Sunday, January 8, 2012

Seminar on heart rate training

Here's my handout from the heart rate training seminar which I conducted the last few season coaching.   Given that some of our athletes are determining their heart rate targets for Winter workouts, this might be beneficial.   I'll cover this in detail in a later seminar this Spring.

1)      Benefits of heart rate training
a.       Greater aerobic capacity; improved heart health, circulatory strength
b.      More efficient fat burning
c.       Develop strategies for optimal fuel management
d.      Enhanced performance:   improved endurance, faster intervals
2)      Determining your resting heart rate (RHR):
a.       Check first thing in AM, lie down, perfectly still for 15min, get #
b.      Figure can range widely among athletes;  generally, the lower the better
c.       55-65 is common; 50-55 is great; sub-50 is super-great
d.      Reducing RHR is gradual; even with steady aerobic workouts for 6mos, expect 3-5 reduction
e.       Make one of your life goals to consistently maintain a low RHR
3)      Determining your max heart rate (MHR).   Many formulas exist:
a.       There are many methods used to determine MHR, such as a wide variety of anaerobic exhaustion tests (spin, treadmills, etc), .   I’ve listed those below.   However, mathematical formulas do work quite well and can provide accurate results.   Much research has been done in this field.    I recommend #3 or #4 below, as both provide an age correction.
                                                              i.      Best known formula:     The easiest and best known method to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) is to use this formula.   It is reasonably accurate
1.      MHR = 220 – Age
                                                            ii.      US Research:   2001 paper by Tanaka in Journal of the American College of Cardiology indicates that HR ranges are more accurately measured in athletes over 40 and under 40.   Recommended formulas would be:
1.      Runners < 40 yrs old:   MHR = 220 – Age
2.      Runners > 40 yrs old:   MHR = 208 – (0.7 x age)
                                                          iii.      US Research:    A paper by Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) from the University of Missouri-Columbia indicates that the MHR varies mostly with age, but the relationship is not a linear one. They suggest an alternative formula of
1.      MHR = 206.3 - (0.711 × Age)
                                                          iv.      US Research:    A paper by Miller et al (1993) from Indiana University proposed the following formula as a suitable formula to calculate MHR
1.      MHR = 217 - (0.85 x Age)
                                                            v.      US Research:   from the Med Sci Sports Exerc 2007 May; 39(5):822-9, identified the following formula as more accurately reflecting the ship between age and max HR.
1.      MHR = 206.9 - (0.67 x age)
                                                          vi.      UK Research:    Research carried out by scientists at John Moores University in Liverpool (UK) in 2007, reported in the Int J Sports Med 2007;24, came up with the following formula for predicting maximum heart rates in both endurance and anaerobically trained athletes:
1.      Male athletes - MHR = 202 - (0.55 x age)
2.      Female athletes - MHR = 216 - (1.09 x age)
4)      Understanding your anaerobic threshold (AT)
a.      Consider your anaerobic threshold (AT) to generally be 85-90% of MHR
b.      There are many, many methods available to determine AT, such as highly sophisticated and accurate tests like VO2 testing, blood sampling, anaerobic exhaustion tests, etc.   Meredith HPL offers this, as do other labs in our area.    These commonly cost $150 - $300 and are conducted in the lab by trained staff .  Knowing your AT is a key metric to understanding – and using – your training zones.  Its importance in fuel management cannot be understated.   For further reading, see excerpt from my previous training that I’ve attached below.  As an endurance runner, you must know your AT, and your 3 key training zones.
5)      3 recommended training zones:   Keep it Simple!
a.       Many models exist, often complex hard to follow.   If you research this topic, you’ll find a 5-zone format and even a 7-zone format.   I’ve seen very successful results with 3 zones.  I recommend you use 3 zones:
                                                              i.      Endurance workouts:   65-75% of MHR (totally aerobic)
                                                            ii.      Intervals / tempo workouts:    75-85% of MHR (becomes anaerobic above AT)
                                                          iii.      Speed workouts:   85-95%+  (totally anaerobic)
6)      Determining your training zones:  
a.       Use this example for “Suzy Spandex”, a 40yr old runner.  MHR = 180, RHR = 60
b.      MHR - RHR = 180 - 60 = 120
c.       65% of 120 = 78
d.      78 + RHR = 78 + 60 = 138 bpm.  Thus, Suzie’s 65% metric would be 138bpm.
e.       Using the formula, Suzie’s complete training ranges would be:
                                                              i.      Endurance zone:  138 – 150bpm
                                                            ii.      Interval zone:  150 – 162bpm
                                                          iii.      Speed zone: 162 – 174bpm
7)      Determining your training zones in cycling and swimming
a.       Generally, cycling zones are 10bpm lower than run zones.   Just like determining MHR, determining the right bpm reductions for cycling and swimming is a widely discussed research area.    In the below examples, I recommend 10 bpm lower for cycling and 15bpm lower for swimming.  This is based on Joel Friel’s Training Bible, which I’ve used successfully over the years.    However, if you research this topic, you’ll find some coaches like a narrower reduction.   A common alternative I’ve seen is for cycling bpm levels to be 5 lower than running, and that swimming would be 3 below that.    Experiment with it, see what works well for you.
b.      Example:    Suzie Spandex’s zones for cycling would be:
                                                              i.      Endurance zone:  128 – 140bpm
                                                            ii.      Interval zone:  140 – 152bpm
                                                          iii.      Speed zone: 152 – 164bpm
c.       Generally, swim zones are 5bpm lower than cycling zones
d.      Suzie Spandex’s zones for swimming would be:
                                                              i.      Endurance zone:  123 – 135bpm
                                                            ii.      Interval zone:  135 – 147bpm
                                                          iii.      Speed zone: 147 – 159bpm
8)      Determining HR intensity when you don’t have a monitor
a.       Use the many, many choices of cardio equipment @ Finley!    Most have HR measurement functionality which are reasonably accurate.   Better than not having it.   Data is key!
b.      Alternatively, consider the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion; famous research from 1970
c.       It contains 20 stages to measure; that’s sometimes difficult for folks to discern levels
d.      A simpler, summarized version would look something like this
                                                              i.      Level 1: I'm watching TV and eating bon bons
                                                            ii.      Level 2: I'm comfortable and could maintain this pace all day long
                                                          iii.      Level 3: I'm still comfortable, but am breathing a bit harder
                                                           iv.      Level 4: I'm sweating a little, but feel good and can carry on a conversation effortlessly
                                                             v.      Level 5: I'm just above comfortable, am sweating more and can still talk easily
                                                           vi.      Level 6: I can still talk, but am slightly breathless
                                                         vii.      Level 7: I can still talk, but I don't really want to. I'm sweating like a pig
                                                       viii.      Level 8: I can grunt in response to your questions and can only keep this pace for a short time
                                                           ix.      Level 9: I am probably going to die
                                                             x.      Level 10: I am dead
e.       Endurance ranges are Levels 5-6
f.       Tempo ranges should run in 6-7, and spike up to 8-9
g.       Speed ranges should be 7 to 9

Benefits of heart rate training

Here’s an excerpt from my previous seminars and education on intensity training for our training program:
 “I'm asked from time to time why we need to do speed and/or tempo workouts in our marathon training. What's the point in training at different intensity levels, if the races that we do rely nearly 100% on our aerobic endurance capacity? During my USATF run coaching certification in November '07, I dove into the research on varying training intensity. Its importance is key to me as an athlete, and as your running coach. Just like many of you, I'm an active triathlete, endurance swimmer and marathoner (enthusiastic, if untalented). Over the years, I've done many triathlons, lots of marathons, open water swims, and innumerable running races of varying distances. And, just like many of you, I've relied on varying aerobic and anaerobic fitness levels, in order to tackle the demands of each race. In the endurance run training plans I've created for you, I recommend that you do only a few run workouts each week: 3-4x for half marathoners, and 4-5x for marathoners. Not more. And, that you vary those workouts, as speed, tempo and endurance. Each has a distinct purpose and objective. From a muscular-skeletal perspective, an important reason for doing so is to avoid overuse injuries. We want to allow lots of rest time between run workouts: to heal connective tissues, to reduce joint inflammation, and to replenish red blood cell counts. All of those help to rejuvenate our muscles and to prepare us for run workouts to follow.  And, while those muscular-skeletal considerations are critical, what about our aerobic fitness? What efforts must we make in order to maintain those critical systems?

Why do we train at varying intensity levels?
Here's a quick primer on aerobic and anaerobic intensity training, key benefits, and fuel considerations.
Aerobic threshold training is typically done at around 130-150 heartbeats per minute (bph). When training within this zone, our bodies utilize fat as the primary fuel source. Believe it -- fat is great! It is essential to us as endurance runners. I have [ahem] a bounty of it, in fact, along my belly. : ) Fat & fatty acids are efficient, slow burning, endurance-focused fuel sources. During our long runs, we want to remain within this aerobic threshold zone. The benefits are obvious -- we are training our aerobic system to use fat and fatty acids as the chief energy source. That's key, as we are teaching our body to avoiding using its glycogen stores, which are critical for anaerobic levels (higher heart rate intensity). As endurance runners, we gradually "tune" our body to more efficiently burn fat as a fuel source. Over time, we improve and refine this ability. As result, we improve our aerobic endurance. And, we become more efficient, effective and economic distance runners!
Anaerobic threshold training is typically done at levels above 150 bph. Many of us do our long runs at Umstead, Falls Lake or other hilly routes. It is easy to spike our heart rates, and jump up into this anaerobic zone running in such places. Often we can't avoid it. Gotta get up the hill somehow. When we train at these levels, our bodies shift its choices of fuels from fat/fatty acids to glycogen. Those are carbohydrates in a variety of types, but are often ones that we bring along and utilize during our runs ... supplements like Gatorade, Gu packets, Power bar, gels. Even a candy bar. : ) The constant with all of these is a speedy burning fuel. Glycogen is quick fuel. Burns relatively fast. Doesn't last nearly as long as fat, but great stuff. Glycogen consumption is required to meet the high fuel burning demands of the body during the anaerobic training phase. I know that many of you have done track workouts, or hill repeats, a challenging spin class, a rigorous stair-climber workout, etc. You get the point. You likely know well this anaerobic zone. It stinks. Painful, difficult, a thumping heartrate, out-of-breath, and really uncomfortable. We did this a lot during our workouts at the track. Even my chipper, grinning presence at the track with you doesn't help. In fact, some of you wanted to physically hurt me for recommending such a tough workout. : ) Glad you didn't. During this high intensity level, lactic acid is created as an output. Bad stuff, it makes our legs soon feel like lead, particularly if our event is longer. But this training is invaluable! Why? We have to teach our bodies how to handle this acidosis. And, to train regularly within this zone helps us to teach our bodies to cope with periods of oxygen debt and lactic acid build-up. The benefits of training in this high range are obvious for folks doing shorter races, like 5k & 10k races, sprint/international triathlons, etc. I think we all understand that. But what about half and full marathoners? Well, you must also spend some of your workouts within this anaerobic phase. A key adaptation over time resulting from this type of work is enlargement and strengthening of the heart. It is, after all, really just a large, complex set of muscles. We improve its ability to operate as a living pump and its ability to transport blood and oxygen to the working muscle cells. That's important stuff, no matter the distance we run.

The training plans that I've created for all of you advocate weekly workouts in both aerobic and anaerobic threshold levels. Your speed workouts will usually be mostly anaerobic (during the mainset, not the warmup or cooldown jogs). Your tempo workouts will be anaerobic during the "up" periods, but will have a deliberately incomplete recovery in the "down" periods before you jump into the next tough "up" set. You get the point -- you are training your body to work within different levels. Over the coming weeks, I want all of you to gradually become more efficient, more effective runners as you teach your body how to distinguish each threshold rate, utilize distinct fuel sources, and run effectively even with effects of acidosis. A basic, inexpensive heart rate monitor is really handy for this -- as a guide to tell you where you're at, how long you've been in a given zone, etc. Many of you are triathlon training. What I've mentioned is even more critical to you!  Particularly those folks doing the sprint distance and international distance events. During your races, you'll rely on a combination of aerobic and anaerobic intensity during your race. So, you must consistently train at those levels.  Over many weeks.  So that you coach and teach your body on efficient energy utilization.

Happy running, folks. Enjoy the challenges of your workouts. We'll do this together, and enjoy our achievements together. For those of you new to endurance running, embrace the wonderful challenges ahead of you. For the many experienced endurance athletes among us, challenge yourselves this season to improve and refine your aerobic and anaerobic fitness”.

  • Swain et al (1994) 'Target HR for the development of CV fitness' - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(1), 112-116
  • Summary of Borg Scale:    Research paper was:   Borg, G, "Perceived Exertion as an indicator of somatic stress", Scandinavian journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 1970, 2(2), 92-98
  • Miller et al (1993) - 'Predicting max HR' - Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(9), 1077-1081
  • Sports Medicine 2004; 34(14):967-981
  • Funny summary of the Borg Scale:    from Paige Waehner, contributer to
  • Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 2007; 39(5):822-829
  • Int J Sports Med 2007;24
  • Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) 'Effect of age and other factors on HR max' - Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 53(4), 297-304

Thursday, January 5, 2012

A vs B vs C prioritization

here's a post from a few months ago, about prioritizing your season...
Hey folks - I'm sometimes asked about the A vs B vs C prioritization which I often refer to in emails.     Here's what it means.
At the beginning of each 4-5mo season, you establish your training, wellness and race objectives.   If you don't you should.  That's how I manage personal training for my 1:1 runners.   And, yes, there are three objectives, not two.   In addition to training and race objectives, you should always have wellness objectives*, too.    I won't go into wellness metrics here, but let's talk about the other two.    You define then prioritize your training and race objectives as follows: 
"C" priority.    These are considered glorified training runs or races.   You do them purely as a fun and interesting training day, perhaps a cool destination, perhaps with training buddies, etc.   You never do a "C" race if you're sore, fatigued, etc.  Bail on it.   You never go "all-out" on a "C" race.   They are simply for fun.   It is a training day.  You happen to get a race shirt.   You happen to get free chow at the end.   There happen to be other people who you don't know running around you.   There is a clock at the end that tells you your time.  Nothing more.   Fun.  Simple.   Folks, you enjoy "C" races... but don't put any emphasis on them.   For a typical 4mo season, you can have several "C" races.  That's fine.  However, let's be crystal clear to your goals -- you should resist the urge to do a fun "C" race which doesn't provide the sufficient mileage you truly need for a given week.   Only do "C" races if their distance meets the objectives of your broader plan.  If you name is Aimee, you find it simply impossible to do a "C" race as anything other than all-out.    She's a hell of a good runner, but I continue to badger her about NOT making every race a lung-searring, speed-burning cheetah blast.  Aimee needs to learn the concept of a "C" race.  Dag, she's fast.   But when does she ever take a race as a "C" race?   How 'bout you?
"B" priority.     I use these as checkpoints during your season.   Consider them a "mid-term" grade.  They are important for only that.   "B" priority events vary widely, but can be things like... getting a half marathon time split during your full marathon training...running a 10k at race pace (say 48min).... achieving a lower threshhold split during swim training (say 1:40/100m on threshhold repeats).... doing a 30mi charity ride at your desired half IM race pace (say, 21mph)...the list goes on.    There are endless choices for "B" events.  You use "B" as checkpoints, to assess progress your making in key functional areas to improve.     You can have 2-3 of these during your training, to test yourself on progress.    I'm fine with you having > 3 of these, however don't go crazy with "B" progress checkpoints.    Only have a few.   It'll stress you out needlessly otherwise.   Aim for improvements over 8wks or more.   Not less than that.   You do "B" races only to assess progress.   For example, I might have a runner to do only 50% of a full marathon race, then quit.   Yep, quit the race!     Afterall, the goal for that day was simply to get a benchmark on the half split.  Not more.    Jon is our resident expert on "B" races.   He gets it.   He'll easily cut short -- or extend -- a race once he's delivered his "B" quotient for that event.    Do you have Jon's discipline?
"A" prioirity.    THIS is your TOP priority.  This is the reason you train like mad, endure hundreds of tough hours training, suffering, running, cardio, strength.  Your "A" priority is the culmination of your training.   Every single workout you do should systematically build to this objective.    You should have only (1) "A" priority in a 4mo window.    Make your "A" priority the first thing you think about as you start your run and when you end your run.   It is what drives your training.    Kristen is my example on "A" objectives.   The entire Fall training season, she followed her plan 100%, and kept the sole focus on race day.  Sure she did other races, but she focused all available energy to hammering her race day goal.   She took training days off if she was spent, stayed healthy, and never lost focus.   Her PR at Richmond speaks volumes to her "A" race focus.
Folks, take a minute today to review your plan.   Identify which races or training objectives you've identified as "A", "B" or "C".   If you have Qs about this, let's chat.  
*  Wellness metrics are incredibly personal, and address only you.   You establish and monitor them to track broader health considerations in your life.   This varies widely, but can be data-derived metrics ike diet monitoring, BMI reduction, weight reduction, cholestorol reduction, stress reduction... . or even broad metrics like commiting to a weekly bike ride w/ the kids, or perhaps running 4x monthly with your spouse, etc etc].

What does it mean to suffer?

Hey folks - only a few days to go until the beginning of our 2012 runnerpeeps training program.   I'm thrilled that we will have several brand new runners to enroll, as well as many of our alumna to renew.   Our 2012 program will be the best ever, with many cool improvements.  

Today's topic is suffering.   This is one I talked about last season and I want to cover it again.   Specifically, I'm referring to suffering as the ability to withstand, overcome and achieve incredible athletic feats in endurance training.  As a run coach, this is an enormously important topic, and a research area that I pursue.   Suffering is quite complex, and I'm unable to summarize it in a few quaint phrases or clever emails.   Is it purely physical?   How do emotions affect suffering?  What are the physiological implications?   So, we will explore this topic in more detail throughout the 2012 season.  Why?   Because of what I want you to achieve.   I will ask several of you to push hard in your training AND to achieve a PR.  Yep, I want to see some fabulous splits and performances -- make 2012 a truly successful year.   Peel back the proverbial onion -- see what you're truly capable of achieving.   And, that will require you to suffer a bit.  During training.  During long workouts.  During truly tough workouts.  On race day.   

 So, what is does it mean to suffer?   People describe it in many, many ways.   I have my own definition of suffering, although I'm no more right about this than anyone else.   To me, as a running coach, I define suffering as the ability to run fast for a sustained period of time, AND to earn a high % finish within one's age group during a race.    Net is, many people can run fast for a short period.   And, many people can run slow for a long period.   Few people can run fast and go long.   And only a tiny, select group of people can do those things so well, that they distinguish themselves within their age group with a truly outstanding time split.   Now, my definition isn't perfect... afterall, "fast" is a relative term.   So is "long".   However, % finish within one's age group is a factual measure of one's relative ability to their peers.   Aerobically speaking, the ability to suffer is closely linked to one's ability to run for a sustained period of time right at their aerobic threshhold.   Truly taxing.    I use % of age group split as a factual look -- combined with HR data and pacing splits over time -- to determine how a runner suffers yet perseveres and achieves remarkable, fabulous fitness goals.

Ask yourself -- do you periodically put yourself in position to suffer in training?   only on race day?  perhaps on a long run or a long ride?   how many times on your fitness career have you truly suffered?   be honest to yourself.   do you truly push yourself?    would you know suffering if it happened?   what constitutes suffering to you?   how can you overcome it?   can you control the onset of suffering, can you control how to stop it?   how can you lean on suffering, to actually improve your fitness?   how can to reduce how you suffer, the % time spent suffering.   perhaps you might leverage nutritional smarts, add functional strength training to your plan, perhaps integrate more spin workouts for low-load bearing aerobic fitness, etc.   

Let's talk about suffering more throughout 2012.

What's an ATH?

Hey folks, only a few days to go to the start of our 2012 run program.   Get moving!   I hope all of you consider renewing for 2012 -- it promises to be the best run training season ever.   

So, let's talk about football....

Did any of you catch those amazing football games last week?!?  Wow!    Each of those teams are an amazing compilation of talent, players specialized to their position and athletes who are simply very talented.   Some of these players are excelling in positions they never played in college.   How does that happen?   Let's consider this in more detail.   Today's topic is a thread I've discussed previously.   Let's review it again.  What does "ATH" mean?  

At the NFL draft combine each spring, hopeful collegiate athletes are put through an whirlwind of athletic tests, strength measures, agility assessments, and running drills.  These tests take several days, and measure every single aspect of the athlete's fitness -- their stamina, speed, agility, strength, flexibility, and aerobic endurance conditioning.  These are Exhausting.  That's a capital "E" for Exhausting.  Athletes often report these tests are far tougher than practices they endured in college.  Thousands of athletes participate.   Very few make the cut. It's a busy time.

To simplify things at the combine, the athletes are categorized in 4 buckets:  running back (RB), quarterback (QB) or lineman (LN).  The specialized skills required for those 3 positions are well-known.  For the athletes that don't fit well into those first 3 buckets, there's a 4th bucket called Athlete (ATH).   These folks in the 4th bucket are all the collegiate athletes who perhaps played RB, QB, LN or other, but they all don't fit within the precisely defined attributes which NFL scouts measure.  Perhaps they are a tad short.  A tad skinny.  Not quite so fast as others.  Not quite so strong as others.  However, these ATH athletes are so talented, so strong, so fit, so agile, so flexible, and have such an outstanding cardio motor, they simply can't be ignored.   They define ATH.   These athletes won't be denied -- they find a way to get on the field.  To make an NFL roster.   To amaze their coaches and fans with a combination of outstanding fitness traits.   Antwaan Randle El is a great example. 

Randle El was a collegiate QB.  Considered too short to play in the NFL, he was at risk to miss the professional leagues.  However, he was such an amazing athlete, so skilled, so talented, that he would not be denied a roster spot.   When he hit the NFL combine, jaws dropped.  Coaches paused.  Other players just stared.   His total body fitness was stellar.  His commitment to training and for delivering every ounce of his ability was unmatched.   He was powerful, fast, strong, agile and core fit.  Randle El epitomized the term ATHLETE.  He continues playing at the highest levels today in the NFL.

Ask talented and skilled an ATHLETE are you?  Not simply as a runner, but simply as an athlete?  Tall, short, lean or stout.   How's your stamina?  Your core strength conditioning?  Your flexibility?  Your speed?   Your power?  Which of those could you improve?  Are you commited to doing it?   

For 2012, I want for every single one of you to be the most powerful, fastest and fittest athlete you can be.   Let's make it happen together.



Why I train -- thoughts from our peeps

Folks, I really enjoy the first few weeks of each season, because I learn the wide array of race objectives, fitness goals and wellness initiatives which each of you are pursuing.   These goals often change season to season as our lives evolve.   For 2012, I'd like to compile a anonymous list of these thoughts, and post a summary to our group.   Your answers are surely surprising and reflect our diversity as runners!  
Please finish this sentence....   "the reason I train daily is because ____________ _________ _________ _________ ___"
This question has endless possibilities.   I thought of this last week when I was playing with our sons.   It's critical to me as a parent to raise my kids to be healthy, active and fit as they grow up.   And, that they know the importance and benefits of fitness and enjoy it.   So, my answer would be.... the reason I train daily is because I want to be a great role model to my kids.
What's YOUR reason?
Here are the reasons folks provided when I conducted this question 14 months ago:
the reason I train daily is because..... ..
...I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment. .. and I love to eat chocolate!
...I like feeling strong, healthy and pushing myself to be the best I can be"
...I like to eat!
...I love that my girls are running "races" to be just like mommy
...I like to set physical and mental challenges to test my boundaries
... it is the one thing that I do only to meet my own needs. I get exercise, socialization, and therapy all at one time. I also train daily because I want my kids to grow up thinking that exercise is just a normal part of everyones day and that they can do anything they set their mind to!
... teach my children by doing
...for personal achievement, to stay healthy, to be a good role model to my daughter and to relieve stress
...I love it when people say "you have how many kids??  You look GREAT!"
...I like the friendships made from this common way. I can eat what I want
...I love the mood lift I get from exercise
...because if I didn't I might go crazy
...because I can
...At 37 I am in the best shape of my life. I feel proud of myself. It is the only thing I have just for myself. My kids look up to me and want to run too.
...I want to be a good example for my kids and I want to stay healthy"
...I love having something that is mine, I am not a wife, a mom.   I am a runner.
...I like to see what i'm made of
...I love the satisfaction of working hard with my body and being amazed at how much farther I really can push myself (especially with runners by my side).

Spice up your core routines

Hey folks - as we endure this rotten cold weather, we may be forced to do our core workouts at home.   Are you tired of the same core routines, and need some zesty challenges?   Try these 2 modifications!    I got these inspirations a few yrs ago, talking to my pal Larisa.    As a personal trainer, she advises clients on regular conditioning and agility routines.   She's one of the fittest people I've ever met and I admire her talents immensely.   I'm pleased that she often provides educational seminars to our group!   
Here's how to make your core work spicier today.   Net is, I characterize core conditioning in a spectrum of 3 "levels":
Level I:   you learn a portfolio of basic core strengthening routines.   These are the foundation of core, and the most important things you can do to improve your functional strength, balance, agility and stability.   Folks can happily spend many years in this level, taking pilates classes @ Finley, perhaps Debbie's strength class, perhaps Paula's sports class, Boot Camp classes, perhaps DVDs, etc.   There are literally thousands of exercises to learn!    I've spent several years in this zone, and still have much to learn.
Level II:   you increase the intensity of those Level I routines via 2 concepts that I call "drop a limb" and "destabilize the working surface".    I LOVE these 2 concepts!   Here's a quick explanation of the 2:
    a)    "drop a limb"   this is a great way to make your Level I workouts tougher and zestier.   You do the Level I workouts as normal, except you drop a limb whenever appropriate.   A great example of this is to do a plank for 1min, except to raise 1 leg and hold it.   Or, when doing your side plank, you raise your top leg upward and hold it.   As you can imagine, there are hundreds of ways you can modify Level I exercises... just think, "if I took an arm or a leg out of this exercise, how could I make it nastier?"   :  ) 
    b)   "destabilize the working surface"   this is another neat way to increase the intensity of your Level I workouts.   There are countless ways to do this, the idea is to make the surface you're working on to be mobile.   That requires you to use more core work to stabilize yourself.   A good example is to do a plank as normal, except that you're balancing your upper body on an aeroball.   Or, you do a plank but with your feet balanced on an aeroball.    Or, you can use paperplates on a hardwood floor.    Or, a boso ball.   Or stability saucer.  You get it.  TRX classes offered @ Finley are related to this concept, as the "working surface" involves finding balance while suspending your legs, arms, etc in fabric straps that are suspended from a fixed metal bar.   Now, that's mobile!    There are lots of tricks you can do to make the working surface mobile and TOUGH! 
Level III:  you learn advanced routines.   Examples of these are what we learn and do during Larissa's seminars.  Crazy, powerful stuff!   We'll explore this topic more during our core seminars this season.
Happy training folks.  Get Crazy Fit.

Proprioception exercises

Hey folks - if you're holed up during these cold days to avoid the chilly weather, here's a cool workout to try...
I was chatting recently w/ Mike, an ultra event amigo of mine, about ways to train for ultra events.   To prep for these longer races, Mike recommended proprioception exercises as a means to strengthen core, improve balance and agility.   I hadn't heard this term before and googled it.   Here's more info:
There are many proprioception exercises to do, and Mike has a neat, simple introduction:  simply stand on one foot, then slowly trace the letters of the alphabet with your toe on the other foot.    What a neat way to improve your core conditioning and balance!
Try getting your kids to try doing this with you.   What a hoot.   

Mortgaging your body

this was a popular post from Jun '11...

Hi runner peeps - my story for today is about mortgage equity, training, and how you treat your body.   I swam this morning w/ my buddy James, who runs a mortgage origination/refinance company (one which I highly recommend, btw).   I thought about my refi w/ James last year and the interesting correlations to my recent fitness the past several months.   Perhaps this might be a useful analogy to you.  
First, let's clarify a few definitions:
1)   Consider your body to be a house which you own.   It's a strategic investment to you, one which you tend, nurture and [hopefully] improve in value throughout your life.   You do this despite the inevitable deterioration of materials / construction of your "house" due to aging.  
2)   Consider the daily training/fitness which you do to be a mortgage payment to your body, your "house".    Your training is how you tend and nurture your house.  The ways you make it strong, long-lasting and fit.   Extending my analogy, consider this mortgage to be a unlimited fixed note.  It isn't a 30yr fixed, 45yr or even 70yr.   This note lasts your entire life.   Don't get too ruffled about that duration -- afterall, consider the 70+ yrs ahead in which you'll enjoy your house!  The "payments" you make each day go to pay down the mortgage... the longer you pay, your payments systematically pay down a slightly higher and higher amt of principal.   This means that the more frequently you workout, the more effective your workouts are to paying down your principal.
Here's where my story begins....
My 2011 thus far has been a whirlwind in my career.   Unprecendented work volumes, high stress, tight deadlines.   As result, many things have eroded -- my diet has fallen into a tank and my workouts are hit/miss.   Mostly miss, few hits in fact.   I've gained several lbs, lost much cardio capacity and core conditioning.   My "house" is a mess.  Ugh.   Now, to be clear over the past 40 yrs, I proudly made daily payments to my own "house".   Heck, I would often make double payments :  )  Loved it, and my house reflected that care.   Very proud.   However, during the past several months, I haven't been paying my mortgage.   Instead, I've been pulling equity from my house.   What's that mean?    I've been relying on and consuming the strong value which I built into my house over the many years of daily mortgage payments made.   Don't confuse this to be a loan.   My consumption has eroded equity.   A loan would be a temporary exchange of value, with an agreement and means to repay principal plus some interest.   Deducting equity means lowering value [quality].   No agreement there -- just take, take take.   Yep, that's the deducting equity, I've lowered the quality/durability/vitality of my house.   It's still my house, but it surely isn't as nice a house as it used to be.   Use whatever analogy you want --  it's clear I have been lowering its value.   Now, I could get by for several months with a rotten diet and few workouts because my house was in OK shape.   Not good shape and certainly not great shape.   Just OK shape.   However, following that strategy for months and months has clear consequences:   the sturdy foundation and walls of my house became thin veneer.   Pliable, prone to damage [injury] with an accelerated deterioration schedule.   What to do?   I could pout, seek blame, or feel grumpy.  I could mutter and grouse about, and make excuses.   I could find another job.   I could punt workouts altogether, eat more ho-hos and become a duplex.  Or, I could take action.
So, what to do?      Time to refi!
So, what's a "house" refi look like?    Here's what I did:
a)  chart out my next 4mos of wellness goals.  Define and prioritize those w/ specific, measurable and reasonable targets.   I did that.
b)  create a training plan that's achievable yet challenging, and maps directly to delivering the targets over time.    I created one.
c)  establish smart diet guidelines -- and follow them.     I used to make one, however many great choices exist. 
d)  establish training partners.   To me, that's the MWF swim workouts.   Today, I attended my first swim workout in 5mos.
Why do I share this story?   Maybe you'll find the analogy useful.   Maybe, if you've also had a demanding period in your life as I have, you can consider this thinking about how to get your fitness/wellness back on track.   I hope you leverage the incredible network of our running community -- it'll help to make your own daily mortgage payments.  To make your own "house" strong :  ) 
Happy running.