchmarks and training history and realize that I too needed:

  • Pateince
  • Humility
  • Faith
  • Rest, Nutritious Food and Stress Relief

In order to help me get this done, I hired a coach.  It has been a very positive step for my training and I believe that it will be a very positive step for the athletes I coach too.  I ended up using the EnduranceCorner coaching services, primarily because of the respect that I have for Gordo’s approach to the sport and lifestyle.  I used to learn a lot from his triathlon forum back when it was alive at gordoworld and I enjoyed learning from his clinic at the Olympic Training Center back in 2006.  He also has perpective that I would like to draw upon; he went from a working “Joe” doing triathlon to a professional triathlete.  While I have no dilusions of going pro, I think that this experience is worth drawing from.

Data Analysis and Training Anxiety:
Here’s a lesson that we all can learn from

If you are not doing the training, it doesn’t matter what the analysis of the training data says, you are not setting yourself up to succeed.

I have to admit that starting in January of 2008 I began falling for this data “entrapment”.  This began with the greatest gift I’ve received from an athlete I coached in a long time - my Garmin 305.  I love that thing.  But with the Garmin 305 came a new level of data responsibility.

Prior to the G305, I used a basic Polar Heart Rate Monitor that allowed me to get an average heart rate, max heart rate and time (not even laps).  After a workout I would enter that information into my training log (at which I had used since 2003).  But after the G305 the process got more involved, I had to connect the watch up and download the data.  I started using the Garmin Training Center only for the data download and then would try to manually enter the info into workoutlog.  This became too much so I decided to just use the GTC, until one day in June when I went  to load my data and notice that all the data is gone?

Frustrated I search the data, thinking that my daily auto back up of my computer would have saved it.  It didn’t!  Ironically I felt like all the running and cycling that I had done for the year was erased.  Almost like somehow because I couldn’t produce some chart to post on my blog or share with other friends/athletes my body had lost all that exercise and training benefit.  It was really that ridiculous.

I moved onto using Motionbased and GTC, and then on to a new traininglog website that allowed me to also coach my athletes.  The new site became as much of a job trying to maintain and use as my job of coaching was, so I just recently moved some athletes back to workoutlog.

The anxiety about all of this came back into my own training program when Gordo asked me “what kind of weeks have you been putting in over the last 10 weeks or for all of 2008″?  OMG - Where’s my chart!  So I spent 4 hours Sunday trying to recreate a training log to share what I’ve been doing.

I’m not saying that having data isn’t important.  It is a very useful and important tool.  As a coach it is difficult, if not impossible to assist someone or help them without having the data.  But as a coach, If I had to choose between someone who completes their runs regularly and logged occasionally or ran occasionally and logged obsessively, I’ll choose the former.

That being said, to cut down on this anxiety and get the information I need, I’ve chosen to use the following procedure:

1.  upload my G305 data to workoutlog after each workout / swim times just manually enter (workoutlog now has a very clean user experience when the G305 has been downloaded)

2.  weekly upload my G305 data to my WKO+ software to get the deep down analysis it offers

Alan over at EnduranceCorner has had a couple good posts recently discussing some of these topics:

The Positive Side of this data displacement and anxiety:

1.  I don’t have solid records of run/bike/swim from January to mid June 08, but I know this:  I set a personal best at the Iroman distance on Sept 6th (11:00), I then rode over 300 miles commuting from Illinois to Indiana and on Sept 13th ran a fairly decent 3:17 marathon.

2.  I set a personal best at the half marathon just 10 days ago, running 1:21:53.

Racing has a way of showing us “The Truth“…. training logs and charts often lie if we’re not careful or if we don’t have an objective eye to look them over also.  That is one of the best services I can provide as a coach.

Ironman Louisville Training - Video Log #2

Ironman, Video, kentucky, louisville, training, triathlon No Comments »

2009 will kick ass, but be very boring (my predictions)

Gary - Blog No Comments »

I started working on a series of posts that were a review of my 5 year goals and where 2009 fit into those plans.  It was a good exercise to begin, but I realized that the posts were not worth reading.  Maybe I’ll dissect some of them and share over time.

With those posts in the queue, I thought about not posting my thoughts and goals for 2009 - but then a friend called on Sunday night and said:

“Where the hell are your goals?  I’ve been checking your blog everyday, but you still haven’t posted them.”

I guess I didn’t realize that there was that much interest in how I plan out my actions.  Helping people create environments enabling them to make daily decisions that support thier long term goals is a major task of a trainer and coach.  So I guess that reviewing the way that I manage this task in my own life can give people a perspective on how I might assit them.  At the very least, reviewing my process can get you thinking about your own structure.  Here you go:

2009 Goals, Actions and Outlooks:

There are two main goals or accomplishments that I am seeking this year:

1.  Ironman Personal Best at Ironman Louisville 2009.
2.  Help runners complete 200 marathons in 2009.

My Ironman Goals:

This has been on my 5 year plan since Nikki and I moved back to Kentucky in 2005.  As most things in life, things change and while in my 4th year of working towards an Ironman peak, this is the final year in this plan.  I will most likely be unable to compete in Ironman for a few years (Nikki plans to return to school full time in 2010), so I’m going to try and peak this year.  I think that I’m ready?  I have completed an Iron Distance race each of the last 3 years.  This year I took on my EndureChallenge in September, which allowed me to prove to myself that I could handle a “true Ironman training schedule”.  The one variable in the equation is supporting myself enough (financially) and generating enough time for training and resting.  It will be a great balance.

Actions: things that I see must happen to be successful.

1.  Recovery - mostly sleep.  With a 5am wakeup call every morning, I need to get to bed by 9:30pm every night.  I’ve been thinking about 4/4:30am runs 5x per week, but until I can find the discipline to go to bed, those runs will be worthless for my fitness and health.

2.  Wasted Time - television, movie theatre, internet surfing.  Those three things take away a majority of the time I can dedicate to rest and recovery.  Television is an easy fix - we are getting rid of cable this Friday (I wanted to watch Oklahoma / Florida first).  The movie theatre will be more difficult because it is one of the major sources of entertainment for Nikki and I, but I’m considering a 1 in 6 week policy.  Internet surfing will be by far the most difficult.  As I try to expand the business reach that Endurance Base Camp has online, I often justify excessive surfing (Facebook, Twitter, favorite blogs) as “work”.

Does anyone have any good rules of thumb to manage the balance between wasting time and being productive online?

3.  Nutrition - I have developed an incredible ability to justify poor eating habits because of Ironman training in the past.  The one saving grace I have is that for 20(ish) weeks we get the majority of our food from Elmwood Stock Farms, which makes it more difficult to eat too many “bad things”.   My ability to manage my food choices during heavy training periods is going to be an enormous step forward.  The best action step I have for this right now is - Drink More Water.

4.  Cycling - you would think that run, bike and swim action steps would be higher on the list of an Ironman Personal Best goal.  The fact is that working out - doing the running, cycling and swimming is not a major limiter for most Ironman athletes.  We love to train!  That being said, cycling will be much more emphasized in my training this year.  In 2006, I rode 6:40:17, off of a beginner Ironman schedule.  In 2007, I rode 6:13:30, off mostly touring intensity with lots of volume.  In 2008, I rode 6:00:40, off of much less volume but a bit more intensity.  In 2009, I would like to ride around 5:30, which will take a mixture of the volume from 2007 and a little more intensity than I had in 2008.

5.  Social obligations - it’s amazing how somewhat little obligations add up to lost training time over a calendar year.  A trip to Nebraska - 3 to 4 days lost.  A trip to Chicago - 2 days lost.  A night out at the bar until 1am - 1 (2 if you are me) days lost.  And these days are normally weekends of lost training, when the weekend is highly coveted training time.  I have already asked Nikki to make me a promise that she won’t schedule my time away.  We seem to be on the same wave length.  She has the Triple T and Ironman Louisville too (getting her to sign up was an evil plan.. ha.. ha.. ha..)

My Coaching Goal:

One of my favorite things about 2008 was coaching the team of girls to run the Chicago Marathon.  That program inspired me to put together a team for Ironman Louisville 2009.  The ability to bring together people and train for a similar goal has been exceptionally rewarding for the runners, triathletes and me as a coach.

The goal of coaching runners to complete 200 marathons may seem like an enormous goal.  It maybe a bit lofty, but I don’t belive it is impossible.  Here’s how I plan to accomplish this task:

1.  Personal Coaching:  I have some runners that I am coaching in a one-on-one basis.  A few of them may end up doing more than one marathon this year (actually that is likely), so that will be a portion of the 200.  I am still able to coach a few runners in this manner, but this program has limited availability because I want to maintain a level that I can be involved with their running, not just a schedule giver.

2.  Endurance Base Camp Teams:  This is where I hope to provide the bulk of coaching for this goal.  This will happen in two different ways:

a -  Team Community (for specific races):  I just opened the Endurance Base Camp Community a couple days ago.  The team community is designed to bring people training for a marathon or triathlon together and provide guidance and advice along that journey.  The lessons learned by participating in the community can apply to any marathon or long course triathlon.  But I have also designated some specific races, in our region, where runners can find and train with others working towards a similar race.

The community is place to find guidance with your running (from myself, Nikki and the community).

The specific races in the community are:  Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Country Music, Derby Festival, and Flying Pig Marathons.  Along with Ironman Louisville and the Triple T triathlons.

b - Teams:  The community is a place to get guidance and assistance, but I want to provide even more for a couple groups this year.  The team programs will receive written training plans for their race along with additional assistance through conference calls, emails, etc.

Currently I am training 2 girls that ran on the Chicago Team last fall to run the Boston Marathon.  I plan to put together teams for the Chicago and Columbus Marathon again this year.  More details will come this spring.

Goal 200 = personal clients + teams + community members.  I think it is possible!

It will kick ass, but be boring?

Why do I say that it will be boring?  Because when I tell most people that I plan on getting rid of cable, limiting my movie outings, staying away from the bars and pubs, eating as much healthy food as I can stuff down, limit my travel away from my home base, and sleep more than normal - they respond “that sounds boring!”

What they don’t understand is that I’ll get to experience:  the great roads and scenery around the horse farms and bluegrass of Kentucky, run over many hills on a Todd’s Road route, share stories (and pain) with my training partners, share an intimate journey of Ironman with my wife, take on the weekend of hell (we call TTT) and see 200 people cross a finish line knowing they have just accomplished something pretty freakin’ awesome and I had a small part in helping them get there.

Sounds like a kick ass year to me!  Let’s make it happen.

Rocket City Marathon Race Report

Alabama, marathon, race report, running No Comments »


Following my typical operating procedures for this year, I’ve been exercising as much as I feel I can without becoming overtrained, yet enough to allow me to feel fit.  The truth is that since my EndureChallenge back in September I have been a little on the lower side of where I would like to be.  After that challenge I took a full week off and then slowly started to integrate some swimming, then running, then biking back into my schedule.  It has been really helpful to have the Ironman Louisville group up and training because they have really motivated me to take care of myself so I could get back up to full speed quicker than normal (Thanks Paula and Lauren!)

I don’t remember exactly when the topic of doing the Rocket City Marathon came up, but I remember talking about it a few weeks after the EndureChallenge.

I wanted to sign up for Rocket City for a few reasons:

  1. I don’t want to have a period where I get too distant from a race.  Race consistently to race better!
  2. Jeff Buhr had mentioned the marathon, which meant I would have someone to travel with (and run with for a little while).
  3. Brad Feld is someone I have been helping train for marathons, but I have never met him face-to-face, so this would be a fairly close race to have that opportunity.

My own expectations:

This is my 6th marathon in 2008 (counting Great Illini IronDistance Race) so I know that I’m on the edge of doing too many long races without being forced to take a long period of rest - or having a period of serious stagnation in performance.  I have tried to manage my expectations all year, knowing that my main training goal was:

“to be consistent”  and “race when healthy and able”

This has meant that my longest training run in 2008 was 19 miles, back in February, when I ran with Allisa as she prepared for the Boston Marathon.  Since that run the longest training run that I’ve done has been 15 miles.  Leading up to this marathon, I had only done consistent runs of 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Two weekends before Rocket City Jeff and I went out on a 15 mile run (Pit Bull @ Todd’s Road) and I told Jeff that I expected to squeeze out 15ish miles.  At that point I was going to walk/jog in order to protect my legs and allow my training to continue as normal (12 runs in 14 days for the IMLou group right now).

What you want to do and what happens on race day is often very different because a race (and ego) can do many things to influence your behavior!

My Race Day Experience:

Jeff and I started running the first few miles at a pace that felt really comfortable, but we had no clue how hard we were running.  My Garmin 305 had not been charged so the battery was already dead before I started the race and Jeff doesn’t run with a Garmin (smart!).  As we crossed the 1 mile mark, the time keeper shouted “6:21, 6:22, 6:23″… oh boy!

Over the next couple miles we backed off a little, but only a little.  We went through miles 2 and 3 around 6:30 - 6:35 pace.  I was feeling really good running at this pace, but in my mind I felt like I was in over my head.  “Hold on to this feeling” is all I kept telling myself.

A group of runners joined us around the 4 mile mark.  It was nice because the group was rather large.  They all seemed nice enough and were running exactly where we wanted to be.  As the group dynamic built I continued to feel really good and just sat in the pack and participated in marathoner’s chit-chat.

The hard part for me was that I felt like the group was running well and I wasn’t sure I still wanted to drop out at 13.1 to 15?  I began to tell Jeff that I would be done at 15 as a way to reinforce my decision.  That discussion is something you have to be careful with as you are running a marathon.  You don’t want to say it so many times that you discourage the runners who are planning to take on the whole 26.2, but I still needed to confirm to myself that I was doing the right thing.

The group went through the 13.1 marker just under 1:27, which was what I told Jeff I would help pace him to.  Luckily for me the group dynamic began to change as we went through mile 14.  One of the female runners in the group made a surge (at least it seemed that way) as we went through the aid station at mile marker 14.  It broke the pack up, so I worked pretty hard to get about 3 feet off the back of those in front again, then it appeared that another surge happened.  “Good enough” I thought and continued to run where I was and stopped at mile 15 for my first walking break.

Miles 15 to 25 were actually very little fun.  I walked an awful lot over that period of time, probably 2.5 to 3 of those miles were done walking, the other pieces were done at a jogging effort.

I am always preaching about the benefits of using a run / walk race strategy.  In fact, I think that anyone running over a 3:30 must do it, over a 3:15 should consider it and anyone over a 3:00 marathon should do a serious pro/con analysis.  But there is one thing about the run/walk strategy that must be known:  It must be done from mile one, before you have reached the point of fatigue.  If you wait until you are forced to walk - It’s Too Late!

This race was a good reminder of that principle.  The walking I did in this marathon was by no means a way to improve my race result, it merely was an attempt to decrease the damage that a marathon does to your legs.

Mile 25.  Just after passing the 25 mile mark, Bryan Mullins passed me and I began running with him.  It was nice to finally have someone to run with again.  We finished the race together in 3:17.

Final Thoughts:

Rocket City is a great race.  The expo is small enough that you can walk in and just grab your items.  The hotels are about 100 yards from the start and finish line.  I would suggest that you stay in the Embassy Suites at the start line.

Maybe the most important factor for some runners it the course layout.  This course is a perfect course to try and set a new marathon personal best - it is speedy friendly.

It was a great way to end my 2008 year.  I have also recovered well from the race.  I got a bike ride in the next day, took Monday off and back to running on Tuesday.  2008 was a year to take things as they come, 2009 is a very focused year:  One Day, One Race, One Goal.

Jeff Buhr, by the way, ended up running a 2:57!  Nice job Jeff and what a great year 2008 was for you!  And Brad (with Matt Shobe) ran 4:39, about 20 to 25 minutes faster than he told me he might run the night before - great job Brad, 36 to go.

Alcohol, Holiday Parties and Calorie Consumption

Health, Lifestyle & Weight Management, Weight Management, nutrition, wellness 3 Comments »

As a certified Lifestyle and Weight Management Consultant through the American Council on Exercise, I often get email newsletters from them with interesting articles.  Just this past week I got an article from them titled: “Holiday Treats + Alcohol = Extra Calories and the Gift of a Spare Tire“.

While I like to believe that I’m aware of most food and nutrition choices, in terms of caloric consumption - I think that I’ve let alcohol become a blind spot.  So to establish a basic understanding of how alcohol consumption can contribute to packing on those holiday pounds, I want to take a quick look at the calorie content of some of the common holiday choices:


According to, a 3.5 ounce glass of wine contains approximately 80 calories.  It doesn’t matter if the wine is white wine or red wine because the calories come from the alcohol that the wine possesses, but due to this important fact, if you choose a wine that is higher in alcohol content - it will have a higher caloric value also.  If you are interested in finding the exact caloric cost of your favorite wine, here is an article with the steps to calculating those calories:

How to Determine Calorie Content of Wine @

The ACE article also points out that dessert wines are even higher in calories, stating that a 3.5 ounce glass of dessert wine is around 165 calories.


The calorie content of beer is highly dependent upon the beer you chose.  We have all seen the highly advertised Michelob Ultra, which almost makes that beer look like a sports drink - it contains 95 calories.  But like wine, you’ll find that the beers that have the higher alcohol content also have the higher caloric content.  I found a great table at listing the different brewers, the beers they offer and the alcohol, caloric and carbohydrate content of each.  The most “caloric expensive beer” was Sierra Nevada Bigfoot at 330 calories.

I personally don’t have a problem staying away from the wine (a half glass gives me a headache for two days), but I like to have a beer or two with my triathlon, running and cycling friends at Pazzo’s every now and then.  So here are my four favorite choices from their list:

  • George Killian’s Irish Red - 162 calories, about 1.35 miles of running (I burn about 120/mile)
  • Leinenkugel Original - 152 calories, about 1.27 miles of running
  • Miller Lite - 96 calories, about 0.8 miles of running
  • New Belgium Fat Tire - 160 calories, about 1.33 miles of running (Fat Tire is impossible to find in this part of the world though)

I used to work at a brewing company in Lincoln, Nebraska - Empyrean Ales.  Actually, I worked for their Brew Pub next door to the brewing house called Lazlo’s.  I wonder what the caloric consumption was during all those taste testings?

Liquor and Cocktails:

So now I live in bourbon country and it’s not uncommon for bourbon to be a common beverage choice.  We even have the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, and now the 200 mile Running Relay Race on the Bourbon Trail.  What are the caloric values of liquours?  Here are some things that I’ve found for you:

  • Absolut Vodka - 98 calories
  • Bacardi Gold Rum - 98 calories
  • Jack Daniel’s Whiskey - 98 calories
  • Seagram’s Gin - 120 calories
  • Jose Cuervo Gold Tequila - 96 calories

As stated in the guide put out by the Consumer Federation of America.  I also went on over to the CalorieKing and found their page on Liquors, Coolers and Cocktails.  Here are a few I took from their site:

  • Red Bull and Vodtka - 177 calories
  • Mint Julep - 165 calories
  • Cosmopolitan - 213 calories
  • Vodka Tonic - 169 calories

And if you really want to be scared away from a few cocktails, go read this article on MSNBC - “Don’t let holiday cheer make you forget calorie content of cocktails” or view their slideshow of the “10 most fattening Cocktails“.

Thoughts on alcohol metabolism:

The concept of alcohol metabolism needs to be addressed - just a little.  One comment that I’ve heard is that the calories in alcohol don’t count because they can not be stored as body fat.  This is actually an acurate comment.  Alcohol must be oxidized and then the body must get rid of it.  The liver is the main player when managing the alcohol metabolism, but it is also possible to excrete a small amount through breath and urine.

But one thing that I think a person should consider when looking at possible weight gain and alcohol is this:  even if our body can not store alcohol calories as fat, what energy sources are we not using when our body tries to manage the alcohol intake — Fat Calories.

Two other thoughts to consider:

1.  What other activities often go along with cocktails and drinks?  We like to eat party foods, holiday treats and others fattening and surgary foods.  It is not hard to imagine that drinking too many calories at the holiday party leads to eating too many holiday cookies - is it?

2.  All calories are not created equal!  So far we’ve been discussing a pure math equation scenario, but even with alcohol contributing 7 calories per gram, they don’t provide great benefit to our diets.  They don’t give us vitamins or minerals.

[EDIT -- I know that I'm going to receive all kinds of emails stating the benefits of alcohol in the diet, when done in moderation.... I understand the heart health argument.  Here's an article to read if you want to go down that route:  Alcohol: Balancing Risks and Benefits (Harvard School of Public Health)]

Bottom Line:

I am not writing this article 2 weeks before Christmas and just before the major Holiday parties get started to guilt you into swearing off all holiday beverages.  I am writing this so that you can think about the information and realize that two or three cocktails at every party may leave you with a bigger New Year’s Resolution than you currently have.

Be smart with your choices and you’ll be a happier and healthier you on January 2nd, 2009.  And please be safe when you do choose to drink.

End Note:  If you would like to view some of the articles I tagged while researching go to my delicious page:

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