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 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

Competition, Stress, and Anxiety

We train, so we can compete, get results and validation for what we put into our sports, and ourselves.

When it comes to competition stress is involved.  That is a fact, or we would not be human.  How we handle it can have a very big impact on the outcome of our efforts.  Stress is a normal human response to fight or flight.  Our heart rates rise, body temperature goes up, our nerves are more sensitive, a rush of adrenaline, blood sugar rises, etc.  We are ready to go!  If we think stress is bad for us, it will be.  If we believe it is normal and we use it to prepare for competition then it is good for us.  Anxiety that can accompany stress is the bad part.  That is where we tighten up and cannot perform to the level that we have trained. Our minds work in nanoseconds .  I can tighten up in the middle of my downswing to hitting a golf ball.

It takes experience for all of us to learn how to handle stress and anxiety in the competitive environment.  We all have to learn for ourselves what works and what does not.  I have failed many times in the way I handle my anxiety.   By keeping alert to my own thoughts and making adjustments, I make progress.  My goal is to make stress an asset and keep the anxiety to a minimum

By practicing thought processes in my training I will be prepared for racing.  Visualization creates confidence in the plan, its execution, and ultimately me.  Thought processes are self-fulfilling prophecies.  We create environments to be successful or to fail.  It is up to us.  Positive reinforcing statements that are repeated to ourselves helps to set up our minds for positive outcomes.

Nothing can substitute for the real competition.  It is very important to be conscious to my thoughts before and during racing, building on what works and discarding what doesn’t.

We all carry baggage into battle.  Dropping the unnecessary stuff and making use of assets are the important part of the process.

Gratitude is the first and foremost  thought when I approach the starting line.  Knowing that I have done the prep work to compete is the next.  Adjusting as I go helps me be flexible to a changing environment.  Trusting that I will get the results I am supposed to get helps me stay in the moment and focused.  Then I stop thinking, get out of my own way, and set up the best possible outcome.

Talking with my coach or a trusted advisor can help me with this process.  Honesty about what is going on in my head is essential.  The more racing I do the better I get.  Each year has new perspective, goals, and challenges.  The view is constantly changing.

500 Meters race start US Single Distance Championships January 2012, Milwaukee, Wi, Photo by Steve Penland

500 Meters race start US Single Distance Championships January 2012, Milwaukee, Wi, Photo by Steve Penland

3 Essentials training tools

Here are three essential tools that I use, belive in, and that have helped me to achieve extraordinary results.

1. ithlete HRV monitor.

An essential part of my training is measuring my recovery between hard efforts.

I have a tendency to overtrain, I know a lot of highly motivated people who do. Being sore is part of the landscape, being tired is also part of my training life. Deep down fatigue is not. When I lose the pop, when I lose my gratitude for the ability to do what I love, that is the difference. My most effective training includes a lot of recovery work.

I have used various methods to calculate recovery, including historic training knowledge from myself and my coaches, and morning heart rate. The ithlete helps me achieve my goals through validating my rest and recovery.

I heard about ithlete from a fellow speed skater, looked it up, and decided that this was something that could help me decide when to go hard or back off on my training. I’ve been using it for about 18 months now. After some illness and stress, my HRV numbers have been pretty low. It reflects all of my life factors including a very high training load.

I work very intensely. After a low ithlete HRV score I will vary my workouts or do an active recovery day. ithlete tells me that my body needs to slow down. Active recovery is much easier with this knowledge. In the past, I would train right through these times suffering as a result.

My coach and I plan to taper my training to race fast. By using the ithlete HRV I can be at an optimum level.

Speed skating is a highly technical sport. I can build the motor, but I need skate well to be efficient and go fast. One of the ways to gauge my readiness to race is my ability to get into a low skating position. If my position is high, I am tired. When rested, I skate better and faster, there is a direct relationship.

Click on the link for to find out more!

2. The stick

I have an appointment nightly with my “Stick”. Using the stick helps my muscles recover from the rigors of intense training. Rolling my legs increases circulation to my muscles for about 15 minutes every night before bed helps to facilitate recovery. Waking with a refreshed feeling, knowing that I am giving my body the tools it needs they need to speed recovery. Yoda would say “Many years, have I used the stick”. For a link to Stick Products click here.

3. Slideboard

Skating cannot be duplicated exactly off the ice. We only have long track ice for about 6 months of the year. Training off ice with some duplication of the on ice experience is preferred. The Ultraslide slideboard is my favorite device for the technical aspect it brings to my off ice training. Making my own slideboard over 40 years ago as a teenager, still on one, still works. For a link to their site click here.

Bruce Conner on the ultraslide!

Bruce Conner on the ultraslide!

The Stick roller

The Stick roller

ithlete HRV App and ecg reciever

ithlete HRV App and ecg receiver

7 Ways To Manage Balance

7 Ways To Manage Balance

Happy Memorial Day!  All gave some, Some gave all. Thanks to all the veterans!

Balance is a fine art.  I like using the analogy of walking on a beam.  Skating on a 1.1 milimeter blade would also suffice.  Falling from time to time, it is part of life, so is pain.  With time, I am more sensitive to being off-balance.  Being able to stay in balance for longer periods of time is a great reward.

Balance is essential to my life.  We all know the effect of being off-balance.  We are out of focus, inefficient, unproductive, exposed to injury and disease, stressed.  Being in balance is just the opposite.  We are focused, productive, efficient, healthy, happy, content and serene.  This is what I strive for.  Making the necessary corrections to stay on the beam is easier as I get older.  It has been a learning process like anything else.  The benefits are applicable to all areas of my life.  I must give it the priority that it deserves, top.  It is interesting that most of us spend about 90% of our time looking over the edge and trying to stay in balance.  Focusing on the good parts of being in balance, and continuing what works.  By finding out what works, keep doing it, refining it little by little, I make progress.

Priorities are the foundation of good decision-making.  I have done a lot of work to keep them straight.  By priorities straight, I can make good judgements about where I am, where to go, and how to get there.  If I am confused about my decisions I can revisit my priorities and usually the decisions become clearer.  Keeping my priorities in the order of God first, family second, work third and recreation fourth.

I know people who are very busy but always seem to have time for the most important things.  That to me is an example of having my priorities straight.  There is an old saying that anything that is urgent is rarely important, and anything that is important is rarely urgent.  Sometimes the best ideas are also the simplest.

  1. Keeping priorities straight
  2. Revisit goals regularly
  3. Get outside help and reference for proper perspective
  4. Figure out what works and keep doing it, discard what does not
  5. Be constantly vigilant for being out of balance
  6. Accept and forgive yourself for being out of balance sometimes
  7. Express gratitude for your balance and your ability to make changes

This week has been a challenge.  Since starting 777 school, I have had to travel and balance all aspects of my life.   God, family, work (training on a new airplane), skating training, are all aspects of my daily life that need attention.  Making time for the important parts of my life is a joy, not a chore, with great rewards.

Masters World Sprints, Salt Lake City, March 2013

Masters World Sprints, Salt Lake City, March 2013


Stress is a normal part of everyday life.  When people say that, I hate it.  Stress is either self-created, on purpose, or it is created outside of me, and I must choose a response to it.  The stress that I feel before a race is my creation.  I choose to race.  It can be frightening and rewarding just the same.  I have control over this stress.  It’s the stuff I have no control over that drives me nuts.

The stress I did not have a hand in creating is what I have trouble with.  My stress level is usually contingent on my mental state.  When I am doing well, balanced,at peace, and at ease, I can handle a great deal of stress.  If I am not doing well, just a little extra stress puts me over the edge.  Relief is what I need.  We all deal with stress in our lives.  If I give it power, stress will be in charge and rule me.  It is my choice.  My response is what I have control over.

Developing practice on how to handle stress is the key.  I won’t be very good at it until I have been successful at handling some easy situations first.  Then with some experience I can handle tougher situations.  How I deal with traffic is usually a pretty good barometer for me and how I am handling stress in my life.  If I have a short fuse and everyone seems to be driving poorly around me, then I must look at myself.  Am I being overly sensitive about my surroundings?  Am I feeling threatened at every turn?  Then I must look at how I am handling my stress.  What are the underlying problems in my life?  It is not the traffic that is the problem but how am I responding to the traffic.  I heard a story about a guy who typically drives a great deal in rush hour traffic.  When asked by a friend how he handles all the traffic his response was, “I only drive one car”  This reminds me that I only need to control my response to the stress.  Traffic is one way I can see how I am handling stress.  That is the mirror that I need to look at, to see what is really going on with me, honestly.

So now that I have been able to recognize the stress level, what do I do with it?  Usually my stress comes out in anger.  Sometimes I bury it and it affects me physically by making me sick (dis-ease).  By learning how to deal with my anger I can manage my stress.  Physical activity helps with my anger.  A long run, chopping down a tree, yoga, meditation, are some examples of physical things I can do to facilitate healing.  That is probably why I train so hard.   This is a productive and healthy way to deal with my stress.  I have also learned ( this was very hard for me) to defuse my anger slowly instead of going from zero to rage.  Using my networks of support and getting help for my mental and emotional state, is what works. By knowing I am not alone in my struggles helps as well.  After building confidence handling my stress, I can deal with anything that comes my way.

With a lower stress level I rest better, am healthier, recover faster, and am able to train harder.

Sometimes I just need to take the lead from my dog, let go, run, and be happy.

Lilly my smiling off ice training partner.

Lilly my smiling off ice training partner.


I have heard that the chinese symbol for courage is two parts.  The first part is the sign for danger, the second part is opportunity.  I love that idea.  I like the idea that if I am faced with danger I have a choice.  I can choose what I do with the danger.  I can run from it and sometimes that is the smart choice. Or I can face it and it will transform me with an opportunity for growth.  I am honored that you have come this far to find answers to your questions within.  Another definition that I heard for courage is fear that has said its prayers.  I trust now that things will turn out the way they are supposed to.  That gives me courage to go forward in a conscious way and have the attitude that the results will be just like the are supposed to be.  I am confident that I will always do the best that I can.  I am not a quitter.  This attitude will yield the best results, always.  They may not be what I was hoping for, but they are perfect just the same.  This gives me the courage I need to keep moving forward.  Stress and challenge, mixed with some courage, will usually tell me what I am really made of.  My father gave me a book recently.  It talks about three kinds of people.  Faced with a hill up ahead, people react in one of three ways.  There are the climbers, the campers, and the quitters.  I am a climber.  In fact, after I get to the top of the hill, I am looking for another hill to climb.  Then there are the campers.  These are people that climb so far and say that the view up here is good enough and they camp on the side of the hill.  Then there are the quitters.  They cannot seem to climb very far and just turn around and do not climb.  Which are you?  I believe we all have choices and that we can choose to be a climber if we want to and it is a learned activity.  I just have to make sure that I look up and enjoy the view sometimes.  I love to climb so much sometimes I forget to look around at the beautiful view. It takes courage to climb but the rewards are pretty cool.

Chinese Symbol for Courage