by Coach Carl Blickle
Scenario… It is race day; conditions are ideal, competition is perfect, and most importantly you are coming off of a great phase of training and you are more than physically ready to put down a solid performance. As I like to put it, the moons are aligned and it is time to run fast! So you step up to the starting line thinking you are ready to roll, the gun goes off… BANG! Fast forward to the finish, you cross the line in disgust and confusion as you perform WAY under what you were shooting for. We have all been there… What the hell happened?!?!?
Just because you were physically ready to race, doesn’t mean you were mentally ready.
Before addressing this mental issue, let’s look at the mechanism behind muscle fatigue. In relatively simple terms; it is a decline in the ability of the working muscles to generate force at the rate they are currently contracting. As a result our working muscles cross into an anaerobic state (exercise state no longer using oxygen as a fuel source) and consequently have an onset of blood lactate accumulation (OBLA) which results in fatigue. This is commonly referred to as “Heavy Legs”, “Monkey on the Back”, or my personal favorite, “BOOTY LOCK.”
Obviously something we do through training is to try and delay this onset of fatigue. Regardless of your fitness level if you want to reach your potential in a race you are going to experience this “booty lock” phenomenon in the latter part of the race.
So you know the fatigue is coming, how do you prepare for it…
Simply put you need to get mentally tougher! Instead of negative thoughts like “this hurts”, “my legs are gone”, “I feel horrible way too early in this race” you need to EMBRACE THE FATIGUE!
Think… “I can push harder”, “I want it more than him/her”, “Make it hurt!”, or whatever phrase works for you. Recite this phrase during training leading up to the race and visualize yourself pushing through that notorious wall of fatigue.
So next time the “moons align” on race day, instead of being that jittery nervous runner wondering who else is going to show up for the race… You be the one who turns heads as you strut through your warm-up in your cool shades displaying the slightest of grins that says I am ready to MAKE IT HURT today.
Then when that monkey hops of your back during that the ladder phase of the race, you are ready to push through that wall and continue on to that performance you dream of...
by Ed Shepherd
In part one of Lift Heavy Things, I did my best to share with you why you should begin a weight training program during your off-season. Hopefully this helped you make the commitment to head to the gym and get started. But now you realize you have no idea what to do or how long it should take. Remember, as an endurance athlete your goal in the gym is to develop strength to be able to apply more force to the pedals, pavement, or water... that's it. Your training program should focus on the function of the muscle and as such here are a few things for you to consider as you get started:
1) Use Multi-Joint Movements- in order to save time and hit as many muscle groups as possible use big movement exercises. These are three joint movements such as a squat and leg press for lower body or lat pulldown and bench press for upper body. When pressed for time or just starting out, do these four exercises first!
2) Focus on the Muscles that do the Work- Don't go into the gym and start using machines or doing certain free-weight exercises that are not sport specific. You are wasting your time and all of your hard work will not carry over to improve your overall ability in your sport. Think about the biggest muscle that is used to do most of the work. If you are unsure ask a trainer.
3) Copy your Movements- As you are working pay special attention to where you place your feet and hands. Try your best to put them in similar positions to the sports you are training for.
4) Work on Correcting Imbalances- Throughout your season you work hard and push your body to its limits. As such, you train and race through soreness and even minor injury in order to meet your goals. But in doing so your muscles get out of whack just like the tires on your car do over time.
5) Connect your Muscles- It is great to develop the strength of your upper and lower body, but if you do not also develop your core those forces will not get utilized. Your back and abs are your lever point when applying force and if your mid-section resembles a slinky then the forces get absorbed and not transferred into work.
6) Pay Attention to your Time- Your time is valuable so don't spend all day in the gym... maybe an hour to an hour and half at most. Focus on big multi-joint movements to get the best bang for your buck and add in core work. Also, your weight training workouts are a supplement to your winter training endurance workouts... not in addition to. Don't get burned out before the season even begins.
I hope this helps. Don't forget... if you are in the Roanoke Valley, you can start coming to my classes at the Gainsboro or Kirk YMCA in January. If you have any questions for me or are interested in joining me at the YMCA, feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
by Ed Shepherd
It is now getting crazy cold outside and you should be ready to start moving some of your workouts indoors. In my last post I shared with you some ideas for what you could get in to during the off-season. One of those very necessary workouts should be lifting weights. A lot of you don't care much for it, but it is a very important part of building a strong foundation to your 2014 race season.
You may be reluctant to head to the gym in the off season because you are unsure of what machines to use. This may be true, but it is not a good enough excuse to leave weightlifting out of your winter training plan. All good gyms have instructors that can help get you started or if you are in the Roanoke Valley you can start coming to my classes at the Gainsboro or Kirk YMCA in January. The point is, make it happen! Weight lifting is not going to replace your fitness or sport-specific training, but supplement it to (1) improve integrity of joints, (2) correct imbalances, and (3) improve muscular strength to help you sustain a larger workload over time.
A lot of people say they don't want to lift too much weight because they don't want to "bulk up." Well here is a news flash- that will never happen to most of us! As an endurance athlete, you will never be able to lift enough to counter the amount of endurance training you do to cause that to happen.
So why lift at all then? As an athlete, you want to recruit multiple motor units, which means more fibers are firing, causing an increase in force production and strength. As an endurance athlete, you can have a relatively small number of motor units, but with weight training you gain the ability to recruit more of those motor units in order to help with the workload. What this means is you don’t gain more muscle, just recruit all of the units in the muscle you already have! By starting small and working up over the next few months you will be surprised at the gains you will see. All of the hard work in the gym will pay huge benefits when you are standing on the podium!
This is part 1 of a series I will be blogging about for the rest of December on the need to weight train. If you have any questions for me or are interested in joining me at the YMCA in January, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
by Steve Crowder
A week ago last Thursday, I literally hit a bump in the road with my training. As is generally the case this time of year, I was running in the dark when I came upon a stretch of road that had very little lighting whatsoever, preventing me from seeing something that was obviously directly within my path. I’m still not totally sure what I stepped on, but when I hit it, I stumbled for several steps and was barely able to stay upright. I immediately felt some pain in my hip, but I continued on and thought I’d escaped without incident. Around a mile later, however, my left knee started hurting and it got progressively worse throughout the rest of the run. By the time I was able to make my way back, I was in a significant amount of pain, and as I suspected would be the case, it tightened up even more on my ride home, to the point where I was having trouble walking that evening as well as the next day. Not good!
I immediately began treating with ice and anti-inflammatories and also attempted to schedule a chiro visit at Balance Chiropractic the next day. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get in to see anyone on such short notice, but I was able to get an appointment three days later on Monday. By the time my appointment rolled around, I was feeling much better and was basically pain free. I got treatment anyway and was glad I did. In the process of getting some adjustments, Active Release Technique (ART), and deep tissue massage, I found out I had several trouble spots that needed work, including one in my upper calf that likely contributed to the knee issue.
Going back prior to my near fall that Thursday night, my legs weren’t feeling very good anyway. In fact, my upper calf had been tight for a couple of days as had my hamstring, with both those issues being on the left leg, the same one where I injured my knee. I still think the near fall was what caused the knee problem, but I now believe that it was coming on anyway and all I did was push it over the top.
So, the good news is I appear to have dodged a bullet, a scary one too as knee problems can be very difficult to overcome. I wound up with just three days completely off, which I’m looking at as a blessing in disguise at this point in time. I was still recovering from overtraining anyway, and the extra rest probably didn’t hurt anything. Additionally, having something start hurting showed me I need to do a better job with the little things, specifically stretching and core work in addition to getting periodic treatment. Those things are important for everyone, but even more so as you get older. I wasn’t happy about the interruption to my training schedule, especially when the previous couple weeks hadn’t gone that well to begin with, but thankfully this was a gentle reminder before something worse happened. Now I can not only get back to work on the 2014 track season, but I can do it the right way!
by Carmen Graves
Yesterday morning I ran my first indoor track race of the season. I ran the 3k at the JDL Fast Track facilities in Winston-Salem. Special thanks and congratulations to Craig Longhurst for the hospitality and for putting on such a successful event this early in the indoor season!
This was my second time ever running in the 3k event. Ironically, during this time before Christmas break last year, I ran the 3k my first time at the Liberty Kickoff. Let's compare... Last year I ran 10:15.9, and this year I ran 9:40! Huge improvement and still some improvements to look forward to.
During the race I felt relatively comfortable until the last couple laps. Yes I confess, I got a little lazy and I now know that I should have pushed harder earlier on. But, whoever has ran on an indoor track before can't blame me for “zoning out,” because nobody can disagree that it's extremely easy to get a little lazy while running 15, 200 meter loops.
The thoughts that can cross your mind in under 10 minutes when your body is running on autopilot can be humorous. I always wonder what other runners think about for such a long time. Even though distance races always seem very repetitive indoors, I had a couple nice distractions during the race that I was able to experience approximately every 39 seconds, for 15 consecutive times.
For one, I was thankful to hear my parents cheer for me during the race. My parents, Gary and Sharon, always manage to make it to each of my competitions. They also somehow pull off sitting in the same spot no matter which stadium they go to (which I find a tad compulsive). They are as goofy as can be, especially when spotted together. You most definitely will find them sitting directly in front of the finish line at the top of the stands. If you spot a couple near this location (a woman who appears she may pass out from nerves at any second and a man who appears he has drank way too much coffee that morning) you have found them. After the race I told my parents that I could hear them cheering for me in the stands, which was a nice distraction. My dad quickly and seriously responded, “NO, I didn't cheer this time. I didn't want to mess up your mom.” Hahaha, ooookay?
Apart from the distraction of my mom's loud cheers, I also noticed I was being photographed almost every lap. I know for a fact that the first few shots had to be horrible! This is because I tend to squint my eyes when I run so they always look closed. I made sure by the third or fourth lap to open my eyes a bit more and pose for the camera. Hopefully I didn't overcompensate with bug eyes!
Oh well. The take home message is that sometimes living in the present and embracing the distractions are good during long distance races. For example, noticing my mom cheering gave me an extra boost. However, sometimes immediate distractions can take you too far away from the race; like in my case, trying to strike a pose for the camera!
by Carmen Graves
The “Salazar 300s” interval workout (aka my favorite workout ever) with the Roanoke College mid-distance crew was successful. I'm so grateful to have the chance to run with such an entertaining group of young men. The atmosphere was optimistic and relaxed, which always seems to make the harder workouts easier.
Typically, I like to do my workouts early afternoons when my energy level is high, but we didn't start the actual workout until around 5 pm so I felt like I was waiting all day to run! I ended up doing a short shakeout early that morning to loosen up my tight legs from my long run on Sunday. Mid-way through the workout it was almost pitch black outside, but we still finished the workout strong (Roanoke College really needs to invest in some stadium lights around the track).
I felt good through the first four 300s so I thought I would push out harder on the last three sets. I ended up running my fastest average yet for the 300 workout, which is a nice confidence booster for my upcoming 3k race on Saturday at JDL.
After the workout I headed to the weight room and played on the BOSU ball. All I could think about was the egg sandwich I was about to fix after my lift but I managed not to get too distracted.
I rolled out of bed this morning and had the urge to do a shake out before breakfast (didn't even look in the mirror) and my legs felt surprisingly good... which may mean I have a nice case of DOMS coming later today, Ekkkkk!
Posted by Steve Crowder
Competitive athletes can be hard headed to say the least, and me probably more so than most. It’s not necessarily a bad trait, because it’s part of what gets us out the door every day. However, it can be a detriment as well. We get ground into our routines as well as our ideas of what we need to do in training (which is almost always more since we want to be sure nobody is outworking us), and we refuse to listen to feedback, whether it be from our coaches, training partners, friends, family, or even our own bodies.
I had one such experience lately and am currently paying the price for it. Knowing I would have a week or two towards the end of November where my training might be less than usual, I attempted to string together too many quality weeks in a row without a down week. Coach Blickle sent me two or three schedules in a row where he recommended a cutback week with reduced volume and intensity, but I always told him that I thought I would keep my mileage up for another week or two then cut back.
I finally took the recommended, and much needed, cutback week the third week of November, but by that point I was starting to feel pretty fried. I didn’t run any doubles that week and only one workout, and the workout actually went very well. Even though I never felt particularly good throughout the entire week, I figured I’d gotten away with my hard-headedness and would be ready to resume full volume training the next week. Accordingly, I jumped right back into things, running twice a day on both Monday and Tuesday with plans for a workout on Wednesday. However, I felt pretty lousy the first two days of the week, and by Wednesday, I was feeling really run down. I headed out into the single digit wind chill that night anyway, but after a couple of miles at well over 7:30 pace (much slower than my normal pace even for easy days), I knew I was in trouble. I had the opportunity to cut the run short at three miles, so that’s exactly what I did.
Aside from being ticked off that I had to bail out of a run, I felt really run down once I got home and knew I would need a day or two off. I didn’t run at all Thursday or Friday then did a really easy day on Saturday and an abbreviated long run of 13 miles on Sunday. Last night, Monday, was the best I’d felt in several days, but honestly my legs still don’t seem to be fully under me, all because of my hard-headedness and refusal to back off. I think I’ll be able to dig my way out of this self-created hole over the course of this week and fortunately I didn’t wind up with any sort of overuse injury, but it’s been a setback nonetheless.
So, the lesson to be learned is to not take dedication and desire to the extreme, thereby causing those positive attributes to become negative ones. This is even more important for Masters athletes like myself, but it’s true across the board. Recovery is just as important a part of training as hammering out the workouts and mileage. Even if I’d wound up with a couple of cutback weeks in November, my mileage total for the month might not have looked as good, but I would have been farther along with my fitness, which is the real goal. Hopefully I’ll be able to keep that in mind going forward. Happy running, everyone!