Category Archives: Running

Three Endurance Technique Development Exercises for Runners

This excerpt is from the book, Developing Endurance. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Purchase this book from Human Kinetics and help keep in online!

Arm Swings

The athlete sits on the floor with the legs extended straight in front of the body; the arms are bent at 90 degrees at the sides. The athlete begins swinging the arms forward and back slowly. She gradually increases the pace, focusing on pushing the elbows back and keeping the movement in the sagittal plane (forward and back). When the arms swing very quickly, the entire body may bounce up and down. If this happens, the athlete should focus on using core strength to maintain posture and limit any twisting or cross-body swinging.

Focus points: Developing a smooth arm swing forward and back with elbows bent and hands relaxed

Butt Kicks

This is a traditional track and field drill that emphasizes the rapid hamstring pull. The athlete should allow the hips and knees to flex in order to maintain the range of motion specific to the running stride. While running slowly forward, the athlete alternately lifts the ankle vertically by quickly pulling upward with the hamstring. He begins slowly at first. The athlete can gradually increase foot speed so that he is pulling the heels up very quickly and taking a greater number of steps while moving forward very slowly (fast feet, slow body). The arms must be coordinated with the legs during this drill. The drill can also be done stationary.

Focus points: Mid-foot striking, awareness of using the hamstring to pull the heel upward, maintenance of a high stride rate, practicing the arm swing


The athlete begins by walking, running, or simply taking one or two running steps to build momentum. He pushes explosively off the ground with the back leg, driving the opposite knee up and forward to gain height and distance. The athlete keeps the heel of the driving knee under the hip, ready to land on the ball of the Continue reading

Looking for something new to enhance training?

This is from the author of Breathe Strong, Perform Bette. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

“For every sport and fitness category described in the following sections, inspiratory muscle training (IMT) will improve exercise tolerance or performance by delaying the onset of the inspiratory muscle metaboreflex and reducing the perception of breathing and whole-body effort. These sections summarize the additional benefits.

Exercise and Fitness

For those engaged in general fitness training, IMT will make exercise feel easier, which enables people to maintain higher exercise intensities for longer durations. This enhances the fitness gains and caloric expenditure of general fitness conditioning.

The rate of perceived recovery will also improve, which will enhance the ability to maintain the tempo of activity during exercise-to-music classes and the intensity of circuit training. The enhancement of core stability will reduce injury risk and improve weight training.

Weight trainers will benefit from improved core stability, which may produce an improvement in maximal lift performances for lifts where trunk stiffness and stability contribute to the ability to overcome a load (e.g., Olympic lifts).

Endurance Sports

A wide range of endurance sports are reviewed here, but the principles that have been applied can be adapted to suit any sport.


IMT will improve the runner’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment), enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and improving leg drive efficiency), and improve postural control (balance). IMT may also reduce the risk of developing a side stitch.


IMT will improve the cyclist’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment) and enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and knee stress and improving pedaling efficiency). IMT will also allow the inspiratory muscles to operate more comfortably in extreme cycling positions (e.g., when using aerobars).


The addition of IMT to swim and other aquatic training will improve the swimmer’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern and will enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment). IMT can also enhance the swimmer’s ability to inhale rapidly and to achieve and sustain high lung volumes. As a result, the swimmer’s body position and stroke mechanics will be improved. A decrease in the number of breaths per stroke will also be possible. In addition, the muscles of the trunk will be better able to meet the dual demands for breathing and providing propulsive force.

Those using scuba will also benefit from a deeper, slower breathing pattern, which reduces air use and extends cylinder wear time. Furthermore, free divers and surfers may also experience an improvement in breath-holding time. Breathing restrictions imposed by wet suits will also be easier to overcome or tolerate after IMT.


The addition of IMT to multisport training will provide the benefits summarized for each component. Most triathlons involve a wet suit swim, and IMT will enhance the swimmer’s ability to breathe efficiently and comfortably. Furthermore, the unique breathing-related disruption that occurs during the transition from cycling to running will be alleviated.


The addition of IMT to rowing training will improve the rower’s ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern; enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment); and enhance core stability and trunk stiffness (reducing spinal loading and improving force transmission to the blade). Furthermore, improvements in intercostal muscle function and the ability to generate and maintain high intrathoracic pressure may reduce the risk of rib stress fractures. IMT will also allow the inspiratory muscles to operate more comfortably at the catch and finish positions.

Sliding Sports

People taking part in sliding sports have a number of factors influencing their performance, including the effects of altitude and the challenges associated with maintaining balance. IMT will improve their ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern. It will also enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment), enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading and improving leg drive efficiency), and improve postural control (balance) and trunk stiffness. The ability to maintain aerodynamic postures for longer periods without the associated breathing discomfort is another benefit of IMT.

Hiking and Mountaineering

Hikers and mountaineers have to contend with the effects of altitude, the impact of carrying heavy backpacks, and the challenges associated with maintaining balance on unpredictable terrain. IMT will improve their ability to maintain a deeper, slower breathing pattern; enhance the efficiency of respiratory and locomotor coupling (entrainment); and enhance core stability (reducing spinal loading). The challenges to postural control (balance) imposed by carrying a backpack and by traveling on uneven terrain will be minimized by IMT, and trunk stiffness will be improved. In addition, the ability to overcome the resistance to normal breathing movements of the trunk that are induced by backpacks will be improved.

Team and Sprint Sports

Team sports are diverse in their challenges, but they all have three important factors in common: They involve repeated high-intensity efforts that drive breathing to its limits; they require the contribution of the upper body and the core-stabilizing system (e.g., fending off opponents, changing direction quickly, or passing objects to teammates); and they require tactical decision making at a time when the distraction from breathing discomfort is high. IMT will improve the rate of perceived recovery between sprints, which will enhance repeated sprint performance and the quality of interval training. These improvements in perceived recovery should enable players to maintain the intensity of their involvement in the match or game, rather than back off for a period of “cruising” recovery. In addition, the damping down of breathlessness will lessen the distraction that this sensation imposes on tactical decision making.

Improvements to core stability will advance a player’s effectiveness during physical interactions with opponents (e.g., tackling, fending off) and in activities such as kicking and throwing.

For contact sports and those that involve activities requiring the application of whole-body isometric forces (such as a rugby scrum), players will benefit from the increased ability of the inspiratory muscles to function as breathing muscles. This is important in situations where the demand for breathing is high but the requirement for maximal core-stabilizing activity is also present.

Finally, in those contact team sports requiring the use of mouth guards and other protective equipment, IMT can improve breathing comfort and reduce the risk of inspiratory muscle fatigue that results from the restrictions imposed by the equipment.

Racket, Striking, and Throwing Sports

Sports falling under this heading most commonly require the participants to use an implement to strike a ball—such as a racket (e.g., tennis, squash, badminton), club (e.g., golf), or bat (e.g., baseball, softball, cricket)—or they may be sports that involve throwing a ball (pitching and bowling). In the case of racket sports, the player is required to direct the ball within the bounds of the court using a range of strokes. Matches are fast paced, requiring speed, agility, and skill. In contrast, in sports such as golf or baseball, the player is able to square up to the ball or pitcher and is stationary as the ball is struck. These two scenarios create very different demands on the breathing muscles, but there are two common denominators: the involvement of the trunk musculature in providing a stable platform and in protecting the spine; the contribution of the entire trunk musculature to the task of accelerating a racket, club, bat, or arm.

After using IMT, players in racket sports will be able to maintain a higher tempo of performance during rallies, and they will experience a reduction in unforced errors. Rate of perceived recovery between rallies will also improve, which will enhance the ability to maintain and dictate the pace and tempo of the game. In addition, the damping down of breathlessness will lessen the distraction that this sensation imposes on tactical decision making. The enhancement of core stability and improved contribution of the trunk musculature to racket head speed and precision will increase the likelihood of aces and shots that are “winners,” as well as reduce the risk of injury.

Many of these sports require high levels of core stability and a contribution from the trunk musculature to the swinging of implements (such as clubs and bats) or the launching of projectiles (such as in field sports). Players in these sports will benefit from the enhanced function of the diaphragm and the enhanced contribution of the inspiratory accessory muscles to these movements. This will result in an increase in striking and throwing velocities. In addition, there will be a reduction in injury risk because of the enhanced spinal stability and the improved resistance of rib cage muscles to tearing.”

Training with a power meter

This is an excerpt from Cycling Fast. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Training with a power meter is the current gold standard for measuring improvement in performance and setting standardized goals for workouts. A well-calibrated power meter provides an absolute measurement (in watts) of the power generated by the cyclist.

For comparison purposes, wattage is paired with body weight, normally taken in kilograms. For example, a 140-pound (64 kg) rider who produces 300 watts can be said to produce 4.69 watts per kilogram (W/kg; that is, 300 W divided by 64 kg). Similarly, a 170-pound (77 kg) rider who wants to achieve the same 4.69 watts per kilogram needs to produce 361 watts. Table 4.6 provides a list of the target wattage needed for each category of racing.

When you first start training and racing, owning a power meter may not be necessary. During the early stages of learning to race, you can perform workouts with a heart rate monitor and cadence sensor, or you can just ride by feel. These methods may be sufficient to help you show large gains in fitness. As time passes, gains in fitness may diminish without the use of outside methods for workout management, such as a power meter. Incremental improvements in cycling are known as “dialing it in.” Power meters are an excellent tool for helping athletes dial in their fitness as they mature in the sport. To see what a power meter looks like, refer to figure 4.3

Purchasing a power meter is an economic investment. You may find power meters that cost around US$400, but some may cost as much as US$2,500. Only a few companies develop power meters. Some power meters use the bottom bracket as the source for extrapolating power, others use the rear wheel hub to extrapolate power, while still others use wind velocity and rider drag to extrapolate power. Higher price does not necessarily mean a better power meter. Explore the available options by talking with other riders who own power meters, local bike shops, and your coach. This will help you find out which system works for you.

Power Training Zones
Knowing your sustained power (wattage) at a select time interval will give you guidelines for specific workouts. Standard time periods include 5 seconds, 1 minute, 5 minutes, and 20 minutes. Using a 20-minute sustained power test is the most common way to determine training zones. The five zones identified in table 4.7 will provide an effective platform for structured training.

The test described in this section will estimate your 20-minute sustained power (SP). Your 20-minute SP number may increase throughout the season as your fitness increases, or the way you achieve your 20-minute SP may change throughout the season (e.g., at 95 rpm instead of 85 rpm). Although not covered in this book, if you want to fine-tune your fitness, you can perform 5-second, 1-minute, and 5-minute SP tests. With this information, you can choose workouts that target and cover these time periods. For example, you can use sprint workouts to improve 5-second SP or intense on-the-bike strength workouts to improve 1-minute SP.

You must be fully rested before performing the 20-minute test. Make sure you read the instruction manual for your power meter to determine how to mark each interval; you can then review and record the data and wattages later. The best conditions for performing the test are on a flat road (or a road with a slight rise) with steady wind and limited traffic, traffic lights, and stop signs. A closed park road with few pedestrians is ideal. The test can also be performed on a stationary trainer (if the trainer provides even resistance throughout the duration of testing).

Before performing any maximum efforts, you need to be in good physical health as confirmed by a medical professional.

Test for 20-Minute Sustained Power

Warm-Up: 20 Minutes

Ride steady and easy in the warm-up with heart rates at less than 75 percent of maximum for 30 minutes. Near the end of the warm-up, perform one 5-minute (1 × 5 min) effort at 95 percent of what you estimate to be your time trial heart rate. Then perform active recovery—rolling at cadences between 70-85 rpm at <75 % of maximum heart rate (MHR)—for 5 minutes. (A discussion of MHR follows in the next section.) Next, perform three 1-minute (3 × 1 min) high-cadence (>100 rpm) efforts in the easiest gear. Perform active recovery for 1 minute between the 1-minute intervals. After the three 1-minute efforts are complete, perform active recovery for 4 minutes.

Actual Test: 20 Minutes

Mark interval and start a 20-minute all-out time trial effort with cadence at 85 to 95 rpm. For the first 3 minutes, ease into a time trial pace.

Record all test conditions, including the course, weather, wind, and temperature. Also record your diet for the day before and the morning of the test. During the test, you need to remain mentally focused. Pacing during testing is crucial—meaning building by increasing power throughout, as you would in intervals. Attempt to maintain the highest average watts for the test period.

Review your test using your power meter software. Label the test interval for the appropriate time period. The average wattage for the 20-minute time period is your SP for that time period.”

Triathlon Training DVD series

I’ve reviewed this DVD series, “The Ultimate Training, Technique, and Strategy Series for Triathletes” and recommend you check it out. Most are taught by Clark Campbell, former Professional Triathlete and University of Kansas Swimming Coach.

The Bike, The Run, The Swim DVDs will take you through the nuances of technique and then go over detailed training plans in depth.

“The Core Strength: Pilates for Triathletes” is a superb teaching of core strength taught and flexibility by June Quick, Certified Pilates Instructor, licensed Physical Therapist, Certified Athletic Trainer, and Stanford University Swimming consultant. She explains the movements that are demonstrated by a beginner and pro triathlete, how to make some more advanced movements when you’re ready, and pre-hab to prevent common athletic injuries.

If you’re new to triathlon and learn better visually, this is the package you want. It’s like having a coach start you out. If you’ve been around the track a few times, pun intended, you may still pick up some technique and training pointers.

Championship Productions forwarded these to me for review and I’m glad they. I had not heard of them but these are some really good training resources.

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.”

Back strengthening can prevent cycling injuries

Strengthening can be a part of your routine and many might say say it should be.  Triathlon, multi-sport, uses many of the muscles in your body during a race or brick work-out.

I like researching question like, “How can a muscle be strong and flexible?”  “Is strength just the capacity for movement in relation to distance and time?”  If so, strength training will always play a part of my training.

Here’s an excerpt titled, “Developed back muscles prevent cycling injuries”, from Cycling Anatomy, reprinted here by permission of Human Kenetics. One of the best things about this book is each exercise is explained in detail including which muscles are used, and how exercising that muscle groups is useful in cycling.

“The importance of a strong and fit back cannot be overemphasized. The back and spine provide the foundation for almost every activity performed, and cycling is no exception. Unfortunately, back problems are a frequent complaint of cyclists. Because of the bent-over position on a bike, back muscles are constantly engaged. This stress can wreak havoc on the body if it isn’t conditioned and trained to withstand the ongoing effort. In addition to withstanding the strain of the cyclists’ position, the back must also provide a solid base that enables a cyclist to generate power during their pedal stroke. Back muscles stabilize the spine and pelvis, allowing the legs to generate maximal power.

The best strategy for a healthy back is to proactively condition the body to avoid any problems before they arise.  Take time to build strength in the back—this will pay dividends in the long run.

Stability Ball Extension


  1. Lie with the lower abdomen draped over a stability ball.
  2. Keeping one foot on the floor, arch the back while raising and
    extending the arm and opposite leg. The elbow and knee should be
    straight (extended).
  3. Slowly lower the arm and leg. Curl the body around the stability ball.
  4. Repeat the exercise using your other arm and leg.

Muscles Involved
Primary: Erector spinae
Secondary: Splenius capitis, gluteus maximus, deltoid

Cycling Focus

The erector spinae muscles must withstand enduring workloads when riding a bike. For the majority of rides, these muscles will maintain a forward leaning posture. If the back becomes sore or fatigued, the erector spinae muscles are usually the culprit. The stability ball extension is particularly effective because it provides full range of motion at maximal extension. This will counter the hours spent with the back arched forward on the bike. Added weights are not needed to make
this workout effective. Remember that stretching and moving muscles through their complete range of motion will help get the most out of muscle fibers.”

Technique is more important than you think in resistance training

What’s the sport in triathlon where technique plays the largest part?  Swimming.  It’s easy to get caught up in Swim-Bike-Run and throw in some resistance training in between when you can.  I hired a coach a few years ago, the first thing he added to my schedule was resistance training.  He said it might help in injury prevention and structural integrity.

When you’re at the gym next, take a look around and focus on one piece of equipment.  Without leering, watch different people use it.  Do they all have the same technique?  The magic 8-ball says, “Very doubtful.”

Why do their techniques vary?  Do they all know something you don’t?  The magic 8-ball says, “Don’t count on it.”  You might see a wide range of people using the machine with different levels of experience and backgrounds.  Some might know how to use it, some might not.  How can you tell which is better technique?  By reading Optimal Muscle Training.

This book explains in detail how to assess if you’re ready for the exercise, assess your flexibility needed to perform the exercise correctly, and then show you several correct techniques for various results.  It comes with a DVD that covers in great detail most of the topics, assessments, and exercises covered in the book.

With the permission of Human Kenetics, I reprint part of an excerpt and link you the remaining portion of it because it has terrific images with explanation of risk/reward benefit of different techniques.

Risk–Benefit Ratio of Specific Weight-Training Exercise Techniques

Each weight-training exercise can be performed in various ways. Some techniques are beneficial for the development of strength, while other techniques are more suited for muscular hypertrophy. The benefit and inherent risk of each exercise
modification such as grip width, foot position, arm position, range of motion, head position, and trunk motion will alter dependent on the person’s experience, body type, and outcomes desired. The exercise modifications should always be done to
increase the stress on the muscles and not the joints, ligaments, or capsules. The following pages review variations in technique for each weight-training exercise to offer guidelines for the optimal implementation in an individual training program. Remember that high risk does not automatically mean that the person will be injured. It means that the potential for injury may be higher due to specific techniques needed for increased strength and development.”
Click here for the pdf

Analyzing the Risk–Benefit Ratio of Weight-Training Exercises

Along with a good understanding of muscle biomechanics, knowing how muscles function in weight-training exercises is also important. This knowledge enables the selection of the optimal technique while decreasing the risk of injury. Starting a weight-training program is similar to undertaking other types of physical fitness activities. All fitness activities carry a risk. The risk depends on the activity, the equipment, the environment, the athlete’s level of expertise, focus, conditioning, level of fatigue, the state of the athlete’s tissues, previous injuries, and biomechanical factors. A coding system should be created to indicate the level of difficulty relative to the person’s experience and needs to avoid injuries. Certain sports, such as downhill skiing, surfing, and boating, have an established system of coding the level of difficulty to allow people to decide the activity risk based on their self-assessed experience level. For example, in downhill skiing, ski trails or runs are marked with colors and shapes as follows: green circles indicate the easiest beginner trails that present a low difficulty level and risk of injury, blue squares mark intermediate trails with a medium difficulty level and risk of injury, and black-diamond runs are for advanced and expert skiers and present a high difficulty level and risk of injury.

Each level also offers a certain level of enjoyment, personal satisfaction, and accomplishment, known as the benefit of skiing. Black-diamond trails have the highest potential benefit, blue-square trails have a medium potential benefit, and green-circle trails have low potential benefit for the skier to aspire to. A beginner skier belongs on the green runs. If he or she takes a black-diamond run, the risk of being injured is high. But an advanced skier can go down the same black-diamond run with minimal risk of injury because of his or her higher skill level and get the benefit of a sense of adventure and fun. The advanced skier may find a low-risk green run too easy and thus derive less benefit of excitement from it.”
Click here for pdf