Saturday, June 4, 2016

Effective Strategies to Beat Summer Heat

The summer heat plays a critical role in the training and preparation for an athlete. The summer heat causes an increase in heart rate, decrease in power, and increase in effort per pace. I don't want to spend a lot of time on what the heat does to impair our performances, but rather how we can be best prepared in hot conditions. Being dehydrated and not acclimated can ruin your performance.  The summer heat can make you feel as if your riding into a hair dryer, running in a sauna, or swimming in a hot tub. The triathlon races can go on for several hours into the hottest part of the day. Some running and cycling races start when the sun is just warming up and last well into the afternoon. 

To have your best summer races follow these tips:

Fluid Intake

The most basic way to beat the heat is with regular fluid intake on a daily basis. This helps preserve blood volume and prevents your heart rate from rising as much in the heat. As the temperature rises, your heart rate increases dramatically. Heart rate increases more in the heat because it's moving blood to cool the skin.  This makes it rather critical to stay on top of your hydration. (1)  From a performance perspective, it's important that athletes intake about 17 oz of cold liquid 1-2 hours before a race and then continue to consume a 4-8% carbohydrate solution drink during training and racing at regular intervals. I recommend sipping in 10-15 minute increments. For races that last longer than an hour, athletes may need to consume anywhere from 20-40 oz per hour of an electrolyte drink to maintain performance and reduce heat impairment. (2)  It's best to make daily hydration a habit. Allowing yourself to be dehydrated even just one day can you set you back all week.

Sweat Test

This basic field test can be performed on a hard training day and will help you dial in your fluid intake. This test should be done individually for the swim, bike, and run.  Simply weigh yourself before and after you have trained. It's advisable to do this every season change throughout the year. The end number will help determine how many ounces of fluid per hour to consume for individual needs. (3)

The math equation is:   (pre-training weight) - (post training weight) x 16 = weight change in ounces

(weight change in ounces + fluid consumed during training) = sweat loss in ounces

(sweat loss in oz) x ( hours trained) = sweat rate oz/hour

Importance of Salt

Salt gets a bad rap for increasing blood pressure, but it's extremely critical for the athlete as it helps regulate the bodies' fluid levels. Each athlete secretes a different amount of salt. One person may lose salt rapidly at around 1300mg in a 5K run while another person may lose less than 200mg.  A simple salty snack post-run can help re-hydrate. (7)   During long course racing, such as a marathon (4+ hours), ultra run, or long-course triathlon, athletes will need to start taking in salt in the middle of competition. Some athletes may need a high-concentration of sports drink and gels but others may get by on a few salt pills. Salt tablets, tend to work best by taking 2 per hour. Taking more can result in nausea. (8)  It's best to practice with a variety of different products while training at race intensity efforts to discover what works best for you.

One of the many the brands for salt tablets. 

Ice Vest

I learned this little trick from Canadian Pro-triathlete Brent Poulsen a few years ago. On the morning of your hot weather race, you can wear an ice vest to lower your core and skin temperature. Through research you'll discover there is actually a strong debate if this is even worthwhile to try.  One study out of the Journal of Strength & Conditioning (March 2014, Volume 28, Issue 3) noted there was no benefit in core temperature but lowered skin temperature. It even said this can be dangerous,  because it makes you will perceive to be cooler than you think you which could result in a high and dangerous core temperature. (4)

On the other hand, in another study from 2004,  American and Australian marathoners were provided each a cooling vest to lower body temperature. The vest appeared to keep core temperature down and improved performance in these marathoners. Some marathoners wore the ice vest for 10 minutes and removed it 1 minute before the start. This study concluded that the marathoners wearing the ice vest before the marathon kept their core temperature lower for longer than those who did not. (5)

Training to Adapt

The most effective way to train for hot weather racing is by training in it! That's nothing new, but what about the regular guys who only have availability to train in the morning or evening? A study by physiology students at the University of Oregon determined the athletes that are heat acclimated can perform anywhere from 4-8% better than those who are not. For those who hold day jobs and have families, training in the heat may not be an option. These athletes will need to adjust their A/C accommodations for training indoors or wear  multiple layers of clothing. Be sure to adjust the thermostat or add layers gradually each week. (6)

Dallas, Texas triathlete, Tommy Johnson simulating Hawaii conditions indoors by setting thermostat on 80 and a fan to create a light breeze. 

Ice, Cold Water, & Sponges

It's definitely a good idea to use what is available on the course. For example, before running hot weather races I would dump some very cold water on my head just before the start. Be sure to take small sips of water and dump as much cold water on your head throughout the race as possible. Slow down through the aid stations on the bike enough to grab some additional water to cool your skin temperature down. During the run, if available, stuff the ice and sponges down your shirt, pants, and under your visor. Doing this will help keep your core temperature lower.

World renown triathlete Macca shown here dumping ice water with a sponge tucked in his jersey.










Friday, March 18, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series V

I hope you have enjoyed this series "How to PR by Run Technique". This Series V will teach us how head position, running tall, arm position, core, and the stride cycle all work together, and how to change our running mechanics.

All one unit. Now that we covered the basics of running form, an important take away is that everything unites to work together from head to toe as a single unit. All of these concepts combine and work together, creating a flow. Having one thing wrong in your form can cause a chain reaction throwing other necessary movements out of balance. What appears to be the problem may not be the problem at all. For example, if you notice a runner with an over-stride and tell them to just take shorter strides so their foot lands underneath them, that actually may not be the root cause. It could be the timing of their arm swing is off. A delayed arm swing or a hitch in one arm can cause a problem in the opposite leg for compensation. It's important to take the whole body into consideration when analyzing run technique and understand that running form is all synced together, acting as a single unit. 

Changing Mechanics. You have the information now to change your running form, but as you go out and execute your new knowledge, you'll probably notice it's not as easy as you thought.  It has personally taken me nearly two decades of running to get to where I am now.  This is where the actual coaching comes in. You could practice a bunch of drills that may help individual issues, but remember everything in running acts as single unit. Drills isolate the movement and the muscle recruitment is not the same as when running. It's best to practice your running form while actually running. To do this, cues are needed for the runner to connect the dots. For example,  if I said "Gaze 10 feet ahead of you, extend the hip back", etc. Like in swim training, you don't want to overwhelm the swimmer with too much information at once so you only recommend one or two cues at a time.  Every athlete is different based on their personalities and how they perceive and learn. Trial and error is used, as people understand cues in different ways. There has to be multiple ways of essentially saying the same thing and sometimes it takes several different paths for someone to learn a new technique and incorporate it into their normal running flow.  The ultimate goal is to have the improvement ingrained into the runners head so that providing cues is no longer necessary. Keep in mind there is a transition period from practice runs to race day experiences. On race day, we tend to resort back to our old habits due to stress. The benefit of having a  coach is to help you slowly transfer this over to where you can maintain good form on race day, consistently. The goal is to build the mechanics and techniques so that you, too, have elite running form.

If you have questions or an idea for another topic that would be of help to you, simply leave a comment. If you are interested in coaching, email me for an interview at

Thank you,


Monday, February 22, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series IV

In Series IV "How to PR by Run Technque", we will discuss the stride cycle and the controversial foot strike. 

Push-Off. In triathlon, it's emphasized to have quick turnover, especially coming off the bike. However, while this is true, we can't ignore the fact that the foot should take time for the initial loading of power to occur for push-off. The foot should land neutral with the ankle. This is when the loading should occur. Often times we over emphasize "quick feet" before the loading of power has occurred. One big mistake that is made is that we never let the heel touch the ground.  Doing so allows the achilles and calf to come to a full stretch to provide elastic energy to propel forward. If a runner tries to be too quick with their feet, the power is lost because the foot and Achilles were not fully engaged to release energy. In addition to the ankle extension, you have heard other runners and coaches tell you to lean forward.  This comes from a lean in the ankle and not at the waist or in other words, a slight lean from the ground.

Hip Extension.  Once your foot has contacted the ground, the emphasis should shift to the hip and you basically just want to think of it as moving the whole thigh backwards. The hips is where most the power comes from and not all of it is from the push-off phase. Think of the hip as your crank set: The faster you try to go the more powerful and quicker the the hip extension needs to be - similar to a set of bicycle cranks. Most runners, especially new runners, do not come close to a full force hip extension. It will take some time, but eventually you will learn how to do a proper hip extension while running at different paces. After the hip extension has occurred,  the recovery phase immediately starts and acts as a sling shot propelling you forward. If you try to force the recovery phase then your stride will slow.

Knee Drive is powerful and occurs at the end of the recovery phase. You will see many distance runners and triathletes with hardly any knee drive, and they lead out from the heel.  This results in some serious over striding where the foot is out in front of the body as seen in most recreational runners. The knee drive is extremely powerful for a sprinter (short distance/fast race) and is still required in distance running, just not as pronounced because it will cause you tire much sooner. Ideally, the the knee drive in distance running should become second nature so that it is a passive movement through the running cycle of the stride.  The ideal landing of the foot is under the center of the body and directly under the knee. This will put your foot into an optimal position with the best force production and reduced risk of injury.

Foot strike is one of the most controversial topics right now. Heel striking in particular gets a bad wrap.  It has led us from minimalist shoes to barefoot running (I've never seen a Kenyan turn down a pair of running shoes) and now back to those big Hoka's that look like moon shoes (I'm not hating, my wife has a pair). I'm going to share with you what I've gathered from my own research, observation, and understanding. Heel striking is OK! I'm sure I just caused excruciating pain to the ears of the barefoot and minimalism runners. Heel striking is ok as long as your form is nailed down to everything above.  But be sure you are not over striding and that your foot is landing underneath you in direct line with the knee.  In fact most elite runners will have a natural, light heel strike.


Distance runners should aim to land on the mid to forefoot, like in basketball (when the ball player jumps, the heels will land and the calves load to jump) you go back down to your heels for the push off (loading phase). All this happens rapidly and is hardly noticeable when everything is in motion at once. It would take a slo-mo cam to really see it all in action.

If you enjoyed this series so far on "How to PR by Run Techniqe", the closing message will teach us how all these tips I've given you is actually just one unit and how to change your running mechanics. If you have any questions please email me at  

Thanks for reading!


Friday, February 12, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series III

Last time on How to PR by Run Technique we discussed head position and how to run tall. Today I will discuss your arm position and how to use your core while running.

Arms. You not only use your legs to run, but also your arms.  I don't know how many times I've seen runners not use their arms. You need your arms like you need your legs in swimming, to propel you forward.  Using your arms will significantly improve your running economy by reducing your torso rotation and the amount spent going side to side. When running for the best efficiency, keep your arms close and pump them up to mid-chest and then down so your thumb should graze just past your hip, alternating arms. Your arms should not cross the center of your chest as this will increase torso rotation and your elbows should go straight back not outward.  In doing so, you want to keep your shoulders and hands relaxed. However, your hands should not be so relaxed that they are flopping around - just keep them loosely stable.

Core.  The cool thing these days is core training. Most people think we're just talking about the abdominal muscles, but that is not true. The "core" covers a wide range of anatomy from about the bottom of the rib cage to below the hips. I'll go on to say we have so many fancy core workouts, but we don't know how to actually apply our strong core to running, specifically. What good is having a strong core if you don't know how to use it?

In the movie "Without Limits",  Coach Bowerman pulls the world famous Steve Prefontaine aside during a track workout. We know that Coach Bowerman was a man of few words, but when had something to say he said it, especially if it involved running. Bowerman said to Pre, "Do you usually run with your butt sticking out like that? Stand up straight. You want a plumb line to run from your ear to your feet. Let your hips relax. That's how you were running.  Lift your knee. Now cock your hips under you". (Pre's confused look here). "Under you. Like in the deepest moment of penetration. Now lift your knee. It's easier when you tuck your pelvis in. Your not fighting your own body's mechanics. Makes you more efficient."

In 2004 Chi-Running became popular. Chi-Running was implemented by Danny Dreyer, a running coach and ultra-runner that placed a heavy emphasis on the core while running. Dreyer was taking Tai-Chi at the time and formed ideas of how to apply it to running. He even wrote several books on Chi-Running. "All of the Tai-Chi comes down to developing a strong core, but relaxing the moving parts. Those are the things that transfer to running. Most use their legs way too much and that's why most runners get injuries from their knees down. You can run more from your core and learn how to relax your legs."

1. Hip and butt out 2. Hip and butt tucked in. 

In these next tips on run form, we will cover the stride which will be broken down into three parts and the controversial footstrike. If you have any questions please email me at



Friday, February 5, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Series II

Today on "How to PR by Run Technique" we will cover head position and how to run tall.  

Head Position is important like in swimming; You want to have a neutral spine. Your head should be neutral as if you were on a stage looking out into the crowd.  Will this make you a faster runner? The short answer is yes! You will be one hecukva rock star runner! By practicing this neutral spine position, it will allow you to relax your upper body more freeing up energy and putting it into your forward propulsion.  You often hear coaches say, "Keep your head up"! Not only is that a positive reinforcement statement but you should keep your eyes on the person in front of you....unless you're out front.  Work on keeping your gaze approximately 10 feet in front of you like in cycling because where your eyes look,  your body follows. If you run with your head sticking out forward, you will lean too far forward bending from the hip.  This will fatigue you, sooner than later. By keeping your head in a that neutral position, you will feel more relaxed, allowing you to maintain a faster pace for longer. 

Take note of Haile Gebreselassie head position, great runner from Ethiopia. 

Running "Tall".  Did you ever hear your coach yell at you to "run tall" and wonder what the heck they were talking about? I did. It's a highly common phrase in high school and college distance running.  Once you figure out how to "run tall", this will clear up most issues in your form.  From early on in school to adulthood, we spent a lot of time hunched over our desks, further emphasizing our bad posture.  In running, your head should be in it's neutral position, your shoulders balanced over the hips, and your hips over the legs. This is considered "running tall".   Even if you do not fully understand just yet, you can start thinking "running tall" and you'll be surprised by how much your form will improve. It will create less stress on your body. When we get tired, our running form starts to slouch, runners start losing the neutral position with their head, rotating in circles or moving it way forward causing neck and shoulder pain. It's important to keep your spine in line with your pelvis.  In short, running tall will once again improve running economy allowing you to run a faster pace for longer.

Next on "How to PR by Run Technique"  we will discuss arm position and how to use your core while running. If you have any questions please email me at

Thank you,


Thursday, January 14, 2016

How to PR by Run Technique: Part 1

You plod a long on what seems like an empty running trail only to be zipped by one of those elite runners whose feet barely touch the ground.  You wonder, "what gives?" You really want to learn how to run, and run fast!   "How come I can't do that?".  The truth is you can! With some body awareness, strength training, and the appropriate amount of prescribed training, you will gradually learn over time.

Garrett Mayeaux - Texas A&M University Triathlete and Ritter's coached athlete. 800 meter repeats off the bike holding 2:35's. 

Triathletes emphasize their run very little when compared to their swim technique or their bike fitting to find their optimal position.  Not to downplay the importance of these, but run technique is equally important, if you want to finish like a champ. Having fantastic run technique can be beneficial by improving your run efficiency, making it easier to run at a faster pace for longer and reducing your risk of injury.

Over the next several days I will discuss a few key points that will help improve your run technique. Feel free to email me at for any questions