Thursday, July 26, 2018

Science of Strength Training for Endurance Athletes

The last year or two I've been hunting down some answers about aerobic work, capacity, it's role in recovery and a few other ideas.  In listening to the Dissect podcast, Host Mark Twight mentioned a book that led me to the work of Inigo Mujika.  While I'm waiting for Mujika's book to arrive, I did find this great presentation by Mujika at the Science Triathlon Congress.  Below the video you will find my notes.



15-18 years ago, if you had scoured the research, the overwhelming consensus was that strength training wasn't that helpful for endurance athletes.  Since then, there is lots of research to support the use of strength training.  (personal note, be careful of "best evidence" coaches have been using strength training for a long time.  even when evidence in research didn't show it worked.  Real world trumps, theory)

One study showed that in running 32% replaced some training with explosive strength training, others just 3%.  Running performance only improved int he 32% group.  Main reason was the reduction in ground contact time and reduced oxygen cost.

In a very solid study, "Short Term Plyometric in Highly Trained Middle and Long Distance Runners," plyometrics versus dynamic weight training for 8 weeks was analyzed.  Both groups showed significant improvement.  Coaches should work on periodizing both.  Key takeaway was that runners with poor running economy should focus on explosive strength training intensity.  Those that have great economy would do better with increasing volume.

For Cycling, Explosive and high resistance was key.  If done with the athletes concurrent biking, no body mass was gained.  All the KM time trials improved.  16 weeks of strength training improved their power significantly.  Since lots of biking is several hours one very impressive takeaway was that at 3 hours of steady riding tempo, a 5 min time trial was done.  Those that strength trained were able to apply much more power at the end.

Heavy weight training has been shown to improve max strength, some VO2 max measure and lower leg stiffness.  It can prevent neuromuscular fatigue.  It has been shown to decrease heart rate at the end of a 2 hour cycling task.

Mujiko is also a coach and this was his personal use of strength training.
1.  A daily core circuit ( this is something I plan on implementing)
2.  General strength off circuit training and traditional work 2x week for 8-12 weeks at 30-40%
3. Hypertrophy Strength, 2x wen for 8-12 weeks at 80%
4.  Heavy Strength, 1x for 3 weeks at 90-9%%
In addition plyometric work is done during this training.  Uses Philip Saunders Program.
He states not to be afraid of gaining weight during the hypertrophy phase as the heavy running or biking will not allow this.

Stretching studies with a met analysis of 24,000 athletes had no effect on injury prevention.  The same studies shown that proprioception helped a little, but strength training helped the most.  Most interesting, when all three were done, the results were worse then just the strength training.  This was done with triathletes.

In swimming, strength training allows the swimmer to swim the first have of a race more comfortably and have better acceleration over the 2nd half.

Some concepts on why strength training effects improvements in endurance sport.
1.  increasing the muscle size or improving neuromuscular function.  This will improve rate of force development.  Improvement in RFD, improves sprintability.
2. Increase in Type 2 muscle fibers
3.  Increase in musculotendonous stiffness.  This will improve the economy of running.

A big concept that is still controversial in my opinion is the concept of molecular interference.  He even states that this is our best practice at this point and most of this has been taken away from athletes that haven't done the concurrent training for years. 

Molecular interference means you train for an adaptation, but cancel it out with other stimulus.  Aerobic work before heavy weight training.  When there is close proximity of the two.  When you increase the intensity or the volume of the aerobic work, you will have substrate depletion and residual fatigue.  This compromises the resistance training stimulus.




The biggest problem is when you are looking for peripheral adaptation of both strength training and peripheral adaptation in endurance.  The chart shows it nicely.

One big takeaway, don't stop your training during the season, if you do, you will lose your gains.  1x a week was enough o maintain them.

Friday, June 29, 2018

My Thoughts On Exercise

Exercise means many things to many people.  For some, exercise still remains a checks and balance for caloric desires.  It is a means to an end.  A common joke with bikers, is they bike so they can drink a beer after.  The joke isn't to far off on why many people exercise and why for many, exercise remains a task to be accomplished, a necessary evil.

"I run because it's the only way I can keep my midsection from getting bigger."

"Running is the only thing that works for me."

"I don't lift, because I'll grow to quickly."

"I workout a lot, because I like to eat a lot."

You hear a lot of things when you work in therapy and strength and conditioning.

Perhaps, exercise still remains in the hero workouts category for you.  If you didn't kill yourself, then it wasn't a good workout.  If your not super sore the next day, then the exercise didn't really work.

"My abs weren't sore, so I guess my core workout wasn't hard enough."

"I puked, it was an amazing workout."

"It took me fifteen minutes to get off the floor."

Exercise can still be on the other end of the spectrum for some people.  I don't need to do any exercise because I have great genes.  This category still views exercise as a means to an end, because cosmetic goals are not needed, neither is exercise.

"Luckily, I can eat anything I want and not put on weight, I can thank my Mom's genes for that."

Performance and health can sometimes be viewed on different spectrums when it comes to exercise and training.  Working with Pro Athletes as guidance I think one positive and one negative aspect should be considered.  First, pros do a great job of building volume.  They slow cook the training, to allow their bodies to handle high loads of volume, with out creating tons of soreness.  What good does it do to train so hard, that you can't have a quality workout the next day.  Training 5-7 days sometimes multiple times a day trumps a few "killer" workouts throughout the week.

This is often the opposite of what we see in the typical gym.  Train hard, get really sore, don't train for a few days, or put yourself into a super recovery mode where your energy is low for a day or too.

On the other side, Pro athletes training, you have to realize it is their job to train.  You head to a 9-5 job, they train for a sport.  After training, recovery is part of their job.  Taking a nap, sleeping 9 hours, eating, massage, therapy all that stuff makes up their day.  99% aren't pro athletes, exercise should be life enhancing.  You shouldn't need to take the rest of the day to recover.

80-90% of workouts should leave you feeling better when your done then when you started.  Lifting weights should make you feel lighter and super charged, not like your joints are going to be sore for 5 days.

Aerobic work should be accomplished so that when your done, your thinking clearer.  Your mood is lifted.

"Dad, why did you ride your bike so long that you are to tired to play with me."

"I always get sick for 2-3 days after all my races."

Exercise accomplished great things.  Makes metabolic healthy muscle tissue.  It creates a healthy vibrant brain.  It's our best defense and therapy for depression.  It creates better blood glucose control.  It makes us more resilient to life accidents.  Better odds of not getting some type of dementia.  It keeps this human body we have operating at it's best.  Makes stronger bones.  Stronger blood vessels. Healthier organs.  Gives you energy.  It's fun.  Find your reason.  Let's change our perspective from a punishment we do to stay leaner, to a joy that gives more then it takes.

No kid every hated playing at the park.  Remember that.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Rituals, Coffee, and Recovery Tools

A few weeks ago, I took on a challenge from a friend of mine.  Two weeks without coffee or hanging out in coffee shops.  More to break routines and shake up life more then anything.  I did miss it.  I love the taste.  Surprisingly, my energy really didn't change at all.  I don't ever feel jittery drinking it, and I didn't feel less "awake" without it.  I did have a small headache for about 2 or 3 days, but what I did have was a weird omission of ritual.

I'm almost done reading through a book called Dollars and Sense.  It is about our irrational, emotional spending, saving and thoughts on money.  How we are influenced by things we may not be paying attention too.  In one of the chapters they talk about the importance of rituals and how we pay for it.  In their example they are talking about food.  "What they found was that the people who engaged in rituals savored the experience of eating much more.  The was true for both chocolate and carrots.  Rituals increased the experience and enjoyment both in anticipation of the actual experience and in the moment."

"Rituals make us stop and focus on what we're doing."

Coffee is often a ritualistic tie in for me.  It's setting the tone for my day.  I'm often up before the kids and having coffee, savoring the smell, taste and warmth, in the quite, is quite enjoyable.  Start the day on a high note so to speak.  I'll often go to my favorite coffee shop and read or write.  Again, coffee helps me transition into thinking.  Without the caffeinated beverage, it wasn't the same.  It's also something I look forward to in lifes chaos.  According to the authors, we enjoy things twice, the anticipation and in the actual moment.  

A vacation a month away, we get to dream about, look forward to it.  This is often why people will play the lotto, deep down, they don't really believe they will win, but perhaps for an hour, a night, they will enjoy the far fetched idea of what they would do with all that money.  Perhaps that is worth a dollar.  

Back to rituals.  Rituals help us bring importance to events.  Prayer can be that before eating, a moment of gratitude for not going hungry.  Athletes will often have their own rituals before an event. Watch a baseball player before every pitch, you will see the same gyrations, glove fidgets, bat wiggle and foot taps.  Rituals help us focus in.  

Rituals is what I wanted to create when our self recovery tool MOBI was designed.  Something simple that could help people achieve a physical practice.  Doing simple movements to help you focus in on the workout ahead or the process of winding down after training and maybe even before bedtime.  Working on your muscles brings awareness.  It gets you connected to the muscles, whats sore, what feels good, what is less sore today, what is more sore.  Awareness is how things improve.  Daily improvements can make life changes.   

PS:  I lasted 10 days without coffee.  Then I went on a weekend family trip/vacation and whats a vacation without coffee!  

Monday, June 11, 2018

What is Your Threshold?

What is Your Threshold?

I heard a talk the other day about what level are you walking around at.  The talk was about anger and anxiety and how an event we have come to blame can trigger an outburst.  For example,  you may be driving around and not paying attention and accidentally cut someone off.  That person may give you a polite beep, or they may get sent into a road rage and lay on the horn, cursing you as they do it.  

It wasn't the event that set them off, the event was just an opportunity for them to express anger.  It gave them a "valid" reason to express the anger building in them.  They were at a 9/10 already.  Perhaps you have experienced it with your kids or a coworker, they do one wrong thing and you lose it.  The question becomes do they deserve better?  Don't your kids deserve more then 1 or 2  buffer on the anger scale?

The reason that resonated with me, is A, I think I can walk around with to high on the annoyance scale at times and B it relates to therapy quite a bit.  Self reflection can be tough.  

How often as therapist have we heard, I do this (insert anything) and my pain goes away.  That insert is an adjustment, yoga, a stretch, exercise, drink this, eat that, rub this, anything really.  But, it comes back.  So they do it again.

How often as therapist do we do (insert anything), it gets better and we think (insert anything) is the answer to everything?  But, it comes back.  So we do it again.

Lets say you are looking at 4 blocks.  They are stacked on top of one another.  At the height of the 3rd block there is a line and we get pain when we go over that line.  That is the threshold.  So 4 blocks is pain, 3 block is no pain.  2 block we couldn't tell a difference from a 3rd block.  1 block is the same, we couldn't tell any difference between 1, 2 or 3, but oh man, add the 4th and we are hurting.  

Those blocks can be anything.  Bad sleep, bad nutrition, bad emotional baggage, over used muscle, weak hip, dehydration....anything that might have a negative impact on how our body feels and moves.  We target one thing and we get better.  

We will use Joe as an example.  Joe got a new mattress, he wakes up every morning now and his lower back doesn't hurt.  Joe now believes a mattress is key along with a good night sleep.  His friend tells him he should drink more water now too.  He tries and doesn't feel any different.  His other friend say, you should walk more.  He does for a few days, but doesn't feel any different, so he stops. He goes to his in-laws and sleeps on what he now looks at as a bad mattress and wakes up with lower back pain.  He has without a doubt, in his eyes,  proven that his mattress is what keeps his back healthy.  

But, the mattress was only one block.  He didn't stick with the water to rehydrate tissue long enough, to see if sleeping on any mattress was the only key.  He didn't keep walking to build up a stronger aerobic base to see if that would help a few months in.  

We all have several blocks regardless of pain or movement.  We can all get better at dropping our levels down a notch to be more resilient, to be less fragile, mentally, emotionally and physically.  It requires self reflection and consistency.  It's great to have a (insert magic) thing to do to bring us to a good place, but lets not rely on one thing.  Let's figure out what else can be done to increase our threshold.   Let's build a bigger buffer zone.  

Friday, June 8, 2018

Time Does Tell; But Why Wait

A few posts ago, I wrote about the truth teller of time.  Often, we can only wait to find out if the choices we made today, have truth or importance years down the road.  Looking back at your life, whether it was 20 years or 20 days, how did the decisions you made that you thought were important pan out.  Were there things you didn't address that turned into a big deal?

The crux of the situation becomes how can you speed up choices?  How can you become a fortune teller?  Like Keirkegaard stated, "Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards."

There is one way...

Find those that have lived in your situation before.  Most likely someone, somewhere has sat and thought and chose one way or another years ago.  How did it go, break down their situation from similarities and differences and evaluate the outcome.  Study the greats.  Study history.  Find mentors.

If I was a coach of athletes, I'd study Dan Pfaff at Altis, Mike Boyle at Certified Strength Coaches.  If I was trying to combine big power lifts, with big endurance events, some one like Alex Viada that has done it.

Perhaps your wondering how going on a certain diet or way of eating would influence your strength.  Nothing beats actually doing it, but find someone that has done it or doing it and learn from their experiences.  Things that helped them, things that hurt them.

Someone has paved the way, most likely.  When I ruptured my achillies, I had several people I was able to reach out to that gave me a "plan."  I had a set of loose guideline that I could bounce my day and week around.  I didn't have to wait weeks to find out if I should do this now.  I didn't have to wait months to find out what I did was right or wrong.

Don't reinvent the wheel.

Look for people that studied what you are thinking about studying.  Did they find value in it?  Why did they leave a job or take a job?  Pros and Cons of living in a neighborhood, or owning a home?

Hindsight is 20/20, but lets cheat the odds and learn from someone elses experience.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

5 Needed Principles for High Performance

I have been watching a few interviews and videos that Red Bull High Performance Director Andy Walsh has been involved in over the last few days.  Andy Walsh has created one of the most unique high performance centers in the world.  He is always trying to find new and effective ways to train athletes, make them better.  Last year, you may have heard of the Stratos program, where Felix Bumgartner jumped from Space!  Regardless of going after space jumps, motor bike acrobatics, 100 mile bike rides, or soccer goals, he believes in figuring out 5 principles.

1.  Motivation:  Find out what motivates the athlete.  It doesn't matter if it is intrinsic or extrinsic.  Intrinsic would be something on the inside of the athlete.  Pride, ego, desire for improvement.  Extrinsic is things like money, fame or recognition.

2.  Repetition:  This is important for improvement.   You have to be able to practice the task you are trying to get better at.  Hard to improve a task if attempts are not made at the task.

3.  Feedback:  There must be a way for the athlete to know they are improving.  Is the repetition method working?  Without feedback it is very hard to be able to gauge if you are getting better.

4.  Progression:  Learn a skill then learn a harder version of that skill.  If progression isn't built in, boredom will most likely occur.  The athlete isn't challenged.  There won't be engagement in the long term.  With out progression, skill acquisition will stall and improvement will also become negligible.

5.  Failure:  The environment will need to be set up so that athlete does not fear failure.  Failure shouldn't be looked at as punishment, but as a learning tool.  We just learned what doesn't work.  It shows where your limits are, most important it shows where you need to put the work in.  Andy believes this is where many programs fail.

As a therapist I've been trying to figure out how to include these 5 principles into each patient/athlete encounter.  Most of the time, pain will drive someone in to see us, but the majority of the time the pain has been present for awhile.

Why Now?  Why did they decide to do something now?  This is an important element to discern.  What was their motivation.  Recently, a lady told me her feet had bothered her for years, but now she couldn't walk to church.  That was her MOTIVATION.

I thought her lack of big toe mobility was the issue.  I did some work on her big toes and we started going over some routines she needed to do several times a day (REPETITION)

She was able to walk about 5 minutes before the discomfort would set in.  Anything over this was going in the right direction.  (FEEDBACK)

Every 3rd day we upped her distance she was to walk.  (PROGRESSION)

Every Sunday she walked to church.  We were then able to gauge where she was "failing" at.  (FAILURE)

In my own rehab jumping rope has become all 5 of those principles.  It's nice to see where I can get better, where I can progress, what moves continue to hit my shins (failure).  Andy talks about skateboarders as the leading candidates for progression, feedback and failure.  They can practice tricks over and over and over again and falling is never seen as punishment or failure, just learning.  

See how you can incorporate these 5 Principles into your training and treatment plans.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Doors Closed and a Life Opened

You don't get a chance to see the big picture until a significant chunk of time has passed.  How certain forks in time, certain decisions play out over a course of decades.  Time is and always will be the greatest filter for what choices we make, for opportunities won or loss, for ideas acted upon and for ideas left by the wayside.

My first memory of football was Billy Sims jumping over a defender, juking and high stepping into the end zone.  I was probably 6 or 7.  It was the first time I had goose bumps from excitement.  I didn't watch football either.  It was something that just struck me as amazing.  It woke up something built into me.

I wanted that.

I didn't play football until 7 years later.  8th grade.  I was going to be a running back.  I was small and just started lifting weights.  I prayed every night to get bigger so that I could play football.  Every single day I had only one thought in my head, get better so I could play football.  Every time I studied for a test, it wasn't to do well on a test, it was a to get a better grade for getting recruited.  Every day I worked and prayed to make the NFL.  I went to college and even lived down South for year under the guise of an NFL developmental camp.  I had an agent and the stuff that comes from that.  Combines, workouts with teams, more lifting, more running.  Never made it.  I came to the hard but honest answer that I wasn't good enough.  I was ok with that in the end.  I had left no stone unturned.  I can look back at that time from 8th grade till one year post college and say I had done everything to make it and it didn't happen.  There is a great relief knowing I never have to whisper the dreaded two words, "if only."

Two things have brought even more peace in my lifetime.  The first was this poem shared by a friend years ago.  Push The Rock

The second was an article I read the other day.  It was one of the most honest articles about what we are discovering about post NFL life some players are dealing with.  This article about Ex NFL running back Jamal Lewis life after football, struck a chord.  I think for the first time I realized how much I may have gained by not getting the opportunity to keep playing football.  Joint pain is one thing.  Losing your brain, how you think, how you process, seems so much more....scarier.  If it changes your personality, it changes you.

It really gets into some deep philosophical questions about if your brain deteriorates and your personality changes is this flesh suite still you?  If you can't think, reason, enjoy the environment you live in, create new memories or remember the old one, are you still alive or just existing.  It's why diseases like Alzhemiers and those associated with dementia are so scary.

I've been concussed but not on that level.  I've had several minor ones, but again not on the frequency that is seen in the NFL these days.  I'm under no delusion that I would have lasted long enough in the NFL to have these severe issues, but who knows what ailments lingers with you even from a brief window of physical beatings.  We don't know.

Jamal Lewis shows where he grew up, why he viewed sports as his only avenue out of his circumstances.  He states it was the best option for him.  I grew up with way more options.  As more and more of these athletes step forward and share their stories, I think we will see more and more young athletes assess their choices.  It's very brave for these ex athletes to share their own fears about the future, even if the only thing that happens is that it gives one person a sense that perhaps that road taken wasn't the best option after all.