Friday, August 24, 2012

How to Customize your Own Training Plan for Optimal Performance

To each his own, for everyone’s body responds optimally to different volumes, and different intensities.  For endurance training, having a customized training plan is an absolute must.  Unfortunately, not everyone can afford or has access to endurance coaching.  The following rules are guidelines to creating your own customized training plan. 

MCT Triathlon Customized Experienced Triathlon Coaching High Performance USA Triathlon USAT
Finish Line of Age-Group Nationals!

Rule #1 – Know Your Goals!
Know your goals, and have a vision.  You need to take the time to sit down and map out your previous race performances and benchmarks.  From these benchmarks, set your seasonal goals and aspirations.  After you have a good set of seasonal goals, look to your training cycles.  You need to set, not only seasonal, but short term goals as well.  The combination of long term and short term goals allows for an overall vision to be crafted.  Take the time, rack your brain, and see your vision!

Rule #2 – Know your Objectives!
Just knowing your goals is not enough, for you’ll need guidelines to achieve each one of those goals.  Writing down a set of two to three objectives for each goal will allow for you to achieve the highest performance. 

Short Term Goal :
  • ·       Swim 45 seconds faster this year than last year at same race.
Objective :
  • ·       Swim 15% more volume (on average) during training
  • ·       Incorporate two more efficiency drills into every session
  • ·       Increase overall body strength by 12%

Rule #3 – Reach for the moon, Not for the Stars!
Mankind has set foot on the moon, but he has yet to reach the nearest, distant star.  Using the same concept, look over your own goals and objectives and make sure that they are realistic.  Is it POSSIBLE that you can you achieve them this season.  Use the SMART method to analyze your Goals and Objectives.
  • ·       S – Specific
  • ·       M – Measurable
  • ·       A – Achievable  
  • ·       R - Realistic
  • ·       T – Timely

Rule #4 – Schedule Rest AND Recovery!
Rest and recovery is a severely neglected part of most training plans out there today.  Try to schedule at least one recovery aspect for every two workouts scheduled (Ratio 1:2).  If possible you may strive for a ratio of 1:1.  Below is a list of recovery techniques to include in your plan.  Just remember as your hard workouts get harder, your easier ones should get easier. 
  • Ice Bath
  • Compression Equipment (socks)
  • Self-Massage
  • Full Body Stretching
  • Contrast Hydrotherapy (Hot tub 5 minutes, Cool Tub 3 minutes, repeat)
  • Breathing Exercise Routine
  • Rest Day

Rule #5 – Make a Plan, but Don’t be Made by that Plan
Plan your year into cycles.  Your schedule should gradually increase in intensity and decrease in volume as the months progress.  Write down your anticipated training volumes and pacing zones for the months and weeks to come.  As time advances, you are going to have to revisit your training volumes and pacing zones to re-evaluate whether they are still on the same performance path.  It is extremely important to have a plan to follow, but don’t be stubborn not to deviate from the plan when change arises.  Listen to your body! (Rule #5½!)

On a Side Note: I would like to give my regards to Lance Armstrong who was stripped of his 7-Tour-de-France Titles.  Regardless is he cheated or not, he is an incredible athlete who has helped progress mankind in not only sports, but in all inspirations of life. 

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Save up to 50% on your Sports Drinks! - Saving Time and Money Series

I am sorry, I had made a mistake last week by scheduling the breath technique drills during my annual trip to Long Beach Island, Surf City, New Jersey.  It is a lovely place and is my 23rd year and counting. 
This week I am going to be talking about how to save you money on your daily nutrition needs.  Sports drinks, protein shakes, and vitamin supplements can take a bite out of your budget.  As you may know, single servings of these drinks can be upwards of $2.00 (per scoop).  Who has the money for nutrition use on a daily basis with these unit prices?  In order to sew the hole back up in your pocket, I will illustrate a simple set of rules to follow when looking for your training nutrition.

Rule #1 - Research, Research, Research!
Constant research is a must when looking to shed a few dollars on your nutrition bills.  Try starting with Google Shopping.  Search for your favorite training and racing nutrition starting with the lowest price+shipping.  Let’s use EnduroxR4 as an example.  Just do a few calculations and find the lowest priced bottle per serving.  Try researching once every 1-2 weeks.  It only takes 5-10 minutes and is the most important rule to remember!

Rule #2Avoid Traditional Sites like GNC
While Vitamin World and GNC have been around for a good while, their prices reflect the added expense of employee knowledge.  Avoid these traditional stores for your purchases.  Weight lifting websites tend to carry a broad scope of products.  In the crossfires they sometimes pick up endurance supplements like Hammer Nutrition’s Heed, and previously stated Pacific Health’s Endurox R4.  In time these products don’t sell as well on the site and tend to be put onto clearance.   You’re not doing too bad when you get a large tub of a sports drink at 50% of the price!
  • – A great collaboration of smaller online stores
  • Smartbody Nutrition
Rule #3 - Look into trying different flavors
Certain flavors of sports nutrition can go faster than others.  Calling out Endurox R4 again, Fruit Punch tends to be a top seller for the product line.  After finding Lemon-Lime on clearance, I found Lemon-Lime has a much smoother flavor for working out and settles in the stomach better.  Since the find, I haven’t switched back!  Try something new!

Rule #4 - Buy in Bulk, Take the Discounts as they come
You may look at your nutrition inventory and say, “I have plenty for the next 3-4 months, why would I need more?”  The answer: You don’t, but you Will.  If you find a stellar sale, Go For It!  Some sales (especially clearance), come up very rarely and should be taken advantage of.  Don’t worry about over-buying, most sports nutrition products [that are stored properly] last for years before they expire.  Just relax, you will eventually use it.

Rule #5 - Look to your friends who belong to Clubs
Many clubs have special sponsorships with different companies.  National Running Center gives a 10-20% discount to clubs who sign up.  Share an order cost with a friend to take part in these discounts.

Rule #6 - Call to Place your Order
After following Rule #1, you may find some stores give free shipping, while others do not.  Check to see who has the lowest supplement prices and give them a call.  Chances are that if you site “www.Example” has “Free Shipping at this price” they may be able to knock off the shipping expenses for you to secure your business.  Be proactive!  There’s nothing wrong with penny pinching.   

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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Why We Do Drills In Running! (Part 1 of 2)

MCT Triathlon Coaching Gawors Running Perfect Form
As most weathered athletes have heard, we do drills to increase our running economy, power production, and agility.  Though many of us don’t understand WHY we do these drills.  We go through the movements, have a picture in our mind, but can’t quite put two and two together of there specific purposes.  This article, along with one being released on August 25th, 2012 will attempt to put a clear understanding of the purpose of drills. 
Running speed is a combination of (Stride Length) x (Stride Rate).  The following drills allow for an athlete to develop different sections of his or her stride.  While not all the drills directly relate to a particular variable (Length vs. Rate), many of the drills increase general running economy and allow for a passive movement to be graceful.  

Passive Movements
"Increase Efficiency = Increase Stride Rate"
Unlike common perception, almost all movements of running should be passive, except for the push off phase.  These first few drills allow the runner to learn these passive motions in an active way.  The stride rate not only requires higher speed of passive movements, but the ability to “fire” and contract  muscles quickly. 

Drill                                           Focus                                                              Purpose
Learn how to do High Knees
This drill focuses on driving the knee forward
Form Movement
Learn how to do Butt Kicks
Drive the heel of the foot toward your butt
Form Movement
Learn how to do Egg Shells
Fire your legs up and down as quickly as possible
Muscular Adaptation

"Increase Strength = Increase Stride Length"
(3 Variations)    
Learn how to Bound.  This drill allows for an Athlete to develop a longer stride length.   Without worrying about stride rate, the athlete can focus on taking the longest stride per step possible.  This drill needs to be practiced properly as an athlete can develop an “overstride” which can lead to inefficiencies and injury.
High Skips
Learn how to High Skip.  High Skips are a variation of the Bounding technique where an athlete develops the push off phase of running.  The over exaggerated arm swing allows for a higher jump and therefore requires more strength on impact yet can develop a stronger push off phase. 
Learn how to do the “Swim” drill on August 25th, 2012 in “Why we do drills for Running Part 2.”  This drill is a variation of Skips and is used by many jumpers.  The only subtracted difference is there is no “skip” phase between push offs.  This drills focuses on force production rather than stride length, or rate.  This bounding drill requires and develops the most strength.  
Active Movements
"Sustains Momentum = Increase Efficiency"
Straight Legged Bounding
Learn out to Straight-Leg Bound.  While this drill does not focus on stride rate or length, High Kicks allow for an athlete to better understand how their foot should make contact with the ground.  The foot should have a constant “pulling” motion rather than the usual “stop and go” impact that usually occurs with most runners. 
Learn how to use the Falling Drill (“Segway” drill in Video).  This drill teaches an athlete the proper lean for running which is usually a neglected part of running education.  As described above, running is almost an entirely passive motion.  The proper lean forward recruits and allows passive motions to take place more efficiently. 
Tip: While on a treadmill, lean on the forward handle while running.  This will allow you to practice the forward lean while running without feeling uncomfortable and unsafe.
Backwards Running
Learn how to use the Backwards Running drill.  With this drill an athlete can more easily experience and recognize the “falling” motion that should be felt when running forwards.  After the feeling is learned, the athlete can apply this experience of “falling” or consistent momentum when running regularly. 
We may do drills regularly, and may even execute them properly, but we don’t always actively think of each drills purpose.  We passively execute drill after drill without consciously thinking about what we are developing.  The next time you do your drills, actively think about what you’re doing to properly execute and learn the required movements and adaptations.  Tune in on August 25th to see a video special on where drills fit into perfect form!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Athletic Enhancement - Legalized Doping?

MCT Triathlon Coaching Caffeine Coffee Athletic Performance Enhancement Doping

Effects of Caffeine in Athletic Performance
Caffeine is a globally widespread drug that can enhance the body’s chemical processes.  When most people think of caffeine, a picture of a mornin’ cup a joe pops into their mind.  When most think of the use of caffeine, so often it is a substance to get jolt of energy in the sleepy time morning or mid-afternoon.

Athletic Performance
But what about caffeine use in athletic performance?  Can it be used efficiently?  Is it a necessity?  Is the use That effective?  Yes, Yes, and YES!  Major studies have been done on the effects of caffeine on athletic performance and these are some results from

“The average improvement in performance is about 12 percent, with more benefits noticed during endurance exercise than with shorter exercise (eight to 20 minutes) and a negligible amount for sprinters. More benefits are also noticed in athletes who rarely drink coffee, hence are not tolerant to its stimulant effect.”
Caffeine can not only be an effective tool in athletic performance, but athletic recovery as well.  Because caffeine speeds up chemical body processes, it inherently speeds up the time it takes for the body to repair itself from previous workouts.  Additionally, Caffeine can increase the effects of carbo-loading for race weeks.  Read Caffeine used as a Recovery agent for a more in-depth analysis. 

But is this legal in triathlon?  Again, Yes!  In the ITU and USAT rules it explicitly states that Caffeine is NOT a banned substance and can be used in competition.

How about ethically?  Is it wrong?  This is a matter of opinion but I believe it is not wrong.  Caffeine is widespread, available to everyone, and is not entirely harmful (extra high doses can trigger anxiety attacks and such).   

According to the New York Times, “Caffeine, which is legal under International Olympic Committee rules, is the most popular drug in sports. More than two-thirds of about 20,680 Olympic athletes studied for a recent report had caffeine in their urine, with use highest among triathletes, cyclists and rowers.”

So what is the proper “dosage” of this drug?  Studies show that fewer than 2mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight has no athletic enhancing effect while over 6mg of Caffeine per kg of body weight actually hurts athletic performance.

Where to get it?  Your first thought is probably “coffee.”  While this is easily the quickest and cheapest way to obtain caffeine, studies show that caffeine in coffee may not be utilized as effectively as other sources.  While this may be true, other options include eating 1000 calories of 90% dark chocolate (I love chocolate but let’s not get carried away), Tea, or caffeine pills.  Personally,  I’ll take a few more ounces of the joe’ to compensate. 

How to use caffeine efficiently?
When used on a regular basis, the effects of drugs on the human body tend to diminish over time.  This is no different for the use of caffeine.  Those who use it as a wakeup call every morning are going to see less pronounced effects. 

While I haven’t found any studies pertaining to the tolerance effect of caffeine, I recommend scheduling it’s use sparingly (not daily) based on trial and error experience.  I find that the athletic enhancements of caffeine diminish greatly after using the drug three or more days a week.  Use caffeine twice a week on Lactate/Aerobic Threshold and VO2 Max days to enhance training performance.  Three weeks before an “A” race, use is cut down to once a week to break tolerance levels so there is a greater effect during race week.

Schedule caffeine use on days with higher carbohydrate intakes for maximal carbo-loading.  A study from the Journal of Applied Physiology (July 2008) found that glycogen levels were substantially higher with carb/caffeine ingestion as opposed to just carb ingestion.  Most endurance athletes would call this glycogen storage “carboloading.” 

Example for a Build week in Triathlon
90min Ride

90min Swim
2 Hour
VO2Max Run
90min Run

90min Swim
2.5 Hour
LT Ride
(Long Sets)
90min Ride

60min Swim
60min Swim
2 Hour
Weighted Run



Stayed Tuned for another post in the MCT TriathlonTraining Log:
A Guide to a Quick, Cheap, and Fun Iced Coffee Fix!

Submit your Recipes to The MCT Triathlon WWW!  
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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Benefits of Stretching + Video Special!

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Stretching is an active recovery technique that can help the muscles become stronger, longer, and more relaxed.  While it has been debated whether or not stretching helps prevent injury (or even creates injury), there are several benefits of stretching on a daily basis.

Increase Flexibility
Whether you are swimming, biking, or running, most of us can use some help with flexibility.  Flexibility can be useful to increase athletic performance, especially on the bike using the aero position.  The more flexible you are, the farther down you can be positioned on your aero bars, the more aerodynamic you will be, and therefore the faster and efficient you will be.  In swimming, Ankle flexibility is very important but difficult to do.  It should be mentioned that stretching your ankles can be risky for injury and should be preceded cautiously.
Improve Circulation
Not only will stretching your muscles improve circulation, but the actual ACT of stretching is a low level aerobic activity that will improve circulation as well.  This will increase recovery and hopefully performance in subsequent workouts. 

Stretching can be a great way to relax and wind down at the end of the day.  If you suffer from mild cases of certain insomnias (like having difficulties falling asleep) you may want to include a quiet stretching routine before you head to bed.

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When to Stretch
  • ·        At the end of a day
  • ·        On an off/recovery day
  • ·        When you feel very tight
When NOT to Stretch (static)
  • ·        When muscles are seriously sore
  • ·        Before any workout
  • ·        Immediately after difficult/long workouts
Stretching when the body has already stretched itself out or is already damaged is a sure way to damage the body more.  Also, stretching before workouts decrease the potential power production those muscles can create.  Take a look at MCT Triathlon’s Video Stretching Special below for a great daily head to toe routine!


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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Eating Healthy is LAME! : Nutritional Series

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Nutrition, like exercise, is considered by many as a lifestyle, not a task to an end.  What’s great about, Lifestyle is it can shift, but only in small increments.  The human body craves nutritious and healthy food and good quality exercise.  Yet because the way we have evolved, it is easy to be self-destructive with the foods and activity patterns of modern society.  I would like you as the reader, not to be defensive towards the ideas listed here.  Read them, learn them, and even apply them if you wish.  
I have been living a low sugar/carb, natural diet for a few years now.  I stay away from most processed and high sugar foods.  Though last week I visited my Aunt’s house in long island and fell away from my normal diet.  She makes the Greatest chocolate chip cookies known to man and just like Crack-Cocaine, the high of getting one, is all about getting more.  After eating about 12 cookies, I became nauseous (like I usually do) and felt sluggish for the next 2 days.  It's easy to realize how un-healthy certain things are when you don’t have them often.  But how can you move to a healthier lifestyle?  It’s not as easy as a magical transformation or going cold turkey from all un-healthy foods… It’s about small lifestyle changes.  

Below is a screen shot of a healthy lifestyle presentation I made for increasing athletic performance.  The graph stresses the importance of taking small steps to change your lifestyle.  While, you will notice you become stressed when your lifestyle shifts to an “un-healthier” state, you also become stressed (temporarily) when your lifestyle shifts to a healthier state.  Only when this new stress disappates and becomes part of your normal lifestyle should you include another healthy habit and stress the lifestyle again.  (Athletes, does this sound familiar?  Stress the body, rest, stress the body, rest)

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MCT Triathlon Eating Healthy Being Healthy Lifestyle Shifts Presentation

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How to: Try using the following steps to make small lifestyle changes healthier and happier living!

The LAME Method
Limit – Every 2-3 weeks, Limit intakes of damaging nutrition.  Find one “un-healthy” staple of your diet and greatly limit your intake.  Some examples would be Soda, Fast-food, or other processed foods such as high added sugars, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils.  This goes for activity as well, possibly limit TV to two hours instead of three.
Add – Every 2-3 weeks, add intakes of healthy nutrition.  Find a healthier food to try to regularly add to your diet.  These can include fresh vegetables, fresh fruits, olive oil, eggs, or even daily goals.  Goals could be shown as “eating a fresh vegetable/fruit at every meal,” or eating a healthy non-sugar/carb breakfast every day.  You can devote to add a 15-30 minute slow walk around the neighborhood after meals.  These smalls decisions will add up over the weeks and months and slowly develop your lifestyle without stress.
Maintain – After 2-3 weeks ends and a new cycle begins, try to continue with the small lifestyle changes you had made recently and try to incorporate another cycles of changes with those.  If you haven’t become completely accustomed to the new changes that were made, don’t incorporate anything new but take another week or two and get used to what you changed.  It’s not perfect, but what lifestyle is? 
Enjoy – You may find that over time you can’t imagine how you lived without the new changes.  Your changes hopefully become routine and easy to remember over time.  Just remember, it’s just a series of small, slow steps to healthier living.  But the most important factor is to ENJOY what you are doing.  If you don’t like tofu, try eggs, if you don’t like zucchini, try a cucumber instead.  Tastes, preferences, and abilities all vary and there are endless possibilities to living healthy!  Eat, Exercise, Enjoy!

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