Jeff Shilt, M.D. -- or Dr. J as he’s known on Endurance Corner -- has been part of the EC network since the beginning. Jeff took some time to chat with us about his approach to endurance sport as an athlete, physician and coach.
In short I had decided to race the Vegas 70.3 world champs, then Kona, followed by ITU long course world championships and Ironman Arizona two weeks after that. “Why are you doing this?” my husband asked. He was the only one who had been given full access to the schedule. “Because I can,” I answered. He looked at me quizzically, shook his head and went back to his reading material. We have learned not to get in the way of each other’s goals.
As you may have noticed, EC’s theme for November is recovery. I’ve decided to tie recovery and longevity together because I strongly believe they go hand in hand. Athletes who know how to recover and re-energize from a long triathlon season wind up being around to race at a high level year after year.
Many of us are starting to look at the race calendar for next season. With are so many great choices available year round -- especially if you are willing to travel -- there are a number of ways to approach your season and no way is right or wrong. You just need to know what works for you.
A few days ago one of my friends died unexpectedly while running. When this happened I was vacationing internationally. I received emails from friends and family with a common theme. Most of them remarked on how we need to remember how precious life is every day.
If you are reading this, chances are you are the type of person that excels at executing your training plan. You understand what it takes to do “X” number of minutes at a certain percentage of effort. Like me, you probably take great pride in executing your plan day in and day out.
What about your other 23 hours a day?
With the exception of rest weeks, I clock over 1000TSS per week for almost the whole year! That’s tough training. Since my training isn’t time constrained, I can afford to make recovery a priority.
Apart from the odd car crash, brawl or heart attack, I’ve stayed injury free for over four years. Recovery is more than just getting your legs fresh -- it’s about keeping mentally fresh.
I was talking with a friend the other day and he mentioned he wanted to hire a triathlon coach. I asked: What need will this coach fill? He paused for a moment and then he said he didn't know.
At the very basic level, we all want a coach to make us faster. But from there, our specific needs differ from person to person and throughout time.
One thing I love about the triathlon lifestyle is the atmosphere and energy of the races. For the reasons outlined in my Race Satisfaction Strategy, participating in challenging, social endurance events is one of my favorite things to do. However I also like performing to my potential at certain events, typically at a rate of one true “A” race per year.
The above begs the question of how to best manage “B” and “C” priority races during a specific training block without avoiding them altogether or enjoying them at the expense of training efficacy. In other words, how do you best execute the so-called “training race”?
Three donuts and three slices of watermelon.
Not the perfect recovery food, but that's what I wanted straight after my last race. An hour later I was back in the tent for a more balanced meal (the pizza and donuts were gone). Racing long consumes huge amounts of energy, afterwards I don't worry about what I eat just as long as I do -- I've earned some slack on the nutrition front. For the rest of the day all food is allowed; if I'm smart I've already stocked the fridge with my favorite treats.
In the lead up to a race my diet can border on the obsessive; eating meticulously controlled to support training and racing goals. Unfortunately many foods I enjoy are on the banned list of this regime -- donuts are out, watermelon is in. When the race is over, after weeks of denial, it's open season at the cake store. A determination to compensate for all I've missed sets in and what started as a treat can rapidly turn into a binge
Many athletes in the northern hemisphere see November, December and maybe even January as an opportunity to get some much needed rest and recovery. They catch up with family and focus on work responsibilities that pay for sport. Then they gear up for their next season; say, February through October. They may even call it an off season and let some fitness go and comfort foods flow. That model works well for many busy athletes and may be the safest way to approach a season, your health and your longevity in the sport if you are wearing several hats.
There is no doubt that all athletes need appropriate recovery. But not all athletes need an off season every year. In fact, if you race professionally taking an off season is not always practical. Elites race often, are responsible to sponsors and above all, want to lift fitness from season to season. One of the best opportunities to raise fitness is when you are not racing. Most elites up north race from March through October. That leaves November, December, January and February to do some serious training. Many age groupers are thinking similarly. Their goal is to race at the pointy end of their category, if not over all. Some of your toughest competition often doesn’t take a traditional off season.
I had a brief moment of panic the other week when I found myself in a paceline on a bumpy, rutted road behind three champions. In front of me were Marilyn McDonald, Chris McDonald and Angela Naeth. The only thought running through my head was to not cause an accident as these incredible athletes do this for a living!
A lot of us are starting to see the weather change and are starting to think about climbing back on the trainer for the winter months. A combination of good trainer sessions to keep you motivated while stuck inside is key.
I've never been a believer in just sitting on an indoor trainer and riding easy for three to five hours. I think an athlete would be much better off heading out for a snow shoe, skate ski or hike. I believe every time you get on the trainer in the winter months you should have a purpose -- a session written out with some focus in it.
Guest writer Chris Johnson, PT, returns to Endurance Corner with a new series on common musculoskeletal issues that triathletes face.
To improve performance, triathletes must know thy goats. The bottom line is that once you’ve established a solid fitness base, resorting to increased volume and/or intensity can be a dangerous road when it comes getting faster. Rather, it’s critical to identify and address any musculoskeletal limitations or what I like to refer to as “goats.” While all triathletes have goats, the vast majority of us have not identified nor learned how to properly address them.
This piece will be the first of a three part series centered on the three most common goats that I see among triathletes seeking my services as a physical therapist and triathlon coach. Additionally, I will provide an approach to identify and address each individual goat through video demonstration so you can start tending to them in a safe and effective manner. It is my ultimate goal to help you optimize your training while minimizing your weaknesses.
Two weeks ago, I hit a dog, at speed, while finishing off a ride in Tucson. I’ve had high-speed crashes before but this one was special, as a light tailwind had me flying north on Old Nogales Highway.
This week I was reminded of a fascinating study done earlier this year; the radio show I was listening to emphasized the study as nothing short of astonishing. The paper was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science in April 2011. Its authors found apparent potential bias involved of whether the study’s justices granted parole. They cited “extraneous” factors.
The study, done in Israel, evaluated three decision periods of the day: initial, after first meal break and after second meal break. Parole judges gave a favorable ruling to 65% of applicants first thing in the morning and immediately following both of the daily two food breaks. However, the favorable rulings declined to nearly zero prior to their next food break or the end of the work day. This effect remained constant over 50 decision periods, several judges and was controlled for severity of crime, time served and potential for rehabilitation.
Causality (hunger equals ornery) is not established and other confounding variables might have been at play, but it surely seems as though if you were up for parole, you wanted to be on the docket right after lunch!
Superior athletic performance requires getting your mind out of the way of your body.
One of the shortfalls of a classical approach to sports psychology (goal setting, visualization, self talk, arousal control) is the exercises actively engage the mind.
Athletes seldom have the problem of “thinking too little.” The challenge is our minds are constantly spinning.
How do we free ourselves?
A few years ago, after completing what I would consider my first real season in triathlon, I was faced with the problem of what to do with the remaining time left in the year.
Looking through my collection of books on triathlon training, I discovered that several of the authors suggested an "off season" of two to eight weeks which didn't sit well with me.
As I attempted to rationalize my way out of this, I decided the authors weren't targeting "serious" athletes like me and I immediately dismissed their advice.
One of the most common questions I get asked is about nutrition: "How do I get as lean as I possibly can, live in my hectic life and have the energy I need to train and recover?"
The answer is slightly different for each athlete, but the key points stand true for nearly everyone.
It's all about finding out how you are not being true to yourself.
Fifteen years ago I opened my business. Not long after I opened my first retail store, a national chain decided to open a competing store across the street. Before they opened, I was invited to meet with some of their corporate executives. Their message was direct and simple: sell to us for a paltry sum or we will put you out of business.
I bluffed my way through the meeting with a polite “no thank you” to hide the genuine fear I felt. Everything was riding on my business -- financial health, personal health and my ego.
Experiencing the gut wrenching fear of intense competition was the best thing that could have happened to me.
If a naive observer were to land in Kona during the Ironman world championships, he or she might get the impression of a hard bodied version of a Trekkie convention. There is something vaguely cult-like about the “ironman family”, and it’s no surprise that the IM corporation’s marketing department seems to take some not-so-subtle cues from the church.
I was recently discussing with a patient the distinction between preoccupation and passion. He raised concerns over what he feared was an obsessional focus on a particular pursuit. Are there any triathletes that can relate?
I have a keen interest in how I fool myself and one of my most common rationalizations for excessive exercise is personal health.
I asked our editor for a month focused on health. We tell you how to get fast, how to get ripped, how to manage your time, how to achieve your goals... but we rarely pause to consider the dramatic impact of an integrated approach to personal wellness (body, mind and spirit).
In my life I like to make a big distinction between health and fitness. Fitness for us is how many miles at a decent pace can we put together week after week. Interesting stuff but let’s leave it to one side. I like to define health broadly as feeling good on the inside.
I am currently reading what I consider to be one of the best books on training theory and practice that I have ever put my hands on. If you knew just how many books on these topics that I have put my hands on over the years, this is no small feat! Surprisingly the subject of the book is neither swim, bike nor run training. It is a book on strength training: Practical Programming for Strength Training (Rippetoe and Kilgore).
Now, before you get up on your specificity high horse, hear me out on this one.
How many times have we heard phrases such as, “if you don’t have your health, you don’t have anything”? Health is a primary consideration in both longevity and quality of life, and is one of those things which we often don’t miss until it’s gone. But it is also difficult to quantify. How much health is enough?
In part I of this article on compression garments I discussed some of the research on compression and performance/recovery. Here, I’ll cover compression, travel and your heart.
I remember seeing athletic compression garments (CG) for the first time at the expo for the Ironman New Zealand triathlon in 2007. An enthusiastic salesperson wanted to show me a full body compression suit and explain the many benefits for triathletes. I also remember very clearly thinking how silly it all seemed. I’m a skeptic at heart. Now, I’m not so sure. There may well be some benefits. Here’s what I know…
Do you remember being a little kid and sitting glued to the TV or magazines and thinking, “I wanna be just like them when I grow up?”
We all have heroes -- we have people and icons throughout our life that we admire and aspire or dream we could be like. As we grow older these heroes change and help mold who we are. We use those images in our heads to help guide us and motivate us.
The past year has been an amazing year for me as my performance improved dramatically. My training volume was high and challenging. I am pleased that I did so without getting sick or injured.
Often we hear the horror stories of people destroying themselves with too much: too much training and too much intensity. Preparing the 2012 season starts now with a focus on being as healthy as possible for the big weeks of training ahead.
What do I recommend now to be physically and mentally healthy later?
The number one cause of a failed race plan for the age group (or pro) athlete comes from underperforming on the run. The longer the race -- and run leg -- the more you start to see athletes falling apart. I am sure this is no surprise to many of you reading this. The question is: Why does this happen?