Shakira was Right – The Hips Don’t Lie

 

Yup, the Colombian bombshell was right – the hips don’t lie!

Argh! My It-Band/knee issues have migrated back to my hips again. Last week I did have some success with my running. It was far from fast, but I was able to actually get my mileage in. Last Wednesday I had my long run – 90 minutes. I wasn’t sure if my knee would hold up for the entire time and when I mentioned it to my chiropractor she suggested to split my run in half. Run 45 minutes in the morning and the remaining 45 minutes in the evening. Brilliant! I had considered running what I could outside on the pavement and then “running” the rest in the pool. The thought of splitting my run in half never even occurred to me. It makes complete sense though because you get your mileage in for the day but with a lot less fatigue and damage to the body. This is obviously very important for me at the moment due to my injury.

Yesterday at the chiropractor I asked my chiropractor what is causing all my hip issues. I had a good feeling what the root cause was but I wanted her to confirm my suspicions. The perpetrator – muscle imbalances. Just as I had predicted. Unfortunately I had the imbalances for a long time. As a Freshmen in high school I had major patellofermoral pain syndrome cause by, you guessed it – muscle imbalances. My entire swim season was ruined because of my knee problems. Months of bi-weekly physical therapy “fixed” my problems and my hips were good for a long time. However, over the past couple of years focusing on long-course triathlons, my body, more specifically my hips, have taken a massive beating by the same repetitive motions leading to the overuse injuries that I have been battling with – plantar fasciitis, IT-Band issues, and piriformis syndrome.

Over the past year I have spent a lot of time learning about the human body and movement. Working in the fitness industry as a personal trainer and coach requires me to understand the fundamental elements of human movement. Through my own research and education I have begun to understand what my own body is doing during movement and where my body is compensating because of my muscle imbalances. To be completely honest, I have known about my issues for a while now, but haven’t really focused a ton of time fixing the issue. That small crack in my foundation has now caused a major rift in my foundation causing my whole house to shift. Yikes!

So what are muscle imbalances? I plan to have a post dedicated more to this topic later this week, but I’ll give you a little tease right now. Muscle imbalance occurs when muscles lack normal muscle activity – a combination of contraction and relaxation. Triathletes tend to become overdeveloped in larger muscle groups, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, and shoulders and weak in the smaller stability muscles in the lower back, core, adductors, and abductors. Imbalances may lead to injuries, biomechanical inefficiencies, and wasted efforts.

So yeah… muscle imbalance are not fun. Just about every athlete, especially triathletes, have some degree of muscle imbalance. All my clients have some sort of muscle imbalances too because of their lifestyles, ie. home or work environment. Luckily, muscle imbalance can be corrected relatively easy through corrective and strength exercises at the gym amd/or home. We’ll discuss this later.

My little word of advice – “pre-hab” is way better than rehab so don’t forget to do your core and hip strengthening work folks! 🙂

~ Happy Training!

USAT Triathlon Coaching Level I Clinic

Ok, so this post is a little late. Like 6 weeks late. But, on the good news… I’m officially a certified USAT Level I Triathlon Coach! Yay!

It's Official!

It’s Official!

Back in April Jen and I took a road trip down to Short Hills, New Jersey for the two-day clinic. I’ll be completely honest, I was dreading the New Jersey location. I was thinking it was going to be in a super sketchy part of NJ and all the people living there were going to be right out of Jersey Shore. My worst nightmare! I was pleasantly surprised to find out that Short Hills is an absolutely gorgeous part of NJ! The streets were lined with sidewalks and trees. The houses were cute and nice. And holy heck the town was hilly! I always thought that NJ was pretty flat, but I guess not. Hence the town name of Short Hills. However, those hills were anything but short!

Day one of the clinic included lectures by all three of our presenters: Jesse Kropelnicki of QT2 Systems, John Petrush of Bay Shore Swim, and Shelly O’Brien of Icon One Multisport. The morning started off with two lectures on exercise physiology and nutrition by Jesse. I was super pumped when I first saw that Jesse was going to be a presenter at our clinic. He is one of the top coaches in the country and is someone who I highly look up too. I must admit that I was a wee bit disappointed with his lectures. Not because they were boring or bad, but because both topics were review for me.

Jesse Kropelnicki

Jesse Kropelnicki

After lunch Joe came in and discussed strength training and cycling skills and training with us. Joe is from Long Island and was your stereotypical Long Islander. He was very interesting to listen to. He was funny, but also very opinionated. His lectures were good. However, I disagreed with him on his view of strength training. He told us up front that we were completely welcomed to disagree with him on the topic since strength training for triathletes is still a rather controversial topic. His view was that “if it ain’t broke than don’t fix it.” He generally prefers not doing traditional strength training with his athletes unless they are injured. His approach with strength training is to do it within the swim, bike, run realm. For example, run or bike hill repeats to build leg strength. I can see where he is coming from. I agree that some strength building within each discipline is important, such as running hill repeats. However, I believe that traditional strength training should be part of an triathlete (or any endurance athlete)’s training plan. I don’t mean they need to do traditional body building style training. That would actually not be a favorable way to train. Can you see Arnold doing an Ironman? That poor carbon fiber bike doesn’t have a chance…

Joe Petrush

Joe Petrush

I much prefer functional training with bodyweight and TRX. Anyway, now that I have left on my tangent I will get back on track! The last lecture of the day was on swim skills and training by Shelly. Shelly is an amazing person to listen to and just a wealth of information. She was by far my favorite person to listen to (which is a good thing because she did all the lectures on the second day). Shelly made each lecture more interactive, which was awesome because sitting in a chair for 10+ hours a day is not my thing. I couldn’t sit for much of the time and kept shifting about in my chair. Secretly, I think all that sitting played a role in my IT-band/Knee/Hip issues.

After the first day Jen and I headed back to our hotel. I headed out for a quick 50 minute run. It was a bit drizzly out, but quite humid. The main roads in the area were busy and we found out quickly that New Jersey drivers were crazy so I headed out to run around the neighborhoods. The neighborhoods were cute and situated on some massively steep hills. Holy cow was my pace slow, but it was fun to run, essentially, hill repeats. After my run we hit up the Cheesecake Factory. It was my first time! Yum yum yum! I had the salmon with mashed potatoes and asparagus. And of course, Jen and I split some Cheesecake, cause ya know it was my first time and all…

Shelly O'Brien

Shelly O’Brien

The second day was another very long day of sitting. On the second day we discussed running, sports psychology and mental training, and how to build training plans. Unfortunately, most of the time Shelly ran out of time during each lecture because she just had so much to tell us. She gave us a bunch of awesome drill ideas for running and swimming. Some of which I have been trying on my own since then and also have incorporated some of them into my own clients training plans.

Everyone at the clinic came from various backgrounds and reasons why they were attending. Some were already experienced coaches and some are complete newbies. We had a few sports doctors and physical therapists too. It was fun to talk to different people and hear their thoughts on the sport and training. USAT recently changed their criteria to get into the clinic. It used to be the first 40 people to register would get into the clinic. Now you have to apply. Over 70 people applied for our clinic and they accepted 40 of us. I’m glad I made the cut!

Here are some interesting tidbits I learned while at the clinic from the various presenters:

  • There is generally a 4-16 beat difference in heart rate between running and biking (average is about 10 beats)
  • It usually takes about 20-30 minutes for the heart rate to settle down after the swim
  • Heart rate is important for training and power meters are important for racing
  • Train movements not muscles (aka functional training!)
  • When working with youth athletes (under age 10) work anaerobic first then aerobic capacity
  • Develop speed and endurance together
  • Develop various skill sets in each sport (i.e. drills)
  • There is no such thing as a good bike and a bad run in triathlon, especially long course!

My favorite is the last bullet point. It is the one that I have been learning over the past year with my coach. If you go out too fast and hard on the bike and burn all your matches then your legs and body are toast for the run. Words of wisdom right there kids!

Crossing the GW Bridge in NYC

Crossing the GW Bridge in NYC

~ Happy Training!

PS – If you’re looking for a triathlon coach then I hope you will consider me! 🙂

IT-Band Woes

The IT-Band - eMedicineHealth.com

The IT-Band – eMedicineHealth.com

I spent the last 8 days swimming, biking, and doing core work. No running. Why? Stupid and annoying knee pain. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I had developed knee pain in my right knee making running a very unpleasant chore. I managed to compete in my first tri of the season and actually place well, but not without facing the consequences afterwards. Perhaps I should have DNF? Nah….

After the PolarBear I had a 60 minute endurance run in my training plan for that Wednesday. I was feeling pretty good and really wanted a good run. I haven’t had a good run in a while. The weather was beautiful out and I was pumped. I laced up my shoes, turned on the Garmin and did my dynamic warm-up while my watch was searching for the satellites. I swear my watch takes forever to find the satellites. Then it was off. My house is situated on a hill. Either way I have to ride or run down before I hit any flat-ish pavement. I took the hill easy because I knew it would irritate my quad. The hill went okay. About two minutes into the run the sharp nagging pain returned on the bottom outside of my knee rendering me to my little hobble/jump run gait. It’s quite the sight to see I’m sure.

I stopped, stretched (maybe prayed a little) and then began again. I managed to jog very slowly for 10 minutes but still had that nagging pain. After about a mile I knew I needed to stop. The pain intensified leaving me in tears. I turned around and hobbled/walked myself back home crying. Yes, I fully admit that I cried. After my 18 minute mile home I sat myself down in the chair with an ice pack and my laptop. I succeeded to email my coach (while crying of course) letting her know that I could not run and I had no clue how the heck I was suppose to do an Ironman in 10 weeks! Perhaps I was being a bit dramatic, but I was very frustrated.

Not being able to run while training for an Ironman is not good. Normally I would be the idiot and try to run through all the pain. However, the past couple of years I really have learned the value of rest and listening to my body. My body was telling me to stop running and figure out what the root cause of my knee pain was. Mary quickly replied to me to tell me that I would take a full week off from running and let my knee heal. We would see how it feels the following week and slowly build my miles back up. I still have plenty of time till Lake Placid.

I saw my chiropractor again on Monday and we both agree that my knee pain is being primarily caused by my IT-band. My quad muscles are also suspect in the situation too. Along with that pesky little piriformis muscle that I strongly dislike. We’ve been taping my knee and IT-band with kinesiology tape for the past three weeks. It seems to be helping. I’ve been very religious about icing and rolling out with my foam roller, stick, and lacrosse ball. That has seemed to help a great deal too.

Sweet Taping Job

Sweet Taping Job

I think the most important aspect of healing my IT-band is rest. I’ve done some research online and most sports medicine professionals recommend anywhere from 3-10 days of rest from the problematic activity (i.e. running in my case). I’m lucky that swimming and cycling doesn’t bother my knee and/or quad and IT-Band. Tonight is going to be my first night running again. Just an easy 30 minute run. If the knee bothers me then I will stop and continue to rest again. When dealing with injuries you have to be smart. I’m going to be smart this time. Let it heal and then strengthen it. I’ve been discussing with my boss at the gym the ideal strength/rehabbing plan for my IT-band to ensure going forward I don’t have chronic issues with it. Hopefully I’m on the road to recovery!

Here’s to hoping my run goes well!

Anyone have any advice on treating IT-band issues? What’s your worst sports-related injury?

~ Happy Training!  

Book Review: The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery

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Last month I read the book The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery by Sage Rountree. The book is all about recovery methods for athletes, primarily endurance-based athletes. Rountree is an experience yoga teacher and is also a certified USA Triathlon and Road Runners Club of America coach. She teaches regular yoga classes popular among athletes of all levels and is a frequent contributor to many publications, including Runner’s World, Yoga Journal, and USA Triathlon Life.

The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery is described on the back of the book as:

“The Athlete’s Gudie to Recovery is the first comprehensive, practical exploration of the art and science of athletic rest. Certified cycling, triathlon, and running coach Sage Rountree guides you to full recovery and improved performance, exploring how much rest athletes need, how to measure fatigue, and how to make the best use of recovery tools.

Drawing on her own experience along with interviews with coaches, trainers, and elite athletes, Rountree details daily recovery techniques and demystifies common aids such as ice baths, compression apparel, and supplements. She explains in detail how to employ restorative practices, including massage, meditation, and yoga. You will learn which methods work best and how and when they are most effective.”

I enjoyed the book, but I wished that it included a bit more scienitific study results. Of course as a biochemist by training I rely on peer-reviewed studies for my knowldge; however, Rountree wrote the book for a more general population so I understand why she did not bring a lot of studies into the book.

The first part of the book dicusses why recovery is an important part of the training cycle and ways to qualitatively and quantitatively to measure it during your training cycles. One of my favorite quotes from the book is “recovery is where the gains of your training actually occur, and valuing your recovery is the key to both short-term and long-term success, no matter what your sport” (page 4). Last year I really learned the importance of recovery during my training cycles. I have always been in the mindset that no pain, no gain or go hard all the time for the biggest improvements in my performance. However, I learned that is completely the wrong mindset to have. When working with my athletes and clients I always make sure to stress the importance of recovery. For the longest time I was under the impression that during workouts is when your body gets stronger and faster, but in reality it is AFTERWARDS during periods of recovery that your body repairs itself to make it stronger and faster. Rountree stresses this in the first part of her book. She states that “it’s the balance between the work and the rest that keeps us healthy and strong” (page 5). Rountree discusses the physiogologic adaptaion process well in laymans terms for those of us that may not be a super science nerd like myself. She also breaks down the perodization training cycle in words and figures for the reader to help them understand the concept easily and how recovery fits into each part of the cycle. One point she makes in the first chapter is that “your successful approach to recovery will depend on two traits: patience and faith” (page 13). I found this to be a strong point. Lord knows that I am one of the most impatient people. When I want something I want it now. I know as an athlete that I need to take the time and put the work in and I will see results. I will not become a top of the podium athlete overnight. I may never become one, but that doesn’t mean that I won’t put the work in and have a little faith that if I am patient that it will happen. You have to be patient with recovery and trust the process. Sometimes we all need a little time off. Certainly my body told me I needed time off this past Fall to heal from my nagging right hip issue and also the plantar fasciitis that results from that damn piriformis. Can I evict my piriformis yet?

Part two of the book dicusses recovery techniques. She discusses 12 techniques, which she breaks down into time, cost, accessibility, and confidence (she calls this “Sage’s Gauge”). Here is my take on each technique:

  • Active Recovery – is exercise at a low intensity. Easy, stand-alone active recovery workouts, such as an easy zone 1 spin or jog/walk, can elevate the heart rate just effort to increase blood flow to muscles to aid in recovery. However, these workouts must be light and easy enough to not tax the muscular and cardiovascular systems, aka 65-mile “recovery” rides are not really recovery rides. Who knew? Active recovery also includes proper cool downs during more intense workouts.
  • Stress Reduction – Let’s face it, we all live in a stressful world. Work, school, family, training, etc. According to Rountree the key to reducing stress is being aware of where it comes from. Okay, so my main source of stress is work. Mainly in the past month not knowing if I still had a job. Now that I know my job is a little more secure now my stress levels has gone down; however, I am prone to getting stressed trying to figure out how to fit work and train clients while completing my training all within 24 hours and then rinse and repeat. Welcome to being an age-group athlete, right?! Rountree suggests learning the ability to say no (definitely a major problem I have. I can be guilt-tripped into just about anything and I will probably regret ever saying that…), making realistic goals and periodically checking in on them, and planning a head.
  • Sleep – YES PLEASE! I think we all know how important good quality sleep is! Rountree suggests that we should sleep until you wake up satisfied without the use of an alarm clock. Naps are also a good idea. All great ideas but a little unrealistic for a majority of us real people working in the real world.
  • Nutrition and Hydration – Drink water and eat real foods. Enough said right? Recovery snacks are important for our bodies.
  • Supplements – These are designed to cover deficiencies in your diet. See above for what is really important in recovery, i.e. real foods and water! However, taking a multivitamin and a fish oil pill can help. Personally, I take a multivitmain to cover my bases incase I don’t have a good eating day and I don’t eat a ton of fish so fish oil pill a day is good for me. Fish oil has been shown to help reduce inflammation. NSAIDS, such as Ibuprofen can actually interfere with the body’s recovery process so it’s best not to swallow an entire bottle (or any at all) after a tough workout.
  • Cold and Heat – Ice bath party anyone? I started to use ice baths this past season after tough long brick workouts. I think they helped some. Mostly I felt like a badass sitting in a tub of cold water and ice cubes drinking my recovery smoothie (okay, sometimes it was a beer. Don’t judge me). Cold can be used to counter inflammation and to numb pain. Ice baths help with this and also to move waste products from the muscle. Some people also use heat. Rountree suggests eating a warm snack while sitting in an ice bath.
  • Home Remedies – Compression gear. I was interested to see what her stance was on the issue because it is currently debated in the scientific literature if compression gear actually works or if it’s more psychological. Either way, I like my compression gear. Rountree suggest based on studies that compression socks are more effective than calf sleeves. She also suggests that compression gear is more beneficial during recovery than while training or racing. That is my opinion also. However, compression gear intrigues me so I plan to look more into the topic.
  • Technological Aids – Got a lot of money? Yeah, me either! Thanks SallieMae! You can buy things like ultrasound and electrostimulation therapy or Normatec MVP boots.
  • Massage – Another, yes please! I think we all know that massages are beneficial to the body.Rountree discusses when massage should be scheduled in your training and racing cycles. During training she said scheduling will much depend on your budget. Once a month is probably fine for most people. Rountree suggests a good massage at least 3 days prior to an event would be good and then a really light quick massage after the race to flush-out muscular waste. A good deeper massage should be scheduled about a week later.
  • Self-Massage – Is your foam roller your best friend? Well, it should be!
  • Restorative Yoga – Restorative yoga is a gentler form of yoga and focuses on releasing tension in the body. Poses are held as long as 10-15 minutes. I’ve done one restorative yoga class. It was tough, but my body did feel good afterwards. Rountree gives pictorial examples of poses that are beneficial to the triathlete.
  • Meditation and Breathing – Similar to restorative yoga. Just taking time out of your day to relax and forget about the stresses of the day. Rountree states that the “goal of meditation is not to stop thinking; it’s to become aware of the thinking and to return to focus without getting swept up in thought” (page 168).

Part three of the book discusses recovery protocols. Rountree gives some ideas of how to string the techniques together along with training. Personally, I think everyone is different and different things work for different people, thus people should pick what works best for them. Overall, I did like the book and thought it was helpful. I personally would have liked to have seen more peer-reviewed studies included in more chapters, but I believe Rountree was targeting a more general population rather than the total trigeek like myself.

Have you read this book? What are your thought? What recovery methods work for you?

~ Happy Training!

 

Part IV: The Core – Plank Progressions

Personally I believe that the plank is the best core exercise because it engages more than just the abdominal muscles. Often times people think they have to do a million crunches/sit-ups to get those mythical 6-pack abs that we all dream about. Sadly, the development of our 6-packs is based mostly on our diets. You might have those killer 6-pack abs, but they are probably buried under a layer of fat.

The plank is an isometric exercise meaning that the muscle length does not change through contraction and/or is in a static hold. The plank is a great exercise because it focuses on muscle endurance of the abdominal muscles while using solely your bodyweight. You can do a plank anywhere! The planks targets the following muscles:

  • Rectus abdominis
  • Transverse abdominis
  • Pelvic floor
  • Erector Spinae
  • Multifidus
  • Quadartus Lumborum
  • Gluteus minimus/medius
  • Gluteus maximus

How to perform a plank:

1. Lie face down on an exercise mat or floor with your elbows at your sides facing towards the floor (you always want to keep a neutral neck/spine position).

2. Lift your body up by engaging your core and gluteals, supporting your weight on your forearms and toes. Think about SUCKING IN THE BELLY BUTTON to engage your core and keep the hips up and inline with your back. Think dinner table flat back!

3. Concentrate on maintaining a straight line through the hips and core. Don’t forget to breathe!

4. Hold to position for about 30 seconds or until failure to start. Over time you can build up to holding the position for more time and/or go through plank progressions.

The Plank
The Plank

Plank on knees - Start higher if you are having a hard time holding a plank on your toes

Plank on knees – Start here if you are having a hard time holding a plank on your toes

Yoga Plank - Make sure you keep arms right under shoulder where you are the most structually strong

Plank Progression #3: Yoga Plank – Make sure you keep arms right under shoulder where you are the most structually strong

Plank Progression #4: Single-leg Plank - Lift one leg up while maintaining the plank position
Plank Progression #4: Single-leg Plank – Lift one leg up while maintaining the plank position

Plank Progression #5 - Single arm plank - Lift one arm up straight and reach out in front of you (keep your butt down lower and a straighter arm!)

Plank Progression #5 – Single arm plank – Lift one arm up straight and reach out in front of you (keep your butt down lower and a straighter arm!)

Plank Progression #6: Opposite arm/opposite leg lift - Lift opposite arm and opposite lift and hold for a set time. Switch arm and leg on next set.
Plank Progression #6: Opposite arm/opposite leg lift – Lift opposite arm and opposite lift and hold for a set time. Switch arm and leg on next set.

Plank Progression#7: Side Plank - Make sure you keep your hips up
Plank Progression#7: Side Plank – Make sure you keep your hips up
Plank Progression #8: Side Plank with Leg Raise - If a normal side plank is too easy then try lifting the top leg!
Plank Progression #8: Side Plank with Leg Raise – If a normal side plank is too easy then try lifting the top leg!

Of course, there are about a hundred more variations of the plank that you can do. Some of my favorite include the TRX plank progressions and using the cable machine and performing a row with the arms while in either a forward plank or side plank.

~ Happy Training!