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Blog, Training

In the first part of this serie I talked about the concept behind Foundation Training and why it’s useful in particular for triathletes. If you haven’t read the article please go ahead and check it out first before you continue reading – Founadtion Training for triathletes – Part 1

In this part I would like to talk about how I personally use Foundation Training in my daily routine. I am a big fan of daily routines and the Foundation Training excercises are great as a morning kick start routine. I keep the excercises short, as I don’t want them to consume too much of my time in the morning. 

The reason why I’d like to do these excercises in the morning after I wake up is to loosen up those muscles in my lower back. It’s also a breathing excercise at the same time, so I can combine some muscle strengthing and activation with some deep breathing. 

It’s important before you begin doing the excercises to properly study and learn them. They are not difficult but it needs a bit of training first to make sure you do them correctly. The right posture is very important to get the most out of the excerise. 

I have purchased the Foundation Training Videos from their website. You can download them for $59 from hereThey teach you every single excercise in a very simple and easy to understand way. If you don’t want to purchase the videos I recommend to check out some youtube videos or visit the website www.vancesimpson.com where you’ll find good introduction materials.

My morning routine

To keep things simple, I basically run the following 6 sequences in the morning. Each sequence takes about 1-2 minutes. I stay in each position for 3 slow deep breaths. 

After I finished the sequences I usually engage in some more deep breathing excercises and some medidation. I find these excercises to be really helpful in strenghtening my back, in particular the lumbar area. I noticed some improvements already after doing the excercises for a few weeks.

Does it translate to better performance in triathlon? Well I can’t answer this question yet but as I get stronger in my back it has definitelly helped in my cycling where I sometimes experienced some lower back tightness on those longer rides. I feel my overall posture has improved as well. 

As I will continue with Foundation Training I will keep you updated how it goes and provide some more insights in my next post of this serie. 

If you have already used Foundation Training and have some personal impressions, please feel free to share them with me, as I am curious how other people go with this training. 

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Blog, Training

In this 3 part series I want to talk a little bit about my experience with Foundation Training and how I use it to help me with injury prevention and to increase performance. I just came across the foundation training method while listening to one of Ben Greenfield’s podcasts where he was talking about it and how it can help athletes and everyday people.

Get more grounded and become a more resilient and injury free athlete
Foundation-Training-Athletes-199x300

The main idea behind Foundation Training is to live pain free, restore movement patterns and improve performance if you are an athlete. It’s a safe and effective excercise program to help you change the movement patterns that are hurting you. The excericses are simple and desigend in a way to naturally heal back pain. You do not need any special equipment and it can be easily added to your daily life. What I instantly liked about the concept was that it’s easy and short in duration and can be added to your existing training program. It only takes a few minutes of your time every day, either in the morning, during your work break or before you go out to do your training. I find it as a good addition to Yoga as well. Foundation Training is all about your core, basically anything that connects to your pevlis, including your hamstrings, glutes and adductor muscles. It teaches all those muscles to work together through specific full body movements and breathing patterns. In times like these where a lot of people suffer from back pain issues and sitting all day infront of a desk, this training addresses all these issues and helps you banish back pain and to restore nerve and lower back function to be able to live pain free. It basically trains your shoulders, back, butt and legs – the large posterior chain muscle groups. The creator of this training, Dr. Eric Goodman, explains on his website that the Foundation Training is:

“(an) innovative movement improvement program designed specifically to help you roll back the damage done and, more importantly, to help you become that pain-free and more powerful person we all aspire to be.”

 

A quick briefing on Foundation Training

For a further good introduction to Foundation Training, check out the video below with Dr. Eric Goodman

What’s in for you as a triathlete

We all know that “core” work is important and should be incorporated into your strength training routine. Very often when we think of “the core” we just think about the abs. Yes they are part of it but they are just one of many muscle groups that define the core. For endurance athletes a strong core contributes to better athletic performance and strengthing the muscles that surround the spine needs special attention. The Foundation Training does help here with activating and strengthening of the primary muscle groups that are important for triathletes. In the next part I will share some of the excercise routines that I use before training and in the morning. If you want to learn more in the meantime about Foundation Training, here are some good links for some follow up reading and watching.

 

https://bengreenfieldfitness.com/2016/07/what-is-foundation-training/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZcZenvWBlg&feature=youtu.be

http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/01/03/updated-foundation-training.aspx

https://www.amazon.de/True-Form-Foundation-Training-Sustained/dp/0062315315/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1470741250&sr=8-1&keywords=foundation+training

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Blog, Recovery, Training, Triathlon

In two of my previous posts I have talked about the importance of recovery and how to use HRV to measure your fatigue and your level of recovery. I want to expand on this topic a little bit more as I think it’s really important when it comes to endurance training.

A while ago I came across the website RestwiseTheir mission is to provide athletes a tool to increase their performance through intelligent recovery. That caught my attention and I decided to give it a try to see what it is all about. As it says on their website…

Using evidence-based research, rigorously-tested variable weightings and a proprietary algorithm, Restwise has defined a patent-pending solution to the question that plagues every athlete: “am I training too hard… or not hard enough?” Make better training decisions, and do so with confidence

As athletes we should all understand the importance of recovery but even this understanding makes it really difficult to strike the right balance between recovery and training. What is the right dose of training and recovery? Am I training too much and have too little recovery? Or do I have too much recovery and don’t get any fitter, stronger or faster? These are all interesting questions that we ask ourselves quite often during our training.

What I found out is that we all love to track our training progress, as we do on training platforms such as training peaks. These are great tools and help to plan and structure your training but in my opinion it doesn’t give you much capabilities and insights to monitor and track your recovery levels. It doesn’t factor in things such as

  • Sleep time and quality
  • Resting heart rate
  • HRV
  • SP02
  • Weight
  • Your energy levels, your mood state, your appetite, muscle soreness, injuries etc…

That’s where a tool such as Restwise becomes really interesting as it’s trying to close that gap between monitoring Training + Recovery. Their solution is quite simple but effective

  • They identify the research-based markers that relate to recovery and over training
  • They determine their relative importance and build an algorithm which puts all the data together in a way that the resulting calculation is meaningful
  • They wrap it into a web-based tool that doesn’t require a PhD to understand and make it accessible for athletes and coaches
  • The tool generates a score that tells an athlete how prepared their body is for hard training (this is the key)

I think from an athlete perspective this is an interesting way get more insights into your training adaptations but I reckon the real benefit here is for coaches. They have the ability to track the recovery levels across all their athletes and see how “ready” they are for training! They can use that data to design and adjust the training plan accordingly to maximise the training outcome for their athletes. That way they can make sure their athletes are fully recovered come race day to perform at their best. For individual coached athletes this could be helpful to decide it a hard training session should be skipped or changed to an easier session to limit the risk of injury, over training and more fatigue.

So how do you get started using Restwise. It’s pretty simple. You need to subscribe to one of their plans they offer on their website. They provide a 30 days free trial and then you can continue on a 12/6 or month by month subscription. It’s $19 per month but you get it cheaper if you buy a 12 months subscription for $149.

To get the full benefit out of Restwise you should also invest in a pulse oximeter ($20 on Amazon). Unfortunately Restwise does not use HRV in their algorithm at this stage. Based on the information on their website this will be included soon. Despite that missing feature I still use HRV on a daily basis as it is still one of the best measurement tools for your fatigue level in my opinion. You can still enter and track your HRV scores on Restwise. For more information on HRV check out my blog article here

Once you have a subscription you can download the Restwise app for your smartphone. I usually check my Resting HR, SP02, HRV, Sleep time & quality after I get up. I try to do it first thing in the morning to have consistent data over a longer time. You then have to enter the data into the app (you can also do it on their website if you prefer). It will ask you a few questions that you need to answer

  • Resting heart rate
  • SP02 (Oxygen saturation level)
  • Weight
  • Hours slept
  • How well did you sleep
  • Energy level today
  • Mood state today
  • Yesterday’s training performance
  • Your appetite
  • Do you have any sore throat, headache or other illness
  • Do you have muscle soreness
  • Any injuries that are affecting your training
  • Urine shade

Once you enter all the data (be very honest here with yourself when answering the questions) you can upload them and Restwise will provide you with a test score and some recommendations in regards to your training. If you have the coach subscription you will be able to add all your athletes to your profile to track their results. That’s a pretty handy tool for a coach in my opinion.
restwise1

restwise2

If your coach is not using Restwise but is tracking your training on training peaks, you can upload your results to your training profile. That way your coach can analyse your results and make recommendations in regards to your training. Very handy indeed.

Wrap up

I personally have mixed feelings when it comes to using the tool. I use it at the moment and find it interesting but it might be an overkill for some of us.

Ok, from an individual perspective, I think it’s interesting for self quantification. You get feedback on how your body responds to training load. It can help to prevent over or under training if you are honest with yourself and the information you put in. Obviously it’s easy to fake your results (oh I had a shitty sleep tonight and feel sore this morning but I still want to have a good recovery score so that I don’t have an excuse to miss my training session today and slack off). Again, this tool relies heavily on your input, so if you cheat and fake your answers the results are pretty much useless.

In my opinion Restwise is a very interesting tool when it comes to tracking athletic performance and recovery. I think it is mainly targeted for professional athletes and sport teams, rather than the recreational amateur athletes. Saying that I still think there can be some benefits for high performing age group athletes. Especially if they are coached or on a specific training program and aiming to optimise their performance and get the most out of their training investment. I think the real benefit comes in for a coach, who needs to design training plans an track the progress and development of these athletes. Using this data could help to adjust training load, volume and intensity for individual sessions based on the recovery level of each athlete.

If you are a high performing age group athlete and love to analyse data, this might be something for you. There are some good videos on the Restwise website that are worth checking out. I have posted them underneath in case you are interested.

For Athletes

For Coaches

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Recovery, Training

A while ago while researching different topics on training stress, fatigue and recovery, I stumbled across HRV  (Heart Rate Variability) and how it is used to enhance athletic performance. This got my attention and I wanted to find out more about it.

When it comes to recovery, most athletes know that getting enough rest after exercise is essential to improve fitness and performance, still many of us over train and feel guilty when taking a day off. Rest is as important as training and necessary so that the muscles can repair and strengthen. If that part is neglected, continuous training can actually weaken the athlete. Not what we really want right.

Coaches tell us to listen to our body, check our RHR (Resting Heart Rate) to decide when it’s necessary to take a day off or skip a session. We have training plans which incorporate easy workouts and recovery days to avoid over training. That’s all good and important but in the end it is an individual decision when recovery is needed. For example there are genetic factors, age, gender and baseline fitness which are determinants of individual differences. That makes it difficult to draw a general approach to recovery. I have often wondered when I felt a bit flat, if it’s fatigue or just a lack of motivation. To get optimal adaptions from your training, fatigue is an important aspect that needs to be considered.

Hence I was looking into something more reliable, a method or tool that gives me more insight into my body and how it reacts to training. I was looking for a way to control my training load in a better way in order to achieve better outcomes! That’s when I learned more about the power of HRV.

So what is HRV?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the physiological phenomenon of variation in the time interval between heartbeats. It is measured by the variation in the beat-to-beat interval. 
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heart_rate_variability

From a fitness standpoint, we know that the heart rate increases when we exercise, because the heart needs to pump faster to deliver oxygen to our muscles. The autonomic nervous system plays a role in speeding up and slowing down HR. There are basically two branches to the ANS that influences heart rate:

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS)
    speeds up the heart rate
  • Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS)
    responsible for slowing the heart rate

SNS is often referred to “Fight or Flight”, and PNS to “Rest and Repair”. These 2 branches can now be measured using HRV analysis and permit insight into this control mechanism.The way I see it, these 2 components need to work well together, we need the SNS to accelerate and PNS to break, like with a car. If these two are not in balance or working properly we run into problems.

I have added some links at the bottom of the post if you are interested in the science behind it in more depth. I am no expert by any means in this field but find the science behind it incredibly interesting. Nowadays modern technology offers us an easy and very convenient way to measure HRV.

What do you need to measure your own HRV?

It’s actually quite, we can use an app on our smart phones to do that.There are huge number of different apps available that you can choose from. I personally use the Sweet Beat HRV app on my iPhone (it’s not a free app but can be purchased for $9.99, sorry only for iPhone). Other apps which I personally haven’t used are e.g. iThleteBioForce HRV, HRV beta, Elite HRV

The other equipment you need is a heart rate monitor that is Bluetooth compatible. Here is a list of compatible devices. I currently use the Polar H7 monitor.

How to measure your daily HRV

There are a few important variables measuring your HRV such as: Time of the day, movement, mood, food and sleep. I measure my HRV at the same time every day to get more useful results over a longer period of time. It’s right after I wake up. So my usual routine looks like this.

  1. After I wake up I put my heart rate monitor on
  2. I lay down on my back and start the app
  3. I breathe normally in and out through my nose and let the app run. I keep my eyes shut and concentrate on my breathing
  4. The app will run for about 3 minutes. Once it’s finished you can check your numbers on the screen. The higher the HRV score the better it is.

It will take a few days of measuring until the numbers make sense and will be more meaningful. I add my HRV numbers into my training plan to be able to compare and find correlations between my workout days.

Lately I have experimented a little bit to see if I can increase my HRV. The following things seem to help improving it

  1. Meditation and Yoga – Measuring HRV after a yoga or mediation session has a positive effect. Especially on the Parasympathetic Nervous System
  2. Cold Showers – Straight out of bed and into the shower. Shower with cold water for a few minutes, go back to bed and measure. I was surprised how much my HRV improves by taking ice cold showers.

Here are a few screenshots of some of my HRV readings with an explanation beneath:

image1image3

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Screenshot #1 – This shows the HRV, Heart Rate and Stress level over a period of time. (blue line = HRV, orange = Stress level, green = HR)

Screenshot #2 – These are the power frequency readings (SNS, PNS) over a period of time. This was during the lead up to a big race. As the chart shows, in the last week which was the race week, my power readings sky rocketed. That is a good indicator that I was fully rested and recovered come race day.

Screenshot #3 – HRV reading a day before a big race. Both LF, which is the power frequency of my Sympathetic Nervous system and HF which represents the Parasympathetic Nervous System  are well balanced. The LF/HF ratio is almost 1, which is a good indicator that your nervous system is well balanced. HRV score is 97 which is a very high score for me.

Screenshot #4 – Compared to the reading in the previous screenshot, this one clearly indicates that I am in a fatigue state. Both LF and HF are low and more importantly the ratio LF/HF is way out of balance. HRV is 68 which is quite low. I had low HRV readings for 2 days in a row and the app suggested to take a day off to recover. Even though my heart rate is in normal range which would not raise a concern by itself. Most likely I would have continued training if I just considered my HR but looking at the HRV it’s a clear sign to take some rest and recover.

Conclusion

It’s really interesting to see how sleep, food, stress and training can affect your heart rate variability and your overall fatigue level. In my opinion recovery is a crucial component in endurance sports and thanks to modern technology it’s very easy and affordable to measure it. So why not making use of it?! It’s a relatively simple measure that you can use to tract how well you are recovering. It helps you to prevent over training, reduces your risk of getting sick and in the long run makes you are stronger, healthier and fitter athlete.


 

References

Further articles to read

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Training

After finishing my last race end of August I decided to take a few weeks off training for a mental and physical break before I go into the next season. I wouldn’t call it an off season, as I still keep active and don’t turn into a coach potato or cookie monster eating junk food all day. It’s actually a very good time to reset your body and shift your mind a little bit away from swim, bike and run

The first 2 weeks after the race I cut back on physical training but spent some time reflecting how the season and the races went. I also started to make decisions in preparation for the upcoming new season and the races I want to do. Reflecting is definitely a good way to overcome post-race depression.

The hardest thing for sure is to let go of your peak fitness. After spending so much time and effort to reach your peak fitness it is a hard thing to do. But a few weeks of rest won’t do you any harm in the long run and the fitness will come back in no time after you start into the new training season fully recovered and rested.

To make sure I am able to gain back my fitness pretty quickly I put focus on the following things:

Strengthening the body – I do a lot of yoga and start to hit the weight room more often than usual. I use this time to improve my flexibility, balance and strength. For me this is fundamental to prevent injuries and to keep my body in good shape. I also get some massages to loosen up any stiffness or go and see a physio or chiropractitioner for a general check-up.

Nutrition – I keep fueling my body with rich and nutrient dense food. I make sure to get enough vitamins and minerals into my body. Due to the lack of physical activity gaining a bit of extra weight is normal and not of a big deal. I also use this time to get some blood tests done to see if I have any deficiencies that I need to be aware off.

Light physical activities – Apart from yoga and weight training I engage in some very light jogging and swimming once a week. This has to be very light and without any time or pace constrains. I  leave my watch and heart rate monitor at home and go out for a nice and easy jog after work, followed by a swim in the ocean. Any other light activities such as walking, riding the bike along the beach or playing golf are good too. The main thing is to move your body and get the blood flowing.

The preparation block
After a couple of weeks off from regular training, I start my preparation block which lasts for another few weeks. This is where I gradually get back into normal but easy training. The training in this block will be short and not very demanding. The aim is to start developing your aerobic endurance and speed skills again and to focus on weight training and injury prevention.

It’s also a good time to do some field tests for swim, bike and run to work out your heart rate zones and your LT (lactate threshold) which I use for setting up my workouts in the following weeks of training.

Once the Preparation block is over, I am back into full swing training where the heaving lifting starts to build a strong base fitness level.

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