Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Cookie Parable: Smart Core Conditioning for Endurance Athletes

Hi folks - as all of our Runnerpeeps program alums know, I'm an evangelist of regular core strength conditioning as regular part of your run, swim and bike training.  Every training season, I provide an education seminar on this topic for the program.   I also incorporate this into every training plan I provide.  And, I often ASK each you about this topic during 1:1 discussions.   Simply put, it is imperative to your endurance training to also spend time each week tending to your core strength.   

Some of you may smugly say, "oh, no, not me, Jeffries.... I have the core strength of a titanium anvil -- firm and strong.  My gluts put Kardashian to shame.  And, I look terrific in my saucy LuLu Lemon capris.   No worries."   OK, great.  Well, for the rest of you, take this simple test.   Simply hold a plank position for as long as you can, without breaking form, and in proper position the whole time.    No need to tell me your results.   Just use this as a benchmark.   This'll be a discussion point in our base training phase over the Winter.

My belief is...

* if you hold plank < 1min, you need to spend much more time each week developing this strength.  You have the core strength of a jelly donut.    Make core strength improvements a priority!

* if you hold plank between 1 and 2min, you are in OK shape, but not fabulous.  Your core strength is like a jelly tot cookie... sorta crusty on the outside, but squishy and soft in the center.  No attaboys for that.    Make a commitment to improve this to +2min by end of the Spring season.  See workout recommendation below.

* if you hold plank between 2-3min, you're OK... while you're not titanium, you do have decent core strength.  I declare you an oatmeal cookie.   I ask that you simply maintain this goodness each week. 
* if you hold plank >3min, you are doing well.   I declare you a pretzel -- hard on the outside, hard on the inside.   It is my highest compliment. You are the pinnacle of cookie firmness :  )  Keep it up.

Here are some Q&A about this training, compiled by our crack reporting staff:

 Q:  Jeffries, I really think coconut maroons are an underrated cookie. 
A:  That's good information, thanks for sharing.  However it isn't in the form of a question and non-germane to the topic.  Next question. 

Q: Jeffries, my core is ridiculously fit.  Pilates instructors gawk in jealousy.  To showcase my fabulous abs to the world, I often wear a jog bra to church.  Do you do that, too?
A:  Um, no.  I’m Unitarian.

Q:  Jeffries, I have a sassy leopard skin unitard and matching yoga mat -- should I wear those for these workouts?
A:   Rock the unitard.

Q:   Jeffries, these workouts make my core ache.  You stink.  I hate these workouts.
A:   A bit of aching is fine to me… keep it up.  And, thanks for the kind words!

Here’s the 20min training routine I recommend – happy training!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A terrific strength & conditioning workout for endurance athletes

Here's a great workout that I often prescribe for endurance runners and long course triathletes to improve overall strength and conditioning.   It's a ~ 45min session, and addresses total body conditioning.  I created this years ago and have refined it over the years, talking to fellow coaches and specialists in strength conditioning, yoga, pilates and plyometrics.  

The guiding philosophies are:
* high reps @ low weights
* equal and opposite muscle groups
* big to small muscle sequence
* heaps and heaps and heaps of routines done in an "instable work surface" like planks on a ball, bicep curls while standing on a bosu, etc
*  perhaps ~ 40% of the workout is pure core work!  that's how critically important I see core conditioning as the foundation to a successful long course athlete.

You can download the doc below.   Hope this is helpful :  )

USAT Level I Coach
USATF Level I Coach

Saturday, January 11, 2014

My race report from the 2009 Beaverdam Olympic distance triathlon :  )


Here's my race report for Beaverdam int'l distance triathlon, last Saturday @ Falls Lake.   The events are retold as I remember them, however my memory can be awfully sketchy and cloudy.  
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All week leading up to the race, my nerves were building ... Beaverdam would be my first triathlon in 2yrs.  Lots of concerns swirled in my head -- the 62 degree chilly water, my inconsistent training the past few months, rusty cycling skills, lack of running base, general stress.  The list goes on.  Oh well, I told myself, I would simply do this race, no matter how slow I would finish.   I arrived on race morning, racked my bike and set up my transition area.   I had my shiny red Quintana Roo time trial bike, fresh from building it last year.  It sparkled.   Edde at IOS helped with much of the parts build -- he's a bike maven, incredibly helpful, and I highly recommend his skills and the IOS folks to anyone.  Beaverdam was the first time I could use my ultra-spiffy race wheels --  some deep dish carbon fiber blades that promised to slice through the wind.  Gadzooks, if my bike were any indication, I surely Looked like a fearsome triathlete.   Well, maybe some years ago I did.   Well, maybe not.   Whatever.    What great memory flashbacks I had as I carefully arranged all my transition stuff, thinking of all the races I did over the years.   It was great to be "in the mix" again.   My buddy Pat was nearby, his transition neatly arranged, and ready to go.  The dude was so relaxed; I could never be that calm.   My own transition area wasn't so tidy; I think I stepped on a goo packet, then bumped into some Suzy Spandex nearby who groused at me.   I sheepishly diverted Pat's attention by talking about coastal fishing, a mutual pursuit he and I share.   I walked around, fidgety and nervous.  I saw my pal, Margo, a few minutes later, then Tommy with her.   Hard to believe, but those cats are getting fitter, fitter and fitter every year they get older.  Wow.  Mega fit.  I'm waiting for that to happen to me.   Well, Tommy gave me a silent look that said, "wow, now there's a true road hazard".    He clearly remembered what a horrible roadie I was/is.   How true his sage glance would turn out to be.
Time passed.   There was only 20min to the start, so I suited up in my wetsuit.  Putting on the suit is a 10min affair that's a lot like putting an octopus in a string bag.    I wretched around awkwardly in the transition area, folks swerving to and fro, to avoid my thrashing.  I finally wrassled that wetsuit into submission, clearly the victor, although the devilish device tried to pinch my skin as I pulled the zipper up the back.   Bastard.  Jeffries 1, wetsuit 0.   I felt exactly like a sardine.  Lots of them.  Precisely, I felt like 1 of 1,375 sardines, stuffed tightly in a Campbell's soup can.   I didn't feel like that fearsome triathlete anymore.   I waddled down to the start, chest heaving. I felt like a doughy version of the Michelin Man.   Amanda and Diane were there getting ready.   Very cool to see my pals.  This was Amanda's first international, which made the day great.    We all griped about how cold the water was, although Amanda smiled broadly.   I asked what was so funny, and she replied with a grin and explained that her sole pre-race strategy for a mile swim in 62 degree water was quite simple:   just pee in your suit.   She kept grinning, and peeing presumably, so I decided to check out the course.   Diane decided to take a practice swim, then came leaping out of the water faster than a flying mullet.  Shaking like a leaf.   I noticed that her arm -- the muscles on which are more defined than mine are, was, or ever will be -- was twitching, as she shivered.    I reached out to touch her hand to feel the water temp and her handshake was like the grim reaper.  It was an icy cold, chilling grip. Diane smiled bravely and strongly, though she was blanched white with cold.   Yikes.  She's a tough cookie, Huis.  Noted to self:  don't ever shake hands with her again.  She'll break something.  Seriously fit.
My swim wave started and off we all went.  The course was laid out East/West, so the sighting lines were actually simple.  I proudly stayed on course, though I swam as slow as a rotten tree stump floating aimlessly through a still country pond.   The water temp really wasn't so bad after a few minutes, as most folks just focused on covering the mile.  I smiled between breathing as I caught glimpses of folks swimming waaaayyyyy off course, their little yellow caps get further and further away from the race and going to errant tree snags or muddy banks.  I had to laugh, as in years past, I had many many triathlons early on where I swam in wild patterns around the course, sometimes covering hundreds of yards more than the other swimmers.  I tried to be open-minded about these yellow-capped folks.  Maybe they were marine biologists, I told myself.  Maybe they saw some interesting fish and decided to check things out.    I swam on.   The swim went well, I do enjoy it.   I wished I were quicker, but that'll come with consistent practice.    I got out of the water, and sauntered up to T1.   
In T1, things were lively.   Surprisingly there were a fair number of bikes still racked.   I smiled broadly.  Then, I realized my wetsuit was still angry from the ass-whoopin' I put on it while putting it on before the swim.  That wetsuit stuck to me like cement.  I pulled, heaved, cursed, jumped around, and balanced on one foot.  I cursed more, fell over, yanked the seams, and cursed.  I growled.    Ugh.   Wetsuit 1, Jeffries 1.   OK, that took too long.  I wasted nearly 4min just goat wrestlin' that wretched thing.  I hate wetsuits.  I finally got out, gathered my bike, helmet, shoes, and blitzed out for the bike split.  The air temp was great, so the bike split looked promising.
About 3miles into the bike, the course made its first turn, east onto Old Weaver Rd.    It was at that moment that realized that I hadn't tightened my front brakes that morning, while swapping on my oh-so-very-cool- and-zippy carbon fiber deep dish race wheels.  To install them, I have to open my brakes a bit and adjust the pads to seat properly.  In my nervousness, I forgot to close the front brakes.  Ugh, they were soupy.   Somehow I couldn't be bothered to stop and properly adjust them.  Keep pedaling.    That's a key detail because those front brakes were mostly my ONLY brakes.   More on this in a minute.   So, as the turn to Old Weaver Rd came up, I slowed well in advance and rounded well.  No worries, I didn't need much brakes.  Brakes are for uber-weinies.  I could do this.   What a relief.  All the turns'll likely be like that one, right?   The bike split continued.  Background to this is, I knew going in that my rear brakes were a bit suspect.   I've had difficulty for months keeping tension on them.   The rear brakes installed on the bike are a high-tech monument to prototype design -- a billet aluminum, custom-fabricated design positioned under and behind the bottom bracket.  Highly aero.  It's an extremely light weight design that Tectro made for this particular frame for QR.  They look awesome.   However, the design stinks.   The brakes can't hold tension well.  They are loose at best, and useless most of the time.   I realized then that Tommy was a sage --  truly Was a roadie hazard.   I knew that at some point before the end of 25miles, I would need to develop a means to come to a stop.    Oh well, why do today what you could put off until tomorrow, right?    The bike split continued.  The miles piled on.
The bike course was outstanding, lots of small rolling hills, some flats, etc.  A superb course, I highly recommend it.   We ended up on Six Forks Rd near 12miles, then over to New Light near 19miles, then out onto Hwy 98 heading west for a short stint.  It was there that I suddenly heard a hollow metal tinkling sound as something fell off my bike and into the grass.  I kept riding.   I looked down didn't see anything obviously missing, and thought I must have simply run over something in the road.   After about 500yds, I realized that my pedaling was rough.   I had popped out of my cleat.  What?!?   No, that Wasn't it.   My entire Cleat was gone.  Amazing, the entire circular head of Speedplay "lollipop" had just fell off.  Off.   Gone.   All that was left was a little metal tube sticking out of the crank.  I got sour in a hurry.   However, I was glad I at least had that little tube to step on.  I grumbled a bit, and started mashing that down, trying to keep a reasonable pedal rhythm.   I still had 6miles to go, climbing bitterly up a few hills and riding soon stunk.   My pedaling mechanics were goofy, as I tried to mash with one side, yet pedal an oval on the other.   I Definitely didn't appear fearsome to anyone, despite the cool wheels and glossy red paint.
I finally made the turn into Beaverdam, and cruised the final mile.   That last mile seemed to go very quickly -- I hadn't yet figured out how I was going to stop at the end.   I scrambled for ideas on how I was going to actually get off the bike, and not cause a disaster.    I squeezed both brakes, wondering if something had miraculously changed in the past few miles.   Nope.  Soupy brakes, nearly useless.  The front brake was loose, and the rear brake was altogether disconnected.  I could see its little metal wire, hanging down aimlessly behind the bottom bracket, almost waving at me in the breeze.   Bummer.  I made the turn into the parking lot, my pace still cooking along quickly.   Ugh.  As fate would have it, the final 200yds were DOWNHILL.    I had a quick inspiration, recalling some saturday morning cartoons. I'm a genius.  I did a Fred Flintstone and quickly stuck out my cycling cleat and jammed the top of my foot onto the rear tire.   It shrieked loudly, the shoe fabric heating up quickly against the rubber sidewalls.  Sounded scary.   Spectators clapping for their buddies and friends now looked my way, nervously.   I continued my fast descent to T2, my foot mashed against the tire, my teeth gritting, jaw locked.  I looked around quickly, wondering what I could crash into that would cause the least damage.  I saw a fat dude with a Bojangles bag.  Surely he could take the brunt.   Nope.  Then, I saw a pickup truck with some surface rust.  That would hurt.   Then I saw a huge curb covered with a bed of brown prickly gum balls.  That would really hurt.    In a fit of inspiration, I mashed my shoe even harder and the tires squealed to slow.   I finally dismounted, right on top of the timing mat.  The race organizer frowned openly at me.  She Was Not Happy.   Oh well, lucky for her I didn't plow into the entire bike rack.   Really embarrassed,  I quickly dismounted, scrambled over to my transition and bolted for the run.   Tommy's vision was true.
After those adventures, my run was thankfully uneventful.  I wanted to quit at 3miles, however in running with Pat, he called me a huge pansy for even mentioning it.  He was right.  I surely could slog along a few more miles.   I am now many years removed from being a swift runner.  The pacing showed.   But, I got there.   What seemed like a marathon was actually only a 10k.   I jogged in slowly to the finish at just over 3hrs.   Happy.   Really happy.  I had completed my first triathlon in 2yrs.   I love this sport.
- Jeffries