Personal Training Series: Coaching your way to a healthy lifestyle

Health is an area in many people’s lives which is neglected. To live a healthy life requires taking action, as with other areas of your life, to get results. There is a wealth of information from professionals and websites offering the know-how to live a healthy life. So why are we not all healthy?

I have found – as with other areas of my life – that you need coaches. Coaches not only motivate you and keep you on track; they also provide you with the most recent information about living a healthy lifestyle. A coach can put a plan in place which is easy to follow, adaptable to your lifestyle, and is measurable over time.

In today’s world, you can approach many different types of professionals to get this help, but I have found that it works best if just one person takes overriding responsibility for you achieving your results. Generally the coach who can help you is the one who lives the life they teach. In health there is a holistic approach and there is a Western medical approach, and I think a combination of the two is needed. The areas that may be included in assessment of your health are: your medical history; your lifestyle habits; your physical training habits; and your mental approach.

I am a physiotherapist and I work closely with personal trainers developing healthy lifestyles for clients. I am able to draw on the help of medical professionals, such as doctors and surgeons, and also holistic professionals, such as Pilates instructors, homeopaths and counsellors. Personal trainers have a wealth of skills which they can use with their clients including lifestyle coaching, physical training, nutrition and exercise goal setting.

This series of blogs is designed to give my perspective, as a physiotherapist and someone who lives a healthy lifestyle, on how you can avoid injury when working with a trainer. The blogs are separated into common scenarios I see as a physiotherapist in my clinic. The aim is to assess those clients we see and to learn more about injury prevention when working with a personal trainer.

In the following weeks there will be 20 blogs which will give a comprehensive outline of how you can work best with a personal trainer and a physiotherapist. Please call or contact us via email with any questions you may have about these blogs.

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Rhys Chong talks about a winning team for success in sport and life

Winning a Gold Medal at the Olympics, winning the Tour de France or winning an Ironman are spared for the elite athletes of the world. Every sport has its unique demands but there is one goal all athletes strive for … to be the “best he/she can be”.

Whether you are a professional or an amateur there are aspects of training which can help you be the “best you can be”. The key is to have a team of specialists who work specifically for you. Bradley Wiggins, Chrissie Wellington, and Sir Chris Hoy all have a team of professionals guiding them to success.

 I completed my Ironman and had a team of professionals working with me. I knew if I wanted to be the “best I could be” I would need coaches for different parts of my training. In my team was a training coach, swim coach, bike mechanic, nutritionist, mental conditioning coach, massage therapist, physiotherapist, and pilates instructor.

 Each member of my coaching team had their role to play at various stages in my year of preparation for the Ironman. My training coach directed the overall training plan and as my strength and technique improved, with the help of other specialists, I focussed on work with my mental conditioning coach. I did have injuries during the year but they were minor. It helped to condition my body with gym work and pilates. The expert physiotherapy treatment and massage therapy I received allowed me to train 6 days a week.

 Elite athletes will train in cycles of 4 years in preparation for the Olympics. The focus of their team is to have them at peak performance for that one race on that one day that really counts. This could be your “A” race for the year when you want to set a PB (Personal Best time). 

 My advice is to plan your training with your coaches. Your entire physical and mental preparation will be for your “A” race. The synergy created by pinpoint focus on your “A” race will create incredible results. 

The benefits of having a team of coaches are far greater, when compared with a computer or book prescribed program. Your coaches are with you from the beginning of your journey through to crossing the finish line. They know how you “tick”, and can provide you with emotional guidance and motivation, in the good times and the bad. Your training can be adapted to fit with what is happening in your life. When it really matters we all want to talk to people and training is no different.

If you want to race an Ironman for the first time and want the right team of coaches to work with, see  www.physical-edge.com   

Rhys Chong

Author, Physiotherapist and Ironman

Personal Training series: Running shoes and running biomechanics

There are many shoes on the market at the moment for running. Running biomechanics have taken a big shift in the last 5 years.  Running brands such as Asics, Brooks and  Saucony have created shoes which are designed to prevent collapsing of the foot, or increased cushioning for those people with high arches. The general understanding of biomechanics and these types of shoes, is one which involves a heel strike pattern. In this pattern the heel will hit the ground first, the heel of the shoe absorbs the shock; the heel then controls the foot as it passes through mid stance and toe off.

Conventional shoes have worked over time for some people; however for others they have not made any difference, and some people who wear these shoes are still prone to knee, hip and lower back pain. When running with a heel strike pattern it is thought that as the heel strikes in front of the body there is a vertical force passed back up through the leg, the hip, the groin, the knee, and the lower back and that this results in injury.

Over the last 5 years there has been a wealth of research and contentious debate over the benefits of forefoot running. Forefoot running is where a person runs landing more towards the mid and front of their foot, instead of the heel being the first point of contact when the foot hits the ground during running. The foot also lands underneath the body and the stress imposed on joints are reduced.

Support for forefoot running comes from practical demonstrations on treadmills. When someone walks on a treadmill they have a characteristic heel strike pattern; however as the speed of the treadmill is increased they naturally start to run more towards the mid and forefoot. It has been theorised that the body is not designed to run with a heel strike pattern. When videoed at a faster speed on the treadmill the foot can be seen to strike more towards the mid foot and spring off. When seen at its best – like in Olympic marathon runners – the foot will actually hit the ground under the body; it is then kicked up behind their back using the hamstring muscles, before quickly returning to land again directly under the body.

The theory that running on the forefoot reduces joint pressure has been researched. With forefoot running the force of the body passes directly up through the body vertically –thereby relying upon the natural cushioning effect of the quads and the hip muscles. If the body is stiff enough – and the biomechanics are correct – the knee and hip joints can absorb the repetitive loading of running and hence reduce injury to the joints.

There are now shoes which have been adapted for forefoot running. Vivo barefoot is one of these companies and has created a range of shoes designed for walking right through to cross country running. Forefoot running shoes are designed to have minimalistic cushioning in the foot. These shoes are designed for the foot to feel the ground and reaction forces of the ground as the foot hits the floor. When the foot can feel the landing onto the floor, it can stimulate muscles to fire and get immediate push off onto the opposite leg. The soles of these shoes are very thin and Vivo Barefoot have described the sole to being as close to skin depth as possible.

Clients have reported they enjoy using these shoes. They feel completely different to thick soled shoes. They also give a refreshing feel to the foot at contact with the ground. The key is that this ‘feel’ will stimulate better muscular activity, shock absorption and reduction injuries. There are many successful runners in Olympics and World Championships who do not have a forefoot running pattern. It is not advised that everyone run on their forefoot – and a physiotherapist and trainer will be able to tell whether your body is capable of withstanding the pressure required to learn how to forefoot run.

Recently a trainer started forefoot running; it has taken 4 months for him to be able to run on his forefoot for 10km continuous running. To change to a forefoot running pattern requires significant adaptation and change within the body. The runner must allow time for this adaptation to occur because if they push themselves too hard and too fast in training injuries will occur.

I believe forefoot running biomechanics seems to make sense; however I have also seen that not everyone is prepared to take the time to learn how to forefoot run and people who run heel strike can still become world champions.

If you want to learn how to forefoot run it is important that you see a forefoot running coach – such as a physiotherapist who has experience, or an independent specialised coach.

Toby Sullivan is planning to do an Ironman next year. Follow his route to the big race; his decisions about training, experiences and advice

My name is Toby Sullivan, I’m a Physiotherapist and as of 2012 I’m a triathlete.

I decided that 2012 was the year that I went from someone who does triathlons to ‘a triathlete’. I entered my first triathlon about 6 years ago and have probably done 10 since then but training has always been along the lines of run sometimes, cycle to work a bit and swim…if needed. It has never had any structure. The hope is that by upgrading my status to triathlete, entering a few triathlons and setting goals for this season and beyond will give me more motivation to undertake a (slightly more) specific training program.

Race 1

Paris Marathon – April

Not a triathlon I know but to run a fast marathon you need a fast 10k so it’s got to help a bit… The plan started late in 2011, a friend Tim and I who raced our first marathon in Berlin 2010, decided to enter marathon number 2. My first winter of training was surprisingly easy. Being mostly a fair weather athlete I was surprised how mild the winter was (when I was out training anyway) certainly nothing leggings, gloves and a hat didn’t resolve. It was also inspiring to see a huge number of people out running presumably preparing for their own Spring marathons.

I managed 2 months of base training in October and November building to 2-3 10k runs a week. I also managed 6 x 100k+ cycles during these 2 months as well as the usual 6 hours of weekly commuting by bike.

December was wiped out with injury, illness and Christmas so the formal 14 week marathon program started on January 9th.

In 2010 I finished Berlin in 3h19m, I ran it with no idea of pacing but fortunately I started at the back of the 4-hour group so was held up in the crowds for the first 10k. As a result I felt relatively fresh towards the end, there was no wall and I ran the second half a bit faster than the first half…. This style of pacing was definitely something to try to take to the next race.

For Paris I found a training program that was light on mileage and I made it even lighter. I settled for 3-4 runs a week. The 3 essential sessions being (in simple terms) one slow, long session, one fast session and one really fast track interval session. In technical terms this is meant to correspond to endurance building, lactate threshold pace and VO2 max.

The more I looked into training schedules the more it seemed you pick your marathon target time then work backwards to find training times and schedules (within reason). I thought 3 hours which equates to 4.15/km would be a nice round number so I began training for that.

I built the long runs up to 20 miles and completed 3 of these all within 10% of marathon pace – approx 4.30/km.

I completed weekly tempo runs which ranged from 8-15km. Generally these were to be completed at 4mins/k pace.

To see how I was doing along the way I entered a few races or 10km, 10 miles and half marathon. These gave me an accurate (looking back at my time) indication of how my training was going.

My race times were as follows:

10k 38.22
10m 1h04
HM 1h26.13

Each of these when put in to the race calculator, there are many out there, I used one called MARCO. It put me just outside the 3 hour mark and they were right!

I finished in 3h02m25s

The running was good, next the cycling. Having managed 6 long rides in October/November subsequent cycle training consisted of commuting. So to make it useful I would incorporate interval sessions. On one commute there are 3 or sometimes 4 sections where you can blast it between lights and get an open run for up to 3 minutes so this is where my intervals come in!

First day in Portugal training. What did I learn?

Got into accommodation at 3am last night due to flight delays. Up at 9am for breakfast and riding by 11.30am. 6 hours sleep not enough but felt good. Took duo’s oil, mamnitech sports products to boost endurance, and multivitamin. Hydrated well as the heat was going to pick up on the ride.

Hired a bike and had my own pedals and handle bar adjuster put on. The seat height was adjusted and we started the ride. I had lots of questions to ask Gary the coach with my main aims to learn how to hill climb and descend safely.

Gary knew we had 4 days of riding so today was a steady 4 hour ride. There were 3 climbs from 45 mins to 1 hour long. I had never ridden this long on hills before so I was looking forward to testing my body.

I have come to realise training is about preparing your body. When you go out to train you can consciously tell your body what to do and it will respond depending on the training it has had. I did not know how my legs would respond to hill climbing so just waited to find out. The goal of today was to get distance in my legs with hill climbing and riding a steady pace.

We took on the first hour climb and I could feel I wad getting sore between the legs on the saddle. Gary looked from behind and could see my saddle was too high and each down stroke of my leg put pressure on my groin. We adjusted the seat and the pain eased. A loo stop also helped. Gary get me in the easiest gearing and high cadence and we chatted all the way up the hill. This was a good sign my VO2 max was good. This was the type of condition I was too sustain through the entire ride.

I could feel the pave I was maintaining up the hill and as we took on more hills my body was reacting well. My legs felt strong and even though my heart rate elevated I was comfortable. On one ride my legs were starting to fatigue and I was looking for the top of the hill but as soon as we hit flatter sections of road I recovered quickly.

Gary taught me to get out of the saddle and pedal to give my back a break and vary the load on my body. It actually felt very comfortable and helped me climb better. I usually dropped the gear two down to make pedalling out of the saddle smoother.  I definitely was eating and drinking more on these rides.

Going downhills has been a great learning curve today. On the first long decent I was leaning the wrong way around each corner and I was finding the line of my turning made me break too much. I was less confident turning corners to my left.

Gary told me to turn and aim for the apex of bend. Break before the apex but not at the apex as the back wheel can skid out and this is a common problem when cyclist break with the rear breaks. He told me to lean with the bike and relax. I followed his lines of biking down the hills and could feel the turns better. It was best to choose safety over speed when descending so I did break if I felt unsure.

By the end of the day I was staying closer to Garys bike when descending and I was beginning to know the lines to take leading into the bends.

I got home and felt strong finishing with no bonking. I had paced myself well and Gary thought my cadence and speed up the hill was good.

I learnt a lot today and finishing the ride with a nice cup of tea and biscuits sitting in the sun was idyllic.I am looking forward to practicing what I have learnt tomorrow. Gary did live in London and is going to introduce me some guys who will show me the big hills in Surrey to ride to maintain my momentum when back in London.

Gary is a great coach and very entertaining. He had me laughing riding up the hills and  he is an uber experienced  professional triathlete, duathlete and cyclist. He has a new purpose built home and cycle workshop for athletes to stay and train. Could not have come across a better place to prepare for the Etape. I will be posting videos on YouTube soon. Garys business name is Delucci and can be found on the net. Until tomorrow it is time to put on the compression leggings, get in the nutrition and recover for tomorrow.

Back to training, hill climbing from London and jet lag

I got back from New Zealand and Australia after a 3 weeks holiday and knew it was time for me to get back into training. I knew I was jet lagged and did not want to tire myself after a very relaxing holiday.

Last weekend I started with a 5 hour ride to Box Hill. It was a beautiful day and perfect weather for cycling with no wind. I went with another cyclist doing the Etape at the same time. He trains in France and has a hill 7km high near  his house. His hill climbing is stronger than mine and I let  him lead the way up the hills.  We rode two hills and I followed his back tire. I focussed on the tire and avoided looking at the hill itself. This helped me focus on the feelings in my legs without the disempowering sight of the hill I still had to climb.

I noticed with jet lag I felt slightly “out of my body” and tired. My legs felt the strain up the hills and towards the end of the ride I knew I had ridden 5 hours. The last hill in Richmond Park was a killer. I tried following the back tire of my cycle companion up the hill again but fell behind. My legs blew out, I felt they cramped when I exerted force through them and I lacked power. I dropped right behind and it was good reminder I some serious hill training to do.

This first ride was a good test of where I was with my riding after 3 weeks of no training. I wanted to rest well and prepare for the ride this weekend.

This weekend we did exactly the same ride. I noticed I was stronger as soon as I got not he bike. I could feel I more power and was less tired. The “out of body feeling” was significantly less. I set my watch to beep every 20minutes and made sure I ate or drank something at these times. The idea is to maintain a steady energy supply to my muscles and brain.

The tests I used to tell if I was riding stronger this weekend was the feeling I had in my legs and Cardiovascular system when hill climbing. I let my colleague lead the way up the hills as he had better hill climbing strength and then I stayed on his back tire again.

I was considerably stronger up the hills and could stay with him comfortably. When I say comfortably I was at 85-95% of my maximum heart rate but still felt strong at the top with more in reserve if I needed it. My colleague is 10 years than I am but has the advantage of training on the hills in France and he has done  a cycle camp in Portugal. I noticed I had better flat road speed and strength through my Ironman training and he had the hill climbing speed and strength. Today was the first time I noticed I was catching him on the hills and with more training I hope to pull him up the hills.

There are not many hills to climb around London so I am riding to Surrey Hills. I have one course I have memorised but next weekend another cyclist will take us an alternative course to find new hills. In my particular course I have two main hills. I have decided to ride up and down these hills twice in one ride.

There are three main hills in the Etape Du Tour. They are 7.7 -8km long. No hill in England lasts that long so I can only compensate with repeat hill climbs. My colleague tells me box hill is much closer to type of hill we will encounter in France. It is a winding hill with some flatter sections to rest and then repetitive climbs. Maybe climbing box hill 5-10 times will be good. Sounds crazy but I have to do what I have to do.

I will get intouch with my coach again to start a training plan. I feel strong and rested and ready to train hard again. I am wondering if he will continue with gym sessions? Time to eat.