Getting Through Those Tough Winter Months

You’ve set your goals for the year. You’ve talked to your coach and put together a plan. You even got pumped at the thought of how much progress you could make before your next big race. Some of you even took some time off to refresh. But now you are either tired of training indoors staring at a wall, or you are just loathing the thought of indoor training all together!
There’s no magic formula to enjoy indoor training. However, to reach your goals it just has to get done. So how do you “get it done”?  How do you stay motivated and on track to reach those goals?
First, be realistic with your goals. If your shooting to PR a spring or early summer 1/2 marathon or 1/2 Ironman realize that some of your long days are going to have to be indoors. Mentally prepare yourself for that. Know that pushing yourself through it now pays dividends later.
Second, if you are able train first thing in the morning. Sometimes, forcing yourself to get up and get it done in the morning helps avoid the extra stress of getting it done after a long day at work when your already mentally and physically fatigued from the day.
Third, make a space for yourself. Clean up a spot and set up a TV or some speakers for music. Make sure you have enough ventilation and air flow to keep you cool. If you’re staring at a concrete wall or in a dark boring garage things may get tough. Making your training environment a place you enjoy looking at will help mentally.
Fouthly, mix up and break up your workouts. It’s ok to do long intervals like 2×20’s and even 3×30’s, but when you do these switch something up every once in a while. For example, in a 3×30 workout try doing 5 minutes in aero and 1 minute on the hoods, or stand up for 30 seconds every 5 minutes.  Sometimes doing something different like that breaks up the time and makes the total time seem to go by faster.
Lastly, try to find some classes or friends to train with. I’m teaching spin classes right now for outdoor cyclist. A lot of people enjoy the social aspect of our sport. Feeding on that mentally makes it more enjoyable. People find getting to gym to workout easier when they look forward to talking with friends, and sometimes even feeding off some friendly competition.
What we do isn’t always easy. Setting big goals and talking about it sounds easy, but putting in the work is hard. Get up, get dressed, get to the gym and get it done. A little persistence and pain now will equal big gains later. Keep that in perspective the next time you have those tough mental challenges of indoor training.
Coach Meulen
TriDogz Training and Coaching Services

Saturday, January 31, 2015

The 4 Week Burpee Challenge

The 4 Week Burpee Challenge!!!!
When I got injured I had to make a lot of changes in my routines. Gone were the days of thinking that Swimming/Biking/Running more and harder was the only way to get faster at Swim/Bike/Run. I had to find a way to get stronger, more limber, and more mobile, or getting faster wasn’t going to happen without injury.
As I spend my winter putting in base miles, and training for spring races, I can’t think of any better time to take up a challenge. A challenge that will force us to take the time to get stronger, more mobile, and hopefully, help us through a season of injury free training and racing.
What better move to concentrate on than the one we all hate!  But, also the one move that incorporates all the movement and strength building important to us as endurance athletes.
So I’m issuing a 4 week Burpee Challenge.
Here it is!!!!…
5 days out of the week take 20 minutes and do your burpees!  Start with 10 minutes of foam rolling. Then get to business
Week 1- 5 days of 20 burpees each day
Week 2- 5 days of 30 burpees each day
Week 3- 5 days of 40 burpees each day
Week 4 -5 days of 50 burpees each day!
February 1 is tomorrow!  What a great day to start. good Luck!!!!!

3 Bike Trainer Warm Ups For Specific Efforts

Don’t overlook a solid warm up!  Athletes’, who are widely strapped for time, often like to skip right into a workout.  Sometimes, coaches and pre-defined workout plans are too vague in outlining exactly what a good warmup is.  The warmup is an important part of the workout and, done right, will improve the quality of the work to come. Without a good warm up you could find your legs feeling flat during your workout, and sometimes have trouble holding higher cadences.  Starting a workout feeling this way can take a till mentally, and inhibit the quality of your workout.
A good warm up will:
1.  Heat up your muscles, and get the blood flowing to them, preparing them for the work ahead. Possibly, even helping minimize risk of injury.
2. Prepare your joints and muscles for proper cadence and effort during your workout.
3. Wake you up mentally, and give you an idea of how you are feeling for today’s workout.
4. Sometimes, if your not feeling quite fresh, a good warm up can work the soreness out of your legs, and wake them up even if you didn’t think it was possible.
In planning a solid warm up, remember to make it relevant to the elements of the workout ahead. For example, if your workout today will include climbing drills, you should incorporate some short climbs in your warm up. If you are doing intervals at Lactate Threshold, you should include a warmup with short intervals slightly above LT. If you are testing FTP, or going to be doing intervals above FTP, you should include some of those short efforts in your warm ups.  Those short efforts will help you get the benefits, we discussed above, out of your warm up.
So here are 3 of my go to warm ups for specific bike trainer efforts.
1. Warm up for hill climbing
2′ soft pedal
30″ soft pedal 100+ cadence
1′ soft pedal
1′ soft pedal 100+ cadence
30″ soft pedal
5′ build 60-80% FTP 85-95 cadence
1′ 80% FTP 60 cadence
1′ soft pedal
2′ 80% FTP 60 cadence
1′ soft pedal
4′ 80% FTP 60 cadence
1′ FTP 60 cadence
5′ soft pedal
2. Warm up for LT efforts (most steady state workouts)
2′ soft pedal
30″ soft pedal 100+ cadence
1′ soft pedal
1′ soft pedal 100+ cadence
30″ soft pedal
5′ 70% FTP
5′ 80% FTP
20″ FTP
40″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
30″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
30″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
30″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
5:30 soft pedal
3.  Warm up for FTP or efforts that will include intervals above FTP
2′ soft pedal
30″ soft pedal 100+ cadence
1′ soft pedal
1′ soft pedal 100+ cadence
30″ soft pedal
5′ 70% FTP
5′ 80% FTP
20″ FTP
40″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
30″ soft pedal
30″ FTP
30″ soft pedal
20″ FTP
10″ 110% FTP
30″ soft pedal
10″ 110% FTP
5:20 soft pedal
Coach Meulen

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Vibram USA $3.75 million Settlement…

So… my last post was about my come back from running injury. I took a bit of flack for my stance on run form, and soon after my blog post it came to light that Vibram USA had settled a lawsuit against them. In the settlement Vibram agreed to escrow $3.75 million dollars to refund people for shoes, and they also agreed to quit making claims that their shoes prevented run injuries. In light of the settlement I wanted to clear a few things I think I may have left open in my last post.
First of all, I need to mention “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!”  What I mean by that is if an athlete is running pain free in current form, and their form isn’t inhibiting any progression of performance, it doesn’t make sense to fix it.
Secondly, I want to make the point that changing run form is risky. The risk needs to be worth the reward. In my case, my run form lead to multiple injuries. It was worth the risk changing my run form to prevent further injuries. Being Vibram USA is not making comment on this, for legal reasons, I think a lot of people are forgetting the risk involved in changing run form. Unfortunately, it was probably inevitable that people switching to the Vibram shoes were probably going to make changes to abruptly, and add to injury problems. After all, we have been running with more and more support ever since Nike and Mr Bowman started making shoes to alter natural run form. Not to mention, the general population if runners is experiencing more injury than ever anyway.  Making the change back to abruptly was certain to cause problems for some people.
Thirdly, I want to be clear I’m not promoting Vribrams in any way. In fact, I don’t think it’s even wise for myself to run in them at this point in my recovery. My objective was to move more toward the natural run form the company and it’s products promote.
Lastly, I want you to remember things aren’t always as they appear. At face value, the settlement by Vibram USA seems to discredit the company and in turn, debunk the whole idea of returning to a natural run form. Being my full time job is in the financial industry, I believe I have a more in depth understanding of these things. Vibram is a private company and not a whole lot of financial information is available. However, during their lawsuit against counterfeits it was brought to light that 2010 revenue was $125 million. To put that in perspective, the settlement in dollars was only 3% of annual revenue. Their marketing plan, including making claims of lessening run injuries, was getting old and run has probably run its course. My guess is Vibram was ready to move on for that strategy anyway. So it was probably simply a business decision to make the easy settlement, move on, and find another strategy to sell shoes. Vibram stands firm that it was not an admission of guilt.
In conclusion, I want you to remember that sometimes business decisions can take away from what’s really best for the consumer. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. However, don’t be afraid to move toward a more natural run form if that’s what you need to do to put a stop to recurring injuries. Don’t let Corporate America fool you. As always, act under the guidance if your doctor, a therapist, and or a coach. Change is risk that needs to be balanced, and it’s best to do it with the help of professionals.
Coach Meulen

Quick and easy Salmon dinner

I’m not going to spend a lot of time explaining this one because our lives are busy, and the instructions are on the package!
Go pick yourself up some Kirkland Salmon at your local Costco. Bake according to instructions. Add some fresh spinach and a slice of lemon. (Thanks Honey!!!)

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If You’re Not Moving….Get Moving!

This one is for all you office workers out there!
Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be full time athletes. Although, we dream about it, and sometimes think we are.  The truth is a lot of us are weekend warriors, or part time athletes. Our jobs are important, and allow us the privilege to be athletes on the side.
As a result, some of us spend long hours sitting at a desk, or in other sedentary states. As athletes, we workout hard at night, or on the weekend. Then, we sit in a desk all day at work. Besides the possibility of poor posture and posterior chain issues, sitting at the desk also cuts off circulation and tightens up the muscles. This can inhibit proper recovery from workouts, contribute to loss of flexibility, and lead to injuries.
So what do we do?  Try to sneak away for a minute or two every once in a while. Do something!  There are countless simple exercises you can do in an empty office, in a stair well, or on your cubicle floor while no one is looking. Personally, I try my best to get away once every hour and climb some stairs, do crunches, planks, Hindu squats, push-ups, etc.
Honestly, it doesn’t happen every hour. There are always meetings, or more pressing matters that come up, and 1 hour turns into 2 or 3!  But, if you try your best and get in these movements the best you can you will see a difference. You’ll notice more flexibility, easier movement, and better recovery from workouts. You might even find yourself burning more calories during the day and getting leaner!  So make that commitment and get moving!
Coach Meulen

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Training Camp Revelations 2014

First, I have to thank my coach Tony Zamora for another great training camp. For information on training camps by TZcoaching you can check here http://www.tzcoaching.com/service/training-camp/ .  First, I’m blessed to have the opportunity to get away for a week, and travel somewhere nice to get a lot of good riding in. I can’t say enough about the TZcoaching camp in Monterey, CA. Second, I have to thank Chris Burnham, at Burnham Coaching, and Frank, at Bay Bikes. Chris, for the helpful seminar on mobility, and Frank for the bike support all week. Lastly, I want to thank Tony’s wife Michelle, and my wife Anne for all the SAG support, and for putting up with a bunch of cyclists like us for a week on our rides.
There’s a lot of debate about the necessities of training camps. I always hear a lot of athletes grumble that they can accomplish the same things in their own training at home. Possibly…..but will they?  Especially this year, with the nasty cold Chicago weather we had, and extremely limited times to get outside and ride, I know I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to get on my bike this early and this often. Not to mention the opportunities you have to train and talk with coaches about anything you need, and have support for extra long or hard rides. Being that I struggle with overuse use injuries myself, I especially enjoyed working with Tony and Chris on mobility during our down time. Besides those things, it was just great to get out of my normal environment, and train some place that had mountains and hills worth mentioning.
What specifically do training camps do for my training?
Well, last year I came back from camp a much stronger rider. The mountains in California made the little rollers in Illinois seem like nothing. It gave me something to train for during the winter, and keep me motivated to get in those long trainer rides leading up to camp. It challenged me at the perfect time of year to climb harder and go faster than I normally would. It put a perfect training peak in my training periodization schedule. Putting me out there with other cyclists and coaches also pushed me harder than I would have mentally been capable of on the trainer at home. There was one ride I physically put out an average power output only a few watts shy of my previous functional threshold power for more than 4 hours!  Being out on the road and challenging myself to keep up with others at the camp made that possible. Lastly, talk to me in a few weeks!  I’m exhausted! as I should be!  The benefits of my efforts should be appearant in a few weeks as I recover from camp. I’ll expect to start the riding season with a higher FTP and improved aerobic endurance.
What did I learn from training camp this year?
First, I learn a lot about myself and how far I can push myself. As I mentioned before, just being here with other riders and the competitive spirit pushes you. I have the power data to record and learn from those efforts. But I was also pushed by the different terrain/environment. Our Fremont Peak ride was so much climbing, and so steep, that the last two years I’ve tested up it I put out more than 10% more power than I tested at on the trainer during the winter leading up to it.  The quest to the peak, and constant need to crank the pedals over to keep moving forward, forces you mentally to show yourself what you are capable of.
Second, I always learn about nutrition and fuel for long efforts at camp. It’s a perfect opportunity to dial in your nutrition, and if you have questions there are coaches there to ask.
Third, I learned about my diet off the bike!  Going out to eat with the other riders didn’t workout so well for my stomach. About mid week I started having some stomach issues. I’m sure it was due to the fact I was eating things my body is not used to eating. I learned I need to do a better job with my food choices, while I’m away from home, to keep up with my own well being.
Fourthly, I learned a lot about mobility and nutrition from Tony and Chris at Chris’s new studio at Bay Bikes. Chris started the day with a talk about foam rolling, and other devices, to help us recover and break up adhesions we create with all our hard training. I knew the importance of this before, however, it was great to get some new ideas for recovery and rolling routines, see the latest devices out there, get Chris’s suggestions on how to use them, as well as have Tony/Chris show me what I should be doing for myself on a daily basis to stay supple.
Lastly, I learned to love training a little bit more again. Let’s face it, it’s been a long hard winter for most of the country this year. And for myself, life has gotten in the way of my own training this off season. TZcoaching training camp was just what I needed to come back home fresh and full of ideas for my own training, and for clients’. As I write this on the plane ride home I’ve already gone through and jotted down tons of thoughts for making this year better for myself, for TZcoaching athletes, and Lifetime Fitness athletes’ coming out on our weekend training rides this year, and for potential private clients. I can’t wait to get home and start a new year of training!
Questions?  Feel free to comment or email me at coachmeulen@tridogz.com
I’ll leave you with a few pics from camp. But stay tuned to www.tzcoaching.com for more pics. We have tons of pics to go through this year and I’m sure Tony will share some soon.

Searching for that perfect run form

I’ve been doing a LOT of soul searching in this area lately!  Running was something I thought I was good at. Before I started training and racing I turned to running in order to lose weight. It was the easiest and most convenient thing to do….or so I thought.
After I lost some weight, and discovered triathlon, it was time for me to run again. I was never a fast runner. When I played basketball and baseball in High School my friends used to make fun of how slow I was. It was kind of a joke how I “chugged” along looking like I was putting in a big effort, but was going no where. It wasn’t till recently till I figured out running should be more effortless than that!
As I continued with my triathlons I actually started to enjoy running. The lighter me was faster. I finished my first marathon at 3:44 and eventually ran a half marathon at 1:34. While not the fastest guy, I was consistently running top tens in my age group with most my running efforts.
Then my world came crashing down. After I broke my collar bone in a mountain bike mishap, I was at a physical therapist. In doing his job he asked me if anything else hurt, or was bothering me. I mentioned how I was fine, but getting old and my feet hurt when I got out if bed in the morning. Little did I know that it wasn’t me getting old at all!  It was the injury all runners/endurance athletes dread…plantar fasciitis!
I continued going to therapy for the PF and took a little break from running. I religiously did all the exercises and treatments I was supposed to do. It seemed to be getting better. But, when I started running again it came back. I took a break and kept doing the therapy more, but it came back again!  It also reared it’s ugly head in my other foot. So then I had it in both!
Every year countless runners get the dreaded PF. Many sources say it’s the most common run injury. Recently, it’s come more to light with athletes in basketball and baseball as well. Why?….we can speculate all we want, but the simple fact is that nobody teaches us how to run correctly. To make matters worse, the shoe manufactures market products to is that prohibit proper run form, and reinforce bad habits. But wait! It gets worse. They’ve been doing this for years!  So are feet are weak to begin with and keep getting weaker.
So what do we do?  First off, see a doctor and get it properly diagnosed. They will likely give you orthotics that will even further support your feet and limit proper movement. But that’s ok. Once you have PF you need the rest. Really bad cases can take more than a year and sometimes even hurt when cycling. With the orthotics and after your cleared to run again is where you need to start.
Change that running form. Learn to stand tall, look forward, drive your knees and balance your hips. Lean forward and shorten your stride, raising your cadence. Running should seem effortless. You shouldn’t hear your feet banging on the ground. Loosen up those shoulders and relax. Let your mid foot strike the ground first, and roll the foot forward pushing off with the toes.
Start small!  Don’t be afraid to run a couple miles a few times a week to start. Use the 10 percent rule, and error on the conservative side. Stay away from speed work for a while, and just run and enjoy for a while while your body gets used to it. Take 3-4 weeks of this before you start ramping up volume for training.
Here are a couple of articles out there that really help with run form. READ THEM! And get that correct form down. You’ll likely be really sore in the calves for a while so don’t forget to start slow!

A Good Coach!

A good coach is priceless IMO!  Over my years of bike racing, running and triathlon I’ve really learned to enjoy having a professional coach. I tried to do it on my own at first. I even had some success on my own. But, I could never have learned as much about endurance sports as I have without Tony at www.tzcoaching.com !
Most coaches aren’t registered nutritionist or dietitians, but they do get what it takes to fuel your body for endurance sports. Some of them have years of experience themselves, and may have even had their own struggles with weight management. They can point you in the right direction in getting your diet on track. (You should always check with your doctor if your coaches suggestions are ok for you)
This week I took the plunge myself, and applied to be a USA Cyclung coach.
In the process, I learned that coaches take a lot of time learning about the science so you don’t have to. Believe it or not, there’s a lot more to it than just prescribing workouts and ramping up volume to prepare for races. There are so many reasons to hire a coach if you have the means.
A coach will plan your “big picture”. He/She will sit with you to plan your entire year. Whether you have ten races or one, your coach will plan the workouts to keep you injury free and get you to peak fitness for all your important races.
Your coach will guide you through tough times. You may just need a little extra encouragement, or you may need to work through an illness or injury.  But, your coach will be there to guide you through.
Coaches take a lot of time to plan your workouts so you don’t have too!  Think of all the extra time you’ll have to train if you don’t have to research how to structure your own workouts.
There’s no more guessing!  If you have a question, you have someone to ask.  If your coach doesn’t know chances are they know where to find out. Most coaches have been into endurance sports for a long time, and have a long list of people to tap for information.
Coaches can see you from the outside!  Let’s face it. You may think your rockin’ the best form on your squats, or running with perfect form. But you never know unless you have someone to watch you. They can recognize those little things you’ll miss or deny in your self assessments, and have the little fixes to put you on track. It could mean the difference between constant injury or pain free enjoyment in your training.
Finally, your coach will be there to nurture and inspire your love for endurance sports. Mine has become a good friend, and inspired me to become a coach myself. You never know, sometimes, what get out of trying something new.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Race Day Nutrition

There are some exciting things happening here!  Including, getting my USA Cycling Coaching Certification. As a result I may switch direction of the blog posts relating to cycling and training. I’ll still be doing some stuff related to nutrition as well though. Today, I want to make a smooth transition and talk about Race Day Nutrition.
I get asked this question a lot. “How many calories should I take in during my race?”  There’s no easy answer here. The best I can do is say “it depends”. What it depends on is a lot of things. So I’ll try to give a better answer, but bare in mind these things need to be practiced in training. Don’t experiment with them on race day! Or just do what someone else said worked for them.
Let’s address the first important part of this answer. Your nutrition before the race is just as important as during and after.  You’ve all heard of carbo-loading before a race, and I’m pretty sure it’s become widely known that it’s a myth. So I won’t go into that. What is important is your valuable glycogen stores, or carbohydrates. Your body stores around 90 minutes worth of carbs. Endurance athletes are always training and burning through these stores. So it’s important, in your daily diet to replace these stores. One of the best ways is to use some sort of recovery drink or food/drink that contains the majic 4:1 carb to protein ration within 30-45 minutes after workouts. There are numerous drinks on the market, but chocolate milk and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches work too. The Protein is important too, as it helps repair muscle.  Make sure your getting some good whole grains in your daily diet also. Oatmeal, nuts, and fruit is a great combination. Other good foods are brown rice and whole wheat pastas. Be careful of overrating some of these things, and try to stay away from processed carbs.
I have a theory of processed foods. They contain preservatives. My theory is that foods designed to be preserved outside the body are also preserved inside the body. If they are designed to “preserve” how can your body metabolize them efficiently?  I believe everyone is different when it comes to this, and some people can’t metabolize these foods as well as clean wholesome foods.
So now that you’re eating properly daily, let’s address the pre-race meal. Don’t eat anything out if the ordinary!  Go back to the oatmeal recommendation in your daily diet. Eat 2-4 hours before the race. If you start feeling hungry between that time nibble on a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter or your favorite energy bar. I emphasize “nibble” because too much in your stomach as you start the race can lead to GI issues.
During the race is the hard part. Everyone is a little different here. Again, I suggest experimenting with this in training so you know coming into the race what the best plan for you is. Speaking of plan, make one!  Pre plan all your nutrition, and make certain it is easily accessible as well as securely fastened!  Also, have a backup plan!  If something happens in a race that makes you take a lot more time be ready for that. If something, unexpectedly, makes your stomach upset be ready for that too. Know the course and what the venue will have to offer so you know how much you need to take with you, and how much you can depend on the course for nutrition.
When it comes to the plan, you should take in somewhere between 120-240 calories per hour. Where you fall in that range depends on the kind of race and your own tolerance. One of the biggest mistakes new athletes make is to take in too much. You’ll know you’ve taken too much when your having GI issues. Too little and you will get grumpy, tired, a little loopy and eventually bonk. Obviously, for shorter races this won’t be an issue because you don’t need much, if anything. However, for longer races, you need to nail this down ahead if time. Personally, I start around 200 calories an hour and work for there. Make sure you are hydrating, and be careful with your timing and mix of different products. For example, most people need to wash down gels with pure water. Mixing with sports drinks and gels can lead to GI issues. Also, consider the type of race you are doing. You may tolerate more solid food and more calories on the bike than you do running. You can’t really take in any calories swimming. So in a triathlon, you may be able to take in more calories on the bike to prep for the run.  In a marathon you may take in less calories per hour than a road race because of the extra sloshing around things do in your stomach while running.  Once you nail all this down in training you can transfer it right over to race day.
Don’t forget your after race nutrition!  Remember that 30-60 minute window and replace that glycogen after the race so you can start the recovery process.