Alden Basmajian

Starting with the 2012 Ironman U.S. Championships in NY, I began my career in triathlons and have been pushing myself to improve and reach new heights. One critical lesson I’ve learned is that a fine line exists between effective training and overtraining. Every race cannot be a new personal best, but each race is an exercise in improving a skill or technique while building to the ultimate goals of the season. As an athlete, coach and teacher, I pass these fundamental training goals and lessons on each day.

 

Treating your body well is the best way to ensure success and continued growth throughout the training process. As I have invested more energy in the sport, it has provided me with an opportunity to share my experiences with athletes of all ages and levels to help others improve and reach their potential.

2016 will be very much a continuation of the pervious season. Through a steady build in the spring and early summer, I will peak in time for a late season 70.3 race and end of season 140.6 race.  

 

Goals for 2016:

  • Improve bike fitness
  • Ironman World Championship slot
  • New PR in 70.3 distance

 

Of any of the feats and accomplishments, nothing is more exciting than seeing my family on race day and listening to their cheers. My wife and three children are my inspiration and help keep me having fun and enjoying the adventure. They push me to do my best each day.

Upcoming Events

October 2017

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Athlete Slideshow

Open Season

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Tri season is finally here in NJ. I've been eagerly awaiting the opening race of the season and watching results from warmer areas trickle in over thelast several weeks. Last Sunday finally marked the beginning of racing here in NJ with JerseyMan. The lead in to the race had it's ups and downs both mentally and physically. Although I had a solid run build and had been doing strength work throughout the winter months, some unexpected trips in the car made for an extremely tight hamstring and compromised the early season progress. 

Dr. Todd came back into action just in time. I was having trouble bending down without pain in my lower back and upper thigh. My hamstring was so tight that you could actually feel the muscle as just a taut chord. It was not comfortable. I was losing power and it took a little while to get started on runs. Dr. Todd and I worked on it over the course of 3 weeks pretty religiously. We managed to get ahead with a couple double visits in a week. The ART and focused work on the hamstring and down into the compromised calf muscle was brilliant and in short time I was feeling stronger and better. By race day, the tightness that had plagued my workouts was gone. I could come off the bike without any worry of settling in and without any sign of a limp. This was huge. 

Fast forward to race day and I came off the bike in 5/6 place with another strong athlete. Had I not been able to quickly settle into a run, I could have kissed the race goodbye at that point. Instead, we had a constant back and forth duel for the first 4.5 miles before I managed to pass and put away the other runner. In the end, I came about 0.5mi short of catching 4th place but finished with a strong showing of 5th. 

Using techniques and exercises that Dr. Todd has suggested based on my own functional movement screening, I was able to recover quickly from the effort and move forward with the training. Cycling power is at a new all time high and the run pace is beginning to creep to an even lower level. The season looks promising and the hammy is happy. 

ART

Season Wrap

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Dr. Todd and I have been through a lot together this year but always with the same aim – get to the start line of the next race in the best possible shape to focus on performing. Most of the time, my body has cooperated but setbacks are natural in training especially for long endurance events. Training blocks incorporate periods of high intensity and power as well as speed development and aerobic capacity gains.

One area that we really worked on was core training and a strength program. Core is not confined to attaining the much desired 6 pack abs. Core strength extends so much further than that and impacts your ability to engage muscles groups properly and efficiently. I have never felt as strong at the end of races as I did this year. Standing up tall, engaging leg muscles without tapping into other muscles groups for compensation, and staying relaxed all helped keep me focused on racing and not managing cramps or muscle fatigue.

Dr. Todd nailed it with a late season addition to the program. After IM Chattanooga, I was left unsatisfied and wanting more in terms of competition and race results. Working with my coach and a somewhat clear head, we decided on IM Arizona. This gave me 8 weeks to recover, rebuild the lost fitness, and get to the race ready to crank away. The only catch – I banged my ankle on a Starbucks door two days before IM Chatt and I couldn’t really put weight on it. In hindsight, the sore muscles and tired legs from the race probably prevented me from damaging the ankle more by running on it. After about 2 weeks, I finally went for me first couple runs again. The ankle hurt and the ligaments around it were sore from compensating. Dr. Todd worked on the whole area and just kept giving it the care and attention it needed while I did my best not to beat it up too much. Then one day, after graston and some ART, I worked out in the afternoon and didn’t pay any attention to it before realizing that night that the ankle didn’t hurt. Five weeks on and it was finally back together. Now, I had three weeks to work out the other muscle compensation issues that arose. Dr. Todd went after my calf and quad on each visit.Race day came and the body just did what it was supposed to do. No doubt about it, the upkeep and care is the only way I made it to the line and through the race.

What a year it’s been together. I can’t control the quality of the field that arrived at IM Arizona but I executed the race plan and crossed in 9:08 for 5th in my age group and 13th amateur. After some mental and physical recovery, I’m looking forward to another together, conquering new goals, and reaching now heights. 

Salt and Dehydration

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Waking up in the morning with cotton mouth, looking for a glass of water as quickly as possible, and then it just evaporates in your mouth leaving you wanting another. You start thinking back to the night before and reviewing what you had. We've all been there. And no, I'm not talking about being dehydrated from drinking. Rather, you're all dried out from salt in your food. 

My initial thought had been that I had too much salt in my food during dinner and that made me dehydrated. So, working under this premise, how in the world could sodium loading possibly be helpful in training and racing? Wouldn't that just dehydrate me more?

As a roundabout way of answering those questions, I'll say that sodium loading has been a missing component to my nutrition plan and that salt tabs during training and racing have elevated my performance this season. Having salt doesn't dehydrate you. It's not that the salt intake takes water away from your body and dries you out. By having more salt, your body wants to hold on to more water. So you need to drink more water to satisfy that urge. With this understanding, the benefits of salt intake become more apparent for training and race purposes. With an extra intake of salt, you can hold on to more water and also not cause discomfort to your body. I know I've felt the sloshy up and down feeling of having too much water in my stomach while running. With the sodium intake, there's now an extra source to absorb the new water. 

This has made a huge difference in the cramping that I've traditionally experienced during longer endurance tests. In the past, I've hit the run and started to have calf cramps or quad cramps at some point during the run leg. During the Boston marathon, I waited too long to have electrolytes / salt tabs and that made a huge difference in the last few miles. Now, as I've started to use salt tabs throughout training and races, those issues have dropped off and my performance has stayed consistent. All of this has been made possible by the work with my sports nutritionist, Nicci Schock and Elevate by Nicci

Sodium loading is a two part process. The night before the workout/race in question, you take a certain amount of sodium. For me, it's roughly 3000mg of sodium mixed with water and orange juice. The oj acts to help absorb the sodium and process it in your system. I'm sure there's a more scientific way to describe it, but that works for me. Then, in the morning, you finish off the process with a smaller amount of sodium. The benefit here is that your body will hold on to water as you drink it. It doesn't mean you won't sweat and lose water, but you are ahead of the game and able to hold on to more for longer. This is especially helpful when it's hot outside or if you are a heavy sweater. As you add electrolytes / salt tabs to the in-race/training nutrition, then the sodium stores in your body won't be depleted as quickly. The end benefit is less muscle cramping and fatigue and more performance. 

It's definitely a trial and error process to find the right balance for sodium loading and not feeling bloated and uncomfortable. But once you find the right intake, the results are amazing. There's no reason to think that salt is an enemy of training and performance. As is the case with all parts of nutrition, just be smart. Test different approaches in training and keep track of what works. 

Running to Tri

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With the first major set of training and racing behind me, it's a good chance to recap the early year. This year, I started training off with a distinct run focus. I had a goal of setting a new PR in the half-marathon distance while building towards the Boston Marathon. During Boston, my goals were simple and straightforward: sub-2:50, learn something from the race, have fun, and recover to be ready for tri season. 

Dr. Todd has been keeping my body fit and ready for all the work Coach Earl (Tailwind Endurance) had me doing. We ramped up the run mileage while getting in some quality swims and rides. Some people might be against an early season marathon and what it can or can't do for training. This provided me with an early season set of goals and focus so that I could constantly work towards achieving something. Being in the NE, there are not many options for early season triathlons so running races make sense. It's now 2 weeks on from Boston and I can say that my body is ready to go and I'm geared up for triathlon season. Post Boston, my quads were shot, knees were a bit achy, and calves were beaten up. During the initial recovery days, two things really jump started my recovery. First, I swam on Wednesday, two days after Boston. After the swim, I realized how great it was to be able to cross train. The floating around, stretching, and no impact exercise loosened up my body. I got out of the pool and could walk down the steps without having to turn around. I could bend over and actually stretch my legs without my back hurting. All of this from just the one swim. 

Cross training is so important. As triathletes, we have the ability to exercise in multiple ways. In addition, strength training is critical to the body's ability to absorb workouts and recover from them. I have been able to get out for a few runs and steadily feel my legs coming back. The first one was tough but I made it through and immediately went to the roller. 

The second part that helped the recovery was the visit with Dr. Todd coupled with all the roller work. It takes 5 minutes to roll around and the impact is huge. This helped break down some of the lactic acid and loosen up the muscles. Dr. Todd helped with movement issues and general tightness in my legs and lower back. The power and flexibility came back and I feel pretty close to normal now. 

Running to triathlon season gave me a great run base for the start of the season. I have some work to do to develop the bike power I'd like to have. But, my season goals are later in the year and I have plenty of time to get there. For now, it's time to focus on bike strength and maintaining the run capabilities coming off the bike. The first test and gauge of tri fitness will come in about 3 weeks at JerseyMan. I'm looking forward to getting the new bike out and racing the Ventum One as well as seeing where my early season fitness is. The run build has been great and broke up what could otherwise be a long stretch of training by giving me an opportunity to focus on near term goals while developing the long term strategy for the season. Now it's time to get going!

Race Weekend

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Wrapping up a solid week of recovery and heading into race weekend, this is a good time to review the run build to the season. My goals for the early part of 2016 were to build the run fitness, try to set a new half-marathon best, and come to Boston ready to enjoy the race. While it might seem a bit odd, the Boston Marathon is not a primary goal of the season. The goal surrounding this race is to throw in a demanding run and then focus on recovery to get to the tri season in the best shape possible. 

Together with Dr. Todd, we've been working on stabilizing my core, strengthening the hip flexors, and helping the body deal with the different strains of training. As a teacher, I enjoy a spring break just like my students. This was prime time for an uptick in training and intensity. As a result, Dr. Todd and I saw a bit more of each other recently and really worked out the kinks. This week has been both a mental and physical recovery week. We worked on the hip flexors, paid attention to a tendonitis issue in my left foot, and loosened up my back. I went for a pre-race tempo run today and floated along for 3 miles at 6:15 pace. It was a great feeling. 

Races present all types of possibilities and opportunities. Boston has a clear place in the season for me and is a launching pad for the rest of the year. I'm looking forward to the race, spending some time outside cruising the streets of the greater Boston area, and especially the NormaTec boots on Wednesday morning. Thanks for all the race week work, Dr. Todd! See you on the other side. 

How Bad Do You Want It?

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"Why run? Why go out there every afternoon and beat out your brains? What is the logic of punishing yourself each day, of striving to become better, more efficient, tougher?"

These words were written by Steve Prefontaine while in high school, and yet they are the same words that each of us ask ourselves as we go along our paths. Why do we do what we do? Is it a desire to punish ourselves and come out stronger on the other side? Is it because we have extra time to allocate during a day and we need to fill it? Or is it something deeper? An innate desire to explore our boundaries and limitations and then figure out ways to move past them. To learn from our mistakes and experiences in order to become stronger and more accomplished. 

How Bad Do You Want It is a great book about pushing your limits. There are some days when even the greatest champions are not at their mentally strongest and can falter. We've heard the saying "mind over matter." This is true and can propel each one of us to new heights. The best part about this book is the investigation into both successes and failures of different athletes. Determintation and desire can take an athlete to substaintially higher levels than our physical abilities. As we train our bodies to endure more physical demands, it's important to train our minds to become just as strong. We all have those days when it's a struggle to put one foot in front of the other or to jump in the cold water. That's ok. It's natural through the course of training. But when the time comes to actually get the work done, focusing and buckling down on the task at hand can be more beneficial than the physical training benefit. 

So why do you punish yourself with countless miles, cold water, and early mornings? I do it to find out what I can do and then figure out ways beyond that. I do it to see the smiles on my kids' faces at the finish line. I do it with the expectation of learning a little bit more about myself and knowing that I can achieve the goals I set out to accomplish. Or as Pre said, "the value in it is what you learn about yourself...things that you may not have seen in yourself before." Enjoy the book

Opening Up

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My last few visits to Dr. Todd have been focused on developing posture, engaging lazy muscles, and trying to open up my shoulders. We've made a couple changes to my daily routine including using a stand-up desk at work. This has been such a huge change. I don't slouch at my desk and I'm not tired during the day. Standing opens up my hips which keeps my hip flexors from getting tight throughout the day and it also keeps my shoulders from creeping up throughout the day. 

I've felt the benefits in running and swimming. My shoulders stay lower and properly engaged during running as opposed to rising up towards my ears. This leaves the core engaged and my body more relaxed to focus on running. During swimming, the open shoulders allow me to rotate and extend more freely and pull water with less effort. Although I thought I had pretty good posture during non-training hours, there was quite a lot of junk to break up in my shoulders. After a bit of graston (check out the handiwork in the picture), my shoulders roll back and my chest is wider. 

Posture is so important at all times. There are small fixes that can make such a big difference. Many times, simply standing and focusing on stretching out instead of scrunching up will be noticeable improvements. Coupled with a little mental discipline, I'm looking forward to continuing to engage muscles properly and seeing the long term benefit translate to training. 

The Roller Is Not Just for Post-Workout Recovery

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Rollers can be great to help work out kinks during training. An achy muscle, tight back, or sore ligament can definitely be addressed through some targeted rolling. But, that's not it. I've come to find that the roller can actually help pre-workout as well. Rather than spending time on a slow warm-up, I've started to roll out my legs before rides and runs and it's been a huge help. I can start my workouts with clear legs and a focus in the body to be more effecient and effective. 

Several years ago, I wrecked on my bike and banged up my shoulder. It still causes me some problems. Dr. Todd listened to this, watched my movement, and gave some pointers on using the roller to stretch out the shoulder area and break up the scar tissue. This is particularly important based on the swimming stress put on the shoulder as well as the core development we're focusing on during the off-season. By pairing the roller both before and after workouts, I'm looser, a bit more flexible, and more effectively ready to go for workouts. It's been great to utilize a training tool in a more productive manner and add to recovery.