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Stroke Rate V Stroke Count, and why it’s critical for swim performance..

February 27, 2015 at 2:50 pm
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What is Stroke Count?

Stroke count is the number of strokes you take each length of the pool. You count both your left and your right arm strokes and most amateur swimmers generally require somewhere between 16-30 strokes to complete 1 length of a 25m pool.

What is stroke rate?

Stroke rate is the number of strokes you take in a single minute, in essence, this is the speed of your stroke. It is very much like cycling cadence (the number of times your legs turn round in a minute). Most amateur swimmers generally have a stroke count of 40-70 strokes per minute.

How do the 2 interact?

We have tested hundreds of people over the last 5 years and compared the relationship between stroke count and stroke rate. The assessment used was the 20 minute swim test as recommended in previous blog posts and throughout the test we measured stroke count at the start / middle / end, much like you will have done if you completed the test yourself. We also measure stroke rate at the start / middle / end to see how the ‘count’ and ‘rate’ interact.

What we generally always find is that the stroke count does not change throughout the test. The swimmers will take the same number of strokes per length at the start / middle / end of the test, so fatigue has no bearing on stroke count. However, their stroke rate will start relatively high and gradually decrease throughout the test. Their arm cadence becomes slower and slower and this is the reason for them slowing down as the 20 minute test progresses.

In simple terms, fatigue DOES NOT change your stroke count, it DOES change your stroke rate. You continue to take the same number of strokes each length, but your arms get slower as you get more tired.

SWOLF

Many triathletes will have heard the term ‘SWOLF’ which is an abbreviated for ‘SWIM GOLF’. If you own a GPS watch with swimming settings, it may well include a SWOLF function. SWOLF is simply adding together the number of strokes you take each length (stroke count) to the number of seconds it takes to swim the length. For example, if you swim one length in 30 seconds and take 20 strokes, your SWOLF score is 50. You can reduce your score by taking less strokes and gliding more (e.g. reducing from 20 to 17 strokes) but this often results in people swimming slower (e.g. increasing from 30 to 33 seconds) and thereby not improving their SWOLF score. SWOLF is a great example of why stroke count alone is not the answer to faster swimming.

How do I know what my stroke count actually is and whether its changing?

Simple, you just count the number of strokes required to swim 1 length of the pool, count each time your left and right hands enter the water.

How do I know whether my stroke rate is slowing down throughout the test?

Here lies the problem.. you don’t know what it is at any time during your swim and there’s no way of knowing if your arm cadence is slowing. There are some key points you should know about stroke rate:

1. One of the simplest ways to enhance your swim training is to calculate your current stroke rate and then during your swim sessions don’t let it slow down as you get tired, maintain the same arm cadence.
2. If you exaggerate your glide you are likely to have with a low stroke rate. You should try to increase your stroke rate as this is your key area for improvement.
3. In open water, a low stroke rate and a ‘long gliding stroke’ does not work well. Your body glides best through still water, so during a rough open water swim, you quickly lose momentum and come to a halt. A high arm turnover keeps you moving forwards and is therefore more efficient.

How can I hold or improve stroke rate during my swim sessions??

This is without a doubt, the single best piece of kit you can buy to help your swim training:

http://www.theendurancestore.com/proddetail.php?prod=finistempotrainerproaudiblemetronome

This is a waterproof metronome which has a clip to attach to your goggles, although I would recommend you don’t use the clip, but place the metronome under your cap. Before you do this, you can alter the ‘audible bleep’ to match your stroke rate e.g. 60 bleeps per minute. When you swim, you swim to the bleeps, maintain the same stroke rate / arm cadence and don’t fall behind the metronome.

If you have a low stroke count / rate, you should use this device to gradually increase your stroke rate. You can increase the bleeps per minute by 1-2 each week, allowing your stroke to adapt. You may need to start by adjusting/playing with the device in the pool to work out what your current stroke rate actually is. Your stroke rate will also naturally change depending upon your session intensity and it is governed largely by the type of stroke you have, i.e. ‘catch up style’ or ‘windmill style’.

Example stroke rates are:

Level 3 sessions = 50-60 SPM

Level 4 sessions = 55-65 SPM

Level 6 sessions = 65 + SPM

The tempo trainer can also be used as a pacing tool. For example, if your level 3 pace is 1:40 per 100m, you can set it to bleep every 25 seconds and you should be turning as you hear the bleep if you’re on pace.

Do not underestimate how much difference this little device can make to your training and swimming performance.

If you found this blog post useful, please share on social media and support Swim Club.

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Fat burning efficiency for endurance athletes (part 5)

February 24, 2015 at 12:35 pm
2 comments

Over the last 4 weeks, we’ve discussed how you can manipulate your diet to enhance fat burning and your endurance performances. This week, we look at the missing piece of the jigsaw, which is training intensity and more importantly, pacing strategy.

The basics of fat metabolism for endurance athletes are simple and based on 2 key factors. First, you can change your diet in some way to enhance fat usage (e.g. riding / running fasted). Next, you can adopt a ride / run strategy (intensity and pacing), which encourages fat usage during training and racing. You can opt to do only one or the other of these things, but in reality, if you couple them both together you’ll have the biggest impact.

We’ve discussed diet, so today we are going to talk about ride and run strategy in terms of pacing and intensity, for running and cycling. So let’s outline some of the basic things, which you may already know and if not, you need to know:

  1. I stressed last week that every session should have a key objective and therefore a key intensity to obtain that objective. The biggest error is people doing ‘hard stuff too easy’ and ‘easy stuff too hard’. Generally they are linked by the fact that if you do the ‘easy stuff too hard’ you’re too knackered the following day to do the ‘hard stuff hard’. As a result, everything tends to fall into a grey, middle area.
  2. The 2 key objectives of the long easy session for ironman competitors or marathon and ultra runners are generally to utilise fat for better fuel economy and to ‘complete the distance’ (time in the saddle or time on feet). If you don’t ride at the correct intensity, you will hit neither of those objectives, due to the following problems:
  3. At lower intensities, total energy expenditure (kcal per hour) is lower and fat usage is higher. This means that only a small amount of energy comes from carbohydrates and your body has the opportunity to practice using fat, which is necessary for the process to become more efficient. OBJECTIVE 1: If you do not run / ride at the correct intensity, you will not develop effective fat burning.
  4. Because riding and running at a higher intensity uses more energy and generates more muscular fatigue, it’s not rocket science that you will have to stop earlier. This is NOT just based on fat / fuel usage, there are other factors at play related to muscle damage and fatigue. As a result, many ironman triathletes or marathon and ultra runners are not reaching target distances and stopping short on long rides or runs. OBJECTIVE 2: If you do not run / ride at the correct intensity, you will not be able to reach your target distances for your training rides and runs.

As outlined above, the 2 key objectives are enhancing fuel use and maximising distance and to achieve both, the intensity must be correct. If you’re using Maffetone as discussed 4 weeks ago, then you’re all set. If you’re not then for most people, the intensity we are discussing is zone 1, which is comfortable conversation pace.

You can use heart rate to monitor your training intensity and cyclists can also use power devices to do the same job. Let’s take heart rate as an example and consider the following scenario as an example:

Tom has a zone 1 cycling heart rate of 118-128 and uses his heart rate monitor when completing all his ironman cycle training. We know that Tom will maximise both his fat usage and can maximise his training distance by holding his heart rate steady within Zone 1.

Avoiding the spikes

One key thing to take into account when riding in Zone 1 is avoiding spikes. If Tom completed his long Sunday ride and reported an average heart rate of 124, it first appears that he has ridden to plan. Unfortunately upon closer inspection, he spent half his time at a heart rate of 148 climbing hills and the other half of his time at 100 rolling down the other side, thereby generating an average of 124. Whilst the AVERAGE looks correct, the TIME IN ZONE was very poor.

Every time you push hard on hills and allow your heart rate to rise out of Zone 1, your metabolism switches from high fat usage to high carbohydrate usage. Not only is there a switch to carbohydrate, you guzzle the fuel as if there’s no marathon to come. I would liken this to driving your car and every time you reach a hill, changing into first gear and flooring the accelerator, for those old enough to remember you can also pull the choke out for good measure.

OBJECTIVE 1: Tom is not practicing fat burning during his ride. Every time he pushes on the hills, fat usage ‘drops out’ and only returns when the body has stabilised a few miles later.

OBJECTIVE 2: Tom is guzzling fuel at such a high rate, he completes 60 miles of his planned 100 mile ride and is pretty knackered so calls it a day. Tom feels that despite the event being 112 miles (plus the marathon to follow), 60 will suffice. Good luck with that one Tom.

Q: Surely if I’m riding harder that’s more beneficial as my fitness will improve?

A: Not really, you’ve failed on both key objectives. If your training is planned correctly, you should be doing other sessions which will include ‘harder riding or running’ to cover that aspect of fitness.

Where does this all this go wrong?

  1. Riding very hilly courses makes it difficult to keep heart rate in zone 1 and it also makes it difficult to ‘flat line’ heart rate, keeping it constant and avoiding spikes. You need to really focus on ‘backing off’ on the climbs and using a heart rate or power meter as a guide.
  2. Riding in a group makes this problem 10 times worse as most cyclists will naturally want to show their counterparts (tends to be relevant for blokes, not women) that they are stronger than anyone else in the group. As a result, Sunday rides can tend to be a short hard interval up each hill, followed by long periods of recovering and spinning at low intensity.

Key points to take away:

  1. Ride to zone and most important, you need to take out the spikes on the hills, to maximise metabolic benefits.
  2. Start easy on your ride. There is a real tendency amongst amateur athletes to ride way too hard in the first hour or two, which results in a huge drop off later in the ride (again, this is more likely in groups). Hold back and soft pedal for the first couple of hours to allow a long aerobic warm up and better energy levels later in the ride.
  3. If you ride with others, your options are to explain the benefits to them and change their mentality, let them go on the hills, change your group or ride alone.
  4. If you are riding more consistently in zone 1, you should make every effort to maximise distance. If you are currently riding 60 miles or running 13 miles in training, by dropping and controlling the heart rate, you should be capable of increasing the distance and progressing closer to 100 for cycling or 20 for running.

Swim Club sessions L6, thrashing a bit?

February 23, 2015 at 9:10 am
4 comments

What is Technique Threshold?

Technique threshold is a term I made up many years back to define the point at which an athlete’s technique falters, you can apply it to swimming, cycling or running (plus any other sport!). When you are swimming, your nervous system has to coordinate your limbs and ensure they move correctly. Coordination becomes more difficult when the movement becomes more complex or has to be done faster. For example, coordinating your fingers to hit the right keys on a piano keyboard is easy when you do it very slowly with a single finger. Using multiple fingers and playing at speed is a different challenge altogether.

A lot of triathlon and open water swimmers have a very low technique threshold, because they spend a lot of time swimming slowly and moving their arms slowly. This is particularly true for those competing over longer distances.

When swimming slow, the nervous system can coordinate your arms without any problems, but when you try to do it quickly, everything goes wrong and it feels like your swimming has transformed into an uncoordinated thrash!! When swimmers attempt to complete L6 sprint swim sessions, they feel as though they are ‘thrashing’ so they take the following steps:

1. They slow their arms down and swim more slowly to hold ‘good technique’ (we’ve been told so many times that you should always try to swim with good technique)
2. Because they are now swimming slower the fatigue is lower and therefore they feel the recoveries are way too long when doing short / sprint sessions
3. They therefore decide to cut the recoveries short as this feels like the obvious thing to do

By taking the above actions, you are likely to stay at one pace and in effect, you are turning the L6 sprint session into an L4 threshold session (swimming at a steadier pace). In truth, many triathletes and long distance swimmers are completely unable to swim fast for even short periods, they are very much ‘one paced’.

What’s the answer?

The answer most definitely isn’t to avoid doing something because you find it difficult. L6 intensity is ‘maximal’ and therefore your intervals should be ‘maximal’, that DOES NOT mean the fastest pace you can hold whilst still using good form, it means maximal. To raise your technique threshold, you may well have to ‘look ugly’ for a few weeks.. commit to 100% effort, make your arms turn over faster, thrash the water and feel uncoordinated.. if you keep doing this, pretty quickly your nervous system will catch up and your coordination will improve.

IMPORTANT: These sessions ARE NOT about developing power or strength, they are about developing your coordination so your limbs can move efficiently at speed. The outcome of the sessions are to develop your ‘technique’ and break you out of the swimmer’s plod and enable you to swim long distances at a much higher pace.

If you persist with the sprint sessions and carry them out as instructed, you will notice a rise in your L3/L4 pace for no extra effort, purely due to better coordination, resulting in greater efficiency (a drop in energy).

Stay streamlined
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store
Probably the best triathlon and swimming shop on the planet..
Definitely the best staff…

Which are the best road running shoes?

February 21, 2015 at 2:53 pm
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Types of Road Running Shoes

There are several categories of road running shoes, which can make purchases more complicated than it really needs to be. Here’s the basics:

  1. Mileage shoes: Designed for general run training. They offer a high level of cushioning for running a high number of miles. Mileage shoes are the best option for all runners completing general training runs.
  2. Racing shoes: Lighter shoes, designed specifically for racing. They should only be used for racing or shorter / faster training sessions. Their lower weight is partially due to less cushioning. Racing shoes should be used by lightweight runners, with good running mechanics and a low injury risk.
  3. Trainer-Racer: The term ‘trainer-racer’ generally refers to a running shoe which sits somewhere between a mileage shoe and a racing shoe. Trainer-racers are a good alternative to racing shoes for slightly heavier runners who are more at risk of injury.
  4. Support / Anti-pronation shoes: If your feet roll inwards excessively, you may require ‘support shoes’, sometimes referred to as ‘motion control’. Support shoes generally have a hard block of foam or an alternative structure on the inside of the shoe to block it from rolling inwards.
  5. Neutral shoes: For runners who don’t roll in excessively. Generally most manufacturers will have both a support shoe and a neutral shoe. The neutral shoe will often be identical to the support shoe, but without the hard block of foam to control the inwards movement.
  6. Mileage shoes generally come in both neutral and support options, but racing shoes are generally always neutral. This is largely due to the fact that any kind of support will add weight to the shoe. This is why heavier runners or those with a high injury risk, should be wary of pure racing shoes.

Cushioning

If you run long distances, you’re more likely to suffer from impact damage due to the repeated action of hitting the ground. Hard surfaces will make this more pronounced, so road running shoes will always require more cushioning than trail shoes. Mileage shoes have a much greater amount of cushioning than racing shoes and trainer-racers, fall between the two.

Responsiveness

Each manufacturer has their own style of cushioning system. Aside from reducing impact, the other thing to consider is the responsiveness of the shoe. Some shoes have a large amount of cushioning and feel very soft, but this can make them less responsive. Running on soft sand feels very cushioned compared to road, but unlike running on road, as you push off, the sand gives way, making it very hard to run quickly. Some shoes have a softer feel and others a harder feel, this is related to the ‘energy return’ or ‘responsiveness’ of the shoe.

Stack Height

The ‘stack height’ impacts upon both the cushioning and responsiveness of the shoe. As each shoe manufacturer has a different cushioning system, the thickness of the midsole can vary. For example, doubling the foam in the shoe may increase cushioning, but this would also double the thickness or ‘stack height’, raising you further off the floor. Some shoes have a low stack height (thin midsole) but still manage to provide cushioning. A lower stack height can make the shoe more responsive and vice versa.

Support and Control

Support and control refers to the manner in which the shoe supports your foot and holds it firmly in place. Control refers to the way in which shoes dictate your foot movement. For example, if your foot rolls excessively inwards, this is termed ‘over pronation’. Some shoes, termed ‘stability shoes’ are designed to prevent or ‘control’ this movement, thereby reducing the injury risk. Support shoes are generally mileage shoes, racing shoes tend not to have support.

Forefoot or Heel Striking

Another thing to consider when purchasing shoes, is whether the shoes promote heel or forefoot striking. The ‘drop’ of the shoe is calculated quite simply by asking the following question:

1. How thick is the heel?
2. How thick is the forefoot?
3. What the difference between them?

By taking the forefoot thickness from the heel thickness, you are left with a figure relating to the ‘drop’ of the shoe. Standard road shoes up until a few years ago were all 15, but the boom in forefoot has lead to many companies reducing this figure and a range of ‘drops’ now exists from 15 to 0. The lower the drop, the more forefoot the shoe. Mileage shoes tend to have a larger drop than racing shoes, thereby promoting heel striking, but this is not always the case. Swapping to a forefoot shoe can help your running technique, but it can also create it’s own problems and injuries, so be sure to ask when buying.

Weight

The final point to consider is the weight of the shoe. Mileage and support shoes tend to be heavier and neutral racing shoes are the most lightweight. When running quickly or racing, a lighter shoe feels much better and help to increase your stride rate. For general training runs, the weight of the shoe becomes less important.

So here are the things to consider when rating the shoes:

1. Mileage / Racer / Racer-Trainer
2. How much cushioning? Rate 1-5 (5 = maximum cushioning)
3. Responsiveness? Rate 1-5 (5 = maximum responsiveness)
4. Stack height? Rate 1-5 (5 = maximum stack height)
5. How much support and control? Rate 1-5 (5 = maximum support)
6. Forefoot? Rate 1-5 (5 = extremely forefoot)
7. Shoe weight? Rate 1-5 (5 = extremely light)

 

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Brooks Glycerin 12
Female version in store? -YES

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 3

Brooks are the connoisseur’s choice and this is a fantastic mileage running shoe with uber amounts of cushioning! The new ‘Super DNA’ midsole adapts to your foot strike, giving a soft feel on landing for as many miles as you wish to run, they’re 20% more cushioned than the previous model. They’re a pretty standard drop of 12mm which isn’t particularly forefoot, but it’s perfect for steady mileage. The shoe has a standard stack height and feels responsive when you pick up the pace. The Brooks Glycerin 12 are a neutral running shoe, if you’re looking for support and control, then check the Adrenaline GTS 15. Overall weight is approximately 300g for the men’s version, which is standard for mileage shoes, so that’s an added bonus!

brooksadrenaline15gtsmens_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Support
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 5
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 2

Brooks are the connoisseur’s choice and this is a fantastic mileage running shoe which ticks the boxes for both cushioning and support! The new ‘Super DNA’ midsole adapts to your foot strike, giving a soft feel on landing for as many miles as you wish to run, they’re 20% more cushioned than the previous model. They’re a pretty standard drop of 12mm which isn’t particularly forefoot, but it’s perfect for steady mileage. The shoe has a standard stack height and feels responsive when you pick up the pace. The Brooks Adrenaline GTS 15 are a support running shoe, if you’re looking for the neutral option, then check the Glycerin 12. Overall weight is approximately 320g for the men’s version, which is slightly heavier than the Glycerin due to the support, but still average for it’s category.

 

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Brooks Pure Flow 4
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral (efficient runners) Racer-Trainer (average runner)
Provide cushioning = 3
Responsiveness = 4
Stack height = 2
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 4

The Brooks Pure Flow 4 are a lightweight and forefoot mileage shoe, for those seeking a responsive and natural feel. The shoe has a 4mm drop and rounded heel which encourages forefoot running and the 250g weight makes it feel light and fast! The stack height is noticeably lower than the Glycerin 12 or Adrenaline GTS 15, but it still has a soft feel and a responsive ride. Lighter and efficient runners, this is a great option. If you’re heavier and less experienced, you should consider Glycerin or Adrenaline. If in doubt, call in and we can discuss!!

 

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Mizuno Wave Rider 18
Female version in Store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 4
Stack height = 2
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 4

Mizuno make shoes for real runners. They have their own ‘wave cushioning system’ which is both effective and responsive whilst allowing a lower stack height. The Mizuno Wave Rider is a neutral mileage running shoe and weighs in at only 250g for the men’s version, which is extremely light for a mileage running shoe. The drop is a standard 12mm, but the lower stack height somehow makes it feel more forefoot than it should be. If you’re looking for support and control, then you should try the Wave Inspire 11.

 

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Mizuno Wave Inspire 11
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Support
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 4
Stack height = 2
Provide support = 5
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 4

Mizuno make shoes for real runners. They have their own ‘wave cushioning system’ which is both effective and responsive whilst allowing a lower stack height. The Mizuno Wave Inspire is a support mileage running shoe and weighs in at only 265g for the men’s version, which is extremely light for a mileage and support running shoe. The drop is a standard 12mm, but the lower stack height somehow makes it feel more forefoot than it should be. If you’re looking for the neutral option, then you should try the Wave Rider 18.

 

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Scott AF+ Trainer Shoe
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsive = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 3

Scott are a really interesting addition to the world of road running. The AF+ Trainer is a mileage shoe which uses Scott Aerofoam+ midsole to maximise the cushioning. The shoe has a very soft feel and whilst this makes it slightly less responsive, it appeals to those who are slightly heavier frame or clocking up the high miles. It has a slightly larger stack height than standard mileage shoes due to the cushioning system. The shoe has a 9mm drop which places it in the realms of moderate forefoot and helps avoid the heavy heel impact. The added stack height doesn’t seem to affect the weight too much, at 280g, it’s pretty similar to other mileage shoes in it’s category. The Scott AF+ Trainer is a neutral shoe, if you’re looking for support then try the Scott AF+ Support Shoe.

scottafplussupportmenstrainer_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

Scott AF+ Support Shoe
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Support
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 5
Promote forefoot = 3
Lightweight = 3

Scott are a really interesting addition to the world of road running. The AF+ Support is a mileage shoe which uses Scott Aerofoam+ midsole to maximise the cushioning. The shoe has a very soft feel and whilst this makes it slightly less responsive, it appeals to those who are slightly heavier frame or clocking up the high miles. It has a slightly larger stack height than standard mileage shoes due to the cushioning system. The shoe has a 9mm drop which places it in the realms of moderate forefoot and helps avoid the heavy heel impact. The added stack height and support doesn’t seem to affect the weight too much, at 300g, it’s pretty similar to other mileage shoes in it’s category. The Scott AF+ Support is a support shoe, if you’re looking for the neutral option then try the Scott AF+ Trainer.

hokaconquestmens_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

HOKA Conquest
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 5
Responsiveness = 2
Stack height = 5
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 2

HOKA are a unique shoe brand and their specialism is providing more cushioning than any other shoe manufacturer (up to 3 times more). The shoes are ideal for marathon running, ultra distance and general high mileage training. They are also popular with heavier runners and those who suffer recurring injuries caused by impact. The stack height is large due to the volume of cushioning provided, this makes the shoe looks extremely bulky and a little ‘odd’. Due to their excessive size, many people think they will also be heavy, but their looks are deceptive. The Conquest weighs in at 330g, which is not bad for such a beast. The conquest has a different mid-sole than the Stinson Lite which makes it a little more responsive rather than just being ‘soft’. The drop on the HOKA Conquest is 4mm, which promotes forefoot running and all HOKA shoes have a ‘rocker system’ which reduces heel impact and encourage a heel to toe rolling action. Pretty much all HOKA are neutral shoes, so there’s no real support option. Try the Stinson Lite for similar shoes in the range.

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HOKA Stinson Lite
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 5
Responsiveness = 2
Stack height = 5
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 3

HOKA are a unique shoe brand and their specialism is providing more cushioning than any other shoe manufacturer (up to 3 times more). The shoes are ideal for marathon running, ultra distance and general high mileage training. They are also popular with heavier runners and those who suffer recurring injuries caused by impact. The stack height is large due to the volume of cushioning provided, this makes the shoe looks extremely bulky and a little ‘odd’. Due to their excessive size, many people think they will also be heavy, but their looks are deceptive. The Stinson Lite weighs in at 300g, which is not bad for such a beast. It has a huge amount of cushioning which makes landing feel like your running on a mattress, but you do lose responsiveness as a result. The drop on the HOKA Stinson Lite is 4mm, which promotes forefoot running and all HOKA shoes have a ‘rocker system’ which reduces heel impact and encourage a heel to toe rolling action. Pretty much all HOKA are neutral shoes, so there’s no real support option. Try the HOKA Conquest for similar shoes in the range.

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HOKA Rapa Nui Tarmac
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 5
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 5
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 3

HOKA are a unique shoe brand and their specialism is providing more cushioning than any other shoe manufacturer (up to 3 times more). The shoes are ideal for marathon running, ultra distance and general high mileage training. They are also popular with heavier runners and those who suffer recurring injuries caused by impact. The stack height is large due to the volume of cushioning provided, this makes the shoe looks extremely bulky and a little ‘odd’. Due to their excessive size, many people think they will also be heavy, but their looks are deceptive. The Rapa Nui Tarmac weighs in at 270g, saving 30g on the big brothers Conquest and Stinson Lite. This shoe has 1.5 times the cushioning of a normal mileage shoe. On the cushioning scale, it sits between a normal mileage shoe and the HOKA Conquest and Stinson Lite. It still has a very soft feel, making it slightly less responsive than normal mileage shoes. The drop on the HOKA Rapa Nui Tarmac is 4mm, which promotes forefoot running and all HOKA shoes have a ‘rocker system’ which reduces heel impact and encourage a heel to toe rolling action. Pretty much all HOKA are neutral shoes, so there’s no real support option. This shoe will feel more cushioned than other mileage shoes, but if it’s still not enough, try Conquest and Stinson Lite.

hokahuakamens_small

 

 

 

 

 


HOKA Huaka
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Racing Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 4

HOKA are a unique shoe brand and their specialism is providing more cushioning than any other shoe manufacturer (up to 3 times more). The shoes are ideal for marathon running, ultra distance and general high mileage training. They are also popular with heavier runners and those who suffer recurring injuries caused by impact. The stack height is large due to the volume of cushioning provided, this makes the shoe looks extremely bulky and a little ‘odd’. Due to their excessive size, many people think they will also be heavy, but their looks are deceptive. The Huaka is the racing shoe in the HOKA range. It weighs in at 250g, saving 50g on the big brothers Conquest and Stinson Lite. This shoe has the cushioning you’d expect to find in a mileage shoe, with a very soft feel. Despite this, it still feels pretty responsive when running at speed. The drop on the HOKA Huaka is 2mm, which promotes forefoot running and all HOKA shoes have a ‘rocker system’ which reduces heel impact and encourage a heel to toe rolling action. Pretty much all HOKA are neutral shoes, so there’s no real support option. This shoe feels light and fast when using for racing and speed work, with the added bonus of cloud like cushioning which reduces damage on your legs.

onrunningcloudsurfershoemens_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Running Cloudsurfer
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 4
Lightweight = 3

The Cloudsurfer are designed as a relatively lightweight mileage shoe. They have rubber lugs (clouds) on the bottom of the shoe which act as the main source of cushioning, hence their name! The lugs are soft which makes cushioning great, but they still feel relatively firm and responsive on push off. The Cloud shoes are all neutral and they have an 8mm drop which makes them moderately forefoot. At 285g, they are still pretty light for a mileage shoe, falling into a similar range as other brands in the store.

onrunningcloudshoemens_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Running Cloud Shoe
Female version in store? – No

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Racing Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 3
Responsiveness = 4
Stack height = 2
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 5
Lightweight = 5

The Cloud Shoe is a racing shoe with Cloud cushioning technology. The Cloud shoes are all neutral and they have an 6mm drop which makes them very forefoot. At just under 200g, they are very light and ideal for racing up to 10k or half marathon for more efficient runners. They have a relatively low stack height, but still feel both soft and responsive on foot strike and push off. They are ideal for runners and triathletes looking for a racing shoe, without sacrificing all of the cushioning.

sauconymensride7_small

 

 

 

 

 


Saucony Ride 7
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Neutral
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 3
Promote forefoot = 4
Lightweight = 3

The Saucony Ride 7 are a mileage shoe with great cushioning and a moderate forefoot feel. They have a regular stack height and cushioned foam midsole which gives a soft ride and response to be expected from a mileage shoe. They have an 8mm drop which promotes forefoot running without being extreme and they weigh in at a great 266g (men’s). Most mileage shoes vary from 250g (the light end of the scale) through to 320g, so 266 gives them a lightweight feel considering their purpose. Overall a great shoe for long distance running, in particular in you’re looking for a lighter shoe with a forefoot ride.

menssauconyguide8_small

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saucony Guide 8
Female version in store? – Yes

Ratings are 1-5 (1 is a low score and 5 is highest)

Mileage Shoe Support
Provide cushioning = 4
Responsiveness = 3
Stack height = 3
Provide support = 5
Promote forefoot = 4
Lightweight = 3

The Saucony Guide 8 are a mileage shoe with great cushioning and a moderate forefoot feel. They have a regular stack height and cushioned foam midsole which gives a soft ride and response to be expected from a mileage shoe. They have an 8mm drop which promotes forefoot running without being extreme and they weigh in at a great 281g (men’s) which is 15g lighter than their neutral counterpart Ride 7, due to the additional medial support. Most mileage shoes vary from 250g (the light end of the scale) through to 320g, so 281 is still very lightweight considering the support. Overall a great shoe for long distance running, in particular in you’re looking for a lighter shoe with a forefoot ride, which offers extra medial support for the pronating runner.

Fat burning efficiency for endurance athletes (part 4)

February 17, 2015 at 8:00 am
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In recent posts, we’ve been talking about enhancing fat burning to boost endurance. This week’s post was due to focus upon pacing strategy for training and competing and specifically how pacing interacts with the types of fuel you use when exercising. However, as we’ve been discussing Maffetone in recent weeks, I’ve had a few messages stating that I’ve contradicted myself. The reason for this is that I am a believer in the importance of short and high intensity workouts for endurance performance. In the past I have outlined the danger of too much low intensity riding and running, specifically how it makes you slower. I understand why this may be seen as contradictory, so let me explain…

If you are competing in Ironman, one of the things you need to consider is your estimated time and pacing strategy on the bike section. To calculate your ‘race pace’ a simple and popular test is the cp20. During this test, the rider is required to sustain the highest power output for a 20 minute period and from the results, you can calculate your ‘functional threshold’. Some of you may have heard these strange terms before but in simple terms your ‘functional threshold’ is the output you should feasibly be able to manage for an hour. The calculation is simple, look at the average power for the 20 minute test and 95% of that figure is your functional threshold

Using functional threshold you can guestimate the amount of power that in theory you can sustain for all distances up to the Ironman 112. For example, 70% of your functional threshold is a reasonable target for Ironman. The critical thing here is that the power you can hold for only 20 minutes (a very short period of time) predicts Ironman pace. So, if you cannot ride quickly for 20 minutes, you will undoubtedly be riding slowly in Ironman over a distance of 112 miles, as 70% of ‘slowly’ is ‘even slower’. A common mistake people make when training for long distances is that they focus on endurance only and ride lots of slow miles. They ‘get it in their heads’ that Ironman is all about ‘the distance’ so ride long and slow. As a result of doing so much slow riding, their 20 minute power output is reduced to a score potentially even lower than when they started! Subsequently, their Ironman pace (70% FTP) is therefore also reduced.

So the solution is simple, just train to produce the highest power output for 20 minutes by doing short and high intensity riding and you’ll PB in Ironman? Unfortunately not… The test dictates your Ironman pace from the amount of power you can produce within the 20 minutes. However, the critical part is that the test also presumes that you have done the mileage, so therefore have the endurance to support your performance.

The same applies to running and training for a marathon. Let’s say as a ‘guestimate’ that if you double your 10k time and add 4-5 minutes, you’ll be close to your half marathon time. Now double your half marathon time and add 10 and you’ll get your predicted marathon time. You’ve probably heard that formula before, it’s been around for many years. The key thing to point out is that when using that formula, your 10k time is therefore dictating your marathon time. As with our cycling example, if you can’t run quickly for 10k, you can’t run a fast marathon.

However, the formula of double 10k and add 4-5 minutes or double half marathon and add 10 presumes that you have ‘done the mileage’. You can’t just train for 10k racing and expect to run a great marathon. Your 10k time will ‘predict’ your running speed in the marathon, but without the mileage in your legs, you won’t be able to hold that pace for the entirety of the race.

So let’s look at it this way:

  1. The 20 minute test in cycling or the 10k time in running tells you how quickly you are capable of riding or running Ironman or marathon.
  2. Whether you have done the long distances in training will determine whether you are actually capable of maintaining that speed and reaching the finish line in your target time.
  3. As a quick summary, ‘how fast can you go and can you keep it going?’

The simple lesson to learn here is that both long-term endurance and maximal output over shorter distances are equally important for performance. If you choose one but not the other, you’ll either manage the distance ‘comfortably but slowly’ or you’ll go quickly at the start and die a painful death at the end. Don’t dismiss either of these key factors if you want to hit your target time.

To finish, I’ll go back to something, which I mentioned 3 weeks ago, when writing about the Maffetone formula. Each training intensity, level or zone has it’s own benefits and purpose. Too frequently athletes do their easy stuff too hard and their hard stuff too easy, as a consequence the sessions merge into one grey area of moderate intensity. When riding or running in zone 1, there are specific benefits, which are lost when you push too hard. When attempting a high intensity interval workout you will not gain the specific benefits of that session if you do not push hard enough.

Training is like baking, you need to put lots of different, but high quality ingredients together or you’ll find that on race day, the whole thing will just taste a bit bland…

Pacing strategy next week, I promise!

If you’d like to find out whether you burn fat or not, we offer metabolic assessments for runners and cyclists. It’s a 1 hour session analysing your metabolism whilst riding or running, followed by results and advice and the cost is £60. For this or any other of our testing services, please email testing@theendurancecoach.com for more info.

If you found this blog useful, please share it on Facebook or Twitter

Go forwards endurance students, train well and practice burning the fat

Regards

Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Swim Club Weeks 17-24

February 16, 2015 at 9:12 am
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We are now technically on week 19 and if you’re competing in triathlon events, you may well have only 8-12 weeks left before your first pool-based event takes place. With that in mind, now is the time to start picking up your swim training. If you’ve been missing sessions here and there, then in this block, you need to re-gain your focus! If you’re only just starting with Swim Club, don’t worry, just pick it up from here and we’ll keep building towards the summer.

In this next block we’re following a classic but very simple approach for Swim Club format. We’re going to do one long and easy endurance (E) session at L3 intensity, one ‘threshold’ or ‘tempo’ session (L4) and a shorter but maximal speed session (L6). Each has their own different benefits explained below:

Endurance (E) Session

This session is largely L3 pace, which is steady aerobic swimming. The distance is relatively long and for many will be a 90 minutes session. You should make every effort to build the distance as much as possible and complete the highest volume possible in the session. This is particularly important if you’re training for longer distance swim events or Ironman triathlon. To ensure you complete the volume, it’s critical that you DO NOT SWIM HARD. Swim at the prescribed pace to build aerobic endurance and hold good technique throughout.

Key objectives:

  1. Build volume and complete as much distance as possible
  2. Swim at steady aerobic L3 pace
  3. Hold good form throughout
  4. Focus on distance per stroke

Threshold (L4) Session:

Threshold is the pace you can hold for 20 minutes at hardest sustainable pace, IT’S NOT ‘FLAT OUT’ SWIMMING. The distance is slightly shorter and you can feasibly fit this into the hour. If you’re not sure of your L4 / Threshold pace then go back and complete the 20 minute swim test – CLICK HERE TO SEE DETAILS.

Key objectives:

  1. Swim at correct pace
  2. Swim evenly so all repetitions are swam in similar time
  3. Stick to the prescribed recovery times e.g. 20 seconds between 100m reps. If you can’t stick to the prescribed recovery time and hit the same repetition times, you’re swimming too hard.

Force & Technique Threshold (L6) Session

These sessions are made up of very short repetitions with longer recoveries. The repetitions should be swam at maximum intensity. VERY IMPORTANT – Maximum intensity is not ‘HARD’, it is ‘MAXIMUM’. The recoveries are relatively long, if you feel the recoveries are too long, you are not swimming hard enough.

Swimming at maximal pace might be a challenge for you:

As long distance swimmers and triathletes, we tend to spend most of our time swimming longer distances at steady paces. Sprinting short distances very rarely makes it into the training plan. As a result of this, many swimmers have a very slow and steady arm action and they are unable to vary from this.

This bit is very important:

Aside from building power, the purpose of the short sprints, are to develop your technique. You may well find that if you attempt a maximal sprint, your arms and legs will thrash in an erratic manner, which hardly resembles the front crawl action. As swimmers we are constantly instructed to hold perfect form and this feeling of ‘erratic thrashing’ may make you feel somewhat uncomfortable!

Why does it feel like I’m thrashing when I sprint?

Basically, your arms are only used to going at a certain speed and when you try and force them to go quicker, your brain finds it too complex and can’t control the movements. I refer to the point at which this happens as the ‘technique threshold’ and it is critical that you raise your technique threshold to improve your long distance swimming performances.

Long distance swimmers and triathletes often struggle with the term ‘MAXIMAL’. They swim hard, but are blocked by their technique, which simply makes it impossible to swim at ‘MAXIMAL’ effort. Try to get your head round that one during the session, you’re aiming for a 25m or 50m PB.

Key objectives:

  1. Swim repetitions at MAXIMAL pace.
  2. Use the full recoveries, do not cut them short, but take more if needed to maintain maximal effort on repetitions.
  3. Turn your arms over as fast as you can and don’t worry if it feels as though your technique is suffering. You need to feel out of control to challenge your nervous system to adapt.
  4. Focus on fastest speed rather than trying to hold good technique. If your technique feels smooth, you’re probably not trying hard enough.

Fat burning efficiency for endurance athletes (part 3)

February 11, 2015 at 1:07 pm
5 comments

In last week’s blog, we talked about the possible benefits of high fat coffee prior to an endurance workout. Greater levels of circulating fats in the blood stream, may promote the use of fat as a fuel source and thereby saving precious carbohydrate stores.

As a recap, when you ride or run long distances, you use a combination of both fat and carbohydrate to provide energy. Your objective is simply to get the most energy as possible from fat and less from carbohydrate, as your carbohydrate stores are relatively limited and can run out quickly.

If when riding or running at Ironman triathlon pace you currently use 600kcal per hour with 30% coming from fat and 70% coming from carbohydrate, that’s 420kcal of carbohydrate per hour. If you reverse this figure so only 30% of your energy comes from carbohydrate, then you will only use 180kcal of carbohydrate per hour. That a saving of 240kcal of carbohydrate per hour (60g per hour), which is actually the recommended intake during an Ironman event!!

So if the recommended guidelines are to ingest 60g of carbohydrate per hour during endurance events (that’s approx. 1-2 bars or 2-3 gels) and you switch your fat usage from 30% to 70%, then technically you don’t need to take any fuel right??

Not quite… even if you optimise your diet and training to enhance your fat usage, you’re always going to be using carbohydrate to some extent, so you still need to take it on board. There are a couple of key things you need to take into account:

  1. If you’re rested, tapered and fuelled, then you should be starting on a full tank of carbohydrate, so eat a good source of carbohydrate in the days prior to racing.
  2. We are obsessed with carbohydrate portions, thinking that more is better and a bigger portion equates to more glycogen (stored carbohydrate). Your glycogen stores are relatively small, so you don’t need to eat a lot. If anything, eat a little less in the final days to stop yourself feeling bloated and heavy. This is difficult to do, as we generally believe that ‘carbo loading’ is required so eat excessively in the final few days. The same rule applies for breakfast, a huge meal is of no benefit as your stores are probably already full.
  3. If your fat usage is enhanced, you don’t need to eat as much during the race or training. In Ironman many people ‘panic eat’ on the bike with a fear that we won’t have enough fuel on board. There is a real trend for people to be obsessed with how much they can eat during the cycle section. Athletes often have a set plan of several bars and gels, plus energy drinks at regular intervals. Stomach problems are very common due to high amount of carbohydrate, which gather in the stomach, leading to bloating.
  4. The most common reason given for people failing to hit their target times in endurance events is ‘I got my nutrition wrong in the race’. The truth of the matter is that you got your training wrong.

Last week, we suggested that high fat coffee or training in a fasted state works best when training for 1-3 hours, depending upon your sports and ability. But what if you’re going further? What if you’re running for 3-5 hours or cycling 5 hours or more? For many athletes, riding for 5 hours in a fasted state would create a very high level of fatigue, which may take several days to recover from and impact upon your normal weekly training. If you are riding or running longer distances, breakfast and food throughout the session is needed and you should follow these guidelines:

  1. Eat food which will maximise fat usage to save carbohydrate.
  2. Maintain a constant blood sugar level and avoid spikes and dips.
  3. Based on point 2, eat foods which provide a slow ‘drip feed’ of energy rather than those which give you an instant hit.

Here are examples:

Breakfast is 1 mug full of muesli with no sugar. To increase fat content, buy mixed seeds/nuts breakfast cereal topper and add quarter of a mug. To further increase fat content sprinkle on desiccated coconut. Add dried or chopped fruit (anything low GI) and eat with full fat milk or natural yogurt. Don’t add any sugar, honey or syrup. It should be a small to medium bowl, don’t overeat and try to stock up with extra toast and jam for carbohydrates.

During exercise eat nothing for the first hour then take something every 30 minutes. You need to avoid things, which give you an instant hit, so avoid all high sugar products and don’t use energy gels. Energy bars take longer to digest so half a bar every 30 minutes would be suitable. Opt to have half every 30, not a full bar every hour, as this is easier for your stomach and intestines to deal with. You can choose something different to sports bars, such as flapjack, dried fruit or bananas. If you make your own flapjack, butter, fruit, coconut and oats are good, avoid sugar and syrups. The key is small quantities frequently (every 30 minutes from 60 onwards), coupled with water, squash or electrolyte solution, but no energy in drink.

The great gel quandary

Gels were invented for a specific purpose. When you felt low on energy and you were about to ‘bonk’ or ‘hit the wall’, you took a gel and it gave you instant energy. They gave you a rapid sugar spike at times when a rapid sugar spike was required. Then at some point the rules changed, gels were no longer a rapid source of energy for low periods, they are now to be taken every 20 minutes to provide a constant flow of energy. Simultaneously we are advised that we need a constant drip feed of carbohydrate and to avoid sugar spikes. Maintaining a steady blood sugar level is key to efficient metabolism. I’m not sure if I’m the only one confused, but I’m not sure how taking a product designed to spike your sugar levels every 20 minutes can be described as ‘drip feeding carbohydrate’ and maintaining a steady supply. In fact, gels sold based on their ‘fast acting’ properties, would surely be the worst things to take? That of course depends upon how you’re using it, if you’re taking it every 20 minutes to top up energy through a long race, the statement is correct. If you’ve bonked and you need an instant hit, then a gel is perfect, as that’s what they were designed for. It’s interesting how the purpose of a product can change, but I guess if you only took gels when you ‘bonked’ compared to buying 18 of them for a 6 hours ride, the gel economy would take a hit. Just saying.

What next?

As a start point, go out and ride or run and try the strategy. Don’t panic eat or over-eat either before or during. Choose low sugar foods in small quantities at frequent intervals and don’t be afraid of ‘bonking’ during this process. It may take your body a while to become accustomed to utilising fat so give it some time.

Pacing is key

Pacing is the missing jigsaw piece for this strategy. Riding or running at the correct intensity is critical during training sessions if you wish to maintain glycogen stores for the full duration of the workout. We’ll discuss pacing in next week’s blog and how intensity impacts upon fuel usage during endurance training and racing.

If you’d like to find out whether you burn fat or not, we offer metabolic assessments for runners and cyclists. It’s a 1 hour session analysing your metabolism whilst riding or running, followed by results and advice. The cost is £60, email testing@theendurancecoach.com for more info.

If you found this blog useful, please share it on Facebook or Twitter

Go forwards endurance students and practice burning the fat.

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Endurance boosting, fat burning, bullet proof coffee… does it work?

February 3, 2015 at 11:41 am
2 comments

There is a current trend for ‘bullet proof coffee’ which is used to boost endurance performance, in this blog, we’ll explain the basic thinking behind the concept and how it can help you when training for endurance based events such as marathon running, cycling and long distance triathlon events.

Why Bullet Proof Coffee?

It’s something we’ve discussed many times before, if you can increase your fat burning during exercise, you will save glycogen (carbohydrate) and therefore exercise for longer. People who use glycogen at a high rate will run out much more quickly, so shifting your metabolism to use fat as your main source of energy is of great benefit.

What is Bullet Proof Coffee?

The subject can become a little over complicated, but in simple terms, it’s ground coffee with added MCT oil and butter. The perfectionists will argue that you need a specific high quality coffee bean freshly ground, but I’m sure you can start with general filter coffee powder and progress from there! The term MCT oil refers to ‘medium chain triglycerides’ which are a specific type of fat which is known to be fantastic for energy. MCT is found in coconut, so MCT oil is generally derived from coconut with the flavor removed. The other ingredient is butter, preferably organic and grass fed to be high quality, don’t use ‘Flora’ or ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter’ it’s really not the same. Full fat, organic, grass fed butter might sound a little strange as it’s high in saturated fat. However, saturated fat is one of your main fuels and critical for endurance performance.

Those who know a bit about nutrition trends will be familiar with the above info, those who are not familiar with nutrition trends might be thinking ‘I thought saturated fats were the bad one’s?’ It turns out they were wrong, who’d have thought it? it’s a long explanation so probably easiest if you just go with it…

The process:

Make your coffee, add 1-2 tbs of MCT oil and 1-2 tbs of butter. Put it all in the blender and whip it up until you have a nice froth on the top. You can pour boiling water into your blender to keep it hot, then empty it just before the coffee goes in to stop the coffee cooling. Fat & oil don’t dissolve in water so it floats in the top.

You alternative option (the fanatics will not like this) is to use MCT powder. It works a bit like coffee mate, add a heaped teaspoon to your cup then add a small amount of coffee. Give it a good stir and whip to get the lumps out, then add the rest of the coffee. MCT powder tastes quite creamy (not of coconut) and you might find it more palatable than oil and butter floating on the surface, although I’d encourage you to try to original recipe also!

When should I drink it?

Before you go training, most people will generally opt for one of the following:

1. High carb breakfast
2. No breakfast
3. High fat breakfast

All 3 are viable, but it really depends upon the athlete and the type of session you are about to take part in. We will discuss this in a lot more detail next Tuesday.

Eating no breakfast (fasting) is a common method for encouraging the body to burn more fat, but actually taking a high fat breakfast (in this case a bullet proof coffee), might enhance fat usage even greater, by increasing the amounts of fats circulating in the blood.

IMPORTANT: It should be used for endurance sessions (long and slow) and works perfectly if you’re following a Maff formula or similar (as per last week’s blog). Each person will differ, but eating no breakfast and drinking a bullet proof coffee would work perfectly for:

Endurance run of 1-2 hours
Endurance cycle of 2-3 hours

The timescales will very much depend upon the experience and fitness of the athlete. If you are very well trained, you may well be able to do more on a single drink, but these are average timescales. You should not take any breakfast beforehand and you should not eat sports products or ingest any other form of energy during the run or ride. You should also ride at the correct intensity (as per Maff or similar).

What to do next?

Buy some filter coffee, or some beans and a grinder. Google MCT oil or MCT powder and purchase some online, then get some grass fed organic butter. If you don’t have a blender, don’t worry, just give it a good whisk with a fork!! Drink the coffee 30 minutes before exercise.

Next week:

We’ll talk about changing your breakfast to suit your training session and give you some examples.

If you found this blog useful, please share it on Facebook or Twitter

Go forwards endurance students and practice burning the fat.

Regards
Marc Laithwaite
The Endurance Store

Maffetone Formula for Better Endurance Performance

January 27, 2015 at 11:18 am
8 comments

The term ‘aerobic base’ is used widely in endurance sports but what exactly does it mean? To build aerobic base athletes will generally do long and slow distance to gain specific benefits, we consider those 2 key benefits to be as follows:

1. Conditioning – Your legs deal with a great amount of impact every time they hit the ground which causes muscle damage. In turn, this muscle damage will slow you down. The only way to prevent this muscle damage is to become accustomed to ‘time on your feet’. Hence, by slowing down and running long distances at a slower pace, you will ‘harden your legs’ and prevent damage. If you run too hard during your ‘base training runs’ you will not be able to run far enough to get the required ‘time on feet’ so slowing to the correct intensity is critical. It’s important to note that this applies to cycling also, whilst the impact isn’t the same, the repeated action of pedaling means that your muscles will break down, your hips will become tight and your back will ache!

2. Metabolic Adaptation – Your muscle fibres will adapt and more closely resemble the ‘slow twitch variety’. One of the key changes is the ability to use fat as a fuel source and also to use less energy overall. These combined changes mean that you are less likely to run out of fuel during longer distance exercise. If you can change your muscle fibres so running out of fuel is unlikely, combined with your ‘hardened legs’ which don’t become damaged easily, you are ready for some serious endurance action.

So how slow should I run?

It’s very common for endurance athletes to get the ‘training zone’ thing very wrong. The key thing to remember is that variation is critical, so easy sessions to develop base should be easy and high intensity sessions to develop power should be extremely hard. Many athletes tend to drift into the middle ground where no training is really easy, no training is really hard, but pretty much everything is ‘moderately hard’.

What is the Maffetone Formula?

Made famous by Mark Allen who won the famous Iron War with Dave Scott in 1989. Allen had repeatedly failed to beat Dave Scott, always running out of fuel in the marathon stage. He turned to Maffetone who revolutionised his training, with the principal aim of enhancing fat burning to make him a more effective runner. Maffetone employs a maximum aerobic heart rate above which you cannot exercise. Initially, athletes find it very frustrating as they will be running very slowly, but over time there are large benefits to be had as the base aerobic system improves.

What’s the Forumla?
1. Subtract your age from 180.

2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your fitness and health profile:

a. If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b. If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c. If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same.

d. If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are thirty years old and fit into category (b), you get the following:

180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm).

If it is difficult to decide which of two groups best fits you, choose the group or outcome that results in the lower heart rate. In athletes who are taking medication that may affect their heart rate, those who wear a pacemaker, or those who have special circumstances not discussed here, further individualization with the help of a healthcare practitioner or other specialist familiar with your circumstance and knowledgeable in endurance sports may be necessary.

Two situations may be exceptions to the above calculations:

• The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of sixty-five. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

• For athletes sixteen years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used as a training range. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training at 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Completing the Test:

Compelting the test is simple, for running find a flat 3 miles course or complete 20 minutes. The simplest way is to find a running track as this makes distance measuring far more easy. Warm up for 15 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and then run 3 miles within the Maffetone Training Zone and record your time. You could use a flat circuit on road and use a GPS but variations in GPS accuracy mean that a running track is more accurate. Record your time for the 3 miles and preferably record your time for each of the mile splits. For the bike, it’s best done on a calibrated turbo training or riding to power. Warm up for 15 minutes in Maffetone Training Zone, then ride 30 minutes within the Maffetone Training Zone and measure average power or distance completed. Remember that the turbo and power meter needs to be calibrated or the accuracy is poor.

Practicalities:

You may find the run pace very slow and frustrating, if so, then you should take this as a positive, your base is very poor and you therefore have plenty of improvement to make for the 2015 season!! All of your easy mileage running should be done in the Maff Training Zone and the test can be repeated every 4-8 weeks. You should see an increase in speed and distance for the same heart rate as your base fitness improves. If you keep getting quicker, then don’t worry about speed work until the Maffetone training reaches a plateau. Develop your base as much as possible at the start of the year for maximum gains later.

On the bike, heart rate is generally lower than it is during running, so you’ll find the test a little less frustrating. In reality, the Maffetone Training Zone for cycling should be adjusted by reducing it between 5-10 beats (my opinion – you might want to incorporate it). This test is based on 180-age and we all know that maximum heart rate varies from person to person (220-age to calculate maximum has been widely criticised), but just go with it and try the formula, nothing is perfect!

We’d be keen to hear your feedback, go and give the test a try and let us know your progress. If you found this article useful, please share with your friends and re-post on Facebook or Twitter!

Regards

Marc Laithwaite

The Endurance Store

Trying to improve your pedaling but keep going round in circles?

January 20, 2015 at 9:47 am
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You might think that riding a bike is pretty simple. If you want to go quicker, you just push on the pedals a bit harder and change gear. However, the way in which you turn those pedals can have a big influence upon both your speed and how quickly you become tired. Let’s review pedal technique and talk about the 3 X C, Contact, Core and Cadence.

Contact

Power distribution should be as even and continuous as possible throughout the pedal stroke. Instead of pushing down (or stamping) think about scraping the foot back through the bottom of the stroke. Single leg drills are an effective way of achieving this, either on the road or a turbo trainer.

If riding outdoors find a flat, uninterrupted stretch of road and try the following: keep both feet clipped in but let one leg go dead for 30 seconds so the other leg is doing all the work. If you stamp you will find there is a ‘dead spot’ at the bottom of the stroke. To maintain stroke momentum you will have to pull through the bottom of the stroke. Complete 30 seconds on the second leg and then spin as normal for 2-3 minutes and repeat the process several times. Riders are often told to ‘pull up’ as well as ‘pushing down’ but this will NOT eliminate the dead spot as this occurs from 11-1 on the clock face and 5-7 on the clock face. The issue isn’t pushing down or pulling up, the issue is scraping at the bottom and pushing over the top. Power metes often provide a spin scan which measures power distribution in real time. This is an invaluable function as you can increase the efficiency as you ride with immediate feedback.

Core

Leg muscles are the prime movers when cycling so there is nothing to be gained by having a tense upper body. Posture should be correct to reduce stress on the lower back and your upper body should be relaxed with the weight rested into the handlebars. Correct posture will also engage the core muscles which will reduce unwanted upper body ‘rocking’. To improve posture and core function try climbing short, steep hills in a hard gear with the palms rested on the handlebars instead of gripping. You’ll be surprised how much your torso is working to stabilize the upper body. If you allow you body to move around when cycling, the energy which should go through the pedals, is lost through your body movement. To produce power, you need a firm platform, so sit still and drive on the pedals.

Cadence

To improve pedaling efficiency complete sessions with very high and very low cadences. It is easier to pedal with even power distribution (pedal in circles) when the cadence is slower. Complete intervals on the turbo trainer using a bigger gear. Slow the cadence and focus on contact with the pedal throughout the full 360 degrees, pedaling at 65-70 RPM. Riding at a higher cadence of 110 RPM or above, in an easy gear, will improve neuro-muscular coordination so efficiency at normal cadence is improved. In simple terms, you need to teach your legs how to be coordinated whilst moving at high speed.

Let’s off road !!

If you’ve ever driven up an icy hill in your car you’ll know the consequence of applying too much pressure on the accelerator pedal. The effect is the same when climbing up a muddy or gravelly hill on a mountain bike – you’ll wheel spin. It’s no coincidence competitive mountain bikers have high spin scan scores as even application of pressure is essential when traction is inconsistent. Spend as much time during the off-season riding off road and your performance will improve when you return to the road the following season.

Symmetrical power distribution:

Power distribution should be symmetrical through both legs. Many power meters measure power distribution in real time so you can continually adjust your technique throughout a session. It’s not uncommon for someone to have a distribution of 55/45 and although this appears fairly even the effort and concentration required to achieve 50/50 is considerable. Single leg drills as described earlier, on the non-dominant leg are an effective way of increasing function.

Which cadence should I choose when racing?

Most people recommend 90rpm for racing although there is no real evidence to suggest this is correct. A cadence of 90 is suggested as it similar to the suggested running cadence of 90 (although no evidence that this is best for running exists either). Cadence is a personal thing and faster or slower pedaling is better suited to different people and for different events. Slower pedaling uses less oxygen, less energy and results in a lower heart rate, for this reason, many Ironman and long distance time trial riders pedal slightly bigger gears with slow cadences. In bunch racing, a slow cadence makes it difficult to accelerate, so bunch riders tend to ride with faster cadences in easier gears. Play around with your cadence over various courses and monitor your heart rate to see which works best for you.

Check out our bike fitting services on the left hand menu of this blog. The cost is £75 for a full assessment which includes your pedal stroke analysis and correction.

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