Sufferfest Review – “The Machine” #RunFormFriday

I am a huge fan of the Sufferfest brand of training videos, their concise quality over quantity training sessions are something that really connect well with my own coaching philosophy! I even undertook their “Knighthood” challenge in March – something that was a good training day heading in to the season! Their 16 current videos average at around an hour long but are anywhere between 30minutes and the more endurance focused 2 hours. Having started as solely cycling videos, the minions have now got a duathlon/triathlon video “Chrysalis” and finally a run specific video “THE MACHINE”. I was incredibly fortunate to get a look at the video before it goes on general sale next week.

The reason I’ve included this in my #RunFormFriday

– It’s a proper training workout, which some people need a little direction with.

– The videos include technique cues so that you don’t run along aimlessly.

Turbo and run sessions can be incredibly boring; before and since doing my coaching qualifications (to this point!) I’ve done many various different options. Regardless of how technically good the session is, sitting/running on the spot for a session can just be soul destroying! However The Sufferfest crew make training on the spot interesting, you aren’t just watching people on turbos riding with you! The sessions have a storyline, race footage (which really makes you feel a part of the race rather than in your home) and vibrant music, cues and encouragement. The downside of being called the Sufferfest can discourage some, women especially. But with the sessions geared on an RPE scale (another plus in my view) and including female as well as male race footage, the videos couldn’t be more all inclusive.

The Sufferfest – The Machine

The first offering of solely running, the video could be put on your phone or tablet and rested on a treadmill in front of you. Using their tried and trusted RPE “suffer scale”, its quite handy to know roughly your target paces from marathon to 5k; this forms the basis of your workout.

The sufferfest effort

RPE effort chart

As mentioned before, each video has a storyline. The Machine centres on the fact that you are the marathon champion of Sufferlandria, and on a world tour of some of the biggest marathons, pitted against the best of the rest. Unfortunately, you won’t be racing on a level playing field 😉 The magical Machine is designed to make the courses tougher just for you!

The sufferfest instructions

The Sufferfest bring the storyline to life with race footage around the world

As the video goes on, the story carries through it, and you continue to push harder. Because of the clear instructions on the screen, you don’t exactly forget the fatigue/pain you are in, but it certainly does help to distract you. 

The sufferfest instructions

Instructions done Sufferlandrian style

The instructions are clear and concise – and sometimes scarily like someone is watching over your shoulder, knowing that you are struggling! Here the command is clear: half marathon pace at 4% gradient. No-one said this would be easy! Actually the warm up is very light before the set descends into fast intervals, but always with good recovery. All this backs up the fact that the videos are written by proper coaches who understand what helps you to improve.

Running through the first interval and a half, I was wondering how the session was really going to test me – not because I’m a great runner or particularly fit right now at all! Then the hammer drops and the intensity kicks in. The 34minutes of running left me in a sweaty heap behind the treadmill – even after all the recovery elements and technique cues.

I genuinely can’t see many ways that this could be better for run training. By encouraging you to take proper rest intervals, it means your work intensity can be higher; something a lot of endurance athletes can learn. If you can translate this to running on the road pbs will fall! Having done most of the Sufferfest videos, I know that sometimes you can over cook your efforts, work too hard too early and not finish – just like any normal training session. But rather than running on your own, you have your video there to keep you company, and test you again another time.

You an check some more of the video right here. https://vimeo.com/100966026

Some neat facts:

The videos feature Officially Licensed footage from Diamond League Track & Field and prestigious marathons from around the world –
Workouts were designed by elite coach Neal Henderson of Apex Coaching. He also designed several of the most popular cycling workouts.
These videos will be released on 31st July 2014 at TheSufferfest.com
The Machine will cost £6.47. The other two videos are Steamroller (45 minutes and £7.06) and Revolver (30 minutes and £5.88). They will be available as a bundle for £16.48 for a limited time. It’s a great deal and I cannot wait to get my hands on the other two!

#IWBMATTKYT

(I Will Beat My Ass Today To Kick Yours Tomorrow)

Why Should I Get A Sports Massage – The Benefits Of Massage

When it comes to receiving a massage, most individuals wouldn’t have

The benefits of sports massage are wide ranging

The benefits of sports massage are wide ranging

to think twice or even take much persuasion. However, most would not consider paying a qualified sports therapist to give them a sports massage. This is not your typical end of the day massage you would give your partner or spouse in order to relax them; sports massages are designed to release muscle tension and restore balance to the musculo-skeletal system – and can be (but really don’t have to be) quite painful or uncomfortable. However, the benefits can be immense, and include physical, physiological and psychological improvements.

Before considering the potential benefits sport massage has to offer, it is important to recognise that massage itself is not only for injured individuals but can also offer numerous benefits to uninjured individuals who are looking to enhance their sporting performance. Before reducing the benefits of massage down into the three categories highlighted above, let us first consider some general enhancements massage can offer;

Increase sporting performance.

Maintain the human body in a healthy condition.

Prevent injuries and inflexibility.

Reduce the recovery period following an injury.

 

Physical Benefits

Enhanced tissue permeability: Massage causes the tissue membrane pores to widen, allowing fluids and nutrients to pass through more readily. This enables waste products such as lactic acid to be removed rapidly and creates an environment whereby oxygen and nutrients are quickly delivered to the target muscles, allowing an enhanced recovery.

Increased flexibility: Massage stretches muscle tissue in a multidirectional manner, both longitudinally and laterally. It can also have a similar effect on the muscular sheath and surrounding fascia, allowing a beneficial release of stored tension and pressure. Scar tissue realignment: Each and every time a muscle receives trauma or injury, scar tissue is formed which can affect the muscle itself as well as the tendons and ligaments. If not treated correctly at the time of injury, this scar tissue can form haphazardly, resulting in the potential for long term inflexibility issues. Massage assists in realigning the scar tissue formation and reduces the likelihood of subsequent injury and/or pain.

Enhanced micro circulation: Massage enhances the blood flow to the tissues of the target muscles in a similar manner to exercise. In addition to this, massage also causes blood vessels to dilate enabling oxygen and nutrients to pass through more readily. Physiological Benefits:

Inhibition of pain: A combination of tension and waste products within a muscle can often result in the sensation of pain. Massage lessons this painful feeling by its ability to reduce tension and remove waste products. It also encourages the release of endorphins. Stimulates relaxation response: Massage creates an environment whereby heat generation, enhanced circulation and increased flexibility are all promoted. All of these factors play a role in stimulating mechanoreceptors in the body and creating relaxation.

Psychological Benefits:

Reduced anxiety levels: Through stimulating a relaxation response, massage has the additional benefit of lowering anxiety levels, creating a mood enlightening experience.

Invigorating bodily response: If the sports massage is completed utilising brisk movements prior to a sporting event then it can create an invigorating bodily response.

Massage takes various forms and feels for different effects

Massage takes various forms and feels for different effects

Am I going to feel less sore afterwards?

There’s the rub indeed.

And yes, you are. Expert opinion holds that muscle soreness isn’t caused by lactic buildup, but by microscopic damage to muscle fibres. But massage still has the power to soothe by promoting healing through breaking down fibrous tissue and adhesions.

An Ohio State University review of 27 studies backs this, finding evidence that massage therapy can alleviate symptoms of the dreaded delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

You may find massage best a couple of days after a hard workout or race to allow initial soreness and stiffness to subside. By that point you should just about be able to hobble to the appointment, too.

How do I know which is the best kind of massage for me?

Different strokes for different folks. There may be more than one type of therapy that could effectively meet your needs.

Look for a therapist who has a range of techniques at their disposal, and who can match the treatment to your particular needs at each session – which can vary every time.

No single technique can accomplish all the aims of sports massage. Specific or unusual problems and extreme circumstances may mean you need to look beyond general sports massage.

So how’s it going to feel?

Be warned: it’s not all a soft touch.

Techniques vary from the gentle ‘effleurage’, which is a long, relaxing gliding movement towards your heart to aid venous return, to ‘petrissage’, a somewhat less relaxing kneading of muscles to boost circulation and mobilise tissue.

Then there are compression techniques to promote relaxation in tight muscles or reduce sensitivity of painful ‘trigger points’, and friction techniques to work on scar tissue or adhered tissue that doesn’t move freely because of overuse or injury.

Scar tissue will be treated with more vigorous techniques, and adhered tissue with more gentle effleurage. As a rule of fingers and thumbs, don’t count on drifting off for a nap if your problems run deeper than a tough training session.

 

Hopefully this article has provided you with numerous benefits of sports massage, including those that are considered physical, physiological and psychological in nature. I am sure you will agree that all of the benefits listed above would offer the potential to enhance your sporting performance and enjoyment if carried out on a regular basis. So if you ever needed one good reason to book in for a sports massage, now you have many!

Our partners at the Sports Performance Clinic and at Energised Performance offer a variety of different services and options – both assisting with injury rehab, ongoing/in training massage and pre/post race offerings. Get in touch with them to see how they can help!

New Product Update – Huub Wetsuit Review

Huub Wetsuits

Having agreed to sell HUUB Wetsuits to you good people, I wanted to make sure that the wetsuits stand up to scrutiny, that they aren’t just marketing hype. Some of the fastest triathlete swimmers in the world are wearing them, like Richard Varga, and now ex World Champ Helen Jenkins – as well as Alistair and Jonny Brownlee – are all wearing the new kid on the block!

The Huub website says “The best wetsuit in our opinion ever created. The Archimedes (named after the great Physicist and Mathematician Archimedes and his Buoyancy principle) This suit quite simply delivers the buoyancy and flexibility that you would expect along with a host of benefits created by the experts in scientific and practical swimming development.”

Huub Archimedes Wetsuit

Huub Archimedes Wetsuit

Firstly, the suit looks sharp! Lets be honest, with most of the kit we buy, if we’re prepared to spend a bit of cash, we want to look good! Regardless of shape, size or swim speed, the dark material with the silvery panels, contouring and flashes (red on the men’s, pink on the women’s Axena) certainly help with making the suit look fast. And purely from a psychological point of view, if you think you look fast it certainly helps you to swim quicker.

Of course there are several suits out on the market that look fast, but how do the specs match up?

Firstly, I’d like to get the only negative out of the way. There are a lot of suits and brands around that have marketing material on their suits. That is, there are elements of the specification or the suit that don’t serve any real or useful point. For the Archimedes, this element is the bicep release panels. When swimming we talk about having high elbows to help maintain pressure on your forearm and hand through the water. Huub say that this panel is to take pressure off your bicep when your arm is in this bent position, but through the midpoint of your stroke your bicep is under isometric contraction; that is, it doesn’t expand (concentric), it just holds the arm in place. It just renders the stretchier panel fairly irrelevant – it certainly doesn’t make the suit any worse.

Now to the positives!

The suit fits well – having sold a few to clients of different sizes (small to tall, lightweight to slightly larger), Huub have done a great job making sure that the suits don’t just fit one body type. A good fitting suit makes more difference than anything the wetsuit has to offer, and certainly is more important than the cost of the kit! Added to this the mix of 39 and 40 cell neoprene (the softest/smoothest/most flexible neoprene that is currently widely available) and the super stretchy and comfortable jersey on the inside, the Archimedes is incredibly mobile without being too stretchy. There are a few suits that are made completely of the 40 cell neoprene (TYR Freak of Nature and Aquaman Gold Cell) which while comfortable, can over stretch and fill with water; this makes the fitting of the wetsuit irrelevant and obviously adds to drag, so Huub have done well to avoid this.

The neck and zip, however, is my favourite part of the Archimedes wetsuit. For once a wetsuit’s neck closure system felt locked in without choking, and there was little to no water entering through this area. The zip isn’t just your standard zip. Aquaman and Blueseventy pioneered the idea behind a reverse zip – the idea being that with the zip at the bottom (and opening upward), you won’t get people unzipping you deliberately or otherwise! Huub have taken a different route; a breakaway where a sharp hard pull on the zip means the teeth will break apart and allow you to pull the suit down over your shoulders – and off. I have to say, after initially struggling to adapt to the idea, actually it was a really easy way to get out of the suit and is a nice difference to the usual.

The Brownlees in Huub are swimming at the front  of the pack

The Brownlees in Huub are swimming at the front of the pack

Down the calves is a similar material to that on the biceps. Similar to the bicep release panel, Huub state that this is to “improve kick, propulsion and circulation”, though honestly I don’t feel that is necessary (see above!). On the flip side, the extra flexible material helps with wetsuit removal – especially as I have big (size 12) feet! So while the stated intention might not be particularly worthwhile and just for the sake of being there – but actually it works anyway.

Finally the last part of Huub and their philosophy – offering suits at the same specification for two different styles; a more hip buoyant 3:5 and a more neutrally buoyant 4:4. The numbers refer to the thickness of the neoprene in mm. The idea is that the 3:5 is thicker, and therefor more buoyant around the hips for triathletes whose legs tend to sink, while the other  style is aimed at swimmers who have got their body position more in line (obviously something we coach here!). Its a great (if slightly lazy?) way of getting weaker swimmers more happy and confident in the water. The extra buoyancy in the hips of the 3:5 does definitely lift the hips more than the 4:4. Its a great option for athletes at both the £500 and £380 price points – but it’s not a philosophy confined to Huub. Blue Seventy and Orca both do varieties of their wetsuits, they just call them different names.

The Huub Archimedes is without a doubt one of THE fastest wetsuits that I have swum in. It’s truly comfortable, snug but flexible and easy to get off.  I am looking forward to swimming fast and coming out at the front in it this season!

Prehab and Protect Yourself – The Performance Matrix

Injury sometimes feels like an inevitable part of sport – in some way shape or form. Whether its annoying niggles, tweaks and strains or a full on muscular or joint issue – to the more serious damage that can occur, no-one wants to spend time out of training and racing because of an injury. Funnily enough a lot of these problems can be prevented; either by better structured training plans to prevent over use and burn out. Or by making sure that the relevant joints and muscles are strengthened to ensure that the body and limbs are properly prepared to deal with the shocks that particular exercises can put put on the body. I’m reminded of this quote/mantra from my father:

“Proper Preparation Prevents P*** Poor Performance”

Having had a relatively serious ankle injury through the winter and struggling to rebuild my running, I went to meet with our partners, The Physio Clinic/The Sports Performance Clinic. The idea of meeting with Matt was to run through their Performance Matrix screening. The screening checks for strength, mobility and control issues via 10 different exercises. From this, Matt could then give me a range of exercises that would strengthen my weak areas.

DSC_0002

In the event, I scored 11 out of 50 points, a lower score is better as it highlights fewer weaknesses. I was pretty happy with my score – but it highlighted major weakness around the lower leg and foot. This remained true both for general alignment and co-ordination (low threshold) and for strength and speed (high threshold). On the positive side, my back, hips and shoulders are assets to my sporting performance. Matt has given me 6 exercises to build into the S&C programme that he has written me to work on these weaknesses – especially toward the Europeans!

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The Performance Matrix is good tool to anyone looking to get into sport, looking to protect themselves from injury, or looking to improve their results and get the most out of their abilities. It covers all sports as well, not only swim/bike/run; so for high strength/force sports like golf, cricket, netball, basketball and tennis its great for the shoulders – as well as rugby, football for the lower body.

If you are one of our athletes or just interested in having a Performance Matrix Screen and how it can help you, get in contact with us!

Coaching, Whoever, Wherever

One of the challenges as a coach is to communicate with everyone you’re working with; whether that’s athletes (of any age/ability), other coaches, facility staff, or when coaching juniors, the parents. My intention with the business and with my coaching clearly is to coach as many people, in what I see is the right way, as is possible. But wherever you get your coaching from, here are some of my bugbears or things to watch out for!

1. Clear communication – and this goes both ways. If as an athlete you’re not sure what you’re supposed to do THEN ASK! There is nothing more frustrating for a a coach than someone just following along because they weren’t sure; equally the coach may not have put things in a way that works in your brain. A good coach should be able to explain something in more than one way – otherwise they don’t fully understand what they are trying to give you.

2. Know why you are doing what you are doing (or why you are given what you are given). If you know why you are doing a particular drill, you can emphasise the important elements (eg in the pool or on the track). Too many athletes just do things because they feel they should, without knowing why. Too many coaches give drills/exercises/sets without understanding the full implications – understanding gives empowerment and ownership of your training. You may find you’ve been pushing too hard or maybe even going too easily!

3. Demonstrations should be accurate! I was doing my own training this week while a kids swimming lesson was going on and the teacher was flailing their arms around, half the kids copied exactly. In a sport where athletes can’t really see their actions, any demonstration of what a coach wants to happen have to be accurate, precise and considered. That might mean bending forward at the hip to show the body in a better plane. It might be making sure following the right path with the hands when you demonstrate entry – whatever it is, give/get a clear picture.

The last 2 points are reserved especially for pool swim training, the previous ones have been pretty transferable!

4. Make sure there is plenty of space between swimmers. For a coach, they should notice this and make comment, but realistically, the majority of the time there is no benefit to swimming right on people’s feet. As a coach it means you can’t see much, as an athlete you might be doing something completely different because of the situation. Yes it’s easier swimming in someone’s slipstream but are you REALLY benefiting?

5. A personal gripe! Stop looking at your watch!! Most public pools have a pace clock, learn to use that… It’s not a difficult thing to do, and gives you all the information you need. By spending time looking at a watch you break those technical habits you’re trying to build, streamlining, posture, control. By the time you’ve fiddled with your watch you’ve probably missed your time to push off anyway!

Wherever you are, whoever is coaching you, whatever you do, engage in what you’re doing. Engage with your coach. Understand why and work on the simple things first, the building blocks, your foundations.

“Educators take something simple and make it complicated. Communicators take something complicated and make it simple.”

Seeking outside help

Personal blog time this week!!

Sometimes it’s difficult to get out the door and train. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the motivation to go and do the the sessions you need to do; or push through the hard parts and places of sessions when your brain is telling you you can’t be bothered. We all have been there! Don’t feel that you are alone!

The reason I say this is because I’d felt like this with some of my own training. I’ve set my own plans, toward my own goal, and yet there have been days where I just can’t be arsed don’t feel up to it.

This is where you need to speak to someone. If you have a coach, potentially that should be your first port of call – if you’re not motivated to go and do their sessions, toward things you have agreed between you, then elements need to change. As a coach myself, I’m very aware that I need to keep on top of where each of my athletes are at, make sure they are happy with each week ahead or week past.

I was very fortunate to grab a chat with Kim Ingleby of Energised Performance to sort out my head space! Kim is an expert in NLP, and as one of her clients has written, a mind and body ninja! It was very useful to go through things with her – the basic outcome was that I needed to change particular environments to make some of my training more appealing and ultimately more successful. Since our chat, it’s been good to alter my plan and now I’m looking forward to implementing that!

Being your own coach has its advantages. You know your own body, your strengths and weaknesses, the time you have available to you – and occasionally more than any expert (I certainly wouldn’t put myself in the expert category!)! But an external coach can be a useful tool in achieving your goals – whether that be adding extra weapons to your armoury, or just sorting things out in your head.

Obviously I’d love to help people, that’s why I do the coaching – but hopefully I can give food for thought with my own experiences as well as with the services I offer!

Happy Training!