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Principles of Training

Robert (Bob) Gurney, PhD

Are you searching for training programs for a specific sport or for good practices of staying fit? If you search on the internet you will be overwhelmed at the amount of information and plans developed by people that claim to be experts (but are not) and those that are accredited experts with recognized certifications to support their expertise. So let’s keep it simple and start with the foundations of training principles and then let us know if we can help you apply them to sport or fitness specifics. The principles of training in this article include: specificity, overload, overtraining and the taper.

Specificity refers to the training be devised to ‘train’ those muscles and systems of the body that require the demands of the sport or activity you wish to engage in. In other words, all the movements and system needs of the sport need to be trained for optimal performance.

Overload is the principle that addresses the need to train above stimulus threshold (a stimulus or activity strong enough to elicit a response of ‘tough to do’ but no pain). This will facilitate the development of chronic training adaptations. The nature of the overload principle follows the ‘FITT’ formula: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type. Frequency refers to training 3 to 5 times per week; Intensity refers to monitoring your heart or pulse rate (see training heart rates guides or use the following formula: 220 – age = estimated max Heart Rate. Starting a training program for the first time should elicit a Heart Rate of 60% to 70% of estimated max Heart Rate …. Slowly progress over time to working in the 75% to 85% zone; if you are swimming use 205 – age = estimated max heart rate … this adjustment is linked to the buoyancy factor of the water). Time or duration refers to specific activities (for example aerobic training sessions should be at least 30 to 60 minutes of continuous work in your training heart rate zone), Type is the mode or type of activity (walking, running, cycling, swimming, weight lifting, etc … what do you like to do?)

Overtraining is associated with overload in terms of – you don’t want to overstress yourself, meaning doing too much training above your limitations and without sufficient rest intervals. In other words, overtraining is noticed when the training causes excess overload and the body is unable to adapt, which tends to result in decreased physical activity performance.

Taper refers to a period of reduced training weeks before a competition. You will need to experiment with this one as it varies among individuals. If you are a swimmer, a cyclist or a runner, the taper does not decrease your conditioning … it has been proven to increase muscle power, psychological state and performance.

For more specific applications of training principles to various body systems (Cardio-respiratory, muscle strength, muscle endurance, flexibility, power …) contact us with your specific questions of interest.

Note: it is strongly recommended that you consult with your family Physician and discuss your training plans, before commencing your training plan.

Author: Bob Gurney


You can connect with me on Linkedin – Robert (Bob) Gurney


Top 10 Training Tips to Run Faster

By Calvin Zaryski MKin

A long-term approach for the aging athlete to run faster than ever before.

I have been running competitively since the tender age of twelve. I recall participating at the Edmonton Journal Indoor Tack and Field Games in elementary school. In those days, simply playing soccer and kick-the-can most evenings was enough training to run better than my friends. But with age no longer on my side, my training has become very strategic, with every month, week, and run having a purpose. Here are my top-ten training tips to running fast this season.

1. Never get out of shape or gain too much weight in the winter season

Maintain a basic level of fitness, and never take more than two weeks off from activity unless completely necessary due to illness or injury. Weight gain is typically a symptom of inactivity, creating even more of a struggle to feel fit and strong again. Running all year round keeps the weight off and fitness level satisfactory. I recommend running long (ninety minutes to two hours) once per month all year round. When you are not fit, run slower or even walk/run, but keep moving for a minimum of ninety minutes.

2. Snowshoe or cross-country ski in the winter

These two activities are your secret weapons to maintaining good winter endurance, great cardiovascular fitness, and outstanding structural strength and balance. Minimal ground impact forces allow for longer training sessions. Add weight to your pack or ankles near the end of your winter season to keep the body challenged. Choose destinations that involve vertical gain of at least one thousand feet per hour of travel. This choice keeps the heart rate moderately high and strengthens your legs on the downhill.

3. Cross-train all year

During the initial base-building phase of your running, which primarily strengthens your structural constitution, cross-training can be used to challenge the cardiovascular system while minimizing the chance of injury. Try some harder bike intervals pushing your heart rate near maximum for short periods. During the intense phase of your running program, cross-training can serve as your active recovery. Cross training can be in the form of cycling, swimming, deep-water running, and rowing (all non-weight-bearing activities). I personally believe that swimming after long runs is the secret to minimizing injuries (and, no, the hot tub does not count).

4. Speed and conditioning within intervals

Before transitioning to more intense running, add conditioning activities within a run circuit. The best environment is a grass park loop or track providing an opportunity to add in abs, lower back, hip stabilizer, and upper-body strengthening exercises. After the conditioning exercises, try to maintain good form and learn to relax while running. To advance further, add in some power exercises such as burpees, vertical or horizontal jumps, V sit-ups, push-ups with a clap, or bounding up stairs.

5. Longer and hill intervals to peak

Hard running intervals are necessary to reach peak form. The intervals should start near ninety seconds in time and move up toward six minutes. To reduce the chance of soft-tissue complications but maximize cardiovascular strain, running hill intervals is the best choice. Make sure you build up in total interval work time from nine minutes (six at ninety seconds) to a maximum of twenty-four minutes (four at six minutes) and take enough rest to keep the intensity high. Run easy or walk the downhill section to reach your next repeat start point.

6. Learn to hurt (run stairs)

Running up and down stairs for up to an hour builds muscular strength and massive fitness. It trains not only your body but also your mental toughness. Optimally, the number of stairs should be enough to keep you climbing for at least one minute  and up to ninety seconds! The pain easily can exceed the discomfort experienced in your race. You can even add a backpack or weight vest to further push the mind and body!  Make sure you have done all the necessary training listed above before attempting this form of peak training. You need to be fit to attempt this critical but stressful form of preparation.

7. Trail run for strength and leg speed

Off-road running naturally forces you to increase leg speed on the downhill and develop leg strength on the uphill. Trail running keeps the mind busy, resulting in happier, longer runs. Developing foot-eye coordination allows for smoother running avoiding small hazards.

8. Warm up and cool down to avoid injuries

So often we skip the warm-up or cool-down of your run sessions. Both can incorporate walking or even some form of cross-training. But you must allow the body enough time to increase its core temperature, lubricate the working joints, and allow for all the energy systems to ease into faster running. The cool-down should allow the body to slowly drop back to near normal functioning and body temperature.

9. Train with a group and hire a coach

Often, the necessary harder workouts require discipline to get out the door, start the workout, and even complete the workout. Even the most disciplined athletes need a social environment to maintain consistency and keep the running quality optimal. Hiring a coach can also motivate and challenge your running. Just being accountable to your coach can be enough to create that break-through performance.

10. Get light!

Running requires the lightest body with the largest engine to succeed. If you want to reduce the chance of injury and run like the wind, you need to be light and healthy. Weight loss comes from a reduction of body fat achieved primarily through nutritional modification. Nutritional change can be the hardest part in running fast.

We all need to remain healthy in our quest to develop great fitness. Proper nutrition and regular body care is fundamental. Decide on your key race, and then organize your life to be at your best on race day. There should be no “should haves” or “wish I did” after the race outcome. If you maintain even some of these ten tips, you’ll blow the socks off your old finish times and possibly the younger runners in the race.

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP


Ultra Endurance: Is it for you?

by Cal Zaryski

Current trends in endurance participation have drifted towards longer athletic events. Some events have stood the test of time such as the 90km Comrades ultra endurance running race founded in 1925 while others have increased in availability and popularity such as Ironman triathlons. Furthermore, new events have been created to appeal to those athletes who still seek longer more grueling pastimes such as Adventure Racing, 3000 mile RAAM cycling race, multistage events (Marathon Des Sables) and Ultraman Triathlons.

Defining Ultra Endurance

Some investigators identify the term “ultra endurance” as greater than 4 hours (Hawley and Hopkins, 1995; Kreider RB, 1991). However, a definition of ultra endurance could be based on physiological or psychological reasoning. For example, the 26.2 mile marathon is an event that is completed on average near 4 hours and has become popular in their association with fund raising and societies. Physiologically the marathon can be labeled as ultra endurance, but relative to the vast number of events that exceed this duration, a marathon may be classified simply as a long distance event. For the purpose of this article, ultra endurance events are those that are greater than 6 hours. The longer events have more reliance on adequate exercise management and long term preparation, optimal rate of movement, sufficient nutritional needs accommodating environmental stressors and psychological toughness. Generally, the longer the event, the more important preparation becomes in successfully finishing with functional health.

Training Principles

The training required for ultra-endurance events is no different from other sports with respect to underlying principles – successive stresses must be applied to the body over time in order to provide a stimulus to initiate an adaptation so that subsequent training or performance is accomplished at a higher absolute intensity or for a longer period of time. The transformation from an endurance athlete to an ultra endurance athlete takes time and patience. Countless hours of training need to be accumulated safely without sacrificing structural health. Incorporation of long single session training bouts and successive training days need to be apart of an athletes’ plan. It may not be necessary to accomplish the entire distance nor duration in training. But rather, up to 80 percent or segmented training bouts adding up to the events distances. Cross training to accumulate training hours maybe used to simulate longer training sessions particularly for runners and high impact activities.


Successful ultra-endurance performance is characterized by the ability to sustain a higher absolute speed for a given distance than other competitors. Although ultra-endurance training and competition may be viewed as a physical challenge, the athlete should be considered as a living psycho-social-physiological system (Kenttä et al. 1998). This holistic approach can be expanded into five areas that when combined culminate in an integrated view of performance. The five components are physiology, biomechanics, psychology, tactics and health/life-style. All these components need to be functioning at a near optimal levels in order to achieve a successful performance or for the maximization of the training adaptation. Generally most ultra athletes have an unique quality that allows them to make tremendous sacrifices, focus on the immediate task, tolerate extreme levels of numbing discomfort and maintain mental health during the training, race and post race.

For the ultra-endurance athlete, the following principles may be considered critical to success:

  1. The principle of all-around development – this principle suggest the need for an underlying general athletic ability that is supported by a strong psychological platform and technical ability in the various activities an athlete engages in. Within the training process, overcoming training and competition stresses promotes will-power, self-confidence, and tolerance for higher training and competition demands (Schmolinsky 1996). For example, an ultra runner might engage in cross country ski racing in the winter months to strengthen their soft tissue and maintain cardiovascular fitness.
  2. The principle of over-load – this over-loading principle addresses the concept of progressively increasing the training load and volume of physical work such that after a recovery period, an over-compensation and improved fitness is achieved through the correct sequencing of training over-load. Thus an athlete will be able to compete or train at an improved absolute intensity. Stacking two or three long training days in a row of either the same activity or a different activity is an example of over-loading for an ultra endurance athlete.
  3. The principle of specificity – for the ultra-endurance athlete, this principle is fundamental to success. The principle emphasizes the need for practice under similar conditions to those of competition. It recognizes that specific exercises and skills are required to compete efficiently and effectively in an event.
  4. The principle of individualization – it is recognized that athletes will react and adapt differently and over individual time-frames even when presented with identical training regimes (Norris et al. 2002). On a continuum, there are two broad categories of athletes – those who are genetically talented and at the other end of the continuum, those with a highly developed work ethic, with a system guiding their effort. Thus there is a requirement for individualized training programs with monitoring systems available to evaluate individual responses to a training load.
  5. The principle of reversibility – this principle highlights the requirement for consistent training. As suggested by the fitness-fatigue model of Bannister et al.(Banister 1991) fitness and fatigue are never constant and interruptions to training caused by injury, illness, or social needs, breaks the consistency of training that is required to achieve improvements. The loss of fitness gains can occur through inconsistent training and fatigue may also occur through non-training stress factors and inadequate recovery.

Although there are many other factors that can certainly affect the preparation and eventually the outcome of an ultra endurance event, physical training still remains to be the most important. By assessing an athletes background and maturity in endurance sport, a program can be created by following the principles listed above. At times, there are athletes that just naturally flow into these longer events, not necessarily because of genetic predisposition, but rather by recognizing they have tremendous mental toughness along with a lifestyle that allows for consistent and progressive training. Are you one of them?

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP


Metabolism and Weight Management in the Winter

by Calvin Zaryski

Hunker down, the winter months are upon us and most will gain fat mass. Blame the fact that most mammals fatten up over the winter due to colder temperatures or less daylight, the question remains on how to avoid this phenomenon. Most attribute it to a lowering of metabolism, if so, how can we increase our metabolic rate in the winter months to minimize fat gain.

Metabolism is a combination of physical and chemical processes that are responsible for regulating and maintaining your body health. All of the nutrients responsible for these processes come from your diet. Your metabolic rate is the amount of calories you expend everyday.

Three factors determine your total metabolic rate. The basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the rate your body uses energy for vital body processes. The rate you burn energy during physical activity and the rate you use energy during digestion of food are the two other factors involved in your total metabolic rate.

Research has proven that in order to either lose fat mass or maintain your current state, you metabolic rate and caloric expenditure should be equal or more than the amount of daily calories your consume. If you accomplish several days of this negative imbalance, it is likely that you will lose body fat.

The notion of consuming certain foods that increase metabolism has some validity. Research has shown that chili peppers and spicy foods increases metabolism, but only slightly and only for a short period of time. Even green tea has been investigated but was concluded that normal amounts would have no effect on losing fat mass. There are no foods that have been scientifically proven to increase your metabolic rate enough to shed those unwanted pounds.

The entire process of eating food in general does increase your metabolism. Therefore, eating frequently but in small amounts, is more advantageous than eating two or three larger meals per day. Furthermore, protein requires about 25% more energy to digest when compared to most carbohydrates and could be part of the explanation why higher protein diets tend to have better weight loss results. However, there are some carbohydrates that are termed negative calorie foods. These foods use more calories to digest than the calories the foods actually contain! For instance, a 25 calorie piece of broccoli (100 grams) requires 80 calories to digest, resulting in a net loss of 55 calories.  In fact, there are a large number of foods that combine low calories, delicious taste, and excellent negative calorie properties. Some of these natural foods are asparagus, apple, beet, berries, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chili, cucumber, garlic, lettuce, grapefruit, lemon, mango, onion, orange, papaya, pineapple, spinach, turnip, zucchini to name a few.

Of course, exercise must be mentioned as a major factor that will increase metabolism. Specifically, the higher the intensity and the amount of time spent at high intensity, the greater the metabolic rate will be elevated and the longer it will remain high. Simply monitor your heart rate after an easy 60 minute run, versus a 10km running race pushing your physiological limits. Also, it seems that exercising in the morning tends to elicit better overall fat loss results, particularly if the exercise is intensive. Morning intensive exercise is more likely to become a habit and an increase in morning metabolism helps burn calories for the rest of the day.

Resistance training also increases metabolic activity and is responsible for maintaining and gaining muscle mass. Muscle tissue burns much of the calories when at rest. Even when not formally exercising, activating muscles, such as fidgeting, walking around while talking on the phone or wiggling your fingers and toes when watching TV, increases your metabolic rate. So always keep moving!

The science is clear on how to ward off that unwanted fat or shed those unwanted pounds. There are no safe long lasting metabolic enhancement foods that can be consume. But rather some simple nutrition tips that, if all are incorporated, results are likely. Bottom line, you must focus on low calorie foods, eat them often in the day but ensure adequate protein and essential fats are being consumed. Couple this eating strategy with regular exercise with at least 2 session per week pushing the intensity with a sprinkle of resistance training and you have the formula to stay trim over the winter.

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP


The Future of Sport Performance: The Super Athlete

by Calvin Zaryski

The future in athletic development and ultimately super human performances is most likely dictated by genetic make up rather than equipment, training methods or psychological factors. Superior physiological traits will be necessary for a human to run a sub two hour marathon. This accomplishment seems to be realistic based on current trends in world record times. Assuming no artificial and illegal manipulation transpires, human evolution specific to this task could take 100 years with a perfect blend of genetic contribution, along with ideal conditioning and mental constitution.

Naturally, and certainly more probable now than twenty years ago, a perfect match could occur steering genetic engineering towards superhuman traits. More commonly, world-class athletes of the same sport are producing offspring and raising them with competitive values and environmental shaping. This matching certainly does not guarantee to produce superior offspring, but can increase the odds of harvesting the perfect combination to lay the infrastructure necessary to be the next super athlete. I am obviously over simplifying, but we could see further mutations in their already unique athletic code that could push the human limits further, faster or stronger.

Natural evolution takes time and in the world of high performance, some short cuts are already in the works. As we enter the next decade of sport, scientists are now identifying and isolating genetic code that is responsible to engineer superior athletic traits, so called fitness gene codes. In 1980, a team of Canadian scientists isolated the first actual gene responsible for improved adaptation to training called the ACE gene. Since this time, there have been over 100 genes relating to physical performance and athletics.

Specific to the sub two hour marathon, a variant of this ACE gene, which has an additional DNA strand, is responsible for improving the efficiency of the muscles aerobic power. Not only enhance the muscles cells ability to produce more energy, but this specific genetic mutation can divert a useful percentage of heat energy created by substrate metabolism back into usable energy, thus improving muscle endurance as well. Not all endurance athletes have this specific gene, but scientist can actually identify, isolate and potentially “ insert” this super charged trait via gene manipulation.

Furthermore, scientists can actually screen young children and classify them as endurance or strength athletes using genetic typing. A biotech company in Australia claims to have this exact screening procedure. The test costs about 45 AUS and time will tell if this process produces more world records in our near future. If this screening can guide young athletes into more directed and focused training earlier in development, we may see a significant leap in human performance.

The real issue in this biogenetic technology involves gene therapy and doping. Currently specific genes that can code for proteins/hormones, capable of enhancing sport traits, can be produced artificially and then implanted to boost physical performance. A gene therapist can sequence the particular human gene into a retrovirus that targets the required tissue. Viruses are all made of DNA and they are looking for a chromosomal home or cell. Once it finds its home, more inserted copies can be made ultimately changing the characteristics of the cell. The process is very complicated but already positive results are being illustrated using this technique.

This biotechnology allows scientists to interrupt cell replication and tamper with natural sequencing and length of DNA strands. It may be possible to replace normal fitness genes with superhuman ones that are created in the laboratory. Gene doping could revolutionize sport as we know it, and it may not be detectible. Most probable tissues that gene intervention would occur is bone marrow and blood formation, heart and skeletal muscle, mitochondria (power houses of the muscles cells), acid-neutralising buffers, muscle capillary blood vessels and possibly connective tissue. It is possible that in 50 years time, all of these traits can be artificially enhanced and we can create the super athlete well before mother nature intended.

In the world of producing World records or Olympic medals, talent identification, (either from recognizing passed on genes by athletic parents, or genetic screening), will be an ongoing process that certainly can direct a young athlete into sport. There is no harm nor ethical issues in talent identification. However, bioscience is beginning to offer other means of not just identifying but creating superior athletes. Gene doping and gene therapy are techniques that will continue to become a reality as scientists push the boundaries of human nature. Whether or not this practice is ethical in sport or even safe in long term human development is yet to be debated. It is just a matter of time when the bioscience world of curing disease becomes the playground for creating the super athlete. So it is not a matter of IF a sub 2 hour marathon will ever happen but rather, WHEN will a sub 2 hour marathon occur? If we wait for mother nature to guide this feat, it could be 100 years, but if the scientists have their way, it could happen in our next decade…

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP

Understanding Triathlon Swimming

by Calvin Zaryski

What does it take to become a good freestyle swimmer? Heck, what is a good freestyle swimmer? Is it gliding through the water effortlessly at sub maximal pace or is it churning up the water and swimming fast for performance. All I know is that it took me about 8 years to swim well enough to begin the fine tuning necessary to swim both fast and efficient. With more effort and focus I could swim faster, but when you are a triathlete, time management and realistic allocation of time / effort should be considered in your overall program. The swimming discipline in an Ironman constitutes 10% of your total time.

This year is my 25th anniversary of being a triathlete. Reflecting back, I have a few tips that may assist your progress towards becoming the swimmer that you want to become. In addition, I will outline some principles provided by Ken Olson, the owner of Race TekSystems and Level 3 coach. Ken has also worked with Olympians; Simon Whitfield, Rick Say, Mike Brown, Curtis Myden and many more. His 3D video analyses system is cutting edge and invaluable for improvement.

According to Ken, there are 5 important factors that will allow you to swim well.

1) Streamlining and Body Position: We need to make our bodies as small in the water as possible and limit movement that impedes forward movement. This could be in the form of lifting your head too high which in turn drops your hips and legs causing unwanted drag. It could also be in the form of kicking too deep and crossing over at the entry of your stroke. We need to reach and roll when swimming maximizing time spent on your side slicing through the water.

2) Breathing Patterns and Position: The less you breathe the better. Breathing takes us out of streamline position. I can swim almost as fast bilateral breathing (every three strokes alternating sides) as I can single side breathing. Also, it is important not to turn your head independently from your body roll to breath. If you are rolling well during your reach phase, your head should be in the correct position to breathe with a little chin tuck to your shoulder. Only one eye and half the mouth is out of the water. When not breathing the head actually turns slightly in the opposite direction of the body roll to maintain neutral position.

3) Anchoring: This term describes the “Feel of the Water” that so many great swimmers report experiencing. They can feel the resistance during the entire propulsion phase from the catch to the finish and search for still water (water that is not moving). Some swimmers need to pull deeper and further away from their bodies to anchor into this still water. Hand paddles, use of fins and certain drills develop this feel enhancing your anchoring.

4) Creating Propulsion: Most of your propulsion comes from your arms moving through the water, with your legs primarily used for balance and rhythm. Certainly during the start of a triathlon or mid race surges your kick can assist you in swimming faster, but at what cost? If it allows you to catch another swimmer just ahead of you to gain a draft, it is worth the energy. Ultimately the secret to creating maximum propulsion would be hand speed. As your arm moves from the entry, catch and pull phase, it should be accelerating as it nears the end of the stoke. Too many swimmers have the same hand speed throughout the entire stroke. Swimming with fins and using tubing on deck can help increase your hand speed and propulsion.

5) Maintaining Momentum: Finally do not glide too long in the freestyle stroke. This will only drop your momentum. You never want to have one arm finished your pull phase while the other is just entering. Ideally you want an overlap. One arm is finishing (creating no propulsion), while the over arm has already entered, finished the catch and now is in the first stages of the pull phase. Retraining this sequence requires countless hours in the pool beginning slowly then increasing the stroke rate and speed.

Other Tips

Eliminate use of your pull buoy in the main sets unless isolating a specific component of the pull. Learn the timing of the kick and pull and how these components can complement each other. Force yourself to do this as it will improve your swimming in the long run.

Improve your Kick. Your kick will drive your arms and create better body position. Most of us have poor ankle flexibility, making this task impossible, but with more and more practice, you will be able to kick well and incorporate that kick into your freestyle. Do most of your kicking without fins to train tempo, relaxation and fitness.

Pull Deeper and Wider. Some swimmers position their hand too close to their bodies and never anchor well. Try pulling wider and deeper and see if you can feel more resistance. Then work on accelerating your hand backwards and finish strong.

Recover Fast. In order for you to swim fast, you need to exit then enter the water quickly (recovery). The best swimmers tend to have a stroke rate of 40-45 strokes per minute while maintaining a distance per stroke (DPS) of 2.1 – 2.4 meters per arm cycle (left and right arm pull). If you want to swim fast you need to first determine these components then find the perfect combination for a specific distance. For the 1500m distance, you might find that a turn over of 42 strokes per minute with a DPS of 2.2m is best. Again Ken Olson has the technology to assist in this detailed process. For a 3.8km swim, your stroke rate may drop to 36 while your DPS increases to 2.4m. This technique is likely to drop your heart rate and save you energy while maintaining adequate speed.

Do Not Draft. Too many triathletes pool swim like they are in a triathlon. They draft behind each other and never get full benefit from their swim training. Make sure you leave at least 5 seconds apart and do not worry about keeping up with the swimmer ahead of you.

Remain in Control. Swimming is extremely inefficient. Meaning, we waste a tremendous amount of energy to move forward. When swimming, make sure you are swimming at your own pace that allows you to concentrate on what you need to do.

Evaluate. Test yourself often by measuring your 100m splits while still maintaining bilateral breathing and the exact same number of strokes per 25m. Try to increase the distance that you can hold that pattern and speed. At the beginning of the swim season, I can hold 90 seconds per 100m, at 19 strokes per 25m for 500m. At the end of the season, I can hold that pattern for well over 4000m.

Most often understanding the swim stroke is the first step to swimming faster. When you are ready, get your stroke analyzed and map out the major flaws that impede your swim speed and efficiency. Once you are capable of executing those changes, try to find the proper combination of stroke rate and distance per stroke that will get you to the finish line in good time but fresh enough to race hard on the bike and run! See you on the start line!

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP

Triathlon Camps

by Calvin Zaryski

Are you one of those people that makes a plan January 1 and then work out for about a week before life takes over again and you quit the gym or your new running program?

Did you tell yourself that this would be the year that you did you first triathlon but now it looks like there is no way you can even think about learning to swim let alone put the time into the bike and the run.

Maybe a tri camp is for you. More and more great training camps are becoming available.

From beginner to advanced, tri camps provide the motivation and the coaching factor that can get you to your goal race while providing the support you need to attain what you have set out to do.

The group atmosphere of a training camp can help you find common ground with those just starting out. It’s a great way to get into the sport and learn from coaches and veterans the dos and don’ts of the game. It is somewhat helpful that you paid good money to be there as well. You really want to show up for day one after laying your money on the line? That applies to racing as well.

Triathlon Camps offer the ultimate opportunity for event specific coaching and on-course training. Lead by a team of accomplished competitors and specialist coaches, these comprehensive 7 day training and race preparation packages are designed specifically for triathletes planning to compete in Triathlon.

One such great camp is the Ironspirit Triathlon Camp in Penticton, BC.

Back in 2001, Impact MultiSport Coaching and joined forces to form Ironspirit Triathlon Camps, offering a combination of advice, practical training and personalized information, to provide complete training & race-day preparation.

Look for a tri camp in your neck of the woods if you just can’t seem to get out the front door. It just might be the way to motivate yourself and complete your first triathlon.

Beyond Training and Racing!

by Calvin Zaryski

For all of those athletes out there who are training (greater than 5 hours of exercise per week) let’s step back a moment. Some of you might think that you are training day after day to perform your best during a race. I am writing this to hopefully prepare you for your enlightenment. If it has not happened yet, it will soon enough. There is a deeper inner motivation why you are consistently exercising to remain fit. Sometimes it takes a trip to a foreign country or an outing to our wonderful Canadian Rockies to make the connection. Well here it is… quality of life. You choose a life that creates unforgettable memories and ultimately enhances your self-esteem. It is all about having the opportunity to explore the world that you never have seen before. It is all about challenging yourself in capacities that you never thought possible. Even the Great Chuckie V (1999 Ironman Canada winner), is stepping back from racing this year and doing something that he has dreamt about since he was thirteen. He is going to hike the Pacific Coast Trail starting from San Diego, California. He will travel by foot some 4252km and six months later, he arrives in Manning Park, British Columbia. I will be there to learn of his journey and enlightenment.

My first step towards this new found attitude was when I competed in the 1999 Hawaii Ironman. Another chapter was written just this last month when I returned from Mexico while on vacation. During the last day, the winds were blowing strong off the Caribbean Sea. So strong that the ocean was too rough for any boats, kayaks or other watercrafts to be signed out from the resort, except boogie boards. Luckily we brought our swim training fins and goggles and set out to crash these large waves. Scooting along at 20km per hour on a wave for 100meters was exciting and adventurous. But we were both confident in our swimming abilities to challenge and push our limits! Interesting enough, we were the only two people riding these big waves, hooting and hollering in pure excitement. There were over 2000 people in the resort and two people were on the beach having a ball.

On one of our excursion trips into the Mexican Jungle, we repelled 15 meters into the darkness only to land in cold fresh water. We then had to climb up a rope ladder to exit out of this cave. Not everyone was capable and had to be hoisted out. Maybe something insignificant for some, but for me being afraid of heights, I was extremely happy to have made it to the top.

Another physical challenge came at the base of 150 steps (200 vertical feet) to the highest Mayan ruins temple to ultimately achieve the best view of the Mexican jungle. I watched several people attempted to climb this small peak (at least they attempted it)… taking several breaks along the way… and some 10 minutes later, reaching the summit out of breath. Quite the accomplishment, but unfortunately they were spent for the rest of the tour and had to rest. We road bikes around the ruins and explored new areas in our 45 minutes of free time.

You see, to be fit means freedom. Am I preaching here… I suppose I am. Wow, I think Peter Estebrooks last article has influenced me! But, when I think about vacation, I think about exploring. To have the capacity to explore is freedom.

A few friends told me that they cycled up to the top of the largest Volcano in Hawaii this year, from sea level to about 12,000 feet. An accomplishment that they will never forget. Something that only a handful of people in the world have ever done! That is living.

Earlier this year I organized a hike up Mount Allan to experience true mountaineering and the vastness of our beautiful Canadian Rockies. Several of the athletes had never climbed in the mountains and truly were moved by their enormous presence and their own physical capabilities.

Our fitness and health allows us to travel all over the world and run marathons. Climb mountains or just simply sightsee. Without your fitness and health it could never have been possible. Every year you create new, huge memories, and everyday you sculpt your body and mind to accommodate new challenges in the future.

So for all you hard-core athletes out there, train smart and hard, but think of the racing as a benefit to being fit. Start to expand your reasoning for your involvement in a lifestyle that promotes living and exploration. Get involved with a group that allows for this personal development in a holistic fashion. Find a program that is your mechanism in keeping you motivated, supported and challenged to live and grow. Not just race and train, but live and learn about yourself. Yes racing to our potential is learning as well, but there are so many wonderful spin offs to all your hard work. See you out there!

Desire to Endure

by Calvin Zaryski


Many times I have been asked WHY I participate in endurance activities. I have tolerated many hoursof discomfort only to cross a line that signifies an accomplishment. For most of society, this is the burning question. Why did Alan Hobson climb Mount Everest when the odds are that one in four may not return? Why would Sandra McCallum tolerate 7 days in the desert running over 250km risking her life just to finish? Why would she even think about returning to finish stronger and tolerate even more pain? What makes us different from the rest of society?

There seems to be this inner desire that drives us to our limits. Limits that need to be explored and pushed continuously. Some do it in business, others in sport, but the desire and motivation is the same. We are hungry for success and results. We need to achieve our dreams. Inspiration and desire must come from within. That is the key.

Motivation is energy, and that sense of self-directedness is one of the most powerful sources of energy available. From internal motivation you gain the willingness to persevere with your training, to endure discomfort and stress, and to make sacrifices with your time and energy as you move closer to your goals.

What are the key characteristics of well-motivated endurance participants? Through extensive research with athletes for 20 years, JoAnn Dahlkoetter Ph.D. has developed a constellation of traits that define the champion’s mentality. I will outline them for you.

Enthusiasm and Desire: You must love what you are doing! Regardless of your talent and ability, there must be a fire that ignites your passion to achieve an important goal. To accomplish anything of value in life you need to begin with a vision or dream! The more clearly you can see that picture in your mind, the more likely it will become reality. Wherever you place your attention, your energy will follow!

Courage to Succeed: Back up your desire with courage, the incentive to make any dream reality. It takes courage to sacrifice, to train when you are tired, to seek out tough competition when you know you’ll probably be beaten. It takes courage to stick with your game plan and the relentless pursuit of your goal when you encounter obstacles. It takes courage to push yourself to places that you have never been before – physically and mentally.

Internal Motivation and Self-Direction: Successful athletes have decided early on that they are training and competing for themselves, not for their parents, coaches, or for the medals. Your direction and drive must come from within. Your goals must be one that you have chosen because that’s exactly what you want to be doing!

Commitment to Excellence: How successful do you want to be? Elite athletes know that to be successful in their sport they must decide to make it a priority in their life. It is important to make an honest effort each day to be the best at what they do! To notice significant growth you must live this commitment and regularly stretch what you perceive to be your current limits. This commitment must be present every minute of the day. Temptations are all too frequent.

Discipline, Consistency, Organization: Most successful people know how to self-energize and work hard on a daily bases. Because they love what they do, it is not hard to maintain this consistent behavior. Regardless of personal problems, fatigue, stress, poor weather or difficult circumstances, they can generate the optimal excitement and energy to do their best and stay on course.

Ability to Handle Adversity: Successful people and athletes know how to deal with difficult situations and facing this adversity builds character and self esteem! While elite athletes know the odds are against them they embrace the chance to explore the outer limits of their potential. Rather than avoiding pressure they feel challenged by it! Life is about personal growth and setbacks are apart of this growth. Remember, it is OK to fail, but never OK to fold! Successful people never give up!

Endurance activities ranging from a 2 hour hike or your first 10km running race to Ironman triathlons offer a wonderful chance to free ourselves for short periods and experience intensity and excitement not readily available elsewhere in our lives. To develop an inner desire and maximize your true potential, you must make the most of the talent you have, and stretch the limits of your abilities, both physically and mentally. Endurance activities can become a means to personal growth and enjoyment of the pursuit of your goals. Try incorporating the profile above into your mental preparation and you can learn to live more fully, train with more purpose and feel exactly the way you want to feel. Happy training and see you out there!

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP

Racing as a Master…

become a Master of Racing well into your 60s and 70s!

by Calvin Zaryski

Old Father Time, lookout, the Masters are coming! I have witnessed this many times. Too often I have been passed in a race by what appears to be an older athlete, but yet performing at a youthful level. How do they maintain such an elite performance well into their 40, 50 and 60s?

Many exercise scientists are beginning to realize that sometimes older is better, and innovative new research is showing that much of the decline in performance which accompanies aging is actually the result of disuse – not the aging process itself. In fact, the latest investigations suggest that athletes who continue training vigorously often do not experience significant loss in performance until they reach their middle 40s or early 50s – or later. In addition, the eventual downturns are usually far smaller than expected.

It seems that a continued high level of training can significantly reduce the magnitude of aerobic power and capacity decline that inevitably occurs with aging. Previously, a 9-10% decline in maximal oxygen consumption per decade has been reported from studies of untrained healthy men. However, other studies have suggest that the rate of decline is halved (5% per decade and in some cases even less) in athletes who maintain a very high level of training volume and intensity. Continued training can maintain stroke volume at high levels, as well as skeletal muscle endurance capacity and even economy. Maximal heart rate decline with age, on the other hand, is not altered by activity level.

While age is a relative thing — the 60-year-old tennis player may be in better shape than the 20-year-old couch potato — time takes its toll on the human body in terms of physical changes. After age 30, humans start losing muscle mass and after age 40, bone mass declines. Tendons, which connect muscles to bone, and ligaments, which hold joints together, become less elastic and are easier to tear. These changes and others affect our ability to enjoy sports as we grow older, not to mention performing at a high level.

Here are some tips that should keep you healthy on your quest to compete with our youth and maintaining a high level of functionality:

1) As the decades slip by, add one more day of rest to your program. One day of rest in your 20s and 30s, 2 days of rest in your 40s until you are exercising every other day. These extra days off allow for the soft tissue to recovery and strengthen. This is most true if you are a runner.

2) Cross train to avoid over use injuries. Try swimming, biking, skiing, snowshoeing, deep water running, they all maintain your fitness and add variety to your active life.

3) To maintain a high level of fitness, vigorous exercise (heart rates greater than 85% of maximum) must be done once or twice per week. I suggest doing one session that is lower body (running or biking) and one session that is upper body (swimming). This will keep those fast twitch muscle fibers alert and ready to perform on race day.

4) Warm up well for at least 15 minutes before a strenuous workout. Allow the body to naturally accommodate the exercise. As we age, this process takes a little longer.

5) Always cool down after an exercise session. Allow the body to return to near normal functioning before hitting the showers. A good cool down can help diminish muscle soreness. Also try using cold water therapy after exercise to decrease inflammation and enhance recovery.

6) Functional range of motion tends to decrease with age, so stretch more frequently once your tissue is warm. Make sure that your stretching is not too aggressive. Stretch to mild discomfort then back off and hold for at least 30 seconds. Sometimes stretching can actually cause injury if done incorrectly. Try scheduling yoga into your program.

7) Incorporate strength training to your program. It is very important to maintain your lean body mass. In your 20s and 30s, weight training should comprise of 20% of your fitness program. As you age, weight training should become more of a focus. Eventually in your 60’s an 70’s 50% of your program should be weight training with the other half aerobic exercise.

8. Avoid increases in body fat. As your metabolic rate slows due to aging and without vigorous exercise, the body begins to store excess calories as fat which eventually will impair your performance. Remain lean and eat well.

9) Eat lots of vegetables and fruits. These foods help keep the acidity of your blood low which in turn minimizes the loss of nitrogen and calcium. This loss is related to losing your lean body mass and bone density. Focus on spinach and grapes while avoiding foods that increase your blood acidity such as parmesan cheese.

10) Take antioxidants to help neutralize free radicals that impair mitochondria functioning. The mitochondria are small organelles in the muscle where aerobic metabolism takes place. I suggest taking 1000mg of vitamin C and 400-800 IU of vitamin E daily.

We are all aging. Age fast, age slow, it is up to you. However, slowing the aging process doesn’t necessarily mean slowing down! Keep entering those races and impressing our youth. Age is nothing but mind over matter … if you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter!

Author: Calvin Zaryski MKin, CEP





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