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Thursday, December 23, 2010

11. “Core” specifics for Runners & Triathletes

The term “core” has become so ingrained in the psyche of the exercise community as an end, in & of itself, that the implications for the need to stabilize the pelvis as a platform off of which we then drive and elastically release our legs during running, has been somewhat lost. Even this is simplified – the pelvic set & hips are key “rebounders” & the joints need to be positioned so that we can accelerate the foot to the ground with the glutes & quads & then drive & hold to bounce/release to toe off with as little leakage/dissipation as possible.

It is essential that when we do stabilization exercises as runners we see them as improving the “hold” & thus anchor points off which the hip, then knee, then ankle & plantar fascia accelerate & bounce off. So often we wish for things to be black & white & there are some populist models that would have us believe that there is no push in running. Clearly there is; muscle myography has proved this time & again.

A case can then be made for doing the majority of this “core” work while standing or balancing on both & preferably one leg, (& balancing on the mid foot to boot!). Even then there will be a need to graduate to a more plyometric approach where the pelvis is put under pressure with hopping, jumping & bounding & having the stabilizers deal with those drops & torques as a functional conditioning response.

For this reason these exercises should not only be considered as those for our abdominal muscles (obliques, rectus and most importantly transverse abs), but also the back stabilizers – most importantly the quadratus lumborum (QL) and multifidus. Also include hip flexors, glutes, groin and even knee stabilizers. And last but not least, in order to remain “stacked” through the gait cycle our upper back muscles & our thoracic spine stabilizers must be equally conditioned & trained.

Consider also the Spiderman suit that is our fascia – this needs to be released & balanced – no amount of strength or conscious effort will overcome stooped shoulders, a kyphotic (rounded upper) back & lack of extension ability/mobility with our hip flexors. We need this handled so that a lifetime of desk work & poor posture does not hold us back from our most efficient running ability

The more taught the pelvis is held dynamically, the less the loss of elastic energy (dissipation) and the greater the elastic return – so that you can SPRING forward.

Stay stacked, short in all the right places & “bouncy”!

Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Thursday, December 2, 2010

10. How should my foot interact with the running surface?

This has been a subject of great debate lately, as the book; Born to Run, by Christopher McDougall has brought the concept of bare foot running sharply to the fore. There are also shoe companies designing footwear to force changes in foot strike & individual methodologies being marketed on how to run properly & a lot has to do with the nature of how the foot hits the surface/should hit the surface. Most runners who started running as a fitness activity simply extended their walking gait, which is a heel first strike, into running & were allowed to get away with this because of modern running footwear with well cushioned heels. “Natural” runners gravitated to the sport prior to the 1970's running boom & tended to be smaller, lighter, which is part of the self-selection process for running if NOT helped by footwear.

In running the foot should land as close to underneath the center of mass as possible, landing on the outside (lateral) edge of the bottom of the mid foot (just on & behind the pad behind the little toe). The heel will then roll down towards the surface & either lightly touch (load) as in distance running, or not, as in sprinting. The foot then rolls inward over the strong part of the outside edge, loads the arch (connective tissue/fascia & some muscle) as a spring & a shock absorber & then onto the ball of the foot before coming off the ground with the middle to big toe leaving last. Equally suitable is landing slightly further back with the “whole” outside ridge of the foot, i.e. mid foot proper – pad behind little toe, extending to just in front of the heel.

However, if you DON’T naturally run like this, be very careful & gradual with the process of doing so if you decide to change, as your plantar fascia & achilles tendon could no doubt become injured if you are too hasty, (as well as possible foot stress fractures). If you do strike heel 1st, try to have the forefoot follow VERY quickly & consider the sole of your shoe as curved like a partial car tire & rolling from the microsecond the outside of the heel hits the surface till the inside toes leave the ground. This is similar to the fore foot strike, but starts at the heel, rolls across the outside of the foot & then inwards (also loading the arch) towards & onto the ball of the foot & off the middle to big toe. Some elastic return is lost from the achilles & plantar fascia in this manner I suspect, but it is still an effective way to run & many top runners do so, albeit being more reliant on the footwear for some initial cushioning & not the achilles, plantar fascia & calf muscle complex.

More important currently in my mind is the angle of the shin – it should be vertical upon contact & not leaning rearward. This is a purer indication of not over striding & indicates well the relative position of the impact point to the dynamic center of mass (inside the pelvis) & is the point of least braking & friction.

This process is far more multi-dimensional than I have described & surmized here, but should serve as a guide to the reasoning of runners wishing to observe & experiment. 

©Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


I asked my fine running friend & Master Statistician Riel Hauman if I could use this great article of his for this post. It is all about the origin of the classic Athens race as we know it today:

By Riel Hauman - Editor of Distance Running Results

This year marks the 2500th anniversary of the Battle of Marathon on 12 September, 490 BC – the event that spurred the birth of the marathon footrace in 1896. The race is run on the same course from Marathon to Athens used for the 1896 and 2004 Olympic marathons (although it is probably not the route followed by the legendary messenger Pheidippides in 490 BC). The first Athens Marathon was held in 1955, and thereafter it was run every second year until 1967 when it became an annual event. Before 1955, however, other marathons were held on the course, such as the 1906 Intercalated Games Marathon and seven editions of the Balkan Games Championships.

Although men such as Abebe Bikila and Buddy Edelen won the race between 1955 and 1968, the marathon really attracted international attention only in 1969 when Bill Adcocks (GBR) ran his brilliant time of 2:11:07.2. Over the next thirty-odd years some of the world’s best marathoners – Ian Thompson, Rodolfo Gomez, Gerard Nijboer, Douglas Wakiihuri and Abel Anton among them – would win the race, but Adcocks’ record stood untouched. It was only with the return of the Olympics to Athens in 2004 that Stefano Baldini (ITA) succeeded in finally wiping the record from the books when he clocked 2:10:55 to win the gold medal.

The ten fastest times in the Athens Classic Marathon are:

2:10:55 Stefano Baldini (ITA) 2004

2:11:07.2 Bill Adcocks (GBR) 1969

2:11:29 Mebrahtom Keflezighi (USA) 2004

2:11:49 Rodolfo Gomez (MEX) 1982

2:12:01 Douglas Wakiihuri (KEN) 1995

2:11:11 Vanderlei de Lima (BRA) 2004

2:12:26 Jon Brown (GBR) 2004

2:12:42 Paul Lekuraa (KEN) 2008

2:13:11 Shigeru Aburaya (JPN) 2004

2:13:16 Abel Anton (ESP) 1997

The picture, from The Guinness Book of the Marathon, shows Adcocks (5) in his record race with Huseyin Aktas (TUR, 6) and Kenji Kimihara (JPN, 2).

Monday, November 15, 2010

9. Correct arm usage for runners

The arms are closer to the brain than the legs. Your arms are “cleverer” than your legs as a result. Fatigued limbs have a hard time responding to cognitive commands, making “access” easier through reflex, rhythm pathways. Part of this also occurs when synapses are used repeatedly – they start to lose choline & struggle to relay messages. These facts make it possible through the intricately integrated connection between all limbs, called the kinetic chain, to use your arms effectively to run better. One key component of effective running is to have your feet be on the ground for the briefest period possible for any given foot strike. This is called stride rate & if the arms & legs MUST move in unison (left knee to right elbow in front for example), it stands to reason that the quicker the arm is punched rearward & then automatically swung forward on the opposite side, the quicker the legs must move – effective running is often measured by how rapidly the foot can return for the next foot fall from toe off. (Of course stride length is the other half of the equation, but that’s another matter all together.)

Ensure that the arms remain bent at the elbow at 90* or even more closed; I often use a little pebble, held in the crook of the elbow & not to be dropped while running, to drill this component. The lowest part of the arm, at any point during the swing must be the elbow; the shorter the lever the quicker it can be swung. If there are no deficiencies elsewhere, the arms should be swung symmetrically under the shoulder – i.e. when the thighs are parallel during the running gait, the forearms should be parallel with each other & the surface & the middle of the forearm should be directly underneath the armpit/shoulder. Keep the hand above the short line. When viewed from the front the hand should be inside (or nearer the body than the elbow). If possible keep each arm on the outside of the sternum & try not to cross the center line. Some good runners do however do this & it is not a deal-breaker. What is a deal-breaker though is rotating the upper body across the line of travel where clearly there is a “disconnect” between the torso & the legs.

Good runners even close the elbow angle when the arm is swung to the front & open it somewhat when swung to the rear. Keep the hands loose & the wrists firm, with the thumb on the forefinger as a general rule of, um, thumb!

Relaxed, bent, coordinated, quick, rearward punching arms will help you be a more effective runner.

Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Thursday, November 11, 2010


The previous post is clearly NOT Chrissie Wellington's quad, but her biceps!!!

Sorry she did not race, but a marvelous men's & women's race anyway.

Good luck to all of you in 70.3 World Champs in Clearwater this weekend.

I hope Gebrs has NOT retired as he said after NY....

New info post to follow soon!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

8. Muscle recruitment – the way to improved running performances

The picture of Chrissie Wellington's quadThat's loaded I'd say!
Ever wondered why sprinters do those high powerful vertical leaps just when they get called to the blocks? Or why baseball players use a heavy donut on their bats while warming up? The answer is muscle recruitment. You may have noticed even when you are fit that if in the course of a day you run up a flight of steps you get to the top winded with some quad burn going on. This is because you have used a small amount of muscle fibers to an intense degree to do something safely. If you had warmed up dynamically (like with my Dynamic Warm Up routine) before you ran up this flight of stairs, you would have reached the top with less effort, no discomfort & a much lower breath & heart rate – something you need to do before training & racing!
The body is a safety mechanism & only recruits sufficient muscle fibers to do things safely – it is not interested in performance unless your life is in danger, then the hormones released as a result of a fight or flight response ensure that you are optimally primed to meet this threat – a little how you feel just before the start of a race. Specific muscle recruitment activities before training & racing therefore are essential to turn your body from a safety mechanism, into a performance mechanism by recruiting more muscle than the body needs for safe execution alone. This is part of the reason why you might feel sore 48 hours after a hard workout for which you failed to warm up (read recruit) properly. IT IS BETTER TO USE YOUR LIMITED TIME BY CUTTING BACK ON THE BODY OF YOUR WORKOUT TO ENSURE CORRECT PREPARATION, THAN TO CUT THE Warm Up SHORT & RUSH THE SESSION. YOU WILL GAIN MORE BENEFIT FROM LESS WORK DONE WITH AN OPTIMALLY PRIMED BODY. Potentiate those muscles for success.
Little hops, bounds, harness work or light, short hill reps are a great way to potentiate before races & quality run workouts.
©Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Saturday, October 9, 2010

WoW IM WC Hawaii 2010!!!

What a men's & women's race. The run times superb - Craig Alexander runs 2:42 for 4th & still doesn't have the fastest run split! Rinny goes 2:53 in 40*C!! The game has changed again, but the run still wins it. Boy did they ever run this year. Well done Macca - the mouth put his money there; that running around 8-15km was Special with a capital; when Andreas caught him, who'd have thunk that Macca would out duel & out think him. Stride rates were telling & again the higher rates, while still connected, won the day. Those that blew, like poor Mr. Lieto (whaddabike!!), saved total meltdown through maintaining rhythm. Even with her huge power to weight advantage & short stature Carfrae still has a power run at 92 steps per leg per minute. Class acts all around. Nice to see Timmy O there at the end to meet Marinda & gutsy finishes from friends Justin, Andy P, Sam & TJ; well done, the hearts are great, even though the legs departed sooner than you may have liked.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Here's wishing all those racing in Hawaii, Chicago & other races around the country this weekend a huge joyous experience.

I wish you a run that challenges you to gloriously display parts of you which you do not yet know. I wish you wisdom & lightness in the less than stellar patches. I wish you all the joy that completion & knowing you dug deep & gave it your best shot brings. & finally I wish you an easy focus on process, allowing a satisfying result which appears magically, because you stayed present in all the moments, observing your experience qualitatively & light-heartedly
Best wishes,
Bobby McGee

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

7. Switching On

Exercise science is accelerating the level at which we understand how our bodies function & it is happening at a crazy rate. I feel lost trying to catch up daily & I have been at this for 3 decades! For example, we used to believe in something called a “2nd breath” (way back in the 50s) when we’d start a race & after some time we’d suddenly feel way better – now we know we just weren’t warmed up enough! Granted I had not run many races by 1960! We thought stretching was a good idea before exercise – now we are pretty sure it’s a bad idea. We thought a warm up was for our central physiology only; getting our sweat rate going, our heart rate, getting our muscle core temperature up & so on. Turns out that one has to turn the lights on 1st, before one can prepare the space to play! Muscles that have been passive or even defacilitated through sleep or daily work need to be specifically activated before we begin our warm up & then more muscle fibers need to be recruited to perform optimally, rather than just safely. Add to this that our movement patterns need to be facilitated & initiated effectively before we can perform at our best & get the most from our training & when we compete. One can’t just flip the main switch & hope all the wiring is up to code & the systems are all A-Okay. An airplane needs a huge maintenance crew to keep it in the air. The body needs an opportunity to get fully into gear before it can perform. It’s one thing taking your Subaru out of the garage & driving straight to work & another matter entirely taking your Formula 1 car off the truck & straight into a race. Most of us can go out for an easy run without too much prior prep, but to train hard & race well, require quite a bit more forethought. The art & science of potentiation is relatively new for most individuals who exercise – look into it; you’ll be blown away at the difference it can make for you & hey, what’s not to like about better performance, feeling better & staying injury free, right? Each individual athlete has limitations, be they in their connective tissue set, injury remnants & imbalances, age, muscle type & ratio, oxygen uptake kinetics, exercise response type & many more. Spend a lifetime continually learning what works for you
Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Friday, September 3, 2010

6. Are you a lifter or a pusher?

The answer could be the silver bullet your running needs

Last time we spoke about the forward lean & its contribution to an increased stride rate – a highly desirable component required to being an efficient runner. That forward lean is one component that increases stride rate; power application is the other. However an increased angle of attack does not guarantee increased stride rate in some cases, as habituated lifting of the knee, in an effort to increase/maintain stride length continues to access majority concentric muscle contraction of the hip flexors. This not only slows stride rate, but greatly increases the strength requirement & therefore an accelerated accumulation of fatigue from dealing with eccentric jarring from increased support phase weight bearing time. It also creates more fatigue because the stride falls more towards the forward sector relative to the center of mass, & thus increasing work to regain this lost inertia with each step. It is a common myth that in order to have that nice high knee lift when you run you have to fire your hip flexors – nothing could be further from the truth. By powerfully extending your leg downwards it subsequently is dragged rearward (because of forward momentum & the foot striking a stationary surface). The leg is not driven in an effort to push the body while it is on the surface – this would be counterproductive as tissue is supposed to be held semi rigid as connective tissue stretches/loads in anticipation for elastic release upon toe off. It is essential that the driving phase is seen as unloaded & with gravity. In this way the hip flexors are extended/loaded & pop back powerfully because of this, leading to that light, springy high knee lift so characteristic of great runners. Again, please make sure that you do not push while the foot is on the ground, but before this; it’s like throwing a pogo stick at the ground. If you push while the foot is on the surface you stop it from unloading elastically. Good running is 5 parts elastic return & only one part strength application – the more you lift your knees & try to power your body by driving the foot while it is on the ground, the greater the strength component, the slower the stride rate, the longer the stance time, the greater the rate of fatigue accumulation. Nuf said!
©Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Sunday, August 22, 2010

5. Lean your way to great running

A slight forward lean from the ankles, with the chest & pelvis squarely aligned is a great way to gain a mechanical advantage by utilizing gravity. A forward lean also increases cadence or stride rate, which is an extremely desirable asset to the distance runner. Please note the word slight – leaning too much can create over rotation & put pressure on the core muscles & increase loading in the hamstrings & hip flexors. Do NOT lean from the waist, this is a recipe for disaster. Keep the elbows bent 90* or less – the hallmark of all great distance runners is that bent elbow. Take smaller, but quicker steps & run lightly over the running surface. However do not chop your natural stride length down – allow the speed to determine stride length. The faster you run, the more you can lean. You are trying to reduce surface interaction time, but do not want to have to either lift the foot off the ground or get to the surface too soon & increase friction. If you are leaning too much, your foot strike becomes too loud & therefore heavy & you will have to lift your legs to clear the foot to stop it from scraping the surface – this lifting is a total no-no!
© Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Get Connected

If you don’t contra rotate your torso when you run, you are disconnected & if you are disconnected your Center of Mass & your strength (concentric) component is high – therefore you are inefficient; so learn how to contra-rotate, but don’t do so cognitively!
Yeah I felt the same way when 1st I started to figure this one out.
The world of Feldenkrais is an esoteric one to say the least & it draws the more “abstruse” of us to it & thus work from this field is often pooh-poohed. But of late there is some great stuff coming from certain members of this community who teach running – they really get “being connected” when you move. Check it out.
In swim/bike/run, all are equally dependant on good solid coordinated connectedness – try climbing on the bike & not pulling with the opposite arm! Or try swimming with only lats & pecs & not core – some of us can do this (yeah me!) & hoo boy, do we swim poorly!
Trouble is, in the run, if we were not connected from the start, or we fiddled around with some “technique” suggestions from a 2-dimensional model of bio-mechanical quackery, the unlearn (of the disconnected) & the relearning (through cognitive pathways) is a tough one.
The steps are:
1. Recognition – have an expert take a look
2. Correction – 1st through understanding & seeing (video), & then through presets & drills
3. Habituation – constant repetition till cognitive gives way to automatic
4. Confirmation - in races & hard training, especially when fatigued; should feel smoother & easier & be able to go longer & faster!
For more, check out my DVD, Triathlon, The Run, with explanations (understanding) & drills (learning)
Yours in connectedness!
Bobby McGee

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

4. Stride rate is the key to successful running

The forward lean in running is free speed, but the high stride rate, turnover or cadence really is the most important aspect of successful running. The less the amount of time, per foot strike, your foot can be on the ground, the less strength is required, the less fatigue is accumulated & the less eccentric micro tearing in the leg muscles takes place. A hallmark of champion distance runners is a stride rate of over 180 steps per minute – some as high as 208! Count your cadence by counting the number of foot strikes you achieve with one foot in 15sec & then multiply that by 4. This will give you a single leg turnover. The minimum number you are striving for is 23 (or 92 steps per foot per minute, which is 184 for both feet). Your length, leg length or gender is irrelevant. Lastly, do not simply try to move up your cadence by moving your legs faster; this may lead to injury & may not improve performance. Do this by leaning slightly forward from the ankle, staying tall through the hips, bending your elbows 90*, (till you could hold a pebble in the crook of your elbow & not drop it for the duration of the run), punching your elbows rearward slightly &, most importantly, pushing your foot to the ground, (but NOT while on the ground). Do this rather than launching up into the air (pushing off) & dropping to the ground – a recipe for injury, fatigue & poor performance.

Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Sunday, July 25, 2010

3. Fatigued Focus on the Run

New research shows lowest O2 usage (highest efficiency) when focusing on the running experience or sensation itself; simply competing or running. Staying in this less than fully conscious flow state can easily be interrupted by fatigue or any other loss of focus. When teaching runners to stay most efficient I have always advised them to focus on mood words in the beginning – words like strong, relaxed, fit, capable, ready, racer, smooth, relaxed, fun, racing, etc. Once fatigue sets in & they start to lose rhythm & their mechanics become disrupted & uncoordinated, (as they most often are right off the bike in triathlon), then flow & that type of ideal focus is lost & the runner must resort to a new tactic. That tactic is focusing on process. Focusing on fatigue or performance, especially outcome, is dissociative & has been shown to be the least efficient. Focusing on process can often return rhythm & flow. The skilled look for that beat of foot strike. A set of skills, like shortening the stride to return or maintain rhythm, can be taught/learned & can be ways back into the run.
So in summary: Focusing on anything other than that which can propel you forward faster during fatigued running can be called lost focus. Focusing on fatigue, or trying to think dissociatively, i.e. of something else to get your mind off the task at hand, when racing or running hard, leads to reduced access to fitness & ability. Focusing on how you are running (the mechanical movements) is also ineffectual, as this is a cognitive process that occurs so much slower (it is chemical), than the natural (electrical) flow of a reflex (unconscious) action. Thoughts on getting limbs & body into optimal position to gain maximum benefit from power application & elastic return are excellent ways to focus. Focusing on a feeling or image is also very powerful, especially when fresh. At the start of an endurance race, focus on mood words like, easy, smooth, powerful, relaxed, will help you to not interfere cognitively with your body’s natural ability to perform. In triathlon this would be relevant mostly in the swim & on the bike if a draft legal event. However, when fatigue sets in, it becomes useful to think objectively about what to do, especially if your form has deteriorated.

Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

How to Lay it on the Line when it Counts

On the 30th of July as an added part of my regular sport psychology & run mechanics & run training lectures to USA Triathlon level 1 candidate coaches, I will be presenting a mental skills training CEU. This time it takes place in New Jersey. These are designed for USAT coaches to keep up with what’s relevant to triathlon today & remain current with their coaching certification. These are also open to any triathlete, triathlon coach or interested party.

Unlike my (& most others) lecture in the course, this 3 hour event is designed to be highly practical & as individualized as a group setting will allow. The majority of the session is participatory & I have received very positive feedback in terms of the workshop’s effectiveness.

Most triathletes know that effective mental skills like self confidence & dealing with the sensations of effort are essential for race performances to match fitness expectations. The reason why triathletes do little about it though may be due in some large part to the lack of access to practice. There are a number of GREAT books out there, but we all know how hard it is putting good ideas on paper into practice, especially under the pressures of competition! One-on-one work with a skilled teacher of mental skills for triathlon are few & far between & expensive – I get about 1 client requesting mental skills training to every 7 that want training or run mechanical skills training.

If you live in that part of the world & could use some extra mojo, here’s an opportunity. If not, then remind yourself, as an athlete, that self confidence & full access to fitness under pressure are skills that can be learned & this may be the edge you have been looking for.

Click here to sign up & get more info:

Below is a copy of the letter that goes out to participants in the CEU. Use it as a guideline to set some of the details as you prepare for your next race. Are you considering all these & would it be useful to do so?

Stay or get mentally strong! It’s how you show up fully on D Day!

Bobby McGee

PS: Remember my book, Magical Running, A Unique Path to Running Fulfillment, is all about mental skills training & is set up as a workbook to support you as you habituate a killer mindset for race day. Available from

Dear Participant

I would like to extend the opportunity once again to make this Mental Skills CEU as practical & as customized as possible. With this email, to you as registrant (thank you), I am including 4 questionnaires:

1. Creating the Perfect Race
2. Mental Skills Assessment
3. Psychological Performance Inventory – please note that the spreadsheets have multiple tabs
4. Sport Psychological Training Evaluation – please note that the spreadsheets have multiple tabs

Feel free to make copies of these & have athletes that you work with, or yourself, complete them. If you are using them with athletes, I strongly advise you to number them & have the corresponding name kept confidential. Of course this implies a confidentiality agreement between you & your athlete that would imply a desire to participate in such exercises.

Bring the completed forms along to the seminar & we will spend time creating effective strategies to enhance the performance of these athletes.

Please bring along a hard copy, (or have it electronically), of the relevant course maps that either you or your athletes will be peaking for as key events coming up.

I look forward to working with you.

Best wishes,

Bobby McGee

Friday, July 16, 2010

2. Dynamic Warm up Drills: How to give you your best shot at an optimal event

In my previous post I spoke about the deleterious effects of passive stretching before exercise. So what are you supposed to do before exercise or competition? The answer is a series of progressively more intense activities that bring the body to a point where it is ready for peak performance. These activities include:
1. Mobility exercises – these increase the range of motion of a joint, so that it can manage the requirements of the activity safely & effectively. An example of such an activity are increasingly aggressive arm circles for a swimmer
2. Facilitation exercises – these exercises mimic the activity about to be performed in an ever increasing range of motion & intensity. An example of this might be a high knee drill before a quality run work out
3. Recruitment exercises – these exercises are careful repetitions of the movement required in an overloaded fashion. This ensures that enough muscle fibers are recruited to not only perform safely, but competitively. An example of this might be swinging a baseball bat with a weighted doughnut attached prior to batting practice
Attached is a picture of Shelia Burrell, world championship bronze medalist heptathlete & 4th in Olympics, performing a dynamic warm up drill. Below is a video of Carrie Messner-Vickers, world champs steeplechase finalist & US record holder performing a grapevine or karaoke dynamic warm up drill.
Some examples of effective dynamic warm up procedures can be found in Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes, or The DVD, Triathlon, The Run, both by Bobby McGee. Available from

Thursday, July 8, 2010

1. Passive stretching before training & racing slows you down

The purpose of stretching is to allow muscles to recover by “switching off “& allow nutrients to “enter “the tissue. Muscles require downtime to metabolize the effects of hard work & repair/grow stronger. Tests have shown that passive stretching actually slows down muscle speed (sequential firing) & recruitment (the number of muscle fibers available to do the work required). Passive stretching may even destabilize certain joints, like the hip joint, & lead to injury during the training session that follows the stretching session. Studies have shown that people who stretch passively are more likely to get injured than those who don’t! In later blogs I will explain how a Dynamic Warm Up Procedure is a far better way to go to gain optimal results from your fitness. So if you want to stretch passively, do so after training & even here, I recommend that you actively stretch for a far better result, i.e. allow the muscle being released to primarily control the activity.
In a recent study with collegiate cross country runners, those with the shortest hamstrings were the best runners in every case!
To my mind the muscle groups that need to be “released” & returned or set at optimal “loadability” levels after training as far as running is concerned are the hip flexors, the soleus & the quads.
Bobby McGee – Bobby McGee Endurance Sports

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Become a Runner - with Jarrod Shoemaker

Olympian & uber triathlon runner, Jarrod Shoemaker & myself are doing a webinar with USAT tomorrow at 6PM Mountain Time. Register at

We are going to explore how one can run better off the bike by working on the run in a more organic fashion. We'll focus on training ideas, mindsets, drills & a number of issues pertinent to accessing all the runner you can be.

It's the 1st time we are trying this format with athlete & coach on the same presentation - should be fun & hopefully super informative.

Could this be the secret recipe for your run that you have been looking for.

Please join us

Bobby McGee

Friday, June 18, 2010

Just 2 HUGE requirements for Success

All you need to race exceptionally is just these 2 things
Performance in endurance sports is all about 2 critical factors:
1. How confident are you?
2. How much can you handle?
It’s kind of in your face isn’t it? I have recently written a sport psychology chapter for a training manual & just discussing what factors make up self confidence & the ability to deal with the extreme sensations that need to be managed to achieve your best possible performance took nearly 10 000 words! I guess that’s why sport psychologists will keep churning out studies & writing books, because while understanding the theory behind the psychology of endurance performance is doable & interesting, it is the application that is SO much more difficult. The very 1st review I received when I published Magical Running, my book on the mental approach to endurance events, (available at, was that it “is an easy book to read, a very hard book to do”. This fact points to the age old fact that while everybody knows sport psychology is the glue that turns training & potential into performance, it is largely paid nothing more than lip service. Often the excuse is that it takes too much time or that most feel they really don’t need to work on it, but the truth is:
That’s why it’s called a blind spot – we simply cannot see why we fail to push through. It is a somewhat universal truth that we are all afraid of being exposed & therefore unwilling to be vulnerable. It is through ownership of our limitations that we can determine whether our beliefs are just skewed perception paradigms or hold some modicum of truth. The self statement “I am not good enough”, or the question, “Am I good enough?” needs to be answered 1000s of time during the course of a race. Our biggest breakthroughs come when we take on the process of tearing down the fa├žade, which incidentally seems to us to be so well constructed, but is often so obvious to those that know us! A hint to involve others in this process of learning who we are as competitors & what we need to work on to become more fully whom we are capable of being.
Confidence is mostly sourced from effective training AND connecting that training & it’s implications with who we are being in competition. This requires insight , honesty & most of all a continuous passionate commitment to the execution of process actions in order to get it all out of ourselves on race day.
Some compelling current research seems to indicate that our point of failure is ALWAYS mental – no matter what the physical situation, the cessation of performance is always a decision to quit that is made at some level of consciousness!
Certain mental fatigue limits our performance capabilities & conversely, as the study seems to prove, it is possible to make considerable gains in performance through specific mental training.
The psychological lesson however has not changed – do what it takes to be as confident as possible – I’d define this as the belief that we can execute to our fitness & ability on race day & 2ndly, know in every fiber of our being that we are the toughest SOBs out there & that there is no circumstance that we cannot handle in such a way that it turns out to our advantage.
Come to think of it – that’s what I have been seeing out there on the world stage for 29 years – confidence & guts, deep grounding confidence & jaw dropping guts.
My wish for you all then: believe in yourself & know you have what the race asks.
Bobby McGee

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Been awhile - sorry folks!

Just got this refresher from Velo of quotes for Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes

If you haven't seen it yet, I'd be stoked if you did...

Praise for Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes
By Bobby McGee with Marathon Training Plans by Mark Plaatjes

“Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes is a modern book for the modern athlete, combining great insight, quality, and practical value.”
—Tim Noakes, OMS, MD, DSc, bestselling author of The Lore of Running

“Whether you are a novice runner training for a 5km race or an Ironman hoping to qualify for Kona, Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes provides an easy-to-follow, proven method for reaching your goals.”
—Samantha McGlone, 2004 Olympian and 2006 Ironman 70.3 World Champion

“Bobby's approach to running took my running to the next level, helping me become the #1 ranked triathlete in the world for 2 years. If you care about running fast, this book has answers. ”
—Barb Lindquist, 2004 Olympian and former #1-ranked triathlete

“Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes consolidates much of Bobby's great wisdom and vast experience as a running and multi-sport coach into an easy to use tool for athletes and coaches alike. ”
—Scott Schnitzspahn, USA Triathlon Sport Performance Director and 2008 Olympic Triathlon Team Leader

“Solid plans by knowledgeable coaches.”
—Jonathan Beverly, editor of Running Times magazine

“Since I started working with Bobby McGee in 2005, he has greatly improved my running technique by introducing me to a variety of drills. Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes has helped me to develop a mix of speed, endurance, and strength in my running. I love the mix of fresh, new workouts. The book is very user-friendly and can be a tool whether you want to train for a 5K or an Ironman. From elites to beginners, this book has all the answers! ”
—Sarah Haskins Kortuem, 2008 Olympian and ITU World Championship silver medalist

“Runners won't find a more qualified team of coaches than Bobby McGee and Mark Plaatjes. Readers won't find practical advice in a more readable format than Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes.” — Joe Henderson, former chief editor of Runner’s World, contributor to Marathon & Beyond, and author

“Bobby McGee has few peers when it comes to coaching the entire gamut of endurance sports athletes, from gold medalist marathoners to world-class triathletes to recreational runners.”
— Michael Sandrock, author of Running Tough and Running with the Legends

“Bobby McGee is one of the top 10 coaches working with runners today. So chuck those soiled socks and empty PowerBar wrappers in your gym-bag, and make space for Run Workouts. You’ll be only a page away from your next best workout.” — Rich Benyo, Marathon & Beyond magazine

“With abundant information and a smart design, Run Workouts for Runners and Triathletes is easy to use. This reference book has no fluff whatsoever, only straight information presented on sweat-proof pages in a very compact package.” — Triathlon Magazine Canada

Bobby McGee

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Run the perfect Bolder Boulder 2010

Perfect Pacing for the Bolder Boulder

When using time trials as determinants of possible goal pace for the Bolder Boulder 10km it is essential to compare similar courses. Let’s say, for example you ran a 38:00 4-miler on a flat course on dirt on a 55* day with no wind. Using a race time comparison chart this equals a 60:21 10km. Now let’s see why the time trial was an apple & the race grapefruit, or was it?

· On the plus side you ran the time trial on dirt, while the race is on asphalt. This means that the same time trial on asphalt would have been faster
· On the minus side is that the 4-miler was flat & the race is hilly
· Another minus might be that the race may dawn warmer than the time trial, which was run in optimal weather
· A plus would be that the race is later in your training phase & you are fitter & would have run a faster 4-miler if you ran it on race day
· Another plus is that you are tapered for the race & thus physically capable of a stronger performance because of the rest & facilitation
· Another plus is that you are mentally aimed at this race, your commitment to the race is greater & your physiology & mind are correspondingly attenuated to achieve a peak performance

Once you have decided on a realistic, but aggressive time goal, you now have an overall pace that you’d like to achieve. It is important then to consider that not as the pace, but as the effort you’d like to achieve. By this I mean, that based on the above 4 miler, you may be going to try for a 9:40 mile pace on race day, but will run faster on the down sections than that & slower on the up sections. Bearing the 3% rule in mind – that all things being equal (surface, etc), the most efficient way to achieve a time goal is not to vary on either side of the average pace by more than 3%, it might behoove you to use the course elevation map, the 3% rule & your time goal to come up with a race pace plan that matches this.

Below I have broken down the course in this manner & added the various mental challenges & strategies that you might need to face to achieve such a goal. For the purposes of explanation I have used a 9:40 mile as illustration:

1. The 1st mile is a down (to lowest point on the course – 5,284ft.), then up, more down than up – slightly so. Take care to go out at a brisk pace (after a good full warm up). Avoid saying “Don’t go out too fast”, as you will access the mental program on how to go out too fast – a disease that inhabits even the most skillful of runners – especially younger males! The internal dialogue is subjective – “Go out strong, smooth, relaxed & at goal effort”. Now this may bring a 1st mile that is 3% faster than goal (e.g. 9:20) & that’s okay, as long as the effort was the target effort. It would also be useful to know your km split (e.g. 6:00), as this will give you more frequent & ultimately more objective feedback. Last thing about the start is to stay present, as while your 1st mile split may be 9:20, you may have gone too fast in the 1st .5 mile & then slowed too much in the 2nd half – even, smooth, gradual pace judgment is essential.
2. The 2nd mile is mostly all climb with a peak on Folsom Hill & a little drop & then climb to the 2mi marker. Here the pace can drift (but not the effort!) to just under 10:00
3. Mile 3 is similar, but alas with an even steeper grade. Just after the 2 mile marker you climb steeply to 19th & Vista. Thereafter there is a slight respite – a down section that goes past the 3 mile marker to 19th & Balsam – to just over half way (5km). Here with that more marked drop down 19th, you should manage about 9:50 – 9:55
4. The rest of mile 3 (from 19th & Balsam) is a series of turns & roller coasters in terms of elevation changes & is an absolutely crucial time to remain focused on form & balanced effort. It is easy to allow the pace to slip & the previously clear target of pace to give way to thoughts of “Maybe next year”, or “I’m taking it easy to the top of Casey Hill, (just past 4 miles) & then I’ll see where I am at”. By this time, with this lost focus, the hopes of a specific overall pace goal being achieved will be lost or at the very least seriously challenging to regain in the remaining 2 & a bit miles. Here a pace of 9:50 to 10:00 would be well done. While not allowing a slowing because of perceived fatigue, it is important also that you do not over-zealously attack this part of the course – it really requires patience, concentration & a balanced effort that gives back the least time, but at the same time spares the legs somewhat to gain fullest advantage of the down hills to come
5. The turn east for the long decent comes just after mile 4, & the 5th mile is ALL DOWN! The bad news is that to gain time on down hills is harder because you have less time (going faster) to make up what you lost over the same distance climbing (going slower)! It is not a time to rest & recover, as one needs to attack the downs to get full benefit. This requires greater focus than what the hills required, as the body will be sending messages to the brain saying, “whoa there! You just worked your butt off & feel the consequences, what’s the hurry? Let’s take it easy down these hills!” (Especially in the 1st part of the down). Ignore this “interference” – time is your goal, you may not be passing a whole lot of people, but if you are not on it, time will slip away & leave you disappointed come race end. Lean just off your balance point – get the turnover high & flow like water down to Walnut & Folsom (about a quarter mile after the 5 mile marker). Here you really want to try to manage 9:20 min mile pace or better for this 1.25 miles, (always thinking of the effort it would take to run 9:40 on the flats)
6. This final mile plus is less about the training & more about the mind – have you done your mental training, have you embedded your desire to achieve your goal deeply enough? In other words do you still want to have an overall pace of 9:40 at this stage of the game? At this point you may be about 15sec behind pace (worst case scenario on the above). This mile, being the last should allow you to dig a little deeper (progressively), as you need not save anything for after the race! Go hard to the base of that final vicious little hill outside the stadium, almost as if it is the finish line, as many people lose focus during that last mile by casting their minds ahead to that climb, which beats them up no matter what anyway, so you might as well have gone hard till there, take your medicine up it, by working solely on form (lean, cadence, short quick strides) & then let go down that final section to the finish. Hopefully this approach brings a 9:20 – 9:40. This is possible because even though that last mile has some demands – it is, after all, not a full mile of climbing; the 1st quarter is down, there is a drop just before the final climb, there’s a quick drop to the stadium floor & then there’s that gloriously flat finish, &, don’t forget, it is your last hurrah!

I hope this helps you create a race plan & mindset that leads to you fulfilling your dream pace per mile for the 2010 Bolder Boulder – GOOD LUCK & ALWAYS HAVE FUN OUT THERE!

Bobby McGee

Monday, May 24, 2010

Slow's the way to go Joe - Part 2

So, what’s a self respecting weekend warrior to do to avoid getting into that dreaded gray zone where training is less effective and causes our fitness gains to plateau?
Build your zone 1 and 2 through walking and use the run walk method. These are 2 different training modalities. This is a great way to develop muscle endurance and develop your fat burning capabilities (with correct nutrition). Good nutrition, over and above the usual advice of eat more regularly, reduce the bad fats, keep the fiber high, get your iron in somehow (if it’s low) also pay particular attention to gradually reducing the carbs and increasing the healthy fats. Walking and the run/walk method also reduce fatigue, risk of injury, rapid recovery and allow for a safer, more rapid increase in volume.
With the walk, add 2 – 3 walks per week to your regular training. You can lower your run mileage in a ratio of about .5 to 1; i.e. for every 1 mile you walk you can add .5 of a mile to your run mileage accumulation. Example: a 4 mile walk = a 2 mile run. I mostly have my athletes simply add the walk mileage however. 2 walks of 25-35 minutes, plus a building hike, starting off at around 45 minutes and building to the time you ultimately wish to be on your legs in the marathon. With the demands of IM training I recommend a maximum of 3 hours. Add about 15min per week to this long hike till you have achieved your target volume. Pace is not so important, but form is – go for a quick stride rate of 65 plus steps per foot per minute, keep your elbows bent and engage your core with each stride.
What happens to runners is that they begin to run too fast as they become facilitated and feel more comfortable at a faster pace and incorrectly think that that’s the progress that we are all striving for. The problem is the increase of HR with pace. PACE MUST INCREASE ONLY IF IT CAN BE DONE WHILE KEEPING THE HR WITHIN THE ZONE. This is the true test of base training efficacy, pace increases, but work rate stays the same.
With the walk/run method – which I recommend to everyone, pros and amateurs alike, it is a matter of discovering which ratio allows you to achieve the fastest OVERALL time. For the longer distances what is also of importance is best pace with lowest heart rate. The whole idea with the walk/run method is to develop the ability to maintain the highest overall pace for the entire distance. It is an amazing training and racing tool. Rough suggestions are: Beginners use a walk 1 minute/run 1 minute pattern. For most athletes a 9 minute run, 1 minute walk pattern works really well. I also recommend using a 6 to 1 pattern on your long runs. A final suggestion for maximum benefit, don’t run for longer than 10 minutes at a time and don’t take less than a 15sec walk break. Again, don’t saunter – develop the ability to walk and recover faster and faster. It is not difficult to walk at 12 min pace for a minute, to recover from a run pace that is considerably faster than your ability to run continuously and end up with a huge net gain. Again, bend your elbows, take shorter, quicker steps and “roll” along – don’t dramatically spike the heel into the ground with long slow powerful strides.
Add to this the suggestion that in order to gain the most capacity from BASE training, i.e. increase the pace as much as possible, while keeping the effort (HR) the same, one should not do any intense prolonged training in other workouts. For triathletes this extends definitely to the bike and perhaps even the swim.
What you CAN do to maintain strength and neuro-muscular facilitation during this phase is to do alactic training – this means strides. After a good warm-up, do 4 x 9 second strides at your best controlled effort; i.e. fast, but without bits flying off. Very importantly you MUST recover fully between these. Build until you can do about 8 of these 2-3 times per week.
Now for triathletes the big hurdle to overcome with patience is the fact that you get to a point on the bike where you feel you can work much harder far more quickly than you do on the run. When this happens you ride shorter and harder in higher zones because this feels good and fast and strong. You then not only might plateau, but you have limited your bike fitness potential and seriously retarded your chances of improving on the run as well.
This leads to the most common mistake in long course triathlon racing – over riding the bike portion…..
Pre-race many triathletes predict with quite good accuracy what they will do on the swim and bike and fall woefully short with their run prediction with something like this, “I was doing great till 16 miles on the run when I cramped/became nauseous/lost my lunch/bonked…. If only I hadn’t, I coulda, woulda, shoulda…”
Do more work for longer in those lower zones on both the bike and run and expand your work capabilities and ultimately your race results. Once you have done this background work, it will serve you for a long time & restoring it each season becomes easier & shorter.
Bobby McGee

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Ironman Training for the Time Challenged Athlete

I am doing a USA Triathlon Webinar. Topic: Ironman Training for the Time Challenged Athlete.
The emphasis will be on the run.
It takes place on Thursday, May 20.
Time: 4-5pm Mountain, 3-4pm Pacif, 5-6pm Central, 6-7pm Eastern
Cost: $34.99
The blurb goes: For many triathletes the holy grail of their triathlon aspirations is to do an Ironman – but with the realities of the modern economy, family life and a packed commitment schedule, few are able to put together a pocket of time to prepare properly for this great event.

Spend an hour with Bobby McGee discovering how to put together some key aspects of an Ironman training plan without sacrificing real life.

Bobby McGee is an Olympic Coach, Running Expert and also an expert on Sport Psychology and Mental Skills. He has produced world record holders & an Olympic Champion & numerous Olympians as runners, over & above his work with triathletes.

No one knows better how to prepare athletes for success on race day than Bobby McGee!

Love to have you if this is of interest to you.

Till next time...

Bobby McGee

Monday, May 17, 2010

Slow’s the Way to Go Joe – Part 1

Predicting someone’s ability to run anything from 800m to a half marathon is really easy. A little more difficult is determining what someone may ultimately be capable of – if they are young enough to still have their best years ahead of them, is a little more challenging. However predicting what they are capable of in a marathon or the run in an IM, now that’s a whole different ball of wax! Add to this that the majority of athletes just do NOT have the patience or time to train to their actual capabilities, but still expect their potential to show up on race day, rather than their training status only. Add to this in the longer events, the tight tolerances allowed in the weather, nutritional, hydration and pacing departments and it’s no wonder so many people “fail” to achieve to their expectations. In triathlon, especially IM another huge challenge is the discipline required to ride easily enough to have an optimal run.
This brings one to the blog’s case in point – training “slowly” enough, or within the ranges that ultimately give you the greatest shot at achieving your potential. Joe Friel’s brilliant work has brought us a model that has helped thousands of athletes to train as close to correctly as modern research suggests we should. One problem thought: many athletes, especially here at altitude, are unable to run slowly enough to stay in these 1st 2 zones! It’s a different matter on the bike where riding on a flat road with 110PSI in your tubular is akin to the efficiency of a seagull in flight. In the pool also the fact that you are in a low gravity-impacted environment and you are using less musculature makes it so much easier to train in the lower zones.
Compare this to an elite sprinter who can do 2 x 200m in a workout and access so much of her power that she is exhausted and the workout’s effectively done! An elite marathon runner would run 2 maximum effort 200’s and with a short recovery be able to run 8 more! Trouble is the distance runner will have run those 200’s in 29-30 seconds (which is fast – 3:53mile pace), but a sprinter of equal sprinting ability may have run those 200’s in around 24 sec and that’s 3:13 mile pace!!
3rdly, the challenge of the amateur becomes detraining while training! The runner must go so slowly that other components actually start to atrophy. Peripherally there IS such a thing as running too slowly; stride rate may decrease and subsequently loading increases with all its attendant negative consequences. You know how you feel after a long run with a friend who is much slower than you! Also, proper recovery in terms of time is tough for the average athlete – what a pro can do in a week, the average person of the same age needs at least 10 days to complete with sufficient recovery. A good pro microcycle is about 10 days, while a good age grouper would do well on a 14 day microcycle and the older athlete something like 17 – 21 days!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Be a Kid

Don’t let a GPS, compass, HRM, street sign, grade, surface or distance, (esp. a track) tell you how you are faring – let you tell you!
Coaches strive to quantify every detail, but there is no software or collection tool – including RPE, that can measure what you feel.
It’s not like we haven’t got the most intricate, hyper-sensitive tools already built in – another 100 years will not bring modern equipment anywhere close to giving us the kind of feedback we are capable of gleaning if we stay tuned in.
The danger is that the externally generated numbers may limit us. The emotional connection to stats derived off these impressive micro-computers when we approach what previous data has told us are our limits, may cause us to back off. We may have our best foot forward at this stage – all of us may have showed up and we miss a golden opportunity for a break through & an experience that tells us we have far greater abilities than we ever dreamed possible.
I am not saying we should totally eschew the benefits of using these devices by meting out our resources in the most economical fashion; use them for sure! But, the bottom line is that racing is all about pushing our limits however we may have derived them, perceived or otherwise. True performance is a very complex, never fully understood set of constantly changing parameters.
Getting the best out of the individual human body whose every instinct is to keep us safe and in the middle of our homeostatic ranges, requires a very technical concept (facetious here) – GUTS.
I strongly suggest runs (and swims and rides) that are both easy and very, very hard (and everything in between) without gizmos and gadgets. Assess the workouts experientially, qualitatively – with your heart and soul.
Ultimately, when we race, this is the true satisfaction meter. When we assess a result as something that leaves us feeling self –actualized it is much more about an emotional knowing and warrior sensation, than it is about the numbers.
Allow the running to come naturally, progress through feel & knowing & let the numbers confirm & support that…
Bobby McGee recently reviewed Matt Fitzgerald’s latest book (out on June 1st) RUN: The Mind-Body Method Of Running By Feel. It’s a great read & I believe it is his best yet & it explores in depth this week’s blog concept

Monday, May 3, 2010

HEAD to HEAD – The Mental Side of Being the Best You, You Can Be

A coaching friend of mine recently asked me what one could do with the very frustrating situation of athletes not achieving what they are physically capable of on race day. Now the coach happens to be one of the VERY best coaches that the sport of triathlon has & the athlete is a professional, so it is not like this coach has no idea how to motivate an athlete or has no experience with getting top results at the highest level!
After what I thought was a drug-riddled showing in the distance events in the 2000 Olympics I made a fundamental shift in my thinking as a coach—forget trying to find individuals with the physiological characteristics to be world beaters; work instead towards helping those athletes that choose you as a coach to become the best they can be. If one of those athletes turns out to be a world beater then so be it.
I am happy to say that I have since also been involved with athletes who make it to the very top – the answer lies in the acknowledgement that NO SINGLE FACTOR IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN ALL THE REST. Holism is an easy word to toss around in a lecture or conversation with coaches & athletes, but a far harder principle to apply consistently with every athlete & yourself.
Most of us master of one or some of the facets that make up peak performance in endurance events & I know some coaches who have systems & people in place that manage close to all of them. However of all these facets that constitute success mental skills training is the most challenging to master.
Which athlete wants to own up to being a “head case”? Very, very few of us have the vulnerability & ego-checking capabilities of setting aside our desires of not being exposed & the guts to fully take on the very real risks of falling flat on our faces in the full on attempt required to be the very best we can be.
This process is like meditation or prayer – the minute one gets competitive with it one loses! The dialogue that leaves one’s mouth as an “explanation” of a subpar performance is ego driven & a futile exercise in avoidance of being exposed to oneself & others. Even the seemingly honest, “that’s all I had on the day” is pregnant with denial if there is information that indicates the performance failed to meet the standards set in training. The worst one for all involved of course is the “I tried my best” answer. Facing & fully experiencing failure honestly is at the very root of the learning process that makes champions of us all.
Add to this, the coach’s conundrum – they know the athlete failed mentally, the athlete knows they failed mentally & the athlete knows the coach knows! Yet, because of the many precipitating factors like avoidance of confrontation, the relationship (in terms of social environment), trust, frail egos & money, the partnership continues & the size of the elephant in the room continues to increase.
With every day a coach fails to address the obvious fact that the athlete needs to take on their mental & emotional limiters he/she is selling their athletes more & more short. Granted, if the cause of the failure is sufficiently severe & sourced in the athlete’s childhood, then the coach cannot become a psychiatrist. But can the coach become a parent of sorts? YES, if the athlete is willing.
The whole idea of consciously allowing kids to fail in a safe environment within a loving, empathic environment is so that they learn how to read situations & make smart choices when the chips are down & the consequences of failure are far more dire. (Can you tell I have a 3-year-old & I am using Love & Logic© principles!). Without an open honest relationship & a clear commitment to excellence, athletes & coaches CANNOT access the means by which the athlete may rise to a level commensurate with the athlete’s ability… Quite simply can not
Whether you are self-coached, coached or coach, if you want to experience the elation of crossing the finish line with a deep sense of knowing that you displayed full access to your talent, skills & fitness, then you must take on addressing your limiters. These may include mental & emotional hurdles that are largely unknown & unseen by you as the protagonist.
In every endurance event, 1st race to your ability & fitness levels & then, when you have gone as far & as fast as your physiology & pacing have allowed, then race & beat everyone around you, knowing that these athletes will include many with greater capabilities. In this way precious few with less talent will finish ahead of you. And many with more ability will end behind you – those who have less fortitude than that which you forged in the fire of ownership & hard graft.
Bobby McGee

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Bare Foot Running Panel & Hill Running

Up that Hill & do it Again!

Before this week’s post, there’s a panel discussion on, yup you guessed it, BFR tomorrow, Wednesday (April 28th) at 6:30PM at Alta Physical Therapy in Boulder, (2955 Baseline Road, Boulder CO 80303). The panelists will be one time junior phenom runner & now coach Melody Fairchild, Olympic 10 000m & Marathon runner Alan Culpepper, Danny Abshire, designer of the Newton running shoe, top running physical therapist, Charlie Merrill, Aaron Anderson, pedorthist extraordinaire & myself. As has seemed to be the case with BFR in its latest Born to Run incarnation, enthusiasm (to put a euphemistic bent on it), is running high. Moderator Barry Siff would seem to have his work cut out for him.
Any way, if you live in the Boulder/Denver area & you are interested, we’d love to see you. Perhaps I’ll need your support as the battle may be bloody as the enthusiasts on either extreme edge of the spectrum vie to get their point across! Just kidding – it ought to be a blast.
Hill running seems to be somewhat under-utilized by runners & triathletes in the USA in my experience, I am not sure if it’s a seasonal thing – in Africa we can run hard outdoors all year around, here it seems conditions limit what you can do quality-wise in the winter months & I don’t hear of a lot of people doing formal hill repeats on a treadmill. I have found runners get really close to their peak form after a series of hill repeats & that repeat work on the track adds some further benefit, but the risks of injury are far greater.
Hills don’t help you gain concentration skills much, (steady state runs on the flat do that!), as they allow you to run only as hard as you can, but boy do they help your functional strength & VO2 max if applied correctly. Hills are the ultimate tool when it comes to self-determining intensity; no matter what set of repeats you planned your form will soon tell you when the best laid plans are to be reviewed. Allow form to be your guide – if you figured on 75sec repeats & bits start flying off at 50sec, then 50sec is what was required at that effort. Use time rather than distance on hill repeats.
Hills are a great way to build specific speed without hurting yourself, because you are fighting gravity you are not running as fast & putting yourself down more softly. A pace on the flat that delivers the physiological stress you require may be challenging your joints & connective tissue/fascia more because of heightened centrifugal force from greater velocity. But on the hill, the same effort physiologically produces less damaging forces, but the same bang for your training buck. Conversely of course what goes up must come down & here you need to either take short soft quick running steps or walk, or Lydiard-style, pick a long hill with side streets that run with the contour (i.e. flat) upon which you recover.
Build to hill repeats as follows: Do a few runs on particularly hilly, rolling courses. Then progress to running those same routes, but accelerating the climbs & recovering on the downs & flats & then progress to formal hill repeats.
A word of caution to the over-zealous – don’t do hills without your ego in check! One of the US greats & definitely a humble individual with no ego issues at all is Dathan Ritzenhein – he gave me good insight on how to do hills. Dathan, the current US 5000m record holder discovered that he might have been doing his hill repeats too hard & too steeply, even perhaps too often, as he was getting injured in the ankle. He switched to shallower, longer & therefore less intense hills, stayed injury free & went sub 13min for 5km.
Have fun in them thar hills – your improved performances will be ample reward for slogging up the same flippin hill multiple times!
Bobby McGee

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Last night I gave a talk to a running group at the side of a windswept track on the merits of using the run/walk method of training & racing. A point I make about the benefits of the method is the profoundly positive impact it has on cardiac drift. At the end, a runner, who is doing an Ironman® later in the season was very interested in this concept
Cardiac drift is a characteristic of heart rate in all endurance events in which the heart rate increases progressively as the workout or race progresses even if the output is the same. Then in the later stages, no matter how hard you push yourself, it begins to drop. There are a number of reasons for this, foremost of which is most likely fatigue, followed by hydration aspects. There is some evidence that heat may be a factor also – or heat accelerates fatigue & hydration imbalance, but the net result is the same.
As far as the heart rate dropping it would seem that as our peripherals start to fail/grow weak & we are unable to return blood to the chest cavity (heart & lungs) for re-oxygenation, decreasing the need for the cardio-vascular system to operate at higher levels.
Bottom line, the run/walk method helps to slow heart rate increase, making it possible for us to operate more efficiently for longer. The overall heart rate average is lower, thus improving our chances of being metabolically more efficient, (burn more fat for longer, sparing our carbohydrates). Finally, the vascular pumping action of walking & the relative reduction in fatigue because of the intermittent, rather than continuous running ensures that we can keep the heart rate up deeper into these long events & thus be able to perform better.
The walk run method helps in SO MANY ways – this just an illustration of how it can help in respect of cardiac drift.
As always, have fun & if you feel you need Leg Speed, contact us at & see if we have something for you.
Bobby McGee
Check out the trailer of my new DVD on the home page of my website:


A Psychological Model to Empower the Triathlete
“Losing focus” is a term often used by triathletes and coaches when an athlete makes a silly mistake, misses a break or makes a technical error. Fact is, focus does not disappear, it either goes to a place where it is effective and good decisions are made by the athlete, or it drifts to an area where it does not promote performance and may even derail the athlete’s chance at success.

Endurance events are lengthy by their very nature—an ITU-style race takes over 100 minutes, an Ironman race over 8 hours. This means that intense task oriented focus is not possible for the entire period of the race. Athletes succeed when they plan their focus periods and regulate concentration intensity. Triathlon, being a sport of 3 different repetitive movements, also contains the need for habituation, i.e. performing swimming, cycling and running without thinking about the action itself. The same holds true for transition activities. Where then does the mind go? The athlete better know! Recognizing internal dialogue and altering it if needs be, is a prerequisite for great performance.

It is important to also know that “being in the zone” is a state of mind more predicated on rhythm which as an objective observation may be mistaken for “checking out”. However, rather than checking out, this is the preferred state for optimal performance & shows up as an unconscious driving at optimal intensity & highest efficiency. This tapping into the “beat” of whatever you are doing & not involving any cognitive intervention is a product of clever training & highly habituated movement skills with their associated fitness levels. Effective focus on the other hand is the ability to objectively observe performance & external & internal situations & act proactively so as to ensure peak performance. This focus will not disrupt flow & govern the management of choices that best impact occurrences within a race that may not fall within the scope of the flow state to handle.

A number of studies of endurance events have shown that pace is slowest or slows somewhere between 75 and 90% into an event, whether that be an 800m running race or an Ironman event. I believe that the mechanism at work here is more mental than physical. See Diagram.

Studies (with weight lifters) have shown rather conclusively that output decreases when focus is drawn away from the process of performing the activity. This was confirmed when a further study illustrated that athletes who watched TV, read or listened to music while running on treadmills or riding stationary bikes recruited less muscle and used lower levels of their aerobic capacity, than athletes who were able to focus only on the activity without distractions.

Clearly focus is being lost in this area that can be defined as the “focus zone”. The triathlete begins to consider the effort that has been expended and how this might have affected him/her up to this point and how these past stresses might affect his/her ability to finish strongly. The finish is still too far off to have the athlete begin the drive for home. This clearly shows a crucial shift of focus – a focus removed from the task at hand. Concentration is placed on factors that are not relevant to the present situation. Not being in the moment “switches the body off”, as the mind dwells on past and future events, where the athlete cannot physically “do” anything. Power is lost & muscle recruitment diminishes.

The athlete can replace this ineffectual period of concentration, by being aware of this zone and training not to loose focus. Divide swim, bike and run workouts up into these phases—the first 75% (1.), 75 to 90% (2.), and 90% to the finish (3.) See Diagram.

Triathletes should be encouraged to really do what it takes to stay present and focused in this area. Develop a habit of knowing when the mind drifts to the past or future and learn to drag it back to the “now” – a place where the athlete can bring all the ability that he/she does have, to bear on the next stroke, pedal stroke and stride, moment by moment until the finish.

Good luck - see 1st how you do use focus, assess whether it could be better & then habituate a focus pattern that becomes automatic & allows to to be the most efficient athlete you can be.

Bobby McGee
PS: My new running mechanics & drills DVD has been released - check it out on my website

Monday, April 5, 2010

Nope, not off somewhere, just staying in good old Boulder!

Does one humbly apologize for an April Fool's joke that was mostly gobbled up gullibly? That's what I love about this community - honest, open, vulnerable, striving to be better.

I don't even wish it was true - but a slightly better Colorado winter would have been nice. I have a rule though - I NEVER complain about the heat, ANYWHERE, because that allows some whining about the cold from this here Southern Hemisphere boy.

So as the days warm up here in the US don't be caught not being able to strip off a layer, drinking a little more & keeping the electrolytes levels appropriate.
Pic of me draining a crucial turn for a practice triathlon mini race!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

I'm off! Bobby McGee gets new job in United Arab Emirates

Same skills, different continent - hope I'm up to it!

I have thought about this offer for a long time & in the interests of my business & family have decided to leave beautiful Colorado for (even) warmer climes. It's a 2-year deal through the 2012 Olympics & involves triathlon development at a number of levels with both federational & private involvement. I will still travel extensively & will maintain contact with all my major US stake holders.

I'll miss Boulder & all its beautiful people...

I'll still post a blog or 2 before I leave with all the thank yous & the like.

I believe I'll be able to maintain the blog in a similar fashion, but may have wild & woolly tales from the Far East!

Till next time,

Bobby McGee

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Of books & audio visual. Finally the Biomechanics DVD!!!!!!!!!!!!!

It's here after fits & starts - my running biomechanics & drills DVD. Triathlon, The Run - Comprehensive Running Biomechanics & Drills. It is available through my website or

It's strange, all 3 books that I have written were sourced differently in terms of their initiation. Magical Running was written because I'd come to a point as a coach where I realized that the immense efforts thrown at coaching individuals, especially at the highest level, were never going to be rewarded with commensurate results. By "coaching" I mean working the physical details, designing workouts, refining training, blood work, nutrition, equipment, routes, altitude, training theory & application... All this so often amounted to nought on the day of the really big competitions because of what was going on mentally & emotionally for the athlete - here there was no distinction between normal human being & athletic super being; the normal human frailties ruled & the performance most often showed it. So often the physically "inferior" athlete won the day. But they were mentally WAY superior & I knew both through formal training & instinctively that winners can be made mentally as well. It took me years to fully grasp the subtle performance differences between the mental & the emotional. Through extremely empowering personal work that I did & within the context of my formal sport psychology training, I came up with a mental skills training model that formed the basis for Magical Running. It has subsequently been proven to a be rather successful guide for those that take on the often confronting task of self-discovery & the replacement of mindsets that hold them back from the performances their bodies are capable of.

Then came Running Sports Essentials, now sold out of its 1st edition. Again a booklet that was not directly about run training - born of a realization: when we begin running, we do not start from zero, but years of plain old living has left us at minus something in most departments. Run training alone will lead us to injury & at least to a plateau. The framework upon which we build the running needed to be Kenyanized; brought to a place where it could properly absorb training in order for performance & not breakdown, to result.

Of course when it comes to muscle activation, dynamic warm up activities, stability training & effective post training activities there is so much new research coming to the fore that I decided that Running Sports Essentials needed to grow into Running Sports Essentials Plus. And don't you know it, there is much that needs to happen before what's been percolating in my mind after countless consultations with experts, & final fruition in the form of a publication. So to those of you who are asking for Running Sports Essentials & those of you who have benefited from using it, please be patient, I will get to it!

Then came Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes. This time I was offered an opportunity to do what I have always wanted to do, but was too busy doing it practically, to write it all down in one cohesive piece for others to apply & use. Again there was the fear of rejection & self-doubt in the light of the great books & great successes of great coaches that were already out there; but you know how it goes, nothing ventured nothing gained. At least I knew the principles had produced Olympic Gold, world records, world champions & Olympians, so it couldn't be all bad right? Writing it was a slog, I will not tell a lie, but when the 1st emails started to arrive of PRs & invigorated running, triathlon & walking success stories I felt the effort was justified - not that being published is not one of the neatest feelings out there. Yes, you read correctly, walking. Years ago I coached a multiple world champion & world record holding masters race walker, by name of Barbara Nell. She still races & now also coaches & by using Run Workouts for Runners & Triathletes, she has produced some astounding age group/masters walkers - like a 26:20 5km for a female masters athlete, or a sub 47min 10km for male masters walker. I get so many emails to the website ( of athletes successes on a weekly basis - thank you!

Now finally the running biomechanics DVD, Triathlon, The Run - Comprehensive Running Biomechanics & Drills. The last 8 years or so have brought the need for me to assist the countless great US swimmers that come to the sport of triathlon without a running background. Of course coming from South Africa, with a background in working with African runners who run BEAUTIFULLY because of how they grew up, it is kind of ironic! Now I have come to use my background in formal biomechanics training & the zillion hours of watching running done both well & poorly to assist in teaching individuals to do something that they would have learned naturally if they had lived miles from school on dirt roads, had no shoes & no transport other than their feet. I see athletes almost daily to help with their mechanics. I formally teach running biomechanics at least once per month & always the request was the same - "Can we have a DVD of this, how are we going to remember how to do this, how can I teach this, how am I going to learn this from what I have written down?"

To improve your fitness takes weeks at best, but some mechanical interventions can improve your running instantly. Learn how & why you run as you do, assess whether your mechanics are holding you back & do the drills - you will run easier & faster.

Well now you have it - my approach. Of course, now, a year on from shooting (last April), I wish I could have added another 30 minutes with the new stuff I have learned. So next time you see me, ask me about launch angles & set up & I'll gladly comply!

Although the focus is on triathletes, the running mechanics principles hold true for all endurance running - in fact for the average runner it is easier to relate to triathletes than elite runners as they are slightly larger & have certain running challenges because of the swim & the bike, making them more "normal" than the sub 120lb males & sub 100lb female runners we see blowing around the marathon courses & tracks of the world like nothing more than feathers upon the wind!

So visit with me on the website & see if we have something than will help you run just that smidgen faster/better.

Think fast, look fast, do fast, be fast

Bobby McGee