Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Searching for that perfect run form

I've been doing a LOT of soul searching in this area lately!  Running was something I thought I was good at. Before I started training and racing I turned to running in order to lose weight. It was the easiest and most convenient thing to do....or so I thought. 

After I lost some weight, and discovered triathlon, it was time for me to run again. I was never a fast runner. When I played basketball and baseball in High School my friends used to make fun of how slow I was. It was kind of a joke how I "chugged" along looking like I was putting in a big effort, but was going no where. It wasn't till recently till I figured out running should be more effortless than that!

As I continued with my triathlons I actually started to enjoy running. The lighter me was faster. I finished my first marathon at 3:44 and eventually ran a half marathon at 1:34. While not the fastest guy, I was consistently running top tens in my age group with most my running efforts. 

Then my world came crashing down. After I broke my collar bone in a mountain bike mishap, I was at a physical therapist. In doing his job he asked me if anything else hurt, or was bothering me. I mentioned how I was fine, but getting old and my feet hurt when I got out if bed in the morning. Little did I know that it wasn't me getting old at all!  It was the injury all runners/endurance athletes dread...plantar fasciitis!

I continued going to therapy for the PF and took a little break from running. I religiously did all the exercises and treatments I was supposed to do. It seemed to be getting better. But, when I started running again it came back. I took a break and kept doing the therapy more, but it came back again!  It also reared it's ugly head in my other foot. So then I had it in both!

Every year countless runners get the dreaded PF. Many sources say it's the most common run injury. Recently, it's come more to light with athletes in basketball and baseball as well. Why?....we can speculate all we want, but the simple fact is that nobody teaches us how to run correctly. To make matters worse, the shoe manufactures market products to is that prohibit proper run form, and reinforce bad habits. But wait! It gets worse. They've been doing this for years!  So are feet are weak to begin with and keep getting weaker. 

So what do we do?  First off, see a doctor and get it properly diagnosed. They will likely give you orthotics that will even further support your feet and limit proper movement. But that's ok. Once you have PF you need the rest. Really bad cases can take more than a year and sometimes even hurt when cycling. With the orthotics and after your cleared to run again is where you need to start. 

Change that running form. Learn to stand tall, look forward, drive your knees and balance your hips. Lean forward and shorten your stride, raising your cadence. Running should seem effortless. You shouldn't hear your feet banging on the ground. Loosen up those shoulders and relax. Let your mid foot strike the ground first, and roll the foot forward pushing off with the toes. 

Start small!  Don't be afraid to run a couple miles a few times a week to start. Use the 10 percent rule, and error on the conservative side. Stay away from speed work for a while, and just run and enjoy for a while while your body gets used to it. Take 3-4 weeks of this before you start ramping up volume for training. 

Here are a couple of articles out there that really help with run form. READ THEM! And get that correct form down. You'll likely be really sore in the calves for a while so don't forget to start slow!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Training Camp Revelations 2014

First, I have to thank my coach Tony Zamora for another great training camp. For information on training camps by TZcoaching you can check here .  First, I'm blessed to have the opportunity to get away for a week, and travel somewhere nice to get a lot of good riding in. I can't say enough about the TZcoaching camp in Monterey, CA. Second, I have to thank Chris Burnham, at Burnham Coaching, and Frank, at Bay Bikes. Chris, for the helpful seminar on mobility, and Frank for the bike support all week. Lastly, I want to thank Tony's wife Michelle, and my wife Anne for all the SAG support, and for putting up with a bunch of cyclists like us for a week on our rides. 

There's a lot of debate about the necessities of training camps. I always hear a lot of athletes grumble that they can accomplish the same things in their own training at home. Possibly.....but will they?  Especially this year, with the nasty cold Chicago weather we had, and extremely limited times to get outside and ride, I know I wouldn't have had the opportunity to get on my bike this early and this often. Not to mention the opportunities you have to train and talk with coaches about anything you need, and have support for extra long or hard rides. Being that I struggle with overuse use injuries myself, I especially enjoyed working with Tony and Chris on mobility during our down time. Besides those things, it was just great to get out of my normal environment, and train some place that had mountains and hills worth mentioning. 

What specifically do training camps do for my training? 

Well, last year I came back from camp a much stronger rider. The mountains in California made the little rollers in Illinois seem like nothing. It gave me something to train for during the winter, and keep me motivated to get in those long trainer rides leading up to camp. It challenged me at the perfect time of year to climb harder and go faster than I normally would. It put a perfect training peak in my training periodization schedule. Putting me out there with other cyclists and coaches also pushed me harder than I would have mentally been capable of on the trainer at home. There was one ride I physically put out an average power output only a few watts shy of my previous functional threshold power for more than 4 hours!  Being out on the road and challenging myself to keep up with others at the camp made that possible. Lastly, talk to me in a few weeks!  I'm exhausted! as I should be!  The benefits of my efforts should be appearant in a few weeks as I recover from camp. I'll expect to start the riding season with a higher FTP and improved aerobic endurance. 

What did I learn from training camp this year?  

First, I learn a lot about myself and how far I can push myself. As I mentioned before, just being here with other riders and the competitive spirit pushes you. I have the power data to record and learn from those efforts. But I was also pushed by the different terrain/environment. Our Fremont Peak ride was so much climbing, and so steep, that the last two years I've tested up it I put out more than 10% more power than I tested at on the trainer during the winter leading up to it.  The quest to the peak, and constant need to crank the pedals over to keep moving forward, forces you mentally to show yourself what you are capable of. 

Second, I always learn about nutrition and fuel for long efforts at camp. It's a perfect opportunity to dial in your nutrition, and if you have questions there are coaches there to ask. 

Third, I learned about my diet off the bike!  Going out to eat with the other riders didn't workout so well for my stomach. About mid week I started having some stomach issues. I'm sure it was due to the fact I was eating things my body is not used to eating. I learned I need to do a better job with my food choices, while I'm away from home, to keep up with my own well being. 

Fourthly, I learned a lot about mobility and nutrition from Tony and Chris at Chris's new studio at Bay Bikes. Chris started the day with a talk about foam rolling, and other devices, to help us recover and break up adhesions we create with all our hard training. I knew the importance of this before, however, it was great to get some new ideas for recovery and rolling routines, see the latest devices out there, get Chris's suggestions on how to use them, as well as have Tony/Chris show me what I should be doing for myself on a daily basis to stay supple. 

Lastly, I learned to love training a little bit more again. Let's face it, it's been a long hard winter for most of the country this year. And for myself, life has gotten in the way of my own training this off season. TZcoaching training camp was just what I needed to come back home fresh and full of ideas for my own training, and for clients'. As I write this on the plane ride home I've already gone through and jotted down tons of thoughts for making this year better for myself, for TZcoaching athletes, and Lifetime Fitness athletes' coming out on our weekend training rides this year, and for potential private clients. I can't wait to get home and start a new year of training!

Questions?  Feel free to comment or email me at

I'll leave you with a few pics from camp. But stay tuned to for more pics. We have tons of pics to go through this year and I'm sure Tony will share some soon. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If You're Not Moving....Get Moving!

This one is for all you office workers out there!  

Most of us aren't lucky enough to be full time athletes. Although, we dream about it, and sometimes think we are.  The truth is a lot of us are weekend warriors, or part time athletes. Our jobs are important, and allow us the privilege to be athletes on the side. 

As a result, some of us spend long hours sitting at a desk, or in other sedentary states. As athletes, we workout hard at night, or on the weekend. Then, we sit in a desk all day at work. Besides the possibility of poor posture and posterior chain issues, sitting at the desk also cuts off circulation and tightens up the muscles. This can inhibit proper recovery from workouts, contribute to loss of flexibility, and lead to injuries. 

So what do we do?  Try to sneak away for a minute or two every once in a while. Do something!  There are countless simple exercises you can do in an empty office, in a stair well, or on your cubicle floor while no one is looking. Personally, I try my best to get away once every hour and climb some stairs, do crunches, planks, Hindu squats, push-ups, etc.  

Honestly, it doesn't happen every hour. There are always meetings, or more pressing matters that come up, and 1 hour turns into 2 or 3!  But, if you try your best and get in these movements the best you can you will see a difference. You'll notice more flexibility, easier movement, and better recovery from workouts. You might even find yourself burning more calories during the day and getting leaner!  So make that commitment and get moving!

Coach Meulen

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Quick and easy Salmon dinner

I'm not going to spend a lot of time explaining this one because our lives are busy, and the instructions are on the package!  

Go pick yourself up some Kirkland Salmon at your local Costco. Bake according to instructions. Add some fresh spinach and a slice of lemon. (Thanks Honey!!!)