EPC Tips - Pacing

EPC Tips – Pacing: Off-Road

With the North American racing season kicking off  this month and the first XTERRA US Regional Championship event (XTERRA West Champs: Las Vegas) in a few weeks time, it feels like a good time to talk about pacing for your off-road racing. This weeks EPC Tip crosses over between a few of our Six Components to Endurance Sports Success. Pacing a race involves Aerobic Conditioning (component #1), but perhaps more so, pacing is a skill to practice and develop (component #3), as well as a big part Mental Fitness (component #6) as it requires planning, strategizing and in-race management.

As both a coach and professional triathlete I often get the question from age-group athletes, “How do I pace my race in order to yield the best possible result?”

Pacing is critical to any kind of racing success. If you don’t go out fast enough you can lose tons of time early on that you won’t be able to make up before the finish. This can be seen all the time at races when watching the mid-pack finishers coming in; with a quarter mile to go to the finish you see an athlete kick up his/her pace substantially and mow down the racers in front of them before the finish! When I observe this, I chuckle to myself and think that this person did not pace well and has far too much left in the tank at the end. On the other end of the spectrum, you have the athlete that starts the swim or bike with everything they have to only peter-out later in the race and pay dearly for their lack of pacing on the run with a shuffle or lots of walking. In both instances, learning the art of pacing would have allowed the racers to finish their race with a faster overall time and likely a more enjoyable experience (especially in the later case).

For road triathlon, pacing is pretty straight forward. Racers can learn this skill in their first several races of their career and continue to perfect it as they become better athletes. Non-draft road triathlons of any distance are a relatively static affair, with set distances, smooth roads on which to ride and run, and low to moderate amounts of gradual elevation gain. You dial in your specific “race pace” in your training and on race day you simply settle in and execute the pace. The only real challenges are being confident in your “race pace”, being able to hold back and be at your pace early on when fresh and excited, then later digging deep to maintain that pace late in the race as fatigue sets in. In non-draft road racing, most athletes simply swim with the group they are similar to, then race to their “output data” (heart rate, power, avg. speed, perceived exertion) on the bike, and then run their ‘mile splits’ on the run…not unlike theRonco Rotisserie Oven, they simply “set it and forget it” in regards to a skillful pacing effort.

Now when you take your racing off-road, as in an XTERRA triathlon for instance, pacing becomes a much different animal. You still need to dole your energy out carefully in order to yield your fastest time, but when and how this is done throughout the race becomes far more dynamic! Off-road triathlon is more similar to draft-legal triathlon racing, where your pace is often dictated by the group of athletes with whom you are closely racing; if you can’t hang on in the swim or follow the surges and accelerations on the bike, you’ll be dropped from the group before you ever get to the run.

When you race off-road, it’s often not so much the competitors that dictate the pace but rather the course itself that dictates your pacing and energy expenditure. When taking your racing off-road you’ll be faced by a myriad of challenges: tight twisty singletrack trails, big climbs, steep hills, rocks gardens, stream crossings, technical terrain; all of which require different doses of energy to race through. This means you will often be required to sprint out of a corner, then coast as you negotiate a technical section, before giving a near maximal effort to get up a steep hill the next moment…and this can go on throughout much of the bike and run courses! As you can imagine this is no “steady state affair” but rather a highly dynamic fluctuation of intensity and skill (and so much fun)!

So how do you pace for such a dynamic race effort?

For starters, it’s often a necessity to preview the entire course. The more you know and can experience each particular course, the better you will be able to pace and perform on race day. No two XTERRA courses are the same, therefore “pre-riding” is essential and “pre-running” is highly recommend. By knowing the course, you will be confident in where you will need to be able to ‘gas it’, where you will be able to recover, and where you need to be awake and ready to tackle a tricky spot. Knowing you have a long climb ahead where you will need to put out an effort above your lactate threshold for five minutes in the middle of it, followed by a short downhill where you can “recover” a bit before the next climb will allow you to pace your race more effectively.

Second, you can better prepare for your racing experience by training more specifically to the style of racing. For road triathlon you likely spend a large portion of your training doing steady-state intervals just under your threshold as that’s where you’re going to be spending most, if not all, of your race day. When taking it off-road you will be going well above your threshold numerous times throughout a race, and unlike a road triathlon, often going deep into the anaerobic ‘red zone’ multiple times before you cross the finish line. To be able to go hard and still pace well off-road you need to train with this in mind to be ready for that kind of ‘on and off’ race pacing. Instead of, or in addition to, the long sub-threshold training sets, you should add variety with some thirty second power intervals, three minute Vo2 max intervals, and ten minute threshold sets to your training program to better prepare you for the demands of off-road racing.

Lastly, dialing your nutritional needs is crucial to pacing success. This is true for anyendurance racing, however with the highly volatile nature of effort in an off-road event, what might sit well with you when cruising along at a comfortable 200 watts mile after mile, might not sit well with you when you are pounding out 400+ watts turn after turn in tight single track (not to mention that you often can’t take you hands off the bars or eyes off the road to feed when off-road!). Regardless of exactly how many calories you need per hour, less is often more when racing off-road in order to appease the gut during the high intensity racing, and liquid calories are king when it comes to ease of consumption and digestibility.

In order to race your best possible off-road triathlon you need to pace yourself; however, this doesn’t always mean holding back early. You need to be able to hit hard when the terrain calls for it, take your recovery when you can get it, and then be ready to do that again and again. By knowing what’s in store for you on the course with some course recon, proper training to prepare yourself for the demands of the racing style, and following a smart race day nutrition plan you will be better equipped to pace yourself through the event and finish in your best possible time.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget. Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ our EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram

 

EPC Tips - Goal Setting

EPC Tips – Goal Setting

Organizing your thoughts and creating a formal written outline of what direction you want to go with your training, fitness and competitive results is a key piece of the Mental Fitness puzzle. Last week I discussed Mental Fitness as the sixth and final component in my “6 Components to Endurance Sport Success” (click links to review what you’ve missed).

If you don’t know what you want to achieve, then how are you suppose to know what you need to do to get there or if you are making progress in the right direction along the way? Going beyond simply thinking about what you want to achieve and further developing a strategy on how you are going to get there is the process of setting goals. Goal setting is a multi step process that is extremely valuable for all athletes.

The following discussion provides some helpful steps and techniques you can implement to make your own goal setting more effective.

Setting goals is something many people are familiar with. It can be difficult for some athletes to write down goals, however meeting your goals is often more difficult if they are not written down in the first place. Once you have decided upon your goals, take it a step further and write out exactly how you plan to meet those goals. What you want to do here is briefly write out your plan, or steps you are going to take, to meet those goals you just wrote down (use a pencil here because you may change things a bit as you discuss with your coach or spouse). If you’re not sure of exactly how you are going to meet your goals, obtaining direction from a coach or friend can help you talk it out and make the right decisions. Knowing what you want is one thing, but outlining a plan that gets you from where you are now with your physical and mental abilities to where you want to be is what makes goal setting an effective tool in your mental fitness tool box.

Once you have completed writing out your goals and you’ve figured out how you are going to meet those goals, the next step is to make several copies of your newly written goals and post them up around your house and place of work if possible (such as your bathroom, bedside table, and desk at work). The idea here is to make it very easy for you to read and review what it is you working towards. The more you read your goals and hear them in your head the more attainable they will become. Also consider sharing your goals with friends or family in which you feel comfortable. The more people you share your goals with the harder you will work towards achieving those goals because now you have friends and family rooting for you and asking how your training is coming, thus holding you that much more accountable!

Long-Term Goals vs. Short-Term Goals

Breaking goals into Long-term Goals and Short-term Goals is an effective strategy as well. You can use the following templates to help you identify your goals for the coming season.

LONG-TERM GOALS

Long-term goals are goals for the more distant future. Think about not just your upcoming season goals, but goals for 1 year from now, 2 years from now, and 5 or more years from now. Think about where you would like to be in terms of your personal fitness level and competitive accomplishments. Be sure to make your goals challenging enough to push yourself while keeping them realistic and attainable. Be as specific as possible. Then once completed, have fun and think of your “Dream Goal.” This is one that is set so high that achieving it is unlikely.

What would you like achieve this coming/current season?

1.

2.

3.

2-4 years from now?

1.

2.

3.

5 or more years from now?

1.

2.

3.

“Dream Goal”

_________________________________________

 

SHORT-TERM GOALS

Short-term goals are goals set for as short as a week and up to a year in the future. These are the goals that really hold you accountable to your training and lifestyle. They are also the goals that fuel your daily training efforts, as you see yourself set and attain these goals every few weeks. Short-term goals should be as specific and quantifiable as possible. Try to set goals that address your weakness(es) early in the training year and then more for dialing in your strengths as your season or priority event(s) near. As with long-term goals, make sure your short-term goals are challenging but not impossible to attain.

Use the following short-term goal setting template to help you get organized and focused. Start by writing down the first things that come to mind and then go back and edit as necessary. Don’t put a cap or sensor on your thoughts. Go with your true feelings and desires. The more honest you are with yourself the more you will believe in your goals and the harder you will work in attaining them.

Short-Term Goals for Pre-Season training cycle, Dates: ________________________________

1.

2.

3.

How to achieve above set Goals:

1.

2.

3.

Short-Term Goals for 1st half of Race Season cycle, Dates: ___________________________________

1.

2.

3.

How to achieve above set Goals:

1.

2.

3.

Short-Term Goals for 2nd half of Race Season cycle, Dates: __________________________________

1.

2.

3.

How to achieve above set Goals:

1.

2.

3.

 

Now armed with your long-term goals, short-term goals and a strategy for how you plan to meet your goals you should feel better prepared to dig into your training.

Don’t forget to make copies of your goals to post around the house and office, as well as share them with your close friends and family so you know they’re all on board and ready to support you along your journey. Finally, don’t hesitate to review and adjust your goals and steps along the way. Things happen and your goals are not written in stone. Use them to help you keep motivated and put focus into your training efforts. Now good luck and most importantly, have fun!

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ our EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram
EPC Tips - Mental Fitness

EPC Tips – Mental Fitness

The human brain is a powerful thing. Unfortunately, many athletes fail to recognize the power and importance of training the mind.

Often so intensely focused on training the body, athletes can miss out on one of the biggest avenues for performance enhancement.

Most new or less experienced athletes will make big gains in performance by simply focusing on the physical training. However, as you improve your physical fitness over time and get closer to your ceiling of physical potential, the more important improving what I refer to as your ‘mental fitness’ becomes to maximizing your performance.

That’s not to say that mental fitness is not valuable at low to mid-level fitness abilities; we’ve all seen the athlete that crushes their training partners in training sessions to only fall well short of their physical ability on race day, and vice-versa where the seemingly ‘weaker’ athlete in training outperforms their ‘stronger’ counterparts on race day. These questionable performances are almost always directly related to the athlete’s mental strength. On the higher end of the performance spectrum, elite athletes in a given sport are equally well-trained and talented. The higher the level of competition, the more homogeneous the physical fitness and talent becomes. For this reason, many top level elite athletes recognize the power of the mind and the importance of mental training in allowing them to reach the success they desire. Often what makes the difference between becoming a champion and not breaking through is their mental fitness.

The topic of mental fitness, or sport psychology, is a big one and can include many areas of discussion. I’m going to focus on two areas that I find particularly important for endurance athletes and that are relatively simple and effective to integrate into your own training. The first area is related more to planning, organizing, and rehearsing your performances prior to them occurring. The second area is more of the ‘in the moment’ considerations and techniques to develop to help you achieve a higher level of performance on race day.

PART ONE: Preparation

  • Goal Setting -

Goal setting is one of those things many people know they should do but few actually the the time to do it correctly and effectively. Goal setting takes time and consideration, and is best done at the beginning of your training season. You need to establish both long term goals (1-5 years) and short term goals (1-5 months) that are quantifiable and challenging yet achievable. Once you have your goals established, you need to figure out your path or steps you are going to take to achieve these goals. Then you need to share these goals with friends and family and make them visible in your daily life to serve as reminders of what they are and why you are working towards these goals.

  • Imagery/Visualization –

Perhaps one of the most valuable training practices is visualization and imagery. What we see happening in our minds as ‘virtual reality’ has a much higher chance of occurring in reality. If we routinely see ourselves performing a skill or putting out a great effort, our brain will begin to accept that we already have or are capable of actually doing it. Elite athletes utilize the strategy of visualization leading up to important competitions by imagining their races in great detail from both start to finish or in smaller segments in great detail. Then once they are actually in the moment on race day, their minds are better prepared and capable of managing the real life situation, leading to greater success.

  • Race Strategy –

Less of a mental exercise and more of a straight forward planning and preparation, forming your competition strategy is an important element of mental fitness. Use your brain power to identify your own strengths and weaknesses, your competitor’s strengths and weaknesses, the course elements and other ingredients that will constitute your race day challenges. Form a plan on how to pace your efforts, decide who/what you will respond to and what/who you will let go, what and when you’re going to eat and drink, when you plan to conserve energy and where you plan to empty the tank. All of these factors go into your race strategy and will lend to a more successful racing experience. It is also important to understand that even the best race strategies can quickly go out the window mid-race and you must be willing and able to adapt to the challenges.

  • Self-Belief –

Believing in one’s self is critical to success. If you do not truly believe you can accomplish your goals, visualize yourself succeeding, or executing your race strategy then you’re setting yourself up for failure. It’s easy to think or say we believe in ourselves, but it has to be a real and unshakable belief. Much of a person’s self-belief is instilled in them from their childhood, life experiences and parental influences, but it can be changed for the better through disciplined mental training, just like exercise can alter their physical fitness.

PART TWO: Competition

  • Race Persona/Alter-Ego -

Competition requires being a fighter. On race day, particularly in the race, you need to be excitable, aggressive, and perhaps even a little mean to fight your way to the top of the podium. This does not mean that you need to be this way in your regular life. In fact many of the world’s best athletes are actually quite calm, cool and humble people that change when the gun goes off and they get into ‘race mode.’ Recognizing this transformation and actively using it to your advantage is a classic sport psychology strategy (particularly for those calm, cool, humble athletes). Creating an alter-ego to be used on race day can get you in the mode to be focused and open your willingness to suffer to your fullest and attack the race with everything you’ve got. XTERRA World Champion Lesley Patterson publicly shared her race alter-ego; Becoming “Paddy McGuinty” allows this diminutive Scottish athlete to transform from one of the nicest people you’ll meet into a hard, tough, Celtic fighter capable of running down anyone in front of her on race day.

  • Focus –

Gaining and maintaining focus is perhaps the most important mental element to competitive success. The longer and less intense the event, the harder it becomes to maintain focus. Staying in the moment allows you to identify and respond to your efforts and the efforts of those around you. Losing focus allows your mind to drift and inevitably your pace slows and your performance deteriorates. Maintaining focus is tied into your self-belief, what you think you can truly achieve and whether you feel it’s worth the effort. Staying focused will allow you to embrace the challenge and short-term discomfort and will keep you from the long-term disappointment that occurs from losing focus.

  • Willingness to Suffer -

Make that ‘ugly face’ and get to work! Some amateur athletes are either unwilling or don’t know what it means to truly suffer in the heat of the moment. Whether it’s a short, fast, intense race or long distance grudge match, being willing and able to suffer is crucial to reaching your fullest potential on race day. Staying in the moment and maintaining focus will improve your willingness to dig deep, but understanding that the pain is temporary but the disappointment is forever will allow you to crawl deep into the pain cave in your priority events.

  • Mantras –

A great tactic to help maintain focus and keep going in the face of pain is using mantras, or repeating inspiring words or short phrases, during the tough moments of competition. Mantras work by keeping your focus off the pain and on the job at hand. It can be helpful to incorporate a rhythmic mantra that you can repeat over and over at a particular cadence to keep you moving along at your desired pace. 2014 XTERRA 40-44 female National Champion, Kathy Waite, uses the mantra “I am strong, I feel great” as she mows down competitors on the run.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ the EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram
EPC Tips - Inflammation Response

EPC Tips – The Inflammation Response

In our previous post I discussed the importance of managing stress to maximize your athletic potential. In the article, V. STRESS MANAGEMENT, I divided stress up into two categories: physical stress (the training you do) and emotional stress (your daily life stress). I gave examples of how to manage both kinds of stress that will hopefully allow you to lower your emotional stress levels as well as help you recover from your physical stress. I also discussed the concept of the long-term emotional and physical stress combination, identified as “chronic stress,” that is influenced and managed primarily through a well-designed training program specific to your abilities and lifestyle; as well as the more immediate physical stress, identified as “acute stress” that is related to your most recent training sessions and how you are able to recover from them. This week I’d like to extend the discussion on the topic of inflammation and provide some insight on some strategies to manage it effectively.

Let’s begin by first addressing your training sessions themselves.

Appropriate training sessions should provide just the ‘right’ amount of stress. The goal is to generate a training response that creates just enough inflammation that requires your body’s repair mechanisms to get to work, but not so much so that you can’t recover from it before your next training session. The key to endurance sport training lies in training consistency. You need to be able to train (apply physical stress) day in and day out as frequently as possible (this amount differs for everyone based on their age, experience level, and the total amount of stress in their lives) to create the stimulus for improvement over the long term. Performing a ‘killer training session’ one day and then needing to recover for three days after because you are so smashed leads to training inconsistencies, wasted training time, and lack of long term improvement. Individual training sessions should consist of the right amount of training stress that requires some recovery but not so much that you are laid out for days.

The ‘right’ amount of stress for typical training sessions should require little in the need for special ‘recovery techniques’ other than refilling your glycogen stores and hydration levels as needed (see IV. Diet & Nutrition). If you find that your training sessions require frequent cryotherapy (icing/ice baths), compression therapy (clothing/boots), NSAIDs (ibuprofen/aspirin), or other ‘recovery techniques,’ then maybe you need to re-evalute your training program as you may be training too hard or above your current fitness level. Tough training sessions are indeed key for preparing for your priority events, but the majority of endurance sports training, the day to day sessions, should be very manageable and not require extensive recovery.  On another note, practicing ‘recovery techniques’ (as mentioned previously) following your typical training sessions has recently been argued by scientists to potentially blunt the training effect you are looking for! By icing after your ‘weekly long-run’ for example, you may be dampening the stress you are desiring to create by doing the training in the first place, and thus decreasing the effect of the work you just did.

Perhaps the marketing appeal created in recent years from manufacturers of “recovery products” has lead athletes to be potentially “overly recovered” and has them essentially “undoing” some of the stress they are intending to create for a training effect?

Inflammation often carries a negative connotation in today’s world. However, in regards to training, low to moderate levels of inflammation following training sessions is a positive response to an athlete’s training efforts. While minimizing the inflammation through methods such as ice or immediate compression may actually blunt your desired training effect, whereas practicing recovery techniques that increase blood flow to damaged or ‘inflamed’ areas after the response inflammation has occurred can be a helpful tactic. Training breaks down muscle tissue and this ‘damage’ to the soft tissue is what most scientists agree upon that leave muscles sore, stiff and/or tight after strenuous training. Perhaps one of the most effective ways to assist muscles in the repair process is to increase blood flow to the specific area. Blood carries the materials our muscles need for repair as well as provides a transport system to remove the byproducts of muscle damage. Soft tissue therapy in the form of professional massage and at-home ‘self-massage’ is one of the best methods for increasing blood flow to areas in need of repair. While professional massage is a wonderful thing, and something I highly recommend on at least a monthly basis if not more frequently, it is also another costly expense to add to your training budget. Self-massage on the other hand is something that everyone can afford and should implement into their training program on a regular basis. There are some simple, low-cost ‘tools’ you can purchase (or make) to add to your at-home therapy tool kit, as well as well some effective techniques to get the job done.

The following 4 tools are among our favorites for self-massage to assist with soft tissue maintenance to include your training program:

1. FOAM ROLLER

Foam rollers have gained enormous popularity over the past years and for good reason: they work! Foam rollers are great for working large surface areas such as your back and various areas of the legs. The pressure provided by your body weight combined with the back and forth rolling movement massages your bigger muscles and increases blood flow to the area and can help relieve ‘sticky’ adhesions below the skin’s surface.

2. MASSAGE BALLS

Massage balls (like a lacrosse ball, the ORB, or … ) are smaller than foam rollers and are better at pinpointing smaller target areas such as the piriformis, psoas, or any other ‘trouble’ spot that needs more precise attention. The smaller diameter the ball the more pressure that can be applied and tighter area of focus. These are great for all the small muscles around the hips in particular. Some of the larger balls work great for larger leg muscles in the calves, quads and hamstrings as well.

3. GOLF BALL

Perhaps the smallest of ‘massage balls’ (and most dense), a golf ball is perfect for the arch of the foot and all the small soft tissue connections involved in the healthy movement of the foot.

4. The THERA-CANE

The hook-like ergonomics of the Thera-Cane is perfect for those hard to reach spots on your back and shoulders.

* A note on vasoconstriction recovery techniques (ice/compression), these methods can be helpful in two cases. The first is following a scheduled ‘big’ workout, planned over-reaching training block, or post-race when physical trauma is at its highest. In these cases, blunting of the training effect is not a concern because you have reached well beyond your regular training tolerance. The second is in the week or two leading into a priority race (taper). During this phase of training you are not attempting to increase your fitness, but rather fully recover and sharpen up the fitness you have. The focus is to get your race preparation training in and then minimize the stress/inflammation to the fullest extent possible.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ our EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram!

 

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EPC Tips – Stress Management

STRESS MANAGEMENT

What can create both a positive and a negative response, is something everybody experiences, most people desire less of, and many people struggle to balance? 

The “S” word… STRESS!

Stress Management is our fifth component of our Six Components to Endurance Sport Success. In our daily lives, we experience both physical and emotional stress. As athletes we need stress in the form of “training load” to provide the stimulus from which we can improve. The key to a good training program is one that provides just the right amount of stress; not enough and we stagnate or get stuck on a plateau, too much and we get fatigued, sick or injured. Both too little or too much physical stress leads to an inability to progress or improve in your training. Emotional stress encompasses stress from work, social/family interactions, and general life stress. Deadlines at work, bills piling up, and arguments with a loved one are all examples of the emotional stress people experience in their daily lives. While it’s impossible to avoid all emotional stressors, it is important to keep them to the lowest level possible. The key point here from an athlete’s perspective is that at the end of the day stress is stress, whether it is physical (training) stress or emotional (mental) stress. All stress adds up and contributes to your ability, or inability, to recover from your training and improve your performance.

Combining both your physical stress from your training and emotional stress from your life provides your complete ‘stress score.’

In general, the more stress you have, the more difficult it will be to train, recover, and improve. One of the largest factors that contributes to a professional athlete’s high level of performance is that they are able to organize their life in such ways to minimize their emotional (life) stress while maximizing their physical (training) stress. True ‘professional’ athletes are able to make training and racing their only job, minimizing their financial stress via sponsorships, minimize their social stressors and general life ‘overhead’. Many struggling professionals, up-and-comers, or ‘recreational elites’ must maintain a source of income, balance a family/social life, and maintain a much higher level of emotional stress that make it difficult to compete with the more established professionals. Age-groupers don’t have the luxury of mid-day workouts and time to put their feet up between training sessions. Amateur athletes must make their jobs and families priority number one and two and their sport takes the third or even fourth priority. 4:30am wake-up calls and/or late-night sessions squeezed in around their busy lives is a necessity. Lower training volume is almost always a result, as is also carefully (and often unsuccessfully) balancing the physical stress vs. emotional stress scale to maximize their performance. If your emotional (life) stress is heavy, then your physical (training) stress must be lighter. It all adds up! It’s critical to pay close attention to your stress balance if you want to make continued improvement in your sport.

 As an athlete, I like to look at stress in two ways: chronic stress and acute stress.

Another key piece of stress management is recognizing the different types of stress and their effects on your body. I consider chronic stress as the long term effect applied to your body. This involves your endocrine system and maintaining hormonal balances. The human body releases the hormone cortisol (among others) when under stress. Cortisol is designed to help our bodies manage brief periods of stress, but when we put our bodies under extended periods of stress (through long, hard training sessions (physical), and/or long stressful days at work (emotional)) our endocrine system can overload our bodies with cortisol (and other stress hormones) that can disrupt your body’s natural functions. With elevated cortisol levels you may experience issues including fatigue, inability to recover, slowed tissue repair, digestive issues, weight gain, poor sleep, anxiety, and depression among other things.

How can you improve or lower your chronic stress load?

1. Get More Sleep

Sleep is perhaps the most important stress management tool. Aiming for 7-9 hours of sleep everyday is ideal. Often times, in periods of high stress, it is more valuable to skip a workout in favor of more sleep. Under periods of high stress, sleeping can become difficult for many people. Practicing improved sleep techniques like a warm bath, warm drink, and relaxation before bed can assist in improving sleep.

2. Diet & Nutrition

The more you are under stress, the more important a nutritious diet becomes. Eliminate the junk (sugar, fried foods, refined foods, etc.) and maximize the fruits and vegetables should be the the focus points (read my Diet & Nutrition article). Maintaining stable blood sugar throughout the day with small frequent meals will help regulate proper body functions as well.

3. Relaxation Techniques

Practicing yoga, deep breathing, visualization techniques, and simply reading a book can help lower stress levels. Spend time being still and quiet.

4. Sense of Humor & Laughing

Lighten up! Surround yourself with fun people at times and smile and laugh. It’s proven to relieve stress and make you a happier person.

Acute stress is looked at more in the short term. It’s the immediate effect you experience in the hours and days following stressors (specifically physical stress). This is the immediate fatigue you may feel from a training session, or the soreness or stiffness you may experience after a tough workout. High amounts of acute stress can occur by increasing training loads beyond what you are accustomed. These can be planned increased training loads, as in a training camp, or they can be unplanned by doing too much too soon, training too far above your current fitness level. Muscle damage, glycogen depletion, and dehydration can all contribute to high levels of acute stress. Acute stress contributes to increased chronic stress, and if left unaddressed, this increased stress can lead to deep fatigue, illness and/or injury. Always being aware of how you can recover better and more quickly following training sessions will help you get on the right track for managing your acute stress loads. Our saying is to “Take care of your body!” We see too many people willing to spend thousands of dollars on equipment, travel and entry fees, as well as enormous amounts of time in training yet be unwilling to spend some money on their body to keep it happy, healthy and performing at its best.

How can you manage your acute stress load?

1. Follow a Progressive Training Program

Your training must progress gradually to avoid excessive acute stress. Following a training plan or working with a coach that will keep you on track and hold you back if you are a ‘go getter!’ Fitness is a long term commitment and can’t be rushed.

2. Recovery Nutrition

Consuming calories immediately following long and/ or intense training sessions is a critical recovery strategy. There are commercial products on the market designed specifically for this purpose (First Endurance Ultragen being among the best). The key is to include both carbohydrates and protein in adequate amounts to begin the restoration process (see my Diet & Nutrition article for more specifics).

3. Soft Tissue Massage

Massage therapy is helpful for increasing blood flow to damaged muscles and loosening adhesions of soft tissue. Two professional massage sessions a month is a worthwhile investment (weekly is even better, once a month is better than nothing). Daily self-massage (foam rollers, massage balls, massage sticks, etc.) is also time well spent and can be done before bed as part of a relaxation routine.

4. Manual Manipulation

Your body takes a beating with all the training. Take care of your body by visiting a osteopathic physician (D.O.), physical therapist (P.T.) and/or chiropractor to give your body the regular tune-ups it needs. These visits can go a long way to maintaining overall health and keeping injuries at bay.

5. Stretching

While science will say there is no evidence that stretching actually does anything, but most people will agree that, at the very least, it feels good. Unless you are genetically hyper-flexible, including some stretching in your weekly routine will help you stay loose and maintain an effective range of motion. It is another great activity to include in your nightly relaxation routine.

6. Compression

Another controversial technique in the recovery equation. The verdict is still out as to whether compression actually does anything, but if you think it does then go for it! Donning compression clothing post-workouts and pneumatic ‘compression boots’ are two tools to consider including in your recovery routine.

Written by Cody Waite, professional XTERRA athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget. 
 
Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ our EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram
EPC Tips - Race Day Nutrition

EPC Tips – Race Day Nutrition Strategies

Last week I discussed some basic principles of effective daily diets and training nutrition for endurance athletes (see: IV. Diet & Nutrition, my fourth component of six from my 6 Components of Endurance Sport Success).

This week I want to touch on ‘Race Day’ nutrition strategies for short to medium length endurance events of 1-5 hours in length.

This duration of event includes road bike racing, mountain bike racing, longer running events (half-marathon, marathon, and ultra-events for faster runners), as well as sprint and olympic distance triathlons, XTERRAs, and 70.3 distance triathlons (for faster athletes). I have found over the years from personal experience, and through working with a variety of athletes in my coaching business, that the following guidelines work well for 90% of athletes. Once race durations extend over the 5-hour mark however, the game changes a bit due to the drop in intensity and what individuals can stomach for ultra long events, requiring a much more individualized approach to nutrition. Please use the following guidelines as starting point from which you can experiment with until you find what works best with your physiology and gut.

PRE-RACE MEALS

Typically endurance events take place in the morning, so dinner the night before and breakfast are the two meals that will primarily fuel your event. These two meals are what I will address below.

Your dinner the night before an event should be something you are very familiar with. There is no need to ‘carbo-load’ or gorge yourself with extra calories the night before a race as this only slows digestion and can cause digestive stress during your event. Typically athletes take the day two-days out from the race as a very light recovery session, or complete day off from training. This will not only allow your muscles to recoup, but also your glycogen levels to completely restore. The day before race day, then consists of a light workout to shake the legs out and prepare to race. This session is short and sweet and should’t dip much, if at all, into your glycogen stores. Your normal eating routine should be more than enough to ‘top off’ your glycogen stores before race day. The one thing you may want to add in however is an electrolyte sports-drink that will also top off your hydration and electrolyte levels.

As for dinner, the best is to stick with lighter, easy digesting foods that are higher in carbs and lower in fats. Rice and potatoes are ideal sources of carbohydrate, along with some vegetables and small amount of lean protein. My two ‘preferred’ meals for the night before are either sushi or thai (specifically Massaman Curry). I tell my athletes to have two options in mind for both dinner and breakfast so you can be flexible depending on your race venue, and also be willing to go off ‘the plan’ if required, if your race venue does not have exactly what you need/want. Being flexible helps to keep stress low and energy levels high. Your dinner should be eaten a bit earlier than normal if you have an early start and earlier wake-up call, so you can maintain similar digestion time between dinner and breakfast that you’re accustom to.

Now it’s race day and time to wake up! I recommend to set your alarm 3-3.5 hours prior to your race start so you have time to ‘wake-up’ and maintain a normal morning routine. Breakfast should come around 2.5-3 hours prior to start time so you have time to digest your meal and have necessary bathroom deposits. Your breakfast is the food you will actually ‘race on’ so it needs to be predominately carbohydrate with some small amounts of fat and protein (especially as race duration increases). I recommend basing breakfast portions on the duration of your event. Shorter events require less fuel and thus can be smaller, while longer events require more fuel and can be larger. Overall the meal should be relatively light and easy to digest. Sticking with the rule of ‘two options,’ I prefer either toast, peanut butter, banana and honey or oatmeal, banana, butter and honey. I feel confident that I can either bring with me or find these two options just about anywhere I go to race, and they are easy and quick to prepare. I am also a coffee drinker, so coffee is included in my morning routine. Here is how I structure my race breakfast based on the duration of the event:

I like to do an inverse ratio of coffee to toast or oatmeal based on the duration of the event…

Event < 2 hours:

  • 3 cups/shots coffee/espresso
  • Half slice toast, peanut butter, half banana, honey OR
  • 1 packet plain instant oatmeal, 1 pat butter, half banana, honey

Event 2-3 hours:

  • 2 cups/shots coffee/espresso
  • 1 slice toast, peanut butter, 1 banana, honey
  • OR 2 packets plain instant oatmeal, 2 pats butter, 1 banana, honey

Event 3-5 hours:

  • 1 cup/shot coffee/espresso
  • 2 slice toast, peanut butter, 1 banana, honey
  • OR 3 packets plain instant oatmeal, 3 pats butter, 1 banana, honey

NOTE: I start every day, including race day, with 20 oz. of plain water before I eat or drink anything else.

RACE NUTRITION

After breakfast you should have roughly 2-2.5 hours before race start. I find it best to arrive (parked) at race venue about 60-90 minutes prior to start (depending on size of race/venue and air temperature/weather). During this time between breakfast and race start you have last minute packing/prepping, travel, set-up, and warm-ups to deal with. During this time, you should sip a water bottle of electrolyte drink mix to keep topped off prior to race start. When you’re ready to head to the start line you should have your nutrition schedule in mind and fuel sources planned and ready to go. I have found that most less-experienced athletes consume too many calories (and sometimes liquids) in their races. In general, I’m a fan of the ‘less is more’ concept and that you can always add more as you go if needed. Stomach bloating is harder to reverse than is running low and adding an extra gel or drink from an aid station. The following is a guideline of what I recommend to my athletes based on the durations of their event. Remember that everyone is different and practice makes perfect.

Event < 2 hours:

  • 2-0.5 hours pre-race: travel/warm-up bottle of electrolyte drink mix.
  • 30 minutes pre-race: 6 oz. flask of electrolyte drink mixed with water.
  • Cycling: 0.5-2 bottles of electrolyte drink mix, low calorie. Quantities vary based on heat/humidity of event.
  • Running: Little to no nutrition other than sips of water from aid stations.

Event 2-3 hours:

  • 2-0.5 hours pre-race: travel/warm-up bottle of electrolyte drink mix.
  • 30 minutes pre-race: 6 oz. flask of electrolyte drink mixed with water.
  • Cycling: 1-4 bottles of electrolyte drink mix, moderate calorie, 150-250 per hour. Quantities vary based on heat/humidity of event.
  • Running: 1-2 semi-liquid shots (gels), 75-150 cals per hour.

Event 3-5 hours:

  • 2-0.5 hours pre-race: travel/warm-up bottle of electrolyte drink mix.
  • 30 minutes pre-race: 6 oz. flask of electrolyte drink mixed with water.
  • Cycling: 2-6 bottles of electrolyte drink mix, moderate to high calorie, 200-300 per hour. Quantities vary based on heat/humidity of event.
  • Running: 2-4 semi-liquid shots (gels), 75-150 cals per hour.

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.

Fruits and Vegetables

EPC Tips – Diet & Nutrition

This week we’re on to the fourth of 6 Components of Endurance Sports Success: Diet & Nutrition.

Discussions of diet and nutrition are often the most hotly debated topics in the fitness world, as they are fueled by emotion, personal beliefs and preferences. Within physical training concepts there are multiple proven and established ways to achieve similar levels of fitness and performance (high volume-low intensity vs. low volume-high intensity, for example). In much the same way, the same can be said for diet and nutrition concepts. There are multiple variations that can lead to similar results (meat eaters vs. vegetarians for example). The key point here is that people are different and different strategies work for different people; there is no right way. Regardless of where you stand on diet and nutrition, there are some key points that recent science and ‘experts’ have established that cross over between all ‘diets’ and are crucial for both long-term health and improved sport performance.

Without argument, athletes can make major breakthroughs in their training and racing performance by incorporating intelligent diet and nutrition strategies.

As you read on, please keep in mind that this is my opinion based on my own experience and study as a lifelong elite athlete, as well as over 10 years in the coaching business. I am not a dietitian, however I have always had a strong interest in diet and nutrition (for both ‘healthfulness’ and performance) along with a true passion for good food. This passion for food led to a short stint as a coffee shop and catering business owner after completing culinary arts school. Before we go any further, we should address my definitions of ‘diet’ and ‘nutrition’ within this specific discussion, as by themselves they can carry a multitude of different connotations. I like to break apart daily food intake and the total calories we consume into two parts. Diet is what I refer to here as your daily food intake (what’s on your plate) to get you through the day. Nutrition is referring to your training and racing intake (what you consume pre, mid, and post training).

DAILY DIET

Without writing pages and pages of nutrition concepts and theories, I want to keep it short and simple with advice on how you might be able to improve your diet, nutrition and performance. As athletes we hear the term ‘eating clean’ thrown around a lot. This term ‘clean’ can have many different meanings based on what you perceive as clean. Clean could mean simply not eating ‘fast food’ or overly processed foods, or it could mean eating only organic and naturally raised plants and animals, or it could mean a strict plant-only diet. The point is ‘clean’ is a relative term and what is clean to one person may be far from it to another (much like when you ask a typical single man what a clean bathroom looks like and what my wife, Kathy, thinks a clean bathroom looks like…two different bathrooms).

How ‘strict’ you want to be with your diet is up to you, but two focus points I have found to help everyone is to first limit/reduce the quantity of processed foods, and second, to base your diet on eating as many fruits and vegetables as possible. By simply following these two basic guidelines, you can transform an average diet into a very effective one. Processed foods are foods produced in a factory or laboratory. In general, the more humans tamper with ingredients found in nature the worse it becomes for you from a nutritional standpoint. For some reason we think we can improve nature, and we like to add additional ingredients and make our food ‘man made’. Take, for example, butter. Butter was once thought to be bad, so we manufactured margarine as a ‘better’ alternative. Not a good idea, as now we are finding it to cause all sort of problems. Surprise, saturated fats are not what we once thought! Or, take the egg. The cholesterol in egg yolks was thought to increase cholesterol in our blood, so we decided to separate what nature designed to be together by creating ‘egg whites’. Sadly, this ‘improvement’ meant we missed out on the nutrients in the egg yolks. This deeply held and popular belief has recently been disproved. Cholesterol in food actually has little to no correlation to cholesterol in our bodies and, in fact, whole eggs are one of the best foods we can put in our mouths!

Put simply, avoid processed foods and choose to eat as close to what nature provides us as possible, with the base being fruits and vegetables.

A third key concept is to NOT adhere to a ‘special diet’. Your daily diet should not have a name (Paleo, Atkins, Gluten-Free, Low-Fat, Low-Carb, High-Protein, etc.), rather just a good well-balanced diet based on fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and small amounts of high-quality animal protein (if desired). Conforming to a ‘specific diet’ is not sustainable nor does it create a positive relationship with food. You can agree with concepts of specific diets, but when you begin to strictly avoid certain food groups, you are setting yourself up for a struggle (unless you have a true medically-tested allergy). As athletes we need all three macro-nutrients in our diets (carbohydrates, fats, proteins). Our primary fuel sources come from fat (low-intensity) and carbohydrate (moderate to high intensity) and when you limit your intake of either, your physical performance will stagnate or decline over time. Depending on your activity levels throughout your training season, you may need more or less of carbohydrate which leads to carbs being the largest variable macro-nutrient. Protein is not directly a fuel source but rather predominantly a hormone-regulating nutrient that is responsible for keeping our bodies functioning correctly. Most first world people consume excessive amount of animal protein in their diet beyond what the body actually can use. Rather than making the ‘meat’ the focal point of every meal, fill your plates first with vegetables, followed by whole grains as needed, and  then add small portions and of the highest quality protein (wild, natural, grass fed, organic, etc.) you can afford and prepare at home.

As endurance athletes, it is safe to say that nearly all of us are chronically dehydrated.

The fourth concept is hydration.  If you train for 10 or more hours a week and don’t consciously consume multiple glasses of water a day (outside of training) you are in a negative state of hydration. Hydration is not always recognized by our thirst mechanism. Often it is confused with hunger, which leads to excessive calorie consumption. By making a conscious effort to drink large glasses of water throughout the day and before meals you can do your body a world of good. The final piece of the puzzle and, perhaps, the most important for those struggling with achieving an ideal body composition, is to only eat when you’re hungry and to stop eating BEFORE you feel full. Achieving your ideal body composition has more to do with the “calories in vs. calories out” principle than actually eating healthfully. By eating both healthfully and in the appropriate quantities that your body requires, you will continue down the road towards the lean and powerful body you desire.

DAILY DIET DOs & DON’Ts:

  • DO eat when you’re hungry (as frequently as needed)
  • DO eat as close to nature as possible
  • DO maximize fruits & vegetables (8+ servings/day)
  • DO avoid processed foods (chemically altered and/or high in refined sugar)
  • DO eat the highest quality foods you can afford (organic, natural, free-range, grass fed, wild, etc)
  • DO drink plain water throughout the day (between workouts)
  • DO eat small quantities, more frequently
  • DO eat pleasurable foods (“treats”)
  • DO NOT exclude foods or food groups (unless you have a true allergy, or you just don’t like them)
  • DO NOT follow a ‘named diet’
  • DO NOT over consume animal protein
  • DO NOT over eat (except at Thanksgiving, then go BIG!)

TRAINING/RACING NUTRITION

Supporting your physical training efforts with adequate and appropriate nutrition is essential for long term success in endurance sports. The more you train the more nutrition you need to support your training and recovery. Improved sports-nutrition can also lead to improvements in your body composition (ie. increased lean tissue) which is perhaps the most effective way to improve both your speed and endurance for racing.

As mentioned above, our primary fuel sources are fats and carbohydrates (glycogen). Fats are the ‘unlimited’ fuel source for low-intensity activity. Through effective aerobic training we improve our body’s ability to use fats for fuel at higher and higher effort levels. The more aerobically fit you are the faster you can go while using more fat and sparing more glycogen. Training the body to spare glycogen is one of the primary goals of the training that we do as endurance athletes. Glycogen is a limited source, and for longer activities, we must supplement with carbohydrates to spare and help delay the depletion of our stored glycogen for as long as needed to get to the finish line. For this reason, training nutrition revolves around consuming the right amounts of carbohydrates in our daily diet and as sports-nutrition while we train. This is why low-carb diets do not work for endurance athletes when they are in stages of heavy training and/or racing. We need carbohydrates to perform at our peak! During other times of the year, when training volume and intensity are low, reducing the extra carbs is helpful to minimize weight gain (ie. nutrition periodization).

Consuming calories prior to, during (for longer sessions/events), and following training sessions sets you up for success with not just the immediate session but sessions in the days to come. On the flip-side, you do not want to consume any more calories than required to fuel your training. Your muscles require fuel to function and the following are some simple guidelines to consider to maximize your training program.

  • PRE-WORKOUT

The calories you consume prior to your training sessions provide the starting point from which you draw energy. For efforts lasting two hours or less you need little more than your regular meal 1-2 hours out from the start. For longer efforts you can ‘pre-load’ with a bit more calories (especially if it’s low to moderate intensity). If it’s been more than 2 hours since your last meal (ie. early morning workouts), you will likely be better off with 100-200 calories of primarily carbohydrate before your session. With proper fueling throughout your day you are less likely to need a ‘pre-workout’ snack or meal.

  • MID-WORKOUT

Workouts lasting 90 minutes or less require little to no mid-session fueling, other than water and/or electrolyte drink. This is especially true if you are well fueled prior to beginning the session. Workouts beyond 90 minutes are best served with 100-300 calories (of predominantly carbohydrate) per hour of training. The fuel source when training at low intensities is best coming from whole foods as much as possible versus ‘sports nutrition’ sources. As intensity ramps up in training, more calories can come from liquid/semi-liquid sports nutrition sources. Beyond 90 minutes, you also want to include electrolyte supplementation through drink mixes or tablets, and plenty of water (1-3 bottles an hour depending on body size, temperature and humidity).

  • POST-WORKOUT

Consuming calories following your workouts is essential for maximizing recovery, refilling energy stores, and readying yourself for your next session. The trick with recovery nutrition is understanding how much fuel (and what type) you burned in your workout compared to how much you replaced while working out. Far too often I see athletes sucking down ‘gels’ in the middle of an hour long session or finish a moderate session and then down a 300 calorie ‘recovery drink’ before going home for dinner and throwing down another several hundred more calories of food. This ‘train hard, eat hard’ way of thinking can make it difficult to achieve your goal body composition for competition. The goal with recovery nutrition should be to consume enough calories both during and following your session to replace the carbohydrates you used in order to refill glycogen stores. Your next meal will address the additional calories (if any) that may be needed to feel satiated. Here are some recovery nutrition guidelines for different training sessions. Keep in mind that your daily training load also affects your calorie needs (ie. the more sessions per day the more accumulation of calorie burn occurs).

  • Low to moderate intensity workouts under 90 minutes: little glycogen utilized. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and your next meal.
  • High intensity workouts of 1-2 hours: moderate to high amounts of glycogen utilized. Immediate 150-300 calories recovery drink, predominately carbs and 10-20 grams protein. Follow with next meal an hour after.
  • Low to moderate intensity workouts of 2-6 hours: with proper mid-workout fueling you shouldn’t dig too deep into your glycogen stores. All you may need is a glass of electrolyte drink (low-calorie) and light post-workout snack or drink. Followed quickly with your next meal.
  • Mid to high intensity workouts of 2-4 hours (races): high amounts of glycogen utilized (possible depletion). Immediate 200-400 calories recovery drink predominately carbs and 15-25 grams protein. Follow with carb-based meal when stomach is ready for it. Follow with potentially a second meal 1-2 hours after the first (more fats/proteins).
  • Monster workouts/races of 6+ hours: you’re likely depleted and dehydrated. It doesn’t really matter because you’ll need a few days to recover anyway…drink a lot and eat what ever the heck you want (without over eating!).
Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget. 
EPC Tips Cadence

EPC Tips – Cadence is King

Last week, I discussed the importance of technique training to improve movement efficiency and lower race times (read: III. Skill Proficiency). As component number 3 in mySix Components to Endurance Sport Success, skill proficiency is one of the easiest ways for newer or less proficient athletes to improve their endurance and speed. This is because improvements in technique come quickly with regular practice that can be added to regularly scheduled training sessions.

This week I want to focus on one key element of skill proficiency that crosses all three major endurance sports (swim, bike, run), that nearly every less-experienced athlete could stand to improve: Cadence.

The rate at which you move your arms through the water when you swim, turn the pedals in circles when you ride, and take steps when you run is your cadence. One admirable observation you will notice when watching any elite endurance athlete performing their sport is that their turn-over (cadence) is high and effortless. On the flip side, you can quickly and easily identify less proficient athletes by their amazingly slow turn-over rates. This often is due to lack of balance or over thinking their stroke in the pool, or riding the wrong gear on the bike, or their heavy loping or plodding run style. Each sport (swim, bike, run) has their ‘optimal’ range of cadence, often decided by the cadences of successful champions of the sport from over the years; a stroke rate of 1.2-1.6 for swimming, 90-100 rpm for road cycling, and 180 steps per minute on the run are some examples of cadences to work towards.

In practical terms, as endurance athletes we want to move faster through the production of more power.

Please note that you can also move faster by reducing resistant forces like wind and water drag, but that is another topic. To help paint a mental image, in physics, power is generated from the muscular force we can apply (to water, pedals, ground) multiplied by the rate at which we can apply that force (cadence). If we can maintain the same amount of force (distance per stoke, gearing, stride length) and do it faster through an increased cadence, we will produce more power, and everything else being equal, we would go faster. The ability to maintain force and increase cadence is no easy feat, but it can be done through effective training. To put this concept of cadence to a real life example, go to a triathlon as a spectator and spend time to watch all the finishers in each of the three disciplines, and you will notice a direct correlation to finish times and cadence. The front pack swimmers will all have higher cadences than the mid-packers and as you stand and watch the rest come in you will notice the cadences dropping off. Same for the bike; the first athletes off their bikes will have smooth and fast cadences and the cadences will drop as the bike-leg finishers continue to arrive. On the run it’s often the most dramatic scene with faster turnovers leading the way, and as the rest of the field makes their way in to the finish line the cadences get slower and slower and… slower.

What follows are some training sets you can incorporate into your own training sessions that address improving ones cadence.

Often these sets/drills are best added at the beginning of a sessions as part of the warm-up and maybe again at the end as part of a warm-down. Spend time improving your cadence and your overall technique and efficiency will improve, along with your race times!

THE SWIM

Swim cadence is the hardest of the three to measure accurately while performing the movement. There is a great tool made by FINIS called the Tempo Trainer Pro, that is basically a small, water-proof metronome that you can set to specific rates and hear while you swim. First you want to practice with he Tempo Trainer to find you ‘normal’ swim cadence for 50-yard repeats. It will take some trial and error to find the rate that matches your current preferred cadence. Once you have your ‘baseline’ you now have a point from which to begin challenging yourself.

Let’s say your ‘normal’ cadence is a stroke rate of 2.0, that’s a single stoke every 1-second or a complete cycle every 2-seconds. The goal with this set is to try to lower and lower stroke rates until you can no longer ‘keep up’ with the beeps. Then back off slightly and practice the challenging, but achievable rates in subsequent sets, for example:

  • 4×50 descending (increasing) stroke rate as 2.0/1.9/1.8/1.7 seconds per stroke
  • 3×50 @ 1.9 seconds per stroke
  • 2×50 @ 1.8 seconds per stroke
  • 1×50 @ 1.7 seconds per stroke

THE BIKE

Training to spin a higher cadence first with lower gears and then gradually adding larger gears will improve your power on the bike. In our 12-week Trainer Series program we include spin-ups as the warm-up for every session. Spin-ups are a classic drill for improving cadence. This particular version is best performed on a trainer for a super-controlled environment.

Begin by being in your easiest gear. Small chainring in the front (34-39t) and largest cog in the back (23-28t). This provides very little resistance and easy spinning (if you’re in a bigger gear you will be limited by power and high aerobic expenditure, as opposed to spinning capabilities). Start by pedaling at 80 rpm (you’ll need a cadence monitor for this). Every 60 seconds increase your cadence by 5 rpm (85-90-95-etc.) until you reach 120 rpm. That is the first rep. For the second rep, return to 80 rpm and increase cadence by 5 rpm every 30 seconds up to 130-135 rpm. Return to 80 rpm once again and perform the third and final rep, from 80 to 145-150 rpm, increasing by 5 rpm every 15 seconds. If you cannot achieve the recommended upper cadences, go as high as you can get and continue to try higher and higher cadences with each session you do. The goal will be to reach to highest cadences, with little to no bouncing in the saddle and relative ease.

THE RUN

Increasing your running cadence will not only help you run faster but can also lighten the stress you put on your joints reducing fatigue. One helpful focus point you can think about and train is minimizing your ‘ground contact time’. To achieve higher cadence you need to reduce the amount of time your feet spend on the ground. The less time on the ground, the quicker they move from one step to the next. A great drill that isolates this concept is called Ankling.

Ankling involves very short, and quick steps. You first make contact with the ground on your forefoot, letting your foot roll down, pronating as it naturally does. As or slightly before the heel touches the ground you want to pick the foot up and move it forward for the next step as the other foot  goes through its motions. These are very quick motions with small steps, moderate knee lift, and very little forward speed. You can use your Tempo Trainer metronome (or a metronome app on your smartphone) and begin with a slow to moderate tempo to learn the movement. Once you master the movement you can up the tempo to faster and faster paces, as high as 220+ beats per minute as a real challenge. Perform this drill over a set time of 20-40 seconds or 10-20 yards per rep.

Think QUICK FEET!

Written by Cody Waite, professional endurance athlete, endurance sport coach and founder of Endurance Performance Coaching. Looking for help with your training for 2015? Check out EPC’s Personal CoachingGroup Coaching, and Custom Training Plan options created to fit your needs and budget.  Don’t forget to ‘LIKE’ our EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram
EPC Training Camp

XTERRA Training Camp in Colorado

The second annual EPC Spring Training Camp is scheduled for April 8th-12th in Fruita, Colorado.

The camp features two ‘half days’ of training (allowing for travel to/from Fruita) sandwiching three full days of training opportunities.

“The idea is for athletes to come when they can, whether it’s Wednesday, Thursday or Friday, depending on your work/family schedule, and get some great structured training in with a great group of athletes,” said organizer Cody Waite. “In addition to killer training, the Fruita area has a lot of dinosaur attractions and scenic hiking trails for the whole family to enjoy, so consider bringing the whole gang!”

Learn more