Heidi’s 2011Race Season Reflections

Heidi_MaderaCritMy season started out with promise in February.  It quickly went awry starting with Snelling, where I DNF’d due to back pain that would always start around mile 30 of a road race.  From there, it went downhill pretty rapidly and continued doing so until a thoroughly awful weekend at the Chico Stage race, where my back problems really hampered me.  After Chico, I decided that training harder wouldn’t fix the issue.  I needed to get some help.<
I had a connection to Julie through my current club/team (Silver Sage is a sponsor).  She changed my bike fit and

within a couple weeks, I was able to actually ride my bike without pain. I also gained some wattage output that translated to an increase in speed that I couldn’t have otherwise attained.  I got some quantification of the improvements at a couple of our local Tuesday Night Twilight races and the Little City Stage Race in July.  The road race, while not the greatest placing, was the best I’ve ever felt in that discipline.  The total lack of pain meant I could actually train for road racing.  What a concept!
Through two 8-week training camps, Julie taught me some huge improvements in my pedal strokes, as well.  That change, along with a wider variety of interval workouts, caused an overall improvement in my riding/racing that resulted in several podium finishes in the last half of the season.  The changes also made it possible for me to be more aggressive in my race tactics because I’ve been more confident in my physical ability.She’s been an incredible sounding board for all my ups and downs this season, even though she probably didn’t have to do that. Her support and knowledge was the major reason I was able to turn my season around and start having FUN again.

Girls On the Run (GOTR) – Inaugural Fall Reno 5K

The article below was written for the Girls on the Run (GOTR) newsletter

Training From the Couch to Cruising your First GOTR 01515K

Entered in to the Girls on the Run, Reno Inaugural 5K and feeling overwhelmed by how to start your preparation? The answer is just start. The key to running your first 5K is to simply start consistently moving.  Running presents a seemingly tricky balance between making fitness gains while remaining injury free. However, we do not have to accept the fate of injury as runners. There are a few key cornerstones of injury prevention and performance to help guide your preparation – a gradual progression of training that includes supplemental base training; an emphasis on quality training that incorporates a variety of elements, coupled with quality rest; and a consistent practice of non-running, foundational functional strength.  If we tie all these elements together and love the activity of running for the sake of it – we avoid the common cram-session type preparation that leads to too much, too fast.

Please remember while reading this article that you need to individually tailor each concept presented, based on your past level of activity, current fitness and future goals, and make the absolute concepts individually relative to you.

First and foremost you want to enjoy the activity of running on a daily basis versus a grin-and-bear-it approach, all the way to the 5K big day. Generally speaking to adhere to a fitness plan, I feel you need four components. Love the activity of choice for the sake of doing it. Have a goal on the horizon to effectively focus and rally the training, as well as provide that mental nudge out the door when you lack motivation. A circle of training partners to provide that sometimes-needed accountability and social fun-factor.  And finally, a training plan you trust, understand and consistently follow.

Now that you have discovered a joy of running, the next step is consistent gradual progression of aerobic movement.  This is considered the base phase of a systematic training plan. During this period it is important to run with purpose and institute a foundational base of solid, efficient movement patterns.  Then just a like a building – you build upon this functional base.

While you focus the majority of your aerobic movement on running – it is also beneficial to incorporate supplemental endurance base training in to your training. This would include cycling, swimming, hiking and in winter snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. In my opinion this equally benefits mind and body – providing mental variety and physical low impact, overall strength.

During this phase you develop muscular endurance, your aerobic engine, as well as running-specific neuromuscular activation and mechanics. Once your base is established, you phase in to the preparation phase of training. At this point you add variety in to your training to continue to mentally and physically challenge yourself – and through these stressors, counter-balanced with rest and recovery you experience fitness gains.

This variety includes speed work which effectively hones efficient mechanics – endurance is a game of efficiency. Amazingly – we run mechanically best, when we run fast.  Speed work also develops sport specific strength and power. It has been said, we get fit to run, not run to get fit.

During this phase of training you also include defined periods of timed intensity, otherwise known as intervals – where you pick up the pace to your goal race pace or slightly above. To me training in general, but especially this type of interval work is my mental dress rehearsal for my event. It provides the mental and physical challenge and resulting confidence and empowerment that I have done it and can do it.

As I mentioned it is important to find that training program you trust and understand – you want to know why you are doing a workout and how it relates to your specific goals. This understanding provides invaluable purpose and intention to each and every day of training. Also mentally connect the dots – for example when I am doing intervals I mentally place myself in my upcoming event which allows me to glean the absolute utmost from the workout. I find that during the event – I mentally draw on these interval sessions to power me through the sticky points.

Improved mechanics that result from the speed work and race tempo intervals are equally vital to performance as injury prevention. Again we need to be considerate of individuality and avoid trying to force a square peg in a round hole by trying to reinvent ourselves with the latest running craze technique.  I am currently mentoring with leading biomechanist Chris Powers, who suggests injury prevention is greatly dependent on effectively absorbing and redirecting the ground forces that result with impact. His research indicates that with proper body position – flexion in ankles, knees and hips and very slight torso tilt, runners reduce the magnitude of forces as well as direct the force’s torque away from delicate knees and toward the body’s sturdy center of mass. In order to put this in to running practice, runners need to learn proper movement or mechanics. Proper running movement requires – muscular strength of the quads, hips (glutes); mobility or range of motion of joints and muscles; and neuromuscular activation, or the brain’s ability to communicate with the muslces.

During the preparation phase, you continue to include pure, low intensity endurance days – sport specific as well as supplemental endurance activities – hiking, cycling – mountain and road and/or swimming.

Remember to consistently provide equal respect for rest days and recovery weeks. In my training plans I advocate two rest days per week – these can be what we call active, very light aerobic movement and/or supporting strength, or complete rest.  I develop plans that build in volume over a three week period with the fourth week recovery – again it is active but low volume, low intensity and no structure. Rest days and recovery weeks are in my mind the key to stoking that mental and physical hunger and fire – motivation.  Prescribed rest allows you to capitalize on exactly what you feel like doing versus caving in to the guilt of shoulds.

Generally speaking I feel all runners need a mental makeover when it comes to training. I persistently advise and encourage my clients that improvement and performance is more than just about running, running and more running. In my training plans I carve time away from the running time to include functional trunk, hip and single leg stability as well as strategies to improve and maintain range of motion and symmetry, like yoga. With the functional strength – the key is to start with simple static exercises – then progress with complexity by adding movement and instability. And just like running set the foundation of precise movement and build upon that base.

As you approach the GOTR  5K – you move in to what we consider the competition phase. I think of this period as the polish, you have done your homework. During this period you reduce the overall volume and maintain a degree of intensity to stay sharp. Remember the objective of this phase – it is fine tuning. Leave your workouts wanting more and save it for race day. This insures you hit the start line excited and hungry to run.

Seize the day – enjoy every stride along the way.

Training with Truckee High XC Running Team

Last week Dr. Pasternak and I spoke with the Truckee High Cross Country running team and their parents. Over the next couple of months I will have the opportunity to assist Coaches Pat and Diana in providing a scientifically based injury prevention and performance conditioning program, and will be blogging about our weekly workouts. Dr. Pasternak and I also look forward to acting as ongoing resources for the kids and parents to address specific individual questions and/or concerns.

Before delving in to the nuts of and bolts of the Truckee High program, I wanted to share how my background and current position help mold my coaching and training philosophy.


Fitness has become big business.  As a result it is important to understand the source and motivation of information – is it commercially motivated, selling products and books  or is it scientifically, research derived.  This is an important distinction for us at Silver Sage Sports Performance Center and o2fitness Coaching and Training where our integrated menu of services (Vo2 and lactate threshold testing, bike fitting, gait analysis, performance training and endurance coaching) are based on cutting-edge, scientific-based protocol.

It is equally important to know who is delivering the information. At o2fitness Coaching and Training, we strive to distinguish the practice of coaching and professionalize it. My unique background, with a 12-year career on the US National cycling team afforded the opportunity to work with the most prominent coaches, physiologists, biomechanists and nutritionist in the endurance world. Applying these systems as an elite international athlete helped mold my present coaching and training philosophy. Partnering with Dr. Pasternak at Silver Sage allows me to continue to support and balance this practical knowledge and experience with science.

I also feel strongly about investing in continuing education. This raises the professional bar providing the opportunity to learn from the most established, respected individuals and institutions in specific fields. To this end – I have mentored at Athletes’ Performance Training Center to hone my strength and conditioning practice; attended Specialized Bicycles BG fit certification to better understand cycling biomechanics and bike fit; and am currently mentoring with Chris Powers, USC Professor and researcher and Director of the Movement Performance Institute to develop a deeper understanding of functional biomechanics of the lower extremities as applied to running and cycling.

In helping assist Pat and Diana with the Truckee High school running programs – I hope generally to share my experience, as an elite athlete/competitor, coach/trainer and director of sports performance, regarding training for performance, race tactics as well as the mental aspect of training and racing. Specifically I hope to provide the team with a foundational , functional strength conditioning program, much of which will be based upon Chris Power’s return to sport, injury prevention and performance protocol.

Last week when we met the Truckee XC running team, we wanted to reinforce Coach Pat and Diana’s training philosophy. They are accomplished athletes and understand the importance and value of a well-balanced training program for injury prevention and performance.  In my opinion this approach will be  pivotal their athlet

There is high prevalence of running injuries – but we do not have to resign ourselves to this seemingly foregone conclusion. We can be proactive to improve our training, conditioning and mechanics to avoid injury.es development.

In my opinion there are basic cornerstones to injury prevention and improved performance – they go hand in hand. These include – a gradually progressed, systematic training plan; supporting non-running foundational functional strength;  good lifestyle choices; and sound mechanics.

In a nutshell an effective training plan is –  individualized based on the individual athletes’ current fitness and future goals; systematically developed over a period of time providing a base and foundation of muscular endurance; and gradually progressed in volume and intensity. It also – incorporates a variety of workouts to train and develop all physiological systems and physical attributes; includes supplemental endurance training (swimming, cycling, cross-country skiing) providing mental and physical variety; and emphasizes quality intensity and quality rest/recovery.

It is important that runners are willing to change their mindset and carve time out of running time for general and sport specific foundational, functional stability and mobility. This includes single leg, hip/pelvis and trunk stability as well as strategies to improve range of motion and symmetry such as yoga.

Injury prevention is also effectively supported by, consistent, attention to detail and adopting a life fully committed to an integrated, healthy lifestyle including sufficient sleep, nutrition and hydration.

Finally we can train improved mechanics to prevent injury and improve performance. Chris Powers’ research suggests – its all about improved shock absorption and stability. He has found we can effectively absorb and reduce the magnitude of ground forces by more flexion in hips, knees and ankles. As a result of greater hip flexion and slight torso tilt, we also effectively activate and utilize our glutes allowing us to redirect the ground force toward our center of mass, reducing the torque on the knee.

To be effective in our running movement we need to establish that body position that allows the quads and glutes to act as shock absorbers, and the glutes to stabilize and decelerate the hips as the foot contacts the ground.

Power’s research has found that running injuries are occurring due to a quad dominant strategy (relied upon to a greater extent by women and girls) which takes the glutes out of the activity, placing a majority of the torque from the ground forces on the knee. He contends that we have all become more quad dominant in our activities due to our sedentary lifestyles – binding our hip flexors, inhibiting our abilities to utilize our glutes and consequently weakening them. This also leads to recruitment of the weaker quad and hamstrings – potentially leading to overuse injuries.

Improving mechanics to provide injury prevention and performance demands more than pure strength components  include – muscular strength in the trunk, hips and lower extremities to provide eccentric shock absorption, concentric  force and stability; neuromuscular activation; mobility/range of motion of joints and muscles; and proper movement.

These will be our goals in the Truckee High Cross-Country running teams conditioning program. Stay tuned.