Tag Archives: triathlon

NPR asked: do smarter shoes make smarter runners?

Brace yourself. You thought heart rate and GPS was cool? The tech revolution is coming to running in a major way. Sure, it’s got some hurdles, but its likely going to be easier than signing up for health care insurance online.

So what if your shoe could tell you about your foot strike ? would it matter? what if you had gear that could tell you about more than foot strike?  What can Tech do for you as an athlete?

Check out this link to listen to the NPR interview for some answers.
And if the merging of tech and athletics intrigues you, check out this article I wrote for Spark/Qualcomm.

Cool technology + smart people to make sense of it = some pretty cool times for you as an athlete.

 

Treadmill Running: What’s different? What’s the same?

Well, its that time of year again. The sun sinks below the horizon early, and with that my phone rings with reporters wanting to know what tips they should give to their readers about running successfully on a treadmill. Rather than risking this info getting watered down, I figured I’d give you the straight scoop.

  • Fact vs Fiction: A lot of coaches preach the message “you push yourself over the ground outside, and your pull yourself overground on a treadmill”…..this is 100% false. If you look at the fancy stuff we measure called “ground reactions forces” you’ll see very very similar patterns when running on either surface. The overall mechanics are very much the same.
  • Think about it as a different surface, not a different way to run: despite the fact that the treadmill is very similar to running over ground, there are some differences, and some are actually what qualify as “statistically significant.” But if you look at the clinical impact this has, and if you deal with this type of data every day like I do, the differences are really small. There is a difference in body mechanics running on grass, trail, asphalt, and concrete. But again, these differences are small. As long as you slowly adapt your mileage to treadmill, you’ll be OK. No one runs 100% of their miles on trail and then jumps 100% onto the road. This goes for transitioning miles to the treadmill. Allow a few weeks to transition your mileage over, and your body will adapt to these slight changes.
  • Run correctly on your treadmill: Here’s the most important one. Everyone has a friend who ran on their treadmill and then got hurt. Or maybe it was you. They “blame it on the treadmill” – what happened? First, you need time to acclimate (re-read previous paragraph).  But most importantly, its not running on the treadmill that’s typically the issue. More often than not its running differently on the treadmill. Example. If running outside, you are free to make small fluctuations in speed. On the treadmill, the belt speed is held constant. So if you decide to try to slow down 1%, you can’t. As you get tired, your speed changes, but your cadence slows, which forces a longer stride than you are used to. Your body’s soft tissues are in a completely different position (longer) than you’ve trained them in your previous miles. This longer position can create strains on soft tissues and increase the lever arm on your joints and cause pain. But this really isn’t a treadmill issue – its a running form issue.
  • To incline or not to incline? We often hear to increase the incline on the treadmill to 1-2% to make up for the lack of wind resistance. Here’s the deal. Raising the incline slightly increases the physiological stress level compared to flat, and it doesn’t really change the loads much on the body. In fact, running with a slight incline is actually a bit “safer” for the body since it makes it tougher to over-stride. So no harm here.

What’s a safe way to run on the treadmill?

  1. gradually increase the % of miles you are doing on the treadmill
  2. run the same. Be honest with youself. Are you really running 6:45’s on the road? or are you really running 7:15’s? Aim to keep paces realistic. And aim to keep your stride pretty close to what you typically do. An easy way to do this is by counting your cadence (number of foot contacts per minute). Next time you are running 7 min pace, count your strides. If you are consistently hitting 88 per minute (single side), then aim to maintain the same cadence on the treadmill at 7 min pace. This way you avoid overstriding and the stresses it can place on your body.
  3. Novices: don’t go crazy on speed work. Doing intervals makes you tired. Running faster than 800 meter pace on the treadmill can make it much more likely that you’ll run with compensated form.  In general, I recommend tempo intervals on the treadmill, but speedwork is best done outside. If you must do speedwork on the treadmill, make sure your cadence is similar to what you’d maintain outside.

For those of you who like the fine print, feel free to read more below. And of note, all the information in this article pertains to steady state distance running. Sprint training on treadmills is a different concept entirely. My UVA lab group wrote one, and Irene Davis’ team wrote another. No matter on treadmill or outside – enjoy your run!

References:

Riley PO, Dicharry J, Franz J, Della Croce U, Wilder RP, Kerrigan DC. A kinematics and kinetic comparison of overground and treadmill running.Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2008 Jun;40(6):1093-100

Fellin, R.E.,  Manal, K, Davis, I. Comparison of Lower Extremity Kinematic Curves During Overground and Treadmill Running. J Appl Biomech. 2010 November; 26(4): 407–414.

 

Lesson of the day: don’t hold back

A nice reminder to keep your eye on the big picture, but remember to enjoy yourself….
“The idea is to become an old wizard; to live a long and fruitful life and have a family and be healthy and enjoy the ride. And speaking of the ride, why not let it rip? At least just a little bit. Everyone I know who’s really stoked about getting out of bed in the morning does that to some extent.”
–Laird Hamilton

Island Power: a case study in athlete development for Ironman World Championships

“Hello- this is Jay can I help you?” After a short sigh, I get a panicked summary of the past several months. A constant battle with shin splints and stress fractures. Not able to run. Rest isn’t helping. Oh and their biggest race of the season – IM Kona- is in 7 weeks. I wasn’t startled. I asked her what her goals were for race day and she said top 10 and a PR in the run. Fast forward through 7 weeks of targeted rehab,strength, and form work. Longest run up to Kona was only 9 miles. Results? She ran a 3:04 and got 10th.

How? It’s actually really simple. For years the triathlete mindset has been that strength and cross training is “something else” to fit in on top of your swim, bike, and run volume. Well, research and successful splits on race day are blowing this myth wide open. The truth? To perform at your limit, its essential to benchmark, and target, your mobility, stability, strength, and power. Instead of just improving your fitness, you can improve you. We didn’t just think outside the box, we threw the box away and re-engineered Linsey’s training in new way to meet her goal. A better you is a faster you.

100% focus during the race, 100% smiles after

100% focus during the race, 100% smiles after

When I saw Linsey 1:40 down with 1.5 miles to go, I knew she could pull through and make a move from 11th to 10th. She had strength and form nailed down solid. Not only did she make the pass, but she made it with over 20 seconds to spare. And I should note that she also maxed out on several of her strength exercises the same week as Ironman. Strong runners = fast (and happy) runners!

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beautiful form, beautiful race course!

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here’s how you start the day in Kona

20131015-032221.jpgMy first, and likely only pic, in Triathlete. Doesn’t this pic look a bit like the “which one of these is not like the other one” song from Sesame Street? Yours truly hasn’t seen 6% body fat in a while…..From left to right: me, Linsey Corbin, Matt Lieto, Chris Lieto, and Elliot Bassett.

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flower power

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Linsey has beer, and it needs transport 1 mile down the road to Bike check on friday…..these are the type of circumstances at which I’m best. Taking resistance training to a whole new level. Ice cold Corbin’s! Get your Ice cold Corbins here!

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some folks will be happiest after IM is over!

Linsey Corbin’s Lucky 13: kudos from the field

I work with many athletes – and to be honest, I get just as much personal satisfaction seeing a person complete their first 10K as I do helping an elite earn a spot on the podium.  I’m always humbled and honored when athletes seek out my help, and even more humbled when they put out some nice footage such like this as a way of saying thanks.  I’m really just trying to do my job!

Well, professional triathlete Linsey Corbin is also trying to do her job with a stellar performance in Kona 2 weeks from today. Check out Day 2 on linseylucky13.com to learn what Linsey and I have been working on together.

Circles vs. Squares: What’s the best shape for a powerful cyclist?

If there was ever a good topic for an episode of Mythbusters, it would be this: should you pedal circles or pedal squares? We’ve been told that “pedaling circles” is important so that we can apply a smooth even pedal stroke. And word on the street is that this uniform application of power around the cranks is more efficient and makes a better rider.

We’ll lets mock up our own episode of Mythbusters. Let’s pretend that you are doing your thesis on power production in cycling (I did). And let’s also pretend that you are trying to get good data on good cyclists (this was my goal). In my research, I tapped into the best client database I could think of (the US Olympic Training Center). And lastly, let’s pretend that you could examine the pedal cycle of the entire national team, and developmental athletes (I could).  What would you find?

We’ll, this episode of Mythbusters would be pretty clear. World championship and Olympic medals have been won by riders who feature a smooth pedal cycle (circles) as well as cyclists who are mashers (squares). Uh oh. Don’t’ you hate it when real world data flies in the face of what you’ve been told. So where does this leave you?

Spin Scan Pedal Profile: Looking different doesn't mean one is better

Spin Scan Pedal Profile: Looking different doesn’t mean one is better

Its not to say that pedaling style is not important, because it is. In fact, research shows that elite cyclists have better pedaling mechanics than both recreationally competitive cyclists, and even elite triathletes. So if its not the “shape” of the application of power, what does better pedaling mean? Better cyclists have lots and lots of practice turning the pedals over. All this “practice” helps them produce the right amount of force from each muscle, without fighting, or co-contracting muscles during the pedaling cycle. They ride smoother and don’t fight their own pedal stroke. They also can change their pedaling cycle easily when they fatigue, in breaks, or up climbs. Having lots of “strategies” to tap into help as them adapt to the race conditions and terrain they are facing.

The take home:

▪   If you are a rider that has had success mashing your way along at 75 rpm, it doesn’t mean that you must learn to spin at 110 rpm just because someone else does.

▪   Pedaling technique is a variable that better cyclists adjust based on terrain, fatigue, and surface. It is still worthwhile to learn proper pedaling strategies. If you do want to improve your spin, the most beneficial cues are to “scrape mud” off the bottom of your shoe at the bottom of the stroke, and to “kick a ball” at the top of the pedal stroke.

▪   Traction matters. In general mountain bikers have a smoother pedal stroke to maintain traction. If they put all their power around a small part of the pedal cycle their tires spin out.  If you spend time on dirt, emphasize smooth power to keep your tires hooking up  – especially on the climbs.

▪   Better cyclists don’t necessarily pedal circles or squares. They just pedal better circles and better squares – stop reading and go for a ride!

 

 

Spin Scan Pedal Profile: Looking different doesn't mean one is better

Spin Scan Pedal Profile: Looking different doesn’t mean one is better

Bike Fit: yes, its worth it. But don’t take my word for it.

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 3.28.42 AMBike fit is critical. Why? cycling is a pretty constrained motion, and you go through a LOT of repetitions. Even the forces on the body are much lower than running, the volume on the bike can still add up to a lot of wear and tear.

So can it make you faster? Optimizing the position of your engine (you!) over your machine (your bike) does in fact pay off. The research is pretty much all over the place on bike fit. Doing well controlled studies is pretty hard to do for cycling, because people are just different. But when you really nail down what’s different, and work to not just improve the “Fit” but also improve the rider on the bike, big things start happening.  In light of this, I thought I’d offer some feedback from a few of my clients over the past year.

“after years of low back pain on the bike, nothing hurts! – thanks!”
Chris Eatough – Professional Mountain Biker, Six-time World 24hr Solo Mountain Bike Champion, Five time US 24hr Solo Champion

“wow – this is going to be fast! – thanks!”
Ben King – Professional Road Cyclist, US National Champion

“Thank man! Had a solid ride yesterday with the new position! Best power output so far by a ways”
Jesse Thomas – professional triathlete, multiple-time Wildflower champion

“Basically, I feel like a kid in Maine again: Lower seat, cleats further back, putting down the power, and trying to ruin corners. Its really fun”
Adam Craig – professional mountain biker: US Olympian, US Champion in XC, Super D, and Cyclocross, Single Speed World Champion

“Loving my bike fit – fast and comfy”
Carl Decker – professional mountain biker, multiple time Downieville All-mountain Champion, US Super D champion, US Road Champion, Single Speed World champion

“Loved, loved, LOVED it! Bike felt so good – Thank you!!!”
Serena Bishop Gordon – 2013 NUE Series Champion, 2nd place US Mountain Bike Marathon Nationals

“The juice is back – nothing hurts and feeling strong!”
Matt Lieto – professional triathlete, commentator, author, fastest bike split IM Whistler 

I don’t work magic, but I do my best to help you achieve your goals. Give me a call if I can help you out with yours.

My new book: bedtime story for the new royal baby?

It seems the Brits have been busy. A few weeks ago, a new Royal baby greeted the world, and it seems my collection of bedtime stories to Prince George was released just in time!

photo-14Anatomy for Runners has made quite an impact. Since its release almost one year ago, its been one of the top selling running books, and achieved significant accolades with runners, coaches, clinicians, and the industry. In fact the book has done so well, that it was picked up by a UK-based Lotus Publishing Group. The overseas edition, re-titled “Run Like an Athlete” is available now to anyone on the other side of the pond. I’m quite happy with this title – its actually hat I wanted to call the US book in the first place. It features all the same excellent content, although its been translated from English to well, English……

Yes…..The Queen’s prose is quite different from our countrymen’s linguistics. Going through the editing process with the publisher, I’m shocked at how much it was altered for the european audience: “Soccer mom = football mum” are among thousands of edits.

Note: this version of the book is best utilized with hot tea, crumpets, ascots, and a Hugh Grant movie playing in the background. 

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my copy arrives by none other than the Royal Mail

Can I buy Speed?

Adam Craig gets his position optimized at the REP Lab prior to the season

Adam Craig gets his position optimized at the REP Lab prior to the season

Cyclists want two very simple things. They want to be comfortable on their bike, and they want to be fast. And anytime we “want” something, we must ask the question – how hard must I work to achieve it? Or in this golden age of cycling, a lot of cyclists ask a different question – can I buy more speed? Well, let’s stop asking questions, and start producing some answers.

As a physical therapist, I can tell you that cycling takes its toll on the body. You do a fairly limited range of motion over and over and over again for thousands of miles a year. If things are lined up properly on the bike, and you are careful and follow a smart training program, you’ll maximize efficiency and prevent injury. When things are “off”, we wind up with imbalances that manifest themselves as injury. Injury is a whole other topic for a latter time. The other problem we wind up with is poor efficiency. Proper knowledge and equipment go a long way towards accomplishing a goal of optimal fit.

I’d like to summarize a paper that was published in a peer-reviewed, independent journal. Asker Jeukendrup and James Martin wrote “Improving Cycling Performance: How Should We Spend Our Time and Money”. The authors wanted to quantify the effects of various cycling factors to see which was most beneficial from both a time and cost standpoint. In this study they use simulated “models” to arrive at their predictions. Since they aren’t comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges, the mathematical models allow them to base time gains on previously established research findings (from independent, peer-reviewed journals). Instead of just saying, “bike fit helps”, the authors sought to quantify exactly how much help a cyclist gets with a given alteration in their program. If you ride for Team Sky, you can skip the rest of this, as your cycling resources are unlimited. However, if you are a cyclist balancing riding, school, wife, kids, girlfriend, busted radiator, food, and time at the dog park – read along. They examined both Internal and External Factors as shown below:

Factors Changed Time Savings Observed in 40K TT
Internal Factors
Training 1-7 minutes
Caffeine 55-84 seconds
Carbohydrate 32-42 seconds
Altitude Training 23-34 seconds
External Factors
Body Position 2-2.5 minutes
Aerodynamic Wheels 60-82 seconds
Wheel Weight 10-72 seconds (grade dependent)
Body Mass 19-25 seconds (rolling TT course)
Bicycle Mass 5-13 seconds (rolling TT course)

You can see that the old adage holds true – there is no substitute for training. Period. Got it? Yes – you have to ride you bike. And you have to ride smart. Lots of base, properly periodized training plan, intervals, and a good taper all add up to good performance on race day. Aside from training, this article offers some interesting findings on where we should concentrate our efforts. Bike fit is key. It’s free speed. Faster with less effort and more biomechanically sound. It’s a win-win all around for the time and money you’ll invest and performance gained. Also – it’s a benefit that is there every time you get on your bike. You are always reaping the benefits of training in the most optimum position. It is very different then spending 1200 dollars on a pair of wheels you only get the benefit from 5 or 6 days a year.

At the REP Lab, we use a whole lot of technology, knowledge, first hand trial and error, experience, and common sense to achieve the most optimum fit for you – not a formula out of a book. A solid bike fit gets you a whole lot closer to achieving your optimum performance now.

I encourage you to check out the full article if you want more information:

Jeukendrup, A.E., and Martin, J. Improving Cycling Performance, How Should We Spend Our Time and Money? Sports Med; 31(7):559-569