Archive for August, 2018

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Your first marathon can be overwhelming, and it can be hard to refine or define where you can improve. Whether your race goes exactly as planned, or you crash and burn, there are always things you can learn. Here are some things I’ve picked up over the years that I wish I’d known on my first marathon start line.

Preparation is key!

You can’t fake a marathon, or at least one you’ll be proud of down the road. You will find that when you give yourself the proper time to build a base and go through a full 8-12 week cycle, your outcome will be far better than simply linking race to race.

Recovery is far more important than training hard.

You will not reach your potential if you’re waking up sore everyday, taking foggy afternoon naps, and extending every run to the max.  Learning when your body needs a day off is far more important than proving to yourself that you can finish a 20 mile run when you’re on the verge of being sick.

The body ultimately sees stress as stress, whether it’s self-imposed (training) or external (life, family, or work etc.) So don’t be afraid to take a loss on the day or accept that a shorter run will have to suffice. There are days when your planned workout will only hurt your progress, especially if you feel tired, stressed, or agitated.

Be realistic about your workouts.

A “work hard” mentality is great for racing, but not necessarily for training. Remember that working hard is relative, and you’ll feel better (and be able to work harder when you do work hard) if you also learn to embrace easy days. You should be completing your runs, and completing them with confidence. If you’re bailing, failing, or missing your goal pace—you’re aiming too high!

Think of it this way: Do you taper for a race? Why not taper for a workout? It sounds cheeky but your days between workouts are intended to be restorative and allow you to come in to your workouts ready to perform. If you can’t execute your goals, then you’re either setting an outrageous expectation, or your body isn’t ready to perform after your last workout—no other scenarios exist.

Build a team.

The best athletes in the world appear to know it all, but they’ll be the first people to thank the guide, mentor, coach, or friend who helped them get to the next level. Setting a world record or a personal record is rarely done solo, and your tribe or team will ultimately be your best asset when it comes to the ‘tough stuff’.

This becomes key especially when self-doubt enters the picture. Many have fallen into a trap they can’t get out of because they haven’t seen all the options, or can’t see them from where they stand. Young coaches or seasoned vets all come with a different frame of view so don’t shy away from either—they learn from each other too! Build a team who has your goals an interest in mind. The sign of a good team member is someone who will get your butt out the door when you need it but will also hold you back when you need to rest.

Your plan will fail, and that’s okay.

You will evenutally have a bad race – you will miss your PR, you’ll folly in the final miles, or blow up on that climb. Fallibility is human. We only truly fail when we become too stubborn to learn from our mistakes. Sharing a few tears and frustrations from a DNF will often take you further than simply working harder in the same rut. Failure is a teacher, not a punishment— how you use the opportunity to learn is up to you!

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How to Calculate Your Sweat Rate

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Estimating your sweat rate can be a useful exercise when you’re trying to figure out how much and what you need to drink (in terms of fluids and electrolytes) during training and events. But sweat rate varies considerably from person to person, and it can also vary quite a lot for any given individual: Things like how hard you’re working; the ambient temperature and humidity; your clothing choices; genetics and heat acclimation status all play a role in determining how fast and how much your body perspires.

Sweat rate measurement is something that should ideally be done on a number of occasions and in a range of conditions if you want the results to help you in specific contexts, like planning your hydration needs for an upcoming race. Here’s a guide for collecting the data you need to get a reasonably accurate idea of your sweat rate. And then some ideas for what to do with the data once you have it.

Equipment you’ll need to calculate your sweat rate

An accurate set of weighing scales
A dry towel
Possibly a small, accurate kitchen scale to weigh your water bottles (if you’re planning to drink during the sessions while you’re measuring your sweat rate).

How to calculate your sweat rate

Adapted from Asker Jeukendrup’s excellent mysportscience

1. Go for a pee and then record your body weight, ideally with no clothes on (that’s A).

2. Perform your session (or event) and record exactly how much you drank. This is easy if you drink from a single bottle or two; simply weigh your bottles before you ride (that’s X) and after (that’s Y) and record the difference (that’s Z). 1 gram = 1 millilitre.*

*Make sure all units are in kg or liters

3. After exercise, towel yourself dry and then record your weight (that’s B). Again no clothes on is best, as your clothes will hold some sweat.

4. Now subtract your post-exercise weight (B) from your pre-exercise weight (A) to get the weight you lost during the session.

Weight lost (C) = A-B

5. Also subtract the weight of the bottle(s) before (X) and after (Y) to obtain the amount you consumed (Z).

Volume consumed (Z) = X-Y

6. You can now calculate your sweat rate…

(C+Z) / time.

Note: It’s best to try not to pee during these sessions, as this can skew the results. However if you do have to go, it’s not a bad estimate to assume a fluid loss of ~0.3l (300ml) per bathroom stop. You then just need to subtract 300ml (0.3kg) from your estimated sweat rate at the end.

I’d generally recommend trying to limit data collection to sessions lasting ~45 minutes to 2 hours. This is because anything shorter than that can be prone to errors in the equation, and anything longer can start to be skewed by things like fuel utilization (you inevitably burn glycogen during exercise, and this can affect your body weight results).

To make analysis really easy, you can collect all of the data into this spreadsheet along with some relevant notes about your session (mode of exercise, duration in minutes rough intensity and temperature, whether it was outside or inside etc). The sheet will then spit out a % bodyweight loss figure for that workout and also an estimate of your sweat rate expressed in liters per hour. You can record numerous sessions in the sheet to help you to get a handle on what kind of sweat losses you see for different sports, in different weather conditions and at different intensities.

If you test enough, you’ll become very good at ‘guesstimating’ your sweat rate in the future; a dinner party trick of dubious value, if nothing else! Plus, if you’ve also had a sweat test (to find out your sweat sodium concentration—i.e. how much sodium you lose in your sweat— you can add that data in and it will estimate your hourly and total sodium loss numbers too.

Is my sweat rate normal?

What constitutes a low, moderate or high sweat rate can be tricky, as there are a lot of variables involved. One recent study helpfully looked at a range of sweat rate data collected in a variety of sports. The graph below shows something of a trend in the data from ~500 athletes:

The range of sweat rates in the data was about 0.5 liters per hour to just over 2.5L/hr (save for a few major outliers up at 4-6L/hr!); very similar to the numbers we’ve seen at Precision Hydration in the testing we’ve done with athletes over the years. Another study done at the 2003 Hawaii Ironman in Kona also came up with a very similar range of sweat rates.

Based on this data and experience, as a rule of thumb I’d be inclined to say that anything around 1-1.5L/hr is a ‘normal’/moderate sweat rate (for a healthy adult) during prolonged exercise of a reasonable intensity. Anything much less than 1L/hr would be on the low side and anything above 2L/hr should be considered high. If you’re losing over 2.5L/hr, then you definitely have a very high sweat rate.

While we’ve seen very high sweat rates (upwards of 3L/hr) in a handful of athletes, it tends to be in very, very big guys (men do tend to have higher sweat rates than women), and/or those working incredibly hard in oppressively hot and humid conditions.

Also bear in mind that body weight and size factor into all this to a degree, so if you’re a very, very tiny female distance runner but you’re sweating at 1.5L/hr, that might be considered a high or even very high sweat rate for you personally. On the flip side, the same number might be deemed quite low for a 6ft 11in, 330 pound offensive lineman in the NFL. But I’m sure you get the general idea.

What to do (and not do) with the data

Once you’ve collected a reasonable amount of sweat rate data, the obvious question is: What can you do with the numbers? Again, the answer is not as straightforward as most of us would like it to be.

Many athletes, for example, will find that they sweat at a rate of 1L/hr when running hard, and extrapolate that they need to drink 1L/hr when running (i.e. to replace 100% of their losses). There’s a nice simplicity to the concept of ‘1 out = 1 in,’ and for a long time it was assumed that 100% sweat loss replacement during exercise was likely to deliver an optimal performance. However time and research have actually shown that hydration is far more complex.

For one thing, 100% replacement often requires drinking beyond the body’s natural thirst instincts, which can be very dangerous. It carries the risk of hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels resulting in some nasty symptoms), and this alone is enough to strongly discourage 100 percent fluid replacement as the ideal. So, what percentage of your losses should you aim to replace?

The answer might be quite a bit lower than you think. You can actually tolerate quite a bit of dehydration (as defined by body weight loss) during training and competition—assuming you start well-hydrated. The exact amount is highly individual and most likely varies a bit day-to-day as well. This blog on how much dehydration you can tolerate is well worth a read, to help get your head around how much fluid you might want to be replacing.

It’s also not productive to try to use sweat rate data to try to create a pre-determined, inflexible strategy for fluid and electrolyte replacement. Instead, measuring your sweat rate should be about getting a decent ‘ballpark’ figure for how much sweat (and sodium if you know your sweat composition) you’ll likely lose over a period of time, at a certain intensity and in a particular set of environmental conditions.

If you need some help with putting a hydration plan together to test in training, take our free online Sweat Test. If you take it after getting some sweat rate data you’ll be well on your way to answering all your questions on sweat rate with more confidence and accuracy.

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“Now what?”

Coaches in moderate- to long-term relationships with their athletes will identify this sentiment immediately. You’ve been in contact with your athlete on a regular, and in some cases nearly daily basis, as you’ve pushed, prodded, and cajoled her into their finest effort at the “A” race.

Let’s say it’s the local IRONMAN 70.3 that your athlete has, after two years of guidance, successfully conquered. It’s been a long haul to say the least, but both of you kept a positive attitude (well, most of the time anyway), and she relied on your expertise throughout the journey.

But, no sooner has she crossed the line, received her finisher’s medal, and reveled in a big hug from her family than she’s asked by a fellow finisher, “So, you gonna do another one?” With hardly enough time passed for her quads to stiffen from the day’s effort, she’s being pestered about doing it again. It’s then she realizes she hasn’t given much thought to her next step or even if there should be one.  

Enter her coach.

Find an outlet

You’ve faced this situation before and know that there might be an unexpected sense of loss once the absolute structure of long-course training fades. A void in life where the carrot of daily training and the essence of the endurance lifestyle is now in the rearview mirror. Thus, perhaps she does contemplate, “Now what?”

After profiling many entrants in the IRONMAN World Championship over the years, I understand that if the post-race period is addressed and planned for pre-race, then, as the Beatles so famously sang, “Ob-la-di, Ob-la-da, life goes on.”

For the grizzled veteran, this event is merely a subway stop along the way and the training life indeed does go on. For the rest of us, though, the fairly rigid structure of big-time triathlon training may need to be resumed to restore life’s balance.

No major life decisions, like putting money down for a follow-up 70.3 for instance, need be made, however. As the recovery process begins, having a short competitive effort (where they can sport that recently earned 70.3 finisher’s shirt as an added bonus) as a part of the overall training plan can serve the racer well.

Some would say — and I’d agree — that this can all be worked out weeks, if not months, in advance. It’s a common story I hear that vacations get postponed, like so many other things, until after the race, and a trip following a major event might be a great place to fit in a smaller competition.

It’s important to get those competitive juices flowing again and check that yearning need to be stressed, in a good way. Maybe help your athlete find a 5K run or mile swim at their vacation destination. How about a fun run with one of the kids? Tennis or horseshoes, anyone? In any case, the time to allow for physical healing, physiological recovery (financial healing, too, maybe), and psychological recovery to run its course is important.

Don’t jump back in too quickly

While in Kona, I was out for a Sunday ride before flying home. In fact, the IRONMAN World Championship had just concluded at midnight and the day was in the pre-dawn, early morning hours on Sunday. I passed two gentlemen running on famed Ali’i Drive, and, to my surprise, they both had IRONMAN wrist bands on from the race that had concluded less than 6 hours previously!  

Now I’m a bit of a curious person so I first confirmed that, yes, they were both in the race, then asked how they were already running at such a quick pace. “It’s never too early to begin training for your next event,” I was told.

I’m not sure they would get universal agreement with that opinion. Many, including this author, think we need time after racing to bask in the glow of athletic success or restore lost athletic confidence that comes with defeat. You, as coach, play a large role in helping your athlete accomplish just that.

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As part of the partnership between the Global Triathlon Network (GTN) and TrainingPeaks, we’ll be bringing you twice-monthly episodes of the new “Triathlon Training Explained” show, where hosts and former pro triathletes Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell answer your triathlon training questions with the help of TrainingPeaks software, coaches and industry experts from around the world.

Whether you had the race of your life, or one that you’d rather forget ever happened, taking some time to do a post-race analysis is key for continuing top performance or working toward reaching your racing goals.

In this episode of GTN’s Triathlon Training Explained they explain how to do a post-race analysis and why looking at variables within and outside of race day is important for understanding the entire picture of your performance.

Threlfall sits down with Coach Phil Mosley to do a post-race file analysis in TrainingPeaks of one of his own recent IRONMAN 70.3s, and go over what TrainingPeaks metrics to look at and why.

They also discuss why regular benchmark testing is vital to understanding what your race day expectations should be, and why comparing yourself purely to your peers can be very misleading and counterproductive.

See the full episode below:

Triathletes in the know like GTN’s Mark Threlfall and Heather Fell use TrainingPeaks to help plan, track and analyze their training. Dial-in your triathlon training with a free 14-day Premium Trial today!

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A fateful 15 weeks ago, I put my powerful, 78-pound dog on a leash, put the leash on my wrist and jumped on my bike to ride about a block to the trailhead. Everything was going fine until a squirrel bolted across the road, and my dog applied all four legs of sprint. With a quick jack of the handlebars I was flying through the air, with the leash still wrapped around my wrist. I landed directly on my elbow and proceeded to flip into a snowbank.

Despite visiting a doctor two days after my fall, the x-ray looked fine and I did not receive an MRI until 3.5 weeks later. I could do almost everything except swim—the action of freestyle produced a horrible sharp pain and weakness down my arm. A visit to my PT and an MRI confirmed our worst suspicions, and I was diagnosed with a full thickness (torn from the bone) tear in the supraspinatus, a muscle in the rotator cuff of the shoulder.

The rotator cuff is a group of muscles and tendons that surround the shoulder joint, which keep the head of your upper arm bone firmly within the shallow socket of the shoulder. Rotator cuff injuries are common in people of all ages and across a large range of athletes. And while tendonitis and strains can generally be treated non-surgically, tears caused by trauma or overuse have a large chance of degenerating without surgery, especially in athletes who continue to use the shoulder.

After the MRI I was quickly scheduled for surgery with a shoulder specialist. It is recommended that surgery after a traumatic tear should be done as soon as possible. Waiting means an increase in the likelihood that the torn tendon will not be able to form scar tissue that not only helps it heal back to the bone but also allows it to function normally after rehabilitation.

Fortunately, 94% of individuals are happy with the results of rotator cuff surgery, although the larger the tear both the longer and more challenging the recovery and the more likely the results will not be as good.

Surgery

The surgery requires anesthesia, and about an hour of operating time. The doctor placed a small screw into the top of my humerus and then did two small stitches with polyethylene, which he said was pretty much impossible to tear. I was fortunate that the rest of my shoulder complex was in good condition, and that I went into surgery with full mobility.

Still, as anyone who has experienced it will tell you, the shoulder is the worst joint to cope with post surgery. At my pre-op appointment I was told to take narcotics the moment I felt any tingling or hint of pain, and the NP told me matter of factly, “this is the most painful shoulder operation.” I’m happy to say that ultimately no narcotics were needed, so advice here, listen to your own body!

I emerged from surgery with a pillow sling and directions to wear it 24/7 unless showering. I was allowed to use my body to swing my arm around, but I was directed not to actively use it or lift it. I could use the lower part of my arm only.

Recovery and Return to Sport

Recovery from rotator cuff surgery is listed as 6 months to a year, and if you’re an athlete, this can feel like an insurmountable amount of time. It is recommended that overhead athletes (anyone who uses the arm above 90 degrees- swimmers, tennis, lacrosse, baseball players…) do not return to their sport until they experience zero pain with rest of activity, have full strength in muscles across the affected joint, and have pain free shoulder range of motion.

In the first 5 weeks, I ran ‘gently’ and rode my trainer, but still emerged with what my surgeon called an ‘extremely stiff’ shoulder and was bumped immediately to intensive PT and stretching to return my mobility. One hands-on visit with my PT and I experienced relief I had not in 7 weeks. With mobility work, and gradual strengthening, I was on my way to a slow return to the shoulder I once had.

Another avenue to consider for recovery is non-western medicine. I was able to have time with Amber Myerowitz, an acupuncturist who performed both Electro-Acupuncture and Cupping on my back. She told me, “Both cupping therapy and acupuncture have similar goals in that they aim to relieve pain by mobilizing blood flow to the injured area to promote the body’s natural self-healing process.” A number of athletes have reported their own stories of acupuncture and cupping working to help them loosen and recover.

Prevention

“Good posture in the shoulder blades, stretching, and some very simple strengthening exercises will help prevent 99 percent of all shoulder problems you could have,” says orthopaedic surgeon Grant Garrigues. Consider your technique in overhead sports such as swimming. Don’t let tight shoulders from an aero bike position become the norm. Simple stretches such as wall angels, lying with a foam roller perpendicular to the spine and arms outstretched, and yoga shoulder openers are all good daily practices.

Something as simple as improper hand position in water entry during freestyle swimming, can put a repetitive stress on the shoulder that may result in damage.

Perhaps what stood out to me loudly here is that many rotator cuff injuries occur over time, and while youth may seem everlasting, the 60+ generation is paying for years of shoulder abuse. “About 50 percent of people over the age of 60 will have one.”

Take care of your shoulders! You may not recognize the work they are doing and the complexity of their performance until you are forced to confront an injury. While some accidental trauma is an unfortunate consequence of being an athlete, long term wear and tear and abuse can be minimized by proper stretching, strengthening and attention.

The post A Firsthand Account of Rotator Cuff Injury and Prevention appeared first on TrainingPeaks.

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