Thursday, February 25, 2010

What I Love Lately

This time of year seems to drag on and on. Winter seems like it will never end, and getting to the starting line of the first race of the season seems so far away. Goals, improved perform ace, "qualifying", beating "x" training partner in the race" or hanging on in group ride are all worthy and motivating to crawl out of bed at 5:00a.m. or bundle up in all the many layers just to go run. But, here are some of the things I love lately about training to keep me going until spring decides to show up:

1. Nike Lunar Glides: I LOVE this running shoe. It is super light weight, but has a little stability and control. It tends to run a little narrow so if you have a wide foot you might not like it as much as me, but I have been loving doing long runs, tempo runs, and speedy runs in them. Right now I have 3 pair that I rotate around.

2. NNHS Masters swimming: I joined a new masters team this year, and it involves a 30-40 min drive to Naperville, but it is so worth it to swim in a big 12 lane, brand new, real swimmer pool. The workouts are TOUGH, and I get to swim with some old training friends, and some new.

3. Trips to Tuscon with Adam: A mid-winter trip to Tuscon and riding with Adam trying to stay on his wheel is quite motivating to keep my butt in gear, plus views from the top of Mt. Lemmon and Gates pass are always worth the work to get there.

4. Vancouver 2010: I LOVE the Olympics. It is amazing to watch these athletes in all these other sports compete at the highest level. Their stories are incredible, and I love hearing how they get to where they are in sport. I was glued to men's ski cross the other day, hearing about this guy (forgot his name sorry) who at 1 point was dealing with some big issues with drugs and alcohol and was found passed out in a river 1 night in Vail CO. He overcame these issues and was skiing for gold in Vancouver. I sat there crying because he crashed in the finals. I wanted him to win. But in his interview he said he wanted gold, not bronze so he went for it over a hill and launched himself so high/far to try to move up to first that he lost control and crashed. That's hard core! and the Olympic spirit.

5. More daylight: last night I noticed it was still fairly light at almost 6 o'clock. There's a sign spring is coming and Colonial rides will be starting.......that alone is enough to keep me on the trainer.

6. Breakthrough workouts for my athletes: I helped an athlete through a personal 10k run (since there are so many around here this time of year... we made our own). In the cold snow covered neighborhood he pushed himself to a new level! My Boston runner has "torched" his long runs more than once. All the data on HR, paces, cadence, charts and graphs are wonderful tools to see progress measure and track fitness for athletes but seeing an athlete just dig deep and and push to a new level in their workouts is so exciting.

7. Run workouts from Simon: My coach has been giving me some really good run workouts this winter. I love that he isn't afraid to give me quality/ speed focused workouts to do even this time of year.

8. My Skinfit Parka: Adam gave me this awesome Skinfit down parka back in like Oct. because I hate being cold....and I am cold a lot. This coat is so comfy and warm I practically live in it.

I have had a little more motivation and fun training this winter with the help of all of the above. Go "torch" your winter workouts! Yes, I stole this quote from the log of my Boston runner!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Neglected Ones

Glute Medius

This might be a bit overdue since it was supposed to be a "part 2" to my last post where I was blogging about the importance of strength and the benefits I have been seeing with working to get strong for the past year. It is a little delayed because I was putting my strength to the test in Tuscon for a long weekend getting in some warm weather training. This trip was just Adam and I .....yes so..... very rare! But it we had a great time just hanging out and doing some training. Whether it was trying to keep up with Adam on the bike on the Gates Pass loop on my 3rd w/o of the day..., or climbing up Mt. strengh was put to the test.

As I was saying in my previous post, as triathletes we over work some muscles and others.......get neglected. We swim, we bike and we run. We move forward only in the most streamline position we can. And...we do it for hours on end! We use our quads and IT bands, and anterior shoulder and neck muscles, but we forget about our glutes, or lower traps. Doing this long enough....and you'll end up with the posture of a gorilla. I went to a continuing ed course 1 time for physical therapy and when you do this you get evaluated and inspected. Standing there getting my posture assessed and the other PT.s who knew nothing about me immediately said...she's a swimmer ...ha ha ha I laughed, if they only knew!

The most common injury I see in the clinic when it comes to marathoners or triathletes, is ITB syndrome. That is Iliotibial band syndrome for those who have been lucky enough to have never hear of it. Second runner up is piriformis syndrome, and not far behind is plantar fascitis and or Achilles tendonitis. Each of these mostly likely develops because of muscle imbalance. This means somewhere in the body things are to tight....and else where, things aren't strong enough resulting extra strain to somewhere in the chain.

So lets focus on ITB syndrome since it is the most common. We spend hours running forward, sitting and bent over our bikes. This uses quads, and ITB a lot. The job of the ITB is to stabilize the knee in standing, and in running which is single leg stance it is actually upwards of 3x your body weight for every step you take running. Then add that the ITB is actually a tendon/ connective tissue down by the knee which means there is not great circulation like in muscles which equals easy irritation. With all the forward swimming biking and running the poor glute medius gets neglected. Its important job is to stabilize the hips in single leg stance. ....keeping the hips level and not dropping or sagging on the opposite side. You've seen it in the race photos...the one that looks like you're doing the "jig" because 1 hip is dropped. When the hip drops or sags, then all sorts of things can happen depending on how you are put together. That hip can roll in (biking or running), placing strain on the knee, you could be landing harder on 1 side when running causing shin splints which lead up to stress fx's, or simply landing improperly causing Achilles pain.

Same goes for shoulder or neck pain. We swim mostly freestyle throwing our arms forward for yards and meters at a time, then we slump over in aerobars for hours at a time.......and top it off with hours in the car commuting , or at the desk or computer working. Everything is moving anterior or forward.

So, you see how important it is to stretch what is tight, and strengthen what is weak or not used! Don't deny that your posture is that of a gorilla! Some of these injuries are lurking. While seasons may have gone by injury free, you are still using all the same muscles over and over mile after mile, meter after meter. Eventually, if you don't wake up the neglected imbalance will likely develop. Maybe not this year....but maybe its next year. It may show up as injury or even poor performance.

So do your body good, work those forgotten muscles, and stretch those that get overworked...and have patience. The results are only positive.....getting to the finish line faster, and injury free, and of course....... not walking around like a gorilla.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Strength Does a Body Good

Last year about this time I started working with a personal trainer to push me around a little and keep me honest with getting stronger. I like to lift weights and have done so on and off for a long time. In fact I started back in high school as a way to jump higher and get faster. Being on the short side for a volleyball player, I wanted an edge up(always a competitor!)

I used to lift in the triathlon off season to get strong and prevent injury. Being a physical therapist I know how important strength is to preventing injury and combating the muscle imbalances that creep up seemingly from no where and all of sudden is ITB syndrome or a stress fx. Yes Ive even had my share of a few of these uglies. But...once spring would come around I'd stop the weights and really pound out some training and still be able to make it through the season feeling strong.

Then I began to notice something in my mid to late 30s. By the end of the summer....I didn't feel as strong, or that I had lost power... a few more aches and pains..some slower times. How can that be? ....after training all summer...I'm getting slower not faster? What I began to realize is that I hadn't lifted a weight or done anything to maintain strength since early spring. Its a brutal fact that as you get older it gets harder to maintain your strength. I knew this but some how didn't think it applied to...... me!! So for a few years I did lift on my own to keep the strength going but fully confess that though I liked lifting its an easy one to blow off....or just slap the same old weight on there and push it around, without much care..never progressing. 2008's tri season ended ugly and injured.

I started working with Mark Nilles last year this time with my client MM. We rotate through a circuit and get pushed..nothing fancy. Much of the work is full body strength lifts with heavy metal (weight and music), some super sets, some plyos, and lots of core. Its hard and I often get sore. And just like periodization with the tri training, we perioidize the weights.

Last season I noticed some good changes and stayed healthy and strong through the summer plus a hard core season of racing cyclocross every week come home with bruises all over me. But now is when I am really starting to see some big benefits... 1 year of consistent work on some serious strength and core work. My long easy run paces are faster than have been the in a few years and my form is holding up through the entire long run and I haven't been doing anything different with my run training. I credit this truly to getting stronger in the muscles that get forgotten with all the swim, bike, and running.

These muscles that get forgotten and left out in triathletes are the glutes, and hip extensors, posterior shoulder muscles, along with the abdominals and trunk stablizers. We triathletes LOVE to use our quads, IT bands, pecs, anterior deltoids and wind up walking around like gorillas when it all gets too tight.

Next blog I'll write more specifically about these neglected muscle groups and why they are so important in keeping an endurance athlete in 1 piece, and moving efficiently through the water, on the bike and across the finish line fast!