TCSD Wed PM Track Workouts; UCSD Under the Lights

Posted in Training Opportunities on March 10, 2014 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

Having taken over as the Track Coach for the Triathlon Club San Diego Track Workouts this Spring, I look forward to continuing to help TCSD, and other athletes, develop their run skills into the Fall and Winter Seasons.  Currently, we are returning to fundamentals: skills, drills, strength, speed work, plyometrics and more!  Accordingly, we are backing off some of the harder, anaerobic work on the track from the main racing season.

The workouts generally follow the pattern of a warm-up, done at your own pace and effort, skill work and drills, speed work/anaerobic endurance work on the track, followed up with a cool-down of each athletes choosing. Plan to stretch and cool down on your own, as that’s an individualized aspect of workouts.

Come on out and get faster on the run!

Bill

brownlee-gomez finish

Running Better

Posted in Skills, Training Tips on December 27, 2011 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

Running is a highly individualized and fairly technical activity. What is good for one runner to focus on might be the wrong thing for another.  So, I just want to make a quick comment about the two aspects of running that matter most when it comes to pace (and that is really all that matters ultimately, right?)  I don’t mean to suggest that these are the only two aspects comprising running. Of course, that would be a vast over-simplification.  This is one (useful) way to analyze running.

The two components of pace are: cadence and stride length. There is plenty of advice about cadence, or leg “turn-over,” and it usually boils down to ‘increase it for better running..’  True, most runners probably would benefit from increasing their cadence, a little. But maybe not. What if its already at your optimal rate?  Once cadence is where it should be for you – probably in the 84-94 range – that’s all you can do with it.

Stride length is really where the big gains are to be made for most endurance athletes. This involves a lot of training, a large part of which is strength training. You MUST have a lot of running specific leg, hip, lower trunk (“core”), and even shoulder strength, to maintain a large stride over the course of your race, particularly if you’re coming off the bike.

brownlee-gomez finish

Running fast is not supposed to be easy

Some exercises that you can fit into workouts to increase this specific strength are:

  • Forward lunges (grip dumbbells in each hand and hang arms at your sides to add resistance to this exercise)
  • Box-jumps
  • One-leg hopping
  • Skipping
  • Very short (i.e. 20 second) hill sprints
  • Stairs , as in the kind at a high school football stadium or track.
  • Running in soft sand (be careful with this one, as it’s very hard on foot and ankle muscles)
  • Adding or increasing hills (gradually) to your long run

After you become proficient at any one of these, try combining it carefully with another one for a complex workout.

The “Off-Season”

Posted in Recovery on October 5, 2011 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

If you had an active racing season, you are most likely finished with your last race, or you will be soon.  As you log your last race for the year, and look forward to some well-earned down time, what do you do about training, working out, or just staying active in the “off-season?”

First, it is perhaps a good idea to take some time to stop and reflect on your season. I have my athletes write up answers to some basic questions to evaluate and reflect on the season just passed.  Did you accomplish your main training and racing goal?  Why or why not?  Did you accomplish other secondary goals? What was the most beneficial type of training in your opinion?  The least? Are you racing at the right distance, or even the right sport? What do you want to focus on for next season?  Do you have ideas, or even specific plans for racing next year?  Now is a good time to reflect on all these Q’s and more. Take plenty of time to evaluate the direction in which you’re heading.

So, what about the off-season?  There are some basics for the off-season that all athletes, especially those that train hard and consistently over the year, benefit from:

  • Do not try to maintain your peak fitness from the end of the season, or anything close to that.  You must let it go.  In order to build peak performances again next season, you have to let this one go, and travel through the “valley” of fitness, or there will not be another true peak.
  • Do not remain inactive.  You should stay active with other sports  activities such as hiking, skiing, basketball, or whatever you like (and won’t get injured doing).  You can, and maybe ought to, cross-train with activities that will directly benefit your multi-sport performance next season: yoga, Pilates, strength training such as weights, plyometrics, and outdoor functional strength training are all very good choices.  These are highly individualized with regard to how to improve your sport specific performance for next season.  I work one-on-one with my athletes for this in the off-season.  One of the goals however is to get away from swim-bike-run for a while.
  • How long is “a while” and how long should an off-season be?  That again, is highly individual.  It depends on a few key points:  How long was your season? How high are your goals for next season? When is your first race for next season?  What is your limiter and how much of a limiter is it?   Regardless, you should take at least 4-6 weeks away from any structured training plan like the one you followed.
  • If you must do some swim-bike-run activity, what should it be?  Probably run.  Running is the ability that fades the farthest, the fastest for most athletes, particularly those over 40ish.  This, in part, is due to the  strength and resilience required of the tendons and ligaments used in injury-free running, and the length of time it takes to build that type of specific fitness. It is easier to rebuild bike and swim fitness in a relatively shorter period of time.  Again, even with off-season running, no structure (i.e. training plan): They can be short and easy runs, or do some racing: 5K, 10K, half marathon.  I would avoid a full marathon unless you are a very accomplished runner and have a lot of time to recover before starting back at your multi-sport training for next year.

Regardless of what you do in your “off-season,” get rested, physically and mentally recharged and refreshed, and be proud of your athletic accomplishments for the year!

So you can’t win a triathlon in the water, huh?

Posted in Racing Tips, Skills, Training Tips on April 21, 2011 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

swim trainingIf you think this “conventional wisdom” is true for any triathlon, except perhaps an IM, please look at the results of Ironman California 70.3 from Sat, April 2, 2011, and March 31st, 2012 (and probably March 30th, 2013 in one week).  Check out Andy Potts very impressive wins.  It can be argued that the difference was his gigantically dominant swim performance – where he was more than 1 whole minute out in front of pro-competitor #2 into T1 (both years)!  Then, look at the margin of error at the finish. Yeah…   You can win (or podium) a triathlon in the swim.  Forget “conventional wisdom.”

Is it time to reconsider the swim as merely defensive?  I say it is.  And if you think you can’t improve your swim, or it doesn’t really matter for racing triathlon, please send me an email.  I believe you need to talk to me  :)

And this was on a 70.3 course!  If it’s true there, it is for sure true in short course racing, i.e, Oly’s and sprints, even non-drafting events where the gap a strong swimmer can put on the field is even harder to bridge.

open water start

Time to get in the water.

The Long View of Your Racing

Posted in Consistency on February 27, 2014 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

What you do now, in the Winter and early Spring, can determine how you do in your big race in late Summer or Fall. Building your base level fitness each season is critical for performing at your highest level when you want to be ready months down the road.  It requires a lot of planning, patience and motivation. Above all, it demands persistence. Consistently staying motivated to train, in order to perform at your highest level is not easy. In particular, if you have been training for less than 3 or 4 seasons, it is hard to build (or rebuild) your base in the Winter or Spring.  Cold weather, nightfall at 5 PM, rain, snow, ice and a general lack of motivation, can all act to sabotage your breakthrough season, and the achievement of new heights.  To stay motivated now, in the Winter while its cold, dark, and wet outdoors, is often a big challenge.  And let’s face it, a lot of the base training needed at this point in the season is just not that fun or sexy.

Exercising-Rain

That’s why I believe it’s critically important to see your whole season, really your racing career, and all your planned races as one long-term project. It’s also critical to understand that the (proper) training you do now, will potentially make the difference between achieving high goals, or not, months and seasons later.  It can be the difference between PR’s, podium, championship level performances and mediocrity or worse.  Lance Armstrong once said that the Tour de France is won in December, not July.  I know, I know, maybe a bad reference because we now know when he probably did win the Tour. Cheating not withstanding, that statement is still correct. Building a solid foundation for high level performance now is critical.  So, when you feel like calling it off, the weather stinks, or you have to train indoors, and you just don’t have the drive, know that you will come Summer and hang in there!  Stay focused. This is one of my most important coaching objectives for my athletes at this time of the season:  keeping the focus in the right place, and seeing the long view.  Solid base training and consistency now will bring great rewards when you want and deserve them most.

Meta-Training (Off-Season, Part II)

Posted in Consistency, Recovery, Training Tips on December 8, 2013 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

Is something out of whack?

A nagging injury that won’t heal and is really too easily irritated?  You know, the ones that resurface at just the wrong time..

Low back, shoulder, or hip pain?

You know what I mean, it’s those issues that you manage all through a tough series of training blocks for perhaps most, if not all, of your season. They don’t sideline you (at first).  You manage to hold them at bay long enough to train and race, and you make it through some peak races, despite the latent (or even acute) pains.

Well, maybe you could eliminate most if not all of them with a little effort.  Now, the “Off-Season,” or into early Base training, is the optimal time to handle these particular problems.   The good news is that you may be able to do so with only a little re-training.  It’s what I like to refer to as “Meta-Training.”  I often describe Base training to my athletes as training to train, not training to race.  Meta-Training is really even a step before that.  Its training to train, to train, (which leads of course to training to race).

massage23

As a serious endurance athlete, you have fairly well ingrained movement patterns.  They are a direct result of several factors:

  • Your postural and alignment status
  • Physical injuries – or hopefully a lack thereof
  • How you originally learned to swim, bike, run, & strength train
  • Your body finding the fastest way to get from point A to point B, utilizing proper form, or not.
  • How you handle, and train in, a very fatigued status (i.e. training with already compromised, damaged muscles, and pain)

Fortunately, these are all malleable patterns. You can relearn and therefore ingrain new and better fundamental movement patterns. This will primarily help you avoid potential injuries. However, it can also make you a more efficient swimmer, cyclist, & runner. In my next post, I will go over some of  the how to’s.  They are easy and quick!

Myth Busting Article on USAT

Posted in Racing Tips, Training Tips on November 10, 2013 by Gleason Endurance Coaching
I normally don’t get very interested, excited, nor spend more than a few seconds looking at the vast majority of triathlon articles that come my way. That includes those arriving via most triathlon magazines, and most other “in-the-know” resources, newsletters, including race directors giving ” tips” in their emails. They are, nine times out of ten, just displaying their very firm grasp of the already well-known, (otherwise known as common knowledge), and/or the plain old obvious.
Nonetheless, every now and then I see one that is really good.  “Good,” in that the article makes a very important point about training, racing, nutrition, gear, or another area of interest to multi-sport athletes. These are the ones relevant, insightful, and worth considering for most of your training decisions.  Or, the article is “good’ in that it breaks new ground, while hopefully dispelling one or more of the many myths out there that pass for wisdom, or free “advice.”
This one is the former.  This is not new, but it needs to be emphasized.  I wrote a very similar article over 3 years ago (minus the statistical data. Mine was largely based on experience and opinion – but in my opinion correct ).
See it here:
http://www.usatriathlon.org/about-multisport/multisport-zone/multisport-lab/articles/bike-weight-102113.aspx
Is it the bike or the rider?

Is it the bike or the rider?

Anyway, I hope you enjoy it (and mine too).
http://gleasoncoaching.com/2010/04/23/return-on-investment-for-the-serious-triathlete/
Lance Armstrong was right about one thing at least: It really isn’t about the bike …or the shoes, or the wetsuit, the goggles, the wheels, the helmet, the ….). I won’t get into what he was wrong about.

Eat for … Health (?)

Posted in Food and Health, Fueling, fueling and Health on July 5, 2013 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

Before I write more about food, health, training, and performance by relating personal stories of my own, and those of people close to me, let me say a few things that may, or may not, be pretty obvious to you.  I’m gonna say them regardless.  And I’m going to ask a question.   Forgive me if this seems terse and unrelated to training, racing and performance. I have a background in Political Science and Law (I’m also still an attorney), and I very much care about how all these issues are interconnected.  It baffles and frustrates me that most in the media, those in public policy, and political leaders do not publicly discuss these matters more frankly, or even see them in the first place.  I guess the “politically correct” cops and/or the bought and paid for corporate interests are still on the beat and calling the shots.  God forbid we offend (or offer an alternative way to eat and live) to someone who may be 20, or 200 lbs. overweight and suffering metabolic disease – unnecessarily.

As you most likely know, the US is in the middle of a health crisis.  The US is also running unsustainably high, long-term debt. (I’m not getting into all the reasons why re: the debt.)  One major part of the long-term debt is Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security – so-called “entitlements;” Benefits to which you have a statutory right, once you meet the legal requirements to qualify.  Medicare and Medicaid, it should be obvious, are directly related to health care costs.  They are very high ..ridiculously high.  Why? See: Time Magazine, Cover Story,  March 04, 2013. Please. Therefore, its pretty obvious that one way to begin to resolve the long-term fiscal problem is to dramatically cut health care costs.  Of course…

junk food plate

Mmmm, lots of saturated fat, refined carbs, wheat, and salt!

How?   Can we make high quality health care, hospitals, drugs, and insurance all much more affordable??  Don’t  hold your breath.  No. (Did anyone before Steven Brill even bother to ask publicly why health care costs are so high in the first place?)  In my opinion, that’s not the answer. It’s not even the right question.

How about this question:  Could we make the enormous, expensive, bloated, cumbersome, confusing and prickly health care system, by which I mean: hospitals, insurance run medical care, and doctors who specialize in metabolic syndrome diseases – i.e. diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, dyslipidemia (high VLDL, LDL, and low HDL), angina, osteoporosis and others –  all of which are very often marked by obesity – could we make them all largely unnecessary and therefore rare??   WTF??  ..what the hell am I talking about?  I must have finally gone off the edge…

healthy veg plate

Look Ma, no crap on this plate!

Come visit again..

Consistency and Interruptions

Posted in Consistency, Training Tips on June 7, 2013 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

I say it all the time, like almost all good coaches, and endurance sports athletes who’ve been at their sport for more than a season or two.  That’s because its true:  staying consistent in training for endurance sports is your best ally.  The flip side to maintaining that valuable consistency is moderation in nearly every aspect of your training.

So what about when you’re forced to miss a chunk of training? First, don’t fret.  I’ve recently had athletes miss small to larger blocks of training for various reasons: injury, vacation, work & life obligations, equipment issues, etc. The reason really is not the most important thing.  Even if its injury, you can manage it.  You can fix gear, you can cross-train at other activities when you’re forced to stop one sport.  For example, if you can’t run or swim, you can do something entirely different.  If you can’t run, then you can walk, hike or even get on the elliptical (though I’m not a fan as a substitute for running).  If you can’t swim, then you can strength train, spin, or do yoga, or all of those. The point is to maintain some basic level of aerobic activity and strength as best you can at the time.

The most important thing to keep in mind through a down period is that you probably won’t lose as much fitness as you think you will, and that you will get back at it!  It’ll be there for you when you’re ready.

Why I don’t rely on “TSS”

Posted in Racing Tips, Training Tips on April 7, 2013 by Gleason Endurance Coaching

OK, I know that this is written really more for the benefit of coaches than athletes. Still, I know that some of you coaches out there may be reading this, and many others are self-coached, so, well, here we go (this one is a bit lengthy):

First, what are we talking about? Before you go running around with your TSS status, thinking you’ve got the holy grail of training and performance in your pocket, read on.

What the heck is “TSS” – (Training Stress Score) is a numerical value assigned to any single workout or race. It’s intended to directly measure the “training stress” - or the physiological cost of that specific event.  It is based on an algorithm using your threshold levels, measured via a common metric such as power (Watts) or pace, the duration of the session, and a little math.  It accumulates from day-to-day,  week-to-week, even month-to-month, depending directly upon how often, how long and how hard (intensely) you work.  To measure it over time, we (i.e. a software program) run 7-day, and 42-(or more)-day moving averages. These are called “acute training load” (ATL), and “chronic training load” (CTL), respectively.  By tracking these together over time, a coach or athlete can theoretically measure fitness, fatigue and “form”  (race readiness).  You get a chart that looks like the one below, called a “Performance Management Chart” (PMC).  Pretty valuable right? Well, maybe .. (click on for larger image)

PMC chart

Performance Management Chart
Blue line = fitness (CTL), Pink line = fatigue (ATL), Yellow line = “Form” (race readiness)

  • The primary reason I do not rely much on TSS is that it only attempts to measure “training stress.” It does not measure life stress. You know, the stuff going on in your life the other 20 or so hours a day when you’re NOT training.  What about that?  It’s up to you to measure.
  • It is a loose approximation at best of actual physiological stress on the body.
  • Everyone responds differently to different training stresses.  For example, an 11 mile, 90 min run for 2 different athletes with the same running profile (threshold pace) will produce similar TSS scores.  However, it takes no account of individual strengths and weaknesses.  If one runner is highly aerobically oriented and fit, durable, and experienced, while the other is anaerobically oriented, maybe better on hills, better at speedwork, (perhaps a sprinter by training), the effect on these 2 athletes is very different, even though their TSS scores will be very close. (Yes, these 2 runners can have the same Threshold Pace.)
  • It ignores harder to measure factors, such as re: swimming; What about open water conditions? Swimming a mile in a pool vs. open water can be easy vs. brutal (at the exact same pace). It also relies too heavily on HR in the absence of a power data (bike), and pacing info for an entire run, or swim. (The “TRIMP score”).
  • It assumes that your FTP, T-Pace (swimming), and Threshold running Pace are in fact accurate.  Yet, they are always moving targets, and vary up and down (rather quickly) according to how fit and fatigued an athlete is at any point in training.  So, a ride with a TSS of 150 on one day is very, very different in terms of physiological cost (what it purports to measure directly) compared to another day, or from one side of a whole training block to the other.  That is, TSS does not factor in an additional measure of  accumulated stress (ATL or CTL, the metrics tracked) for any individual workout.  In other words, a workout with a TSS of 150 is counted the same, whether or not you do it fresh and rested at the start of a training block, or pretty much fried at the end of the block.  (Why I argue that TSS moves much more on a daily basis than we account for.) This is the job of the athlete and the coach working together.
  • Again (and so important); TSS totally ignores the rest of your life:  rest, sleep quantity and quality, nutrition (a HUGE FACTOR), hormonal (im)balance, relationship, family, and job issues, underlying health issues (not directly related to fitness).  It misses big, and critical – arguably the most critical – variables.
  • It is backwards looking by design, and therefore, not necessarily a good predictor of how ready an athlete is to train hard, (or even what to do) on any given day.  That comes down to projection, a game which is, well, a guessing game (even for the best statistician).
  • And one of my favorites; That which is measured is NOT necessarily improved.  Just because we can measure something, does not mean we can change it for the better, or at all.  I can measure how tall I am.  I can measure how many fingers and toes I have.  I can measure other more mutable characteristics like fasting blood sugar, LDL count,  HbA1C count, blood pressure, and body fat %, and my HR at my 10K race pace, but I may have no idea whether or not the numbers I get are good, bad, indifferent, or irrelevant to my goal.

I’ve had athletes perform exceptionally well when their PMC chart predicted they were fatigued and not ready for a good performance.   On the flip side, I’ve had athletes whose numbers were optimal on the chart have flat and mediocre days, only to excel at a different, less optimal point on the same chart.

What’s the take away?  Trust your own instincts working with your coach, and learn to intuitively feel your own fitness, fatigue and race readiness without the use of a rigid and narrowly focused PMC chart.

Don’t get me wrong, TSS is useful.  Just probably not as useful as it appears. I still use it to help guide my coaching, but just not in isolation.  When used in its proper context, it can be pretty useful.  However, that context is becoming smaller and smaller, the more I discover what it is that TSS actually does measure.

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