Monthly Archives: October 2011

ART for Swim Performance Enhancement

Way back in 2005, I wrote about how Active Release Technique (ART) could be used for performance enhancement in my post, Where there is Pain, There is Gain… . Using ART, I released decades of adhesions that were restricting my hips from moving properly. After loosening of them up, I was able to improve my speed dramatically in as little as two weeks!
This last week I asked my ART doc to check out my shoulder blades or scapulae due to a new focal point I learned through Total Immersion. This focal point was to move the scapula forward during arm recovery, so as to increase the elbow’s forward position during a proper elbow led recovery. As I practiced this, I became aware that I was performing an unfamiliar movement, and I immediately thought of using ART to make sure that my muscle structure around my shoulder blades remained loose. If they were tight and short, then those muscles would restrict the movement of the shoulder blade forward and either not let it get as far forward as possible, or start using too much energy in the muscles used in moving the shoulder blade forward.
My ART doc did some work on the muscles of the shoulder blades. The muscles that could restrict the movement of the shoulder blade forward are the rhomboids, erector spinae, lower trapezoids, and serratus anterior. Strangely, my left side was worse than my right; certainly there were restrictions there, but the left side was much more restricted. Once he released those muscles, my shoulder blade did feel looser.
However, in thinking further, I think this is correct – my left side does have a better elbow led recovery than my right, and it’s possible that this action did naturally cause more restriction in those muscles. Now I’m trying to even it out and so I anticipate more restrictions to pop up as I perform this unfamiliar movement. Still, with constant ART treatment, I should be able to fully integrate the correct movement for elbow led recovery while managing my muscles’ adaptation process. Without ART, I run the risk of letting the restrictions and adhesions grow, which could cause injury and movement issues later on.
ART is an amazing discipline and I enjoy exploring its performance enhancing capabilities in my training.

The 2 Month Build to NYC Marathon 2011

A little under 2 months ago, I posted that I got into the NYC Marathon and was going to attempt to get from zero fitness to marathon fitness in about half the time I would normally allocate to this kind of race.
To recap, on my long run, I planned on building 15 minutes each week starting with one hour but given the 2 months, I could not allocate any weeks for recovery, as per a standard periodization training plan (ie. 2-3 weeks of heavy training, followed by a week of less heavy training to recover, then repeat). So I kept building 15 minutes per week and let the time in between the long runs be more variable as I adjusted for the weeks where I may feel the need to rest more.
Within the week between long runs, I would run a treadmill neuromuscular workout and then a track workout. The treadmill workout would typically be no more than 20 minutes and only functioned to help condition my nervous system to move my legs at faster speeds. These fast speed intervals were no more than 20-30 seconds, and I managed to raise that up to 4 or so intervals at 12-13 MPH, with about a minute rest in between.
The track workouts started with 400m repeats until I got to 8. Then I started on a simple 800m progression which began with 4, and I got up to 6. By this time, there were only 3 weeks left before the marathon and I began doing mile repeats of about 4 times, with about 3-4 minutes of rest in between. Remarkably, I managed to PR on both 400s (1:21), 800s (3:01), and also my mile repeats (6:46).
I find that traditional notions of fitness do not explain thoroughly enough for me of my new PRs in speed. However, I do attribute it to two new things I started this year: the ASRSpeed program and Russian strength training techniques.
Quite frankly, I’m a weakling. I do not have real strength in my legs to withstand the constant activity of running. I may have muscle, but I did not have the ability to activate the strength inherent in them, which is a function of activated muscle tissue and the nervous system. Regular training does not give enough focus to these two areas. After improving my strength and nervous system via fast run training and deadlifting, I am pretty sure this is why I am running faster now as I build towards the marathon.
But when I began the build, I only weightlifted once a week, as opposed to twice a week before. Although the strength training program was supposed to not wipe out my body as traditional bodybuilding might, I still found that strength training often could mean a tough run day the day after lifting. So I chose to just lift one day for maintainance and slow strength build while I focused on running.
I did go to ART every week as long as I was in town. This was to relieve the muscle adhesions that would form from my fast build to the marathon. I also used my TPMassage Roller twice a day. It was important that I did not let my muscles get too tight due to the fast build or else I could really get injured and I could not afford any time off.
For crosstraining, I swim every day in between running. This both helps me recover between runs, and also supports the run training through stimulation of my metabolic system.
So far so good, my body is holding up. I have only 1.5 weeks until the marathon. This week, I am gauging my recovery from my last long run of 21 miles last Friday. If I feel good enough, I may attempt another 21 miler, or if I am not recovering fast enough, then I’ll do 18 miles and then have a week long taper. I don’t want to arrive on race day with tight legs but am trying to maximize my training and allow enough time to recover fully for a good race. This will be an interesting experiment – normal dogma says that a two week taper is preferred for a marathon, but there are those who are pushing their training up to the limit, gaining training benefit from it, AND still can arrive on race day fresh enough to do well.
We will see…

Total Immersion: A Session with Dave Cameron 10-24-11

This weekend, I took the last two days of Total Immersion coach certification – I’m almost there, needing only to do one last homework assignment and I’ll be an official TI coach!
At the end of the coach certification classes, I asked Dave Cameron (aka Distance Dave) if he would do a short private coaching session with me. As always, the comments were fascinating. I will talk about them as focal points during the swimming laps he had me swim:
1. Swim with fists, then point the index finger, then point the index finger and pinky (the “longhorn”), and then open up the hands and swim with fully open hands
As I went through this progression of swimming with each hand position for 10 strokes (on a 50m pool), I was told to focus on the hip drive into spear to drive the body forward, and not rely on the hand stroking back because my ability to catch was hampered by the closed hands. As a second observation, I could see the effect of catching on the forearm and not only the hand.
2. Open up the axilla on the recovering arm and use the hip drive to open it up and catch more water. The axilla is a fancy name for the underarm/armpit. We talk about opening up the axilla on the spearing arm, in order to get extra body length on the stretch forward, as well as a longer stroke back since it begins further forward. However, this was the first time someone talked about opening up the axilla on the recovering arm! If I do it right, this makes the EVF even more effective by catching a big volume of water underneath the curve of my arm because I am extending my axilla of the recovering arm as I spear with my forward arm. Definitely an exercise in coordination here! Then, Dave told me to use my hip drive to create the opening in the axilla which was another interesting but effective notion.
3. Keep the hands facing back at all times during stroke and recovery, as it lifts out of the water and comes forward. I was turning my hand at the end of the stroke, which can cause a chicken wing elbow as it lifts out of the water. This inhibits proper elbow led recovery.
4. Move the shoulder blade as far forward to enhance elbow led recovery. I was not moving the shoulder blade forward enough, which sometimes encouraged a hand led recovery which is very bad. Moving the shoulder blade helped keep my elbow leading the recovery and also put my hand in the right place to drop into the water.
5. Practice hip drive on all of the above. We would run through each of the focal points, and then Dave would ask me to insert a stronger hip drive while maintaining the previous focal point. Yes, lots of practice maintaining not only one focal point but two, sometimes three!
It’s always invaluable to continue my private coaching with Shinji and Dave!