When Dehydration Becomes a Limiting Factor for Performance

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When Is Dehydration a Limiting Factor for Performance?

Contributor: Matt Dixon     Category: Training

Within training and competition, dehydration becomes a performance limiter once you hit about a 4% level of dehydration.  This refers to fluid loss as a percentage of your body weight. For example, if a person weighs 100 lbs and is 4% dehydrated, they have lost 4 lbs of fluid. Away from a scale, this can only be estimated but we know this is where performance detriments occur. Prior to this level, it is not really a factor, so most athletes can drink to thirst, unless great heat and humidity are a factor.  In longer events, then it truly can become a massive factor.  Let’s use my sport of triathlon as an example to explain the key behind managing hydration.  

An IRONMAN event takes at least 8 hours, and often occurs in higher temperatures.  This makes hydration important.  The key behind this is realizing that most of it is related to our volume of blood in the body.  Of course, our body is a ‘closed’ system, with between 5 and 6.5 liters of blood circulating to the muscles to deliver oxygen, to the skin to dissipate heat generated by work, and to the GI (Gastrointestinal) system to help absorb calories.  As an athlete becomes dehydrated, the blood volume drops, as the fluid loss creates declining plasma volume (the clear portion of our blood).  This drop in blood volume creates competition between the muscle and skin, as we try to maintain output, but also need to get rid of the heat we generate.  With less blood to go around, the competition increases.  It is worth realizing that the skin will always win, as heat can be an organ killer!  This means there is less blood going to the muscles to allow us to maintain pace, and an increase in the perception of fatigue.

It creeps up on an athlete, but if an IRONMAN athlete forgets to hydrate well on the bike, the ensuing marathon can become a real slog.

To prevent dehydration, follow these tips daily:

  • Drink 1-2 glasses of water with each meal
  • Rehydrate post exercise with a glass of water (add a pinch of salt and a squeeze of citrus for optimal results)
  • Drink to thirst (and listen to the mechanism) in most training. For extended duration or intense training you will need a proper hydration plan.



How To Cope With Stress: A Dynamic Approach to Training

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How To Cope With Stress: A Dynamic Approach to Training

Contributor: Matt Dixon     Category: Training

We need to remember that our training is a STRESS in itself.  Most of us lead big lives, with many stressors, and our overall goal of training is to maximize our training load while delivering positive adaptations.  This means we must be in tune with the ebb and flow of life stressors, and adapt our training load relative to life.  We cannot expect to simply dump a training program, full of highly specific training stress, on a life already at capacity with stress.

A good way to think of stress is as ‘global hormonal load’.  All of the following factors increase the load on us systematically:

  • A lack of sleep quantity or quality
  • Poor nutritional platform (quality or quantity)
  • A lack of post training refueling
  • Stress from work
  • Stress from family and relationships
  • Travel stress

And many more.  While we want to optimize our hard work, we must have a dynamic approach to our training to ensure we can yield the results of our own hard work in training.



Introduction To Integrated Recovery

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Introduction To Integrated Recovery

Contributor: Matt Dixon    Category: Training

The first thing to realize about recovery is that properly integrated recovery is about much more than simply taking a day of rest.  We can break recovery into three main areas:

  1. Training Recovery;
  2. Lifestyle Recovery;
  3. Modalities.

1. Training recovery includes seasonal breaks. These include:

  • Complete days of rest;
  • Multiple days of easy training in a row to allow rejuvenation;
  • Weekly lower stress sessions that help us recover from, and prepare for, the all important KEY sessions.

It is important for runners to embrace the lower stress sessions as a part of the program, and it takes real courage to embrace this.  Too many make the light sessions too hard.

2. Lifestyle recovery cannot be separated from the program.  We have to include some focus on:

  • Sleep;
  • Fueling immediately following the workouts;
  • A platform of healthy eating;
  • A chance to nap / meditate if possible.

We tie this into the program, but without proper sleep and fueling, any great training program cannot be optimized.

3. Recovery modalities, which include:

  • Massage / Manual work;
  • Compression socks;
  • Foam Roller / Trigger Point;
  • Heat or Ice therapy.

In other words, everything you can buy!  For me, these are pure afterthoughts, relative to the critical need to create positive habits around the training plan and the lifestyle recovery.  These only become truly productive on a bedrock of good general habits.


Post-Race Recovery Training

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Post-Race Recovery Training

Contributor: Matt Dixon     Category: Training

NOTE:  I don’t believe in a ‘foundational phase’.  That is old-school and bunk.  Not the best way to approach building the runner…

Yes, we, at Purple Patch Fitness, do lower stress running, but we don’t do classic ALL LOW stress easy endurance running.

In truth, the key component of early season training has more than one role.  We think of the ‘post season’ as the block of training that represents the very start of training for the following season.  Typically, this is following the last race of the previous season, as well as a two to three week break from all structure of training.  In this ‘post season’ phase there are several key focus points:

  • Low emotional stress:  This part of season should not be overly demanding emotionally, and should allow for plenty of capacity to focus on other areas of life.
  • Low physical load:  It is a phase of preparation, so the training load should be low.  I ask athletes to consider this phase as a period that allows you to work hard in the upcoming training, so we are careful to keep overall stress lower here.
  • Biomechanics:  When physical and emotional stress is low, it is a perfect time to evolve and improve your posture and mechanics.  Now is the time to create great habits.
  • Muscular readiness:  We keep training light, but consistent, and aim to ready the muscles, connective tissue and ligaments for harder training in the subsequent blocks.
  • Strength and synchronization:  This is also a time with the greatest emphasis on strength and conditioning, as well as neurological type conditioning exercises to help improve recruitment and overall athleticism.

It should be noted that any any general fitness gains experience here will be gradual and a nice byproduct.  The real endurance, resilience and fitness arrives out of the next block of real endurance focused training following the post season phase.

See Matt’s article “The Secrets to a Successful Training Program” for more information on the other phase of a training program.




The Secret to a Successful Training Program

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The Secret to a Successful Training Program

Contributor: Matt Dixon     Category: Training

The key components to any endurance athletes success in a training program include these four elements:

  1. Consistency;
  2. Progression;
  3. Specificity;
  4. Patience.

Bump into any success story, at any level, and these key components typically bubble up into the discussion of ‘how they did it’.  This is the backbone of why all athletes should employ some form of ‘periodization’ into their training.  You cannot expect an evolution of performance if you simply repeat the same thing over and over again, without a shift in stimuli and load, so it is time for fitness enthusiasts up to elite athletes to embrace the main concepts of periodization.

At purplepatch, we tend to break a seasonal progression into four main phases, which layer onto the back of the previous, and build a ‘season of performance’.  We globally talk to athletes about: Build the physiology, then train for the specifics of your race.

You can utilize a similar mindset, even if the goal is simply recreational fitness and improvements, as it is the best way to achieve results.  Our four phases progress as:

1. Post season

This is a period of recuperation and lighter stress, which is critical for consistency on an ongoing basis, but also important for development.  All the focus here should be focused on form/biomechanics improvements and low-stress training that is designed to gradually strengthen tissue, ligaments and muscles to prepare the body for harder work coming soon. For more on this phase, see Matt’s article “Post Race Recovery Training”

2. Pre season

We think of this as resilience development.  A progression of load to ‘real training’, but you are ready to because of the preparatory work done in post season.  Plenty of strength-based work and endurance in this phase.

3. Power

As early season racing begins for the athlete, we tend to aim to sharpen up with some more sustained speed and power type training.  This tends to be a shorter phase, but with a high speed focus in the key sessions.  This means the remaining sessions are very low stress and intensity, to enable best performance when it counts.

4. Race specific

Taking up at least 50% of the calendar year, this phase is all about training you for the specific demands of your key races.  The key sessions are specific to race intensity and preparation.  Of course, if you are not racing, we have a wide range of options to hit here, but some interval work will always be present to continue development and improvements.