A Woman’s Metabolism

Send to Kindle

This excerpt is from the book, Running for Women. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

Metabolic Differences

Metabolism refers to all of the energy-requiring chemical reactions occurring inside your body. At any

one time, trillions of reactions are going on inside of you, including the growth of new tissue, muscle contraction, and the breakdown of food for energy. The resting metabolic rate—the amount of energy needed during resting conditions—is lower in females because of their smaller body mass and muscle mass. When you run, your metabolic rate increases dramatically because of the increased demand for energy. The faster your metabolic pathways can use the available fuel to regenerate energy for muscle contraction, the faster you will be able to run any race.

While your nervous system controls your body’s faster functions, like the initiation of reflexes and movement, hormones control the slower functions, like the regulation of growth and metabolism and the development of reproductive organs. Much of metabolism is under the direction of hormones, which act as conductors, initiating signals that lead to the transportation and use of fuel. And the two predominant fuels for running are carbohydrate and fat, which provide energy on a sliding scale. At slower speeds, your muscles rely more on fat and less on carbohydrate, and as you increase your running pace, the energy contribution from fat decreases while the energy contribution from carbohydrate increases.

Carbohydrate Metabolism

The hormone insulin is responsible for carbohydrate metabolism. Consuming carbohydrate elevates your blood glucose concentration and increases insulin concentration. The increase in circulating insulin, which is secreted from your pancreas, stimulates specific proteins to transport the glucose from your blood into your muscles, where it is either used for immediate energy by your cells or stored as muscle glycogen for later use. Males typically have more glycogen stored in their muscles. Longer races like the marathon are limited, in part, by the amount of stored glycogen. Therefore, the lower muscle glycogen in women’s muscles can partly explain why they cannot run marathons as fast as men.

Research has shown that men also are more responsive to carbohydrate loading than women. In other words, women do not increase muscle glycogen as much as men in response to consuming more carbohydrate in their diets. However, some of this research is clouded by the fact that women consume fewer total calories than men, so the lack of glycogen storage may be due to a lower caloric or carbohydrate intake by women rather than an inherent sex difference in the ability to store glycogen. When women increase their total caloric intake as they also increase the amount of carbohydrate in their diets, they increase their muscle glycogen content by a similar amount as men. From a training perspective, while men simply need to increase the percentage of their calories coming from carbohydrate in order to carbo load and store more glycogen, women need to also increase the total number of calories in their diets to get the same effect.

Because carbohydrate is the predominant fuel source during running and the only fuel source at speeds faster than acidosis threshold, research has focused on how the hormonal differences between men and women affect insulin and alter carbohydrate metabolism. Most research has found that women use less carbohydrate than men when exercising at similar intensities.

When you finish a workout that severely lowers your muscle glycogen content, it’s important to replenish the carbohydrates so you can resynthesize more glycogen to be prepared for your next run. In fact, refueling nutrient-depleted muscles is possibly the single most important aspect of optimal recovery from training and racing. Scientists first discovered in the late 1960s that endurance performance is influenced by the amount of stored glycogen in skeletal muscles, and that intense endurance exercise decreases muscle glycogen stores. The faster you can resynthesize muscle glycogen, the faster your recovery. Research has shown that the rate of glycogen synthesis in the first few hours following a workout (the time when you are best able to store glycogen because the cells are most sensitive to insulin) is similar between the sexes. This suggests that recovery rates between males and females are similar, at least the component of recovery affected by the resynthesis of fuel.

Fat Metabolism

As a consequence of not using as much carbohydrate during exercise, women rely more on fat than men. Indeed, it has been estimated that women use about 75 percent more fat than do men while running or cycling at 65 to 70 percent V·O2max. Women get about 39 percent of their energy from fat during exercise at 65 percent V·O2max, while men get about 22 percent of their energy from fat. However, the percentage of energy derived from fat varies significantly from person to person because factors such as training status, muscle fiber type, muscle glycogen content, and mitochondrial density all play a role.

While it is difficult to tease out the exact reasons for the difference between the sexes in the metabolism of carbohydrate and fat, it appears that estrogen is at least partly responsible. Research done on rats has shown that when male rats are given estrogen, they deplete less glycogen during exercise; the concentration of fatty acids in the blood increases, suggesting a greater availability of fat for energy; and they can exercise for longer periods before becoming exhausted. Increasing the amount of fatty acids circulating in the blood favors their use by muscle during exercise, resulting in a decreased reliance on muscle glycogen and blood glucose, thus delaying glycogen depletion and hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, and postponing fatigue.

This switch in fuel use to a greater reliance on fat at the same running speed also occurs from endurance training. Training enhances fat use by increasing the mitochondria in your muscles, allowing for more aerobic metabolism and the sparing of muscle glycogen. This shift in the energy source for muscular activity is a major advantage in delaying the onset of fatigue in running events that are limited by the availability of muscle glycogen—marathons and ultramarathons. Because humans’ carbohydrate stores are limited, the difference in metabolism between the sexes may give female runners an advantage for very long endurance activities, during which there is a greater need to conserve carbohydrate and a greater use of fat because of the slower pace. In 2002 and 2003, Pam Reed showed that science may be on to something, by winning the 135-mile (217K) Badwater Ultramarathon, beating all of the men. In shorter races, however, when there is a greater demand to generate energy quickly for muscle contraction, relying more on fat will slow the pace because energy is derived much more quickly from carbohydrate than from fat.

Protein Metabolism

The third macronutrient, protein, is often neglected in metabolism because it accounts for only 3 to 6 percent of the amount of energy expended while running. Rather, protein is used primarily for other things, such as building, maintaining, and repairing muscle, skin, and blood tissue, as well as aiding in the transportation of materials through the blood. Protein can be thought of as your body’s scaffolding and cargo. However, it can be used for energy if inadequate amounts of fat and carbohydrate are available because the body’s requirement for energy takes priority over tissue building. Although the amount of protein you use for energy may be small, even a small contribution to your daily run may be large if you run a lot and run often.

Exercise increases the use of amino acids from protein breakdown, and the amount of amino acids that your muscles use is inversely related to the amount of glycogen in the muscle. When glycogen is abundant, muscles rely on glycogen, but when glycogen is low, muscles begin to rely more on amino acids. Research has shown that females use less protein during exercise than do males. Because endurance-trained females use less muscle glycogen and rely more on fat than endurance-trained males, protein breakdown seems to be inhibited in females by virtue of the greater muscle glycogen.

Improving Your Transitions

Send to Kindle

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

Most triathletes spend the majority of their training hours on the three disciplines of the sport; few spend sufficient time practicing the actual mechanics of transitions and preparing for the subsequent segment while still competing in either the swim or bike portion. Therefore, the aim of this chapter is to discuss what some have called the fourth discipline of triathlon-transitions-including how to minimize the amount of time spent in T1 and T2 and how, from an exercise physiology aspect, to improve overall triathlon performance by taking advantage of recent advancements in pacing and drafting strategies across all disciplines.


Various studies have shown that the transition from one event of the race to another has important implications for physiological and kinematic (movement of the body) measures that affect both perceived effort and performance in the remaining events. One study found that athletes do not bike or run as economically after swimming and do not run as economically after the bike segment. Part of this lack of economy may in fact be due to an athlete’s inadequate technical ability or fitness level, which in turn leads to an increased metabolic load. This, then, emphasizes the need for transition training between each discipline and specific physiological training that will help triathletes switch between disciplines quickly and more efficiently-thus biking faster out of T1 and running faster out of T2.

Transition Layout

One of the key factors in having a successful transition experience is knowing the layout of the transition area, including its entry and exit points, and also the layout of your own equipment. Many triathletes bring far too much baggage into the area and clutter it up, not only for themselves but also for those sharing the rack, so bring only what you will be using during the actual race. You should also note that in accordance with USAT rules, you “own” only the piece of real estate where your wheel touches the ground, so do not spread your equipment in too large an area.

Most athletes rack their bikes by the seat so the front wheel is touching the ground. This can make for a faster exit from the bike rack than, say, if the bike is racked by the brake levers, which makes it more difficult to remove. Most races have a single transition area, so according to USAT rules, athletes must return their bikes to their assigned positions on the bike rack, and failure to do so may result in a penalty.

Remember that others will be in close proximity to you, and thus you should be considerate and keep your equipment in a tight and logical order. Lay your equipment out in reverse order, meaning the items that are farthest away are those you will be putting on last. For example, if you are looking down at the ground from farthest away to nearest, you would lay out your gear next to your bike in the following order:

  • Running shoes with lace locks or similar
  • Hat or visor
  • Socks (although many think they can race without them, the time spent putting them on for the run may be well spent rather than getting a blister)
  • Bike shoes (see later section on cyclo-cross mount and dismount)
  • Race number, which is usually attached to an elastic race belt so it’s easy to put on (check with the race director on local rules because some require you to wear your race number on the bike and some only for the run segment; if you have to wear it on the bike, in order to stop it flapping so much in the breeze, scrunch it up and wrinkle the whole race number, then spread it out and attach it to your race belt to limit the “sail effect” behind you)
  • Helmet and sunglasses, which may be on the ground or hanging on the front of your bike, but remember your helmet must be on and securely fastened before you leave the transition area; if you do not fasten your helmet before mounting your bike (outside the transition area), you could be disqualified

It is worthwhile to lay out your kit the same way for every race and have a set routine of what you put on first so you have less to think about in the heat of the race.

Swim to Bike Transition (T1)

It is well known that swimming has an impact on subsequent cycling performance, with some studies demonstrating that overall cycling performance may be hindered by short-duration, high-intensity swimming, such as a sprint triathlon when the distance is much shorter (usually 750-meter swim, 20K bike, and 5K run), thus many athletes try to swim this leg much faster than normal. One method of countering the detrimental impact of high-intensity swimming is drafting.

Drafting is the act of swimming very close behind or at hip level to another swimmer. It reduces passive drag, thus decreasing the effort to swim the same distance. Also drafting usually improves stroke economy and efficiency, therefore potentially improving the subsequent cycling performance. To take maximal advantage of drafting, swimming behind another triathlete at a distance up to 1.5 feet (.5 m) back from the toes is the most advantageous; in lateral drafting-in kayaking this is termed “catching the bow wave”-a swimmer’s head can be level with another swimmer’s hips. You would do this when there isn’t physical room to get behind another swimmer’s toes or there are other athletes all around you, preventing you from moving.

Also, many triathletes are aware of terms such as blood pooling and orthostatic intolerance but don’t actually know what they are. Orthostatic intolerance is characterized by impaired balance, dizziness, blurred vision, or even partial or complete loss of consciousness. This may occur postswim in athletes with normal blood pressure because of gravitational stress and the removal of the muscle pump. In fact, one study showed that severe dizziness after swimming when exiting the water and standing up for the transition section is a common occurrence for many triathletes, but it is more prevalent in highly trained endurance athletes. If this happens to you frequently, you should seek medical advice. However, the good news is that most athletes who get checked out by their doctors discover that severe dizziness is usually benign.

To counteract the effect of gravity and maintain blood pressure and venous return, one study suggests continuing to keep moving rather than stopping abruptly. This is especially important when removing the wetsuit upon exiting the water, stopping to walk up wet steps or noncarpeted transitions, bending down to put on cycling shoes, and so on. One way to offset dizziness as you leave the swim is to start utilizing the muscular pump by working the calf muscles as soon as possible, meaning you should take short steps at a higher cadence than normal as you make your way to the transition.

Ultimately, this will improve your ability to maintain venous return and blood pressure, maintain mental concentration through the transition, and execute pacing strategies for the start of the cycling discipline-thus going faster out of T1.

Bike to Run Transition (T2)

A debate exists regarding the metabolic cost of running at the end of a triathlon compared with running the same distance in isolation. However, the vast majority of research suggests that high-intensity cycling will have a detrimental effect on subsequent running performance, with the effects dependent on the fitness level of the triathlete; the greatest decreases in performance are observed in recreational triathletes, and minimal effects are seen in elite triathletes.

To offset the impact of cycling on running performance, researchers have come up with a few practical strategies; see Bentley et al. (2008) for further details. In summary, triathletes may be able to improve running performance by (1) drafting behind as many athletes as is practical (in draft-legal events); (2) adopting a cycling cadence of between 80-100 rpm (note, however, that cadence is a very personal matter-just consider the cycling cadence of Lance Armstrong (above 110 rpm for several hours at a time), for example-but many in triathlon will find a slightly higher cadence is acceptable); and (3) concentrating on reducing the effort during the final minutes of the cycling stage to prepare for the run. Points 2 and 3 really strike home for many coaches and physiologists. Pro cyclists will of course state the physiological benefits of spinning at greater than 110 rpm, but all too often, triathletes will trash themselves on the last 5K of the cycling discipline when coming in for the home stretch. However, the global performance time of a triathlon is the most important aspect, not the bike time. As such, establishing optimal pacing strategies for the start of the bike, the end of the bike, and the start of the run is an individual task and should be done in training on a regular basis. To put it as simply as possible: Don’t leave your run on the bike! And spinning is better than crunching big gears.

To emphasize this point, various studies tried to determine the best pacing strategy during the initial phase of an Olympic-distance triathlon for highly trained triathletes. Ten male triathletes completed a 10K control run at free pace as well as three individual time-trial triathlons in a randomized order. In the time trials, the swimming and cycling speeds imposed were identical to the first triathlon performed, and the first run kilometer was done alternately 5 percent faster, 5 percent slower, and 10 percent slower than in the control run. The triathletes were instructed to finish the remaining 9 kilometers (5.6 miles) as quickly as possible at a self-selected pace. The 5 percent slower run resulted in a significantly faster overall 10K performance than the 5 percent faster and 10 percent slower runs, respectively (p < .05). Of note, the 5 percent faster strategy resulted in higher values for oxygen uptake, ventilation, heart rate, and blood lactate at the end of the first kilometer than the two other conditions. After 5 and 9.5 kilometers, these values were higher for the 5 percent slower run (p < .05). This excellent and well-controlled study demonstrates that contrary to popular belief, running slower during the first kilometer of an Olympic-distance triathlon may actually improve overall 10K performance. With the recent advances in global positioning system (GPS) watches, split times and distances are easily available for triathletes to take advantage of even if no distance markers are provided during the triathlon. This technology is best used only if the triathlete has previously established performance standards for that particular event. Thus, for these data to be most effective, the triathlete must know what split time equals 5 percent slower than his maximal effort.

Why a triathlete’s most important tool is not a physical trait

Send to Kindle

This excerpt is from the an upcoming book author of Complete Triathlon Guide. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

Regardless of their differing levels of knowledge and experience, success for all triathletes begins with the planning process. In the forthcoming Complete Triathlon Guide (Human Kinetics, May 2012), USA Triathlon says that planning helps you identify clear goals, understand your current level of readiness, and establish an accurate training regimen. Planning also requires you to take a realistic look at your current position on a frequent basis throughout the season, acquire new information, and then make decisions on the way you are going to train.

According to Sharone Aharon, a contributor to Complete Triathlon Guide, the gold standard of developing an annual training plan and avoiding the pitfalls of poor planning is periodization. This refers to dividing a certain amount of time, in this case the training year, into smaller, easier-to-manage phases. The most common periodization refers to three segments of time that repeat themselves and differ by size:

1. Macrocycle. This is a long stretch of training that focuses on accomplishing a major overall goal or completing a race. “For example, if the Chicago Triathlon is your most important race of the season, the time from the first day of training at the beginning of the season until that race will be considered your macrocycle,” says Aharon.

A macrocycle is then made up of several small- and medium-size phases and covers a period of a few weeks to 11 months. For most athletes, especially beginners, a macrocycle covers the entire racing season, focusing on one big race for the year and the development of their basic physical and technical skills.

2. Mesocycle. This is a shorter block of training within the macrocycle that focuses on achieving a particular goal. It usually covers 3 to 16 weeks and will repeat a few times, each time with a different training objective or goal. Coaches often use three mesocycles, or phases, within the annual training plan: preparatory, competitive, and transition.

The preparatory phase establishes the physical, technical, and psychological base from which the competitive phase is developed. The competitive subphases are dedicated to maximizing fitness for ideal performance; coaches refer to these as build, race, or peak phases. The transition phase, finally, is the rest and rejuvenation phase in between training cycles or seasons. “Keep in mind that the level of the athlete will also influence the length of each phase,” Aharon comments. “A beginner most likely will have a very long preparatory phase, up to 22 weeks, to develop a strong foundation that will enable him or her to endure the load of progressive, more advanced training.”

3. Microcycle. This is the basic training phase that repeats itself within the annual plan. It is the smallest training period and is structured according to the objectives, volume, and intensity of each mesocycle. The microcycle is probably the most important and functional unit of training, since its structure and content determine the quality of the training process.

A microcycle can last for 3 to 10 days but typically refers to the weekly training schedule. “The progression of the microcycles within the mesocycle has to take into consideration the important balance between work and rest,” stresses Aharon. “Too much work without appropriate rest will lead to overtraining and injuries. On the other hand, too little work with too much rest will lead to underperformance.”

How Periodization is Used by Endurance Athletes

Send to Kindle

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics


For endurance athletes, the normal progression of fitness begins by developing a good aerobic base (see figure 3.1). Overdistance (OV) and endurance (EN) training are used to build the base of the aerobic system. This is followed by more high-aerobic and tempo work (moving up the pyramid). Then lactate threshold and maximal effort sessions (top of the pyramid) are added when the body has built up a strong foundation of aerobic fitness and strength.

A normal distribution outlining the volume, intensity, and percentage of each type of training during each progression can be seen in table 3.1. As noted, aerobic conditioning (indicated as overdistance and endurance) is a major portion of training year-round. Speed work (indicated as lactate threshold and V?O2max) is a smaller but very important component of training that helps athletes improve their performance. The information in table 3.1 can be used as a guide for planning the volume, intensity, and relative contributions of each area shown in figure 3.1.

Two types of periodization are commonly used by endurance athletes: traditional and inverse. Both types can be implemented using a standard or reverse method. In traditional periodization, the athlete progresses through the typical cycles of preparatory (base), precompetition (build or intensity), competition (race), and transition (off-season). For athletes who compete in events, a short tapering phase is generally used before competition. (See Tapering and Peaking later in this chapter.)

Figure 3.2 presents an example of the standard method of building volume and intensity within a traditional plan. The example depicts a 3-week build that should be followed by a 1-week recovery cycle. This strategy is usually best for novice and intermediate endurance athletes who have less than 7 years experience in the sport. The athlete is able to slowly build volume and intensity over 3 weeks. Note that a standard 3:1 build-to-recover progression is merely an example of the many ways to periodize a training program. This method could lead to high fatigue during the third week if the athlete is not ready for the load or if the athlete has a lot of outside stressors that influence recovery.

The reverse method, as its name implies, begins with a higher load and gradually decreases through the cycle (as shown in figure 3.3 on page 50). Athletes who have 7 or more years of experience in the sport can typically handle this type of progression. Because the training load is highest in the first week of training, this strategy is more demanding and should only be used by advanced athletes. This method can provide great benefits because the athlete engages in the highest training load after a recovery week, so the body is more rested. The athlete can more easily attain a higher volume and intensity of training because the accumulated fatigue is not as great as it is when using the standard method of progression.

The second popular type of periodization, inverse, begins the training year with an emphasis on strength and technique. The athlete then progresses to focusing on speed and strength, followed by aerobic power and economy. Finally, before the competitive season, the athlete shifts to focusing on aerobic capacity. The two methods of progression—standard and reverse—still apply. Because of the higher speed and the strength training component in the beginning of the training year, athletes should be experienced in their sport and have well-established cardiovascular fitness before beginning this method. This method of progression improves the athlete’s strength and speed earlier in the year and allows the aerobic component to be shortened and implemented just before the race season.

As mentioned previously, a periodization mesocycle can be planned in many ways. The traditional 3:1 build-to-recover cycle is popular but is not recommended for all athletes (as explained earlier). Other potential build-to-recover models—such as 2 weeks to 1 week, 16 days to 5 days, or 23 days to 5 days—can be implemented with great success. The 2:1 cycle is especially good for novice endurance athletes because it allows for good recovery in the beginning of a training program. Keep in mind that any single approach to training may not work throughout the entire season. For an athlete to continue progressing toward optimal performance, various training methods may need to be used throughout the athlete’s training year. Once the athlete’s body begins to develop and the athlete’s performance begins to level off, it may be time to change the periodization method or look at the recovery program in more detail.

Improve your endurance by knowing what affects your heart rate

Send to Kindle

This excerpt is from the author of Heart Rate Training. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

One of the most valuable long-term pieces of information you can gather is resting heart rate. When you wake up each morning, take a minute to get an accurate resting heart rate and keep a log. You’ll find this an invaluable tool, providing feedback on injury, illness, overtraining, stress, incomplete recovery, and so on. It is also a very simple gauge of improvements in fitness. We know athletes who have gathered resting heart rate data for years and in a day or two can identify a 1 or 2 bpm elevation that precedes an illness or a bonk session. Some newer heart rate monitors have the capacity for 24-hour monitoring.

Several factors affect heart rate at rest and during exercise. In general, the main factors affecting heart rate at rest are fitness and state of recovery. Gender also is suggested to play a role, albeit inconsistently (more about this later). In general, fitter people tend to have lower resting heart rates. Some great athletes of the past have recorded remarkably low resting heart rates. For example, Miguel Indurain, five-time winner of the Tour de France, reported a resting heart rate of only 28 bpm. The reason for this is that, with appropriate training, the heart muscle increases in both size and strength. The stronger heart moves more blood with each beat (this is called stroke volume) and therefore can do the same amount of work with fewer beats. As you get fitter, your resting heart rate should get lower.

The second main factor affecting resting heart rate is state of recovery. After exercise, particularly after a long run or bike ride, several things happen in the body. Fuel sources are depleted, temperature increases, and muscles are damaged. All of these factors must be addressed and corrected. The body has to work harder, and this increased work results in a higher heart rate. Even though you might feel okay at rest, your body is working harder to repair itself, and you’ll notice an elevated heart rate. Monitoring your resting heart rate and your exercise heart rate will allow you to make appropriate adjustments such as eating more or taking a day off when your rate is elevated.

These same factors of recovery and injury also affect heart rate during exercise. The factors that elevate resting heart rate also elevate exercise heart rate. If you’re not fully recovered from a previous workout, you might notice, for example, at your usual steady-state pace, an exercise heart rate that is 5 to 10 bpm higher than normal. This is usually accompanied by a rapidly increasing heart rate throughout the exercise session.

An extremely important factor affecting exercise heart rate is temperature. Warmer temperatures cause the heart to beat faster and place considerable strain on the body. Simply put, when it is hot, the body must move more blood to the skin to cool it while also maintaining blood flow to the muscles. The only way to do both of these things is to increase overall blood flow, which means that the heart must beat faster. Depending on how fit you are and how hot it is, this might mean a heart rate that is 20 to 40 bpm higher than normal. Fluid intake is very important under these conditions. Sweating changes blood volume, which eventually can cause cardiac problems. The simplest and most effective intervention to address high temperature and heart rate is regular fluid intake. This helps to preserve the blood volume and prevent the heart from beating faster and faster.

Another important factor affecting exercise heart rate is age. In general, MHR will decline by about 1 beat per year starting at around 20 years old. Interestingly, resting heart rate is not affected. This is why the basic prediction equation of 220 – age has an age correction factor. As a side note, this decrease in MHR often is used to explain decreases in .VO2max and endurance performance with increasing age, because the number of times the heart beats in a minute affects how much blood is moved and available to the muscles. We have coached and tested thousands of athletes, and the general trend is that athletes of the same age who produce higher heart rates often have higher fitness scores. However, your MHR is what it is, and you cannot change it. Don’t obsess over it.

A final factor is gender. Recent studies have suggested a variation in MHR between males and females. However, the data are inconclusive with the calculations resulting in lower MHRs for males versus females of the same age, while anecdotal reports suggest that the MHRs are actually higher in males. In general, females have smaller hearts and smaller muscles overall than males. Both of these factors would support the conclusion of a higher MHR in females, certainly at the same workload. We have to conclude that the jury is still out on the gender effect.

Types of Stretching

Send to Kindle

This is from the author of Stretching Anatomy. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

There are various stretching techniques, but three main methods have proven effective.


Static stretching is the most practiced stretching method. Because its purpose is to maintain the body in good physical form, static stretching is more appropriate for beginners and people who are not very active.

Static stretching relies on basic stretch-ing movements and muscle contractions. These exercises, performed slowly over time, help you discover your deep (postur-al) muscles. They allow you to work your entire body while increasing awareness of your flexibility.

Muscles are lengthened using bending, extending, or twisting positions. These stretches must be done slowly so that the antagonistic muscles are not stimulated. Once you are comfortable in a stretched position, you hold the position for about 15 to 20 seconds to relax, lengthen, and oxygenate the muscle fibers.


Dynamic stretching is often recommended in athletic training programs. It increases energy and power because it acts on the elasticity of muscles and tendons. It relies on swinging movements done with a certain amount of speed. The technique consists of swinging the legs or arms in a specific direction in a controlled manner without bouncing or jerky movements. The agonist muscle contracts rapidly, which lengthens the antagonist muscle, thereby stretching it.


PNF stands for proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation. The PNF stretching technique is widely used in reeducation therapy. PNF stretching involves four steps:

Gradually stretch a muscle to its maximum.

Perform an isometric contraction for about 15 to 20 seconds (while still in the lengthened position).

Relax the muscle for about 5 seconds.

Restretch that same muscle for about 30 seconds.

It’s Show Time

Send to Kindle

Like my three-year-old nephew said at a college football game, “It’s game day, baby!”. Relax, enjoy the race. There’s nothing more you can do other than execute your race plan. All the training is behind you.

This is from the author of Distance Cycling. It’s published with permission of Human Kinetics

“All your hard work in training and preparation is done. Now relax, take it all in, and have fun. For a successful ride pay attention to these key things:

Pace yourself When the gun goes off, some riders go out fast. Unless you’re going for a personal best, avoid getting caught up with them. Choose your groups wisely and pace yourself. In the excitement of the start, you may go faster than you should, so take it easy for the first 30 minutes. Remember that the group riding your pace is often behind you! If you are using a heart rate monitor, keep in mind that your heart rate may be elevated compared with what you experience on training rides, so you may be better off using perceived exertion as a guide. With a power meter current wattage fluctuates a lot. Try to keep it in the same range as you do during your long training rides.

Check your cue sheet Put one copy of the cue sheet in a map holder on your handlebar, carry it in your jersey pocket, or tuck it up one leg of your shorts for quick reference. Stow the other copy in another location. Some organizers paint arrows on the pavement to show the turns, but if other rides have been routed through the same area, determining which arrows to follow can be difficult. Don’t assume that other riders are following the course correctly; double-check each turn yourself.

Ride with a group Riding with a group increases the fun; however, pay attention to your ride even during a fun conversation. Even if you aren’t the first rider, look down the road for potential problems and point them out to your group. Ride smoothly in a straight line and signal or call out before you move or change speed. Don’t overlap front and rear wheels.

Ride in a pace line If it’s windy or the pace is above 15 miles per hour (24 km/h), you can save a lot of energy by riding in an organized pace line. Remember the protocol: Ride at a pace everyone can sustain, take short pulls, look carefully for traffic before you drop to the back, drop to the traffic side of the line if a crosswind isn’t blowing, and drop to the windward side if it is. Be cautious when riding in a pace line with unfamiliar riders who may not know the protocol.

Eat and drink The first hour goes by quickly. Start eating in the first hour. Depending on your body size we recommend consuming a mix of carbohydrate totaling 60 to 90 grams, or 240 to 360 calories, plus a little protein and fat, during each hour of riding and drinking to satisfy your thirst. Nibbling on a variety of carbohydrate during each hour will work better than eating one thing on the hour. Use your experience from the weekly long rides to guide you;what worked on them will work on the century. If you might forget to eat or drink, set your watch to remind you.

Take advantage of rest stops Rolling into an aid station during your ride feels great. Take advantage of what they offer but use them wisely. View them not as places to rest but as resupply stations. If you have tight muscles, stretches using your bike will loosen you up (see figures 7.2 through 7.4).

When you arrive at a rest stop, park your bike carefully to avoid thorns and other potentially hazardous debris. Before leaving do a quick bike check: Are your tires hard? Are they clean? Are your brakes working?

Enjoy the company of others but avoid lingering so long that you get stiff. Use the restroom, fill your bottles and pockets, and get back on the road. Before you leave, thank the volunteers because without them rides like this could not exist. When reentering the road watch for cars and other bikes and ease back into your pace as you did at the start.

Mentally manage the ride During your century, problems may occur. Don’t panic—almost anything can be solved. Take a deep breath, relax, and diagnose the problem. Is the problem with the bike? Riding with a soft tire or a rubbing brake can be a drag—literally. Are you getting repeated flats? Make sure that nothing is embedded in the tire or protruding from the rim strip. If you are down mentally, have you forgotten to eat or drink? If your legs are tired, did you go out too hard? Mentally review your three basic scenarios. If you have forgotten to eat, don’t try to make up the calories immediately because doing so may give you digestive problems. Instead, just get back on schedule. If you have gone out too fast and your legs are trashed, slow down for a while, regroup, and adjust your expectations. Your energy level and emotions will fluctuate during the ride. You may find that after slowing down for a while your energy will return. Above all, whatever happens, remember that this is your ride. You still can have fun and finish.

Enjoy the experience Whether this is your first or hundredth century, enjoy it. Get your head away from your electronics and look around you. Discover the beautiful scenery right in front of you. Chat with other riders who come and go. You may find new riding partners who become lifelong friends. Carry a small camera in your seat pack or jersey pocket, take lots of photos, and offer to share them with others. By relaxing and putting the fun factor ahead of your performance, you’ll have fond memories for years to come.”

Looking for something new to enhance training?

Send to Kindle

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.”