Wednesday, August 18, 2010
By Mark Sisson
I don’t like situps, crunches, or most of their derivatives, as “core workouts.” Yeah, doing a ton of crunches day in and day out will get you perpetually sore abdominals, but that’s an improper usage of our torso. The core does not exist to contract or bend over and over again; it’s there to resist force. We need strong cores in order to maintain a stable torso while putting in work, whether it’s lifting heavy things, carrying a heavy load, or transferring power from our hips while throwing a punch or a ball. Having that stable, strong core with the capacity to resist the influence of outside forces is far more important than having the capacity to perform a million situps.
The plank is a far more useful core exercise. The key to success with it is right there in the name: you’re forming an immovable, stiff plank with your entire body. From toes to head, you must be firm, not flaccid.
How to Do the Basic Plank
1. Get in the pushup position, only put your forearms on the ground instead of your hands. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders. Toes on the ground.
2. Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominals.
3. Keep a neutral neck and spine.
4. Create a straight, strong line from head to toes – a plank, if you will.
5. Hold that position.
Things to Remember
1. Don’t let your hips sag down to the ground. Sagging hips makes the exercise initially easier, but it’s not a plank and it defeats the purpose of the exercise.
2. Look down at the ground. This is a good prompt for maintaining a neutral neck position.
3. When your form begins to suffer, pull the plug. You’re only benefiting from the plank by actually doing the plank.
4. Level 4 of Primal Blueprint Fitness Lift Heavy Things also incorporates the Side Plank.
Even if you never progress (or choose to progress) to the other plank variations, the basic plank, performed properly, will be sufficient for developing good core stability.
Watch this video on proper form and technique for the first 4 of 9 total plank movements in the PBF Lift Heavy Things bodyweight progression.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
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It's easy to get bogged down in the specifics of following a healthy lifestyle. It's certainly tempting to obsess over carb counts, micronutrient profiles, and supplementation - and there's nothing inherently wrong with paying close attention to what you're putting into and doing to your body. I do it myself, but I also constantly remind myself that optimum health is a lot simpler than the "experts" would have you believe. Sometimes what's needed is an easy solution. Sometimes the easy, simple way is actually the best route.
That said, I have a very simple proposition for you (maybe you're noticing a trend since the last fasting proposition; my Health Challenges tend to be pretty damn simple): take a walk. Grab a friend, or a significant other, or even a pet if the others aren't available, and take a brisk, leisurely walk around the neighborhood. Spend at least an hour, if you can. And if you don't have that hour, get it. Make it a priority. Remember, this is a formal challenge.
If you like, keep your heart rate slightly elevated throughout the course of the walk, but not necessarily for fitness reasons. Not physical fitness, anyhow. Although walking is a huge part of the Primal Blueprint approach to fitness, this health challenge revolves around the mental-stimulatory effects of walking. I'm interested in mental acuity; in conversational fitness.
One thing I've noticed about my evening walks with Carrie, my wife, is that they are incredibly stimulating. While I'm not by any stretch of the term a reserved conversationalist in my normal life, when I'm on that walk she can barely get a word in edgewise. My thoughts just flow and coalesce into a constant, steady flow of verbiage. If you ask her, she probably misses the silence. If you ask me, I'm just thankful there's an easy, healthy way to clear my mind and get the juices flowing.
Of course, I had to get to the bottom of it. I wasn't happy just with results; I crave scientific explanations. One obvious explanation was that physical movement increases blood flow, which in turn results in more nutrients/oxygen/etc delivered to the brain. The more nutrients and oxygen our brain gets, the more efficient it performs. That made sense, and anyone who's ever experienced the stress relief and endorphin release following a workout would agree. Also, the simple act of performing movements - like walking - requires the brain's engagement. Your brain directing your legs to move can be considered a mental workout for your neurocircuitry.
Adding a walking buddy to the mix just means a better mental workout. Think of it as walking and chewing gum - asking your brain to perform two tasks at the same time is more stimulating than asking it to perform just one. When you're outside on a walk with a friend or loved one, imagine the stimuli your brain has to deal with. Rather than staring at some mindless, close-captioned talk show on the gym television while padding along on the treadmill, your brain is actually doing several things at once when you're on a real walk with another person: directing your side of the conversation, regulating your legs' locomotion, receiving and interpreting sensory input like smells (okay, you can get these at the gym) and sights. The added stimuli literally get your brain working harder, and the thoughts, words, and activity are ramped up. That's why people pace when deep in thought, or get up and move around when they're hit with writer's block. Physical activity can get everything flowing.
So tonight, or tomorrow night, go on a walk. Take your wife, or your husband, or your friend, and keep the pace brisk and the conversation flowing. It's a great way to decompress from what may have been a stressful day - or it can make a good day even better.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
By Mark Sisson
Primal Blueprint Fitness. It’s finally here! What can I say? My team and I wanted to get it just right, so we spent over a year developing the program before unleashing it on the world.
I originally planned for Primal Blueprint Fitness to be a new hardcover book sold in bookstores as a companion to The Primal Blueprint and The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. In the end I decided to take a different approach. As you’ve probably heard me say, my mission is to help 10 million people take control of their health and fitness through understanding exactly how their body was designed to work. It’s why I started Mark’s Daily Apple and it’s why I’m giving this program away for free.
Click on the title link for your free copy.
By Dave Scott
I just returned from the 30th annual Sportspectrum RiverCities Triathlon race in Shreveport, LA. I've been invited to speak and chat with the athletes on six different occasions and this year's event was certainly a memorable one. The "production" put on by Matt Brown & his team was incredible, but the athletes had to endure a rather stressful hot & humid race - outside temperatures soared to 104° with a humidity of 70%.
With these extreme environmental conditions, and I witnessed them firsthand after I decided to jump into the race at the last minute, there are a few precautionary steps that you should take to negate or slow down some of the inevitable effects of training or racing in heat and humidity.
Recognize that your brain is trying to balance the heat load by sending blood to your skin surface in an attempt to cool yourself. Consequently, the blood is shunted from your working muscles and organs. As your internal physiology tries to keep you cool - you become less efficient. What can you do?
• Stay as cool as possible before you start.
• Drink 4-12 oz. of cold fluid replacement drink if your race or training session is at high intensity or longer than an hour. Drink H2O if lower intensity or shorter duration - either one consumed 4-12 minutes before you start.
• Wear a ventilated hat or visor and loose clothing.
• Grab a cold sponge or towel and wipe your forearms & neck - you have a lot of thermo receptors in these two areas. The relief is temporary, however if you can do this at every aid station (1 km to 1 mile) on the run, you will get some additional cooling on the skin.
• Try to acclimate to the environment. If you live in Barrow, Alaska and plan on racing in Shreveport, LA, the acclimation time will take 10-18 days in "similar" hot/humid conditions to acclimate.
• If you're a heavy sweater and the exercise session last longer than 1 hr., you may need extra sodium (400-1000 mg/hr.) during your session. Take the additional Na in tablet form every 12-15 minutes beyond the 1 hr. mark.
• Re-hydrate with water and fluid replacement drink immediately after the session. It may take 4-6 hours to completely re hydrate. Your urge to pee should be within 2 hours post session and your urine color should be pretty clear
Ok, that's it and good luck! Check out the RiverCities race, it's a great event - albeit a bit toasty.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
We all know that getting enough calcium is typically associated with strong bones. Kids need calcium for bone development and as adults we need calcium to help retain healthy bone matrix. Calcium is obviously important for athletes too: runners especially need to pay attention to maintaining bone strength due to all of the pounding our legs take with every run. But an equally important role calcium plays is at the cellular level as a trigger for various cellular events.
Calcium is involved in maintaining regular heart function, nerve conduction, and muscular contraction. Getting enough calcium on a daily basis can be problematic simply because our bodies don’t absorb 100% of the calcium that we consume. Our absorption rates are individual and dependent on a variety of variables, and, our body’s state of need can dictate absorption rates. For example, women need more calcium and will absorb more during pregnancy. Other foods we consume, and medications/drugs, can impact absorption as well.
So while the recommendations for calcium intake is a minimum of 1000mg/day, it’s important to spread our calcium intake throughout the day and exceed that level of intake to maximize our absorption. Vitamin D is an important co-factor in calcium absorption, which is one reason why nearly all milk products are fortified with Vitamin D.
You don’t have to don the famous “milk mustache” to get your daily calcium. Milk and dairy products aren’t the only food items high in this important nutrient. Other high-calcium containing foods include: almonds, bok choi, collards, sardines with bones, and broccoli.
Just as important as eating foods that are rich in calcium is avoiding those things that are known to block absorption (and which tend to be less healthy for you anyway). This includes alcohol, smoking, foods high in sodium or excessive sodium intake, and high-fat foods. And, while I reported on the benefits of caffeine as an ergogenic aid in a previous blog, caffeine is known to increase the body’s need for calcium.
So, should you take a calcium supplement? It could be helpful if you’re adverse to eating foods that are higher in calcium for some reason. But, it’s generally preferred to get your calcium from real, whole foods, because it is believed that the body more readily absorbs calcium through foods. Here’s your homework assignment: check to see how you’re doing in the calcium department. Review your normal daily diet to be sure you’re not neglecting this important nutrient that will improve your health and endurance as a runner.
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Chris Horner (RadioShack) says that he would gladly have swapped his top ten placing at the Tour de France to have ridden in the service of an overall winner. In an interview with the Bend Bulletin, the American spoke of his regret at Lance Armstrong's failure to land an eighth yellow jersey in Paris.
"Ten years from now, I'll be disappointed that we didn't win an eighth Tour de France with Lance. It would have been a special moment," Horner said. "Finishing top 10 is cool. I love it. But to say you're on the team on which Lance won his eighth Tour de France would be one step above.
"When I was training with Lance in Aspen before the Tour last year, we talked about having a new team and that I'd be on it, and going to the Tour and helping him win it. So when you see he's crashed, it rocks everything that you've been focusing on for the whole year. For me it was kind of devastating," Horner said.
Horner has never ridden on a Tour de France-winning team. He was one of Cadel Evans's key lieutenants at Lotto when he finished second in the 2007 edition and last year he failed to make the Astana team that included overall winner Alberto Contador.
Horner appeared nonplussed by the fact that the time he lost waiting for Armstrong on his disastrous stage to Morzine may ultimately have cost him a significantly higher placing in Paris. "I didn't have the legs to go with Andy [Schleck] and [Alberto] Contador, and [Denis] Menchov had a fabulous time trial in the last TT stage, so I don't think I could've done top three," he said, admitting that sixth place would have been the summit of his ambition in any case.
That said, the 38-year-old Horner already has an eye on next year's race and fired an early blow in the race to lead RadioShack next time around. "Hopefully, I've earned a position on the team to be riding the Tour as one of the favorites, and I'll be a guy who's being looked after," he said.
Now in his fifteenth year as a professional, Horner said that he has not been called to testify in the Jeff Novitzky-led federal probe into doping, nor does he expect to, as he did not ride for Armstrong's US Postal Service squad.
"I haven't gotten any calls, and I wouldn't think I would get calls because I wasn't on [Armstrong's U.S. Postal Service] team then. Since the Tour of California, when all that stuff came out, none of it has affected me," Horner said.
Tuesday, August 3, 2010
By Terrence Mahon
You don’t win a New York or a Boston Marathon until you have conquered their legendary hills. For the five-borough race, it starts with going straight up the Verrazano Bridge, then across the mile-long 59th St Bridge and finally finishing with the rollers through Central Park. Without the series of Newton Hills, and the appropriately named Heartbreak being the greatest, then Boston wouldn’t be the legendary course that every runner wants to battle at least once in their lifetime.
Running hilly race courses makes training over hills a must in your marathon preparation. However, hill training doesn’t just make you better at running hills. Adding in a steady supply of hill work throughout your training program will increase your speed and endurance for every type of race.
In our typical marathon training program we include one specific uphill run every 2 weeks and more hills in both our sprint work and our weekly long runs. The bread-and-butter workout is the continuous uphill run at a moderate effort (approximately 80-85% of max heart rate). It will start at 5k in distance and move up to 15k of continuous uphill running as the season progresses.
The hill runs we use in Mammoth Lakes (actually they are mountains) climb at about a 3-4% grade on average with a few 6-7% climbs thrown in every so often. Due to the combined effect of the altitude (ranging from 7,000-10,000 ft) and the length of the hill our running speeds will not be very fast. Ryan will often hover somewhere between 6:15-7:00 mile pace over the entire workout. For an athlete that has run a marathon under 5:00-per-mile pace, this seems like an easy run, however, both the aerobic and muscular challenges involved make this a really tough workout.
So why do we add in hill training when we are preparing for a flat marathon in Chicago? Hill training – either as continuous uphill runs or as hill intervals accomplish a lot in a short amount of time. The hill itself will provide you with great resistance training as you run. If the incline is steep enough then you will recruit many more muscle fibers over the course of the workout. Your hips and glutes work over-time when you are climbing over 2000 ft of elevation in one run.
With time and repetition you will get physically stronger as well as run faster once you hit level ground. Hills are also a great way to improve your running mechanics. Since the energy demand to climb a hill is that much greater than running on a flat surface you will learn how to use the right muscles to get you to the top. This workout has a way of getting rid of what isn’t working in a hurry.
In addition, hills provide you with the aerobic training that you need, but with much less pounding then when running on flat or downhill surfaces. Since you are always going up there will be less joint stress and eccentric muscle overload and this means that you can add in miles on hills without feeling like you ran a marathon in training.
Finally, hills are great for teaching mental tenacity and patience. If you go full steam into a hill you will probably get knocked over quick. A few more attempts like that and you will see that the prudent way to make it to the top is the steady approach. Conquering hills is much like conquering a marathon. The wise runner is the patient runner. Don’t give up if your first attempt goes south. Take the tortoise over the hare approach here and you will see a steady improvement that will bring tremendous dividends once you hit the streets. Running on a flat surface will feel like you are not working hard at all and then you can just watch the miles will fly by.
Bjarne Riis has revealed that Saxo Bank will continue to sponsor his cycling team alongside new sponsor SunGard in 2011, with Tour de France winner Alberto Contador joining the team for the next two years. Specialized will continue as bike sponsor but will not be a title sponsor of the team.
Riis announced the news today at a press conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.
There has been huge speculation about Contador's future and the name of Riis' new backers in the last few days. Riis refused to reveal any details before the press conference but Danish television reported that Saxo Bank will put in approximately six million Euro for 2011. It is unclear if the trading and investment bank will continue their support beyond next year.
According to reports in Denmark, Riis has already registered the teamsaxobanksungard.com website domain on the internet.
“Saxo Bank has decided to go on for another year. Lars Seier (Kristensen, the co-CEO of Saxo Bank) has worked hard for this. I'm glad and proud that you we can go on with our super co-operation,” Riis said, cracking a rare smile as he made the announcement.
“I’m proud to be able to present Alberto Contador on our team for next year. I'm proud to have been able to attract the world's best cyclist to a Danish team.”
Lars Seier Kristensen said: “I went to the Tour this year convinced that it would be the last. But sometimes things change. I have followed the team during the Tour and heard Bjarne Riis talk about his ideas about the future. So we have changed our minds.”
Both Kristensen and Riis refuted that Saxo Bank’s decision to continue their sponsorship for a further year had blocked the arrival of a new sponsor.
“We’re not the new secret sponsor that have stepped back to let us go on,” Kristensen said.
Riis said: “We have chosen this since we believe that it is the right way to go. We have chosen the solution that is best for us right now.”
Contador – Schleck rivalry
The arrival of Contador will further fuel the rivalry between Andy Schleck and Contador. They seem destined to fight for victory at the Tour de France in the next few years after their head to head battle this year.
It was widely speculated that Contador would be presented to the media at the press conference. He rode and won a criterium in Belgium on Monday night but then announced via Twitter that he was traveling to Bordeaux for another race.
Riis confirmed that Contador would travel to Copenhagen, perhaps to ink his contract for 2011, later today.
“He is not here and has not been seen at Copenhagen airport but he will arrive later,” Riis said.
“I think I can contribute to polishing this diamond (Contador) even further.”
”Alberto (Contador) is a world class rider and it's with great pride that I can welcome him onboard the team for the next two years. With three Tour de France victories on his resume and a position as number one on the world rankings, he is sure to stay at the very top for several years to come. Alberto will get a solid, strong and loyal team around him to support him in all terrains and I'm sure that this will be a fruitful alliance."
Contador, who wasn't at the press conference, released the following statement: ”I'm very happy and excited about signing a two year contract with Riis Cycling. With the unique philosophy and team spirit the team offers I'm ensured solid support from the sponsors, administration and staff of riders that I'm looking forward to becoming a part of myself. Historically, Riis Cycling has always been successful and together, we will have the ability to play a very important role in the world of cycling in the years to come."
Riis has secured Contador as team leader but now must rebuild his team for 2011. Andy and Frank Schleck have already confirmed they are moving on and look set to create their own team in Luxembourg with Riis’ former directeur sportif Kim Andersen and former press officer Brian Nygaard managing the team. A number of staff and experienced riders are also expected to jump ship and work with the Schlecks, including Jens Voigt, Stuart O’Grady. New signings could include Germany’s Linus Gerdemann, Fabian Wegmann Domenik Klemme.
Fabian Cancellara is expected to stay with Riis’ team in 2011 because he has a year remaining on his contract. Emerging talent Richie Porte is also expected to stay with the team as a second team leader for stage races.
However Riis refused to confirm any other names for the 2011 line-up or say if any of Contador’s current teammates from Astana will move to Saxo Bank-SunGard with him in 2011.
“We are looking on who is leaving and who we will keep,” Riis said, knowing the arrival of Contador marks the start of a new chapter of his career as team owner and manager.
Monday, August 2, 2010
The inaugural Ironman Regensburg is in the books, and what a race it turned out to be. With excellent weather, an incredible venue and great racing in both the men's and women's field, what more could you ask for.
In the men’s race Christof Wandratsch was expected to lead the men out of the water and he didn’t disappoint those who intended to let him tow them through the swim. Andi Bocherer, Stefan Richter and Faris Al-Sultan just did that. What wasn’t expected was for Bocherer to get spit off the back with 1,000 meters to go. Wandratsch lead Horst Reichel and Al-Sultan out of the water 0:11 back, while Bocherer was disappointed with hitting the beach 1:01 back to the leader.
Early on the bike, Bocherer made his move to the front of the race with Al-Sultan and Reichel following 0:05 to 0:07 back to the leader. Quickly this became the elite group - they quickly disposed the remainder of the field for until the conclusion of the bike.
At 80 kilometres, in typical Bocherer fashion, he ramped up his speed and slowly distanced himself from both Al-Sultan and Reichel. During the later stages of the bike, Reichel succumbed to the pace and faded badly. Al-Sultan was the only one that could keep his hard-driving Team Abu Dhabi teammate within his sights, and would eventually come into the bike-run transition 4:21 down to Bocherer.
Both Bocherer and Al-Sultan had the same game plan for the run; take it out controlled for the first two laps, strong for last two laps. Bocherer’s lead slowly dwindled throughout the first half the marathon. Al-Sultan managed to claw back time during the first two loops, but Bocherer still enjoyed a 2:47 lead at the halfway point.
“I blew, I just blew up at 30 kilometres,” Bocherer would say after the race. Al-Sultan showed his experience and quickly closed the gap and surge past the struggling Bocherer.
“I went by him strong, as I didn’t want him to follow me,” Al-Sultan said. “Then I got a side stitch and just about cramped up, the last thing I wanted to do was have him go past me because I was hurting,” continued the three-time Ironman champion.
Al-Sultan managed to fuel and hydrate himself back to health and until he crossed the finish line for his fourth Ironman title. His finishing time was 8:13:37 and his splits for the day: Swim: 45:27, Bike: 4:27:38, Run: 2:56:16
Bocherer came in 4:51 behind Al-Sultan. He explained how would have preferred a different outcome to the race, “I went for the win today and came up short, but I am satisfied that I tried.” He smiled a little, while saying, “I am getting closer.” He can have some consolation from his race; he had the fastest bike split on the day at 4:23:16.
Germany’s Nils Goerke ran his way into third on the day while pounding out the fastest marathon split, 2:48:07
1. Faris Al-Sultan 8:13:37
2. Andreas Böcherer 8:19:28
3. Nils Goerke 8:22:57
4. Christian Brader 8:25:30
5. Andreas Fuchs 8:33:19
6. Aaron Farlow 8:39:41
7. Domenico Passuello 8:46:30
8. Florian Stelzle 8:48:55
9. Daniel Schmoll 8:49:34
10.Mike Schifferle 8:49:42