Category Archives: trialthon

The Deeper Core: Triathlete’s Performance Center

Triathlon is a cadenced endurance sport requiring hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of movement repetitions in the extremities and torso. As you train, you experience ongoing stages of movement, adaptation, and skill learning as you progress toward advances in technique and fitness. Constant interplay occurs in the intricate and interrelated processing of movement, including cognitive skills (understanding what needs to be done), motor skills (executing the skills), functional movement (moving in full ranges of motion), and functional and stable performance (maintaining body posture through the core).Stability of the core is crucial to optimal performance. Movements begin deep inside your core and are transferred to your extremities. Your core controls not only your spine to maintain alignment but also movements relative to your spine. A stable core enhances skill and efficiency and can limit recurring injury by reducing stress caused by movements working against each other.

Your core is your body’s stabilization system. Every aspect of motor learning and skill development is enhanced by a stable core, including postural control, functional movement, limb coordination, muscle exertion to produce tension and force, and neuromuscular control.

Performance stability is your body’s ability to maintain an even, balanced, and graceful posture during all movements. The best triathletes demonstrate precise and stable movement fully observable by the most untrained eyes. Your muscles must be stable and specifically trained to move efficiently. Functional movements connect to muscular stability and, when optimal, allow muscles to work in accordance with their structure and ability. Stability must be present on both sides of the body to provide a base for equal and balanced movements.

Stability increases your capacity for potential energy and the storage of elastic energy to further optimize movement. For example, while swimming, you load and unload with changing forces during the catch, insweep, and outsweep. In cycling, the pedaling and loading of muscles and corresponding structural stability are necessary when your hip extends during the downstroke. During the run, your muscles play a critical support role during the stance phase, without which stability would be impossible.

For many triathletes, the control and coordination of movements at some point become more accurate, more controlled, and even automatic. Others struggle with developing efficient movement patterns and have difficulty refining, adapting, and putting into practice the movements that are most efficient. In such cases, there’s often an underlying instability in which muscles are weak or underactive, preventing normal motion and contributing to inflexibility in muscles and joints, which are very often exposed in competition as fatigue increases. The stronger your deeper-layered core, the more stable and effective technique can be. In this chapter we’ll focus on assessing, strengthening, and training your core in ways that work the deepest stabilizers and postural muscles.

The Deeper Core: Triathlete’s Performance Center

Think of your core as the epicenter of your body. It is a collection of muscles that support your spine, back, hips, and pelvis. Functional triathletes are especially stable from the deepest muscles of the core – the primary and secondary stabilizers. These deep core muscles are at the axis of motion, attach to the bony segments of the spine and joints, control positioning of and provide stability and are made up of slow-twitch (type 1) muscle fibers for muscular endurance that fatigue slowly. They function at low loads and do not produce much, if any, force or torque for movement in swimming, cycling, or running, yet they play a vital role in controlling the positions of your joints. For the best transfer of load, your joints must be in optimal position for generating the highest amount of efficient energy for movement. Your deep core functions to hold your joints in neutral positions by responding with just the right amount of force during changes to posture caused by outside forces such as foot strikes while running, water pressure while swimming, and pedaling forces while cycling.See table 5.1 for a list of the core stabilizer and mobilizer muscles and table 5.2 for their characteristics.

Every level of triathlete can benefit from assessing functional capacity of the core and learning how to move from within the center points of the body to the outside limbs most effectively. Talented triathletes of all ages tend to demonstrate balanced and symmetrical movements with sureness. These efficient motions are accomplished through years of training and further enhanced by training the deep-layered muscles of the core. But training these deep-core muscles – chiefly, the transversus abdominis, multifidi, and quadratus lumborum – is far different from common high-intensity core exercise training. These muscles are not trained through intense workouts but through controlled deep-layered techniques and body-region-specific exercises.

The most efficient athletic movements are those that originate from the center of the body. As a triathlete develops more efficient skills, energy expenditure is minimized as movements consolidate. Early on, however, if limitations in flexibility, mobility, and stability are ignored, movements can remain error prone, sometimes stiff and halting, and there can be an unnecessary and inefficient use of the extremities. Asymmetrical motions can produce compensations not only in functional movements but within the stabilizing muscles of the core.

A fitting expression among physical therapists and movement practitioners is that proximal stability enhances distal mobility. The core (stability center) provides the most effective way to transmit energy to the limbs (from inside to outside). For example, instead of pulling, the capable swimmer will anchor the hand and arm (slowly) and engage and transfer power from the centerline (spine, pelvis, and hips) through the hand and arm holding (sculling) against dense water. An efficient cyclist similarly works from inside to out by maintaining a level pelvis, straight spine, and limited swinging or tilting in the upper body. The triathlete runner above all depends on core stability and posture and position of the upper back and scapulae to provide ample support of the body during the exchange of foot strikes.

This excerpt is from the book, Triathletes in Motion. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please purchase this book from Human Kinetics.

Basics in getting yourself started for a triathlon

Biomechanics of Triathlon
Triathlon participation involves three activities: swimming, biking, and running. Each activity requires a coordinated pattern of muscle recruitment that produces motion about the joints and creates the power to make the triathlete move. As a triathlete transitions from one discipline to the next, a concomitant increase in weight-bearing activity is seen.

The swim requires the triathlete to be prone, lying facedown in the water and using the arms and legs for propulsion. Most people without a swimming background quickly learn that swimming efficiency and, thus, speed are extremely dependent on technique. For those who are technically challenged, wetsuits, which are legal to use in certain water temperatures, provide buoyancy to help produce better swimming position, resulting in less drag on the legs. Most triathletes use the arms to a much greater extent than the lower extremities for propulsion, possibly to prevent lower-extremity fatigue when biking and running.

The transition to the bike places a greater emphasis on both the lower extremities and core. The upper extremities contribute stabilization and assist in bike-handling skills.

Running, the greatest weight-bearing activity of the three, places the most impact on the body and requires a smooth coordination between upper and lower extremities to enable efficient gait. Strength training with both isolated and sport-specific exercises as described in later chapters will help develop a strong foundation to create power and speed and also prevent injury.

A Test of Endurance
The common thread that binds all triathlon distances together is that they all require prolonged exercise tolerance. This is unlike many other sports. Professional American football players play an average of 12 minutes during a 60-minute game. It has been calculated that during an average soccer game that lasts 90 minutes, a soccer player runs about 6 miles (10 km). At even the shortest triathlon distance, the ability to maintain sustained exercise needs to be greater.

The cardiorespiratory and musculoskeletal systems can be trained to handle this endurance stress. As more information is learned through research about an athlete’s ability to perform both aerobic and anaerobic exercise as well as Continue reading

Key Traits of the Highly Disciplined Triathlete

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Science. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

What are the key characteristics of well-disciplined triathletes? Through extensive work with numerous triathletes over several years, a constellation of traits that defines the champion’s mentality has developed. High-level triathletes do not possess superhuman powers or extraordinary traits limited to a select few. Anyone who wants to excel in triathlon can develop the characteristics that make a champion.

  • Internal discipline and self-direction: Champion triathletes decide from the outset that they are training and competing for themselves, not for the awards, not for the prize money, not for their coaches. Direction and drive need to come from within. The objectives must be chosen because that’s precisely what they want to be doing. Triathletes should ask themselves, “What keeps me swimming, biking, and running? Who am I doing it for?”
  • Commitment to excellence: Does the triathlete set a high standard for herself? Elite triathletes know that to excel at their sport, they must decide to make it a priority in their life, to be the best at what they do. They set challenging yet realistic standards that are specific, and they are honest in evaluating their abilities and the amount of time and energy that they can put into their program.
  • Determination, consistency, organization: Winning triathletes know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily basis. Because they are passionate about what they do, they find it easier to maintain consistency in training and competition. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, or difficult circumstances, they can generate the excitement and energy needed to do their best.
  • Concentration and focus: Disciplined triathletes have the ability to maintain focus for long periods. They can tune in what’s critical to their performance and tune out what’s not. They can easily let go of distractions and take control of their attention, even under pressure. They put their attention on the aspects of the competition that are within their control and recognize that they can make that choice.
  • Capacity to deal with obstacles: Top triathletes know how to deal with difficult situations. Adversity builds character and becomes an opportunity for learning, opening the way for personal growth and renewal. When elite triathletes know that the odds are against them, they embrace the opportunity to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it. They are calm and relaxed under fire, realizing that nervousness is normal and that some nervousness can contribute to performance. Breathing deeply and doing a mental rehearsal of exactly how the race should go can also help triathletes remain calm and relaxed.
  • Enthusiasm and desire, love for the sport: Triathletes who win have a drive, a fire inside that fuels their passion to achieve a key goal, regardless of their level of talent or ability. They begin with a vision, and as they see that vision with more clarity, it becomes more likely to turn into reality. Wherever attention goes, energy flows.

Recognizing and preventing common triathlon-related injuries

This excerpt is from the book, Triathlon Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics. Please also read terms of use.

Prevention and Recognition of Injuries

Rest, which by nature triathletes are inherently bad at, is an integral part of the healing process. This is when the body heals itself and gets stronger, whether you are taking a day or a few weeks off from working out or reducing the intensity or volume of your workouts. Prevention techniques that assist with healing, including stretching and specific strengthening, are often overlooked but are an essential part of triathlon training.

Injuries are not an act of nature. They indicate that the athlete has reached a breakdown point at which the body can no longer respond in a positive fashion and heal the injury. The body is pushed past its reparative capabilities and begins to develop signs and symptoms of injury. One of the hallmark symptoms of injury is pain. We all have experienced discomfort when working out, but when is it bad to push through the discomfort? Pain can be defined as an unpleasant sensation that is often associated with damage to the body. What about the sayings “Pain is just weakness leaving the body” and “No pain, no gain”? These proverbs are fun to say but if practiced can lead you down the path of chronic injury.

Any discomfort may be an early warning sign of injury. Discomfort that begins with an activity but goes away as you warm up may be an acceptable symptom you are able to train through with appropriate modifications. However, discomfort that continues through the activity should be a clear warning sign that something is not right, and activity should be discontinued. Discomfort that persists after the activity, does not respond to the basic treatment of RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation), and affects Continue reading

Carbohydrate intake during exercise

“Carbohydrate … during exercise of about 45 minutes or longer can improve endurance capacity and performance.” That’s what the authors of Sport Nutrition explain in this excerpt reprinted here with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

“Convincing evidence from numerous studies indicates that carbohydrate feeding during exercise of about 45 minutes or longer (Jeukendrup 2004, 2008; Jeukendrup et al. 1997) can improve endurance capacity and performance. Studies have also addressed questions of which carbohydrates are most effective, what feeding schedule is the most effective, and what amount of carbohydrate to consume is optimal. Other studies have looked at factors that could possibly influence the oxidation of ingested carbohydrate, such as muscle glycogen levels, diet, and exercise intensity. Mechanisms by which carbohydrate feeding during exercise may improve endurance performance include the following.

* Maintaining blood glucose and high levels of carbohydrate oxidation. Coyle et al. (1986) demonstrated that carbohydrate feeding during exercise at 70% of V.O2max prevents the drop in blood glucose that was observed when water (placebo) was ingested. In the placebo trials, the glucose concentration started to drop after 1 hour of exercise and reached extremely low concentrations (2.5 mmol/L) at exhaustion after 3 hours. With carbohydrate feeding, glucose concentrations were maintained above 3 mmol/L, and subjects continued to exercise for 4 hours at the same intensity. Total-carbohydrate oxidation rates followed a similar pattern. A drop in carbohydrate oxidation occurred after about 1.5 hours of exercise with placebo, and high rates of carbohydrate oxidation were maintained with carbohydrate feeding. When subjects ingested only water and exercised to exhaustion, they were able to continue again when glucose was ingested or infused intravenously. These studies showed the importance of plasma glucose as a substrate during exercise.
* Glycogen sparing in the liver and possibly muscle. Carbohydrate feedings during exercise “spare” liver glycogen (Jeukendrup et al. 1999), and Tsintzas and Williams (Tsintzas et al. 1998) discussed a potential muscle glycogen sparing effect. Generally, muscle glycogen sparing is not found during cycling (Jeukendrup et al. 1999), but it may be important during running (Tsintzas et al. 1995).
* Promoting glycogen synthesis during exercise. After intermittent exercise, muscle glycogen concentrations were higher when carbohydrate was ingested than when water was ingested (Yaspelkis et al. 1993). This finding could indicate reduced muscle glycogen breakdown. But the ingested carbohydrate was possibly used to synthesize muscle glycogen during the low-intensity exercise periods (Keizer et al. 1987a).
* Affecting motor skills. Few studies have attempted to study the effect of carbohydrate drinks on motor skills. One such study investigated 13 trained tennis players and observed that when players ingested carbohydrate during a 2-hour training session (Vergauwen et al. 1998), stroke quality improved during the final stages of prolonged play. This effect was most noticeable when the situations required fast running speed, rapid movement, and explosiveness.
* Affecting the central nervous system. Carbohydrate may also have central nervous system effects. Although direct evidence for such an effect is lacking, the brain can sense changes in the composition of the mouth and stomach contents. Evidence, for instance, suggests that taste influences mood and may influence perception of effort. An interesting observation provides support for a central nervous system effect. When a hypoglycemic person bites a candy bar, that person’s symptoms almost immediately decrease, and the person feels better again long before the carbohydrate reaches the systemic circulation and the brain. The central nervous system effect may also explain why some studies report positive effects of carbohydrate during exercise on performance lasting approximately 1 hour (Jeukendrup et al. 1997). During exercise of such short duration, only a small amount of the carbohydrate becomes available as a substrate. Most of the ingested carbohydrate is still in the stomach or intestine. Studies in which athletes rinsed their mouths with carbohydrate (but did not ingest any) during 1-hour time trials showed performance improvements similar to those that occurred when the athletes ingested the carbohydrate (Carter et al. 2004). Others (Pottier et al. 2008) recently confirmed these findings.

Whether the central nervous system effects of glucose feeding are mediated by sensory detection of glucose or perception of sweetness is not known, although studies with placebo solutions with identical taste to glucose solutions suggest that sweetness is not the key factor. Brain imaging studies also show that increased brain activity is specific to carbohydrates.
Feeding Strategies and Exogenous Carbohydrate Oxidation

A greater contribution of exogenous (external) fuel sources (carbohydrate) spares endogenous (internal) sources, and the notion that a greater contribution from exogenous sources increases endurance capacity is enticing. The contribution of exogenous substrates can be measured using stable (or radioactive) isotopic tracers. The principle of this technique is simple: The ingested substrate (e.g., glucose) is labeled, and the label can be measured in expired gas after the substrate has been oxidized. The more the ingested substrate has been oxidized, the more of the label (tracer) will be recovered in the expired gas. Knowing the amount of tracer ingested, the amount of tracer in the expired gas, and the total CO2 production enables us to calculate exogenous substrate oxidation rates.

The typical pattern of exogenous glucose oxidation rates is shown in figure 6.6. The labeled CO2 starts to appear 5 minutes after ingestion of the labeled carbohydrate. During the first 75 to 90 minutes of exercise, exogenous carbohydrate oxidation continues to rise as more and more carbohydrate is emptied from the stomach and absorbed in the intestine. After 75 to 90 minutes a leveling off occurs, and the exogenous carbohydrate oxidation rate reaches its maximum value and does not increase further. Several factors have been suggested to influence exogenous carbohydrate oxidation including feeding schedule, type and amount of carbohydrate ingested, and exercise intensity.”

Master the freestyle

For anyone who has spent any time leaning and perfecting freestyle, you realize that the more you practice it, the more your understand it is a technique sport. There are so many movements that have to be executed correctly for it to work well, that it can overwhelm you. So pick one or two drills or areas of focus per training session and just focus on that. It WILL pay off for you in the long run!

Here’s an excerpt from Swimming Anatomy with permission of the publisher, Human Kinetics.

“As the hand enters into the water, the wrist and elbow follow and the arm is extended to the starting position of the propulsive phase. Upward rotation of the shoulder blade allows the swimmer to reach an elongated position in the water. From this elongated position, the first part of the propulsive phase begins with the catch. The initial movements are first generated by the clavicular portion of the pectoralis major. The latissimus dorsi quickly joins in to assist the pectoralis major. These two muscles generate a majority of the force during the underwater pull, mostly during the second half of the pull. The wrist flexors act to hold the wrist in a position of slight flexion for the entire duration of the propulsive phase. At the elbow, the elbow flexors (biceps brachii and brachialis) begin to contract at the start of the catch phase, gradually taking the elbow from full extension into approximately 30 degrees of flexion. During the final portion of the propulsive phase the triceps brachii acts to extend the elbow, which brings the hand backward and upward toward the surface of the water, thus ending the propulsive phase. The total amount of extension taking place depends on your specific stroke mechanics and the point at which you initiate your recovery. The deltoid and rotator cuff (supraspinatus, infraspinatus, teres minor, and subscapularis) are the primary muscles active during the recovery phase, functioning to bring the arm and hand out of the water near the hips and return them to an overhead position for reentry into the water. The arm movements during freestyle are reciprocal in nature, meaning that while one arm is engaged in propulsion, the other is in the recovery process.

Several muscle groups function as stabilizers during both the propulsive phase and the recovery phase. One of the key groups is the shoulder blade stabilizers (pectoralis minor, rhomboid, levator scapula, middle and lower trapezius, and the serratus anterior), which as the name implies serve to anchor or stabilize the shoulder blade. Proper functioning of this muscle group is important because all the propulsive forces generated by the arm and hand rely on the scapula’s having a firm base of support. Additionally, the shoulder blade stabilizers work with the deltoid and rotator cuff to reposition the arm during the recovery phase. The core stabilizers (transversus abdominis, rectus abdominis, internal oblique, external oblique, and erector spinae) are also integral to efficient stroke mechanics because they serve as a link between the movements of the upper and lower extremities. This link is central to coordination of the body roll that takes place during freestyle swimming.

Like the arm movements, the kicking movements can be categorized as a propulsive phase and a recovery phase; these are also referred to as the downbeat and the upbeat. The propulsive phase (downbeat) begins at the hips by activation of the iliopsoas and rectus femoris muscles. The rectus femoris also initiates extension of the knee, which follows shortly after hip flexion begins. The quadriceps (vastus lateralis, vastus intermedius, and vastus medialis) join the rectus femoris to help generate more forceful extension of the knee. Like the propulsive phase, the recovery phase starts at the hips with contraction of the gluteal muscles (primarily gluteus maximus and medius) and is quickly followed by contraction of the hamstrings (biceps femoris, semitendinosus, and semimembranosus). Both muscle groups function as hip extensors. Throughout the entire kicking motion the foot is maintained in a plantarflexed position secondary to activation of the gastrocnemius and soleus and pressure exerted by the water during the downbeat portion of the kick.”

Proper technique to water running

Many of us know what water running is because we’ve been injured and wanted to keep the cardio up or as a preventative measure to reduce the bodily stress of pounding pavement. Here’s an excerpt from Running Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Most runners have been introduced to water running as a rehabilitative tool for maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness after incurring an injury that precludes dryland running. However, runners should not assume that aquatic training’s only benefit is injury rehabilitation. Running in water, specifically deep-water running (DWR), is a great tool for preventing overuse injuries associated with a heavy volume of aerobic running training. Also, because of the drag associated with running in water, an element of resistance training is associated with water running that does not exist in traditional running-based training.

Although shallow-water running is a viable alternative to DWR, its benefits tend to be related to form and power. Although the improvement of form and power is important, it comes at a cost. Because shallow-water running requires impact with the bottom of a pool, it has an impact component (although the force is mitigated by the density of the water). For a runner rehabbing a lower leg injury, shallow-water running could pose a risk of injury. More important, balance and form are easier to attain in shallow-water running because of a true foot plant. Fewer core muscles are engaged to center the body, as in DWR, and there is a resting period during contact that does not exist in DWR. For our purposes, all water-related training exercises focus on DWR.

In performing a DWR workout, proper body positioning is important. The depth of the water should be sufficient to cover the entire body: Only the tops of the shoulders, the neck, and the head should be above the surface of the water. The feet should not touch the bottom of the pool. Runners tend to have more lean body mass than swimmers, making them less buoyant; therefore, a flotation device will be necessary. If a flotation device is not worn, body position can become compromised and an undue emphasis is placed on the muscles of the upper body and arms to keep the body afloat.

Once buoyed in the water, assume a body position similar to dryland running. Specifically, the head is centered, there is a slight lean forward at the waist, and the chest is “proud,” or expanded, with the shoulders pulled back, not rotated forward. Elbows are bent at 90 degrees, and movement of the arms is driven by the shoulders. The wrists are held in a neutral position, and the hands, although not clenched, are more closed than on dry land in order to push through the resistance of the water. The strength gained from performing wrist curls and reverse wrist curls are beneficial for this.

Leg action is more akin to faster-paced running than general aerobic running because of the propulsive force needed for overcoming the resistance caused by the density of the water. The knee should be driven upward to an approximate 75-degree angle at the hip. The leg is then driven down to almost full extension (avoiding hyperextension) before being pulled upward directly under the buttocks before the process is repeated with the other leg.

During the gait cycle, the feet change position from no flexion (imagine standing on a flat surface) when the knee is driving upward to approximately 65 degrees of plantarflexion (toes down) at full extension. This foot movement against resistance both facilitates the mechanics of running form and promotes joint stability and muscle strength as a result of overcoming the resistance caused by drag.

Due to the unnatural training environment (water) and the resistance created when driving the arms and legs, improper form is common when beginning a DWR training program. Specifically, it is common to make a punting-like motion with the forward leg instead of snapping it down. This error is due to fatigue of the hamstrings from the water resistance, resulting in poor mechanics. To correct this error, rest at the onset of the fatigue, and don’t perform another repetition until the time goal is met. Do not try to push through it. You won’t gain fitness, and you will gain poor form.

DWR is effective because it elevates the heart rate, similar to dryland running. And because of the physics of drag, it requires more muscular involvement, thus strengthening more muscles than dryland running does without the corresponding overuse injuries associated with such training. Specifically, it eliminates the thousands of impact-producing foot strikes incurred during non-DWR running.”

Signs you need to rest?

Understanding the difference between being tired, fatigue, and over-training is important to progress in training. Here’s a very helpful excerpt from “The Runner’s Edge” that might help. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics.

“Managing fatigue by reducing your training as necessary is one of your most important responsibilities as a competitive runner. Fatigue is a symptom of incomplete physiological adaptation to recently completed training. When fatigue persists, it means that your body is not benefiting from the hard training that is causing your fatigue. A day or two of soreness and low energy after hard workouts is normal and indeed much preferable to never feeling fatigued, which would indicate that you weren’t training hard enough to stimulate positive fitness adaptations. Extended recovery deficits, however, must be avoided at all costs.

You can minimize the need for spontaneous training reductions simply by training appropriately. Don’t ramp up your training workload too quickly (obey the guideline of 5 CTL – chronic training load-points per week), don’t try to do more than three hard workouts per week, follow each hard day with an easy day (featuring an easy run, an easy cross-training workout, or complete rest), and plan reduced-workload recovery weeks into your training every few weeks. Even if you take these measures, however, you will, assuming you train as hard as you can within these parameters, find yourself sometimes feeling flat on days when you had hoped and expected to feel strong for a harder workout, or find your fatigue level building and building over several days. At these times it’s important that you listen to your body and reduce your training for a day or two or three to put your body back on track.

Technology is no substitute for your own perceptions in these cases. No device can measure your recovery status and readiness to train hard any better than your own body can. When your body is poorly recovered from recent hard training, you can always feel it. And when factors outside of your training, such as lack of sleep or job stress, compromise your capacity to perform, you can always feel that. Before you even lace up your shoes, you know that you’re not going to have a good day because of the heaviness, sluggishness, soreness, or low motivation you feel. Your body itself is an exquisitely crafted piece of technology whose primary function is self-preservation. One of the most important mechanisms that your body uses to preserve your health through hard training is a set of symptoms of poor recovery (those just named) that encourage you to take it easy when that’s what your body needs most. It’s important that you learn to recognize these symptoms and get in the habit of obeying them. Pay attention to how your body feels before each workout and then note how you perform in the run so that you can discern patterns. Through this habit you will develop the ability to anticipate when it’s best to reduce workouts or take a day off and when to go through with planned training.

Technology can be an adjunct to listening to your body in making such decisions. We recommend three specific practices: monitoring your resting pulse, correlating poor workout performances with training stress balance, and performing a neuromuscular power test.
Resting Pulse

The first practice is monitoring your resting pulse, or performing orthostatic testing, as described in chapter 1. Look for patterns in the relationship between the numbers observed in orthostatic testing and how you perform in your workouts. (It will take at least three weeks for such patterns to become observable.) If, for example, you always perform poorly in workouts on days when your morning pulse is at least four beats per minute higher than normal, you can use this information to change your workout plans as soon as you observe a high morning pulse reading instead of waiting to find out the hard way that you need a recovery day (that is, by feeling lousy in the planned run).
Training Stress Balance

A second way to use technology in determining whether and when you need a rest is to note where especially poor workouts and stale patches of training tend to fall in relation to your ATL, CTL, and TSB. Specifically, on days when you have a harder run planned and you expect to feel ready to perform well but instead you feel fatigued and have a subpar performance, note your present ATL, CTL, and TSB. The next time these variables line up in a similar way, you will know to expect lingering fatigue and can alter your training accordingly. Don’t expect to find 100 percent predictability through this exercise, however, because many other variables factor into your daily running performance that these variables do not capture.

These variables may be somewhat more reliable in predicting the multiday stale patches that sometimes occur during periods of hard training. For example, you might find that you always hit a stale patch when your CTL exceeds 50, or when your TSB drops below −20, or when these two things happen simultaneously. Again, once you have observed such a pattern, you can take future actions to reduce the frequency of those stale patches.
Neuromuscular Power Test

Finally, you can use a neuromuscular power test to assess your recovery status. Research has shown that when the body is carrying lingering fatigue from endurance training, maximal power performance is compromised. Your maximum sprint speed is one good indicator of your current neuromuscular power. Running a set of short sprints once a week is a good way to increase and then maintain your stride power, but it also serves as a reliable recovery status indicator. For example, each Monday, after completing a short, easy recovery run, you might run 4 to 10 × 10 seconds uphill on the same hill each time at maximum speed. After completing the sprints, note the highest speed achieved. Pay attention to how you perform in the next hard workout that follows a sprint set in which your maximum speed is lower than normal. Through this process you might locate a maximum speed threshold that indicates the need to alter your training plans for additional recovery.”

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.”