Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tips and Tricks to Keep you Rolling

I would be lying if I said my education, athletic background, and experiences as a student physical therapist haven't helped me become a better triathlete.  Over the years I've picked up some tips and tricks to ease my aches, soothe sore muscles, and just plain feel better.

I received the The Stick as a gift long before I began triathlon.  My roommates parents in undergrad had purchased a few and I was the lucky recipient of one!  It's easy to travel with, use on your own legs and let someone else you on your back.  Though its tough to get pin point deep tissue spots with The Stick it works out tight muscle tissue and can help you identify deeper areas that may need more attention.  It's somewhat expensive for such a simplistic device and though I've never tried it, I hear a rolling pin works well too.

The Tennis Ball
As runner's and/or triathletes, or anyone who spends a lot of time on their feet a tennis ball can work wonders for achy arches.  Relieve plantar fascia pain by rolling your foot over a tennis ball for a few minutes 2x/day.  Be aware that pain on the sole of the foot can also be referred pain from trigger points in the soleus muscle of the calf (deep to the gastrocnemius).  You can search for trigger points in your soleus by using your thumb to press into the medial side of your lower leg or even using the tennis ball on the area.  The tennis ball can also be very useful in relieving piriformis/gluteus (butt) pain/tightness.

The Double Tennis Ball

Let's face it - triathletes and cyclists spend a lot of hours in a flexed position on the bike.  This can affect posture, comfort, and overall biomechanics of everyday movement.  The double tennis ball can work wonders to help stretch the thoracic spine into extension, relieve tight paravertebral muscles and even manipulate your own back if you want.  Simply get 2 tennis balls and a roll of athletic tape.  Tape the balls together by taping around both balls a couple times.  Then do a couple layers of tape at the junction of the two balls. You will want to line the tape at the junction up with your spine when using this contraption.   Align the balls up along your thoracic spine.  Lay over the balls, supporting yourself with your elbows, to your own point of comfort.  Allowing yourself to lay all the way over the balls (perhaps quickly) could result in a self manipulation.  If your muscles are very tight along the sides of your spine this may seem quite uncomfortable at first, but it will help you straighten up once you're off the bike.

Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate
I personally don't use this one yet.  1-2 tbsp per day of tart cherry juice concentrate can help reduce inflammation.   Peer reviewed studies have been done with results showing less markers of inflammation in the blood after certain workouts.  A number of middle aged marathoner friends stand by this and say they've never felt better while training for a marathon.

Ice Bath
I do not use ice baths often enough, but after a hard race they are a must.  Especially if you are preparing for another race in the not so distant future.  The ice bath can help ease aches and pains by decreasing inflammation and actually promoting blood flow to deep muscle tissue.  Ice baths after training sessions can keep an athlete training hard while avoiding injury.  If you've never tried an ice bath before give it a go, or at least a trash can full of ice water for your legs!

Compression Socks
After long hard runs and bricks I like to sport my CEP compression socks.  They help my legs recover and feel better sooner.  I especially like the compression socks for travel after races - airplanes and long car rides when you are stuck in one position for too long.  They ever come in awesome colors like bright green and bright pink.  Make sure to take an accurate measure of the circumference of your calf before you purchase to ensure the proper amount of compression!

Massage can be useful when timed correctly with your training and racing cycles.  I get a professional deep tissue massage during the beginning of my recovery weeks (1x/month).  The other weeks I use the stick, tennis balls, friends, and fellow PTs to work out any non sense.  Seek out a massage therapist that is familiar with endurance athletes and one that you are comfortable with.

I'm not that great at this one.  As we all know recovery is the time when you get stronger, when your body adapts to all the training you've put in.  Allow yourself time to recover both in your macrocycles and your microcycles.  I give myself one day of recovery per week, this doesn't mean I take the day completely off, I usually include a recovery swim, bike, or run (rare).

Physical Therapy
When you have a muscle strain, sprain or other pain that you can't seem to take care of seek out professional help.  It's better to find out what's holding you back and take care of it now before it costs you the entire racing season.  Physical therapists are licensed professionals able to provide biomechanical analysis of movements, functional assessments, perform dry needling, soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, manipulation, modalities (electrical stimulation/ultrasound) and therapeutic exercise.  Again, seek out a PT who is familiar with endurance athletes!  PTs can specialize in many different areas - as an athlete a PT with an athletic background, experience treating endurance athletes, and possible advanced orthopaedic or sports certification can be a completely different experience than a PT specialized in neuro, geriatrics, etc.

Do you have any tips or tricks you use to keep you rolling?  

~A leap day post by Holli M. Finneren, SPT~

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Tri Geek Paradise

Saturday, February 25 was the Southeastern Endurance and Multisport Expo in Atlanta, GA.  This expo is actually a fundraiser for the Getting2Tri Foundation.  I've been following and eager to get involved with the Getting2Tri foundation for the past couple years.  Now that I am in Atlanta I will actually have some opportunities to interact, volunteer, and actually be involved with Getting2Tri.  After attending Multisport World last March in Bethesda I had high expectations of SEE-ME 2012.

After a great group ride with PTS Sports I got cleaned up and ventured down into Atlanta for the expo. The expo was at the Concourse Athletic Club in Atlanta.  I pulled up to the "King and Queen" Towers, oblivious to the fact that this was actually exactly where the Concourse Athletic Club is located.  I've driven past the towers many a time before and didn't think a sweet athletic club would be located there.

As I walked in I was shocked to see a heated outdoor lap pool...nice!  The club was very nice and full of gym goers and triathletes making there way to the expo.  The expo was downstairs in between some workout equipment, which was weird, but it worked.  Compared to some other expo's, Multispot World, Nation's Triathlon, MCM, Ironman events, this was small.  Quality over quantity though right?  The Getting2Tri athletes were all around, local cycling and triathlon shops had booths as did race companies, training groups, and rehab specialists.  I mingled around, talked to the PT Solutions guys for awhile, and even found myself in a Women's Triathlon 101 seminar, whoops.

I was able to pick up some bright pink Yankz for my Kinvaras in preperation for race season start up in April, score a free water bottle, koozie, and a couple bags.  The best part of the experience was meeting local Atlanta triathletes and feeling a little more plugged into the tri scene down here.  I got some good tips on rides (other than Silver Comet), master's swim groups, races, and more.  It feels good to be a little bit more plugged in and to spend a few hours surrounded by people as passionate about triathlon as I am.  I still miss DC - I miss Saturday rides, M/W/F master's swim, and long Thursday evening runs all through the district.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Fear of Failure

This is, in a way, related to my Fear of Success post from earlier in the year.  Different organizations, regions, areas, etc. have come to push success so far that any bit of failure is unacceptable.  Perfectionism is demanded and they won't settle for anything less than untainted success.  I've seen this in middle school and high school athletes, middle aged businessmen, elite athletes, and students of all ages.  Failure, though, is not the enemy.  Those who are truly successful in what they do have failed time and again, only to come back better because of it.

We all know the story of Micheal Jordon and his famous quote, "I've missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I've lost almost 300 games. 26 times, I've been trusted to take the game winning shot and missed. I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed."  Failure should be embraced, reflected upon, used as a time of growth and learning.  Personally, I've failed time and again in all aspects of my life.  In triathlon, I've failed horribly with my nutrition, transitions, bike intensity, swim technique, run intensity, pre-race warm-up, etc.  Without all the mistakes I've made I would not have been able to develop better race plans and preparations that have more recently landed me on the podium.  So why then did I fear signing up for collegiate nationals?

As some of you may know, I will be racing in the 2012 USAT Collegiate National Championships in Tuscaloosa, AL on April 21.  Though looking back the decision to race should have been a no brainer, I took my time to think it all through.  I had to ask myself "why not, what are you afraid of?"  I was afraid of not winning, of not racing to my own expectations, I was afraid of the competition.  This year is dominated by Ironman training and I know my Olympic Distance race pace might suffer due to this but the experience of racing against elite competition is something I need to take advantage of so I can learn more lessons and prepare for my future.   I may have to adjust my goals for the race, but in the end the opportunity, the journey, and the experience are what matter the most.

What races are you still thinking about signing up for, what's holding you back?

A fear of failure can lead us to display such behaviors as self-handicapping, perfectionism, and avoidance.  Remember, your playing small does not serve the world.  Only those who risk going to far, will truly find out how far they can go.  Remember the greatest athletes have all failed during their journey to greatness, and they continue to fail.  It's how they recover and learn from those mistakes that truly makes them great.