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Won the Autism Awareness 5k today! Great cause with great people!

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            Poor race performances can leave athletes frustrated and with a lot of questions. Athletes who “hit the wall” may be even more frustrated. There are many reasons an athlete may “hit the wall” during a race including but not limited to fueling, poor nutrition, mental weakness, extreme weather, etc. One reason we will focus on here is the lack of proper durability/endurance for the race distance.

            Too many athletes begin doing work at speeds that they will not even be able to average during their race. This can make sense for some races like ITU style triathlons where sudden increases in speed are required, but for most endurance races, this is not the best use of training time. You are adapting your body to run at speeds you will not hit during your race, while it is better to train at your current race pace, and have that steadily increase.

            It is easy to get caught up on how fast you can complete a distance, but too many athletes begin building speed for a race they do not have the proper endurance to complete. This is not to say that the athlete cannot complete the distance, but rather the athlete does not have sufficient aerobic endurance to complete the distance to the best of their abilities. In more simplistic terms, an athlete should be able to complete the race distance with ease which can be measured by heart rate. If the athlete has to elevate effort and intensity throughout just to complete the distance then they are lacking sufficient aerobic endurance. Going anaerobic should not be necessary just to complete the race distance. This is the difference between a coupled workout and a decoupled workout.

            In a coupled workout the ratio of heart rate to either power on the bike or pace in the run will be less than 5% between the first half of the workout and the second half. In other words, if you complete a one hour bike workout at a heart rate of 150 throughout the entire workout, your power should start at say 200 watts and not decrease by more than 5% or 10 watts. If your watts decline by more than 5% then your workout is considered decoupled, which means you do not have the durability to complete that distance at that intensity.

            For these tests the heart rate is going to be the zone which is your aerobic threshold, or where your effort is conversational and no labored breathing is required. In the zones that I use, that is approximately 80-88% of your lactate threshold heart rate.

To compute this data you must break the workout in half and fill in these values.

            1st Half Average Power: 200                  2nd Half Average Power: 195

            1st Half Average HR:  150                      2nd Half Average HR: 150


With these values we can compute the power to heart rate ratio for each by dividing the power by the heart rate.

           1st Half Ratio: 200/150 = 1.33               2nd Half Ratio: 195/150 = 1.3

Now find the difference between the two. If the difference is greater than .05 or 5% then the workout is decoupled. If it is less that .05 or 5% then it is coupled. *For running you can replace power with the average pace in seconds. So if the average pace for one half is 7:30 than it is 450 seconds.

            It is important to remember during these tests to control one variable and see how the other changes. In both running and cycling I suggest keeping the heart rate stable and watching how the pace or power reacts.

            This type of test is ideal for the base phase as the goal of this phase of periodization is to build sufficient endurance for the race distance. The other ingredient to this is to complete the test for the correct duration to approximate your race distance. For example, for a sprint distance triathlete you should be able to have a coupled aerobic paced bike ride for one hour. The chart below gives the correct testing durations for the specified race distance. Test your race distances, and see if you can complete an aerobic paced coupled workout for the corresponding duration to see if your fitness is where is should be. 

If you are interested in coaching services please visit www.noreastertriathlon.com  and contact James Petersen.

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            As stated in previous articles, not much focus is put on running technique by runners and triathletes alike. One area this lack of attention is detrimental to performance is downhill running.

            Running downhill requires an eccentric contraction of the quadriceps and lower leg muscles. In simple terms, your muscles are lengthening while running downhill. Uphill may feel more demanding, but downhill segments will tire your legs (specifically quadriceps) for later stages of the race, or the next day. One great example of this experience is the Boston Marathon. Early miles showcase a drop in elevation which results in a quick early pace and quadriceps fatigue. The pace feels easy and quadriceps discomfort is often not realized until the later stages of the race.

            The best resolution to this polemic is improved awareness, technique and therefore running efficiency. Watch the video below which explains the foot strike phase. 

            Now that you know how your foot should strike the ground, there are a few things to complement that.

Body Lean: This is the primary focus area. A normal reaction/habit to downhill running is to lean backwards, as to slow the body down. However, this backwards lean creates an undesirable braking force in the form of an overemphasized heel strike. (As we discussed in the video, this is not an ideal strike) Your center of gravity is moved backwards, and forward momentum is decreased. In short, avoid the backward lean which correlates to the heel strike. With this in mind, it is important to avoid leaning too far forward that you lose form and are out of control. Lean forward from your hips and not your shoulders.

Arm Swing: Downhill running does not require the driving force from your arm swing like flats. Once an optimal speed is reached, you may decrease arm swing to prevent going out of control. (Rotation of the spine and twisting of shoulders, with regards to arm swing may also be decreased)

Cadence: Stride length does not need to be so long. Increase your cadence to make sure you do not over stride and therefore heel strike. You want to make sure that your strike is landing right underneath your center of gravity and not in front of it. This will also decrease pressure on your quadriceps. Contact time with the ground should be short. Put your foot down and get it off quickly. One method to doing this is to focus on simply lifting your leg backwards off the ground as fast as possible. (Like the infamous butt kick drill)

Eye Focus: Like typical running form, remember to look forward and not down at your feet as doing so deactivates the hip extensor muscles which help keep your balance.

            Downhill running is an art. A lack of proper technique takes away free speed gains that don’t require energy and cause increased wear on your quadriceps which can come back to bite you later in the race. On the other hand, perfecting this technique will give you energy reduced speed gains and preserve your quadriceps for later stages of the race. Avoid the backwards lean, keep cadence high, and nail that foot strike!

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The NCAA has officially accepted Women’s Triathlon as an NCAA Emerging Sport. What does this mean? It means that starting in August 2014, universities will be allowed to compete at the NCAA level. Right now there are several universities going after NCAA status and recognition. Now this NCAA Triathlon is not your average triathlon. NCAA triathlon will be focused on draft legal racing and the ITU style. Why you might ask? Because the Olympics are draft legal. Plain and simple. Now why are men not included? Title 9. In order to start men’s triathlon there would have been a push against women’s sports. USA Triathlon had to start somewhere, and women were the easiest course. My guess is that men’s NCAA triathlon is a far ways off. But we can keep hoping. In the meantime this is quite a success for the sport of triathlon, and women in the sport! (I’ll break down my feelings about draft legal racing another day)

Interested in being coached? Visit www.noreastertriathlon.com for more info!

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The breath-holding world record is over 22 minutes! This is an incredible feat, and needless to say its owner has extremely strong lungs. Now it is not necessary to hold your breath for 22 minutes in any swim or triathlon race, but lung strength is always beneficial to your swimming, and aerobic fitness in general. 

Science tells us that lung capacity cannot be increased*, however how efficiently our bodies use oxygen can. Ever watch professional swimmers and notice that they take several strokes before they come up for air after their flip turns? This is not an easy practice. Anyone who begins doing flip turns for the first time knows that as the yards go on, it becomes more and more tiring. However, eventually you will find yourself doing a 3000 yard swim workout with all flip turns, and you will not even think about gasping for air after the turns. This is because your lung strength has improved, and adapted to this lack of oxygen. You are now using your oxygen more efficiently. 

So for those of you who are trying to incorporate flip turns into your daily practice, or those who utilize flip turns and just want to improve their lung strength; here are a couple workouts for you to practice while in the pool.

1) I have my athletes do a minimum of one set of lung strengthening swims per week. One is a set of 200s with a decreasing amount of breathes every 50 yards.

10x200 (First 50 breathe every 2 strokes, second 50 every 3, third every 4, fourth every 5)

2) Windsprints are another effective lung strengthening exercise. For me I have athletes complete 50’s or if more talented 100s, and the last 25 they go all out, and take a maximum of 1 breathe. 

*The idea that lung capacity cannot be increased is a debated topic, as several studies have recently concluded that elite swimmers have broke this rule.

** If you are interested in coaching services please visit www.noreastertriathlon.com 

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Officially part of the Triathlon Team USA for Edmonton 2014!

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Here one of my athletes, Julie Benson, describe her Boston Marathon story. http://bostonlog.blogspot.com/2013/11/april-15-2013-i-had-just-gotten-out-of.html

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Hey guys,

I like to put in my week of training every once in awhile. Here are my distances for this week. So far right on track. Base Phase #1

50 Miles Running

200 Miles Biking

8.25 Miles Swimming (14,500 yards)

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Since I began my journey in the world of triathlon coaching, there is one metric that seems to stand above the rest; lactate threshold. For the bike we can measure this in terms of power, but not every athlete has a power tap. And even if they did, cross examination with heart rate is vital for accuracy. I myself have had several coaches now, and have found some problems with their testing. 

Now in case you are unaware, lactate threshold is what helps determine an athlete’s training paces and zones. (Specifically heart rate zones) Lactate thershold is the heart rate, power, or pace that you can maintain all out for one hour. However, doing a one hour test is rarely ideal.

The problem with most athletes is that they don’t understand the concept of an easy workout. (What I call a Zone 1 workout.) If you attach a heart rate monitor, you will find most athletes are training too hard for their easy runs, and not hard enough for their hard runs.

Now to the point of this post. The above picture is a indoor power test on the bike. A common test on an indoor trainer is a 30 minute all out effort. This is a FTP30 (Functional Threshold Power for 30 minutes) The average power for the 30 minutes will help cyclists determine their power training zones. However, my interest here is cross examination with a run test for lactate threshold heart rate. 

For this 30 minute test, the average heart rate for the final 20 minutes is commonly referred to as your Lactate Threshold Heart Rate. As you can see above, my heart rate for the last 20 minutes was 185. The reason I point this out is because I was in search of a easier way to test for lactate threshold heart rate in a run test. Many people use half marathons or a 30 minute all out effort. However, I believe that people want to do their test at a distance that drives them. For me the simple answer was a 5K test. A half marathon is too long to test every month, and a 5K is the ultimate motivation since everyone talks about their 5K time. However I could not find a calculation for lactate threshold heart rate for a 5K. 

All 5K tests are done on a treadmill so that the environment is as controlled as possible. (If you have issues with treadmills then you have other issues that I am not delving into now.) Needless to say my average HR for the 5k was 189. Now I did this run before the bike test, and determined that 189 minus 5 BPM was probably the most accurate. So I assumed my lactate threshold heart rate was 184. Then my bike test which is a commonly accepted test, determined it was 185. 

Now, I understand this is just myself and only 1 test, but I believe it is interesting to point out. If you need to determine LTHR from your athlete and all you have is a 5K, this is a great rule. (Average heart rate minus five BPM) I will continue to test myself monthly and test my athletes, but so far this has proved pretty concrete.

Addition: I have now tested one of my marathon athletes and was also accurate.