Archive for July, 2018

A Coaching Approach to Bike Fit

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The two main forces we have to overcome on our bikes are rolling and air resistance, the latter being the bigger of the two. To go faster you have a choice: you can work super hard to develop your power so you can push more air out of the way to go faster or you can work on reducing the amount of air you need to push by developing a more aerodynamic position. The relationship between drag (expressed as CdA) and speed isn’t linear. Simply put, doubling your power output doesn’t double your speed or we’d see Tour de France sprinters battling for the line at over 250 kph. The reason why this doesn’t happen is that most of the energy that you put into your pedals is used to overcome air resistance, hitting air molecules and punching them aside. As you go faster, not only are you hitting those air molecules harder, but you’re also having to push through more of them every second.

We invest a lot of our time working on the physiological factors of fitness —coaching, planning and training to develop the engine room. But, once we are above 13 miles per hour a 1 percent reduction in CdA  is equivalent to 1 percent increase in power. Most riders would be over the moon with a 4 percent increase in power from a 4 to 6 week training block, yet with a positional coaching process we can often reduce CdA by 5 percent in one session with none of the associated risks of training. However, for all the go-faster aero kits and equipment available, the rider is still accountable for 70 to 80 percent of drag. If your position on the bike isn’t aerodynamically optimized, you can’t hold that position and it saps your power. You’re wasting hard-earned watts and giving away speed.

I believe bike fitting is an on-going progress; a bike fit is an evolution, not a revolution. It should not be something introduced toward the end of competition preparation, but something that is addressed throughout the training cycle. An athlete’s bike fit is something that can evolve and improve throughout their career. It can change during adolescence, through injury and, most importantly, through specific training.

Coaching a more powerful position

Positional coaching is something new and is very powerful. It’s a team process that you as a coach evolve with the athlete. It is a new discipline.

A bike fit focuses on mechanics and on the adjustable elements of the bike. Coaching traditionally focuses on physiology, the development of power and efficiency. However, when it comes to position and riding performance, the human body is adaptable. Positional coaching takes elements of both and specifically works with the athlete to create a riding position that will enable them to perform at their highest level. Positional coaching addresses not just how you sit on the bike, but also how you pedal it, finding the perfect balance between the 3 pillars of position: aerodynamics, power and comfort (or sustainability).

At the moment, very few bike fitters or coaches are taking this approach. The knowledge to develop, evolve and optimize riding position as an ongoing process is not being passed on effectively to athletes. No one can know everything, but if we combine the collective knowledge of coaching and positional expertise in a simple framework it can lead to great gains.

The aim of positional coaching is to educate people through a process; to find out the bits of them that are adaptable and what parts of the bike can be adjusted without cost to performance to facilitate riding that position. So, how do you coach someone to adopt a new position, feel stronger and to hold it for longer? Constant feedback and the knowledge to interpret it is the answer. By listening to their teething pains you can work out what will change over time with controlled practice and specific exercises. It will also show you what parts of the position inherent in the makeup of their body may well be limiting.

Understanding the many different factors of positional coaching gives you an exciting new tool in the pursuit of better performance for your athlete.

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Your Glutes Are Firing, I Promise

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Have you ever been told that your glutes are not firing? This common explanation for injuries and gait issues has become overused and oversimplified; if your glutes were not firing, you would not be able to walk upright!

A more accurate description of what is going on is that your glutes are misfiring. The repetitive movements of endurance training do not promote variety of firing patterns of our muscles, and the lack of movement variety can cause the glutes to get “stuck in their ways.” This can cause poor running mechanics, and in some cases even injury.

Rehab specialists will prescribe some excellent activities to isolate and glute function, which is necessary to “turn on” certain muscles that aren’t working like they should. But when running, your glutes do not fire in isolation; muscles in your pelvis, hips and backside need to be able work together for a myriad of movement patterns. Without these helpers, you’ll simply recreate the conditions that turned your glutes “off” in the first place. Therefore a consistent dose of movement variety in the muscles of the hips and glute region will help brain “re-organize” the gluteal muscles’ firing patterns for a better long term solution.

Below is a 3-step process to create that variety and re-coordinate hip function. These steps include complex, dynamic movements that you can plug into your overall training plan based on your ability level. Be sure to take into account your overall athleticism and your rehab progress if you have an injury.

Step 1: Start With Light Skips and Mobility in an Upright Position

If you are coming back from an injury, use controlled, low impact activities that still challenge your coordination and provide variety. Here is a compilation of different skips and mobility work you can incorporate into your training or rehab program. Note the variety of planes that the athletes move in (backward, sideways, and forward). Also note the modifications used for low impact needs and lack of equipment.

Step 2: Progress to Games and Bodywork

Whether you’re healthy or still rehabbing, start playing! Unstructured movements will encourage the brain to fire muscles in random patterns like it used to do on the playground. Your “games” can come in the form of light trail runs, playing games with your kids, shooting hoops, kicking a soccer ball around, or whatever you like. As seen in the video, intensity levels can be modified based on your ability and rehab stage.

Conversely, if you prefer more structure, incorporate into your training regimen a variety of bodyweight exercises. These simple movements will load the lower body and challenge the glutes to coordinate firing patterns in different directions and amplitudes than running does.

Include a heavy dose of backward and lateral movements, and you will expose your hips to many new firing patterns that will shake up old habits. Keep your intensity level fairly high for each exercise and cycle through around 12 different movements. Perform 30 seconds of work followed by 15-30 seconds of rest. Here’s a small sample of lower body activities you can add to your strength program:

Step 3: Lift Heavy

If you’re an experienced lifter and have good technique, challenge your normal routine with heavier weight and fewer repetitions. When the body is challenged with greater load, it tends to “self- organize,” and firing sequences become more efficient.

Think about your last leisurely trail run. You likely weren’t paying close attention to proper running mechanics, as you were simply enjoying your run and being outside. However, if on that lovely run, a hungry lion spotted you and began chasing you, the challenge of the run would have become more imminent. You might not be the most efficient sprinter, but given the emergent situation, your body would have figured out how to get from point A to all points far from the lion as quickly and efficiently as possible.

In this case, the lion represents heavier weights and your sprinting from the lion represents your movement pattern under those heavier weights. When loads become heavier, the body sorts out the most economical firing patterns to move that weight. Of course, this type of intensity should be used with healthy athletes who have experience in the weight room, and not with an injured novice with little weight lifting experience.

When choosing what types of lift to do, make sure you employ a balance of front side, back side, and lateral work so that you challenge the hip region in all directions. Here is a sample lower body strength routine for an experienced lifter:

Day 1: Barbell squats 3 sets of 6 at 70% effort
Weighted lunge-return (lunge forward and then return that leg back to your starting position). 2 sets of 6 each leg at 70% effort.
Day 2: RDL’s 3 sets of 6 at 70% effort
Weighted lateral step ups 2 sets of 6 each leg at 70% effort.

 

It is important not to isolate glute activities when you’re trying to change firing patterns. Whether you are coming back from injury or hoping to avoid one in the first place, commit to a dynamic movement regimen that allows your glutes to work in concert with other muscles. These activities will shake up old firing patterns that may be causing injury and gait issues. Over time, these various movements will help you feel more coordinated and powerful in your running mechanics, as well as fend off injury.

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Could running mechanics be the key to long-term success?

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In order to run well, we need to train well, but we also need to move well. Endurance athletes need to be able to train at the optimal volume and intensity in order to stimulate the physiological adaptations required to perform. Developing this engine can allow athletes to run farther and faster than ever before. However, the limiting factor to long-term running success is not always the training that’s being set, but the training that’s being missed. Optimizing running mechanics may be the key to training consistency and longer-term success in competition, allowing our athletes to train longer and harder than before.

Running injuries are probably the single biggest cause of absence from training. According to some studies, approximately 50 percent of runners are injured annually with around 50 to 70 percent of these injuries classified as overuse injuries. Based on these results, you can probably expect one out of every two of your runners to become injured at some point during the training year. Not only that, but injury recurrence rates can range between 20 and 70 percent, with a previous injury being the biggest risk factor for future injury. This means that once an athlete gets back to training, the chance of a future injury and further absence from training is considerably increased. This leads to continued cycles of injury and deconditioning with the loss of training consistency and ultimately an inability to perform at their best.

Running mechanics may be one reason explaining the high injury rates and loss of training consistency. There is increasing evidence to suggest that aberrant running biomechanics — or poor running form — can lead to future injury development. Mechanics, such as increased inward motion of the hip (hip adduction), elevated impact forces and excessive braking as we land, have all been linked to injury development amongst runners.

Poor movement patterns contribute to injury by increasing the stress placed on the body during each stride. When this stress is repeated over a large number of strides, the total level of stress may be too much for the body to cope with. If we can identify abnormal mechanical patterns then this may provide us with an opportunity to intervene before the next injury occurs. By optimizing running mechanics we can reduce the tissue stress experienced during each foot contact. The end result is the ability to train harder and for longer.

Runners with poor mechanics are simply a ticking injury time bomb, just waiting to take that one stride too far before once again withdrawing from training. Being able to identify and correct poor running mechanics may be the long-term solution for athlete health, consistency and performance success.

Closely watching your athlete and using video feedback can be very effective for improving mechanics. Using video feedback and modeling good form can help the athlete become aware of their movement patterns and internalize their learning. This gives them an opportunity to self-develop and find ways to adjust their mechanics on their own. This works great when combined with coaching cues to help facilitate learning. Cues like “keep your hips high” and “pick up your feet” often encourage athletes to reduce pelvis drop and increase cadence. However, it’s important to remember that every athlete is an individual and all learn in different ways, especially when it comes to movement. So be prepared to adapt your teaching methods and try new things. Adjust your cues according to the changes you see and get feedback from the athlete as to what works best. Adapting as a coach is important if we are to optimize good running form and could be the difference between injury and performance.

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TrainingPeaks Announces Speakers and Agenda for 2018 Endurance Coaching Summit

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TrainingPeaks has announced the speaker line up and program agenda for the 2018 Endurance Coaching Summit (ECS), which will be held November 8 – 9 at Etihad Stadium and the Manchester Institute of Health & Performance in Manchester, UK. ECS will provide a unique blend of business and science topics for endurance coaches to expand their knowledge and learn new ways to grow as entrepreneurs in an ever-changing industry.

ECS will cover the key business challenges faced by today’s coaches to give them the tools needed to grow their businesses. This year features two keynote speakers: Four-time IRONMAN world champion and world record holder Chrissie Wellington; and Vice-Rector for Research and Innovation at the University of Agder, Stephen Seiler. Wellington will be discussing the important psychological traits for finding and maintaining athletic success, and the important role of a coach in helping ride the highs and lows of competition. Seiler will dive into the hierarchy of endurance training needs and how prioritizing them will lead to better performance.

More than 600 coaches from 10 countries have attended previous ECS events. The 2018 Summit will build off the same successful format including keynote presentations mixed with valuable, small breakout sessions and roundtable discussions with leaders in the endurance sports industry.

Industry experts Ryan Cooper of Best Bike Split and Andy Blow of Precision Hydration will be offering insights on course profiling and hydration, and American endurance coach Taylor Thomas will be covering his recent lessons learned from expanding his coaching business.

“I look forward to ECS every year as a chance to not only help grow my business, but to help me grow as an individual as well.” says Thomas. “This year I’m excited to present on how to expand into a multi-coach business, how to cultivate an environment of trust and support between the head coach and his assistants.”

This year’s ECS also offers coaches the opportunity to gain practical insights into the latest research and science-based strategies from noted coaches like Jim Miller, Andrew Kirkland and Rob Wilby.

“Data and its role in athlete programming has been the key factor in my ability to coach high performance athletes at the highest level,” says Miller. “These practices, however, can be applied universally to committed athletes of all levels, and I’m excited to share my knowledge with coaches from around the world at ECS.”

ECS breakout sessions will be held in partnership with the Manchester Institute of Health & Performance. Their internationally renowned staff will give coaches insights on topics including cycling position, strength training for endurance cyclists, biomechanics that contribute to injury, underperformance syndrome (overtraining), the biomechanics of breathing, and how we can improve performance and endurance in the asymptomatic athlete.

For more details and to register visit EnduranceCoachingSummit.com.

Join the conversation: #ECSManchester

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The Best Core Exercises for Runners

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We all know that “doing core” is important ancillary work for endurance training efforts. However, traditional “ab circuits” (high reps, short rests) actually do very little to prevent injury or provide the stabilizing benefits we are really seeking with “core” work. Furthermore, fitting auxiliary strength work around a busy schedule can prove challenging and may often fall by the wayside. These are some efficient exercises and protocols for runners who want to see specific adaptations to the demands of the sport.

Why is Core Important for Running?

In running, the pelvis, shoulders, and torso—the larger “core,” or “pillar”—act as the anchors for your swinging arms and legs. Without core stability or “stiffness”, your limbs would flail about uncontrollably. However with running, you don’t want the anchor to be completely stiff. Ideally the muscles throughout the “pillar” will behave like slings, which stretch and snap back with the movement of each limb.

As the muscles of the pillar are pulled back by a leg or arm, they absorb force. As they snap through, they apply force. So, you want the muscles throughout your “pillar” to be stiff enough to keep your stride efficient, but supple enough to withstand the constant pull-and- snap motion as your limbs swing through each step.

Here are a few example workouts:

Here are some sample “stiffness” exercises from the first box:

Here are some sample “suppleness” exercises from the second box:

Running Core-Work Fundamentals

When you run, the body must absorb at least 3.5 times your bodyweight, with each step, so strength work for the pillar region should include loads greater than your bodyweight. It should also Include complex activities that challenge your core to stabilize and coordinate with swinging limbs and up-and-down movements.

Do most of your exercises in an upright position, since that is most specific to running. And be sure to include some light reflexive work to enhance the pull-and-snap reflexes of the muscles in the torso region.

Synchronize your core program with your running program

Once you have a battery of exercises that accomplishes either the stiffness or suppleness goal, schedule these activities within a framework that is manageable for your time constraints. This will keep you more consistent with getting the work in. Here are three ways you can fit core work into your training plan and overall life schedule:

Pre-Run Core Workout

Focused core activity before the run serves as a warmup and a small core circuit. If you do ten minutes of core/warmup before most runs, this adds up to 40-50 minutes of core each week. That is an excellent culmination of weekly core strength.

Skips

4-5 exercises x 10-15 meters. Choose a combination of free arms and arms overhead. Skip forward, backward, and sideways to hit the core in several planes of motion.

Dynamic stretches

4-5 exercises x 5-8 reps each. Again, choose different planes of motion to train the “pull-and-snap” in several different movement patterns.

Post-Run Core Workout

The benefit of doing core work after you run is that your workout fatigued the big muscles—glutes, quads, calves, etc. Doing your lighter core work post-run, including planks and other bodyweight activity, further challenges those deeper, smaller muscles. Here are a few options for quick post-run core circuits:

Plank circuits

8-12 plank variations x 20-40 second holds with 10-20 seconds rest in between each variation. While planks are not performed upright, most runners love them, and planks become more effective core stabilization exercises if the bigger muscles are pre-fatigued from the run.

Medicine ball or bodyweight circuits

10-12 exercises x 30 seconds or 15 reps with 15-30 seconds rest in between each exercise.

Standalone Core Workout

To really challenge the muscles in the torso and pelvis to fire properly, train them with heavy loads when they are fresh. When your muscles are firing on all cylinders, rather than fatigued from long endurance bouts, they will coordinate the most efficient firing patterns. In these separate sessions, incorporate some loaded exercises and light reflexive work like in-place jumps.

Loaded exercises

Squats, weighted twists, and presses. Choose 2 variations from each of these. Do 2-3 sets x 6-8 reps using challenging weight. Focus on core position throughout the movements.

In-place jumps

Choose light hops in several planes of movement. You are training the core and limbs to coordinate the pull-and-snap reflex that occurs when landing and pushing off during running. Perform each hop for 10-20 seconds with 20-40 seconds rest in between. Alternatively, you can sprinkle a few hopping movements into any weighted or bodyweight circuit that you want.

Enjoy the Challenge!

Core work can be a bit of a chore, but your strengthening activities need not be time consuming or boring. Choose exercises that you enjoy and will challenge and enhance your running mechanics. Choose protocols that you can manage to stick to as you navigate your daily workouts. A little every day goes a long way towards keeping you healthy and on the roads.

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