We have ALL heard that saying “It hurts so good!” Nothing could be truer when it comes to recovery for an endurance athlete. We work hard and put an incredible toll on our bodies. It is important to recover properly so that we can keep going out and doing the things we love!
There are so many different types of recovery tools on the market today, and we are going to go into some detail about some of my favorites and how they can be utilized to keep you in top performance condition.
First up, the one, the only…the FOAM ROLLER!
The foam roller is a fan favorite because it is mostly straight forward and easy to use. It is in a tube shape and most made out of foam. The foam has different densities depending on what your comfort level is with them.
What does a foam roller actually do? Foam rolling is a self-myofascial release. What you are doing is applying gentle sustained pressure into the Myofascial connective tissue restrictions to eliminate pain and restore motion.
What benefits do we get from foam rolling? Increases blood flow and improves circulation, prevents adhesion’s (scar-like tissue), reduces soreness and inflammation, increases range of motion, and it’s just so darn relaxing!
When should you foam roll? Foam rolling before a workout can help by increasing blood flow, elasticity and range of motion. Foam rolling post workout increases O2 to the tissue, prevents adhesion, stimulates blood flow and reduces recovery time.
How do you use a foam roller? First, it’s better to start easy than going all intense right off the bat. It is going to feel sore and tender, but that’s where the “Hurts so Good” come in! *Note: If there is stabbing or intense pain, stop and consult with your medical provider.
With the foam roller on the ground, place the area of your body that you are rolling on the foam roller.
Put the weight that is comfortable for you down onto the roller. Supporting with your arms will be a key in how much pressure you are applying to the area.
Gently roll the area in a back and forth motion. You can hold pressure in spots that you feel especially tight.
Foam roll between 1 and 5 minutes per each muscle group.
HYDRATE!!! The best thing we can do for our bodies is hydrate.
Ready, set, Roll!!
In “Train Hard, Recover Easy: Part 2” we will be talking all about trigger point release!
With many (most) races off the table for 2020 lots of athletes, myself included, have found other goals, other carrots, other adventures that speak to us. For me, my 2020 finish line revolves around Zwift. For the uninitiated Zwift is a gaming platform that blends indoor training on the bicycle (or treadmill) with an elaborate virtual world. Zwift is comprised of multiple worlds (Watopia, London, New York, Innsbruck, Richmond, Yorkshire and now France and Paris) that include specific routes ranging from 3 miles to over 100 miles. Prior to the release of the new France and Paris worlds there were 67 routes that could be collected. Each time you finished a route you received a route badge.
Way back in March I started to get serious about Zwift. Like riding my bike every day on Zwift serious. By early April I realized that I was riding quite a few miles and thought it would be interesting to see if I could ride every route in Zwift. I didn’t think much of it other than to draw up a check list with color coded pens (of course) and to start riding. As the routes vary in length at first it was really easy to pick up a new route. I could complete at least one route per day and sometimes more. As I started to tick off more and more routes, they got progressively harder. Its easy to get on the bike and bang out short routes like the London Classique (3.2 miles and 62 feet of elevation gain) but its a whole lot harder to find the time and effort to ride something like Quatch Quest (28.5 miles and 5522 feet of elevation) or the Mega Pretzel (66.5 miles and 5387 feet of elevation). Figuring out when and how to get routes in started to become a hobby in and of itself.
The quest was going along really well until late May when I fell down a set of wooden stairs and sustained a nasty lisfranc injury to my left foot. Prior to the injury I was on day 61 of a bike streak and was hoping to complete all my routes by the end of June. In fact I was scheduled to ride the London PRL Full course (107.5 miles and 8189 feet of elevation) four days after my fall. That didn’t happen. What did happen is that I got back on my bike and started pedaling softly. By mid-June I was back picking up routes, albeit at a slower pace.
Over the course of spending lots of time riding in virtual worlds I learned a few things. First and foremost having a good group of people to ride with is key. For many of badges I was accompanied by Shaun Gallagher, Chris Eckett and my #ZwiftHusband Rob Piperno. Peer pressure is an amazing thing. Knowing that others are suffering with you really helps especially on the long and hilly routes. I also learned that I prefer a shorter steeper climb to a longer gentler climb — I’ll take the Epic KOM Reverse over the Forward Epic KOM any day– and that sometimes the longest, steepest, grindiest climbs can be the most gratifying (I’m looking at you Alpe du Zwift). Finally I learned that long riding requires being prepared — good shorts (I’ve literally ridden through two pairs of shorts in the last four months), adequate nutrition, lots of chamois cream and a lovely husband nearby to help when things go awry.
Now as we sit in July I have three of the “original” routes to complete — London PRL Full, Four Horsemen and the Uber Pretzel — along with seven new routes in France once they are released to the general public (these routes will be part of a special virtual Tour de France before being being made available to everyone on the Zwift platform). The Four Horseman is scheduled for this Sunday (7/12), the Uber Pretzel for the Sunday after (7/19) and I’ll have to find a special date to complete the PRL Full. Six to seven hours on the trainer, in summer, with no air conditioning is going to be special.
In addition to picking up route badges, going after all the Zwift routes resulted in other achievements. I got stronger on the bike. A lot stronger. And I logged some serious miles. My total mileage for March was 289.39 miles. April was 659.93 miles. May was 692.23 miles (even with the foot injury). June topped out at 866.02 miles. I’m aiming for 1,000 miles for July. It just might happen. I also became competitive for Zwift sprints and KOMs. I’ve nabbed every sprint jersey in forward and reverse and am working on the KOMs, unfortunately I’m a lot better at putting out relatively big watts for a short duration than I am at climbing.
This challenge has also left me thinking about what’s next. I think when you’re on a quest to #FindYourOwnFinishLine two things are important: (1) that the task be hard enough that it really forces you to stretch; and (2) that obtaining the goal be completely within your control.
Goals like winning a race (even a Zwift race) are amazing but they’re very dependent on who shows up on the start line on any given day — you can do your absolute best and fail. When it comes to a #FindYourOwnFinishLine goal I prefer ones that you can control — riding all the routes in Zwift, climbing all the 4,000 footers in New Hampshire, swimming around a large lake, completing an ultra distance in swimming, biking or running, or climbing the 6 gaps in Vermont. All of these goals are hard. All of these goals require time, effort and preparation. All of these goals are completely within the athlete’s control. Come the end of this month I’m hoping that I’ll have checked every Zwift route box and that I’ll be off finding a new finish line.
As Kelly recently talked about, for most of the US, we have been out of the pool since early to mid March. Slowly things are now beginning to open up. For many, coming back to swimming is going to feel different than when we left the pool.
If you are an adult onset swimmer, you most likely have worked hard to develop your feel for the water. When we don’t swim consistently, we lose that feel. FEAR NOT, it will come back but not during the first swim. When getting athletes back into the pool, I am working in a lot of drill sets. These help with developing good form and taking away the “how fast am I”
Using all your tools in your swim tool box, I suggest break out the form drills using – click on drill to see video of the drill:
Additionally, you can use the fun pool toys that you have been missing for the past few months. These will all help expedite your feel for the water. Again, as with most of this pandemic, patience is key. Taking a gradual approach of easing back into not only duration but also intensity is going to help recreate that feel for the water.
As things continue to open up (in some places), for many of us we have access to pools for the first time in months. While it’s amazing to be able to swim laps, the process of getting into the pool and how long we have to swim once we are there has changed dramatically.
Here in New Hampshire, our local YMCA opened for lap swimming on June 3, 2020. Instead of being able to show up and drop in for lap swimming at any time, there’s now a procedure to follow. First off, all lap swimming times must be reserved. My local YMCA uses the Motion Vibe App for reserving pool times. Pool sessions are one hour long with 15 minute breaks between sessions (e.g. 5 a.m. – 6 a.m., 6:15 a.m. – 7:15 a.m., 7:30 a.m. – 8:30 a.m.). Sessions are available to reserve 24 hours before the start time and you may only reserve one session per day (more on this later). If I want a 5 a.m. or 6:15 a.m. session on a Monday, I need to reserve that session early on Sunday morning. The morning sessions fill up really quickly. In some ways I’m lucky. Down in Pennsylvania, Coach Stacey‘s sessions are limited to 45 minutes with 15 minute breaks between sessions. I’ll take the extra 15 minutes here.
Once you have your reservation you are expected to arrive 5 to 10 minutes prior to the start time and line up (with masks on) outside the pool door. Each swimmer then has their temperature taken and is asked a series of health screening questions prior to being allowed into the pool. Masks must continue to be worn on the pool deck walking to the locker rooms and in the locker rooms themselves. The locker rooms themselves are fairly normal with the exception that two out of every three lockers are zip tied shut to encourage physical distancing and there’s no one in the locker room except swimmers. Once your gear is put away, you must shower before returning to the pool deck (again wearing your mask) and claiming your lane (it is nice to have a lane all to yourself). Once you’re at your lane you can remove your mask for the duration of the swim workout.
Here’s where things get tricky. By the time I’ve gone through the screening and locker room processes, usually 5-10 minutes have passed, leaving 50 – 55 minutes to swim (and even less if someone arrives late and prevents the guard from getting to the lifeguard chair). With that amount of time, I’ve needed to re-assess swim workouts. I try to get 2500 or so yards in, but obviously things like drill work, kicking, and sets that involve a lot of rest can reduce the total amount of yardage. I’ve also asked if I can combine two swim sessions, but for now the answer is no. What I’ve generally done is a fairly short warm up, main sets of 100s or 200s (often with paddles) and a short cool down. I find that anything shorter than 100 eats up a lot of time because of the rest interval. While a longer interval, like a 400 or 500, could result in more total yards, right now I need to focus more on speed than endurance.
While I was able to get back to “normal” swimming fairly quickly, I also have the advantage of a swim background and 30+ years of muscle memory. For lots of people it’s going to take a little longer to feel comfortable in the water again.
For a first swim back I like this workout. It’s about getting into the water and getting comfortable.
Cool Down: 200 Yards. Mix in odd stroke (butterfly, breaststroke, backstroke) and kicking if you’d like.
Once you feel comfortable in the water, here are a couple of workouts that work well for most people in under and hour (or in 45 minutes if need be). If you need more time shorten the warm up and cool down.
200 – 50 Splits (1800 Yards Total)
Warm Up: 4 x 100 For each 100 alternate 50 drill of your choice / 50 swim
4 x (200 Hard, 50 Drill / Easy) 200s can be done with paddles of your choice.
Cool Down: 4 x 100 For each 100 alternate 50 drill / 50 swim
100-50-100 (2000 Yards Total)
Warm Up: 1 x 200 Easy Swim; 2 x 50 Kick
6 x 100 Free will Pull Buoy (30″ rest between intervals)
6 x 50 Free All Out (15″ rest between intervals)
6 x 100 Free with Pull Buoy (30″ rest between intervals)
Cool Down: 1 x 200 Mixed strokes
Hard Paddle 200s (2600 Yards Total) — If you are time crunched do three intervals instead of five in the main set.
Warm up: 1 x 200 Easy peasy; 2 x 100 Kick
5 x (200 Paddles All Out, 200 Easy with optional Pull Buoy)
30″ Rest Between intervals.
Cool down: 1 x 200 Mix in easy odd strokes.
And for when I have a little more than an hour, I’m just waiting to do this workout.
All. The. Paddles. (3400 Yards Total)
Warm Up: 1 x 200 Easy
30 x 100 PADDLES. 15″ rest between intervals. Try to keep the pace consistent throughout all 30 100s.
Cool Down: 1 x 200 Easy
If you have questions about getting back to swimming, let us know. We’re here to help.
First off, it’s ok to be sad. It’s ok to feel the loss of expected events (even if there are other terrible things going on in the world). Your sadness for the loss of an event does not diminish anyone else’s sadness for other losses. Grieve, it’s ok.
Once you’ve had a chance to grieve a bit, I’d invite you to look at 2020 as an opportunity. Racing is amazing. You get to see lots of people. You push yourself really hard. There’s usually a great post race party. Racing, especially racing long, takes a huge toll on your body. To race well you need some rest before the race and then you need to recover afterwards. In the grand scheme of improving at triathlon, racing, especially too much racing, can impede long term gains. Racing is a bit like dessert, it’s amazing once in a while but if you do it all the time, it’s not that good for you. What 2020 gives most athletes is the opportunity to skip dessert (racing) without FOMO while getting in lots of greens, protein and good fats (a solid, consistent training block). That’s an athletic gift.
Let me use myself as an example.
In 2008 I completed my first IRONMAN in Louisville, Kentucky. I finished in the 15 hour range and it wasn’t pretty. It’s never fun to walk 26.2 miles in 90 degree heat and humidity. 2009 was a tough year. I had a trial in New York City in May and June that ate up a massive amount of time and energy. That was followed by a significant amount of time in Europe for another client in July. Let’s just say my training for IRONMAN Arizona was not ideal, but, thanks to a forgiving course and cooler weather, I finished my second IRONMAN in 14 hours and change.
I decided for 2010 that I’d take a year off from IRONMAN racing. I got serious about putting in consistent training. I only raced when the training plan dictated that I should and I didn’t go super long (thanks to Doug Maclean for keeping me in line). I was consistent over the summer and fall of 2010 and the winter and spring of 2011. It wasn’t sexy. I remember complaining about getting on the bike for 2 hours on Christmas Day in 2010 and feeling like a turtle running at super low heart rates.
What happened? I got faster. A LOT FASTER.
I raced IRONMAN Lake Placid in July of 2011 and finished in the 12 hour range. I had a 2 hour PR from IRONMAN Arizona on day that was much hotter and a course that was much hillier. I RAN THE WHOLE FREAKING MARATHON. A 4:20 run on the Lake Placid course was mind blowing to me. It got better. I went 11:26 at IRONMAN Florida, a PR that stands for me to this day. I biked sub-6 and was so close to a sub-4 marathon off the bike. I think that finish at IRONMAN Florida is one of my proudest accomplishments. I also firmly believe that it would not have been possible without a year off from IRONMAN in 2010.
So what happened next? Life. Stuff got in the way. I had a couple of minor surgeries. FOMO kicked in. I raced too much. Training wasn’t consistent. I had a major bike crash. Despite that I had a string of pretty good results from 2012 through 2014 including another sub-12 at IRONMAN Florida, a bunch of running PRs and a few podiums. In a lot of ways that block of time in 2010 and 2011 continued to pay off for years later.
As I sit here in 2020, I think about 2010 a lot.
In a lot of ways I’m starting over as an athlete. For the first time since being pregnant and giving birth I’m super consistent with my training. I’m putting in lots of bike miles. I’m getting in run frequency (even if it’s on super hilly dirt roads). My overall volume is going up without injury. 2020 feels a lot like to 2010 to me. And that makes me incredibly excited about 2021. While 2020 may feel terrible in a lot of ways, it can really be an opportunity. If you have big goals, take advantage of it, a year without racing can be an amazing opportunity.
When I first found out that I would be going to Texas in March, I was excited beyond belief. It’s always fun to experience somewhere new, especially since I would get to swim, bike, and run my way around Galveston. Plus, I was going to get to meet Coach Jen and our Texas athletes. However, my excitement quickly turned to panic when I realized I would have to fly with my bike.
For the uninitiated, traveling with your bike involves packing it in a bike box by partially disassembling it, trusting the airline to deliver it safely to your destination, then reassembling it to its previous road-worthy status in time to ride. Having little background in cycling and not a lot of mechanical inclination, that caused much stress and lost hours of sleep. Luckily, behind every coach, there’s a good team willing to lend support. I was able to not only borrow a bike box from my local bike shop (side note: buying one wasn’t in my budget for this month), but our local bike guru helped me break it down and load it up. In the end, we only had to remove the wheels, pedals, and aerobars, so no worrying about getting my saddle height wrong! Now with my bike safely packed and armed with the knowledge that I could absolutely put it back together AND take it apart again, I was ready to go!
The check-in and flight were uneventful; it certainly helps to have a seasoned traveler with you who knows the ins and outs of “athletic traveling” (Thanks Coach Stacey).
The two worst parts were trying to maneuver both a suitcase and a 35-lb hard plastic rectangle through a crowded airport and loading that bad boy onto a packed airport shuttle. Thankfully, most travelers we encountered were patient and we made it without crushing anyone.
Once we made it to the Galveston house, it took less than a half hour to get my bike assembled and ready to ride. It helped that one of Jen’s athletes came prepared with a bike stand and toolkit; he even was nice enough to adjust my rear brakes! Repacking for the trip home was just as simple, although both Stacey and I needed assistance removing a pedal. Our cattle-rancher neighbor obliged and then Jen helped us tuck everything inside. Moral of the story? Air travel with your bike not as big a deal as I thought it would be. Also, 99% of the time there’s someone willing to lend a hand, especially if you ask.
A few months ago Coach Stacey asked if I would like to go to training camp with her in Florida in February. Well, of course I would! I love training. We chose to attend the QT2 Camp in Clermont. There would be four top notch coaches in attendance and we would get to swim at the National Training Center (beautiful outdoor 50 meter pool). As it came closer to time to go I definitely started to stress about it. I had pretty much hung up my swim bag and put away my bike after Waco 70.3 in October and not taken them out again. I had a heavy year in 2018 and was quite frankly burnt out after that last race of the season. So I made a couple half hearted attempts at swimming, if you can even call it that, and a couple 45 minute trainer rides. But I was going in on basically zero volume (that’s coach speak for out of shape). However, my objectives were to: A) Learn as much as I could from some of the best; and B) Have a good positive time and hopefully rekindle some of my fire for training.
The night before I left I woke up at 3:30 and started thinking about how my bike was packed in a box in 7 pieces and how I had to travel with it and somehow put it together. I am not exactly known for my mechanical skills. That was the end of sleep for that night.
I managed to make it to Florida, the only hassle was pulling the box through the airport, it was SO heavy. Stacey picked me up and we had dinner and then assembled my bike. And guess what? It was really easy. It all went together with a few Allen keys. Easier than a piece of IKEA furniture. All that worry and lost sleep for nothing.
Morning of Day One. We ate breakfast with several other camp attendees and of course everyone was talking tri. What races have you done, what races are you doing, etc. etc. etc. Several of the campers had been to Kona. Stacey and I definitely had an “oh s$%t” moment, we were out of our league here. But you know what? None of that really mattered. The camp was so well set up that anyone of any level could have attended. You were grouped in the pool with others of your swim ability. We did our bike rides partly as a group at a super relaxed pace and then there was opportunity to push yourself during the workouts. We did hill repeats on the bike, and hill repeats on the run. You all start and stop in the same place. The coaches had a really good handle on everyone’s volume coming in and made changes to some of the workouts for different people depending on their goals. It was definitely not one size fits all.
I think the best thing about camp was getting to know the other campers. There was a great mix of people from all over the country. We ate pretty much all our meals together and had lots of time to chat. It was really fun. You find out that you were at a lot of the same races over the years and can commiserate together (it was so hot, so hilly, so windy, so cold, etc.).
In addition to the workouts this camp had clinics offered in swim, bike and run. These were great. We got underwater video on the swim and one on one instruction in the pool. The run clinic we had our form evaluated and then practiced drills and were given feedback on what drills would help us the most. The bike clinic was on posture and bike handling skills. I won the Dab game on handling skills, quite a surprise since I fall over at stop signs.
We also had a presentation on nutrition that was very informative and I learned some new things. As well as a talk on body work and recovery, also full of great info. All of the coaches were extremely attentive and gave tons of feedback throughout the four days, constructive criticism, as well as, praise. We had an opportunity for a one on one meeting as well with the coach of our choice to talk about whatever we wanted to.
I completely enjoyed this whole experience. I liked the people, the workouts were challenging but not crushing, and I started to remember why I do this sport. It’s fun! Riding my bike is fun! Swimming can be fun! I also learned so much, the most important of which was to face your fears and conquer them. I’m still deathly afraid of going fast down a hill, going to keep working on that one.
In the four days I swam five times, for a total of 12,161 yards. Biked 2 times, for 111 miles with almost 4000 feet of climbing, and ran 4 times for 10 miles and almost 1000 feet of elevation. Not bad for a weekend!
In summary, I went to camp and so should you. I promise you will make new friends, learn new things, challenge yourself out of your comfort zone and have a really fun time. Also, the food. There is lots and lots of food.
So last weekend was one of those weekends that was pretty damned special. It’s funny how sometimes you get so caught up in the minutia of day to day prep that sometimes you miss it. A little background.
I started racing triathlon in 2010. Something I took up on a dare and kept doing because it kept me from being fat, again, and it filled a competitive void I’d been missing. Somewhere along the way I became fascinated with the art and science of putting training plans together. So when my coach approached me about starting a business together I jumped at the chance. What I didn’t consider was how hard it is to start a coaching business from scratch, especially if you’re not the prototype elite athlete because Lord knows I don’t look the part. Add to that I had the least experience of the Sonic owners, I’m not super charismatic, I live in an area with a ton of talented coaches, and boom back up the struggle bus.
Over the past few years a lot of really talented, somewhat misfit athletes have decided to make Sonic their home in triathlon under my guidance. Those athletes who were early comers can probably tell you that my approach to coaching has kind of changed over the time they’ve been with me. Some of that can be contributed to the fact I’ve changed coaches a couple times over the past few years and I think it’s natural to take bits and pieces from each and incorporate it into your repertoire as a coach, and some of that comes with how I look at the sport. Initially I wanted to be an insanely good technical coach and that’s it. I was kind of cold, aloof, and only interested in the data that came into my email from Training Peaks. I always kind of just accepted the fact that triathlon is a lonely sport, and it is, but after a while I started to ask myself why? What can I do as a coach/owner to make this sport less lonely and more like the traditional team sports I grew up playing? Or at least a team locker room type of situation? Luckily there are social media and happy hours amongst other tools to help, and I’ve made a concerted effort to treat my athletes less like someone I want to do well because it moves the brand forward, and more like family. This has resulted, I think, with happier athletes and definitely resulted in a happier coach. Oh and with me being labeled “Dad” or “Coach Grumpy Cat.”
So fast forward to this past weekend. Sonic co-owner Stacey and myself were racing in OKC at ITU Long Distance Worlds, I had two athletes at the Kerrville Triathlon Festival, and another six at Augusta 70.3. Stacey and I had rough days in OKC, hers much worse than mine as she was hit by a car, and normally that would have made the weekend total shit for me. However the pics from the other locations of athletes having dinner together, doing shakeout workouts together, and just having a blast in the days leading up to racing kept rolling in. It made me insanely pleased/content/happy. These awesome people were out there making something I thought was just a pipe dream a reality.
So the beat will go on here at Sonic Endurance South headquarters as what little off season most of us have approaches. We haven’t quite made the mark in town that I’d like, but that’s coming. Zero doubts on that. In the meantime we’ll have dinner together on Saturday, tell stories about our races this past weekend, continue to train our asses off, and have a boatload of fun while doing it. Oh by the way there will be a dozen plus of us racing IMTX 2017. This will serve as a pre-emptive apology to The Woodlands for our shenanigans.