Anthony S Casey

Businessman, Triathlete, Dad

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Is “Too Much Running” a Thing?

The topic of fitness has always been controversial. Some claim that a healthy heart is made in the kitchen while others argue, the gym. Even Coca-Cola has recently shifted the dialogue from whether or not its sugary drinks are unhealthy and instead insists that consumers should simply exercise more. General knowledge dictates that a healthy diet and physical activity go hand in hand when improving one’s overall mental and physical well-being. Most people are asking two not-so-simple questions: which should be given more consideration? And is it possible to simply “overdo” it?

Evidence strongly suggests that a sedentary lifestyle ultimately leads to higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and diabetes. Because of this, doctors recommend at least three days of high-intensity physical activity a week. And yet, some perpetuate the myth that excessive cardiovascular activity can over-exert the heart muscle, leading to an unfortunate and untimely death. It’s unclear what constitutes as “too much exercise” or “running too much” as it differs from person to person, but we do know that bad practices like lifting weights that are entirely too heavy and neglecting rest days can contribute to injury over time. But besides best practice, is it fair to say that runners are at an even greater risk for heart failure?

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Triathletes spend a lot of time training to prepare for ultra-competitive races. Exercise can improve heart health by reducing body fat, improving blood pressure and glucose, lessening stress and increasing production of HDL cholesterol while also lowering LDL levels. Concerned parties often cite isolated stories about consistent runners who randomly collapse in over exertion-related situations. On the contrary, it appears that studies have been unable to successfully link a higher mortality rate to excessive exercise (correlation does not equal causation). Moreover, even though some have suggested in the past that endurance events such as half and full marathons and triathlons pose a threat to runners, this simply hasn’t been proven. Endurance races are taxing, both physically and mentally, however, no concrete evidence exists that runners are at a great risk for heart failure simply because they run. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, cardiac arrests occur in less than 1 percent of every 100,000 runners. Family history of heart disease must always be taken into consideration when assessing these numbers.

Not everyone is equipped to handle endurance training. Those with a family history of premature heart disease, current symptoms of heart disease, or high blood pressure should consult a doctor before engaging in strenuous activity. As science and technology continue to evolve, perhaps we will find more information linking premature heart issues with endurance training. But for now, we just can’t say it’s there.

Fitness Tracker Mania

These days, fitness trackers seem to be all the rage. Whether it’s a FitBit or Apple Watch, athletes are starting to rely on these devices to meet activity quotas or even track their caloric intake. Runners in particular benefit from trackers that can notify them when they’ve reached a certain milestone or distance throughout their workout. Many predict that the Apple Watch will unfortunately send stand-alone trackers to an early grave, much like the iPhone did with the stand-alone camera. However, many companies have not given up on the product and still find value behind inexpensive fitness devices. Coming in at a minimum of $450, it’s easy to see why inexpensive trackers are still in the running and sometimes favored over the Apple Watch. Until Apple can develop a cheaper alternative, it’s safe to say stand-alone trackers are going to survive, even with a niche share of the market.

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Moov Fitness Band

Moov and Misfit recently unveiled new, cost-effective trackers that are sure to grab the attention of cost-conscious customers. Moov has allowed shoppers to pre-order a $59.99 model that is expected to ship sometime this fall. Customers have the option to select a blue, red, black, or white version of the device. Reviews for Moov devices have been positive and the company continues to meet user standards.

Misfit’s “Flash Link” retails for an extremely affordable $19.99 with a user friendly Misfit Link app. In the app, users have the ability to produce commands directly from the tracker such as control Spotify and Pandora music or take pictures with their smartphones. The Link device is available in white, red, blue, and black.

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FitBit Flex

Although FitBit continues to run on the higher end of the spectrum, the company does offer a “Zip” wireless activity tracker clocking in at $59.95. Currently, the most popular tracker from the company is the FitBit “Flex” at $99.95. Many businesses offer employee discounts, making the “Flex” a bit more affordable at times. This device includes activity and sleep tracking, as well as access to the FitBit app where users can track their weight loss goals and meal plans.

79 or 85, Athletes Will Be Athletes

Lansing’s 9th annual Hawk Island Triathlon saw over 600 participants this year, including one very special 79-year-old athlete. At 79, William Swords was the oldest racer to attend. According to Mr. Swords, he has been participating in the Hawk Island Triathlon for the past 9 years and will continue to do so until he no longer can. As the only member in the 75 to 79-year-old age group, his racing philosophy is the following: “You don’t have to be fast; You just have to outlive them.” The Lansing State Journal states that even Swords’ December injury of a fractured pelvis didn’t deter him from entering the race. The Lansing Triathlon is the largest sprint triathlon in Michigan.

Anthony-S-Casey-Triathlon-OldAlthough amazing, William Swords is hardly the oldest to take on a physical fitness challenge. 85-year-old Lew Hollander completed at the 2015 Ironman 70.3 Boise. Out of approximately 1,200 racers, Hollander remained the only participant in the 85 to 89 age bracket. A lifelong athlete, Lew Hollander picked up triathlon racing at the age of 55 and has been racing ever since. He believes that life is something you either use or lose. And to prevent losing it, he continues to use it. While he will continue to do shorter races, the 2015 Ironman will be his last. If you’re an older athlete, here are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. Although your athletic potential declines, you ability to maximize on the potential you have does not. You can still operate at high efficiency even though the maximum is gradually declining. In most cases, athletic decline does not become noticeable until the late 40s and early 50s.
  2. Don’t worry about getting older. You can’t change it so you may as well embrace it. If your run times are slower due to age, focus on your technique and complete your race in the amount of time you need. Not in comparison so a 20-something athlete.
  3. Your wisdom will guide your through. Younger athletes may be quicker, yet their inexperience may hinder them in the long run. Focus on your strengths, techniques, and expertise. Through this, your athleticism will shine.
  4. Participate while you can. Life is short and unpredictable and health is taken for granted until it begins to decline. Much aligned with Lew Hollander’s thinking, you have to use your life before you lose it.

Remember, age is only a number! So get out there and get active.

More Training Tips

Training for a triathlon, or just in general, requires a great deal of motivation, discipline and hard work. You need to continually apply your self in order to improve. However, many athletes fall victim to many of the same training mistakes which hinders their progress and holds them from reaching their full potential. It is important to understand a few fundamentals of training in order to truly achieve the progress that is desired.

Anthony S Casey Singapore

(photo: Getty Images)

Most importantly, athletes need to train progressively. This involves continually challenging your body in slightly different ways and pushing yourself to outperform your previous accomplishments. This prevents your body from becoming used to a particular routine. Many triathletes will do more or less the same workout every week, with minimal progression aside from increasing volume. If you are looking for consistent, long-term improvement then it is essential to evolve your workout from week to week. However, it is important to not just vary your training haphazardly. It is important to still have a plan for your workout such as breaking your training into three stages: base, build and peak. In the base stage, you should be focused on building general endurance and fine tuning your technique. In the build phase, you should work on intensity workouts that improve your body’s ability to buffer, clear away lactic acid and mentally handle suffering. Lastly, during the peak face, you should focus on race-specific workouts such as long internals and challenging long workouts.

Completing a triathlon is truly a game of energy efficiency. In order to complete a triathlon, you need to understand how to use your body efficiently, which means developing good technique. An athlete that exhibits good technique will be able to use less energy to perform each stage of the race. A great way to work on technique is to perform short, fast interval workouts. This is because we tend to be more efficient at higher speeds, but only when our body is not fatigued. For running, some useful technique drills include “high knees” and “bud kicks”. For cycling technique, try pedalling as fast as you can in the lowest gear or do one-legged pedaling on an indoor trainer. For swimming, drills such as the catch-up drill and the count stroke drill are very effective.

A common problem that many athletes have is that they are entirely focused on how much they train and not enough on how they train. While working hard is undoubtedly important, in order to see progress you need to train correctly and efficiently. If you find yourself in a rut, then try focusing more on your technique and challenging yourself in new ways. But remember to not push yourself too hard. Make a plan, build on your progress, work on your technique and weaknesses and make sure your body is getting time to properly recover.

Tips for Transitions

Triathlon is a dynamic and challenging sport. When one thinks broadly of the sport, what comes to mind is swimming, running and cycling — obviously. However, the transitions between each leg are very important parts of the competition. Effective transitions are paramount to a serious competitor’s success. It is the moments between legs that really separate the wheat from the chaff. Let’s take a look at some ways that triathletes can optimize their transitions.

Don’t Lose the Bike!

A common issue during the water to cycle transition (the first, known as T-1), is wasted time looking for the bike. When you emerge from the water, the last thing you want to do is spend extra time looking for your bike. Shifting from water to solid ground can be disorienting, but you don’t to compound any delays by wondering the row of cycles looking for yours.

The way to avoid this is to get to the race early and very consciously choose where you are going to place it. Let this position cement itself into your memory. As you step out of the water, you should already have your eyes on where your bike is. No one is going to move it, so be confidant about where you’ve placed in and you’ll have a smooth T-1.

The Little Things

Anthony S Casey Singapore

Notice the sunglasses perched atop the helmet.

There are few little tips that can shave some time off your first transition. These little tricks may not make a huge difference, but for elite level competitors, they can be helpful. For example, don’t put your sunglasses on until you’ve already mounted your bike. Once you are rolling, you can lower you sunglasses. Often, shades can be secured in the vent holes on your helmet, so sliding them down after you’re astride and on your way is easy. If your helmet and sunglasses aren’t compatible, you can secure the glasses to your bike frame with tape or velcro.

Also, try using elastic laces. Shoe laces can be tricky to tie, especially when your heart rate is up and adrenaline is flowing. Substitute your normal laces for elastic ones will allow you to slip your shoes on and off easily. To that same end, try and forgo socks. Not worrying about socks can help insure a quick transition from water to land.

These are just a few tips to expediting your transition times. Experiment with these and see if they make you feel faster!

Wearable Tech in Triathlons

Very cool product but too good to be true?

Recon Jet: The Ultimate Triathlon Device from Recon Instruments on Vimeo.

NCAA partners with USA Triathlon

The NCAA, the organization that presides over college athletics in the United States, is welcoming a partnership with USA Triathlon to help grow the sport among female student athletes. The NCAA has been looking for ways to lessen the disparity of female versus male student athletes. Currently, men make up 56.6% of NCAA student athletes. The NCAA has tried to further this initiative with team handball, archery, and synchronized swimming. The NCAA has requirements for new sports to gain “Championship” status, specifically that 40 Division 1 schools and 23 Division 2 and 3 schools must create varsity teams within 10 years. Failing to reach that benchmark is why the NCAA formally recommended the removal of equestrian as an official collegiate sport in 2012.

Anthony S Casey Singapore

USAT and NCAA partner to grow triathlon

To help make the inclusion of triathlons an enduring success, USA Triathlon is committing $2.6 million in grants to colleges and universities the form women’s triathlon teams. Schools will submit an application, and once approved they’ll receive up to $140,000 over four years to fund their program. The hope is that financial backing will ensure success. USA Triathlon is certainly a profitable organization, based in part on the demographics of triathletes. Adults with disposable income are willing to pay the commonly $100 entry fee for an event. Coupled with the growth of the professional circuit, USA Triathlon has money they can confidently reinvest in the sport.

USA Triathlon expects college events to benefit the triathlon community in immediate ways. When a college-level event is happening in an nearby area, you’ll be able to compete as well. The amateur participants will follow the competitors after an appropriate delay, similar to how the amateurs begin well after the professionals during the New York City Marathon. This model of open registration will help fund the expensive equipment associated with triathlon.

The endeavor will accomplish several important goals: provide more athletic opportunities for young women and help grow triathlons even more.

Training Methods

Training for an event as diverse and challenging as a triathlon can be a daunting task, especially for a beginner. There are many different ways that someone can increase their endurance, but to prepare for the triumvirate of swimming, running and cycling should be considered more conscientiously. It is important to keep in mind that what might be effective for one athlete may not be right for another. Some folks like to train in solitude, while others, especially newer athletes, would benefit from more one-on-one instructing and feedback. Coaching expenses can varying significantly as well. Let’s take a look at a few different training options and strategies.

Clubs

 

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Training for your triathlon requires organization.

Many communities have triathlon clubs. A good feature of these clubs is a wide variety of intensity. Sometimes local clubs are just likeminded athletes looking for some new people to train with. They can operate in more social function than anything. There are also clubs that are far more serious and performance oriented. Those clubs can breed a healthy competitive element that drives everyone to be better. Also, rookie racers can benefit from a steeper learning curve.

Going Online

There are a lot of internet based training programs available. The world wide web gives you plenty of options, whether you want to find an talented athlete to model your training programme after, or if you want to collaborate with a world renowned coach. This choice is great for people preparing for specific goals, such as hitting a predetermined time or qualifying for an event. An online training regimen encourages more solo work outs, which can help build mental toughness and overall character.

The problem with online coaching is the lack of immediate feedback. A coach who is there in person can fix problems with form immediately, where an internet based programme is far more delayed. The more communication between an athlete and the their coach the better, so online training can be a bit of a drag in that sense.


 

As with anything, it is important to experiment and find what works best for you. More than likely, your perfect programme will be a combination of the strategies described above.

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