Tag Archives: overtraining

Triathletes: don’t let your cycling mess with your running!

What can a new research study tell you about running off-the-bike? Sometimes, research just tells us things that are somewhat interesting. And other times, like this one, research provides a very nice take home message of which we should all take note.

A few weeks ago, we published a study called “Sagital Plane Kinematics During the Transition Run in Triathletes.” Don’t let the fancy words throw you off. All you need to know is this: Cycling before your run makes it harder to maintain your posture. 

Now those of you who have seen me for an evaluation, read my Running Times article called “P is for Posture”, or read my book know that this is the un-sung skill that can make or break you as an athlete. Posture is the foundation around which the most powerful muscles in your body attach. If the position of those muscles is optimal, a number of things go really well…..most notably peaked performance, and a better stabilized chassis for a reduced risk of injury. If this optimal position is compromised, then you aren’t operating at your best.

So, if I told you ahead of time that doing “A” before “B” will produce complications that make “B” harder, you’d (hopefully) try to prepare ahead of time to minimize, or eliminate those complications. Right? …. Well, here’s what happens.

We had a group of triatheltes come into our lab and run. We measured a number of factors related to the way they ran to get a baseline. This same group of runners came back a second time, but before they ran, they cycled for 30 min at a just-easier-than-threshold effort. Their post-bike running data showed that they had more arch in the low back, a more anteriorly-tilted pelvis, a more flexed hip, and less hip extension.

Screen Shot 2013-06-03 at 12.31.19 AM

poor position = poor performance

For those of you wondering if this is good or bad, I’ll give you both the simple and more in-depth version. Running off the bike makes you look more like the person on the left than the person on the right.

optimal posture = optimal performance

optimal posture = optimal performance

For those of you who want to know why, and get more in depth –>  read my article in Running Times, and then read Ch 6 and 8 in Anatomy for Runners, especially the “3 non-negotibles” on p.183, and the test on p. 196.

I simply cannot downplay the significance postural alignment. If you screw this up, you’ll screw up your run. And given that 70% of injuries in triathlon occur in the run, this is yet one more contributing factor.

Cycling doesn’t “hurt us”  – then why do we see postural shifts occur in triathlon? You are bent over in a forward position. Some tissues get bound up. Others get lengthened.  And we only did this for a 30 min ride.  What happens if you force this constrianed position for 5 hrs, and then go run? We don’t know for sure (because we didn’t test this) but if I was a betting man, I think we’d see the same patterns, but somewhat worse.  To be fair, we only looked at their running data for the first 14 min of the run. Maybe posture improves after this 14 min. Maybe it stays the same. Maybe it gets worse. We didn’t test it. But no one wants two slow or injury-prone miles out of T2. And due to the fact that central fatigue typically makes our posture worse, I’d think this is something we should all pay attention to.

So here’s your chance to beat the odds, and be “smarter” than the average. Here’s your mission for today:

  1. Find correct posture standing right now (see above references)
  2. Hold correct posture walking around your office or house.
  3. Go for a run, maintain correct posture (and if you fall into the “back seat” stop and fix it!)
  4. Go for a brick workout, and pay special attention to your postural alignment off the bike. If you focus on this in training, it will be easy to correct on race day. You should be able to run any pace – from an easy run to 400’s on the track – without compromising your posture alignment. 

I’d like to thank our former grad student and first author, Nicole Rendos, for taking the lead on this study. And if you are looking for more ways to tune-up your triathlon training, come see us this August for our REP Triathlon Camp!


Announcing the REP Triathlon Camp! – immerse yourself with the best, and achieve the best

Its just like the summer camp you went to as a kid. Except that……
Instead of eating hot dogs, we’ve got fully catered meals.
Instead of “being prepared” like a good Scout, we’ve got full sag on every workout.
Instead of dodgeball, we start each day with body work, strength training, or yoga. 
Instead of “trying harder” to make it through the obstacle course, we’ll coach you to “move smarter” through the most efficient mechanics for your sports.
Instead of a councilor that reads comic books, your camp leaders wrote the book on training, and teach nationally.
Instead of cheesy sing-alongs, we’ll show you all the secrets to training, equipment, and recovery for you are fully prepared for every race scenario.
Instead of fruit punch, you’ll be surrounded by the most thriving microbrew scene around. 
And we’ve even got a campfire for nightime chats with professional athletes and experts. 
So like we said, its just like summer camp when you were a kid.
The REP tri camp was born out of a simple idea. Build the best possible experience for our athletes. Period. 
Knowledge. Tools. Decades of and coaching and clinical experience. Passion. 
Thus summer, take your body to a whole different level. 

Elevator Up? The Mindset Behind a Champion

A few weeks ago, I got to present along side Dr. Joe Vigil at a USA Track and Field conference in LA. For those of you who have to ask “who is Joe Vigil?”…..this man is to coaches as Rolex is to watches: the best.

Dr Vigil always has the uncanny ability to break down complex tasks and ask you the “right” introspective questions to help you reach your next milestone. We don’t just train the body in isolation. We’ve always heard that the body can handle more than the mind wants to give. So with that, I’m going to leave you with the following picture. Is it time to take the elevator up the “achievement triangle?” – What’s holding you back from reaching your goals? Change all starts with the desire to change.


In fact, lets move beyond kumbaya and start this process in motion right now. Turn the computer off. Get out a sheet of paper and make 3 columns. Write down your goals in column 1. Then write down the obstacles that stand in the way of each of your goals. Then make a 3rd column of exactly what you are going to do to beat each of those obstacles.  Stick it on your fridge and remember your passion. When one of those obstacles seems like its standing in your way, make your tiger face and beat it down. Mental Tough = Body Tough.

And if you need help with your plan, give me a ring – I’ll help you find your tiger face.

How a physical therapist and mega-technology can make you a better athlete

Got some amazing local press this week from The Source here in Bend. While I chose the use the sub-title as the heading for this post, the writer’s main title was pretty witty “Jay and his fancy treadmill”

Granted, I’ve been doing this stuff for quite a while, but I honestly think its pretty simple, and the “right” way to do things ,really.  In comes the writer. His body has some issues that need to be cleared up. Why? well, we’ve always heard “(running) form follows function.” Improve the function of your body so you can further improve – and maintain – your form. We identified things for him to work on and established a plan of attack. As I’ve said over and over again, there are things you can do outside of running that will improve your running.

Next we used some fancy tools and some custom software I developed to identify where things broke down in his gait style. Then we used the toys in the lab to give him some biofeedback to improve specific aspects of his running form while he’s actually running. We worked with this for a bit, and then captured more baseline data. End result, The writer improved his economy by 11% and decreased the stress to his body (called “loading rate”) by just over 33%. Running easier, with less stress to the body? I call that a win. Give the office a call if you are interested in seeing yourself improve as well.

From General to Specific: thinking through your yearly training plan

OK. Gut check time. a few weeks ago, I asked you to take a look at your past, and identify your performance limiters.  While both “Type A” and “Type B” training plans can be incredibly successful, even the most open minded Type B person takes a step back to look at their needs. After all, you’ll never reach your goal without a road map to guide you along the way.

To help you organize your road map, I’d like you to keep in mind a general plan: “from general to specific.” What does this mean? Well, if you are a cyclist, the best, most specific way to train leading up to your competition season is to pedal your bike…..often! But if you are 4 months out from your season, there are about a million other things you could be doing besides biking, that will still help you pedal well come competition season.

There’s no substitute for working hard, but there’s also no reason to work hard at the same thing. I know some of you say, “sure – I do this. I lift weights in the offseason.” Well, if you know anything about modern training theory, weights, plyometrics, and drills aren’t just for the off season (another topic for another time). When I say general, I’m not talking about all this kind of stuff. I’m talking about other kinds of stuff.

When you are 4 months out from race day, your body doesn’t really care if you did 2 hours on the trainer, or 2 hours XC skiing out in the woods. But your brain just might be a whole lot happier shushing though the snow covered trees instead of watching another 15 yr old Spinervals video. If you feel like going to a rock gym – go for it. The balance, coordination, and muscle stabilization you gain from rock climbing will improve areas of your body you never existed. And so what if you aren’t good at it? You aren’t a professional rock climber, its just something fun to do while you’ve got time, and all-cycling-all-the-time isn’t the sole focus of your day.

Me? I’m tackling my nemesis…..trying to ride my unicycle. Previously, its been successful at tacking me instead. But this is all supposed to be fun right? We do this stuff for a challenge. Repeat after me: “It’s January.” You know your friend who is putting in 20 hr training weeks right about now? He’s in for a massive blow-up come about June, and will be spending the peak of race season burt out and destroyed. So expand your skills and expand your mind. This winter, what are you doing to work on your “general?”

South by SouthWest Festival: When Biomechanics Attack

Check out the report WIRED magazine did of my talk with ESPN writer Henry Abbott at SXSW music festival. Likely the only time I’ll get to say I presented at the same conference as Al Gore, Bruce Springsteen, Seth MacFarlane, Jay-Z, and Jeffery Tambor (unfortunately not on the same stage at the same time!)

Nice summary, except they didn’t really get one critical point across. You CAN improve your hip flexibility and your hip strength!

Check out the WIRED article here and check out this link I did for Runner’s World a while ago on improving hip mobility


Adjust your thermostat, adjust your expectations

Wow. If you are on the east coast like we are, we don’t have to tell anyone that its been H.O.T.
“But wait……..don’t the weather gods know I supposed to be training for the ___ championship in __weeks ….not to mention the ___ race I’m doing this winter. My workout today was slow, and I felt bad on my long workout this weekend. I’m getting slower and this heat is killing my training!!!!!”
If you guys want some tips on running in the heat, there are some great words of wisdom on this blog if you scroll down. Let’s re-cap: – hydrate, run in the morning, hydrate, loose fitting and light colored clothing, and hydrate. OK fine – but lets get real on this summer’s weather and why we need to take it into consideration.
Last year in C’ville, we had 7 days above 90 degrees and they were scattered about the summer. Except for a small 2 week heat wave in the middle of the summer, it wasn’t all that hot all the time. You had the luxury of moving workouts a day or 2 ahead or behind in the week based on the heat. This summer, we’ve had 45 days above 90 degrees. We’ve had 7 above 100. And let’s be honest, its not really cooling off all that much at PM or in the AM (Friday night was 96 degrees at 9:00 PM!). Its been so hot that all outdoor high school and collegiate practices would be completely cancelled in weather like this. National and State sports governing bodies have established these regulations to protect the athletes. I know – you are tougher than them and need to get your speed work session in today though…….stay with me.
Dealing with this heat is all about adjusting your expectations. Let’s  re-state this point to be absolutely clear: Trying to train at your same intensity and volume (or increasing it) in this type of weather is NOT a smart thing.

If you don’t agree with me, let’s look at it from your body’s perspective. When you exercise, you ask your body to metabolize fuel stores, regulate energy balance, and produce mechanical work so that you can move from point A to point B. All this effort produces heat. Your body has a lot of internal mechanisms to regulate body temperature, and they work pretty well. But your body has limits as to how rapidly it can cool itself off. Did you know that your body actually begins to compromise its ability to perform at around 72 degrees? Now think about how much challenge a 95 degrees environment places on that body.

Still not convinced? Let’s say that your typical Wednesday morning track work out is 12x 90 second 400 repeats, with 45 seconds between each. Think about how much stress that places on the body under normal conditions. Now let’s consider our weather reality. Its now 10-15 degrees hotter than usual and more humid. Trying to run that same workout under these conditions is significantly more stressful than typical. You may notice that you can’t make the 90 second split without taking more rest between reps. You may even notice that under these conditions, 90 seconds is not even possible. Let’s say that your triathlon training schedule has you doing a 5 hr ride on Sunday AM. However, the heat has slowed your pace down significantly after 2.5 hrs, and all you want to do is jump off the bike into a cool pool. Its OK to back off the workload to match the change in conditions – you’ll STILL GET THE BENEFIT OF THE WORKOUT. Shorten the ride. Increase your rest. Take longer breaks between intervals. Do whatever it takes to be consistent with your training, but realize that extreme weather requires some modifications to ensure we aren’t just pounding ourselves into the ground. Remember- you’re body doesn’t really know exactly how fast its going or how long a rest you are taking; it just knows that you are pushing it harder than you have in the past and with all this heat, it just might push back.

This post is written in memory of a local high school runner who died of heat illness during a summer training run.


Principles of Injury Rehab

There are over 30 million active runners in this country. Fueled by the ever growing participation in marathons and half-marathons, the group keeps growing! Most runners will at some time experience an injury severe enough to cause them to miss a week or more of training. Fortunately for runners, most of these injuries will indeed heal. An understanding of the causes of running injuries and basic treatment principles will hasten healing and return to training.

The majority of running injuries are related to overuse. We do too much, too fast, too soon. Most injuries occur during a transition period-a period where our training is undergoing some type of change. Common examples include increasing mileage too quickly, changing intensity of training, such as moving from a base/distance phase to a strength or speed phase, changing the surface one trains on, or even changing the type of running shoes. Rarely do I see injuries in folks who train very consistently, unless they are in the middle of a transition phase. The transition, rather than the absolute amount of training, seems to be liked closely to injury.

A number of predisposing factors to overuse injuries have been identified. Intrinsic risk factors are anatomic/physiologic factors inherent to the runner. Depending on the particular injury, potential factors may include muscle weakness or imbalance, inflexibility, a leg length inequality, or feet that are excessively high arched or flat.

Extrinsic factors are non-anatomic. Included here are primarily training errors and equipment. For the runner this is the too much, too soon, too fast part. Since most running shoes are meant to last about 400 miles, I see a lot of runners in the office who are ready for a new pair!

Addressing these intrinsic and extrinsic risk factors in addition to treating the specific injury itself will help ensure that one keeps running long after the presenting injury has resolved. Certain principles form the core of running injury rehabilitation:

1. Establish correct and specific diagnosis. Know what you are treating. Plantar fasciitis and calcaneal stress fractures both present with heel pain. The treatment plans and the amount of training one may do, however, varies greatly. Runner’s Knee refers to a specific condition related to abnormal motion of the patella (knee cap). Runner’s knee, however, is only one of many causes of knee pain in runners, each requiring different approaches to treatment. Having a specific treatment plan directed at correcting the specific problem will guarantee best success.

2. Control pain and inflammation. Although inflammation is usually only one component of a running injury, its presence often leads to pain and prevents progress in rehabilitation. Common measures include:

Ice: 10-15 minutes 3 times a day. No ice water buckets which can cause frostbite. I’m often asked which is best, ice or heat? In any injury in which there is active swelling or early on, the first few days after the onset of pain, ice is best. In the absence of swelling, after a few days either ice or heat can be helpful, whichever seems to help most.

Medications: Aspirin or antiinflammatories can be helpful for a short period of time. Certain caution should be used, however. If you are allergic to aspirin or an anti-inflammatory, are pregnant, or have had problems with ulcers, kidney, or liver disease, you should not take antiinflammatories. If you take antinflammatories for 2 weeks and still have symptoms, it’s time to call your doctor. In some instances steroids, either tablets or by injection will be indicated. Remember, however, that steroids function only as an antiiflammatory and shouldn’t be viewed as a magic bullet. They are only part of a more comprehensive rehab program. Also, since injected steroids can potentially weaken the local soft tissues, I recommend not running for 10-14 days following an injection.

Modalities: Athletic Trainers and Physical Therapists can apply certain modalities which are helpful in controlling pain and inflammation. Examples include electric stim, ultrasound, iontophoresis (using an electric stimulator to deliver anti-inflammatory medication) and phonophoresis (using ultrasound to deliver anti-inflammatory medication). Compress/elevate: If a joint is visually swollen (such as following a twisted ankle), wear a compressive wrap or sleeve. Elevate the limb on a stool when sitting.

3. Promotion of healing. This is where rehabilitative exercises come in. Flexibility, strength, proprioception/balance and functional drills are all important. More than anything else the athletic trainer or physical therapist does for us, these are the key. Rehabilitative exercises should not be thought of as just reinforcing strength and flexibility. The focal exercise also enhances blood flow and stimulates tissue remodeling. So, even the strongest and most limber of us will benefit from rehabilitative exercises. And remember-they only work if we do them! When injured, plan to spend 20 minutes a day on rehabilitative exercise in addition to any other training we are doing.

4. Control abuse. This means correcting the factors that lead to the injury in the first place. Look over your training and see if there is any factor that has recently changed, such as an increase in mileage, or the addition of strength or speed work. Talk to your coach to see if perhaps this transition can be made more gradually. Have your started running different courses? The addition of hills or trail running have been linked to various running injuries. Braces, straps, and orthotic devices, when properly used, will minimize overload to affected structures. And be sure that your shoes aren’t overdone. 400 miles max-then they become kick around shoes.

5. Fitness and conditioning. General fitness enhances local blood flow which aids in tissue healing. It also helps prevent deconditioning including areas that aren’t even injured. Certain injuries (ie sciatica or stress fractures) require rest from running. For most running injuries, one can usually continue at least some level of running. Supplement what you miss from running by adding time cross training. Cross training may also be an option for those who can’t run at all, but be sure to clear this with your doctor. Good options include deep water running, the elliptical machine or the bike. Try to simulate what you would normally be doing on land, whether it be short repeat intervals, tempo sessions or long aerobic distance training.

6. Return to sport. With most running injuries, runners can usually continue to least a modified schedule of running with symptoms dictating rate progression back to full training. When in doubt, be sure to discuss your running plan with your physician and trainer. Certain injuries (ie stress fractures) require a certain amount of time to heal even after we no longer have symptoms. Plan to continue the rehabilitative exercises for several weeks after return to training to ensure correction of the risk factors that may have led to injury.

Some additional practical guidelines:

When returning to running after more than a month off, start with a walking, then walk-jog (walk a minute, jog a minute repeats), then run program.

Increase mileage by no more than 10% per week. The longest run should not increase more than 2 miles in any given week. One’s long run should usually not exceed 30% of one’s total weekly mileage. One exception: First time marathoners participating in a lower mileage program. Remember, however, that this amounts to a big progression, so avoid temptation to exceed one’s program in other areas.

Change shoes every 400 miles and be fitted by someone familiar with running shoes and gait styles. The shoe your training partner loves may not be ideal for you.

When running with an injury be sure not to exceed the “Relative Activity Modification Guidelines”:

1. You may run with mild pain (0-3/10). If you have moderate pain (4-6/10), back things down until the pain is no more than mild. If you have severe pain (7-10/10), stop running!

2. Discomfort that is present at the beginning of a run, but resolves after easing into the run is usually associated with mild injury. If you know that symptoms will worsen beyond a certain pint (mileage or pace), you have defined your limit. Do not go beyond this point.

3. No limping allowed! Sounds like a no brainer, but folks violate this all the time. One should not run with an injury that forces a change in normal gait. The flip side is that if you are able to run with a normal gait and the discomfort is no more than mild, the likelihood that healing is prolonged is minimal.

Remember-with certain injuries (ie sciatica, stress fractures) we simply should not run. When in doubt, consult your physician for specific guidelines.

Following these principles should ensure most complete healing and a safe return to training.

See you on the roads!