Monday, May 27, 2013

The importance of stretching

There is an old rule of thumb around endurance sports that states 10 per cent of your total training time should be spent stretching. But is this a rule or an old wives’ tale?
After all, there has been no definitive research produced to show that athletes who stretch are better performed or have a lower incidence of injury than athletes who don’t. In short, around sports science and coaching realms, stretching is one of the most controversial subjects imaginable.

My personal experiences as a coach/athlete suggest that regular stretching is a must, and when done properly can actually help in the prevention of, and rehabilitation from, certain sorts of injuries.
Unfortunately there is no answer as to the scientifically measured benefits (or not) of stretching, and none of the major issues surrounding the topic have been resolved. Nevertheless, based on observational research (in other words watching athletes over more than two decades) and personal experience, I’m confident in saying that every triathlete should stretch regularly. A couple of things are certain, if you stretch correctly it will never injure you and it may help prevent and rehabilitate you from certain maladies. The four forms of stretching that I will touch on here are; (i) static; (ii) active-isolated; (iii) proprioceptive-neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) stretching and (iv)yoga.
You can decide which form best suits your needs and requirements.
(i) Static is probably the most easily recognisable style of stretching for athletes. Touching your toes is an example of this form of stretching. Static style stretching generally means that the specific targeted muscles aren’t stretching themselves. If we use the toe-touch example just mentioned, the hamstrings aren’t stretching themselves, nor are the quads on the opposite side of the leg producing the stretch. The stretch is brought about by the tilting of the pelvic girdle, which in turn places tension on the origin of the hamstring muscle group leading to the stretching sensation through them. Most of the time, such a stretch is held for a short period (10-to-30 seconds ideally) and repeated executions of this style of stretching tend to work better than one.
(ii) Active-isolated stretching was originally developed to overcome various shortcomings inherent in static stretching. In this style of stretching you place yourself in a position that allows you to stretch a specific muscle group (e.g. hamstrings) while contracting the muscles opposite (quads). Each stretch is held for a few seconds and repeated a number of times. This sort of stretching generally requires something like a rope to pull the region to be stretched into position. The main drawback of this style is that it tends to be awkward and often times the athlete doesn’t feel like it is doing much.
(iii) PNF stretching isn’t unlike active-isolated stretching. Using the hamstring example, with a PNF stretch you’d be lying on your back with both legs fully extended along the floor, then one leg is either picked up by a training partner or placed by yourself against an immoveable objective at slightly less than a right angle to the ground. You then do an isometric contraction of the targeted muscle group (in our example, the hamstrings), hold it briefly and then relax. This contraction/relaxation process helps trigger a reflex that allows the muscle to be moved through a greater range of motion. Many studies have shown this form of stretching to be an effective means of improving the range of motion around certain joint capsules and it is most effectively completed with a training partner.
(iv) Yoga involves a combination of active and static stretching, it is in fact a combination of the different forms of stretching described above. With yoga style stretching you assume a static stretching position. Like PNF stretching you contract (and then differently to PNF stretching) relax the targeted muscle in a coordinated sequence. With yoga you hold one set of muscles in an isometric contraction, while relaxing and stretching the antagonist (opposite side) muscles with a view to eventually reversing the whole process. As illustrated by the popularity of yoga over the last 10-to-15 years, many see this activity as a complete exercise regimen. It increases both passive and dynamic flexibility – crucial in most sports – as well as balance and coordination. Current research also indicates that yoga may have other benefits in that it lowers anxiety and stress. Just the sort of thing you need after four hours in the saddle when riding home through city streets! Certain forms of yoga have also been shown to improve muscle strength, because of the repeated isometric contractions done through a range of motion, however this largely depends on the style of yoga practiced. The downside for triathletes is that yoga requires repeated isometric contractions, so it is far more taxing and tiring than the other more passive forms of stretching. That said, yoga may prove beneficial for general conditioning, balance and coordination early in a preparatory training phase and can probably be used to replace swim, bike and run sessions early in the season. However, as competition looms closer you’d be better served switching to a more passive form of stretching and spending more time on the specific triathlon disciplines.
So while the scientific jury may be still out arguing the pros and cons of stretching, practical experience and observation by numerous people at the coal-face would suggest stretching is a no-brainer.

article courtesy of Rod Cadero 

Monday, May 20, 2013

SLS3 athlete Heleen bij de Vaate finishes 2nd at Ironman Lanzarote.

"Last Saturday I was at the startline at the Ironman Lanzarote for the fifth time in my career. I fell in love with this island where I have already done a lot of training. The race is very special for me as well, despite of the fact that it is one of the most challenging race in the Ironman circuit. So far I finished three times and all of those finishes where on the podium: 1x second and 2x a third place.
Two weeks before this years race I got an injury in my lower leg. The result was that I didn’t run for 2 weeks and that I was uncertain if I could finish the race. I decided to start and see if my leg would hold it to the end. I made a summary what went through my mind on race day…
Before the start: “I’m nervous. Would my leg hold it to the end?”; It’s going to be a nice day. Enjoy and smash it!”
During the swim: “I don’t know if I want to do this race again. It’s a washing machine, you can’t swim normally.”; After 300 m: “It’s not as bad as I thought. And I’m swimming good, the water is flat and I’m finding my rhythm.”; “Wow I can almost start the bike part, that seems fast!”
During transition: “He, I don’t feel any pain in my leg!”; “Keep calm…..” During the long run on the tarmac to the bike: “still no pain?’

On the bike: “It’s raining. Be careful, the road is wet, don’t take any risks.”; “I believe my legs are strong today.” After 80 km: “Yes, that are already two fast ladies caught!”; “Ah, there is my training buddy Hanneke, she is doing great! ”. Towards Mirador del Rio: “This is the first time this happens, now already in second place!”; “Keep pushing on the way back.”; “Why are they filming me so much? I’m only second!”; “Almost done with the bike, I still feel fresh and I’m looking forward to run a marathon.”; “Wow Kristen Moller has run already 3 km and I still have to do transition, she is really strong today! I guess a second place is the best I can get today because that girl can smash it on the run! Unless she gave too much on the bike……”
During the run: “The run feels good. Frequency and nutrition are key. And that is strange, I still don’t feel my lower leg.”; “The run isn’t flat!”; “Ouch my calves, that’s going to be a hard second part, but keep running.”; “Only 10 km to go, the faster you run the shorter the time to the finish line.”; “Number 3 is 6 minutes behind me, so if I keep running like this then there is no panic.”; “It’s almost a home race here with so many Dutch supporters and athletes.”; “This is like a dream came true: finishing and as reward a second place.”
It was a great day. Finishing an Ironman always is a mental game, but the more you enjoy the race afterwards. 
Heleen was rocking the SLS3 Compression Tri Shorts and the FX Tri Top in white.

The party went on when my good friend and teammate Hanneke finished as agegrouper as 4th woman between the pros. And she qualified for Hawaii for the first time, well done!

Heleen was racing in the FX Race Top and the Compression Tri Race Shorts.

Swimmers’ Etiquette

Hands up those who’ve experienced frustration in the pool or a race because of the bad etiquette they’ve encountered! I’m pretty sure that’s everyone.
Just this morning I turned up to my local 50 meter outdoor pool to do a session in the public lane. To my disappointment there was no fast lane and instead I had a choice of a very full double lane that had medium and slow swimmers or a reasonably crowded medium lane. There were a couple of fast swimmers already in the medium lane and it just so happened that I knew them. So we joined together to do the same session. We did a few fairly un- challenging sets but were still going around 1.20 pace with a bit of butterfly thrown in. As we were faster than everyone else even when doing breaststroke, we didn’t bother changing lanes when we were doing 100 medleys on 1.30 cycle. In the space of about half an hour I had broken almost every etiquette rule in the book, had ruined the morning of several poor people and was fairly frustrated myself. We were simply faster swimmers with no lane available to us but the medium lane swimmers were still very angry and rightly so. Management were also cross because they don’t like squads that interrupt the public swimmers and don’t pay for squad lane space, but we were just three people wanting some training company.
The hardest part about swimming is that you have your head down and so are mostly oblivious to what is going on around you. In a run or ride at least you can see on-coming traffic and how fast you are approaching people in front but in swimming there’s no such luck and this creates problems.

What to do?

I’ve listed some hard and fast rules for next time you are ploughing up and down the pool or doing a race and also some not so obvious points that may help make your swimming more enjoyable. The problem is that many of the etiquette rules are debatable, such as doing breaststroke in the fast lane. Would you tell Leisel Jones to move into the slow lane?
Even if you are the perfect swimming example you’re sure to nod and chuckle about times when you’ve been involved in bad etiquette situations. So read on...

Swimming pool etiquette

There’s no way to be subtle on this topic but unfortunately the only way to overcome a lot of the ‘bad etiquette’ in the swimming pool is for people to be realistic about their own ability and swim in the lane that suits their standard. If this means changing lanes for different parts of the session then so be it, but the small sacrifice on your part will make a session much more enjoyable for another person and probably for you too.

General lane choice rules

In the fast lane you should be able to do 50 metre repeats in less than 50 seconds each. You should not do kick or breaststroke. The medium lane is for reasonably competent swimmers and the slow lane is just that, for slow swimmers.

Allow room for faster people to pass

Try not to swim down the middle of the lane. If you are swimming close to or above the line down the middle this usually suggests that you are not allowing much room for people to pass you. Stick close to the lane rope and you’ll reduce the chance of someone swimming over the top of you or a head-on collision when someone is overtaking from the other direction. I cringe just thinking about it!
Try to swim with bent arms as it is not just good technique but will help avoid clashing with other swimmers. If you’re not sure what your stroke looks like, then have someone video it for you or take the hint if you seem to be knocking arms with others in the pool on a regular basis.

Don’t speed up if someone is passing you

Drop the ego act and just continue swimming as you were because you are just being annoying if you speed up just as someone tries to pass you.

Give way to faster swimmers

If someone appears to be doing a set or continuous swimming don’t push off just before they turn unless you are sure you are going faster than them. If you are swimming a set and a faster swimmer wants to pass then don’t feel you have to stop to let them pass. Don’t throw them off or interrupt them by changing speeds but continue on your way.

Get the lifeguard to monitor the lanes speed layout

Don’t get in a lane you shouldn’t just because other lanes are crowded.
Hopefully the pool lifeguard is monitoring the lane structure and adjusting the lane layout based on the standard of the swimmers at the time. Point out to them that they need to add or remove specific speed pointers at the end of each lane if they aren’t doing it unprompted.

Join a squad

I know I harp on about swimming with friends. I do acknowledge, however, that it is very annoying for other swimmers if you have a small squad going in the public lanes. Consider others around you and perhaps keep the groups to a minimum or swim during non-peak periods.

Open water etiquette

The main thing in the open water is to be aware of how your actions may affect others and be considerate of that. Also, understand that a bit of contact in the open water is bound to happen and don’t take it personally or retaliate.
Stopping in a race, particularly if there are faster swimmers that have started behind you, is not good etiquette. You may just need a breather but have a glance behind you before stopping or changing direction. This goes the other way too: be aware when approaching slower swimmers that they are possibly not as comfortable as you in the water and they’re unlikely to know you are coming so don’t just swim over the top of them. Breaststroke around a buoy is a big no no or breaststroke in general because of the wide kicking action.
Finally, at the risk of stating the obvious and preaching, something that applies to both the pool and racing is recognising when you have crossed the etiquette boundary and following up with an apology to the other party involved. This is the best etiquette of all.

# Ironman, Ironman 70.3, Triathlon, Compression socks, Compression Shorts, Triathlon Suit

article courtesy of Naantali Marshall-

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Running With The Girls: More Than Just Butterflies #SLS3

More Than Just Butterflies #SLS3 

Mr. Running With The Girls always says "it's okay to have butterflies, just as long as they are flying in formation."  This saying definitely rings true for me before any race.   So I'm hoping that the butterflies I've been feeling all week get into formation Sunday morning!
Read the review here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

How To Bike Faster In Triathlon: Tire Choice Really Matters

T1Tip of the day: Race Tire Choices REALLY MATTER.
Do you want to bike faster in triathlons? Do you want a faster tri bike split? Most people don’t think about tires much. They are all black and all kind of look the same. But you should really think hard about which tires you use in races, and they SHOULD be different from the ones you use in training. The one really big variable is floppiness. It turns out floppy tires are MUCH MUCH faster, but also more prone to getting flats.

Training tires should be big heavy nasty stiff things that you can barely bend onto the rim- who cares if you are slow, but flats in training are a huge drag.
Race tires are the opposite- speed really matters. You want tires that are fast! That being said, you can’t tolerate a flat in every race. Here are a few tips:
- Evaluate your size - heavier riders flat more often
- Think about the road conditions of the course- some roads are terrifyingly covered in sharp things, some are smooth and fast- the cleaner the road, the more you can risk a really fast tire
- Think about your goals for the race- qualify for Kona? Set a PR? Just Finish?
# Ironman, Ironman 70.3, Triathlon, #Compression socks, Compression Shorts, #Triathlon Suit

article courtesy of

Monday, May 6, 2013

Will I get a better workout if I hire a personal trainer?

There has been many studies on this question none more famous than the Ball State University study in Indiana. Researchers put two groups of 10 men through identical 12-week strength-training programs. The groups were evenly matched when they started, and they did the same combination of exercises, the same number of times, with the same amount of rest. At the end of the experiment, one group had gained 32 per cent more upper-body strength and 47 per cent more lower-body strength than the other. No performance-enhancing pills were involved - the only difference was that the more successful group had a personal trainer watching over their workouts.
A good trainer will help you assess your fitness goals, design a safe and effective program to meet those goals and motivate you to put in the necessary work. That said, it is important for a client and trainer to have good communication and trust with goals. A good trainer not only provides assistance with achieving goals they hold themselves accountable for physical reviews. A great trainer checks in with the client on occasion. Asking questions like, "Are we meeting your goals?" "Are you enjoying and satisfied with our training?" "Are the workouts and programs working for you, or should we try something else?" I have found this brings the partnership together as a mutual working relationship. I also think keeping this open line of communication allows clients to participate in their own development.

Sounds like a solid functioning relationship, right? Then why don't we see a lot of trainers practice a client/trainer spot review? I think for 3 reasons.
Fear: What if the trainer asks an open ended question i.e. "Are you enjoying and satisfied with our training?" and the clients comes back with, "No, this is not going well. What are we even doing here?" Yikes. I have advise for the fear doctors out there. Keep small problems small. A consistent practice of spot reviews will treat issues before they blow up into an aggressive response. If you're reading this as a trainer monitor your own reviews. If you are reading this as a client, be upfront if something is uncomfortable, or you are not enjoying the exercise program. I believe a good trainer will adjust.
Time: Most sessions only last an hour, and most trainers want to try and pack all they can into that hour. Take 10 minutes while warming a client up and check in to some feedback.
Interest: Sad to think there are some trainers out there that do not invest interest in their clients. These trainers should be striped of their certifications. If your trainer is not checking in on a regular basis it begs the question; "What are we doing here?" You want a trainer invested in improving themselves as an instructor to provide the most educated and comprehensive training service. You have a choice in who you train with, where, and how. Take advantage.
A spot review with the client is a great way to maintain peak interest for the client, but there are other, less obvious ingredients that successful trainers provide - and a series of recent studies offer some hints about how we can tap into these benefits. The crucial difference between the training of the two groups at Ball State was very simple: By the halfway point of the program, the supervised group was choosing to lift heavier weights. Since both groups started with the same motivation level, it was likely the trainer's presence leading that group to set more ambitious targets. Other studies have consistently found that, left to their own devices, novice weightlifters tend to work out with weights that are less than 50 per cent of their one-repetition maximum, which is too low to stimulate significant gains in strength and muscle size. Even experienced strength trainers often fall into this trap, according to a 2008 study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. The latest attempt to address this question comes from researchers at the University of Brasilia in Brazil. They compared two groups of 100 volunteers who undertook a 12-week strength-training program, supervised either by one trainer for every five athletes, or one trainer for every 25 athletes.
The results, display a familiar pattern. The highly supervised group improved their bench press by 16 per cent, while the less supervised group chose lighter weights and improved by only 10 per cent. This is another argument for getting a personal trainer. But the differences from the study in Brazil are more subtle, since both groups had access to a trainer who could provide guidance on proper form and choosing appropriate weights. Instead, motivation and the willingness to tackle ambitious goals seem to be the differentiating factors.
As the studies show, obtaining a personal trainer will help you get where you want go in health and fitness. I would say the number one deterrent for people not to hire a personal trainer is the cost. Most people tend to look at a trainer as a luxury. I believe trainers are quite necessary for proper health, and money should never be a deterrent. Here's why. Look at the money we spend to life our lives, the cost of living. What we pay in gas, junk food, coffee, medical bills, cable bills, car insurance, apple-care (sorry Mac) and hundreds more places our money goes. See if you find $300/month in there somewhere and do what's right for you buy hiring a trainer. You will sell that car, cancel cable, eat the junk, and buy more coffee-But, you are going to be in your body for the rest of your life. Invest in your life.

# Ironman, Ironman 70.3, Triathlon, Compression socks, Compression Shorts, Triathlon Suit

article courtesy of