The importance of proper breathing.

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A while back, one of my blog articles http://coachericneilsen.com/news/just-breathe/ talked about breathing and how important it is for swimmers to master this concept.   Now is seems simple to just breathe when exercising and to moderate the amount of inhale vs exhale depending on how hard you are working.   I was talking with my physical therapist the other day about this and was reminded of a good article he had written to help myself and others better understand breathing.  Here is the link http://www.reboundsportspt.com/blog/rebound/the-importance-of-proper-breathing which I hope you will find helpful in your understanding of how important breathing is and give you a better idea on how your respiratory mechanics SHOULD work.

Train Smart Race Fast!

Coach Eric

 

 

“The Long Run”

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A long time client Bill Greentree, recently forwarded an article about varying the types of running surfaces that triggered me to write this post.  Running is such a great activity that can be done anywhere with minimal amounts of gear and preparation.  From home, work, the gym or on travel, just lace up the shoes and get out the door!   Runners however have a tendency to get injured through a combination of  poor biomechanics, too much volume and not backing off when needed.  If you talk to anyone that has run for any length of time, they will usually have experienced some form of set back or injury that has halted their running.  Lets look at three things: technique, trails & treadmills that may help keep injury potential down, and keep you in the sport for "The Long Run"

Technique - EVERY RUN you do, should have a portion of the run devoted to a technique focus.  That does not mean you run with poor technique the remaining parts of the run, but pick a time(s) when you really focus on running technique.  I like to call this a "systems check."  As you are running, start evaluating various parts of your technique to see how you are holding it together or need some improvement.  A few key things to check but certainly not limited to would be posture, breathing, cadence and arm swing.  Start with a focus on technique when you are running easy, fresh and warming up.  Also, pay attention to technique when going fast to have a better understanding of what makes you go and what makes you slow.

Trails - Living in Colorado, there are no shortage of these to be found.  Trails go up, down, left and right so you are almost always having a slightly different foot strike.  This helps to better strengthen all the muscles involved with running, balance and picking up those feet.  Running a trail with rocks, roots and other objects and you will quickly reveal strengths and weakness in running form.  Generally trails provide a softer surface to run on and no cars, bikes, dogs, pedestrians and stop lights to navigate.  Check with your local running store or club and you should come away with plenty ideas for your next off road adventure.

Treadmills (TM) - Sometimes a love/hate relationship or called "The Dreadmill", TM have their place in a running program.  Need a softer surface? TM will provide this and by raising the %grade to 1-2% it may help with those dealing impact type injuries.   TM are a great way to work on hills without the downhill portion.  Just tap the up arrow on the %grade and watch the HR go up as well.  You can play with a combination of speed and %grade to elicit the training objective desired.  Check out this chart for some approximations on various speed vs %grade efforts.

http://www.hillrunner.com/training/tmillchart.php

TM are also great for teaching proper pacing as it will just keep on ticking over the minutes at whatever pace you set it for.  It always feels easy at the beginning, but how does it feel 5,10 or 15 minutes into a run?

Certainly there is more to expand on each of these, and I encourage you to explore them more. This may help you find the right balance of surfaces for your training and racing goals and keep you going for "The Long Run" and for any "Eagles" fans... here ya go!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YBfE8nMxv-U&list=PL2E207564EBC9FD27

Train Smart Race Fast,

Coach Eric

 

 

 

Winter Crosstraining

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Looking for some fun, winter exercise options? Have you considered snowshoeing?

It is a great way to keep your cardio fitness gains from the summer months while exploring some quiet and peaceful places in our Colorado winter wonderland.   Snowshoeing requires a good base level of fitness so some sport specific training prior to tackling the trails is a good idea.  First, a few things that will help make the trip a success and then some training considerations to better prepare you.

Gear – For starters, when it’s time for the first hike, rent snowshoes or borrow a pair from a friend. Just make sure to try them on before heading out the first time. Trekking poles are another item that many find helpful for additional balance and support as trail conditions vary. Packing the appropriate gear will make the adventure that much better along with some tasty snacks. Dressing in layers allows you to be flexible by adding or peeling off layers depending on your effort and the weather.   Visit http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/snowshoeing-first-steps.html For more specific info on gear check and snowshoeing tips

Safety – If it’s your first time out, going with a friend or group that has some experience is a good idea. Make sure to check the weather report and trail conditions before starting. A saying we use in the ocean is “when in doubt, don’t go out” and this would apply here as well. Conditions can change quickly and there is no shame in turning around early on a hike or not starting one in adverse conditions.

Where – Rocky Mountain National Park has miles of trails to explore. http://www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/winter_activities.htm

Training - Here we have the nuts and bolts to get you ready for your snowshoe adventure. You will need to focus on cardio exercises that are sport-specific to best prepare you for the demands of snowshoeing. Walking or hiking outdoors on a rolling to hilly route would be a good place to start. This can also be accomplished by varying the incline on a treadmill if no hills are nearby. Other cardio options to consider would be a stair-master or elliptical trainer and taking the stairs whenever you can goes without saying.   A blend of low and high intensity aerobic workouts will keep the training varied and better prepare you for the demands of the hike. Once you are comfortable walking at least 45 minutes, then it would be time to try some of your walks with a small pack, preferably the one you snowshoe with. This will increase the load on your hips, legs and upper body muscles so good form (posture) is important. If you are planning to hike longer distance or terrain that has a lot of elevation gain/loss, you will benefit from adding a little bit of weight to the pack and/or extending the time of your longer walks.

Strength and Flexibility – If new to strength training, then consulting with a trainer at your gym would be a great place to start. This will help take some of the fear out of the gym, but more importantly help minimize the chances of injury getting started. If you plan on just doing your own thing, start slow with body weight exercises and/or light weights that you can comfortably lift 12-15 times and one set is plenty if starting from scratch. If you have been in the gym already, then two sets of 12-15 repeats will be a good starting point. Focus on large muscle groups targeting the hips, legs, back and shoulders. Some lower body exercises to implement (but certainly not limited to) would be: Squats, lunges (both forward and backward), hamstring curls (machine or swiss ball) and single leg ¼ squats. Upper body could include: dumbbell rows, push-ups, shoulder press and tricep extension. The muscles of the lower leg and ankle will be under increased load as well, so a couple of simple exercises to include would be calf raises and walking on your heels, toes, inside and outside of your feet. Flexibility is always an important part of any program and everyday good health. Make sure to include stretching for the psoas to open up the hips, along with leg, back and chest muscles to help keep that good posture. Snowshoeing at times may require you to take steps bigger/higher than you are normally accustomed to over varied terrain.

Happy Trails!

Coach Eric

 

 

 

 

 

Improve your swimming technique… Train with a center mount snorkel.

 Center Mount Snorkel

Recently I returned to using a center mount snorkel for part of my swim sessions in the pool.  I forgot how much fun this is when air is always available & also realized that my stroke needs some tuning up.   Typically I will start with it during warm up swimming 2-300 yards at an easy pace.  Then, gradually building the distance on some shorter sets as I get used to flip turns again while not swallowing water coming back to the surface.  I have also been incorporating into my cool downs to help me refocus on my technique before ending the training session.  Here are some of the things I like about training with the center mount snorkel.

Swimming: First and foremost, it allows the athlete to focus on technique without having to turn the head to breathe.  Often times, breathing strokes will cause a swimmer to become unbalanced in the water causing them to wiggle from side to side or worse yet, compromise body position with sinking hips, legs and feet.  With the snorkel the swimmer is able to keep their head in a neutral position, working on good body alignment and balance in the stroke.  Athletes with breath timing issues can learn to time their breathing without turning the head.  A great drill for this is 4 x 25  rest :10 seconds with snorkel timing your exhale to the pulling arm you wish to breathe on.  Then swim 1 x  50 without the snorkel breathing to pulling arm side you just practiced.  Repeat 2-3 more times.

Kicking: With the snorkel, like swimming allows the athlete to maintain good body alignment and can reduce stress put on the lower back if kicking too much with a kickboard.   Beginners can start with 4 x 25 flutter kicking rest :10-15 seconds.  Arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width holding onto the bottom of a kickboard to help stabilize.  Once this skill is acquired then try the 4 x 25 without the kickboard arms stretched out overhead at shoulder width or in a streamline position.

Drills: I like to do what I call a progression scull.  This is where the athlete starts in the front scull position, arms stretched out in front at shoulder width 14-18 inches below the surface of the water.  Start with some gentle sculling movements then gradually progress the scull through the freesytle pulling pattern until you reach the finish of your stroke.  Like above 4 x 25 on 10-15 seconds rest will do and then swim 1 x 50. If done correctly, you should really feel a good connection with your hands to the water.  Single arm swimming is also good with the snorkel as it allows the swimmer to coordinate hand/arm speed through the pull to their hip speed.  Doing single arm pull with the non-pulling arm stretched out in front is a good way to start.  I like this position as it allows the swimmer to feel a nice long body line from finger tips, through shoulder to hip.  Also, since you don't have to breathe, you can pay attention to that lead arm when pulling to make sure it is not crossing center, the elbow is dropping or exhibiting other deviant behavior.

If you have not used a center mount snorkel before, I highly recommend giving it a try.  Typical cost is between $30-$40.  Be patient as you get used to breathing with the snorkel.  Keep the repeats short so you can keep the technique focus at a premium.

Train Smart...Race Fast

Coach Eric

It’s not rocket science… just practice your ABC’s

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The long days of summer are fading, but that does not mean your health and fitness needs to fade as well.  There are plenty of things you can continue doing this fall and winter to maintain your summer fitness gains. In addition to sleep, two other things play an equally important role in maintaining optimal fitness and they are balanced nutrition and consistent exercise.  Just imagine if we could do just those three things consistently how much better we would feel every day.

“ABC’s of optimal health and training”

A = Adequate sleep

B = Balanced nutrition

C = Consistent exercise 

#1 Adequate Sleep – Our own personal energy level could be one of our most valuable resources and sleep plays a big role in this. With adequate sleep you have a much better chance of success with #2 and #3 below, so make it a priority. People have different sleep requirements, so the key is finding out what yours is and then doing your best to get those zzz’s. Some people do fine on 6-7 hours a night, others need 8+ and teenagers can never seem to get enough. Proper sleep allows our bodies to rejuvenate and recover from the day’s activities.

#2 Balanced Nutrition – Similar to sleep, everyone is going to have their own specific needs depending on age, level of activity or trying to lose, maintain or gain weight. A balanced diet of foods is fuel for optimal mental and physical energy. Here is a simple thing to do that just requires a little bit of discipline. Find out what you are really eating every day by keeping a food journal. Try the journal for three days and write down everything you eat & drink. This can be a big eye opener for a lot of people in terms of how much or little they are eating as well as the quality in food choices. Often times, just the act of keeping a food journal will help you make better food choices. From this you will have a better idea on what foods you may need to add to your diet as well as those that may need to be consumed in more moderation or eliminated to maintain healthy body composition and optimum energy levels.

#3 Consistent Exercise – The benefits of exercise are to numerous to list. There are so many great ways to get exercise especially living along the Front Range here in Colorado.  I would encourage you to have a variety of activities to choose from. Variety is the spice of life and participating in different forms of exercise is a great way to cross train and help keep overuse injuries down. With the weather changing, you may need to take some of your exercise indoors, or just get some better gear to handle the cooler weather. Either way, you need to keep moving regardless of the temperature. Exercise is probably one of the best ways to change your mood. Think about it, when was the last time you finished a workout and felt depressed, or grumpy? Yes, you may be tired, but it is a good tired that in turn may help you with #1 above. Whether you exercise by yourself or with a group just be consistent in trying to get some movement each and every day.

We all have 24 hours each day, no more, no less. Make the choice to get adequate sleep each and every day.  This combined with balanced nutrition and consistent exercise is a great recipe for maintaining optimal health, mind & body!

Train Smart...Race Fast
Coach Eric

Why do you do what you do?

We all have our reasons for why we do what we do and if you have not given that some thought recently, I encourage you to check in with yourself.  During a recent interview with Vasa Inc they asked me some questions about why I do what I do and for those who do not know me, this may give you a better idea of what makes me tick both personally and professionally.

'Why' interview with Multi-Sport Coach Eric Neilsen

Why do you do what you do? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
When I was younger, I was athletic but overweight. I wanted to do sports, but being overweight, I was never comfortable. It was a very challenging time in my life, because that's when your self-esteem is literally forming (or not forming).
In college things changed. Through a mindful balance of exercise and nutrition, my body changed. It wanted to go exercise. And since then I never looked back.
I do what I do—coaching people to be their best—because I remember what it felt like when I wanted to do things, but couldn't because of my choices. I had low self-esteem. I would have loved to swim on the team, but back then, there were only Speedos—and that was never going to happen.
I chose this career path to empower people to reach their potential. I know, first-hand, what it feels like not to be able to do a sport—and then be able to do it. I thrive on helping people reach their goals. I love the process of goal achievement.
In that way, every day is new and fresh.
When people "get it," and it clicks—when they have that "aha moment"—they blossom. I love that moment. It's magical and beautiful—and it can happen at any age.
If you believe it, you can achieve it.
What was your proudest moment?
Well, out of college I went into the corporate world. I was 25. The money was great, but it didn't make it tick. It was not resonating with me.
In 1991, I shifted to finding a career within sport, to reaching and helping people through sport. It was a full-blown career change.
It was my proudest "moment," because had I not had the courage to get uncomfortable with change, had I given in to the "status quo," I would not have been happy. I took a calculated risk and it paid off. That one choice set me on a different trajectory for the second 24 years of my life.
We get lost in things and forget to be present.
What do we really need? We need family, friends and good health. When you realize this and pursue your passion, everything changes.
What one thing do you want people to remember you for? What is your "parting advice?"
I want people to say: "Eric was somebody who took the time to listen." Sometimes all people want is to be heard. That is very important as a coach. But also for humanity. Take the time to listen to people. Many people say: "Eric, you're the most patient person I have ever met."
My parting advice to people is this: be the best version of yourself.
You can't be anyone else. Just be the best version of yourself.

 

Olympic Training Center Visit

Next week, I will be going down to Colorado Springs to meet with National team coach Jack Fabian and swimmer Eva Fabian as she prepares for the Pan Pacific Swimming Championships in Australia this August.  We will be sharing training ideas and concepts using the Vasa Ergometer and the Ant +  technology to help swimmers and triathletes perform at the highest levels.

New Site Coming Soon

The shinny new website coachericneilsen.com is under construction. Tune in soon, possibly Friday the 22nd for great information about running, swimming, and triathlon training.

Coach Neilsen is an expert and has vast training experience. Hope to hear from you all soon! Yay

Ironman World Championships Round 2

I was talking on the phone a couple weeks ago with one of my clients that is racing in Kona this October and I posed a simple question to him; Why do you want to do another Kona Ironman?  I liked his response so much, that I thought I would share it.  Possible it may help the rookie Ironman or a gentle reminder for the seasoned veteran on how to keep the balance.

Bill Greentree

The first time you enter an Iron distance triathlon you really have no idea what you're in for. You might not even be sure just how you came to the decision to enter an Ironman race. Our reasons for wanting to complete an Ironman distance event go well beyond our desire for a brief moment in the spotlight. For some it's a natural evolution of their current sport or a lifetime of athletic endeavors. For others it's a fad, they just want to hear the famed “You are an Ironman!” (He doesn't say it every time by the way.) Some are just natural triathletes and want to give the long course a go. A very few are competitive by nature and want to one up someone they know. And then there are the pro's.

I'm not any of those. In fact, I spent most of my adult life avoiding any physical activity that could by any stretch of the imagination be deemed 'exercise'. At age 50 I was tired of being overweight and out of shape so I started a run walk program. I took absolute delight the first time I ran a full mile without stopping. Eventually a combination of factors led to my first triathlon, an Olympic distance race. Six months later in October 2011 at just under 55 years of age I did my third triathlon ever – the Ironman World Championship. I joked with people that the reason I was doing Ironman was because I was a runner in the “Mecca” of the long course triathlon world, Kailua Kona -- it's the only place in the world you have to apologize for being “just a runner.”

Even as an endurance runner with several standalone marathons under my belt, I really wasn't prepared mentally for just what simply completing an Ironman course during the hottest time of the year on Hawaii Island would entail. Your mind focuses on the upcoming race and there are likely as many reactions to that focus as there are people doing the race. A common reaction is paralysis through analysis. You become so intent on the end task (the race) that you can't figure out how to get there. For those of us with real lives it's easy to get overwhelmed with the myriad of details involved in training for three sports when you haven't done this before. 

It's easy to succumb to the idea that training for a full length Ironman distance race isn't for the feint of heart or those with limited time to train. After all, it's Ironman for heavens sake. Unless you're careful, Ironman training can easily become a second job and as  any person with two jobs, you find yourself becoming adept at juggling schedules, disciplined in following a training program and time management or you end up sacrificing other aspects of your life. That's where your coach comes in. A triathlon coach can take an enormous amount of that stress out of your life and allow you to focus on the task at hand, getting trained to compete. It's his (or her) job to keep that path to the finish line in mind for you. How you train for this or any other race is dependent upon your goals. Are you capable of finishing in the top 3% of age group athletes? Do you simply want to comfortably finish the race? Are you working with a disability or chronic injury? Each answer impacts your goals, priorities and just how you approach training.

Another common reaction to the prospect of an Iron distance race in the not too distant future is becoming overly task oriented. That is, focusing so much on the immediate task at hand that you lose sight of the big picture. The old adage that there's training and then there's racing isn't always true. Some of our workouts are designed specifically to apply to race day: flattening out the hills on the bike, training your legs to run properly when they feel like rubber after a 100 mile ride, simulating the fatigue you feel at the end of the bike ride at mile 20 on the run, etc. Task oriented myopia can lead to forgetting some of these lessons and having them painfully brought home during the race. As an airline pilot, I naturally fell into this category for my first Ironman race. My training program for the 2011 Ironman World Championship was more of a journey than a set of individual exercises. But I missed a lot of that journey by focusing on what I was trying to do rather than where I was going, how I was doing and what I was doing. 

I am a runner. I had trained for and finished a December marathon the year before I started triathlons. My training, therefore, concentrated on swimming and building cycling skills and endurance. Running would take care of itself though it was neither ignored nor allowed to languish. What I recall the most are the long bike rides, five plus hours while trying to figure out your nutrition and hydration for those long rides. Anywhere else what we call “nutrition” would be called really bad candy. Oh and the bricks. For someone from a pure running background, bricks are an amazingly humbling experience. Your legs that have served so well on countless runs just don't feel right and you can't make them feel 'normal' anytime soon. But really, no matter how fit you are when you start the journey, you soon find yourself in the best physical condition of your life and you like it.

I hesitated a bit before I pressed the submit button on Active.com for this years race. The first time you have no clue what you're in for. I know better now. I pressed the button anyway.  Maybe the answer really is what Frank Shorter said regarding marathons, “You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can't know what's coming.” I have four months from the time I found out I had a Kona slot to race day. It's going to be a journey again. This time though, it's not my first rodeo. In fact it really isn't my second  (It is my second time to the Ironman World Championship) rodeo either. For the first time I'm intent on maintaining the balance between the big picture and tunnel vision in the task of the moment. I also want to see just how far that commitment to enjoying the journey will go towards not avoiding the discipline I most dislike. Everyone has a discipline they most like to avoid, mine used to be swimming. It just might be fun to see how I do in October if I actually do all my coaches swimming workouts instead of putting them off.

There's also the complacency factor, been there done that; no big deal. The second time around is harder because you have been there before. Motivation, or rather the lack thereof, becomes a real factor. Plus it's a familiar course for me. That's a double edged sword. We know where the course compounds our personal weaknesses so we can train for it. It also is the proverbial sword of Damocles. We know what's coming. All that matters on race day is how you deal with the inevitable adversity; our winds are famous, it's the hottest time of the year, it's also on the edge of one of our rainy seasons – all on the same day sometimes! Overcoming those factors and finishing better than I did three years ago would be a coupe. But I will have fun again. But honestly there's another reason.

It's the last half mile that sucks you in. The finish line is a mere 800 meters away but seems to be a mere speck of light in an otherwise black hole. The music and voices you could hear so clearly out on the Queen Ka`ahumanu highway now sound startlingly muted and distant. Astonishingly the last bit of energy you've been trying to find for 10 km suddenly appears. Your pace quickens along a surprisingly empty road. Even in prime time it seems it's just you all alone on Ali`i Drive. A few elites are out enjoying a post dinner stroll (They can still walk?) and cheer you on (Dinner? How can they eat? Can it really be that late that they're done with dinner?). A spectator who's imbibed a bit too much staggers out onto the road to congratulate you. You really wish he hadn't done that, you're not done yet, besides changing course even by a step just isn't easy after 140 miles. This is what the four months of training and pain were all about – not the miles beforehand – this moment in time. This is why you want to do this. Suddenly a huge noisy crowd materializes yet ironically you hear your family and friends above the din. After listening to Mike Riley call in people for 2 or 3 miles it's your turn.  And then it's over. Just. Like. That. 

This years race will likely be my last time in the Ironman World Championship. It's rare in life that we get the opportunity to know that we're doing something for the last time. That knowledge is incredibly empowering. We can enjoy the journey, enjoy the sport we most dislike, enjoy the sport we really enjoy the most, enjoy the race and relish the finish. As Bullwinkle Jay Moose used to say, “This time for Sure!”

And I still think it's incredible when I run a full mile without stopping.

Aloha,

Bill

With a little over 3 months until Kona, I know that Bill is in a very good place and will do everything I can to help him enjoy the journey to race day.

Train Smart... Race Fast
Coach Eric


Progression workouts for sensible, flexible training!

Training plans are written as a best case scenario, but there is no way for you or your coach to know how your body & mind are going to feel on a particular day.  No way to know how much of a toll all the other stresses of life have put on you.  How much sleep you have been getting, the quality of your nutrition/hydration, any injuries, work, family, etc...  All of these things can factor into your workout for that day.

How fast you progress to in any particular training session will be based on the goals of the session and what your body & mind have available to deliver on that day.  I like to give my clients workouts that are what I call "progression on feel".  This allows them to listen to their body and progress to their limits for the day or if the body is a bit off, then just progress to what is available.  I believe this helps keep injury potential down and continues to teach the athlete to listen to the signals their body is sending so they can keep training or recovering if that is the case.

Progression workouts are really quite simple, you start off at a pace you can handle and increase your intensity as the workout progresses.  They are great for teaching athletes how to pace themselves at the beginning of a training session, so they will have enough energy to finish the session as fast or faster than they started.  It is much better to dictate the pace you are going to move at rather than have the pace dictated to you because you went out too fast.

For those that train with power or heart rate, you can easily measure whether or not the intensity is increasing.  While going on feel is great, the numbers don't lie and a good tool to use to compliment your training.  Over time your feel will get better as your ability to gauge your perceived effort improves.  This is important because you do not want to be a slave to the numbers and what happens on race day if technology fails you?  You should have a very good idea what a particular effort feels like, and how long you can sustain it.

Remember that consistency in training is one of the keys to improvement.  This coupled with a balance of stress plus recovery will enable an athlete to progress their training throughout the year.  So try implementing a few "progression on feel" workouts during the coming weeks to help maximize the training that you do.

Train Smart... Race Fast!

Coach Eric