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How to Periodize Your Yoga as a Triathlete

The following article originally appeared in a 2011 Coach Fitter series on Yoga for Triathletes.  

 

Have you ever crushed it on the squat rack the night before a big race?  What about switch your training focus away from swim, bike, run to a recreational team sport during peak training?  Of course you haven’t.  Why?  Because we use a concept called periodization to focus on different disciplines at different intensities during different times of the year and different days of the week.   This concept should be applied to your yoga practice so it can remain in your triathlon program year round.

Of course, as yoga instructors, we don’t make that easy for you.  It’s hard to decipher what each class is all about given the mix of Sanskrit and cutesy names use.  Here is what to look for during the different phases of your training.

 

Off Season/Pre Season

The Goal:  This is the time of year where yoga can be used, more or less, in place of a normal strength training session.  Ninety percent of all yoga classes at chain gyms offer a fitness-focused version of yoga that fits the bill here.

The Class Names:  Fitness Yoga, Ashtanga, Vinyasa Yoga, PiYo, most Baptiste classes or any hybrid class with the word “power” in it.

Questions to Ask The Teacher Before Going:  Will I sweat in this class?  How intense is the practice?  If the answers are “yes” and “moderate” or more then you are in the right place.

 

Peak Training

The Goal:  To work the body gently with less intensity than the physical demands required in some of the classes listed above so you have the energy to focus on swim, bike and run.

The Class Names:  Slow Flow, Beginner Vinyasa, Yin-Yang, or most classes designated as Level I.

Questions to Ask:  How much of the class will be spent moving versus holding gentle postures?  Will this class be a difficult physical workout?  They answer to the first should be a mix of each and the answer to the second should be a resounding “no.”

 

Recovery

Note that this could be a full post-triathlon recovery phase or simply an easy day following a hard training day.

The Goal:  Relax and repair muscles by opening up the hips.

The Class Names:  Restorative Yoga, Gentle Yoga, Yin Yoga.

Questions to Ask:  Will this class be mostly on the mat and not standing?  The answer should be “yes.”

Here’s one of our Restorative Yoga for Triathletes videos…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IQqbt-oUhV4

 

Heat Adaptation

This is specific to athletes whose coach is putting them through a phase of heat adaptation in prep for racing in hot conditions.

The Goal:  There is some science out there pointing to evidence that exercise at even low intensities can help the body perform well at threshold in the heat.  In theory, yoga could be the exercise modality to accomplish this.

The Class Names:  Bikram Yoga, Moksha and any class with the name “hot” in it

Questions to Ask:  Is the room heated?  Is the class accessible to beginners?  The answers should quite obviously be “yes.”  The second question is particularly important because many heated classes can be very intense.

 

Yoga can be accessible to every triathlete during every phase of training.  The key is finding the right class and making the commitment.

 

Scott Beesley is a full-time triathlon coach and yoga instructor, currently based in Grass Valley, California.  If you email him your zip code and training goals at coachbees@solesinspired.com, he will find a yoga class in your area.  More free advice at www.solesinspired.com, www.facebook.com/solesinspired, www.youtube.com/solesinspired

 

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Prevent Cycling Neck Pain

 

At a recent indoor cycling practice in Grass Valley for our tri club, a relatively experienced cyclist sheepishly admitted to chronic neck pain during cycling that she had been dealing with for years.  Though the solution can be complicated, here are several simple fixes for cycling neck pain.

Better Bike Fit  Without question this is the most important factor in riding your bike without pain.  But what do you do if you don’t have the time and money for a professional fit?  Neck pain typically comes from tilting your head up to much and changes in your fit need to get your spine more upright or your neck more horizontal so that your back and neck are at the same angle.  One option is to move your arms closer to your body.  If you ride a tri bike and there is wiggle room in your bar positioning, try moving the elbow cups closer to you.  Whether you ride tri or road, a shorter stem and taller headset gets you to the same place.  Remember that bike fitters work in millimeters.  Tiny adjustments go a long way.

Helmet Placement  If your neck is compressed because you have to raise your head high to get a view past the front of the helmet, Sheldon Brown points out that moving your helmet back alleviates this problem.  Assuming your helmet is already in the right place for safety, remove the sun visor first before making any adjustments that might compromise the safety of the helmet.

Screen shot 2014-02-09 at 6.22.05 PMRimless Sunglasses   In a similar vein a poor helmet placement, some cyclists strain to look under (or over) the upper rim of their sunglasses.  In the last 5 years many manufactures have catered to cyclists with these rimless shades.  Simply type “rimless sunglasses cycling” in your search engine and you will have no shortage of options.

Ride The Hoods  If Ironman Arizona or Florida are on your schedule there is no question that you need to get used to being in aero.  But during early season training there is no need to be a hero and ride low all the time.  Get up on your hoods or pursuit bars and give that neck a break.

Lower The PSI  Just because all the cool kids overinflate their tires on race day doesn’t mean you need to do it now.  Riding below the recommended PSI can result in a flat tire, so avoid that too.  Just stay on the low end of the recommended pressure.  Your tires are your biggest shock absorbers of road vibration and bumps.

Strengthen & Stretch  If you have the tendency to carry stress in your neck and shoulders it will be magnified tenfold in the saddle.  Work on learning how to subtly engage your mid-traps, rhomboids, and lats to “set” your shoulders in the right place out of your ears.  Self-massaging with a lax ball can do wonders to relieve tight shoulders.  Don’t forget posterior deltoid and upper traps (the back side of shoulders and around the neck) when you use the ball.

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Soles Inspired Tri Club: Triathlon 101 Presentation

The following presentation was originally delivered to the Grass Valley-based Soles Inspired Tri Club at our Tuesday night indoor cycling practice at South Yuba Club.  The Triathlon 101 presentation focuses on some of the basics of triathlon and what to expect while training under the guidance of Coach Scott Beesley.  Topics include basic exercise physiology, the speed vs endurance debate, heart rate training, nutrition and injury prevention.  For more information on the club go to www.solesinspiredtriclub.com or email fastandhealthy@solesinspired.com

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Strong Glutes = Happy Knees

If you talk to a physical therapist or orthopedic surgeon over a certain age, they are bound to tell you that the key to avoiding knee pain is strong quads.  More specifically it is the vastus medialis – the part of the quad is the innermost muscle – that stabilizes the knee.  Yet if you talk to a younger PT or knee doc they are more likely to point to a growing body of research that suggests that knee pain is related to weak glutes, not quads.

Screen shot 2013-11-30 at 4.14.54 PMThe weak glute theory goes like this:  When your foot strikes the ground at the start of your run stride it is the job of the glutes to stabilize your hips and keep them level.  When your glutes are weak, the hip opposite the leg that is posting drops down. When the hip drops down, the instability moves through the kinetic chain and causes your knee to go valgus (i.e. collapse inward).  When your knee collapses toward your midline, bad things happen.

A recent study from the U.K. furthers this theory into common thinking and indirectly makes a case for glute-focused strength training for runners.  The study looked at athletes who suffered from patellafemoral pain syndrom (PFPS) – pain at the back of their knee.  They hooked up an EMG to see what muscles fired and to what extent in these people relative to the rest of us who don’t suffer from PFPS.  They found that “gluteus medius activity is delayed and of a shorter duration during running” for the PFPS group.  In english, this means that people with knee pain have weak butt muscles and/or lack the mind-body ability to use the muscles they do have.  Specifically, they are weaker (or lack firing capability) in the part of the glute that sits underneath and toward the outside of the glute maximus (with the glute max being the big muscley part of the butt you can slap).

So what do we do to strengthen glute med and avoid this problem?  Sprinkle in exercises that either work the hip in abduction, like 45 Degree Leg Raises, or add an element of instability to traditional glute max exercises, like doing your Dead Lifts on one leg like a weighted Floor Reach with strict emphasis on keeping your hips level.

 

Source:  Barton, et al. Gluteal muscle activity and patellofemoral pain syndrom: a systematic review.  British Journal of Sports Medicine. 2013 Mar.

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Manage Hourly Caloric Intake to Lose Fat

Magazine headlines love to sensationalize the idea of “eat more to weigh less.”  These articles lead us to believe that if we consume more calories we will look like the hot chick on the front cover and/or have the best race season of our lives.  While much of these articles are based on weak science or all out b.s., there is some merit to watching what you eat and not falling behind on calories.  A recent study at the Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance at Georgia State University cuts to the truth of the matter.

Most studies analyzing energy surplus/deficit focus on the difference between calories consumed versus calories expended over periods of time usually measuring a full day or many consecutive days.  The study out of Georgia took a unique approach measuring calorie surplus/deficit by the hour.   They found that the athletes with the fewest hourly deficits of 300+ calories maintained the lowest body fat percentage.

This finding coincides with a idea put out there in a conversation I recently had with a boss of mine at the South Yuba Club.  His theory is that many people who attend high intensity group exercise classes fail to lose weight, despite their high level of physical activity, because they go through class with a huge calorie deficit then overeat after class.

What are the implications for triathletes and other endurance athletes?  A full third of the study participants were middle- and long-distance runners, making the findings very applicable to us triathletes.  What the study does not tell us is how the calorie deficit came to be.  Did the runners go in to deficit before practice and train on an empty stomach? or did they stay fueled throughout the non-training portion of the day and then exercise for several hours without fueling during exercise?  This, we don’t know.  In the absence of this data we must focus on the conceptual message uncovered during the study:  Don’t starve yourself and expect to lose weight.

 

Source:  Deutz, et. al.  Relationship between energy deficits and body composition in elite female gymnasts and runners.  Laboratory for Elite Athlete Performance, Center for Sports Medicine, Science & Technology, College of Health and Human Sciences, Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA 30303.  http://nutritiming.com/docs/Energy_Deficits_and_Body_Comp_MSSE.pdf

 

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New Triathlon Club In Nevada City, California

I’m forming a new triathlon club forming right here in Nevada City.  The Soles Inspired Tri Club will offer Gold Country triathletes a chance to train at three coached practices each week.  There will be three training paths to follow, making the group available to everyone from first-time triathletes to competitive age groupers.   I have coached over 100 people to their first ever finish line and coached over 20 others to their first ever race podium.  For more information about the club, email me (Scott Beesley) at coachbees@solesinspired.com or attend one the following free information sessions:
 girls post race
Tuesday Jan 14 | 6 pm
TRKAC
101 W. McKnight Way, Grass Valley (map)
(to the left of Kmart)

Wednesday, January 15 | 6:30 pm
SOUTH YUBA CLUB NEVADA CITY
555 Searls Ave, Nevada City (map)

Monday, January 20 | 12 p.m
NEVADA CITY EATS
104 Union Alley, Nevada City (map)
(across from the old bank building)

Tuesday, January 21 | 6:30 pm
SOUTH YUBA CLUB GRASS VALLEY
722 Freeman Ln, Grass Valley (map)

john bio pic
Future updates will be made at www.solesinspiredtriclub.com

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2013 Year In Review: Podiums, PRs, BQs, and a New Triathlon Club

 

Welp, that’s a wrap on 2013.  As always, this year was a mix of ups and downs.  Thankfully it was mostly ups.  Here’s how it all shook down for our crew in 2013.

 

THE ATHLETES

Brian with medal

Brian P. with 1st Place A.G. medal at the Haag Lake swim.

This was an interesting year for our triathletes.  I think our advice of “speed before distance” has finally sunk in, as nearly all of our coached athletes dialed back on long course racing in lieu of building speed this year.  The results?  We got faster.  Shocking.  Despite most athletes racing distances that were not traditionally their strongest, they landed on exactly 10 podiums and found 2 top ten finishes at National Championship races, including Sam’s debut at USA Cycling National Hand-cycling Championship and Jack’s 6th Place at the USA Swimming National Open Water Championship.  Other notable finishes included John’s 1st place overall in his first race in over twenty years, Dawn’s back-to-back podiums in consecutive weekends at Lifetime Fitness Minneapolis Sprint Tri and Door Co Tri relay, Tracy’s finish at the Boston Marathon as one of less than 10 women in the wheelchair division, and Brian’s return the podium at the Haag Lake swim.  Although there were no cheering crowds to witness the event, on day 197 of what would be 365 consecutive days of running (at least) one mile, Tina O. broke 10:00 for the first time in her life.  Not everyone went short this year and Ryan R. PR’d at Ironman Wisconsin despite much harsher weather than he faced the previous year.

 

THE TEAM

2014 Tri Club info mtgs low resDue to time spent traveling overseas in late 2012 and early 2013, this was the first year since 2009 I did not coach a single team (let alone several in the same season).  Now that I am rooted in Nevada County, I am forming a triathlon club in the new year.  See the flyer to the left and join us for tri club info sessions in and around Grass Valley, CA and Nevada City, CA at Trkac running store and South Yuba Club.

 

THE COACHES

The expression “I’d rather be lucky than good” has never rung so true for an athlete as it did for me (Scott Beesley) this year.  After leaving Minneapolis on September 1, 2012 and visiting 16 countries on 3 continents before touching down in Nevada City, CA in May 2013, I had spent less than 20 hours on a bike and found a pool only twice.  The outlook for racing in 2013 was bleak.  Thanks to a torrent of rain that soaked the Torn Shirt Xterra Off Road Triathlon, I managed to keep in close distance with the lead pack of experienced mountain bikers who were hampered by the mud and made my move on the run to secure the overall victory in the race.  By chance, the USA Triathlon Off Road National Championships were to be held near Dallas only two days before my yoga teacher flew into town for a teacher training I was already registered to attend.  Once again, for reasons unclear me, I got lucky and secured my spot on Team USA for the Cross Triathlon (off road) World Championships in Zittau, Germany next summer.    Oh, and most importantly, I also took 4th overall in 5k trail run in full pirate costume.

Meanwhile, back in the Midwest, Coach John Taipale made his relo official by leaving Eau Claire, WI and settling in Plymouth, MN.  Like many of our other athletes, John also focused on shorter races this year and cut back on his go-to distance of 70.3 to race a pile of Olympic distance races.  As you might expect he cleaned up the field on a regular basis and got his qualifying spot at both the USA Triathlon Olympic Distance National Championship to be held in Milwakee and the Hy-Vee 5150 U.S. Championship in Des Moines next summer.  The big guy also got engaged and adopted a wiener dog.  Not a bad year.

Big thanks to all of our sponsors and supporters including NOW Bike & Triathlon (Arden Hills, MN), Trkac Running Store (Grass Valley, CA), Real Wheels Bicycle Studio (Nevada City, CA), financial advisor Nick Rasmussen (White Bear Lake, MN), Core Health Chiropractic (Minneapolis, MN), Podium Sports Therapy Massage (Minnetonka, MN), and South Yuba Club (Grass Valley, CA) for all they did to keep our crew safe and healthy this year.

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Lessons in Failure: Anatomy of a DNF

Typically we like to brag about our accomplishments.  Today, let’s talk about what went wrong.

In the last four years our athlete have crossed somewhere in the neighborhood of 300 finish lines, from 5k runs to Ironman triathlons.  Of these, more than 100 were triathlon newbies racing for the first time in their life.   In addition to those successes, our coaching resume includes six DNFs – six athletes who failed to cross the finish line and Did Not Finish the race.  These six failed performances fit in three categories.

 

IGNORING AN EXISTING PROBLEM

Coaches love to repeat the phrase “Nothing new on race day” as a reminder to practice your race strategy long before your race.  The idea is that you show up to the start line with the same clothing, same gear, same nutrition plan, same everything that you have been practicing with all season.  That way you know everything works in role play before its time for real play.  But what if something doesn’t work in practice?  CHANGE IT!  Two of our DNFs came from tire issues they already knew were in bad shape.

In one case, the front tire repeatedly kept going flat during training rides. There was no visible issue, like imbedded debris, but it kept going flat.  And on race day it went flat.  Three times.

The other athlete had tires as old as she was.  They were worn so thin that the tube came through on race day and went flat.  You can repair a tube.  You cannot repair a tire. (well, you can, but she didn’t know the dollar bill trick)

Lesson:  Practice makes perfect.  And if practice isn’t perfect, fix the problem before race day. The above examples happen to be about bike tires, though the concept applies to other aspect of your racing such as your saddle if it doesn’t fit and keeps chaffing you, your sunblock if you keep getting cooked, your pacing strategy if it leaves you fatigued, your nutrition if it upsets your stomach, and on and on.

 

STAY FOCUSED

These are three short stories.  Two involve cyclists who crashed and broke collar bones. The third is an adventure racing team that missed their cut off.

Both cyclists were very experienced.  One guy is a life-long mountain biker used to riding in rough terrain and managed to fall on his tri bike during a bottle exchange.  The other guy is a veteran crit racer who is used to bumping elbows with other riders at 25 mph.  What happened?  They both admitted to losing focus during a race and managed to eat pavement.  No other riders were to blame.

The adventure racing team was over seven hours into an eight hour race.  All they had to do was run/trek 3 miles back to the finish area (in adventure racing you don’t go a certain distance as fast as you can, rather you go to as many Check Points as possible in a given time).  Instead, they decided to squeeze in one more Check Point and got thrown way off course and didn’t make it back before cut off.

Lesson:  You have to stay focused.  Always.  If your mind wanders, your performances suffers.  And sometimes it can cost you a race or even a broken bone.

 

FAKING IT ON RACE DAY

We all have a friend like this athlete.  She’s the fit chick that is genetically gifted to do almost anything.  10k run on a hangover? No prob.  10 miles muddy obstacle run without training?  She’s in.  Olympic distance triathlon with an ocean swim without training?  Sure, why not.  Well, we’ll tell you why – swimming is a skilled sport.

An athlete on one of my huge teams signed up for a tri in Maui.  To this day I couldn’t pick her out of a crowd since she only showed to two practices the entire season and neither of them were swims.  When race day came she thought she could muscle through the swim like so many other races she had faked in the past.  When that strategy failed at the 200 meter mark of the 1,500 meter swim she was escorted to shore by the lifeguard.

Lesson:  You have to practice.  There are so many little nuances to completing a triathlon and if you don’t practice in similar conditions to how you have to race, your race day may not be pretty.

 

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