Down in Houston near the campus of Rice University sits a little gem for any of us focusing on human performance (especially of the endurance kind), injury prevention and recovery. Memorial Hermann Hospital’s Sports Med Institute opened up in May of 2011, and I have had the privilege of working with Memorial Hermann this past year as my title sponsor. In the process, I’ve been able get to know their staff, help out with an all-women’s Ironman Texas course preview camp, and take advantage of the services they offer. I just wanted to give you all a quick rundown of what you can find if you take a visit to their offices. Especially at this time of year, when you may be taking a short break from the usual swim-bike-run or thinking about ‘off-season training’ (maybe even into the weight room a bit), there are many reasons to check out the Institute. Their Human Performance Team includes an Exercise Physiologist, Biomechanist, Strength & Conditioning Specialist, Registered Dietician and Licensed Massage Therapist.
These specialists have a variety of markers for performance improvement which include the following.
1) Lactate threshold testing both with cycling and running, with the lactate profile based on blood draws during a cycling or treadmill test. This process determines the intensity at which your body produces more lactic acid than which you can clear it; therefore, pinpointing the precise pace (running) or power (cycling) whereby you know you can most effectively train to make performance gains.
2) Gait analysis with a biomechanist who will do a video breakdown of your running gait, determining any possible biomechanical problems and do a full gait analysis of your current running pattern. This can help determine a conditioning regimen and/or route of therapy for performance enhancement and injury prevention. If you have never had this done, you may find it very interesting what you see. In my opinion, the efficacy of someone ‘watching’ you run from behind is not anywhere close to the information you can gain from a video breakdown of your running style.
3) Body composition testing based on hydrostatic weighing, to assess fat vs. lean muscle tissue relative to total body weight.
4) Strength & Conditioning specialist who can work with you one-on-one to take you through a program to help you attain your specific goals…whether it be to gain strength, improved body composition or simply improved overall conditioning. Currently, I am on a program from the strength & conditioning specialist Anthony Falsone which is focusing on off-season STRENGTH (that which pertains to the needs of triathlon) and will transition into FUNCTIONAL STRENGTH once the racing season picks up. It is exciting for me as I have been a professional triathlete for 10+ years, and this is the first time I have had a specific, focused program for my off-season. While my legs are a bit ‘heavy’ a few weeks in, I can already see differences in core and postural strength as well as activation of many stabilizers that are not often used in the day-to-day swim/bike/run regimen.
5) Registered Dietician who will consult with you on whatever your nutrition goals and needs may be… whether it is in-competition fueling or being sure you are getting your needs calorically and nutritionally throughout the day. What I really like about Penny Wilson is that she is focused on ‘fueling for performance’ and she has a realistic and healthy approach to nutrition. Penny is highly educated and her goal is to allow you to attain peak performance through sports nutrition; she understands the concept of ‘balance’ and at the same time, enjoying what you put into your body.
In addition to the services listed above, they also have a massage therapist and all of the essentials to perform recovery and physical therapy services. Their focus is performance improvement and they combine experts in sports science, orthopedic surgery, rehabilitation, physical therapy, human performance, strength and conditioning and sports nutrition to help any and all athletes.
The swim, bike and run are easy… if you put the time in and do your given training, you will likely improve over time. However, we all need to reach out to others at times to help us fine tune and be sure we are getting the most out of our efforts. Be sure you are doing what you can to cover the bases that are often forgotten before they affect your goal races, such as nutrition and injury prevention. If you are seeking to get the most out of yourself in your given sport, you would be well served to check out what the Institute has to offer. It is a rare thing to find such a wide array of services all in one clinic. Memorial Hermann hospital has done an incredible job with this facility; stop on by and see for yourself!
I’ve been with Zoot since 2008, originally on their Ultra Team and then progressing to an individual sponsorship in 2010. The cool thing about being with a company for 5 years is that you can really see the changes in the products. I’ve been able to grow with Zoot as a company, and likewise they have seen me progress as an athlete. It has been one of those very ‘easy’ relationships vastly because I have always believed in their products, love their clothing and shoes, and most of all respect and enjoy the people that make up the company.
Zoot has got a bit of everything: Apparel, Wetsuits & Speedsuits, and Footwear. Their apparel has been the longest running in the company, dating back to 1983. Their motto is “Born in Kona” and for a good reason … Christal Nylin lived in Kona and upon watching Ironman Hawaii noticed the athletes needed more functional clothing; that which would stand up for swim, bike and run. She began experimenting and in 1996, Zoot moved to the mainland and started expanding the company. Zoot does something great; they combine function & fashion. The apparel is practically speaking functional and durable. Sports bras, running shorts, tanks and tee’s, cycling shorts, cycling tanks, jerseys…it’s well-made, fits true to size and keeps me comfortable for a workout of 30 min or 6 hours. I live in Austin, TX and with the extreme conditions here (sun, heat, wind) I still find that after one or two seasons, the Zoot apparel I have is still going. Impressive given that I spend 20-30 hours a week in this stuff. Any woman who is an athlete would be lying if she didn’t tell you that she likes to ‘look good’ when she works out! There’s no shame in that, and I’m just like anyone else. It is fun and motivating to slide into your running shorts or tank and get excited to head out for a run. Without a doubt, they have the nailed the ‘fashion’ part. Eacy year I have seen their clothing get better and better, and I’ve also gotten more compliments on the apparel; much of which I will wear casually as well as for training.
They have done wetsuits as well for quite some time, and having grown up a swimmer, I can be pretty picky about what I wear in the water. The sleeveless wetsuit as well as the full are both extremely comfortable for a swim of 20 minutes or an hour; good shoulder mobility in the full suit and overall comfort in the legs. They have started with the SpeedZoot just in 2011 and in my opinion have already nailed it. It is a thinner material, which is great for hot weather swims, and the quick release zipper eliminates the need for having to fumble around to find a string to get out of it.
The most recent (significant) addition to Zoot is their footwear line, which has grown by leaps and bounds the past few years. I’ve used the Ultra Kapilani for a few Ironmans, but will lighten it up this year to the Ultra TT 5.0 for Kona (which is also my typical Half Ironman shoe). I use the Ultra Kane and the Ultra Kalani for trainers, with the Kalani also being the shoe I wore for the 3M Half Marathon, which helped propel me to a 1:14.42 (January 2012). I find this shoe extremely cushioned yet supportive enough for a longer distances without being heavy. The Ultra Race 3.0 is what I’ve used for Olympic distance triathlons as well as 5k’s. Recently they came out with the Ultra Kiawe, which fits more like a true ‘racing flat’ and has a different feel than most of the other Zoot shoes. I love how they branched out with this one.
Bottom line: Zoot seeks feedback from athletes, addresses what people want, and they make it happen. They are a passionate bunch who care about the sport of triathlon, and seek to make quality products. They were born in 1983 in Kona and almost 30 years later, they’re still going strong.
It has now been 4 months that I have been consistently and religiously using the Recovery Pump boots, therefore, I thought it was about time to do a little write up on why I am a believer in this product. *Disclaimer: My goal is not to ‘push’ readers into running out to purchase one, just because they are a sponsor of mine!* But I know there are so many gadgets out there on the market (to aid in recovery, make you faster…give you better balance…make your muscles bigger without doing anything…make you look better, …you get my drift) and in my opinion, if you were to looking to invest in something to ultimately help your performance (especially if you are training for longer events such as Ironman, where recovery is as if not more important than the training itself), this is an extremely useful product to consider.
First off, in simple terms, what is the Recovery Pump? The brief description straight from the website is: “An FDA approved, medical grade compression device with 4-chambered sleeves that inflate sequential from the toes to the base of the buttock. Device used for recovery in maximal, endurance sports. The Boots massage the muscles to improve circulation during use and help reduce swelling, soreness and fatigue.” It was originally developed as a medical device to help patients to increase lymphatic flow and venous return. Doug Weatherby is the man behind these who you will see at many events this season, be it a WTC/Ironman event, Rev 3 event, and even a few others. If you see Doug and the Recovery Pump booth, walk on up, introduce yourself, and pick his brain a bit. He is extremely knowledgeable and if you want to know the science of it, ask him (or peruse the website). I, as the athlete, will tell you personally how I use them and why I am a firm believer in the effectiveness of them.
I started using these in January, upon training for the USA Half Marathon National Championships in Houston, TX. I would do as was instructed, which is simply sit in these post-workout for anywhere from 20 minutes up to 1.5 hour (time dependent). As you can see from the photos, set-up is extremely simple. You plug the device into an outlet (3-prong outlet), lay the legs out on a couch or an ottoman with a chair, sit down, zip up and turn them on. From taking them out of the bag to actually pumping my legs is maybe a 3 minute process. This is huge for us busy individuals; the ease of setup and usage makes it that much more practical. The event came and went, and I was fortunate to finish in the Top 20 with a 1:16.59, about a 30-second PR (mind you, I trained for about 3 weeks for this event, coming off of a nice long Christmas vacation!). Of course, some of this success can be attributed to fitness and solid training, but I cannot question the added benefit I had of even better recovery going into the Houston Half.
The season progressed into February, and this is when the cycling kicked up a notch in preparation for the triathlon season, and ultimately for Ironman Texas on May 21. The regular usage that I have continued is essentially using the Recovery Pump boots on all of my harder days, Tuesdays and Thursdays, which entail a morning long and/or hard bike ride (2.5-4 hrs in duration) and an afternoon hard run (often times 8-12 miles with 4-8 miles of this at tempo to threshold pace). I will sit in the boots for between 45 min and 1.5 hrs post ride/pre run. I also try to sit in them on the lighter days when I find I am simply sitting working on my computer, simply to prepare for the next day. What ‘results’ have I seen? Almost every time I have these key sessions (bike/run days), I have nailed the run. For the past 4 months. I have hit the intended paces, and most of the time, exceeded the goal pace. You can ask my husband Derick; he has been with me and seen it. The interesting thing is, it is not as if I get out of the boots and suddenly feel amazing and not fatigued. Quite the contrary, my legs feel ‘better’, but I start my run thinking “Oh man, I sure hope the legs are there today… they still feel a bit heavy.” Then we start the workout and bam, there they are. I sit in them between workouts or immediately after a hard workout and the next time I need the legs, they are there for me. So, my impression is that the boots are truly doing their work; increasing venous return, reducing swelling, soreness and fatigue in my legs so as to allow me to train stronger, faster, and more effectively. Period, that simple.
I know that many people are very busy with full-time jobs, families, etc. The one thing I can tell you is that, even if you can manage 20-30 minutes in the evening after a few key workouts that day, you can benefit from these. Training for an Ironman? Use a bit more time on the weekends post-long ride and run to sit in these for up to an hour. Having been a professional triathlete for a 9 years now, I have learned that recovery is an integral part of success. “Success” being whatever it is to you; it does not mean you have to be aiming to win the event, but maybe you are looking for that long-sought after PR in the half Ironman distance. Maybe you want to get through your first Ironman with a respectable time. What I can tell you with absolute certainty and total confidence is, the Recovery Pump boot is a useful tool to help you get to where you want to be in the sport. If you do not believe me, step into one of the booths at the next event! They will be at Rev 3 Knoxville, Florida 70.3, Ironman Texas… and that is just the next 2 weeks! Plenty of chances to try them out for yourself.
Until your next race, best of luck with your training and recovery, and thanks for reading…