Saturday, November 26, 2016

Determining Your Sweat Rate

As you heard in the interview with Bob, race nutrition and GI distress is not limited to the consumption of
grams of fat or carbohydrate.  Hydration and mineral loss is also a factor.  Bob mentioned the simple method of assessing your sweat rate in the interview, but I thought I would take a few minutes to elaborate on this and actually break down the steps that I use, so that you can do likewise to determine your sweat loss.

The basic process is this:
  1. Weigh yourself prior to your workout
  2. Weigh yourself after your workout
  3. Note how much fluid you consumed during
  4. Note (generally how much fluid you lost through peeing)

My spreadsheet has:
  1. Date
  2. Time
  3. Temperature
  4. Activity
  5. Duration (minutes)
  6. Weight Prior
  7. Weight After
  8. Weight Change in pounds: multiply by 16 to convert to ounces
  9. Fluid Consumed
  10. Fluid Excreted
  11. Sweat Rate in ounces: ((H+I)-J))/(E/60)

  1. Use a reliable digital scale and make sure it's the same scale before and after
  2. Eliminate as many variables as you can by removing as many articles of clothing as is possible
  3. From the moment of the pre to post, note every ounce consumed or peed (estimate if necessary)
    1. Real life tips for assessing
  4. Be sure to note the average temperature as your sweat rate will vary
  5. I am now logging my pre exercise hydration as an insight to performance.  It should not really affect this calculation other than to increase your pre-exercise weight measurement

News - NYC Marathon:
Six Ways to Run the Five Boroughs On Sunday, November 5, 2017.   You can take part in this world‐class, life‐changing event, by finding your way down one of the these six ways.

1) Sweepstakes - Enter our 2017 TCS New York City Marathon sweepstakes. This is your chance to win one of 70 prizes consisting of one guaranteed, non‐complimentary spot in next year's race and two tickets to the TCS New York City Marathon Eve Dinner. The deadline to enter the sweepstakes is Friday, December 2, and winners will be informed on or before January 13, 2017. Why not take a shot?

2) Drawing - Enter the general drawing. The application opens January 17, 2017 and runs through 11:59 p.m. ET on February 17, 2017. All applicants must be 18 years of age or older on November 5, 2017. Runners will be selected via three drawings—read the details.

3) Team for Kids and Charity Partners

4) Guaranteed Entry - You may have already earned (or be on your way to earning) guaranteed entry to the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon by completing our 9+1 Program - you'll need to apply for the upcoming race during the application window of January 17-February 17, 2017 and pay the required fees. Read more info.

5) Time Qualifiers

6) International Travel Partners

Still ahead in the month of November are interviews with:
"Sherpa" John Lecroix
Human Potential Endurance
HPRS Race Series; growing sport of Ultra Running, and the necessary efforts to preserve the old school roots of the sport’s culture
Meredith Kessler
Pro and Author
As you heard in the intro, MK is going to join us to talk about her new book and her dominating performance and IM Arizona

Friday, July 22, 2016

Tri Tech

July's episode is a focus on applications that help you to plan, execute and analyze your training and pursuit of your endurance goals.

My original idea of doing a comparative analysis, is going to morph to the mundane.  Instead, I'm going to use this post of the blog to be a reference to the episodes with interviews of experts, and a collection of various screen shots of a couple of applications that may be new to you. 


Movescount (Suunto)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Do you need a coach?

Do you need a coach?  

You might expect that the title of this month's episode is a rhetorical question.  You might, assume that it is simply the prelude to a panel of coaches.  Hopefully not, but you may have jumped to the conclusion that the question challenges the value of the profession.  I assure you, that is not the case.

Rather the question "do I need a coach?" is something that I ask myself frequently.  Actually, I don't really ask the question in my head in the same way I express it in writing here.

The questions in my head sounds more like:

"why can't I push to zone 5 this morning?", or

"yesterday was a pretty hard day, this plan is written for the average person, I'll bet it's okay to take it easy today...I think...wish I knew.", or

"oh great, their closing transition - I hope I'm trained and ready for this I?" or,

"am I taking in enough calories for...?" and it goes on, right?

These questions are personal to me.  They are my personal needs, which are derived by a goal that has been set to achieve a result.  That goal could be to lose 40 pounds, lead a healthier lifestyle, or finish an Ironman.

I have my questions and you will have yours.  As you train of the next few weeks, pay attention to the voice in your head and the questions being presented.  As you are doing that introspection, listen to the interviews from experts from different perspectives.  There is no agenda other than to provide you with a rich layering of interviews, discussing the fundamental of triathlon training, development, and racing.  From there, we will talk about the many roles triathlon coaches fill in helping athletes achieve their goals safely. 

The podcast is my way of sharing the lessons I've learned in triathlon with others.  When I lived in my first college apartment, I learned the lesson don't fry bacon naked.  Until today, I have not had an opportunity to share that with anyone.  Of course, the lessons of triathlon rarely give you love handles and skin welts.  No, these are lessons that take the shape of being injured, sick, unmotivated, unimaginative, plateauing performance, DNFs, IV's, and so forth.  Actually, the lessons of triathlon can sometimes be painful.

The Merriam-Webster simple definition of coach is a person who teaches and trains an athlete or performer. Just how hard can it be?  There are plenty of training plans online.  In fact, the information resources available to the self-coached athlete are nearly infinite.  I don't need to tell you that there are plenty of books, websites, forums, specialty services, physiology testing, and let's not forget podcasts!.  

The good news is there is a ton of information out there.  The other good news is that you have tons of time on your hands to research it, right?  No?  Well, assuming you do have a lot of time on your hands,and you can research everything there is to know about nutrition (eg, strength training, endurance training, speed/intensity training, recovery, race strategies, form, technique, etc.), there is more to the role of a coach than technical expertise.   

The roles of a triathlon coach are numerous.  The best collection I've found is from coach Brian Mac's website.  The roles he lists include: Advisor, Assessor, Counselor, Demonstrator, Friend, Facilitator, Fact-finder, Fountain of knowledge, Instructor, Mentor, Motivator, Organizer, Planner, Role Model, and Supporter.  

In this month's theme on coaching, I share my experience as a coached and self-coached athlete and work with my hosts to help you hear the hot topics are for making that decision. My goal at Mile High Tri is to bring you the resources that empower you to achieve your fitness and triathlon goals, and these guests are here for you.

  • Will Murray, mental skills coach at D3 Multisport and co-author of "The Four Pillars of Triathlon"
  • Jim Galanes is a three time Olympian competing in cross country skiing events in each 1976 (Innsbruck), 1980 (Lake Placid), and 1984 (Sarajevo) Olympics.
  • Nicole Odell talks about her role a coach and what it's like coaching coaches. 
  • Carole Sharpless Pro and now coach, Carole talks about the role of coaches in her career and how she applies that in her coaching today.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Open Water Swimming With Confidence

My first experience with open water swimming was as a child at a YMCA summer camp in Deckers, Colorado.  As a part of the camp, each camper had to do a swim test of about 50 meters. It was a cool mountain lake and I always felt a sense of accomplishment surviving the swim in the dark water where you couldn't touch the bottom.

Ten years ago, I signed up for my first open water race, the Lake to Lake Triathlon in Loveland, Colorado.  Like most people, I had received recommendations to get some experience in open water before the race itself.  I started asking around about places to practice and researched online.  Of course, I also had to get equipped properly and had heard I needed a wet suit.  The wet suit that I had for scuba diving would not work for triathlon because the neoprene is too thick and not flexible enough.  The stiff shoulders of a scuba wet suit would be too restricting for free style swimming.

After finding an entry level wet suit, I made my way to the local pond with my new suit and there I stood at the edge of the water.  Everyone around me seemed to know what they were doing, wiggling into their wet suits, wading into the water and then splashing away in the direction of the far shore.  I awkwardly squeezed into my new suit and followed the crowd.  My goal was to swim the 300 meters to a sand bar and back.  As I entered the water, the cool water seeped into my suit and coated my my face.  I instantly felt my breath swept away, but paddled on.  I made it to the sand bar and back that day.  I celebrated and went on to race three open water swims that year.

Fast forward to my first Ironman experiences in 2009 at Ironman Cozumel.  It was an in-water start and I positioned myself behind the dense assembly of athletes at the start line.  I wanted to avoid the 'washing machine' experience at the start line with 1800 athletes battling to get their day starte.  I wanted clear water from the start.  It was the most physical swim in terms of contact with other athletes that I had experienced to date, but would pale in comparison to Ironman Cour d'Alene (IMCDA) the following year.  2800 athletes on the start line of IMCDA, the lake temperature was 57 degrees, and it was choppy.  IMCDA is a two-loop course which translated to nearly 4 times the congestion and physicality of IM Cozumel the previous year.  My training served me well and I survived.

Having complete 5 Ironman distance races and dozens of open water races at shorter distances, I still get a little anxious in the open water.  Along the way, I've found resources, developed thought processes and practices that help me manage that anxiety and actually enjoy open water racing today.  
If you find open water swimming to be challenging, you are not alone.  The good news is there are thousands of triathletes and open water swimmers that do their first open water swim or overcome their anxieties each year.  There is also a lot of information and resources available to you to help you through the process.

This month's episode is dedicated to helping you understand how to prepare physically and mentally for the open water.  The guest experts offer tips on how to execute a successful open water race and make sure you are properly equipped.

For more resources on open water swimming, check out the Resources page of MileHighTriathlon and prepare yourself for the greatest open water swimming season yet!


Sunday, March 13, 2016

What races are you doing this season?

That question causes me a little anxiety this time of year.  I am one of those people who procrastinates the decision of which races I'm going to commit to each year. Of course there are those that I know I can't procrastinate on my decision like Ironman races that sell out quickly.   But generally, I put it off until about this time of year.

George Hudson
Thanks to George Hudson, there is a reminder that Spring and the race season are approaching soon. What does George Hudson have to do with my race calendar? George Hudson was born in Britain on April 20, 1867.  By the age of 14 he had become a bit of an entomologist and had built up a collection of British insects.  In 1881 Hudson moved with his father to Nelson, New Zealand. He worked on a farm, and in 1883, aged 16, he began working at the post office in Wellington, where he eventually became chief clerk, retiring in 1918.  His shift-work job gave him leisure time to collect insects, and led him to value after-hours daylight. In 1895, he presented a paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society proposing a two-hour daylight-saving shift, and after considerable interest was expressed in Christchurch, he followed up in an 1898 paper.  It eventually led to the passing of the Summer-Time Act 1927.  Hudson is credited with proposing a model of what in know today as daylight saving time.

We have just switched to daylight savings time, which means we adjust our clocks forward.  This is a big mental shift for me every year.  I love that it stays lighter later in the evening.  It's one of the first symbols of spring for me.  I start considering that ski season is over and it's time to commit myself to the triathlon season.  Time to start shaving the beard (and the legs).  Any remaining decisions about my athletic goals and race calendar are usually sorted out shortly after the time switch.

It is to the goal of helping you finalize your 2016 athletic goals and and race commitments that the April episode of Mile High Tri Podcast is dedicated.  Whether this is the year you have decided to try your first triathlon or you are debating which Ironman to check off next, this episode should help you make an informed and confident decision.  

Last episode, we heard James Sharpe comment that 'you can race twice each weekend in Colorado between May and September' and that's absolutely true.  By my count, there are 54 or more triathlons scheduled in Colorado during that period in 2016.  I hope you have as many options as I do where you live.  While we may have a lot of options, the problem is you have a lot of options!  That means you need information and decision criteria.  

In this month's episode we will go through what to consider and techniques for narrowing your decision.  Ultimately, you have to take action and click the 'register' button.  You'll do it with confidence when we're done. 

As always, my goal is to give you multiple perspectives on a topic and I think this month's interviews deliver on that objective.  We'll start out with interviews with coach Khem Suthiwan of Mile High Multisport, 2015 ITU Long Course champ Mary Beth Ellis and several race directors, both current and legendary, on the show today.  

Because of the number of interviews that I have for this month (and because I committed to keep the show to about 75 minutes), I am delivering April's show in two parts.  There will be a Part A that will publish on April 1st and a Part B that will publish on April 15th.  After that, we'll get back on track for the 1 episode per month.

If you enjoy the content of this month's episode, I thank you for giving me your time and would ask you to go to Facebook or Twitter and post your feedback.  In fact, the first 10 posts each month will receive a present from me in the mail.  I'll get with you off-line and send you a Mile High Tri Podcast window/bumper sticker in the mail in appreciation of your support of the show!

Before we get into the interviews, I'd like to take just a minute to tee up the discussion with three suggestions of my own.  These are certainly not comprehensive, but meant to give you a few considerations to get you thinking.  

Consideration #1 - Basics of timing and budget.  Making a race decision has to be precipitated by the existence of the resources of of time and money.  Consider how much time you have to train and what weekends you are even available to race.  Do not pick a race and register without a thorough scrub of your previous commitments and holidays.  The timing is a simple exercise of viewing all of the races in your locale and comparing their date to your existing commitments. is a good race calenar resource for runing and triathlon races.  You can filter by location and distance to narrow your search.  When you consider timing, factor in your current fitness and how much training and preparation your are going to need.  

Money's always a fun topic right?  If this is going to be sustainable from a financial (and marital status) perspective(s), decide on your budget and involve whoever has a stake in the budget in the decision.  If you can combine it with another household budget (eg, vacations) great.  Destination races are a lot of fun.  Keep in mind that triathlon is an equipment rich sport and there's a lot of stuff to take with you.  If traveling to a race by plane for the first time, consider a couple of additional expenses in your budget - namely a bike box and bike fees.  There are some ways to keep those costs down, but that's a topic for another day.   Once your budget is set, eliminate the races that don't meet those requirements.

Consideration #2 - Pool or Open Water?  There are a few factors that play into this consideration.  First, what is your experience with open water?  If you do not have experience with open water swimming, my recommendation is that you get some experience before committing to to an open water race.  Join a local masters group or swimming club that has access to open water practices during the race season and get some club or coach support.  Next month's episode will go into options for getting the support you need to be successful in open water.

Second, and assuming your are comfortable in open water, consider what the water temperature be and whether you have the right wetsuit?  For me, I like using a long sleeve early and late season, but prefer a sleeveless in July and August.  Check out the swim course section of your target race's website and see if they have the water temperature range posted.  Often that won't be posted until closer to the race.  You can always email the race organizer to ask what to expect.  

Third, is the open water swim in a lake, ocean, or river.  Salt water swims are great for buoyancy, but be careful to not ingest too much. Salt water and large fresh water lakes can also of chop and current. If you are considering  a race that has  a  strong current or big chop, and you're not experienced with that environment, create an opportunity to practice it it before race day.  River swims are usually downstream, but you want to confirm.  Downstream being appropriate for less strong swimmers while upstream for stronger swimmers.  

Consideration #3 - Distance.  If triathlon is a new sport for you, I recommend starting with a sprint distance (see as your first introduction.    I know there's a lot of appeal to longer distance, especially in the US and lots of people who chose a longer distance for their first race and have success - my hat's off to them.  These folks confirm that it's possible.  It's not that I believe Olympic or longer races are not achievable for the new triathlete.  I believe that triathlon is a physical and mental game.  There's plenty to be learned about good decision making and pacing in short distance triathlon.  If you decide to pursue long distance, I found an incremental progression of distances to learn about nutrition, as well as mental toughness.  

#4 Consider fund raising.  This is a great way for you to enhance the meaning and purpose of your training.  Many races have charity slots and work with non-profit partners.  The fundraising tools they make available make fundraising pretty straight forward as long as you are willing to put in a little time promoting your effort.  There are a lot of creative ways to boost your fundraising too.  More on that in future episode.

#5 Plan to have fun!  I mean take time to reflect on why you do the sport and have a real think about why this sport if fun for you.  If your new to the sport, what excites you about it.  If you have been around a while, think about the training, races, and moment you enjoy the most.  For me, I enjoy variety and getting outside of my comfort zone from time to time.  

When I apply the considerations above to my personal situation, here's the breakdown:

  1. Resources - I have a full time day job, and I've decided to take a step back from long distance races for a while.  Also, we have two kids going to college soon, so the the travel budget is tight.
  2.  Pool or Open Water - Open water has always been a bit of a demon for me (more on that later), but I can swim most open water races today.  That's good, because I'm seeing a trend where there are fewer entry-level pool swimming races.  
  3. I mentioned previously that I'm taking a step away from long distance races.  When I started triathlon just over 10 years ago, I fell into the trap of thinking I wasn't a triathlete until I did an Ironman.  When people find out you do triathlon, they'll ask you 1 of 3 questions: what races are you doing?  Have you done an Ironman?  Have you done the Hawaii Ironman?  Don't get stuck in that trap.  If you race sprint or olympic distance, you're every bit a triathlete.  I personally enjoyed my five Ironman stint, but now I want to do races where I'm done and having lunch with friends by noon.
  4. I plan to keep it fun this year by trying only new races.  Each of my targeted and registered races this year will be new experiences.  I am doing my first mountain triathlon and also have a charity slot for the New York City Marathon.  
I hope that little sampling of considerations help get you ready for the discussions I have lined up with our panel of experts.  No matter where your are, I hope you enjoy this month's show.
Good luck as you start to narrow your search.  Be sure to check out the website at, or visit on Facebook.


Sunday, February 28, 2016

Try Something New With 3x Olympian, Jim Galanes

Try Something New - Cross Country Skiing
Interview Date: February 26, 2016
Frisco, CO


Jim Galanes is a three time Olympian competing in cross country skiing events in each 1976 (Innsbruck), 1980 (Lake Placid), and 1984 (Sarajevo) Olympics.  Jim, welcome to the show.  Would you tell the audience about your athletic career?

I've been a coach and an athlete all my life.  I started out as a Nordic skier in southern Vermont.  I made the US Nationals team when I was fifteen or sixteen years old.  I spent the next 15 years of my life competing at the international level for the US Olympic Team in the Cross Country event.  After retiring from competition, I went into the coaching field and spent the next 25 years of my life coaching and developing high level athletes.

Alongside coaching high level athletes, we did a lot of work over the years with masters athletes, age group athletes and juniors athletes.  As we were working with these groups, we learned a lot about training monitoring and monitoring response to dosing of training.   We learned that you can take what you do in terms of training with elite skiers and apply it to a masters athlete or a juniors athlete.  In a nutshell, my life has been training and coaching since I was 16 years old.

What a fun career.  It would be great to hear a special story from your time as an Olympic competitor.  Can you tell us more about that?

It's really hard to synthesize twelve years down to a couple of great stories.  I competed at the international level from the mid-70s to the mid-80s.  I grew up in Brattleboro, VT.  Within that community there were 3 or 4 of us that were competing at the international level.  During that time, we brought the performance of the men's and women's cross country teams to a very high level.   To a point where Bill Koch, who was a peer of mine, won the world cup twice.  With a season-long series of international ski races.  As a team we won international relays.  We had 2-3 women and 3-4 men who were consistently in the top 10 of the world cup races. 

I think the hallmark of what we did was really elevate the quality of the training at a time that there wasn’t a lot of sophistication about training.  We learned a lot from research and really by trial and error.  We had some creative coaches that were not satisfied with the status quo and looked for ways to improve our performance.  I think we had a remarkable level of success despite the lack of technology, and lack of understanding physiology, and then relating that physiology back to the effect of training.  I've really carried that over to my coaching.  While I don’t have a bachelors or a master's degree in exercise physiology, I feel my knowledge base is comparable to that of a master's degree in exercise physiology because of the work I've done in laboratory settings, working with well-established medical professionals and conducting a lot of research.  I think that's key to us creating our current coaching paradigms.  The last decade or so specifically, the training science has made huge advances, yet the training of athletes is stuck in old paradigms.

As an age grouper, I feel like I'm guessing a lot about my training and recovery.  I, as many of my listeners, am probably familiar with terms like chronic training load and acute training load.   I'm curious to learn more about how you've taken the learning you've done as a coach and applied it to your software platform that you and your company are developing.  Maybe you can tell us more and perhaps introduce some new ideas for folks.

Our company, EPT (EPOC Performance Training), distributes Firstbeat in the United States.  We have a very close relationship, and personal friendships, with the people who develop it in Finland.  One of the big advantages that this software is going to bring to endurance athletes is, it's going to change how you look at training.  When you talk about acute training loads,  usually that’s referencing hours of training or miles of training, but there's usually no reference to what the actual training load is.  I can do an hour of training at a certain intensity and have X load, or I can do another hour of training at a much higher intensity and that load could be double or triple, and therefore the stress on the body is double or triple.  There's no way to quantify that with heart rate alone, with time, with mileage, pace, wattage, or whatever you are trying to do. 

We need to separate out pace and watts output measurements in the discussion - they don't measure the physiological stress of that output.  I know runners and cyclists don't like it when I say this, but those are outcomes of performance, they are not measures of load or stress on the body.  For example, if you are pedaling at 200 watts for an endurance ride.  One day that could be a very low physiological load.  The next day it could be a substantially higher physiological load because our body is always in flux, depending on the load we have applied over the previous days and weeks and how we've adapted to that load.  The body is an ever changing organism, and it's always changing based on where we are in that moment in time, what we've done and how we've adapted to it.  So, just going out and prescribing training loads and these training zones for periods of time is not terribly precise.

So the way I'm interpreting this is that training to pace and power, while they may be good measurements of work, they are only one dimension of the work and they don't take into account all of the load on the body or the body's response. 

They are great measures of what you did.  There are a lot of people that I respect who have used those same measures of pace and power to derive training zones.  With Firstbeat software, we are better able to get people to the correct training loads on a daily basis rather than just using watts or pace to assign training zones.  Using those measures (watts and pace) to assign training zones is variable from day to day.

What advice would you give to the age grouper to re-examine what they are doing?

The number one thing I feel when someone has shifted to being an athlete with a professional career and family is, look at the recovery and adaptation of training.   There's probably a range of time periods, you ought to be able to measure and see improvements in performance potential on a regular basis.   For some athletes that will be every 5-10 days, for others that will be every two to three weeks.  I don't think you can go for a very long time, if your training is working, and not see measurable performance improvement.

That is fantastic advice and certainly is a new paradigm.  I'm going to shift gears on you and switch to a segment of the show I call "Try Something New.”  Every month I introduce activities and sports that enhance training as a triathlete and make training interesting and fun.  The objective is to prepare them to try something new just as they did years ago when they first jumped into a pool or strapped on running shoes.  This might be the first time our listeners try cross country skiing.  Would you help me unpack what cross country skiing is and the varieties?

There are basically two disciplines of cross country skiing. There's skating and what we call classic skiing.  The technical challenges of both are very stimulating for people.  Once a level of proficiency is reached in either of those techniques, they become good cross training for just about any endurance sport because they are whole body movements and the physiological load of cross country skiing is perhaps the largest of any endurance sport.  It's pretty well documented that cross country skiers have the highest max VO2s in the world, with athletes regularly recording mid to upper 80 mils/kg of oxygen consumption at the world class level.  There were certainly even higher values than that during the doping era, which hopefully we are beyond now.  I think a lot of those readings that we saw in the upper 80s and lower 90s of the kg range were doping aided and not real genetic potential.  The physiological demands and the potential to increase your oxygen delivery in other sports would be enhanced through either skate or classic cross country skiing.

To kind of step back in time a bit:  In the early 80s when I was emerging as a world class cross country skier, I also did a lot of bike racing and I was quite good at it.  At some point I was forced to make a choice to pursue one or the other.  The capacities and strength I developed in cycling carried over into skiing, as did a lot of the running and running races that I did.  Cross country skiers come from a background of it being really hard to ski year round.  Certainly these days more and more skiers can travel to the southern hemisphere during the summer or ski glaciers, but the reality is that cross country skiers need to train year round.   The same goes for swimmers, bikers and runners.  Having an element of cross training throughout the year is not only mentally refreshing, but also serves to develop certain strengths and other physiological capacities.

I can tell you from my experience that not only do I get the cardiovascular stress benefit from cross country skiing, but I also feel like there is a benefit from a proprioception perspective as well.  Form and body alignment being key to efficiency as a swimmer, cyclist or runner is key.  It seems that the same applies here for cross country skiing.

In any endurance sport, the key is producing power efficiently.  I like the physics formula of power, which is force applied over time divided by the distance covered.  In endurance sport, we don't want to be at the force end of the spectrum.  We want to be at the time or the quickness end.  We need to apply that force very quickly to have a net increase in power and that is where efficiency is found.  You can see it in cyclists, runners and skiers, in particular the skiers that are using a lot of muscular force.  They feel strong and they are making strong and aggressive movements, but that is neither efficient nor powerful, so the speed is always limited.  Whether I coach runners, cyclists or skiers, learning the techniques and learning to produce power efficiently is the goal.  Developing adequate strength in the muscles to produce power efficiently is on an equal footing with the physiological aspects of training, because they both go hand in hand.  If we are not training in an environment where we produce power efficiently, we're never going to be able to do it in a race.  What people misunderstand about training is that the heart and lungs don't create the load.  The heart and lungs are responding to the load we are putting on the muscles.  The muscles are triggering our physiology to respond.  If we get them to respond in the right way by producing higher levels of power more efficiently, we're going to get a better physiological response than if we're just out there producing a lot of force.

That's probably a good reminder all around, regardless of the sport.  We had talked about maintaining momentum or a higher pace with lighter effort.  We had used the example of a fly wheel and the approach for keeping that flywheel going being different when it is at speed versus spinning up.  Can you talk a little more about that?

I wish I could claim credit for this analogy, but it came from an old coach who I have a lot of respect for.  He did a lot of research into the biomechanics of movement in running and skiing in particular.  We all as kids turned the bike upside down and started spinning the wheels.  You can imagine getting that wheel up to 20 mph with a couple of hard pushes.  Once it's going 20 mph, all we have to do is flick that wheel to maintain speed.  In any endurance sport, whether it's skiing, running or cycling, we have a speed over the ground that we have to work with to maintain or enhance that speed.  If we're on the force end of the spectrum, you can imagine having that wheel turning at 20 mph and trying to speed it up by grabbing it and we actually stop or slow it.  And that's what happens to a lot of runners and cyclists and endurance athletes.  During every stride or cycle they are slowing down too much during contact time.  If you can visualize a good runner, they look like they are hardly touching the ground.  They're just floating.  Their ground contact time is very, very short.  They are very light and quick.  These are analogies I use in skiing, cycling and running.  It's a bit esoteric to describe it in cycling, but I believe if you look at muscular EMG data and read some of the research - even in cycling someone could be cycling at 80 or 90 rpms and feel they are in the right zone, but the muscles aren't relaxed and during the period of force application, they are pushing too slowly.  The muscles are contracting too slowly because they're either too tense, not relaxed, or not loose or not fluid enough in the movements.  Making small changes in that area I think has a great impact on the economy of the movements and the ability to produce power.

Certainly with running you can see where having a high cadence and not over-striding is going to minimize your ground contact time, which can help keep that cadence going and the effort as a light touch.  With cycling, I've always been taught to imagine my pedal stroke as big circles to get that power.  I have to admit that after our conversation last week, I was on my bike trainer this past week and trying to visualize the light touch at points in my stroke instead of the big power push all the way around the stroke.  The combination of focusing on a light touch applied in one part of my stroke and then rotating that spot in the cycle where I applied the short effort, seemed to allow my big leg muscles to relax somewhat.

It's hard to translate.  Like I say, I cycle a lot and it's my second love next to skiing.  People are going to say, I'm spinning at 90 rpms, so the muscle contraction time has got to be right.  I can pedal at 80 or 90 rpms and be forceful through the whole movement or I can pedal at 90 rpms and be light on the pedals and still have good power development.  I call it almost faking it.  I can keep my cadence up and be rolling in a big gear, but not put a lot of pressure on the pedals.  Again, it's working with that speed we already have to keep things flowing and moving.  When you relate it to running it's not just about increasing cadence.  There's a certain cadence in everyone that is economical for them.  The research says it's 180 steps per minute, or 90 rpms, and very similar to cycling.  It's not just about making quicker and shorter stride length, or artificially increasing the cadence.  It's how quickly we move through the cycle.  It's not necessarily about shortening or lengthening the cycle - it could be.  But most often it's ground contact time and the shorter the ground contact time the more time you are floating.  It probably seems a little vague to your listeners, but I think when we practice these things in the field and in training we can start to see differences in efficiency and how we produce power.  I think things like wattage and some of the watt meters coming out for runners are going to be useful tools, not so much to measure training zones or training goals, but to measure improvements in efficiency in producing power. 

There will be listeners who will want to learn more about either the training philosophy you are describing, see more about the product you are producing, or learn more about you.  Where would you direct folks to go?

They can go to our website EPOCPerformance Training and we have some information there.  Our parent company, Firstbeat in Finland, has a lot of great physiological whitepapers on their website about our software and how we apply it to training and recovery.  I've read a lot of great books and one book that I like in particular is Cycling Past Fifty by Joe Friel.  The philosophy in that book is very closely correlated to my training philosophy that I've developed over the past twenty years of my coaching career.  I was really pleased to read what he had to say in that it fit with what I've learned in a practical way, and it fits with what the research says.  There are couple of points that I disagree with, but they are very few. The philosophy that Joe Friel espouses is, to maintain maximal strength we've got to maintain aerobic capacity that only comes with training above 90% of max VO2.  Those two things, for age group athletes, whether you’re a triathlete or a skier or runner or cyclist.  The strength training, in those older age groups, is equal in importance to the endurance training that we all like to do. 

There is a lot of great science around capacity training.  I'm not minimizing the need or requirement to do long, slow, distance training.  What we once thought about the development of peripheral structure of the muscle, the capillary density, the mitochondrial density, and the aerobic enzymes in the muscles, were the physiological attributes of long, slow, distance training.  What the science is now showing is that those peripheral functions of the muscle are better developed through high intensity training.  It doesn't mean you need to go overboard in the quantity or dose of the high intensity training, but it needs to be there.  To have that training be effective, it means we need to know the endurance training (long, slow, distance) is being done at the correct physiological workloads for two reasons.  One, so we develop a fatigue resistance in the muscle so we can go long enough, recover from it, and adapt fast enough, so the high intensity sessions can be done at the right high intensity.  With our software we can accurately measure whether the person is actually getting to their workout objective, which up until this point it has not been possible to get those measurements outside of the laboratory setting.  That, in a nutshell, is my training philosophy.  Whether we're talking about an elite international caliber athlete or an age group athlete, those are the capacities that we focus on.

I certainly hope to learn more about Firstbeat software and we what it uncovers for me as an athlete.  Maybe we'll get a chance to try it out and talk about it more on the show.  This segment of the show is called "Try Something New.”  I'd like to give the listeners a few tips for how to get stared in cross country skiing.

A couple of things if you are new to skiing.  Most people benefit by learning the classic technique first.  It's not that it's an easier technique to learn, but I think it lays the foundation for skating more effectively.   If you are really hooked on skating, find a good coach or instructor and get a lesson early on.  Get some good direction to get started because it can be a little frustrating starting out.  If you are doing it a lot, monitoring what you are doing is important.  Especially during the learning phase of skiing, because the physiological load or stress from an hour will be a lot greater than an hour of running or cycling.

This is great.  I really encourage those who are considering cross country skiing to get that professional lesson when you try it.  Once you get the technique down, it really is a rewarding activity and sport.

I am really am excited that I was able to catch up with you and the listeners will certainly benefit.  I am geeking out at how cool it is to have a coach of your caliber on the show. 

I'm happy to do it.  When we got into the Firstbeat business, after my friends made it available to me, the more I used it the more it shifted my theory of training and concept of what we want to do with endurance athletes.  It gives us an accurate measure of what we're doing and how we're doing it.  We really got into the business with the objective of doing three things for the athlete, particularly the older athlete.  Keeping the athlete healthy and maintaining long term health - it doesn't do us any good to train every day if we end up with a major disease.  We think that if we just train, we get a high level of protection from age related diseases, and that's not true in the absence of recovery.  Our real goal is to help people train better, perform better and be healthy in the long run.  For masters athletes in particular, performing in the short term and losing the long term health is not an attractive option in our minds.

We as age groupers too often make the mistake of not taking recovery seriously enough.  Having you come on to the show and demystifying recovery for us has been extremely valuable.  I look forward to having you on the show in the future.

Rich Soares