A workout I often have athletes do is a combination of intervals followed by a steady-state tempo. What happens on the steady state tempo says a lot about the athlete’s aerobic fitness.
Here you see a run chart and a bike chart from a single duathlete. The charts are from WKO+ software. He did the run workout first and then the same day did the bike session. Each session involved a warm–up, intervals (pink stripes), a recovery following the intervals, a steady-state tempo (green stripe), and a cool down. Heart rate is the red lines on both charts. Run speed is the blue line. The back line is bike power. This athlete has greater experience as a cyclist than as a runner and his bike fitness tends to exceed his run fitness. This also shows up in his approach to each session.
In this chart (click to expand) he was doing 800m intervals on a track at just a bit slower than his 5k but faster than 10k pace. After each interval he did a 200m jog to recover. Each recovery was just slightly shorter in duration than the preceding work interval. Notice how he started each work interval at the fastest pace of the interval and gradually slowed down with the exception of the last where he finally settled in to a good pace initially. And he gradually got slower on each subsequent interval with the exception of the third which was his second fastest (but had the greatest pacing variability). I believe this positive-split pacing (start fast, finish slow both within and between intervals) is, in part, reflective of his more limited experience as a runner.
I was also very interested in his 10-minute, heart rate zone 3 tempo run following the intervals. Besides making for a great workout, I do this to see how aerobically fit the athlete is. Near the end of a challenging workout finding how speed responds when heart rate stays constant is a good indicator of the athlete’s aerobic fitness. Here you can see that speed drops off. Heart rate and pace ‘decoupled.’ They are not parallel. He has more work to be done on aerobic fitness yet which is all the more reason to be very cautious with pacing early in a race. Going out too fast will cause a significant drop in speed later in the race. If his aerobic fitness was higher, pacing would not be quite as much of a problem.
Here you see his bike workout with 5-minute intervals done at power zone 4 which is roughly 40km time trial power for him. The recovery intervals were short at about two minutes each. Notice how beautifully he paced the intervals. They are steady and consistent. As a coach, this is so beautiful it brings tears to me eyes. :)
Then notice how steady his 30-minute, power zone 3 tempo was. The two lines (heart rate and power) remain nicely 'coupled,' just like railroad tracks. His aerobic fitness on the bike exceeds his run aerobic fitness.
It’s apparent we still need to work on two things: run pacing and run aerobic fitness. He has made great gains as a runner. Had he done this same run workout a few weeks ago the decoupling would have been much more evident. And his running race times at 5km indicate that he is, indeed, making great progress. Stellar run performance takes a long time to achieve, as in years, but his progress has actually been quite exceptional due to his determination and discipline.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
A workout I often have athletes do is a combination of intervals followed by a steady-state tempo. What happens on the steady state tempo says a lot about the athlete’s aerobic fitness.
Sunday, 16 August 2009
Chondromalacia patellae (CMP) results from damage to the cartilage which covers the posterior aspect (back) of the patella (knee cap). This is known as articular cartilage and acts to allow smooth movement and shock absorbtion between the patella and the groove through which it runs (formed by the Femur and Tibia).
The cause of this damage can be either acute or due to a long-standing overuse injury. Acute injuries normally occur when the front of the knee cap suffers an impact, such as falling directly onto it, or being hit from the front. This results is small tears or roughening of the cartilage.
In overuse cases, the cause of the damage is usually repetitive rubbing of part of the cartilage against the underlying bone. In a healthy knee the movement of the Patella across the knee is a gliding, smooth movement. In individuals with CMP, the knee cap rubs against the part of the joint behind it, resulting in inflammation, degeneration and pain. The can be for a number of reasons, but is usually due to the position of the patella itself.
The most common feature of condromalacia patellae is patella mal-tracking. The patella most commonly runs too laterally (to the outside) in the groove. This problem is most regularly caused by muscle imbalances, where the lateral quadriceps muscles and other tissues such as the retinaculum are too tight and the vastus medialis oblique muscle is weak.Other structural problems include Patella alta, which refers to a high patella and patella baja which refers to a low patella.
Chondromalacia patellae is common in young athletes who are often otherwise injury free. Its incidence is also highest in females due to their on average higher Q angle. CMP is also more common in those who have experienced previous traumatic knee injuries such as fractures and dislocations.
CMP is often confused with PatelloFemoral Pain Syndrome (PFPS) as CMP is regularly a result of PFPS. However, they can both occur in isolation.
What are the symptoms of Chondromalacia Patellae?
- A grinding or clicking feeling when straightening the knee (known as crepitus).
- Pain at the front of the knee.
- Pain which is often worse when walking downstairs.
- Pressing down on the knee cap when the knee is straight may be painful.
- Pain when standing after extended periods of sitting (movie-goers knee).
Yaroslav Popovych is a very experienced professional having ridden all three Grand Tours including this year’s Tour de France where Armstrong finished in third place on the podium next to his team mate and race winner Alberto Contador. Popovych won the young rider classification in the Tour de France in 2005 and he finished 12th overall.
Haimar Zubeldia from Spain is certainly no stranger to stage races having ridden the Tour de France nine times. He was part of this year’s team who won the stage 4 team time trial.
Janez Brajkovic is the current Slovenian time trial champion who rode the Giro d’Italia with Armstrong this year finishing 18th overall. He also won the Tour of Georgia in 2007 and is a triple Military World Time Trial Champion. Michael Schar is a talented 23-year-old from Switzerland who is a triple National Time Trial champion at Junior and Under-23 levels.
Jose Luis Rubiera is the team climber who can be relied on for team support when the road starts to rise. He has ridden 20 Grand Tours and won two stages of the Giro d’Italia. Jesús Hernádez is the daily training mate of Tour winner Alberto Contador. He didn’t race in 2008 but has made a strong comeback in 2009. He started the season very early with Armstrong in the Tour Down Under. Armstrong calls him ‘Sweet Baby Jesus’.
The full team line up is:
Armstrong, Lance USA Brajkovic, Janez SLO
Hernández, Jesús ESP Schar, Michael SUI
Popovych, Yaroslav UKR Rubiera, Jose Luis ESP
Zubeldia, Haimar ESP
Tuesday, 11 August 2009
By Phil Mosley, Triathlon Plus
It’s something we’ve all asked ourselves at the foot of yet another seemingly endless climb – should we sit or should we stand-up? And yet surprisingly few people know the answer.
You’ll have noticed that some riders prefer to keep their bottoms diligently on their saddles, churning away at the pedals, their relaxed upper bodies making it look far easier than it feels.
Other riders prefer to stand up and power their way up the slopes, their bikes leaping forward with every pedal stroke.
Knowing when to sit and when to stand could potentially propel you up our next hill more quickly and easily. For many people, it all boils down to personal preference – however there is some logic you can apply to climbing that might prove useful next time you’re at the bottom of a big ascent.
Pro: You work a wider range of muscle fibres, easing the pressure on any one muscle
Pro: You can ride at a higher maximum power, allowing you to battle up the steepest sections of a climb
Con: You use up more energy because you are supporting your body weight on your legs rather than your saddle
Con: You use more energy because you are working your upper body
Con: While standing you create slightly more drag, which can slow you down
Pro: While sitting, your upper body is relaxed, so you don’t waste any energy
Pro: You also conserve energy as the saddle takes your weight, not your legs
Pro: With your body low, you’ll create less drag than you would standing up
Con: Your legs can feel sore from repeatedly using the same muscles on the climb
Staying seated is generally better for climbing, because it uses less energy. If it’s a long or steep climb, you should alternate between periods of sitting and shorter bursts of standing up. The short periods of standing will give some welcome relief to your legs and provide a much needed boost of power on the steep sections.When you’re climbing in the saddle, focus on spinning your legs in an easy gear, keeping your upper body relaxed. Think about maintaining a smooth, fluid pedal stroke and keep your hands resting lightly on the handle bars.
Wednesday, 5 August 2009
Why am I doing this ?
Bugger me if a 38 year old can nearly win the Tdf after a 3 year break and then take on Alberto who himself has had major burst in his "Circle of Willis" then why not be inspired! I did "The Gallop & Grind" last year which was an excellent event conceived by Sharon Fraser, an extremely courageous woman who sadly passed on. "No Fuss" via Fraser/Chloe etc really supported her and are to be commended on running the event again this year. Unfortunately it invloves running, which I only do as cross training during the winter. It really buggers my legs running at this time and as I now have recurring knee problems I need to watch, otherwise I would undoubtidly "Gallop & Grind again for a worthy and worthwhile cause.
The Ascetic side of me wants to to do something to make up for missing this event. Also a good friend was nearly but not quite written off by what was thought to be cancer this summer and told they only had a short time to live (it wasn't as it turned out but it was still something nasty), and at the time Fiona and I were devasted. I made a pledge at the time that I would do something- anything, to fight the disease using the only tools I can (work output in watts) to raise awareness and importantly funds. So that's where this "Tour of Lochaber" is at. I hope to be suitably fucked at the end of the ride otherwise it wont have fed the ascetic side of me or done justice to the concept. I hope the support I am receiving from the Livestrong foundation helps and importantly inspires others to join the CranKitUpGear & Livestrong team.
Sunday, 2 August 2009
We really hope everyone is enjoying this series so far. It is proving fun and challenging to write, and we hope that is coming across in the posts. So far we investigated the history of fluid ingestion in Part I, demonstrated why it is the metabolic rate that predicts temperature in Part II, and weighed up the strengths and weaknesses of the lab-based and field studies in Part III. For Part IV we will look at the thirst mechanism and why waiting until you are thirsty is not "too late."
Myth busting: If you wait until you are thirsty, it is too late
How often have you heard this? This is an oft stated mantra of athletes, coaches, and arm-chair quarterbacks everywhere. But where did this concept originate? In 1965 John Greenleaf did a study on four well-trained men to examine how much water they would ingest during exercise in the heat. The title was "Voluntary dehydration in man," and is the first reference to the finding that when given ad libitum access to fluids---that is, when we drink to thirst---humans do not replace 100% of their weight losses. For those of you who have read Part II and Part III, this should be no surprise, since in those posts we introduced the concept that weight is not the regulated variable, and therefore your body does not care how much weight you lose during exercise. This "thirst is bad" guide stuck, however, and some time later you were introduced to the mantra above: "If you wait until you are thirsty, it is too late."
What is it too late for?
The argument is that by waiting until you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated. This argument has been perpetuated because you have been led to believe that weight losses equal body water losses. However, even in a class lab we performed recently, our volunteer cycled for just over two hours. During that time he burned nearly 300 g of carbohydrate and fat while ingesting water ad libitum. His weight losses, or "dehydration," were 1 kg. Yet a whole 30% of that "dehydration" was not water at all and instead represented fuel that he burned. Let us say that again---the weight loss method overestimated his "dehydration" by 30%. So the take home message here is that the body weight losses grossly overestimate the fluid losses, and when someone is said to have lost 4% of his or her body weight, at least 10% of that or more will be fuel that has been burned during the exercise.
The thirst mechanism - a well-oiled physiological machine
The reality of the situation is that humans (and mammals) have very well-developed and successful mechanisms in place to help conserve and maintain their fluid balance, although the sports drinks companies have informed you otherwise. As we have said, the body is not concerned about body weight, but rather the concentration of the body fluids---otherwise known as the osmolality, and here is how it works.
Incredibly small increases (1%) above the resting value (280-300) first will trigger the release of anti-diuretic hormone, or ADH. Its job is to keep you from losing any more water in the urine. It has a profound effect so that even small amounts of ADH produce a maximal effect---that is, it is not possible for you to produce any less urine. Next, if ADH does not do the trick, as is the case when you are exercising and sweating, your thirst kicks in. Again, this occurs at a very marginal (4% or less) elevation of the osmolality. The effect is that we seek fluid, drink, and some time later the fluid gets in to the blood and dilutes it back down below the thirst threshold. This cycle continues indefinitely until you stop excreting fluid (i.e., sweating) and restore your osmolality once and for all.
So in fact humans have a very acute sense of when it is important to drink fluid, and it does not take much to stimulate us to seek water. Thirst is a very deep-seated, physiological desire for water, and it has been shown again and again in lab studies to effectively defend the osmolality.
Why is the osmolality so important?
The reason the body does not care about weight losses and instead "defends" the osmolality is that this concentration of the body fluids is what keeps the fluid balance between the cells. We have fluid both inside and outside the cells, and under normal conditions, the osmolality maintains this balance. The following two changes are possible:
- The osmolality can increase outside the cells. This will cause the fluid to leave the cells. Because this is undesirable, the ADH and thirst mechanisms explained above kick in and we correct the change to restore balance (homeostasis, in physiology-speak!)
- The osmolality can decrease outside the cells. If this happens, then fluid will move into the cells. Similarly, the body will initiate a sequence of responses, including the release of other hormones (aldosterone, for example) that we won't go into here.
"My sweat tastes salty"
Yes, it certainly does, and that is because it does contain some sodium. However it contains profoundly less than the fluids in your body, and is still mostly water---body fluids have a sodium concentration of 140mM while sweat has a value of 20-60mM. Therefore when you remove a liter of sweat from your blood, it has much more of an effect on the volume compared to the solutes (sodium), and what happens is that the osmolality rises in response to sweat losses. This is absolutely crucial to realise - you cannot lose sodium, even if you are a "salty sweater", as Gatorade are now claiming. If the sodium content of the blood is dropping, it's because you're drinking too much water, not because you're sweating sodium!
In fact, a very interesting study was published in 1992 by Robert Cade, the man who invented Gatorade. His experiment took place during a marathon, and the groups of runners were given Gatorade, 1/2 Gatorade (half water, half Gatorade), or water. The really interesting finding was that the water group maintained their sodium concentration (a surrogate for the total osmolality) just fine, while the Gatorade group actually increaesed its concentration. In fact this explains why people drink more of a sports drink compared to water---the sports drinks keep your osmolality higher and therefore makes you thirstier. So instead of lowering osmolality, which is what your body wants you to do, the sports drinks raise it. Seems kind of counter-intuitive, doesn't it?
The final word - Drinking to thirst optimizes your fluid intake
We hope it has become clear that, for a number of reasons, it is not necessary to drink so much during exercise, and in furthermore no one needs to tell you how much to drink. As we have shown you here, the thirst mechanism is highly sensitive and very successful at what it is meant to do: maintain your osmolality, not your weight. But the final message here is that when you drink to thirst, you optimize your fluid intake, and by that we mean your thirst will always keep you from drinking too much or too little. There is such a thing as both of those, but drinking to thirst will always prevent you from straying too far in one direction or the other.
In addition, who wants to carry around three Liters of fluid in a backpack when half that volume will be just plenty? And when there is no scientific evidence to support the claims that dehydration increases your core temperature or elevates your risk for heat stroke, it seems quite unnecessary. In fact, the concept that people are "dehydrated" while losing a few kg's is now debatable.
One last thing, is that as humans, we are regarded (by most, anyway) as the smartest animals, right? Yet for some reason, companies making fluids deem it necessary to inform you how much you should drink. Have you ever had to force your pet cat or dog to the water bowl? Have you ever seens signs in the wild pointing animals to the watering hole with instructions to drink before they're thirsty? Yet somehow, the Gatorades of the world have "discovered" the NEED to educate us all about fluid. It does strike one as patently ridiculous - thirst is good enough for every animal in the world, it's good enough for us...!