How to Balance Your Training Volume

11 11 2011


By Matt Russ
USA Triathlon

When it comes to sleep, we all know individuals who require different amounts. Some can get by on just five hours, while the next person is a zombie after seven. If we know that sleep needs are individualized, why would training volume not be the same?

There are a great number of things that affect how much training volume a person can absorb in a given time period, including individual physiology, stress, lifestyle, nutrition, age, recovery technique, sleep amount and quality, and of course practicality.

If you are following a plan that requires a set number of weekly or monthly training hours, this may or may not align itself with how many hours you can actually profit from. More importantly, the right amount of training volume may be a moving target, changing weekly or even daily.

Training volume is a component of three things: frequency, intensity and duration. If your target is to complete 10 hours of training in a week, this really only addresses one facet: duration. You conceivably could complete all your training volume for the week in just two days–but this would not be an effective course of action. If your frequency goal is two workouts per day, one of which cuts several hours of needed sleep out of your life, you may benefit more from just one quality workout per day. Intensity is an overlooked element, but you may notice acute muscles soreness after a 5K race that took less than 25 minutes to complete. A one-hour time trial near lactate threshold may require 48 hours or more of recovery before any “build” workouts can be resumed. All three components of volume are equally important, and equal emphasis must be placed upon balancing them.

Very few people are able to train consistently without some sort of minor or major upset. Work, family or a sudden illness are just a few things that can interject themselves into a training program. Mental stress levels can affect workout quality to a high degree, and one of the most noted physiological responses to mental stress (rising cortisol levels) is the same as physical stress. Working multiple 10-hour days to complete a project may leave you as physically exhausted as a tough workout and unable to summon the energy to complete your training for the day–even though you have been sedentary at your desk.

Dr. Timothy Noakes has proposed the central governor theory to explain fatigue. In essence, the body has a central governor that gradually imposes itself during training and racing to shut the body down as physical stress load increases. Perhaps this central governor is active under high mental stress loads as well, or the brain perceives stress as simply stress no matter what the source. At any rate, failing to adapt training volume to rising stress levels may just be the kiss of death for your next race.

For this reason, systems have been created to help the athlete subjectively quantify stress so that adjustments can be made proactively to training volume. Training Peaks software has a daily interface to indicate such metrics as sleep quality and amount, fatigue, muscle soreness, stress and overall health. A banking system or “CNS Score” designed by coach Rick Crawford allows the athlete to apply a scoring system to stress (physical, emotional, mental) and recovery (sleep, rest/recovery, therapy) to help determine when training stress has become imbalanced with recovery. There are also objective algorithms that assign numeric value to training volume (i.e. distance and intensity) and allow comparison of ongoing training volume to stress/recovery balance.

Training Stress Score (TSS), Training Stress Balance (TSB) and Chronic Training Load (CTL) are objective vs. subjective metrics found in the WKO software. It is important to note that over-reliance on these metrics, or hitting a particular numeric goal, is not always a good process. These scores are very useful for evaluating how much training stress your body has handled in the past, and/or how stressful a particular workout was. In short, they are a big picture of ongoing training volume. These metrics are particularly useful to athletes that tend to over train. You must balance the subjective (how you are feeling) with the objective (how you are performing) in order to optimize your training volume.

Perhaps one of the best ways to evaluate whether or not you have tipped the stress/recovery scale too far in the wrong direction is the inability to complete a particular workout objective. If your training is general (i.e. run 6 miles), this will be difficult to qualify, as there is no particular performance goal to achieve. But your ability to hit a specific wattage target, pace, split or heart rate zone gives you something to hang your hat on. To slightly underperform will mean that either the bar was a bit too high or that you have too much residual fatigue built up to hit the mark.

If you are consistently missing your targets over several days, it is a clear indication that something is not working and needs to be adjusted. Be aware that the more you try to push through another mediocre workout, the more you are tipping the scale toward the need for greater recovery. String enough of these workouts together and you may peak too early or require multiple weeks or more of recovery/reduced volume in order to shake out the accumulated fatigue. The amount of time you have to train must align itself with your goals, or you are setting yourself up for failure. Training for an iron-distance race is not going to be possible on just 10 hours per week. It is important to examine your life in totality before signing up for an ultra-endurance event.

I have often said that the greatest value of a coach is to be the objective party that forces an athlete to recover– thus realizing fitness vs. degrading performance. A highly motivated, Type A athlete can be his or her own worst enemy. Training must be a fluid and adaptable process in order to be accurate. The communication between coach and athlete must also be of high quality in order to get the best performance out of the athlete. Too much emphasis can be placed on a set-in-stone training plan. The best plan is not only the one that addresses the athlete’s individual needs specifically, but one that is also flexible in adjusting volume based on how the athlete is responding. I often have several athletes training for the same race, yet their training plans are very different based on a variety of criteria.

Think of your body as a sponge. It will continue to absorb training volume until it reaches a saturation point. Once the sponge is saturated, it can no longer soak up volume; you are only wasting your energy, risking injury and further degrading your performance. You must let the sponge dry out before it will soak up more fitness and that will require time and patience. If you are following a pre-built plan, realize that this is somewhat of a hit or miss approach. If your goal is to simply complete a race, you are only training one fitness substrate–endurance–and it is a relatively simple process to build enough to get to the finish line. However, once you start shooting for a PR, the equation becomes a lot more sophisticated. You must monitor for signs of over-reaching/over-training and adjust your volume, even if your plan requires a certain amount of hours. If you have a high level of muscle soreness, fatigue, low motivation and are experiencing a lot of work stress, a day off may be more effective training than slogging through another mediocre “wet sponge” workout.

Matt Russ has coached and trained athletes up to the professional level, for over 15 years. He currently holds the highest level of licensing by both USA Triathlon and USA Cycling, and is a licensed USA Track and Field Coach. Matt is head coach and owner of The Sport Factory and coaches athletes of all levels. He is also a freelance author, and his articles are regularly featured in a variety of magazines and websites. Visit for more information or email him at


Should You Train With a Heart Rate Monitor?

10 11 2011


By Jesse Kropelnicki
QT2 Systems

Triathletes typically have two very different approaches to training and racing. They tend to be either quantitative or qualitative in nature. Some are slaves to their power meters and have a permanent indentation on their upper-torso, from the strap of their heart rate (HR) monitor. Others live for the moment, and think only of how they feel right here and now. They wouldn’t know where to find a pulsing artery. Each has its pros and cons.

The qualitative athlete trains and races purely by feel. Their season is typically set up as blocks of aerobic development, intensity building, strength, endurance and speed, depending upon the specific time of year. Weekly workouts are scheduled as a series of hard, easy, or moderate efforts. They may wear a heart rate monitor, or use a power meter, though not within any particular parameters.

Alternatively, the quantitative athlete will typically have a more structured periodization plan outlining their entire season of training and racing. While the periodization plan acts as a working document, it defines the basis and logic of the season. Training is done with a HR monitor, at a minimum, and a power meter, whenever possible. The athlete focuses on specific training and racing zones, initially defined through testing and adjusted throughout training.

Either approach can be successful in creating a healthy, well-tuned athlete who makes progress year after year. But, how should the success of either approach be measured?

I like to assess two primary qualities. I first look at the athlete’s relative improvement from one season to the next; are they making progress every year in their race results. The other metric that’s telling of an athlete’s training program is consistency in race results. Do they have one amazing race, followed by a race where they are just way behind? These are two of the most difficult items to obtain and master. The success of these may be significantly more dependent upon your athlete’s ability to execute the training program, than the program itself.

Regardless of how you slice it, the coach is the one who is ultimately judged by the athlete’s performances. I call this the “one metric” assessment. It is what most outsiders use to judge coaches, and rightfully so.

There is a danger, especially among many self-coached athletes, in looking at the training programs of those who are currently winning or having high rates of success. These metrics can be greatly influenced by the successful athlete’s genetics and therefore the result itself may act as a mask for an otherwise poorly developed training program. For this reason, I encourage athletes to look for long-term progress in year-to-year race results and consistency in race results over the short term, when evaluating the training program of a fellow racer. These aspects are good indicators of both a solid training program, and an athlete who executes it well. More importantly, these qualities can be found in both the 8:15 and 12:00 Ironman finishers, alike. The athlete’s overall finish times, really do not act as a valid measure of their training program.

Are you, or should you be, a tracker of metrics? Below we will discuss the three biggest factors in the argument for or against metric tracking.

Training Load

Qualitative athletes never really know what their training load truly is. Even if they are very aware of their body, and its telltale signs, the qualitative athlete can tend to either over- or under-do particular workouts. This type of workout inconsistency will typically result in very similar racing inconsistencies. Some results will be remarkable, while others leave you scratching your head, wondering what went wrong.

Why? Because the actual build up to each race ends up being very different from event to event, as the nature of the pre-race intensities are so variable. As a result, the athlete will load and unload training stress in very different ways, leading into races.

The quantitative athlete, on the other hand, is better able to plan and execute the appropriate training stress, because they know exactly what is going into their training stew, at the beginning of every day, every block, and every season.

But, just as a stew is only as good as the ingredients that go into it, a season plan is only as good as the information on which it is based. That said, it is still very easy to over- or under-do the planning aspect of any particular training session. Even if perfectly executed, any given workout can result in an inappropriate training load for that point in the season.

Race Day Execution

Qualitative athletes go out on race day and rely on their experience to guide their day. In many cases this is a fantastic approach, which can lead to breakthrough performances. Leaving the HR monitor and power meter at home can be very freeing and allow the athlete to really push on performances, otherwise thought impossible.

However, for newer athletes and even seasoned veterans moving up in race distance, racing by feel often requires practice and a bit of trial and error. In long course racing, and especially Ironman, where the opportunities are relatively infrequent, this can result in a great deal of disappointment with the possibility of redemption a long way off.

The quantitative athlete approaches their races with a clear pacing plan, developed around very specific wattage and pace, or heart rate targets, which are always derived from recent training data. Initially, the athlete may feel a bit handcuffed by the pacing strategy, feeling as though it is holding them back. Most well-developed pacing strategies will feel much too easy very early on, causing a bit of doubt to creep into the athlete’s mind. But, if executed properly, the pacing will result in a “slow bleed”, where the athlete crosses the finish line in utter exhaustion, not a moment before, nor a moment later.

This type of pacing and execution results in the fastest possible triathlon time. Despite racing by the numbers, quantitative athletes must also have an eye on how they feel. It is never wise to race solely by data. The data should be used as a guide, alongside perceived exertion. The two, together, can become a very powerful combination.


Qualitative proponents have a clear advantage in this piece of the argument. Reduced stress while training–absence of constant benchmarks and numbers staring you in the face can be a pretty strong selling point. Quantitative athletes have the power meter and/or heart rate monitor dictating every step that they take. And when a workout isn’t going as well as planned, that device reminds them of it. There is something to be said for heading out on a ride or run, without that stress constantly present.

Quantitative athletes, on the other hand, are able to see real-time validation of their hard work, and the progress that results. Naturally quantitative athletes do not see this type of training as lacking in freedom, but as defining purpose. They know exactly what they are supposed to do each and every day, and most importantly, why. Many find a great deal of solace in that.

I’m sure you guessed that I’m a quantitative guy. After years and years of tracking athlete data, I have found that it is the most efficient and accurate way to ensure long-term progress and accelerate the race day learning curve. When all is said and done, training tools such as a HR monitors and/or pace and power meters can greatly enhance your ability to feel your effort on race day.

Many talented professionals and age-groupers toe the starting line in Kona each year only to realize a result that in no way represents their fitness, because they do not yet know the feel of the proper pace. At the same time, there are others who know exactly what the race should feel like, but learned it as the result of several failed attempts. They know what it feels like to overheat, to suffer dehydration, or to over pace the early portion of the bike, and they know exactly what to do when this occurs. They know these things because they have lived them. Had these same athletes been a bit more quantitative in their training and racing early on, they may have more quickly developed the feel in training, and suffered fewer racing tribulations.

Time is of the essence in the sport of triathlon, and anything that can be done to speed the learning curve should be taken very seriously. I am a big advocate of using metrics, very early in an athlete’s career, as teaching tools. This allows the athlete to learn quickly, and then use their own sense as they gain experience. Many beginner athletes see very experienced and successful professionals not using metrics in their training and racing, and believe that this is the way to go. What they don’t see is the road that it took to get there.

At the very least, it is a great idea to record race day data. This allows you to review and learn from your efforts, opening a very clear lens on exactly what went well and what could have been better. What was executed perfectly, and what was executed poorly. This learning experience helps the athlete to approach the next event with a more accurate feel for the race. It doesn’t take too many iterations of this, and the increasingly well-informed athlete can begin to hone in on their feel. Once this is accomplished, feel becomes a metric just as valuable as any power meter or heart rate monitor.



Jesse Kropelnicki is an elite-level triathlon coach who founded QT2 Systems, a leading provider of personal triathlon coaching;, a leading provider of sports nutrition; and Your 26.2, a leading provider or marathon training programs. He coaches professional athletes Caitlin Snow, Jacqui Gordon, Ethan Brown and Tim Snow among others. He coaches professional triathletes using quantitative training and nutrition protocols. Find more coaching comments and ideas at

5 Little Things That Make a Big Difference on Race Day

9 11 2011


By Amanda McCracken

You’ve diligently logged your miles, your time, your heart rate, your hours of sleep and perhaps even your daily caloric intake. You’ve followed your plan to a “T” and religiously nailed your workouts day after day. You even skipped the biggest barbecue party of the summer because it was two nights before your big race (the most important night of sleep). The only room for error is misfortune (flat tire or bad weather), right?

Wrong! Here are five important practices that are often overlooked on the way to the start line.

#5: Check your gear.

Are your tires pumped? Do you have a spare tube and a CO2 cartridge in case of a flat tire? Do you have an extra pair of goggles? Do you have body glide to ease out of wetsuit transition and prevent chafing? Are your shoes laced with the elastic laces for easy on and off removal? Are the laces so tight they are going to create a bruise over the top arch of your foot? Ladies, do you have extra tampons in your bag in case of a race morning surprise? If you are using deep dish wheels, be sure to bring the adapter to pump your tires.

#4: Rehearse transition and warm up before your swim.

Many of you know that the number one rule of transition is NOT to be in transition! Ideally you’ve practiced your transitions during training but did you also visualize the perfect transition on race morning? Have you rehearsed the steps in your mind?

Entering the water is really your first “transition”. Get in the water for a short warm-up (even if just for a few bobs) before the start of the swim. This helps your body get accustomed to the temperature of the water, which helps pave the way for a calmer swim start.

Remember, excellent transition times can be the difference between several age group places.

#3: Be diligent about nutrition.

While this is an immensely dense subject, I want to highlight a few things to remember. Be sure to eat your dinner (low in fiber) about 12 hours before your wave starts so that your body has time to digest it all. If you can manage getting up early enough, eat your breakfast about two to three hours before the start of your race. Make sure your bottles are full of the fuel you used in training. Pack extra gels that you know your stomach can digest. Depending on the heat and length of your race, you should have a couple of electrolyte tabs on hand, too.

It’s easy to get distracted during the race and forget to address your nutritional needs until it’s too late. Before your race, draw up a nutrition map. Figure out when you are going to take gels and how much/how often you will hydrate.

#2: Know the course.

If you live close to the race site, you should pre-ride the course. If you don’t have time or energy to ride/run the course, then drive it the day before. Do you know where the hills are located? How about the wicked potholes and the sharp downhill turns?

Then scope out the swim course and take a mental note of where the main buoys are located.

Finally, know where the run/bike in and out spots are located, and where the finish line is. I like to run the last 400-meter stretch before the race so I have a good reference for when to pick up the pace. Don’t let an athlete outrun you for a first place age group award simply because you think the finish line is further away than it actually is.

#1: Tame your mind.

Triathletes often psyche themselves out before the race even starts. Avoid over analyzing the way your body feels the week before the race. Tell yourself it’s a well-trained machine that’s ready to perform.
When you get to the race, keep your “blinders” on. Don’t let the looks of someone’s solid six pack or shiny deep dish wheels intimidate you. Remember, it’s the motor inside that really matters.

Be sure you have a script that you’ve rehearsed to help battle the potential negative talk, fear and panic in the race. What are you going to tell yourself when your legs feel like lead and you’ve just been passed by your ex’s new flame? Make sure you’ve got a mantra you can peel out of your sticky gel pocket to do battle. I like to draw out my own “word map” of the course. What am I going to tell myself when I get to point “X”?

Being mindful of the details can help prevent things like getting a DNF (Did Not Finish) due to a flat tire, panicking in the water, bonking, getting lost, or mentally cracking. Simply plan ahead and keep your mind in check.



Amanda McCracken has been racing triathlons competitively for 14 years and coaching athletes for 10 years. She resides in the mecca of triathlon, Boulder, Colorado, where the trails are her playground.

50 Ways to Feed Your Muscles

8 11 2011


By Phillip Rhodes
Men’s Health

Every family argues about what to eat for dinner. But the Shrader family of Bluebell, West Virginia, took dinner-table combat to a whole new level last summer when 49-year-old Jackie Lee and his son, Harley Lee, 24, whipped out .22-caliber pistols and exchanged fire after sparring over how to cook their meal.

What food could trigger a kitchen gun battle? The harmless, boneless, skinless—and often flavorless—chicken breast, that’s what.

Sure, this omnipresent cut of poultry is the leanest source of protein this side of tofu or fish—a single serving offers 26 grams of protein for the price of 1 gram of saturated fat. But it’s boring as hell. And it doesn’t help that most people eat their annual average of 88 pounds one of two ways: soaked in Italian salad dressing or slathered in barbecue sauce.

In my mind, that’s exactly how I hear the Shrader feud erupting. “Marinade!” one might have said. “No! Barbecue sauce,” the other yelled. Back and forth it went until it came to blows, then bullets. (Harley Lee took a slug to the head, but managed to survive.)


That’s why I came up with this list—not one, not two, but 50 different ways to prepare a chicken breast. What good is eating healthy food if the boredom nearly kills you?


Basic technique:Cut the raw chicken into bite-sized pieces or thin strips. Cook them in a nonstick skillet or wok over medium-high heat for 3 to 5 minutes or until browned. Then add the remaining ingredients in the order listed. Cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently.

Tip: Sesame oil gives stir-fries their distinct flavor. Its nutritional profile is similar to that of olive oil (i.e., high in the unsaturated fats you want). But if you don’t have sesame, use canola or peanut oil, since olive oil can burn at high temperatures.

1. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/2 c green or red bell pepper, cut into strips; 1/4 medium onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

2. 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/3 c matchstick carrots; 1/3 c chopped celery; 1 green onion, sliced; 2 Tbsp chopped, unsalted peanuts

3. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 2 tsp sesame oil; 1/2 c asparagus tips; 2 Tbsp chopped, unsalted cashews

4. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce; 1 Tbsp lemon juice; 1 tsp lemon zest; 1 tsp honey; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/2 c snow peas; 1 c chopped celery

5. 1 whisked egg; 1/2 c (or more) chopped broccoli; 1/4 medium onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes; 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce

6. 1 whisked egg; 1/2 c snow peas; 1/2 c green or red bell pepper, cut into strips; 1/4 onion, cut lengthwise into strips; 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce


Basic technique:Preheat the oven to 350°F and bake the chicken breast for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an internal roasting thermometer reaches 170°. Don’t overcook it. Err on the side of tenderness. An overcooked, dried-out chicken breast won’t give you salmonella, but you probably won’t want to eat it in the first place.

Tip: Quickly searing the breast in a hot skillet will help avoid dryness because it locks in the bird’s juices.

Watery ready-made sauces like salsa will bake fine—some of the liquid will boil away as the chicken bakes. But thicker sauces, like barbecue or ranch, need water or broth mixed in, otherwise you’ll be left with a sticky, blackened char.

Tip: Use a small baking dish to keep the meat covered with sauce.

7. 1/3 c salsa

8. 2 Tbsp jalapeño cheese dip, 2 Tbsp salsa, 1 Tbsp water

9. 2 Tbsp marinara sauce, 2 Tbsp water

10. 2 Tbsp barbecue sauce, 2 Tbsp water

11. 2 Tbsp ranch dressing, 2 Tbsp water

12. 2 Tbsp Dijon mustard, 2 Tbsp honey, 1 tsp olive oil

13. 3 Tbsp chicken broth; 1 Tbsp mustard; 1 clove garlic, crushed

14. 2 Tbsp condensed mushroom soup, 2 Tbsp water

15. 2 Tbsp pesto, 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium chicken broth

16. 2 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1/4 c crushed pineapple with juice

17. 3 Tbsp chicken broth, 2 Tbsp light coconut milk, 1/4 tsp curry powder

18. 1/3 c chicken broth, 1 Tbsp maple syrup, 1 Tbsp apple juice

19. 3 Tbsp red wine vinegar; 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce; 1 clove garlic, crushed

20. 2 Tbsp hot sauce, 2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce, 1/4 tsp chili powder

21. 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 Tbsp orange marmalade, 1/4 tsp rosemary

Rub one of the following spice mixtures evenly over each breast, then hit the chicken with a shot or two of cooking spray (not too much, though) to hold the rub in place and help form a light crust when cooking.

22. Tex-Mex style: 1/4 tsp each garlic powder, chili powder, black pepper, and oregano; pinch of salt

23. Southwestern: 1/4 tsp each black pepper, chili powder, red pepper flakes, cumin, and hot sauce

24. French: 1/4 tsp each dried basil, rosemary, and thyme; pinch of salt and pepper

A whisked egg acts like glue, holding the crust to the meat. It also gives your poultry a small protein boost. Crack one open in a shallow bowl, whisk it, and dip the chicken in it. Tip: Put your crust ingredients in a shallow plate instead of a bowl—it’ll be much easier to coat the breast evenly.

25. Nut crusted: Dip the chicken in the egg, then roll it in 1/3 c nuts of your choice, finely chopped. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

26. Parmesan crusted: Dip the chicken in the egg, then roll it in a mixture of 1 Tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese, 1 Tbsp Italian bread crumbs, and a pinch of black pepper.

27. “Like fried”: Dip the chicken in the egg, then roll it in 1/2 c crushed cornflakes or bran flakes. Spray lightly with cooking spray.

Relax, this isn’t hard. First, pound the heck out of the chicken breast with a meat tenderizer or the heel of your hand—you want it to be uniformly thin. (Just be careful not to tear it.) Then, arrange your ingredients on the breast, roll it up, and secure it with toothpicks or kitchen twine so it doesn’t come undone while it’s baking.

28. 1 slice Cheddar cheese, 2 slices deli ham, 1/4 tsp black pepper

29. 1 slice mozzarella cheese; 3 slices pepperoni; 3 leaves fresh basil, chopped

30. 1 slice mozzarella; 1/4 c chopped tomatoes; 3 leaves fresh basil, chopped

31. 1 small handful baby spinach leaves, chopped; 1 Tbsp blue-cheese crumbles; 1 clove garlic, crushed

32. 1 slice mozzarella, 1 slice salami, 1 Tbsp chopped roasted red pepper

33. 1 1/2 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 Tbsp chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1/4 tsp oregano

34. 1 1/2 Tbsp part-skim ricotta cheese, 1 Tbsp diced olives, 1/4 tsp lemon zest

35. 1 Tbsp pesto, 1 Tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese, 1/4 tsp black pepper



Basic technique: Heat the grill, place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat on the stove until it’s hot, or power up the Foreman. Add the marinated chicken, cooking 3 to 5 minutes per side (6 to 8 total on the Foreman), or until an internal roasting thermometer reaches 170°F. The chicken doesn’t stop cooking when you take it off the heat. If it’s still hot, it’s still cooking.


Marinades need only about an hour or so to penetrate the meat. Whether you’re cooking one chicken breast at a time or four at once, just mix the marinade ingredients well in a resealable plastic bag, drop in the chicken, seal, shake, and refrigerate.

Tip: If you’re grilling, make a little extra marinade and reserve it in a separate bag or bowl. Brush it on the chicken during cooking to keep the meat moist.

36. 2 Tbsp bourbon, 1 tsp deli-style mustard, 1/4 tsp black pepper

37. 2 Tbsp bourbon; 1 tsp honey; 1 clove garlic, crushed

38. 2 Tbsp white wine; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/4 tsp thyme

39. 2 Tbsp red wine; 1 tsp barbecue sauce; 1 clove garlic, crushed

40. 2 Tbsp Coca-Cola, 1/4 tsp black pepper

41. 2 Tbsp balsamic vinaigrette, 1/4 tsp rosemary

42. 2 Tbsp lemon juice, 1/4 tsp lemon zest, 1/4 tsp black pepper

43. 2 Tbsp plain yogurt, 1/4 tsp dill

44. 2 Tbsp plain yogurt, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp curry powder

45. 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1 tsp olive oil, 1/4 tsp cilantro

46. 2 Tbsp lime juice, 1/4 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

47. 2 Tbsp orange juice, 1/4 tsp powdered ginger, 1/4 tsp cilantro

48. 2 Tbsp orange juice, 1 Tbsp hoisin sauce, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

49. 1 Tbsp reduced-sodium soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

50. 2 Tbsp pineapple juice; 1 clove garlic, crushed; 1/4 tsp black pepper


What to Expect When You Hit the Trail for an Off-Road Race

7 11 2011


Martin Dugard
Runner’s World

As you might think, a trail race can be quite different from a road race, both tactically and physically.

Some words of wisdom regarding race day:

First of all, wear those trail shoes. They’re light enough for racing, but offer the lateral support you need to keep your feet and ankles more stable. Also, a trail shoe has a heavier tread pattern than a road shoe, and offers a toe “bumper” to protect you from bruising.

Start slowly. In essence, a trail race is a whole bunch of people trying to squeeze onto a skinny trail. Which may make you want to start out fast to beat the crowds. Don’t. This will only send you into oxygen debt and sap the energy you’ll need later in the race when everyone else is tiring.

Stay loose. As the race progresses, you’ll find a rhythm. Imagine yourself as nimble and light-footed as Fred Astaire. In this relaxed state, you’ll be less likely to fall and more apt to maintain speed.

Above all, have fun. Trail racing is the most natural form of racing. Indeed, we feel like children as we run through the forest. It’s playtime, and we’re called to it.

Trail Techniques and Tactics

Whether you are training or racing on trails, think about staying light on your feet. Run as if on eggshells. Also, resist the tendency to favor one leg over the other. A lot of runners start using one leg as the “plant” leg to land heavily on and the other as the “drive” or “push-off” leg. Each leg should do these actions interchangeably.

Some other tactics to remember:

Downhills: Run on the balls of your feet, not on your heels. This means less pounding, more speed and greater control.

Uphills: Shorten your stride, and keep your head up and chest forward. Run relaxed and try to find a rhythm that will take you up and over each hill with relative ease.

Corners: To a greater extent than on the roads, trails offer the chance to round a corner and “hide.” Practice bursts of speed when turning corners. Competitors won’t see you accelerate, and will experience a mental letdown when they see you’ve “gapped” them. Include this maneuver as a regular part of your fartlek workout.

Streams: It’s possible to cross a stream while barely wetting your feet. All you have to do is high-step across as quickly as possible, allowing your feet to touch down only for a fraction of a second. Try it. And don’t be afraid to run right through a stream. Too many competitors lose time by halting at the edge of a stream midrace.


3 Advanced Ab Workouts for a Tight Core

6 11 2011


By Kisar S. Dhillon

Abdominal muscles adapt quickly, so it is important to keep shocking them with different routines. These three ab exercises are super advanced and should only be done by extremely fit individuals. If you suffer from pains in your lower back, hips, hip flexors, shoulders, knees, or are prone to hernias, I would not recommend this. However, if you are a fitness fanatic who needs to be pushed out of your comfort zone, try these exercises and modify them as you like.

Workout Routine:


Abdominal Cobra Stretch Warmup

Lower Back Stretch

Stretch your abdominals by doing a modified push-up (a cobra position in yoga). Raise your body slowly until you feel the stretch, then hold it for 10 seconds. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Stretch your lower back muscles by pushing your buttocks towards your heels and holding for 10 seconds. Then come back to your original position. Do this for three repetitions of 10 seconds.

Hanging Crunches With 10lb Medicine Ball

Hanging Medicine Ball Ab Exercise

Hanging from a pull-up bar, have someone place the medicine ball between your thighs. When you are ready, lift your knees towards your chest, hold for a second, then come back to your original starting position. Do this for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition, drop the ball from your thighs and perform an Isometric Hold (hold while flexing) for 30 seconds.

Pikes of Death

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

Pikes of Death Ab Workout

For this exercise you will need a wheel that can be put on your feet and a BOSU balancer. This can also be done with a stability ball in place of the wheel. Make sure you securely strap your feet into the wheel straps and go right into a full body plank (push-up position). Once you are stable and holding that plank, push your buttocks toward the ceiling and form a Letter-A. Hold that position for a few seconds, then release back to a full body plank. Do this exercise for three sets of 30 repetitions. On your last repetition perform another Isometric hold (hold while flexing) in the Letter-A position for 30 seconds.

Sit-Up to Squat with 10lb Medicine Ball

Sit to Squat Ab Exercise

This last exercise is going to get your heart racing. From a sit-up start position, have someone hold your feet/ankles. I usually don’t recommend someone holding your feet, but if you are extremely in shape and have no lower back or knee problems, then this will be OK.

Place the medicine ball at your chest and come up as fast as you can with momentum. When you are going up, start activating your quadriceps, gluteus muscles and hamstrings to bring you into a standing position. Once you are almost in a full standing position your spotter can let go of your feet and let you come down by yourself with the medicine ball.

This is an advanced exercise, so if you need to break it up into several sets, please do so. Do this for three sets of 20 repetitions. It is OK for the medicine ball to come off your chest for momentum, but the stronger you get the closer the medicine ball will stay against your body.



Kisar Dhillon is a professional fitness trainer living in Portland, Oregon. He holds a Bachelor of Science Degree in Kinesiology, Post Baccalaureate Studies in Exercise Physiology and a Masters in Business Administration. He has more than 16 years in the health & fitness industry and is currently the owner of 1-2-1 Fitness, LLC.

Athletes: What to Eat and When for Top Performance

5 11 2011


By Nancy Clark, MS RD CSSD

Hot off the press from three prominent nutrition and exercise associations—the American Dietetic Association, American College of Sports Medicine, and Dietitians of Canada—is the 2009 Joint Position Stand on Nutrition for Athletic Performance.

While there is little earth-shattering news in this comprehensive document (available on, the authors comprehensively reviewed the research to determine which sports nutrition practices effectively enhance performance. Here are a few key points on what and when to eat to perform at your best.

1. Don’t weigh yourself daily! What you weigh and how much body fat you have should not be the sole criterion for judging how well you are able to perform in sports. That is, don’t think that if you get to XX percent body fat, you will run faster. For one, all techniques to measure body fat have inherent errors. (Even BodPod can underestimate percent fat by two to three percent.) Two, optimal body fat levels depend on genetics and what is optimal for your unique body. Pay more attention to how you feel and perform than to a number on the scale.

2. Protein recommendations for both endurance and strength-trained athletes range from 0.5 to 0.8 grams per pound (1.2-1.7 g/kg) body weight. For a 150-lb. athlete, this comes to about 75 to 120 g protein per day, an amount most athletes easily consume through their standard diet without the use of protein supplements or amino acid supplements. Vegetarian athletes should target ten percent more, because some plant proteins (not soy but legumes) are less well digested than animal proteins.

If you are just starting a weight-lifting program, you’ll want to target the higher protein amount. Once you have built-up your muscles, the lower end of the range is fine.

3. Athletes in power sports need to pay attention to carbohydrates, and not just protein. That’s because strength training depletes muscle glycogen stores. You can deplete about 25 percent to 35 percent of total muscle glycogen stores during a single 30-second bout of resistance exercise.

4. Athletes who eat enough calories to support their athletic performance are unlikely to need vitamin supplements. But athletes who severely limit their food intake to lose weight (such as wrestlers, lightweight rowers, gymnasts), eliminate a food group (such as dairy, if they are lactose intolerant), or train indoors and get very little sunlight (skaters, gymnasts, swimmers) may require supplements.

5. If you are vegetarian, a blood donor, and or a woman with heavy menstrual periods, you should pay special attention to your iron intake. If you consume too little iron, you can easily become deficient and be unable to exercise energetically due to anemia. Because reversing iron deficiency can take three to six months, your best bet is to prevent anemia by regularly eating iron-rich foods (lean beef, chicken thighs, enriched breakfast cereals such as Wheaties and Total) and including in each meal a source of vitamin C (fruits, vegetables).

6. Eating before hard exercise, as opposed to exercising in a fasted state, has been shown to improve performance. If you choose to not eat before a hard workout, at least consume a sports drink (or some source of energy) during exercise.

7. When you exercise hard for more than one hour, target 30 to 60 grams (120 to 240 calories) of carbohydrate per hour to maintain normal blood glucose levels and enhance your stamina and enjoyment of exercise. Fueling during exercise is especially important if you have not eaten a pre-exercise snack. Popular choices include gummi candy, jelly beans, dried fruits, as well as gels and sports drinks.  More research is needed to determine if choosing a sports drink with protein will enhance endurance performance.

8. For optimal recovery, an athlete who weighs about 150 pounds should target 300 to 400 calories of carbs within a half-hour after finishing a hard workout. More precisely, target 0.5-0.7 g carb/lb (1.0-1.5 g carb/kg). You then want to repeat that dose every two hours for the next four to six hours. For example, if you have done a rigorous, exhaustive morning workout and need to do another session that afternoon, you could enjoy a large banana and a vanilla yogurt as soon as tolerable post-exercise; then, two hours later, a pasta-based meal; and then, another two hours later, another snack, such as pretzels and orange juice.

9. Whether or not you urgently need to refuel depends on when you will next be exercising. While a triathlete who runs for 90 minutes in the morning needs to rapidly refuel for a three-hour cycling workout in the afternoon, the fitness exerciser who works out every other day has little need to obsess about refueling.

10. Including a little protein in the recovery meals and snacks enhances muscle repair and growth. Popular carb+protein combinations include chocolate milk, yogurt, cereal+milk, pita+hummus, beans+rice, pasta+meat sauce.

11. Muscle cramps are associated with dehydration, electrolyte deficits and fatigue. Cramps are most common in athletes who sweat profusely and are “salty sweaters.” They need more sodium than the standard recommendation of 2,400 mg/day. Losing about two pounds of sweat during a workout equates to losing about 1,000 mg sodium. (Note: eight ounces of sport drink may offer only 110 mg sodium.) Salty sweaters (as observed by a salty crust on the skin of some athletes) lose even more sodium. If that’s your case, don’t hesitate to consume salt before, during and after extended exercise. For example, enjoy broth, pretzels, cheese & crackers, pickles and other sodium-rich foods. The majority of active people can easily replace sweat losses via a normal intake of food and fluids.

Final Words of Advice

If you can make time to train, you can also make time to eat well and get the most out of your training. Optimal sports performance starts with good nutrition!

Nancy Clark MS, RD counsels casual exercisers and competitive athletes at Healthworks, the premier fitness center in Chestnut Hill, MA (617-383-6100). Her NEW 2008 Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook 4th Edition, and her Food Guide for Marathoners and Cyclist’s Food Guide are available via