Photo By Ann Lopez
A strength coach can’t just assign sets and reps to his or her athletes. The coach should also mandate the load as well. Anyone who has coached knows that a good coach can get his or her athletes to overpeform. When left to their own accord athletes might not get that extra push. Everything should be based off of a 1 rep. max and then the coach should assign a percentage of that max. The core exercises can be 1 rep max tested but for the ancillary exercise you can estimate using charts like this.
For the sake of this article let’s say that we are training a High School football team starting in the off-season. You would try to create different workouts based on positions but in a High School that is often tough to do. Players can switch positions quite often and many times their bodies are not developed enough to elicit much change in workouts types. Because you will be spending a lot of time on instruction in a High School setting it might be better off to create a uniform workout with the exception of the upper class-men who are more advanced in their training and have a clear position on the field.
On day number one I would test all my athletes in the squat, bench press, deadlift, and power clean. Of course this all depends on previous experience. If I felt a kid was not properly trained to perform these lifts then other precautions would have to be used. However, for athletic performance let’s assume that the athletes have experience and can safely perform the exercises given. If a kid is underdeveloped but has the lifting background then you could use a 3 rep. max to ensure safety. For example, in a High School setting before an off season program you 1 rep max test the Juniors and Seniors. However the freshman and Sophomores might not be able to handle the heavy loads and they could potentially injure themselves. For the younger kids you would have to separate them into trained and untrained. The untrained kids need to be taught biomechanics while the trained kids can proceed to testing.
The ancillary exercises that I had mentioned might be things like a bent over row or triceps extensions. These exercises don’t need to be tested and can be assigned a number of sets and reps with instructions of when to progress and when to back off. Remembering that not all training is linear. Sometimes a recovery workout is the best workout. If you continually increase the volume from week to week eventually gains will be compromised.
The further out from the season that lighter your 1 Rep max percentage can be. For example if you are in a 8 week macro-cycle and this is week 1 you might start at 60% of that 1 rep max. The athletes should do 10-15 reps with no more than 30 seconds recovery. Building up muscular endurance early on in the off-season will help the athletes to not burn out too quickly. In weeks 3-5 you can increase towards more of a strength workout. In a strength workout you would assign maybe 80-90% of the 1-rep. max. During this phase the athletes might do 6-8 reps for multiple sets with full recovery in between sets. In weeks 5-7 the athlete should adopt a power component to include lower reps. They might do 3-5 reps at 70-80% of the 1 rep. max with again full recovery in between sets. In the last week leading up to the season would be a good week to begin those recovery workouts that I previously mentioned. In this week the athletes would begin to perform their maintenance workouts. The intensity would decrease in order to prepare for the increased time spent with skill work in their respective coaches. This would also be a good time to add plenty of foam rolling and flexibility work to help the body recover fully.
As you can see that 1 rep max determined the loads of the exercises which determined the volume for each athlete. It is a vital factor to improve performance leading up to the season.
There are a lot of options out there for people who want to bring their fitness to the next level. There are personal trainers, strength coaches, strength and conditioning coaches, and even speed coaches. One of the things about all of these options that a lot of people don’t know is there are literally hundreds of certifications that will give these coaches their license to train you. Most of these certifications require you to do nothing more than pay a fee and they will send you a take home test with the text book. Once you pass the easiest test in the world you are a certified personal trainer. I would say that most personal trainers at one time had a certification. However, most of them are not current. They expire from year to year so if a trainer doesn’t want renew by taking continuing education credits then the certification will expire. Why does that matter to you? Well the fitness industry is always changing. There is new science and research all the time which should change the way a trainer approaches his or her clients. If a trainer is not staying current with their certification then they are probably using out of date procedures and potentially putting your health at risk. Or at the very least putting your progress at risk.
The first thing you should do when you sign up with a trainer is to ask the gym do they require their trainers to be certified. A little known dirty little secret in the fitness world is most “trainers” have no such type of current certification. A gym who employs trainers should pay for their continuing education credits or at the very least check annually. It is kind of don’t ask don’t tell because the gym owners don’t want to pay the extra money and neither do a lot of trainers. The general public has no idea what the “good” personal trainer certifications are versus the “bad” ones. So in most trainers’ eyes why should they be certified. I wouldn’t even take the trainer’s word for it. I would actually ask to see the sheet of paper that says they are certified. If you are paying good money you want every reassurance that your money is being spent on a quality professional who is dedicated to the study of anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and the exercise sciences.
Now that you know about the dirty little secret that is rampant in the fitness industry you should be aware of which certifications to look for. These certifications are strenuous in nature and the exams are taken across the country at independent sites without the use of any study aids. Some of them have a prerequisite of a Bachelor or Science in a health science related field. Basically you need four years of undergraduate education to even take the test.
1. NSCA The National Strength and Conditioning Association has two distinctions. CSCS for training athletes and the NSCA – CPT for training the general population.
2. ACE American Council on Exercise.
3. ACSM. American Academy of Sports Medicine.
4. NASM. National Academy of Sports Medicine.
5. CI Cooper Institute.
Keep in mind even if your trainer says that they are certified in one of these categories, don’t hesitate to ask them to see the certification card. While it is impressive that they at one point passed these test and became certified they still should be staying up to date with their research.
Major League baseball recently mandated that all of their minor league strength coaches be certified CSCS and RSCC. No doubt this is to attempt to eliminate some of the shady characters who lurked around their clubhouses during the “steroid era.” Most of the Universities have full time strength and conditioning coaches for their athletic programs. The CSCS distinction is one of the largest governing bodies to certify these coaches. If a coach has two years working with and designing programs for athletic teams then he or she can earn the distinction of RSCC. There are also separate distinctions for ten years of staying current in that distinction and twenty. The trickle down effect has brought strength and conditioning to the High School level. During these years it is probably even more important to have a quality certified trainer working with these kids. Unfortunately, many High Schools just have a weight room supervisor or a member of the coaching staff supervising. If you suspect this is the case then you might be better off finding a facility near you that specializes in athletic performance. These facilities have popped up all throughout the country. Just make sure you ask to see that certification before signing up.
Where do I begin? 10 years ago I was finished with my athletic career. Due to a torn ligament in my elbow my baseball playing career had ended. I lifted weights but I was no longer competitive. I was really strong but I had poor diet habits. It took nearly 6 years as I continued to gain weight. 4 years ago I was 100 pounds heavier than I was in this picture.
I always tell people that I did not lose weight because of running. I started running because I lost weight. It started with just a mile on the treadmill. Then a year later I signed up for a half marathon in Jersey City. Now three years after I started running I ran my first Marathon.
The weekend started with the long drive down to Baltimore. We hit some miserable traffic and it took close to five hours. I was not too happy picking up my race bib above. The expo was at the convention center. It was pretty cool. There was a ton of running gear which I browsed through. The only thing I actually picked up were a few gu energy gels that came in handy during the race. I had originally planned to carry 4. However, I decided to bring 6 just in case and I am glad I made that last minute switch.
The night before we went to La Scala for a pasta dinner so I could get my carbs in before the race. I started eating more carbs 3 days before the race but this would be my last chance. The meal was very good. We headed back to the hotel to get a good night’s sleep. All I kept thinking of was the Seinfeld episode where the marathoner missed the Olympic trails because his alarm clock malfunctioned. “Was it the Snooze?’ No the am/pm!”
Race morning I woke up at 6 a.m. Alarm worked great (Thank you IPhone) although I am not sure if I really even needed one. I stuck with my plan of not eating before the race. I had a cup of coffee and plenty of water. I followed through just as I had planned it in my mind. I bundled up to face the cold weather and headed down towards Camden Yards. The hotel was just a block away which was perfect. I tried to stay warm. I had a long sleeve tight fitting north face, gloves that came in my gift bag, and a nice winter hat to keep my hands and head warm. I wore my typical Road ID tag and my Nike plus wrist band. I wore under armor shorts and t shirt which I love running in because of their ability to keep dry. I wore my Brooks ghost 4 running shoes.
When the confetti dropped and the gun sounded I started gingerly into my run. as I crossed the starting line I hit the button on my Nike sensor and waved goodbye to my family. I knew Miles 1-4 would be up hill from the elevation charts but to be honest it was a breeze. At that point I was fresh and still energized from the crowd and the race atmosphere. Great, I have to pee really badly. I saw a porta potty but there was a line. This is a race! I am not waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Plus at this point I was recalling what I said to my friends at work. I will not walk. If I walk I might as well stop. They though I should walk through the aid stations or at a few strategic points to conserve energy. I disagreed. Just before the race I read Dolphin Dan’s tweet. “Good luck to JoeLopez55 in the Baltimore Marathon today. #nowalking. I kept that promise at mile 3.5 or so I saw guys and girls using some well positioned trees. I ran off the road and used the trees and ran back onto course. It might have cost me 30 seconds or so but I didn’t walk and I felt much better. As we approached the Maryland zoo I was cruising. There was a downhill section that I felt like I was just flying through. I guess there were animals and stuff but I wasn’t really paying attention. I think I saw a penguin in a cage but I am not too sure. There were plenty of water stations along the route and I had my gu energy gels which I planned to take one every 4 miles. I stuck with water only. I didn’t want to do anything different than on my training runs.
The crowds were great. There were sections of local schools handing out swedish fish and cheering for the runners. There were very few spots where it was quiet. Several people held signs and others stuck their hands out to high five. Even the cops offered their support. Before I knew it was at mile 9 back near the inner harbor and looking for my family. The way the course was set up we decided they could see me at mile 9 and again at mile 13 both near the same location. I had a feeling that I might have missed them AT mile 9 but I kept looking. It was hard because there were big crowds at these points. I ran that first 9 faster than I told them I would. I guess I didn’t anticipate the perfect weather and the quickness that I ran the hills of 1-4.
At Mile 11 we go to the Under Armor Headquarters. It was a non de-script set of brick buildings with a huge sign telling you that you were there. They were promoting their newest running shoe. If we didn’t hit traffic on the way down I was planning on going to the Under Armor Block party where they were giving away free stuff for trying out the sneakers. I wear almost everything else Under Armor but I have always worn Brooks running shoes. There was a guy on the bullhorn encouraging runners and talking about how good we all looked in our Under Armor gear. They also had music blasting throughout the Under Armor Campus. When we made the turn back towards the inner harbor I knew I would see my family at mile 13 because they should have gotten a text when I crossed mile 9 because of the chip tracker I was wearing in my bib. I felt great. The first 13.1 I clocked at 1:56. I saw my family and it was a good feeling to see them along the route. I also got there just in time to see the start of the Half Marathon. This is always a cool site because the Half has a lot more runners than the full. Somewhere near 12,000 runners were starting just as I passed by. The merge was a little slow. Last year I was a half marathoner and I thought it was no problem but I guess seeing it from the other side was a little different. After doing 13 plus miles you don’t want to bob and weave to pass slower moving people but I guess it makes for the atmosphere of the race. From this point on it was definitely a lot more crowded. I did enjoy passing half marathoners at the end of the race and then having them see the words “full” on my back. I know that would bother me if I was running a half.
I was preparing for my 15-21 from the beginning. I ran hill repeats all summer with the Lifetime Running Club. However, I do have to say making miles 15-21 on a marathon all uphill is just cruel. I actually ran these miles quite well keeping my pace. I was determined not to let that hill beat me. However, Mile 22 I just was worn out. I slowed to a 12:38 pace for this Mile. The hill got to me. That one Mile was the only outlier in the entire race. I am still bothered by that one mile. What if I stayed on pace the whole time? In fact here are my splits.
Mile 1: 9:25
Mile 2: 8:25
Mile 3: 9:01
Mile 4: 7:53
Mile 5: 8:26
Mile 6: 8:26
Mile 7: 7:41
Mile 8: 8:25
Mile 9: 9:01
Mile 10: 10:10
Mile 11: 8:25
Mile 12: 8:26
Mile 13: 9:25
Mile 14: 8:25
Mile 15: 8:26
Mile 16: 9:26
Mile 17: 9:26
Mile 18: 8:26
Mile 19: 10:06
Mile 20: 8:25
Mile 21: 9:26
Mile 22: 12:38?????
Mile 23: 10:57
Mile 24: 8:55
Mile 25: 8:25
Mile 26: 9:23
After that it was just few more miles to go. I took two miles to recover and then for the the last 3 miles I returned to my normal pace.
When I saw Camden Yards I knew we were close. In that last stretch you run through the area behind the ballpark between the stands and the warehouse. The sides are filled with people. I heard Ann screaming my name. “You’re doing great! Almost finished.” After that I turned the corner and saw M & T Bank stadium and the finish line. When I crossed I felt so relieved. I bent over and felt my hamstrings tighten up and then I checked my watch. The clock had me at under 4 so I knew I broke 4 hours. To be honest I would have been happy with anything under 4:10. After getting my medal and eating and drinking. I just had to sit down and contemplate what I just did. 26.2 miles. I felt drained a little emotional. I couldn’t wait to see m family but I couldn’t move. I just wanted to sit there and enjoy the sun. When I found Ann and I my family I was still a little shaken but I was so happy. This was one of the best days of my life. They say when you finish your first marathon you have either one of two reactions. Wow, I will never do that again or that was awesome I can’t wait to try it again. I am not ruling out another one. I think this just motivates me to do more. The rest of the weekend we had great meals. I had plenty of drinks and dessert. The next mornings breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe was incredible! I highly recommend the Gingerbread pancakes if you are in Baltimore. The weekend as a whole was a success. I can’t be more proud and I might even take my dog Wrigley on a trail run this weekend to celebrate! Thanks to everyone who helped me along the way. Thanks for all the facebook messages and comments. Of course thanks to my wife Ann who the last few months have been planned around my weekend runs. Baltimore Marathon. Mission accomplished 3:57.04. I still am mad about that one 12:38 mile though!
Details to follow
So for those of you who spoke with or read my blog last week know I was supposed to make my last long run of 21 miles before tapering. However, I melted in the humidity and died out at 17.5. I went to facebook, twitter, and my running friends for advice on whether I should attempt to get 20 or just begin my taper three weeks out like my original plan called for. Every single person I talked said to just forget about and stick with my original plan and start the taper. For someone reasons I just couldn’t imagine showing up on October 15th and attempting to run 8 more miles than I have ever run in my life. Keep in mind this is my first marathon. I have never ran more than 18 miles at a time before. If this was my 3rd marathon I would have tapered. So despite the advice I ran 3 miles earlier in the week and then went out for 21 today. Fortunately it was much cooler today and it actually felt like fall. I ran a blistering pace (for me) of 3 hours and 7 minutes. If I run this pace on Marathon day I will be ecstatic.
The Good. I wore exactly what I plan on wearing for the marathon. Same shirt, shorts, socks, and sneakers. I wanted to see if there were any unforeseen issues. Maybe the socks shift out of place and cause blisters or maybe my shirt is too loose and causes chafing. Luckily, everything felt great. So let’s analyze what I did so hopefully I can recreate it. First of all I the weather. I can’t control what the weather is on October 15th but certainly that was a big factor. 58 degrees with little humidity and partly cloudy vs 83 degrees with 93% humidity. The second is I actually had pasta the night before. It was my mom’s birthday so we went out for dinner. I had penne all vodka with grilled chicken. I have no idea if this played a factor or not but guess what? I plan on having pasta the night before the big day. I also had two beers and an Irish Coffee. Coincidence? Wade Boggs ate chicken before every game of his entire major league Hall of Fame baseball career. Who am I to argue? Third thing is I ate nothing before I ran. I woke up and had a cup of coffee and a bottle of water. Last week I tried t eat and my stomach was not agreeing. I started to cramp up and feel side stitches most o the way. I did take 3 Gu packs with me and had those every 5 miles. They are 100 calories of high carb and sugar which can replenish glycogen stores that are lost on the run. On race day I will probably use 4 of them. I also tried to drink 6 ounces of water every three miles. I have tried gatorade or vitamin water before but again it doesn’t agree with my stomach. Maybe I will switch to gatorade late in the race when I am on the home stretch but I plan on mostly drinking water.
The Bad. I had a pretty bad foot pain. Just under my big toe on my right foot I had an excruciating pain. When I am running on flat ground moving straight ahead I was fine. Any pronation at all because of an uneven surface was really painful. The streets of Morristown are crowded and if I had to side step a person or a garbage can or any lateral movement was really painful. I am hoping it is just a bone bruise from just the wear and tear of 350 miles of road running. If that is the case I am hopeful that the next two weeks of tapering will help heal that up. Worst case scenario I guess is a stress fracture but I am not there yet I don’t think.
The Inspirational: My wife Ann ran her first ever 5k on Saturday. After weeks of training she ran and completed her 5k and even reached her goal time. In fact, when I was debating whether or not I would ever attempt a full marathon she was the one who made me a deal. She said if I ran a marathon she would run a 5k. I created a workout plan for her and she followed it perfectly. Despite having a pretty nasty cough that popped up the week of the race she battled and reached her goal. I am so proud of her and she did an amazing job.
Now its time to taper. All the hard work in mostly done and I feel ready. This coming week I have two runs of 4 miles with speed work and 8 miles with a hill or two. Then I have a massage scheduled on Saturday which I am very much looking forward to. It is a 90 minute “extreme sports massage” at Bliss in Hoboken. Then after that we are in race week. 2 miles flat and 5 miles flat at an easy comfortable pace during the week. I took of work on the Friday before so I can head down to Baltimore and relax. I have to pick up the race packet and my free under armor T shirt at the Health expo. Then I can walk around a little and see what the expo has to offer. Then Friday night I plan on getting some pasta and a good night’s sleep before race day. Hopefully I can finish the race and hopefully the weather cooperates. Stay tuned foe race day updates. Baltimore running festival. October 15th. Here I come.
Well, This was supposed to be my last long run before the marathon. My training plan said to do 20 miles. I was a little unsure about making my last long run 20 and leaving 6.2 on the table. Now, I am leaving 8.2 on the table.
I ran 18 miles two weeks ago. Last week I knocked my long run down to 10 miles. The 10 mile run felt smooth and easy.
My plan was to make this weekend’s run like a race simulation. The Marathon starts at 8 a.m. I wanted to get up around 7:30. Drink my water and hit the road. Of course I slept in a little later. I am taking the Friday before the marathon off from work so hopefully I will be rested. I got up around 8:15. I washed my face, brushed my teeth, and got dressed. For some reason I was really hungry. I made a toasted English Muffin with peanut butter. I rarely have this as my breakfast. I finally hit the road around 9:15. For about 7 miles I was feeling pretty good. I always bring a water with me on the road. At about mile 10 I started to feel stomach cramps. Side stitches creeped up around mile 12 and didn’t go away until I was done. The weather was mostly cloudy and around 70 but with high humidity. It was 93% when I woke up. The humidity was brutal. Miles 1-10 I was moving along at my typical 8:50 – 9:35 pace. Miles 10 -17 I was slower than 10 minutes a mile. That is much slower than anything I normally do. I didn’t realize this at the time but after uploading my run on the computer there was a clear point where I hit the wall. In high humidity situations the body just can’t evaporate quickly enough. This can lead to increase body temperatures and lots of other symptoms. I hydrated plenty. I refilled my water bottle two times I refueled with an espresso Gu energy gel. I just could not get into a rhythm. My feet were killing me and my left hip was cramping up. I tried to gut it out for 18 but I couldn’t even handle that. 17.5 was the end. Normally when I am feeling this way I say to myself if you stop now you still have to walk home. I didn’t care at this point. I walked about a mile and a half back home. I took my typical ice bath on my longer runs. Right now I am dealing with aching feet and a sore left hip that feels like it could cramp at any moment. Also, just general fatigue. After I got out of the ice bath and shower I fell asleep for an hour or so. I am starting to second guess this a little. I think I can still do it if everything goes well but what if it doesn’t. Now the question is do I start my taper as my plan dictates or do I try to get up to 20 miles. I am 3 weeks out.
Tomorrow is the first day for teachers to report to school. I was asked by my department head to give a quick presentation on core training for students. There will be elementary teachers as well as the High School physical education teachers present. Here is what I came up with. I plan on handing this out and doing active demonstrations.
Core Training for physical education classes.
Perhaps you have heard of Core training but are not completely sure what it means. Maybe you heard it in a magazine or you heard it in a gym. Maybe some of your students use the term very loosely.
Before we learn what is “the core” let’s learn what it is not. Core is not a newer term for abs. While your students may use core and abs interchangeably they are not the same thing. The core is made up of a group of muscles that all work together to stabilize your body during movement. They allow for a seamless transition between your upper to lower body. The Core muscles are generally located in the middle of your body and mostly acting on your spine to help brace your body in an upright position. (Think good posture).
These muscles consist of:
Scapula movers ( group of muscles) to a lesser extent.
Hamstrings to a lesser extent
Traditional ab exercises involve the movement and contraction of the abdominal muscles by flexing and extending the lumbar spine to create tension. Think of a good old-fashioned sit up or crunch. While this might develop your “six pack abs” It leaves out most of those other muscles we just mentioned. Also, the lumbar spine is not meant to have a great deal of flexion and extension. This promotes a kyphotic spine position. Unless you want to look like Quasimodo then this is a bad thing.
A good portion of a core training program involves not mobility but stability. The ability of the core muscles to stabilize when gravity, our own movement, or external forces attempt to create imbalances. Think about a defensive lineman in football being blocked. While he is pushing and grabbing with his hands and arms it is really his hips, glutes, and abs which need to brace to prevent being pushed backwards. There is no abdominal contraction but instead a bracing of the transverse abdominal that initiates the athletic movement. In core training resisting force is equally as important as creating it.
How does core training help the non athlete or average person? Well all of those core muscles create a tight brace for you lower back. Think of an old-time corset. A strong core helps with posture which can prevent lower back pain and injuries. It can also help you with balance and coordination. This can come in handy whether you are swinging a golf club or you are doing chores around the house.
Core work for older kids: 7th – 12th grade
Some examples of exercises that work the core without any equipment:
Hands and toes
Forearms and toes
Incline or Decline
1 arm or leg on knees or toes
Single leg w/ isometric hold
Equipment that could be used for station work:
For younger kids: 2nd to 8th grade
Some tips to tell if a child has poor core strength:
1. poor posture in class
2. shifts in seat excessively
3. would rather lie down to watch TV then sit up
4. leans on hands a lot. (head or arms)
5. falls often. (balance issues)
Have kids walk on a line or tape. Heel to toe.. You can increase the difficulty by having them balance a bean bag on their head. You can also make the line curve rather then be straight. For added difficulty you can add more obstacles with instructions while still balancing a bean bag on their head. (Bend over and touch a cone) at certain points on the rope.
Crab walk races:
Chair Leg lifts:
Have students lift both legs and eventually legs and arms and perform a static hold. For added difficulty straighten arms and legs. Concentrate on staying “tall”
Single Leg balance:
Partner planks: 2 person or 4 person
Partner push ups: 2 person or 4 person
Try to engage kids to compete and make games / races wherever possible.
In my marathon training I am supposed to increase the distance for two consecutive weeks before going backwards in a down week. For example, in weeks 1-4 my long runs were 4, 6, 3, 8. This method allows you to increase your distance while giving your legs time to rest on down weeks. However, this past week I fell into the trap of being overconfident on my down week. Partly to blame was the fact that we were having a BBQ for some friends on Sunday. So I squeezed in my long run on Saturday after lifting legs on Friday. I ran 10 miles two weeks ago and breezed through a 12 mile run last weekend on a humid free beautiful day. All I had to do was a quick 8. This should be a piece of cake. Wow was I wrong. I got through the first 4 fairly easy despite my legs feeling heavy. On the way back I was dying. It was a butal, humid, and disgusting day and my legs had not yet recovered from the previous day’s squats. I didn’t eat the way I normally would before a run. I didn’t hydrate properly. I didn’t pace myself correctly. My distance runs are supposed to be an easy pace which for me is usually around 9:20 to 9:50 a mile. I so overlooked this run that I was just trying to get it over with. My pace ended up being at like 8:50 which is too quick for an easy distance run. I didn’t respect the run. Rule number one is you have to respect the workout. Every run could be your best or your worst. Each run needs to be treated with that respect. I have 8 training weeks left until marathon Saturday. Starting this week I am dropping my weekly runs down from 3 times a week to only 2. I start with 14 this coming weekend and I can promise you this. I will not take it lightly.