Periodization – What It Is and Why It Is An Important Component of a Racer’s Program

You are a dedicated athlete that trains on a regular basis. You have the best of intentions with your training, but lately, no matter how hard you work out, you aren’t making any gains. You have plateaued. What has really happened is that your body has adapted to your workouts and it needs new challenges. This is where periodization comes in.

At both the amateur and professional levels, the racing season has increased to the point where the racer is competing nearly year-round and actually inhibiting his or her ability to improve physically as a racer.  It is unrealistic to think that a racer can be in top form every weekend from January through December.  Throughout the year, the body has to be provided the opportunity to develop various energy systems through specific workouts. For long term improvement, a window of time must be provided to rest and recover from the stress loads applied to the muscles and cardiovascular system.  This is where periodization comes into a racer’s program.  Periodizaton creates phases of training or “periods” to keep your body working hard, while still giving it adequate rest. It answers how hard, how long and how often a racer should train to reap the benefits of training without burning out or getting injured.

With riding and racing encompassing so many elements of your life, it has literally become a lifestyle – sleep, eat, ride, train off the motorcycle, repeat until the next weekend.  However, this lifestyle of training, doesn’t allow you to systematically decide to begin training seriously for four weeks out and then be ready for the season’s first big race.  On the other hand, hitting the Concept 2 Rower the Monday after your big race and riding every day until next weekend’s race isn’t productive for you either.  The reason being, you will not be able to push the body beyond its normal performance level and then you don’t allow enough time for the body to adapt to the stress loads.

At MotoE, we break a year into four training “seasons”: Pre-Season, Pre-Competitive, Competitive and Off Season.  Each season has a different performance objective to optimize your training time for maximum results.

The duration of training cycles vary based on individual identified weaknesses during assessments, but typically consist of the following:

Pre-Season (12 weeks): Develops maximum aerobic capacity, muscular strength and flexibility; this is also an ideal time to work with your riding coach to help with technique and mechanics.

Pre-Competitive (8 weeks): Continued development of aerobic engine, final stage of maximum strength development, and the implementation of slight lactate tolerance intervals.

Competitive (4 Cycles of 7 weeks): Specialization is the main component of this season.  Your anaerobic threshold and sprint training should make up the high-quality workouts during the week.  Also during this phase is the increased need for rest – ideally one complete day of rest per week to help you recover both mentally and physically.

Off Season (4 weeks): This is where you deviate away from heavily structured training. Instead of structured training, you are back to casual riding or

any other type of cross training.  You don’t want to become so inactive that you begin to lose the conditioning you have worked so hard to achieve throughout the year; you do, however, what to remain active and healthy.

 STEP ONE: ESTABLISHING GOALS

This step involves establishing your long-term goals and developing a plan for achieving each of your goals.  This step needs to be quantified, simple, optimistic and realistic. Though this sounds like an easy task, it takes real brainstorming to narrow this first step down and onto pape.r An example of an unrealistic long-term goal: “I want to be fast”.  There is no way to quantify fast and there is no time line established to complete it.  It also doesn’t tell you what you are setting your standards against.

If you say: “I want to be the top local rider in my class by May in the Gold Cup series” – this is quantified, specific and with a little research you can determine what it will take to surpass the current top riders to achieve the status you are looking for.

At MotoE we have our clients establish three sets of goals – 3-month, 6-month and 12-month.  The most important thing to remember when you are sitting down to establish your goals is that they need to be specific and each should have a date applied.  Without specific goals, you will quickly lose your motivation to stick to the homework, especially when it becomes difficult (due to either the duration or intensity levels required) or boring (i.e. stretching).

STEP TWO: DETERMINING A STARTING POINT WITH YOUR TRAINING

If you are starting at a minimum fitness level, you will have to increase your overall strength and endurance before your dive into a comprehensive performance training program.  As a general rule of thumb, strive not to increase your duration of your overall workouts by more than 5-8% every other week.  Once you have been consistent with some level of training for six to eight weeks without any physical set backs, it is time to determine exactly where your fitness levels are – this will identify your strengths and weaknesses and what to address with daily training to maximize your training time (especially for those of you that work and/or have a family to balance).

The main concept to keep in mind when it comes to training is to strengthen weaknesses which have been specifically identified through field testing.  Riders and racers, like any athletes, have a tendency to complete workouts focusing only on the elements where strength already exists.  For example, in the gym, you rarely see anyone working their legs due to the high levels of lactic acid and associated increased heart rate levels.  Instead they avoid these uncomfortable exercises and complete lower intensity exercises which do not address their physical limiters.   If you use riding a road bicycle as a form of cross training, and you are not a strong climber, how often do you go out and complete hill repeats to increase your strength and lactate tolerance?  It is not that you are soft; it is simply human nature to do the activities where we feel strong and confident.

When it comes to assessments, it is imperative that you capture three key testing data points in field testing: aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance.  At MotoE, we are more interested in testing these three variables within the training modalities that you have been using over the last six to twelve months.  The important thing to keep in mind with establishing base line assessment numbers is to be consistent with your testing protocols.  For example, if you use the Concept 2 Rower for your cardio training, it would not be a wise choice to use a running test for your lactate tolerance and aerobic capacity testing due to the different muscle groups and demands on the cardiovascular system – ultimately your testing data would be inaccurate.

STEP THREE: ESTABLISHING A TRAINING PROGRAM BASED ON YOUR FIELD TESTING RESULTS

This is where a human performance specialist can be an asset to a rider and racer’s development program – identifying where the most progress can be achieved in the shortest amount of time.  As an illustration, a racer gets a riding coach to help work on problem areas around the track.  A racer may be fast through the whoops, but if he or she can not get in and out of the corners fast, the time gained in the whoops is immediately lost in the next corner.  The same applies to developing the training protocols that are going to maximize the appropriate energy systems to enhance the elements of aerobic capacity, muscular strength and lactate tolerance specific to riding a motorcycle as fast as possible for as long as possible.

If you are serious about making performance gains, periodized training will ensure that you continue to make measurable progress and steps towards achieving your goals.

Top 10 Things to Make Your Key Race More Successful

1. Taper.

If you have followed your plan, you are trained. Realize that you are NOT going to gain any more fitness or speed before your big race. However, you CAN negatively affect both if you panic and try to “squeeze” in one more high intensity workout. The body needs the opportunity to “absorb” the workloads that you have subjected the body to in the form of intensity, volume and frequency.  To race to your full potential you need to come into the race feeling fresh – mentally and physically.  A rule of thumb is to come into your high profile races one percent undertrained, rather than one percent over trained.  If you are over trained, even by one percent, you will not be resilient to the challenge of a typical race week: heat, humidity, loaded competition, setbacks, frustrations, rain, etc.

2. Identify your sweat rate to avoid over or under hydration.

You need to know how much sweat you lose during a high intensity effort in the humidity and temperatures you plan to race in. Though this may sound obvious (and even difficult to implement for most people), this will help eliminate two significant problems during race week: dehydration and hyponatremia.  Dehydration is when your body loses too much water in the way of sweat.  You don’t want to lose more than 3-4% of your total body weight (including the amount of fluids you consumed prior to the race).  Send us an email at Contact@CoachRobb.com to receive a copy of our Sweat Rate Calculator. Hyponatremia is when you consume more water than your body can absorb and properly hydrate the body.  Walking around with a gallon of straight water is the quickest way to over-hydrate and become physically ill.  When the body is over hydrated, you will feel nauseous, dizzy and have little to no energy.

3. Determine your nutrition and hydration plan.

Prior to your race you need to plan and test your nutrition and hydration. If you are bonking or experiencing gastrointestinal issues, then you know that what you are eating or drinking is not working and you need to reevaluate. Testing is key to developing a solid plan that will work for you on race day.

4. Establish an effective warm up.

To avoid using the first 10 minutes of your race to get your body up to your full race speed, you need to come to the starting line warmed up.  There are a few physiological adaptations that your body will go through, but understand that if you are warmed up sufficiently, your muscles will embrace the high intensity levels right from the beginning of the race.  A proper warm up will not only increase your speed, but will offset the potential for fatigue later in the race because the muscles and energy systems are working efficiently.

5. Learn to breathe.

Though this skill may sound odd, the ability to maximize your oxygen uptake is the foundation for speed AND endurance.  Click here to watch a video on how to learn how to breathe properly.  Once you can breathe deep through your belly in a relaxed setting (i.e. when you are lying down to go to sleep), you can begin to implement during your training and racing. This is a simple drill and skill to learn with huge rewards!

6. Get a therapeutic massage rather than deep tissue.

Avoid deep tissue massage prior to a race. The residual soreness and inflammation associated with deep tissue is completely contrary to what your body needs while you are peaking for your key race. Though deep tissue work is counterproductive for peak performance prior to a race, therapeutic massage is beneficial because it will help the tissue relax (you will sleep better) and improve range of motion within the muscles and associated joints.  A good massage therapist will help you identify any overly tight muscle(s) which will maximize your stretching and soft tissue efforts.

7. Nothing new.

Don’t try anything new the week of your race.  If you haven’t consumed something in training and have concrete evidence that the food you are eating will yield a positive result, don’t eat it, especially the night before your race! Many adverse reactions can result from introducing new foods: dehydrations, diarrhea, nausea and low energy levels.

8. Establish a schedule to avoid rushing.

One of the biggest energy robbers on race day is rushing around the morning of to get to the starting line. Once the race schedule is established, sit down and create a daily schedule including sleep, eating, warm-up, race and post race recovery. You need to know where you need to be and when and then stick to the schedule.  Sounds basic, but this task will save you energy when you are doing exactly what you “planned” to be doing.  You will be both more productive (because you are focused) and less stressed (because you have a little bit of extra time in case something goes wrong).

9. Eat real food.

Avoid eating anything that comes out of a box and instead snack on real food: fruits, vegetables and lean sources of protein. Fresh fruits and vegetables are high in water and natural electrolytes – both imperative for optimum performance. Lean protein sources will provide your body with the necessary amino acids to replenish the torn down muscles associated with high intensity racing.

10. Don’t carbo load.

The quickest way to throw you off of your race game is to follow the old theory of “Carbo-Loading”. What you may not know is that to store one gram of carbohydrates in your body (you store sugar in your body in the form of glycogen and you store it within your muscles and liver) your body stores 2.5 grams of water.  So, if you “load up” on carbs, you can easily add 3-5 pounds in extra water – overnight.  Think about strapping a five-pound dumbbell to your waist and hit the starting line. The added weight will throw your form off and you won’t even understand why. [Note: your liver fuels your brain when you sleep and your muscles fuel your racing efforts.]

What Happens to the Brain When a Concussion Happens

What happens to the brain when a concussion happens?

Inside your skull you have cerebrospinal fluid and of course your brain. A violent impact causes your brain to vibrate and sometimes even bump against the skull bone. If the force is too much, you end up with a concussion. Ironically, the trauma that occurs when the brain hits the skull is often not evident because the damage is on the inside.  It is known as the “Silent Injury” according to Dr. Lovell from the University of Pittsburgh’s medical center which researches concussions.

Once common mistake is assuming that because you didn’t get “knocked out”  the hit to your head was minimal. If you experience vomiting, dilated pupils, loss of smell or taste you should visit with a neurologist immediately. Additional negative symptoms after a head impact are headaches, dizziness or memory loss lasting more than five days or delayed memory of easy questions (i.e. what did you eat for breakfast yesterday morning?).

Four Stages of a Concussion

Impact to the head – The most common causes of concussions are falls, car accidents, impact sports and explosions. The trauma causes force to the head in two directions: linear (forwards and backwards) or rotational (side to side). These forces literally cause your brain to “slosh” within the cerebrospinal fluid and bump up against the skull.

Inflammation – Trauma to the brain can damage neurons, the cells that govern the flow of chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. In the worst case scenario, those damaged neurons lose control of the neurotransmitters, allowing them to accelerate up to five (5x) their normal speed. The resulting chemical acceleration can cause memory loss, blurred vision, dizziness, headache and nausea.

Hibernation – Your brain’s cortex detects the neurotransmitter imbalance and tries to fix the neurons by calling for a surge of healing glucose. At the same time, calcium neurotransmitters start constricting the blood vessels, delaying glucose from reaching the neurons. Your brain function slows until blood flow returns to normal.

Recovery – Healing the neurons within your brain can take several weeks.. However, if you sustain another concussion during this period, you could suffer permanent damage and a lifetime of headaches and other adverse side effects. Though it is hard for competitive athletes,  staying away from the potential of re-hitting your head, rest & proper nutrition will facilitate the recovery process.

Note: if you experience headaches after hitting your head, DO NOT consume aspirin or ibuprofen (this may increase your risk of brain bleeding); instead use acetaminophen.

Concussion Dangers and Side Effects

In a previous article I outlined what happens to the brain when a concussion is experienced and the four stages associated with a concussion. (Note: if you need a copy of this article, please email me and I will send you a copy of the article). In this article I want to outline the associated dangers and side effects of a concussion.

Defining a Concussion

Research has validated that you don’t have to be knocked unconscious to be classified as a concussion. We now know that a hard hit to the head without losing consciousness can result in damage to the brain tissue and the neurons and nerves embedded within this tissue. Initial symptoms of concussion include, but are not limited to: disorientation, headache, vertigo (loss of balance), nausea and vomiting. The secondary symptoms include, but are not limited to: mood swings, insomnia (not able to sleep), memory loss, inability to talk without slurring, sensitivity to noise and light, sudden symptoms of being clumsy and unable to hold onto things without dropping them unintentionally.

Health Dangers Associated with a Concussion (only made worse by multiple concussions)

You have rattled your brain, extensive research has validated that a second mild concussion shortly after the first can add up to a lifetime of physical disability (troubles with balance, walking, eating, etc.) and cognitive disorders (inability to focus, remember, perceive analyze and blend sounds, delayed processing speed which makes it difficult to take a test, tie your shoes or answer questions).

How to Handle a Concussion

First and foremost, discontinue any more activity – no matter what anyone says (reference the long term complications outlined above)! According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, the following criteria have to be met before a patient is released from the hospital after incurring a concussion:

  • Patient is alert, oriented and able to follow simple commands
  • Patient has no suggestion of skull fracture (which can include some subtle signs, such as bruising around the eyes or behind the ears, blood behind the eardrums, or clear fluid leaking from the nose or ears)
  • Patient isn’t taking aspirin or other anticoagulants (a substance that keeps the blood from clotting)
  • Patient hasn’t had a seizure
  • Patient can remember events up to 30 minutes before the injury
  • Patient is younger than 65 years of age

Ironically, even if you pass the criteria outlined above, the next round of questions stems around the nature of your concussion:

  • Did you fall from higher than three feet?
  • Did you vomit more than once after the injury?
  • Were in a car accident?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, then you need to cat a CAT scan (CT Scan) of your head to ensure that there are no signs of inflammation or swelling. If the CT scan comes back normal, you will need to ensure that someone is with you at your place of residence to wake you up every two hours and ask you simple questions like: What is your name, what is today’s date, when is your birthday, etc.?).

How Long to Wait Before Resuming Training & Racing

This decision needs to be made by a qualified physician and no one else. When you realize that you are making a decision about your brain and your long term health, clearance to resume training and racing needs to be made with medically backed supervision. The reason for this is two-fold. First, the physician is providing you feedback without emotion: your body is either ready to resume training and racing or it isn’t. Second, if your physican is saying that you are not ready to train and race, he/she is keeping you from injuring yourself worse. This occurs as a result of your brain not being clear and the lack of skills necessary to safely train, ride and race: depth perception, ability to process speed, etc. This situation will result in you hitting the ground again and causing not only a delay in your return, but worse, causing more damage to your head and associated bodily functions.

I realize that you love to train and race, but you have to respect the fact that you have only been provided one brain and it is literally the center of your existence – if your brain is injured, the rest of your life will suffer. No puns intended, but think about this…

Thanks for reading – if you have any questions or need anything clarified, please feel free to email me!

What An Elevated Heart Rate Means and What To Do If Yours Is Elevated

There is a tremendous amount of discussion floating around these days regarding resting heart rate; however, there is little information regarding what an elevated heart rate means to you as an athlete.

What Causes an Elevated Heart Rate? When it comes to the various forms of stress that your body is subjected to on a daily basis, the list is quite long and complex: lack of quality & quantity of food, dehydration, relationships, financial, school, work, quality & quantity of sleep and keeping all of these variables within manageable levels.   One must realize that your brain doesn’t have a filing system for each form of stress, but rather one large file to handle and address the needs of each form of stress. Notice that the discussion of training and racing hasn’t even been introduced to the stress file. When you train too hard or too long too often, the body has to handle yet another form of stress and the residual effects associated (i.e. fatigue, inflammation, tenderness, etc.).

Daily Symptons Associated with High Levels of Stress

Typical symptoms associated with stress include:

  • Decrease in performance (mentally and physically)
  • Increased recovery windows (takes longer for you to recover from your race weekend and  training days)
  • Short tempered, impatient with other people
  • Lack of motivation to train and race
  • ELEVATED HEART RATE!

Long Term Affects of Stress if Systems are Ignored

The concept of Adrenal Fatigue (a.k.a. Epstein Barr or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) is applied to individuals that have pushed the body (mentally and physically) too long without adequate rest and nutrition to provide the necessary “tools” to rebuild a body that is resilient to stress.

The four prominent external signs of Adrenal Fatigue are:

  1. Inability to sleep through the night (even though you are tired)
  2. Waking up throughout the night with night sweats
  3. Loss of libido
  4. Craving simple sugars

Please note, the body doesn’t rebuild and get stronger unless it has adequate amounts of sleep (to naturally release human growth hormones – HGH) and high quality food (carbohydrates, protein and fat) to rebuild the body from the inside out – literally. The body that you have today is the result of the food and sleep you have provided your body over the last six months. It takes six months to completely “rebuild” your body and create the ultimate performance machine that you want. Think about it this way, to have the body that you want in June, starts in January!

How do you Identify an Elevated Heart Rate? Though this sounds odd, many athletes misidentify what an elevated heart rate actually is (much less what to do when the assessment is correct).

There are two ways to effectively capture your heart rate:

  1. Empty your bladder and lay back down with a heart rate monitor on for 5 minutes
  2. Empty your bladder in a seated position and take your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to establish your pulse for 1 minute

The key to accuracy is being consistent on your methodology and consistency. If you are worried about a margin of error, this margin will be essentially eliminated because your measurement methodology is the same over the course of four weeks.

Additional Variables to Maintain:

  1. Maintain a log of your resting heart rate for a minimum of 4 weeks.
  2. Maintain a log of your hours of sleep for a minimum of 4 weeks.
  3. Maintain a food log for a minimum of 4 weeks.
  4. Maintain a hydration log for a minimum of 4 weeks.

NOTE: If you would like a copy of Coach Robb’s Body Analysis Log spreadsheet to document these numbers, email me directly.

How Does Food, Hydration and Sleep Impact Your Stress Levels?

The body is constantly adapting to the load levels associated with training  (specifically volume & intensity).   Here is a breakdown of food, hydration and sleep as it relates to improved health, wellness and ultimately your on  speed.

Food: By consuming raw, real food, you provide your body with the key elements to a stronger and faster body. Through clean eating, you are providing your body the right mixture of carbohydrates, protein and fats.

Carbohydrates provide your body stored energy (in the form of sugar) in the form of glycogen within your liver and muscles.  Protein is the building block to re-building torn down muscle tissue. Fats are a necessary nutrient for your nervous system and the protection of your internal organs.

Hydration: By consuming half of your body weight in ounces of filtered water (i.e. 160 pound athlete needs to consume 80 ounces of cold filtered water on a daily basis to ensure proper daily hydration levels). you will provide your body the necessary volume of water to maintain proper levels of hydration. Please keep in mind that the average body has 96 pints of water within it. Your brain consists of 75% water; blood is 85% water; and muscle is 70% water.

Sleep: When you provide your body a minimum of eight hours of sleep per night, it has the opportunity to slip into deep levels of sleep (referred to as REM Pattern 3 – this stands for Rapid Eye Movement) which is the depth of rest that your body has to experience before it will release HGH  naturally. When HGH is released naturally, the body will become stronger and leaner – the reason why sleep needs to be protected at all costs for maximum recovery and improved speeds on the track.

What Do You Do With Your Training If Your Heart Rate Is Elevated?

If you wake up in the morning and your resting heart rate is elevated, follow these guidelines to help offset the negative effects of stress (of any and all kinds):

– Morning HR is elevated by 1-2 beats, follow your existing training schedule

– Morning HR is elevated by 3-5 beats, cut your training volume in half and keep your intensity levels exclusively aerobic (if should be able to talk and/or sing at this intensity level)

– Morning HR is elevated 6+ beats, go back to bed and focus on clean eating throughout the day. No training of any kind.

Final Thoughts… Your body provides you with four specific external symptoms, not to mention the daily symptoms. By accurately evaluating your daily morning heart rate, you will have a non-emotional evaluation of how your body is dealing with stress. By focusing on consistent and clean eating along with 8-9 hours of sleep, your body will be more prepared to handle the stressors that you are subjected to on a daily basis and in turn grow stronger and ultimately faster!

Dealing With An Illness and How to Avoid Getting Sick

The body provides you many indicators that it is fatigued and susceptible to illness: elevated heart rate, high body temperature, suppressed appetite, declines in athletic performance, poor sleeping patterns and more.

Though these indicators may seem obvious as you read them, most athletes will not acknowledge that if the body doesn’t get the elements necessary to recover and overcome fatigue, sleep and food, it is inevitable that an illness is right around the corner.

Here are 7 Rules for a speedy recovery from an illness:

Rule #1: Listen to your body

The body is an efficient machine. A fever or elevated heart rate are clear signs that you should back off on both your intensity and duration of riding and cross training. Please email me if you would like a free copy of my Body Analysis Spreadsheet to easily track this data on a weekly basis.

Rule #2: Get more rest

Resting does not mean working out “easy” for an hour thinking it will make you feel better, it will only make you more fatigued. Your only have one tank of energy, let all of that energy be directed towards getting healthy. Let your goal is to get 8-10 hours of deep, high quality sleep each day.

Rule #3: Pay attention to diet and proper hydration

Make it easy on your body to go about its job of fighting off the infection or virus. Regarding hydration, every day consume half of your body weight in ounces of water (160 pounds/2=80 ounces of water per day).

Proper nutrition would involve eating every two hours and eating fruits, vegetables and lean protein at every meal or snack. Please email me if you would like a free copy of my Body Analysis Spreadsheet to easily track this data on a weekly basis.

Rule #4: Return to training gently

As you start to feel a little better, resist the urge to jump back into training full-throttle. As a general rule of thumb, if your resting heart rate is up by more than 5 beats over your weekly average, then don’t train at all for that day. If your heart rate is within 3 beats of your weekly average, then exercise at a very easy effort level for 45 minutes or less.

Rule #5: Don’t ignore the obvious signs from your body

If your heart rate spikes straight up getting out of your car, then following your training program does not make sense. This physical experience will correlate with your resting heart rate (see #4 above).

Rule #6: Don’t expect someone else to be able to tell you what you should and shouldn’t do

Unfortunately you’re training partner, riding coach or family member doesn’t actually know how you are feeling, so it’s up to you to make that judgment in the end.

Rule #7: Don’t become an internet doctor

Eat for Recovery

Google can be a wonderful tool, but even the most rational among us can turn into raging hypochondriacs if let loose on the Internet when feeling unwell. Before you know it, your bout of strep throat has escalated to some rare form of infectious disease. So make an appointment with a legit medical doctor.

Training is intended to improve your strength and endurance; however, this improvement only happens when you eat correctly immediately after your workouts and races. Immediately after a hard day of racing, your immune system is suppressed and your overall body is fatigued, this makes you vulnerable to an airborne virus.

To improve your immunity, eat green fruits and vegetables at every meal. The main ingredient found in fruits and vegetables are phytonutrients. These are substances that plants produce naturally to protect themselves. Additionally, they provide the plant’s color, aroma, texture, and flavor.

Oxidative stress and inflammation, a byproduct of high intensity or long bouts of prolonged exercise, increase the production of free radicals, which can cause further cell damage. Antioxidants act to combat these free radicals. Therefore, recovery nutrition must entail much more than simply consuming post-workout carbohydrates and protein. Consuming foods that are rich in vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids also speed the recovery process.

While it’s necessary to supplement your diet with over-the-counter multivitamins and fish oils, consuming whole foods that are rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids need to be the foundation of your nutrition. Food is intended to provide macro- and micronutrients, including fiber that you just can’t get in a pill.

According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the top 50-antioxidant rich foods included 13 spices, eight fruits and vegetables, five types of berries, and four different nuts and seeds. So why not include some of the following antioxidant-rich foods in your daily diet?

Ginger, cloves, cinnamon, curry, and garlic –  Each of these boast anti-inflammatory properties and bold flavors to go with any type of meal, be it sweet or savory. Saute your favorite vegetables with a bit of garlic and curry powder, or add a dash of cinnamon to your oatmeal.

Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, blueberries, and red raspberries –  These berries are packed with vitamins A, C, E and beta-carotene. They’re also rich in the minerals potassium and magnesium. They can be tossed into salads for a taste of something sweet, or as a topping for your favorite yogurt. Got berries? Snack away!

Artichokes, sweet potatoes, spinach, red bell peppers, asparagus, and red cabbage – These veggies are jam packed with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and flavor. Cooking them only enhances their antioxidant properties. In fact, researchers found that a cooked sweet potato has 413 percent more antioxidant properties than when raw.

Quinoa –  Though considered a grain, quinoa is actually a relative of green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard. Its low glycemic, and the only “grain” that contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein (7 grams per half-cup cooked). It’s also rich in manganese and copper, two minerals required as cofactors for the production of antioxidants. What’s more? It’s ready to eat in just 10 minutes.

Walnuts –  Are an excellent source of micro- and macronutrients like protein, fiber, and omega-3 fat. In fact, just one ounce of walnuts (that’s a shot glass or small handful) contains the recommended daily value, or 2.5 grams, of the essential amino acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). As if that wasn’t enough, once ingested, ALA is metabolized and converted to EPA and DHA (the kind of omega-3’s found in fish). The walnut is a rock star in the world of antioxidants. Add it to salads, yogurt, and protein/vegetable dishes.

Training and racing is demanding and places the body under a great deal of metabolic stress. A daily diet rooted (no pun intended) in nutrient dense foods will play an integral role in both your recovery and enhanced immunity. While a post-workout recovery drink is vitally important in replenishing muscle glycogen and aiding in muscle repair, a diet that focuses on antioxidants will help to minimize the cellular damage that can be caused by the oxidative stress of free radicals. Allowed to roam freely, free radicals can very subtly damage muscle tissue and negatively affect your speed & endurance.

A Balanced Athlete is a Stronger Athlete

When it comes to creating a more complete athlete, the foundation needs to stem from balance. The concept of core body strength and functional integration is recently discussed in every form of media and across all spectrums of athletics. However, what is not addressed in these discussions is how an athlete’s lack of symmetry in all three planes – frontal (front to back), sagittal (left and right) and transverse (top and bottom) is actually an inefficient and injury prone athlete.

How Muscular Imbalances Occur and the Problems It Creates

As an athlete, sport specific training requires certain ranges of motion (involving more than one muscle group and associated joint) that are completed to improve the skills necessary for optimum performance. By recognizing that each movement within the muscles involves a concentric action (the muscle shortens and acceleration of the body part) and an eccentric action (the muscle lengthens to decelerate the body part), and that movement requires traveling through more than one plane (mentioned above), you immediately see how important it is to focus on true functional integration.

To perform actions specific to sport, the primary moving muscles tend to become over developed at the expense of the antagonist muscles limiting the range of motion that can be performed by the necessary muscle groups. Muscular imbalances can create the following symptoms: Decreased power output: the primary mover does not allow the antagonist muscle to complement the range of motion. If the quads are overly tight, the hamstrings will not become fully engaged which limits the total power output of the upper leg. Decreased endurance: if the primary mover is overly tight, the antagonist muscle can not bring the muscle back to its proper position which increases resistance and ultimately creates fatigue within the muscle. Decreased economy: if there is limited range of motion within a muscle, the body will compensate to perform the movement in a non-biomechanically efficient manner Increased risk of injury: a tight muscle is similar to a rubber band that has been pulled tightly, the tension in the middle becomes high and is susceptible to tearing if asked to extend beyond it’s capable range of motion (verses it’s optimum range of motion).

Proprioceptive Balance –  the Foundation to Muscular Integration

As athletes, we understand that the core is the foundation for all of our movements – nearly every movement originates (directly or indirectly) from your core. As you move specific to your sport, your core strives to maintain balance and provides a foundation for the other muscles to interact with for correct biomechanics and ultimately optimum strength and endurance. To ensure that you are forcing your sport specific muscle groups to engage in a more functional way (i.e. through all three planes), you have to incorporate a Proprioceptive Strength Program into your cross training exercise program.

Let’s illustrate what Proprioceptive Balance actually “feels” like. Simply stand on one leg and close your eyes with your head facing forward. As your core strives to maintain balance (i.e. not fall over), you will feel the functional integration of the muscles starting at the foot and coming all the way up into your gluts, core and lower back. This is Proprioceptive Balance in a nut shell. Your body makes these subtle adjustments every time you cross train or participate in your sport. However, you are moving so fast, you don’t “feel” the balance taking place. [Side note: now try the exercise again, but this time tighten up your abdominal muscles so that you feel like you are piercing your spine with your belly button and notice how much more stability you have!]

Tools to Create Proprioceptive Balance and True Muscle Integration

There are a few productive tools that we use with all of our athletes: Indo-Board™ with free weights – click here for a video example Bosu Ball™ with free weights Folded towel with free weights Single leg with free weights

Workouts to Teach Proprioceptive Balance 

To help force the body to work in all three planes, enhance the athlete’s proprioceptive balance and integrate more muscles we have our athletes complete all strength exercises on the Indo-Board™ without letting either side of the board touch the ground. Let’s look at the shoulder press on the Indo-Board™ with a squat. By having the athlete complete a traditional shoulder press while on the board forces the core to create balance in two planes: front/back as well as left/right. The gluts (back of body) are engaged with quads (front of the body) to avoid falling forwards or backwards. The shoulders – particularly the middle deltoids are working to lift the weight, while the anterior and posterior deltoids (the front and back of the shoulder joint) are working to keep the weight from falling forwards or backwards. After you complete the shoulder press, you then perform a squat while standing on the Indo-Board™ and you force your quads (front) and your hamstring (back) to integrate together to avoid falling off of the board (in all directions). By involving so many muscles to complete a shoulder press and squat will develop true muscular integration.

Push – Pull Sprint Interval Set

We also have our athletes incorporate a workout we call Push-Pull-Sprint Intervals. For this workout, you will need access to a Concept 2 Rower™ (most gyms now have one or two units available to their members).

The athlete begins the workout by completing as many push ups on the Indo-Board™ as possible in 30 seconds (with the goal being not to let either side touch the ground) Immediately move to pull ups and complete as many repetitions possible in 30 seconds Immediately move to the Concept 2 Rower™ and complete a 500 meter sprint (capture your elapsed time). Rest five minutes and repeat five times. The overal of this set is to have the smallest deviation in your numbers from Set #1 – Set #5.

If you would like a sport specific proprioceptive training plan & instructional video series, please email me directly at robb@coachrobb.com.