Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 29 - Todd Buckingham - UPGRADE YOUR PERFORMANCE - Part 2 of 3

So, are people just like coming in off the street and saying, Todd help me be bigger, faster, stronger? I mean, what's the purpose of the lab, I guess, or is it more research?
Smart Athlete Podcast Ep. 29 - Todd Buckingham - UPGRADE YOUR PERFORMANCE - Part 2 of 3

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JESSE: So, are people just like coming in off the street and saying, Todd help me be bigger, faster, stronger? I mean, what's the purpose of the lab, I guess, or is it more research? TODD: So, the purpose of the lab is to improve athlete's performance. We haven't started doing any research yet, that's something that we want to get into. But right now, it's just about building the lab and increasing the numbers and really, just partnering with local teams, local high schools, colleges, professional teams, like the Grand Rapids drive, the minor league basketball team for the Pistons, or the West Michigan Whitecaps. We're working on setting things up with them so that-- Because like I said, nothing like our lab exists anywhere in Michigan, or even the Midwest. And another thing that makes our lab really unique is that not only do we have all these performance testing, but I'm housed within the sports rehabilitation department. So, we also have physical therapists who are here, and we have a lot of rehab equipment. We've got an AlterG Treadmill, where you can put somebody on the treadmill who maybe got injured, and is just getting back into running but can't do full weight bearing. So, the AlterG is essentially unweighting their body to-- If you weighed 100 pounds, it could unweight your body so that you only weighed 20 pounds. So, it's really cool as a use for rehab or even just runners who want to increase their mileage without putting all of that extra strain on the body. So, we've got the performance lab, we've got physical therapy, and we also employ a sports psychologist. And so he does mental training skills with athletes. So, we've got all of this kind of under one roof, and it's a really well integrated machine where it's like go do this one, this one, and this one and all of their needs are met under one roof. And so not only is the lab state of the art and not found anywhere else, but so is all of the services that we offer. JESSE: So, how often are you testing yourself with all the toys you have to try to improve your own times? TODD: Well, I'm not testing myself, I'm just checking the equipment to make sure-- JESSE: You’re calibrating the equipment, right? TODD: Exactly. Calibrating the equipment. Honestly, I don't test myself that much. I haven't got on to do a VO2 max test yet, but I want to do that. I've done the DXA a couple of times, but not much. The sweat composition test I've done but with that you only need to do it once because your sweat composition doesn't really change much throughout your career as an athlete. It's always going to be-- it might change fluctuated 100-200 milligrams per liter, but not appreciably enough to really change the hydration plan that we would prescribe you. So, I've done that one, but yeah, anything with the VO2 max test or anything, I haven't done that. I did a resting metabolic rate test on myself just to make sure that the equipment worked okay before I got somebody in. But yeah, and that's part of the reason that I wanted to start this lab is because I know as an athlete, I would want these services. And so to be able to offer it to other athletes who are looking for this, I mean, it's a scientifically proven way to improve your performance as opposed to just guessing. And that's the biggest thing is that a lot of us are like, okay, well maybe I should take in about 150 milligrams of sodium per liter or whatever it is. Maybe I should run my easy runs at this pace. Well, now we can scientifically say, okay, your sweat sodium concentration is 900 milligrams per liter. So, you need to take in this much this often. Or your heart rate running at seven minute per mile is 140, so that's going to be your limit on your aerobic runs, for example. So, it's really cool because it's a scientifically proven way to improve performance. JESSE: Do you find that a lot of the things-- because I know we both have kind of a feeling or experience in terms of okay, I know my long run pace is this and my heart rate is roughly going to be here. Do you find a lot of those things get corroborated? Or have you had any kind of like surprises in the few tests that you've done with yourself? TODD: I think the biggest thing and not tests that I've done on myself but tests that I've done on clients in the lab, is that a lot of people do their easy runs too hard. And I'm sure that Matt Fitzgerald talked about this so I won't get too much into it. But the problem if you do your easy runs too hard is that you can't do your hard runs hard enough. And the goal of an easy run is not to improve fitness, but it's to help recover from a hard run and to prepare you for the next hard run; improving blood flow to the exercised muscles. It's not to gain fitness. And so Eliud Kipchoge can run for 34 per mile for a marathon, but he does like his warm up at eight minute pace. Like the rest of us should probably be running a little bit slower. JESSE: Run a bit slower. Yeah, I always noticed that too. This anecdotal, obviously. But in college you go to a track meet and often indoors when you would see people more often because you're all cooped up in this little area. But you’d see the guys you knew, okay, these are the three five guys that are going to be out front for this 5K or two mile or whatever the event was. And they would be essentially doing the football shuffle to warm up. And you're like what is happening right now. But almost without exception, the fastest guys would end up almost going the slowest on their warm ups. compared to the rest of us. TODD: You have to run slow to run fast, that's one of the lines that I like to use in the lab. And people are like that doesn't really make any sense. JESSE: Yeah, that’s a little counterintuitive. TODD: Trust me. JESSE: Right, because you want to go hard all the time. I’ve battled with this with my father for years. He just wants to go as hard as he can every single day and I'm like, you can't do that. But it’s that sense of yeah, you want to go hard because you're like, you feel like you're getting something accomplished when you're going hard. I think that's the mentality there. TODD: And I know that Matt has the whole thing on the 80/20 rule, but it's ?? 6:55> because I just had a client in the lab today and we did a VO2 max test and I was discussing with them about 80% of your runs should be really easy. And so I pulled up my training peaks to see kind of what my ratio was. And so I have my training split into seven zones, and zones one and two, I spend 81% of my time in zones one and two, and was like hey, that's about perfect. So, zones one and two, so I just ran a half marathon last weekend, and I averaged 513 pace per mile. But my zone one which I spend 63% of the time in his seven minute pace or slower. So, it's essentially two minutes per mile slower than my race pace. And a lot of people don't run their easy runs that easy. Let's say your half marathon pace is a 730 mile and for your easy runs, you're running eight minute pace like that's not slow enough. And that's one of the biggest things that I think has been the takeaways that I've conveyed to clients that come in the lab is that whether it's swimming, biking, running, whatever, you need to do your easy workouts actually easy. JESSE: Yeah, I know since the last time we talked to you I think you'd mentioned seven-eight minute pace for your long runs. We also talking about cadence and that's definitely been in my head since I don't know what that was then. I think that was January because we were talking about our birthdays at the time. And yeah, so that’s definitely been in my head this year and I can't say that I've slowed down quite as much as you do, even though I'm - like I probably should. But I'm really big on RPE so I just let that take care of itself where it's like I make sure I feel I'm going easy. And then if I see that clock I'm like, seven minute pace today I'm like, it's okay. Todd said it's fine, just let it be. TODD: Don't ?? 8:57> JESSE: No, no, no. It's like a valve in my head where just like everybody else I have that inclination, right? I want to go faster, but it's like it's not really serving to help me out to do that. So, it's like, I typically have a limit for about 645 and that's like, RPE feels easy, and I just happened to be going quickly. But I've been leaning more towards the seven minute pace this year, which, although it's been a little tough for me because I'm like, am I just getting slow and old or am I like actually getting smarter? I don't know which. TODD: We’re just getting slow and old, man. We're just getting slow and old, both of us. JESSE: I'm trying to like stave it off as much as possible. I can't remember if it was Matt. I feel like it may have been Matt. I don't know. I talked to somebody and they're like my fastest running days are behind me and you know what am I going to do now? It's like, well, you gotta figure something out, some kind of challenge. You made me think about the-- you mentioned the treadmill goes up to 23% gradient. And here on Friday, I'm flying out to Colorado Springs to do the incline. I don't know if you're familiar. TODD: Good luck. JESSE: Originally, I was going to run the incline because I wanted to get a baseline. But unfortunately this week, Colorado Springs got a dumping of snow and I've been watching the incline cam and it is still covered in snow. So, I will only be walking up it for this trip. It's a little disappointing. But I’m in Kansas City, a steep hill here is 10% gradient, the incline, average is 33. So, I think at some point it pitches up to mid 60s, something like that. So, you mentioned the treadmill and I'm like, I have to get one of those and stick it up on some cinder blocks or something. TODD: Yeah, yeah. Well, you're lucky you even have 10%. In Grand Rapids here, I think the biggest hills that we have are the highway overpasses. I did hills yesterday morning and that's where I did my hill runs was on a highway overpass. JESSE: I think ?? 11:16> asking to get hurt. Speaking of training though, you mentioned you did a half marathon last weekend and before we got going, you mentioned you...PR. So, tell me about that. What happened there? Why are you doing half marathon because I mean we do triathlons. So, why are you even racing-- it’s offseason, what are you doing? TODD: I know, right. It was just kind of fun end of the year thing. My run fitness has been really good this year. I haven't really had very good tries, just stupid mistakes by myself or things out of my control. And I didn't win any national championships this year or any World Championships this year. And it was kind of a disappointing year because last year, I literally won every national and world championship that I entered. But my fitness is there and so I was like I haven't been able to show my fitness. And so I wanted to do it at the end of the year for fun. And I was doing it with a friend and so we've been training together all summer and really just, I wanted to go and see what I could do. And my goal was to run a 110 and just to see if I could do it. And I went through the first nine miles right on pace at, it was like 519 pace. And that's right at finishing at 110. And I was still about 40 seconds down from the leader of this point and I had thought that he was going to come back further because last year he won the race with a 115. And I was like there's no way he can hold this pace, he's got to come back. And nine miles the race and he still hadn't come back to me and so I was like, well I guess I gotta start running pretty hard now. So, the last four miles, I averaged five minute pace. And in the course of the race, I set a new half marathon PR, I went 108. I set a 10K PR and I set a 5K PR. My last 5K I ran in 15:30, which is a 5K PR for me. And I ended up catching the guy with a-- JESSE: Was it down hill at all ?? 13:26>? TODD: No down hills. And I caught him with about a mile to go and ended up beating him by about 15 seconds. But I mean we both had really great races, that was a big PR for him too. But I think part of the reason that we both ran so fast, I was wearing the Nike NEXT% and he was wearing the Vaporfly 4%. So, honestly, I had no business running a 108, and running a 5K PR in the last 5K of a half marathon like that doesn't happen. So-- JESSE: Not generally speaking. TODD: That was the first time that I’d worn those shoes and race and like it just felt easy. And so I know there's a lot of talk with the shoes and Kipchoge’s record and whether they should ?? 14:19> or not. But I'm going to keep wearing them until they're banned because if you're not wearing them, honestly, you're missing out. It's a 4% improvement in the economy, but that doesn't lead to a 4% improvement in time. It's probably closer to like a one to 2% I think the studies have shown but it makes your stride length so much longer because you just get that elastic recoil from that carbon plate where the shoe doesn't bend, unless you put a lot of force under it. But then when you put that force on it, it springs back into place and it just allows you to cover a lot more ground with each step. And so your cadence can stay the same, but your stride length increases by even if it's a couple of centimeters, you're gonna stop running quite a bit faster. JESSE: Right, you're getting more energetic return, it's not going into the ground, it's going back into you. TODD: Exactly. And so it really kind of fits right along with, for my dissertation at Michigan State, I looked at the performance related variables that are associated with faster finish times in triathlon. I know that's a mouthful. But essentially what I did was I looked at Garmin watch data and looked at stride length, cadence, vertical oscillation. I did that for the run, I did it for the bike, and I did it for the swim. Obviously, I did look at stride length on the bike or swim but other variables that the watch measures. And stride length was actually the most important variable in determining not just run performance, but it was the most closely associated with overall triathlon performance. So, the longer your stride length, the faster you're going to go. And the R value, so for those that are familiar, an R value closer to either one or negative one, that would be a perfect linear relationship. So, it’d either be positive or negative. So, the R value for stride length was the highest of all of them and it was like a .93. Whereas cadence where everybody thinks this mythical 180 steps per minute, we saw that yes, higher cadences tended to be faster, but the R value was not anywhere near that point nine that the stride length was. So, my recommendation for people is not to increase your stride cadence, but to try to increase your stride length. Now, that does not mean to overstride because you still-- JESSE: Right, that’s the next part I was gonna add. TODD: Yeah, you still want your feet to land underneath your body. So, you don't want to be reaching out in front of you, you want your feet landing underneath you. But essentially what you should think about when you're running is it's a backwards movement. So, you're pushing off behind you, you're not reaching out in front of you. So, the more that you can push off behind you using your glutes, your hamstrings to push off behind you, the more ground that you're going to cover. And you shouldn't be reaching out in front of you. You want your feet to land underneath your body. It reduces the injury risk. And what happens when you reach your feet out in front of your body is you're actually breaking yourself. So, if you've got your legs here, and you're reaching out here, you're basically slowing yourself down because your momentum is going this way. And if you are stepping, you're essentially slowing yourself down and then having to regenerate that speed all over again. Whereas if you land underneath your body, you're essentially just falling forward. So, having a big long stride length is important but you don't want to reach for it in the front, you want to reach for it in the back. JESSE: Right Anybody watching on YouTube, if you go on the channel I actually have a video of me running which I slowed down in slow mo and you can kind of see that underbody plant and all that kind of stuff going on. It makes me think about back in, I think it's Episode 15 of the Smart Athlete Podcast with Ben Yoakam. He's a coach at Coastal Carolina University. And he studied for his master's thesis he studied, like the run mechanics of like, Great sprinters like Carl Lewis and people like that. And he was talking about not extending your leg too far back behind you because it creates this extra essentially, overcompensation which typically ends up with you throwing your leg too far in front of you. When we’re talking about stride length, are we talking about a little bit in terms of like, air time, I guess I'll say with the when the watch measures that, I guess I'm having a hard time conceptualizing how the watch would measure how far back your legs’ going. But I can see how it would measure air times it's measuring vertical oscillation, it's basically time distance between the bottom points of the vertical oscillation - when you touch the ground. So, I'm trying to figure out what the data is actually saying. TODD: So, the way it actually measures stride length is it can measure cadence because you're just swinging your arms forward and backward like this. And also distance like the GPS measures distance. So, it calculates stride length based on distance, and cadence. Because cadence times length equals distance, well, we've got distance and cadence. So, we can easily reverse the equation and solve for length. So, it doesn't really have anything to do with that vertical oscillation. And vertical isolation can only be measured if the person is wearing a heart rate monitor, at least the Garmin watch. Because it takes into account, I don't know exactly how it does it, but with how much vertical oscillation you're getting from that heart rate monitor in relation to the watch, I believe. So, yeah, the way it actually measure stride length is just the GPS tracks how far you're going. The cadence is being measured when you're doing your arm swing, and it reverses the equation and solves for stride length. Go to Part 3 Go to Part 1

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