Tuesday, December 9, 2014

eNRG performance

It's been a long time coming but I am proud to finally announce the "birth" of my newest venture, eNRG performance.  As you may know, I have a few college degrees and wear a few hats in my career.  Namely those of sports dietitian, exercise physiologist, strength and conditioning coach, triathlon and endurance coach for adults and youth, metabolic efficiency training specialist, author and educator.

In the past, I have had pieces (or businesses) of my areas of expertise like spokes on a bike wheel.  What I have always lacked was the hub to hold all of them together.

eNRG performance is my hub.  I am proud to announce that eNRG performance will provide athletes and fitness enthusiasts nutrition consulting services, physiological testing, full endurance coaching, education and training.  It is all quite exciting but none more than the training piece.  eNRG performance will have a physical space (I finally have a home!) and the eNRG performance training center will house not only nutrition and testing but also a full training center that will include strength and functional conditioning equipment, a full Wahoo Kickr cycling area and a recovery center.  The recovery center will include different modalities of recovery that anyone can use in their daily lives to recover from a stressful day at work or after a tough training session.

eNRG performance is located in the foothills of southwest Littleton, Colorado and will boast only the best sports dietitians, coaches, strength and conditioning professionals, fitness professionals and customer service.

Fuel4mance, my sports nutrition consulting company will be dissolved but the great services provided by Sports Dietitians Dina Griffin and Paige Sheen will continue (and will be enhanced) at eNRG performance.  

Look to eNRG performance for all of your nutrition, testing, coaching, training, recovery and educational needs.

Doors will open in January so stay tuned!  In the meantime, visit www.enrgperformance.com for more information.

Thanks for your continued support with Fuel4mance in the past and now eNRG performance in the future!


Thursday, October 2, 2014

Beta-Alanine Supplementation: Take Two

It is been a month since I started my beta-alanine (BA) supplementation experiment and I will say the the initial results are promising.  I have not missed a day of taking BA and while I am still getting slight paresthesia, it is much less than when I first started.  

The qualitative data has been interesting.  When training, I do "feel" that I am able to perform higher intensities (and my power number have confirmed this).  It is a subjective assessment but I just don't feel the fatigue or "burn" in my legs when trying to sustain higher power output or going off the line in a full sprint.  I also feel the same in my cross races where I think my legs would burn out but I am able to keep going.  Granted, I am not winning any races but holding my own in the SM35+4 category (this is only my second year racing cross and I have 8 races under my belt now).

The slight quantitative data shows a good increase in my power profile at 5 and 20 minutes which makes sense since I am focusing on cyclocross training and racing.  My chronic training load (CTL) has increased by almost 14 points in the last month and my normalized power for similar distances has increased by about 20 watts (this is a hard comparison since I did not do the same course both times).

All in all, I am still impressed with the supplementation and look forward to the next two months of it.  Research states that at least 4 weeks are needed to see significant improvements so I hope these small changes in the first 4 weeks are an indication of further improvement.

Another update coming next month!

Coach Bob

Friday, September 5, 2014

Experiment time!

This weekend is a very special weekend.  It marks the end of my triathlon season and the beginning of my cyclocross season.  Honestly, I haven't raced a tri in about 3 months but am excited to finish up with the Littlefoot Sprint Tri.  I've been putting some time in the saddle and surprisingly, this has crossed over well to my running.  

You know those times where you just don't feel fast on the run?  Yeah, I had an entire summer of that.  I thought I would test out my run speed last week after a solid 15 mile TT bike.  I did a 3x1 mile loop run course (off the bike) with an extra 0.1 miles to make it a 5k.  Shockingly, and I say that because I haven't really been doing any speed training on my run, I put in a solid time based on my run fitness.  We'll see how that transfers over to the race tomorrow...

Back to the topic on hand...my experiment (initially 30 days in duration).  I wouldn't be the sport dietitian I am today if I didn't run continual experiments on myself so I can share with athletes!  I will be doing my first cyclocross race on Sunday and thought I would initiate a little experiment throughout the season.  I have always been intrigued with the supplement beta-alanine so I have decided to put it to the test.

A quick primer...beta-alanine is an amino acid that aids in the synthesis of carnosine.   Carnosine plays a role in muscle pH regulation and is known to be a buffer to the hydrogen ions that are accumulated in higher intensity exercise.  It is synthesized in skeletal muscle from the two amino acids l-histidine and beta-alanine.  Increasing levels of carnosine in the body can reduce muscular fatigue and improve overall work capacity.   Interestingly, the rate limiting factor of carnosine synthesis is the availability of beta-alanine.  So, supplementing with beta-alanine will improve carnosine levels which should improve the body's ability to buffer hydrogen ions.

What does this have to do with me?  Well, cyclocross racing is very explosive as is some of the training.  I am going to put this supplement to the test to see if I notice any differences in the quality of my training and racing.  I started my supplement protocol of 6 grams of beta-alanine per day mixed with 10 grams of carbohydrate (research states this may improve the response).  As I sit here typing this, I am experiencing the only side effect of taking beta-alanine: paresthesia (tingling sensation in the extremities).  It just feels like a mild case of pins and needles.

Away I go...stay tuned for updates!

Coach Bob

Monday, May 12, 2014

Qualitative vs. Quantitative

You say you are tired?  Don't feel like training but need to because race season is here?  Yeah, I said these same things today as I approached my Team EMC swim practice.  I wasn't feeling it.  Head hurt from pulling a muscle in my neck, was yawning and well, you know the rest of the story.  I showed up to swim practice but wasn't expecting anything great.

Why is this?  Because qualitatively, I have taught my mind to assess my physical state.  If I'm not feeling good, I still go into a session with a good mindset and I definitely do not sabotage myself by saying, "I'll just go easy today".  I think far too many athletes do that and create negative self-talk scenarios which can lead to a subpar performance state.  Instead, when I feel like this, I actually get a little angry ("healthy" angry) and have a psyche up session in my head.  It goes something like this...

"I may not be feeling it today but I am going to prove to myself that my mind is wrong.  I don't feel tired.  I feel energized and ready to go.  My form feels good in the water.  In fact, I am going to do everything in my power to prove my brain wrong today."

Yeah, I really do have this dialogue in my head before training (and sometimes during!).  Does it help?  Most of the time it does.  You see, I believe many of us give in to the small aches, pains, body signals or destructive thoughts that enter our mental and physical states.

The only true way to know if it worked is to look at the quantitative side of training.  For me, this morning, it was the clock and Coach Susan Williams.  Even though the entire 1.5 hours of swim practice did not qualitatively feel right, I was quantitatively fast.  Extremely consistent in my times and faster at the end of the workout than I have been in a while.

So, what gives?  How can an athlete not feel good yet still put out good results?  Easy.  Your mind is your biggest obstacle.  Control it and you will likely control the outcome of your training session.

Next time you encounter this, try a bit of positive self-talk and see what happens.  You may surprise yourself!

Coach Bob

Monday, March 31, 2014

Prehab, Priorities and Persistence

I had an interesting conversation the other day with one of my younger triathletes and it got me thinking that I need to not localize this learning opportunity to just one individual.  What a better way to spread the education than my blog.  The conversation went like this:

A: athlete
CB: Coach Bob

A: "Coach Bob, my leg is hurting.  Can I stop and stretch it out?"
CB: "Of course.  Is it from your cross country injury in the Fall?"
A: "Yes."
CB: "Do you feel like the coach made you run too many miles and this could have led to your injury?"
A: "Yes."
CB: "Hmm.  Are you doing any type of prehab or rehab exercises?"
A: "My PT gave me rehab exercises to do."
CB: "So, you had an injury due to running too many miles in Fall cross country then you went to see a PT to have rehab done?"
A: "Yes."
CB: "Have you been doing the rehab exercises when prescribed and more importantly, prehab exercises that target improving your imbalances?"
A: "I just don't have time with school and all."
CB: "Oh."
A: "Coach Bob, I want to run in college so bad."
CB: "How are you going to run in college if you are hurt?  College coaches won't want you on their team if you can't run."
A: "Oh, you are right."
CB: "So, you are telling me that you do not have time to do your rehab and prehab exercises because of everything else going on in your life.  Do you have time to be hurt?"

>>>proverbial light bulb goes off with a new sense of motivation>>>

A: "Oh, you are right Coach Bob."
CB: "Sometimes, you must find the few minutes in each day to take care of your body because if you don't, it won't take care of you."

This is a fairly common conversation I have with athletes but usually not young athletes.  I am seeing more and more injuries happening at a younger age and while I will not argue what I believe to be the causes, I will stress the importance of EVERY athlete spending at least 10 minutes EVERY day to initiate a few prehab exercises.  There are many reasons for this (as you can read in my new ebook if you would like) but it really comes down to two success markers: 1) priorities, and 2) persistence.

Make prehab a priority in your daily schedule.  Treat it like any other training session.  Place it on your training calendar (or tell your coach to do this) and be sure to hold it high on the priority list.  Often times, you can do a few prehab exercises when you first wake up.  You can also add some before any type of workout.  Take 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes before a workout and call it good.

Secondly, you must be persistent in the implementation of prehab exercises.  Far too often I witness athletes extremely motivated for 1-2 weeks in doing these exercises but then they lose their focus, their motivation or "need" to do them.  You need to do these exercises daily, trust me.  Prehab exercises should be like brushing your teeth or taking a shower...habits already engrained into your daily routine.

Set prehab exercises as a top daily priority and be persistent in doing them.  You will find that you experience less aches and pains and will reduce the likelihood of injuries.  Do it for yourself, your performance and for your longevity in sport.

Coach Bob

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

So, you wanna run faster?

It feels like Spring time in Colorado and about this time each year, I usually have the burning question posed to me: "how can I run faster?".  I don't know if it is the time of the year when athletes are getting anxious to be outside or if it is because they are registering for races.  No matter the reason, it is true that all of us want to be faster but is it really a mystery?

First off, you must remember that "faster" is very relative and specific to each person.  Everyone has their own training program that they follow, some better than others but I am confident that I can sum up how to become a faster runner with three simple tips.  Can I oversimplify this?  Sure.  Anyone can but I don't think it is necessarily the first place to begin in your quest for speed.  Start with these tips first:

Tip #1: Form

Form matters.  It's true.  Fortunately, there is not one single running form that is the Holy Grail.  Coaches manipulate running form to improve economy (using less oxygen doing the same task) and reduce the risk of injury.  Each athlete is made differently and there is not one correct style that will guarantee increased speed.  In fact, most athletes progress through different evolutions of running form as they progress from beginner to intermediate to advanced levels.  Add to the mix any imbalances, strengths and weaknesses and there is no doubt that you will change your running form around a bit.

Don't get too bogged down with the latest running form debate.  The fact of the matter is that there is not necessarily a "right" or "wrong".  However, there are certain techniques that may or may not support your body's biomechanics, developmental level and imbalances.  Find a qualified coach who can help you discover what your running form should be at this given point in time and also, how to progress it as you develop further.

Tip #2: Consistency

This is an easy one.  As with any sport, if you want to be faster, you must be consistent in your training.  Take a peek into your training routine.  Do you often miss workouts?  Do you make excuses for not doing a workout?  I'm all for listening to the body but consistency is the name of the game.  Get a good periodization plan that supports proper development and recovery and stick with it.  The less consistent you are in your run training, the less opportunity you have to develop speed.

Tip #3: Work ethic

Don't confuse work ethic with motivation.  Work ethic covers everything from how you mentally, physically and nutritionally prepare for a workout to what you actually do during the workout.  I have a favorite saying that I share quite often with athletes: "What you put in is what you get out".  Put in 80%, get out 80%.  Want to get faster?  Develop a strong work ethic and put in 100%.  Your work ethic will help determine what you put in but that is not the end of it.

Having a great work ethic also means being able to follow your training program.  If you run session calls for aerobic efforts, then make them aerobic.  If it calls for race pace efforts, then make them race pace.  Following a training plan in detail is also a component of having a positive work ethic.  Another of my favorite sayings: "You can't just wake up and decide to be great.  You have to work to be great."  Your work ethic speaks volumes about you as a person and also as an athlete and how you will progress to obtain a better level of performance (speed).

There you have it.  Short and sweet for this blog.  Be a faster runner by developing better form, being consistent and having a solid work ethic.

Until next time...

Coach Bob

Monday, January 27, 2014

Why am I swimming so fast?

I thought I would get off the beaten path of my nutrition blogging to discuss training in this blog.  I am confident that for some triathletes who struggle with their swim, this may be of extreme benefit.
It's no secret that I did not grow up a swimmer.  Heck, I didn't even "learn" how to swim "competitively" (and by that I mean putting my head in the water when swimming freestyle) until my sophomore year in college when I took lifeguard training.  Growing up a land sport athlete (soccer), I didn't know you were supposed to swim with your head and face in the water.  Well, not until my lifeguard training instructor asked me after the first class why I swam like I did.  My answer was simple and was actually a question back to her, "that's not what I am supposed to do?".  Ha!  Joke was on me because ever since then, I have been trying to make myself a swimmer, well in the sense of a triathlete who wants to minimize the amount of energy wasted so I could get on the bike without being completely exhausted.

I have been working on this for 20 years.  I've read all the books, talked to great swim coaches, had video analysis done.  It worked, a little but nothing that was really noticeable.  I remember last year when swimming under 1:30 pace for 100 yards was a success for me.  That just didn't cut it for the level of competitiveness that I wanted to achieve.

So, what did I do?  Nothing particular ground breaking and nothing that costs a ton of money.  What I would like to share with you is my process of swimming faster.  If you can take some of these tips and apply it to your training to become faster in the water, great!  That is my intention.

Tip 1: Be a student of the sport
As I mentioned earlier, I have read all the books. Have done my homework and all that jazz.  What I failed to do was spend time on my own in the pool trying to correlate my learning with the biomechanics of my body.  I got a swim snorkel, went slow and paid attention to my body moving through the water.  I had someone video me so I could analyze it and pick myself apart.  After doing that, I went back in the pool, by myself, and slowed everything down so I could manipulate my biomechanics.  Specifically, what I found was that I was reaching too far, too much extension and actually putting the brakes on because of this.  I changed my hand entry to about a 15-20 degree angle which allowed me to engage my catch sooner and ease the pressure on my shoulder.

Tip 2: Get stronger
I have spent the last 6 months aggressively building my swim specific strength. I do 5-10 minutes per day doing pre-hab shoulder exercises with tubing.  I pay particular attention to posterior chain exercises when lifting weights.  Yes, weights.  I lift heavy weights and do sandbag and plyometric training for my upper body.  The icing on the cake for me has been the introduction of rowing.  I row most weeks 3-6 times from 20-60 minutes.  Sometimes steady state.  Sometimes intervals.  It's a huge contributor to my swimming speed improvements.

Tip 3: Learn how to kick
Yeah, I was a competitive soccer player turned triathlete.  I have strong legs so I thought kicking would be easy.  Not so much.  I wasn't kicking properly.  Too much from my knees.  No engagement from my hips.  Too wide of a kick.  What I have done to help this is get a piece of easy resistance tubing and put it around my ankles while swimming.  When swimming alone (important: not in a group), I practice swimming with this tubing.  It is not the same as having a bike tube around your ankles.  This resistance tubing allows me to kick against it but I know I am kicking correctly when I feel my hips engaged.  It also prevents me from kicking too wide.  

These three things have been blessings for me in developing my swim.  I have gone from celebrating hitting just under 1:30 pace 100's to consistently being able to hold 1:20's in this short amount of time.  Will this work for you?  Yeah, I'm pretty sure it will.  Consistency is the key.  Don't rush it and don't try to swim fast before you implement these tips.  Patience will go a long way in developing your swim.  It did for this non-swimmer and I am confidence it will for you also!

Happy swimming.

Coach Bob

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Supplement Savvy

Happy New Year!

I have written a few articles about supplement savvy in the past and this blog will not be a reproduction of those.  As athletes, supplements are part of our lifestyle.  It doesn't matter if you agree or disagree.  The fact of the matter is that athletes use supplements.  As a Registered Dietitian, I was taught the food first model back in the days.  Around the same time where I was also taught about the benefits of following a high carbohydrate, low fat diet.  Also around the same time when, as an endurance coach, I was learning that the best strategy to improve most performances was to build a huge aerobic base of long slow distance training.

My, my, how things have changed over the years.  Specific to this blog is the supplement topic.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I fully believe that we should eat wholesome foods but I also agree that we cannot obtain all of our nutrients through foods all of the time.  We are athletes and we stress our bodies differently from the average person.  Throughout my career as a Sport Dietitian, I have developed a much more liberal approach to supplements, have taken many myself to see if they work or not, and have developed a more systematic, periodized approach to using them and educating others on what and when to use.

Supplements can be classified into three categories: 1) dietary, 2) sport and 3) ergogenic.  Dietary supplements include your basic multivitamin and single nutrients like iron, vitamin D, omega-3's and calcium.  Sport supplements include any bar, drink, gel, electrolyte or anything else you would likely consume before, during or after training.  The last category, ergogenic, includes supplements like creatine, caffeine, and herbal products such as rhodiola rosea.  

There are just as many studies to say we need certain supplements as there are opposing the usage.  What is important is that each athlete have blood work analysis done to determine what is really going on inside their bodies.  From there, it is easy to "clean up" your daily nutrition plan and add the appropriate supplements to combat deficiencies or to improve athletic performance.  

Recently, I have had the honor to sit on the Advisory Board for Thorne FX.  I attended a 3 day educational retreat at their headquarters in Idaho to learn about what makes them different and why.  I was pleasantly surprised to see, upon touring their facility, the degree of quality assurance in which they hold their manufacturing processes to along with the science that goes into choosing the right ingredients.  No fillers.  No product contamination.  No BS.  The reason I have aligned myself with this company is not only because of their supplement philosophy and manufacturing/sourcing of ingredients but also because they believe in lab testing.  In fact, they offer the most comprehensive lab testing that you can get.

And no, they are not like other companies that develop a test to show you how low you are in something and so conveniently have a product to sell you in the next breath.  The lab testing is to help you achieve a better understanding of your health and determine what dietary strategies you need to implement to make improvements.  My collaboration with ThorneFX is an extension of the services that I provide athletes.  My job is to improve your health and performance by looking at your daily and training nutrition, find the problems and come up with solutions.  Solutions, in this case, often lead to changing the way you eat and your food choices along with educating you about supplements that can help in this process.

As much as you can argue with the research that is published, one thing is for certain: you are unique in your nutritional needs and were dealt a different deck of genetic cards than someone else. Get your lab work done first to see what you are starting with.  From there, you can develop a plan to improve your health and performance.

I would encourage you to visit ThorneFX for lab testing options and their full supplement line.  I wouldn't be on their Advisory Board if I didn't believe in them!

PS-you cannot order lab tests or products from ThorneFX without a special code so you can use this one: THRNFX1062544

ThorneFX website

Coach Bob