Vail athletes: Train like a pro… even if you aren’t one
VAIL CO, Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY – It used to be that if you were training for a marathon, you just laced up your shoes and ran. If you wanted to be faster on your bike, you got out there and rode hard. You wouldn’t think that watching fitness trainer Curt Nash’s workout sessions.
Nash, a trainer at Edwards gym Dogma Athletica, has his clients jumping, throwing and catching medicine balls, waving heavy ropes and sprinting on inclined treadmills in between weight sets. Nash, who works with some of the area’s top cyclists, is one of an increasing number of trainers who are using innovative methods – both in the gym and out – to help everyone from weekend warriors to competitive athletes improve at their sport.
Many amateur runners and cyclists these days can now tell you about interval training, scientifically structured long-term training plans, and incorporating gym training and even yoga into the mix – all concepts once only used by professional athletes.
Local cyclist Chip Woodland found out firsthand what a difference training methods made when he competed in the Leadville 100.
On his first attempt at the grueling 100-mile mountain bike race, he did not finish. Last year, on his second attempt, he enlisted the help of trainer and professional XTERRA athlete Josiah Middaugh.
Woodland’s new training plan included blocks of high-intensity weeks coupled with easier rest weeks (a concept called periodization). Workouts were based on heart rate, with a certain amount of minutes spent in each “zone”. Middaugh helped Woodland plan around his work and life schedule, and still get in the training he needed.
“His plan helped you get stronger in an intelligent way instead of just going out and trying to beat yourself up. Training is done so much more scientifically than it used to be,” said Woodland, who remembers simply going out to run or ride until you got faster or too tired. “There was no concept of training less to get better, or having training cycles.”
The work paid off, and he entered – and completed – the race that year.
While just riding, with no specific formula, might work for a while, for those trying to take their sport to the next level, more specialized training is key.
Local rider and professional cyclocross racer Jake Wells said that as he progressed in racing, he found that good fitness wasn’t enough and began to incorporate interval workouts. With the help of Nash, he also began doing cycling-specific strength training exercises. Over the years, he found the structure helped, and he and Nash will now be using that formula to train other cyclists through a series of six-week cycling camps offered by Edwards gym Dogma Athletica.
“A lot of people get into the sport and like racing and riding, but as you get to a certain level, you start to realize that you need to be riding with more structure. It also gives you a peace of mind that you’re not just flying by the seat of your pants.” Wells said. “Outside, we’ll do rides and workouts as a group, and in the gym, we’ll do cycling-specific exercises that mimic real movements on the bike.”
Seasoned competitors and athletes – or anyone who can Google “training plan” – are probably familiar with these ideas. However, an increasing number of people, such as Vail-based runner Greg Decent, are turning to coaches to help them dial in their training.
Decent, who typically trains for two or three marathons each year, was improving slowly, but wanted to shake up his training schedule and see if he could reach his potential.
He began working with local running coach Rob Parish, who immediately changed Decent’s training approach and added some weight lifting to his routine. Before, Decent would run for a certain number of miles at a certain pace. However, Parish had him running based on time and mixing up the intensity by intervals.
Within a couple months, Decent saw results, and recently ran a personal best of 2:52:29 at the Boston Marathon.
“What’s extremely beneficial about having a coach is that you have someone watching out for you and monitoring your running,” he said. “When I started running, I would just go out and run, never thinking about intensity level. There was no separation between easy and hard days.”
Private running coach Megan Lund-Lizotte, a professional marathon and mountain runner, said that seeing big improvements in performance takes some planning and expertise.
“People are realizing it’s not as simple as putting on a pair of shoes and going to run. There’s a lot of science to it,” she said.
A coach can help any level of athlete figure out a plan that is best for them, she said. Lund-Lizotte trains a variety of athletes, including triathletes, elite runners and “weekend warriors.”
“There’s no cookie cutter plan for runners,” she said. “Some respond really well to high mileage and others to intensity and low mileage. I like to diversify the plan for each client.”