I'm finally firing on all cylinders! After having a bit of a rough start to 2016 due to little injuries pestering me like mosquitoes, and the lingering of my Achilles problem from last year, I'm now back in the groove. The patience I wrote about a couple of weeks ago is paying off as the injuries have subsided and I feel more resilient and injury-free than I've been since mid last season. Here is an example of what my training looks like nowadays:
Monday AM - Ride shorter, more intense intervals on the CompuTrainer at Tailwind Endurance for 1hr 15min. Do 30min of stability and plyometrics off the bike
Monday PM - OFF, maybe a massage
Tuesday AM - Run around 10 miles with Fartlek intervals in Summit, NJ
Tuesday PM - Swim a coach-prescribed set, around 1hr 15min at John Jay College in NYC
Wednesday AM - Ride longer intervals on the CompuTrainer at Tailwind Endurance for 1hr 30min. Do 15min of core work off the bike
Wednesday PM - See Doctor Todd for treatment
Thursday AM - OFF
Thursday midday - See Josh Grahlman in NYC for treatment and 1hr of strength conditioning
Thursday PM - Run around 10 miles with longer intervals on the West Side Highway path and Central Park in NYC
Friday AM - Run to the pool and Swim at Hoboken Masters for 1hr 15min
Friday PM - Spin an easy 1hr 15min at Tailwind Endurance, then roll, stretch, do yoga, or whatever else I find to be therapeutic and recovery-based
Saturday - "Long" Ride of 2hrs on the trainer, mainly drill, endurance and tempo-based, with a short run (~15min) off the bike
Sunday - "Long" Run of around 14 miles then Swim 2hrs at Berkeley Aquatics
That's 3 main runs, 3 swims, 4 rides, and 3 strength sessions per week totaling around 15 hours of training. My coach and I have found this to be a good balance of training that allows for enough recovery, and for me to always feel like I have "extra bandwidth" in my schedule (very important!). On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, I'm up before 5am so my wife and I are like old people because we go to bed at 9:30pm every night! Keep in mind, the above schedule is just one week during the base phase of training. Each week is a bit (or a lot) different depending on the time of the season, whether it's a "down week" or not, or whether I have life events that step in to remind me to be a "normal" person every once in a while. Consistency is king, but there should be some ebbing and flowing in your training too.
My swimming is just coming back into form after a month off due to some arm injuries (rookie mistakes), and my running is also just coming back after many torturous months of Achilles pain after Kona last year. Fortunately, I've been able to devote the extra energy to my cycling and strength work. I did an FTP test a few weeks ago (303w FTP) and am close to where I was the last time I tested back in March of last year (312w FTP). Normally, I dread FTP tests because they're so brutal! But this next one I'm kind of looking forward to because I want to see if I can exceed where I was last year in March, in February.
I just did my first Masters Swim meet ever! I swam the 100IM, 100 backstroke, the 50 backstroke as part of a 200 medley relay, the 200 free and the 50 free as part of the 200 free relay. I had a blast! I swam faster than expected given how little swimming I've done. You can see my Facebook page for more of a recap.
I'm also going to the wind tunnel next month! I'm stoked to see what kind of "free speed" I might find in that expensive hurricane chamber...
Even with all of this training, I still manage to do almost all of it alongside training partners - I love training with people! If anything here piques your interest, message me on Facebook or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and maybe we can get together for a training session. Always happy to answer questions too!
Hello everyone! THanks for reading my blog :) I just wanted to give everyone a quick update on what's been going on with me. I've been training in Florida for the past month getting in some great work in preperation for the olympic trials that are quickly approaching early July. Tejal and Todd sent me on my way with some tremendous rehab and exercises that have kept me healthy and on an upwards trajectory while I have been down here. I am excited and eager to return to NJ and to get back to work with Todd and Tejal as my indoor track season is going to be starting on Feb 12th in Staten Island. I will keep all of you updated on how I am progressing throughout the season. Stay tuned!
Patience is something that many preach, yet few have. Disclaimer: I'm going to preach it here, but don't always have it either!
It's so tough to be patient when you're injured because you just want to be doing what you love and be able to get better at it. Back in 2011, I had Achilles issues, then crashed my bike and had two sprained MCLs that resulted in knee pain. It was chronic. Months and months went by, I worked with two physical therapists and didn't see improvement. All the while, I was training through the pain because "it's the middle of the Tri season!" and "the NYC Marathon is just weeks away!" Big...patience...failure.
After 2 1/2 years of debilitating chronic knee and Achilles pain, I decided enough is enough. I devoted myself to getting better, working with a great physical therapist near my work in NYC named Josh Grahlman (who I still work with in addition to Dr. Todd - that's how much I value Chiropractic and Physical Therapy!). I did the assigned strength work religiously (mainly working on my glutes) and got treatment 2-3 times per week. At first, there were no noticeable results. I was frustrated but succeeded in remaining patient and diligent. Then after 3 months or so, all of a sudden the pain started going away and I could run without being laid up for days! Since then, I've been adamant about keeping a strength program part of my training regimen, and it has allowed me to train consistently for nearly 3 years now. The patience paid off.
Here I am again, having my patience tested. I've had a rough start to the year as I learned that the Achilles inflammation I suffered during Kona was not just inflammation but a partial tear. I tried running a few weeks after Kona and the pain was really bad, so I decided to lay off of it for a while and continue to have it treated by Dr. Todd. While I was eager to start up again, I remained patient by telling myself "you have a long season coming up but no races in the near future. TAKE IT EASY and use the opportunity to swim, bike and do strength work." I got back in the gym, and promptly failed to be patient, biting off more than I could chew with a workout that I have done before but not after months away from the gym. I have an impinged nerve and some angry tendons in my biceps and left arm from my neck down to my finger. Not good! What a rookie mistake I made! Now I'm trying to be patient again with my recovery. I was on a roll in the pool, swimming PRs and lots of yards, but then this happened and now I've gone three weeks without swimming more than a couple thousand yards total. Frustrating! But as I've learned, it's necessary for me to be patient now and heal up. The patience is bearing fruit though, as I'm nearly firing on all cylinders again. Just another week or two I hope!
Be patient! When you sustain chronic or acute injuries and let them linger, they are more likely to return later on. Nip them in the bud before they get too bad.
Question: when is it too bad?
It's hard to tell! You must either rely on the advice of others (ideal but difficult) or rely on your own hard-earned experience (not ideal because usually you get that experience only after making the mistakes yourself!) to know when a little niggle is a threat. I've always said "if I stopped training after every niggle, I'd never be training!" and while that's partly true, you must understand your own body and when you need to back off. I learned about my body the hard way in many cases, but am proud that I've also learned from other's mistakes and have heeded their wisdom. It's prevented me from sustaining even more injuries along the way, and recovery is tough. It requires patience!
"Why run? Why go out there every afternoon and beat out your brains? What is the logic of punishing yourself each day, of striving to become better, more efficient, tougher?"
These words were written by Steve Prefontaine while in high school, and yet they are the same words that each of us ask ourselves as we go along our paths. Why do we do what we do? Is it a desire to punish ourselves and come out stronger on the other side? Is it because we have extra time to allocate during a day and we need to fill it? Or is it something deeper? An innate desire to explore our boundaries and limitations and then figure out ways to move past them. To learn from our mistakes and experiences in order to become stronger and more accomplished.
How Bad Do You Want It is a great book about pushing your limits. There are some days when even the greatest champions are not at their mentally strongest and can falter. We've heard the saying "mind over matter." This is true and can propel each one of us to new heights. The best part about this book is the investigation into both successes and failures of different athletes. Determintation and desire can take an athlete to substaintially higher levels than our physical abilities. As we train our bodies to endure more physical demands, it's important to train our minds to become just as strong. We all have those days when it's a struggle to put one foot in front of the other or to jump in the cold water. That's ok. It's natural through the course of training. But when the time comes to actually get the work done, focusing and buckling down on the task at hand can be more beneficial than the physical training benefit.
So why do you punish yourself with countless miles, cold water, and early mornings? I do it to find out what I can do and then figure out ways beyond that. I do it to see the smiles on my kids' faces at the finish line. I do it with the expectation of learning a little bit more about myself and knowing that I can achieve the goals I set out to accomplish. Or as Pre said, "the value in it is what you learn about yourself...things that you may not have seen in yourself before." Enjoy the book
Are you asking yourself "how do I get faster?" Of course you are! As athletes, we're always trying to get the best out of ourselves. You can do it, and one way to approach it is by building out the infrastructure of your training.
What does that mean?
It means setting yourself up for success by creating an environment that makes it possible for you to train effectively. This applies to those just getting into the sport as well as the veterans. For the beginners...where will you swim, bike and run? Do you have a bike and a trainer for the winter months, or will you do spinning classes? Is there a local pool with convenient lap swim hours or a Masters team? Do you have a physical therapist who can keep your body from falling apart? For the veterans, there are changes you can make to the infrastructure that make it more effective than it already is. I'm constantly revisiting my infrastructure and making improvements to it, particularly at the beginning of the year when you have the freedom to do so away from races. Here are some examples of how I've managed to improve the infrastructure of my training:
1.) I Made the Trainer Fun/Bearable: I used to ride outdoors all the time, even when it was raining or very cold, because I found it boring to be on the trainer. In 2014, I found Tailwind Endurance, a computrainer studio in NYC convenient to my work that my coach runs, and all of a sudden trainer rides weren't boring anymore! Not only that, but the trainer is a more effective tool for training because it's a closed environment where there is no slowing or stopping because of street lights, potholes, etc.
2.) Train with Others: When I left the cross-country team at Penn State, I ran on and off for 2 1/2 years, never able to gather enough motivation to get back to where I was fitness-wise. This changed in 2007 when I realized that the reason I wasn't able to keep the training going was that I wasn't running with others! I started training with a friend, then with my alma mater high school cross-country and track teams, and was able to get down to 16:05 in the 5k, very close to my PR of 15:53. Once I discovered my own need to train with people, I built out the infrastructure of my training by finding training partners which led me to racing the Baltimore marathon, and then climbing through the amateur ranks of triathlon.
3.) I Found Solid Masters Swim Programs: Sometimes you need to spend extra time (ie. traveling) to get a more effective workout. I used to swim on my own, but realized that swimming with a Masters group was pushing me harder and farther, even without the same mental tax. Even among Masters groups, there are differences in how well they work to make you improve. I gravitate towards those that provide the best workout, even if I have to drive a half an hour to get there.
4.) Surround Myself with Achievers: I often see people around me complaining about a workout, or shirking what their coach tells them to do, and you probably do too. That type of negativity is not healthy to have around you when you're honestly trying to get faster! Surround yourself with people who not only speak positively but more importantly act positively. I'll complain from time to time, but I nearly always give it my all, even when what I think my coach assigned is impossible. It also helps to train with people who are better than you! Learn from their form, training structure, and mentality, and you will be better for it. I am constantly tweaking my training groups to include those who are fast go-getters who will help me get to the next level, and you should too!
5.) Train Away from Home: It's hard to train in the comfort of your home where you are used to eating, relaxing, sleeping and doing many of the "fun" things in life. I find that when I need to do a strength session and I choose to do it at home, it is rarely as effective as it is if I do it at the gym. Now I do most of my strength work at Tailwind Endurance, at the gym, with my physical therapist, or even outside. I get much more out of it and am willing to spend the extra time getting to these places so that I can make the most of my effort.
These are just five of the laundry list of ways that you an improve your own infrastructure of training. Assess each aspect of what you are doing and see where you can make some changes.
Remember...we are all different! What works for me might not work for you. The biggest takeaway from the idea of "building out the infrastructure of your training" is that you need to find what is most effective for you to train to the best of your ability. Even if you have a dud of a workout here or there because you tried something new, it's worth it! You are exploring all of your options and finding what is going to set you up for success. Do it now before we start racing!
Lacrosse ball rolling is used to break up adhesions in the connective tissue & work on trigger points in the muscle . Rolling also helps warm up the body by bringing blood flow to the region of the body being worked on.
Sometimes you just have to let loose!
Whenever there is pressure to do something for an indefinite amount of time without breaks, you're apt to crack at some point. Take this to heart when it comes to your training - I've seen way too many athletes train year-round without something that resembles an offseason where they can recharge their mental batteries, and it leaves them in a constant state of "dull" training. An important aspect of improvement is pushing your limits, and you can't do that if you aren't physically and mentally ready for the beating your body and mind will take. The tricky thing about it is that you often don't know when you're overworked! In 2013, I did Ironman Lake Placid attempting to qualify for Kona but I missed it by one slot. I then spontaneously decided (with my wife's approval!) to race Ironman Louisville (on her birthday!) four weeks later. I won my age group there and qualified for Kona, which I raced 7 weeks after that. On the surface, anyone would look at that, 3 Ironmans in 2.5 months, and say "of COURSE you were tired," but if you were to ask me right before racing Kona, I would have told you that I was in the best shape of my life and mentally ready for racing on the Big Stage. I was dead wrong. I felt motivated, but when push came to shove, and things got tough during the final miles of the marathon in Kona, I didn't have the mental strength to get really uncomfortable, which is an absolute requirement to run a good Ironman marathon. This is just one example of how not having enough downtime can impact performance, but if I had to name more examples, I could rattle off a dozen. It happens more often than you think! So this year, enjoy some physical and mental recovery while A races are still many months away, even if it's just two weeks, and you'll find that you're ready to go at it harder than ever when you start up again.
I also want to note that this doesn't just apply to triathlon. It applies to other aspects of life too. Trying to shed some pounds? Finding it overwhelming to always be focused on eating right? Allow yourself a "miss" here or there where you eat something you love. It'll be more sustainable in the long run and will make you more motivated to "be good" on a daily basis. I have "misses" often in my life, not by accident, but by design. I eat clean 90%+ of the time, but intentionally eat some dessert or have a beer occasionally to ensure that I don't feel deprived all the time. I follow Metabolic Efficiency Training and work with a nutritionist named Nicci Schock, and she was the one who taught me that it's a good thing for long term success to not always be so rigid.
Implement downtime in your life in 2016! Happy New Year!
Working out with a purpose. As I have continued my personal quest to enjoy an active life. My exercise routine has evolved from a punishing 6-7 days a week everyday feeling sore to the point of pain to a maintenance program with the goal of getting functionally stronger & improving my poor posture.
One of the first things I learned & I would like to share is foam rolling. Foam rolling is best done before exercise. The roller is used to break up adhesions, bring blood flow to the muscles. Foam rolling is one of the best things you can do for self maintenance.
My last few visits to Dr. Todd have been focused on developing posture, engaging lazy muscles, and trying to open up my shoulders. We've made a couple changes to my daily routine including using a stand-up desk at work. This has been such a huge change. I don't slouch at my desk and I'm not tired during the day. Standing opens up my hips which keeps my hip flexors from getting tight throughout the day and it also keeps my shoulders from creeping up throughout the day.
I've felt the benefits in running and swimming. My shoulders stay lower and properly engaged during running as opposed to rising up towards my ears. This leaves the core engaged and my body more relaxed to focus on running. During swimming, the open shoulders allow me to rotate and extend more freely and pull water with less effort. Although I thought I had pretty good posture during non-training hours, there was quite a lot of junk to break up in my shoulders. After a bit of graston (check out the handiwork in the picture), my shoulders roll back and my chest is wider.
Posture is so important at all times. There are small fixes that can make such a big difference. Many times, simply standing and focusing on stretching out instead of scrunching up will be noticeable improvements. Coupled with a little mental discipline, I'm looking forward to continuing to engage muscles properly and seeing the long term benefit translate to training.
The seemingly endless debate of "nature vs nurture" is brought one step closer to resolution (which leaves us with only a bazillion more steps to go) by David Epstein in his book The Sports Gene and it's been on my mind since I finished listening to the book over a week ago. Not only are the scientific studies and anecdotes Epstein highlights thought-provoking, they have implications for all of us as athletes. Here are some questions we might all ask ourselves after reading this book:
How good can I get?
Is there a limit set on my ability because of my genetics?
Am I not as good as Billy Bob Joe from lane 4 because he works harder than me, or because his genetic makeup is superior to mine?
Here are some additional questions specific to me that I've been asking:
How much of my success so far is due to genetics and how much due to hard work?
If I decide to compete as a professional triathlete, will I get trounced because my genetic makeup isn't like Jan Frodeno's?
Or is it?
Do I have to give it a shot to know if I can be the best, or can something like VO2 max or genetic testing give me my answer?
If one of my motivations is to see how good I can get, but testing tells me "not very good" then are my other motivations strong enough to keep me in the sport?
These are all pretty powerful questions that can have a profound impact on our lives. Epstein presents evidence that it is most certainly a mix of both genetics (nature) and hard work (nurture), and attempts to discern what percentage of each is responsible for extraordinary performance in an array of sports from baseball to chess to Ironman triathlon to sprinting. He explores the warrior-slave theory of Jamaican sprinting, the Kenyan and Ethiopian domination of marathoning, and how rare gene variants have been found to be not-so-rare at the highest levels of sports like dog racing or track running.
A few things that I've been able to conclude from the book:
1.) Ironman triathlon racing is probably a larger percentage of nurture than other things like singing that are largely genetic. There are so many factors that influence Ironman racing like experience, training infrastructure and luck that genetic predisposition is partially overridden. Have any of us ever met someone who popped out of the womb going sub-9 in an Ironman? I know I haven't. Have any of us seen someone who at the age of 10 could sing better than almost anyone you know? They're rare, but yes!
2.) It's not only your physical ability that is partly determined by your genes, but your mental ability. Epstein's chapter on Alaskan huskies in the Iditarod is an amazing example. They were actually bred not only for their physical talent, but for their eagerness to run and mental toughness over a grueling 8 day race. We may not be willing to breed humans to be tough or fast, but the husky anecdote is one that suggests our genes partly determine our willingness to suffer.
3.) Though many people have told me that I must have talent and that's why I'm as fast as I am, I've never thought of myself as particularly gifted. I admit that I do have more talent than most, but compared to some of the elites out there, I didn't have a high starting point - I ran an 8min mile in middle school, unlike the 5:20 that Meb Keflezighi ran. I believe my gifts of mental toughness and some degree of physical talent have overcome some of the disadvantages I face.
Let's each find what we are well-suited for and passionate about in life, and then go after it!
P.S. Feel free to leave comments if you have a stance on the nature vs nurture debate
Hello All-Pro Patients! I am excited to be able to share my thoughts and experiences on the All-Pro Health blog, and to be working with Dr Todd in some of the many areas he is an expert in. I came to Todd initially for help with my Achilles, but Todd's work also yielded a pleasant surprise. Read on.
I met Dr Todd in Kona, Hawaii, where I was to take on the most grueling one-day event in sport, swimming 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean amidst a sea of thrashing bodies, cycling 112 miles through the lava fields and infamous Mumuku winds, and running 26.2 miles in temperatures exceeding 100º. My preparation for the Ironman World Championship had gone tremendously well but I had a nagging Achilles injury that prompted me to visit Todd who, as I learned from John Bye of the Mapso Tri Club, was visiting Kona to witness the event and help some of the best athletes in the world. After my first visit with Todd four days before the race, it was clear that he is a very knowledgeable and skilled practioner of ART, Graston, kinesiotaping and biomechanics and after two visits my Achilles was feeling much better. I placed 72nd overall in a time of 9:23 (if you'd like to read my full race report, email me at email@example.com)
Since I'm constantly trying to improve, when I returned to NJ (after some much needed R&R in Kauai!), I went back to Todd to see what else he would be able to help me with, now with access to the full array of equipment at his office. Todd's ability to identify areas of weakness and construct a plan to correct them is impressive, and his borderline giddy passion for athletics (as a triathlete himself) is important to me. He gets it!
After a few more visits, including a chiropractic adjustment, we were convinced that we should work together. Our initial targets:
1.) Finish healing my angry Achilles after the terror I put it through by racing an Ironman
2.) Correct my terrible posture
Take a look at the picture comparison in this blog - the first one is how I used to stand. My shoulders are hunched, and my neck is craned forward like I'm a chicken. Fast-forward through four weeks of working with Todd on mid and lower trapezius strength, and bringing flexibility back to my chest, and you have picture number 2. My shoulders are back and down, chin is tucked, and my neck is properly aligned with my spine. Do I look better? HECK YES! And here's what's more...
Ever have headaches from sitting at a desk for hours straight at work? I've had migraine headaches, often beginning midday on Mondays, for most weeks for the past several years. I could never figure out why I got them, and the only relief I found was from taking Excedrin (I hate taking medicine). Since working with Todd, I haven't had a single headache in 5 weeks! Magic? No! Posture!
I'm sold, and drinking the postural Kool-aid.
P.S. Take a look at my Bio on the website to learn more about me! Feel free to email me questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
Rollers can be great to help work out kinks during training. An achy muscle, tight back, or sore ligament can definitely be addressed through some targeted rolling. But, that's not it. I've come to find that the roller can actually help pre-workout as well. Rather than spending time on a slow warm-up, I've started to roll out my legs before rides and runs and it's been a huge help. I can start my workouts with clear legs and a focus in the body to be more effecient and effective.
Several years ago, I wrecked on my bike and banged up my shoulder. It still causes me some problems. Dr. Todd listened to this, watched my movement, and gave some pointers on using the roller to stretch out the shoulder area and break up the scar tissue. This is particularly important based on the swimming stress put on the shoulder as well as the core development we're focusing on during the off-season. By pairing the roller both before and after workouts, I'm looser, a bit more flexible, and more effectively ready to go for workouts. It's been great to utilize a training tool in a more productive manner and add to recovery.