EPC Tips Swim Set

EPC Tips – Speed Building Swim Set

Crank up the pace with this speed building set.

The main set of this session focuses on some fast paces broken up into smaller chunks to make the fast swimming more manageable. For this workout you will need to know what your maximum 400 yard/meter pace is, what your maximum 200 y/m pace is, and what your maximum 100 y/m pace is. The best way to know these for sure is to perform individual time trials of these distances as a test set within your training program. Then once armed with these paces, you can train specific to them and over time make improvements in the times. Becoming faster at short distances improves your overall swim efficiency and economy and gets you familiar with swimming above your extended distance race paces which helps with starts, turn buoys, bridging gaps, and finishing strong.

You’ll notice that as the paces get faster the rest intervals increase to allow you to be able to swim the faster paces. Be sure to take adequate rest (more as needed) on these so you can really swim fast! Most endurance athletes are not accustomed to training at maximum or near maximum effort so it may take some patience to take the required rest, and will definitely take some strong mental focus to hit the last set of 100s at maximum 100 pace. It’s time to crank it!

WARM-UP:

  • 400 easy
  • 4×100 snorkel, buoy, band @ 70%
  • 4×100 snorkel, band @ 80%
  • 4×100 swim @ 90%

MAIN-SET:

  • 4×100 @ 400 pace, 0:30 rests
  • 100 easy
  • 4×100 @ 200 pace, 1:00 rests
  • 100 easy
  • 4×100 @ 100 pace, 1:30 rests
  • 100 easy

WARM-DOWN:

  • 200-800 easy pull w/ choice of gear
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 Run

EPC Tips – Quality Run: Tempo+

The “tempo run” is a staple in most run (and triathlon) training programs. The term “tempo” in running typically revolves around 10k pace for most runners and maybe up to 21k pace for faster elite level runners. Basically it’s the pace that has you hovering right around (or just under) your lactate threshold; a sustainable hard pace/effort. There are many aerobic and muscular endurance benefits to tempo run sessions, which is why they are so popular in training programs, and important sessions for runners and triathletes of all distances.

As you near your goal races, particularly if your goal races are 5k-21k in length, another quality run session to include as a progression from tempo runs (and/or a bridge to Vo2 max sessions) is what I call the “tempo +” session.

This session targets a slightly faster pace than typical tempo runs, closer to 5k pace.

This helps to train the extra speed that can bring a nice boost of fitness before an key event. The paces are faster with the tempo+ session, but the intervals are shorter than typical tempo sessions. This example starts with 400m repeats as the main set. You can increase this interval distance to 800m, 1200m, 1600m, etc. over several weeks as you adapt to the faster running. As you lengthen the intervals, maintain the same 90 second recovery walk/jog between the reps. Most athletes should aim for 2-4 miles of 5k pace running (ex. 6x800m), while faster runners could consider 4-6 miles of total tempo+ pace running intervals (ex. 5x1600m).  This session can be done just about anywhere with a relatively flat surface: treadmill, track, road, trail.

WARM-UP:

  • 5:00 Dynamic Warm-Up
  • 10-15:00 easy run
  • 4:00 build to tempo pace
  • 2:00 walk
  • 4x[0:15 strides, 0:45 walk]

MAIN SET:

  • 8-12x[400m (or time equivalent) @ ~5k pace, 1:30 walk/jog]
  • 200m (or time equivalent) max effort

WARM-DOWN:

  • 2:00 walk
  • 5-10:00 easy run
  • 3:00 walk

(60-90 minutes total workout 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’ the EPC Facebook Page and follow Cody on Instagram
EPC Tips Threshold

EPC Tips – Super Threshold Bike Session

This ‘pyramid’ interval session on the bike targets the ‘super-threshold’ zone for getting familiar with efforts over your lactate threshold. The bulk of the main set targets efforts at, and just above, your threshold power. Then you finish with a few short blasts  at your Vo2 Max to Anaerobic Power zones to prepare for (or maintain) the higher intensity efforts. Designed to be done on the trainer, this session can also be easily modified for outdoor riding on both the road or the trail.

WARM-UP:

  • 10:00 spin-up to max cadence
  • 2:00 easy
  • 5:00 build to threshold power
  • 3:00 easy

MAIN SET:

  • 2-3x[1:00/2:00/3:00/2:00/1:00 @ strong effort (100-110% threshold power/zone 4-5), 1:30 easy between each interval]
  • 5:00 bonus rest between each set
  • 1x[0:30/0:45/1:00/0:45/0:30 @ hard effort (120-150% threshold power/zone 5), on a 2:00 interval]

WARM-DOWN:

  • 5:00 @ high cadence (110+ rpm)
  • 5:00 spin-down

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 Swim Tips

EPC Tips – Race Pace Swim Session

With race season upon us it’s time to get race-specific with your training. Dial in your XTERRA race pace swimming with this key swim session. The main set consists of a broken-800 and broken-1600, at 800 and 1600 pace, respectively. Dial in your race tempo and go!

WARM-UP:
– Snorkel, buoy, band… 300/200/100 easy
– Snorkel, band… 150/100/50 moderate

MAIN SET:
– 4×200 @ 800 pace, 0:20 rests
– 100 easy
– 4×400 @ 1600 pace, 0:40 rests

WARM-DOWN:
– 100 easy

The XTERRA Workout of the Week is 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 - Warm ups

EPC Tips – Warming Up and Warm Downs

With race season rapidly approaching and training sessions shifting into high gear, maximizing your efforts and post-effort recovery, as well as staying healthy and injury free are crucial to continuing to build your fitness and maximizing performance. Warm-up and warming-down are two components to incorporate into your daily training sessions as the intensities increase and racing takes off.

Prior to beginning and upon completion of every workout and/or race, a proper warm-up and warm-down must be performed. These two components of your training program allow you to gain the most out of every individual training session. In addition to the physiological benefits there are also psychological benefits of warming-up and warming-down. During these times you can mentally prepare yourself for the workout ahead by thinking through the work you will be doing, the goals you have for the training session and the target measurements you are seeking. Frequently neglected by the busy and rushed athlete, there is much to be gained from incorporating a proper warm-up and warm-down into all of your training sessions.

Warming Up

A properly performed warm-up consists of gradually raising the intensity of movement from a very slow pace to a faster pace over a specific period of time. The highest pace you reach during your warm-up is typically up to and sometimes just over your anticipated training zones for the session. The early part of the warm-up is perfect for practicing some technique or form drills while the intensity is still low and slow. The gradual increase in intensity allows for improved blood-flow to your working muscles and slowly raises your core temperature to optimal levels. This increase in blood-flow and core-temp allows your body to prepare itself for the work ahead while reducing the chance of injury.

The amount of time the warm-up requires relates to the both the duration and anticipated intensity of your workout or race.

In general, the more intense your workout the longer your warm-up. Also shorter workouts often require longer warm-ups, especially if the intensity will also be high. For a low-intensity endurance workout the warm-up can often be a substantial part of the entire workout. For example, if you are heading out for a three hour aerobic ride your intensity may not exceed that of your “warm-up intensity.” Likewise let’s say you are going to do three 20-minute tempo intervals within that three-hour ride, you might ride the first hour of the ride as your warm-up, gradually raising your heart-rate up near your expected interval-pace heart-rate prior to beginning your specific intervals. As a rule-of-thumb often the longer your workout, the longer your warm-up period, as the warm-up itself can be aerobic training.

The length of your warm-up prior to a race is typically more condensed and more specific. The guideline to follow prior to racing is the shorter the race, the longer and more intense your warm-up. So for a 20k time trial or sprint triathlon your warm-up could be as long or longer than the actual duration of your race! During this time you will also get your heart-rate level very high, right up and possibly a little higher than the effort you will be racing at. On the other hand, prior to an eight hour endurance race your warm-up may only consist of lightly riding around the start area or similar light activity to prior to the start.

Air temperature also plays a role in the length of your warm-up. The hotter it is the shorter your warm-up, and the cooler it is the longer your warm-up will need to be. This correlates directly to your core body temperature and getting it high enough to race well, but not too high to fatigue you. Often before a hot race your warm-up might be less than half the duration than normal. Before a cold race you will definitely want to wear several layers of clothing to help raise your core-temp and in some cases you may want to warm-up indoors or on a stationary training device that allows you to get your core-temp up higher more easily than outside in the elements.

Aside from loosening up your muscles, reducing chances of injury and simply feeling better after warming-up, the warm-up also allows your metabolism to warm-up to ensure that you maximize your fat-burning capabilities allowing for an effective workout or race. If you skip your warm-up and jump right into your main training objective or even perform too short of a warm-up, you can easily cause your metabolism to rely on sugar for fuel to quickly and this high sugar burning emphasis can remain for the entire duration of the workout causing you to not effectively burn fat as well as have you fatigue more quickly. By warming-up gradually you stay in your fat-burning zone and build your aerobic base more effectively, even during a high-intensity training session! So to become an efficient fat-burning, aerobic endurance machine, the proper warm-up is critical to success.

Warming Down

Equally important to the training process is an effective warm-down. The warm-down at the end of your workout or race allows your body to return to a resting state gradually. This process allows for the clearing of byproducts associated with high-intensity energy production, allows blood to return to all of the areas of the body that it was diverted from as your intensity increased, and allows your heart rate to return to a lower state, thereby minimizing cardiac stress and pooling of blood in the lower extremities.

The length of the warm-down corresponds to the intensity of the workout you are just completing. The higher the intensity the longer the warm-down needs to be. As with the warm-up, the warm-down can make up a large duration of longer workout, especially if there were higher-intensity work intervals within the ride. However, the warm-down is rarely as long as the warm-up within the same workout. The warm-down should be long enough to bring the heart-rate down close to the pre-workout heart-rates prior to beginning the workout. Rarely will you get your heart-rate all the way down to pre-workout levels as the body will be in recovery mode after a workout and will be left with a higher post-exercise resting heart-rate due to the “recovering” going on by the body. This is especially true with the higher the intensity training or racing that occurred. The most effective warm-down strategy involves simply slowing down over the course of several minutes, allowing the heart-rate and body-temp to decrease.

A proper warm-down will allow the body time to clear waste products produced during high-intensity energy production as well flushing the working muscles with oxygenated blood to begin the recovery process after intense training sessions.

As you slow down, your muscles will require less and less blood to function and allowing blood to return to other areas of your body. A gradual return to normal blood flow prevents the pooling of blood commonly found after abruptly stopping after a hard training session. This pooling of blood is stressful on the cardiac system as well as causes increased inflammation and muscle stiffness requiring increased recovery time following a workout. By incorporating a warm-down at the end of all your training sessions you will not only feel better but you will be helping your body increase it’s own natural recovery process thereby allowing for a more consistent training program and faster progression.

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!