Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Nice abs. Do you do core?

If you are looking for training advice, the Internet is full of very confident people advocating very concrete answers on anything you'd like to know.  If there is a certain bent to your thinking, you'll be able to confirm it by looking it the right place.  Stretching?  Diet?  Training intensity?  Good luck!  Always be wary when the advice is tied to a product or service for sale. Perhaps we could even start a new fad diet.... All you need is one snickers bar per day, First Endurance EFS during training, and as much coffee as you'd like.  I swear it works and I can send you the details for only $19.99!
Eat Snickers and go FAST!
One of the more contentious topics out there is the need for athletes to spend time focused on core work.  Time is in almost always a limiting factor for most triathletes, so it makes sense to cut back on everything but the basics.  Swim/Bike/Run a lot if you want to go faster.  Your body will adapt to the training and it will be ready to perform on race day if you just give it a bit of rest...  Your core is engaged during everything you do so why spend more time?

Like most things in life, your core isn't an issue until it becomes one.  Improper movement patterns and instability are major culprits in creating injuries and having a solid core can remedy that.  Do you have lower back issues from being hunched over the bike or have knee problems from bad run form? Many athletes lose efficiency when they fatigue and can't figure out why they can't keep the pace... A solid core may not be the answer, but it could be!  If you've showed up to a race with an injury, you know that all that training really didn't work when it counted!

I'm not going to delve into the specifics of training or even advocate for the need for core training.  I personally do it and believe it is valuable, but in reality most people can improve their performance by paying attention to what you're doing when you NOT doing their core training.  If you spend 30 minutes with intense focus on creating perfect abs then spend 8 hours with poor posture, I have a feeling you're not going to see the benefit.  If you have laser focus on your core during specified times but then go for a run with sloppy form and poor posture, you have wasted any time you spent in that plank position.

Here are my recommendations:  Get a bike fit and learn how to ride with good form and proper ergonomics.  Thank you to Dave Luscan for helping me with this.  Learn how to swim correctly and for god's sake keep your head down.  Pay attention to how you are running and have someone take a look at your stride.  A good book is 'The Running Revolution' for you to develop some idea of what you should be doing.  If you are checking all of the technique boxes and using the correct muscles to move you through the various sports, then you can go ahead and spend some time really focusing on developing those beautiful abs.

In closing, major improvements and injury prevention can be accomplished simply by being aware of  your body during the day...  In reality, you can say you should be working on your core every waking hour of the day!

Happy Training!

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