Monday, March 25, 2013

Prehab not rehab

I coach a limited amount of athletes so I can provide a high quality coaching experience to each one.  With this comes methodical athlete monitoring of each to ensure that my training plans are working in their physiological adaptation process.  As you read in my last post, balancing stress with recovery is very important but another aspect that is often overlooked in the athlete equation is allotting time for prehab.

Prehab, or better known as pre-habilitation, introduces an opportunity for athletes to reduce the risk of injuries by introducing specific movement pattern exercises that improve muscular balance and typically introducing the concept of myofascial release.  I would be willing to bet that one of the reasons that contributes to injury in endurance athletes is the lack of planned prehab exercises.  These exercises are usually not deleted on purpose from the training plan (like, say, strength training is) but are simply not included due to a lack of knowledge pertaining to the efficacy and the "how's" and "when's" of implementation.

There are many ways to fit in prehab exercises but what I have found works best for most time crunched endurance athletes is scheduling 5 minutes upon waking each morning and using something like a foam roller (I'm a big fan of the TP Therapy Grid) to do a few exercises to improve tissue tolerance and implement myofascial release.  The latter will help break up muscle adhesions and scar tissue that is common among endurance athletes along with improving blood flow.

Take 5 minutes each morning and roll the following areas, each for about 5-10 seconds and repeat throughout the 5 minutes (if you have more time, even better!):

  • Gluteals (maximus, medius and minimus)
  • Hamstrings
  • Calves
  • Quadriceps
  • IT band
  • Lower and upper back
Do this once and you will feel good.  Implement this on a consistent basis and you will be on your way to reducing your risk of injury!

Coach Bob

Saturday, March 9, 2013


OPT: Optimal Performance Training.  It's a term I utilize when coaching athletes.  Every athlete wants to achieve optimal performance but how one athlete goes about it is always different than another.  What is fairly consistent though is how athlete's recover (or should recover!).  My OPT term can be explained by the following equation:

Stress + Recovery = Adaptation

The stress part of the equation is relatively easy for athletes to attain through training and career, life, and social stressors.  However, the recovery aspect is often misunderstood by athletes. While many believe taking a full rest day from training is recovery, it is often filled with chores and other tasks that really do not promote recovery.  Unfortunately, it is fairly impossible for age-group athletes to devote a complete day to do nothing due to life demands.  Thus, the importance of implementing recovery strategies, sometimes instead of complete rest days, is an important piece of the OPT equation.

Recovery opportunities are endless and include things like ice baths, massage, nutrition, hydration, compression socks and my recent favorite: sequential intermittent pneumatic compression (SIPC).  I have had my eyes on similar technology for years but it wasn't until recently that I decided to take the plunge and see exactly what the benefits may be.  There are a few companies who provide this type of technology through compression boots but the system of compression is different among them.  The Recovery Pump system and boots are my choice of technology due to the SIPC.  As I sit writing this blog, I have my Recovery Pump boots on and the four distinct compartments provide this SIPC so that compression is initiated in the feet and moves up to the upper legs, which allows for maximal venous return and improved circulation.

The recovery opportunity can be used immediately after a training session, later in the day after getting home from the day's activities or before a training session as a type of dynamic warm-up.  It is very functional and requires nothing more than devoting 30-60 minutes of relaxing with the boots on while they do their job to enhance and speed recovery.

I have been putting the Recovery Pump boots (see the photo below) to the test for 2 weeks, before and after many different types of workouts including very aggressive strength and conditioning sessions that produce a great deal of delayed onset muscle soreness.  What have I realized in the last 2 weeks?  Well, I have not experienced any muscle soreness after using the boots and have been able to do 2-3 quality session days in a row without any compromise in performance.

No matter the recovery opportunity utilized by athletes, it is important to 1) make recovery a priority, 2) utilize recovery opportunities on a daily basis and 3) respect the recovery part of the OPT equation so the body can experience enhanced physiological adaptation.

The Recovery Pump system is a great recovery opportunity and is simple to utilize on a daily basis.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Training vs. Coaching

A little off the nutrition path for a blog or two so excuse me but many things have been entering my mind as of late.  I suspect this increase in thought process is happening due to my slowly increasing training load coming off of the flu.  I always think better when I am training and thus, here you have my latest "think tank" installment.  Enjoy!

Training vs. coaching.  Not many people know the difference or understand it for that matter.  I teach new triathlon coaches around the country about exercise physiology and athlete monitoring and the first thing I like to bring up is the question, "are you training or are you coaching?".  The answer, while not right or wrong, helps new coaches set their business models and services.  But I digress.  I am not writing this blog for coaches.  This time it is about the athletes so listen up and take note of what comes next...

Many people can be deemed a coach.  There is no licensure, accreditation or even standards to become a coach.  For the most part, in the US, a person can pay a registration fee for a coaching clinic (many offered throughout the US), attend either online or in-person, take an exam (usually open book) and receive their coaching certification in the mail shortly thereafter.  Does this mean they are a coach?  Yes.  It says so on the piece of paper.  Does it mean they know how to coach?  In some cases, no.

Like any other profession (yes, coaching is a profession), it takes years to accumulate enough knowledge and experience to be able to properly provide coaching services to athletes.  Unfortunately, athletes do not take the time often to interview potential coaches to determine if they have the skill set to assist in reaching their goals.  I often tell new coaches at clinics that I cannot teach them how to coach but I can give them the tools that they can use in their journey of becoming a coach.  It is up to them to continue their learning and identify mentors to learn the actual coaching process.

I hear far too often from athletes that they fired their coach because the coach wasn't communicating well with them or they couldn't explain why they were giving them certain workouts.  While it is a two way street, I can honestly say that some coaches simply do not coach.  They provide training plans.  Training plans range from 4 to an unlimited number of weeks of set training that specifies the mode, time, intensity and goals of each workout.  Some athletes require only this to be successful.  However, I would argue that these athletes simply following a training plan are missing the full benefits of what coaches provide.  Coaches coach, we know that.  But what does coaching really mean?

Some of us grew up playing sports and if you are like me, I had some very good coaches and some that I have done my best to forget.  The more positive coaching influences I had growing up were due to the communication strategies the coach used with me.  Some of my coaches simply didn't care.  "Go out on the field and play."  While others helped me understand the game, the tactics the "why" behind what I was doing so I could be a better athlete, person and role model for my younger teammates.  It is these type of individuals that we must surround ourselves with as athletes.

Providing training plans, which some coaches do, offer just that: a plan.  What is missing is the communication, the monitoring piece of the puzzle.  Monitoring training is the most important thing a coach can do for an athlete. A coach is the objective person who looks at the data gathered from training sessions and puts them under the microscope.  He or she continually strives to be better by always asking questions.  "How can I help my athlete adapt better to make them faster, stronger and attain their goals?".  "How can I do my job better through asking the right questions when I interact with my athlete?".

Athlete monitoring, whether subjective when a coach asks you how you are doing or objective, when they study your times, zones, power or running velocity data, biomechanics, nutrition, psychological preparedness and life balance, are the key ideals that make a coach a coach and separate them from those who simply provide training plans.

I do believe coaches who provide training plans without much communication or athlete monitoring are doing a positive service to the athlete.  However, athletes, please remember that this is not coaching and you get what you pay for.

This is my 20th year in this industry.  When I first started coaching, my going monthly rate was $75/month.  While many things have changed in 20 years, one thing still puzzles me.  Why is it that I am seeing these similar rates from coaches 20 years later?  The answer is simple.  These coaches are either 1) funding their hobby and are not putting much time or effort into their athletes, or 2) providing training plans only with no athlete monitoring.  Athletes: please remember that when you are hiring a coach, you are receiving their knowledge, experience and more importantly, their ability to help you objectively monitor yourself in order to achieve positive physiological adaptation while reducing the risk of injury and overtraining.  Coaches: please remember that coaching is a profession and before setting your business structure, ask yourself if you want to train or coach athletes.  When you do not respect the profession and the financial commitment necessary to do the job well, it devalues the services all of your colleagues provide.

In the end, most athletes find their way to the coaches whom will suit them and their goals the best.  However, athletes can certainly shorten their learning curve by first seeking the right qualities in the coach that will work best for them.

And with that, I will now get off my soapbox...

Be on the lookout for my next blog which will be about recovery (a very important piece of the athlete monitoring puzzle)!

Coach Bob