Andrew’s Blog

Insights into Bike Myths and Truths (part 3) Posted on June 10, 2017, 0 Comments

As far as strength, the strength required to pedal a bicycle at 300 watts and 90rpms is about the same force that is required to stand up from a chair. It's close to a 45lb single leg press. Something the vast majority of humans can easily accomplish one time without taxing the ability to produce force very much at all. In other words, we are not talking about all that much force, and hardly anyone is anywhere near force or strength limited when riding a bike. What does limit us is the ability to produce that force 90x a minute for multiple minutes or hours. Otherwise known as aerobic capacity.

RESPONSE (a long one BTW) It's like you've read my first book! But just in case, here's a quote:

"Strength, as defined by Bompa in Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training, is “the neuromuscular capability to overcome an external and internal resistance.” The strength of an athlete is determined by how much work that athlete can perform. In triathlon, then, the competitor must be strong enough to complete the distance. So if you cross the finish line, is this strong enough?

No matter where you placed in your last tri, you covered the same distance as all the other competitors. You got the work done. As a matter of fact, since you all completed the same course, it could be said that you are all equally strong. But that would be inaccurate.

Let’s say that you’re a Clydesdale who always wins his category but just misses out on taking the overall title. So you cherrypick a small Olympic distance race in the middle of nowhere and peak for it like it’s the World Championships. You’ve visualized this race a thousand times and already have a spot picked out for the overall trophy on your wall of fame. You’re gonna rock!

And then I show up.

I live nowhere near the race venue. But I happen to be attending my grandmother’s ninetieth birthday party and hear about this race at the last minute while stopping to use the bathroom at the local Waffle Hut which is sponsoring the event (I wouldn’t eat there!). You see me in the transition area and immediately mark me as possible competition. After all, I have a carbon-fiber Cervelo and the absence of a mullet makes me conspicuous among the rest of the field. But at a buck thirty, I’m not an impressive figure, so you’re not terribly worried as we wade out into the water together.

And then I beat you.

Only by a second or two, but I beat you. You put a minute on me out of the water. Then I catch you on the bike, hammering back to transition to start the run with almost a two-minute advantage. Your long legs eat up most of my lead during the final leg, but, in the end, you run out of real estate and cross the finish a few steps behind me. You’re bummed but console yourself with the knowledge that you made me work for the win, saying you simply lost to a stronger athlete.

How wrong you are.

You weigh two hundred pounds. I weigh 130. We both covered the same distance. But you had to carry an additional seventy pounds over the course of the race. Technically, you did more work. Work is force applied over distance. It is the product of the amount of resistance overcome (two hundred pounds vs. 130 pounds) and the distance over which that resistance is moved (an Olympic distance triathlon). You are the stronger athlete. Strap a seventy-pound weight to my body, and I would probably still be at the bottom of the lake somewhere.

I know, I’m not making much of a case for strength training here. I mean, if it’s not the strongest athlete who wins, why lift weights, right? If you’re thinking like that, I can tell you’ve skipped the first several chapters of this book. There’s a multitude of reasons, but let’s look at strength and its critical role in the performance of a triathlon.

If we change some of the parameters of the imaginary race cited above, it may provide you with a clearer understanding of the importance of strength in our sport. Let’s say I let myself go a bit during the off season—to the tune of seventy pounds. I win a year’s supply of Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip and decide I’m going to test out the Ullrich Theory of Performance Enhancement. We both show up on the starting line, but this time I’m two hundred pounds, same as you. You win the race walking away, with a personal best of two hours even. I score a different type of PR—four hours. You probably could’ve lapped me if you’d run the course a second time. Obviously you’re the stronger athlete now, right?

Wrong again.

Once more, we both completed the same distance. Yet now we weigh the same. We both did the same work. It doesn’t matter if I took twice as long as you to cover the distance, as time is a variable which does not enter into the strength equation. Time is important in the equation for power. By the strictest definition of strength, we are both equal despite the fact you had enough time to shower, eat, and overhaul your bottom bracket before I crossed the finish line.

Why then, are we wasting our time on strength development? Why not just skip to power training (no pun intended) if that’s what’s really going to determine who finishes a particular race in first place?

Power is how much work is done per unit of time or, expressed as an equation:

POWER = [FORCE (i.e., strength) x DISTANCE]/TIME

The reason triathletes must first focus on strength is because this biomotor ability is a crucial component in the optimal development of power. Tudor Bompa, in his groundbreaking book Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training, agrees. Strength development, he says, “should be the prime concern of anyone who attempts to improve an athlete’s performance.” Its importance is again highlighted on a page from Advanced Program Design, which states, “When strength or any of its derivatives are the primary deficit, efforts should focus primarily on its development first.” Thus, to maximize power development, we must either maximize strength or maximize speed, or, with a good training program, maximize both.

Maximum Strength is the highest force that can be performed by the neuromuscular system during a maximum voluntary contraction.

FORCE = MASS x ACCELERATION (F = M x A)

So to increase the force produced, we can increase the resistance (M) or the speed at which the resistance is moved (A). Yet increasing movement speed is not as effective in the development of maximum strength as increasing the weight of the resistance, due primarily to the role momentum plays in the lift.

Momentum is mass in motion. For those of you who fell asleep in physics class, I’ll keep this simple. The more mass or velocity an object has, the more momentum that object will possess. That’s one reason why you see some people swinging their free weights around and rushing through a set of twelve like their lives depend on it. The only newton they’ve ever heard of is a cookie. But they innately know that once they start their hundred-pound bicep curl with their back and knees, their arms can be along for the ride. Momentum is their ego’s best friend.

Maximal tension on a muscle, which is critical for maximal strength development, is only increased during the initial acceleration of the load. After that, momentum takes over and effectively reduces the tensile loading of the muscle. But if you use a sufficiently heavy weight, the speed at which the weight is lifted will be limited. Thus, the contribution of momentum to the lift will be minimized, as well.

This is not to say that you should not try to accelerate the load as quickly as possible. To quote Chek again, “The closer a given load is moved to maximum velocity the greater the intensity and the greater the training effect on a neuromuscular basis.” The neuromuscular benefits to which Chek refers are:

increased neural drive to the muscle
increased synchronization of motor units
increased activation of the contractile apparatus
decreased inhibition of the protective mechanisms of the muscle (Golgi tendon organ).

Basically, you’re making the muscle smarter when you challenge it with a sufficient resistance, literally putting brains behind that brawn. And a smart, functional muscle is a strong muscle.

Strength is, ironically, often an endurance athlete’s biggest weakness. But the intelligent triathlete quickly learns to apply this one golden rule: Train your weaknesses and race your strengths."


Again, I am not really trying to argue with Andrew, because I can't. He knows more about the body than me by orders of magnitude. In the end, we are all after the same thing, results. And that is my battleground. Exercise physiologists, physical therapists and the larger research community have always lagged behind real coaches. Great coaches find performance, and then everyone else figures out how they did it. While not able to hold my own in any body knowledge debate, what I would certainly do is rest my case for simplicity on the performance of my athletes, the results of my bike fits, and my excellent record of not injuring the vast majority of them along the way.

RESPONSE: While admitting I lag behind many people in various areas, I need to clarify I actually have SOME knowledge of coaching/training. In fact, I can honestly say that of the many people who grace my client roster, some are quite accomplished in their various sporting endeavors. For the sake of brevity, I'll focus on the endurance athletes I've worked with--including professional cyclists, national champions both in the US and abroad, winners of both stages and the overall of some UCI level races. Heck, I even recall working with a Grand Tour Winner. I daresay some of them might even go so far as to call me a decent coach/trainer. Does that make me anybody to listen to--nope! What does, perhaps, is having studied and practiced under some of the greatest minds in the fields of human performance and health and then practicing what I preach so I end up being more than just a talking head, academic with no real, practical experience. Even then, I encourage whoever may be listening to not believe anything I've said until they've learned it properly and applied it to themselves. Take the knowledge off the page and do something with it before claiming to know it. And even then, realize there's always more to learn. One of the reasons I've actually enjoyed this exchange with you, Dave. Now, I do qualify for a free bike fit and it would be fun to continue this discussion in person. But I've been fitted by Matt Cole himself. And my riding time is, sadly, limited these days. Guess I'm spending too much time on FB. I'll give you the last word, though (as you can see) I've used most of them. If you've read this far, I applaud you. Your endurance is likely surpassed by few.

Insights into Bike Myths and Truths (part 2) Posted on June 10, 2017, 0 Comments

This is a continuation of an earlier blog post, the first part of which can be found here:

https://triumphtraining.com/blogs/blog/insights-into-bike-myths-and-truths-part-1

These are some really good examples of how individuals thoroughly (and properly) trained in how the body works, can take that information and thoroughly complicate the simple act of pedaling a bike.

RESPONSE: As a cyclist pedals, the majority of force production is provided by the quadriceps, which extend the knee approximately 74° from 111° flexion to 37°. During extension, the knee also adducts due to the normal valgus angulation of the distal femoral condyles in relation to the foot/pedal interface during the downstroke. This causes medial translation of the knee as it extends. In addition, pronation of the foot coupled with internal tibial rotation increases stress on the medial knee. We have not even considered the roles of the vestibular components or how the various organ systems of the body are impacted as well as impact the act of pedaling a bike. Simple--I think that's not the most accurate descriptor.

"Just starting at #1, that's a great theory and probably true, except it never happens. Pedaling a bike with a crank arm 2.5-10mm shorter is so entirely similar to pedaling at the longer crank length that phrases such as " will likely cause a decrease in performance (e.g. power) in the short term until the body has acquired the ability to perform the new skill(s) autonomously." simply does not apply after the first 30 seconds. Body knowledge says it should, while thousands of real world examples say otherwise. Crank length change is below the threshold of mattering for anything beyond the positive change to thigh-torso clearance."

RESPONSE: An organism, when stressed, often reverts what it knows. It's why habits (even bad ones) can be hard to break. Survival is the driver here. The subconscious believes the reason you've alive despite all the challenges to that survival are because of the actions you've taken in the past--even if those actions haven't served you. Thus, it's very difficult to learn a new skill when the organism is under stress. It's also extremely difficult to practice a newly acquired skill when the system is continually stressed. Exercise is a stress. So even if you have a certain form that is more efficient/powerful, as you become increasingly fatigued the ability to use the new form/position/equipment decreases as the body goes back to what has gotten it this far in the first place. Thus, I don't doubt that after 30s a cyclist you've fitted on shorter crank arms sees some benefit. But at 30s, that's roughly 45 revolutions per leg. What type of impact do you think that has on the neural pathways of a cyclist who's pedaled 10hrs/week in a certain position with certain equipment for a decade? That's 520hrs in a year which equates to 31,200 minutes. In 10 yrs, that's 312,000 minutes. At approximately 90 "reps" per leg, that cyclist has a different motor ingram that has been ingrained in his neuromuscular system some 28,080,000 times. EACH LEG! My bet, is the cyclist might have some "issues" maintaining the same level of performance he achieved during the 30s of your test.

The funny thing is, I was actually agreeing with you on this point, simply saying there will be an initial and temporary drop off in performance even if the change is, ultimately, going to result in an improvement. Of course, there comes a point when an improvement will not occur if the cyclist has found the length which works best for his/her physiology/chosen race. So I encourage a more cautious approach when using absolutes like "never" and the like. It demonstrates a keen inability to engage in anything other than linear thinking when a complexity model would likely serve you better.

For 2,3 & 4, I can't argue with Andrew, but I don't need to. There are multiple studies on changing cadence and modifying your force application beyond simple alternating pushes. The vast majority show a decrease in efficiency. How to pedal a bike in a steady state, time trial effort is pretty settled science. Track riders, sprinters, super high power instances and low traction situations are exceptions, that rarely apply to my target audience. The exception is not the rule.

RESPONSE: I was pretty sure your target audience was mostly multisport athletes. But because the initial observations were so general, I had to point out that--like anything--it depends. And again, I would be careful with info obtained simply from studies. Learning to interpret studies and their inherent limitations if not outright falsifications at times is an excellent skill to have. Just don't try to acquire it if your system is currently being stressed. However, if you'd like, here's some research you may find enlightening:

"As these cyclists have to engage in single-legged cycling, they have to generate force on the pedal with just one limb throughout the whole pedal cycle. This is going to result in a lower peak power (Bundle et al., 2006), as well as an increased time to peak power through a combination of the use of one limb (Bundle et al., 2006) and being seated as opposed to standing (Bertucci et al., 2005; Padulo et al., 2014). The exercising muscle mass is required to generate more force throughout the pedal cycle in one-legged compared to two-legged cycling resulting in a higher mechanical and metabolic load (Abbiss et al., 2011). However, the differential VO2uptake to one- vs. two-legged exercise suggests that there may be a circulatory inhibitory response to two vs. one-legged exercise (Ogita et al., 2000), and one-legged sprint cycling relying less on anaerobic metabolism than two-legged cycling (Bundle et al., 2006), this may contribute to different fatigue profiles in the C2 class. Additionally, single-legged cycle training can result in significant improvements in the oxidative and metabolic potential of skeletal muscle in trained cyclists (Abbiss et al., 2011)."

5. I addressed this, but to restate, I never suggested that riding a trainer or always using a super controlled environment was the way. What I said was ALL of those other skills and adaptations are relatively quickly and easily addressed, when compared to the scope and magnitude of aerobic development that can be better achieved in those super controlled environments.

RESPONSE: God, we agree on too much. The trainer is an excellent and, in general, the most efficient way to develop the aerobic system (with the added bonus of catching up on video coverage of races you may have missed). Indeed, when used correctly, I estimate that 1hr inside = 1.5hrs outside. So it's great for the working, time-crunched athlete. And for triathletes, whose race demands are not the same as road/mtb/track cyclists it may even be ideal. However, I would argue that anyone who claims skills such as riding in a tightly bunched group (which you've never experienced unless you've raced professionally abroad or in any of the World Tour races which take place on US soil) and descending at speed or cornering in adverse conditions can be easily addressed has never, in fact, actually done so. If you'd like to follow me down a rainy mountain pass in Spain sometime, I'd be happy to have you on my wheel.

6. Specific adaptations to imposed demands indeed. The primary demands of climbing a hill are light weight and high power. The secondary ones are gearing, pacing, "mental fortitude", and actually climbing a few hills to know how it feels and engage slightly different muscles slightly differently a small portion of the time. The only argument I make is (again) let's stop turning secondary demands into primary ones. The exception is not the rule.

RESPONSE: I think we're moving in circles here (but...that's better than squares to continue the cycling analogy). I assume most people coming to be fit by you have a bike. A secondary demand would be a good fit. I bet the reason these folks choose you is the secondary demand is appealing enough so they'll pay to have the benefit of your expertise. Put two cyclists with the exact same attributes/experience on bikes--one fit by you and one fit by Walmart--my money is on your guy. My money is also on the guy who has spent some time addressing these "secondary" demands I mention above.

7&8 Yay! We agree!

RESPONSE: Excellent as I'm starting to develop calluses from typing.

9. I think we agree here as well, but just to be sure.... Adaptation to climatic conditions is fast. Aerobic development is slow. The exception is not the rule.

RESPONSE: See my comment in #6 above.

10. "Flexibility/stability need to be developed before strength which needs to be developed before power." Again, I can't argue with this, but I don't have to. Flexibility is rarely a limiter in developing a world class bike position. It just isn't. In other words, it is not that hard to ride a bike in the same position as the best in the world. Most of us have the chassis to do so, but we lack the engine to go as fast. A tri bike is the most athletically demanding of all bikes, and even there, most riders can get national caliber results with the biggest limited not being flexibility / mobility / stability / strength / power, but far more often the 20 extra lbs hanging around their mid section.

RESPONSE: With all due respect, most folks chassis are out of alignment; quite often, severely so. In fact, I've never assessed a client--from stay-at-home moms to professional football players--that didn't have multiple dysfunctions which needed to be addressed. In regards to your target audience, I'll quote my book: "Flexibility is the ability to adapt to changes in position or alignment, allowing us to perform joint actions through a wide range of motion. Often used interchangeably with mobility, which can be defined as the ability to move freely, these two concepts are the heart of this chapter. They’re also the heart of the biomotor abilities above. Think about it—how agile can you be if your muscles are stiff? Have you ever cramped during a triathlon? Your ability to move or change direction quickly was instantly curtailed. In fact, if you weren’t stopped dead in your tracks, you probably looked like the Tin Man trying to jog a couple of days after hanging out in the rain all night. Being too tight also affects your balance. Pulled out of ideal alignment by tonic musculature, you are literally over-committed in one direction. Coordination will suffer, too, as a lack of mobility must be compensated for elsewhere in the kinetic chain, often resulting in inefficiency and injury. With altered length/tension relationships, the triathlete must now work harder to perform a given movement which adversely affects endurance. Muscles positioned outside of their optimal strength curve will not only be weaker but, since strength is a component of power, a final injustice to the inflexible triathlete is that these last two biomotor abilities will never reach their full potential—much like this triathlete and his placement in the overall field."

The phase "going lower isn't always faster" is without a doubt true. Here is a phrase that is 'more' true. "Going lower is usually faster." The exception is not the rule, and we need to consider the target audience.

Age group triathletes hear that 1st statement and sabotage themselves as they come into a bike fit determined to not ride "too low". Of course, simply bending them over to the will of the bike fitter is not the process. Taking them down, forward and adjusting crank length to achieve the lowest position where pedaling mechanics, breathing and digestion can be maintained is the goal. Anything higher than that is less aero the vast majority of the time. That is what the wind tunnel says, and barring a trip to t he wind tunnel, our best approach during a bike fit is to play the odds.

RESPONSE: Agree again--play the odds. But if we're just using odds without thinking, then I can have a monkey fit me with the same chances of any improvement. And, again, the funny thing is, I was actually agreeing with your original point.

The blog post is continued (yes, again) in Part 3.

Insights into Bike Myths and Truths (part 1) Posted on June 10, 2017, 0 Comments

A cycling friend of mine, who happens to be one of the best fitters in the U.S., asked me my opinion on the following observations made on FaceBook:

For the record, I WHOLLY OR MOSTLY DISAGREE with each of the following statements, and more importantly, could point you to peer reviewed scientific studies to back up my positions on most of them.
1. Shortening your crank arm will cause you to lose power.
2. "Scraping mud", "powering the upstroke", "making perfect circles", or any other technique advice beyond "push hard" is the correct method to pedal.
3. There is a performance benefit to changing your cadence from what feels natural (usually raising the cadence).
4. One legged pedaling is a good drill.
5. Riding a trainer doesn't prepare you to ride outside.
6. You need to climb hills to get better at climbing hills.
7. Road bikes climb better.
8. Road bikes are faster for some triathlon courses.
9. Train outside year round to stay heat acclimated.
10. Increasing your flexibility will allow a better aerobar position, usually referring to hamstring flexibility as it relates to aerobar drop.

My response:

1--The Law of Facilitation states that once an impulse travels through a given set of neurons, it will tend to do so at a future date. And each time it traverses the path, the resistance will be less. Basically, practice makes perfect. Or more accurately, practice makes permanent. Thus, any change, even for the better, will likely cause a decrease in performance (e.g. power) in the short term until the body has acquired the ability to perform the new skill(s) autonomously.

2--Depends on what the goal is. If you simply want to produce the most power, "push hard" is probably a decent idea. However, if your goal is efficiency over a given distance, an ability to respond to attacks/changes of pace, maintain traction/control over unstable surfaces, or running off the bike to your potential, the ability to apply force (notice, I'm not saying MAX force) anywhere/anytime during the pedals stroke and have a variety of different muscles contribute synergistically is a good skill. Like learning how to drive, taking martial arts, etc., learning begins at slower speeds (e.g. cadence) until proficiency allows for replication of the acquired skill at higher speeds/subconscious levels. This is one of the reasons why better sustained power numbers are easier to see when climbing at lower cadences--the cyclist doesn't have the neuromuscular efficiency (i.e., skill) to pedal with the same quality at higher cadences. And while I could give anyone examples for each of the above goals, remember it is the ENTIRE body that pedals the bike--not simply the legs. You may find this blog post of interest here: https://triumphtraining.com/.../8139819-cycling-evolution

3--It depends on what the goal is again. And the point made in #1 above is applicable here, too. Hell, terrain needs to be considered; temperature and humidity play a role. Additionally, the biomechanics, muscle fiber type, training history--even the hormonal profile of the cyclist in question are factors to consider when choosing the optimal cadence. That being said, power is (roughly) an equation of cadence x gear size. Increase one or increase the other or increase both. The limiting factor in gear size is typically the muscular system while the limiter in cadence is often the aerobic system. Neither system works independently from the other, of course. And neuromuscular efficiency is a component of both systems. While both the muscular/aerobic systems have genetic caps (which most of us will never come close to finding), the neuromuscular system can always become more efficient.

4--if you need it, yes. See #2 above. Also #3's reference to efficiency of the neuromuscular system. Again, note that it is the whole body (including all of its systems) which propels the bike and these limiters are often revealed as well as trained during the course of one-legged pedaling drills.

5--aerobically, it does. But it doesn't prepare you (optimally) for descending at speed, cornering in wet conditions, bumping shoulders at 40mph with 200 other cyclists, bunny hopping pot holes, curbs, or even fallen riders, or any of the other "skills" a cyclist is forced to address if you ride/compete enough. I can tell you that racing in America is different than racing in Europe. And while, like the trainer, it's better than nothing, ultimate adaptation doesn't happen until you're exposed to the specific stimulus. Train exclusively on the trainer and then go do an average Belgian kermesse. You'll get yourself dropped out of fear if you don't crash yourself (and others) first.

6--you don't NEED to. Is it the most efficient way? Perhaps. Are there changes in many if not most aspects of riding on the flats vs. riding on a climb--yes, including mental ones. Specific adaptation to Imposed Demands. Wanna get good at climbing? Climb. Wanna get even better at climbing? Stop eating crap and ignoring the Foundational Factors of Health while working on power:weight ratio, and you'll see improvements regardless of terrain or chosen sport.

7--depends again. Not when the fit is right or the person is adapted to a particular position.

8--if the course is straight up and the person is accustomed to riding the road bike, yes. Otherwise, a properly fit tri bike will be faster.

9--if your race is in the cold, acclimate for the cold. If it's in the heat, acclimate to the heat. Heat can be MUCH more of an issue when riding inside if you want it to be--and a huge advantage both physically and (more importantly) mentally for those who are adapted to hot/humid conditions. Note, however, quality sessions performed exclusively in "hard" conditions will likely result in an athlete sacrificing quality and, therefore, not realizing their full potential. Consider the adage of sleep high/train low. Same goes for temperatures.

10--Flexibility/stability need to be developed before strength which needs to be developed before power. I wrote a whole book on this subject, but I would agree that lower (often predicated on flexibility and core strength) does not mean better in regards to aero position. If you're sacrificing either power or comfort in order to get lower, it's not going to pay the dividend you're looking for as far as results. And aero is more than just low frontal surface area. That being said, if you're limited in flexibility or stability, you will not realize your full potential on the bike or any other discipline. And it's quite likely you'll eventually get injured trying. But if it brings you into my studio, that injury could be the best thing that ever happened to your performance.

The original poster (who is, himself, quite an accomplished bike fitter) then responded with:

These are some really good examples of how individuals thoroughly (and properly) trained in how the body works, can take that information and thoroughly complicate the simple act of pedaling a bike.

Just starting at #1, that's a great theory and probably true, except it never happens. Pedaling a bike with a crank arm 2.5-10mm shorter is so entirely similar to pedaling at the longer crank length that phrases such as " will likely cause a decrease in performance (e.g. power) in the short term until the body has acquired the ability to perform the new skill(s) autonomously." simply does not apply after the first 30 seconds. Body knowledge says it should, while thousands of real world examples say otherwise. Crank length change is below the threshold of mattering for anything beyond the positive change to thigh-torso clearance.

For 2,3 & 4, I can't argue with Andrew, but I don't need to. There are multiple studies on changing cadence and modifying your force application beyond simple alternating pushes. The vast majority show a decrease in efficiency. How to pedal a bike in a steady state, time trial effort is pretty settled science. Track riders, sprinters, super high power instances and low traction situations are exceptions, that rarely apply to my target audience. The exception is not the rule.

5. I addressed this, but to restate, I never suggested that riding a trainer or always using a super controlled environment was the way. What I said was ALL of those other skills and adaptations are relatively quickly and easily addressed, when compared to the scope and magnitude of aerobic development that can be better achieved in those super controlled environments.

6. Specific adaptations to imposed demands indeed. The primary demands of climbing a hill are light weight and high power. The secondary ones are gearing, pacing, "mental fortitude", and actually climbing a few hills to know how it feels and engage slightly different muscles slightly differently a small portion of the time. The only argument I make is (again) let's stop turning secondary demands into primary ones. The exception is not the rule.

7&8 Yay! We agree!

9. I think we agree here as well, but just to be sure.... Adaptation to climatic conditions is fast. Aerobic development is slow. The exception is not the rule.

10. "Flexibility/stability need to be developed before strength which needs to be developed before power." Again, I can't argue with this, but I don't have to. Flexibility is rarely a limiter in developing a world class bike position. It just isn't. In other words, it is not that hard to ride a bike in the same position as the best in the world. Most of us have the chassis to do so, but we lack the engine to go as fast. A tri bike is the most athletically demanding of all bikes, and even there, most riders can get national caliber results with the biggest limited not being flexibility / mobility / stability / strength / power, but far more often the 20 extra lbs hanging around their mid section.

The phase "going lower isn't always faster" is without a doubt true. Here is a phrase that is 'more' true. "Going lower is usually faster." The exception is not the rule, and we need to consider the target audience.

Age group triathletes hear that 1st statement and sabotage themselves as they come into a bike fit determined to not ride "too low". Of course, simply bending them over to the will of the bike fitter is not the process. Taking them down, forward and adjusting crank length to achieve the lowest position where pedaling mechanics, breathing and digestion can be maintained is the goal. Anything higher than that is less aero the vast majority of the time. That is what the wind tunnel says, and barring a trip to t he wind tunnel, our best approach during a bike fit is to play the odds.

We want to also drop the upper back and head down between the shoulder blades, but that is a secondary concern to getting the rider as low as we can while maintaining the abilities of pedaling, breathing, digesting.

As far as strength, the strength required to pedal a bicycle at 300 watts and 90rpms is about the same force that is required to stand up from a chair. It's close to a 45lb single leg press. Something the vast majority of humans can easily accomplish one time without taxing the ability to produce force very much at all. In other words, we are not talking about all that much force, and hardly anyone is anywhere near force or strength limited when riding a bike. What does limit us is the ability to produce that force 90x a minute for multiple minutes or hours. Otherwise known as aerobic capacity.

Again, I am not really trying to argue with Andrew, because I can't. He knows more about the body than me by orders of magnitude. In the end, we are all after the same thing, results. And that is my battleground. Exercise physiologists, physical therapists and the larger research community have always lagged behind real coaches. Great coaches find performance, and then everyone else figures out how they did it. While not able to hold my own in any body knowledge debate, what I would certainly do is rest my case for simplicity on the performance of my athletes, the results of my bike fits, and my excellent record of not injuring the vast majority of them along the way.

To which I then replied with an extensive thread that you'll find in Part 2 of this Blog Post.

The Overlooked Role of Nutrition in Training Induced Fatigue Posted on April 09, 2017, 0 Comments

Missed my morning FaceBook post due to a 90+ mile bike ride, but it served as motivation for what to write about today.

One of the amino acids which even the most nutritionally ignorant among us has heard of is tryptophan. After all, that's what makes you sleepy after that turkey dinner on Thanksgiving, right? Well, not exactly. But that's not my point.

Tryptophan is the precursor for the neurotransmitter 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), which is involved in fatigue. It's also one of the primary amino acids released when muscle is catabolized during times when fuel is inadequate to meet the demands placed on an organism's physiology. In the case of my group ride this morning, there were many examples of people getting tired. Some of those cyclists could blame their training, of course. Others, however, need to consider how their fueling strategy--both on AND off the bike--might be contributing to their fatigue at a given intensity/duration. When glucose levels/glycogen stores are not sufficient to keep muscle (along with free fatty acids, primarily in the form of PUFAs) from being catabolized to fuel the activity, performance of the activity will suffer or stop altogether.

And if you think about it, it's simply another ingenious example of the body trying to survive. The body believes that fuel is scarce. It has no idea you could simply stop at the next convenience store and buy a coke or, better yet, some o.j. But since you won't stop, you body stops you. Or slows you down--anything it can do to spare the body's limited resources. And it has a lot of built in safeguards at play in these conditions just in case. From the production of serotonin (not the happy hormone you've been led to believe) to the inhibition of glucose utilization via the Randle Cycle, the body's gonna win this one. So you can live to ride another day.

And this time, maybe you'll fuel yourself appropriately.

Fueling Questions from an Ironman Athlete Posted on August 03, 2015, 0 Comments

Question:

Need some advice, 3rd week in a row since changing from chemicals on ride to organic snacks and water/honey/salt that I've had difficult cycle rides. Started out great today and burnt up with leg and hip cramps at mile 40, by mile 50 very little leg power. 
Thoughts? 
My Response With His Answers:
What was breakfast? Freshly made organic fruit smoothie with gelatin and milk, half a bagel with peanut butter
What was dinner the night before? Lasagna
What was dinner 2 nights before? Steak, baked potato, zucchini 
We could really look at the whole week, but those are the most important meals.
Are you pre-ex stretching? Not for a long period but focused on legs, arms, back, stomach
Have you been fit on the bike? Matt Cole fit me when I bought my Parlee from him in early 2014
Where were the cramps exactly? Started in Thighs then hamstrings and worked it’s way to hips
How much time before your pre-ride meal and the start of the ride? 45 minutes
How soon do you eat once you start? Drank a bottle ever hour with water, salt, honey, started eating buffalo bites, organic blocks within 45 minutes of ride
Is VW suffering, too, or is it just you? Just me, thank God, VW is rocking it on this nutrition and on the bike/run
My Feedback:
--I'd nix the bagel or at least the PB--the PUFA content in it inhibits the body's ability to utilize glucose (stored and brought in at dinner and bfast) as well O2 and it's also pro-inflammatory.
--noodles are gluten, I assume, and sub-optimal for those with opposable thumbs.
--beautiful--more/less what I'd do with some fruit or quality dessert at the end!
--good--just use reps before.
--most folks (especially triathletes) are quad dominant.  Learning to utilize the hammies will help so the quads don't overwork, then get tight, then force the hammies to overwork, the the whole kinetic chain falls apart.
--you may find that you do better with a longer time period between the end of the last feeding and the start of training.  As soon as exercise begins, blood flow to the digestive system is compromised and any calories/nutrition you could have derived from the food in the stomach becomes unavailable (or less so, depending on intensity and several other factors).
--looks pretty good.  If the organic blocks are homemade, you should be fine.  If commercial, look out for sunflower oil or another PUFA which would inhibit glucose utilization. 
--good to know, and I'm glad (but not surprised).  Now we just need to dial you in.  And I hope my responses help.

Isolated Leg Training Posted on March 26, 2015, 2 Comments

Think you know how to pedal a bike?  Most people don’t.  They pedal in squares; or worse, they pedal only in one direction—straight down.  Yet there is an easy—well, simple may be a more accurate qualifier—there is a simple way to improve your pedaling technique which will make you a better cyclist.  It’s called Isolated Leg Training or ILTs. Basically, this exercise teaches all the muscles involved in the pedaling motion how to fire and when.  And though we all have genetic limitations which may cap our physical potential, none of us will ever reach our neuromuscular limits as we can always improve our efficiency.

Best performed on a trainer (but a flat section of road will suffice and is actually easier due to momentum), ILTs are performed as follows:

• Warm up for 5mins with easy pedaling
• Then clip the DOMINANT leg out and place it behind you on the trainer and pedal with just the NON-dominant leg.  Do this for 1 minute or until your form goes to pot (which may happen very quickly. You'll know your form is suffering if you start to hear an obvious CLUNK during your pedal stroke or you simply cannot move the pedal thru a complete circle).
• Then pedal with both legs for 1 minute (or 1 minute plus whatever was left of the first minute).
• Next, take the non-dominant leg out and pedal with just the dominant leg for 1 minute.  Finally, pedal with both legs for 2 minutes.
• Then repeat the whole process 5 times.

Doing the ILT's in the AERO position is very challenging.  The easiest is on the tops.  Then on the hoods.  Then in the drops with AERO being the final and most difficult position.  Only hold the AERO position until your form breaks down (i.e. you have lots of problems bringing the pedal over the top and you hear clunking as your stroke gets choppy. Trying to continue will program your neuromuscular system with the “wrong” information.  Practice doesn’t make perfect—practice makes permanent…).  Then move to the tops until the finish of that ILT interval.  On the next one you’ll try the AERO position again, returning to the tops of the bars if/when your form breaks down again.

Don't worry about heart rate or wattage as the goal of this workout has nothing to do with speed--which is ironic as the more efficient you get with the ILTs, the faster you'll go on the bike (and the run, believe it or not).  My suggestion is to incorporate this into your training program once/week (at least), building up the duration of the single leg pedaling as proficiency allows.  My record is 3 x 20mins for a 2hr trainer session when living in Spain.  I think I was a poco loco...

Working out 4 days/week vs. 6 days/week--Which is Better? Posted on February 22, 2015, 0 Comments

Question:
Currently I work out six days a week. Five of those days I do 30 minutes of intense cardio (alternating among bike, climber, running, elliptical) preceded or followed by ten or fifteen minutes of strength work (stuff from your book). One of those days I do non-stop 45 minutes of strength work, also from your book. One day I rest.
As you know, my goal is optimal fitness. I have read some articles suggesting that working out four days a week rather than six is better for optimal fitness. 
What is your opinion? 
Answer:
Everyone is different.  I would say that a quality training program needs to be designed around rest.  Rest is more important:
--the older you are
--the more intensely you train
--the longer you go between unloading days (or unloading weeks/months/years)
--the less your background in regards to a specific training protocol
--the more stress to which you are exposed
The better one takes care of their body (via the Six Foundational Factors of Health--http://triumphtraining.com/blogs/blog/6363808-the-six-foundational-factors-of-health), the greater threshold that person will have for any stress, including that which comes from exercise. 
Could 6 days be perfect for you--yes.  But so could 4.  And it likely depends on a host of different variables, so I wouldn't get too attached to any specific periodization scheme.  Instead, I would listen to your body. 

My instincts tell me that you are possibly utilizing intensity more than is optimal.  Variety of intensities would likely serve you better and probably result in harder hard days because you're rested enough to truly push the envelope.  I also would encourage you to add a day of active rest where you benefit from movement but at a level of exertion which keeps you anabolic rather than catabolic--breathing through the nose only, no muscular burn, minimal increase in HR. 

A Chapter from Holistic Respiration (a section in my upcoming book) Posted on December 07, 2014, 0 Comments

Chapter Four
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life;
--King James Bible



I’m not a biblical scholar. I’ve spent far more Sundays in the saddle than I have in a church pew. In fact, I could probably quote Phil Ligget better than I could ever recite anything from Leviticus. Cycling has been my religion. And though some may know me as a triathlete now, I’d still consider myself a reformed cyclist. So, yes—my time on two wheels may have limited my religious upbringing. But it developed me in other ways, teaching me many critical lessons I use everyday.

One of the most important things I’ve learned is that life is an aerobic sport, too. And from the first day of life, infants join other obligate nasal breathers like horses and rabbits and kangaroos with a preference for breathing through the nose. Indeed, perhaps one of the main reason humans ever begin to use a consistent pattern of mouth breathing at all is, as children, we learn the practice often comes with reward.

As a father who can remember the late night cries of a kid who was hungry or sick or in some other state of stress, I’ll acknowledge that my son learned that lesson well. Scream and mom or dad would magically appear. And this response, a parental instinct which I’m sure somehow helped ensure the survival of our species, only reinforced the mouth breathing he used to get the quantity of air he so desperately needed to discover new decibels. My son’s ability to scream was soon rivaled only by our level of sleep deprivation. We consoled ourselves saying that this was just a phase—and it was. Not sleeping, he eventually outgrew. The mouth breathing, however, was now firmly fixed in his physiology.

But if a dysfunctional breathing pattern can be learned, then it can also be unlearned.

Pranayama is the fourth step in Raja Yoga. A combination of two Sanskrit words (prana—translated as “life force”; and ayama—meaning “to extend”), Pranayama is the practice of breath control. So, it is possible to spend years of study immersed in the practices of the ancient Yogis and become proficient in the art of respiration again. Or, if you’re anything like me and prefer a more efficient road to mastery, you can spend a moment and practice awareness. It’s entirely up to you. But I promise you here that—like breath—less is more.

Pay attention to how you’re breathing, and you may find aspects of each breath which could be improved. Are you breathing too fast? Was that breath through your mouth? Is your chest initiating each inhalation? Regardless of how you answer any one of these questions, you’ve made progress. You’ve either reached the state of Conscious Incompetence or maybe even the state of Conscious Competence. And with a bit of training, your breath will begin to flow until it finally arrives to the level of Unconscious Competence. As Lao Tzu said “the perfect man breathes as if he does not breathe.”

I find the best place to begin training is with a client in a supine (back down) position, one hand resting on the belly while the other rests on the chest. I then ask the client to breathe in through the nose and into the belly which should gently rise up and away from the floor. The hand on the chest, if it moves at all, should only do so during the final third of the inhalation. The process is reversed on the exhalation, except the movement of the abdomen is completely passive as the navel falls gently back toward the spine and floor.

Usually it takes only a breath or two before the client notices a marked decrease in tension. Improved vasodilation and the anti-spastic properties of CO2—especially in the smooth muscles of the body—account for some of this response. But the majority of this increased relaxation is predicated on the autonomic nervous system (ANS) finally being brought into balance. The bottom lobes of the lung, which are best filled with nasal breathing, directly stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS). The PNS helps keeps the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) in check. This subject is explored in much greater detail in a later section; but for now, just understand that the maintenance in equilibrium of these two ANS branches is essential for health.

Once one has become proficient with proper breathing mechanics in supine, it’s time to up the ante. The progression I like to follow looks like this:

1. Client Supine
2. Client Prone
3. Client in a 4 Point Stance
4. Client Sitting
5. Client Kneeling
6. Client in Short Stop Position
7. Client Standing


See, just because a person shows proficiency with a particular skill (i.e. breathing) in one position doesn’t mean that person will perform with the same level of mastery in a different or more advanced posture. This is a common mistake I find in clients who have been rehabbed in a strict, clinical setting. Once they are removed from the relative safety of the clinician’s treatment table and into the real world, the skill learned in one environment often fails to adequately transfer to another. Thus, whether the skill learned involves figuring out how to activate the lower abdominals or learning to breathe as Nature intended, a proper progression is essential for true and permanent mastery.

The penultimate step I will typically use when a client is ready for the next challenge is to have the client demonstrate proper breathing mechanics while in a position which ramps up the recruitment of the stabilizer system. For some it could be simply standing on one leg. For others with more refined reflex pathways, the next progression might be kneeling on a physio ball. Anything I can do to increase the neural drive necessary to hold the chosen position such that less attention can be devoted to the task at hand—in this case, breathing. When focused on not falling, the client can’t think about how to breathe properly. And when the client can do both simultaneously, they’ve reached the state of Unconscious Competence.

That’s when the real fun begins.

The body always gravitates toward a position of strength. So if you strengthen yourself in a position of good posture, the likelihood of you maintaining that posture gets greater and greater with each workout. Likewise, proper breathing mechanics can be more deeply ingrained into the neuromuscular system by practicing it during exercise.

Breathing is of critical importance to a successful strength training program. Optimal breathing patterns will minimize the risk of injury while maximizing the benefit of the athlete's time in the weight room. Specifically, inhalations should occur during movements where the body moves out of or away from the fetal position; while exhalations should be reserved for movements that move the body toward or into the fetal position.

This is exactly how the body works. In a properly functioning body, inhaling is coupled with axial extension, abduction, and external rotation. Exhaling is coupled with axial flexion, adduction, and internal rotation. And lifting with proper breathing mechanics will help you be stronger during the lift.

The one exception to this rule is when lifting at intensities that necessitate holding one's breath. The body does this naturally as a way to stabilize the diaphragm so the muscles of the Inner Unit have a solid foundation from which to apply force and support and protect the axial skeleton. Failure to do so would send excessive loads through the spine, possibly resulting in injury. Thus, using a heavy back squat as an example, optimal breathing for a safe and successful lift would proceed in the following order:

1--INHALE through the nose and into the abdomen to charge the thoracic cavity.
2--Gently draw in the belly button to activate the TVA.
3--Descend in a controlled manner with knees tracking over toes and your pressure through the heels.
4--Once at parallel or at the appropriate depth based on the ability to maintain a lumbar lordosis, begin the ascent. EXHALE through the nose after passing through the sticking point as you return to the start position.
5--Begin as explained in step one and repeat for the designated number of reps.

You’re probably thinking that cardiovascular training’s somehow different. Aerobic sports, by definition, use a large amount of oxygen. So at the very least, endurance athletes should get a pass on mouth breathing, right? Well, if you’re waiting for me to confirm this common misconception, don’t hold your breath!

A study in the Australian Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport comparing maximal oxygen consumption with oral and nasal breathing is one which supports my view. The study’s authors concluded:

The pattern of nose-only breathing at maximal work showed a small reduction in tidal volume and large reduction in breathing frequency. Nasal breathing resulted in a reduction in FEO2 and an increase in FECO2. While breathing through the nose-only, all subjects could attain a work intensity great enough to produce an aerobic training effect (based on heart rate and percentage of VO2 max).

John Douillard, author of Body, Mind, and Sport, references experiments performed on both elite runners and cyclists. Athletes who practiced nasal breathing reported less physical strain than mouth breathers. Quantifiable differences measured in breaths per minute decreased in one subject from 47 in the mouth breathing test down to 14 using nasal breathing. “If with training and patience, you can perform the same exercise workload with only 14 breaths per minute instead of 47 using conventional techniques,” writes Douillard, “what reason could there be not to do it?”

Ponder that question for a minute. And while you’re looking for an answer, I’ll also mention Peter Nabokov’s book, Indian Running. In it he describes how Native American runners put a mouthful of water in their mouths and then sprinted a certain distance without swallowing. A similar approach of breath control is practiced by African runners covering great distances in training with the same mouthful of water. Well, not the same mouthful—that’d be gross! But, I think you get my point.

There are numerous other works and studies to back up the all the breathing techniques I’ve referenced above. Yet it really doesn’t matter what any of the research shows. You spend more time in your body than you’ll ever spend in any classroom. You are your own hypothesis, and any lab derived conclusion is only a theory until you validate it with your own experience.


N = 1



That’s what I did…eventually. I typically have to learn my lessons the hard way, and nasal breathing was no different. Using my mouth as my primary source for respiration was all I knew when I was racing bicycles in Europe. And one day, it almost killed me.

I had just returned to Spain after my first visit back to the States in over a year. My batteries finally felt recharged—the familiarity of American food, friends, and family had done wonders for my head. Even way back then, I knew that’s where racing was really won or lost. Thus, I was anxious to test my legs during the second half of the European season.

The first race back only had one significant climb, and my director sportif was confident it would end in a sprint. We had one guy on our team who made me and most everyone else in the field look like we were standing still when he unleashed his final kick. So my job was simple: cover any early moves and make sure our team was represented if anything got away. I guarded the front of the peloton like a sentinel and shut down breaks before they formed. The few attempts which threatened our strategy were quickly nullified by my presence—I wasn’t going to work; and enough of the other riders were unwilling to give me a free ride to the finish that every breakaway I infiltrated was doomed to failure.

At 30mph, a six inch buffer disappears in an instant.

A wall of riders formed on the tarmac behind me as the haunting sound of metal against road reached my ears. I looked back to survey the damage. Other racers jumped up the road, and my instincts screamed at me to chase. But I couldn’t go until—there—I saw him. At the bottom of the pile was our sprinter. He was half sitting with a mass of bodies supporting him and a tangle of bikes caging him in at the same time. The way he held his arm told me his race was over.

I exploded into pursuit. My handlebars almost caving in with the effort, I launched myself forward. A line of riders disappeared around the curve ahead, and I turned myself inside out to catch them. There was still 20K to go, but the final sprint had already begun.

My legs tore into the pedals like they were mad. The bike responded by flying up the road as I ripped the oxygen out of the air. The snarl on my face was a mix of pain and intimidation—I was trying to scare fatigue away. The watts I was putting out were simply not sustainable. I had been racing my last 200 meters for over a kilometer, and the fingers of lactic acid were wrapping around my thighs in a grip of steel. But just as my legs were about to seize, I got close enough to the riders in front to feel a small give in the wind. I gasped for air and felt a thud. Swallowing on instinct, a buzz drifted down my esophagus before I realized what had happened.

I had swallowed an insect. And though it was hard to tell with my lungs on fire, I was pretty sure it was a stinging one. A sharp burn shadowed a swelling at the back of my throat, and my desperation to catch the break instantly became desperation to breathe. I pulled up and then through the line of riders, trying to disguise my effort. It felt like I needed to cough up a big wad of phlegm. Cocking my head to the side seemed to open up my airway, so I kept going. The athlete in me told me that this was the winning break. And I’m not sure if it was the same voice or the one keen on survival, but part of me knew the medical care I needed would best be found at the finish line.

My struggle for breath mirrored my thoughts as I leaned my head first one way and then the other to try to find some air. “Do you know how to tell someone in Spanish that a bee has stung your uvula and that you can’t breathe,” I asked myself. When the answer came back, “No”, my response was “Well, shut the fuck up and race then!” So I did—to 5th place and a story to tell after a concerned shot of epinephrine in the medical tent. Good thing I wasn’t picked for drug control after that….

Each nostril is innervated by five cranial nerves from the opposite side of the brain. When I first began trying to breathe with my mouth closed (and not just out of fear of insects flying into it), the only things working worse than my nose were those neural connections. Apparently, my hemispheres weren’t cooperating and neither were my nostrils. One side was clogged like a dirty drain, while the other seemed quite content doing most of my oxygenation. So I applied a technique I cane across in my studies on respiration:

1. Take a normal breath in and then gently exhale (through your mouth if you need to).
2. If open, close your mouth and then block both nostrils by pinching them shut with your fingers.
3. Carefully nod your head forward, holding that position until you have the desire to breathe again.
4. When you want to breathe, release the fingers pinching your nostrils shut and try to breathe in gently through the nose. Your mouth should remain closed if possible.
5. Repeat the process if the nose remains blocked until you feel comfortable breathing nasally.

The more I practiced the above steps, the easier it became. That’s not surprising as you get good at what you do—including nasal breathing. Eventually, the contribution from both sides balanced out, and I tried nasal breathing with activity. It didn’t take much practice before I noticed my respiration rate decreased, remaining calm and relaxed at higher and higher exercise intensities.

You are an athlete. So breathe like one.


Try it for yourself. Next workout you do, try to just breathe through your nose. It may be a bit uncomfortable. You might even find you have to slow down a bit. And that’s o.k. Holes in your development are usually what trip you up on your way toward a goal. Besides, why are you in such a hurry? You gotta crawl before you can walk; and you gotta walk before you can run. Once you can do your chosen sport while breathing though your nose, you’ll finally be able to reach your athletic potential. And the cool thing is—when you get good at keeping your mouth shut, you can talk even more smack.

The performance of your legs or lungs leaves nothing lost in translation.

Cycling and...umm...Oh, Yeah--Memory! Posted on October 20, 2014, 0 Comments

Differential Effects of Acute Exercise on Distinct Aspects of Executive Function.

Weng, Timothy B.; Pierce, Gary L.; Darling, Warren G.; Voss, Michelle W.

 

Purpose: To increase understanding about the effects of moderate intensity physical activity on cognitive function, the current study examined whether a single bout of aerobic exercise exerts differential effects on distinct aspects of executive function in healthy young adults.

Methods: A within-subjects study was designed where 26 young adult participants (mean age = 25.23 years, 12 males) engaged in a thirty-minute bout of both a) moderate intensity aerobic cycling and b) passive motor-driven cycling, occurring on two separate occasions and counterbalanced in their order. To assess changes in cognitive function, performance on two tasks of executive function-working memory and inhibitory control, counterbalanced in the order of administration-was collected before and immediately following each exercise session.

Results: Results indicate that working memory performance on the 2-back condition of a facial n-back task was acutely enhanced by moderate intensity exercise (mean increase in accuracy = 6.4 +/- 1.1%), which was significantly greater than the changes following passive exercise control (p < 0.05). This finding was not observed for inhibitory control in which neither of the exercise sessions elicited significant changes in performance on a flanker task.

Conclusions: Acute aerobic exercise evokes differential effects upon executive functions. This specificity in behavioral outcomes leads to the prediction that brain mechanisms related to working memory, compared to inhibitory control, are selectively benefited by moderate intensity exercise.

 

Original Source found here: http://journals.lww.com/acsm-msse/Abstract/publishahead/Differential_Effects_of_Acute_Exercise_on_Distinct.97890.aspx?source=sas

 

COMMENTS: Notice that the duration of exercise in the study is only 30 minutes.  Prolonged exercise (and, indeed, any stress) results in prolonged exposure to glucocorticoids and have been shown to actually inhibit memory (not to mention the adverse affects on immune function, metabolism, etc).  The extent to which one can tolerate greater durations/volumes is directly proportional to sound nutrition/lifestyle principles. 

Question from a Triathlete about back pain during the run portion of a 70.3 Race Posted on October 05, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

I had a question about my recent fit on my Cervelo P3.  I just raced in the Superfrog half ironman in Coronado, CA.  After my bike ride I had pain in my middle back about where my kidneys are located.  It caused me to have breathing issues for the first couple of miles of the run.  It hurt to take deep breathes.  I have been following the exercises and stretching recommended in your recommended book, Holistic Strength Training for Triathletes.   I stayed aero for about 80-90 % of the ride.  I have not had any issues on previous bike rides, but those rides have been with a group and I have only stayed aero for about half the time.   Any suggestions?

 

Answer:

(I happen to know exactly who positioned this athlete on his bike, so I do not question his fit which would typically be the most obvious suspect).  The S.A.I.D. principle is a crucial aspect to consider in the training of any athlete, and I think its importance is highlighted in your case. Lack of aero time coupled with the higher intensity of a race environment is the most plausible scenario--especially if you had no history of previous issues in training and the pain resolved after a few miles of change in position during the run. You likely needs more specific stretching of the psoas (not shown in my book) which targets the fascia. I teach myofascial stretches to any of my clients who are not responding as well as I would like with the prescription of stretches in their programs.  However, the positions used are quite technical, and the psoas is probably one of the most complex.  These muscles originate on the lumbar spine in your area of complaint. They get worked and habitually shortened in cycling, and it's even worse in the aero position. Additionally, the psoas reflex to the adrenals which are highly taxed with endurance exercise.  So addressing the fascial restrictions specific to the psoas can have incredible resultss in both performance and in health.  Also, addressing nutrition and lifestyle (in and outside of training/racing) will give you greater tolerance for the demands of triathlon as well as better performance.  The last section of my book should help you dial in the Six Foundational Factors.  And the more consistently you apply them, the more pronounced the benefits will be. Following the proper development of an athlete is critical, too, of course.  Cycling is an expression of power which cannot be fully realized without adequate proficiency in the areas of flexibility/stability (i.e. core strength).  Thus, until these two areas are sufficiently up to speed, you may have to lessen your race effort or aggressiveness of your cycling position (or both).

The Psychology of Cycling Posted on August 13, 2014, 0 Comments

It's Not About the Shoe Posted on July 26, 2014, 0 Comments

Is your prescription of distance running shoes evidence-based?

2009 Mar;43(3):159-62. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.046680. Epub 2008 Apr 18.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

To determine whether the current practice of prescribing distance running shoes featuring elevated cushioned heels and pronation control systems tailored to the individual's foot type is evidence-based.

DATA SOURCES:

MEDLINE (1950-May 2007), CINAHL (1982-May 2007), EMBASE (1980-May 2007), PsychInfo (1806-May 2007), Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (2(nd) Quarter 2007), Cochrane Central Register of Controlled trials (2(nd) Quarter 2007), SPORTSDiscus (1985-May 2007) and AMED (1985-May 2007). Review

METHODS:

English language articles were identified via keyword and medical subject headings (MeSH) searches of the above electronic databases. With these searches and the subsequent review process, controlled trials or systematic reviews were sought in which the study population included adult recreational or competitive distance runners, the exposure was distance running, the intervention evaluated was a running shoe with an elevated cushioned heel and pronation control systems individualised to the wearer's foot type, and the outcome measures included either running injury rates, distance running performance, osteoarthritis risk, physical activity levels, or overall health and wellbeing. The quality of these studies and their findings were then evaluated.

RESULTS:

No original research that met the study criteria was identified either directly or via the findings of the six systematic reviews identified.

CONCLUSION:

The prescription of this shoe type to distance runners is not evidence-based.

 

Original study found here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18424485

Question about Strength Training for an Ultra Runner Posted on May 22, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

1. Which are the best strength exercises to train the quads eccentrically (for the downhills)?
2. In addition to your book, I have also read Tudor Bompa's "Periodization Training for Sports".  He suggests after the Max Strength period a "Conversion to Muscular Endurance" period, lifting 30-40% of 1RM for 4-10 minuets non stop.  I have tried this method and managed to get up to 3 minuntes of continuous lift and end up with burning muscles and tears in my eyes.  What is your opinion on that type of training?

 

Answer:

Thanks for your purchase then--every book I sell is more I can donate to LLS.  So you have the gratitude of many others, too.

1--Try not to think quad so much as leg, even if you feel that these muscles are the limiter during downhill running.  Even then, try not to think leg so much as body.  Thus, proper core activation (strength/timing/balance of uppers vs. lowers, ext vs. intern obliques, etc) will be critical to help dissipate the load throughout the kinetic chain without excessive energy loss secondary to faulty/inefficient movement patterns and compensations.  But an exercise I might recommend would be jumps or exploding harvards or something from the plyometric drill section of my book (one legged versions more sport specific than 2 legged, of course).  What you want to look for is the ability to STAY in one place with minimal lateral or sagittal plane deviations--the better you can do this, the more stable you are (=better force production and alignment/less injury potential).  These movements also more readily replicate the movements speeds encountered in running.  Core recruitment is extremely high, too.  But, obviously, these are expressions of POWER and, thus, built on a foundation of strength, stability, and flexibility.  Lastly, know that as your training volume in-sport increases, your training outside of running will likely need to decrease.  Thus, proceed with caution with the eccentric loads mentioned above.  When in doubt, stretch and train the core.  And even before that, get the nutrition/lifestyle working for rather than against you.  That's what my next book is all about--hope to have it finished after RAAM this year (3 weeks away).
2--I like Bompa and respect his work enough to have referenced him in my book (and other work).  However, I think this kind of training is of limited value in your case.  Yes, it's increasing work capacity.  But you can do that more specifically by utilizing your sport (among other methods).  And when you mix high density training (which is what that is) with high intensity training (which is what this may feel like--but, in truth, it's not) in the same session, neither biomotor ability (endurance and strength or endurance and power or both/all 3) end up developing to the potential they could.  Typically, strength/power are sacrificed along with form--and when movement quality suffers, you're programming your computer with faulty info.  Save the true endurance training for your sport of choice (or cross-training as necessary) and focus on what the limiter is for most endurance athletes--strength/power. 

Hope that helps. 

Phasic vs. Tonic Muscles Posted on May 08, 2014, 4 Comments

To stretch or not to stretch? That is not the question. Not really. Though there are numerous studies debating the merits of stretching, the ones which find no benefit to the athlete are typically flawed. The authors researching the efficacy of stretching inevitably apply a general stretching protocol to the subjects in their study with a one-size-fits-all mentality. But different activities cause different responses in different muscles. This is simple to understand when one considers that not all muscles are created equal. For the purpose of this discussion, I will focus on the difference between Phasic muscles and Tonic muscles.

Phasic Muscles are composed of at least 51% fast-twitch muscle fibers. These are powerful muscles, but they fatigue more easily than do tonic muscles. Kind of a shame, too, as these muscles are primarily responsible for movement. The gluteals are good examples of phasic muscles.

Tonic Muscles are slow-twitch dominant, composed of at least 51% slow-twitch muscle fibers. As such, they are highly resistant to fatigue and have a greater propensity for work. The iliopsoas is an example of a tonic muscle group.

One of the major differences between phasic and tonic muscles that is of particular interest to triathletes is how these muscles respond to faulty loading. Loading is the resistance which the muscles of the body must overcome. In the gym, it may be a dumbbell. In life, it’s gravity. Thus, even if the only weight room you’ve ever spent time in is the wait room at your doctor’s office, it’s fair to say we all experience loading in our lives. Faulty loading can take the form of under-use, misuse, or disuse. But as triathletes, who swim, bike, and run for up to seventeen hours all in the same day, the form of faulty loading we are typically concerned with is overuse.

Tonic muscles respond to faulty loading by shortening and tightening. With a lower threshold for stimulation, tonic muscles need very little encouragement to turn on. This can, and often does, result in hyperactivity of a tonic muscle, limiting the motion at the joint(s) over which that muscle crosses. As mentioned in Chapter One of Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon (http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon) , this lack of flexibility (or more specifically, this lack of mobility) results in all the biomotor abilities being adversely affected.

Phasic musculature does the exact opposite. It tends to lengthen and weaken in relation to its relative antagonist(s) or opposing muscle (group). The problem is then magnified by the fact that muscles which are short and tight will hold their antagonists in a lengthened position. This can lead to what is commonly termed stretch weakness. Stretch weakness is defined by Florence Kendall in her book entitled Muscles: Testing and Function with Posture and Pain as

weakness that results from muscles remaining in an elongated condition, however slight, beyond the neutral physiological rest position, but not beyond the normal range of muscle length.

She goes on to say that “the concept relates to the duration of the faulty alignment rather than the severity of it” (italics mine). So is it any surprise that the aspiring triathlete, who may spend up to seven hours at a time hunched over the bike with a rounded back, has increased thoracic kyphosis and can’t stand up straight? Brick that with a swim where the pectorals and medial shoulder rotators get overworked during the course of an hour-and-a-half-pool session, and the source of the typical triathlete’s faulty posture becomes clear. Now the lengthened muscles of the thoracic spine are being pulled by the tight muscles of the chest, shoulders, and lats. This results in even more thoracic kyphosis.

Maybe you should just run, you’re thinking. Well, the increased lumbar curvature created by the tight, overworked quads and hip flexors of the average runner causes a compensation in the thoracic spine leading to… say it with me… increased thoracic kyphosis. So much for the benefits of cross training, right? Instead of one source for our orthopedic and postural aberrations, we triathletes have three. I guess we’re just S.O.L.

But no, we’re not out of luck. We just can’t rely on dumb luck when it comes to our stretching program. We can’t just do random stretches for every part of the body and expect our sport-specific muscle imbalances to be addressed. We need a specific course of stretching which actively targets the muscles we abuse when we swim, bike, and run.

The question then isn’t if to stretch, but when to stretch and how? If you perform stretches for every part of the body, you haven’t done anything to alleviate the muscle imbalance caused by your triathlon training. The tight muscles are still tighter than the loose ones. Your body is still out of alignment. And a body that’s not properly aligned moves and functions less efficiently, increasing its susceptibility to fatigue and, ultimately, to injury.

The bicycle wheel is a common analogy which effectively represents this idea. Ideally, thirty-two spokes running from the rim to the hub are tensioned appropriately to keep the wheel spinning true. Logging a lot of miles on the bike, especially under harsh road conditions with bumps or potholes, can lead to a wheel which wobbles as certain spokes get tighter while others become looser. Each imperfection in the road leads to the wheel wobbling worse and worse.

During college, I worked in a bike shop in St. Petersburg, Florida. Some Mondays, guys would come in with their wheels after crashing at the weekend’s bike race to see if the wheels were salvageable. The head mechanic, a guy named Ray who worked wonders with the spoke wrench, would stick the wheel in the truing stand and spin it. The arms of the stand would tell him which spokes were in need of tightening and which should be loosened. He’d keep fine tuning the calibration of the stand—tightening a spoke half a turn here, loosening another with a quarter turn—until the wheel ran as straight and true as the day the cyclist bought it.

Some wheels, and some cyclists, weren’t so lucky. One day a guy in shredded Lycra limped into the shop carrying his mountain bike. He’d gone down pretty hard on a training ride and his front wheel was so out of true he’d had to walk the bike to the store. The guy asked us if we could fix it enough for him to ride it home. Not much for words, Ray took the wheel from the guy, went behind the counter, and held it up at eye level as if he were reading which spokes needed attention. Suddenly, and with force which could be heard over the Chili Peppers playing on the shop’s stereo, he slammed the wheel down hub-first again and again. After a few seconds, he paused, repositioned the wheel in his hands like a guy making a pizza, and slammed it down on the counter a few more times. Finally, he stopped banging the wheel and gave it back to the cyclist, who looked a bit more abused than when he’d come in. But his face changed as he spun the wheel. It still wobbled. But if he could endure a jerky ride, the wheel looked like it just might get him home.

Throughout the body, ideal length-tension relationships exist which, when altered by chronic shortening or lengthening of certain muscles, result in faulty joint kinematics. It’s a matter of physics. Forces generated by movement or loading cannot be adequately dissipated in a joint which has moved away from its instantaneous axis of rotation. The resulting premature degradation of the joint itself inevitably hastens the demise of the triathlete’s competitive career. But if you stretch the right muscles at the right time and in the right way, just like a wheel in a truing stand, your chances of maintaining your orthopedic integrity increase exponentially. And though I can’t promise you that you won’t ever have to walk your bike home, with correct stretching you should never have to limp your body home.

Question about Chronic Pain in an Endurance Athlete Posted on March 18, 2014, 0 Comments

Question:

I just did a 6 hour mtb race this past weekend. It was awesome. My writeup is below.  Another reason I'm reaching out is because I still have some nagging pains on the left side of my body (primarily) that I've been unable to fully address with stretching, chiro, and the massage I occasionally get. I've even gone as far as to stop running for the last month and a half, but it doesn't seem to be the root of the issue (just exacerbates it). 

I'm thinking I need to go to someone that's cycling and/or running specific to really dig into the problem spots. There's a couple that I've seen people talk up, but I thought I'd see if you have someone you'd recommend. Any info is appreciated!

Answer:

Sounds like it was a good race despite the issues.  And as far as those issues are concerned, I think you need to consider:

--nutrition/lifestyle: you've done some work with me, so you should have a good background.  But I question your choice of fuel for the race--GS cookies and granola bar being the main issues.  Of course, nutrition outside of competition is even more important.  Then there's thinking, breathing, hydration, movement, and sleep, too.  How are you doing here?  If you tax the system too much in relation to these principles, it's only a matter of time till the body revolts.  And to get really deep, hip flexors are closely tied to the adrenals.  And the left side of your body is the female side....

--length/tension relationships: we've never done a full physical assessment, and it might be worth your while.  You're stretching, but are you stretching exactly what you need to be stretching?

--core function: is it working, and are you strengthening what needs to be strengthened and in a functional way which supports your performance goals?

--proper program design/periodization: you might want a 2nd opinion on what you're doing (and remember: the higher your level of stress, the lower your tolerance for exercise).

--bike fit (best guy I know is Matt at Podium).

 

--equipment choice (i.e. shoe, pedal, etc).

 

Jeff Trotti is an excellent massage therapist and the guys at First Choice Health Care are skilled Chiro's and ART practitioners.  But until you address the underlying cause as mentioned above, you're likely just chasing symptoms and will have to continue seeing these folks regularly.  Ultimately, you need to be your best therapist. 

Know that endurance athletics, especially EXTREME endurance like what you're doing, is rough on the body.  And anything which is not perfectly aligned/functioning gets magnified by the volume of training/racing.  It can be something small which simply adds up until it reaches your particular breaking point.  And the better your nutrition/lifestyle/program design, the higher your threshold and the more straws your back can handle before it breaks. 

Lastly, if your issues don't seem to be responding to stretching, chiro, massage, etc, those are good clues that it's likely something else which needs to be addressed.  I've mentioned a few of the obvious suspects above.  Let me know if you want to pursue any of them with my assistance.  And good luck!

 

Much Chi

--A

Contributors to my Race Across America (RAAM) effort to raise funds for LLS Posted on March 10, 2014, 0 Comments

It takes a team....

Gratitude for all my supporters and friends below:

 

Genevieve Barber

Ruth Bartlett

Jill Bidwell

Hanns and Angie Billmayer

Jim Bilotto

Scott and Teresa Bonder

Evan and Erin Bower

Wes and Amy Bryant

Mike and Gallie Coles

Chad and Pam Dittmer

Stephen and Katrina Dooda

Dragon Fly Reiki

Chapin Ellinger

Bill Fair

Jonathan Freeman

Woody and Leslie Galloway

Ashley Gardner

Nancy Garfield

Margaret Graff

Casey Hannan

Richard Higgins

Allen and Jacque Hill

Holistic Strength Training for Triathlon

Woody and Carol Hughes

Mike and Kathy Jennings

Bill and Jennifer Jestel

Derek Johnson

Stewart and Sharon Johnston

Chase Jordan

Doug and Rhoda Joyner

Eric and Maureen Joyner

Jill Joyner Bush

Stephen Julien

Mike and Nanci King

Rob King

Jennifer Kjellgren

Steven Kushner

Karen Lang

Angela Laughter

Ralph Lloyd

Rachel Locascio

Brian and Carrie Montgomery

Christopher Moorman

Mary Charlie Murphree

Donald and Kim Nelson

Bobby and Amy Pearce

Lauren Ramsey

Brent and Ellianne Rivers

Gordon and Susan Rose

Layne Savoie

David Sawyer

Greg Schisla

Kerri Shannon

Randall Shearin

Ross and Kira Sloop

Arthur and Barbara Sohn

Jean Steusloff

Kathrine Tan

Allan Taylor

Kathryn Taylor

Cameron Thomas

Triumph Training

Allen and Jill Travis

Mike and Heather Weisenborn

Matt and Kelly Wheeler

Pam White

Brian Woodworth

Jonathan and Bethany Yearty

Jean York

Joe Younkins

 

IF YOU'D LIKE TO JOIN OUR PACELINE AS I RACE ACROSS AMERICA TO GIVE HOPE TO THOUSANDS OF LEUKEMIA AND LYMPHOMA SURVIVORS EVERYWHERE, PLEASE CONSIDER MAKING A DONATION HERE: http://pages.teamintraining.org/ga/raceacro14/ajohnstbla

 

A Preview of a Chapter from my Upcoming Book Posted on February 27, 2014, 5 Comments

Mind—an embodied process that regulates the flow of energy and information.
--Daniel Siegal, MD


I learned to keep a poker face while racing bicycles. To survive for any length of time in the professional peloton, you had to. If your face showed any hint of discomfort—that’s exactly when the strong guys would attack. So I learned ways to hide my suffering. Keep the body still. Relax the fingers on the handlebars enough to play the piano. Breathe through the nose like you’re out for a Sunday stroll.

In studies on Perceived Level of Exertion, people whose face hold a grimace report working harder than people who put on a more passive expression. I know it’s true, because I not only read the research—I was the research.

From my very first days racing bikes, I had heard the rumors of performance enhancing drugs in the sport of cycling. And while I may have had some moral inclination to stay clean, a fear of needles was actually my strongest motivation. Put those two together, and it doesn’t exactly equate to career longevity as a pro bike racer. Still, I was passionate (and probably a bit naïve) about becoming a professional cyclist. So I studied any subject I thought might make up for a possible pharmaceutical disadvantage. Every day invested into cycling was eventually matched by investments into psychology—mine and my competition.

And I got good at it, too. Strung out single file, I’d disguise my pain by casually taking a hand off the bars and scratching an imaginary itch on my ass. Or maybe I’d roll up beside a guy on an impossibly steep climb and start having a conversation. Sometimes I’d just look over and over again at a rider’s wheels or drivetrain like there was something wrong with his bike. Any trick I could use to get a mental edge over my competition, I used.

And then several years after my cycling career was over, purely by accident, I learned how to gain a mental advantage over myself.


Testing Positive


The easiest Ironman I ever did was the 2006 World Championships in Hawaii. Even though I had bronchitis and a bacterial infection, I was just so incredibly happy to be there. I simply could not wipe the smile away the whole day (9hrs and 50mins to be exact). It took me 140.6 miles of wind, heat, and humidity. But by the time I ran across the finish line with my hands in the air, I wore the truth on my face: Happiness is one powerful drug. And I was juiced up on it, baby! Which means every part of my body was rejoicing, too.

Mind is everywhere in the body. So, when you're happy, every cell in your body is happy. When you're depressed, every cell in your body is depressed. Thus, the quickest way to change your physiology for the better is, simply, to smile.

Smiling has been one of my secret weapons since the 2005 triathlon season—the year I came back from Leukemia. I call it Joy Doping. And the cool thing is, it’s not on any banned substance list.

Smiling as a performance enhancer? Happy cells? Ironically, the more stuck in your head you are, the more you’ll probably need a physical explanation to satisfy the logical side of your brain. So here’s a rather simplified one (with more physiological specifics found in the section entitled SNS vs. PNS). The Zygomaticus Major is activated each time you turn that frown upside down. This “smile muscle” is linked to the thymus, a small gland which has been drawing special attention in the field of Immunological Surveillance.

Once thought to serve no role in the body, the thymus is increasingly recognized as a vital part of the immune system. Lymphocytes called T Cells (guess what the T stands for) are a major part of the body’s defense strategy, recognizing self from non-self:

Be nice to self.
Kill non-self

Politically incorrect but physiologically prudent—at least for any organism interested in self preservation. The thymus is responsible for the “education” of the T Cells, contributing to their maturation so they can more effectively guard the host body against invaders both foreign (exogenous) and domestic (endogenous).

It’s interesting to note that the thymus gland shrinks after puberty. Before this time, it contributes to growth. Thus, atrophy of the thymus with age would seem reasonable if it’s no longer concerned with a developing body. But what if this wasting were due not to a lack of need but rather a lack of use?


Use it or lose it


The average child laughs 400 times a day. An adult averages less than four chuckles. Is it feasible then that atrophy of the thymus—a critical component of a healthy immune system—occurs because the mind-body connection wanes as we age; that adults become too far removed from the innocence and play they readily experienced as children; that the various physiological benefits associated with happiness are insufficient to support health in an organism too grown up or too preoccupied to focus on joy?

Studies by Hans Seyle and others have shown that the thymus can shrink to half its size within twenty-four hours of the onset of injury or illness or any extreme form of stress. Death is a stress, particularly for the person who’s dead. Autopsies confirm this finding, with cadavers often presenting with severe atrophy of the thymus gland. But life can be pretty stressful, too. And most of those stressors fall under one of the below headings:

Physical
--poor posture is an example of bad physical stress.
Chemical
--synthetically manufactured medical drugs or pesticides are examples of bad chemical stress.
Electromagnetic
--too much exposure to computers, cell phones, microwave ovens, televisions, etc are all examples of bad electromagnetic stress
Nutrition
--eating non foods or foods laden with chemicals (see chemical above) are examples of bad nutrition stress.
Thermal
--a burn (i.e. sunburn) is an example of bad thermal stress.
Psychic
--being rushed or taking on more responsibility than you can manage is an example of bad psychic stress.

Of course, that last bullet point—Psychic—is the focus of this section. And while there are definitely Body-Mind connections which will be further explored later in this writing, the Mind-Body connections are most commonly the driving factors. In other words—but still building upon the driving analogy—if the influence of the Body over the Mind is a street, then the impact the Mind has on the Body is a six lane expressway.

Here’s an example. Say, I hit you in your face—take my hand and give you a solid, open-palm slap across the cheek. It’s hard to tell which is worse: the pain or the shock. Either way, you would probably get so pissed off that no one could tell I left a mark on your face because it was turning beet red with anger. Or, if this is the kind of thing you’re in to, you could become sexually aroused and want to jump my bones. And it’s actually feasible that my action elicits no reaction from you whatsoever. It all depends on the thoughts going through your head.


You may not control the stimulus, but you can control your reaction to the stimulus.


In the case of my Ironman World Championship race, the event was an obvious physical stimulus—or stress if you want to look at it that way: 140.6 miles of swimming, cycling, and running; almost ten hours in conditions which would make most crumble; minimal sleep the night before, not to mention the numerous events leading up to race day (which can be found here: http://triumphtraining.com/blogs/blog/6364600-hawaii-ironman-2006).

I might love to compete. I may be passionate about exploring my personal limits. But whether you’re racing or training or under any sort of physical or mental stress, your physiology at the time is suffering. So I made a choice and smiled.

Smile and you activate Zygomaticus Major.
Zygomatics Major stimulates the thymus.
The thymus keeps you healthy.
When you’re healthy, you can perform.

Let me challenge you: Wake up tomorrow morning and begin laughing. Force it if you have to until it becomes real. Or go look at your hair in the mirror—that should do the trick. Now do it non-stop for 60 seconds. You just set the tone for the day.

And you didn't even need a prescription.

Do Vitamin C and E hurt physical performance? Posted on February 15, 2014, 0 Comments

Original study found here: http://jp.physoc.org/content/early/2014/01/31/jphysiol.2013.267419.abstract

 

Vitamin C and E supplementation hampers cellular adaptation to endurance training in humans: a double-blind randomized controlled trial

 

In this double-blind, randomized, controlled trial we investigated the effects of vitamin C and E supplementation on endurance training adaptations in humans. Fifty-four young men and women were randomly allocated to receive either 1000 mg vitamin C and 235 mg vitamin E daily or a placebo for 11 weeks. During supplementation, the participants completed an endurance training programme consisting of 3-4 sessions per week (primarily running), divided into high intensity interval sessions (4-6x4-6 minutes; >90% of maximal heart rate (HRmax)) and steady state continuous sessions (30-60 minutes; 70-90% of HRmax). Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), submaximal running, and a 20 m shuttle run test were assessed and blood samples and muscle biopsies were collected, before and after the intervention. The vitamin C and E group increased their VO2max (8±5%) and performance in the 20 m shuttle test (10±11%) to the same degree as the placebo group (8±5% and 14±17%, respectively). However, the mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV (COX4; +59±97%) and cytosolic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma coactivator 1 alpha (PGC-1alpha; +19±51%) increased in m. vastus lateralis in the placebo group, but not in the vitamin C and E group (COX4: -13±54%, PGC-1alpha: -13±29%; p≤0.03, between groups). Furthermore, mRNA levels of CDC42 and mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (MAPK1) in the trained muscle were lower in the vitamin C and E group (p≤0.05, compared to the placebo group). Daily vitamin C and E supplementation attenuated increases in markers of mitochondrial biogenesis following endurance training. However, no clear interactions were detected for improvements in VO2max and running performance. Consequently, vitamin C and E supplementation hampered cellular adaptions in the exercised muscles, and although this was not translated to the performance tests applied in this study, we advocate caution when considering antioxidant supplementation combined with endurance exercise.

 

Isolates don't occur in nature. So when you eat something with vitamins, you're eating complexes which is the vitamin combined with other vitamins, minerals, and similar micro nutrients which occur together naturally and your body can use. When you take a whopping dose of ascorbic acid (SYNTHETIC Vit C--not true Vit C), the body is forced to use its own stores of nutrition to digest and assimilate it as the other co-factors are missing from the supplement. Food is the best supplement out there.

A Question about Constipation Posted on January 02, 2014, 1 Comment

Thanks for writing.

Constipation can have several etiologies, but here's what I'd consider the most helpful in restoring your health in full:

1) Thyroid function.  Thyroid health has an impact on all of the body's systems including elimination and detoxification.  Nutrition is a key factor in thyroid function, and many politically correct diet recommendations are adversely impacting the health of this critical organ.  Specifically
--PUFAs (Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids): vegetable oils are the prime culprits here.  They are pro-inflammatory, down regulate the thyroid, and actually inhibit immunity.
--most processed foods will use PUFAs as they are cheap alternatives to better quality ingredients.
--Cruciferous veggies when eaten raw (i.e. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc).  They work as goitrogens and actually down regulate the thyroid.  Cook them well and eat them with a saturated fat (animal product or even coconut oil--the latter of which is pro-thryoid and has anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties).
2) Nutrition
--anything which you may be intolerant of (gluten, for example) can cause inflammation and all the resulting dysfunctions
--many of the foods touted as being high in fiber (i.e. beans, grains, green leafy veggies) are not optimal for human digestion (we're omnivores and not ruminant herbivores--thus, we have a difficult time breaking down these foods and utilizing them effectively).  Anytime digestion is impaired, fueling suffers while inflammation is increased.
--Gums (locust bean, xanthum, etc) all are particularly bad and will literally gum up the intestines.
3) Hydration.  You need enough but not too much.  Good rule of thumb is 1/2 your body weight in lbs in oz of water each day (i.e. 150lbs = 75oz of water).  But this can easily dilute electrolyte status, which is really what hydration is predicated upon, so I recommend adding a bit of salt (sea or pickling with no anti-caking agents) to everything I drink.  Not only is this pro-thyroid, it also down regulates the production of aldosterone--a stress hormone.  And anytime you see stress, think inflammation/dysfunction on some level and extra demand on the body's resources.
4) Movement.  Should be full body.  Think of movements which move you into and out of the fetal position.  Squats would be a good example.  But swimming could work, too.  And running or even walking is great to get things moving.  At the very least, bouncing up and down (on a mini trampoline, for example) would help with lymphatic drainage and promote peristalsis.  A word of caution here: exercise (especially cardio as typically performed) in excess of your current training status can easily down regulate the thyroid, so I might cap duration at 45mins.

Additional strategies would include exposure to sun light or at least bright (250+w) incandescent lighting to stimulate the mitochondria, adequate protein intake (preferably from animal sources with liberal use of gelatin/bone broth which has minimal tryptophan and can be used to balance the amino acid profile such that it doesn't perpetuate inflammation/sluggish thyroid), enough dietary carbohydrate (fruit and below ground veggies being the best choices), minding natural circadian rhythms, proper breathing mechanics, and awareness of your thinking and how each though/idea/belief impacts your physiology secondary to activation of specific parts of the autonomic nervous system.  Lots of other possible ideas, but the above should be more than enough to get you moving in the right direction (pun intended).  More info can be found in my book (http://triumphtraining.com/pages/holistic-strength-training-for-triathlon).  And I'm working as quickly as my schedule will allow on my next book which will explore these subject in even greater detail. 

Good luck and know that health is your birthright. 
Go claim it.
Much Chi
--Andrew

Twist Pattern Posted on December 21, 2013, 0 Comments

Usually coupled with other movements, twisting is an integral part of most sports, and triathlon is no exception. In fact, rotation is the core of all movement. Swimming is predicated on rotation. If a runner can’t twist, the movements which propel him forward are not only shortened, they are less efficient and the restriction will likely cause a compensation which will result in injury. Even cycling has rotational forces which must be stabilized in the body to deliver optimal power to the pedals. Proficiency in the twist pattern, then, should be a goal of every triathlete who wants to make it, not only to the starting line, but to the finish line as well.

First Descent—Kneeling
Second Descent—Seated on Swiss Ball
Third Descent—Seated on machine

EXAMPLE EXERCISES

T Push Ups
1. In prone position with arms outstretched and hands placed shoulder width apart directly underneath the shoulders, lower the body down until the upper arm is approximately parallel with the floor.
2. Push back toward the start position by extending the arms while simultaneously rotating to the dominant side so that body is supported by the non-dominant arm. Feet should roll on top of each other if proficiency allows. Otherwise, feet can remain apart, giving more stability.
3. Return to start position by reversing the motion and then repeat on the opposite side.

Twister
1. In prone position with arms outstretched, hands placed shoulder width apart directly underneath the shoulders, and shins on top of a physio ball, rotate lower body to one side as far as possible without losing neutral spinal curvatures.
2. Rotate back toward the start position and continue the movement in the opposite direction.
3. Return to start position and repeat for the designated number of reps.

Upper-Body Russian Twists
1. Seated on a physio ball, roll body down until the ball supports the head and shoulders. Feet on the ground with shins perpendicular to the floor. Arms should be outstretched in front of body so that hands are in front of the chest with the fingers interlaced. Maintain TVA function (i.e., navel drawn in slightly) to avoid over-recruitment of the lumbar erectors.
2. Rotate torso to one side by rolling the ball and the shoulder together while keeping the hips elevated. Hands should move because the body moves—i.e. roll, don’t reach).
3. Rotate back to the start position and then repeat the movement in the opposite direction.
4. Repeat for the designated number of reps. Reposition feet as necessary. If head comes off ball, make sure tongue is placed in the physiological rest position so that forward head posture is not exacerbated.

Lower-Body Russian Twists
1. In prone position with arms outstretched, hands placed shoulder width apart directly underneath the shoulders, and shins on top of a physio ball, flex the hips so that the body is in a pike position.
2. Rotate pelvis to one side by rolling the ball and the hips/lower legs together.
3. Rotate back to the start position and then repeat the movement in the opposite direction.
4. Repeat for the designated number of reps. Reposition hips as necessary.

Drop and Recover
1. Seated on a physio ball, roll body down until the ball supports the head and shoulders. Feet are on the ground with shins perpendicular to the floor. One arm should be outstretched in front of the body with the palm facing down. The other arm is retracted into the ball with the hand at the level of the shoulder, palm down.
2. Explosively rotate torso in the direction of the arm that is outstretched in front of the body while simultaneously switching the positions of the arms so that the opposite arm is outstretched in front of the body and the other arm powerfully retracts into the ball. Lower body works in conjunction with the upper body so that the end position is supported by the legs and the elbow of the arm that’s on the ball.
3. Descend back to the start position before immediately rotating explosively up to the other side.
4. Repeat for the designated number of reps.

Twisting Lunge (Walk)
1. Standing with Good Posture, take a step forward with the non-dominant leg so that the shin is perpendicular to the ground when the thigh is at parallel. Simultaneously, twist upper body in the direction of the forward leg. Knee should track over foot throughout the movement. Torso should remain upright and the trailing leg should be bent with the knee almost touching the floor (as flexibility/strength allow) while ball of foot stays in contact with the ground.
2. Pushing through the heel, move forward to a standing position and repeat on the opposite side.


Lunge (Walk) Arc
1. Standing with Good Posture while holding a weight on the side of the dominant leg, take a step forward with the non-dominant leg so that the shin is perpendicular to the ground when the thigh is at parallel. Simultaneously, arc weight over the head from the dominant side to the non-dominant side so that it ends up outside the hip of the forward leg. Knee should track over foot throughout the movement. Torso should remain upright and the trailing leg should be bent with the knee almost touching the floor (as flexibility/strength allow) while ball of foot stays in contact with the ground.
2. Pushing through the heel, move forward to a standing position and repeat on the opposite side.