Saturday, September 28, 2013

How To Increase Anabolic Hormones Naturally

In the past two months I’ve spent a lot of time talking about hormones. More specifically how much our hormonal responses around training and from training itself has been shown by research that it’s not a big factor in overall muscle-building. Whether they be anabolic hormones like testosterone or catabolic hormones like cortisol, over and over again the research has shown that it’s not your hormonal responses around training that make a difference but your overall levels that make the real difference. With that said, the question becomes how do we keep the anabolic hormones high and the catabolic hormones low? Let’s take a look, shall we?

Testosterone is the mother of all anabolic hormones. If there is one hormone you want as much of as possible for building muscle, this is it. So how do we increase testosterone? Well, it all starts with the basics. Research has shown over and over that the more body fat you have the lower your testosterone levels will be. So obviously a healthy diet and regular exercise is important. Shocking I know, to build muscle you want to eat right and exercise.

Read the rest of the article HERE

Friday, September 27, 2013

Injury Prevention in Running

1. Know your limits.

Increase mileage gradually.  Do not do too much too fast or too soon.
Try to increase one variable, either speed or distance at no more than 10% per week.  Don't try to increase both speed and distance at the same time.  When increasing speed use shorter interval work, with a rest period between each work interval.

2. Get Plenty of Rest.

Your body needs time to recover.  See our recent post Perform, Recover, Rebuild: How Perspective Changes for the 40+ Athlete (Whether or not you are 40+).  Incorporate rest days and active recovery days into you training calendar from the start.

Along with rest program some recovery or 'soft tissue' work.  Use a foam roller, get a massage, do yoga just
take care of yourself.  Don't just run.

Get enough sleep. Get a minimum of 7 hours, preferably a full  8 hours of sleep each night. Cardiovascular
performance can be compromised by up to 20 percent with sleep deprivation while reducing reaction time, the ability to process information and emotional stability.

3. Listen to Your Body.

If you are sore or feeling lethargic either take it easy on your scheduled run or take the day off.  Consider active recovery.  Swim or do yoga instead of continuing to pound the pavement. Most injuries don't come out of nowhere, they produce signals—aches, soreness, and persistent pain.  Don't ever run through pain...stop to run well another day.

If you feel any of the following, STOP:

  • Pain or discomfort while running
  • Pain at rest
  • Inability to sleep
  • Limping
  • Easily experiencing shortness of breath (exercise asthma)
  • Stiffness
  • Headaches during or after running
  • Dizziness or lightheaded feeling any time

If you are fortunate enough to have a coach, stop and discuss with him. If you don't, think about running with a coach, athletic trainer, knowledgeable adult runner, or running organization.

4. Shorten your Stride.  

In a previous post Master Your Running Form we talked about the dangers of overstriding.  Overstriding is a common mistake that can lead to decreased efficiency and increased injury risk. If you shorten your stride, you'll land "softer" with each footfall, incurring lower impact forces.

5. Use Strength Training To Balance Your Muscles, Tendons and Ligaments

It is particularly important to strengthen the core and the hip muscles. When you strengthen the hips—the abductors, adductors, and gluteus maximus—you increase your leg stability all the way down to your ankles
while also helping to prevent knee injuries.

Hamstrings, in particular due to sedentary careers, also tend to be tight and weak from sitting.  They need to be not only stretched but strengthened in their elongated position to avoid injury.

Stretch and Strengthen you Hamstrings and Glutes (After a workout)

Runners are tight in predictable areas, they get injured in and around these areas, and therefore they should increase flexibility in these areas. The muscle groups at the back of the legs—the hamstrings and calf muscles

6. Prepare for your run properly 

Hydrate (drink water) well in advance
Warm up and/ for five minutes before beginning
Speed up slowly

7. If you are a Pronator (Or you have knee pain) See a Running Shoe Specialist

I will write more about pronation and supination in a future article.  For now refer here:

8. Utilize Interval Training
Proper interval training can improve VO2 and anaerobic threshold.  Intervals allow your body to adapt to and eventually race at greater speeds.  See our series on Optimizing Run Training.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Training Solution for the 40+ Athlete

The Training Solution for the 40+ Athlete

Contributor - Master RKC, Endurance Training
Life is funny. You start off unable to look after yourself, and then after decades of doing so revert back to needing someone’s help again. This circle of life got me thinking about how things change as we age when it comes to our training too.

The Normal Progression

When we first walk into the gym we are weak and stiff, in most people’s cases. In some cases people are weak and hypermobile, but honestly these people are becoming more rare these days. The overriding problems people have are lack of mobility and strength.

andrew read, training for 40+, forty year old athletes, aging athletesSo we begin training them, addressing these issues with things like the FMS or Primal Move as well as a systematic strength plan. This strength plan will hopefully go from slow and controlled movements with minimal load to movements with load, and then finally into speed and power work. An example of this could be to teach the hip hinge pattern and then progress to a light deadlift. As the client progresses this becomes a heavier deadlift and then, maybe, at some point we add in exercises like the power clean.

The point is that we’d have this general formula for progression that starts slow and unloaded and builds up to slow and loaded before moving to fast, heavy, and explosive. Never the other way around because beginners will simply have too much to think about if we give them fast, heavy, and explosive while trying to get them to learn a new pattern. That’s poor coaching, and an injury waiting to happen.

The Other End of the Progression

But what if we’re at the other end of the spectrum? What if we’re someone who has been around training for a long period of time and can do most lifts with decent skill, but we find that some of these lifts no longer agree with us? Ask trainees over forty how their body feels after a big squat or deadlift session, or even after a two-hour run, and they’ll likely not have much to say other than those things make them stiff and sore.

And where does our explosive work fit into all this? If slow and controlled is making us feel stiff and sore, what’s going to happen when we try to go faster? As much as those of us in the second half of our lives try to fool ourselves, we need to admit that things just aren’t like they used to be. My forty-two year old body is in pretty good condition - like a 1970s race car that is kept under wraps in the garage and only hauled out to do some fast laps every now and then - but run my vintage engine too long and too hard and I’ll be looking for spare parts. The only difference is that instead of heading to swap meets to try to find parts I’ll be booking in to see a surgeon.

andrew read, training for 40+, forty year old athletes, aging athletesThe last two years has been a journey of self-discovery. I’ve made plenty of mistakes in the programming department. The problem when you’re making these mistakes with yourself is that the only real warning sign is the sudden twinge of injury because you lack objectivity. And the problem with getting older is that you take longer to recover from these injuries, and the problem with that is that it then takes you even longer to get back on track with your training. A week off due to injury could be four weeks more until you’re back to where you were at the onset of the injury. And the problem with having a lower capacity is that you never remember how hard it was to get to where you were, only what it felt like to be at that level of fitness. So you start pushing hard again and the cycle starts all over again.

Read the Rest of the Article Here at Breaking Muscle

Perform, Recover, Rebuild: How Perspective Changes for the 40+ Athlete

Perform, Recover, Rebuild: How Perspective Changes for the 40+ Athlete

Contributor - Martial Arts, Sports Psychology
I recently checked into rehab. Luckily, the rehab center where I go is an outpatient facility and thankfully it is also a center for athletes of all sorts who are doing therapy on their bodies, and not for rehab center for something more serious.

40 plus, 40+, older athlete, forty plus athlete, gettign older, being fortyWhile I may try and sound clever and mirthful with the use of the word rehab, in all seriousness, the word is appropriate. I am in recovery, or as John Mayer would say, “in repair.” I feel like years ofovertraining, neglect, and the Band-Aid approach to injury has caught up with me. Now recovery is a part of who I am as an athlete versus something I do when my body gets jacked up. It took me twenty years to get the message, but better late than never.

After my latest physical set back, I decided to go to rehab to treat my body with the respect and balance it deserves after years of pushing too hard. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to re-learn the lesson that too much of a good thing (exercise, sport, training) is not necessarily a good thing, but it’s more than I care to count. Now that I am on the plus side of forty, I am finally willing to listen to my body, my coaches, and my real authentic inner-dialogue. Instead of saying the word push, my inner thoughts now say, “Take care of yourself.” The bumps, bruises, and aches are more pronounced at forty, but I am now a better listener and approach things with a greater sense of humility at 42 than at 22. I suppose you call that wisdom.''

Read the Full Article Here at Breaking Muscle

Friday, September 20, 2013


Aja Barto - "What you see is what you get"

Rogue Fitness

Rogue Athlete Aja Barto explains what it means to be on the Rogue team. A three-time CrossFit Games competitor and a former Major League Baseball athlete, Barto is consistently at the top of his game.

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Master Your Running Form

Stick to the basics:
Increase your cadence to roughly 170-180 steps per minute.
Land with your foot underneath your body, as opposed to “reaching” out with your foot and overstriding.

These two adjustments will solve the vast majority of bad running form issues!

Keep your back tall with a slight forward lean. No slouching or leaning from the waist.
Try to land on your midfoot, though a slight heel strike (I’m a moderate heel.mid-foot striker myself) or “proprioceptive heel strike” isn’t necessarily bad
Keep your arms at a roughly 90 degree angle (though this will vary) and try not to swing them across your chest.

Running is thought to be a simple exercise. You go out and put one foot in front of the other and the more rapidly you do it the faster you’ll go. That is exactly what running is but how to run efficiently and with minimal injury is another story. Just simply putting one foot down and then the next is not the best way to run. If you looked at most, if not all, the Olympic runners you will see that they all have very similar form. They are running upright with a semi forward lean and they are not over extending their legs. Their feet land under their body and they seem to glide across the ground. There are numerous names for the techniques that people use; there is the Pose method, Chi method, Evolution method and Good Form Running. They all have the same basic concepts with very few minor variations.

The first thing that needs work when learning how to run better is your posture. The different forms give slightly different variations on posture. A good running posture is one that is upright and with your shoulders back. This is to allow your lungs to fully inflate with each breath. The get a good posture simply raise your hands above your head and take a deep breath. Now slowly lower your arms to your sides and keep the chest up and shoulders back. This is something that can be done before you run and every so often while you are running.

The next step in running properly and with good running form is a good forward lean. Now a
forward lean is something that isn’t really natural while you are running. A lot of people that run actually have a reverse lean and that slows you down significantly. The forward lean should come from the ankles because if you remember we have our good upright posture. The back and hips should be straight while you lean. This will cause you to have a slight fall which is using gravity to propel you forward instead of your legs. All your legs are doing is stopping you form hitting the ground.

The third part about running properly is cadence. Cadence is how many times you feet hit the ground. In the military they count cadence every time the left foot hits the ground. The cadence that is said to be the most effective is 180 steps per minute or 90 steps per foot. This may seem quick at first and if you are not at 180/min don’t worry just slowly work your way up to 180/min over time.

Running Technique

The final step on how to run properly is foot strike. This is where a lot of the methods differ. Some
say forefoot, some say mid-foot but all agree that a heal strike is bad. A heal strike is obviously when your heal strikes the ground first, this slows you slightly. A forefoot and mid-foot strike when combined with a 180/min cadence will cause you foot to land under your hips and therefore not slowing you down. This is where the Olympians get that glide look while they are running.

To recap about running form and how to run properly there are four main techniques that everyone agrees helps to run better.

Posture, forward lean, cadence and foot strike are the four main elements to running form. 

So if you want to be healthy and stay injury free then changing to a less impactful running form is for you. How to run properly is very hard and can take a long time to transition to so don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t work out the first time or the tenth time just think about how to run with the proper form and practice.

You can improve your running technique and become stronger as a runner quickly and easily using the proven methods in this class and with the individualized training program we will be developing for you.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Functional Durability - For Life

This is somewhat of a follow up to our recent post Functional Fitness for what?

Intense workout should not leave you unable to function in the real world.

Beginners and intermediate athletes need to know their limits.  Perhaps, even more importantly, serious fitness athletes who use their bodies a lot need to exercise smart.

This article is not about the adaptation to overload.  It's about how you feel and function.  It's about durability.

This was an actual post appearing this morning from the spouse of an avid Crossfitter:

"I am developing a gripe with the term "Functional Fitness". So far, there is no evidence that any crossfit movements (RX or scaled) are adequately preparing my husband for the FUNCTION of important life tasks ie 1) bringing 50 lbs of cat litter upstairs (sorry, honey, I sprained my wrist yesterday doing bear crawls) 2) Taking me to the ------ Art Fair (sorry, honey, I have to ice my knees), 3) Accompanying me to hear Vivaldi Requiem (sorry, honey, oly lifting is at 8 pm). 4) Cleaning the garage (sorry, honey I can't find my other Rehband knee sleeve that the dog took). I think it's time to redefine "function"..."

By the way the best response comment I saw was:

"Well the main word in function is FUN, so I can see how ----- isn't prepared for these non-FUN tasks".

I sympathize with her, and of course have been guilty of the husband's plight too many times. This
is not my idea of functional fitness.

We need to pay attention to the what the body is telling us.  Learn to differentiate between aches, soreness and pain.  Particularly learn to differentiate muscle soreness from joint pain, or nerve pain.

Its a matter of developing mindful body awareness. There needs to be an internal gauge, you can't give 110% every workout.  Some workouts are best spent reinforcing motor a patterns (Particularly say Oly Lifts) and need not be done at full Rx.

Self awareness needs to be developed so that you know when form is deteriorating.  When form deteriorates, deload and continue with good form.  You can't rely on your coach's input alone, he/she can't know how you are feeling under the load.  He can watch for observable deterioration but your internal body signals come first.

From the Crossfit Training Guide:
"We sought to build a program that would best prepare
trainees for any physical contingency—prepare them not only for the
unknown but for the unknowable."
Not just inside the Box but in real life.  If your workouts constantly incapacitate you for physical life outside of the Gym, it may be time to look at what you are training for.

Part 3 Optimizing Training

This article is the Second Part of a Series on Optimizing Run Training

The first two parts of this series can be found here:

Interestingly enough this applies to any exercise that crosses multiple energy systems.  So this is perfectly applicable to many mid range, with respect to time, workouts.

Lactate Threshold Training Programs and Workouts
There are some excellent guidelines you can follow in generating training programs and workouts in order to enhance the lactate threshold levels. Training programs that are a combination of high volume, interval and steady-state workouts have the most pronounced effect on lactate threshold improvement.

Training Volume
Initially, the best way to improve the lactate threshold levels is to simply increase training volume, whether their endurance activity is cycling, running, or swimming. Increased training volume should be gradual and in the order of approximately 10-20% per week. For example, if an individual is currently running 20 miles per week, the increase in training volume should be 2-4 miles per week. While this approach may appear conservative, it will help to prevent over training and injuries. Additionally, intensity during this phase of training, when volume is being steadily increased, should be low. The maximum training volume an individual attains is dependent on numerous factors and can be best gauged by determining the overall physical capacity and motivation.. Factors such as training status, age, body weight, and training time will all determine the training volume you are realistically capable of achieving. The premier benefit of increased training volume is an increased capacity for mitochondrial respiration, which, as explained earlier, is important to improvements in lactate threshold.

Interval and Steady-State Training

Following an adequate build-up in training volume, the next aspect that should be addressed is interval and steady-state training. Correct training intensity during this phase, which will be focused around an individual’s lactate threshold, is key to the continued success of your training program. 
Most individuals will not have access to scientific laboratories, where the lactate threshold can be accurately determined from blood sampled during an incremental VO2max test. Consequently, alternative methods have been recommended for the non-invasive, estimation of lactate threshold, including relative percentage of heart rate reserve (HRR) and rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale. Research has shown that the lactate threshold occurs at 80-90% HRR in trained individuals and at 50-60% HRR in untrained individuals.

Steady-state workouts.
Steady-state workout sessions should be performed as close as possible to the lactate threshold (using the talk test). The length of these bouts can vary depending on training status, type of endurance-activity being performed, and distance of endurance-activity. The novice runner, training for 5-k road races, performing their first steady-state run may only do a workout 10 minutes in duration. A semi-professional cyclist, training for multiple-days of racing 80 to 100 miles distances, may complete a steady-state workout of an hour in duration.

Interval training
Interval training workouts are high-intensity training sessions performed for short durations of time at velocities or workloads above the lactate threshold. Similar to steady-state workouts, interval workout times and distances are dependent on training status, type of endurance-activity being performed, and distance of endurance-activity. The novice runner, training for 5-k road races, may complete three, 1-mile intervals at or faster than race pace, with adequate recovery time between each repeat. 

The key to successful steady-state and interval workouts is careful monitoring of training intensity. While it is necessary to perform these training sessions at an elevated intensity, avoid the pitfalls of racing these workouts, as it will eventually result in over-training. Furthermore, it has been suggested that steady-state and interval workouts should not exceed approximately 10-20% of total weekly training volume.

The Bottom Line on the Lactate, Ventilatory, Anaerobic and Heart Rate Thresholds
Hopefully, you now feel much more comfortable with much of the terminology, physiological mechanisms, and understanding of the lactate, ventilatory, anaerobic, and heart rate thresholds. The task of designing the optimal endurance-training program preparation for a 5K road race should now be less formidable. 

Lactate threshold is the most important determinant of success in mid distance endurance-related activities and events, and the main goal of endurance training programs should be the improvement of this parameter. This can be accomplished by first focusing on developing training volume, and then the incorporation of steady-state sessions (at the lactate threshold) and interval workouts (above the lactate threshold). 

Finally, remember that correct training intensity is essential to the success of any endurance-training program. Utilization of both the relative percentage of heart rate reserve (HRR) and the rating of perceived exertion (RPE) scale are proven methods for monitoring the training intensity of your clients during their workouts.

Lactate is not the Cause of Fatigue
The classical explanation for the cause of fatigue, denoted by sensations of pain and the muscle ‘burn’ experienced during intense exercise, is lactic acid build-up. Coaches, athletes, personal trainers, and scientists alike have traditionally linked lactic acidosis with an inability to continue exercise at a given intensity. Although the lactate threshold indicates that conditions within the muscle cell have shifted to a state favorable for the development of acidosis, lactate production itself does not directly contribute to the fatigue experienced at high intensities of exercise. 

It is the proton (H+) accumulation, coinciding with but not caused by lactate production, that results in decreased cellular pH (metabolic acidosis), impairing muscle contraction, and ultimately leading to fatigue. The increased proton accumulation occurs from a few different biochemical reactions during intense physical exercise, most notably in the splitting of ATP at the muscle myofilaments for sustained muscle contraction.

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