Monday, December 31, 2012

Foam Roller...torture device or recovery asset?

A little bit of both.  I've finally started taking the foam roller and recovery seriously.  I have all this time to work with, so there is no reason that I shouldn't take advantage of it and make sure I am recovered as much as possible.  I think how good I felt last week was testament to adding 30-60 min of foam rolling and stretching each day.

How I finally realised how good the torture of foam rolling could be...and why I should jam this spiky ball in my chest...

I love a good deep tissue massage, the kind that is a bit brutal during but you feel like you can move, and everything is aligned afterwards.  I've always had a high pain tolerance, and its usually entertaining my first few times with a massage therapist.  A back and forth of, does this hurt? No. Are you sure? Yup. How about now? Nope. Really??

Finding a good therapist that knows where to push, and doesn't cause discomfort for the sake of going deep, but applies it sparingly in specific places to make your muscles submit and loosen is tough, and there are usually a few bruises involved in the search.

I got lucky and only had to try out a few before I found a good sports therapist who really focussed on muscle balance, knew where to trigger my muscles to get them to release down the kinetic chain, and had some interesting techniques that sometimes involve a bit of yoga in the massage.  The biggest asset though has been his enthusiasm for foam rolling.

He holds a foam rolling class, and I was hesitant to go.  I had used a foam roller on and off just sitting on the hot spots and trying to relax enough for them to release.  I love it when someone digs in a deep tissue massage, but I'm kind of a wuss when I have to cause that same sensation myself. Well I went and it opened my eyes to the possibilities of foam rolling.  I thought foam rolling was a fairly static exercise, with some rolling back and forth to find hot spots.  What I learned during this class was that movement through flexing and rotating would help get deep into the working muscles.  For example IT band I would be in a side plank position and slowly move down the leg, what he suggested is the same position, but bending the leg at the knee slowly and releasing helped me get deeper.  Or in the chest use a spiky ball and moving my arm slowly up and back to get more into the swimming muscles.

I finally started taking the foam roller and recovery seriously. The difference was staggering in how I felt each day and how my body has been absorbing work.  Here's the crazy part, for the first time I went to see my massage therapist, and 20 min into the session he asked if I wanted to do some work on my upper body.  Now this doesn't seem crazy, but usually we run out of time because my hips, glutes and IT need some serious attention!

He said that everything just released easily this time, and he was having a hard time finding hot spots, when this guy can zero in on the slightest discrepancies in my body.  So he started on my upper body...and was once again surprised.  It was in rough shape.  I have terrible posture, something I have been working on lately, and this has caused even more tightness and soreness in my upper back.  I wish I listened to my mom when she told me to sit up straight because it is damned hard to change my posture now.  My husband teases me, when I'm at the gym as soon as I'm doing any weightlifting he says I just lock into great posture, as soon as I'm done the move my shoulders collapse in.  I didnt realise it was such a visible difference!  So some quality deep tissue work was done, as well as a bit of a lecture on how a spiky ball can be added to my foam roller torture routine.  Yea this looks like something I want to jam into my chest and back...

I have to say though, I had a shockingly good swim the day after my back and chest massage.  My threshold pace that I usually have to work for to hold it for 100m, I did 3*300 at faster than threshold pace and it felt effortless in comparison to how I usually would have to work for it.  I was almost surprised to see the wall of the pool each time because it came so quickly.  So I suppose I will start working with the spiky ball, because today after the effects of the massage wore off I was back to working hard for T pace for 100m.  

Time to hit the bike for a bit, then get dressed up to go Pub hopping for New Years Eve.  Happy New Years Eve!!  

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Meeting Macca in Barcelona!

Macca aka Chris McCormack is a pro triathlete and Ironman Champion, and has been a bit of an idol for me.  He has a habit of stirring things up, and a mental game that has put him at the top of the podium a few times.

When I first got into triathlon his book was the first I had read "I'm here to win" and his views on turning the competition in his favour by meticulous analysis and mind games was interesting; especially when these athletes are at such a peak fitness that every advantage is important.

Anyways I had been following him and he started a semi training group online that I became a part of when I was still planning on being self coached, and figured any advice from him, his advisors as well as other triathletes in the group would come in handy.  Well he mentioned in the group that he was going to be competing at the Half Challenge Barcelona Maresme, and wanted to meet with any members of the crew that would be out there.

Well the plan was to do a Half Ironman in May, and Challenge Barcelona was May 19th...hmm maybe?  It worked into the schedule perfectly, and who wouldn't want a trip to Spain!  I only had to convince the hubby that he wanted to go to spain too :p Which he did, but he's skeptical about how much fun a vacation can be while I am competing.  I cant blame him, any triathlete or runner knows the fun of taper madness and perhaps their spouses even more.  The one thing that will help is all of my racing this year is towards Ironman, and this would be a B race, so not the drama and nerves of my first one last year.

Plus I'll need to acclimate a little to help with the hot climate, and what better way than relaxing with my hubby feet in the water ass in the sand.

I'm so excited, and hoping he will have a better time at this race.  He can sit by the water with a beer in hand while I race, making it a perfect day for both of us :)  I'm lucky to have such a supportive husband and he didn't take much convincing, he knows Macca is a bit of an idol and this would be a cool opportunity.

This is going to be a phenomenal race, I get to meet an idol, visit Spain for the first time, give this distance another shot and see what I can do with some real training and recover with a beer on the beach.  Love it!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Hills I will own you!

“Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

(Young India, Volume 1, Issue 52; 1919)” 
― Mahatma Gandhi

This week has been magic.  Still working in the base phase, working on strength and endurance, so nothing fancy or outrageous but this week I started to feel the effects of the training.

It started with a long run Sunday.  The goal of the day was to seek out every hill or bump in the road, if there was an incline I was going up it.  I've had a rough time with hills, it just never feels right, I feel like I hunch over and collapse into myself, I cant get the fluid form that comes easily on the flats.

Until now.

I was freaking flying up those things (possibly a slight hyperbole) it felt great.  Even more fun, my coach told me to push on the downhills.  At first it was a slightly manic, on the verge of out of control hurling myself down the hills experience.  It was so much fun!  However being on the verge of tripping myself up (considering its happened a few times on flat obstacle free terrain) was probably not the best idea.  So I started working on a bit more controlled form, and soon I felt like the roadrunner, my legs turning over at an insane rate and it felt like I was gliding.  *Meep Meep* It was a similar route to the weekend before, but 2 miles longer and even more elevation, but I ended up running 15 seconds faster per mile over the whole distance.

Monday was the usual swim and recovery spin.  Next up my first Christmas run!  Last year I was out of the game with a stress fracture, so I had to console myself with lots of coffee with baileys, wine, chocolate and good food....what a shame.  Started out just feeling blah, legs were flat, and the rum filled (so much rum my toungue went numb) chocolates I so smartly ate before my run were not sitting so well in my stomach.  The first 2 miles it was all I could do not to turn around and get back in my robe and enjoy some boozy coffee and chocolate.  They felt mediocre until I turned on the heat.  6* 40'' faster than 5k....uphill.  It was like someone lit a fire under my ass, and my legs just perked right up.  I was gliding up that hill, and just felt the power in my legs unleashed.  

Then came the bike ride, 10 * 1 min muscular endurance 1 min spin.  Muscular endurance, I see that on my training plan and get a little bit excited.  What does it say about me when something that burns like nothing else gets me excited?  The most I had done before was 6 reps with more rest in between.  Ohh how it burned, and this ride came after a morning swim and strength session.  After the ME reps it was sustained power higher than what I had been holding and it just felt easy.  

The theme of this week has been the more power I put out, the better my legs feel :s I'm sure it will catch up at some point, but my body is responding to the little spurts of higher intensity work.  Maybe its the additional fast twitch muscle fibres, and motor units being engaged with the strength training, reducing neuromuscular inhibition, but something has just clicked this week.  My legs have never felt stronger, and at the same time have never been looser.  I've barely been feeling any fatigue after my workouts and recovering exceptionally well.  Heres hoping this continues for a while :)

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Big guys in tank tops and cut off shirts...

What a feeling, when your body is just taking in all the work and stress you are putting it through and just responding and adapting.  I have been feeling so good lately, so strong I love it.

I've gotten back to my roots a bit this week and started doing more heavy strength training.  When I lost all the weight it was with a personal trainer in the weight room, with a lot less cardio than people seem to think.  I found that my body responds well to the strength training, a combination of fast twitch muscle fibres and a hormonal response.  My body likes to hold onto fat stores, but at the same time can build strength and muscle fairly easily, like most things a give and take.

I dont think I will ever look like those triathletes with low body fat percentage, my body seems to respond differently to the demands of long slow endurance training.  I'm small, but have a very small frame and still about 20% body fat.  I've found that I start to gain weight when I do just steady state training.  With the attention I pay to my diet I know its not overeating that is causing it, but more likely a hormonal response to the training.  But you know what?  I love my body, and I feel damned good about the way I look.

The greatest thing that happened to me in my fitness journey is when I started seeing my body in measures of performance to make it stronger and faster.  There is no better feeling or motivation, when your body is just responding, you feel fluid, strong, and every fibre seems to move in sync.

And wow rambling, back to the weight training.  I'm doing some heavy lifting for the next few weeks.  Right now in the base period is the time to build up pure strength, something I haven't done since I started running.  I've strength trained on and off, but usually just body weight for the lower body only really lifting for the upper body.  Back in Texas I didn't want to fatigue my legs because my run would suffer, and I was just barely holding on to the running group that I was running with in the mornings.  I was also racing every few weeks and there was no period where I took a break long enough to focus on that strength.

I love being back in the gym, it was where my fitness journey started and it feels like home.  It's entertaining working out in my gym though, its a dark windowless gym with low ceilings and a large group of men with their arms a foot out from either side of their bodies because their lats (or they pretend) get in the way.  A lot of strutting around in tank tops and cut off shirts, and a place where the men spend as much time flexing in the mirror as lifting.  There is a stretching section of the gym on the opposite side with a few dumbbells where you will find a few females, but the heavy weights and plates are in the heart of the gym and usually dominated by some hard core looking guys.  So I figured I would dress up as colourfully as possible and invade their space.  Sporting some neon orange shorts, electric green top and pink shoes I made my way over.  I've never seen another girl in that area of the gym, and I don't think those guys had either :p A couple side ways looks, I rotated in on the bench and did my thing.  I love the feeling of lifting heavy, that burn, knowing the adaptations it will cause in your muscles.  I kept it pretty restrained because its been so long, and look forward to seeing what changes come of it.

One surprise was how my legs felt on the bike afterwards!  They felt ready to go, just firing efficiently and pumped up.   I wasn't sure how to fit in the weight training but this works perfectly.  It forces me to go to the pool in the morning, which would usually be waylaid until after the bike and be less effective because I was tired.  Then after the swim I hit the weights (if I didn't swim first I would be headed to the gym twice in the day and thats just inefficient).  After that head home to chow down on a big breakfast, followed by a quality bike ride.  Its a simple but perfect way to add it in.  My legs feel primed for the bike after the lifting (which I did not expect) and just feel good off the bat, then by the time DOM's sets in 48 hours later I will have already done my run.  Genius!  (thanks Tim!).  So far I've been taking the weights pretty easy nowhere near failure just so I can adjust and make sure form is spot on, so no DOM's yet.

I'm loving this schedule and the day is definitely quality but works so well that I finish it with energy still high.  Overall energy has been really high, I'm just craving each workout.  It seems like my body sucks up the work and asks for seconds.  Talk about a boost when my coach adds on work and my body keeps asking for more.  I'm learning about the base period, and right now I'm training my body to be ready to really train for Ironman, setting that foundation that will carry me through to that finish line where I will hear "You are an Ironman"

There is no doubt, I will be an Ironman ;)

Carpe Diem