Sunday, May 17, 2015

From The Ground Up

From the Ground Up:  From the beginning; starting with the basics, the foundation or fundamentals.  You may have heard this saying when people are talking about anything from starting a company to any number of other new projects that require starting from something completely unformed and building it piece by piece.

Any athlete I speak with wants to gain speed, power and the ability to go the long haul without injury.  The athlete that can train most consistently is usually the one that makes the most long term gains over time.  Yet, when time commitments begin to be limited, the first thing to go is strength training, core work, and warm up dynamic stretching.

When athletes like Mark Allen and Dave Scott were running blistering marathons during the 140.6 swim, bike and run that still have proven to be some of the fastest in our sport, they were putting a huge emphasis on strength training to maintain durability and power through the late stages of the event. 

As multi-sport athletes, we have a huge amount of time invested in our bodies and training routines.  We have to be balanced and work on weaknesses throughout the season to achieve our best results, especially as the season wears on.  Just as our cardiovascular training is periodized to match our needs as the season progresses from base phases to speed endurance and finally race specificity, so must our strength training routine evolve and change to integrate.

Photo Credit: Pedro Gomes

Trust me, I've been as guilty as the next person in certain years of the "keep the cardio and don't worry about the rest" camp.  It's much easier after a long day on the bike or a hard run to skip my session of TRX or core work to the following day.  However, I've also seen my body suffer as small muscular imbalances and weaknesses are exacerbated during miles and miles of swim, bike and run hours that could have been prevented with simply making the extra fourty-five mins twice a week in the weight room or twenty minutes of TRX.
Photo Credit: Pedro Gomes

In the beginning of the season, when athletes are laying their foundation at aerobic base paces and heart rates, it's the perfect time to be sore and go through an adaptation and then harder or maximum strength phase for a four to six week period.  Even smaller athletes and older athletes can benefit greatly from this phase that helps them build muscle mass to power the bike and withstand the pounding on the run.  Once the intensity picks up and the weekly volume starts to climb, it's important to move to a more maintenance phase of strength that still incorporates balance, agility and core strength movements via body weight or other functional total-body movements.  In addition, strength training can be more sport specific and even time saving by creating training programs that incorporates it into the swim, bike and run portions via paddle work in the pool, over gear work on the bike and hill repeats on the run.

One of the biggest improvements I've made in the past year is the addition of experts in this specialized area to not only hold me accountable, but to guide me as I complete my program with hands-on feedback and injury prevention BEFORE it becomes a problem or issue vs. after.  I've found this has kept me a healthier happier athlete for the long haul and I see it as a trend among many professionals to have their trusted "team" around them throughout the year. 

I've been working with Vesla 360 in Cranberry, PA since last September.  Having both the physical therapy aspect tied directly into the strength training has been a huge advantage to work together synergistically.  Last week, I started feeling like my hip and glute were getting tight again and causing a bit of pain and fatigue as I was running.  Instead of pushing through it, I spoke with my coach and immediately called Vesla to schedule an assessment.  Sure enough, my glute was inflamed and unhappy.  Aimee, the head of physical therapy let me know our course of action and communicated with Frank, the head of strength training and conditioning, about my state of affairs.  Next week, we'll continue our path of keeping my posterior chain strong (which is need for quad-dominant triathletes!) while doing stim and other soft tissue work to make sure my glute and hip are lose enough to handle the work load of regular training.

I'd encourage those of you who aren't putting a focus on this aspect, to start reading and talking to others about where you can get started developing a routine that works with your training to keep you in the game throughout the season.  I see many athletes (and have been one of them) that start the year excited and training like a mad fools, only to be on the sidelines by mid-July, just when the race season is heating up and getting fun.  No one wants to take time off due to a preventable injury and we certainly all want to make gains and maintain the level of strength we currently have not just for triathlon, but for living a healthy life!   If you build it from the ground up, your body will be healthier for the long haul and allow you to do what you love without worrying if your body is stable enough to handle it.

Thanks for being on my team, Aimee, Frank and all the other members of Vesla 360.  You guys are top notch and have gotten me healthy and have kept me that way.  Thank you for being a partner that I can recommend to my athletes with confidence and personally lean on for support and learning.  I've already seen great things from them this past season and I know there will be a lot more in the future!  Make sure you check them out if you are local to the Pittsburgh area!

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