AR Fitness

 

The Recipe for Getting Faster

 

Many new athletes believe that getting in shape, gaining endurance, getting stronger and going faster are all the same thing. Most put in 4 – 20 hours a week of running, biking, and swimming. They find early success with their racing but struggle when they want to improve their race results and race time. The common reaction at this point is to train longer or train harder and if you survive the high risk of injury and fatigue, you will find a small amount of strength and speed improvements.

 

General workouts result in general fitness improvements, a.k.a. getting in shape. A one hour tempo run, a two hour bike spin or doing laps in a pool are a great way to get in shape, but going fast is a skill that requires specific training.

 

So if you are interested in getting faster, here are the steps to take:

 

Technique (2 months) is the first and most important step. Consider a gymnast learning the balance beam for the first time. Running on the beam will certainly not be the first goal. For your sport, learn and master the body mechanics of the activity. Whether it is running, biking, swimming or kayaking, the perfect form is a must to start getting faster. Getting your eyes and brain to synchronize with your muscles is the challenge at this stage. And if you don’t know what the perfect technique is, study it or seek out a specialist to help you. Body position and foot strike are critical to running. Bicycle fitting, saddle position, and knee alignment are important to your biking success. And, head and body position in the water along with arm and kick technique are the keys to success in the pool.

 

 

Strength (2 months) is the next step in your speed development. Once you have mastered technique, you will need to add the necessary strength work to further stabilize your muscle. Strong muscles will support your joints during activities, increase exercise capacity, and prevent injuries. Commonly, the perfect technique begins to fall apart when muscle fatigue is encountered.

 

Training with speed (2 months) is the final and most challenging step. Simply put, you have to go fast to get faster. And with the first two steps complete, your muscles, joints, and cardiovascular system are ready to go fast. Now, the focus is teach your brain how to manage large muscle groups into moving quickly. This is not easy and will be confusing at first. Muscles moving slowly are much easier to control by the brain. But at high speed, the coordination demands are extreme and the brain has to adjust. Imagine race car drivers traveling at 200+ mph. Seems crazy to us, but these drivers have adjusted to that speed.

 

The recipe is simple, learn – get stronger – go faster. And it takes about 6 months to achieve your goals. The biggest risk is injury which usually results from less than perfect technique and a short strength phase. Always focus on improving your technique and make sure that your workouts are specific to going faster. Track workouts and interval training are some examples of speed training. For example, during a two hour bicycle ride, you will include 3 x 5 minute periods of race pace efforts. The next workout may be 3 x 7 minutes and so on. Slowly, you are teaching your brain and muscles how to manage going fast while giving them time to recover.. Eventually, these periods may be 30 minutes long and you will be ready to go fast in your races.

 

Remember, you have to train fast to go fast.

 

Mid-Season Injury Prevention

You train for 6 months getting ready for your racing season.  Your cardio is where you want it and your speed work is paying off, but a nagging ankle pain is starting to be a big problem.  Unfortunately, this is just one example of how injuries often disrupt a good season of racing.

 

So why do athletes get injured during the racing season?

 

As a coach of 10 years and a life-long athlete, I have trained and observed athletes and have concluded the following.

 

Inadequate foundation – Every year, athletes need to put in the foundation hours/miles to start their training and racing season.  Usually, this is a 2 – 3 month period of low intensity/high volume (hours or miles).   Foundation training is a critical break-in period for your muscles, joints, and cardio system.  Unfortunately, athletes often do not have time to put in foundation training or they train too intensely during this time.  Th

Lack of recovery – High volume training, high intensity training or racing place a great stress on the body.  Recovering from these workouts and races are critical to staying healthy throughout the year.   If you are training, make sure to vary your workout intensity on a week to week basis.  Also,  a 4 week workout cycle should include one recovery week.  Remember, your recovery time is when you are healing and getting stronger

Excessive high intensity training –  Healthy athletes often increase their training intensity until they are either completely exhausted or injured.  This is not an ideal training method.   High intensity training is a great way to get fitness, but it needs to be planned, regulated, and include sufficient recovery.

Combined high intensity training with racing – Most of us will spend the first 4-6 months of the year getting ready for the racing season.  We arrive to the first race with a significant volume of training as well as high intensity training.  Now, we also add the stress of racing.  This combination is often too much and leads to a mid-season injury.

So what can you do to stay healthy?

  1. Prioritize the foundation training. Spend the necessary time to get ready for the rest of the season.
  2. Recovery is critical. Workouts break down muscles, recovery heals and builds muscles.
  3. Taper your workouts before your races. This is good for recovery as well as lowering stress before a race.

    Mid-Season Injury Prevention

    You train for 6 months getting ready for your racing season.  Your cardio is where you want it and your speed work is paying off, but a nagging ankle pain is starting to be a big problem.  Unfortunately, this is just one example of how injuries often disrupt a good season of racing.

     

    So why do athletes get injured during the racing season?

     

    As a coach of 10 years and a life-long athlete, I have trained and observed athletes and have concluded the following.

     

    Inadequate foundation – Every year, athletes need to put in the foundation hours/miles to start their training and racing season.  Usually, this is a 2 – 3 month period of low intensity/high volume (hours or miles).   Foundation training is a critical break-in period for your muscles, joints, and cardio system.  Unfortunately, athletes often do not have time to put in foundation training or they train too intensely during this time.  Th

    Lack of recovery – High volume training, high intensity training or racing place a great stress on the body.  Recovering from these workouts and races are critical to staying healthy throughout the year.   If you are training, make sure to vary your workout intensity on a week to week basis.  Also,  a 4 week workout cycle should include one recovery week.  Remember, your recovery time is when you are healing and getting stronger

    Excessive high intensity training –  Healthy athletes often increase their training intensity until they are either completely exhausted or injured.  This is not an ideal training method.   High intensity training is a great way to get fitness, but it needs to be planned, regulated, and include sufficient recovery.

    Combined high intensity training with racing – Most of us will spend the first 4-6 months of the year getting ready for the racing season.  We arrive to the first race with a significant volume of training as well as high intensity training.  Now, we also add the stress of racing.  This combination is often too much and leads to a mid-season injury.

    So what can you do to stay healthy?

    1. Prioritize the foundation training. Spend the necessary time to get ready for the rest of the season.
    2. Recovery is critical. Workouts break down muscles, recovery heals and builds muscles.
    3. Taper your workouts before your races. This is good for recovery as well as lowering stress before a race.

      Gaining Strength and Skill in the Off-Season

      Thanksgiving should be a great reminder that most of us should be in the off-season for adventure racing.  A focus on strength and skill development should replace the high intensity races and the long cardio workouts of the spring and summer.  But how does strength training and skill development translate to adventure racing?

       

      What problems are you trying to fix?

       

      Cardio training and racing often leave very little time for strength training during the racing season.

      Repetitive activities, like kayaking, mountain biking, and running, lead to bad habits and overuse injuries.

       

      What should you do now to rebuild your muscles?

       

      Maintain a healthy level of cardio training, but it should be far less than your race training

      Add basic strength exercises to your cardio routine.  Push-ups, Pull-ups, sit-ups are excellent and require no equipment.

      For nagging joint injuries, consult with a professional and get exercises that will heal and strengthen your joints.

      Focus on you core strength.  Your mountain biking, kayaking, and running will improve.

       

      What skill development can you do?

       

      Kayaking – Slow down your paddle stroke and focus on technique.  If you don’t know the perfect technique, take a lesson

      Mountain biking – Work on your technical riding skills, night riding skills, or simply learn how to read a map while on the trails.

      Navigation – Take your map reading skills to the next level.  Take a class or just get out on the trails with a map in hand.

      Race Nutrition – Nutrition is critical to racing.  This is a good time to experiment and optimize your food.  Don’t experiment during your races

       

      The key to success is to pick a few items to focus on for each season.  Research, watch, take a class and dedicate yourself to getting better.

      CrossFit Training and Adventure Racing

      Adventure racing is a sport that places huge demands on the human body.  Endurance, strength, speed, stamina, mental fortitude, to name a few, are taxed to extreme levels.  How does one prepare for an event that lasts longer than the allotted training hours available during an average training week?

      There are several ways you can achieve this.  This article focuses on CrossFit and compares it to traditional training modes.  It will also describe an approach for adventure-racers that blends traditional and CrossFit style training into one model.

       

      First off, let’s review a very common training approach.  Usually with this one you create a base of endurance and skill in which you can then apply speed and power workouts later in the year.  The base period can span the first few months and then you can switch modes once your level of endurance is sufficient.  It’s a good way to do things.  It works.

      The CrossFit method does not focus on endurance.  In fact, it doesn’t focus on any one type of training.  It’s specialty is its style of generalism.  Kind of like the ADD child of the fitness world.  Here’s a quote from one of the few trainers out there specializing in not specializing:

      “CrossFit is a fitness program designed around the things you do in the real world. Every day, you bend down and pick things up, you put things over your head, you squat down, you stand up, you run after your kids or jump over a puddle. CrossFit prepares you for all that and then some by performing those exact movements in our workouts. We borrow exercises from things like weightlifting, gymnastics, and track and field, and we mix it up a lot, so your body is always adapting, getting stronger, faster, better conditioned. And the key to the whole program is that you work really, really hard… so you get fit really, really fast.” (from http://www.byersgetsdiesel.com/ )

      The primary goal of a CrossFitter is to be the jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none athlete.  Workouts are timed, rounds and reps are counted. How does this apply to adventure racing?  You can see some carry-over potential just from the types of training done.  Kayaking, trekking, towing a teammate – these things require a level of strength and stamina that CrossFit delivers via squats, overhead presses, kettlebell training, gymnastics skills…  There is another benefit that isn’t as well known.  High intensity training, which is the bulk of all CrossFit workouts, can deliver both anaerobic (sprinting ability) and aerobic (endurance) benefits.

      Greg Amundsen, an avid CrossFitter, decided to put the protocol to the test.  Based solely on CrossFit main-site workouts, and a diet focused on zone principles, Greg was able to complete an effort many adventure racers and ultra-runners can appreciate.  He ran for 24 hours straight in an attempt reach 100 miles.  He’s no Badwater athlete, maybe not yet, but his effort and his physical readiness surprised many.  His longest run was no more than 5 miles in the 2 months preceding the 24 hour event.  After 2 solid months of rigorous CrossFit-only training, Greg pulled off what some were sure was going to end badly.  Without going into too much detail, Greg ran just over 80 miles in the 24 hour period.  Let that sink in for a bit.

      Now a traditional approach would have an average athlete slowly build the longest run by 10% each week, and it might be periodized.  If your longest run was 5 miles, how would you get to 100? Based on widely accepted training ideas, it would take you just over 32 weeks without periodizing.  The risk with training without periodization is overtraining.  Even with periodization you run the risk of overtraining simply by the sheer volume of weekly workouts.

      Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying adventure racers and endurance athletes in general need to throw out their training plans and periodized workouts.  I’m just saying think about it.

      There are a few people who think CrossFit alone will not adequately prepare an athlete for an event like an Ironman or worse, a Badwater run.  I partially agree with these people, and I also think that approaches like http://crossfitendurance.com/ need tweaking, but for 85% of the people out there looking for IronMan training – this approach works. For the outliers, the ones winning these events, more specialized training is required.

      Possible training schedules:

      Below is a traditional schedule but instead of a go-to-the-gym-and-do-leg-presses strength training program prescribed in many triathlon books, two entire training days are focused on solely on CrossFit.  For example:

      • Sunday: long ride (60-70 miles – road bike)
      • Monday: CrossFit MetCon: Nancy (5 rounds for time: 15 overhead squats 95#, 400 meter run)
      • Tuesday: Rest day
      • Wednesday: CrossFit Strength day: 5-5-5-5-5 (5 sets of 5 reps) deadlift
      • Thursday: Swim 3000 yards, pyramid sets, form drills..
      • Friday: Run for 90 minutes
      • Saturday: rest day

      This is of course a hypothetical training program.  Another way to blend CrossFit and traditional training would be to stick with the 3 active days, 1 rest day pattern and build your workout week as a strength (CrossFit activity), endurance (traditional), power (CrossFit MetCon), rest, repeat.  Then you can periodize the endurance day (an activity of your choice) and build off of that.  This is a harder schedule to stick to but it takes into consideration your depletion of glycogen reserves and your need to rebuild your body.  Recovery is mandatory.

      Week 1

      • Sunday: Strength – 3-3-3-3-3-3 Pistol squats
      • Monday: Endurance – Kayak 2 hours 75% max heart rate
      • Tuesday: Power: 3 rounds for time: 400 meter run, 21 x 53lb kettlebell swings, 12 pull-ups)
      • Wednesday: Rest
      • Thursday: Strength: 1-1-1-1-1 Overhead squat
      • Friday: Endurance – Mountain bike 3 hours hills and hike-a-bike
      • Saturday: Power: Cindy: AMRAP* in 20 min: 5 pull-ups, 10 push-ups, 15 squats

      Week 2

      • Sunday: rest
      • Monday: Strength: 3-3-3-3-3 Hang Clean
      • Tuesday: Endurance: run 90 minutes
      • Wednesday: Power: 32 sets of 15 kettlebell swings
      • Thursday: Rest
      • Friday: Strength: 5-5-5-5-5 Front Squat
      • Saturday: Endurance: Kayak 5 hours

      Week 3

      • Sunday: Power: Murphy: 1 mile run, 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 300 squats, 1 mile run

      These are just examples. You can build CrossFit into your training plan in a variety of ways.  If you decide to do something like the above you can still periodize your endurance days, just make sure you are getting adequate recovery.  CrossFit is a demanding activity on the body and one that will leave you sore for a while.  Without recovery you risk injury and delaying your progress as an athlete. Be sure to approach CrossFit workouts with respect and scale them back.  Work with a trainer who understands the training demand of these kinds of workouts and work with them to keep your training goals on track.

      Stay healthy, train hard, have fun!

       

      Balance Training for AR

      It’s mid race and you’ve flipped your kayak.  You couldn’t roll it back up because your teammate decided to skip synchronized double-kayak roll practice.  You both are freezing  and you need to get back in the boat.  You’re in the middle of a lake with no solid surface to grab onto for re-entry.  You remember your kayak training and begin the process of carefully orienting yourself onto the deck of the boat.  Then you remember this article about balance training.

      Balance is a skill, for some of us it comes easier than others, but it can be developed and honed.

      During a race you will encounter several opportunities to challenge your balance/kinesthetic awareness.  Cycling, trekking/running on uneven terrain, paddling, and the aforementioned scenario of re-entering a racing kayak in the middle of a lake, all present a challenge to your ability to balance.

      Practice It!

      While balance is largely a mental, neuromuscular ability, it is largely affected by your skill level in a particular sport.  Just because you can carve your way down a mountain side on a snowboard blindfolded, doesn’t mean you will be able to transfer this skill to a sport like surfing.  It will help, but you still need to learn to surf.

      Cycling

      Cycling is almost exclusively balance. Cycling balance can be improved by track stand practice, riding on lengths of 2×4’s, and slow races where the last one across the finish line wins; all great ways to develop and hone the balance required in cycling.

      Trekking

      Trekking and running can be done with standing, one-legged toe touches, pistol squats (a great strength training exercise), and working on agility training (see agility article).

      Kayaking

      Kayak training falls into a multi-faceted balance act that starts with (pardon the bluntness) your ass.  The only way I can envision developing a butt-balancing skill outside of a kayak would be to do an isometric L-sit on a stability ball for time… Something I would like to see YouTubed…

      The other option of course is to kayak.  There are drills you can do with the kayak (this is not the forum for kayak training – please see our kayaking coaches for more info).   A key development area for kayak training (specifically towards balance) is building on hip flexor movement.  If you’re sitting in a boat, drop the paddle and work with side hip lifts.  This isn’t the easiest thing to articulate but a few of these will help develop the ‘butt awareness’ a loose, yet active hip, necessary for reacting to rough water situations.  You know, the kind that can flip you and your partner out of a double kayak.

      I’m not going to go into bracing and all the other components of kayaking, Robert Finlay can bring you up to speed on that.  Bracing is one of your better options for preventing a roll-over, but developing a kinesthetic awareness in the boat, via your ass, will help you make that split-second decision to brace, and avoid that unnecessary roll-over.

      Let’s get back to the floating yard sale of kayaker gear at the beginning of this article.  Hopefully you’ve been practicing the re-entry portion of rescue kayaking.  The first thing you’ll notice is how more unstable that boat is with you on the deck of the boat.  For situations like this, when you want to emulate a rolling kayak, but you’re sitting at home watching Biggest Loser, pull out that stability ball and do a few plank push-ups, maybe add a second ball for your feet. This is very close to what it’s like trying to re-enter a boat unsupported.  I’m not recommending this as an official exercise, but it’s something worth trying, and if you’re up for it, something worth practicing.  A boat, as long as you can swim, is a better, safer option, no small children or pets to avoid when the inevitable crash landing occurs.  Stick with the boat and you’ll only get wet.

      Balance is a skill that can be cultivated.  If you don’t have it now, or feel you’ve lost it, work on any of the above areas and you will notice a significant shift in your ability to handle the unexpected.  Remember that our brains are plastic.  It doesn’t matter how old we are, or as yet inexperienced, our brains will process the information, learn it and apply it.

    4. Agility Training for AR

      Agility training is one of those training modes that are common in team sports like basketball, football, soccer…  but what about adventure racing?

      Agility will help you while you’re out on the course and you’re trying to manage energy levels, a cranky, scratched up teammate, and getting to the next checkpoint quickly and safely.

      Agility Auto-pilot

      The key take away is that you shouldn’t have to think about agility during a race.  Ever.  It should be automatic.  You should be able to descend a steep, rocky hillside focused and confident.

      Agility training is about getting your body to go where you want it quickly and with minimal mental effort.  The more efficiently you can get your body to move from point A to B to C, back to A back to C the better.  If you can move on semi-auto-pilot, even better.

      Agility Training Prior to Main Workout

      Agility workouts should be done when you are fresh, or before you begin a heavy training effort.  Warm-up, and spend 5 to 15 minutes on drills.  Build them into your warm-up.  Agility training drills can include cone drills, ladders, shuffles and randomized obstacle training.  They should be mentally taxing (i.e. my right foot goes here, left foot there…  WTF?)

      An agility drill should have a changing pattern.  Your goal should be rapid, on-the-fly, position changes.  If you are training with a partner, have one person decide the pattern for the other, then later switch.

       

      The Box Drill

      One favorite of mine is the box drill.

      Start in the center.  Jump (with both feet) to green, back to center, to blue, back to center, to orange, back to center, to yellow, back to center, repeat for a 2 minute effort.

      Agility training can happen anywhere, it’s preferable that it happen before a race, but each race course and between checkpoint route will have your mind working overtime on how best to get from start to finish, or from A to B as quickly as possible.  Agile, responsive feet are just one of the attributes of a fast, and safe adventure racer.

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