Viewing entries tagged
human optimization

Ditch your pace-based training plan

While pace is an apt tool for benchmarking progress and for measuring performance, it is not a useful metric for training. I implore you: ditch your pace-based training.

Efficiency: When an athlete chooses to use pace as a training metric, she will generally function in a heart rate zone referred to by coaches as the ‘black hole of endurance training’. None of us, even the most masochistic, can function much above lactate threshold for extended periods of time on consecutive days. Most of us are also too impatient to put in the work that feels like it wasn’t work in the lower heart rate zones. This leaves uncoached athletes defaulting to a ‘fun-hard’ pace - and that’s the black hole. This pace, what most pace-based athletes slot themselves into thinking it will make them stronger over time, is too hard to serve as recovery and too easy to support an increase in your lactate threshold.

Your ANS: When you consistently work at too high a heart rate zone during endurance training, your autonomic nervous system becomes activated. This isn’t a good thing. When you perform in your sympathetic nervous system, you lose your capacity for empathy and critical decision-making; your body consumes the limited stores of glycogen in your organs and other easily-accessible sources before beginning to burn muscle; and extended activation of the nervous system can lead to thyroid dysfunction, mental health disturbances, and illness or injury. I host single-topic webinars on this and other nervous system phenomena. Sign up for the waitlist to learn more.

Alternatives: Athletes might measure their training using climbing grade, elevation gain/loss, distance, duration, watts, or time in zone. While pace is nearly always the poorest measurement of training impact, time in zone is the best way to meter your endurance production. Nested within this strategy is the need for the athlete to train alone much of the time. Given that your level of recovery, heart rate variability, and, ultimately, the appropriate level of output during each training session fluctuates from session to session, a training buddy is more likely to cause you to over- or under-train than to support your training. Over time, time-in-zone training will result in you getting faster - there’s simply no need to check in all that frequently to validate that this is the case.

When is pace useful in endurance training? Pace-based training only has its place in the repertoire of the most elite mountain runners and even for those athletes only in metered doses during narrow periods of their training. Personally, the only time I’ve ever employed pace-based training was during my training for a fifty mile FKT and I’ve only suggested pace-based training for one client in my six years of business. Nuff said.

Quit with the competitive thinking already; learn your individual zones; and watch your performance rise while incidences of overtraining, insomnia, and injury decrease. Releasing the ego's attachment to pace and measuring the success of your session only by time in zone is of vital importance, not only to your fitness but to your health.

I’ll be hosting a special session entitled Your Zones later in the month. Be sure to sign up and learn all about the alternative to pace-based training.

Brittany Raven

Webinar: Your Zones

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2019 at noon Pacific

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Rest

When rest goes from being something that perches in the leftover hours between work and sleep (and houscleaning and child-rearing and volunteering and commuting, and so on, ad infinitum) to being something that you claim for yourself, it becomes more valuable and tangible. The very act of making specific plans helps make a goal feel more realistic and accessible, and gives you a clearer sense of its value. Deliberate rest is not a negative space defined by the absence of work or something that we hope to get up to sometime. It is something positive, something worth cultivating in its own right.
— Alex Soojung-Kim Pang "Rest"

Perfecting the taper

golden hour on the Kettle Crest, cr. David Moskowitz

As I transition into the quiet time before a storm of movement on yet another multi-year project, I have been revisiting my own advice on the art of the taper.

Tapering involves a relaxation and turning inward of the mind, body, and habit; it may last from a few days to six weeks depending on the event. During my various tapers for rock projects, expeditions, alpine climbs, and long runs I've developed a few transferrable strategies to make sure I'm well-rested and prepared for the big event.

 

Timing: Training too hard too early before your intended event can be just as detrimental to event-day (or month) performance as not training enough in advance. Finding the right balance of loading on the volume and backing off, track your various tapers and performance during events religiously. Reflect critically after the dust has settled following each event. You will, in time, learn the proper amount of time your body needs to rest before each event. A note: the time and type of taper necessary will vary within the athlete based on the kind of event undertaken. For example, I taper differently for an ultra than I do for a climbing objective.

Rest: Allow your body to cycle into as deep a state of rest as the event requires. For an endurance event, allow yourself to go to the state of rest where you're peeing a lot, sleeping more than normal, and don't feel motivation to train. Ideally, the body cycles through this state and back into an impatience for movement and more normal sleep patterns prior to the event. In addition to what one might normally think of as rest such as less training and more sleeping, try to eliminate excess items from your calendar or take a couple preparatory days off from work. Time away from stress, even productive or good stress, is necessary to allow your mind to prepare.

Insulation: Perhaps the least-practiced and most important part of tapering. To allow the most regenerative pre-event experience, this introvert avoids excess social contact, introductions to new people, new experiences, and most media during the taper period. Take a social media vacation in advance of your event - and delete the dang apps off your phone so you don't cheat. According to the event, it may also be nice to insulate oneself from the cold in order to prepare for some extended time out in the elements - this provides a time of coziness to harken back to when chilled to the bone and moving. This period is a safe island isolated from the intensity of training and event.

Reduce inflammation: Remove all alcohol, drugs, and food allergens from your diet - for real. The one exception to this tip is cannabis. If your body relaxes under the influence of CBD or canna, indulge at this time. It is preferable to ingest it in tincture or edible format. A couple supplements that can smooth the path to anti-inflammatory state are this one and a regular ol dose of turmeric

Self-care: Good self-care is always a key to high athletic achievement, but becomes acutely so in this final period. Through your final massage and acupuncture visits, note your body's energetic tank filling, perhaps even track it in your training journal. Depending on the seriousness of the event, consider updated blood work and a visit with your primary care doctor to be sure everything is in prime order. Continue your meditation practice, even deepen it at this time. Use delicious, whole foods to nourish the body and mind. For my clients who are in the know, the Owl Eyes exercise is indicated at this time.

Reaffirmation: In your meditations and lucidity sessions, visualize the exact sequence of your project, fly over the mountain you're about to climb, or let your feet touch the bends in the trail you'll travel. Feel yourself strong and vital as you complete your event and imagine the states of mind you'll need to cultivate for each stage of performance. You've committed to preparation for this event now review the goal and your path. This practice helps me see how far I've come and instills in me greater confidence in my ability to achieve the impossible.

Logistics: Practice packing for your event well in advance. In the process, you'll likely note a few items that could use repair or that you still need to purchase. This is cruicial for expeditions and self-supported events. Review your map or itinerary - the physical one and the topo in your head. As you conduct these final preparations, take a few shakedown runs, climbs, or rides just to keep the qi moving.

Recovery: Recovery begins with pre-event preparation. Clean your space to prepare for your return home. Collect your favorite recovery foods - even consider preparing them so they are ready to eat at the end of the event. Bring your most comfortable post-event clothing. On expeditions for the time between getting off the mountain and returning to the US, I find it nourishing to have a few touches of home like nice street clothes or my favorite chocolate. For endurance events, I have a favorite pair of lush sweatpants that I only wear post-run and find myself looking forward to during the event. 

 

I hope you've found this useful. If you'd like to learn more, visit my Coaching page and sign up for a consult on the topic of recovery. Resting is a vital element of athletic progression and I'm happy to lead you through these steps.

Heat training

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

Hey forest freaks,

As the temps climb up near the 90s here - holy cow! - I've been feeling the heat in my afternoon runs. Thought it would be useful to re-post my article from last autumn reporting out on heat conditioning! There are a lot of myths out there about women being unable to acclimate appropriately to heat - and that is simply not true. 

Lotsa links to scholarly articles in here so go down that rabbit hole.

Brittany Raven


On April 20th, 2017 I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd, 2017 I told my IG followers that I was going to undertake purposeful heat training for the summer. On September 18th I next wore a shirt on a training run. 

This was a hot summer. I clocked over thirty runs at temperatures exceeding 95F - ten in a row over 100F. Adding to the heat was the impenetrable smoke which forced me to wear a ventilator on runs through all of August and part of September. The ventilator, much as it did an excellent job of filtering the smoke, also acted as a hypoxia-inducing mechanism by limiting the in-flow of oxygen as I went.

I'll back up and also confess: I have historically loathed the heat often telling friends and clients I'd rather be hypothermic than even a little warm. However, after choosing the Methow Valley as home, I had to befriend the heat if I intended to keep running - and I intend to keep running. 

So back in May I suspended my loathing of the heat long enough to devise a loose program of heat acclimation intended to increase my tolerance. As I researched how to acclimate to heat, I found a litany of other benefits of heat training: increased tolerance of cold, increased VO2Max in hot and cold conditions, and training adaptations similar to those I have experienced at altitude. The mechanism for all these useful changes? Increased plasma volume (a la pregnant blood doping!). 

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

For the month of May, I purposefully waited until the hottest part of the day (which was around mid-eighties) to do my runs two days a week. On those days, I took it easy but made myself keep running in what felt like sweltering heat for at least ninety minutes. On those runs I was sure not only to refuel but to rehydrate and to pay attention to my micronutrient intake as well. As May's temps ratcheted up in June, I felt more comfortable running in the heat already. During the month of June I tacked on to the end of every hot run an ice bath in whatever creek or river was nearby. I also began to do a hot epsom bath after one run-ice bath combo per week.

Beginning in the end of June and early July, my body started performing really well in the heat. I still took my hardest and longest runs at higher elevations and at cooler times of the day but by that point in the summer I was running four or five days a week in temperatures exceeding 90F. After every run beginning in mid-July I did a full-body ice bath in the Chewuch River or Deer Lake.

At the end of July the Diamond Creek Fire flared up a few miles from home dumping an obscene amount of smoke into my little river valley so I began to wear a ventilator (read more on running in wildfire country). Not one to complain about challenging conditions I chose to view my ventilator as yet another cardiac challenge to my strengthening system. Through all of August I ran at least four of my runs per week in the ventilator in temperatures over 95F - and damn did some of those runs feel tough.

As the heat persisted through the first weeks of September I began to feel markedly more at ease in the triple-digits. I found myself looking forward to runs on hot days and even found myself not feeling overheated on my last hot hot run on September 14th.

Now, as the cold rolls in and the ground I now run on is covered with snow, I feel more well-adapted to running in freezing, damp temperatures, too. My body feels like it is using much less energy than in past seasons keeping me warm despite being vastly leaner this autumn versus years past. And dammit if I'm not pining for those sultry runs in the smoke with Moose.

So after four months of shirt-free, sweat-heavy, hot AF runs I'm pleased to announce: I loved it! Truly. After a lifetime of not performing well in the heat I now miss my hot 4pm runs on sun-exposed dusty trail. I'm also performing better in the cold this autumn AND feel my overall cardiac capacity increased. Now let's see how that heat training translates to high altitude movement - I'll keep you posted.

 

read more:

how to run in wildfire country

heat training while pregnant

Jeff Shapiro client interview - The Process-Oriented Athlete

I have the most pure adventures when I’m in an arena where no one is watching and no one cares.
— Jeff Shapiro

Mark Twight obviously had not met Jeff Shapiro when he famously criticized the idea of being a Renaissance man as 'dilettante bullshit'. Jeff's incurable curiosity has led him to the highest peaks of the world to establish first ascents, took his desire to fly to the extreme by learning to wingsuit BASE jump (establishing many first exits), hunts in the company of a hawk named Cirrus, and loves the heck out of his family. It has been a joy to collaboratively coach Jeff - especially to witness how quickly and humbly he integrates new information whether about his gait or his recovery practices.

In our interview Jeff talks about why he is training for this summer's X-Pyr event, a paragliding and running event that traverses the entire length of the Pyrenees Mountains, and how he maintains his praxis as a process-oriented athlete even during competitive events. Listen in and get stoked.

Brittany Raven

3:31 Nested goal-setting

4:43 “My place means nothing to me”

6:12 Goal-setting and motivation

7:30 “Doing more with less”

8:50 Beauty and mindfulness

11:27 Collaborative coaching

13:20 The goal of recovery

 

Resources:

Jeff's Instagram

X-Pyr Event

Mountain Project

Reporting out on my summer of heat training

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

my private trail network, Location Undisclosed

On April 20th I took my first shirtless run of the season. On May 2nd I told my IG followers that I was going to undertake purposeful heat training for the summer. On September 18th I next wore a shirt on a training run. 

This was a hot summer. I clocked over thirty runs at temperatures exceeding 95F - ten in a row over 100F. Adding to the heat was the impenetrable smoke which forced me to wear a ventilator on runs through all of August and part of September. The ventilator, much as it did an excellent job of filtering the smoke, also acted as a hypoxia-inducing mechanism by limiting the in-flow of oxygen as I went.

I'll back up and also confess: I have historically loathed the heat often telling friends and clients I'd rather be hypothermic than even a little warm. However, after choosing the Methow Valley as home, I had to befriend the heat if I intended to keep running - and I intend to keep running. 

So back in May I suspended my loathing of the heat long enough to devise a loose program of heat acclimation intended to increase my tolerance. As I researched how to acclimate to heat, I found a litany of other benefits of heat training: increased tolerance of cold, increased VO2Max in hot and cold conditions, and training adaptations similar to those I have experienced at altitude. The mechanism for all these useful changes? Increased plasma volume (a la pregnant blood doping!). 

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

smoky run, Cutthroat Pass

For the month of May, I purposefully waited until the hottest part of the day (which was around mid-eighties) to do my runs two days a week. On those days, I took it easy but made myself keep running in what felt like sweltering heat for at least ninety minutes. On those runs I was sure not only to refuel but to rehydrate and to pay attention to my micronutrient intake as well. As May's temps ratcheted up in June, I felt more comfortable running in the heat already. During the month of June I tacked on to the end of every hot run an ice bath in whatever creek or river was nearby. I also began to do a hot epsom bath after one run-ice bath combo per week.

Beginning in the end of June and early July, my body started performing really well in the heat. I still took my hardest and longest runs at higher elevations and at cooler times of the day but by that point in the summer I was running four or five days a week in temperatures exceeding 90F. After every run beginning in mid-July I did a full-body ice bath in the Chewuch River or Deer Lake.

At the end of July the Diamond Creek Fire flared up a few miles from home dumping an obscene amount of smoke into my little river valley so I began to wear a ventilator (read more on running in wildfire country). Not one to complain about challenging conditions I chose to view my ventilator as yet another cardiac challenge to my strengthening system. Through all of August I ran at least four of my runs per week in the ventilator in temperatures over 95F - and damn did some of those runs feel tough.

As the heat persisted through the first weeks of September I began to feel markedly more at ease in the triple-digits. I found myself looking forward to runs on hot days and even found myself not feeling overheated on my last hot hot run on September 14th.

Now, as the cold rolls in and the ground I now run on is covered with snow, I feel more well-adapted to running in freezing, damp temperatures, too. My body feels like it is using much less energy than in past seasons keeping me warm despite being vastly leaner this autumn versus years past. And dammit if I'm not pining for those sultry runs in the smoke with Moose.

So after four months of shirt-free, sweat-heavy, hot AF runs I'm pleased to announce: I loved it! Truly. After a lifetime of not performing well in the heat I now miss my hot 4pm runs on sun-exposed dusty trail. I'm also performing better in the cold this autumn AND feel my overall cardiac capacity increased. Now let's see how that heat training translates to high altitude movement - I'll keep you posted.

 

read more:

how to run in wildfire country

heat training while pregnant

"Run like a geek"

credit David Moskowitz

credit David Moskowitz

When I was training for my first mountain ultra in 2010, I called up a reputable physical therapist in Seattle and asked him to analyze my running gait. Once he learned I was not currently injured, he laughed and told me he doesn’t work with uninjured athletes. After conducting a gait analysis on myself, I went on to run twenty-five ultras without overuse injury so I knew I was on to something.

This PT’s philosophy seems rather convenient: don’t help the athlete until the situation is one of dire dependence on the services requested then charge out the nose for bi-weekly appointments for the rest of eternity. I decided to operate my business a little differently. By offering pre-injury or post-rehab gait analysis sessions to athletes who run, I will save you a mint spent at the physical therapist’s or orthopedist’s office and keep you moving on your favorite trails - pain-free. Running, even ultra distances, does not have to devolve into bodily entropy.

As spring fills us to overflowing with vim and vigor, now is the best time of the year to review the basic mechanics of your motionA recent study of novice runners found that gait retraining was effective in preventing some common types of tendonitis - the same kinds of nagging injuries that will dog an untrained runner for years upon years.

So, as I like to tell my clients when we have the joy of running together in person, “run like a geek”. During our two sessions on the trail of your choice, in either an Issaquah Alps or Methow Valley location, I’ll teach you the finer points of stacking your spine like a cairn, proper alignment of hips to knees to toes, sex-specific anatomy relevant to the running motion, and we’ll create for you the most efficient gait possible.

I have three slots left this spring for gait work and they’re going fast - another just filled this morning! Five miles or fifty, every runner benefits from proper gait. To claim your spot click below or share this email with another friend who would like to remain uninjured this running season. 

The magick bodywork trifecta

Alex Sollek at work on an athlete

MASSAGE ACUPUNCTURE CHIROPRACTIC

back in 2010 I was introduced to the concept of treating my body like an athlete does. this spelled the end of late nights drinking beers after lazy gym sessions and marked the beginning of daily doubles beginning with ten-pitch 6am sessions or early runs on the mountain. with this significant lifestyle shift came the need for supportive self-care practices to prevent illness and injury.

I've enjoyed receiving acupuncture since 2002 but didn't have much experience with chiropractic and massage. I thought massage was overly self-indulgent and initially braced against the violent cracking of traditional chiropractic treatments. over the last six years I've developed an optimal bodywork trifecta.

whether you have time for treatment weekly, monthly, or can only spare a quarterly tune up I highly recommend mountain athletes use bodywork in the recovery and training processes. for readers in the Seattle area, I've included below a list of my favorite bodyworkers to get you started. 

in wholeness.

MN

Bodywork resources in Seattle:

Massage and Acutonics: Nectar Massage

Acupuncture and Natural Medicine: New Leaf Natural Medicine

Community Acupuncture: Pincushion

Eat well: nutrition strategies for endurance

harvesting grouse, Okanogan Highlands, 2016, cr. Ashley Feerer

One of the most common questions I get is: "How do I eat properly during my next event?" The answer begins long before event day.

Fueling for endurance is scientific and it is an artful practice in self-knowledge.

Food resistances and allergies: As a starting point, the athlete must be aware of any dietary restrictions she might have. Severe resistances and allergies can result in low hemoglobin or severe gut irritation - both chronic issues that can stifle the growth of an endurance animal.

Self-knowledge: Given your values, where you live, and what you crave your diet may look very different from my diet. For example, I have a close friend living in California and when we run together she packs a nutrient-dense vegetable juice flask while I tote venison sausage and sheep cheese. There are as many ways to accomplish nutritional solvency as there are individual people.

working hard to eat well, Aconcagua, 2012 cr. Chad Kellogg

Before: As the athlete prepares for an event, it is her job to learn to fuel on the move during training sessions as simulation for the event of choice. Additionally, the months (or years) pre-event are well-suited to lavish self care in the form of optimized post-run or -climb or -ski refueling. Arriving on event day over fueled and under trained is preferrable to the inverse - which may result in ketosis or musculoskeletal injury.

During: While in motion, the fuel must continue. Based on an intimate understanding of the specific athlete's anaerobic threshold, VO2Max, pace, heart rate, and preferences nutrition is programmed specifically for the training session or event in question. This balance of carbohydrates, fat, protein, aminos, sodium, and a plethora of other values varies from day to day and event to event even for a single athlete. During our coaching engagement, we can determine the best food for you to consume throughout your endurance practice's lifecycle.

picking a sweet one off a tree in my yard-orchard, Methow Valley, 2016

After: Post-exertion nutrition is perhaps the most important (and the simplest) aspect of endurance-specific nutrition. There are two windows during which the athlete's worked body is most receptive to nutrient replenishment - and the consequences for ignoring those windows will make themselves apparent on your next sluggish run or ride. Our coaching engagement will provide you with the concrete calorie ratios and time windows for refueling post-event.

But what do you eat, Brittany? A lot of people in my community ask this. I am Celiac and prefer to keep my dairy consumption minimal. My family and I hunt much of our own food; when we shop for the rest we choose local and organic every time. My daily staples this season are oats, seasonal fruit (chomping an apple from my tree right now), fresh-ground nut butters, homemade breads, venison, grouse, salmon, trout, root vegetables, squashes, warming cardomom chai tea, stout greens, high-quality walnut oils, homemade bone broths, and a lot of fermented delicacies. I drink no alcohol and rarely consume added sugars. However, I'm known to splash a generous amount of apple cider vinegar into whatever fizzy thing is in my glass. 

Beyond the dogma (and the fads): You may have tried a restrictive diet, one that uses no evidence nor specific knowledge of your body to tell you what foods are 'off limits'. This is at best ineffective and at worst can manifest a latent eating disorder. If a climbing partner or trainer espouses the bounds of a diet that sound more like a game of Risk than a delicious menu, it is best to steer clear.

 

Using my evidence-based approach to training, performing, and recovering with sound nutritional content and timing, you will improve your performance and decrease susceptibility to illness or fatigue. Click below to sign up for nutrition-specific coaching - and stay tuned for more on this deep topic including words about supplementation, plant-based diets, and guest posts from some smarty-pants nutritionists.

Six steps to run comfortably in the rain

AUTUMN IN THE NORTHWEST IS A SHOULDER SEASON FOR THE ALPINIST: THE HIGH DESERT IS WET, THE ICE ISN'T IN, AND IT HASN'T SNOWED YET. 

THE FOREST IS ALIVE WITH MOVEMENT AND COLOR THIS TIME OF YEAR: 

SEASONAL CREEKS FLOW BACK TO LIFE AFTER A SUMMER ASLEEP.

MUD RUNS HEARTILY DOWN THE TRAIL AND SPLATTERS UP THE LEGS. 

RAINDROPS MAKE THE FERNS DANCE. 

WORMS DROWN IN PUDDLES.

AS FALL'S COLORS RETURN TO THE EARTH, THE BRIGHT LEAVES COAT THE BLACKENING GROUND WITH A THICK PATINA OF BROWNS, YELLOWS, AND REDS. 

 

HERE ARE A FEW IDEAS TO HELP YOU GET OUT TO PLAY IN THE WETNESS.
 

Logistics: You've eccentrically loaded your legs all summer in the high country, now is not the time to test the limits of your speed. Instead, use the wet days to build hearty strength. In your gait, focus on keeping centered over your feet. Be sure to choose a route that allows you to keep running the entire time with little if no walking or stopping. Especially if it is windy and rainy, hypothermia sets in fast. 

Wear: The chilly air might make you want to cover up, but all those layers will turn into vehicles of damp against your skin. Down to about 45F, wear as little as possible (tee and shorts). A baseball cap will keep the water from lashing your eyes. Between 45F and freezing, or if it is also windy, add thigh coverage and a shell. Though even GoreTex will not keep you dry in a typical downpour, it will cut the wind and trap a bit of heat near the body. Run with just a hand bottle as most packs will absorb water turning them into heavy sponges squeezing down your butt.

So above: With the load of precipitation, boughs and brush bend to greet you. Give them a high five as you pass - and mind your head. With the first storms of the season, the summer's rot and rootless snags will fall. Beware the cracking of a falling birch or a dart-like branch plunging from above.

And below: Even a trail you know well will change considerably in the mud and saturation. Trail-shaped rivers take the place of the hard-packed conglomerate ribbons of summer. Mind puddles you can't see the bottom of.

Animals: Your furry mountain neighbors can't hear you or smell you coming as acutely in a  storm as on a still day. Scan the saturated earth for their sign, sniff for their dank fur smells, and watch for their little rumps up ahead. Make a bit of noise so you don't scare them.

After the run: To prevent the cold from sinking too deeply into your core (read: quads) change immediately out of your wet clothes into something layered and cozy. Remember your post-run snack. Once home, try downing some hot liquid in the form of bone broth or chai tea to restore circulation and promote the healing process. For the ultimate in post-run luxury indulge in full-body contrast therapy.

Enjoy: Gulp in the dank air, savor the mist rising off a sun-heated wet leaf, watch the branches dance in the chaos of the storm. Embrace the incongruity of padding through cold puddles; cover yourself in mud. Relax into the wet and remember: humans are waterproof. 


"Did I just run or swim?" Who cares, it was fun!

 

reblogged from oct 2013