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The Big Three: Forgotten Disciplines of Endurance Training

Over years of coaching/training (endurance) athletes of all types, I have seen a few common denominators consistently decrease performance amongst age group athletes of all abilities.

The mindset that “more” is always better can be the undoing of an athlete of any ability level has cut more than one season short for many athletes. Certainly, there has to be an emphasis on volume during the right time of the season, in the correct context of an overall training plan, and in a manner that fits into the athlete’s life. However, a consistent emphasis on more volume or higher intensity, can easily be the undoing of what could have been a fantastic season before it even gets started. In its truest form, successful training is about the right dose, at the right time, for the right person.

Keeping this in mind, the value of properly timed recovery enters the conversation. Exercise is stress to the body. Trauma, if you will. Therefore, in order to maximize the benefit from any exercise, the body needs an adequate and properly prescribed recovery period following exercise induced stress. Recovery takes many forms and meanings, and rarely includes sitting on a couch eating Bon Bons. However, there may be a time and a place for such a thing, believe it or not. Well, maybe not the Bon Bons…One thing is certain, without allowing adequate timing for adaptation (the body’s response to training load) to take hold, the body will eventually rebel in a manner that may present in one of a 1000 different ways including: injury, acute and/or chronic fatigue, metabolic syndrome, or one of many other symptoms that are detrimental.

Second on this list brings us strength training. This is a proposition at which many endurance athletes will balk. However, considering the dialog from above. IE: Recovery, training/exercise is stress/trauma to the body. If the body, its skelature, musculature, and energy systems are not strong, something will give. Rarely, does a seasoned triathlete or ultra-distance runner need to swim, bike, and/or run more. Instead, a regularly strategically placed 20-40minute strength session will prevent injury, increase mobility, muscle function and help maximize endurance focused training sessions. Speed is built on strength, not the other way around.

 

Successful training is about the right dose, at the right time, for the right person.

 

Third on my list is the “N” word. Yup, nutrition. Clearly, there is not enough room on this page to adequately address this one. However, a few of the common mistakes amongst age groupers, elites, professionals, experienced and those coming off the couch embarking on their maiden voyage alike, commonly include: Not eating enough. Yup. You read that correctly. More than one athlete got started in the craziness of our sport as a means to lose weight therefore they believe they should exercise more and eat less. Sorry folks, It doesn’t work that way. Actually, you should be eating more. However, more probably does not include the “Bon Bons” referenced above. It does, however, include eating more of the right foods at the right time to support the work you are doing and adequately fuels the proper energy system-which brings me to the next nutritional error: Fueling the wrong energy system. I see this day in and day out with athletes of all abilities. This goes hand in hand with destabilizing blood sugar or creating a metabolically inefficient environment that plays a major role in limiting athletic performance at any/all levels. If you’re performing poorly or even performing well and guessing at your nutrition, ask yourself how well you could perform if you were fueling your body correctly? 

Closing the 2015 Race Season

Too often, Triathletes enter the "off season" with one of two different mindsets: happy to take too much time off, or happy to take too little, if any, time off. Both can be detrimental to the 2016 season and beyond. The off season is all too often not clearly defined and many struggle with the concept of risking "lost fitness" over the period of a few weeks or even a month. To complicate matters further, perhaps the key ingredient that is overlooked the most is the mental break we need to approach the new season in a balanced fashion. 

Firstly, the concept of lost fitness in largely misinterpreted. After a 9-12 month period of aerobic and neuromuscular training and development, the body and mind are in need of a break. This break allows the mind and body to respond in a healthier manner in the upcoming season. Allowing the body to decompress from the stressors of a long training and racing load results in rejuvenation much like the mind needs to de-stress after a long day at the office. Without the de-stressing or reparation period, the break down only continues setting the athlete up to enter the new season behind the curve rather than in front of it by being mentally and physically fresh. 

Now, does the "off season" break demand zero exercise? It might. But, that does not mean one should go into an extended off season and keep the same volume of eating, add alcohol, and sit on the couch for a month or two. In fact, the "off season, is rarely longer than a month which should include "fun" exercise and cross training. I insist my athletes engage in off season activities that will spark the desire to enjoy being active. Suggestions include: leaving the Garmins and other data driven toys at home, engaging in sports they don't normally do during the season: basketball, skiing, snow shoeing, even just hiking. Be creative-think about things you wish you could do during the season when you thought, "man, I miss doing that" and do it. Your body and your mind will thank you as you approach and ramp up your training in 2016. 

As Race Season Approaches

As spring is in the air and the triathlon race season will be quickly upon us, it's time to begin planning your "A race." Yes, it might seem early, if your looking at a Fall or even Summer race, but, those with the most success begin the planning process now. Preparation is key for a solid performance. 

Start by working backward from the date of your A race. Note the dates of your big, "key" workouts (3x bricks, long race paced efforts, etc) and plan out any travel/vacation time you are planning. Then, mark the date you are going to preview the course, and solicit any friends or training partners you are going to do this with. Think about your accommodations, if you have to travel: hotel or rental house, cost, availability, water temperature...

All of this is best done with  your coach. From this framework, they can help you begin to dial in your big blocks of training and the specific objectives/take aways from each of those blocks. Also, plan though your "B" and "C" races as well. what are the objectives for each of those efforts? Is it a specific swim time, run pace, power numbers on the bike? You see, to bring out your personal best at your designated "A race", each step leading up to the event should have a purpose that will ensure you meet your goals and beyond. Work with your coach on everything from travel dates, lodging, and mental preparation (of course, this includes training objectives and numbers) well in advance to make things less stressful and more doable as your event approaches. All the while, remember: there is no substitute for proper planning preparation. 

Happy racing in 2015!

"REACH YOUR PEAK"

 

Please Allow Me to Introduce Myself

Welcome to the official launch of Tri-Active Endurance! I am extremely excited about what 2015 holds for us and more importantly, for you, our athletes, partners, affiliates, and any other interested parties.

Background:

After spending 17 years as a mental health practitioner, I decided to bring my craft to the endurance community and marry my passion for endurance sports with my expertise in motivating people to set goals, break through barriers, and become the best that can be.

In 2010, after I completed my first Ironman event, a friend approached me and asked if I would coach/train her through her first olympic distance triathlon (I had been "helping" a few friends with some running workouts and writing plans for them to complete local 5 and 10k's, 1/2 marathons, and sprint triathlons for a few years previous).  She had a reasonable amount of success in that event and felt she had made some improvements with the program that we had put together for her. Shortly afterward, I was introduced to another friend who told me he had recently discovered running and wanted to qualify for the Boston Marathon (I had just run Boston a few weeks prior). He had been running for 4 months. He proceeded to tell me how he would go to there track and run for 20miles without knowing what he was doing, or why, other than it made him feel good. He asked I could help. I responded saying, I didn't know, but I did know that anyone who ran 20 miles at a track was either crazy, or incredibly tough, mentally. It turns out he is a perfect combination of both!

After running is first marathon (San Francisco) in 3:30 something, and taking another friend's bib for the Oakland 1/2 marathon and reaching the podium, we set our sites on Boston. In December that year after less than 6 months of training, he came up 48 seconds shy of his qualifying time of 3:10. After, getting over his initial disappointment, he decided he wanted to give triathlon a shot. After completing his first sprint triathlon in 1:01 he got the bug and registered for his first Ironman. 

I have been incredibly blessed to have these two rockstar athletes fall into my lap, and I still work with them exclusively today. One is a Southwest Regional Champion and the other an Ironman All World Athlete, and each continue to dedicate themselves to becoming just a little bit better each day. Because of their success, word of mouth began to spread and the phone started to ring.

In 2012 after completing a tough race season of my own which included Ironman Cour D'Alene, Ironman  Arizona, Ironman Oceanside70.3, and a few local races, I started to give some consideration to coaching on a full-time basis. The feedback I was getting from my athletes (there were over 10 now) was fantastic and the results spoke for themselves. Between podium finishes and PR's  everyone was "reaching their peak" at that time.  

After over a year of contemplation and trepidation in September 2014, I pulled the trigger and gave notice at my "paying job." to begin the journey that has become Tri-Active Endurance.  I hope you will join me.