Saturday, June 30, 2012

Le Tour Challenge

My Tour challenge is a bit different than your average office pool. Instead of betting on who might win the actual race, I challenge my own fitness to keep up with them in a virtual stage race. I have a long history of such nonsense. Beginning back in ’98 with "Le Cog Corrode." I’ve often used the Tour, Giro, and Vuelta as a template to concoct very difficult 3-week training blocks. With a race coming up at the end of July this year’s early Tour start (it’s still June fer crissakes) was tailor made for me.

Though my ’98 challenge mirrored the race almost identically it’s not necessary. Your own personal goals should/need to be on the horizon and you can do a Tour challenge even if you never ride on the road. In fact, you could do one without riding at all but non-cyclists would likely find a different form of motivation more effective. Three weeks, however, is the perfect amount of time for a very hard block of training. Not only does it make good physiologic sense when you analyze the “specificity of adaptation” but it’s a mental window that psychologists seem to agree is an ideal amount of time to induce long-lasting habitual changes.

As serendipity would have it two factors led to a “bingo” moment in designing a Tour challenge this year. After last week’s breakdown I’d just happened to take a recovery week leading to today’s “grand depart”. I’ve also been struggling with motivation on the bike this year and very much questioning my ability to be ready for my upcoming race. I needed to ramp things up somehow and the Tour, one of the most exciting athletic events in the world, has come at just the right time.

So what’s it gonna be?

As in ’08 I’ll start and finish with a time trial to gauge fitness.

I’ll ride everyday they ride in the race (so only two days off the bike in the next three weeks)

One day per week will be full distance of the race (this will be by far my longest days of the year on the bike so far)

Time trial days will be time trial days (100% effort)

I’ll mimic the days course to some degree—though mainly on dirt—-especially the mountain days

So that’s it, though it is more like IT. This will be hard it’s the motivation that I sorely need. And can really only be heightened by doing Le Velo.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Problem With “Calories In, Calories Out”

One of my themes this year at Summit was “TMI” or too much information when it came to how to best educate coaches. Clich├ęs can be helpful but, when the root is not understood, can also lead to stagnations or regressions in your fitness. One of the worst offenders is the saying “calories in, calories out”.

This is not an untrue statement. The problem is that no watch made records the information you need to know. People are constantly rattling off numbers to me that they’ve used to assess their training that are not only wrong, but crippling their ability to evaluate the program.

In the name of the free market, you can now purchase all sorts of training apparatus that provide TMI when it comes to evaluating your training program. There are many important physiological responses at work that aren’t recorded by your Polar. To ignore them in the name of numbers will lead to an exercise plateau or worse. A deeper explanation will help you understand why we create fitness programs the way that we do.

In order to keep this short and simple I’m going to gloss over some science in the name of clarity. “Calories in, calories out” is correct in that it’s how you calculate weight loss or gain. The issue is that your monitor can’t see most of the factors involved. It cannot assess hormonal and nervous system responses to training or nutritional factors that affect recovery and all three things are arguably the most important aspect of your training.

Nutritional factors are the easiest to understand. Proper foods and nutrient timing, as you’ve heard in any spiel about Recovery Formula or Shakeology, enhance the body’s recovery process. The faster you recover the harder you can train. As those of you who are P90X Certified know results are based on adaptation to stimulus, and the only place you might be able to gauge this on a watch is with morning resting heart rate.

just some of the stuff your watch doesn't understand

Even more important are hormonal factors. If you’ve read the guidebook for Turbo Fire you’ll see something that we call the AfterBurn Effect, which is your body’s metabolic adaptations to high intensity training. As our training programs get more advanced one of the main factors we’re targeting is hormonal response. In a nutshell, as we age our body shuts down its hormone production (eventually leading to death). Intense exercise is one of the few things that force you to keep producing these. Intensity is relative, of course, which is why we progress from say, squats to squat jumps to X jumps as you move up the Beachbody food chain of programs. But what’s called a “hormonal cascade” in response to training is even more important than what your heart is doing during exercise, and it’s something else you can’t see on your monitor.

adaptive stress that leads to overtraining that only can be guessed at by close evaluation of morning resting heart rate

Hormonal cascades are triggered by your central nervous system, which is the hardest training factor to gauge (why most overtraining comes from breakdown at this level). When you dissect a program like P90X2 or Asylum, one of the main things we focus on is nervous system function. All of those “weird” things like Holmsen Screamer Lunges or Shoulder Tap Push-ups work on something we call proprioceptive awareness. And while it might seem hard to understand, since it doesn’t lead directly to more sweat, the neuromuscular action of these movements force deep adaptations by your body. These changes can take a long time to register but force a massive adaptive response that lead to long-term increased changes in movement patterns that trigger hormonal responses and, thus, metabolic change. Needless to say that stuff ain’t getting registered by a chest strap or pedometer.

Sure, the cumulative effect of all these can be calculated and the number at the end would equate to calories in, calories out. But since there’s no way to measure these numbers without doing a ton of fancy testing in a lab setting you can see why doing one of our diet and exercise programs and trusting us is a better option than scarfing an “Extra Value Meal” and then walking around the neighborhood until your heart rate monitor says you’ve burned 1,500 calories.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Surviving Summit

The Straight Dope is a balance between work and play, indoor training, nutrition advice, and outdoor sports, and it’s got followers on every side that’d prefer it to be more of one and less of the other depending on their personal perspectives. So for all of you, today’s post has a bit of everything: training, diet, work, sports and even birthday challenges.

The Beachbody Coach Summit is always a challenge for me. My de-facto job is one of a walking FAQ and I spend my week basically roaming around answering questions, which usually leaves me drained of energy and an audible voice by its end. This year, with 5,000 attendees and 2 days of P90X Certification tacked on, it promised to be a colossal task. An impending race and training schedule heightened it, which I amped up slightly by decided to attempt a “birthday challenge” on my way home.

Vegas in June is no picnic when you’re trying to train. Rides would have to be early and, en route, I did an interval session on a dirt road outside of Mesquite as a test. Finishing just shy of 8am, with the thermometer already north of 90, I concluded that late nights would not be on the agenda—or planned agenda anyways.

Summit is actually quite fun. I don’t mind answering questions. In fact I love it. Helping people better understand fitness is something I can go on about endlessly. In the moment it’s not tedious or tiring and I wouldn’t mind spending my entire job doing it. I did my best to clean up my plate of projects so that I could be as available as possible all week long. The key was then staying ultra hydrated and fed, kind of like a race, to sustain my voice and keep my brain turned on (your brain runs on glycogen, making the entire event not so unlike a week-long ultra).

much easier to hear and converse in the latter setting

Thursday I had two presentations, which I actually found easier than my general schedule. It seemed efficient to speak with a group instead of one on one, I had a microphone that saved my voice, and, most importantly, I didn’t have to speak over music or a crowd or anything else. Made me think I should just have an area where I answered questions all day but that would negate some of the coolness of Summit, which is a social environment where anytime you might run into Carl or Tony or someone else you’ve seen on TV.

louder than a bird or a plane, it's super workout!

Things went more or less perfectly until Sat, when a screaming crowd interrupted a perfectly peaceful dream at 5am. At first I thought it was partiers but looking out my window I saw that there were already hundreds of people gathered for the Super Workout that wasn’t starting until 6:30. Did some yoga and made my way down, which was the start of a long, long day punctuated by a “business” dinner with Dr. Marcus Elliott sometime after 2am.

with super coach and X2 cast member monica and super trainer and long-time friend marcus

The Finale

After sleeping far too little I rolled out of Vegas early. I was now hammered. Training is not just about recovering from muscle breakdown but hormonal and nervous system balance and the latter two were clearly in distress. Still, I was keen to keep to my schedule and I had a hard ride planned that day, which you can read about here:

Tiger Funk’s Birthday Challenge

I figured that a good long ride, especially if I could keep it somewhat aerobic, would bring things back towards homeostasis. I’d planned on over 5,000’ of climbing but given it was a 13-mile climb it seemed reasonable. However, Tiger’s challenge was, well, challenging. It ain’t birthday pretty hard.

On Utah Mountain Biking Dark Hollow is listed as a downhill trail. There isn’t a single mention of it being ridden uphill. This would have kept me off it if not for Tiger’s account. In fact, while he said it was hard his report didn’t sound too bad. Since it’s also a “must ride classic” I was expecting gentle meandering single track, perhaps tightly wound around Aspens. Instead, I was greeted with steep, loose rocks and dirt with big wide tire tracks, at least when it wasn’t mud or trees draped over the trail, or both.

Dark Hollow’s a big bike trail. While rideable on anything its forte is clearly for those who like to point it down and let er rip. Tiger’d ridden it on a light Moots hard tail, similar to what I was on, which while way less fun for the descent was crucial on the ascent since it’s easier to carry, and there was no shortage of bike portaging.

I spent most of the last 5 miles carrying my bike. If it weren’t for my Nepal race I would have bagged it. Not knowing how far I had to the summit, or if the trail would ever be more rideable, I wanted to turn around the entire time but was simply too intrigued about Tiger’s adventure not to keep going. “who would do this for fun?” I kept thinking over and over. It was the kind of shit they add to adventure races to make you hate them.

Near the end I finally hit some proper trail. It was beautiful, making me glad I’d persisted. And while the little adventure added to my overall fatigue it did kick me back into my default mode and out of the bizarre reality that comes from any trip to Vegas. And while I survived another Summit in reasonable fashion, one of this years I'm going to nail it and finish stronger than when I started.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Is 50 The New 20?

pic: tom evans, el cap reports

Another for the “age doesn’t mean shit” files, my friend Hans has once again set the speed record on The Nose of El Capitan. At 48, the full-time father with a full-time job has somehow found time to get faster than he’s ever been and smashed the record by more than 13 minutes. He’s first set the record in 1990 and each time it’s been broken he’s gotten it back--more than 20x over the years. After failing to recapture it last fall he trained through the winter and nailed it on the first attempt. Huge congrats to Hans Florine and his partner Alex Honnold (who capped what’s probably the most impressive single month in the history of Yosemite) for your Friday Psyche.

There’s a great photo account of the ascent on Tom Evans’ El Cap Reports site. Click below for the play by play:

I got up real early, as the day was predicted to be a hot one, and motored down to ElCap at about 5:30am. Fortunately for the climbers and unfortunately for me, they planned to climb completely in the shade for the entire route. That made photography difficult but I figured I could take a stab at it and maybe get lucky with some good shots.

The place was already filling up with spectators hoping to be on hand to watch a new record set on the Nose. They were not to be disappointed! Alex and Hans started at 5:52am as noted by the cheers of a couple dozen of the people who had walked to the base with them.

I’ve reported on Hans’ exploits on the Nose for years. If you’re interested in the history of the climb I recapped it here:

History of Speed Climbing The Nose

More and more we’re seeing athletes age without losing their top-end speed, or even getting faster. And while there are some facts on growing old that we can’t ignore it’s certainly clear that the limitations once imposed by professionals are being pushed further and further back.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

No Meat? No Problem.

In the wake of last week’s post on vegan boxing champion Timothy Bradley comes an article from the NY Times asking the question Can Athletes Perform Well On A Vegan Diet? While the champ offers an anecdotal yes there are further considerations, which is where Gretchen Reynolds’ piece begins by questioning three nutrition experts about what might be missing should one go meatless. This, of course, begins with protein.

You do have to be diligent about protein intake if you’re vegan. I have clients, especially women, who say, ‘Oh, I put a few chickpeas in my salad.’ But that’s not going to do it. Women need about 60 to 90 grams of protein a day, and athletes are on the high end of that. That means you have to eat cupfuls of chickpeas. And you can’t eat a quarter of that cake of tofu. You need to eat the whole thing. It’s not that there aren’t good sources of vegan protein. But it’s not as bioavailable as meat. So you need to have more.

Most of you are already aware of the protein issue but other things, such as B12 weight loss, and creatine are also evaluated. It’s a quick read, and not all that earth shattering, but weighs the issue with a healthy dose of common sense.

I like to tell people that if we got most Americans to eat one less serving of meat every day, there would be far greater impact from that, in terms of improving overall public health and the health of the planet, than convincing a tiny group of endurance athletes to go full vegan.

And while the article focused on endurance parameters only, leaving Bradley alone as the torch bearer for power athletes, all experts agree that it’s possible to get all of your nutritional needs without meat and dairy, something that heavily-lobbied USDA isn’t ready to admit yet.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Best Article Ever About..., although it can be applied to anything. If you’ve been watching the NBA finals, which you probably haven’t if you read my blog, you’ll notice one conspicuous name amongst those you’d expect to star in each game: Shane Battier. He was the subject of an article written a few years back by Michael Lewis (author of Moneyball) that was called by many people I know one of the best articles they’ve ever read, which includes praise from people who hate the game of basketball. It’s a fascinating take on the game, and life in general, and is getting dusted off because of Battier’s play in the finals, where he’s actually been getting mvp consideration in reader poles so far.

The article is titled The No Stats All-Star and is more a homage to intelligence than anything else. Battier views the game differently than almost anyone. And even though he rarely does much that makes highlight reels his teams almost always win. It’s fascinating. So much so that to me, someone’s who has been around the game my entire life, it’s more exciting than highlights like this.

Battier’s game is a weird combination of obvious weaknesses and nearly invisible strengths. When he is on the court, his teammates get better, often a lot better, and his opponents get worse — often a lot worse. He may not grab huge numbers of rebounds, but he has an uncanny ability to improve his teammates’ rebounding. He doesn’t shoot much, but when he does, he takes only the most efficient shots. He also has a knack for getting the ball to teammates who are in a position to do the same, and he commits few turnovers. On defense, although he routinely guards the N.B.A.’s most prolific scorers, he significantly ¬reduces their shooting percentages. At the same time he somehow improves the defensive efficiency of his teammates — probably, Morey surmises, by helping them out in all sorts of subtle ways. “I call him Lego,” Morey says. “When he’s on the court, all the pieces start to fit together. And everything that leads to winning that you can get to through intellect instead of innate ability, Shane excels in. I’ll bet he’s in the hundredth percentile of every category.”

In this typical Battier highlight, he appears to get schooled by Durant. A lesser player, however, would have also fouled, which would likely result in giving up 3 points instead of two and also stopped the game clock with Miami leading and time winding down. It’s one of the invisible strengths Lewis is talking about.

It’s a fairly long read but certainly worth your time. Psyche isn’t all about frenetic, hard driving action. There’s plenty to be inspired about keeping ones wits about them, especially under pressure.

Friday, June 15, 2012

See You At Beachbody Summit!

I’ll be doing two presentations at the Beachbody Summit next week. If you’re around on Thursday, stop by the Core area at either 12 or 5 to catch the act. These two sessions will preemptively answer a lot of questions about our products and, basically, help you become a more efficient coach.

I’ll also be at the usual venues, parties, etc, as well as Certification the two days prior to Summit’s official start. You can catch me anytime for a chat but, given there will be more than 5,000 of you this year, that’s going to be more problematic than in years past. So come by Core on Thursday or, better yet, come early and get P90X Certified and I’ll load you up with information that will take your coaching to a higher level.

Here is some information on my two presentations. Click on the highlights for more:

How to put your customers in the right exercise program.

I can state how much easier this will make your job. With the right program you’ll get results as easily as A, B, C. With the wrong one you can struggle and get frustrated and spend a lot of time looking for answers. Choosing the right program is step 1 in getting the best results.

How to recommend the right supplements for the right program.

Supplementation are a key part of your tool kit for results. They aren’t magic but can seem like it when used correctly. Every supplement has a purpose and understanding what it is and how it fits with a customer’s goals is a key part of finding success. I'll also be going over some of our newer supplements, like E & E and the new line designed for Beast, which can be utilized elsewhere to help maximize your training.

Efficient coaching.

Learning where all of Beachbody’s resources to help you educate and motivate your customers are located and how to use them will not only ensure your customers reach their goals but save you valuable time.

Finally, consider getting certified. The more you know about the science behind the creation of an exercise program, the more effective you'll be at teaching it. This is particularly true for P90X , which is both versatile and complex, and can be utilized and structured various ways based on the needs of the individual client. You’re coming to town anyway, so why not add this to your coaching arsenal?

See you next week!

pic: summit's always rife with photo ops but this pic, from a coach trip in france, is posted for another reason. i'll have both road and mtn bikes in tow and need to train so hit me up if dawn patrol intervals sound fun. i'll go climbing at least once during the week, too, if you want to pack yer boots.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

3 Weeks Of Hell

Training sucks,” said my friend/mechanic/bike shop owner/climber/drinkin’ buddy Tyson the other day as I was dreading heading out for my first interval session on the bike this year. “Riding bikes is great,” he continued. “But training is terrible.”

It’s only three weeks,” I countered. “That’s what it always takes to transition to a base of fitness where it’s no longer miserable. But it’s three weeks of hell.

I’ve been putting off writing this blog—perhaps dreading is a better word—because once it’s published I have to do it. And while I’m often so excited about training that I can barely keep from overtraining out of the gate this is not one of those times. I can’t seem to change my mindset and am not sure exactly why. Maybe I’m more psyched on climbing. Maybe exploring trails sounds more fun than repeated intervals. Maybe I’m just old. But for whatever reason I’m looking forward to the Butte race with about as much enthusiasm as a colonoscopy.

But I stated last week that I’d write up an example so here it is. Besides, I’ve been doing it anyway. And while it hasn’t been pretty, and every morning I wake up feeling as though I was in a bar fight even though I’m ramping up intensity very slowly, I will sally forth and record the results for posterity. ‘Cause that’s my job and, to be honest, I love it even when I hate it because in the big picture it’s another experience to reflect on and learn from.

So here ya go; a glimpse at race build-up from 7-weeks out (while concurrently training for climbing). To understand the reasoning you need to read the backstory here:

The 5 Most Important Factors of Race Training

Week 1 (went like this)

Day 1 – Long mtb ride: a little over 3 hrs of saddle time and a few thousand feet of climbing. Felt hard, especially after 2 hrs. Long road ahead. Did easy yoga and a little foam rolling.

Day 2 – 4 X 10 min intervals full-on with 5-7 min rest in between. Did hill repeats on mtb. Felt weak, miserable. Still sucked it up for some NIS stretching and a 20 minute core workout afterward.

Day 3 – 45 min aerobic spin on the fixie and easy yoga. Went climbing all day.

Day 4
– Biking rest. Climbed half a day. Did easy yoga.

Day 5 – Easy 1 hour mtb ride on trails. About 1,000’ of climbing done easily spinning. No hard efforts. Nice ride. Slacked on post-ride stretching.

Day 6 – 2 X 20 minute full-on intervals. 15 min rest in between. Two long hill repeats. Felt horrible and slow but could feel a slight power improvement from previous workout. Abridged stretching session. Easy recovery climbing in the PM. Blew off both foam rolling and planned full body workout session. Dumb but seriously lacking motivation.

Day 7 – 1 hr RUKE (run/hike), no bike. Hard climbing/training session. Asylum Strength. NIS stretching and foam rolling. This is today. Enthusiasm is a bit higher writing it, probably thanks to reading an old Ben Moon training dairy this morning. Remains to be seen how it goes.

Evaluation from week 1. It happened and that’s a start. Need to get much better at restorative stuff: foam rolling/yoga/core/stability work. Hopefully psyche will perk up.

Going forward this is my template. Each week to consist of:

2 hard targeted bike workouts, always some type of intervals. Goal is to slowly increase these to 4 X 15 min and 2 X 30 minute of all out climbing. These workouts are highly stressful and require a lot of recovery so my daily recovery modalities, supplementation, and diet need to improve.

1 long ride. Saddle time is sorely lacking. Bonked after hour 3 on first ride. I need to be able to do 8 hours without a thought because that's probably where Butte really gets started.

2 recovery rides. Hopefully these are nice trail rides. Lots of spinning and work on technique.

Daily mobility work – either foam rolling or yoga, hopefully both. All of my down time (TV, movies, post-ride beer, etc) should be utilized to work on this weakness. Week 1 was not nearly good enough.

Core and stability work – done post climbing workouts, 2 X per week.

Full body training – One Asylum/P90X2-type workout each week to stay sharp. One hard resistance/agility/plyometric workout during the week helps hormonal production stay high provided recovery is going okay, so this is evaluated on the fly.

Climbing – 3 sessions per week, 2 of them hard. Either outside or in the Coop. Currently climbing outside a fair amount but might move towards hangboard training as bike volume gets high because it takes less total energy output—plus is better training than climbing anyway.

2 weeks away from the race I’ll do a big test, then taper towards race day. The general pattern is 3 weeks of hell followed by a shift in mindset and inspired training. But we’re not machines and things always go a little different, and that’s where all this training stuff gets interesting. I’ll report back after Butte with the results.

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Vegan Champion

Congratulations to Timothy Bradley for his victory over boxing legend Manny Pacquiao this weekend, making him the undisputed vegan world champion. While there are a number of celebrated endurance vegan athletes, notable vegan power athletes (like Mike Tyson and Carl Lewis) have up-until-now been retired. Power sports have long been a carnivore’s domain but there’s a new sheriff in town and, with him, a modern template for addressing performance nutrition.

“Dude, I swear it’s the most unbelievable feeling ever,” Bradley said, praising the diet he believes would give him a definite advantage in the ring.

“The reason I love it so much is I feel connected to the world. My thoughts are clearer, crisp. I am sharp. Everything is working perfectly. I feel clean. It’s a weird feeling, man, it’s just a weird feeling.”

Bradley was already a champion but moving up in weight and beating Pacquiao will make him a household name. He isn’t a full-time vegan but that shouldn’t discourage his testament to nutrition because he gets strict when he’s training for a fight, which is where most vegan detractors stake the foundations of their rationale; at the pinnacle of performance. In fact training is exactly where our diet should be tested because what works for the highest-levels of performance is the template we want to use as a base. In the below video he talks about where he gets protein, stating “I don’t really take that much protein,” busting a popular notion of what it takes to be ripped. In the great HBO 24/7 (top video) series he talks about having stores of excess energy, so much that he doesn’t need much sleep even though he’s training 5 or 6 hours per day.

bradley talking about getting protein as a vegan

The main knock on veganism and power sports has always been that you need animal proteins for absolute strength. And while it might be true that the amino acid profiles of meat make this easier to get the proper amino acid ratios the science isn't valid because you can do it without meat and dairy. All that’s been lacking for the public has been a real life role model.

If you’ve followed Beahbody’s diet plans you know we tend to begin with high protein (or low carbs) and graduate towards much less protein/more carbs as you get fitter. This is more as a personal training tool than anything else (though not totally as restricting carbs on an exercise program teaches your body to metabolize fat as fuel more efficiently) because most people eat too many bad carbs and once you learn the relationship with carbs and energy in your diet how to eat becomes much easier. The fact is that your body does not utilize protein very efficiently and beyond a certain amount you’re not utilizing it as protein anyway. It’s vital, and you absolutely need it all day long, but healthy vegans eat mainly whole foods and the beauty of nature is that in their natural state most foods have a solid balance of proteins, fats, and carbs. The more your diet is based on whole foods the less you need to worry about macronutrients because nature will do that for you. A whole food vegan would likely have little need for our basic plans, which is why you currently only find a vegan option to the high-end nutrition plans like P90X2.

The science-based detractors of veganism are losing steam all the time. In an article on Bradley’s diet the Philippine Daily Inquirer interviewed some professionals trying to poke holes in his plan. Nutrition coach Jeaneth Aro stated:

“A well-planned vegan diet can provide all the protein requirements of an athlete in much the same way as a regular diet. However, the major consideration for the vegan athlete is the availability of energy during high intensity exercise. Plant-based protein sources are also high in fiber. Fiber delays the digestion of food, hence the absorption of nutrients."

And while it sounds intriguing there’s not much logic to it unless Bradley is munching on carrots in between rounds, the only time when delaying the timing of nutrient delivery would be a hindrance. With modern food prepping, such as juicing (or vegan Shakeology), arguments like this hold virtually no meaning. Certainly there are nutritional considerations you must address when you’re vegan, especially if you eat a lot of packaged and convenience foods that are stripped of whole food nutrition. But that’s not as much a condemnation of veganism as it is about the Standard American Diet (SAD).

Granted, Bradley didn’t exactly mop the floor with Pacquiao. The result is one of the most disputed in boxing history and most observers seem to think Pacquiao won. But all that means is that they'll fight again, which is more focus, scientific scrutiny, and popularity for vegan eating. So all I have to say about the rematch is bring it on.

if you don’t watch to watch the entire series, the vegan clip is at 6:35 here in part 3

Friday, June 08, 2012

Kids These Days

I know I’m supposed to continue on with Santa Barbara’s climbing history but have been too busy so I’m dusting off an old video of Chris Sharma doing what, at the time (2001), was the hardest route in the world. It’s in the news because today Adam Ondra got a camera crew together and tried to flash it, which is simply ridiculous.

He didn’t, so at least there is something in climbing he can’t do, but this thing just seemed so far out there when Chis did it that even the attempt is almost impossible to fathom. He did manage to flash the first pitch of the route, which had never been done, falling on the final crux. All I have to say about this is “Hey, kid, get off my lawn.”

here's a video of the attempt.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

The 5 Most Important Factors Of Race Training

I get a lot of questions from people using our programs who want to transition to training for a race or other athletic event. And although this is my absolute forte it’s still the trickiest part of my job. Not only do individuals vary greatly but there’s no perfect formula, even if you’re a professional with a full-time coach. Throw in jobs, families and other stress tests facing the average weekend warrior and training for an event becomes a crapshoot. This is the reason I’m always tinkering with something new. However, there are 5 factors that you should always assess before you do anything else.

In 7 weeks I’ve got a 100-mile mountain bike race billed “the most difficult in the country”. Last week I received the race bible and now I know why. It’s not the 20,000’ of climbing—-no picnic on any bike—-but things like “4 miles of loose sandy climbing” that have me worried. That and the fact that I’ve barely had time to train. If work allowed for serious saddle time things would be simpler but that seems unlikely. I’m also focused on other sporting goals (climbing), which is another obstacle facing the multi-sport weekend warrior. With these caveats in mind, here’s how I figure out what to do.

1 Start with a goal

You should always begin designing your training plans around a goal and then work backwards. While my true objectives are in the fall (like always), this race is so hard that if I treat is like just another training day I could get injured. So, for the purpose of this training cycle, The Butte 100 is my ultimate goal.

Which means: A 7-week training cycle – 5 week build-up to a hard test two weeks out, then a graduating taper to race day

2 Assess injuries

A recent bike fit moved cleats back on one foot, which happened to be my injured leg, meaning I may have been exacerbating the injury. It also showed my leg length discrepancy was back. This I knew because my mobility training hasn’t been consistent and it’s been the pattern. While both issues cite sloppiness on my part at least I’m not injured right now, so maybe I’m lucky that I haven’t been training harder.

Which means: Back to the daily foam rolling and hip stability training, along with visits to the physio.

3 Assess free time

As stated not a lot. I can probably eek out 10-12 training hours per week that must be shared between three sports: riding, climbing, running.

Which means: 7 hours a week saddle time but willing to increase this for one long ride per week up until week 5.

4 Assess fitness base

My general training keeps my base very fit, which I go into great detail about in this post. Though time in the saddle is lacking I’m reasonably strong and feel like I’m turning a bigger gear than normal during the early season. I don’t have a lot of weight to lose or need to gain any general fitness. I just need to integrate my training to sports specific movements. This is a huge advantage.

Which means: My training time can focus on specificity and my indoor workouts can be for maintenance only. This is a big time saver and the justification for a solid off-season training program like P90X2.

5 Assess the goal

20,000’ of climbing, much of it on loose sand, means that to survive I’m going to need some excess pedaling power. Other than that the course doesn’t look particular technical or challenging, at least not in a way I need to specifically train for.

Which means: Training should be fairly straightforward, focused on hill climb intervals. Ouch.

With these 5 factors assessed I’ve greatly simplified the process and am now ready to create a training schedule. I’ll post the results next week. Now posted here.

pics: training distilled to more of one (hard riding) less of the other (taqueria post bike prom riding)

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Training Short For Going Long

One of the biggest challenges a weekend warrior faces is how to prepare for ultra endurance events when you don’t have time for long training days. Last year I experimented with this by training for Duathlon Worlds until Sept, a 1-hour race, and then targeting 3 ultra challenges in November. I primarily used P90X2, Insanity: The Asylum, and sports specific training that rarely exceeded 1.5 hrs a day. To help you create your own training program, here's a recap on how it went.

To analyze is going require some reading (click on the highlights). I posted a lot of training schedules last year so you could see what exactly I’m doing. Of course your personal plan will be different but it’s always easier if you have a reference of volume and intensity to work from.

As usual, the year began with a broad stroke training plan in December. With no goals until April, the off-season was spent with a periodizational approach focused on weaknesses. I used a lot of what was to become P90X2 during this time (above is a shot of X2 rehearsals, which went under the working title of mc2), with minimal sports specific training.

Training became targeted with more sports specific work, along with Insanity: The Asylum, for the first peak, Nats in April. Despite the worst spring weather in history, it went well and World’s was officially on. Here’s what I wrote about it:

While a lot of my sports specific fitness is nowhere near its peak my general conditioning is as good as it’s been in my life. I’ve got no acute injuries (other than some scrapes from falling off my mountain bike), my chronic pains are all at bay, and my strength base is very well rounded.

A long “recovery” period allowed me to train more outside and build-up sports specific strength for the next phase of training that would specifically focus on the world’s race. I managed a few long-ish days during this time (6-8 hours) and they went pretty well, a testament to how much having a solid fitness foundation matters. Here's some of what I said at the time. Click on it for a more in depth explanation.

Finally, sports all require specific neuro-muscular patterns (often called engrams) that, while somewhat retained, need to be refined if you plan on continual improvement. Again, these are gained by doing the actual sport. Also, if you’re training is sound you’ve gained fitness (strength, endurance, mobility) which must be taught how to perform. Play time, through specific adaptations of your training gains, will help you get stronger while you aren’t doing any actual training.

Training then became very targeted. After a block of PAP I focused solely on race-specific goals. Chronicled in a long post here (including a daily sched), you can see that training was short, intense, and targeted for an event that I expected to take about 1 hour. An injury derailed my World’s goal (though at least I managed to finish in a reasonable placing), and then it was time for break number two.

After this I became focused on November’s ultra goals: all challenges that would take between 12 and 20 hours of effort. Since one month isn’t long enough to stress and adapt effectively I had to rely on my fitness base to see me through these challenges. All training was specifically focused on other factors that can be changed quickly, such as building up skin needed in sensitive areas and getting used to eating and hydration protocols of endurance racing.

Though an early test (big climbing day) was grim a month later the results were surprisingly positive. Three big events in a month is a lot, even if you’ve trained specifically for them. As I said at the outset:

Now I’m about to test a train short/go long theory on something that is always advised against even for those who train long: three big days in a month (technically closer to 3 weeks). Let’s see what an hour of daily training can do for you when pushed into survival mode.

And while I’m certain I could have been better (faster--though we finished 3rd in a 24-hr race and beat the prior year's winning time) with more focused training my body handled these with relative ease, especially the recovery aspect. Even though the final event, the birthday challenge, wasn’t as hard as planned I was very well rested after it-—birthday challenges that have me digging deep (like this one or this one) often take months to recover from.

In conclusion, if you build a strong base and are smart about your specific training you can definitely compete in ultra events without having a lot of free time to train. Certainly longer sessions increase your ability to go fast. However, the risk of too much free time is overtraining, which is exceedingly common with amateur athletes and that can sink your results faster than being undertrained. This means that, for most of us, having “too little” time to train is probably preferable and, if done smart, will actually increase your odds of success. Finally, there is simply no doubt that P90X2 and Insanity: The Asylum are effective training programs for outdoor athletes. In fact, you’d be hard pressed to find anything better.

Here is a recap of last year’s training, by numbers. It should help any outdoor athlete better understand how to work the balance between indoor and sports specific training.

And, ‘cause we all like looking at pictures, here’s a photo recap.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

“Age Doesn’t Mean Shit”... a somewhat famous quote by track legend Johnny Gray after he won some race (Pam Am Games I recall—maybe age affecting my memory) in his 40s. And while father time will catch up to all of us eventually it’s been my mantra both before and after he’d said it. In fact, I’d say it’s an unspoken mantra for Beachbody since our goal as trainers is to offset aging through diet and exercise, which is more effective than even anti-aging medicine if you want to live an active life for as long as you’re here.

With that I present today’s Psyche vid of 52 year old college professor Bill Ramsey climbing an 8c (5.14b). This is a grade climbed by only a fraction of climbing’s elite. And while it sounds like he gave to route over 400 attempts most people still wouldn’t be able to do this if they were paid to climb full time. It’s an incredible athletic achievement, especially for old dude, and even more so considering how powerful the climb is since we lose fast twitch muscle fiber as we age.

Ramsey’s training is legendary. According to Mike Doyle’s blog:

At some point I will try to get footage of one of his training days. 6am wakeup, stumble to the coffee maker, go into his garage for some deadhangs to warmup, do a little training there, then off to the climbing gym for 3-4 hours then to the treadwall for another 2-3 hours before hitting weights to finish it off. I can’t even fathom it but clearly it works for him.

Who says you have to reduce training volume with age? I am inspired, though I’ll still never attempt one route 400 times because, well, I’d probably lose my mind, my wife, and most of my friends. That said I still find this exceptionally cool.