One of the things I love about triathlon is that you can be constantly learning new things and techniques. The sport is relatively young and very complex, so it provides for a wealth of new discoveries. I love taking new techniques, trying them out and putting them to the test. Every once-in-a-while you pick up a little “nugget” that really makes a huge difference. One past example for me was when I discovered Chirunning, which took me from struggling to run 3 miles to efficiently running 6-7 over a very short time period. I still utilize these techniques and they have forever changed my performance for the positive.
Well, yesterday I think stumbled upon another one. I know that strength training is import, but I struggle every year to maintain a consistent program through the season. I had the gym that I go to create a program for me for triathlon, which consistent of a few functional movement exercises and a bunch of traditional “body building” style muscle isolation exercises . While the functional movements were a nice addition, there was no explanation what they did or why I should do them. As I move through other isolation-style exercises(ie. db chest press, cable rows, leg extensions, cable curls and pushdowns), I struggled in my head to understand how they apply. I knew there has to be somthing better.
Sometime last year I stumbled upon a workshop in November called the “Ultimate Off-Season Strength Training Workshop” by Todd Wiley and Fernando Paredes in nearby Doylestown, PA. I thought this may be the perfect thing I need to get on track in the off-season. Unfortunately the workshop was rescheduled for January 10th, so I struggled along with my previous workout until the date finally arrived.
On January 10th I drove down to the Fusion Fitness Studio near Doylestown, bright and early to attend the full day seminar. I met Todd and Fernando when I arrived. The “gym” or studio was quite different than I expected. There were no racks of free weights and dumbells lining the walls. Instead there were lots of bands, a large tractor tire, and a few cable-type machines I had never seen before. I was the first to arrive and eventually others sauntered in before we started.
Todd Wiley, who is a former pro triathlete and currently well-known coach, gave some of his background and explained how Fernando’s techniques had basically revived his worn-out body after 25 years of training. He had basically given up training until going through this program. Fernando took over and went on to explain the theory behind what he does and why it works. He used great analogies too, to really help you understand the concepts. I was all ears. I instantly knew this was that different program what I was looking for.
One of the example Fernando used that really hit home was when he asked, “Would you use a football, golf, basketball or body-building strength training program for Triathlon?” Obviously we all replied “No”, but he pointed out that we were doing just that. Hmmm? He also went on to explain that we need to train the body as a full system how everything is connected. Therefore we need to train it that way. He stated that by making our body more efficient, we could than perform at the maximum performance we are all capable of. It all made a lot of sense.
We then moved on to each of us(about 20-25 of us) performing 3 parts of a Functional Movement Screening(FMS) test. The tests consisted of a deep squat while holding a bar above our head, holding our arms out and pulling each arm behind our backs and measuring the distance between our hands, and lying on our backs raising each leg individually up as far as we could. These three tests would be rated on a scale of 1-3, 3 being good, to indicate where are muscular deficiencies and imbalances were. The first step is to correct these items so that the rest of the body did not need to compensate. As I figured, my shoulders were my biggest imbalance(L-1,R-2) due to my past injuries. My hips also showed up as weak(1’s) which is also affected by the shoulder issues.
Different stages of a lunge push-up with bands
Next, Fernando split us up into groups based on how we scored on the test. Each group had a different corrective exercise to do to resolve their weak area. The shoulder group were also given the hip exercises to do since they related. These basic looking exercises were actually quite challenging to do when done correctly. Fernando explained that by doing these each day we can correct our weakness and imbalances and bring the whole body into a more harmonious system.
The remainder of the morning we moved on to his core Restoration & Fitness routines for overall body strength. These are the typical routines you would do a few times a week as your strength training all season long. Fernando also pointed out that the word “core”, that seems to be thrown around quite profusely these days, is more than just your abdominal area. It is your whole upper torso or upper core and your legs or lower core too. It is all one big connected system. The exercises we did were so atypical from the traditional strength exercises we normally do. There was a lot of band and plain body only style movements. An open mind is surely required for those old-school weightlifters. But, I could tell that this stuff is effective by how it involved many different parts of your body and also your brain too. It is a very “Whole-istic” program. I also found myself thinking that all of this stuff can easily be done in the comfort of my own my home and I could probably save a few dollars on the gym membership. We were even given set of bands to take home as part of the workshop.
Bosu ball Push-up with broomstick to maintain proper spinal alignment
After a lunch break, we went through some of the more advanced “Performance” routines that we could eventually progress to over time. Todd then spoke about bringing it all together and implementing this in with our overall triathlon training program and some other assorted tips.
Todd performs Leg Curl on the Ball
Todd performs Leg Curl on the Ball
Dr. John K Marino, a certified sports physician and Ironman, and his assistant Nikky spoke for a bit on injury prevention using foam rollers and lacrosse balls, which I personally do fairly regularly. He kind of lost me though when he dismissed Chirunning over Pose and other running programs, because it was too “out there” and “up on the toes.” It was pretty obvious he was not very familiar with Chirunning since it heavily stresses a midfoot strike and not being “up on the toes” as he stated. But whatever, not everyone can know everything about everything.
Derek performs Pull-up on TRX straps while Fernando assists
Finally, we wrapped up with a highly motivational and tear-jerking story by Derek Fitzgerald. If you haven’t heard of Derek, he had battled and survived cancer, suffered from extreme heart-failure, actually dying twice, received a new heart transplant and ended finishing Ironman Lake Placid 2013 only two years later. It is an amazing story. I had heard about him myself right after I had completed my first Ironman Lake Placid that same year. Derek, with the help of Fernando, has basically rebuilt his body from all the surgies and entrophy he had undertaken and is now a endurance machine that fully honors that person who donated their heart to him. He also has a plethora of endurance events planned for this year culminating in a bike across the USA, from LA to Atlantic City, to raise awareness of Cancer and Heart Disease. Check out his website at http://www.recycledman.com for more details and how to help him out.
After a quick Q&A session we wrapped up the workshop promptly at 5:30pm. It was a long day, but I felt I had a full toolbox to take with me. I think that these routines, done on a consistent basis, will give me a little more to eeke out some more performance improvements in my racing. Anything that will get me closer to that sub 12 hour Ironman I am all in. So, I hope to start implementing this immediately and I will try to touch on any improvement I see in my weekly updates heading to Ironman Coueur d’Alene. I will also be attending a Toddy Wiley Lake Placid camp this year which I think Ferndando will also be participating in too. So hopefully we will get some more information as we go.
If you are interested please check out Fernandos’ website at http://fusionfitnessandperformance.com
Thanks for reading!