- Every Fitness and Sport Training Approach Works
- Wisely Choosing What Blogs to Follow
- Don't be a Guru; be a Mentor.
- Acclimating to the Heat
- Sport Jelly Beans or Raisins?
- Choosing the Perfect Running Shoe
- You're fast, so you're a good coach. Right?
- Scientific Terminology vs. commonly used Jargon: A call for clarification and reliable sources
- The Consequences of Low Energy Intake
- Setting Goals and Thinking Long Term
- Sweat the Small Stuff
- Walk Before You Run...Literally!
- The ``Secret Training Principle``
- Your Training Physiology is a Continuum
- Supplements: What You Ought to Know
- Is There Such a thing as Bad Recovery?
- Swim Drills
- 5 Simple but Effective Tips to Take Your Training to the Next Level
Every Fitness and Sport Training Approach Works
Yes, CrossFit works. Yes, Tabata intervals work. Yes, Runner’s World training programs work. Yes, Jillian Michaels’s workout tapes work, but she is still an idiot!
No matter what approach you choose in fitness training or athletic training, there is a good chance it will work for you and the majority of the population. Why? Because we are highly adaptable beings. When stress is placed on our bodies, our bodies break down, rebuild, and prepare to take on more than the previous bout of training. Some athletes or fitness enthusiasts will respond very well to certain types of training, and some will not. You can go easy or hard in every workout you do and make gains. You can follow a plan found in Triathlete Magazine, Runner’s World magazine, Men’s Health, or from a local coach and make gains, but two questions remain. One: Are the workout protocols you are implementing designed for your physiological, musculoskeletal, and biomechanical needs? Two: Are you monitoring your training to document how you respond to every workout to ensure the appropriate training load (frequency, volume, and intensity of workouts), promote continuous gains, and prevent excessive overreaching and injury? Just because a certain approach works does not mean it’s the best approach for your specific needs.
We all make gains regardless of our approaches, but when your workouts are tailored to your specific physiological needs, you will not only make gains, but you will make gains faster, recover quicker, avoid plateaus, and compete in your sport longer.
“The coach is a teacher; his subject is the fundamentals.”
“Think critically, question everything, and train smart!”
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Wisely Choosing What Blogs to Follow
With so many blogs on the Internet about health, fitness, and sports, how do we know which ones are giving sound advice? I e-mailed a good friend the other day regarding a blog post I had seen from a local, self-proclaimed “expert” about testing and modeling of athletic performance. I was unfamiliar with some of the scientific terminology used, but I felt the blogger indeed had a passion for the topic. The reason I sent it to my friend is because he is one very smart individual; he has his PhD in Chemical and Biological Engineering and did his postdoc at MIT. In addition, he has co-authored a few papers on topics similar to this particular blog post.
When I first read the blog post, red flags were flying in my mind, because the author was using words that had no meaning and did not make sense from a scientific reasoning standpoint; some of the words they used were even trademarked. It seemed that the author’s heart was in the right place with the overall topic and they made some good points, but the way they sold and packaged the information was as if it were the gold standard. When my friend read it, his exact words were, “I’m 99.9% sure this is bullshit.”
Just because someone writes a blog post does not mean they are an expert on the topic or that their training approaches or philosophies are correct. This is especially likely to be the case when the blogger mentions science and the only references they provide are their own data and opinions written in a defensive manner, usually accompanied by them selling services or products.
The problem is that a large percentage of testing and training approaches work, because anything new to an athlete, whether that athlete is a newbie or seasoned, will elicit a change in their fitness and performance. There will always be questions from both sides of the fence, such as: are the changes that an athlete received from following this blog or writers services the most ideal for them? Could the athlete be making larger gains when following evidence-based principles backed by basic physiology and the latest research? This is a debate that will go on forever, but always consider the source of your information. You have the opportunity to go through thousands of blogs and online articles each day, and many will claim to be the next best thing to improve your health, nutrition, and athletic performance. The challenging part is that there is sound information and good advice in many of these blogs and articles, but you have to sift through the material to find this. Most importantly, you should ask: What is the blogger trying to sell you? Are they defensive? What research are they utilizing? Hopefully, they are simply trying to add insight to a topic to help readers further understand the physiology and mechanisms behind their suggested approach. In the end, it’s all about helping one improve in their health and sport ventures, and this cannot be done by being defensive, authoritative, and providing no actual research or scientific reasoning to back up the author’s claims.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Don’t be a Guru; be a Mentor.
The last example in this article (link below) is all too familiar in the sport science world. Just last year, I came across a local “guru” who claimed to have all the answers, but did not want to show how they got their results. After some further investigation, my instincts proved to be right: the services being provided by this “guru” were something we have seen in the scientific literature for years, but the “guru” was claiming them as their own. In addition, the interpretation of results was trademarked and considered proprietary information, but there was no supporting research given.
I’m wrong quite often. But when I am wrong, I admit it and learn from it. Every day I learn from others. My wish is to always be a contributing participant in the field of sport science, whether I am sharing, questioning, challenging, or just listening. To me, it should never be about trumping each other. Rather, it is about helping all of us grow in sport science. In my community, as it is in any scientific community, collaborative learning enables both the sport scientists and the athletes to grow, improve, and succeed.
Secrecy in science is impedimentary. It can create a rift among fellow scientists. It certainly creates blind followers. Having peers from your field question and challenge you in a respectful way only helps everyone involved.
Think critically, question everything, and train smart!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Acclimating to the Heat
I grew up in a very small cottage in Clementon, NJ with my father. One luxury we did not have was air conditioning. To this day, I don’t need air conditioning to sleep or function (but I won’t turn it away!). I was a back-of-the-pack runner in college, but I often ran my fastest in the heat. I attribute this to growing up in a household that did not have AC, which meant I was used to the heat! If you have a race coming up that will most likely be in hot weather, how should you prepare for it? The answer is very simple: get out and train more in the heat! As you start running and cycling more in the heat, be cautious. Often, you will not be able to maintain the paces and intensities that you can hold in cooler temperatures without increased effort, so be patient and give yourself some time to acclimate. I would also suggest spending less time in air-conditioned environments. Lastly, I would check out this fantastic article by Emily Dulhanty, who takes a look at how the national Canadian women’s soccer team trained in Mexico to help with heat acclimation for the upcoming World Cup. In the article, she quotes several great studies and another fantastic sport science writer (Alex Hutchinson) on variables to think about when preparing to compete in the heat!
Think critically, question everything, and train smart!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Sport Jelly Beans or Raisins?
So, what did you eat during your long bike or run this past weekend? When we are out for a long bike or run, most of us rely on supplements, but we often forget about real food. Making “food first” a regular habit in our daily nutrition is optimal and should also be considered while we exercise. I love this video below comparing the use of sport jelly beans vs. raisins as a fuel during exercise. First of all, Michael Greger quotes a classic study from Ed Coyle that looks at the effects of adding sugar/carbohydrates while exercising and how it delays fatigue. For the record, this study was not from the 1930s as the video implies. Second, he brings up a great point. With so many supplements to take during long endurance athletic events, we often forgot about real food as mentioned above! I almost daily remind my athletes that they don’t need to just consume gels, bars, shots, and sports drinks during their workout; real food works, too. The study results showed that raisins provided the same respiratory exchange ratio (RER), total carbohydrate oxidation, total fat oxidation, and energy expenditure as the sport jelly beans. The only difference was that most of the study participants actually liked the taste of raisins more than jelly beans. Not sure what foods to eat or make? Check out a great book by Allan Lim called “Feed Zone Portables” for hundreds of recipes and ideas! Be very progressive with your implementation of real foods, experiment, and have a wide of variety of choices in your food and supplements.
Think critically, question everything, and train smart!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Choosing the Perfect Running Shoe
For almost 13 years, I worked in running stores. During that time, I went through frequent shifts in my way of thinking about how to “fit” a person for a pair of running shoes, using personal experience and what I had learned through my undergraduate and graduate classes and independently reading research articles to influence my running shoe fit process. Ultimately, I wanted to give the customer as much information as possible and provide them with the most up to date information. This study (link below) is spot on when it comes to some very simple conclusions about what running shoes aid in and how to pick the best ones for you:
1. We have known for quite some time now that pronation, or inward rolling of the foot, is natural and therefore correcting it does not prevent injury.
2. Running shoes do not alter your running technique, but in some rare cases, switching to a minimalist shoe or barefoot-mimicking shoe can change a person’s stride frequency (cadence).
3. Picking a shoe based on feel is ideal.
During my time working in running stores, I have worked with 105-lb high school runners who were running 50+ miles a week and could run a 4:30 mile, wearing shoes like bricks on their feet with so much cushioning and support. But these kids loved their shoes, so there was no need to change. In many cases, these individuals wanted to change to a lighter shoe because they had heard it was better or would make them faster. If they did make this change, it would need to be stressed to them to switch over to the lighter shoe over a longer period of time. It would be the same if a 250-lb runner wanted to switch from a heavier shoe to a minimalist shoe: such a transition must be done slowly, and most importantly, the person must love the feel of the shoe. Lastly, when I was not as up-to-date on the research, I used to put people in shoes that supposedly had more support to prevent pronation; these people loved their shoes and told me that their injuries diminished. Placebo effect? Maybe. Or, is it that the person just felt that the shoe fit them the best?
Listen to your body, try a ton of different shoes on, and go with what feels most comfortable!
Think critically, question everything, and train smart!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
You’re fast, so you’re a good coach. Right?
I was going through some of my old Track and Field News magazines and came across a gem of an article in the May 2010 edition. The article was titled, “Lewis and Tellez Worried About Coaching Knowledge.” The article is very short and to the point, and you can read it below. It’s nice to hear a top athlete and coach express their concerns that too many elite and very gifted athletes are coaching who really should not be. A short and simple must read:
Lewis & Tellez Worried about Coaching Knowledge
In our examination for the U.S.’s current field-event woes, Mac Wilkins lamented about the dearth of technical knowledge among the nations’ coaches.
Legend Carl Lewis recently expressed similar sentiments in Houston’s school paper, the Daily Cougar. “What’s really killing the sport is all these (athletes) who are retiring and coaching the next year. They really do not have the background. They’re not qualified,” Lewis said. “You need to have more than ‘I ran and I was good’. You don’t just need to know how to do workouts to be a coach. You need to understand physiology; how the body works…in our sport we have athletes retire and two years later, they’re coaching the best athletes in the world.”
Lewis’s long time mentor, former Houston head coach Tom Tellez, agrees. “If you don’t have a background, you better do some studying,” he said. “If you run, that helps, but you still have to know the biomechanics of running.”
Just because an athlete once raced professionally or was of elite status does not mean they have knowledge and understanding of the physiology and biomechanics that go into the sport they are coaching. You can’t discount their experience, but just because a ceratin approach worked for them does not mean it will work for everyone. Many athletes seek out coaches who were once professional or very gifted athletes, but again, this does not mean these former athletes truly understand the physiology and biomechanics that go into their respective sport.
Seeking out education is a great thing for coaches, but they must seek out forms of education that are well researched and up to date. It’s amazing how many coaching and personal certifications are available to the general public. Many of the course manuals and speakers associated with these certifications lack the updated research, coaching knowledge, and overall quality that hardworking and knowledge-hungry coaches and athletes deserve. In the coaching and personal training fields alone, there are more than 720 certifications available to anyone who wants to become a coach or personal trainer. These certifications require no degree and 99% of them do not require experience. All you need to be is 18 years old – no experience, no educational background.
I’m very thankful that as I was finishing my degree and taking one of these so-called certifications 10 years ago, I started to question everything, including the validity of the recent certification classes I had taken. I thank the many mentors I had, such as Dr. Phil Skiba, Jeff Wood MPT, and Dr. Robert Sterner, for giving me the tools to question everything from a scientific perspective. Dr. Skiba always says, “Science will not have all the answers, but start with the known.” Lewis and Tellez hit it on the head, and they don’t even have a science-based background and are both legends in their field. Let’s hope their opinions are taken seriously and that athletes seeking out coaches will follow their advice. The above article was a breath of fresh air when I read it, because to hear former Olympian and 10 time medal winner Carl Lewis and coach Tom Tellez (former Houston Cougars head Track and Field Coach for 22 years) second my own beliefs on this subject was very gratifying. If you’re not familiar with Carl or Tom, I would highly suggest you look them up!
“Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.” ― Albert Einstein
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Scientific Terminology vs. commonly used Jargon: A call for clarification and reliable sources
Calvin and Hobbes is my favorite comic of all time. Dad’s answer is outrageous, hysterical, and unfortunately, far too common in the sport science field. All too often, I witness lazy answers to an athlete’s legitimate questions. I do not believe that the sport scientist or coach is purposefully attempting to mislead the athlete. Rather, the sport scientist/coach does not know the answer; he or she is not educated on the area of discussion; or they simply believe their pseudoscience is actually “science.”
In an effort to improve performance, lose weight, or just be healthier, many athletes, coaches, and even sport scientists search for information on the Internet using Google as their guide. Others will pick up the latest issue of a sport or health magazine, or a book published by a so-called “expert.” The problem with using these sources is they contain misguided information, with claims and promises of the “next best thing” but very little supporting scientific evidence. At least once a day, I spend about an hour searching PubMed (a database of indexed citations and abstracts to medical, sport science, and other related research) for articles on a sport science topic that interests me. I want to be current as possible on the latest findings, findings that were achieved through rigorous scientific methods, and apply what is sound to my athletes’ training.
“There are many coaches in the world that claim to be in the possession of unique or complex training theories that are the keys to success. These people typically impress upon their followers the need for secrecy. This is purely to the advantage of the coach. The very act of controlling information fosters the popular impression that they have something worth hiding in the first place. This leads to a cult of personality, rising fees, and the blind admiration of people on the outside of the enclave.” – Dr. Phillip Skiba DO Ph.D
Whether you are an athlete, coach, sport scientist, or all of the above, your goal should be to continually seek out sound evidence on the topic of interest. There is not much that can be done in the way of weeding out this misleading information often authored by so-called experts, or as I call them, Pseudoscientists. However, as health and sport scientists, coaches, and enthusiasts, we can seek out sound scientific recourses to aid in the clarification of these pseudoscientific claims seen on a daily basis via the Internet. I don’t claim to be an expert or to have all the answers, but I do strive to decipher between claims and what the evidence has to say about these claims.
At San Diego State University, Professor Emeritus of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences Brent S. Rushall, Ph.D. noted, “When coaches are left alone and do not continually upgrade their knowledge with evidence-based events, they invent matters that lead to greater disorder (error).” Going out on one’s own to try to find new ways to train athletes and help them improve is not to be discouraged. But when the new methods have belief-based, personal inference data, or claim that their way is the “only” and the “best” way to train, this is not helping anyone. Seeking publication in a peer-reviewed environment allows others who may be conducting similar research to contribute to the conversation and/or provide constructive criticism. This gives the sport scientist’s topic more credence; it will ensure that the scientist and others have properly considered all the evidence and arguments at hand. Often sport scientists bypass the publication route because they believe that their educational background or accomplishments are justification enough. Or, in truly suspect cases, these studies are “secret.” To reiterate: the only way to investigate the efficacy of any new technique is by carefully evaluating scientific studies, not by visiting internet sites, reading magazine articles, or relying on anecdotal success.
“The dogmatism of science-the tendency to interpret facts in light of theories-is not absolute but relative.”
Pseudoscience is an ongoing problem in the health and sport science fields. As mentioned earlier, introducing a new topic is never a bad thing. When this topic is introduced without research, however, issues immediately arise. For example, instead of trying to explain new concepts, the Pseudoscientist will invent their own scientific terminology. This is less than ideal for a sport scientist or coach, because it can be confusing to implement consistently. Furthermore, communication with other sport scientists and coaches becomes muddled and compromised. Finally, the Pseudoscientist shows little regard for the true scientists who created the current, commonly used jargon, and who have the peer-reviewed published research to support it. In the sport science world, the new jargon would be explicitly defined and backed by solid data, so others can replicate or challenge it. The Pseudoscientist would prefer that we believe in unpublished data, personal inferences, or belief-based concepts.
How do we identify the Pseudoscientists? I can spot them almost immediately, with their use of words like ‘methods’ or ‘systems’ to make them sound knowledgeable. In some cases they trademark these methods, which to me is an indication of pseudoscientific practices. Maybe some sport scientists, believing their methods are sound, convince themselves that their jargon makes sense. If an individual wants validation and recognition (and not to mention, to actually help people), then they should publish their data and research. Or, at a minimum, they should be open for a public discussion of this work. Until then, ‘methods’ and ‘systems’ utilized by these sport scientists are only backed by anecdotal evidence. This should not be completely discounted (as it may have some value), but at the same time, it must not to be mistaken as science. Likewise, ranting on social media or in a book does not validate one’s methodology, but merely expresses opinion, and quite frankly comes across as extremely unprofessional.
As I write this, I know a few readers will think, “You think its pseudoscience, but it worked for me.” I’m sure it did. I am not here to argue that point. However, in most cases, any training stimuli will improve an athlete’s performance. One might ask, “Well, if it works, why not use it?” I’m not saying that one shouldn’t! If it works, then go for it, but check the literature to see what has been said on the topic. If there is no literature, be very skeptical and dig deeper, especially if you are paying for it! In most cases, there are well-researched ways to train an athlete more effectively. Thus, the athlete should encourage the practitioner to back up their approaches with evidence. The British Medical Journal explains that evidence-based practices follow a systematic process that requires a conscientious and judicious search of available research to find the current best evidence for a given topic (Sackett, Rosenberg, Gray, Haynes, & Richardson 1996). This evidence may not be a paper (or papers) on that particular method, but it should come from foundational scientific principles or papers with topic discussions on said approach. This is the art and science of coaching. There is still so much to learn about sport science. That is often why methods or systems used by sport scientists may not actually have scientific papers to validate the exact approach, but are at least built on fundamental physiology and solid inductive reasoning-based concepts.
Here is a great example of when to “dig deeper.” Often, we come across research that looks very appealing. This eye-catching research can even be well carried out and achieve results. Often, the reader does not understand that this very research that they use and put their faith in is simply expressing principles of basic science, but written differently. The Journal of Applied Physiology just published a study showing runners increased their Vo2 max and decreased their 5k and 1500 meter race times when replacing all their running with a specific speed workout (Gunnarsson & Bangsbo 2012).
This workout was done three times a week and took half an hour at a time. This cut down many of the participants’ average weekly volume of running. The workout protocol consisted of 10, 20, and 30-second repeats, each with increasing intensity in 3-5 minute intervals allowing 2 minutes of recovery. These workouts were carried out 3 times a week for a total of 7 weeks. So, the runners decreased their weekly mileage and completed this specific workout three times a week and everyone made gains in their Vo2 Max, and decreased their 5k and 1500m race times! Magic, right? Not exactly! Let’s first look at the running each participant did prior to the study: 24km a week of easy running. Any coach or exercise physiologist knows that when you do nothing but easy running and switch to nothing but hard running, you will see gains! These were also recreational runners, so their gains will be much more substantial than those of elite runners. Maybe this could have worked on faster athletes too? Most likely, the improvements would not have been as drastic, but improvements could have been made. The point is that this is just another variation in a workout. Nothing new was discovered here. Should this study be dismissed? Absolutely not, but it should not be something that is set in stone for improving fitness through running. “Whenever you see an explanation for anything, try to figure out what the explanations are for those explanations.” Timothy Urdan.
The Resources Page on the ETA Coach website will be revamped in the next few months and will begin to feature articles written by myself and other like-minded coaches and researchers on the topics that are most confusing in the sport science world. Often, these same topics are those that produce a lot of Pseudoscientists. I don’t claim to be an expert, but I want every athlete and coach to understand the basics on a wide array of principles of fundamental exercise physiology and recent research that can be applied to their training. In the future, these foundational principles may change with new evidence, and I will embrace these new findings, ask questions, properly consider all the evidence, and follow this evidence to where it leads. Taking this approach is much more ideal than becoming hostile to criticism, dogmatic, and unyielding to change. I want to provide a stepping stone to the relevant scientific literature in the hope that individuals will apply these findings in their own training and even do further research, ask questions, and even bring new research to the table in an evidence-based fashion.
The articles will start with a basic review of foundational exercise physiology with an emphasis on a classic five-intensity training “zone” model and an explanation of how it applies to the endurance athlete. There will be a strong emphasis on the importance of training all aspects of your physiology. The articles will also cover the importance of the athlete knowing more specifics about the different physiological components of higher intensity training. For example: lactate threshold is a topic that has been debated for decades and is still widely researched. I will be posting numerous articles on this topic by some of the top sport scientists in the world, as well as an article I’ve written on the practical applications of training (work) above, at, and below, lactate threshold. I hope to provide a brief education on this and other topics. I want to give visitors to my site a reliable source of information that originates from sound and scientific resources.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
The Consequences of Low Energy Intake
Ladies (and men, too), be very mindful of your energy intake. Low energy intake can lead to possible injury and decreased performance, meaning that you’re simply not eating enough or you aren’t meeting the demands you’re placing on your body (through exercise) with the proper nutritional intake.
“In other words, some athletes may have low energy availability because they are intentionally restricting caloric intake while others may fall into a negative energy balance simply because they are unaware of the caloric intake needed for bodily function regulation plus exercise.”
This article is a bit older, but spot on. We have seen a lot of new research on the female athlete triad syndrome, including revising the name of the syndrome so it includes men as well as women. Relative Energy Deficiency in Sport (REDS) is a newer concept, but sufficient energy intake is a focal point of this condition as well as in female athlete triad syndrome.
If you want to geek out a bit and learn more about both the female athlete triad and REDS, check out Kirsty Elliott-Sale’s publications, and even some of her PhD students’ work and her husband Craig Sales’s work on bone health.
Last but not least, if you want to be evaluated to see if you are at risk or if you feel that you’re struggling with some of the issues associated with the female athlete triad or REDS and you are in the Greater Philadelphia area, there are two wicked smart sports medicine doctors I would highly recommend.
Think critically, question everything, and train smart!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Setting Goals and Thinking Long Term
As the season winds down, some athletes may be at the end of their triathlon and running seasons. This inevitably leads to the question, “What am I going to do now?” Before you start to make plans for next season, first you must take time to reflect on your last race season. Although it is nice to just reminisce about your successes, a productive reflection process can be achieved in three easy steps. First, think of all of the feats that you accomplished and how all of your hard work paid off. Then, take a look at some things that you may want to do differently in the next season. Lastly, consider the short-term and long-term goals that you would like to achieve.
Whether you’ve just finished your first season or your tenth, you need to ask yourself if you are 100% satisfied with your race season. For the most part, there are always improvements that can be made to an athlete’s training consistency, pacing, sleeping habits, nutrition, recovery…the list goes on. It’s best to make a list of the improvements that you would like to make so you can reflect on past seasons and facilitate changes for the next season.
Now it’s time to set some goals for your next season and beyond. It’s important to be realistic with your short-term and long-term goals. A short-term goal would be something that you want to achieve within the next few months or year. Some examples of this would be trying to increase your long runs by a few miles so you can run a half marathon, or improving your swim stroke mechanics so you feel more comfortable in the water. A long-term goal would be something that you would like to achieve three to five years from now. An example of this would be training to compete in a marathon or Ironman triathlon. Most people lack the foresight and patience to set long-term goals, but it is important for every endurance athlete to realize that it takes thousands of hours of training for your body to be able to handle the stresses of long-distance endurance events. Therefore, setting long-term goals is important for successful and injury-free race seasons.
How exactly can athletes (especially new athletes) set realistic goals? As you look forward to your first or second season, keep this in mind as you train: long-term development and enjoyment. A lot of people have a “fast food” mentality when it comes to endurance events. This essentially means that they want to accomplish everything the sport has to offer in one or two years. Twelve years ago after I completed my first triathlon, all I wanted to do was train for an Ironman. This is very common with endurance athletes, but it is not an ideal approach to sports. Not only is it important to have a significant physiological and musculoskeletal foundation under your belt, but also athletes are much more susceptible to injury if they jump into training for such distances too quickly. Thus, it is important to be realistic and challenge yourself without risking injury.
I leave you with this final thought regarding the “fast food” mentality: think of triathlon or running as a mountain, and let an Ironman or a marathon be the top of that mountain. A less experienced hiker might choose the most direct path to the top, although that path is rockier, more challenging, and even risky. However, a more experienced hiker will chose the longer, less rocky, and more scenic path. This choice will mean a longer route to the top, but the journey will be more enjoyable and will be more likely to be successful.
Here are some tips for you to make that successful journey:
Focus on your weakness. For triathletes, this may be one of the three disciplines of the sport; for runners, this may be a particular race distance. For example, you may be a strong marathon runner, but your 5k times may not be as competitive. Therefore, spend some time focusing on shorter, faster workouts at higher intensities. This will not only help your 5k times, but also your marathon times!
Similar to above, focus on short and fast workouts. We often neglect these short and fast workouts, but they are the workouts that can help the athlete in longer distances. Check out this article on “Your training physiology is a continuum.”
We often neglect the importance of optimal nutrition and sleep! Take time and start to incorporate new habits such as increasing your fruit and vegetable intake or getting more sleep! Remember to make the changes small so they become a way of life without becoming a chore.
Start keeping a training log. Between training, warm ups, cool downs, fueling, and strength exercises or stretches, training takes up a lot of our time! The last thing most of us want to do is keep a training log! Although we may not enjoy it, keeping a training log can be our best asset in figuring out what training patterns work best for us. If you get injured, you can always look back and know what not to do to avoid that injury in the future. If you have the best race of your life, you’re going to want to know the exact workouts that got you there! Keeping a training log is essential to improving performance and preventing injury!
“The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” It’s still uncertain whether Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin said this, but the message is pretty clear. No matter what training plan you’re following, you need to make sure you’re making gains, because if you’re not, then something needs to be changed. Take the time to test your fitness (swim, bike, or run) every 4–8 weeks to ensure that your training is progressing. For example, you could run a local 5k every few weeks to ensure that all the running you’ve been doing to improve is working! If you’re not doing some sort of regular testing, you’re training blind!
Now is the time to focus on weight loss if you feel it is necessary. The math is pretty simple when we talk about the weight of an athlete and how it affects their efficiency or economy (fancy words that we use to describe an endurance athlete’s fitness). The more you weigh, the more weight you need to carry; therefore, your effort level may be higher than someone who weighs less but is training at the same pace/intensity/power. For example: two identical twins go for a 10-mile run and decide to run at a 7-minute/mile pace. Twin A weighs 110 lbs and Twin B weighs 140 lbs. It’s safe to say that Twin B will be exerting more of an effort level to hold the 7-min/mile pace. The run may be a 70% effort for Twin A but an 80% effort for Twin B due to the extra weight. Although weight loss can be helpful to improve performance, we have to be very careful with weight loss, even in endurance athletes. You must lose the weight progressively and systematically to stay healthy, avoid burnout, and keep the weight off long term.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Sweat the Small Stuff
I will be the first to admit that coaching young endurance athletes aids in making me look like a super coach. There is a simple reason for this: though they are young, they recover quicker, they adapt to training very quickly, and in most cases they can train a lot and have enough time to “sweat the small stuff.” The small stuff is simply dealing with the stress of everyday life. In other words, these athletes are not in the “real” world yet dealing with an occupation, kids, finances, getting enough sleep, eating right, and all the stress that comes along with these variables like many post collegiate athletes. Many students still deal with stress from schoolwork and all the obligations associated with it, but often it’s easily managed, because of all the time they have.
I once coached a junior college cross-country team and it was just plain fun and exciting to see each and every athlete make so many gains in such a short period of time. Many of these athletes still worked and commuted to and from school each day. I actually did this for many years myself; most of my college career was spent going to school, working part time, and running cross-country and track. One year I decided to just focus on school and my running. Well you can easily guess what happened: my running improved drastically, my GPA was much higher, and I became very good at beer pong! The main reason my running improved was not beer pong, but simply that I could sweat the small stuff (even though I was just learning the benefits of the small stuff via my major in exercise science). I would sleep 8-10 hours a night, I could take naps, and I ate 5-7 meals a day. I had access to athletic trainers who would stretch, massage, and prep ice baths for me every day after practice, because I was so prone to injury. I also had time to strength train. Focusing on all of these factors meant I was able to run more and recover better, which leads to increased performance.
You don’t have to be a young collegiate athlete to make huge gains in performance, but there is a reason they do. Their hard work, and genetic ability in some cases, is not to be discounted either, but basic fundamental sport science research tells us that sweating the small stuff can only aid in making us better endurance athletes.
For example, sleep studies have shown that when an athlete is sleep deprived, it affects their performance in sub maximal exercise, protein synthesis, and carbohydrate metabolism which can negatively affect the athlete’s nutritional, metabolic, and endocrine status, resulting in decreased performance (Halson 2014). We all know protein is an important macronutrient for all athletes and especially endurance athletes. More specifically, the proper timing of ingesting protein can aid in protein remodeling, which is very important for acute recovery and underpins adaptations that aid in greater muscle power and aerobic capacity that accrue with endurance training (Moore et al, 2014).
After your next big race, take several months to not only plan your training, but also to make an action plan to sweat the small stuff. That could mean getting more sleep, eating better foods after you finish your workouts, decreasing your stress levels, incorporating “proper” strength training (I emphasize proper, because often strength training can be incorporated into an endurance athletes training regimen and it can be counterproductive), and of course being patient and thinking long-term with your training and not having a fast food mentality.
As always, train smart, have fun, and enjoy the journey!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Walk Before You Run…Literally!
It has been reported that professional runners in Japan will walk up to 80 miles a week in the off season in addition to their running, and east African runners who are very dominant in distance running also walk a ton for transportation and often for their warm-ups. Even 7-time Boston marathon winner Clarence DeMar used long walks in his training leading up to his races. Despite all these examples, who really wants to be seen walking when they are a runner?
A few weeks ago, I was walk/running at Forbidden Drive with my son and I had my hat low so no one could see my face. Why? I don’t want anyone seeing me walk! Believe or not, though, I often tell my runners, from newbies to Olympic Trials qualifiers, to walk. Do they like it? Heck, no! In many cases they hate it and often skip it! Why do I have them walk? Walking is one of the most specific activities that a runner can do to prepare their musculoskeletal system to handle more running volume. Whether the athlete is coming back from an injury, is starting out running for the first time, or is currently running 4 days a week and wants to add a 5th day, I will start them off by walking first. In any sport, you will find foundational sport science principles that work in athletes of all abilities, and this “walking” principle is simply a progressive approach to prepare the athlete to handle more training load (aka time on their feet running). So if you walk more, then can you just start running more? For some, yes, but often it’s not ideal. Below I have listed a progression I took with a injured athlete coming back from injury. Yes, that is 15 weeks of progression to only a bit of running and still walking! Boring, right? Yes, this can be very boring, but you need to remember that your musculoskeletal system adapts much more slowly to stress placed on it, unlike your cardiovascular and metabolic systems. What this means is that you will feel like you can run more, and you probably could, but you want to hold off to allow your muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones to become stronger and handle the added volume. Everyone can progress at different rates, but be patient, especially if you are coming back from injury. I leave you with this: recently, there was a study out of the The Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport that recruited 42 recreational runners who ran an average of 6-12 miles a week. The participants were divided into two groups and given a 3-month training plan to prepare for a marathon. On race day, one group would run the marathon with no walking at all, and the other group would walk for 1 minute every 1.5 miles of the marathon. The main goal of this study was to look at cardiovascular stress, but what was most interesting to me and not surprising was that the walk/run group was a little slower in finishing, but they reported feeling a lot less sore than those who ran the whole marathon. This is a no-brainer, because those walk breaks allowed for less overall pounding on their musculoskeletal system even when the walk/run groups were out there a tad bit longer. Now, there were a lot of factors that were not looked at in this research article, but I wanted to focus on the aspect that the runners reported less muscle fatigue after their race, because of the implemented walk/run program. One of the other takeaway messages from this study is that 3 months is not enough time to train for a marathon, especially in newer runners, and their results found that the cardiovascular strain was not different amongst both groups. They don’t go much into the training plan everyone followed, nor how many years they had been running prior to taking on this feat. My guess is they were fairly inexperienced at this distance. Always think long-term when training for longer distance endurance events! We know there are many ways to train to become a better runner, but often running more is the key to success. We must respect this and not bite off too much, because running more often leads to injury when progressed too quickly. Walking can help prepare the body for more running by preparing the musculoskeletal system to handle the loads that more running can create. So get out there and do a little walking, and don’t be embarrassed about adding some walking to your training!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
The “Secret Training Principle”
The not so “secret” training principle that can bring your swimming, cycling, and running to the next level.
There is always one aspect of an endurance athlete’s sport that could use improvement. For example, if you’re a triathlete you could be weak on the bike, or if you’re strictly a runner you could be weak in shorter events like 5k’s. Well look no further, because I have the secret training principle that is going to bring your weakness to the next level. First and foremost this secret has been known in the exercise physiology world for decades. The training principle is called the rule of specificity. The rule simply states that the body adapts precisely to the stimulus applied to it.
So how can this simple principle bring your training to the next level? Well first let me start off by giving you an example on how it works.
Jason Kapono is a former professional basketball player who played with the Philadelphia Seventy Sixers. One of Jason’s strengths is his three point shooting. In his rookie season with the Cleveland Cavilers Jason played 41 games and did not average a significant amount of playing time. The next three seasons both Jason’s playing time and three point shooting percentage increased significantly. In fact at one time he led the league in three-point shooting percentage with .514, which is close to the all-time single-season three-point percentage record.
It’s clear that after Jason’s rookie season he realized that he really needed to step up his overall game, specifically his strength which is his three point shooting, to see more playing time. Now if Jason would have decided to spend more time working on his golf swing, he would not have achieved these numbers! This example is very obvious, but in the world of endurance athletics many feel that there is a cross over fitness from one sport to another. In well-trained athletes this is not the case, in fact there have been numerous studies to prove it. For example, if you missed a run workout, and decided it would be easier to get a quick ride in instead, this would not help increase your running performance. It is important to clarify that with untrained athletes this is not the case, and some cross over fitness from sport to sport can be seen.
Triathletes should pay a great deal of attention to this principle and how it works. Most triathletes tend to be very weak in one of the three respective sports. Recently I have coached a lot of former runners that are now triathletes. Their weakness has been their cycling. Now if you break down most standard distance triathlons, what event is the longest? The bike! Lance was wrong when he said “its not about the bike”, because when it comes to triathlon its all about the bike How do you get better? What’s the secret? The secret is applying the rule of specificity and gradually and progressively start to increase the amount of time you spend on the bike. What if the bike is your strength, and the run is your weak event? You know what to do run more! You see where I’m going with this; it’s really that simple.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Your Training Physiology is a Continuum
The above picture is of 5k and 10k Olympic Gold Medalist Mo Farah finishing in second place and setting a new British record in the 1500 meters a few weeks ago with a time of 3:28:81. That’s right, 1500 meters (just shy of a mile), which is much shorter than the races in which he specializes. Mo will look to defend his titles at the Olympics in 2016, but that is a few years away and is a long-term goal for him. Right now, he seems to be working on areas in which he tends to be weaker (such as his finishing kick), and after recent races, it looks like his training is paying off!
Typically, when trying to improve their finishing kick, the runner will do lots of high intensity shorter intervals (200-600m repeats) specifically targeting their vVO2 max (velocity at VO2 max) or anaerobic capacity. The great part about training in general is that no matter which intensity you train at, you will train many different physiological systems. This is because your training physiology is a continuum. Think of a shooting guard in the NBA. If he wants to improve his three point shooting field goal percentage, he is going to practice by shooting a lot more three point shots. When he does this, it will indeed increase his three point shooting field goal percentage, but there is a very good chance it will improve his overall field goal percentage as well. Your physiology works in the same way. So as Mo focuses on higher intensities to improve his finishing kick and 1500m race times, it will pay off in the big picture by making him faster in his 5k and 10k races.
The take-away message here is that no matter what intensity you run at, you can see improvements in all distances for which you are training. This does not mean you can just train by doing short and fast intervals all the time and continue to see major gains. If you’re new to the sport of running, you can get away with this for a fairly long time, but not so much if you’re a fairly seasoned runner. Your workouts must target multiple physiological systems and be well planned out, progressive, and systematic to ensure the proper timing of each workout leading up to your key race. The last important thing to keep in mind is the closer you get to your race, the more specific your workouts should be to mimic the paces/intensities you will be running/racing on race day!
-Coach Jason Kilderry
Supplements: What You Ought to Know
Written by Dr. Skiba
My biggest beef with drug companies is that they market directly to the public. I don’t like the fact that they are trying to horn in on the relationship between doctors and patients. You know how it goes: the company puts a commercial on television. You see some video of people frolicking in a field someplace, and all of them are smiling and laughing. Then, you hear a soothing voice telling you to “ask your doctor about MethylEthyBadS* %& “, or, “ask your doctor if MethylEthylBadS* %& is right for you.” Sometimes, they don’t even tell you what the drug is supposed to do! Now, the company is not only trying to horn in, but is attempting to play on your paranoia. They want you to think there is something wrong with you, that there is a pill to make it better, and that your doctor is keeping this important information from you. It is wrong on so many levels.
The upshot of the drug companies, of course, is that they provide many medications that my patients would likely die without. Also, since they produce drugs, their medications undergo extensive testing to ensure that they do what the company claims they do. I can argue with their presentation, but when a company says that Epogen will raise the number of red blood cells circulating in your body, it is likely true.
I have a far bigger problem with supplement manufacturers. In their case, not only are they guilty of shady marketing, they are often guilty of trying to impersonate a drug company. The new ads for a particular supplement show packaging that very closely resembles that which the contraceptive pill comes in. Sometimes, the packaging resembles sample packets of legitimate drugs you may get from your physician. The company is trying to obscure two very important facts by this impersonation. First, they don’t want you to know that the supplement they are pushing was most likely not subjected to extensive laboratory testing. Second, they don’t want you to realize that they are not regulated by the Food and Drug administration.
That’s right. There is almost no government oversight of supplement manufacturers.
Sure, you might see a small tag line that says, “These claims have not been evaluated by the FDA,” or, “This product is not intended to treat any disease.” That disclaimer takes up about three seconds of a sixty second spot insisting that this new supplement is heretofore unknown to science, and has been designed to make you sexier/thinner/hairier.
You may want to be sexier/thinner and/or hairier, but I am banking that if you are reading this, you are also interested in improving your endurance performance. So, let me get something out of the way: there are very few ways of doing that. I’ll list them.
1. Pick parents who are more gifted athletically. (Too late to do that, sorry).
2. Train better/smarter. (Your best bet).
3. Take EPO. (Illegal, unsportsmanlike, and dangerous).
4. Take ephedra. (Dangerous, and now banned in the United States).
5. Take caffeine. (Yes, it works, and works better if you aren’t already an addict).
6. Get better equipment.
7. Devise a better strategy.
My above comments should not be taken to mean that there will never be other ways to improve our performance. A company may, in fact, discover a supplement heretofore unknown to science. They probably will, someday. So, how will we know when that happens? Let me give you a couple of suggestions.
Mechanism of Action:
Any supplement will more than likely have to operate through a mechanism that is known to science. For example, there are many medications that cure strep throat, but all of them work by killing the bacteria that causes strep throat. Makes sense, right? In the same way, a supplement purported improve your VO2max could probably only operate in one way. It would need to improve the pumping capacity of your heart. (This is not strictly true; but will serve for most cases). So, we come to the first question you should ask: how is the supplement supposed to work? In drug terms, we would ask “what is the mechanism of action?” If there isn’t a good explanation in plain English, you have reason to be suspicious.
Your next question ought to be, “How do they know it works?” The response would probably be “a trial”. See if you can find out what kind of trial, and what the results were. It should have been placebo controlled, in other words, they should have given some people a sugar pill and some people the supplement, and then looked for a difference in performance. It should also have been double blind, in other words, the person providing the pill and the test subject should both have been unaware of which pill was given. In this way, the person will not be subject to influence from the provider, among other things. Finally, the performance test used should in fact be relevant to the type of exercise you are planning on doing. Creatine may give a sprinter a couple of seconds, but unless you see data showing that it will help you in a triathlon, don’t believe it will.
Also, always look for a “P” value, and make sure it is less than 0.05. The “P” value indicates the statistical chance that the results were just random. In other words, if a study showed results with a P of 0.05, it means that there is a 5% probability that the results were due to chance alone. Thus, the odds are pretty good that the results are valid. 5% is the benchmark number most studies use. If you see results with a P value of 0.5, it means that there is a 50% chance that they were due to chance alone. If you saw something like that, you could be justifiably be skeptical.
Finally, ask who did the trial, and how do the results benefit them. Was it the company? An independent group paid by the company? The local high school chemistry class? A university laboratory? You get the idea.
Believe in Science:
Scientists are professional skeptics. When something new comes on the market, they cannot help but test it and find out if it really works. Before you spend you hard earned bucks, find out what the scientists discovered. Surf over to Pubmed, and type in the supplement name (or the name of the active ingredient) and hit “search”. You’ll get a list of references involving the supplement, and a blurb on each reference telling what the study found. You might be surprised what you find. For example, a supplement was recently tested that a company claims improves VO2max. An independent group of scientists showed that this supplement does nothing of the sort. The company did not pull the supplement from the market. Rather, distributors now claim that there are “responders” and “nonresponders” to the active ingredients. (And, of course, that it is important to find out which you are because this is a really great product that could improve your VO2, sex appeal, eyesight, and quite possibly your curveball. But don’t complain if it doesn’t, because you might be a “nonresponder”).
Right. A nonresponder. Like everyone studied by the scientists. Hmmm…
In any case, my goal isn’t to prejudice you against any and all supplements. Some supplements have, in fact, been shown to work under certain circumstances (i.e. creatine, caffeine). I simply want to give you a framework to think about these things. Don’t let yourself get suckered by some company’s marketing department. You are smarter than that. Check out the claims. Think them over. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Until next time, keep training you brain. And your legs.
Head Coach and ETA Coach Owner, Jason Kilderry, is proud to be a member of the PhysFarm Coaching Consortium, run by Dr. Skiba
Is There Such a thing as Bad Recovery?
Famed ultramarathon runner Dean Karnazes recently wrote a blog post on Runner’s World’s website titled, “The Uncomfortable Truth About Recovery.” There has been a lot of talk about his bold statement—that in some cases no recovery at all is the best recovery. My inbox has been flooded with e-mails since this blog post went up. My initial response to his claims are that he is actually correct in his statement, but for his training, not everyone else’s.
First, let’s take a look at Dean Karnazes. He is a world-renowned ultramarathon runner and self-promoter. He has not only worked hard in his running (starting at early ages and running track in middle school), but he is also a very successful businessman. Dean has become quite the public figure over the past decade and many flock to his suggestions to training. In fact, Time Magazine listed him as one of the top 100 most influential people in the world. This is my first problem with his article. Just because Dean is well known for his many ultramarathon accomplishments does not make him an expert or make his training advice sound. As with many elite and accomplished runners, just because they are fast or accomplished an amazing feat does not make their advice correct. Dean’s blog post is a perfect example of that. I recently wrote an article explaining the importance of basic coaching knowledge (exercise physiology, sports nutrition, biomechanics, recovery, etc.) with elite and well-known runners here titled, “You’re fast, so you’re a good coach. Right?”
The truth is, Dean is not really a “great” runner. In fact, all of his accomplishments, in my opinion, could be done by 70% of the runners out there, but many of them do not have Dean’s wealth or resources. Dean has the ability to train for 6+ hours a day, which is a point I will return to below. He has personal physical therapists, massage therapists, and other health professionals to aid him in his training. If we all could quit our day jobs and just train, many of us could do what Dean has done and possibly surpass him. Don’t get me wrong: he has run some respectable marathon times and his accomplishments are nothing to spit at, but when he underwent physiologic testing in a laboratory setting he was merely right above average according to Runner’s World. Dr. Daniel Lieberman has shown in many of his papers that we are indeed “born to run” long distances, but not at very fast paces. Dean is a perfect example of this.
But let’s look at the main points of Dean’s article. He feels that recovery is not necessary. In many ways, he is correct. If a runner progresses his or her training in a systematic way, they are overloading their bodies in small doses and thus their body will adapt very quickly. The reason Dean did not need to focus on recovery when he ran 50 marathons in 50 days is that he already was used to a large volume of daily running and has a significant foundation of decades of consistent running. Therefore, running 26.2 miles a day was not a major shock to his system. He also slept a lot and ate well, which are truly the key components to recovery.
Does this mean compression wear, ice baths, and other modalities that help with recovery will not work as he stated? Absolutely not. He does mention that “research says” that these items may not help; this is true, but the research is not conclusive. For example, one study (Duffield, Cannon, and King 2010) showed greater advantages in recovery after a bout of exercise with subjects who wore compression garments. On the other end of the spectrum, there are studies that show wearing compression is not as beneficial as some other well known and less expensive recovery strategies like active recovery, proper daily nutrition (specifically appropriate carbohydrate intake post-exercise), cold, and contrasting temperature immersion therapy (Gill, Beavan, and Cook 2006; Montgomery, Pyrne, and Hopkins et al. 2008). What I can’t stress enough is that everyone is different and responds differently to different types of training, nutrition, and in this case, recovery. In most cases, these other types of recovery methods can’t hurt you! The key component to recovery lies in the athlete’s training. If you progress in small doses, you will need less time to recover. It’s when you decide to run 2 miles a day for weeks and then one day ramp it up to 10 miles for a few days that you run into some major problems. Your body simply isn’t ready for the increased stress.
Remember: there is no magic bullet when it comes to performance gains and recovery. Everyone is different and you need to figure out what “recipe” of training load (how intense, long, and often), nutrition, and recovery works best for you. That is why I love my job so much: I get to figure out different athletes’ ideal training recipes. Having a recovery day is never going to hurt you. The more elite you are, the less recovery you should need if you are training correctly, but this does not mean you don’t need the occasional day off or active recovery day.
As part of the PhysFarm Consortium group for over the past five years, I have monitored the training stress of athletes using Apollo software. It provides a quantified look at when athletes may need to recover. It does not tell us what workouts to do or when to do them; it simply monitors how much stress each workout puts on the athlete’s body. Determining the time and method of recovery can be made somewhat complex like this, or it can be as simple as listening to your body or just scheduling a day off once in awhile. In many cases, it will not hurt and will only help!
This might seem to counter what you read in RW, Triathlete Magazine, or on Slowtwitch.com. In addition to Karnazes’ blog post, you might have read professional triathlete Jordan Rapp’s article “Less is Less: The Myth of More Recovery” on Slowtwitch.com. He makes some great points in the article—one that might stick with you is the idea that taking a day off is having one less day of training. But like I stated above, for elite athletes who have been training for decades, have progressed their training slowly, eaten the proper foods, and slept well, this in many cases is true. However, this is not true for the 99.9% of the other athletes out there. We have jobs, families, and social and religious obligations that take away from making training our number one priority. For example, I have had the pleasure of coaching one of my own assistant coaches, Matt Ciociola, for the past several years. He is taking on his first Ironman this year and is killing his training—which is hard to believe, because he is also a high school teacher, high school track and field coach, assistant coach of my coaching company ETA Coach, and dedicated to his fiancée and his family. If he was to quit his job and train full time he would indeed recover faster and be able to train harder, but this is not the case—nor is it for most of us. If only we all could live like an elite endurance athlete! Proper periodized training is very much the key to success for all of us “real world” athletes.
The fact is this: Dean makes some good points, but the research is just not conclusive enough to assert that certain modalities are not good for you. Again, perhaps for the elite athlete his claims have more weight, but not for the rest of the running population. This research should not be discounted by any means and there is a growing body of research about natural inflammation. We are seeing more and more studies stating that skipping the ice and doing some active recovery is more ideal than suppressing the inflamed areas with ice—these studies actually suggest that icing could slow down the body’s natural healing methods. The main question that needs to be asked is: by taking on these modality-based recovery methods, machines, and compression wear, will it allow the athlete to train harder, recover faster, and see performance gains? The research is simply not conclusive at this time.
We need to stick to basic physiology and sound, fundamental recovery practices. The number one way to do this is by training smart. Bill Sand, Ph.D. once said, “No recovery modality is powerful enough to overcome stupid coaching, bad planning and lack of talent.” Similarly, one of the world’s best sports scientists, Inigo Mujila, said, “Proper training, adequate sleep, and sound nutrition are still the most important strategies to optimize training adaptations!” Train Smart.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
To incorporate drills into our swim training, or not to incorporate drills into our swim training—that is the question. We are human and not meant to swim, plain and simple. Some do it very well and others don’t. So what do we do when we want to get better at something? We do it more often! For most triathletes, the swim is their weakest sport and the scariest event. It’s the most technical of the three disciplines in terms of technique, so we would think that in addition to swimming more, doing swim technique drills would improve our swimming ability drastically. There is some truth to this; the more uncomfortable you are in the water, the more drills will benefit you initially. But once your fitness and comfort level grows, spending countless sessions in the pool each week with a strict swimming drill focus won’t have a huge return on investment if you are a typical triathlete who can only swim 2-3 times a week. If you have the time to get in the pool 6 + times a week, then drills will indeed play a bigger role in your improvement, because you can focus on other important factors of swim improvement like fitness! What we often forget is we need to build our fitness up by swimming longer, faster, and more frequently. This will not only help with comfort in the water, but it will make us faster and able to do drills more efficiently, so they carry over better into stroke mechanics. I would much rather you swim 4-7 times a week for 20 minutes than 3 times a week for 1 hour at a time. Research has shown time and time again that increasing the frequency of an activity versus volume and in some cases intensity causes motor skills to be developed more quickly and maintained longer. Everyone is different and will respond differently to various training approaches, but this basic principle of frequency (aka getting in the pool more) is ideal in most cases.
-Coach Jason Kilderry
5 Simple but Effective Tips to Take Your Training to the Next Level
The past few New Years I decided not to write an article on one specific training concept, but to touch on multiple concepts and tips to start your 2015 training off right! These tips can be easily implemented, introduced, and worked into your current training. Each tip below is very broad rather than specific because all of the tips are geared towards basic concepts of exercise physiology that I use with all my athletes, from beginner to elite. The first 4 tips are foundational principles that I instill in all my athletes with much success. The last tip revolves around diet, which is always a hot topic at this time of year. Enjoy, and I hope that one, three, or all of the tips help make your training and racing in 2015 the best yet!
Get outside of your comfort zone! “The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.” It’s still uncertain whether Albert Einstein or Benjamin Franklin said this, but the message is pretty clear. You can’t keep training the same way and expect to keep seeing improvement. Below is a great article from Runner’s World on how training and racing at harder efforts can pay off in other race distances. Often, endurance athletes don’t like to push themselves to the edge of discomfort in their workouts. This can lead to habits of not implementing cycles of training (weeks of training with a specific focus) of short, fast, and hard intervals that target different physiological systems more precisely than training at lower or moderate intensities, even though the harder efforts ultimately aid in better performance in longer distance races. So how would one implement these type of workouts? Every 10-12 days, implement one of the suggested workout put together in the chart provided via this chart link.
Keep in mind that if these intervals are not implemented slowly and progressively, they can be a recipe for injury. If you want to read more on why these workouts work so well for newbie to elite athletes, check out my article “Your Training Physiology is a Continuum.”
Keep a training log. Between training, warm ups, cool downs, fueling, and strength exercises or stretches, training takes up a lot of our time! The last thing most of us want to do is keep a training log! Although we may not enjoy it, keeping a training log can be our best asset in figuring out what training patterns work best for us. If you get injured, you can always look back and know what not to do to avoid that injury in the future. If you have the best race of your life, you’re going to want to know the exact workouts that got you there! Keeping a training log is essential to improving performance and preventing injury!
I want it now! A lot of people have a “fast food” mentality when it comes to endurance sports. This essentially means that they want to accomplish everything the sport has to offer in one or two years. Take your time and be consistent with your training, because if you don’t, it could lead to burnout, injury, or never reaching your full potential. Sit down this New Year and set both short and long term goals to keep you motivated, but also to help steer you clear of trying to meet all your goals in 1 year. Check out “Setting Goals and Thinking Long Term” to get you started on the right path with goal setting and training consistently.
There are not secret workouts or training methods that will take your training to the next level. Whether you’re a single sport athlete or multisport athlete, there will always be temptations to jump into following a certain workout or training protocol that claims it will take your training to the next level. Unfortunately, there is no secret or magic potion. The first place I start with athletes looking to improve a certain sport or aspect of that sport is by being as specific as possible with their training. If you want to improve your run times in a triathlon, run more. If you want to increase your sprint power for cycling, spend more time sprinting. It really is that simple! Check out “The Secret Training Principle” here that looks at the rule of specificity and how it can take your training to the next level.
When it comes to weight loss Diets work! But working and promoting healthy and effective for long-term success are two different things. All diets and supplement companies that promote weight loss have the same things in common. First they create structure. When you have structure it often leads to positive results and that goes with any goal a person may have. Second they restrict the amount of food or calories you normally take in on a daily basis and In many cases you don’t even realize it! Third the concepts of the diet or supplement are very protein, fiber, or vegetable based and this is not a bad thing, but they do restrict other key macro and micro nutrients from your eating habits. The fiber, protein, and vegetable intake leave the person feeling full and often contain less calories that are packed with nutrients, unlike processed foods, which leads to number 4. Fourth they eliminate processed foods that you see at the ends of isles at supermarkets or as your drive down a major highway and see all the fast food places. Eliminate those empty calories and you will see gains right away and I’m in 100% agreement with this! The very worst part about diets and supplements is they either restrict or eliminate certain food groups and nutrients. In some cases this may be necessary for health reason, but in and endurance athletes case this is not ideal, because the amount of stress you put on your body working out you need a wide variety, plentiful, and nutrient packed food choices for optimal recovery and performance.
-Coach Jason Kilderry