ATC 288: Calf Pains, Cyclocross Sprinting, Low Resting Heart Rate, and more!

June 7, 2019


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  • Brock’s been working on his Weighless program, which targets the mindset behind diet and lifestyles shifts.
  • Fitness Genes identifies a lot of other genes than 23andme, such as the gene that makes you not get hungry.
  • Lucho’s training for the 800m and is back to long runs at MAF (6-7 miles).

Dane Asks:

What’s up guys, “Blue Collar Baller” here! I’m a UPS Driver and I still get 25-35k farmer walk steps and stair climbing in a day, I won USAT Cross Triathlon Nationals in 2017. We had a baby boy in 2018, and I only raced 1 Olympic with Elites, it wasn’t pretty! I tried to keep some fitness ready to hit 2019 hard. My training was going great until a month ago on a long run I had a “Calf Heart Attack.”

It is pretty much a deep strain in the Gastroc calf muscle. I can run short 3-4 miles easy with no pain, but I don’t trust it to do any speed. I have been working on a faster cadence for less ground contact and less impact, (I have long legs that like to stride!).

So, with Cross Tri Nationals 9 weeks out, should I mainly focus on hard training for the bike/swim and easy running until full recovery? I will say my swim is fair, I can average 1:25s in Olympic distance swim whether I train 3 days a week or 1 day. I’m a powerhouse on the bike, like to hammer and I am very technically good. I am a decent runner, my volume is low, but I can block the internal governor on race day and suffer as needed.

The coaches say:

  • Fun fact: the calf is sometimes called the “second heart” because of the gastroc (gastrocnemius) pump muscle.
  • You should not go to the track and do a block start 100m (duh). So build up from there… see what’s reasonable and increase the intensity to threshold slowly.
  • The fact that you can run 3 miles easy is a sign that there’s not a tear. You might just have a cramp (which can last a week and cause enough damage to have lasting repercussions in the form of DOMS).
  • Start with deep tissue muscle massage to find the problem area.
  • Use heat not ice on the area to help recovery. Also don’t stretch it!
  • Intervals and speed work are not necessary if you can build up to threshold on a 4 miler.
  • You’re going to have hypersensitivity to the area because your brain is trying to protect it.
  • If your calf is feeling tweaky then definitely focus on your other disciplines. This is the best part of triathlon!

Adelle asks:

Greetings from Massachusetts! I’m a big fan of the show and have learned so much since I started listening to your podcast last year.

I am a 48-year-old triathlete (competing in sprint, Olympic and 70.3).

I took up cyclocross 3 years ago and I am in love with this sport, it’s such a fun yet challenging sport with a great community. Triathlon remains my priority, I see cyclocross as more of a fun way to mix things up in the offseason, however that doesn’t mean I don’t want to improve at it. I have seen a big improvement in the last 3 years in my technical riding skills but the part of cyclocross that absolutely crushes me are the sprint starts and the fast flat power sections. My question is how can I train for these fast sections while still focusing primarily on triathlon training.

My A-Race is a 70.3 in mid-September and my cyclocross season typically runs from late September through mid-December. Any suggestions you can give me would be very much appreciated.

The coaches say:

  • The solution to your cyclocross problem will be complementary to your triathlon cycling.
  • Doing max efforts on the trainer are best so you can totally focus on power and brute force over skill.
  • For fast flat power sections, start with 10-15 seconds maximal effort then work up to 5-7 minutes for pointy end threshold. This will certainly help your 70.3 effort.
    • You can do these at any time because it’s not as jarring as running.
    • Make sure you take adequate recovery between intervals so you can hit the max efforts .
    • 10×1’ on 1’ easy recovery is one of Lucho’s favorite.
    • These intervals will also train you to stay relaxed and deal with suffering.
    • 20’ in zone 4 broken up however you can is another one of Lucho’s favorite workouts, which is effective for cyclocross and 70.3
    • Brock has used a system called TrainerRoad that aligns with these interval principles.
  • Practice sprint starts for 10-20” going all out on the trainer.
  • In 70.3 buildup, do sprint efforts no more than twice a week and on easier days. These should not fatigue you and negatively impact next day’s workouts. Only do threshold stuff once a week.

Lee asks:

New listener to your podcast (really interesting stuff!) and just about to embark on my MAF journey. I have a couple of questions about starting MAF training. I bought the “Big Book of Endurance Training” several years ago, but never committed to the approach for various reasons (mostly because I like running “fast”, and enjoy what might be called “junk miles”), whereas now I think it might help me reach my goals and prevent injury.

My background: Male, 43 yo, 195lbs.

I took up running quite late in life, for fitness & enjoyment, with my best years to date being 2014 / 2015 (19:34 5k, 3:40 trail marathon were my highlights (although I bonked hard on the last 3 miles of the marathon)). I also competed in a number of triathlons that year. Since then I suffered badly with plantar fasciitis and IT band injuries, which knocked me out of any kind of training for near on 2 years.

I started training again in late 2018, and now in 2019 needed to set a focused goal. I plan to train toward an Ironman distance event in 2021, with a half-ironman toward the end of 2020. I’d really like to have a structured training approach for these endurance events and so I dusted off the big yellow book and re-read the details.

My question is as follows: My heart rate is very low (it’s not a medical issue, just naturally low). It is normally 38 – 40 when I wake up in the morning and sits between 40 – 45 when sitting at my desk. I am by no means an elite athlete! Should I still apply the 180-age formula to determine my MAF threshold? I’m keen to ensure I focus on the right training effort.

The coaches say:

  • First, a tangent on “junk miles.” Luchos’ definition: Junk miles are miles that don’t allow you to do the quality workouts.
  • Brock also has a naturally low heart rate. And high blood pressure. Coincidence?
  • Lucho is more interested in your max heart rate because that has more implication for what 180 minus your age means for your training effort. If your max heart rate is also low, then the formula will likely put your MAF too high.
  • Doing a lactate threshold test can also be a more effective marker. (You don’t have to do it at a lab either; there are gentle ways you can test yourself).
  • MAF should be frustratingly easy. If you find yourself having to push to get to the low end of MAF then you need to re-evaluate.
  • You and your results are the only things that can really tell you if you are training correctly. All the formulas are just a guide.
  • Beware of a tight soleus or anything in your lower leg. If you wake up and it feels off, then take 2 days off! You don’t want to knock yourself out of the game for 2 years again.
  • At your age, it’s important to stay on top of preventative care for your body.

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