Category Archives: Optimal Pedaling Cadence

Author shares his swimming secrets (podcast)

Swimming anatomy is quickly becoming a top seller for those wanting to learn more in depth about their swimming. Here’s a podcast by the author of from Swimming Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Ian McLeod, is the author of Swimming Anatomy. Recommended by USA Swimming, McLeod has extensive experience working with world-class athletes, particularly swimmers. A certified athletic trainer and certified massage therapist, he was a member of the U.S. team’s medical staff at the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing. He has also worked extensively as an athletic trainer with the sports programs at the University of Virginia and Arizona State University.”


A strong core is essential for powerful swimming

Here’s a terrific excerpt from “Swimming Anatomy” published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“To move your body efficiently through the water, a coordinated movement of the arms and legs must occur. The key to this coordinated movement is a strong core, of which the muscles of the abdominal wall are a primary component. Besides helping to link the movement of the upper and lower body, the abdominal muscles assist with the body-rolling movements that take place during freestyle and backstroke and are responsible for the undulating movements of the torso that take place during butterfly, breaststroke, and underwater dolphin kicking.



The abdominal wall is composed of four paired muscles that extend from the rib cage to the pelvis. The muscles can be divided into two groups—a single anterior group and two lateral groups that mirror each other. The anterior group contains only one paired muscle, the rectus abdominis, which is divided into a right and left half by the midline of the body. The two lateral groups each contain a side of the remaining three paired muscles—the external oblique, internal oblique, and transversus abdominis (figure 5.1). In human motion and athletics, the abdominal muscles serve two primary functions: (1) movement, specifically forward trunk flexion (curling the trunk forward), lateral trunk flexion (bending to the side), and trunk rotation; and (2) stabilization of the low back and trunk. The motions mentioned earlier result from the coordinated activation of multiple muscle groups or the activation of a single muscle group.

The rectus abdominis, popularly known as the six pack, attaches superiorly to the sternum and the surrounding cartilage of ribs 5 through 7. The fibers then run vertically to attach to the middle of the pelvis at the pubic symphysis and pubic crest. The six-pack appearance results because the muscle is divided by and encased in a sheath of tissue called a fascia. The visible line running along the midline of the body dividing the muscle in two halves is known as the linea alba. Contraction of the upper fibers of the rectus abdominis curls the upper trunk downward, whereas contraction of the lower fibers pulls the pelvis upward toward the chest. Combined contraction of both the upper and lower fibers rolls the trunk into a ball.

The muscles of the two lateral groups are arranged into three layers. The external oblique forms the most superficial layer. From its attachment on the external surface of ribs 5 through 12, the fibers run obliquely (diagonally) to attach at the midline of the body along the linea alba and pelvis. If you were to think of your fingers as the fibers of this muscle, the fibers would run in the same direction as your fingers do when you put your hand into the front pocket of a pair of pants. Unilateral (single-sided) contraction of the muscle results in trunk rotation to the opposite side, meaning that contraction of the right external oblique rotates the trunk to the left. Bilateral contraction results in trunk flexion.

The next layer is formed by the internal oblique. The orientation of its fibers is perpendicular to those of the external oblique. This muscle originates from the upper part of the pelvis and from a structure known as the thoracolumbar fascia, which is a broad band of dense connective tissue that attaches to the spine in the upper- and lower-back region. From its posterior attachment, the internal oblique wraps around to the front of the abdomen, inserting at the linea alba and pubis. Unilateral contraction rotates the trunk to the same side, and bilateral contraction leads to trunk flexion. The deepest of the three layers is formed by the transversus abdominis, so named because the muscle fibers run transversely (horizontally) across the abdomen. The transversus abdominis arises from the internal surface of the cartilage of ribs 5 through 12, the upper part of pelvis, and the thoracolumbar fascia. The muscle joins with the internal oblique to attach along the midline of the body at the linea alba and pubis. Contraction of the transversus abdominis does not result in significant trunk motion, but it does join the other muscles of the lateral group to function as a core stabilizer. An analogy that often helps people grasp the core-stabilizing function of the muscles of the lateral group is to think of them as a corset that, when tightened, holds the core in a stabilized position.”

Upcoming book of interest – Swimming Anatomy

I don’t usually do this but I saw a book that should be published this fall you all should know about.  I have yet to see it but if it’s like any of their other *.Anatomy  series, it will be terrific.  It’s called “Swimming Anatomy” published by Human Kinetics.  Here’s the description published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“See how to achieve stronger starts, more explosive turns, and faster times! Swimming Anatomy will show you how to improve your performance by increasing muscle strength and optimizing the efficiency of every stroke.

Swimming Anatomy includes 74 of the most effective swimming exercises, each with step-by-step descriptions and full-color anatomical illustrations highlighting the primary muscles in action.

Swimming Anatomy goes beyond exercises by placing you on the starting block, in the water, and into the throes of competition. Illustrations of the active muscles for starts, turns, and the four competitive strokes (freestyle, breaststroke, butterfly, and backstroke) show you how each exercise is fundamentally linked to swimming performance.

You’ll also learn how exercises can be modified to target specific areas, improve your form in the water, and minimize common swimming injuries. Best of all, you’ll learn how to put it all together to develop a training program based on your individual needs and goals.

Whether you are training for a 50-meter freestyle race or the open-water stage of a triathlon, Swimming Anatomy will ensure you enter the water prepared to achieve every performance goal.”

Triathlon Brick Training

In this terrific excerpt reprinted with permission from Human Kinetics, Championship Triathlon Training, you’ll learn some brick training techniques and strategies.

Combination Training
The bike–run transition is addressed first because it is much more difficult than the swim–bike transition and thus the most practiced. Often referred to by many longtime triathletes simply as bricks, combination bike–run training is more than simply following a bike ride with a run. In the modern application of the method, a variety of combinations of two or even all three sports are used in training, primarily to help the body adapt quickly to the stress resulting from rapid changes in movement patterns. When you stop doing one activity and begin doing another very soon afterward, your body must make adjustments in blood flow, nervous system regulation, and muscular tension. For example, while the majority of blood flow has been directed toward your upper body during the swim, it must be redirected to your legs for the bike ride. During the ride, you hold your back muscles in an elongated, flat position with tension. For the run, those muscles must rapidly readjust and shorten to hold you in a more upright posture.

Your leg muscles may have grown accustomed to a slower turnover pace (cadence) during an extended period of cycling at 80 to 90 rpm. In the run they will need to adjust quickly upward to a stride rate of 90 or more per minute. Your ability to make each of these basic physiological adjustments improves with training that is specific to the demands of transitioning between sports rapidly. It stands to reason that just as performance in each sport improves with better training, as you practice and train for the changeovers and related adjustments between the sports, they will go more smoothly too. By learning to make the physiological adjustments in training, you are also training to be more successful psychologically by building realistic self-talk and a positive mind-set regarding the same transitions in racing situations.

The modern approach to combination training for successful transitions uses short training bouts in each sport while focusing on moving through the transitions to the next sport at race speed. This allows for more transition-specific practice, and it creates better overall quality in the swimming, cycling, and running segments of the session. It also makes the training more varied and more interesting. For this approach you set up physical locations specifically for practicing transitioning and plan routes that make such transition practice convenient. Practice for efficiently switching from one sport to the next simply becomes part of the training process in a way that adds a unique element to multisport training and increases enjoyment.

As noted, in triathlon and duathlon for most athletes, the bike-to-run transition is the most demanding one. This is probably due to the relatively high levels of fatigue and dehydration that occur as the race progresses and the change from a relatively static and crouched position on the bike to an upright and dynamic one on the run. Thus the most commonly emphasized combination training element is the bike-to-run transition. However, at the elite amateur and professional levels, the swim-to-bike transition, while not as difficult, is still extremely important in keeping overall times down. At these levels of competition, the bike speed of the racers is very high, at times more than an average of 25 mph. Thus the need to stay close to the other competitors, even in nondrafting events, is critical for successful performance. Of course, in draft-legal elite racing, how you do in the swim–bike transition can completely make or break your race. Losing just a few seconds in the transition process can easily lead to riding on your own rather than in a pack. Losing the advantages of drafting usually means that you have to work much harder on the bike. That will often lead to an increased split time in cycling. Then you will have the same problem on the run because you will be more tired when you get to it than you would have been if you had been in a draft pack on the bike.

Transition-focused training sessions require more preparation to organize and conduct than typical one-sport workouts. Thus their use is emphasized for race-specific intensities and endurance along with course-specific preparation in order to get the most out of the training. You should use a generic training setting that is similar to most triathlon courses (rolling hills) or a race-specific practice course to prepare for specific events. Ideally this will include a closed loop for the bike and a loop or out-and-back course for the run. For the swimto-bike transition training, an available lake or outdoor pool with a nearby cycling loop is ideal. To do either one, you will need a safe place to leave your bicycle and other equipment in a transition zone.

A typical combination training session includes two to four repeats of cycling and running or swimming and cycling at a speed endurance effort. This level of effort is a little lower than full racing effort yet faster than typical aerobic training. It is also definable as a tempo-effort, comfortable-speed intensity, or a specific level of work that represents your current projected speed for approximately twice your race distance. In other words, if you project a 7-minute-per-mile pace for 10K and a 7:30-per-mile pace for the half marathon, you would run this kind of effort at a 7:30-per-mile pace. Essentially these are miniduathlons or triathlons done at just below race speed.

Before completing the target combination sets, you should do a full warmup for both sports and for all three when you are doing triple combinations. This should include all the elements of the warm-ups described in chapter 5, including a progressive warm-up in each sport followed by skill sets and a set of progressive alactate efforts.

You begin each bike-to-run work interval by running to the bike at race speed as if you had come out of the swim. After mounting the bike at full speed, you ride the bike segment at tempo effort as described previously. Then you move through the transition to the run at speed and complete the run at tempo effort. The same scenario would occur in a swim-to-bike session. You begin the swim at speed, ideally using a start method similar to what you will use racing, then exit the water and proceed through a transition at speed, followed by the mount and your bike segment at tempo effort. You should use any equipment (such as a wet suit) that you anticipate using in the racing environment.

By breaking this training session into multiple efforts in an interval format, you will improve your performance quality while overlearning the transition skills and physiological adjustment processes. The primary goal of this training is to achieve a total training effort somewhat in excess of race distance at a power output that is similar, although less, than race effort when preparing for Olympic or sprint-distance races. If you are going for a longer race, you may not be able to do the full race distance in training on a regular basis. Note that this training can also be done at aerobic intensities. A lower-intensity approach to combination training is useful during base training periods (when most training is in an aerobic range of intensity) as described in chapter 5. A cool-down for the session should include both cycling and running, or swimming and cycling, or all three depending on the number of individual sports involved. The typical training session follows:
Warm-Up
45-minute cycling at progressive aerobic effort with 10 3 30-second single-leg
pedaling drill (see chapter 3) and 6 3 15-second alactates
15-minute run at progressive aerobic effort with 6 3 60-step butt kicks followed
by 6 3 15-second alactates
Main Set
3 3 9-mile (14 km) ride and 2.5-mile (4 km) run with transition at speed,
several minutes of recovery between each set
15-minute run cool-down
30-minute cycle cool-down

You can modify the length, number of repetitions, and targeted intensity of training to create various physiological effects yet retain the basic emphasis on combining sports. As noted, this type of training requires you to set up a transition area where you can leave the bike and other equipment while you run. Therefore, it becomes a great opportunity for a coached workout. A coach or helper can take splits, evaluate and provide feedback on transition skills, and take care of nutritional needs as well as provide security for equipment. For International Triathlon Union (ITU) racing (that is, draft-legal racing), training with a group adds specificity to the transition-practice environment. This focus could become the basis for a very enjoyable age-group training session as well. To reduce concerns about bike theft, in solo training you could use a trainer for the cycling and then do the run workout from home, although this option reduces transition specificity considerably. Some athletes bring a trainer to a track and do their bike–run combinations there so that their equipment stays
within easy view for security.

Triathletes and Injury Prevention

Having spent many years training for fitness, it wasn’t until the last few years I became aware of how delicate a balancing act it can be of knowing how and when to push yourself toward greater fitness and avoiding injury.

I have had many injuries and hope I’ve learned how to approach training with the long tern goal of staying healthy and injury free. I would often push myself too hard when I did not need to or it was not the right time to push. Maybe I did not give myself enough of a rest, either between intervals, sets, or laps. It absolutely is a science and the more I read and study, the more I am able to understand when and WHY I do the things I do.

With the idea of sharing that, I posed several questions to my physical therapy group that helps heal me, Elite Physical Therapy in Charlotte, NC. Kelly Floyd started this the group and Joe and Lesley have joined in the last year. They are immensely qualified and have vast sports experience themselves as well as treating patients of all ages and ailments.

I treasure their input and advice. Here’s some advice I hope you can learn from as well.

What are the training rules of thumb and why are they important to follow?

Always break a sweat before stretching. Think of your cold muscle as a piece of bacon out of the freezer. You bend it and it breaks! Heat it up and it bends much easier!

It all starts with the core, the area of your body from your diaphragm to your groin. When running, jumping, cycling, swimming, or weight training, sitting, standing, bending, you name it, keep your spinal alignment perfect. Your spine is made to be stabilized, not twisted and bent. That’s what our other joints are for.

When increasing your mileage/running time or weight lifting, especially if you have not trained in a while, live by the 10% rule. Don’t increase your training initially by more than 10% per week. For example if you have been running for 10 minutes 1 week, don’t increase to 20 minutes the next. Try up to 5 minute increases each week. We sometimes tell our patients that if they are running every other day up to 4 days per week, try adding 1-2 minutes onto each run for the week for a total of about 5 minute increase in time per week.

As for weight training, try to only increase your resistance if your form is perfect for 2-3 repetitions in addition to your planned repetition stopping point. For example, if you had planned to do 10 repetitions with 50 lbs, if you could perform 12 repetitions with 50 lbs with perfect form, you would be able to lift the next time with 10% more weight (55 lbs) at 10 repetitions.

As to not sound redundant, most of the overuse injuries can be prevented with a gradual training program and adequate rest. But for those athletes just starting out without knowledge of their own body, it’s best to see a sports medicine specialist (physical therapist, orthopedic surgeon, athletic trainer, some well-respected personal trainers, contact local triathalon clubs for information on these specialists). These specialists can assess your muscle imbalances and functional strength, assist with appropriate shoe-wear, nutritional requirements, and make necessary training corrections in mechanics to optimize your training.

Are there any training practices specific to triathlon athletes should adhere to?

Triathletes need to understand that the specificity of their training comes from performing 3 consecutive events sustaining a relatively high intensity. Therefore program optimization would be to carry this idea into your cross training as well. For example, Pick 3 consecutive exercises, (push ups, pull ups, squats) and maximize your effort on all 3 for a certain period of time. This type of training develops anaerobic power, or the ability to work through the burn, utilizing large muscle groups. Another example would be to get on a spin bike for a mile as fast as you can, then the treadmill for ¼ mile as fast as you can, then do 1 minute of step ups onto a 8-16 in. box as fast as you can.

Your practice sees many athletes after they have injured themselves. Given your experience, what are some things triathletes can do to prevent injury?

Hydrate! Your muscles need the correct electrolyte balance for optimal contraction. If you are lacking fluids pre- or post- training, your muscles lose efficiency to contract and then you may sacrifice proper technique, cramp, or strain a muscle.

Rest and Nutrition! Sleep is a triathlete’s best, but often unappreciated friend. Plan your training to allow for maximal rest the day or night after your hard training day. Also, periodizing your programs will permit proper work to rest training days working up to the event.

Shoe-wear! A lot easier to say than do, but a proper shoe-wear assessment by a physical therapist, podiatrist, or pedorthist can be a life-saver as your mileage and intensity increases. Also, make sure you have 2 pairs of shoes to rotate at least 48 hours between because the EVA rubber in the shoe heats up and needs time to cool down to regain its properties.

Professional Movement Assessment! Along the same lines as a shoewear assessment, a physical therapist can assess the entire body from heel strike to leg swing, from pedal stroke to breast stroke to determine faulty kinetic links in your triathlete body. Many times overuse strains and sprains can be prevented before heavy training begins by a full body athletic movement assessment.

What role does technique play in athletic performance and injury prevention?

Technique can affect efficiency and spinal control. Many overuse injuries come from your muscles’ inability to slow a body part down. This is called an eccentric contraction, and this type of contraction is where muscle strains show their ugly heads…usually right when you are pushing to the next level of training. The overuse injury can often be avoided by improving your efficiency of movement, in other words optimize your muscle’s overall ability to contract, especially eccentrically.

As for spinal control, excess spinal motion leads to uneven wear on your spine’s joints. It also leads to unwanted motion that your extremities need to control. Say you use your quadriceps muscles 10% more when cycling by leaning side to side vs. keep your spine still. You are already fatiguing yourself for the run portion, and the extra 10% muscle use can affect your technique in the last leg of the race

What are the most common injuries you see in triathletes and how can they help prevent them?

Overuse injuries- The “ itis’s “(tendonitis, bursitis) Usually at the foot, ankle, knee, hip, shoulder. Usually caused when training is increased too dramatically too soon, or when the body has not rested the necessary amount.

Stress Fractures- especially of the navicular in the foot and top of tibia in the leg. In women stress fractures may be more prominent, especially in the leaner female triathlete, where the body fat percentage is low.

Joint Pains/Muscle strains- Cause by muscle imbalances, overtraining, poor knee alignment, hip abductor weakness, incorrect shoe-wear, improper postural habits while cycling.

I wholeheartedly recommend them and if you have questions feel free to contact them at:

Elite Physical Therapy
2630 E. 7th Street, Suite 206 •Charlotte, NC 28204
Office: 704.333.1052 • Fax: 704.333.1054
Email: elitept1@bellsouth.net
Website: www.elitept1.com

Here’s alittle about them:

“Kelly Floyd, president and owner, graduated with a Masters in Physical Therapy from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Kelly is an active triathlete and former collegiate basketball player as well.

Joe and Lesley Tedesco graduated with their Doctorates in Physical Therapy from Duke University and are also Certified Athletic Trainers. In addition, Joe is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist. As former athletic trainers for the University of Florida, Joe cared for the men’s basketball team and Lesley worked with the women’s volleyball team. Both have experience initiating functional training programs to professional, collegiate, and high school athletes.

At Elite Physical Therapy, we emphasize a hands-on-approach to treatment of orthopedic dysfunction of the spine and extremities. Our services also include movement assessment rehabilitation, injury prevention programs, therapeutic massage and/or strength and conditioning consultation for all sports and fitness levels.

We believe in community outreach and promise dedication to excellence using effective programs to keep our community’s athletes healthy now and in the future!”