Each year, I pick a handful of things to experiment with, and one of them for 2016 is high dose, high quality fish oil. People's diets often lead to high levels of inflammation, particularly in the U.S., and as an athlete, we choose to inflame our bodies daily through our training. Dr. Barry Sears has pioneered the use of Omega-3 fish oil in order to keep that inflammation under control and optimize recovery. Something that I've learned lately is that inflammation is about balance, like so many other things in life. Too much inflammation and your body destroys its own tissue leading to injury and minimal performance gains. Too little inflammation, and your body doesn't know what to repair. Inflammation is your body's signal to heal itself, which it does in a supercompensatory way leading to you being stronger, which leads to performance gains. Woah! Isn't that what we are looking for as athletes!?
So how do we measure inflammation? A blood test. I did a blood test before starting the fish oil consumption to measure my AA (Arachidonic Acid) and EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid) levels, which are used to calculate the AA/EPA ratio. Dr. Sears' research has concluded that 1.5-3.0 is a good range with 1.5 being ideal. My original test on February 3rd came back at 5.1 (8.96% AA / 1.76% EPA), and after taking 10 capsules per day for a bit less than 3 months, my ratio is now 1.5 (8.2% AA / 5.6% EPA), spot on with the ideal number! I guess Dr Barry Sears knows what he's talking about when it comes to dosage recommendations! Not only did my second test number reflect a better ratio, but both my AA and my EPA numbers improved, particularly my EPA percentage. The ideal range is >4% of total fatty acids, a number I failed to meet by far in my first test. After taking more fish oil, I've achieved it and then some, meaning I have a lot of "good" fatty acids in my system now. This totally jives with the fact that I've been taking a ton more fish oil under Dr. Barry Sears' guidance, and not just any fish oil, but the highest quality fish oil there is on the market, OmegaRx fish oil.
So the science proves there's been a theoretical improvement, but how do I feel?
The quick answer is that I've been feeling great! I have been recovering like Wolverine from my workouts, soreness is minimal, I feel sharp-minded, and the symptoms from having low testosterone last year have abated (listen to the recent podcast on Endurance Planet, Episode 2 of "So You Wanna Go Pro?" where I talk about my testosterone issues: http://www.enduranceplanet.com/ep-2-so-you-wanna-go-pro-the-boston-marathon-special-and-athletes-facing-low-t/).
The longer answer is that I've been feeling great, but it's hard to tell that it's directly due to the fish oil. There are so many factors in life and in training that could affect my ability to recover, or my testosterone levels, that it's hard to say for certain that it is high dose, high quality fish oil making the impact. However, given the fact that my health has made a turn for the better this year is a good sign that it has been beneficial to me. All of the things that are supposed to improve because of an ideal AA/EPA ratio, have improved. Another way I could try to test whether the fish oil is helping me is by stopping consumption of it and seeing if I feel worse. I don't want to though! There's a good chance that it is helping my health and performance, so I'm going to continue taking it as long as I continue to feel as great as I do.
Feel free to comment or message me directly if you have stories of your own regarding the impact of fish oil on your health. I'm interested to hear!
With the first major set of training and racing behind me, it's a good chance to recap the early year. This year, I started training off with a distinct run focus. I had a goal of setting a new PR in the half-marathon distance while building towards the Boston Marathon. During Boston, my goals were simple and straightforward: sub-2:50, learn something from the race, have fun, and recover to be ready for tri season.
Dr. Todd has been keeping my body fit and ready for all the work Coach Earl (Tailwind Endurance) had me doing. We ramped up the run mileage while getting in some quality swims and rides. Some people might be against an early season marathon and what it can or can't do for training. This provided me with an early season set of goals and focus so that I could constantly work towards achieving something. Being in the NE, there are not many options for early season triathlons so running races make sense. It's now 2 weeks on from Boston and I can say that my body is ready to go and I'm geared up for triathlon season. Post Boston, my quads were shot, knees were a bit achy, and calves were beaten up. During the initial recovery days, two things really jump started my recovery. First, I swam on Wednesday, two days after Boston. After the swim, I realized how great it was to be able to cross train. The floating around, stretching, and no impact exercise loosened up my body. I got out of the pool and could walk down the steps without having to turn around. I could bend over and actually stretch my legs without my back hurting. All of this from just the one swim.
Cross training is so important. As triathletes, we have the ability to exercise in multiple ways. In addition, strength training is critical to the body's ability to absorb workouts and recover from them. I have been able to get out for a few runs and steadily feel my legs coming back. The first one was tough but I made it through and immediately went to the roller.
The second part that helped the recovery was the visit with Dr. Todd coupled with all the roller work. It takes 5 minutes to roll around and the impact is huge. This helped break down some of the lactic acid and loosen up the muscles. Dr. Todd helped with movement issues and general tightness in my legs and lower back. The power and flexibility came back and I feel pretty close to normal now.
Running to triathlon season gave me a great run base for the start of the season. I have some work to do to develop the bike power I'd like to have. But, my season goals are later in the year and I have plenty of time to get there. For now, it's time to focus on bike strength and maintaining the run capabilities coming off the bike. The first test and gauge of tri fitness will come in about 3 weeks at JerseyMan. I'm looking forward to getting the new bike out and racing the Ventum One as well as seeing where my early season fitness is. The run build has been great and broke up what could otherwise be a long stretch of training by giving me an opportunity to focus on near term goals while developing the long term strategy for the season. Now it's time to get going!
Coming off an age group win at Ironman 70.3 Florida last Sunday, I am excited for the opportunity to write my first article for All-Pro Health! I've been working with Todd and Tejal for a few months now, rehabilitating my body from several years of intense racing and training, largely focused on Ironman and 1/2 Ironman distances. The integrated treatment plan I have benefitted from over the last few months includes a significant amount of soft tissue work, but also an extensive array of exercises intended to strengthen and correct for the compensation my body has gotten to be so good at, especially over the last couple of years. Why is this important? As I have "aged up" (notice I do NOT refer to this as "getting older!"), I have observed that my body does not recover as quickly and when the correct muscles do not fire, racing/training through that has at times been quite painful. So perhaps the first takeaway to consider is:
Take a comprehensive approach to rehabbing your injuries. Ensure you are not only focusing on the problem areas, but get to the root cause of the problem and develop a long term strategy to correct it. This will require patience, something I do not have an abundance of, but I will do my best and will keep you posted!
Now onto the main topic for discussion....
After a fairly lengthy off season and my rather "relaxed" approach to early season training, why jump into a 1/2 IM in April to kick things off in 2016? I've found this to be not only a great way to kick off spring break, my husband John Bye's birthday, and a family vacation, but also:
An early season race is a great way to test baseline fitness, challenge your ability to focus mentally, and identify areas of strength/weakness in order to tweak (or build) your training plan for the remainder of the year.
Baseline fitness - what is this and how do you access this?
For those who have been racing/training for several years, you will agree that when starting a new season it is generally not normal to just "pick up where you left off" and perform as you would in peak season, but certainly you can count on a level of base fitness that has built up over the years. As you ease into your training program, make sure you've got some workouts scheduled that can help you find this pace, even if only for short intervals. This actually works - I did not have the benefit of many long rides/runs before IM FL 70.3, but I did have a couple key workouts that helped me settle into my race pace.
For example, on the bike - one of my interval sets on the Computrainer within two weeks prior included (after an adequate warm up and some drills) a 4x5 minute interval set holding my goal 1/2 IM watts, followed by 4x2 minute interval set "faster than 1/2 IM race pace". The purpose of this was to remind my body what it felt like to hit certain power numbers, especially since I wasn't as dialed in to my training as I would have liked leading up to this point, and it actually worked, in fact, so much so that I looked down at my bike computer several times wondering out loud, “how could I possibly be riding this fast?” (For those who do not train with power, this same idea could be effectively duplicated targeting heart rate or level of perceived exertion.) I biked the rolling course at 21.7 mph in 2:34, and while it was certainly challenging (especially with the wind, I don't like wind!) it was a manageable pace made possible by triggering some muscle memory in just a couple of specific workouts.
Mental focus - how important is this?
As important as it is to swim, bike, run and execute transitions well to win or even to complete a race, bringing your "A game" mentally is probably even more critical. Yet this is where we tend to spend the least amount of time preparing and where an early season "practice race" can help. Think about it, when you enter a race early in the season, generally you will not be as prepared physically as you would like to be, especially if you are like me and take your time "easing in" to the season! So that means it's going to hurt when you are out on course. (And if you are still rehabbing an injury, it will hurt even more!) This is where you get some great practice in the discipline of mental focus that will benefit your entire season.
By the time I got to the run last Sunday at IM FL 70.3, the temperature was rising in proportion to the rise in my heart rate. Dave Ragsdale announced the first few women heading out of transition onto the run course, then I was the fourth women out, so I was in a good place heading into the run. But I also knew this run would be tough - it was a three loop course around Lake Eva, with a few big hills on each lap - and at the start of the first loop, it was all I could do to get my legs to turn over, especially on the steep climbs. In fact, I don’t think I could call it running up my first climb, it was more like doing some tip-toe speedwalk thing…Rather than let this bother me, instead I focused on putting one foot in front of the other and would reassess in a couple miles after my legs had a chance to adjust to running off the bike.
My left calf, which has been causing me problems for awhile, tightened up and my quads were on the verge of seizing up. I “ran tall”, engaged my core, and shortened my stride up the hills, took some salt at the next aid station, then noticed I was starting to find my stride again. But it didn’t get any easier, as I needed to keep pushing my pace, and I became focused on "one loop at a time."
Breaking the course into segments - 3 x 4+ mile loops - instead of thinking about needing to run 13.1 miles was key. Then within the segments, focusing on the terrain (especially the downhills where I could look forward to some recovery), the location of aid stations, and being very conscious of where I was vs. my competitors when the course looped around the various out and backs were the things I was thinking about (and good distractions from focusing on the pain in my legs!)
The other element needed to retain mental focus, especially as fatigue sets in, is confidence. Having run E Murray Todd as an early season half marathon a month or so ago (feeling similarly unprepared at that race too!), gave me the confidence to know I could execute a decent half marathon. While I’d done few long runs since, I knew I could draw on those “miles in the bank” as Bill Haskins would say. In terms of pacing strategy, I clearly did not have it in me to run a peak season ½ IM run. I focused on a couple of key track workouts that I had done over the past couple of weeks that were quite similar to the Computrainer workout I described above, with the focus on simply “dialing in” a goal pace that, on the track, felt easy, but on the last loop of IM FL 70.3, felt like it was the best I could do. By the last loop, I needed to resist the urge to walk the aid stations with everything I had. I wanted to pull over and stretch, but knew I would likely not be able to get moving again if I did. So I dug deep, focused on my form and needed to rely on my mind - after doing a quick assessment to ensure I wasn't doing any damage to my recovering injuries - then ignored those inner voices telling me to slow down or stop and instead thought of the competitors that were likely gaining time. FOCUS, do what you have trained yourself to do, perhaps the season before, but no matter. And then, finally, THE FINISH LINE, and the age group win, following a 1:38 ½ Marathon run (7:31 pace).
After studying my race data and allowing my body to recover, I will consult with Todd and Tejal and get another functional assessment. This will help me refine my training for the rest of the year. Stay tuned for the next article and I will share more findings!
Wrapping up a solid week of recovery and heading into race weekend, this is a good time to review the run build to the season. My goals for the early part of 2016 were to build the run fitness, try to set a new half-marathon best, and come to Boston ready to enjoy the race. While it might seem a bit odd, the Boston Marathon is not a primary goal of the season. The goal surrounding this race is to throw in a demanding run and then focus on recovery to get to the tri season in the best shape possible.
Together with Dr. Todd, we've been working on stabilizing my core, strengthening the hip flexors, and helping the body deal with the different strains of training. As a teacher, I enjoy a spring break just like my students. This was prime time for an uptick in training and intensity. As a result, Dr. Todd and I saw a bit more of each other recently and really worked out the kinks. This week has been both a mental and physical recovery week. We worked on the hip flexors, paid attention to a tendonitis issue in my left foot, and loosened up my back. I went for a pre-race tempo run today and floated along for 3 miles at 6:15 pace. It was a great feeling.
Races present all types of possibilities and opportunities. Boston has a clear place in the season for me and is a launching pad for the rest of the year. I'm looking forward to the race, spending some time outside cruising the streets of the greater Boston area, and especially the NormaTec boots on Wednesday morning. Thanks for all the race week work, Dr. Todd! See you on the other side.
What an experience! A few weeks ago, I packed up my newly-built and aerodynamically improved 2016 CEEPO Viper and made a visit to the A2 Wind Tunnel in the middle of nowhere in Mooresville, NC, accompanied by my coach (Earl Walton) and a few training partners from Tailwind Endurance who were also there to test. The A2 Wind Tunnel is a top-notch facility frequented by professional triathletes, NASCAR drivers and even garbage can manufacturers (don't you hate it when your garbage can blows off down the street?!). Last year was the first time that I really began to tinker with my aerodynamics because in the first few years of doing the sport, there was plenty of lower hanging fruit than trying to squeeze a few extra watts out of my position or gear. At this point though, there isn't as much low-hanging fruit and making the trip sounded like a worthwhile venture. A huge thank you to Joe LoPorto from FitWerx for sending me to the tunnel and having the bike built and ready for action! Going in, we had put together a wishlist of things to test, including these:
1.) Bring my front end down by 1cm, then 2cm
2.) Bring the aerobars from a 0 degree position up to 10 degrees
3.) Test out various tri suits to find which is fastest on me, and purchase my custom tri suit for the year based on that knowledge
4.) Test out hydration setups to find what is fastest for my body, position and bike
5.) Test different aerohelmets to potentially replace the Lazer Tardis helmet I've raced in since I began the sport, which is typically slow in the tunnel
6.) See the impact of arm coolers vs no arm coolers, and wrinkly arm coolers (like I wore in Kona) vs smooth arm coolers
There are tons of claims out there by equipment manufacturers (bike companies, tri suits, aerohelmets, hydration setups, etc) that they are the fastest out there, sometimes quoting numbers that make it sound like you'll drop 20 minutes off your Ironman time just by using their sunglasses. There is also a wealth of information from people who have done aerodynamic testing before, whether it be in the velodrome or a wind tunnel, about what was faster for them. While there are certain things that tend to test faster for most people (ie sleeved tri suits vs sleeveless), the only way to really test the impact of your position and gear selections on your aerodynamics is to test it yourself. Some things are quite counter-intuitive: having a bottle or two in a rear hydration setup tends to be faster than no bottle for most people (though whether one or two is faster varies person to person), and having a well-fitting BTA (between-the-arms) hydration setup can actually be faster than no bottle at all!
After arriving at the wind tunnel and hearing Brian Stover and Heath Dotson talk about the testing, I decided to follow their lead. They're the experts and have spent countless hours in the tunnel, so I thought it best to let them guide me through what they think is most worthwhile to test, rather than pretend like I know best.
My first run in the tunnel was without me on the bike. For all the runs, we used the industry-standard wind speed of 30mph. It's faster than I'll ever ride a long course bike leg in, but necessary to help amplify the effects of the changes we are testing. For each run, we tested at 0 and 10 degrees yaw. We tested my oval-shaped Zipp Vuka base bar and ended up switching quickly from that to the flat tear-shaped Profile Design Prosvet which saved about 1.5w right off the bat. Then I hopped on the bike, got a tutorial from the wind tunnel crew, and did two baseline runs so that we would have an accurate starting point to compare the final runs off of. They wanted me to pedal at a pace I could pedal all day and to keep nice and steady from run to run and within each run. One of the tough parts of wind tunnel testing is keeping human error out of the statistics, even though there's a human in the tunnel. I thought I was pedaling steady, but after the first few runs, they asked me to ride steadier because the numbers were varying somewhat wildly, to the point where the variance was greater than the potential time savings.
After baseline, where we found my CdA to be 0.260, we moved my back up (0.6cm) and front down (2cm) which helped me get my back more parallel to the ground and resulted in 3.3w of savings. Bringing the pads in on my aerobars by 1.5cm each brought in another 3.6w. Then we moved the bars up from 0 degrees to 10 degrees and though the result was actually worse at 10 degrees, they took me up to a "praying mantis" style 30 degrees, contrary to intuition and something I wouldn't have thought to do on my own. It worked! My numbers got worse and then got better with the "praying mantis" actually being my fastest run yet by about 2.6w. After a number of aerohelmet tests where we found several helmets better than my Lazer Tardis, I was told that it was my last run. HUH!? That two hours went by REALLY fast. We didn't even get to test different tri kits, hydration setups or my arm coolers. I had even waited to order my custom tri kit because I wanted to test different brands and buy the fastest. Bummer. If I am able to make a trip to the wind tunnel again, near the top of my list will be hydration and tri kits. I did get to try on a couple of kits, and for this year, I'll have to choose which fit the best without the benefit of real data.
In the end, I moved my CdA from 0.260 down to 0.247 and saved 10.8w at 0 degrees yaw assuming a speed of 24.0mph, Ironman goal pace. I went in expecting to find 10-20w and for my final CdA to be in the realm of the professional triathletes who are about the same shape and size as me. I wasn't able to get down quite that far as the most "slippery" time trialists and pro triathletes have CdAs in the ballpark of 0.21-0.22. If I had a CdA that low to begin with, and only found 10w, I would have been thrilled as I could conclude that I am already very aerodynamic, but having gotten only down to 0.247 and finding only 10w, I feel like there must be more there. Don't get me wrong, I'm pretty aerodynamic in the grand scheme of things, but if I want to get to the top, every watt counts! After talking with the Heath about why I might not be as aerodynamic, he suggested that it might be because I'm "built like a swimmer." HUH?!?! That's the first time I've heard that one! I've always had a pretty scrawny and undersized upper body from all the years of running, so it was the last thing I thought I'd hear. It turns out he didn't think I had a big upper body like a swimmer, but that I have broader shoulders than most of the top time trialists. If I am able to scrunch my shoulders underneath me and round my back, I'll have a smaller front for the wind. That would require me to improve the flexibility in my shoulders and get to used to generating power in that position. That, or break my collar bone. I think I'll pass on the collar bone breakage.
Another thing to note is that many of these changes come with a cost. Some require an additional monetary outlay (i.e. buying a new aerohelmet or base bar) while others require a compromise to your comfort on the bike (i.e. butt up, front end down or the new praying mantis position). If I can't hold the more aerodynamic position comfortably for 112 miles during an Ironman, and I run terribly, then the 5 minutes I saved on the bike won't be worth much. I'll need to practice in the new position for a while and see if I can get used to it before I race Raleigh 70.3 and Eagleman 70.3 in June.
While I was at the tunnel, Melissa Alfano from TRS Triathlon happened to be there collecting material for an article on the wind tunnel, and she asked me to answer some interview questions. Check out the article!
All in all, it was an extraordinary experience that I never thought I'd have the chance to do. We found over 10w, which for anyone who's done FTP testing knows, is not easy to achieve by increasing fitness. Theoretically, this will save me around 2.5 minutes in a Half Ironman and 5 minutes in an Ironman. Isn't "free" time awesome!?
My race schedule is finally complete! I usually have it set in stone by the end of the prior year but this year was a bit different because I was busy weighing the pros and cons of racing as a pro. I decided to stick to the amateur ranks this year and here is the plan:
March 19th - Spring Thaw 5k
April 10th - Chase the April Fool 5k
April 18th - Boston Marathon
June 5th - Raleigh 70.3
June 12th - Eagleman 70.3
July 16th - Lake Waramaug Sprint Triathlon
July 24th - Ironman Lake Placid
September 11th - Santa Cruz 70.3
October 8th - Kona (pending qualification in Lake Placid)
- I'll be racing the Spring Thaw 5k, a local 5k to get back in the swing of racing and to help support a friend of mine who is directing the race.
- I'll be the "Fool" that everyone is chasing at Chase the April Fool 5k! Come out to Liberty State Park and see if you can catch me!
- Most of my schedule was created with "going pro" in mind, potentially next year.
- Raleigh and Eagleman are just 7 days apart, which is an experiment to test my ability to recover and to see what it's like to race back to back weekends like some of the pros do. I will take that week off of work in between and spend the time in either Raleigh or Cambridge doing all that I can to recover and be ready to race Eagleman. Should be interesting!
- The Lake Waramaug Sprint Triathlon is our annual Race for Justin, my brother who died of cancer in 2008. Each year we raise money from family and friends for St Jude's in his name. St Jude's was Justin's favorite charity and he would often pass monetary gifts on to St Jude's so that one day no child will have to go through what he went through. Support the cause please! Blog on that in the coming months :-)
- I love Ironman Lake Placid! It was my first and second Ironman and I want to go back to challenge myself on the course.
- I chose Santa Cruz 70.3 so that I could test my ability to travel for a 70.3 like the pros do all the time. To this point, I've only ever flown to a full Ironman.
See you at the races!
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.