Photo Credit: Stanford.edu

The Swim

Ideally, you have used the winter months to deconstruct your swim and focus on key elements to allow yourself to rebuild to a faster, less injury prone athlete. But let’s face it with the hectic life most of us live the winter is more of a time to decompress from structured training and focus on family… regardless it is never too late, and this early in the season is the perfect time break it down and focus on the fundamentals; Core, Head, Arms and Legs.

Core-

This is where it all begins. Not only are you working towards a nice six-pack, but this is the engine for all activities that we do as triathletes. A strong core will improve your swimming, biking and running and it’s the foundation to a healthier you. So, no skipping your planks. As it pertains to swimming, your core is the catalyst to a faster more streamlined swim. The efficient rotation of you shoulders, hips, and body depend on a strong core. Focusing on planks, crunches and swim drills such as dolphin kicks are just a few tools you have to help you develop a swim specific core.

Head-

Keep your head down. Very simple… your job is to maintain your body in a streamlined position, if your head is riding high on the water then it is very likely that your legs are creating drag. Drag is bad and makes your swim even harder. A good way to keep yourself in check is noticing where the water hits your head, if it’s on your forehead, consider lowering it a little, also adjust your gaze to aid in your head position. Become conscious about what your legs are doing and adjust your body, especially as you get towards the end of your swim session when your body starts to get tired. Tighten up that core, keep your legs up and your head down.

Arms-

Fingers below the wrist and wrist below the elbow. Just keep that picture in mind specially during the recovery phase of your stroke. Close those hands, and use them like an oar to pull as much water as possible. As you do that, keep your elbow high and that classic triangle shape as you are in the pull phase of your stroke. Keep your hands close to the body; a slight rotation of the hands once they reach your hips helps in setting you up for a dynamic exit and recovery phase of the stroke.  The slight rotation of your body powered again by a strong core will aid in setting you up for an efficient stroke. Sculling drills, and finger-tip-drag drills are some which I often prescribed to athletes for working on “feeling” the water and finding their own rhythm.

Legs-

I know I sound like a broken record, but again core strength powers your kick and hip rotation. Given that your next discipline out of the water is the bike, I find that saving your legs for the bike can yield a better return on your investment. So, focus on small kicks, to reduce drag and keep an eye out for the misalignment of your legs when taking a breath. It is common to see athletes kick a leg out as they come up for air without even knowing it. Get a feel for the “punch” an athletic kick provides when originating at the hip. As much as possible, avoid having the lower part of the leg flopping all over the place.  Make sure you are kicking from your hip, with a natural flex of your knee and the power source being your core. Simple right, HA! A great drill to get the feel for this is actually done out of the water, do some leg swings to train your mind and body on the movement. In the water vertical kick drills help and if you have the flopping leg syndrome like I have. A great trick to keep your mind engaged in these efforts is to use a hair tie, tied around your feet to remind you to keep your legs in alignment.

So, working on a strong core and incorporating the drills mentioned above will not only help you become a more efficiency swimmer, but also make your time in the pool more enjoyable.

Now go work on your core and have a great swim!

Faster after 40

As many of you know this past week I had a milestone birthday, the big 4-0. I have to admit I was a bit freaked out at first, but then realized that not only will I now gain a few minutes on my Boston Qualifying time, but I’m now part of the Masters Division (age 40 +). Now all I have to do is stay healthy. With that in mind I have a renewed dedication to being smarter with my training, nutrition and recovery. As runners, as we get older our body becomes less forgiving. If we don’t listen to it and give it the proper care, it will quickly bring you back to reality in the form of an injury which can derail your entire season.

So, what do I plan on doing now that I have hit the Masters Division?… The exact same thing I have been preaching to all the athletes I coach, which is to focus on three things: Quality Training, Strength, & Recovery.

These simple concepts have allowed me to help those who would have never thought they had a PR left in them as they got older. Just look at me, at the age of 39 I was able to shed 7 minutes off a marathon PR, and I feel like this year I can do even better! It just takes smart training.

Quality Training – Invest in a coach; layout an annual training plan with your “A” & “B” races and stick to it. As you get older it becomes even more important to make sure that every mile and race you do has a purpose. Everyone can put in miles, it’s what you put into those miles that count. Most athletes I coach have day jobs and family obligations; they typically have an hour a day to train so the quality of each workout is important. Quality pace workouts make a big difference and structuring them to become progressively faster teaches your body and mind to maintain the pace when it counts the most. A good coach will mix things up and incorporate Tempo Runs, The Track, Fartleks, etc. to keep you engaged and adapt the training as you progress.

Strength – If you have trained with or coached by me you know how much emphasis I place on running specific strength training, generally done after a quality training day. Lower body, core and balancing workouts need to be progressive, just like your training. This is the foundation where the rest of your training will be build, if you have a weak foundation it will be easy to get injured as your training gets more complex. Strength training does not have to be all core and lunges… I like to include yoga, swimming and cycling.

Recovery – Like with strength we all know how important recovery is, but often it is the first thing to go due to our day to day life events. However, making sure that at a minimum, you are getting enough sleep (8+ hours), staying hydrated and eating well. You can’t fake it, the lack of recovery will come very evident in your  training with an elevated heart rate, or that “flat” feeling we have all experienced at the track. Simply put, take care of your body so it can take care of you.

I hope these simple reminders help you all avoid some of the mistakes I have made on my journey towards the big 4-0.

Just Three Words

I recently started following the blog of a fascinating gentleman by the name of Chris Brogan. His straight to the point approach and communication style really resonate with me. (Big surprise to those that know me, ha!) I found my inspiration for this post from two of his recent entries on how to focus on what you want to accomplish in 2016.  Here are his ideas for making the upcoming year productive and fulfilling.

YOU Make Yourself Busy”:

Simply put, STOP overcoming yourself; you should focus on one thing which will pave the path toward your greater goals. As my wife would attest I’m guilty of taking the shotgun approach to many things, including my race season and goals for the year. More often than not I become disillusioned and discouraged when I spread myself so thin that I’m not able to give 100% to every task I undertake. Then, I find myself having to take a step back to refocus. It is an exhausting process and SO inefficient. This year I plan on taking Mr. Brogan’s advice and “Chase MY Target, Not ALL Targets”.

I am going to do this by structuring 2016 around three words… a concept again inspired by Mr. Borgan’s post Three Words. The idea is simple – pick three words which can stand together to shape your year. I love the idea of applying this to both your training and non-training life. So, without further adue…

My three words for 2016 are: Life, Health, Focus

Life: this simple word has a deep meaning as it pertains to the one person who gives me strength and sparks every moment of my life – my wonderful wife. Without her support and guidance I would be lost. My mission this year is to make sure to recognize her for all that she does for us and for the “Life” she brings to our relationship which fuels our adventures, my training and coaching.

Health: pertains to taking care of my body and mind. In 2015 I felt OK most of the year, but I was always teetering on the verge of injury. So much so that during the last few weeks leading up to the Houston marathon I sustained a foot injury which almost derailed my race… So, my focus is to make strength, core and flexibility a priority in my training to promote overall physical health. I will also, continue my meditation practice as it provides clarity and the mental relaxation I so often need.

Focus: I currently have a lot of irons in the fire: coaching, work, family and our “5 year plan” (more on this in a future post). As you can imagine, at times this can all get very stressful. In order to manage life my intent this year is it to be more present in each moment and focus on controlling only the things within my control. This will allow me to keep giving 100% to all my obligations, including my personal training and all of the athletes that I coach.

So, there are my three words for 2016, I know it’s already March but don’t worry it is not too late to get your year on the right track. I challenge you to consider which three words to will shape your 2016.