Lists are always fun. Here are 11 training tools we, can't (and won't) do without! What's on your list of favorites?
Videotaping yourself performing any number of skill oriented activities from movement practice, strength training, and swimming, is a really smart way to improve radically in much less time than you would were you not videotaping. The reason is simple: you can step back and objectively review WHAT YOUR DOING, as opposed to relying upon what you THINK you’re doing (without the benefit of the video), which is usually wrong. Have someone video you doing various strength exercises from different angles. Take your phone or camera to the pool and grab a friend to shoot some video. While above water video isn’t as beneficial as below-water video, it can still provide great information and feedback on what’s happening with your stroke. Bottom line: a few minutes of video can shed tremendous light on areas of weakness you might want to get coaching help to correct, or to pinpoint adjustments you need to make like crossing over, or dropping your elbow in the swim.
Here at Pursuit Athletic Performance, we advise all of our athletes to use a mirror, especially during the early stages of learning. A mirror is similar to video; it’s a great way to objectively assess how you are performing exercises, and will allow you to correct what you may need to in real time. If you do some or all of your functional strength work at home, be sure you have at least one full-length mirror, and having several is often better. We're always surprised when we hear of athletes training at home without one! You have to be able to see what you're doing, in order to perform strength work and other exercises properly and make adjustment when you have to.
A power meter on your bike is as close to being “essential” as any piece of equipment can be, simply because it’s the only way to truly and objectively measure how much work you are doing on your bike. Similarly, racing with a power meter is one of the best things that you can do to improve your race day performance. And it’s not difficult or complicated if one is willing to invest a bit of time learning. While training with power is neither “new” nor considered cutting edge anymore, its value has stood the test of time and remains great. As author Joe Friel said, "Using a power meter in an Ironman triathlon is almost like cheating." This is a must-have tool for anyone serious about improving their bike fitness and race day performance.
Improving your swimming isn’t just about putting in more yardage. To get better and faster in the water, you must improve your skill and technique, AND your swim specific strength and power. If you believed there was one tool that would allow you to do both, and save you precious training time to boot, wouldn’t you use that tool? The Vasa Ergometer is it. It can be like a power meter for your swimming, or the perfect dry-land tool to improve your strength and power. Do workouts on the Vasa translate to the water? Provided you use and develop good technique and skill, the “erg” absolutely translates to the water! It's also an immense time saver for the busy athlete, allowing them to get effective swim training in right at home.
COMPUTRAINER OR FLUID TRAINER
An indoor fluid trainer or a Computrainer is an essential tool for the busy triathlete who often must train before dawn or after sundown, or who is looking for the safest way to go really hard on the bike without the concern of traffic. Computrainers provide unmatched versatility with the advent of Erg-Video and the ability to create “customized” training sessions based you’re your fitness level. Matched with a power meter, the trainer becomes very much like being out on the roads and is often the best option for getting in terrific workouts and safe testing sessions in the safety and comfort of the indoors.
It's no surprise to you who have been following our blog for a time, that we are all about our athletes being strong, stable, balanced and mobile in order for them to train as aggressively and as smartly as possible. Maximizing performance, keeping athletes free from injury and optimizing their ultimate potential comes from true, solid functional strength. Resistance bands are a staple in our strength arsenal because they can naturally train reactive stabilization, the elastic nature of a band mirrors the natural action of our muscle tissue and lends itself to functional exercise as a result, AND they are extremely convenient to use, packing easily into a gym bag or briefcase to be used anywhere you find yourself.
There are many great ways to train true authentic strength and stability, and most often, the best path is to start truly at the “beginning,” before moving on to using more advanced exercises and tools. One reason the kettlebells are one of our favorite training tools IS because you can start at the beginning, and the variety and options and ability to build true strength, is endless! No training tool can do exactly what a kettlebell can do, to help you get strong and powerful. If you believe appropriate mobility, true core stability, and functional strength inside a balanced body that is moving authentically is THE KEY TO ATHLETIC SUCCESS, regardless of your sport, then consider learning more about kettlebell training. You won’t regret it!
"What the heck is that?" you're probably wondering. The Stabilizer is a pressure biofeedback device that helps ensure quality and precision in exercise performance. It's used under the low back and provides feedback as to when the abdominal and back muscles are not actively or effectively firing. You think you're doing your core work properly? Think you are strong and stable? This innocent little device will tell you a whole lot, and help you build a stronger foundation and lift your ultimate potential in the process.
ONE-LEG SQUAT STAND
The rear foot elevated single-leg split squat is one of the most versatile and important exercises you can do. To really nail this exercise, it helps to have good support for the rear foot, to allow it to be relaxed and not active in creating stability or balance. Sure, you can use a chair, but this sturdy, safe one-leg squat stand by Sorinex helps to facilitate strength and power development routines because it can be set to different heights, and is very sturdy and easy to use. Together with resistance bands, the stabilizer, and some kettle bells, and you've got a compact, nifty, effective home gym set up.
The humble pull up bar is one of the best pieces of equipment you could ever own. We could go on for days about the importance of this exercise. Pull-ups work your entire upper body, especially the muscles of your back, as well as your abs and your biceps. They are arguably the best lat builder in existence, but pullups an important combination of muscles surrounding the scapulae and pelvis. Can't do one? Then start with building to a 1-minute dead hang, then proceed to negative pull ups, flex hangs, and with frequency and consistency, you'll be pulling yourself up before you know it!
HEART RATE MONITOR
We think a heart rate monitor (HRM) is very useful when used in a very specific way. Remember, heart rate is a reflection of work, not a measure of it. Heart rate is often best used to review and assess training response after the exercise. It can help you assess appropriate hydration, fueling, etc., e.g. normal cardiovascular stress. Most importantly, we advise athletes to use an HRM for a coupling/decoupling assessment after riding with a power meter. In other words, we want you to know how your heart rate and power relate to each other as a ride progresses. For example, it's important to be aware at what HRs various power/wattage levels “happen,” and correlate these numbers with the rate of perceived exertion (RPE). Correlation of all of the available tools = experience = improved intuition, decision making in training and on the race course.
DESIGNS FOR HEALTH DETOX KIT
Every month, a host of other athletes we work with takes on our 14-Day Coach-Guided Detox. It's a way to press the nutrition reset button, give your liver a chance to catch up on housekeeping, get off the sugar drip, and re-learn what it means to eat clean. It's a powerful cleanse that is based on real food (this is no colon cleanse or weird juice fast), and isn't calorie restricted. We run the program monthly for anyone interested in joining our awesome group of detox-ers!