The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate physical activity (e.g. walking, running, gardening, shoveling snow, washing and waxing the car…) 5 days per week as a minimum goal.  Ideally, family members are getting 30 minutes or more every day of the week.

  • Take a Hike!  Quality time in the outdoors hiking not only opens the mind’s eye to endless experiences, but it can be one of the best forms of exercise for all ages.  Hiking is great for cardiovascular health, leg strength, balance, and great at sustaining bone mineral density.
  •  Ride a Bike!  Depending on the intensity, cycling can burn approximately 200 – 1,000 calories per hour.  What makes cycling attractive is the fact that you can see so much more in an hour, and like hiking and swimming, it’s an independent exercise where each member benefits opposed to canoeing or rafting for example.   
  • Swimming is an excellent family activity that allows family members to exercise at their  own fitness level.  During an hour of      recreational swimming, one can burn up to 400 calories, and provides resistance work for all muscles.  Swimming is ideal for those who temporarily cannot perform weight-bearing exercise.   
  • Orienteering can be a great way for a family to introduce some exercise, while having lots of fun doing it.  Orienteering exercises both mind and body, and by introducing a variety of tokens or prizes at each point, makes it fun for all ages.  Another aspect of orienteering that makes it popular is that you can walk or run to the points depending on individual abilities. 
  • In-line skating is also for all ages, and benefits muscular strength and endurance,  joint range of motion, cardiovascular      fitness/endurance, balance and stability.  All of these benefits are developed from the core strengthening and endurance required for this activity, and the mind also benefits from the functions that are exercised through required focus and mental stimulation.

So get the family off of the couch, away from the computer, and greatly improve everyone’s overall fitness by engaging in these activities routinely throughout the year.  By “weaning” such activities into family lifestyles, everyone benefits, and you’ll all get to know each other better and improve relationships by doing so.

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The following is the first installment of a 10-12 part series on Identifying & Executing a Viable Mental Training Program.

[For Coaches] Establish viable two-way communications with all of your athletes.  If you haven’t taken the time to sit down one-on-one with each athlete, you need to make that time investment – as it will pay big dividends throughout the season.  In addition, it lets each individual athlete know up front that you care about them, want them to be successful, and immediately improves athlete-coach and coach-athlete rapport, trust, and communications.  For athletes who have a coach (and reside in the same area), it is important to establish these communications sharing sessions.  If your coach cannot find time to accommodate you – at least initially and from time to time, then that’s certainly an indicator to look for a new coach.

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Many athletes and coaches head to the track for speed work; however, for triathletes and distance runners, there is a more important workout.  I call this a pacing session.  Of course, from the moment we step on the track, I’m assessing biomechanics and form, but we’ll put that aside for another article.  Pacing for distance runs and triathlons is one of the most critical components of successful racing, and yet most never spend a concerted effort “dialing it in”.  Why is that?  Well, with most athletes glued to their Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) devices, the majority use this feedback as the primary means to pacing their runs.  As I’ve discussed in other articles, it is critical to “learn the body through the mind”, and use your personal biofeedback techniques to stay within an intensity level appropriate to the race distance, course, and conditions.  By raising awareness of and learning your Perceived Exertion (PE), as well as your onset and sweat rates for various conditions and hydration levels, and how they alter within the eight training zones (but especially Sub-Lactate Threshold through VO2max), the athlete can dial-in the optimal sustainable pacing.  We must remember – especially when relying on HR as a performance indicator, that HR is affected by many things.  In most cases, HR is elevated by inadequate recovery, hydration, or glycogen storage levels, as well as, overall physical, psychological, and emotional stress load, ambient temperature, humidity, wind, altitude, terrain, and caffeine.  When I am with an athlete at the track, I prefer that they not focus on their HR, and only refer to it at specific times.  By having them focus on PE, they can learn to gauge pacing more reliably.  This is an important skill to learn across the spectrum of conditions and intensities.  Once learned,   it makes sustainable pacing performance much easier to identify – whether you use a HRM or not.  The pacing session I often do with my athletes at the track for the first time is listed below. Warm-up (WU) Mile, recording 400 times and overall mile time.  Normally, I ask the athlete what they think their endurance pace is, and then instruct them to just relax and WU for a mile at a comfortable endurance pace (not looking at their watch or HRM).  Quite often, the athlete is shocked at how hard or fast they went, and soon discover that it was a pace not sustainable for an Ironman marathon (for example).   Stretch Session

Following the stretch session I’ll go over the training focus area(s) for the session.  Prior to the actual 400 repeats, I’ll have them take another lap easy to re-warm the joints and musculature.   400 Repeats.  Depending upon the athlete and time available (usually an hour), I’ll have them perform 6-10 400 repeats with approximately 2 minutes recovery between each.  Whether we are searching for a sustainable Ironman marathon pace or a sprint triathlon LT pace, I’ll orient the intensity levels to zero in on what we’re trying to learn.  Pacing is subsequently adjusted as applicable.  Ideally, we will try to learn 2-3 pacing levels during the first session.  As part of the initial briefing, and reminded throughout the session, I tell the athlete to really focus their attention to their PE and how they’re feeling during the various paces.  As fatigue starts to surface in their form and technique (i.e. shoulders raise/tense, “sitting back”…), it is addressed during the session, as well as during the workout recap and documentation for both coach and athlete.      Cool-down (CD) for a mile and shoot for a particular pace.    Stretching/Refueling/Rehydration Session

In my experience, these pacing sessions are invaluable to both coach and athlete.  Much information is obtained during both WU and CD, and not just during repeats.  The coach is able to correct biomechanical inefficiencies and learn much about the athlete’s abilities (i.e. running, ability to suffer, ability to learn and replicate their PE and pacing…), and subsequently prescribe a more focused training plan.  The athlete always learns a lot about themselves in terms of current pacing, sustainable pacing, as well as running strengths and weaknesses.  Followed by a thorough training recap and documentation, both can move successfully forward on improving performance, as well as re-visit reports from previous training periods.  Within the training reports, I believe it’s important to not only provide biomechanical assessments and times, but also what those times translate into for a per mile pace as well as current and goal per mile pacing for a marathon, 10k, 5k…etc.  So, if your coach isn’t providing this kind of feedback, ask for it.  This information will make your subsequent training easier to translate your performance, recovery level, progress, as well as more relevant feedback to the coach.  So go forth to the track, and rather than just running eight 400s hard and calling it a productive session, dial-in your pacing for various distances and you’ll optimize future performances.

Good Luck!

Coach Parker

http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Coach-Parker/122623211181590

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Many different treatments have been effective; however, plantar fasciitis left untreated may last up to a year or longer, so don’t ignore it or pretend it’s not there.  Initial treatment includes stretching of the Achilles tendon and plantar fascia, keeping off the foot as much as possible, weight loss, arch support and heel lifts, ice “rolling” therapy (which I’ll describe below), and taping.  Difficult cases may be referred for Physiotherapy.  Common physiotherapies include myofascial release, “breaking up” the scar tissue of the plantar fascia, and supervised stretching.  Extra attention should focus on ensuring that shoes with adequate support and stability are worn – at all times.  Avoid open-back shoes, sandals, “flip-flops,” any shoes without some (raised) heel, as well as high heel shoes such as stilettos.  To relieve pain and inflammation, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and ibuprofen may be taken; however, the benefits are very limited, basically just “mask” the problem temporarily, and can cause further damage due to inattentiveness or early resumption of training.  Eliminate or reduce activities which place more pressure on the balls of the feet because of the added pressure placed on the plantar fascia.  Although this may seem counter-intuitive because the pain is normally within the heel area, the heel is sensitive to almost any pressure, therefore, this causes some people start walking on the balls of their feet and increasing tension on the fascia.

Local injections of corticosteroids may provide temporary or even (in milder cases) permanent relief.  These injections are often quite painful, especially if a local anesthetic is not used.  Injections are often more effective when ultrasound therapy is also utilized simultaneously.  However, problems of actual ruptures within the fascia have been reported in some cases of repeated steroid injections, potentially causing long-term or even permanent damage to the plantar fascia.  Therefore, individual foot anatomy, total health history of the feet, and short vs. long-term benefits should be scrutinized before repetitive injection therapy is considered.

In cases of chronic plantar fasciitis of 10 months or longer, success with stretch therapy have been fairly common.  Early morning pain can be reduced significantly by stretching the plantar fascia and Achilles tendon before getting out of bed.  Night splints can be used to keep the foot in a dorsi-flexed (toes pointing upward (towards the shin)) during sleep to increase calf muscle flexibility and (in most cases) decrease morning pain.

Another useful method I always prescribe is to roll a frozen bottle of water under the foot – in a back-and-forth motion.  This stretches and ice massages the fascia simultaneously.

Regardless of the severity of this condition, once you realize or have been diagnosed with it, I cannot overemphasize the importance of taking time off from running, plyometrics, or any other root causes, be patient, and “let it go”.  If you have races or events on the near or short-term calendar, let them go.  Otherwise, instead of being down for 2-3 weeks, the outcome is normally 6-12 months – your choice!

Good Luck!

Coach Parker

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Plantar fasciitis is a painful inflammatory condition of the foot caused by excessive wear to the plantar fascia – the thick connective tissue which supports the arch of the foot, and usually caused by a sudden significant increase in running mileage, running in old and/or unsupportive shoes, or by biomechanical flaws that cause excessive pronation (foot rolls excessively inward).  The pain is normally felt on the underside of the heel, and is often most intense upon getting up in the morning.  This condition can also be caused by long periods of weight bearing or sudden changes in weight bearing activity, sudden weight gain, obesity, jobs that require a significant amount of walking on hard surfaces, shoes with little or no arch support, and even long-term inactivity.

Stay tuned for treatment protocols in my next blog!

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I highly recommend that all cyclists, runners, and triathletes incorporate some foam rolling into their recovery regimen.  By doing so, you’ll keep the iliotibial (IT) bands and other ligaments (e.g. ACL) and tendons (e.g. Achilles tendon) more supple and loose, and subsequently help prevent common overuse injuries.  Patella tracking issues such as patellofemoral knee syndrome and Achilles tendonitis are much less likely to become a part of your training and racing years if you just take a little time for these preventative exercises.  When I tell my athletes to “Train Smart”, they know that stretching and foam rolling are critical components to their recovery process and proper biomechanics.  So train smart, and you’ll have better results in 2012!  

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Thanks everyone for  your thoughts and well wishes.  Next year at 50, I’m riding across the U.S. 2,811 miles (235 miles/day) in 12 Days for The Beyond Face Fund at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)!  I hope you can support the cause when I call upon you.  Cannot wait to raise more money and awareness for these children for our ride across the U.S. next year, as well as Death Valley this October.  I’m planning to have fun with a few 200 mile races before that.  Gonna be a great year with lots of time in the saddle!  ;  )

 

Other recurring charity endeavors over past years have been MS, Cancer, Diseases of the Heart, Lungs,…, Arthritis, Children’s Causes, Special Olympics, Homeless, Land Conservation (to name some).

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I am continually getting the question, “what is the over-trained state, or what does over-trained mean?”

Entering this state is often precipitated by continually high volume and or intensity without adequate rest, and includes performance decline with other typical stress-related psychological, psychosomatic, and physiological symptoms and signs that can be graded from mild to severe.  A mild form includes psychological and psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., anger, fatigue, tension, loss of appetite, lethargy, or sexual unwillingness), some short-term sleep problems, and muscle fatigue.  It can also include immune system and or hormonal disturbances such as upper respiratory infections and menstrual irregularities.  Severe forms include symptoms such as depression, severe long-term insomnia, and long-term muscle soreness.  If any of this sounds familiar or commonplace, you need to take a step back and seriously analyze what you’re doing while you take the next 2-3 days off.  If you conclude that you’re at the more chronic/severe end of the spectrum, I highly recommend you seek a professional coach – one who’s degreed, certified in numerous areas, and has years of racing and coaching experience.  This person can get you back on track and salvage your season, not to mention your health.  Don’t ignore these signs – as it can become very serious to your health future performance potentials.

Questions or comments anyone?

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Learning the body, strengths, and weaknesses – through the mind, will make it easier for you to stay on form longer, maintain your strengths, illuminate a weakness, and achieve more optimal performances more often. By using the mind and training smart (i.e. going easy when needed or prescribed), with the intent on having lots of good consistent races and a few optimal ones, is a better and more palpable alternative to “doing whatever you want, haphazardly, inconsistently being adequately recovered for training and racing, and often peaking off cue or out on training sessions.”  Train the mind, and often your actions will follow.

Train Smart!

 

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Refined sugar contains no fiber, no minerals, no proteins, no fats, no enzymes…, only empty calories.  What happens when you eat a refined carbohydrate like sugar?  Your body must borrow vital nutrients from healthy cells to metabolize the incomplete food.  Calcium, sodium, potassium and magnesium are taken from various parts of the body to make use of the sugar.  Keep that in mind folks – as those are what I call the “big 4”, or often times the four electrolytes most critical to long term muscular contraction, as well as preventing muscular cramping, spasms, and locking during those longer bouts athletes participate in (i.e. triathletes, cyclists, marathoners…).  You train hard, so just make sure you’re not sabotaging your work every afternoon and evening when those cravings arise.  Remind yourself of your goals, and that your nutritional habits (along with recovery) are just as important to future goal accomplishments as your training itself.

Good Luck!

Coach Parker

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