General Training Principles: Part 2 of 2


General Training Principles Part 2 of 2.

To recap my training regimen has eight parts.

Practicing the sport
Warm-up, cool-down, volume, and intensity
Strength work
Cardiovascular work
Periodization
Stretching
Mental training
Rest

Today I will talk about the first part, practicing my sport—in this case, speed skating. Many of you can do your sport daily, like running or cycling.  I can skate on the ice (when available), rollerblade, do imitation skating on dry land, or use a slide-board.

Recently I learned about a high school cross country progarm that was consistently winning over many decades.  They did not run everyday.  They ran hard about 3 days a week and in-between, they would do recovery work on a bike and swimming.  So even when pratcticing your sport like running everyday is not necessary or even desirable.

By applying the general principles of athletic training to anything that requires commitment, dedication, perseverance, and discipline, you can achieve extraordinary results.

Practicing my sport When I started skating as a youngster, what attracted me was the sport itself and the joy of doing it. We must all remember our roots and our early motivation to get us through the hard work of training.

When I skate and race, I put everything together: strength, endurance, technique, cardio work, mental training, everything. This is my toughest test, as well as my best barometer of progress. Here is where the skate meets the ice.

There is nothing natural about speed skating. It is a purely learned activity that requires a fair amount of strength. Because of the strength required, skaters do not have the luxury of a lot of repetition. In order to skate technically well, a skater cannot be too tired. When I get tired, my technique suffers and thereby my speed. In the United States, we have long track ice at two indoor 400-meter ovals about six months of the year from September through March. If the rink is outdoor the season is even shorter. In Olympic years, we might have ice indoors a month or so longer. It is important to skate, but it is also important to do off-ice imitation skating in the form of inline skating, dry-land training, and slide-board. I am constantly refining my technique to get the maximum speed.

When I skate, I have several types of workouts. One workout is endurance skating: many laps at low intensity concentrating on technique and efficiency. Another workout is at race pace for short distances, typically 400 to 600 meters. We have several types of interval workouts as well, which intersperse hard skating with periodic rests. Then we have sprint workouts where we go all out hard for very short distances, interspersed with long rests. The goal is to refine our technique on the ice, since there is no true substitute, while simulating the different parts of racing. My coach is usually on hand for these sessions to direct and modify training as I go, as well as help to refine technique.

In whatever sport you are engaged in, you must learn to apply some amount of technique. Even something as seemingly simple as cycling can benefit because you can learn more efficient ways of pedaling. In speed skating, technique is extremely important. The faster I want to go, the better I must skate technically. This means striving for great body positioning and the most efficient way to push into the ice. If I have poor technique, I will skate slowly. When I improve my ability to apply my motor to the ice, I go faster and longer with the same effort.

By getting some coaching or going to a clinic for your sport will enhance your experience.

The benefits are worth it, you are worth it!

Your best is yet to come!

Training Cycles, Macro to Micro


Training has its cycles, macro to micro.  The macro cycle starts with the 4 year Olympic cycle. The micro is the cycle within a workout.

We all need to make decisions about how and when to train.  When to go hard, and when to taper off for competition. When to go hard in a workout, when to rest and recover.  Here are some proven guidelines to making those decisions yearly, monthly, weekly, daily and sometimes moment to moment managing our bodies and minds to be our best ever!

There is a reason that the Olympics are every 4 years.  I have been through 2 complete cycles recently now and can attest to the natural flow that it takes.  After an Olympic year we all need a break from the  intense training.  There is a natural need for a less intense season.  Then the build up can continue again towards the next Olympic year.  We all need a break physically, mentally, emotionally, etc.

The speed skating competition season starts in September and ends in March.  After the season is over,  a few weeks off or just recovery work, then off ice training again in preparation for skating in the fall.   Time off consists of recovery work and fun stuff.  I do a lot of low intensity bike work, tennis, golf, swimming, etc.

When training again, increasing gradually, hard for 3 weeks and easy for 1 week. The easy week is very important for the body to have some recovery.  Without a break we are subject to over training and susceptible to injury and illness.

During the competition season I need to be able to peak at the right time.  This requires an easy week or two prior to the competition.  The longer the hard training period the longer the taper prior to the competition.  The taper is done by keeping the intensity but reducing the volume.

In a weekly cycle I train hard all week and take Sundays off.  Sometimes hard training for two days and take an easy recovery day between.  I still need to get in a certain amount of cardio training, strength, and skating in every week.

Even within a single workout there are cycles.  After the warmup and into the meat of a workout I cycle between intense work then rest and recovery.  Intervals followed by a set rest or A very hard effort followed by complete rest.  There a number of different kinds of workouts with this in mind depending on what the objective is that I am trying to obtain.  At the end of the workout I finish the cycle by cooling down and stretching.

So what to do with this information?  Set up a training plan for the 4 year cycle, yearly, monthly, weekly, and daily. Revise it accordingly to fit your needs, desires, competitions and reactions to training feedback and recovery.

Remember, work, recovery, rest, repeat.

My ithlete HRV tool helps with determining how hard to train. It helps me to measure my readiness to train hard or take an easy day.

The Native American indians have a philosophy about circles.  Respect the circles and the cycles of life, it will pay great dividends in all areas of your life.

Masters US Single Distance Championships January 2012, photo by Steve Penland

Rest, Reevaluation, and Goal Setting


Rest, reevaluation, and Goal setting

For winter competitive athletes this is a time of peak training.  For those that compete mostly in the summer this is the time for rest, reflection and reevaluation of our future goals and direction.

Rest is just what it says, rest from activity. Rest is either passive or active. There are many parts to rest. I will address them in different contexts. Normal training consists of a few different cycles. The largest context is the four-year Olympic cycle. The shift in focus will change from year to year as the Olympic year approaches. As I change and my goals change, so will my rest requirements change.
Within the Olympic cycle is the yearly cycle that every competitive athlete goes through. The yearly cycle must include periods of rest. I generally finish my competitive season in the middle of March. I then take at least six to eight weeks off of training. During this time, it is important to let my body and mind heal from the intense work I did over the past ten months or so. I take a break in many ways, like catching up on the things I have put off due to my competition and training schedule. I am less active physically; this is my winter. I let the field rest so it can produce again later with more abundance, just as farmers do for their crops. During this time, I can do a number of things. One thing I like to do is to continue a little very easy biking and stretching.
I do nothing intense, everything just for fun! When I was growing up, my parents stressed that I should learn my sport the best I could, but also learn sports I could do for life. For example, I learned to play golf and tennis, and I still enjoy them today. Doing other sports will help me be a better skater because I will have a better, more rounded foundation to draw from. The important principle in active rest is to keep the intensity low. When I am ready to start the training cycle over again, my body and mind will tell me. I cannot force the issue! Starting back too soon or too fast will cause me to burn out again or get injured.
Because I am used to a lot of physical activity, stopping cold turkey will throw me off. It is still important to be active, just not as much and without any real intensity. My body needs the rest, and I must give in to it or suffer in the long run.
One very important element in my training regimen is periodic massage. Muscles need help to recover. One way to assist in recovery is massage. In order to keep up my training volume, I need recovery. The more quickly I recover, the more training volume and intensity are possible. My race results directly correspond to my training volume and intensity. I do self-massage and get great results. I use foam rollers, my hands, and a stick roller for self massage. I also hire a professional masseuse sometimes. I have a pretty good understanding of my own body and what it is going through, but using a trained massage professional brings another helpful dimension to my recovery.
Usually a massage therapist can find hot spots that I was not even aware of. After the therapist has found these spots and worked on them, my body then spends less energy on a “wound” and more energy on my general recovery. Ideally, a massage every week would be the best for me, but that is not always possible or practical.
Another tool that I use to gauge whether I am training to an optimum level is ithlete. I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, researched it, and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard and when to back off on my training. The ithlete device is an application on my smart phone that uses a receiver and my polar heart monitor to measure heart rate variability. I take a measurement immediately after waking in the morning to gauge my readiness to train hard that day. Illness and stress in my life will give me low numbers and tell me that I need rest or to train more easily that day. It reflects all of my life factors, including a very high training load. In the past, I would train right through these times, and my racing suffered as a result. This tool can give me physical feedback and validates the feelings I get when I am on track or over-trained.
When I look at my monthly and yearly training plan, I must plan my rest accordingly. Through trial and error, I have found that after working hard for three weeks I must reduce my intensity and volume and do an active rest week. I will decrease my intensity and volume for a week, so that I may avoid burn out or injury. In the weekly plan, I also include a rest day, usually Sunday. During the week, I will space my intense training out so that there are no two days in a row without a rest or recovery day. For instance, skating is like doing a hard weight workout. I will not do weights one day, then skate the next. That would be counterproductive. I will do a cardio bike recovery workout, swimming, or yoga in between skating and weights. In training, as in life, keeping everything in balance is the key to making progress.

By continually reevaluation our plans and adapting to changed circumstances, we can uncover new ways to enjoy the journey and achieve our goals.

The importance of goal setting cannot be underestimated. Impossible dreams are accomplished when focusing on goals you can control. Many of our goals are unspoken, they are motivations just under the surface. It is important to get those goals out in the open. There is some risk with that. By telling someone about my goals, even admitting it to myself, then I am responsible and accountable for them. This can be daunting and scary. The goal can be a stretch, the risk is outside of my comfort zone, exposure is tough. By starting towards my goal, if it seems to be unrealistic, then changing my goal is necessary. It is ok to change goals and directions. Sometimes life demands it. When change is needed that I resisted, there was a lesson for me. Life threw me a curve, adapt or suffer the consequences.

Having no target or direction, I will surely hit something, exactly what I do not want. By having a goal, a direction or a target, adjustments are easy. Enjoying the forward motion of my journey as well the direction, hitting my goal because of focus. If the original goal was not where I wanted to go, at least I have made progress in determining my eventual outcome and am farther down the road. It is also important to look at the expectations of my goals and to realize they are my goals, no one but mine. They are my creation. If they become a burden then I must look deeper to the motivation behind the goals. The goal may really belong to someone else. Focusing on goals that leave me feeling recharged rather than drained.

There are a number of steps to take to set up my goals. First I must know what drives me. What I am passionate about? What are my priorities and how I can fulfill them? Joy and passion will keep me coming back to completion of a goal or a positive change for a lifetime.

I have a passion for skating, and skating well. It requires a great deal of work and I am willing to do it. A passion for flying, doing it well, it shows there too. Keeping focused on passion and joy, see where it takes me. With these principles in mind, I can set short, medium and long-term goals.

My goals must be admitted by me first. Then I must announce them out loud. Then they must be shared with others that are important to my success. This can be difficult, but in order to move forward there must not be seen and unseen roadblocks to progress. There are many conscious and unconscious barriers to progress. By recognizing them as they come up, ignoring them, going around, or over them.

Goals must be realistic, measurable, have definite time frames, reviewed from time to time, and adjusted as necessary. Goals are classified as short, medium, and long-range. If one of my goals is to build self-esteem through setting and achieving goals, then I must do esteem-able things. The direction and end are important, but ultimately it is the journey that is the most valuable.

Put your feet up, rest, reevaluate and set new goals.

IMG_0405

 

 

Injuries


Injuries

As far as injuries are concerned, my policy is prevention, prevention, prevention. I observe a number of basic principles when it comes to injury prevention and management. The first is listening to my body and learning to respond to it quickly and appropriately. Every time I train, I create some injury. Through the work I do, I deliberately break down my body. Our bodies respond by rebuilding themselves stronger than before. By managing minor, self-inflicted injuries (my training), I will grow stronger over time. Building up tolerance by increasing very slowly is crucial. For example, if I am going to run a marathon this year, I would need to have a base to start from. I would need to demonstrate consistent mileage without injury on the kinds of running surface I would be training and racing on. Injuries generally occur because the body is not responding well to the increase or not recovering quickly enough to do the increased volume.
Using the proper equipment can help prevent injuries. Analyzing body mechanics is another important tool for injury prevention. Using a professional trainer can be indispensable in this area. A trainer can show me how to set up a stationary bike to avoid injuring myself over the long term. A trainer can show me the proper way to lift weights to avoid injury and to gain the most benefit. Using a lower weight with good mechanics and low injury potential is more productive than using a higher weight that might look better to my friends but risk injury. Competing with others in the gym while lifting weights will be counterproductive in the long run. In fact, I apply this principle to almost all physical activity.
Longevity as an athlete is dependent on body mechanics. To increase my chances of a long, productive life, I treat myself as a finely tuned athlete at maximum performance. Poor body mechanics can set me up for injuries—sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly over time. It is up to me. Using proper technique, for whatever activity, is essential to perform efficiently and to prevent injury. I believe in getting expert advice on as many of my activities as possible so as not to shortchange myself with an injury.
Goals then come into play. If I cannot increase my workload as quickly as I want because it would possibly cause an injury, then I must revise my goals. I may need to scale back to run a half marathon this year and a full marathon next year. This would be realistic.
I am not in the results business. I must keep moving my feet and trusting that the results are what they are. This includes injuries. If I really believe I am exactly in the place where I am supposed to be, then the lesson for me is waiting in whatever process I am engaged in. There will always be a timely solution and a gift from the issue. With this in mind, if I do sustain an injury, I can try many different solutions for my recovery. I know that being proactively involved in the process will help me to heal as quickly as possible.
Poor nutrition, unrealistic goals, misplaced priorities, uncontrolled ego—each of these can play a part in causing injuries. When an injury occurs, look at all the factors that surround it. Have I tried my own solutions? Is my injury beyond my help? Do I need a professional?
The acronym RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation. This is the rule of first aid to follow immediately after an injury. After the initial shock wears off, I can then evaluate what to do next.
When I am injured, I have a whole host of resources to draw from. First is myself. I am the only true expert on my body. No else lives in my body or my head but me. Am I getting out of my own way? When analyzing a situation involving injury, I must stick with the facts as they are, not as I would like them be. No drama or minimizing. What kind of pain is it, and how is it affecting me?
I am not best judge of myself, so I use people around me to provide a mirror to see myself more clearly. For example, when I walked into my physical therapist’s office not too long ago, she told me within 10 seconds that I looked tired and asked me what was wrong. Because I was wearing my fatigue on the outside, she could plainly evaluate me and provide feedback.
Every injury teaches me a lesson. Protecting something that is weak only makes it weaker. Many times, a physical symptom is a manifestation of a deeper emotional issue that is surfacing and crying out to be dealt with. The underlying issue may not be evident for some time, but it is always there for me. Everything happens for a reason, and it is my job to figure out the lesson. Sometimes God is telling me to slow down, to change my thinking, to be more sensitive, or to be there for someone else. To think about the higher purpose, recognize it, accept it, and act upon it is the key.

I tell an in depth story in my book that deals with my knee surgery three months before the Olympic Trials and demonstrates all these principles and what I learned, good and bad.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.

One day after Knee surgery July 2009, 3 months before US Olympic trials.

Training Principles Part 8 : Rest (last one)


Training Principles 8 : Rest (last one)

Rest is just what it says, rest from activity. Rest is either passive or active. There are many parts to rest. I will address them in different contexts. Normal training consists of a few different cycles. The largest context is the four-year Olympic cycle. The shift in focus will change from year to year as the Olympic year approaches. As I change and my goals change, so will my rest requirements change.
Within the Olympic cycle is the yearly cycle that every competitive athlete goes through. The yearly cycle must include periods of rest. I generally finish my competitive season in the middle of March. I then take at least six to eight weeks off of training. During this time, it is important to let my body and mind heal from the intense work I did over the past ten months or so. I take a break in many ways, like catching up on the things I have put off due to my competition and training schedule. I am less active physically; this is my winter. I let the field rest so it can produce again later with more abundance, just as farmers do for their crops. During this time, I can do a number of things. One thing I like to do is to continue a little very easy biking and stretching.
I do nothing intense, everything just for fun! When I was growing up, my parents stressed that I should learn my sport the best I could, but also learn sports I could do for life. For example, I learned to play golf and tennis, and I still enjoy them today. Doing other sports will help me be a better skater because I will have a better, more rounded foundation to draw from. The important principle in active rest is to keep the intensity low. When I am ready to start the training cycle over again, my body and mind will tell me. I cannot force the issue! Starting back too soon or too fast will cause me to burn out again or get injured.
Because I am used to a lot of physical activity, stopping cold turkey will throw me off. It is still important to be active, just not as much and without any real intensity. My body needs the rest, and I must give in to it or suffer in the long run.
One very important element in my training regimen is periodic massage. Muscles need help to recover. One way to assist in recovery is massage. In order to keep up my training volume, I need recovery. The more quickly I recover, the more training volume and intensity are possible. My race results directly correspond to my training volume and intensity. I do self-massage and get great results. I use foam rollers, my hands, and a stick roller for self massage. I also hire a professional masseuse sometimes. I have a pretty good understanding of my own body and what it is going through, but using a trained massage professional brings another helpful dimension to my recovery.
Usually a massage therapist can find hot spots that I was not even aware of. After the therapist has found these spots and worked on them, my body then spends less energy on a “wound” and more energy on my general recovery. Ideally, a massage every week would be the best for me, but that is not always possible or practical.
Another tool that I use to gauge whether I am training to an optimum level is ithlete. I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, researched it, and decided that this was something that might help me decide when to go hard and when to back off on my training. The ithlete device is an application on my smart phone that uses a receiver and my polar heart monitor to measure heart rate variability. I take a measurement immediately after waking in the morning to gauge my readiness to train hard that day. Illness and stress in my life will give me low numbers and tell me that I need rest or to train more easily that day. It reflects all of my life factors, including a very high training load. In the past, I would train right through these times, and my racing suffered as a result. This tool can give me physical feedback and validates the feelings I get when I am on track or over-trained.
When I look at my monthly training plan, I must plan my rest accordingly. Through trial and error, I have found that after working hard for three weeks I must reduce my intensity and volume and do an active rest week. I will decrease my intensity and volume for a week, so that I may avoid burn out or injury. In the weekly plan, I also include a rest day, usually Sunday. During the week, I will space my intense training out so that there are no two days in a row without a rest or recovery day. For instance, skating is like doing a hard weight workout. I will not do weights one day, then skate the next. That would be counterproductive. I will do a cardio bike recovery workout, swimming, or yoga in between skating and weights. In training, as in life, keeping everything in balance is the key to making progress.

Build the motor and learn how to apply it to your endeavor. Utilize the principles of practice, warm-up, cool-down, volume, intensity, strength, cardio, periodization, stretching, mental training, and rest.

Now I must take a hint from my dog Lilly and play.

Bruce and our dog Lilly on our front deck,  she is a Yellow Lab mix 95 lbs, about 3 years old and adopted. Who resuced who?

Bruce and our dog Lilly on our front deck, she is a Yellow Lab mix 95 lbs, about 3 years old and adopted. Who resuced who?

Training Principles Part 6: Stretching


Training Principles Part 6: Stretching

Book update:  I am anticipating printing of the paperback and shipping to me arriving by 9/24.  Electronic versions may be available sooner.  I will update again soon.

Stretching, or you can call it mobility, has three uses for me, warm-up, cool down, and a separate yoga workout.

The first is during my warm-up process.  I have a repeatable routine so that I remember all of my stretches.  Creat one that works for you and modify it as you see fit.

I never stretch cold muscles, ligaments, or tendons. I bring my body up to a warm temperature by jogging, biking, or fast walking, then I stretch to get full range of motion of my joints. I like to think of my muscles as rubber bands. If I stretch a cold rubber band, it might break; a warm one is more flexible. When stretching for range of motion, I will hold a pose for about 10 seconds.

The second aspect of my stretching is after my cool down. The same routine but this time I will hold my poses for 30 seconds. The purpose of this kind of stretch is to increase flexibility, promote recovery, and prevent injury.

The third and last component is a workout designed just around stretching. Yoga is a great tool for me, so I try to do it weekly. Spending a whole hour stretching has benefits that go far beyond just flexibility, injury prevention, and range of motion. Yoga can help me open up the connection from my head to my heart, help me be mind-full and calm, and get re-charged and re-centered.  When I look forward to yoga and miss it when I can’t seem to fit it in , then I know its benefits are beyond the obvious.

I also have a daily appiontment with my “stick” roller.  By using my stick or some type of roller I can get to specific problem areas and work out soreness, promote circulation that helps recovery and increase flexibility immediately adjacent to joints.  There is some new proof that “rolling” is better than stretching for increased flexibility.  I am disciplined about doing all the above and it clearly works for me.

Next week is mental training.

Yoga pose

Yoga pose

Training Principles Part 5: Periodization


Training Principles Part 5: Periodization

As a side note my book “Faster as a Master” will be available electronically (Amazon Kindle, iTunes) in a few days.  The print version in a couple of weeks.  I will announce here and on my website when you can order the print version from me or when downloads will be available.  Thank you for your patience, this process is longer than I imagined.

Periodization is like a flight of stairs. The first level—which can be equated to any workload and any exercise—is the first step. Let’s take the example of sit-ups. I can start out by doing so many of a certain type. Let’s say that I am doing sit-ups twice a week. I keep track of the type of sit-ups and how many. The next week I increase the sit-ups. I can increase the sit-ups by a number of ways: I can increase the number I do by adding to a set or adding another set; I can decrease the rest time between sets; I can change the difficulty of sit-up to one that is inclined or one that incorporates weights. The important thing is to increase each week.

At a certain point we reach a plateau. Then it is important to change. I need rest and have to back off the intensity and volume for a couple of weeks. By just going through the motions for about a week, we are healing from the intense work. Then I can start to increase again. Now I can start up again just below where I took the break. By repeating this process of increasing, then easy, then increasing again, I become better and stronger overall in the long run and less prone to burnout and injury.

The concept of periodization also applies to the larger training cycle of a season and peak performance for a race. I train very hard so that I break down and rebuild stronger. This cycle can be used to achieve peak performance for a certain event. Approaching the important competition, I will cut down the volume of my work but maintain the intensity. By doing a lot more recovery and rest, I can approach the starting line rested and ready to push at maximum capacity. The length of the tapering of volume prior to the competition is usually in direct relation to the length of hard training leading up to the competition. I have found it is better to have too long a rest than not enough.

The concept of tapering training volume and intensity was foreign to me when I was young. That was why I burned out at age 19 and was unable to compete at the level I had trained and prepared for. I believed that the person who trained the hardest would win. I put everything I had into training all the way up to the competition with no rest. I was so tired that my technique suffered and my muscles were worn out, so I could not skate well at all. Now I know very well what the concept of tapering is and how to use it. Now I use the periodization process and tapering, and I plan my training to the utmost benefit.

Age is also a variable where tapering is concerned. My ability to recover is not as fast as that of younger skaters, so my taper must be a little longer. As I age, I have realized I can keep up with the younger skaters if I give myself a longer rest.

The whole idea of tapering for a major competition is that I should approach the starting line feeling totally rested and ready to go. In fact, compared to the training volume and intensity I maintained as a young man, I should feel like I am lazy and out of shape. That is when I race my fastest. A great deal of science supports all of this, and my own experience bears it out.

Steps to the goals

Steps to the goals