If you’re in the sporting world, you will deal with dopers. For the case of this article, I’m going to refer to dopers as an athlete that is willing to unnaturally alter their performance by use of illegal substances or mechanics. Its everywhere, yet the majority are naive to this. Regardless of your take on this, you have known steroid users in baseball, known EPO users in cycling, known Ritalin users in the NFL, and a motor user in the sport of cyclocross. For many, they believe that this is only limited to the top level, but recent studies support that athletes as young as 14 are looking to gain an unfair advantage. How do we stop this?
The best way to combat dopers is with education. This falls on all involved to be educated and to develop an informed cultural environment. Based on a study by Alaranta et al. (2006) athletes that see performance enhancing drugs as posing a serious risk to health are less likely to take them. Athletes that see performance enhancing drugs posing little risk to your health are more likely to use them for performance gains. This demonstrates why we need further education on doping and its impact on the human body. If we can put an educational piece in place for athletes, a mandatory class, then I believe we can start to make a dent on potential users. This won’t completely rid the system of dopers, but it should help with the overall process. Beyond the suggested class though, what we need is a better informed public. If the public can become informed on doping and all that goes with it, we can start to create a culture of clean sport due to a better understanding.
Penalties for Doping
Depending on the sport you are in, there are different penalties for doping. For the NFL it may be 4 games, MLB can be 50 games and cycling can be 2 years or more. While this can deter some use, it hasn’t proven to be enough. Cheating is still rampant across the board and I feel we need to be harder with our penalties. In order to push for clean sport, our business Mind Right Endurance powered by Dalzell Coaching has taken a zero tolerance approach with doping. We have had our athletes sign a document saying they won’t dope and their contract will be terminated if they do so. While this policy won’t hit all athletes, we believe that we can help ensure our athletes are clean and we take pride in knowing we are taking a strong stance against performance enhancing drugs. We urge other companies to follow our lead and make a case for clean sport again.
Prevelance of Doping
While the majority of individuals will think doping only happens at the elite level, this would be a false assumption. A study conducted by Laure et al. (2004) shows that 4% of high schoolers from a sample of 1459 student athletes have used performance enhancing substances. So if you have children at a high school and there are 100 athletes, the stats suggest that 4 of them will be using doping agents. Again, this study suggested that the 4% of athletes associated doping agents with minimal health risks and downplayed their harmful consequences. Beyond this study, there is a classic study conducted by Robert Goldman called the Goldman Dilemma. In the 1970’s, Goldman asked elite athletes if they would take a substance that guaranteed them success in the sport, but would kill them 5 years later. Over 50% of the athletes responded yes to this. In recent times this number has been reported to be lower.
Its important to be aware of this dilemma we are facing in athletics. Doping is happening and is all around us. Substances are easier to receive and harder to test for. Sanctions are in place, but possibly aren’t strong enough. What all the studies lead back to is this idea of education and informing the athlete of the harms of doping. By reading this blog, you now are aware of the doping dilemma. If you can take the time to become familiar with the substances used in your sport, and the harm they can do, I’m hoping you can be a leader in the battle against doping. The more informed we are, the more impact we can make for clean sport. Educate yourself and help others understand that great athletic performances can happen without cheating.
Alaranta et al. “Self-Reported Attitudes of Elite Athletes Towards Doping: Difference Between Type of Sport”. Journal of Sports Medicine. (2006)
Laure et al. “Drugs, Recreational Drug Use and Attitudes Towards Doping of High School Athletes”. Journal of Sports Medicine. (2004)
How Much Do You Sweat?
This is a question that many endurance athletes should know, but they generally don’t. As athletes, we are always looking to gain more watts on the bike, run faster miles, swim more yards/meters. However, we often neglect the facts that our body can only operate as trained if its being replenished correctly. When it comes down to sweat, we need to know how much fluid we are losing and how many electrolytes so we can properly hydrate and keep the body functioning at a high level. I hope this blog will open your mind to finding your own sweat rate and making better decisions on how to best manage racing or training in heat.
Why is a Sweat Test Important?
Depending on the literature you read, performance can start to suffer with up to 2% loss in body weight during exercise. For athletes that are training or racing for long periods of time, this can lead to high fluctuations in weigh due to fluid loss that could be hurting your performance. With the average athlete losing somewhere between 1-2.5 bottles (20-50 oz) of fluids per hour, its critical that we have a plan in place to replace this fluid to keep your body operating as planned. By knowing how much you sweat, you can start to develop the ideal plan for your performance and safety.
Risk of Not Knowing Your Sweat Rate
For those that are guessing, you are opening yourself up to possibilities of dehydration or hyponatremia. Both are dangerous and should be understood before performing any long duration activities. Dehydration is the lack of water in your body and can cause massive performance loss and possible death in extreme circumstances. Hyponatremia is the over abundance of water compared to sodium (salt) in your body which can cause massive performance loss and possible death as well. When in long distance/duration events, your body is in a constant flux of liquid and electrolytes that it needs. You are a moving chemistry lab that needs the right mixture to keep operating at its desired rate. By not knowing what your chemistry lab looks like, you are taking a shot in the dark and risking decreased performance or possible harm to your body. For all the hours that you have put into training, your day can be stopped quickly by dizziness, vomiting, nausea, lack of performance, etc, due to not knowing your sweat rate. This is one of the key pillars to any athletes performance.
One of the best articles I’ve read that is in context to triathlon can be found at slowtwitch.com (www.slowtwitch.com/Training/General_Physiology/The_Math_of_salt_loss_1093.html). This article takes an in-depth look at salt loss and how it factors into performance. While salt supplementation may not be required for any activity 3 hours or less, as you start to go up in duration, its important that you keep your moving chemistry lab (body) in check. This will be different for everyone, but its important that you have the education in place to know what your body needs. Don’t take this information as a one size fits all. Whats important to know with this topic is that it's different for everyone based on how their body operates in different settings.
Performing a Sweat Test
In order to check your own sweat rate, weigh yourself prior to your training for the day. Train at your desired intensity for 1 hour and then re-weigh yourself. Make note of any food or water you’ve taken in or if you’ve used the restroom. If you have taken in any water during that hour, note how much and factor that into your ending weight. Your sweat rate will be your starting weight minus your ending weight. If you took in any food or water, subtract that from your total.
starting workout at 180 lbs
ended workout at 177.5 lbs
#2 Weather Conditions
#3 Sweat Rate
As you go throughout the year, it would be wise to find your sweat rate in different conditions. Based on how your body responds to different environments, it will guide you in how to best replenish your fluids and electrolytes as needed. If you are using a sweat test from 65 degree weather and racing in 85 degree weather, you may suffer in performance due to imbalances.
We train all year for big events, and then go into them without a dialed in hydration plan. While many individuals focus on nutrition and getting in the calories they need, they forget about hydration and knowing exactly what they need in the race day environment (wind/humidity/temperature/intensity). This test can be done in 1 hour and is important for every athlete to know and understand. Your body is the most important part to you having a great performance. Without a dialed in hydration strategy, you are simply taking a shot in the dark at a strong performance.
Disclaimer: I am not a registered dietician and do not intend for any athletes to use this information without consulting with a dietician or doctor. The purpose of this article is to educate athletes on a general level, but not to prescribe any specifics to any individual. It is up to each athlete to consult with professionals as needed to develop their own strategies for dealing with sweat rate.
www.slowtwitch.com, " The Math of salt loss", Toker (2009)
Written By: Ray Delahoussaye - Swim & Endurance Coach
Swimming, the neglected discipline. Time and time again I have experienced athlete’s frustrations about the swim and their improvement or lack thereof. The stories and comments I hear are quit disheartening to me. Phrases such as, “I’ve been doing this swim thing for 2 years and I have not seen improvement.” or “I have been with a master’s swim program for over a year and I have not improved.” I guess I am just not meant to be a swimmer, that is ok I can bike and run good. Wrong! Everyone has the potential to become a competitive swimmer.
I say competitive swimmer because that is what we do in triathlon. We compete. There is a big difference between “just swimming” with friends and swimming competitively with a group of crazy people in dark open water scrapping and clawing for position and survival.
Here are a few areas on why I believe athletes struggle with swim improvement.
Quantity Focused Not Quality Focused: So many put in countless hours of laps in a pool but never see improvement. It’s very admirable that your swimming 10k a week and have that eau de chlorine by CK going for you but without specificity to that quantity you are not doing yourself any favors. Every second of every minute of every lap of every workout should have a goal and purpose. If it doesn’t you should start. I’ve heard of people in master’s swim classes that are learning nothing but being put in the far lane and being told finish what you can. No one gets better that way, especially in a sport as technical as swimming. Here’s an example.
Swim for 30 minutes or do 2k with some kicks and pulling.
I’m doing what the guy in Lane 4 is doing. Instead add some quality to the workout!
30 minutes total time done as:
200 warmup – open water sight practice 2x every odd lap or every even lap
8x25 alt free/back kick on 45 secs 8x25 as 25 fingertip drill / 25 swim
4x100 building to race pace throughout the 100, say each 100 on the 1:30
10x50 Fast on 60 secs
Adding specific goals and focus to just 30 minutes of a swim set or a plain 2k swim will start yielding improvements over time.
Unclear goals or lack of Goals: Define your outcome goal and put the performance and process goals in place to achieve that outcome goal.
Initial Outcome Goal: I want to finish the 70.3 swim – Very general goal
Performance Goal: I want to swim 70.3 New Orleans in 35 minutes.
Initial Outcome Goal: I want to be faster and better. I want to be efficient.
Performance Goal: Improve 10x100 holding effort per 100 pace to 1:40. Learn bi-lateral breathing.
You have One Speed: Get to the other side as fast as I can. Just as in running or cycling you must learn to swim at different speeds. If your warmup is faster than your main set slow down! Skipping the warmup, you miss your chance to get a feel for the water, focus on drill work, practice holding body position, work on breathing. The warmup is a chance to go slow and focus on specifics. This allows your body to prepare itself for the main set. Proper warmup set will yield a more productive main set. Make sure to cool down or warm down after your main set. Again, another great time to practice drill work, body position, breathing drills, and very relaxed swimming. If this is faster or equal to your race pace, SLOW DOWN! No one has ever gotten a medal for fastest warmup or cool down, not even Phelps
Drill Work: If you’re not doing drill work to improve your weaknesses, you should start. Make sure you know why you are doing a drill, what the focus is and how it should feel. You should have a ladder progression. Example: Can I hold a neutral body position, Do my fingers enter the water first. Do I have a high elbow catch or does it drop? Focusing on each phase of the swim stroke and working on each individually can yield fast improvements to your swim. Don’t just do a drill because you saw someone doing it and not understand it. You’re better off doing short sprints than doing a ton of drill work incorrectly.
Refocus your mind: You may not be Michael Phelps but you can start thinking like him or any professional swimmer for that matter. As you know the mind is very powerful and it is usually our own worst enemy. Where the mind goes, the body follows. Go into each swim set having confidence. Focus on being confident with your drill work. Believe in yourself and the time you are dedicating to improvement. Have a mantra you repeat while swimming such as: I am swimming faster, I feel faster. I have good body position. Just like anything else each swim set will not be magical. I have handfuls of bad swim sets from missing pace efforts to just not feeling comfortable in the water. Great swimmers know how to refocus quickly and move on.
If you get frustrated during a set, start to slow on pace or form is going downhill, instead of getting frustrated, back off the pace, refocus on form. Take a longer break after the frustrating set and refocus your mind and then continue.
After your swim think of what went well during the set. Maybe you felt more relaxed than normal, breathing felt better or you felt stronger on your 10x50’s. Whatever it was being able to acknowledge those accomplishments, realize the frustrating sets will get better will aid in you staying focused, happy and enjoy what you are doing. This will make a big difference going into the next swim session feeling positive.
Conclusion: Set specific goals, focus on consistency, add specific drill work to your swim routine and most of all smile and enjoy being able to do this sport!
Over the past year running has taken a turn for the future. In the past, running has consisted of lacing up the shoes, starting your watch, and tracking your mileage via logs with duration and distance covered. While I will always have a special place in my heart for traditional runners for their tenacity and overall low maintenance, I would be ignorant to not suggest that the new technology (power meters) would help them. For the sake of this blog, I will refer to the STRYD power meter as we have partnered with them as a coaching business and I have first hand experience both looking at data and utilizing the device myself. I hope after reading this you’ll have a better understanding of how this technology could help you.
Over the past several months I have been flooded with questions of “why do I need this”? As I noted, I have a fond liking for pure runners as they can get out the door and go run without needing all the latest and greatest features. While I applaud that, I do believe that the STRYD should make its way into the pure runners arsenal.
The reason for this suggestion is because the STRYD has the ability to make you better. In terms of weight or added “bling”, its simply a foot pod that just sits on the top of your shoe. When running with it you can’t even feel it on your shoe. Along with not being able to notice it on your shoe, it gives runners the ability to consistency measure biomechanics in a way that no other device has before. For any pure runner, while they love just getting outside and being free, they also tend to like getting faster if possible. This new technology will only help to speed up the process of getting fast for any runner and therefore I would ask traditionalists to read about it before turning their head to it.
This is the future. When running with a STRYD the amount of data that you can log is equivalent to spending an entire day in the exercise physiology lab which could cost you hundreds. The best part about this device is that you get to use it day after day to track change and its all available for roughly $200. So what are some of the metrics that you can track?
Running Power: Will measure your power in horizontal, lateral, and vertical planes. This data will show if you are utilizing most of your energy to move forward, or if you are wasting energy swinging side to side or jumping too high with each stride. Essentially, we can do a run form analysis now from anywhere.
Running Effectiveness: How much power are you putting out for a given speed (pace). Are you generating a ton of power but not going anywhere, we can dig into the metrics and figure out where the disconnect is.
Leg Stiffness: With each step you take we can measure the stiffness of your leg. There is a strong correlation between leg stiffness and running economy. We know that the more mechanical energy you use (treating your legs as springs) the less metabolic energy you have to use. If we see low leg stiffness we can put training remedies in place to work on this metric and therefore overall running economy.
Max Force: This is a fun one for any athletes that find themselves injured often. Is there a correlation of high force and running injury? Does this metric show flaws in other metrics? Can you start to train differently and reduce your odds of injury? This is still to be seen but the metric is being measured with every step.
Ground Contact/Flight Time: This is something that you’ve been able to track before but its good to see this in comparison with Leg Stiffness and running power/effectiveness. How does your stride rate reflect on your stiffness or effectiveness? Are you running effectively at 175 steps per minute or 180 steps per minute? We can begin to get very detailed in our analysis of your run form and stride.
Power: While running with power can be utilized in training and with precision for intensities, its true magic happens on race day. If you have a threshold run power you can sustain for a set duration then you know how to properly pace an event. If you are looking for a PR on a 10k and know that your 10k threshold for power is 300 watts, you know how to start the first mile so you don’t crash and burn at the finish. Same thing can be noted for courses with elevation. We know you’ll run slower on an incline, but due to being able to measure vertical power we can still pace it properly and not burn matches for later in the race chasing only a pace goal.
And Many More: There are a countless number of metrics I’m not going to dive into because its still young and I’m still becoming familiar with the data and how to best utilize other metrics for each individual.
Just like cycling power meters, it’s going to take some time for runners and triathletes to buy in. However, in the next 5-10 years I would expect running world records to crumble and power meters to be on the shoes of every runner. While people get so worked up about going to get tested at a lab, this device is the lab that can be worn everyday. Its the lab that can be taken everywhere with every pair of shoes and track real world results.
Cycling vs Running Power Meters
Its important to note that running and cycling are very different. One shouldn’t look at their power training on a bike and treat power run training the same way. On a bike you are in a fixed position with power only measuring the force it takes to turn the pedals/cranks/wheel. Beyond that, every cyclist falls within a range of how efficient they are at pedaling a bike. In contrast to this, a world class runner and a slow 5k’er may both have a race value of 350 watts, however, how effective each runner was at utilizing that power for forward motion could be drastically different. With that note, its very important that we don’t let athletes make the mistake of thinking that higher power is the only goal of a running power meter. While higher power is nice, we are looking for the most efficient use of power in running.
I have no doubt that this mistake will be made many times over the next few years. However, now that you have read this blog and can see that the two sports and devices are different, you will be able to guide the public in understanding that they aren’t the same thing. If used as the same, athletes will become overtrained and Injury will happen down the road.
The technology that is available to the mass public is exactly what the pro’s and world champions are using now. While you may be a traditionalist or novice, this technology will still help you in measuring how effective you are and possibly showing you when injury may occur. For all runners that are serious about performance, there is no better way to train at this current time. I promise you that if you went to the Olympic Training Center to train and were in a lab everyday you would think it was the coolest thing. This device is a lab and you can do it from home! Find a coach that knows how to analyze this information and start running better and more efficiently this year. This technology isn’t going anywhere, its best that you get ahead of the curve and start training with power.
Disclaimer: We have a partnership with STRYD.
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