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How is your IT band? + Leg Pain

This is a new, updated version of an old post responding to the below question about IT-Band Pain. I have adjusted the content to be more general to leg pain common to cyclists and endurance athletes generally. 

It is OK to get Help! 

Try some of these modifications and ideas but it is rarely a bad idea to go see a local, trusted practitioner who has helped you or similarly athletic friends – this could be a Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Osteopath, Massage Therapist, Kinesiologist or other practitioner. These sessions can provide some ideas for reducing pain now and progressing back to your sport gradually. The benefit of seeing someone is also in the psychological benefit of talking to someone about your concerns and perhaps having the benefits of touch generally.  

How Did It Start?

  • Consider things you have done that are in exceess of your usual or very different in terms of volume or intensity (ie. did you do a really long ride? or Lift really heavy weight?) 
  • Read: Are you Training to Much on the SmartAthlete Blog
  • Your Training Log can help (ie. Training Peaks? or something in one of those wearable watches?) 
  • Position? Did you change the position on your bike (and then do something listed above?) Be cautious with changes to your position / movement by reducing the volume/intensity. A New position, bike-part, whole bike, cleat/pedal setup (or old parts) can be part of the issue! 

Listen to Greg Lehman talk about pain science on the Consummate Athlete Podcast and how psycho/social aspects can influence our pain sensation

Rest – Sometimes We Don’t Need to do anything! 

  • While it is  tempting to roll, stretch, ice, get massage, get chiro, get supplements, get cremes, get braces … sometimes we just need rest and to leave that ‘hot’ area alone. 
  • Can you (have you) taken a few days to let your body recover? Often we can treat our pain and soreness with adequate rest. This can be a complete off day or even just a day (or three) where you do a different type of activity or movement (ie. swimming or pilates instead of cycling).
  • Move differently is a solution sometimes but complete rest (again) can be under-appreciated. Dr. Stuart McGill in his books (including ‘Back Mechanic’) discusses how surgery often ‘works’ because we are forced to take time off. If you have an ongoing/chronic issue consider a ‘fake surgery’ where you skip the scalpel and just take 2 weeks off before gradually easing back into your sport. 

Change Something

As a Registered Kinesiologist, I love the idea of foam rolling, stretching and movement but we need to be careful thinking we can spend enough time stretching each day to compensate for hunching over our desk, bike and dinner plate and also need to be careful thinking movement is the only thing that influences pain (ie. we may just need to rest and relax!). 

Sleep, Nutrition, Lifestyle factors (stress) can all influence our sensation of pain (read more about Greg Lehman’s ‘Cup’ Analogy)

Are you doing something in your daily life you could modify? This could be a nutrition, stress reduction techniques or more movement/posture oriented changes like a pillow between the knees or under the low back, or cruise control while driving or a walk at lunch to change up our routine, enhance digestion and reduce stress. 

‘Easy’ Habits

I like things we can do once and they are set. The Shoes we wear, beds we sleep in, seats we sit in, and options for movement we setup (ie. book into a class or lunch massage) are ways we might shift loads and stimuli we are exposed to each day without adding another thing we have to motivate ourselves to do each day. Many of my clients have pushed ‘walking meetings’ and phone calls to get outside and move more. Often the meetings seem to go better! 

Listen to Katy Bowman talk about how ‘movement matters’ On the Consummate Athlete Podcast. Those little movements each day can add up! 

Try to Add Variety into your day – while it is tempting to say ‘stop sitting’ this is very challenging for most of us (and frustrating!) Thinking of ways to sit differently and vary position is perhaps more workable. 

WHAT TO DO WITH PAIN NOW: 

  • You can ice that ‘hot spot’ to reduce pain. This is not a long-term strategy but can reduce pain initially. 
  • You can roll above and below the area (or stretch/move those areas) … try to think above and below more then right ontop of the sore/painful area (give that spot a break!) Mobility Wod on Above/Below concept
  • Ensure your bike-fit is suitable. Generally, front of knee pain comes from a saddle that is low or too far forward. Back of knee pain from a seat that is too high or too far back. Mark your current position then make a small change and see if its better!
  • Try to avoid painful ranges/sports/movements for a few days and see if you can focus on moving in different ways. This might mean using a different bike (clueing you to a bike fit issue?) or a different sport like going for a walk, swimming, upper body strength etc.
  • Your Knee alignment in the movements you do *may* be a way to influence your pain. Hip and foot exercises can help enhance your athletism, which may then also influence the knee position. mobilitywod video discussing this knees out in stair climbing

 

If you do not have a local therapist, or you are visiting Collingwood, Ontario we can work together in person or consider a phone/skype consult. Booking is here. 

 

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Are You Training Too Much?

Am I over-training? Variations of this question come up time to time for athletes but often it takes injury or illness to get to these questions. What if we could train less (or back off sooner) and avoid the injury/illness?

For coaches, the question is (or should be) how much volume/intensity and frequency can I give an athlete, especially if that athlete is a masters-aged athlete with life, work, family to balance with training. This question can not be answered by looking only at Bike Power or Run Pace. We need to know more about how the person is adapting to the training and life stressors they are under.

The concept of ‘total training load’ is one that is becoming more commonly discussed. While TSS (Training Stress Score) helps quantify the work we do, it is more difficult to determine both how much total stress the athlete is taking on from life+training and also how much they can actually recover from.

Molly wrote about a Cup Analogy, that we learned from Greg Lehman who uses it to describe how we end up in pain. From a training standpoint, we each have a cup we can fill up with training, taking the kids to hockey and eating at McDonalds while reading the news. At some poitn that cup overflows and this, in training, would be too much.

The issue is not simply how many watts can you push on your bike but what is the strain in your body when you do those watts and can your body adapt to that strain today. Can it get back on top of it before the next suffer-festival? This will change depending on the time of year as your fitness (and life) changes!

A progressive training prescription and progression helps to ensure that the loading (from training) is not so much that your risk of injury and illness is elevated. Taking off days (or two) a week and varying your volume and intensity across the week and programming regular off-weeks to allow your body, and mind, recover.

So How do you tell how you are coping?

While this progressive and variable training with regular off days/weeks reduces your chances of over-doing it there will be individual variation, often due to the stuff you do when you aren’t pedaling, running, or doing whatever awesome thing you do.

The best signs of ‘over-training’ or signs that you are training too hard/too much for YOU at THIS TIME are your subjective measures of well being. Your motivation, soreness, fatigue, irritability and so on. How to assess these regularly in an actionable way is tough.

How Do You Feel?

This is an important question but also a nebulous one. Some of us are very quick to say we are tired, whereas others will never say they are tired/stressed/hungry. Neither of these dispositions is without issue as some of us are very resistant to feeling tired/sore or pushing into fatigue to add fitness whereas others will repeatedly push themselves into injury, illness or burnout.

There is also an issue with tracking these subjective measures. How do you tell when you are out of your normal and where do you put all this information? I used to keep a paper note pad beside my bed and add up 5 subjective measures for a score of 25. This was ok but relied on me admitting I was significantly tired or grumpy before I get so deep that I needed to take a bunch of time off due to illness/injury/fatigue.

HRV & HR + Easy Tracking of Subjective Measures

I use HRV4Training, an app for smartphones, personally and with my coaching clients. This app lets athletes do a quick test by putting their finger over their phone camera (yes this does work and is validated!) and asks a series of quick questions about soreness, motivation etc. In about 2 minutes each morning, the athlete can take resting HR/HRV and record subjective metrics. Then it provides a recommendation based on HRV and subjective measures compared to your normal!

Bonus for Coaches

I really like that the Hrv4Training app syncs for free and automatically to Training Peaks to easily augment Coach-Athlete communication and ‘total load’ (vs. just TSS). The screenshot below shows the metrics window in training peaks that receives information automatically from the athlete’s HRV4Training App each morning after their measurement. They can even add some notes/annotations that will appear in this window. (*I have gotten a few athletes to use voice dictation here to get some idea of what is going on with life and the workouts the day prior … can work really well)

Examples from My Clients



This Athlete is a busy parent + work. So travel, illness, work stress all contribute but we had a really good Jan/Feb that led to nice high confidence, recovery and form for a ski race. HRV supported bike power and ski numbers (and race performance). Life/travel work happened after the race, which then guides how much training we do (less)!

#2 Athlete – This athlete is less consistent in taking measurements but you can see the effect of a big training camp with the string of yellows and decreased HRV baseline on the right of the graph. The far right is after recovery days and returns to the routine.

You can watch motivation, soreness, irritability, sleep and other metrics for a trend back to normal after intensified blocks like this to support HRV and training data. The Hrv4Training App will also factor in these inputs in its recomendation.


Learn More:

Leadville Training Plan – 6 Months Out

The Leadville Training Plan for Busy Masters Athletes

Are you doing the Leadville 100 MTB Race? Are you a busy, adult with limited time? Smart Athlete has helped numerous masters aged mountain bikers get ready for Leadville and through the race at or below their goal time. The same rides, intervals, strategies, and timing are now available for you to follow in a Training Peaks Plan.

Learn More & Get The Leadville Training Plan HERE Instantly!

This plan will help you be ready for your HUGE day in August and guide you through some REALLY FUN adventures as you prepare for this race

The Leadville Plan is a pre-made plan delivered by training peaks, an online calendar software, that lets you get your workout and then upload it back into the system and make notes.

The plan uses workouts to prepare you mentally and physically and also reminds you to take easier days, weeks and do BIG weekend blocks occasionally to help overcome the time-limits that busy, adults have when preparing for AWESOME OFF-ROAD ADVENTURES

Learn More & Get The Leadville Training Plan HERE Instantly!

Coach David Roche talks Happiness on The Consummate Athlete Podcast

This episode had me so psyched for life, coaching and training. I hope you get the same awesome take-a-ways from this talk with David Roche and accomplished Runner and Coach, and now the Co-author of the Happy Runner (which you can buy here)  

You can listen to the episode below in the player or get it on your favorite app.

Show notes on www.consummateathlete.com

If you find yourself struggling with ‘WHY’ or getting frustrated with sports or being really nervous, or burnt out this podcast will be awesome!

Strength Training for Cycling

I was back on the Canadian Cycling Magazine Podcast talking about Strength Training for Cycling. We talked about some of the variations and approaches you could take as a cyclist and as an adult with other things going on (family, work etc.)

Step-up to the challenge of strength training!

You can listen with the player above or subscribe to their podcast (my segment is around 24 minutes)

Want more? Below I talk more about starting strength and gear on the Consummate Athlete!

If you are looking for more information about strength training you can see a few related posts below as well.

Check out the episodes of The Consummate Athlete that included Strength Training in the discussion

Cyclocross Strength

Any Where Core Routine

Maximum Sustained Power – A book that went over really well with listeners of the Consummate Athlete. Listen to the authors and get the link on the Consummate Athlete Podcast Page


Get a Smart Athlete Training Plan on TrainingPeaks.com that includes strength in the weekly structure with bike workouts for <$49 HERE

Road Cycling Training Plan on Training Peaks – Be Ready for Spring!

New Plan Alert!

Get the Plan Now from the Training Peaks Store

This plan is for road cyclists coming into a new year and wanting to be ready for the spring. Likely you are dealing with some bad weather and riding the trainer, or at least not riding huge miles. This plan is for you.

Ready for Spring – 3 months of Training for Road Cyclists plan is available right now on training peaks (with this link) and helps you be ready for spring races and group rides with under 10 hours of weekly training.

Ready to roll when you are – Stop wondering if you are doing too much or what intervals to do.

This plan includes downloadable workouts you can send to your cycling computer or indoor/virtual program (Zwift etc.) Ready for indoor and/or outdoor.

Get the Plan Now from the Training Peaks Store

Base Phase for the Busy Working Person

I discussed the concept of ‘base’ (or General Preparation) on the Canadian Cycling Magazine Podcast in January 2018. This episode comes in mid-winter when motivation is starting to decrease and the reality that all those intense trainer rides were perhaps a bit ambitious! This episode also includes details about some crazy (FUN) fat bike adventures, […]