Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Creating a Home “Gym”

Many of my clients, me included, prefer to workout at home, for many reasons. And there are others who keep their “gym” in their trunk and pull up to a nice grassy spot, unload and workout. For those of you who have an aversion to the gym or are trying to save your hard earned cash, here’s the LIST for you. I have put together a list of equipment (for about $250) that I think is essential to put together a home “gym” that covers all the strength prep needs an endurance athlete could have. Additionally, I’ve listed the exercises, reps and sets that correspond to each piece of equipment.

Like I always say, check with your coach and/or training program to see which exercise is appropriate for you, your goals and where you are in your season.


Exercise mat

Exercise mats are great for stretching, as they cushion your joints. You can also perform your ab exercises on them if you experience back pain when your back is pressed directly on the floor.

Fitness ball

Fitness balls are especially good for working your core muscles because they provide a sense of instability that requires you to use your abdominal and back muscles to steady yourself.
Following are some exercises that can be performed on a fitness ball.

Ball crunches: This exercise -- which involves lying with the small of your back on the ball and performing crunches as you normally would -- targets your abdominal muscles. Aim for 2-3 sets of 20 to 25 reps; focus on performing them in a slow, fluid motion to fully engage all the muscle fibers.

Ball wall squats: To work your quadriceps and gluteus muscles, place the ball behind your back against a wall. Squat slowly, allowing the ball to roll along the wall against your back. Do 2-3 sets of 15 to 20 reps; you can use a higher rep range since there is no weight involved.

Ball hamstring curls: Lie on your back, place the ball under your feet and slowly lift your hips off the floor. Once you have found your balance, use your hamstring muscles to slowly curl the ball toward your butt and back out again. Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps.

Traditional exercises: Various classical weight-training exercises -- such as chest presses, dumbbell flyes or lateral raises -- can be performed while sitting or lying on the ball. You will not only work the muscles directly targeted by the exercise, but you will also have to use your abdominal muscles in order to stabilize yourself. You will likely need to use a lighter weight than usual due to this added difficulty.

Do 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps for each exercise.


This is one of the most versatile pieces of equipment around. Since it is lightweight and can fit into a small bag, it is ideal to travel with. Tubing offers continuous resistance throughout your entire range of motion, and you can easily adjust the resistance by decreasing or increasing the length of the tube.

For the following exercises, aim for 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps.

Double tricep extensions: Place the tube behind your back. Hold one end of it with one hand above your head and hold the other end below; slowly extend both elbows in the upward and downward directions respectively. Make sure the tube offers resistance on both the concentric (stretching) and the eccentric (returning to the starting position) phases of the exercise.

Bicep curls: While standing, hold one end of the tube in one hand and place the other end under your foot; perform the standard bicep curl exercise.

Military press: If you have a long tube, hold one end in each hand and step on the middle of the tube with your foot. If the tube is shorter, hold one end in your hand and place the other under your foot, and perform the exercise one arm at a time. Slowly raise your hands above your head like you would in the traditional military press exercise. This will effectively target your deltoid muscles.
Lateral and frontal raises: Start this exercise the same way you would the bicep curl, but move your arm up straight in front of you or laterally. This is another great exercise for developing your medial and frontal deltoid muscles.

Lateral pulldowns: Attach the middle of the tube on a hook on your ceiling. Hold both ends of the tube and pull them down and out to your sides, while keeping your elbows straight.

Dumbbell Set

Dumbbells are probably the most popular at-home workout tools simply because they allow you to train every muscle group, just like at the gym. Buy a set that easily allows you to adjust the weight and comes with a few 2.5- and 5-pound weights so you can incrementally increase it.

Another advantage of dumbbells is that they allow you to add more lean muscle mass than any other piece of at-home equipment; they provide the heaviest resistance and thus challenge your muscles to the greatest extent.

Chest press
Pec flyes
Bicep curls
Lateral raises
Military (overhead) press
Upright row
Bent-over row
Squats (holding the dumbbells either between your legs or resting them on your shoulders)
Calf raises (holding the dumbbells in your hands along side your body)

Perform 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps with a weight that is challenging enough to make your last rep quite difficult.

Chin-up bar

Many guys are choosing to install a chin-up bar in their homes to complete their workout. It is generally pretty difficult to target your latissimus muscles at home, but a chin-up bar provides a solution.

Exercises that you can perform are classic chin-ups, reverse chin-ups (palms facing you, calling your biceps into play), as well as hanging leg raises to target your abdominal muscles.

Perform 2-3 sets of 15 chin-ups and 2 sets of 20 leg raises.

Medicine Ball

Medicine ball exercises are a great change of pace in your workouts. The variety they add can take you to the next level when you are trying to build muscle and burn fat. Additionally, for those looking to build sport specific muscle and power, the medicine ball provides many options.

Perform 2-3 sets of 15 reps for each exercise.

Kneel to Push Ups
1. Start Position: Your body will be in an upright position sitting on your knees.
2. Hold medicine ball at chest level. Keeping your torso erect fall forward and chest press the medicine ball to a partner or a wall.
3. Upon releasing the ball drop your hands to the floor and immediately complete a push-up.
4. Advanced athletes: To make this more challenging have a partner throw the ball back to you. You will have to explode up with the push-up so that you are back in the seated upright position on your knees. Your partner will throw the ball back to you and then repeat the exercise until the desired repetitions are met.

Single Leg Chops
1. Starting Position: Stand on right leg and your arms are extended holding the medicine ball up and to your right.
2. Bring medicine ball down in a wood chopping motion towards your left foot.
3. During this place motion switch feet so your left foot is now on the ground and your right foot is in the air. Repeat this motion for the desired repetitions and then repeat in the opposite direction.

1. Stand with feet parallel and knees slightly bent.
2. Pull medicine ball back behind head and forcefully throw ball down on the ground as hard as possible.
3. Catch the ball on the bounce from the ground and repeat according to prescribed repetitions.

Figure of Eights
1. Start Position: Hold medicine ball with your arms extended over your right shoulder.
2. In one continuous motion bring the ball down in front of you like you are chopping wood and the ball should end towards your left foot.
3. Stand back up and raise the ball straight up over your left shoulder and now bring the ball down towards your right foot.
4. You will have to bend at your knees to complete this.
5. Return to starting position and repeat.

Medicine Ball Lunge Crossovers
1. Stand with feet hip width apart. Take left leg and step back approximately 2 feet standing on the ball of the foot.
2. Start position: Feet should be positioned at a staggered stance with head and back erect and straight in a neutral position. Hold medicine ball in front of your chest.
3. Lower body by bending at hip and knee until thigh is parallel to floor. Body should follow a straight line down towards the floor. As you are lunging reach to one side of the leg with the ball.
4. Return to start position and repeat by reaching to the opposite side with the ball. Alternate or switch to other leg after prescribed reps.

Russian Twists
1. Stand with feet hip-width apart.
2. Hold medicine ball with both hands and arms only slightly bent.
3. Swing ball over to the right hip and forcefully swing ball forward and around towards the left side. Reverse back in the opposite direction. Keep the stomach drawn in to maximize proper usage of muscle.

Single Leg V-Ups
1. Start position: Lie back onto floor or bench with knees bent, both hands behind head. Keep elbow back and out of sight. Head should be in a neutral position with a space between chin and chest.
2. Leading with the chin and chest towards the ceiling, contract the abdominal and raise shoulders off floor or bench. Extend arms and also raise one leg up toward ceiling.
3. Return to start position.
4. Remember to keep head and back in a neutral position. Hyperextension or flexion may cause injury. To increase resistance, hold medicine ball in hands. To decrease resistance, position hand closer towards body

Medicine Ball Obliques
1. Starting Position: Lie on your back and raise your legs with your knees bent.
2. Holding a medicine ball between your knees rotate your legs to the side and then return to the starting position. Repeat to the other side.

Lateral Flexion w/ Stability Ball
1. Starting Position: Lie on your side over the stability ball and spread your legs for balance.
2. Hold a medicine ball over your head and curl up towards the ceiling. Lay back down across the ball and repeat the movement.
3. Repeat with the other side.

Reverse Curls
1. Start position: Lie with back on floor or bench with hips flexed at 90° and feet in air holding onto a medicine ball. Position arms at sides with palms down on floor.
2. Leading with the heels towards the ceiling, raise glutes (butt) off floor or bench.
3. Return to start position.
4. Remember keep legs from swinging to prevent momentum throughout the exercise.


Stairs are great for a variety of exercises and their FREE. You can use your home or abpartment building staircase to work out or go to your local high school or college and use their stadium.

You can get a nice short cardio workout by running up and down for 5-10 reps to start. For strength training, stairs are great. Calf raises, step-ups and split squats are wonderful for building strength ans stability for cycling and running.

To perform calf raises, stand with your heels hanging off the edge of a stair, holding a pair of dumbbells. Lower your heels as far as you can, and then contract the muscles to bring you up into a calf raise.

For step-ups, hold a set of dumbbells, choose a stair level that you are comfortable with, and step up and down, switching sides in-between each step.

For split squats, hold a dumbbell in one hand, face away from the staircase, and place one foot behind you on the second or third step. Then, use your quad and glute muscles to squat on your front leg as far as you can, and rise back up.

For each exercise, perform 2 to 3 sets of 15 reps on each leg.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Pre Season is a Time to Reflect, Plan and Strengthen

At the end of the racing season, we’re tired. Many of us just want to sit on the sofa and eat. That may be ok for a week or two, but the Pre Season is good for more than putting on some weight. It is a time to reflect on last season, a time to decide what to do next season and a time to strengthen those things that we found to be our weakest links.

Reflection Means an Honest Analysis

For me, last season was a building season after nearly two years of not training or racing due to injury, illness and work (deadly combo!). Reflection is looking at the goals I set for my self at the beginning of last year and seeing if and where I fell short, if and where I exceeded and if and where I hit the bull’s-eye and asking “WHY?”.

Take a good look at your last season. Did you meet your goals? Were your goals realistic? Did you train as much as you wanted? Did you over train? Are you getting the same results over and over? Then ask “WHY?”

Being honest with ourselves isn’t always easy especially if you haven’t met your goals. I have a friend who has had the same results every year for 7 years now. He believes that training harder and more is the answer, even though that has not produced results, but it may actually be making him slower. He has a hard time accepting outside input (know anyone like that?!) From the outside looking in as a coach, I can clearly see the problem. He’s over-trained, under nourished and has inefficient form in all three sports. If he could take an honest look at his season, he would go very far in the next.

Sometimes, the culprit that dashes the attainment of goals is time. There are many ways to plan around that. Bottom line is: don’t be afraid to ask “WHY?” Analyze the why, on your own or with a coach. And do not be afraid of the answer. It could very well be the key to future success.

The Best Laid Plans …

Once you’ve done your reflection of last season, its time to plan the next. Be specific with your goals for next season. Make them achievable and special to you. Make sure they fit into your lifestyle and then pick your races.

I am coaching an athlete that’s a single mom. She has to plan her season around her kid’s schedule and chooses her peak races for the end of the summer/beginning of fall because of that. She also plans fun destination races that double as a family vacation. This works for her.

I have another client whose work load is seasonal and his hours behind the desk sometimes double during March/April. He knows he stuck in the Pre Season longer than most of us and can’t start his base training until after that and we plan his races accordingly. The early season races are out, but standing on the podium isn’t.

With the help of a coach or on your own, come up with a training plan … a training plan that builds upon your goals, suits your lifestyle and one that has a Pre Season Focus/Prep Phase, Base Phase, Build Phase and a Peak/Race Phase.

Breaking Weakness and Building Strength

Last, but not least, we focus on breaking the weakness and building strength. After looking back, we know what we need to work on. Whether it’s the swim, bike or run, overall fitness or planning a realistic season … the Pre Season is the best time to focus on that limiter. Again, with the help of a coach or on your own, you can develop a Pre Season Training Program that does the essentials to get you ready to train: focus on your limiter and getting your body and mind ready for next season’s training process.

As athletes, when we think about building strength, we think about physical strength. Least we not forget our minds and our spirit. Often times, the post-season sitting on the sofa eating is not only a break from the physical endeavors of endurance racing, it is also a mental break from the regime. The Pre Season is a great time to add something new that will rejuvenate the body, mind and soul. Some of us have been known to mountain bike, cyclo-cross, cross country ski or even take a series of ballet classes.

No matter what your reelection of last season revealed, the Pre Season is the best time to have fun building for next season. Enjoy!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Nutrition Tip December 2008

What do guava, oatmeal and brussel spouts have in common?

They can all increase your lung capacity. Huh? Seriously. Each are high in fiber and studies have shown that people who ate at least 27 grams of fiber per day had better lung capacity than people who got less than 10 grams. The studies say that fiber may protect lungs by reducing tissue-damaging inflammation. The antioxidants in fiber probably help protect lung cells, too… deep breathe … ahhhh!

Ok, so brussel sprouts are not necessarily on everyone’s favorite food list, but there are a lot of foods rich in fiber that are. Who doesn’t like oatmeal on a cold morning?! Here is a link to a site that I found to be useful:

There is a bunch of other good things that fiber can do for you in addition to expanding your breathing capacity. It can help lower cholesterol, help keep your body trim and assist in maintaining a healthy digestive system.

So when you trim you holiday tree with popcorn and cranberries, save some and make a snack!