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Latest From BPC

The Muscle Confusion Principle….Who Is Really Confused?

It’s a little sad that such a great tool like the internet can also be the worst thing that ever happened to people trying to train intelligently. The pooling of ignorance is astounding at times, even by those who come forth as “professionals” in the field. And stay away from the forums. Woo-wee, there are some “creative ideas” on those things.

Unfortunately, we are quick to believe anything we see on TV, and we follow suit on the web. We also can’t stand doing the same thing for more than a week, so we are constantly in search of the next best thing and never become great at anything. So no wonder folks like Tony Horton and Sean T are making boat loads on their one off training programs that just so happen to have genius marketing behind them. If I am not mistaken, Tony’s P90X program coined the term “muscle confusion” and everyone else jumped on the bandwagon after the success of the program’s SALES, and not necessarily the program’s SUCCESS.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not hating on Tony or P90X. The man created something huge and I respect that. But the infomercials even state (if you read the tiny print at the bottom) that the people featured have had abnormal results. It’s not the shear fact that they are doing tons of varying high intensity workouts that makes those people have great results. The best results come from people who were already kind of fit so they could immediately handle the rigorous workouts. Then they followed the supplemental meal plan on top of the workout schedule to the T. They workout frequently, do tons of reps, burn a bunch of calories, and then eat a low calorie diet. That’s pretty much a winning formula for any general fitness program to succeed.

There are a lot of programs out there (not naming any names, but if Jesus invented a fitness program it would be called…) that go to the extent of basically doing a workout and not repeating it for several months or more. The problem with this is that the athlete rarely gets to see accurate progress. You can go months without ever knowing you are really improving unless you do some sort of assessment every few weeks. The problem with doing constant assessments is that they generally entail all out efforts that can hurt the quality of the next 2-3 days of training. If you  are trying to make the most out of every session, doing test sets or intervals within a recurring workout is a more efficient use of your valuable and limited training time.

The term “muscle confusion” itself is a contradiction. Muscles can’t be confused. Their job is pretty straight forward. Contract or relax. Fire a lot of muscle fibers or just a few. Contract fast, or contract slow. Pretty simple. Creating an adaptation within the muscles (which includes the brain and heart) does not hinge on hitting it with 18 different exercises at 14 different intensities. The fact is, a muscle will adapt to any stimuli that stresses it beyond its normal workload limit. Squeeze out 1 more rep or one more interval at the same weight or intensity than ever before and BOOM! The body senses the stress overload and goes to work adapting to that amount of stress. As far as the type of adaption you are looking to illicit, that is certainly determined by the volume and intensity of your exercises. But if you are constantly throwing your body a plethora of different volumes and intensities, my question is what exactly are you trying to achieve? What type of adaption are you going for? Do you even know? Or are you just training blindly with no goals in mind?

But I have plateaued. Don’t I just need to shock the system with something new? Perhaps. But again, that is more a motivational necessity than anything else.  The dreaded plateau has nothing to do with the muscles being bored of what you are doing. Again, it’s usually the individual who is bored. Plateauing has everything to do with the fact that the person has failed to continue to stress the body past it’s workload threshold. Simple as that. Have you hit a plateau in your training? What have you been doing the last 30 days? The same amount of training at the exact same intensities? The same weight? Heck yeah you are going to plateau. Your body has already adapted to that level of training stress. If you want to kick things back into gear, feel free to do the same exercises, or the same running or riding routes, just increase your volume and/or intensity a touch and you’ll be back on track making progress. But again, the type of progress you are looking to make will determine which factor you increase. And just to really confuse that big muscle in your skull, don’t forget to factor rest in there. Sometimes you don’t need more volume or intensity, you just need to rest so the body can have time to rebuild and adapt to the training stress you have been serving it.

 

If you are interested in having BPC help you break your plateau and get back to an efficient use of your training time, feel free to contact us any time.

Performance GPS – Rock Your Next 70.3 With This Race Guide

The triathlon season is coming to a close, but a lot of you still have your A race on the horizon. For the last several months you have been putting a lot of your disposable time into training. You may have had to take time off work or time away from your family to get it all in. Your hotel is booked, the car is gassed up, and your body is primed and ready. But we all know the caveat to long course racing is the unpredictability that goes along with it. However, with the right race plan, you can make sure to control all the controllable variables and find your way to the finish line with minimal detours.

With that, here is a tried and true race guide to get you to the finish line of your next 70.3 with a smile on your face (pending you did the work leading up to the race). Not every detail is there for your specific ability level, but you can easily adapt this plan based on the recommended effort levels. I am sure there are some little details missing, so if you think of anything else, drop us a comment below to let everyone else know!

Friday – Travel

Double and triple check you have packed everything, and then make a list of the things you will have to buy when you get there, if any. Don’t hesitate to make extra stops on the way to stretch the legs. Make sure you are hydrating.

Friday Night

Get to bed early, you won’t be sleeping well Saturday night…just trust me. Eat a balanced meal. Lay off the high fat, high sugar stuff.

Saturday

Get in any training you need to early and take the rest of the day easy. Don’t get caught up walking around a ton at the expo and in the city. Make sure you get all your gear checked, organized, and checked in. Course recon is always a good idea. If you are racing a hilly course, ride the biggest climb to pick your gearing and feel it out. You can always ride the run course in the small ring as well to scope it out. Get your bike [and bags] to check-in if required. If not, hold onto that thing as long as you can…just in case.

Saturday Night

Don’t get caught up with “carboloading.” It doesn’t do you any good because your body can only store so much glycogen. Just eat normally, but nothing super greasy, fatty, or out of the ordinary for your diet. Stay away from eating too much meat, since it takes much longer to digest. Make sure you are hydrating! Try and stay off your feet and get to bed early. Make one last check of your morning gear, and set it all out so you don’t have to get it all together in the morning. The more things you can have done tonight, the better.

Sunday Morning

Need to get up with enough time to eat, use the bathroom 4-5 times, get to your bike to check it out, pump up the tires, put your food and fluids on your bike, set up transition, get body marked, do a quick active warm up, get into your wetsuit, and get ready to ROCK! If you can get in the water and do a short warm up that is more ideal than just going for it with no warm up at all.

Keep your transition area as uncluttered as possible. It will save you a lot of time. Don’t forget where your bike is. The brain gets loopy coming out of the water in oxygen debt.

For breakfast, stick it to your normal morning meal. I usually do a larger breakfast for long course, in the 600-800 calorie range. It works for me, but you need just enough to top off the glycogen stores. Make sure you get it in within 2 hours of the race start. Have another 100-200 calories an hour before. Make sure you are hydrating all morning with both water and sports drink. Go heavier on the sports drink. Can’t overdo electrolytes on race day.

Swim

Unless you are back of the pack, try and line up toward the front if possible. It’s always better to be swam over than to have to swim over people. Trust me on this. This is also the best way to find some good feet to follow and get a draft. Make sure you are sighting every 8-10 strokes. At the turns, only breath to the side the buoy is on if possible. It will speed up your turn significantly. The first little bit is always rough, but once you get some clean water, just settle in and focus on technique and sighting. Lots of racing to go!

When you exit the water, bypass the suit strippers. Get your suit halfway off while you run. Goggles and cap as well.

T1

Get in and get out! As soon as you get to your stuff, get that wetsuit off. The only thing you should have to do after that is put on your helmet, shades, and shoes. Socks are optional for 70.3, if you’ve trained without socks. DO NOT eat in transition unless you know you have an iron stomach.

Bike

Spin the legs out the first 5 minutes in the small chain ring. Start drinking fluids immediately, since you just went a while without drinking (clean water anyways). Shoot for 1-2 bottles an hour on the bike. 1 is the absolute minimum. If it’s warm, you will need more. If it’s hot, you will need a lot more. Go heavier on the electrolyte drink than water. Make sure you are eating something every 30 minutes, BUT don’t take your first solid food until about 10-15 minutes into the bike. We want to let the HR settle in before we start taking in solids. We want to take in a minimum of 300-350 calories per hour on the bike if you don’t have a previous nutrition plan. If you can take in more, go for it, because it’s always harder to take in sufficient calories on the run. DO NOT FORGET TO EAT AND DRINK! If you have to set an alarm or something, do it. This can and will determine your overall performance.

Overall effort on the bike is an upper Z2 and Z3 [Z2 for full iron]. Try to avoid threshold (Z4) or higher spikes. You should at no point start getting a burn going unless you are on a climb and can’t avoid pushing. Try and stay in aero any time you are going 15 mph or faster. If you are going less than that, you can sit up. If you need to sit up to stretch, don’t sweat it.

DON’T FORGET TO EAT AND DRINK! Did I mention that already?

Stop eating within 15 minutes of getting off the bike. But continue to drink.

T2

In and out! Hang the bike, swap the shoes, and get out. You can carry your number and hat with you and put them on as you run. If you are carrying your nutrition, I’d advise you to put it in your pocket before you start the race. That way if you need extra on the bike, it’s there. Then you can just pull off the course on the run if you know you can handle what the course offers.

Run

DON’T GO OUT TOO HARD! Take it easy, in fact, you should be running about :30-1 minute slower than your goal pace out of T2. You will build up to goal pace over the first 1-2 miles. Don’t start eating until you get your HR settled in. After that first feeding (should be about 10-15 minutes in) you need to be eating at least once every 45 min. 150-200 calories per hour minimum. Stick to sports drink on the run as well. If you are eating gels, you can get some water in with those to wash them down. BIG TIP: If you have never used the sports drink they have on course, dilute it with water.  If you ever feel like you are hungry, you need to eat immediately! If you have to slow down a little bit to have lunch (that’s a joke), you are better off than trying to run hungry. If you start to feel cramps coming on, nip it in the bud. Take down extra electrolytes, or go for the chicken broth if its there. If you are just feeling fatigued, go for some coke. The simple sugars and caffeine will get you back in the game.

Don’t be afraid to walk through the aid stations. This gives you time to get in as much food and fluids as you need. It’s better to walk 30-60 seconds every mile or so than to walk the last 6 miles.

Once you get to the halfway point, do a self check and see if you can up the pace at all. Do the same every mile after 8. When it hurts, and it will, think about technique and how good it’s going to feel to finish. If you get really down, pretend each mile marker is the finish line and throw your arms up in victory at every mile. Sometimes you have to ninja the mind to get the body to cooperate.

Once you are within the last mile, it’s whatever you have left. And don’t forget to put your arms up at the finish line. Gotta get a good picture!

Bonus Tips:

Don’t get into your wetsuit too early. You can easily dehydrate yourself sitting around in that hot box. It’s also a pain to use the port-o-potty in those things!

Make sure you check your shifting the morning of the race. Put your bike in the small chain ring and an easy gear for the start of the bike leg. Let your legs spin out at a high cadence for the first 5 minutes or so to get the muscles firing. Then follow your race plan.

Don’t forget your flat kit!

Put a water resistant lube on the arms and legs of your wetsuit so you can get out of it quickly. TriSlide works great.

Checklist

  • Bike
  • Bike Shoes
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Cycling Gear – for workouts
  • Running Gear – for workouts
  • Swim Trunks – for workouts
  • Racing Kit – For race day
  • Socks
  • Running Shoes
  • Hat
  • Bottles
  • Wetsuit
  • Flat Kit
  • Extra Tubes and CO2s
  • Garmin
  • Goggles (bring more than one pair if you got it)
  • Nutrition and Drink Mixes
  • Disc or Race Wheels (optional)
  • Bike Pump
  • Race Number Belt
  • Towel
  • Sunscreen
  • Your Inner Beast

 

If you would like to see how BPC can help you execute a solid race plan, don’t hesitate to contact us.

How to Master the Recovery Week

First of all, if you have been training for any amount of time and are not familiar with what a recovery week is, I have to ask…how’s your training coming along?

Without giving the body time to rest, recover, and rebuild, the body will never adapt to the training stress you are putting it through. This is why we often times refer to a recovery week as an adaption week. If you never take time to fully recover, you will continuously either run at a lower performance level than you are capable of, or you will train yourself into a deficit that will force the body to take recovery by way of illness or injury. During our initial assessment of a new client’s past training regimen, we often find that a well planned recovery week was either non-existent, or not executed correctly. More times than not, we see big performance gains after the first scheduled recovery week. On more than one occasion, an athlete’s very first week with us has been a recovery week.

At the same time, there is a state of being too rested. We pretty much refer to this as detraining. To perform at a high level, you have to balance the stress of training (and don’t forget life stressors), with the right amount of recovery. For those that use TSS and the performance management charts within TrainingPeaks or WKO+, most people have their peak performances with a TSB (Training Stress Balance) between +10 and +20. This is not the case for everyone, however. Most younger athletes fall in the lower TSB values and older athletes might need to see a TSB of 25+ for a few days before they knock out a stellar performance.

With that, here are some tips on how to correctly execute a recovery week:

Plan them in advance – Most of the time, if you do not set them ahead of time you will forget about it. Before you know it, you have gone through 6 hard weeks of training with little to no real recovery. At some point, the quality of your workouts fall so much, you are wasting your valuable training time.

Stick to the plan – Regardless of how good you feel or if you missed a few workouts the weeks prior, DO NOT skip your recovery week. The only time we allow athletes to change a recovery week is if the week prior was basically an early recovery week due to life circumstances.

Cut your volume by 30-40% – The rule of thumb we use is that a recovery week should be about 30-40% of the duration of the largest training week in your last block. Again, doing too much or too little can derail your recovery week. Too much slows or negates your recovery. Too little can result in detraining, or at the very least, hurting the quality of the workouts once you get back to training normally. DON’T DO NOTHING!

Intelligent Intensity – Intensity can increase your training stress exponentially. Short bouts of exercise can be as hard on the body as super long duration activity. We generally treat a recovery week much like a race week. We assign just enough intensity to keep the body primed and preserve our top end fitness. All high intensity intervals should be short, and followed by lots of recovery. Keep a little intensity in every other or every 3rd day.

Rest week doesn’t have to mean 7 days – Yes, it fits into the training calendar very nicely. But, if you are a younger athlete, or you are a time crunched athlete doing minimal volume, a lot of people can recover in 4-5 days. If it fits better in your life to do 7 days, it doesn’t hurt to have those 2 extra days of low intensity exercise. We often times use the end of a recovery week for testing, which keeps the weekly volume and overall weekly workload down.

Ease up on the running! – Running is tougher on the body compared to most activities, so during a recovery week it is best to cut the number of runs you do that week. Take at least 1 extra day off from running, with a minimum of 2 runs during the week. As a side note, just because you are running less, doesn’t mean run a faster average pace. Faster pace means higher impact. Save the fast pace for a couple pickups during these runs, enjoy being active, and you can let your feet fly the next week.

Recover every 3rd or 4th week – Again, this is just a rule of thumb that holds true for most of our athletes who have normal family and work lives. As we get older, its harder for us to recover from training, so most athletes who are 45+ fair better with a recovery week every 3rd week instead of every 4th. Younger athletes, and those with flexible schedules can usually push the body for 3 weeks before needing a recovery week.

Take a day off – There are those that fair better training without a weekly rest day. Others have to have one in order to have more built in recovery. On a recovery week, you should have at least 1 full day off. If you already have 2 or more off days built into your schedule, just stick with those days.

Take the mental break – This might be the most important for those with hectic schedules. Take the week to be extremely flexible with your training. If you don’t feel like training on a given day…don’t. Just move that day to an assigned off day. Don’t let training be a source of mental stress this week. Cover the Garmin, or leave it at home! Spend some extra time with your family. Go on vacation. Whatever! As long as you don’t do nothing all week, you won’t lose fitness. In fact, you will ultimately gain fitness!

Hopefully with these tips, you can start planning and executing your recovery weeks with great precision. Remember, if you never recover, you never adapt. If you never adapt, you never improve.

Trust Your Training

 

To find out more about how BPC can help you better balance your training stress to produce great results, give us a shout!  Performance is our business. We are here to help!