Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Off-Season Overlap

Did I mention that I work at an indoor rock climbing wall, in addition to teaching group fitness and coaching triathlon? Well I do. Which is great. I love climbing, I haven't been able to do it for a while, and it gives me a way to stay active in the off-season. And I recently found out that climbing might improve my multisport performance, as well.

I was reading an article on NSCA (National Strength and Conditioning Association) about dry-land training for swimmers. It noted that the main muscles used for swimming are the rhomboids, the obliques (both internal and external), and serratus anterior. These muscles wrap around the shoulders and diagonally across the chest and abs. They produce diagonal force when they work together; this is called the Serape Effect. That's why it's so important to have a strong core, because strengthening the muscles between your shoulders and knees enables you to better use the diagonal, rotational force of the Serape Effect. The article also offers a few land-based exercises to train this effect, namely the stability ball log roll and diagonal cable chops.

The very next day, I was reading a training article about rock climbing. It also noted the necessity of a strong core in climbing, mostly for body tension and stability, especially in the obliques. The more I thought about this, the more it made sense. I always tell folks at the wall that skill in climbing comes not from upper body strength but from technique. And climbing technique involves using your arms and legs together in coordinated motion, finger strength, and body rotation (there are other trainable aspects such as confidence in your holds/rself to hold on, keeping a stable body, flexibility, keeping your center of gravity close to the wall, etc.). What I'm trying to say is that climbing engages some of those same muscles that are so crucial in swimming.

This leads me to believe that climbing is a perfect off-season activity for triathletes, for several reasons. First of all, there's the aforementioned advantage of training the Serape Effect by strengthening the obliques and rhomboids (I need to look up the serratus anterior before I can tell whether or not climbing can train it). There's also the improved arm strength and an increased awareness of the forearms, which will help with the catch phase of your swim stroke. The legs get some good training, too, as they do most of the work, and climbing can be as much an endurance activity as a power activity, so it will increase your muscles' tolerance of lactic acid. Furthermore, it helps to improve flexibility, particularly in the hips and knees, which will aid in injury prevention later in the season. Oh, and did I mention that climbing is hella fun?

I've finally finished my senior thesis, so I'm ready to start working on something new. I think I'll do a little more research on climbing as off-season training for multisport athletes, then I'll try to get it out there to other triathletes.

And if you're interested in climbing, here are some links to get you started:

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The A to Your Q

Larissa asks:

Any tips for those of us who aren't necessarily training towards something, but simply trying to grow in general healthiness and discipline with good eating and exercise habits?

Yes! I do have advice! I think the best advice I can give you is to train towards something :smile:

I'm only half kidding; although I've seen (both in my own life and in others') that nothing motivates change like having an event you love to train for, I think you might be able to achieve the same affect by good goal setting. And while I think that "general healthiness and discipline with good eating and exercise habits" is a great goal, it'll probably be easier to stick to if you have a more concrete, specific goal. This could be something as definite as a 10 K, or as laid-back as weight maintenance. But here's the thing with "just working out": Do it long enough, and you're probably going to plateau. Now as long as you plateau at a healthy level, there's probably nothing wrong with that (besides the fact that it's boring). But if you have definite goals that you're targeting, you'll only get so far without goals and a definite plan as to how to achieve them. For example, if you're trying to lose weight but you're working out at the same intensity and eating the same amount of calories every day, then even if your caloric intake is initially enough to stimulate weight loss, eventually your body is going to adapt to that stimulus and it will begin to maintain instead of lose weight. Same thing with fitness gains. If you're trying to strengthen muscles or get your heart more fit, you have to keep varying the training stimuli in order to keep seeing improvement. Plus, setting and reaching periodic goals gives you a feeling of empowerment and achievement that keeps you engaged with your working out (which means you're less likely to burn out and turn into a couch potato). So even though it sounds uncharacteristically Type A of me, I am a big proponent of setting goals and making plans to reach them (gag, planning, I know).

Here are some tips for good goal-setting:
- Set goals that are measurable, achievable, and consistent with each other
- Have an overall, long-term goal and some small, checkpoint goals
- Your long-term goal should be meaningful for you. Because if you believe in what you're doing, you're going to be more likely to continue pursuing it no matter what happens. So, for example, if you really believe in taking care of your body because it's a gift from God, then that should be part of your goal.
- Your short-term goals are little steps that keep you engaged. They should be challenging enough that you're going to have to work hard for them. Here's what my text book says: "A challenging [short-term] goal is one that has about a 50% chance of success. Thus a well-constructed short-term goal represents a compromise between guaranteeing success, as in the case of a goal that is too easy, and requiring too much effort. Short-term goals are meaningless if they are not reasonably difficult; they will lead to going through the motions as opposed to investing real effort." Perhaps a bit dry, but concise and clear, no?
- There are three types of goals: Process goals (refers to the process, or the actual working out), outcome goals (where you're looking for a certain outcome that's somewhat out of your control), and performance goals (tied directly to your personal, subjective performance). You can have a high degree over performance goals, like if you set a goal to have a positive attitude when working out, or to practice good exercise technique; if you work hard enough and concentrate, you're going to be able to meet that goal almost every time. Outcome goals are all about social comparison, and as a result you have less control over achieving them. Like if you want to be the fastest runner in your family, you're only going to go so far by working hard, and after that, you're relying on everyone else in your family not working as hard (and not being genetically superior to you). And performance goals are harder to define . . . an example would be an interval goal, in which you want to reach a certain performance standard by a certain point, for example being able to increase your bench press a given amount over a given period.
- Set a time period of accomplishment for your short-term goals. If you don't achieve your goal, re-evaluate and adjust it.
- Establish rewards and consequences for yourself. If you meet your goal, reward yourself (for example, when I break a 3-hour olympic time, I fully intend to buy a new bike). And if you fail to meet your goal . . . well, I personally don't use negative reinforcement to achieve my goals, but if your personality works well with punishment-type scenarios, then it might be helpful to take away something you enjoy if you don't meet a goal. For example, if you miss a bunch of workouts one week, maybe the next week you sacrifice your favorite TV show.

I'll put up some more posts in the future about how to work exercise into a busy schedule, as well as tips on eating healthy, but I hope this helps to get you started.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

So What's the Plan, Stan?

With my first half marathon under my feet and the Genesis Multisport Club going strong, it's time to turn my attention to my second (third?) triathlon season. I feel like I've got a really good handle on how to plan a season, how to periodize my training, and how to get the most out of myself, so the prospect of looking forward is downright thrilling.

A new season . . . a new chance to prove ourselves. Anyone else feel like they have to rein themselves in, this time of year? We've just gotten past the ITU and Ironman world championships; we've seen the best of the best do their best against each other on some of the toughest courses around. And they make it look so darn easy! I watch Sam McGlone powering through mile 20 of her marathon, her arms and legs swinging easily along, one foot in front of the other, and I think, "I could do that."

It's disorienting when I actually get out on the track (or treadmill) and realize that, even though I feel as good as she looks while running, I'm setting a 9:20 pace. Which is nowhere close to the 7:00-minute miles I would probably need to clock if I were to get anywhere near the top spots in a sizable race; I just don't have the kind of speed to be on the podium.

But as I go into a time of recovery this off-season, the back of mind is whirring like the cogs in a tiny, homemade clock. Now if I just base build here and start my speed work here . . . if I really work on technique . . . if I buy a new bike and really put in those long hours . . .

The impossible suddenly seems achievable.

With that in mind, I have this crazy, empty-headed notion that this year I'm going to be competitive. This year I'm taking my hopes beyond Oh God I hope I can finish this thing, which is what I experienced in my first (and only) Olympic distance. This year, I have the knowledge, commitment, and desire to take my training and racing to the next level. And if that's not enough, then it will provide that much more fuel for the 2009 season.

As to the brass tacks . . .
April 22 - Spring Migration Tri (super sprint, priority C)
May 5 - Wildflower (Olympic or half, I haven't decided yet, priority B)
June 3 - Flint Hills Tri (Olympic, priority B)
June 16 - Topeka Tinman (Olympic, priority A)
July 1 - Town and Country Tri (super sprint, priority C)
July 18 - Shawnee Mission ("Long," priority A)
July 28 - Mudwater (sprint, priority A)
August 11 - Salty Dogs (super sprint, priority C)
August 25 - Splash 'n' Dash (super sprint, priority C)
September 9 - Midwest Meltdown (Olympic, priority B)
September 22 - OKC Redman (Half Iron, priority B)

That's a lot of races for one year, and I'm sure--absolutely positive!--I'll pare it down. For one thing, it'll probably be too darn expensive to do all of them (my spreadsheet tells me almost $800 just in entry fees). But I love racing, I want to do as much of it as I can, and this plan is only tentative anyway.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Race Report: Wichita (Half) Marathon

Well. That wasn't the hardest thing I've ever done. It's probably only the fourth or fifth hardest thing.

The world of running is new to me. I didn't come into triathlon from a solid endurance sport background. So this is my first straight-up running race since my dad made my brother and me do the River Run, which was when I was seven or eight. In other words, I had no idea what to expect.

The experience was totally different from a triathlon. First of all, there's the wake-up call. With no transition area to set up and no body marking and no wiggling into a wet suit and no warming up three separate ways, there's really no need to arrive any more than fifteen minutes before the start. Add that to the fact that my dad and I each ran half of the race and I ran the second half (i.e. no pre-race warm up at all for me), and I ended up taking pictures at the starting line; I may as well have been an observer.

Along with all that, this is the first race I've done in Wichita, although not my first Kansas race. Since the only marathon I've really been fully exposed to is the L.A. Marathon, which is a haven for the unexperienced and those looking for a challenge, I think of a marathon as a pretty manageable endeavor, something that takes some stamina and training, but not at all superhuman (and I think the current literature, for example, the "Marathoning for Mortals" phenomenon, reflects that attitude). I could have guessed that the Wichita Marathon would betray quite a different point of view. See, the L.A. Marathon serves the city as a mechanism that reduces the distance between the gods and mere mortals; true, the elites still finish the "race" six hours faster than the slowest Angeleno marathoners, but they all finish the same race. Wichita, as of yet, has no such mechanism; the gap between the superhuman and the everyday is much, much wider.

So while I was expecting at least a thousand participants--I figured people would come from all around because the race was advertised as a flat, fast, "qualify for Boston" kind of course--there were actually about 400. And hey, nothing to be disappointed in; that's 400 bad-ass Kansans. Nowhere near the 20,000 who turn out for the L.A. 26.2 every year, but as I said, not disappointing. Intriguing, but not disappointing.

From a personal perspective, all these differences between the Wichita Marathon and, say, a collegiate tri added up to a very laid-back race day for me. I had already established that I was not going to be able to do this race fast, and I had made my goal simply to finish. I had made my peace with that decision, telling myself that I can run fast when I go back to 5K. Thus, in my mind, the only objective was to keep putting one foot right in front of the other.

And it added up to one of the most pleasant race experiences I ever had. The miles flew by. Well, the time flew by; the miles did not, in any sense of the word, fly (unless you know some object that can go airborne at 5-6 MPH). In fact, as I passed mile 21 (my mile 8), I thought to myself, "This is the easiest long run I've ever done!"

Until mile 10.

At mile 10, my legs turned to lead and my hamstrings and quads pulled up into my pelvis like testicles on a cold day. "No no," they seemed to say, "you can do the rest of this race without us!" I wasn't wearing a chronograph, and the Wichita Marathon uses neither chips nor mats for timing, so I have no idea what my pacing was like, but I would bet that I was running sub-11-minute pace up until mile 10. Since my overall average pace was just under 12, I figure I must have been running slower than 13-minute pace by the end. It was horrible. It hurt so bad just to put one foot in front of the other. The time passed as if it were covered in molasses and crawling on its elbows through jello. It took every ounce of discipline and masochism I've managed to cultivate in the past year and half not to start walking (although the tall, strapping guy about a block ahead of me who was walking sure helped my resolve). We all know how it is; we've all had those moments (multiple times!) where our bodies hurt and our souls are crushed and we just want it to be over . . . but we've trained, and we know we'll hate ourselves if we stop now, and we know that if we can just keep moving, it will be that much easier to overcome this pain next time. It's what makes these crazy endeavors we undertake beautiful and ineffable and ethereal. I'm pretty sure it's what keeps us coming back for more.

Anyway, fortunately there were volunteers and/or supporters every block or so, each one shouting encouragement and praise at me (after 5 hours on the course). There was one guy who said, "Just five more blocks, and you have a tailwind!" and I thought, "What the hell? No I don't! It's blowing right in my face!" But inane comments aside, the supporters were great. And as I ran into Old Town (on bricks, I might add--the streets, not my feet) and heard the music and microphone-enhanced celebration of (five-hour) finishers, I willed myself to pick up the pace. My parents came into view, my dad holding a camera as I started to use my poor, shrunken ham- and quad-sicles to rotate the lead weights coming off my hips a little bit faster. I shouted at him, "You better make it a good shot, because you're only getting one!" Then I was around the corner (still on bricks) and within view of the finish line and the crowd. With about 50 yards left, I gave it all I had left and sprinted full speed across the line. "Jamie Morton, you are . . . " the finisher of a half marathon. Hurray! (maybe someday with the Ironman thing. I've got time, ya know.)

Looking back, it was a great experience. Oh sure, there were some hitches . . . I forgot my heart rate monitor, and my chronograph. I came into the race with a weird pain in my left foot (from teaching water aerobics, of all things) and ankle. A cold front moved into the area within half an hour of the race start, causing temperatures to abruptly drop 5 degrees and bringing a biting north wind that persisted for the remainder of the day (actually, it's still persisting). I started off with a long sleeve t-shirt which I had to shed by mile 3 (but hey, a triathlete would always rather over-prepare than under-prepare, right?). I did something to my knee on a downhill that involved lots and lots of pain through miles 5, 6, 7, and 8 (I considered stopping at several of those aid stations, asking myself, "Is this annoyance, or real, dangerous, I-am-your-ligament-and-I-am-torn-and-shriveling pain?"). I forgot sunscreen. Oh, and I can't walk down stairs or move in pretty much any manner without encountering severe pain. And after the race was over, as I was scarfing down bananas and Gatorade, my dad and I discussed how we seriously don't like running. It hurts and it's hard and it sucks and we don't think it's for us and we don't want to do it ever, ever again . . . ESPECIALLY not for 13.1 miles. And definitely never, ever for 26.2.

Today we got a brochure in the paper for the annual Turkey Trot (November 17). We're debating whether to do the 2 miles or the 10.

Monday, October 15, 2007

T minus 6

Well, I have much to say. About the results of Kona. About the 2008 season (which I've been busily planning). About plans and poems and pictures. About spinning workout 4, which I'll be uploading soon.

But for now, I'll just say that I'm running my first half marathon--my longest run ever--in six days.


Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Spinning Workout 3 - Cadence (45 minutes)

"Jamie, haven't you been promising us a new spinning workout for a long time?"

"Why, yes! I have! Here you go!"

Sorry it's been so long in coming. These things are time-consuming!


Saturday Morning (2:57) : Warm up (3)
Brand New Hero (3:43) : Spin : +(4), up at 1st verse : pick up at chorus : down at 2nd verse : pick up at chorus : +(5) up at bridge : pick up at chorus : -(4) after chorus
100 Miles (5:03) : Time trial : +(5), up at B : -(4), down at second B
Crying Shame (3:06) : Time trial : pick up at guitar solo
Come on Eileen (4:08) : -(3), down, quick legs : high intensity, flats : +(5), up at chorus : down at end of chorus : +(5), up at chorus (stay quick!) : -(4), down, accelerate with music at bridge : up at "To me!" stay quick : -(3), down, recover through instrumental
Blood (2:51) : Begin climbing section : +(4) at intro : +(5), up at 1st verse : +(6) at 2nd chorus
Are You Happy Now (3:49) : Stay up, -(5) : down at chorus : up at 2nd chorus :
Breaking the Girl (4:57) : (5), stay up, match cadence : down, keep cadence at 2nd verse : +(6), up at bridge : --(4) at end
Thoughts of a Dying Atheist (3:11) : -(3), begin descent : pick up at chorus : +(4) at second verse : pick up at chorus : up at interlude : pick up at chorus
Crush (3:11) : stay up, on-off sprints : on-off sprints at 2nd verse : down at cut time, pick up at end : stay quick through interlude, push cadence through end
Crazy Life (4:17) : Cool down
The Toilet Song (1:24) : Stretching

Looking for more workouts? Go here!