How do you make clients perform better? Make them move.

With eight coaching certificates under my belt I still stressed over my programs and my approach. Would they work? Was there a better way? A few years ago I attended a USC football coaching conference where the Trojan’s strength and conditioning coach Chris Carlyle gave me invaluable advice.

‘Stop trying to figure out everyone else’s philosophies. They are doing what they believe; you are a very talented coach. You need to trust yourself in the development of programs. As long as you keep the athletes’ needs in line with your work things will be fine. I don’t think you have to have a different workout for each sport.’

I saw the simplicity in training that helped relieve my stress. If you look at 95% of the sports and fitness training we deal with, it involves movement. With high-level human movement clients move better and enhance athleticism and strength. When you make better athletes they have the opportunity to be better players. In college, if a kid comes in out of shape, he doesn’t play.

With improved strength, personal training clients develop greater health, functionality, and overall biological youth. All clients reduce risk of injury.

This approach changed the culture of my training and could help change and simplify yours.

There are two major parts of your training world you need to focus on daily (or each time your client trains)–core (pillar strength) and flexibility. During the training week, focus on 5 trainable attributes and motor skills: speed, agility, power, coordination, endurance and strength. Strength is the springboard to the rest (reference another blog).

Individualize your program by assessing which motor qualities if further developed would improve your client’s performance, relative to his or her specific needs. Don’t ask clients what they want. Give them your best coaching practices and they will get exactly what they need, and love you.

Chris Carlyle is currently the strength and conditioning coach for the Seattle Seahawks

Contact the coach: email me at or through my website, Ask me any questions or for advice on your current programs.



Cadence is the golden thread


Olympic endurance coach Bobby McGee was showing a group of we newbie USAT coaches the essentials of good running form. All tips were great: the one line that struck me most at the time was ‘Cadence is the golden thread.’ Bobby’s visual was a small woman with quick but continuous steps passed by the big, long-stride loping dude, who ultimately loses all momentum and steam while the woman passes him to finish. Intrigued, I took this one home to chew on.


Over many years as a trainer and coach with a hundred or more clients, I figured out and tested this cadence concept across a number of sports. I thought about dance: you need rhythm and tempo. Rhythm as a skill seems a particularly difficult one to teach, particularly to non-dancing jock types. It is felt not understood. I could better grasp cadence, which embraces both rhythm and tempo and allows me to put numbers to the skill. I still geek out over numbers.


Once I got the concept I began integrating cadence accelerations into my runs and races, and I ended up with a PR 10K run and top spot on the triathlon podium at Treasure Island. My clients have had similar results. The one aspect of the form of the most-decorated runners in history that anyone should be able to imitate is cadence, or the number of steps taken per a certain distance, which doesn’t change. Steady cadence fosters success.

Teach yourself to run effectively and avoid injuries while training or racing at your optimum level. Cadence is a great way to start.

Optimal cadence increases speed and efficiency  


Take cycling. Spinning the pedals at 120+ rpm is good for powerful track sprinters going relatively short distances but is not efficient for longer cycling events. Control the cadence and manage your energy.


Optimal cadence helps avoid injury

Increased cadence reduces the impact forces of running. Longer strides necessitated by a slower cadence take runners higher off the ground, which means that each footfall is harder. Many running injuries are associated with the impact of landing.

A higher cadence reduces peak leg deceleration as well as peak impact forces in the ankle and knee joints. Higher cadence is also related to a reduction in over striding. For example, if the pedaling rpm is too low you are likely mashing the gears and causing greater stress on the knees and more muscular fatigue.

Optimal cadence assists recovery

A higher cadence reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and the associated weakness.


I saved the best for last. For running and cycling a turnover of about 90 steps or rpms/minute is right for most people.

Swimming?  No one-size fits all as there are many more factors to consider in the water. You could test yourself though (tempo timers) and figure out what stoke count is optimal for your most efficient stroke. Which lets you go fast enough without compromising fluidity or breathing.

How to check your cadence

Count how often one foot touches the ground in a minute. If the number is 90 or higher, pat yourself on the back and go for another run. If the number is lower than 90, then you should look at changing your cadence. Your cadence does not have to be exactly 90, and is likely to change somewhat with your pace and terrain. If your cadence varies between 88-92, you’re doing well, though above 90 is preferable.


With cycling use your RPM measure on your computer. Or you can use the manual approach of counting revolutions with one leg just as counting running above.

How can you improve your cadence if it isn’t currently in the optimal range?

Run “as if you’re on eggshells or ‘hot feet” and count your steps as you run to track your progress. Watch football players do ‘patter’ drills, which are simply short bursts of high-cadence work. Stay mostly on the balls of your feet and focus on your cadence while letting the stride length take care of itself. Truth is most of us have a natural stride length that will change little with training.

Check your arm position. Your arms act as both a counterbalance and a pendulum. They swing back and forward, similar to the time it takes for a pendulum to swing, which depends on its length. So the lower your hands are when you’re running, the slower your arms will swing. Likewise, the higher your hands are, the faster the swing. To have a good cadence you need to have your arms held reasonably high.


Skipping rope could help you get the feel of quick feet and establish rhythm. I recently counted cadence jumping a speed rope at what felt comfortable, and it was almost double or about 180/minute. One of the best ways to find rhythm on the jump rope is to do it one leg at a time, 10 jumps with your left foot and then 10 jumps with your right foot, and repeat. Before you know it you’ll be flowing effortlessly from one foot to the next.



You can use gizmos to track cadence, but the best practice is simply do 30-second accelerations and integrate what it feels like to take 45-50 steps with each foot. Practice it uphill too, as your cadence should remain constant although your stride length may shorten. Initially the change in cadence may feel strange. It may take several weeks but when the adjustment happens your running can improve dramatically.

Contact me with any questions or feedback here or on Facebook:  email me at and send a video if you would like input on your running form






Kick it up without killing yourself

Adding two training approaches to my running program cut my mile time from 7:30’s to 6:40’s for a 10K and put me ahead of the pack to pull out wins in triathlon. Stair repeats and a bounding sequence. Quick, fun, and challenging, both can dramatically enhance your speed, power, and overall strength and endurance.

Trust me on this one as a triathlon competitor who would hit transition from the water and be virtually the last cyclist out the door. Even as I fast cyclist I relied on my running skills to pull me through to a first-place or at least podium finish.


  1. Stair workout (a great alternative to hill repeats)

A stair workout is an incredibly effective way to improve fitness and overall health. One study found that simply walking up 200 steps twice a day, five days a week for eight weeks can cause a 17% increase in VO2 max, a common way of measuring aerobic fitness.

Running up stairs brings even more benefits. Because the body is constantly being lifted upward with each step, stair running engages more leg muscles than running on the flats. It improves vertical jump, and vertical jump distance is an indicator or running speed.

According to Adam Bean’s “Runner’s World Best: Run Faster,” the impact of stair running on your joints is even less than hill running. Compared to running on flat land, a Nike study revealed that hill running imposes only 85 percent of the shock, according to Edwards. Both types of workouts will reduce the pounding your joints take on a flat run.

Make your first session about ten minutes and increase by at most 10% weekly. Run repeats of 15-90 seconds (depending on your level) until you reach 25-30 minutes total.


Good knee lift

Powerful arm swing

Focus on the steps

Maintain good form

Keep a constant cadence

Quick pushoff

You typically have to use a shortened stride so you don’t overstep the stair’s platform. To counter this problem, you have two choices. Either focus on speeding up leg turnover or use bounding strides, such as skipping every other step. By shortening your stride, you can focus on boosting the power of each step.

For agility & lateral, hit 3 steps, then quick right-left foot wide on the next step: repeat up). Recover on the way down or longer, if needed: recover fully for high-quality repeats.

I see people run stair repeats sideways or backwards or with ankle weights. This defeats the purpose of quick feet and power and also causes a safety risk. Keep your workout simple but effective. Mimic straight-line running as much as possible

To get quicker over time increase the intensity by increasing repetitions or changing movements, such as doing two-leg or one-leg hops up the incline.


  1. Bounding: walk or run with leaping strides.

The more power you have to sprint, the faster you can run any race. Distance runners must also hone their speed as working on base speed translates to long runs. In addition to doing shorter intervals, another way to increase your power and speed is performing plyometric exercises (literally translated, ‘measurable increases’.)

Bounding in particular is “the most specific kind of ‘weight training’ that a runner can do,” according to professional runner Renee Baillie. “Done properly, bounding develops power output in a running-specific way, allowing runners to increase their efficiency and top-end speed.”

These high-intensity, explosive exercises fall in line with a sprinter’s mindset, meaning distance runners need to shift their typical way of thinking. Less is more, longer recovery is critical and quality over quantity isn’t just recommended—it’s of prime importance.

Bounding does is tap into both the physical and neuromuscular patterns necessary to increase turnover. The physical power explains itself, but the neuromuscular aspect should be thought of like laying the groundwork. Before your feet can explode up and off the ground quicker, the nerve passageways have to be built. Bounding literally helps teach your foot how to respond when your brain tells it to go faster.

By incorporating these short bursts of ‘max power output’ on the easy day before a hard workout, you can prep your body for the demand that is coming the following day. You set yourself up for success. Remember to take a recovery between each repetition and set. The goal is simply to engage and invigorate the neuromuscular system, and save the hard effort for the next day.

I use the workout below, provided by Peak Performance. It seems wieldy initially, but once you have it down it is a breath of fresh air to know you are improving without killing yourself. (a fun look at stair running)


Short and Sweet Workouts for Kids and Parents That Require No Special Equipment

Spent the last part of spring grabbing workouts randomly while getting the kid(s) scheduled into summer activities? Then the dreaded day dawned and schools relinquished care of those lovely children to you for the next few months. Now what?



You have less time for yourself and may have a kid or two who needs more than a day camp with lanyards but a fitness program to stay in shape for fall sports and activities. Feel lost in all the different drills and workouts and handouts coaches or PE teachers have thrown out?

I have the answer.

In twenty years of coaching and developing tailored training programs for athletes of all ages, I have found a winning plan to set up any player for pre-season (aka summer). As a bonus you could do the workouts with the kids and be a fabulous fitness specimen by the fall! A specific weekly fitness program can make everybody feel good, and kids are often comforted by it. I know I am.

Here is do-it-yourself guide to plan summer fitness and skills.  It provides flexibility to work around all your other summer activities and requires an hour or less for each workout. You can combine workouts into one day vs. two and then have time to jump in the pool, which is a great fitness activity for virtually any sport.

  1. What are the major skills of the fall sport(s)?

School and rec sports require kids running so assess the essential running mechanics of each kid. Coaches for my company Excel Fitness go into this a bit more in depth (evaluating and suggesting drills to perfect or correct) but here is an easy three-step visual approach you can use to checking form. Have the student run an easy 100y or so and look for the following:

  • Body relaxed (fingers, jaw, hands) and arms bent in right angles that swing smoothly and symmetrically at sides (you run ON your legs but WITH your arms)
  • Head still and eyes look forward a bit: pick a spot and drive it forward (will create a slight forward lean for momentum: lean from the ankles vs. bending at the waist)
  • Push off the balls of your feet (the meaty part) and keep a quick, rhythmic cadence (foot turnover—the golden thread)

One trick is to have your child count footstrikes for 30 seconds: 90 is ideal for optimum form. Try this yourself!

  1. What is the average distance that will be run in a play?

Practice the way you play: perfect practice makes perfect

For example in baseball it is usually 40 yards and under. Practice sprints at that distance. Think about speed and explosion. Warm up with dynamic moves like leg swings and walking lunges. Then do 4-8 sprints at 40-50 yards, 2x/week.

Another example is soccer is usually a total of 3-6 miles/game, but that breaks out in change of speed and direction every 5-6 seconds. So do 4-8 sprints lasting about 5-6 seconds. Also do some change-of-direction drills. You can use cones and ladders, or just pick out marked spots (use coins) and run to one, stay low and quickly change direction back to the first spot. Soccer players may need some distance running, and even 2 miles can be effective.

If you don’t have access to a track run anywhere it is safe. Have your child walk off 25 giant steps, which will be about 20 yards. Time his or her initial 40y run (called baseline) so you have a measure for progress. If you are running at a track, mix in stadium stair runs for a bonus workout. In fact wherever you can find a set of stairs, consider it a playground for a workout.


Take your sprints to the beach and run in the sand. Do them up hills or at the park!

Other samples of sprint workouts

Focus on explosive first steps (see explosion below) and rest fully in between efforts for quality (recover about 2-3x the time it takes to sprint)

Day 1

  • 3 x 10y sprints (full recovery always)
  • 2 x 30y sprints
  • 1 x 60y sprint
  • 1 x 80y sprint

Day 2

  • 3 x 40y sprints
  • 3 x 60y sprints
  • 2 x 80y sprints


Day 1

  • 4 x 10y sprints
  • 2 x 30y sprints
  • 1 x 60y sprint
  • 1 x 80y sprint

Day 2

  • 5 x 20y sprints
  • 5 x 30y sprints
  • 4 x 40y sprints with ball (straight-line dribble)
  1. All sports requires acceleration and agility

Acceleration is the capacity to gain speed within a short time and agility is the power of moving quickly and easily. A great tool for training both is an agility ladder, or just pretend you are working on a ladder.

Do each of these drills 4x, and recover in between efforts. Establish a good rhythm, keep eyes somewhat forward, think FORM v. speed initially, stay ‘tall,’ stay on balls of feet, use arms for balance (close to body)


Sample ladder workout:

  • One Foot In—run forward through ladder placing one foot in each square
  • Two Feet In (jump forward)
  • In’s and Out’s (jump forward and then outside, alternating)
  • Sideways (lateral)
  • Icky Shuffle (Two in, one out while moving forward each square—‘dance’)
  • You can find any of these online, and I will soon have them all up on my website,
  1. All sports require a good base of strength

It’s summer, a good time to get out of the gym. Find a park and try this park bench routine with bodyweight exercises:


Sprint to a bench (or use walking lunges) and then perform

  • 15 push-ups off bench
  • 15 triceps dips off bench
  • 15 squats to bench
  • 15 step-ups to bench
  • 15 split squats (lunges, keep back foot on bench)
  • 15 crunches with legs on bench
  • 30 second plank arms on bench

Sprint or lunge to next bench and repeat.

If you have a stretchy band you can wrap around anywhere (from a fence to a tree) try these band moves–5-8 reps should be great for now.

  • Biceps curls
  • Triceps kickbacks
  • Rotator cuff (elbow flexed, arm against side, rotate lower arm out with rotator cuff muscles until perpendicular to body)
  • Back (‘row’ by pulling shoulder blades together)
  • Overhead shoulder press-up
  • Do some push-ups and abdominals (bicycle and plank)

Strength work can be done 2x/week, and you can combine it after sprints to decrease your training days if needed.

  1. What about power?

Power is integral to most sports and running hills and steps are great to build power and push-off (which will equate to speed). A recent University of Nebraska study found a significant correlation between vertical jumping ability (coined as ‘plyometrics’) and 10-K time in a comparison of 36 runners.


This study and others have shown that plyometric training improves power, running economy, and lower-body flexibility, in addition to strengthening all lower-body muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Think hop, skip, and jump. Initially make only 100-150 footstrikes as it is best to have some base of strength before beginning a program. Stay with low-impact move

  • 2-foot vertical jump—bend knees, hands on hips, and jump as high as you can (soft knees on landing)
  • Ankle hops forward for 10 yards
  • 2-foot hops forward over cones (or pretend)
  • 2-foot hops laterally over a line
  • Jump to a stair (and step back down)

Keep your program simple. You could do sprints on Monday, a strength workout on Wednesday, and hill repeats and plyometrics on Friday. Remember to integrate some fun summer activities. Run in the sand, jump rope, or throw in some fast swimming with the dives and games of sharks and minnows. How long has it been since you parents have jumped off a diving board? STAY CONSISTENT and fall will be a smooth and strong transition to sport and life.




A twist on stretching and its effect on faster running and better lifting

I made an assumption, and we know where that gets us. I thought everyone knows that static stretching is no longer a component of a lifter’s or runner’s warm-up routine.   Everyone knows dynamic warm-up is the way to go, right? Well not quite.


Some people don’t know what dynamic warm-up or static stretching means. Wait, you all watch at least one sport, right? How do the coaches warm up their teams? Oh, so not everybody watches sports. Good point.

I was taking roll in by PE class (sub teacher—always the kiss of death) when I brought up the stretching issue. The kids weren’t sure. An emergency sub teacher (one of the school’s Spanish teachers—called the ‘emergency sub’ and now I know why) walks into the PE class and says, ‘Okay let’s all stretch.’ She proceeded to do some horrible static stretches like toe touches and butterflies and cross-legged toe touches. Consider these students that just got out of a class where they were inert: they have simply changed clothes and are sitting on the ground. It is like taking a rubber band out of the freezer and expecting it not to break when stretched. Not a chance.

I contained myself from lunging at and throttling this sub, and figured a blog would be a good alternative to getting arrested.

When to stretch and how to stretch

To clarify, static stretching are stretches that are held for lengthy periods, and ballistic stretches are where stretchers employ a variety of bungee-link bouncing movements. Neither is an effective way to get warm, which is the goal. Your goal is to warm up the core and extremities to prepare for the specific movement(s) you will be doing.


Scientific research currently contraindicates static stretching immediately before a running workout or race. Two significant studies published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research show that runners who stretch before workouts run slower than when they perform the same workouts with no prior stretching. Static stretching, if performed after or totally separate from a running workout, is fine.

Static stretching does not enhance flexibility or muscle elasticity. For example most runners consider stretching simply twisting the torso a few times and touching the toes, when the reality is that the need to stretch before running is a myth. It’s like the myth that leaning forward will help you run faster when forward lean is the consequence but not the cause of acceleration.

When looking to increase blood flow, most runners can achieve the same result of 20 minutes of vigorous stretching by jogging for 10 minutes.  Or perhaps even caffeine, which increases perceived time to exhaustion.  This buys us time!


For running, think about the movement patterns. Do some skips, lunges, leg swings, hops, carioca (hip flexibility), football patter feet, bounding, backward run. Running backward will strengthen the opposing muscle groups that you normally work when running forward. Forward running puts a lot of pressure on the hamstrings and knees. Backward running will strengthen your calves, quads and shins to balance your muscular strength.

Take a look at these 7 benefits of Backward Running

  • You can still run while you are injured There is nothing worse than knowing you can’t (or shouldn’t) run because of pain in an area of your body. But backward running can be done whether you have a groin, hamstring, knee, Achilles’ tendon, or ankle injury. You can also continue to run if you have back pain or shin splints.
  • You will improve your muscular balance Running backward will strengthen the opposing muscle groups that you normally work when running forward. Forward running puts a lot of pressure on the hamstrings and knees. Backward running will strengthen your calves, quads and shins to balance your muscular strength.
  • You burn more calories It has been said that taking 100 steps backward is the same as taking 1,000 steps forward, and that going backward burns a fifth more calories than running forward. Not only is this great to enhance weight loss, but for those who are busy, going backward burns more calories in a shorter period of time. This gives everyone the chance to work out, no matter how hectic your schedule.
  • Improved leg speed and better performance Running backward requires more effort in terms of movement because it is more difficult to move from one point to another. This effort also results in greater cardiovascular efficiency and increased stamina. Because of this, running backward may help improve your times when you’re running forward.
  • You posture will improve: many runners will slouch, drop their head, and lean too far forward. This is especially true when runners are tired, and often results in lower back pain. But with backward running, you will naturally keep your back straight as you move. The added benefit to running with straighter posture? You will work your core abdominal muscles as well.
  • Your senses will be heightened Since you can’t see what is in front of you, it is important to use your other senses to help navigate. By running backward, your sense of hearing and your peripheral vision will become more acute.
  • You will have fun You might get some strange looks, but mixing up your running will add

So How Will This Help Strength Training?

My Olympic-trained powerlifting coach was a proponent of not stretching before or during our workouts. This approach helped us all avoid injuries. Why?

The tech side involves nervous tissue called proprioceptors and the stretch reflex, or contract/relax. The ‘idiot’s guide’ explanation is that the message from our brain to our muscles is ‘relax, lengthen, and don’t contract.’ Why would we want to send that message before beginning and strength training session, a nice run, or even a race? These muscle contractions could affect improvements in our strength, power, and endurance. A triple whammy!

Your approach is to mimic the moves you will be using in your activity. So for preparing for lifting heavy bench we would do some incline push-ups (the easy ones) on a bench. To prepare for heavy squats we would do some leg swings and walking lunges. We might do 5 minutes easy on a cardio machine for blood flow.dusty_powerlifting

These may be new ideas and information to you, but if you are open to the tips you may find benefits that will take you to the next level and help avoid injury.



We May Start at Different Places But We all Face the Same Road to Positive Change

They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.

–Andy Warhol


I was having a great time today catching up on Instagram, working on my music library, staying in my jammies, and playing fetch with the dog. At about 2:30 a nagging voice said ‘get outside and run.’ The jammies were SO warm and it was windy outside and I hadn’t finished my coffee.

Then an Instagram photo received was captioned, ‘If you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. The body will give up because it’s tired. But the body is never tired if the mind is not.’


An alarm went off in my head. I then gave the dog a snack, closed my laptop, and put on running gear and headed out. No excuses left if I want to race this season. And I do. And I want to win. No excuses left. It was time.

If you want to achieve fitness, strength, or virtually anything, it’s up to you to find a path to get there. It might be slow. One day YOU have to make up your mind and decide: “I am going to do this,” which is both a gift and a responsibility. You must say ‘death to excuses.’


We all play this game of life on different difficulty levels. We begin in different starting areas, with different gear, and with different advantages and disadvantages. Your job is to carve your own path, to make the most of the hand you’ve been dealt and realize our own potential. You can transcend any difficulty or excuse if you have the desire and determination to play the game and excel.


I’m too old.  I’m probably too weak. I just don’t have time. I’m injured/still recovering.

Phooey. Take total responsibility for your life and reaching your goals, and you will have no more excuses.

Putting an excuse to rest is not easy. Excuses are self-limiting ideas that can be sneaky shape shifters, holding many forms. That’s because when you really believe something, it can be incredibly painful to drop the excuse, to LET GO. But there is always SOMETHING you can do to better yourself. No matter how futile the effort might seem it is worth it.


What is the catalyst to successfully achieve what you really want? Build a positive self-concept to defeat excuses. In his book ‘The Psychology of Achievement,’ Brian Tracy lays out six requirements for success:

  1. Peace of mind—letting go of fear, anger, and guilt
  2. Good health and a high level of energy
  3. Loving relationships
  4. Financial freedom
  5. Commitment to worthy goals and ideals—need for meaning and purpose
  6. Self actualization—a feeling you are becoming everything you are capable of becoming

It might take some trial and error but nobody can do it for you. You will get maximum performance from yourself and create a kick-ass life with no regrets. Achieve one critical goal, and it will be simple for you to set and achieve more.

There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why… I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?

–Robert Kennedy




A new slant on an old training concept (aka clarifying the high-intensity interval training, aka HIITS)

As athletes (from newbie to seasoned) we hear continually about interval training and HIITS, but there is a nagging voice that takes us back to believing LSD or long, slow-distance training to become faster and more efficient. What is that voice?


Why do we stick to this LSD thing?

This concept comes from interpretation of work done by famed running coach Arthur Lydiard, who contended that the most important aspect of conditioning is volume. His LSD training concepts were revolutionary and insightful, and brought phenomenal success to many athletes he trained. We figured it was the answer to successful running (and probably cycling and swimming).

The truth? Lydiard believed in speed work. LSD was a misnomer. Phew.


Lydiard’s formula advocated not just high-volume training but high volume at speeds near maximum steady state. His work with runners found that daily runs of 90 minutes at 70 percent maximum HR will boost mitochondria 30 percent higher than equivalent time spent at an easier 50 percent effort.

Say what?

In Lydiard’s words, most training should be conducted close to the highest speed that you can run without going anaerobic. He had his runners, even marathon runners, compete in a 100-meter dash in a local track meet. He calls it “the plodding zone” and believed in 100-mile training weeks, but only to build aerobic strength to prepare the body for race-pace work that followed.

Okay, here is the technical stuff: hang in there

Metabolically, high-volume training makes sense. There are two main sources of fuel for exercise: carbohydrates (glycogen) and fats. The energy supply from carbohydrate and fat is inversely related. High rates of carbohydrate use reduce combustion of fat. Carbohydrates are used preferentially at very high efforts or at low fitness levels when fat metabolism is underdeveloped.

Conversely, when you teach your body to rely on fat for fuel, your combustion of carbohydrates goes down, thus sparing carbohydrates. This benefits performance in endurance events. You become fatigued when you run too low on carbohydrates. We store only a very limited amount of carbohydrate in our bodies. Compare this with a relatively unlimited supply of fat. Even an athlete with only six percent body fat will have enough fat to fuel exercise lasting for many hours. When you use more fat, you generate more energy.

Avoid Fatigue but Embrace Progressive Training.


If you swim, run, or ride long in something below z1, you are not receiving training benefit, just a mild level of fatigue. This fatigue can affect not only this session but also successive training sessions. This is like negative active recovery (detraining effect), and it might be better to simply take a nap or go watch a good movie.

Judicious use of high-intensity workouts during early season will not damage or ruin your fitness and may help to maintain and increase aerobic capacity. This training can be equally effective as traditional endurance-based training in improving aerobic capacity.

For example, a recent study examined the effect of high-intensity interval sessions on fat and carbohydrate metabolism and lactate concentrations in cyclists who had been training two to three hours per day for years. They replaced some of their endurance miles with two weekly sessions of six to nine five-minute intervals with one minute of recovery between. After six weeks, the percentage of energy coming from fat during a one-hour trial had increased from 6 percent to 13 percent.

One more technical thing

Studies show intensity sprints improve subjects’ time to exhaustion. They improve muscle glycogen, another key determinant of aerobic endurance. HIIT efforts bring up your overall aerobic capacity, which makes you better at all intensities. Researchers have demonstrated that after a 12-week, six-day-per-week program of 45 minutes of running and cycling at a high intensity, fat combustion increased by 41 percent. This was accompanied by reduced reliance on carbohydrates.

Overall, improvement requires training all systems throughout the year–Endurance, speed-endurance, speed, hills, and sprints.

During base phase of building miles, it is the daily consistency of training over a period of weeks and months that will boost fat metabolism. Miles may make champions, but those miles should be carefully (and gradually) developed, monitored, and arranged to get the maximum effect.

Endurance training is kind of a misnomer: you can’t really compartmentalize it. It consists of endurance, technique, strength, and speed.   You need to maintain good form, which tends to dissipate at slower speeds. The body learns at speed: it is forced to throw off any extraneous movements to battle the resistance.


Think frequency and repeatability for the greatest return on investment. Train hard enough to stress your system and tax yourself somewhat, and easy enough so you could repeat the workout tomorrow.

Training depends on the athlete in terms of fitness level, lifestyle, level of experience, and myriad other factors. Aerobic adaptations can be achieved in more than one way, and HIIT efforts can be incorporated even into training phases primarily emphasizing aerobic adaptations.

For experienced athletes, you may work for 70 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate (either measured or perceived). For those just launching their careers, this will be closer to 60 to 65 percent of maximum heart rate (a perceive exertion—how does this feel?).

It is not practical or even possible for most people with full-time jobs and families to build up mileage quickly. The amount of mileage you will be able to train depends on your lifestyle, physical capabilities, and prior training history. Less-experienced athletes may want to build up mileage over a period of many months or even years.

Long efforts may tax certain athletes mentally, and cause negative effects. So resort to short and hard.

  • You’ll improve your aerobic capacity. As your cardiovascular fitness improves, you’ll be able to exercise longer or with more intensity. Imagine finishing your 60-minute run in 45 minutes.
  • You’ll keep boredom at bay. Turning up your intensity in short intervals can add variety to your exercise routine.

You don’t need special equipment. You can simply modify your current routine.



Never get too far from speed.

Incorporate some high-intensity efforts into your aerobic training, and you will improve all your body’s systems and get more bang for the buck. It will save you time, and you will reach whatever ‘effort’ is right for you now.

Quick example

Increase work time and decrease recovery overall

WU 10 (or longer if you are inserting into aerobic workout)

5 x 1 min at 60-80% effort

easy 2 or 3 min in between (active recovery for running better than passive)

Progress to longer work intervals and shorter rest intervals:

5 x 3 min; 4 by 4min 2min recovery

4 x 5min, 2:30 recovery

Use easy/fresh/good PRE (perceived rate of exertion) for speed

Make speed your friend!


Five Steps to Develop Superb Running Mechanics 

Running doesn’t get easier, but you can get stronger and better as you become more efficient. The truth is we don’t love training or approach it as, ‘Ooohh, this is going to be SO fun.’ We do it because we want to look and feel a certain way.  Our mantra is ‘Phew, I did it,’ which is accomplishment.  That is our high.

My marathon runner buddy said it well. After a 26.2-mile torture session he would walk down the street and look at anybody he passed, thinking ‘I will bet YOU didn’t do what I just did today!’

Good running style won’t guarantee improved running performance, but poor running form does detract from performance.

To reach that ‘stronger, better’ place in running requires economy. Running economy (RE) is like the fuel economy of a car, which tells you how many miles are covered per gallon of gasoline used. For any given pace, the less energy and oxygen you use, the better. You eventually go faster at the same effort as RE and repetition improve economy.

How much faster could you go if you improved your form? With some cognitive thinking and practice you can change your innate running style to improve running economy.  Don’t get crushed in all the information.


The goal of developing superb running mechanics is to combat inertia, friction, and gravity, in that order. Correct running form ensures momentum with little oscillation (up-and-down movement), reduced impact, minimal energy loss, proper loading and release movements, and overall efficiency and economy.

  1. Inertia:  Make Momentum Your Best FriendAHOSNADWVQ
  • Forward Lean (torso and pelvic alignment)—forward-driven action aligning hip/knee/foot, lean from ankle
  • Relaxed but controlled shoulders, jaw, face, fists; hips flexible and rotated slightly forward
  • Sight Line— look ahead about 20 feet in front of you: keep that line at that point at all times (where your head goes, the spine follows)
  • Foot Strike—foot lands directly under body, lightly on heels and rolling off mid foo
  • Stride length is largely a genetic gift; over- and under-striding usually occurs due to lack of knee lift, drive phase and heel lift.ground, you strike
  • Arm use—you run ON your legs but WITH your arms:  keep them loose, come slightly across waist in natural motion-chest to hip (provide lateral balance)
  1. Combat Friction and Impact
  • Limit vertical oscillation (think stay low to the ground, very little up-and-down head movement
  • Foot strike below center of body mass: push yourself onto your foot, you decelerate when you’re in the air
  • Increased stride rate—keep things on the ground: gravity accelerates over time
  • Maintain chest alignment:  keep a ‘proud posture’

     3. Minimize Energy Loss

  • Feel like you are running on railroad track–reduce lateral movements
  • Contain, control & balance rotational forces—feel like your body is inside a container, like a can
  • Balance and strength: have a good strength training program that includes stability exercises and abdominal strength work
  1. Linear loading, Release & Propulsion–combat gravityEPRUD1TPG0
  • Think elastic and linear (load = flexibility, strength: power goes straight)
  • Drop chest and engage core/power center (trunk_
  • Do drills to balance out both sides of the body
  • Once you develop a good base of strength, add some plyometrics (jump training) so you get more power from each foot strike.

   5.   Efficiency and economy (if your running form is efficient overall, you’re economical)

  • Maintain desired speed throughout training runs–pacing
  • Lower heart rates at similar speeds (use HR monitor)
  • Increase distance or speed, but not both at the same time
  • Stride length and stride frequency have also been researched in some detail. Stride length is pretty genetic) Cadence (stride rate or number of strides taken over a certain distance in a set time) is the golden thread. Cadence is the usual way to increase and maintain speed at race pace.
  • Avoid over striding–the resulting bouncing will cause a low cadence, and under striding will cause a high cadence. The goal is to develop the optimum personal stride rate, and then stays there regardless of terrain.

Have fun and listen to your body. And walk down the street knowing you are doing what most don’t do because it isn’t fun or easy.  It IS worth it.

            -Contributions by Bobby McGee, internationally acclaimed endurance coach


Or at Least Have a Blast and Avoid Burnout and Injury in Five Steps

I admit it—I am a tri geek. I bring fins and paddles and tempo trainers to my swim workout. Oh and Cliff Blocks. I will also admit that when I started racing 16 years ago I was too broke to hire coaches, join tri clubs, or fork out many race fees. I had to be a self-trained athlete.


As a bit of pit bull when it comes to learning something, I bought a training guide and put together a program that took me from dead center of my age group to mostly 1st place and podium finishes within my first two years of racing.

Here is what I learned about organizing my season in workouts for each discipline. Simple success. You need a systematic and consistent approach, combined with a determined attitude.

  1. Embrace being a geek

Use the toys (particularly with the swim), log your workouts (check out my web site as I will be adding a great daily workout log sample). Include your progress for time and effort, but also mood, weather influences, sleep patterns, stress, soreness, and even pulse. Learn your key times to train and pay attention to when you feel good or have no motivation.

  1. Train the way you race

Remember you are a multisport athlete, which means you will be racing alone. So occasional group rides or master’s swims are fine, but this is an individual sport. Work out alone as much as possible.

  1. Make sure every workout has a purpose.

Overall all three disciplines can be trained in the same way. You will need to address workouts in the following:

Speed (usually up to 600m on the track, 5 minutes on bike intervals, and 100’s at most in swimming)

Speed/endurance (fast 800’s or miles)

Climbs (or power)

Endurance (anything over ½ mile)

Cadence (revolutions per minute—for all 90 RPM is pretty optimal)

Strength training

Technique (embraced in all workouts)

Transition (this can make or break your race)

Work on these for all three disciplines, and have one ‘push’ workout in each discipline/week.   If you are working on about 13 weeks out of a race, a balanced program will be a bell curve where you build to week 7 and then reduce training time (but perhaps increase effort) for the remaining weeks, with a taper of at least a week.

  1. The Race

In a smartly executed triathlon, your run starts well before you hit the bike-to-run transition. With about five to eight minutes of the bike portion remaining, start thinking “run” and prepare for it appropriately.


First, get out of the saddle in a slightly bigger gear and ride a couple of hundred meters standing up. This will alter your muscle firing patterns to make them more akin to running; it will also stretch your running muscles and start redirecting blood to the appropriate muscles.

Next, sit back down and put your bike into a smaller gear and spin your legs over, rather than cranking big gears all the way into the transition.

Finally, start stretching your “running muscles” (i.e., hamstrings, calves and lower back) on the bike as you head to the transition. This will help to ensure that they are looser, more supple and ready for the change of disciplines.

In the final analysis, there’s simply no alternative to training, practice and competition. In other words, the longer you’re involved in multisport, the easier running off the bike will become. But you can compress the learning curve if you incorporate some of the training and tactics discussed above into your preparation.

  1. One thing at a time

A conundrum. It doesn’t mean do no bricks, it means make a goal to improve distance, and then improve the speed with which you cover that distance. Avoid doing both at once.

Dr. Tudor Bompa pioneered most of these breakthroughs, proving long ago that it’s not only how much and how hard an athlete works but also when and what work is done that determines the athlete’s conditioning level.

Simplify and track your training. You will make great physical and mental gains.