Real people moving!
A Different Kind of Vacation
On this day, one week ago, I was waking up before continental breakfast began, going to bed before the Elite Eight games were finished, and trying new methods to defeat all my aches and pains. I was in heaven. I was in Clermont, Florida at the National Training Center for 5 days swim, biking, and running more than I ever have. I was exhausted after the first day, but I learned a lot and I'm happy to pass on a few things that are definitely going to help me prepare for Ironman Lake Placid.
Turns out I'm not metabolically efficient, or at least I don't think I am.
I need better nutrition. I knew this already, but last weekend confirmed it. I downed too many gels on the bike and I was still very hungry toward the end. I may be metabolically inefficient. This means I rely too heavily on carbohydrates for energy at lower intensities. Someone who is metabolically efficient can derive more energy from fat for longer, before intensity increases. There is actually a test I am going to do over the weekend to see how metabolically efficient I am. It will tell me the exact intensity (heart rate) that I switch from using over 50% fat to using over 50% carbohydrates. I want that intensity to be as high as possible and I'll work to increase it after I test and retest.
I basically need to do longer rides at higher intensities if I want to finish with a decent time. But I knew that and I have a 3 hour ride planned tomorrow. On the trip I swam more than I ever have back here and it helped a lot. I still have a half marathon scheduled for next Sunday so I am running semi regularly, but after next Sunday I will dedicating a much higher percentage of training time to swimming and biking. I need to complete the bike in under 6.5 hours. That is gonna be a lot tougher than I thought. 112 miles in 6 hours comes out to an average speed of 18.5 mph. During my 55 mile ride in Florida I was averaging less than 15 mph. My swimming is coming along nicely. After next Sunday I will swim 4-5 days/week and bike 5-6 days/week. This Ironman thing is no joke.
...Or Buy New Shoes?
It's common for triathletes to forego maintenance exercises necessary to run bike and swim all those miles. This time of the year many are starting to get outside and increase volume. That takes time, something has to give and resistance training takes a back seat.
A few weeks ago one of my triathletes did just that and he got injured. I saw him in the locker room the other day and we started talking about his physical therapy that he just started. He told me the issue they found and what the PT to fix it. Made a lot of sense to me and I suggested, that he really hammer glute brides, hip extensions, and anything else to target the hip stabilizers used while running.
Then he goes..
"Here's my thinking, I'm not going to get off the bike and lay on the ground and do glute bridges in a race, so why would I do it before I run now?"
Take a second, read it again.
Take your time, I'll wait.
Ok are you done laughing? Nope? That's fine, take your time.
OOOOOOOOk let's begin. First, he had just gotten off the treadmill. There too many other points to speak to, so I'm just going to leave this one now. We should probably switch to bullet points
- You won't use fins and paddles in a race, it's not allowed, so why are you using them in a pool, also a fixed area chlorine filled space with walls you kick off of, none of which you'll be experiencing in a race.
- You won't be clamped to the floor, spinning in place during any race this year, why then have you been doing it all winter?
- All the other countless examples of how we manipulate training environments to either make them harder, easier, or as similar as possible to race conditions.
I go through this with him and he concedes a little. He comes back with,
"Well I've been running for years and my glutes didn't just decide to not work."
The name of the game in endurance racing is repetition. Little compensations compound over time. He comes back with,
"Well I recently started running in Hokas and they have a lower heel to toe drop, unlike my old sneakers."
You know your hips rock a lot when you run, and that's something you need to work on. Your PT identified this as the problem and your working towards it. Keep working on it.
"I don't know Nick, I think I'm going to buy new shoes..."
Introducing the TBA Mobile App
This is really exciting. I've been looking for a better way to communicate with clients. The Body Athletic's mobile app will allow me to basically be with my clients while they work out. I receive a notification when you start your workout and you use the in app messaging to clarify any questions you have about their workout for that day. In app videos and customized workouts monitored daily by myself will keep even the most distracted person focused.
Of course there is no substitute for in person coaching, but I realize that simply isn't practical for many of you. Personal training is too expensive and group training isn't goal oriented. Real time feedback during your workouts means you have me there with you. You're not going to fail, not this time.
You Don't Need a 12 week Program, New Gym Outfit, or Fitness Tool to Reach Your Goals
You just need to get more out of what your already doing. A workout that takes me 40-50 minutes to complete will take the average person an hour to do. Here's why:
You work out mindlessly
Workouts are great for getting your mind off all the other bullshit. However you can't expect to make significant progress if you are always going through the motions. There are a lot of exercises similar to learning an instrument or language. You need to practice mindfully, because the difference between feel and real can sometimes be worlds apart.
I remember thinking how stupid it was to focus on using certain muscles during exercises. Shouldn't the muscle just do what it's supposed to? It took me too long to figure it out. The simple answer is no, and the reason you feel pain is because certain muscles are turned off and others are now working over time to pick up the slack.
You wait too long between exercises
You do an exercise and you feel great about yourself. After that hard 40 seconds you deserve a break, so you wander over to the water cooler, make sure you look all right in the mirror, and catch up with a familiar face. Your heart rate has now plummeted and you're getting very little bang for your buck. The name of the game is sustained elevated heart rate.
Carbs or Fat for Fuel?
Your body needs glucose to function. When it comes to endurance nutrition that means the easiest and most efficient to digest. For our intents and purposes that comes down to carbs and fats.
When you are at home watching Netflix, about 1/3 of your body's energy comes from carbohydrates in the form of stored glycogen within the muscles and liver. Glycogen becomes glucose through glycogenolysis and the rest of your body's energy comes from the break down of fats into glycerol. Glycerol becomes glucose through gluconeogenesis. This is good to know, but how do these ratios change as we begin to exercise and train?
During my last bike ride, the first half hour I rode at 73% of my max heart rate and about 30% of my calories were coming from fat. When I increased to 87% of my heart rate for the next 45 minutes, my fat utilization dropped to less than 14%. In other words, the harder I ride, the higher my ratio is of carb to fat utilization.
Don't confuse the higher ratio of carbs to mean you burn less fat, because you are in fact burning more total calories from fat at high intensity training than from low intensity training. The people you see purposefully exercising at low intensity in the hopes that they burn "more" fat is misguided. They are burning more fat in relation to carbs, but that's not likely their goal. Those competing in body building and figure competitions may be able to argue otherwise.
I typically take a honey packet containing 27g of carbs and no fat. I pop about 2 of these an hour if I am really pushing it. If my intensity stays low it makes sense I don't feel the need to ingest as many carbs because I'm utilizing fat for a fair portion of my energy needs.
One of the good things about fat is its energy per gram.
It has 9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories in one gram of carbohydrate. Another good thing is the number of ATP generated from lipolysis is significantly greater than the number of ATP generated from glycolysis and a lesser occurance of hydrogen ions causing muscle acidity.
Ok what are the downfalls?
Fat takes longer to digest, can cause gastrointestinal distress, and the rate of ATP production is significantly lower than ATP produced from carbohydrates.
Part of your training is figuring out what is optimal for you. I asked a veteran triathlete to compare her nutrition from her first Ironman to her current strategy. She said her biggest struggle is consuming more calories from fat. Glucose packets are super easy to digest and derive energy from, but during a 10+ hour race you need to ingest fat.
Alright folks, the last person just left the gym for today, time to get shit done. 2 hour ride, hopefully one my last rides on the trainer, but realistically another month of this indoor crud. Running outside works, but I'm just too fast on the bike for the wind chill on a already freezing day :) 19 weeks until Lake Placid, gotta keep the confidence up.
Alright folks, the last person just left the gym for today, time to get shit done. 2 hour ride, hopefully one my last rides on the trainer, but realistically another month of this indoor crud. Running outside works, but I'm just too fast on the bike for the wind chill on a already freezing day :) 19 weeks until Lake Placid, gotta keep the confidence up.
What does it take to complete an Ironman triathlon? How could a non-athletic regular person go about training for it? What equipment do you need? Do you have enough time to train properly? How do you train hard without getting hurt? These are all questions I was unsure about less than 1 year ago.
That's what this website is for. In June of 2016, as a coach at a gym that caters to a lot of triathletes I was looking forward to congratulating our athletes for finishing Eagleman, a 70.3 triathlon in hot, humid, flat, Maryland. Don't think "kids" when I say athletes. These are full time working professionals with husbands, wives, children and all the responsibilities that come with 'em. One of our athletes, Bob who is 66 years old finished in weather conditions no one was prepared for. Humidity kissing 95%, temperature over 100 degrees, on a course notorious for its exposed conditions. I'm looking at this dude who's had more surgeries than (insert someone who's had a lot of surgeries) and I got inspired.
I signed up for a local Olympic distance triathlon which is 1/4 the distance of an Ironman and it was INCREDIBLE. I detailed my race day and some of my training leading up to that first triathlon. You can check it out somewhere below (Try-an-athlon Experiment).
To train for something and see it culminate on one day, when everyone is there supporting you, is a feeling you just can't explain. I was hooked.
During the local tri, I met up with a woman who frequents my gym. We ran together for about a mile when we turned a corner and faced a hill I could tell she wasn't in the mood for, and neither was I.
I spit out a few choice words between breaths then ran ahead of her hoping she would follow. She did and after the race tricked me into signing up for Eagleman this June. I guess the words worked.
There you have it folks, I've been duped into training for the longest single day endurance race on the planet and you are going to get a first hand look at what really makes race day so incredible. All of the training sessions that allow you to finish. If you are a triathlete, this will be entertaining and relatable. If you are on the outside looking in wondering how a regular person with regular commitments can be an Ironman, follow along. If you are an Ironman, send tips!
Check out my niece from this past Christmas, she's 2, but I swear she's as smart as a 2 and a half year old.
Try-an-athlon Experiment (4) Finish Line Edition
If you finish 140.6 miles you've earned the distinction of Ironman. If you finish 70.3 miles you get questions about the odd sticker on the back of your car. If you finish 32.1 miles you get a high five and your parents will take you out to dinner. I'm pretty happy with the last one.
The first group went off at 7am and I was at 7:30, that half hour was tough. The sand was freezing so I stayed in the water because it was warmer than the air. Note: Careful of triathlons after Labor Day in the Northeast. I took my time walking into the water near the middle of the pack. The first 100 meters was pure terror if we're talking mildly. The first 100m I forgot every single thing I worked on. Kept looking forward, breathing erratically, holding breath under water, quick tense stroke. I was struggling. Once we spread out a little I got into my rhythm and honestly the swim was a breeze from there. I stopped to rest twice, but mostly to sight or adjust my goggles. 1500m in 35 minutes. Out of the water and onto the bike.
Getting onto the bike wet was terrible. I thought the pre-swim wait was rough, I was a popsicle most of the bike ride. I didn't realize how frozen I was until I tried to unwrap some gummies and my hand ignored me. I rode the course frequently during training because it's near the gym and pleasant during the summer time. It's not pleasant in the Fall. Note: Under no circumstances do a triathlon in the Northeast after Labor Day. Bike: 25 miles 1 hr, 40 min.
Above is the first mile off the bike. I felt like a cryogenic human coming back to life. I finally loosened up after 2 miles. Walt Disney would've been proud. I rolled nice from there and had a good mindset. No headphones allowed while running which I knew would be a problem for me. I had a few songs memorized for the last mile that worked pretty well.
Finish line and 32.1 miles in the books. 3:30:05 with transitions. Run: 6.2 miles, 55 minutes.
I never ran outside in preparation for this. Here's my take on how different treadmill vs. outside running. On the treadmill you're not propelling yourself forward like you are outside. I believe treadmill running stresses the hamstrings a little more with the constant braking against the belt and outdoors I felt a little more stress on the front of my thighs which I think came from having to propel myself forward and up hills, dodge pot holes, etc.
Leading up to this thing I started with no base. I didn't worry about running x miles x times per week or if I should swim only ondays I run or whatever. I swam, biked, and ran as much as I could. For those of you out there thinking about their first endurance event, just train. Specific programming isn't as necessary. Expect the runs to take the most recovery, followed by swimming, then biking. Give yourself a mini taper a few days before the race where you maybe just go through the motions then go race.
I gained a huge appetite from the uptick in training and gained 6 pounds overall from 6 weeks ago. I still lift 1-2x/week which is much less than what I used to, but I can maintain decent strength and I focus mostly on the areas important to running, biking, and swimming. I ran then biked. Swam than ran. Biked twice in a day. All sorts of combinations as long as I was continuing to build my base.
My taper was a half hour run 2 days before the race and a light bike ride the day before. That's it. I don't have enough fitness to take a week off. A week long taper for me for this race would've stolen more fitness than erasing fatigue. A proper taper is that perfect balance between the two.
Final word of advice, sign up for something! Seriously, it is the best motivator.
Try-an-athlon Experiment (3)
Check out the new unis! A lot of times before a big race we'll roll out new uniforms for the triathletes. Black camouflage has been the theme recently. Check the socks thoughhhhh. We have a few Georgetown and UConn alumni here that really enjoy my socks.
The race is in 18 days. I've biked 20+ miles a few times, but haven't reached the quarter mark outside as of yet. This morning I swam the full 1500...with breaks. We'll keep working on that and hit the open water next week for another attempt at my worst night mare swimming in the Long Island Sound. I ran 4.5 miles after the swim and felt pretty damn good about it as it's my longest run yet. 6.2 will be here soon.
After today's long run I feel pain in my lower ribs like when my brother would learn a new WWE move and use me to practice. I'm thinking it's my pelvic stabilizers waking up from a 25 year hibernation.
Nutrition before and during runs is a big deal for me as it usually determines cramps and my pace. I used sport beans, the ones with caffeine and they tasted great. I didn't think they digested as quickly as the gummies. I have a package of honey stingers coming soon that I really like. I don't know if they work as well as the blocks, but the first ingredient is honey so you can imagine how they taste.
So you Want to Hire a Trainer. Use This Search Engine instead of Google
I like to think that when someone signs up to work with me, buys a package of sessions, and signs the waiver form they trust me. If we stay together and I end up meeting their parents and we buy furniture together, wooo they must really trust me.
I've been working with Jeremiah on and off for about 2 years and although we haven't bought any furniture, I thought I had gained his trust. We tried back squatting once and Jer's shoulders don't get back quite enough to make it worth it. We've done various forms of front squatting ever since and never above 95lbs. The leg strength is there, but the Tin Man's hips move better than Jeremiah's.
Anyways I get this text from him the other day. Don't mind my responses, football development train? Don't ask.
I kept prying and turns out Jer was back squatting 150lbs and he hurt his back. I would put more of the onus on Jer, but he's only 14 and he was working with a coach when it happened. Not cool.
Like I said, Jeremiah is a man boy with the intelligence and maturity to match. I liked that he spoke up about something he wasn't comfortable with. That's the honest communication that I'm always after when working with youth athletes. Unfortunately, Jeremiah sees squats and deadlifts as the problem. A lot of parents I come across have similar views because of the plethora of clipboard cowboys and too tight t-shirt twats progressing incorrectly and injuring kids.
I am starting to see why new clients are hesitant to trust. If you are sitting there thinking, "Nick why can't there be a special shirt or sign to distinguish contenders from pretenders." Ahhhh glad you asked. Check this out>> Find a Coach Adjust the settings to your city and state to find the coaches with the special shirts (Strength and Conditioning Coach certification).
6 Things to Master Before Ever Worrying About Rep Count
Probably a question I get asked 19 times every day. "How many reps? When can we bench press? Do you think we should take in Syrian refugees?" Slowwwwww down there speed racer. When you can lunge your own body weight without looking like a newborn deer, we can talk about a 3RM.
People want immediate advice and feedback. I get it. When learning a new exercise it's tough enough to think about retracting your scapulae, maintaining external rotation, engage your lat, squeeze your ass, and keeping your trunk in once piece to think about without worrying about counting. I tell my clients, "Make the reps identical! Your body will tell you when to stop."
If you're new to exercise you're going through an adaptation phase. You're learning how it's supposed to feel as well as tempo, tendencies and compensations.
Rep count is a product of programming. Most people are figuring out movement patterns, they're still adapting. They will see improvements by doing just about anything. After these gains stop then more specific programming is worthwhile.
Maybe you've been lifting for some time now and you believe you need a little more organization to get optimal results with your training. How do you know when you're not a beginner? Great question aaaaaaaaaaand without further adieu, 6 Things to Master Before ever Worrying About Rep Count!
- Pick up the equivalent of 1.5x your body weight
- Carry your own body weight in your hands 50 yds
- Squat to depth with your arms overhead
- Lunge with balance
- Proper push up
- 1 pull up for ladies, 5 for guys
Still not sure what this should look like? Watch me.
The Easiest Thing You're Not Doing
Let me give you the inside scoop on strength coaches. Man do we love building strength. Try catching the look on your strength coach's face next time you tell 'em you're in the off-season.
It's hard. It's pain staking. It's intense. It can make you want to pull the sheets back over your face, instead of getting up in the morning, but that's what it takes to build strength. It takes a lot of effort to build strength. Anyone who has tried can attest.
It takes much less effort to maintain strength.
Try this: Make it a priority to never go more than 3 days without this 30 minute routine. And that includes shower and prep time so just fucking do it.
Once an athlete has built up base strength (typically takes 4-6 weeks of 3+ high intensity days/week), it can be maintained quite easily with 1-2 less intense training sessions each week.
Why do we care about maintaining strength?
This is an important one so pay attention. Don't do one of those "read then forget immediately after." Remember this one! Okay I typically see a pattern like this. Athlete builds college scholarship worthy, super power inducing, galaxy exploding type strength and power. Athlete stops resistance training in order to stay fresh for the season. Athlete comes back 4-5 months later sometimes injured, sometimes lighter, but always allllllllllllways weaker. We build them back to where they were last off season. Athlete leaves for sport season annnnnddd repeat.
There's no improvement and eventually the athlete cannot hack it because the competition has improved. Allowing atrophy to occur during the season is counter intuitive. By the time the post season rolls around the athlete is at their weakest! They are sport conditioned, their sport skills are polished, but physically at their weakest in the most crucial point in the season.
There is a HUGE difference between in-season and off-season training programs.
In-season strength maintaining differs from off season training in several ways:
- Decreased intensity
- Decreased volume
- Decreased load
Building strength involves alternating periods of breaking down muscle tissue and that tissue recovering, healing, and becoming stronger. Maintaining strength involves stimulating an athlete's nervous system for a shorter duration in order to impart just enough stress to the body that it is forced to maintain the neurological changes made during the "build" phase we worked so hard on during the off season.
How to Fail Properly
This week has been crazy. It's already Thursday and you've fallen behind the plan you wanted to start on Monday. Not a big deal, get your life in order, and give it another shot next Monday.
Stop! No! Don't do this again! I know the mindset. You feel like there's a revolving door that's only open on Mondays to begin whatever new life change you want to begin. You have to stop this mentality, it's crippling. The good news is there's a much better way to start that elusively perfect week that will forever be perfectly elusive.
First, get rid of the notion that this week is your week. It's not. Chances are it never will be. Seriously, what are the chances that starting Monday and ending Friday everything you desire will happen, all lists will be crossed off, any confrontations will go your way, all work will be completed, leaving you with 2 days of calm before you have another perfect 5 days in a row next week. If you are fortunate enough to have 5 days in a row go your way, it could be Thursday-Monday.
Second, you need to start at night. Whatever new plan you want to start, begin scheming at night. Any night. Actually tonight is perfect. You don't need to have a minute by minute itinerary for the next 24 hours, but you do need to know what breakfast is and what clothes you're changing into when you exercise. Carry those clothes with you, all day.
Third, if you aren't tracking your workouts, which not many people do, then you need to think in 3's. How would you rate your last 3 days? Do you have a plan for the next 3 days? I don't care what day it is and neither should you.
Listen, fitness and physical health is a life long pursuit. When's the last time you had an entire day go as planned? When's the last time 3 months in a row went as planned? Yea me neither. You can't be successful thinking about exercise as a "12 week Complete and Total Body Transformation" and then poof you're forever a magazine model and fitness guru.
You will miss workouts. That doesn't mean you wait until Monday to try again. You will fail and when you do, fail properly.
Something I See People Do Wrong Consistently and 1 Drill to Fix It
How many times have you seen someone pick something up like this? And not just during a straight bar deadlift, but when picking anything up off the ground, from a medicine ball to a dumbbell. The worst is when my guy just kills 8 reps with perfect form and then he'll set it down like this guy below. Form isn't dictated by the exercise, it's dictated by safety. People think form is something to think about during exercise and that's it. Exercise is practice for everyday life and if it doesn't seem like it then you are doing the wrong exercise.
Instead try this drill I learned from Kelly Starrett that most people can understand. Stand upright with a proud chest and with one hand open with your fingers together, place the thumb side of your hand on your chest and the other hand in similar fashion on your belly button. Take note of the distance between your hands and then try to bend over, making sure not to lock your knees. If your hands get closer together you can be sure your back is rounding and you aren't hinging properly. Keep your hands the correct distance apart and you should start to feel tension in your hamstrings. This is a good sign you are loading that muscle! Keep it up! The hip hinge is THE foundational movement in so many exercises, so get this right before you start loading up the bar. Straight leg RDLs and hang cleans are great exercises to groove this movement pattern.
Laird Hamilton workout, Dodgeball, and Mustaches
A lot to get to right now and not a lot of time to get to it, so let's get to it. That man you see above has become to be known as Sailor Carl. Why? Well you know those feel good stories that come up every so often about a man who quits his job to travel the world? Well this is that story and Carl is that dude. Next week he is sailing to Chesapeake Bay as a mini tryout voyage then embarking for the next year on a journey around the earth in his boat with his girlfriend. Pictures of his boat, girlfriend, and blog to come.
Last week one of the guys I'm training tells me he just entered us into a dodgeball tournament that only allows head shots. No head, no good. Great motto. That actually happens later today so I'll have some pictures to document the carnage.
Those who get into the sport of triathlon from a background other than swimming, generally loathe the pool when it comes to training. In the open water it can be almost sublime during the final stretch to land, but early mornings in the pool are quite different. It sucks and I have to keep it fun and different in order to keep my butt in the pool. I tried a Laird Hamilton inspired workout yesterday that takes place underwater with a 10 lb dumbbell. On three separate occasions during my 40 minutes doing this I had to convince the lifeguard to let me continue, I was struggling pretty hard, and did mistake water for air a few times. It was awesome. Ok so first drill is to just tread water. No biggie, but then Laird instructs you to grab one foot with your opposite hand. I grabbed my right foot with my right hand and sunk immediately. Make sure you grab your opposite foot. Switch sides a few times and I was starting to feel warm and ready to try a few things with this 10 lb weight. Plus I was tired of the curious glances from passerby at this weight by the side of the pool, and a little worried I would be not allowed to try this.
First one is to place the dumbbell in between your thighs and pike your legs up so that your feet break the water and propel yourself forward. Yea that didn't happen. I had to bend my knees a little and it was tough to propel yourself forward. Treading water was easier, but still challenging. I managed up to 1 minute treading water and I wasn't able to get across the 25 yard pool with the weight.
Second one was to hold the weight on your chest and swim under water the length of the pool. I got about 3/5 of the way, panicked, shot back to the surface. Damn that 10 lbs is heavvvvvvyyyy. I tried that a few times and as close as 10 feet from the wall before having to surface, but never was able to get the whole length and the lifeguard was watching me close so I was trying to not show any struggle.
Last exercise, trick, stunt, attempt, I'm not sure what you want to call these because regular exercise is recreational. You have the ability or option at least to stop when you want, rest, and give it another go. With these "tricks" you are fighting for oxygen, and if you don't get it the consequence is slightly more severe and your body and mind know this and it pushes you past barriers you can't simulate on land.
2 Moves to Help With Recovery
How Hard Should I Train?
Blood lactate testing involves taking a blood sample at different intensity intervals during a maximal effort training session. When your numbers start to increase exponentially you are reaching your threshold. You can see where I hit mine in the picture below. The idea is to retest in a month and see lower blood lactate levels at the same given intensities.
2 Things Sabotaging Your Progress
Whether you're trying to lose fat or build muscle, the struggle is real. What you're really trying to do is make a lifestyle change, and that shit is hard.
- The Problem:
You fail to plan which means you plan to suck. After work instead of prepping for tomorrow you decide to go out instead. Tomorrow morning you're back in the same situation looking for the quick meal because you just don't have time.
To make lasting changes, it's going to take some level of sacrifice. I'm not talking about naming your first born Kale, but go over tomorrow's schedule and make sure you have what you need to get through the day. This is head and shoulders above the vending machine in a pinch.
- The Problem:
You have a plan, a really good one actually. Then slowly, crazy lengthy rationales with more twists and turns than an M. Night Shyamalan plot creep into your brain as to why you shouldn’t stick to said plan.
Find someone with similar goals or a coach and tell them what you are trying to do. Accountability is a big motivator. When others know you have goals, they'll ask you about it. It's a great talking point and can keep you honest if you're honest. If you let others know, it has a funny way of keeping you accountable.
That's it! I don't mean that's all it takes to change your life! More like that's all I have for this post and that's it! Succinct and sincere. Get up.
Your Warm Up is Useless
I'd say for 90% of my clients about 90% of the time perform our standard warm up at Combine. This entails an uphill walk on the treadmill or jog or possibly rowing machine for just a few minutes to elevate heart rate and increase blood flow. Then over to the turf area for some dynamic movement prep. Fancy code for stretching while walking. This ensures nothing is static or being held for too long. Since it can feel pretty good to hold a stretch, it can be easy to fall into this trap. However static stretching is not ideal right before exercising (there are exceptions).
Recently I've noticed clients maintain the sluggish pace they start out with, for the duration of the warm up. I come out to get them started and they are not prepared. We're halfway through our first "working" set and it's evident they are not prepared.
A warm up should prepare your body for the activity you are about to do. 20 lazy squats with a bare barbell is shit next to several sets of 8 squats coming up like a bat out of hell. We need to do a better job stimulating the nervous system during warm ups. Getting the heart rate up is not enough. Whatever your warm up preferences, if you aren't doing these things your warm up is more useless than Congress.
Your warm up should do the following:
- Elevate HR
- Stimulate blood flow
- Excite the nervous system
- Prepare body for upcoming activity (need more correlation between warm up and activity being performed)
- Restore joint ROM
A standard time for warming up (ie. 5 minutes or 10 minutes) is not relevant. I have 13 year olds who take maybe 3 minutes tops to get going and up to 20 minutes with some of my middle aged desk jockeys. For myself, there are some days when I'm basically ready to go out of the box, and others where I'm approaching 10-15 minutes. Warming up is a science, but also an art that takes time to figure out for yourself.
Cross Training vs. Sport Specialization
Jimmy just turned 13, he told me after he came back from his Fall basketball tournament. Today he has a game with his other basketball team. Tomorrow he has a double header against 2 teams from NY. At one point in the year he will be on 3 teams simultaneously. He doesn't play any other organized sports.
This isn't very different from other kids Jimmy's age, however it does bring up an interesting point about the principle of specificity. It more or less states that when the body is placed under some form of stress, it starts to make adaptations that will allow the body to get better at withstanding that specific form of stress in the future. Simply speaking, it makes sense that if Jimmy wants to get better at basketball he should play more basketball!
However, Jimmy's basketball skill set could benefit from a more diversified portfolio. His ankles are below average in both stability and mobility, his lateral movement is weak, and frequently complains of shin splints. The issue with specializing too early and too young is overuse injures commonly seen in older athletes. This is due to sport specific movement patterns repeated too often. Playing the same sport month after month year after year is subjecting the athlete to mental exhaustion and overuse injuries. Other sports would expose Jimmy to different movement patterns, and give him a break from basketball for a few months out of the year.
Motivation: A Refined Approach
"This song sucks." I stopped and listened for what he was talking about. Some Top 40 song came on just as we were about to attempt a 5RM effort on front squats. Sunshine is a high school junior, with hair that'd make you think he was trying out for the beach boys, who plays QB for his high school football team, and is nicknamed as such. I've been working with him for about a month now and to say he was a novice in the weight room when he first started would be an understatement. I mean Peewee Herman could have competed with Sunshine's max effort push up numbers his first day at the facility.
Like many others I was home for the holidays which for me is in snowy Syracuse, NY. This is my first time having to travel back for the holidays seeing as I moved to southern Connecticut about 5 months ago. One of the things I brought back was a copy of Chip and Dan Heath's book, Switch. First off I'm about 50 pages in and seriously this thing is chalk full of useful information. If you are in any industry where it is helpful to understand people's behavior and how to influence it, I can't recommend this book enough.
Okay back to Sunshine and his taste in music.
Before I met him, at least 4 people during separate incidences went out of their way to tell me be careful of this kid, he has no motivation, he doesn't like to work, and I need to keep a short leash to ensure he stays focused. I didn't introduce myself to him with these preconceived notions though. Instead I took a passive approach, observing mostly and didn't create much conversation during his first week. I saw how some people could label him lazy with a lack of direction, but far from what I was led to believe before meeting him.
So what did I observe?
Turns out music is one of the first things he notices when he's in the facility. He also has a very specific long term goal: Use the rest of this year and next year to add significant size and strength to be considered for collegiate football.
So what do I do?
I make sure 50 cent Pandora is on every time he's in the building and I lay out his short term goals CONSTANTLY. He needs to gain weight, so a popular question during warm up is "What did you have for breakfast today? And lunch? Are you drinking water? Getting enough sleep? What's the square root of Pi? What's the secret to world peace?!" You know, the pertinent stuff.
I knew all I had to do was appeal to his elephant.
Our personality is split into 2 parts (I'm going real basic here), rational and emotional. Different psychologists have different names for these 2 competing sides. The Heath brothers have coined the comparison of an elephant and its rider. The elephant being the emotional side which the driving force behind our actions. Its downfall comes with being so strong and sometimes cannot be controlled by the rider. The rider is the rational side which knows all the right decisions, but can over analyze matters, spin its wheels, and get nothing done.
Sunshine's rider wasn't the problem. He knew he needed to consume more calories than he burned every day. He knew he needed to start lifting consistently (over 1 year of dedicated lifting to reach his long term goal). His problem was his pesky elephant would lead him to parties at least twice a week which in turn would set back training a day or two not to mention it's pretty difficult to create a calorie surplus when your hungover. Plus he never really enjoyed the weight room.
As a development coach, we need to understand the role a certain training environment plays. At Combine Training we are the best part of our client's day, every day. I can't tell you how important this is for building relationships and creating a stress-relief haven for our clients to escape to.
Engage the elephant, allow the rider just enough time to make a decision, then act on it!
Do you know when to take your training to the next level?
That's not a rhetorical question. Knowing when and how to ramp up training is a science and an art. If you want to continue to improve you need progression. I'm not talking about switching up routine for novelty's sake. I'm talking about a conscious effort to increase intensity, time, mode, or all of 'em more than you've ever done before. We call that a personal record or PR. When it happens it's exciting and something to be celebrated. Progression requires diversity in training and the more advanced you are the harder it is to reach the next PR. The more you train the more in tune with your body you will become. What I mean is you can decipher those pesky messages your body is trying to communicate to you, like when that sore back is something to train through or back off from. Last night was exciting because I set a PR for time. Previously it was 2 hours, 40 minutes. Last night I did a triple brick between the treadmill and bike and it came to 3 hours, 30 minutes. Check out the polar screen shot. That workout burned 2,524 calories and it was tough to make up. I ate 6 pancakes and 6 full size delivery pizza slices between that workout and today and I woke up to a 1 pound loss this morning.
4 sports you have to know to be a successful triathlete
Recently I was discussing training strategies with Joe Pro, one of our resident triathletes. I asked him what a typical week of training consists of. He trains 6 days/week and it's all on the treadmill, in the pool, or on the bicycle. He wasn't necessarily against training for strength. In fact, he understands what strength can do for his endurance. However, he simply doesn't want to give up a day of endurance training, thinking it will hinder his progress especially since most of his teammates train endurance most days of the week. I get that.
First and foremost, training should be as specific to the performance as we can get it. Why waste valuable training time lifting? At what point during a triathlon are we required to squat 100lbs or even our own body weight? Any training that doesn't directly seek to improve aerobic capacity (endurance) doesn't present much upside does it?
Before we get started it should be noted that strength training is a broad term used to describe ANY form of training with the goal of improving muscular strength. Keep that in mind when you hear the word strength. Read: not huge, bulky, stiff, or inflexible.
Here's what strength training can do for the triathlete:
- Injury prevention, strength training the muscles opposite those used in running, swimming, and biking will help to counter the thousands of repetitions triathletes experience during training and races.
- Increased power (FTP or functional threshold power is something every cyclist wants to improve)
- Increased strength of the muscles involved in swimming, biking, and running.
High volume repetitions cause injury to joints; Strengthening stabilizer muscles takes stress off these joints.
Ultimately we need aerobic capacity (endurance) to sustain us during long events, no argument there. However, without adequate strength, the muscles responsible for producing strides during running, strokes during swimming, and pedaling during cycling won't be able to sustain adequate force needed to improve race times and orthopedic health is compromised if no plan is in place to counteract the high volume training that is so closely tied to triathletes.
The intermediate and advanced triathlete that neglects strength training will be leaving faster times on the table. Any triathlete that neglects strength training risks injury.
Addition by subtraction
"Nick my back is sore, I don't know why."
"Nick I can't lift my arm over my head, I don't know why."
"Nick I've lost 20 lbs since Tuesday, but my pee is bright orange. Dr. Oz said that's to be expected."
Stop picking things up wrong. Stop swimming thousands of laps without a correct exercise plan. Stop getting your nutrition info from TV talk show hosts!
Addition by subtraction.
To get better, to improve, to adapt, we need to change certain behaviors, incorporate certain habits, and get rid of others. Many of us only focus on adding good habits. We're not ready to give up the bad. Sometimes that's the only way to get better.
Ebeneezer (let's call him E) is ready for change. 2016 just hit him like bag of dicks and he's ready to get after it in the gym. One month in, he's crushing workouts and getting stronger, but not losing weight and isn't recovering in time for his next workout.
Me: "Hey E, what's goin' on?"
E: "Hey Nick, workouts are going great, but the scale still reads the same and I'm always falling asleep at work."
Me: "How has the late night eating been?"
E: "Too frequent. I'm tired at the end of the day and if I didn't plan out dinner I sort of just snack on potato chips and Hershey kisses until I fall asleep. I feel like the workouts are balancing it out though."
Hi head meet my friend, the wall.
Everyone knows nutritionally dense foods and exercise together are optimal. We need to change the question from "what should I do?" to "how do I implement xyz into my busy life?"
Nicholas LaRocca is a movement instructor and personal strength and conditioning coach.
I've been applying the latest in strength and conditioning research with athletes and the general population for over 5 years and studying anatomy and biomechanics for over 7. I believe in a diversified portfolio of movements and intensities. In other words I don't teach yoga, but if you come to one of my classes you'll recognize some movements similar to those in yoga. I don't teach pilates, but you'll undoubtedly be in a similar scenario when you're doing 50 "pulses" at the bottom of a squat. I don't run a powerlifting gym, but you'll be sure to touch a barbell and drag a sled during ourhour. I love triathletes and am training for my first Ironman this summer in Lake Placid. Keep reading and subscribe to the newsletter for a first hand account of what it's like training for the world's longest single day endurance event.