WTF Is My Hand Doing? And Other Thoughts From Swim Physio Testing

By Alison Freeman

As many of us triathletes approach the off-season, we tend to think about how we can improve for next year. The off-season is an awesome time to focus on one sport at the expense of the other two and make some big gains in that sport. And if you come away from your tri season post-mortem realizing that it’s time to step up your swim, I highly recommend booking time at the CU Sports Medicine & Performance Center (CUSMPC) for a round of physiological testing in the swim flume.

I did physio testing on the bike at CUSMPC last spring and found that to be incredibly useful. I’ll admit, I was a little skeptical about whether the swim physio testing was going to have the same impact. I love it when I’m proven wrong!

WHAT IS IT?
Similar to bike or run physio tests, the swim physio test measures your heart rate and blood lactate levels across a range of swim paces, with the goal of scientifically determining your individualized training paces. Beyond that, you also get the benefit of a swim stroke analysis, complete with before and after video of your technique.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
In swimming, there is a distinct intertwining of effort and technique: if your technique is flawed (and really, whose isn’t?), then you’re less efficient and it’s going to take more effort to swim – at any pace. The swim physio testing begins by identifying your swim training zones, which are cool to know but aren’t game changing. The stroke analysis is where the magic happens.

Jared Berg, CUSMPC’s testing specialist who’s also a certified strength and conditioning specialist as well as a former pro triathlete, focuses on stroke improvements that will reduce your effort level and/or improve your pace within your training zones. In other words, (cue lights and “aha” music) Jared looks for ways to help you swim faster while expending less effort – IMMEDIATELY. Not after four months of hitting the pool three to five times a week, but within just a few workouts.

HOW DOES IT WORK?
Swim physio testing takes place in a swim flume, essentially a treadmill for swimming … which I translated to: bo-ring. I was so wrong. I hopped in, started warming up, noticed the mirrors on the bottom and sides of the flume, and was immediately fixated on WTF was my right hand doing and now I understand why my masters swim coach keeps telling me to straighten my wrist. Seeing yourself swim is about as eye opening as it gets.

Flume Video

The testing itself takes approximately 30-45 minutes and goes like this: after your warm up, Jared takes you through a series of four minute swim intervals at increasingly challenging paces. The first few are endurance to tempo pace, as in: no big deal. But by the third I was sucking wind and by the fourth I was desperately trying to just keep my feet off the back wall. The only reason I survived the testing is because in between each interval Jared has you pause swimming to check your heart rate and lactate levels. I used that time to gasp for air and beg for a countdown during the final interval so I knew how much longer I’d have to suffer.

After you complete the testing portion you move on to stroke analysis. Jared sets up two incredibly high end, super cool underwater video cameras in front and side view positions. You’ll swim for a minute to capture your baseline stroke, then Jared reviews the video with you and provides an overview of what looks good and what needs improvement. Next he’ll pick one element for you to concentrate on, have you swim a minute focusing on this particular improvement, and show you side-by-side before-and-after videos to see how you did. After that he’ll move onto a second point of focus and repeat the process. All in all you’ll walk away with three or four discrete form points that you will have practiced in the flume and can continue to work on after your session. More importantly, these form points are specifically selected to provide near-term results – as in, you’ll swim with less effort and/or faster almost immediately.

How did this shake out for me? Well, it turns out the alternate-side breathing that I thought made me super cool was in fact my undoing. Jared noticed during my physio testing that my lactate levels were unusually high during the initial rounds of testing. He had me change to a single-side breathing, galloping style stroke (a la Katie Ledecky – even cooler!) to improve my oxygen levels and reduce lactate levels, and then gave me some specific form points to concentrate on to maximize my stroke efficiency for this new style.

Think it all sounds like a bunch of mumbo jumbo? We put it to the test. I came back exactly two weeks later – after only three swim workouts – and re-did the physio testing. My lactate levels started lower and stayed lower during the initial testing intervals, and my heart rate stayed lower as well. My stroke rate was lower across all the intervals, and I was able to add a fifth, faster interval that had been impossible two weeks prior.

I still have work to do to get faster and refine my stroke, but now I know what to work on. And with Jared’s help I will come out of the water at my next tri feeling less tired, and therefore having more energy for the bike and run. #ForTheWin!

HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Just pop on over to the CUSMPC website’s page on performance testing and select “Physiology.” Scroll down to “(SWIM) Lactate Profile,” click to pop up the scheduling tool, pick a time and you’re good to go.

While you’re at CUSMPC for your swim physio testing, be sure to check out their state-of-the-art facility. They offer everything from physio and metabolic testing to physical therapy to an alter-G (anti-gravity) treadmill. It’s all open to the public, and it’s right in our own back yard.

The Sprint Work Stand by Feedback Sports : No More Grease Stains on My Carpet When I Change a Tire?

By Alison Freeman

You know when you’ve been struggling with something over and over and over again, and you get so used to clunky and difficult and annoying that you never pick your head up to think about alternative solutions? That pretty much describes me, in my basement, swapping out trainer tire for outdoor tire for trainer tire for outdoor tire, getting chain grease all over the carpet, and just assuming that this is how it’s done. And then I learned about the Sprint Work Stand by Feedback Sports.
TAAAHHH-DAAAHHH!!! Light bulb does not even begin to describe it.

WHAT IS IT?
The Sprint Work Stand by Feedback Sports  is a bike work and wash stand. Unlike the work stands that you often see at your local bike shop that use a seat post or top tube clamp to hold your bike, the Sprint Work Stand uses a fork mount to secure and stabilize your baby. I mean bike.

WHY SHOULD YOU CARE?
For starters, I am now convinced that anyone who does any work on their own bike – tire changes included – should own a work stand. If my grease-on-the-carpet story didn’t resonate with you, how about the fact that my race wheels stayed on my bike for 8 weeks because there wasn’t a day warm enough to pop my bike on my car’s bike rack and swap out wheels. Does that sound familiar? Now just imagine changing wheels and mounting rear bottle cages, all in the comfort and warmth of your house – without getting grease everywhere. SOLD, right?

Glad that we’re on the same page. So, then, the reason that you want the Sprint Stand specifically is because, since it uses a fork mount, you don’t have to stress about the top tube shape of this bike and the seat post shape of that bike and is there any one stand that will work with all of my bikes? Yes! The Sprint Work Stand. DOUBLE SOLD!

HOW DOES IT WORK?
The Sprint Stand is a cinch to use. Even though I only glanced at the directions the first time I whipped it out to change my daughter’s tire, I had it set up in just a minute or two. The stand uses four clamps similar to the clamps on your bike’s seat post to manage the entire setup and breakdown process, which makes everything quick and easy.

You open one clamp to expand the tripod base, a few others to adjust the height of the stand, and then there’s a nifty clamp to lock the horizontal mounting bar in place. Just like that, the stand is set up. To mount your bike, you simply remove the front wheel and throw it on the fork mount using one of the three provided skewers and their accompanying spacers. The fork mount has a slide adjustment, so once your bike is mounted you can easily slip the fork mount forward or backward so that your bottom bracket rests on the rubber base.

Once you’ve got your bike mounted, you can rotate it 360 degrees to provide easy access to whichever part of your bike you’re working on. In just a few weeks, I’ve used it to change tires, swap out wheels, wash my bike and un-attach my rear bottle system. Previously I would’ve attempted this with my bike either on the car’s bike rack or leaning against the wall in my basement, neither of which provides the same access or stability as the Sprint Work Stand. My bike was super sturdy once cinched into the fork mount and, with the rotation and adjustable height, I could easily get to anything I wanted to work on. The only two drawbacks were that my hands still got greasy dealing with my chain (granted, that’s totally a user error thing) and that you can’t adjust the front brakes on the stand since the front wheel isn’t on your bike. It’s easy enough to adjust those brakes once you pop the wheel back on, though, so it’s really not a big deal.

Once you’re done working on your bike, the stand folds down more easily and quickly than it sets up, and collapses into a compact unit that you can easily tuck away in your garage or the corner of your pain cave. It’s only been a couple of weeks, I’ve already used it several times, and I really don’t know how or why I managed to go this long without scooping one up.

HOW DO I GET STARTED?
The Sprint Work Stand is available direct through Feedback Sports for $269.99 plus tax and shipping.

7 Things You (Probably) Didn’t Know You Can Do With Your Garmin 920XT

By Alison Freeman, D3 Multisport

You’ve worn your Garmin for countless hours in the pool, on the road, and out on the trails. But you may not know that your Garmin can do a helluva lot more than just track your distance and pace. Here are seven of my favorite Garmin 920XT features, many of which I use week in and week out. Have a favorite that I didn’t mention? I’d love to hear about it.

Note: Many of these features require the Garmin Connect website, the Garmin Express desktop app, and/or the iPhone/Android/Windows phone Garmin Connect app.

Wireless / Bluetooth Sync

I’m really hoping that this is a super disappointing start to my list because you already know that you don’t have tophysically connect your Garmin to your computer in order to sync your workouts. You can sync wirelessly after setting up your home wireless network using Garmin Express, or you can sync to the Garmin Connect app on your phone using Bluetooth. Either way – no cords required.

More information about wireless setup can be found here

More information about pairing your phone with your Garmin can be found here

Phone Notifications

And just when you were thinking that my list was going to be a total bust … Did you know your Garmin can kinda be an iWatch? First you connect your Garmin to the iPhone/Android/Windows phone app on your phone. Then any time you open the app it will push phone notifications – like incoming texts and phone calls – to your Garmin. So, if you launch the app and head out on a ride with your phone in your jersey pocket (and, really, who doesn’t?), you can read your incoming texts and see who’s calling on your Garmin, while you’re riding, without ever touching your phone.

More information about pairing your phone with your Garmin can be found here

More information on phone notifications can be found here

Intervals

OK, so let’s say today’s workout is a bunch of repeats of the same interval – not hard to remember, but you reallydon’t want to have to stare at your watch and hit your Lap button at the start/end of every interval. Plus: precision. No problem! Just go to “Training,” select “Intervals,” and set up your 10x 1/4-mile intervals with 90 seconds rest. Hit “Do Workout” and your Garmin will tell you when to go fast and when to rest. Voila!

More information about intervals can be found here

Structured Workouts

Maybe today’s workout includes some horribly complex set of run or bike intervals, and – unlike with the single interval repeats – there’s simply no way that you’re going to be able to remember them. Again, no problem! Your Garmin can still tell you exactly what to do and when to do it. Just set up the workout on the Garmin Connect website and send it to your watch using that nifty wireless sync feature we already covered. Then, when you’re ready to do the workout, go to “Training,” select “My Workouts,” select your workout for today and hit “Do Workout.” Voila again!

More information about structured workouts can be found hereNOTE: If your workout intervals are set up in TrainingPeaks’ new structured workout builder, you can send the workout from TrainingPeaks right over to your Garmin. See the TrainingPeaks help article on this here

Routes

Here’s one that I don’t use a lot, but when I do it’s mission-critical: if you’re running/riding a new route and youdon’t want to get lost, you can set up the route on the Garmin Connect website, send it to your watch using that nifty wireless sync feature, and then follow the route on your watch. (It’ll be hidden under “Navigation,” in “Courses.”) It does take some paying attention to follow the route because it’s a line without a map underneath, and so it helps to play with the scale to make sure you see the turn before you miss it. But once you get the hang of it, the course map will keep you from inadvertently adding several errant miles onto your day.

More information about routes (which Garmin calls courses) can be found here

Live Track

A “LiveTrack” is a website with a live feed of your ride (or run), which can be made available for 24 hours after yourride/run ends. This is a feature that I use EVERY SINGLE TIME that I ride outdoors. Why? Because if I don’t come back, then someone knows where to start looking. Also, if I run into mechanical issues, then it’s really easy to let my ride know where to find me. I’ve even used the LiveTrack + Phone Notifications to receive texts from my husband with weather updates based on where I am and where I’m heading. (“Turn around and ride fast! Storm heading straight for you.”) Within the Garmin Connect app on your phone, you simply go to “More” and “LiveTrack,” enter one or more email addresses, then hit “Start LiveTrack” to send the web link to your support crew.

Custom Alerts

The last of my favorite features is great for long rides and runs where you want to stay on schedule for your nutrition: You can set up custom alerts at specified intervals, with specified messages. On bike rides, my watch reminds me every fifteen minutes to “Drink!”. If you want to take salt tabs every 40 minutes, you can set an alert for that. If you want to tell yourself to suck it up every 1.75 miles, you can set an alert for that – just go to “Activity Settings” and “Alerts” and you’re in business. The possibilities are endless. (Just remember that alerts are specific to the activity, so if you set up an alert for Bike, it’ll stop reminding you when it’s time to Run.)

More information about custom alerts can be found here