August 20, 2009
Introduction: In this podcast episode: a double interview swimming super special on swimming nutrition and swim form, whether heart rate monitors are actually accurate when predicting calorie burn, listener Q&A’s about yeast infections in the gut, naturally fighting an age-related decrease in metabolism, whey protein allergies, a high heart rate during exercise, salt cravings, GymSticks and low back pain.
Ben: Hey podcast listeners, this is Ben Greenfield and I’m actually in Toronto, Canada right now at CanFitPro which is this big conglomerate of fitness professionals and personal trainers, groups of fitness instructors gather together up in Canada. I came up here to give a seminar and will be headed back tomorrow down to the States to race in the Portland Triathlon down there in Portland, so I hope to see some of you podcast listeners down there. Be sure to come up and say hello. Got a lot of questions this week and also have some really interesting interviews on swimming. Got Pacific Elite Fitness coach and pro-triathlete John Kenny back on the show as well as Paul from Perth, Western Australia to talk about swimming and primarily open water swimming. A lot of really interesting listener questions so what we’re going to do is just spend time on a couple of special announcements and then we’ll move straight on to the listener Q and A and one thing that I wanted to mention to you just real quickly is that if you have not figured out yet how to automatically subscribe to this podcast on iTunes so it automatically gets downloaded to your computer when it’s released and it automatically synchs up to your mp3 player, then you’re missing out on one of the finer things in life. And you’re spending a lot of time that you could spend doing more fun things like playing with your kids or drinking a nice glass of wine or spending time on Twitter. So make sure you figure out how to do that on iTunes. Subscribe. If you have any questions, just email me [email protected]. I’d be happy to show you how to do it or you could even go to www.bengreenfieldfitness.com and click the little link there on the right hand side bar that says how to subscribe and while you’re there check out all the other things that I put in that sidebar. Anytime a sponsor of a show gives us a discount or anytime I find a product that I like, I usually throw it in there so check that out. Let’s go ahead and move on to some announcements before we get to the Listener Q and As for this week.
My first question this week comes from Listener Christine, who says…
Christine asks: I believe in podcast number 53 that Dr. Cohen mentioned something about him finding that most of his patients have too much yeast, even without symptoms. I don’t have any outright symptoms, but it sounds like there’s a good chance I could have too much. Should I be doing anything, taking anything to combat a possible overabundance of yeast?
Ben answers: Now before we address Christine’s question, let’s talk a little bit about what yeast actually is and why that would be a problem for someone. Now what I’m going to talk about today is not going to be a vaginal yeast infection but instead more of a systemic gut yeast infection that tends to be a bigger issue in terms of it affecting a lot of people in the general population. So the whole idea behind yeast is that over somebody’s lifetime they’re consuming about 25 tons worth of food and of course that’s providing the nutrients that you need to survive but the food also can contain bacteria, it can contain viruses, it can contain toxins. One of the things that food can contain is something called Candida Albicans which is a form of yeast and it is actually fed by things like sugars, carbohydrates in your gut. And the whole problem is that the symptoms from yeast and its breakdown products can be body wide. They’re not just in small areas like the sinuses or the throat or the bladder. So a doctor will a lot of times, if they find that you have a yeast infection just prescribe antibiotics for the type of symptoms that you have. The problem is that overgrowth of yeast in your intestines can cause little micro punctures in the lining of your intestine and this is also called leaky gut syndrome. What that allows is for incompletely digested food to actually spill into your bloodstream. So undigested food in your bloodstream is recognized by your body as a foreign body and your immune system reacts. It forms what are called antibodies to try and get rid of these undigested food particles in your bloodstream. You tend to get food allergies from that. You tend to get sensitivities. What happens is a general inflammation in your entire body and that can cause a lot of havoc and food allergies especially. They’re directly linked to leaky gut syndrome and to Candida yeast infection overgrowth. So, like I said, somebody who’s found to have one of these yeast infections, you could easily find something like that from something like a stool test. You can get swelling, bloating, gas, cramps, constipation, diarrhea, headaches, irritability, lack of concentration. There’s a lot of little things that can happen and this is something I’ll have a lot of my clients do, is actually do a stool test. It’s just like a home kit stool test where we can find out whether or not they actually have one of these infections and there are things that can actually cause the yeast infection to occur that a lot of people do. Prescription hormones – specifically birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy. Those can allow for overgrowth of yeast in the gut. Prescription cortico steroids can allow for it to happen like a hydrocortisone. Excessive use of any type of antibiotics that can kill of healthy bacteria, that can cause yeast overgrowth, yeast infection. A lot of processed foods or pretty much any packaged food is going to have a higher likelihood of it containing parasites, fungus, mold, all of those can promote the growth of yeast infection. Sugar, because it feeds yeast – candy bars, cookies, cakes, soft drinks, bread. Just about any starch, that can promote the growth of Candida as can alcohol and caffeine consumption especially because alcohol – that’s a natural result of yeast overgrowth and sugar. So what do you do when you have it? Well one of the typical western medicine fixes is to throw a bunch of antacids and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and over the counter antifungals as well as prescription antifungals. Unfortunately these can do a lot more damage to your body. While at the same time fighting the yeast it can cause a lot of other problems. So, one of the things that you can do though to help with the yeast infection – one would be a colon cleanse, whether it be an all out weeklong colon cleanse or whether it be something just like a cocktail of nutrients designed to clean out your digestive tract. I take one specifically, it’s called EnerPrime. Another thing is very, very powerful – a natural antifungal, natural antiseptic and this is the one that I’ve been most impressed with and I’m going to put a link to in the Shownotes, it’s concentrated oil of oregano. About 3 to 5 drops of that sublingually under your tongue every night before you go to bed, that is incredibly effective at killing off yeast infections while at the same time allowing you to maintain a healthy digestive tract because it does pick the bad bacteria not the good bacteria in terms of bacteria that it kills. And there is a must read in my opinion and I’m going to let you read this yourself because it’s a great explanation of how a magnesium deficiency can cause the yeast infection but I just actually finished the book on the plane ride up here to Toronto, it’s called The Magnesium Miracle. I’m going to put a link in the Shownotes, it’s by Dr. Carolyn Dean. I don’t recommend a lot of books. This one was incredibly powerful. It was so powerful that I’m going to be bringing it home to my wife and telling her that I would really, really like her to read it because it knocked my socks off. A, the studies that showed how void our foods now are completely void of magnesium and B, why that’s an issue and why some of the biggest health care problems in America today in terms of our chronic disease issues are directly related to a magnesium deficiency. I was floored. So a couple other things that you can do – other than magnesium, other than oil of oregano – the live cultures in yoghurt can help to destroy yeast as could a probiotic supplement and so I highly recommend those and if you do happen to have to get on an antibiotic, you would definitely even more so want to take in probiotics. So great question Christine. And remember if you do have a question, you can just email [email protected] or call me 18772099439. So the next question is from Listener Carol.
Carol asks: I’m a 69 year old female and having all kinds of trouble with weight since I stopped smoking six years. ago. I eat a sensible diet and walk 2 miles a day, 4 days a week. My metabolism is very poor according to my doc who ran blood tests. (I don’t know how he found that out from a blood test. But I’ll keep going.) But when I asked him if I could increase my metabolism, he said no and that the situation was due to the aging process. Somehow, I find that answer unacceptable. So, I’m asking you the same question as a trainer who specializes in such matters. No, I cannot afford a trainer, but would really appreciate your opinion and a few tips. I feel helpless.
Ben answers: Ok so first of all I’m not sure exactly what test your doctor ran that showed you had a low metabolism. I guess it could have been a T1 or a T2, T2 or reverse TSH – something that looked at your thyroid activity. Typically metabolism, you have to look at the metabolic test which would be where you wear an oxygen mask and breathe in and out of it, and it tells you how many calories, how many carbohydrates, how much fat you’re burning – I’m not sure what that test that your doctor ran was, if it was just a blood test. But if he said you couldn’t increase your metabolism or that you were kind of stuck, in one way he was correct and one way he was incorrect. He was correct in that the body’s metabolism naturally slows as you age, however there are many, many things that you can do to maintain your metabolism or even if it’s low due to nutrition or dietary decisions that you made or exercise decisions, then you can implement things that could even increase it as you age. First of all, great job with the walking 2 miles a day. I think I said 2 minutes a day. 2 miles a day 4 days a week, but in terms of nutrition choices that you can make I would recommend that you implement natural spices and herbs into your routine. Things like turmeric, curries, cumin, cayenne or red pepper, cinnamon fennel is a good one. Starnise is another good one. And you could put those into your diet to actually help bump up your metabolic rate. You can control your insulin sensitivity which is also going to help with metabolism. You can take something like vanadium. You can take something like chromium. Either of those will help with insulin sensitivity. One supplement that I recommend for improving the metabolism is called Lean Factor. Another is called Thermo Factor. From an activity standpoint, you could actually be doing weight bearing activity such as light work with dumbbells, 10 lbs, 15 lbs. Anything that places some type of an axial or vertical load down on your skeleton to not only improve bone density but also improve the density of the lean muscle fibers which is going to burn a few more calories than a droplet of fat will. You can make sure that when you are lifting weights that you’re not just doing the same routine day after day but you’re actually throwing curve balls at your body, giving it new things to do. I do recommend my book where I talk a lot about this because I could fill up this entire podcast and really skim the surface and answer this question kind of generally, but I know that you say you can’t afford a trainer, but my book’s like… it’s $15 or $120, but if you go to www.100waystoboostyourmetabolism.com, pick that up, all that is is literally a laundry list with a detail of how to implement each one and each thing tells you exactly what you should do to increase your metabolism. So I will put a link to that in the Shownotes Carol. Next question comes from Listener George.
George asks: Ben, love the podcast. You break health and fitness down to an understandable topic. (Thanks George, I love you too.) I’ve been a listener for about six weeks and have started taking APC time release protein and whey protein, and also training much harder. Lately I’ve had persistent itchy skin, especially around my armpits and scrotum. (Little bit of an information overshare there, but actually it’s good to know. It’s a good question.) Yes, I wash well. I know you’re not a doc. But could this be diet or exercise related?
Ben answers: George, it’s possible that if you just started taking whey protein that you could have an allergic reaction to it. Milk allergens are found in milk products and the two main components of milk are whey and something else called casein. You put the two together, you have a complete protein. That’s why the best kind of protein to take at night if you aren’t allergic to milk is a mix of whey and casein. But an individual could be allergic to one or they could be allergic to both. So casein is basically like the curd that forms when milk is left to sour and the whey is the watery fraction that’s left when you remove the curd and you can dehydrate that and make whey protein powder. Now the whey fraction makes up about 20% of what’s isolated and it’s got a lot of what are called antibodies in it. And those can cause the most clinical type of problems. You can test for a whey allergy with a blood test. you could test with a skin prick test. But essentially what you can find out is whether or not you’re actually having an allergic reaction to whey and when you describe your symptoms as being itchy type of symptoms, that’s classic in terms of a food allergy reaction. Now the question is, what can you do about it? How can you still get protein in without experiencing the allergy to whey? There are many other forms of protein out there. My entire book Shape21 is written around avoiding common allergies and some of the protein powders that I recommend as alternatives to whey in that book is soy protein powder, a hemp protein powder is also good. Sometimes people who are allergic to cow’s protein are not allergic to goat protein so you could do a goat protein powder. I take one from a company called Mt. Capra and it’s literally just like regular whey protein that you would find at the supplement outlet but it’s made from goat protein rather than cow’s milk. So, there are lots of protein sources out there. Rice protein would be another one. You can find some of these in just the bulk food section of a health food store. You can also find them at supplement outlets. You can find them online. I have a lot of people that I’m working with who are really getting into hemp protein. It does have a lot of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids in them which is also nice. So, I’d try to find a substitute for the protein, George and see if those type of symptoms persist and that would be a good way to answer your question if you didn’t just want to get a skin prick test or a blood test for a whey food allergy.
Kathryn asks: I am a fairly recent newsletter/podcast subscriber and have become a fan. I am a triathlete and have a question on salt craving. I train daily for the Olympic distance averaging 10-12 hours per week. I have been training and racing for over 10 years. I eat a clean diet, especially since giving up gluten 8 months ago and in general feel great. I do crave salt however and my question is, what am I missing? I am a long time Hammer nutrition user, and use their Endurolytes while training, and for recovery and on a sweaty day. I could walk by a cookie without a problem but..salt is a different story. Long question…have any tips? Should I give into it?
Ben answers: For those of you who aren’t familiar with that product she mentioned by Hammer Nutrition, that’s an electrolyte pill that you can take while you’re exercising to replenish things like sodium, potassium, magnesium, calcium. And most Americans are getting a large amount of sodium in their diets. They can store up to 8 grams or 8000 mgs of sodium, and salt is typically not a problem for many of us. At least the way that we would think about salt in terms of it being sodium chloride or table salt. I just got done talking earlier about the magnesium miracle, I’m going to reference magnesium again because it’s such a huge problem. The idea is that if you’re eating clean, if you’re eating healthy, if you’re eating fruits, if you’re eating vegetables but you are getting those from the grocery store, it is likely that they were grown in a field that uses pesticides, that uses herbicides, that uses fertilizers and that has since the 1930s been exposed to an environment that leeches a lot of the minerals from the soil including magnesium. So even if you’re salting your food, yeah you’re getting your sodium but you’re not getting one of the most important minerals that your body craves and you will crave salt because your body will just want a mineral but you won’t be able to actually know that it’s really something like magnesium that you would be wanting. Again, Kathryn, I would highly recommend that you read this book that I just finished reading but the gist of it is that because you’re not getting some of these things from your food, even if you’re eating a healthy diet and they have traced a gradual decline in magnesium levels in foods since the 1930s interestingly with a simultaneous increase in the number of chronic diseases that we’re experiencing – I would consider supplementing with magnesium. You can use an oral based magnesium. They do make some that are time released now so you don’t get some of the loose stool type of symptoms that you get with a traditional oral magnesium supplement. I personally use a topical magnesium supplement but the stuff is literally amazing. You notice changes in your body that you never thought of before. My wife’s migraines that she gets occasionally has disappeared and she starts to sleep a lot more sound when she’s just been rubbing this magnesium into her back before she goes to bed at night. I personally get a lot less soreness in my muscles and 0 muscle cramping when I use it. So that’s my recommendation. If you’re craving salts, try that out. See if that’s an issue, it typically is a much bigger issue even for women than calcium and I don’t have a lot of time to get into it right now. I’d read the book but calcium, magnesium ratios tend to be way skewed in our diets towards too much calcium, not enough magnesium. And that causes a lot of problems including kidney stones, blood clotting, strokes, things of that nature. So again, read the book. It was super easy to read and I was blown away by it. So I’ll put a link to the magnesium chloride that I use in the Shownotes. Eric has a fairly long question.
Eric asks: Over the spring and summer, I have been diligently following a training schedule. The schedule is based on the classic 3 week build, one week recovery, second phase of build that is a little more than the last first week of three. This weekend I was coming my final recovery week and am heading into my final build – and I admit that I am ‘giving it my all” in my workouts – especially on the bike. I did the ride this weekend with Kristen Armstrong…which I monitored with my old Garmin. (For those of you who don’t know, Kristin is a professional cyclist from the Coeur D’Alene area, I’m guessing.) Heading out there was a decent hill where the group began to fracture…I was the only person on a triathlon bike. I pushed harder than ever to keep with the lead group (which was being lead by Kristen). I stuck with the group and had a great ride. I downloaded my heart rate info and noticed I spiked my HR at 218 going up the hill. I have never managed to get my HR over 180ish before. I chalked it up to a glitch on the watch. Today I rode my bike into work, and did a few intervals on the way in, and back and stopped at the football field to do sprints in on the way home. I downloaded that info and I noticed on one of my intervals I spiked my HR again at 212 this time on flat ground. I feel great, and have been upping my magnesium baths and massaging my legs with magnesium oil every 3 days or so (So this is the same Eric that wrote in last week, that apparently is using the magnesium that I recommended to him and he says…) and I feel fantastic… I have not experienced any chest pains, or anything like that. Even on my 1.2 mile swim I felt fantastic, relaxed, and my heart rate did not even get past 120 So, my question is this; in your opinion, are these high heart rates during training a breakthrough or something I need to see a doctor about?
Ben answers: Well Eric, acute bout of an extremely high heart rate – an abnormally high heart rate like the one you described could not be chalked up to a fitness breakthrough and the reason for that is that as you become fitter, your heart becomes more efficient. The stroke volume or the amount of blood that your heart can pump per beat becomes greater so your heart has to pump less every minute and the amount of oxygen that your heart delivers to your tissue is greater because your tissue is able to extract more oxygen from the blood as it rushes past. However, there is something called a tachycardia which is when your heart rate exceeds the normal range for whether resting or exercise activity or wherever you happen to be… tachycardia is essentially an abnormally high heart rate. A few of the things that could cause that – first would be a severe decrease in your blood pressure which would cause the heart to beat faster in an attempt to raise the blood pressure. That’s called a reflex tachycardia and that can happen if you’re severely dehydrated or if you’re having a bleeding issue which I’m guessing you would notice if you were bleeding enough to decrease your blood volume while you were out riding. But reflex tachycardia could be one issue. If you were severely dehydrated you could also be getting that reflex tachycardia. I’m assuming you’re hydrating yourself properly. Of course if you’re taking something like an Efedra supplement like hydroxy cut or anything like that – Efedra – if you’re smoking pot, marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine – any of those can cause an epheron release that could result in more of a nervous system stimulation form of tachycardia. Cardiac arrhythmias which are problems with your natural pacemaker in your heart, those can cause tachycardia or can arise from tachycardia but again we’re talking about an electrical issue with the heart. You could also get a sinus tachycardia which can come from being dehydrated, again, having a fever. And again, blood loss. That would be something that would be more likely to happen if you got hit by a car on your bike, not if you were just out riding your bike. And there’s also been observed in several athletes, potentially life threatening cardiac arrhythmias that originates in the ventricles or the large parts of your heart where blood pools before it’s pumped out to the rest of your body. And it’s called exercise induced ventricular tachycardia and it’s a phenomenon related to sudden deaths. It happens in people with severe heart disease but it can also happen in athletes who have what’s called a left ventricular dysfunction. And it leads to what’s called ventricular fibrillation which is just essentially almost like a spasm in your heart and it causes the heart to beat really quickly. And ventricular tachycardia is something that could be diagnosed at any number of cardiovascular imaging facilities that might be in your area. That’s something you may want to look into. I’d tell you to look into magnesium supplementation because that’s huge in terms of regulating the electrical activity of the heart but it looks like you’re doing a pretty good job with magnesium. I would get it checked out. It doesn’t sound like a fitness breakthrough. I would also be open-minded to the fact that your watch may not be working properly, that heart rate monitor might not be working properly because those things can kind of spit out some weird numbers sometimes. But I wouldn’t ignore that heart rate that high. And then the final question is from Linda.
Lynda asks: I just ordered the light green Gymstick to help build my core area. (If you don’t know what a Gymstick is, I’ll put a link in the Shownotes. It’s something I use frequently and that a lot of my clients use. Lynda isn’t one of my clients but she’s writing with this question.)I have DDD (I’m assuming you have degenerative disc disease Lynda) with slight disc out of place with causes me a lot of nerve pain daily. I have weak abdominal areas because it hurts to walk or stand a lot. I’m hoping the Gymstick will help me. I wanted something light to start. I don’t want to harm myself. Do you have any input on this? Do you think it will help?
Ben answers: Well first let’s just talk real briefly about degenerative disc disease. Basically in a normal healthy disc, you have a lot of water in the center portion of that disc. It’s called the nucleus of that disc. And so that water content makes the disc kind of spongy and lets the disc absorb stress that’s moving up and down your spine. If there’s a lot of pressure to that disc, if there’s an injury to the disc, essentially the outside part of the disc which is called the annulus tends to get injured or tends to get torn and that can eventually lead to formation of scar tissue, and the annulus gets weaker, more scar tissue forms and eventually the nucleus – the part that holds all that water – that tends to get more pressure than it should put on it because it doesn’t have that… think of it as the protective lining outside of it. So it begins to get dehydrated. It begins to lose its water content, it begins to dry up and that loss of water content means that it’s not as much of a cushion. So, that leads to even more stress on the outside part of the cushion and it’s kind of like this vicious cycle. And eventually, it can collapse. The nucleus can collapse and without that cushion effect, your vertebra basically can’t absorb stresses. They can’t bend or twist properly. And you have to be very careful whether you’re exercising or just in your day to day activity because all of a sudden, the spine does not have the natural cushions that it should have. Now you can exercise but one of the things that you’re really going to have to avoid doing much of would be a direct axial spinal load which would be a load directly down through the spine as well as any number of twisting activities of the spine or what are called lumbar flexion activities like sit-ups, crunches, things like that. I know I’m not your doc and I don’t want to give out medical advice but these are some suggestions that I would have. If you’re going to use the GymStick, they do have a website and it’s called www.gymstick.net. And if you go to www.gymstick.net, you’ll get a DVD and an exercise poster and that type of thing with your www.gymstick.net you actually have access to a little bit more that comes with your GymStick. Did you hear that? I’m actually at the GymsStick website right here trying to find what I’m talking about. Ok, click on “Training Online” when you go to the GymStick website and there’s a workout in there called midsection workout. If you click on “midsection workout” you’ll see that there are a bunch of different workouts or exercises that they prescribe for your midsection. Now some of the other exercises with the GymStick – the curls, the presses, the row, things of that nature – you’re fine with those. But you’ll notice those midsection exercises involve movements of the spine. Some of those that are pictured there, specifically the ones that involve the individual twisting or performing some kind of a crunch or a sit-up would be exercises that you would want to avoid. You’ll see that there are other workouts – especially the upper body workout or the lower body workout, those don’t involve that kind of twisting and bending actions but would still force you to stabilize your core and to actually draw your belly button in as you do the exercises. Those would be better for your back if you have the degenerative disc disease and you have that disc out of place, more so than a lot of those bending and twisting exercises. So it just goes to show you that even if you do get a cool exercise tool like the GymStick, don’t do everything that it tells you to do in the little DVD that came along with it because it might not be the best for you in your unique situation, but especially those exercises in the upper body, the lower body exercise routines that they have there on the website for example – most of those are just fine. Just follow the rule of not bending or flexing or twisting your spine too much and you should be ok.
So those are all the questions for this week and what we’re going to do next is move on to the featured topic which is a double interview super special on swimming. And by the way if you did want to ask a question to me, I know I mentioned this earlier, but just email [email protected] or call the toll free line 8772099439.
Ben: And we’re going to go ahead and start recording. So, podcast listeners this is Ben Greenfield and I’m back with John Kenny for our swimming super special and I know that a lot of people out there were emailing me and had questions about marathon swimming and distance swimming. How swimmers actually are able to support themselves nutritionally during an event like that and later on, in this interview we’ll be bringing on the guys from Swim Smooth to talk about their application for becoming a better swimmer. But first we want to talk a little bit with John and John just for the people who didn’t really hear your interview back when we had you on the show a few months ago in June, what’s your background in open water and marathon swimming?
John Kenny: My background is all in open water swimming. I started doing open water swims when I was about 9 or 10 years old and when I was in high school, I started doing longer stuff. 2ks, and then I worked my way up and started racing the 25k, I’ve been a member of 7 national teams for the US and I’ve won five national championships in 10k, 15k, and 25k.
Ben: So you’ve done pretty much every distance that there is for these open water swims. As far as length of time, when you’re looking at a 10k, a 15k, or a 25k, how long are those events taking you?
John Kenny: Typically a 10k is a little bit under two hours. A 25k, you’re pushing 5 hours and sometimes longer depending on the conditions. So, typically 5k per hour is a pretty good pace for the longer swim.
Ben: For an event like that John, I’ve done Ironman and I’ve been out exercising for 10, 12 even 13 hours before and I know that nutrition – as soon as you get past 90 minutes, nutrition becomes a huge issue but it just seems logistically that it would be very difficult when we’re looking at something like the marathon swimming. You know in Ironman, the way that you do it is the swim is going to take you anywhere from 45 to maybe an hour and 10 minutes so you can get away with eating a quick gel on the beach and swimming for an hour, getting out of the water and having another couple of gels and maybe another couple electrolyte pills before you get on the bike, but you’re not afforded that opportunity of getting out of the water and eating during one of these events that you’re in. So walk me through how you practically get your nutrition in during say a 25k open water swim?
John Kenny: Well there’s actually two different ways that you can do it. And depending on how long you follow the sport, back 2 years and longer ago… I think 2005, they started setting up feeding docks. When I did the world championship in Montreal, they actually had floating docks and I think 2005 was the first year they ever did that. Prior to that it was always you’d have an escort craft and essentially you’d have a boat and it depends, sometimes you’d have a powerboat, other times a kayak. Sometimes in foreign countries you get real weird boats and essentially you’re coached to go on… and they feed you your drink or your gel or whatever you’re taking, essentially handing it to you into the water.
Ben: How evenly are those spaced? Those feeding docks?
John Kenny: Well the ones in Montreal and I believe FENA has kind of set a rule about them, but we had 10 stations throughout 2.5 kilometer course. So I figure there was one ever 250 meters or so although they were not perfectly evenly spaced. Some were a little bit easier to get to than others, some were out further on the course and others you’d have to swim a little bit farther out of your way to get to.
Ben: 250 meters seems really close.
John Kenny: Right, those were the ones where you’d have an option. The other thing you need to consider is… and I have some interesting photos I’d have to send you too because there are some where if you have 35 swimming in the 25k and so essentially you might have 20 countries represented so imagine 20 coaches all going out trying to feed the same swimmer at the same feeding station. I had some interesting photos where there’s 20 on the same space and they’re all standing in knee deep water but they’re actually on a dock that sunk.
Ben: I ought to get you to send me those photos and you should after our interview and I’ll put them up on the blog, up on the Shownotes for this podcast. Now, when y0u’re actually getting the nutrition at these feeding stations, what form is it coming in? Are we talking water bottles that they’re literally just feeding down to you like in a football halftime or are we talking about long straws? How does it work?
John Kenny: I’ve seen guys use bike water bottles before but what I had always done is just like a plastic party cup. Like a 20 oz cup. And actually there’s kind of a little bit of engineering that has gone into that and designing the mechanism to get you that drink because oftentimes you’re in a larger boat or you’re on a dock or you’re behind somebody, you need to reach to the swimmer. So they have — a lot of people I know from the open water swimming world have set up different types of feeding sticks where essentially you’d have – imagine a skimmer that you’d have to clean a swimming pool with an extension arm on it and you know, like a big coffee mug or just a clamp or anything that’s going to be able to hold a 20 oz drink and essentially they’d stick the pole out and you’d grab the cup out of the pole. That’s just kind of a tool that we’ve used to make it a little bit easier so you didn’t have to hand off the drink directly to the swimmer because a lot of times that’s not an option.
Ben: Interesting. So are you going vertical and treading water when you’re taking the drink? Are you doing the backstroke or how does that work?
John Kenny: Ideally you’re not going vertical. And this is something I try to teach to open water swimmers when they’re siding as well is you never want to go vertical because anytime you’re feet are down, you’ve lost a lot of time because now you got to get all that momentum built up so typically I would take a drink on my right hand side and I would roll over kind of on my back but kind of kicking on your back, take the drink as fast as you can and then toss the cup and roll back over and continue. I think when you get good at that, it takes you – maybe you’ll lose 2 to 3 seconds in the course of doing that. So it’s a quick process. It’s not like if you’re riding your bike in an Ironman, you can continue pedaling and you can at your leisure take your drink, undo the top and take a sip and you’re still pedaling down the road so you don’t lose a whole lot of time whereas in open water swimming, it’s kind of crucial especially in a pack swim that you don’t want to lose the pack so you got to drink quick and go. Another thing along the same line is I’ve tried to –whenever I was in a race anyway, so that you weren’t struggling right after you’ve taken a full stomach full of fluid, so you weren’t sprinting right there, a lot of times before I would take the feed you try to get up to the front of the pack and what that does is it gives you a few extra seconds so when you take your drink, now… instead of being off the back, now you’re right in the middle or towards the back of the pack and you’re ready to go and stay with the group.
Ben: Is there any kind of etiquette? Like the pack will kind of – everybody will agree to pull over to one of the feed stops and grab something and keep going or is it pretty much a free for all and you get a feeding in when you can?
John Kenny: Etiquette, that’s a funny word. No there’s really no… in terms of the feeding itself, no. And actually… I’ll take that one step further and say that could actually be a part of a swimmer’s strategy. And I’ve seen swimmers intentionally – for example there’s a guy named David Davies from the UK who swam the last couple of open water races and he actually… he had a very interesting strategy, which would never work for me. But he basically went an entire 10k and I didn’t see him feed once in Spain last year. And whether it was purposely or not I don’t know, but everybody was drafting off him and he would take a right hand turn when it got near the feeding station. I’ve seen him a couple times dart out to the side and just swim away from the feeding platform and that way, no other swimmers would say… well I’m either going to go draft off him or I’m going to go back and get my drink so kind of an interesting dynamic. And I’ve also seen the Russian open water swimmers where one of the swimmers from Russia would go to the feeding station and get a drink and the other one would swim way wide and would eventually take the pack off course, so that way you get the one guy a chance to get his feed and you have the other guy kind of distract everyone, and the next time they switch and do it again. So it’s kind of… it can be very tactical as well. So I would say in terms of etiquette… no, it’s not like everybody says ok, everybody got their drinks in? Ok, let’s go. No, it’s nothing like that.
Ben: We’re going to stop and go to the bathroom now.
John Kenny: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: So million dollar question John, what is in the plastic cup?
John Kenny: Well, you know what I had used for years was Gatorade because it was so readily available. I would aim for about 10 to 12 oz every 10 to 15 minutes. Of course you’d spill a lot of it so you may only get 8 oz in. But then if you go back down to every 12 minutes, I think you’re getting enough fluid. I also used to use a product called Gatorade Energy Drink which was pretty much kind of like a high carbohydrate load and that was something I’d use maybe every hour.
Ben: That’s very dense stuff. I know a lot of people listening in are probably used to the watered down Gatorade endurance but Gator-Load is dense.
John Kenny: Yeah. It’s about 75 grams of carbohydrate in 12 oz I believe.
Ben: Ok, so you’re getting like 300 calories in 12 oz, just right down the hatch.
John Kenny: Yep.
Ben: Wow. Along with the electrolytes. It’s got the electrolytes and the maltodextrin in it. Do you ever do solid foods aside from gels?
John Kenny: Yeah gels. Gels is kind of what I’ve used. In the 25ks, typically hunger isn’t as big as an issue in a 5 hour swim. I’ve also done the Atlantic City around the island swim which was a 37k which on some days took 7, 8 hours. I think at that point you get to 5,6, 7 hours you start to get a little bit of hunger and I’ve taken bananas and I’ve taken different foods like that that were kind of solid but relatively quick to eat.
Ben: Interesting. It’s something that you just don’t think about. A lot of people will probably see these marathon open water swimmers in the Olympics, because that is an Olympic sport right now, right?
John Kenny: It is. Yeah they just added the 10k for Beijing.
Ben: Yeah and you don’t actually think about those guys trying to eat while they’re out there. Well that’s really interesting. It’s fascinating what you do to actually get calories down the hatch while you’re out there. I wanted to – if it’s ok by you, John, keep you on the line for a discussion with these guys that we’re bringing on to talk about this new swim technology that’s online and kind of a cool website I discovered recently called Swim Smooth. And I know they’re over there, they’re up at about 3 or 3:30 am over in the UK right now waiting for our call. So I’m going to bring them in and ask them a few questions about Swim Smooth and for those of you listening in, John is also one of our coaches at Pacific Elite Fitness and he’s an expert on not just open water swimming but swimming in general. So I’d be interested to hear questions he might have for these guys as well. Because everybody’s got a different swim stroke and this Swim Smooth… well I’ll let you listen to these guys talk about what exactly it is.
John Kenny: Are you getting them on the line now?
Ben: They’re coming on the line.
John Kenny: I had one other thing to add real quick. You had mentioned that an Ironman swim, say 45 minutes to an hour 10, and that you don’t really have the opportunity to feed, for example. Something I wanted to add for the middle of the pack to the back of the pack swimmers, particularly on your one loop courses, if you’re going to be out there for an hour and a half and not really have any fluid, another thing… a little open water trick we used to use is we used to put a gel down your suit. So in the event that your coach couldn’t get to you, you’d be able to grab the gel and take it on your own. Actually something that I’ve been preaching to a couple of different swimmers who are in that range – maybe an hour and 40 minutes to 2 hour range and you just don’t have that opportunity to feed, just put a gel in so you have the opportunity to feed during the swim portion.
Ben: Yeah that makes sense. I’ve had a couple of athletes ask me about that . Can you put a gel in your wetsuit? Yeah absolutely. You can carry quite a bit in your wetsuit actually, so that’s a good observation. Well let’s bring these guys on, you heard me dialing them up a second ago. It sounded like they had some static. I’m going to bring them on again and see if we can actually get them in.
Paul what I’d like to know is what is Swim Smooth? What was the idea behind that and can you just explain the concept to the audience?
Paul Newsome: Absolutely Ben. So back in 2004, I was coaching here in Perth in Western Australia. I had this idea of building a resource for the swimmers I was coaching. Almost a resource to explain the how and why of the freestyle stroke. A lot of the swimmers I was coaching didn’t really understand some of the concepts behind some of the drills and techniques I was trying to explain to them. So I thought if I could build a visual source to help explain that then that would really help the swimmers that I was coaching. Luckily we made contact with Olympic Gold medalist Bill Kirby and if you’ve visited the Swim Smooth website you’ll have seen his stroke and how awesome that actually is. We use Bill’s stroke to actually contrast that with some of the common errors that a lot of swimmers make with their swim strokes.
Ben: Now for the people… when you say the Swim Smooth website, is it www.swimsmooth.com if people are sitting in front of their computers and want to check that out?
Paul Newsome: That’s absolutely correct. That’s correct, yeah.
Paul Newsome: So we actually packed this whole idea into a DVD which we released in 2004 and since that point the website’s been steadily growing over that time but our latest incarnation of the website was released just four weeks ago with the release of Mr. Smooth, our animated freestyle swimmer which visitors to our site can now download for free and take that visualization process just a step farther.
Ben: I have this Mr. Smooth that I’ve downloaded to my computer. It’s basically this 3D model of a swimmer that you can look at from the front, the side, you can alter the cadence of the stroke. You can observe each of the different aspects of the stroke right there on your computer. What are the other features that are on this application that someone can just sit on their desktop Paul?
Paul Newsome: Ok, so obviously the download which people can download onto their computers and actually watch will allow you to watch from various different angles, but really the whole thing with Mr. Smooth is we’ve gone for one specific type of stroke, you could say, which is purely a model of the freestyle stroke that people can try and visualize. It features all the basic concepts of what you should be looking for in a good freestyle stroke which is good horizontal body position, excellent body rotation, a good catch and pull through and feel for the water. Now we fully recognize of course that there’s going to be individual idiosyncrasies that other swimmers will display outside of this model but as a simple visualization that people can use on their desktop or even download to their iPhones or Smart Phone for free, and watch just before they for a swim. We’re getting some really good feedback and results from people actually using it just as a simple visualization tool before they go for a swim.
Ben: Interesting. So you could throw it on your iPhone or your Smart Phone and actually…
Paul Newsome: Absolutely, your BlackBerry or what have you.
Ben: Now what are the… you mentioned common areas. What are some of the common areas you’ve addressed in the Mr. Smooth model?
Paul Newsome: Ok, so I suppose one of the big things – I was actually coaching a session just yesterday and one of the many problems that many swimmers tend to encounter is body position in the water. Often times, this is attributed to (unintelligible), a lot of the coaching I do or in fact all the one to one sessions that I take are actually filmed with video analysis so I’m able to display these common errors back to the swimmer. So in the session yesterday for example, I was filming a swimmer and showing the video from a direct bird’s eye view down to the swimmer’s stroke. And able to actually display this leg kick which a lot of swimmers tend to encounter. A lot of coaches or maybe experienced swimmers might look at this leg kick and say that swimmer needs a lot of work. They need to produce a more propulsive swimming leg kick whereas – especially for distance freestyle swimming and triathlon swimming, we’re not looking too much at the propulsory side of the freestyle leg kick but we need to get rid of some of that drag. So when I’m looking at that stroke, I’m looking for essentially the cause and effect behind what’s actually causing this scissor leg kick and oftentimes it’s a simple crossover at the front end of the stroke that’s actually throwing the stroke off balance. So, help to create that hand entry into the water and that cross over which you can clearly see from Mr. Smooth’s swim stroke himself, you can see great alignment into the water and work on that alignment, it will actually help to improve the leg kick itself.
Ben: Interesting. Now John… oh by the way John are you still there?
John Kenny: I am still here, yep.
Ben: John, you mentioned that you looked at Mr. Smooth and you said that he had a front quadrant style of swimming. What did you mean by that?
John Kenny: Well actually, well first of all Paul, I wanted to say really cool visualization tool. I really enjoy checking that out on www.swimsmooth.com.
Paul Newsome: Thanks very much.
John Kenny: One of the things I had mentioned was the swimmer tends to have a front quadrant stroke and it tends to be… one of the questions I actually had had really was about the finish of the stroke. I have seen myself on video and when I pull my hand out of the water, I’m fully pulling past the hip. And I guess the question I had for you was it appears that Mr. Smooth, his hand comes out before it even gets to the hip. I was just curious about why you had that model go in that direction.
Paul Newsome: Absolutely. I think there are a few aspects of Mr. Smooth’s stroke which actually intrigue coaches, etc. One of those things is his catch and pull through and obviously the finish at the end of the stroke there. I think with anybody’s stroke, one of the things I like somebody to finish well at the back end of the stroke, is a good body rotation so a lot of people tend to swim with flat hips and having the hips flat in the water actually prevents the finish of the stroke at the back there. Essentially making somebody exit early at the back end of the stroke. One of the things that we looked for in Mr. Smooth’s stroke is to clearly show how to apply force in the water or a good feel for the water basically in the direction you’re wanting to travel. So as you’ll see his hand entering the water, you’ll see his fingertips just tipping over, catching onto the water and then we use this simple visualization of trying to show the palm of the hand back behind you. If you actually watch in slow motion, if you actually watch Mr. Smooth’s hands take that path underneath his body, you’ll see the palm of the hand actually pressing all the way towards his hips and exiting just by the hips there. The fact that he doesn’t fully press back as you might say, as I’m understanding what you’re saying there John, a lot of people when they actually forcefully push to the back end of the stroke… the recovery phase of the freestyle stroke actually throw this a little bit off balance and potentially make the recovery phase a little bit harder than it needs to be. We’ve actually seen this also set up for an incorrect recovery pathway which can cause shoulder pain or shoulder problems down the line.
Ben: Now I noticed as I mentioned, you can also change up the rhythm of the swimmer and I was going to ask John this, I forget what it was, but he shared with us during a previous interview about kind of an ideal cadence. Now if people had downloaded the swim smooth app to their computer and they have this pulled up to their desktop and they wanted to drag that cadence up to the ideal swim stroke rate – John you were saying for open water there was a certain stroke rate. What was that?
John Kenny: I typically try to hit about 82 to 86 in that range for shorter stuff. If I do a 1500 meter swim or a 2k open water swim, 82 to 86 I think is pretty ideal for me.
Ben: So what you could do with the Swim Smooth app is pull it up on your computer and just drag that little slider up to 84 and I tried that out… I tried it in all different rhythms. It was pretty amazing. You don’t realize how high your rhythm needs to be in the water to achieve that ideal cadence. Paul, you had some resources like some articles that come along with the Swim Smooth app. Can you tell me about those.
Paul Newsome: Yeah, in direct context about the stroke rate, it’s a brilliant question John. And something we’ve done quite a bit of research into . We’re also very much in favor of identifying the optimal balance between stroke rates and stroke lengths with respect to swimmer’s strokes and with respect to the distance they’re swimming and the environments in which they’re swimming as well. We typically find that the world’s best open water swimmers in particular especially elite female open water swimmers do tend to stroke with high stroke rates in the region of upper 80 strokes per minute basically. If you go to www.swimsmooth.com/strokerates you’ll see a whole article about that and we also include our stroke rate chart which is a unique thing to Swim Smooth which looks at the speed at which you’re swimming and tries to identify an optimal stroke rate for you at that given speed. We have basically 3 zones on that chart. One zone which is you may be stroking a little bit too fast and losing some of the efficiency in your stroke through a shortened stroke length, there’s a nice white zone in the middle where we’re suggesting that you need to work on both stroke rates and stroke lengths to improve and then there’s a blue zone at the bottom where we’re suggesting you may be taking that concept of really, really long freestyle stroke a little bit too far and inputted some dead spots into your freestyle stroke. We’re actually suggesting that in order to improve especially in the open water you need to concentrate on lifting your stroke rates a little bit to actually get back into that white zone.
Ben: And in addition to that stroke rate, you also have these other articles, I noticed, that you can… you’ve separated them into beginner, intermediate, advanced sections that people can go through and read. I thought that was interesting.
Paul Newsome: Yeah absolutely. I think it’s important you know when you’re talking with or communicating to swimmers, it’s important to communicate in a language that’s readily understood by their level of experience so rather than getting too much into the nitty gritty of thing likes stroke rates or training with what we call critical swim speed which is some of the sessions that we do for our intermediate and advanced swimmers – focus a little more on actually attaining certain times and why that’d be appropriate to your various swimming thresholds, etc. It’s important that we speak in a language that’s going to be understood by (unintelligible) talking to, so yeah that was the decision between splitting the website into beginner, intermediate, advanced and also the coaches section as well.
Ben: Now there’s different modules available for download, is that correct?
Paul Newsome: Of Mr. Smooth, indeed. Yes. There’s the free download which anyone can download and see Mr. Smooth from all different angles and use the stroke rate facility, etc. There’s also an enthusiasts and coaches’ (license) as well which will allow them to pull up different angles of the stroke together. So for example, if we have a special view of the breathing part of the freestyle stroke, we can bring up different angles and see that. There’s also a great leg kick timing special view which allows the swimmer to actually focus in on the timing of the arm stroke in relation to the leg kick. In those other additions as well, you can actually pause the frame, take a snapshot of that file so if the coach for example wants to send over a JPEG of the particular aspect of the stroke that they’re talking about, they can send a simple visual image of exactly what they’re meaning and display that clearly to the swimmer. One of the other features the coaches might like to use and one which we essentially built from my own coaching is links to articles on the website. The whole website, Swim Smooth website, is a great resource for swimmers and for coaches alike and we wanted a simple way for the coaches to be able to sort of reference different parts of the website and also to mail an email to their swimmers. So they can actually go into that little module, click on the articles that they want and send to their athletes and it will automatically generate an email for them.
Ben: Yeah, I was pretty excited to have discovered this website www.swimsmooth.com and kind of explored it for a little while last week. I think it’s really cool. So if you’re listening in, go download the www.swimsmooth.com app and check that out. It’s pretty interesting. You’ll play with it for quite a while and definitely it’ll make you think about your swim stroke the next time you’re in the pool or in the open water. Well John, Paul, I wanted to thank you guys for coming on today.
Paul Newsome: Thanks very much Ben.
John Kenny: Thanks for having us Ben.
Ben: And remember if you want to contact or go to their website, I’ll put a link where you can find out more about Paul and www.swimsmooth.com as well as John Kenny’s swim coaching services over on the Shownotes for this podcast and until next time, this is Ben Greenfield signing out.
For personal nutrition, fitness or triathlon consulting, supplements, books or DVD’s from Ben Greenfield, please visit Pacific Elite Fitness at http://www.pacificfit.net