2/20/15

Periodized strength training - say what?



"One of the most important functions of muscles and tendons in running is to store energy. Like a pogo stick, your body can store energy from impact and then release it to propel your body forward. As such, a large portion of your propulsive energy actually comes from the energy stored in your legs from impact previously made with the ground. This is why you can leap higher and longer if you do a “countermovement” before jumping, like swiftly bending your knees, which allows you to reach much higher into the air than slowly bending your knees.
While this “stretch-shortening cycle” has been known about for some time, standardized methods of training this reflex are fairly new. Improvements in your muscles’ ability to elastically store energy have obvious implications for runners, as more stored energy means you can maintain a given pace using less overall energy. In short, your efficiency would improve.
Plyometrics are exercises that aim to develop strength and speed by conditioning the neuromuscular and elastic characteristics of the muscle. The main objective of plyometric training for runners is to produce greater power by training the muscles to contract more quickly and forcefully from an actively pre-stretched position." - source

It's easy to understand the benefits of plyometrics and many athletes will discuss the need to strength train in a cardio-focused training plan. But if your ultimate goal is to be a fast and strong runner, triathlete, swimmer or cyclist, what's the best strategy for incorporating strength training into your periodized training plan so that you don't compromise your energy/time for your primary sport?

Well, the first part is actually making time to strength train and to be consistent with it on a weekly basis. The second part is knowing how to periodize your strength training with your cardio. The third part is making sure you keep good form and progress slowly as your two top priorities when you strength train. You wouldn't run 20 miles after 3 weeks of starting your marathon training plan so why do plyometrics when you haven't yet mastered standing on one leg while moving your arms back and forth?

As athletes, it's so easy to get so caught up in the end result that we often get stuck into the mentality  that the miles/hours we put into training are the only way to feel physically prepared for our upcoming event. But we all know that improving fitness and feeling race ready is much more than just putting in the miles and hours for your respected sport. Strength training improves performance and there is no denying this concept. You can swim, bike and run as much as you want, for hours and hours every day but strength training can improve your speed, power and endurance and the gains are often quick to receive without as much time needed for big results. 

I believe that the biggest reason that athletes do not strength train is that it takes up time and the athlete/coach doesn't feel it is necessary. Funny because athletes make the time to train 10+ hours a week and talk about being "strong" as it relates to improved fitness but can't squeeze in 90 minutes a week of strength training.

Another reason why I believe athletes don't strength train is because it is not fun or perhaps the knowledge isn't there how to strength train as a triathlete or runner or swimmer or cyclist. I realize there is no endorphin high when lifting weights and that can make strength training feel like a waste of time.

In my perfect world, all athletes and fitness enthusiasts would strength train - yes, I find it that important.

It's so important that I want you understand that strength training is more than being strong just for the fact of being strong. We strength train to improve the brain-muscle connection (or neuromuscular pathway) because that is how we produce movements. So many of the "functional" strength exercises that may seem so super simple and boring are quite imperative to "turning on" specific muscles to fire more effectively. For example, if you have ever been told that your glutes aren't working/firing or are "dead" it's not that your glutes aren't working (or else you would not be standing) but they are not receiving the correct signals to support the given exercise  like in running or cycling. Just think about how you feel after you warm-up or after the first few miles in a race compared to before you start - I'm sure you would agree that a warm-up or dynamic exercises can help you become less stiff and that is kinda similar to what strength training can do for your body - you are simply helping the muscles wake up and work better.

Think about the concept - just like a child learning how to ski for the first time, there are specific movements that are new and unfamiliar but also movements that require extreme balance and control. Also for any new skill, we must have the right strength to continue progressing our skills.  We can certainly just swim, bike and run more to get faster and stronger but eventually, a limit will be reached when you have no more time or energy to devote to getting stronger and faster and you may find yourself pushing so hard to improve that you get injured. This is why we must make sure we are taking the time to strength train so that the brains learns how to connect with the muscles in a way that produces efficient, powerful and fatigue-resistant movements. 
I highly suggest starting slow with your strength training. Just like anything that requires skills (learning how to swim, ride a bike, ski, play tennis, etc.), if you skip over steps, you will regret lacking patience down the road. Just like building a house, if you want a strong foundation, you have to follow a well-designed blue print and follow the right steps to build it slowly. 

 Strength training is a key component in your athlete development. 

Karel and I often do strength before our cardio workouts such as doing a 30 min strength or plyo session before an EZ form focused run or doing 10-20 minutes of glute/core/hip strength before a swim or doing 5 min of foam rolling + hip mobility before a bike workout. 
Sometimes we will do our cardio workout in the morning (swim, bike or run) and then do our strength session in the evening as our second workout of the day (instead of another swim, bike or run workout). 
We often do strength before a swim workout and a few times we will do strength after we swim since it is convenient to strength train where we swim. 

But regardless of when we strength train, we are not just strength training because we see "strength" on our workout plan. It is part of the entire weekly focus of training.
When we perform strength around a cardio workout, we see the workout as a whole (example strength + run or swim + strength or bike AM, strength PM) rather than just squeezing in a few exercises here or there and call it a completed strength session. 


The strength training is very specific has a purpose in our plan and the preceding or former cardio workout is designed to compliment the strength session (and vice versa).

This may all sounds confusing but the most important thing to remember is that strength training should enhance your cardio routine. To learn more, I highly recommend reading The Well-Built Triathlete by Coach Matt Dixon as he does a fantastic job explaining strength training in a cardio focused routine (among many other great topics that he discusses that will help you build great performances). 
So how should you periodize your strength trainingwith your cardio training? 

Here's how we do it at Trimarni Coaching and Nutrition.

First we start with our transition or foundation training which can be found in our 8-week transition plan.  Many of the cardio workouts in our foundation phase are also strength focused (ex. heavy gear work on the bike, band and paddle work in the pool and hill work for the run) in addition to specific isolated and simple, neuromuscular-focused strength workouts.

Exercises include: Step-ups, marching, bridge w/ alternating legs, stability ball work and dynamic warm-ups. 

Next we progress our athletes to endurance/power based strength. We make exercises more complex and explosive knowing that our athletes have put in a good 8-weeks of basic movements to help the brain/muscle/nerve relationship for more fluid movements.

Exercises include: squat jumps with bar, single leg deadlifts, push-ups, medicine and stability ball work and a series of basic plyometrics. 





After 8+10-12 weeks of progressing with strength, our athletes are super strong and no longer feel as if strength is taking away from their cardio fitness but instead, they understand (and can see) it is clearly enhancing their cardio fitness. So, essentially it is much easier for our athletes to continue with strength through their peak training and want to do it.  Additionally, since strength was periodized with their training, we know they advanced slowly so the risk of injury goes down so long as the athlete is continuing to train smart and does not mix intensity and volume and strength together, within a workout (in our training plans, we make sure our athletes get stronger before they get faster and then they go longer).
 We are currently finishing up the videos of our race specific phase of strength training for our athletes. All of our pre-built plans include the exercises that we and our athletes do in the first two phases of strength training (foundation and endurance/power).



Here are two advanced strength exercises in our race specific phase of strength training:


Advanced plyometric circuit



Chin-ups


Other race-specific exercises include: series of glute/hip warm-up exercises for every workout, medicine ball squats, single arm weight press, squat jump with bar and overhead lift, bench jumps, plank clams, wall squat with medicine ball overhead lift, pull-ups and single leg lunges with weight. 
Oh, and the best part about our strength training is that our athletes do not have to belong to a fancy gym because we include no machines in our functional strength routine. We do require the use of weights, weight bars, kettle bells, medicine balls, bars and steps but we provide options in the case that our athletes do not have all of these options. Simply put, all our Trimarni athletes (of all levels) do strength training  - at least 3 times per week. 
If you have any questions about strength training in your periodized training plan, just send me an email and we can set up a consultation to help you get stronger so you can take your fitness to that next level.

Have fun getting stronger before you get faster before you go longer!
For more informative strength videos, check out my web-based PT Chris Johnson HERE who has helped me tremendously with my hip/glute strength and helping me "turn" on my glutes. 

2/19/15

Strength training benefits - get stronger, get faster, go longer



When Karel and I were dating in 2006-2007, I remember the first time when I invited Karel to the gym with me to do my plyometric workout. As a cyclist, Karel didn't do much (if any) strength training as he didn't belong to a gym and didn't own any weights at home. All of Karel's training to get faster, stronger and more powerful was on the bike.

Although I met Karel with a fresh "Master of Science in Exercise Physiology" degree, my love for strength training (and knowledge) started when I was around 12 years old, when I started competitive swimming. Our coach wasted no time, even at a young age, for us all to belong to Gold's Gym where we would all do our 30 minute strength workout before heading back to the pool for our two-hour swim  workout. In High School, I continued to strength train and perform various plyometric and band work before workouts and then through college, the plyometric and strength routines became more complex as I found myself also swimming more yards each day/week than ever before.

The most important take away of this all is understanding that my swimming fitness came from a combination of being in the pool AND performing strength on dry land.

Here I am, 20 years later and I still value strength training as an endurance triathlete and it is an inaugural part of my cardio-focused training. 

When Karel did his first plyo session with me back in the day, he had very little balance and stability. Despite being super strong, anything he did on one leg or with a stability ball was extremely difficult for him. Also, he didn't have the upper body or core strength that matched his lower body strength so many of the exercises that required full body was rather difficult for him. Sure, he loved the intensity of the workout but the foundation wasn't there for him to really receive the benefits of plyometrics. I knew that I had to take Karel back a few notches before advancing with plyo's or else he would have gotten injured or experienced too much fatigue that the strength would not yield favorable results with his cycling performance and training.
(telling my crit-racing boyfriend that he needs to start at a beginner level was not easy!)

I realize that jumping off and on blocks or bounding on one or two feet can be a bit intimidating and it is isn't for everyone. But strength training is extremely valuable and it is one of the most effective ways to take your training to the next level all while reducing risk for injury. Considering that training for an event requires us to take risks to gain the competitive edge and injuries are quite high when you are pushing your body day after day, on the same environment (swimming = pool, cycling = trainer or outside, running = track, treadmill, trail, road), strength training is the easiest way to get fitter, faster and stronger with very minimal negative side-effects because you don't have to do it a lot in order to receive huge benefits. 

I often hear athletes saying that they don't have time to strength train despite doing over 10 hours of cardio every week. I hear athletes worrying about being sore from strength training but just love the soreness after a long run or brick session.  Sure, there is certainly a risk for injury if you are overambitious when trying any strength training for the first time and it's also easy to do too much if you are a lover of strength training so that is why it is important to periodize your strength training with your training plan. 

In my next blog I will share with you how we periodize strength in our training plans and show a few videos as well of our recent race-specific strength workouts. 

2/17/15

Evaluate your "healthy" diet




            Are you looking for an easy dietary switch that will quickly improve your health?
                Are you looking for an easy lifestyle change to boost your immune system?
       Are you looking for a simple way to eat smarter in order to take your training to the next level?

                             Look no further because the magic answer lies in real food. 



This is the ingredient list for flavored oatmeal. Regardless if you are choosing low sugar for the "healthier" option or an instant flavored packet is more delicious and convenient, you can clearly see that there is more to oatmeal than oats in this package.
Guar Gum, Artificial flavor, creaming agent, partially hydrogenated soybean oil, flavored and colored fruit pieces, corn syrup solids.....

I realize that oats are very simple and plain but why does a company need to make oatmeal more entertaining when it is already so sustaining? 

I encourage you to raise awareness to the typically consumed foods in your diet and when you typically consume them. This is all in an effort to help you develop a healthier relationship with food and to keep your body in good health. In today's society, we are overloaded with information on good vs bad food and many times, extremely healthy foods that can reduce our risk of disease and illness are off-limit in your diet for a very silly reason.
You'd be surprised how many foods you are avoiding (or not consciously consuming) that can be so healthy for your body. Perhaps we should be asking ourselves as a society, "could many of our health issues be caused from simply never taking the time to create better lifestyle habits when it comes to cooking, meal prep and planning ahead?"

Don't blame food for being bad when you can bring attention to your past food choices/habits and what you have not been consuming that is "healthy". 
If you want a change for the future, you must reflect on the past. 

In order for you to better understand why your current diet isn't working, just look at the most commonly consumed in your diet and how you consume those foods? 

As you review your most commonly consumed food choices, do not become scared of food. If your diet is rich in processed food, start making some real food swaps. This doesn't mean that you can never have a M&M or eat a bright red cookie made by your child or you can never have a processed food. Being a savvy consumer when it comes to your diet is extremely important so that you associate "healthy" eating with real food. 
And that's it - real food, made from mother earth, is healthy for your body. You just have to make an effort to consume it regularly for it to do your body good. 

Always consider your personal clinical/health, fitness, religious, ethical and personal experiences with food when individualizing your diet. Just like any fad, like clothing, gear or accessories, you need to figure out what works best for you. So even if a food is "real" by nature, it's important that you personalize your diet to meet your individual needs. 

Your Trimarni homework is to dedicate at least 1 meal and 1 snack every day, to show your appreciate for real food. 

You will need to cook at home or take the time for meal prep and plan for leftovers but if you keep doing the same thing, you can't expect different results with your diet. 

We all know that food elimination is the most simple, easiest strategy for cleaning up the diet but the problem is that it doesn't bring changes. Removing a food without a lifestyle change is meaningless because you are not solving a problem, you are simply avoiding an issue. 


Simple real food swaps can easily improve your health, keep you satisfied and help control/manage weight and can also support your active lifestyle. More so, prioritizing more real food as your primary dietary change can keep you from considering an elimination food/mass marketed diet which claims to be a "lifestyle change". Without a lifestyle change, in 1,3 or 6 months, you will likely go back to old habits.

 Instead of avoiding dairy because you heard it is bad, simply swap out the artificially flavored yogurt in your life or sugary cereal with milk and replace with a healthy snack of 0% Plain Greek Yogurt and add real fruit for flavor and natural sweetness. If you are anti whole grain because you are afraid of gluten, ask yourself when was the last time you spent the time cooking millet, teff, wild rice and amaranth?

Rather than putting all your energy into what you shouldn't be eating and what you need to stop eating, how about getting excited about the changes you can make to incorporate more real food into your diet?

Like with anything in life, you can't rush changes when you want long lasting results.
So instead of questioning which cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, crackers, bread or bar is the healthiest, start from scratch and eat real food....the way mother earth intended it to be consumed.  



2/16/15

Stop making excuses - find a way to make it happen



Step inside our life and you will see that Karel and I are not the type of people who make excuses. Karel came to the U.S. with only a backpack and a dream. Karel's work ethic for everything he does is outstanding and he is not one for the easy way.
I spent 10 (expensive) higher educational years in school, only to be equipped with the right knowledge to start my own small business. I have always been an entrepreneur as I strive off projects and ideas coming to life. But if you are your own boss, you better expect to work really hard if you want things to happen. 
Our stories may not be unlike many of you reading this post right now. You got to where you are because of hard work and dedication.
There are so many no-excuses type of people in this world and I'm sure you can agree, there is a lot of contagious energy to gain from those who have full commitment to whatever it is they are focused on in life.
Are you one of them?
So what does this mean - to have a no-excuse type of attitude? 
Does it mean that we want to win at all cost or carry the tittle "Bad A$$" wherever we go? Does this mean we suffer through everything just to get it done or we push through and never rest? Does this mean we sacrifice things in life to focus on ourselves so we can reach our goals? Does this mean we take risks all the time? Are we selfish with our own lifestyle because we don't have the time/energy to spend on anything that isn't beneficial for us? Does this mean we feel guilty if we have to change our plans?
Absolutely not. 

Karel and I are really good at making things happen. There is no guilt or worry when it comes to being off the routine for a day or two or for making modifications based on travel or weather. We stay focused on our goals and know that every life journey has setbacks, obstacles and off days. It's just part of life. However, if you want to make things happen, you have to stop the excuses. 
So what excuses are holding you back?


I don't have enough time.
I'm not good/fast enough.
I don't have the right skills.
It's too hard.
It'll take too long to accomplish. 

It's too late, I should have started earlier.
I'm waiting for the right time.
I need more motivation.
I don't have enough money.
I don't have enough time.
I'm too tired.
The weather is bad.
The weather is not right.
I don't like this weather. 
I'll start next week...next month..next year.
I'm too young.
I'm too old.
I'm not smart enough.
I'm too scared.
I have too much going on right now.
I'm so stressed, I can't add something else to my plate.
It's too complicated.
I don't have enough resources.
I know I'll fail.
I don't have enough support.
My work keeps me too busy.
My family keeps me too busy.
My life keeps me too busy.
No one has ever done it before.
Everyone tells me I can't do it.
Everyone tells me I can do it but I know I can't.
This isn't the right time. 


In previous blogs, I've talked about the importance of having a go-to list and to also accept and re-create your training environment. 

For us athletes (yes, that's you if you are training for a start line), we have to be no-excuses type of people a lot of the time because of how much we ask from our bodies. This trait of being able to get things done can often make us perform really well but this can also be an issue when health or performance is compromised with a risky or stubborn attitude. 

Yesterday it was 18 degrees when we woke up. No snow on the ground unlike the way north part of the East Coast but it was extremely windy outside. Karel bundled up and at 9am (when the temperature warmed up to 20 degrees), he went out for his long run of 2 hours. 10 minutes later, Karel came back and said there was no way he would gain anything from that run, it was just too brutally cold and windy for him.
So was Karel making an excuse because of the weather? Is anyone going to tell Karel, to his face, that he wasn't tough enough for the cold? Well, if you know Karel, he is one tough cookie and can suffer unlike most athletes I know. So, I think the smarter question to ask would be "What are our options to get our workout done?"

-Wait until the Y opens at noon and run on the treadmill.
-Get a 1 hour workout done on the bike trainer since we did our long ride on Saturday and just skip the long run this weekend. 
-Don't workout at all and cuddle with Campy all day. 

Lots of great options but Karel came up with a better idea. 

Let's go to Paris Mountain state park (about a 15 minute drive away) and run on the trails! We haven't ran there before but we figured that the trees would block the wind and climbing up and down the trails would be a better way to keep our bodies warm rather than running on the streets of downtown Greenville (or on the swap rabbit paved trail). Plus, it is always fun to try something new! 

So I quickly stopped what I was doing on the computer and got myself dressed in my new "winter" clothing (we have had to invest in lots of new clothing since moving from FL to SC in order to be properly dressed when working out outside - no excuses for not being dressed appropriately for outside running and biking in sub 50 degree weather!) and off we went.

The first 10 minutes or so were cold but wow, we warmed up and the run was so much fun! 1 hour and 45 minutes later and 10.5 miles later, we were exhausted and so happy that we did this workout. 

We didn't celebrate because because we could simply check off a workout from our training plan but because we felt like this plan B option really gave a positive stress to our body. We also now have a wonderful memory of running on the trails together that we can refer back to anytime we want to be reminded of how much we love running. 

Be sure to make good use of your no-excuses mindset this week...and next week...and next month!

2/15/15

Valentine's tradition - Brinner




Karel and I had been dating for 9 months when our first Valentine's day occurred in 2007. There were cards, flowers and chocolates shared between the two of us but when it came time for dinner, neither of us wanted to deal with the hassle of eating out on this hallmark holiday. 

Although my cooking skills (and food passion) had yet to blossom, I still enjoyed real food....especially breakfast options. 

So, the tradition started. 

Every year since our first Valentine's day together, I have prepared breakfast for dinner. Pancakes, french toast, crepes...you name it, I've prepared it over the past 9 years. 

This year I made the most delicious pancakes with two extra ingredients to the standard easy pancake recipe and took a different spin on my omelet presentation by cutting a standard omelet into triangles for my a quesadilla-look. 


Even if I created two easy options for our Valentine's "brinner" they were both prepared with love and finished off with chocolate. 

Everyday is a great day to eat chocolate and to go that extra mile to show someone you care about that you love them. I hope that you had a wonderful Valentine's day and yummed a bit louder with those in your life who mean the most to you. 

Friends, family and furry ones.... Never let a day go by without showing and saying your love for others. And most of all, start that loving on yourself.


Pear-cream cheese, chocolate chip pancakes

Ingredients
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar

2 eggs
1 tbsp whipped cream cheese
1 washed pear - shredded (with skin)
1 1/2 cup reduced fat organic milk
Chocolate chips (about 2 tbsp)
Olive oil or cooking spray for pancakes

1. Heat a large skillet to medium-low heat (to speed up cooking process, use two skillets). 
2. In a bowl mix together the first 5 dry ingredients (flour through  sugar) in large bowl.
3. In small bowl, mix together eggs, cream cheese, pear and milk until clumps are minimal. 
4. Add 1/2 liquid mixture to the dry ingredients and whisk together. 
5. Then add the rest of the liquid mixture to the dry. Mix until evenly combined. If batter is too thick, add a little water until your whisk can easily move through batter. 
6. Now add chocolate chips and whisk one more time until combined.
7. Add ~1/3 cup of batter to skillet after drizzling a little olive oil (or use cooking spray)  before/after each pancake. Cook for 2-3 minutes on one side and then flip and cook for 1-2 minutes (or until golden brown). 
8. Serve with 100% maple syrup, 100% jam, fresh fruit or your choice of toppings. 

Serves 16-17 pancakes

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And any day worth remembering is best shared with a loved one, out in nature.
Karel knows how to make my heart happy.....even if my legs are suffering. 


3 hours and 40 minutes on our bikes, surrounded by beautiful tall trees, rolling hills, picturesque mountain views and plenty of farm animals to say hi to during our ride.
(yes, I verbally say hi to all animals when I see them during our rides. We even saw a Lama!)

After our ride, Campy took us for a 2 mile run and finished with a strong sprint on our street. No workout is complete without a Campy-mile!