Category Archives: Training

Personal Training


The training principle of overload demands self-discipline, balance and the knowledge to use it well. Overload is for everyone – young and old, novice and expert, recreational and competitive, fitness enthusiast and pro, but must be used judiciously – not EVERY time, but often enough to keep one’s options open.

Every time I hear the word “OVERLOAD,” I think of Patrick Swayze and “Dirty Dancing.” And for you kids, yes, a generation (or more) of us fell in love with either Swayze or Jennifer Gray nearly 30 years ago. And I’ll just bet some of us are still singing those songs.

Overload, however, is also a training principle without which an athlete or fitness enthusiast of any level cannot progress.

Even Mark Twain knew about overload. “If you do what you have always done, you will get what you have always got,” he said.

Usually there is more. Overload opens the door to dreams and goals, possibilities and opportunities. Without overload we simply stay where we are. Briefly. Maintenance is an ambiguous concept. Can one really stand still? Or is it true that if we’re not moving forward, we’re moving backward?


What do you call it, that thing you do that falls somewhere under the heading of exercise? Training? Working out? Being active? Moving? It really doesn’t matter what you name your exercise or even how you define it; the principles are the same. Getting in a rut is bad; moving forward is good.

The athlete who trains to keep up with his 10 year old on a hike to the top of Mt. Abe is not really so very different from the athlete who trains to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Furthermore, neither is far removed from the sedentary office worker whose doctor mandated weight loss or the joint replacement patient putting one foot in front of the other through rehab.

If exercise, or training, or working out, or any form of “purposeful activity” is on your radar, then you are part of a growing community that values the importance of movement for performance and/or wellness.

Some of you adhere to regular plans; some of you are still in the planning stages. But wherever you are, you are looking at a journey. As time goes on, you become leaner, stronger, faster, more energetic, flexible, knowledgeable and finally more dedicated to your quest. In fact, as you continue to push back your previously perceived limitations and enlarge your possibilities, the more important your active lifestyle will become.


Pause for a minute or two. Take out a piece of paper and a pen, or type in a few notes on your iPad. Make a list. Think about it. Hammer out 10 things you think are important to your exercise plan.

Now check your list to see if any of these words appear: doctor’s approval, preparation, motivation, accountability, assessment, measurement, goal, time, recovery, sleep, nutrition, hydration, balance, base building, endurance, strength, speed, flexibility, agility, overload, specificity, tools, partner, race, cross-training, class, solo, commitment, play, gear.

We could do this all day. But it’s up to you to choose 10 fitness training elements that work for you. Remember, you might hold in your hand a perfectly conceived plan, one that has been developed to meet your personal goal and to take you from where you are right now to where you will be when you reach that goal. But, if you do not DO it, that perfect plan is worthless.

Let’s consider just two training principles that might act as reminders of what you already know, or a few good ideas to incorporate in your top 10 list.


The word balance touches upon what is mental, emotional and physical. We speak of balancing appointments, budgets, nutrition and rest just as often as we consider the balance needed to maneuver a ropes course or stand in tree pose. It is no surprise, therefore, that your fitness plan needs to be balanced.

You need long days, short days, hard days, easy days, fast days, slow days, flats, hills, intervals, that which is serious and that which is just plain fun.

Do you hear your friends rave about how hard a class might be or how completely depleted they were after a particular workout? That’s good. But not every time.

Your body needs regular practice going the distance as well. You need to teach your body to recover both within the context of a training session and before the next one. Your workouts must include the commitment to finish as well as start; to accept moderation as well as stress. As we like to say, “It’s all good.”


This brings us back to the principle of overload. For some, overload is the fun stuff; for others, sheer dread. To progress, to move forward, you need it so go ahead and embrace it.

“The Overload Principle is a basic sports fitness training concept. It means that in order to improve, athletes must continually work harder as their bodies adjust to existing workouts.”

Elizabeth Quinn (, January 2016) wrote this about overload: “Definition: The principle of overload states that a greater than normal stress or load on the body is required for training adaptation to take place. The body will adapt to this stimulus. Once the body has adapted then a different stimulus is required to continue the change. In order for a muscle (including the heart) to increase strength, it must be gradually stressed by working against a load greater than it is used to. To increase endurance, muscles must work for a longer period of time than they are used to. If this stress is removed or decreased there will be a decrease in that particular component of fitness.”

Overload is appropriate, therefore, to building strength as well as endurance. By increasing resistance and/or repetitions, the body responds with increased strength. Increase time and/or distance, the body responds with increased endurance.

Note: such increase must be done in a safe and deliberate way in order to build rather than injure. Also note that as Quinn said, the opposite, decreasing intensity, causes a loss of power or fitness.


It is already the first weekend in August. Summer vacation times come early for some and later for others, perhaps when the season has matured. Goldenrod is prolific; back-to-school specials are too. But there are still a few weeks to play the part. There is yet time to indulge in activities best enjoyed at a pace and intensity suitable to summer.

While doing so, why not anticipate the months ahead and develop a plan? You’ve made a list and pondered some of the many elements of fitness training. Take another look at that list and be sure that you have both balance and overload on it. Then get ready to take the next step, the step forward from where you are and headed in the direction of where you want to be in your fitness future.


Respect the impact of summer elements on your exercise.

You either like the heat, or you don’t. Those who live in Vermont because they prefer cooler temperatures, and snow and winter sports, just might start to complain when the thermometer hits 70 degrees. Others luxuriate in the penetrating heat of a sunny Vermont day. Both camps often agree, however, that high heat combined with elevated humidity often cause a game change.

In any event, longer daylight hours married to pleasing temperatures lure most outdoors. An added bonus is how little one needs to wear in summer versus winter conditions.

That does not mean, however, that one should be unprepared for what summer elements may produce.

— Weather: It may change any minute. If it rains, will you be prepared? Be sure to check the forecast. Right or wrong, it will at least give you a good idea of what is possible. Above all, avoid getting caught unprepared when dangerous lightening strikes.

— Heat: The condition of heat exhaustion is preventable; heat stroke is deadly. Learn the symptoms and treatments for both (see, for example, Your troubles may appear initially as heat cramps. If these escalate to dizziness, hot and clammy skin, rapid pulse, headache, nausea, fatigue (to name a few symptoms), it’s time to take action. Or rather, it’s time to stop, find a cooler place (even the shade of a tree) and hydrate with water or a sports drink. Untreated, heat exhaustion can become unmanageable and dangerous. If symptoms continue for an hour and body temperature is elevated to 104 F or above, seek immediate medical attention.

A warm, dry day is an excellent time to get outdoors to train for a sport or participate in a game, competition or event. However, if conditions are adverse, best to err on the side of caution: Play it safe, dial it back, reduce the intensity or length of your training, take special care to hydrate well and spend every available minute out of the direct sun.

— Wind: Unintended consequences prevail when one embarks on an adventure on a windy day. When checking the weather forecast, also be sure to note the wind. When cycling, paddling or running, for example, a headwind is disadvantageous because of the effort involved. Yet a tailwind, though often an exciting relief, just might be more than you bargained for. On water it’s easy to be blown off course, and on a bike those pesky cross winds can be unsettling. Wind is also unexpectedly dehydrating.

— First aid: It’s smart to refresh your memory of basic first-aid and to pack along a few simple aids that could make the difference between a blip on the day and a sad experience.

— Bugs and bee stings: Oh my; these do come with the territory. Some people seem to attract insects more than others. Know your personal tolerance level and bring along whatever you need to protect yourself whether it’s a topical spray or lotion or long sleeves and pant legs, or even netting. If, of course, you are allergic to bee stings, always be prepared with an EpiPen (epinephrine injection) or whatever antidote you use, and inform your companions of your allergy.

— Poisonous plants: Learn to identify poisonous plants such as ivy, oak, sumac, parsnips, and even common plants such as sunflowers wild grapes and clematis ( Reactions to toxins from these plants vary in different individuals.

Surely when your work is in the outdoors, choices are limited and precautions take on new meaning. If, however, you are off for a day of fun, think ahead to insure a safe and pleasant outing for yourself and those with whom you spend your hours.

— Sun protection: Finally, by now, unless you live on another planet, you have heard repeated warnings to protect your skin from the ravages of skin cancer due to exposure to the sun’s harmful rays. Apply and reapply sunscreen as needed.

Read below to see what Kimberly Evans, a registered dietitian, has to say about nutrition and the sun.


by Kimberly Evans, MS, RD.

The sunscreen dilemma is a frequent problem with athletes and outdoor enthusiasts come summer.  One might think that this is a no brainer.  After all, for a very long time now we have been programmed to lather up on sunblock before we even step outside.  You do this to protect your skin from harmful sunrays, and therefore protect your skin from cancer.  For the most part, we can all agree that skin protection is an important consideration for those who are active outside in the summer months.

But wait, there are some cons; maybe even more cons than pros.  For one, not only does sunblock keep out harmful sun rays, it also keeps out very beneficial Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a crucial hormone-like-vitamin that not only keeps athlete’s immune systems healthy, but also plays a role in preventing stress fractures and other sports-related injuries. 

It is a good practice for active people to get vitamin D levels tested once a year, especially if they are sun-avoidant or heavy sun block users.  Salmon and mushrooms are a great natural source of Vitamin D, but many folks find that they need to take supplemental Vitamin D3.

Another very real sun block con is that many sunscreens are loaded with harmful chemicals, commonly referred to as endocrine disruptors. 

The skin is the largest organ of the body and creams, oils, and lotions applied to the skin quickly make their way into the blood stream.  Chemicals such as PABA, paraben, sulphates, phthalates, oxybenzone, and forms of Vitamin A are common sunscreen additives. 

If you lather up before going outside, a good rule of thumb is to choose a sunscreen that has strong broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, such as those containing zinc oxide.  Badger All-Natural Sunscreen and Aubrey Organics are two good examples. 

The Environmental Working Group (a non-profit research group focused on public health protection) has several guides to choosing a good sunscreen, as well as several interesting articles such as “Eight Little Known Facts About Sunscreens.”

 As a registered dietitian and food enthusiast, I find there is always a celebration to be had when food comes to the rescue. In my world it often does.  Beyond topical sunscreen, foods themselves can offer sun protection for the skin. 

The next time you are heading out for a run, hike, bike, walk, swim, round of golf or any other outdoor activity, plan a meal where you can eat your sun block or take sun protecting snacks along. 

Wait, what?  Yes. I am not talking about finding an edible sunscreen here.  I am saying that many foods in your kitchen contain natural protection against solar radiation. 

The phytochemicals in foods actually make their way to the upper layers of your skin, increasing resistance to UV damage. Think of these foods as part of your summer medicine cabinet that can be found in your kitchen and your garden.

Here are the top foods that offer skin protection.

TOMATOES. Tomatoes contain lycopene, a phytochemical that has been shown to protect the skin against sunburn.  This protein is enhanced by olive oil and cooking the tomatoes. (Bruschetta anyone?) 

AVOCADOS. The oils in avocados help protect the skin from damaging effects of the sun.  Avocados make a great addition to a smoothie, a salad, or as a sandwich spread.  (Although I have been known to simply cut them in half and eat with a spoon right out of the skin.)

APPLES, particularly red apples.  The triterpenoids in the skin of apples fight cancer cells by inducing apoptosis, or death of cancer cells.

GREEN TEA. The catechins in green tea offer skin protection.  Make a goal of two cups per day.  Green tea can be a good liquid to add to a smoothie, use in a sports drink or to make a simple iced tea.

CITRUS. Beyond the healing properties of the Vitamin C found in citrus, the essential oils found in the skin of lemons, limes, and all citrus contain limonene, an essential oil that offers a dose of skin protein when eaten.  Zest lemons or limes into your tea (hot or iced) or even onto a nut butter sandwich. (Trust me on this one; it is delish.)

OMEGA – RICH FOODS. Salmon, flaxseeds, and chia seeds are omega powerhouses.  The omega-3 fats act as sunscreen and have been shown to decrease squamous cell skin cancer by 20%.

POMEGRANATES are rich in ellagic acid and support glutathione production in the body. These phytonutrients offer antioxidant protection and fight skin damage caused by free radicals. Pomegranate juice is always available and makes a tasty pink lemonade. 

Pomegranates also make an excellent addition to guacamole. This is a win-win. Try this recipe.

Pomegranate Guacamole

 2 ripe avocados

¼ cup diced red onions

3 TBSP freshly squeezed lime juice

1 tsp salt

½ cup finely diced cilantro (mint or parsley can be used for those non-cilantro lovers – cut down to ¼ cup)

½ cup pomegranate seeds

Halve and pit the avocados and scoop out the flesh with a spoon into a bowl. Add red onion, lime juice, salt, and cilantro to the bowl. Mash the mixture together with a fork. Stir in pomegranate seeds and serve with chips or crudité (jicama is very nice here)

If you are active outside in the summer, add these foods to your shopping list.  Food does not need to replace sunblock entirely, but it can work together with it to increase its effectiveness in a most tasty and delicious way. Culinary medicine is a growing science that combines the art of cooking with the emerging science of nutrition, genomics, and biochemistry. Eating your way to skin protection is just one example of culinary medicine. 

To contact Evans, email or visit her website:


This story ran in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus on 7-10-2016, written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor and Correspondent for ACTIVE VERMONT.

Last week on the Active Vermont page you read tips on how to choose your own SUP. Once selected, what next? What can you do with a SUP? The short answer is “a lot.” A stand up paddleboard is legally a vessel and can be used much like a kayak or canoe. One or more users can navigate ponds, lakes and rivers for sport, recreation or fitness.

Standing up is a lovely way to tour. The vantage is just that much better and what is below the board is easily seen. Looking straight down you will see far more than glancing across the top of the water from a seat. Though the very idea of standing on something potentially tippy in the middle of a lake can be daunting, it’s really not so bad. In fact, there’s no rule that says you must stand. You might want to begin seated or kneeling. In fact, if there’s a stiff wind and you really need to get where you’re going, you might want to lower your mass and cut through less wind.

But back to your first time out. Because I was skeptical about the touted simplicity of SUP, what I had heard of as “user friendly,” (yeah, right), I knew I had to try it before writing about it. So I did and will share the few bits I learned.

Begin, of course, with the right SUP and the correct length paddle. Don’t forget your pfd (personal floatation device), leash, water and sunscreen. (Refer to Active Vermont, July 3, 2016.)

If you start from the shore, simply push the board out a little way, lay the paddle across like an outrigger, put one knee on the board, then the other, and voila you’re afloat.

At this point the paddle is much too long to be effective, but will do something. As soon as you are ready, take your time, find a centered balance on the board, and straighten up. At first you might be tense, (I sure was) but allow yourself to move with the board and start to paddle.

Find a functional alignment: feet parallel, about hip-width apart, toes pointed forward, knees slightly bent tracking over the toes, back erect, and looking where you are going. “Much like bicycling, when your forward momentum increases, your stability increases as well.” (

With one hand over the end of the paddle and the other partway down the shaft, begin to make sweeping strokes close to the board. There is a way to refine a “J” stroke that will help keep you tracking forward, but you will need to switch sides regularly anyway. The longer you’re on the board, the more comfortable you will be. Try standing slightly fore or aft and see what effect that has on your paddling. Practice turning and using so many of the same techniques that you would use with a canoe. The wider your board, the more stable. Soon, however, unless the water is really disturbed, you should find yourself relaxing and enjoying the ride. And, oh yes, don’t forget that the strength of the paddle stroke comes from your core and not just arms and shoulders. With arms relatively straight, twist from your torso to execute the stroke. Paddle wrong and you’ll tire too quickly.

“The paddle in the water is your 3rd leg of stability,” Mike Strojny said. As assistant retail manager at Umiak Outfitters, he has seen many newcomers to SUP. “A couple hours and you should be good. Wrong equipment is a problem. When it comes to technique, a lesson helps accelerate the learning curve.”

Finally, wear a swim suit. If you fall, you want to fall into the water, not on the board. Just be cool and pretend you meant to take a dip.


Yoga on a stand up paddleboard is not new. In fact, Wikipedia refers to this as an “emerging sport,” and cites its acceptance within an “international community.”

The Huffington Post lists the following reasons to practice Yoga on a paddle board. Certainly, if your Yoga is getting stale, SUP makes it a uniquely different experience. Because of the unstable base, you need to refine your technique and, in the process, get a better workout. Once you accomplish your goals, there is a sense of empowerment; and, because it is “a touch scary,” your success is well-earned. Furthermore, it is noted that the practice can be calming with more attention paid to breathing. It’s fun and it’s beautiful.

A quick Google search will find SUP and Yoga alive and thriving in Vermont. In the Killington area SUP Yoga is in its fourth season. (www.killingtonYoga .com). At Waterbury Reservoir both Grateful Yoga and Siren SUP with Merin Perretta and Anjali Budreski offer multiple classes each week into September. (


Merin Peretta, SUP yoga.

Merin Perretta, SUP yoga. Photo courtesy of Merin Perretta.

Merin Perretta brings to her teaching a rich and varied background with personal, physical and intellectual depth. “I took my first Yoga class at the age of 15 or 16 with my sister at a Community Center in Newton, Ma,” Perretta said. “There was a lot of meditation and I liked it.”

Perretta has always been fitness-based and athletic. Her Yoga experience “planted the seed. It took a long time to germinate and set down roots.” First there was a move to the Northeast Kingdom where she found a little studio that “drew me in,” she said. As her Yoga learning and practice continued, Perretta went on to enhance her bachelors degree in medical sociology with a masters degree in counseling. Today in Montpelier Perretta pursues mind-body integration through her work as a certified personal trainer and Yoga instructor.

When Perretta and Budreski met, “we totally hit it off,” Perretta said. Both teach at Yoga Mountain in Monteplier. “I’ve learned so much,” Perretta said. “I’ve found my Yoga platform at Yoga Mountain.” Perretta and Budreski both love SUP and both love Yoga . “We’ve got to bring this to people,” they said. Siren SUP was born of their shared enthusiasm. The two became business partners planning their SUP classes as well as a trip to Costa Rica in March 2017 to a surf and paddleboard destination where they hope to work with women of all ages, engaging all the element of youth, coming of age, and maturity. It will be about sister groups, partnering, Yoga and, of course, SUP. (For more information visit

My own experience with Yoga on a paddleboard happened a few weeks ago on a beautiful, though breezy, sunny day on Curtis Pond in central Vermont under the guidance of Merin Perretta. I had never, ever, been on or near a paddleboard. Perretta was unfazed. I do, however, practice Yoga and, though relatively new, am also relatively comfortable with some of the asanas.

What are asanas? Though strictly speaking asana may refer to a seated stillness, asanas in Yoga are often referenced as postures, or the physical actions of Yoga . Though Yoga is indeed about far more than exercise, it is often the place where most of us begin.

So to begin at the beginning, I managed to stand up and paddle and reach the point where I might try a few simple asanas. Working from a tabletop postion, on all fours, was easy and a real start in adapting to the movement of the board on water.

Transitioning into downward facing dog, basically a pike position with hands and feet on the board, added something new. As I looked back past the end of the paddleboard (for all purposes upside down) the play of the water against the board did weird things to my eyes and balance. Looking the other way in camel pose was another story. As I looked up at a cloudless sky the world seemed still; so much easier.

Trying a few poses lifting one leg, twisting, stretching or moving from plank to the board were all done with a sense of exploration. Strangely aligning from bow to stern on the board was do-able (warrior I or pyramid pose) but aligning with the long side (warrior 2 or triangle poses) was far more challenging. Just as I was feeling pretty good in dolphin pose with one leg in the air (sort of half standing on my head) I looked to see Perretta in a full head stand. Oh well. The sky’s the limit I guess.

The bottom line is that if I can do this, anyone can. Each class,similar to my experience, is taught with respect for what each individual brings to the board. No previous SUP or Yoga experience is needed.


SUP yoga class taught by Merin Peretta.

SUP yoga class taught by Merin Perretta. Literally Asana on the Water.  photo supplied by M.Perretta.

Perretta, who practices her Yoga with precision focusing on alignment and fitness, also brings to her work a deep sense of the mental, emotional and spiritual. “Yoga is 1% theory and 99% practice,” she quoted.

And then there’s the fun part. Speaking of SUP Yoga she said, “If you’ve even a glimmer of curiosity, try it. Encounter it, look it in the eye, and do it.”

But perhaps more importantly the experience deepens a Yoga practice and expands it to include more than navigating the poses on water.

The unstable surface challenges core strength and balance, yes, and there is a playfulness about the process. But there is also a connection with your immediate yet vast environment; with water, sky and air.

The board becomes your mat, the space in which you engage. It becomes your partner and your teacher. You learn to release, to float. You may sit, kneel, stand or lie on your board, your Yoga mat in action. You feel buoyancy and relate physically to the movement of the water, to tides, to flow.

Your perspective is organic. When you seek your drishti, your focal point, you may need to look inward.

When you finish your practice, you lie supine on your board, eyes closed, and give yourself to the water’s surface, be it active or still. You feel and sense rather than see and do. Your board gives you feedback from your practice. You learn which muscles worked and which joints opened. You feel your spine, hips, skull, heels, elbows and hands against a stiff but moving surface. It makes you think about where you’ve been and where you are going, and then perhaps relieves you of thought. Flow is a word often united with Yoga . On the water, flow is quite literal.

For me, my take home was a very real example of what in Yoga is called Sthira and Sukha, steadiness and ease. Uniting these two qualities that could be perceived as opposites, is profound. Finding a balance between effort and ease significantly impacts sports performance as well as daily living. Striving for strength, energy and capability; then softening with ease, release and freedom, just might be what it’s all about.

John Spinney – Triathlete and Coach



John Spinney wears two hats; both are professional and both represent life-long passions.

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

John Spinney at 2015 Ironman Mont Tremblant Ironman Hawaii Qualifier

The first, some might say, is his real job. As post-secondary transition coordinator at the Vermont Agency of Education, Spinney works in the field of special education, helping students transition from high school to college to career, forming partnerships between schools and business.

His other hat might be better identified as a baseball cap or cycling helmet. A competitive triathlete, Spinney has made his own transition, from podium to coach.

Spinney, who lives in Waterbury with his wife, Lindsay Simpson, grew up in Guilford, Vermont, in a closely knit family who lived and worked professionally and compassionately with individuals with special needs. Spinney’s present was clearly informed by his past. His parents modeled lives based on education, embracing disabilities. Furthermore, he spent his childhood with four siblings; two of whom were special-needs adoptions with Down syndrome.

Add to that a varied and competitive enthusiasm for athletic activity, and it is easy to see how Spinney became who he is today. After a lifetime of running, riding, swimming and skiing, he may have found his calling as a coach whose vast competitive experience fuels his ability to connect with athletes of all levels and at one of many stages of their athletic growth and performance.

BACKSTORY  In 1993, Spinney graduated from Brattleboro High School, where he had run cross- country and bike raced. Tim Chock and Barbara Walsh, then and now owners of the Brattleboro Bicycle Shop, “taught me everything I know,” Spinney said. It is under the wings of this small, local bike shop that Spinney first experienced team racing of a surprisingly good quality — public-school kids in a prep-school league.

There was a Time Trial series out of West Hill Shop in Putney, a program for aspiring youths from the New England Cycling Association, and maybe 50-65 bike races a year for the 16-year-old Spinney. He began to burn out.

Interestingly, while in high school, “alpine ski racing was actually my first sport,” Spinney said. But there also lurked the “inner ski bum,” he said. During his years at Johnson State College, Spinney ran cross-country, bike raced, coached Mitey Mites at Smugglers’ Notch, and finally found his way onto mogul fields.

With teaching license in hand, Spinney headed to Waterville Valley Academy, where he did what so many young ski academy instructors do, combining several jobs in one as house parent, classroom English teacher and mogul instructor, integrating dryland training in the academy’s program.

TRIATHLON  Today Spinney is identified as a triathlete, but it took awhile for him to realize the personal impact of the sport. “I did my first triathlon at 14,” he said. “I was mostly a bike racer but dabbled in triathlon.”

A ski injury in his senior year at college kept him off the hill, but nudged him in another direction. “It took a couple years,” he said. “My back was killing me.” “You know what?” he said to himself, “I’ll just do a bunch of triathalons; riding isn’t that long.”

And then fate stepped in. The Vermont Sun Triathlon series has been in existence for over three decades. On July 22, 2000, Spinney entered and subsequently won a Vermont Sun sprint triathlon. More importantly, at that event he met Lindsay Simpson. Spinney unabashedly states “It was love at first sight.”

Their story is one of connection: personal, professional, athletic, and certainly a mutual commitment to values and ideals.

Though they went their separate ways for awhile, daily communication and a good bit of creativity eventually brought them together again where Lindsay taught and served as house-parent at the Lowell Whiteman School, now Steamboat Mountain School, in Colorado. They never looked back. In 2001, the couple drove to Burlington and in 2006 were married.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women's 50 Mile Race.

John Spinney and Lindsay Simpson, PIneland Farms trail festival 2014. In 2016 Simpson returned to Pineland Farms to win the Women’s 50 Mile Race.

Conventional wisdom might suggest that it is unwise for life partners to coach or be coached by the other, but in the case of John and Lindsay, it works. “Lindsay never loved swimming and cycling,” Spinney said, “but she loves to run.” Over the years he has coached his wife to become a highly successful ultra-distance runner, qualifying this year for Leadville, the ultra race that separates and distinguishes them all. Lindsay, in turn, acts as John’s support crew, whether in Hawaii for the Ironman Championships or in his day-to-day efforts. They live, work and train as a team.

“I love what I do,” he said. When speaking of his work, “These are two jobs I am passionate about.” When speaking of his life, it is his marriage that brings a smile to his face. QT2 systems coach

For Spinney, in 2008 it all came together — competition, athletics and education — when Jesse Kropelnicki, founder and managing director of QT2 Systems, coached him through a pivotal year of Iron Man training.

For Spinney, teaching and competition morphed into coaching, drawing on personal experience in practice, performance and recognizing the need to understand how people learn. Under the umbrella of QT2 Systems training are five cornerstones. Preparation (training and nutrition/rest) combines with execution (race-fueling and pacing) and the fifth cornerstone, mental fitness, to produce the race outcome.

QT2 logic refers to the model that helps build programs across lines dividing endurance sports, makes the principles applicable to multiple sports, and with appropriate adaptations to multiple athletes with varying skills and body types.

QT2 training involves the whole picture. Which energy system is needed for a key race? What is the current fitness level of each athlete, his or her strengths and weaknesses? How should one explore conditioning, diet, recovery and the all- important mental component? What is the athlete’s limiter, and how does that inform training and ultimately results? “If your coach can’t tell you why you are doing a particular workout, then get a new coach.” (Jesse Kropelnicki, It must all make sense; and it must work.

Spinney is serious about what he does. He is a numbers guy. His work is structured, not restrictive. He stresses the need for balance. He will alternate a hard year of intense competition with a year that is perhaps equally demanding, but more for fun.

When coaching, Spinney looks for the 1 percent rule: “Where are all the little 1 percent things you can improve as an athlete? Look for the little dials. That’s my job,” he said.

The bottom line is endurance. “It’s all about long-term success,” he said. “Mobility, body work, nutrition, maintaining muscle mass,” all are critical. But perhaps the most critical of all is one’s Daily Performance Environment.

Active Vermont: Spinney on Daily Performance Environment

This is the glue that keeps the athlete together — and leads to the ultimate fitness developing tool: Consistency. You get injured or sick or burnt out and you lose consistency and lose fitness.

Key items for the DPE:

Daily bodywork. (self-myofascial release work followed by targeted stretching, 3-5 minutes twice a day) I have all my athletes think of this in the same way as brushing your teeth a.m. and p.m. The goal is mobility and limit soft-tissue adhesions which often lead to inflammation in joints which can lead to injuries.

Stay mobile, stay healthy, stay consistent. The other thing I always say to my athletes is: Bodywork should be commensurate with training load. If you’re training really heavily, then the amount of time given to bodywork should be increased; while less bodywork is needed when training load is light. There should be a quick and easy way for the athlete to do this. Items should be kept in one place for easy and time-efficient access. At minimum, I recommend firm-foam roller (bonus points for spiky-foam roller), softball (an actual softball), and a golf ball or Foot Rubz ball.

A mutual acceptance among the parties in your household of overall fitness goals and also a successful balancing of the spousal-approval units (SAUs). This is a big one and arguably the most difficult one to achieve, but it is a cornerstone of any highly successful athlete. There is an agreement and a balance in the household around the commitment needed to perform. The athlete also is committed to keeping the SAU bank full and knows when to fill it. It is all a balancing act. Diet and meals, daily logistics, dividing up of chores, supporting each other, and being in a true partnership. I am in no way an expert at this, but constantly trying to get better and be a better partner.

An acceptance of the type of diet the athlete needs to be successful. In our household we use the “The Core Diet” ( This is essentially a diet based on specific timing of macronutrients and micronutrients. We use “core” windows of time and “noncore” windows. Core windows are when we are not training — we eat only core foods: lean meats, veggies, nuts, seeds and lowfat dairy — no processed sugars of any kind; all nutrient-dense foods that promote overall health and recovery from workouts. Then before, during and after workouts are “noncore” windows. In the noncore windows we eat fuels designed for performance like sports drinks, gels, powerbars, recovery drinks, etc. The whole diet is very dynamic and depends on where you are in terms of the timing of your workouts.

Maintenance of gear and fuels. Keeping your bike in top-performing order, making sure to replace run shoes when they are getting broken down (stay healthy), making sure you have fuel for your workouts. No bonking allowed (it is super catabolic and hurts immune system — stay healthy).

Healthy supplement routine aimed at robust health. A good multivitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D. (For supplements, I recommend Klean Athlete — all of their supplements are third-party tested by NSF and free of any banned substances). Visit:

Prehab routine. This is a specific strength routine aimed at areas of sport-specific weakness. Usually twice a week.

Other notes. I currently coach 14 athletes ranging from Pro triathletes to age-group triathletes, one elite masters marathoner, and three Ultra runners. I am self-coached, which is pretty cool. I can modify workouts and customize on the fly, based on my recovery status.

Sleep. Sleep is easily the most potent recovery tool available to athletes. Aim for eight hours a night consistently. (Maybe sneaking in a nap here or there.) Many people struggle with this one due to the logistics of their life with kids, intense job, etc.

If there are any ways for the family to work on this together, the dividends can be huge, with better overall health and recovery, thus improving their athletic performance. You can track your sleep with a great app called “sleep cycle” in the App Store. I’ve used it for years and swear by it.

John Spinney is a competitive triathlete and training services specialist, QT2 Level 3 coach, USAT Level 1 coach. He can be reached by email john@qt2systems.comIMG_4323

All of the above appeared June 12, 2016 on the ACTIVE VERMONT page, Linda Freeman, Field Editor, Rutland Herald & Times Argus Sunday paper.


It’s time to talk about Kinesio tape. What, you may ask? Yes, you do know what it is. You’ve probably even commented on the brightly colored pieces of tape seen on professional athletes on TV, or perhaps noted that your cycling or running companion is decorated with some strange looking strips of what look like overgrown Band-Aids.

Kinesio tape is getting plenty of exposure, especially where there is exposed skin on an athletic body. Let’s learn more.

Donna Smyers knows about taping. She is not only a world-class athlete, who, if she were a boastful person, could brag of world championships in triathlon, many podium finishes at the Hawaiian Ironman World Championships, and innumerable wins locally and nationally in a variety of endurance sports. But Smyers is also a well-respected physical therapist ( Athletes come to her knowing that if there is a way for them to heal, adapt and continue in their sport, she will find it.

Recently, I met with Smyers at her clinic, appropriately named Fixer-Upper Physical Therapy, in Adamant, to discuss the now-familiar use of taping.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Physical therapist and athlete Donna Smyers applies kinesio tape to her knee at her office in Adamant.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Physical therapist and athlete Donna Smyers applies kinesio tape to her knee at her office in Adamant.










In 1979, a Japanese chiropractor, Dr. Kenzo Kase, made news by developing a system of taping injured bodies with what has become known as Kinesiology. Kase’s light and flexible tape adheres to the skin and is designed to support and rehabilitate.

Millions of television viewers noted the use of Kinesio tape during the Summer Olympics of 2008. Brightly colored strips of something-or-other festooned arms, legs, shoulders; exposed skin on athletes who showed plenty of skin, such as rowers, divers and the gorgeous beach volleyball women. What was this stuff?Later, we learned that Lindsey Vonn was trimmed in tape when she won the downhill skiing gold medal in the Winter Olympics of 2010. There it was again.Still later, tennis star Novak Djokovic was decorated with tape at Wimbledon. An international soccer star was yellow-carded for celebrating a goal by peeling off his jersey (and, look, his back was taped) during a World Cup event, and today there’s hardly a track and field meet or NBA or NFL event at which the now familiar blue, pink, purple and yellow stripes don’t make an appearance. From David Beckham and Serena Williams to your next-door neighbor, Kinesio tape is the new tattoo for competitive and recreational athletes and the general public too.

A BBC report noted that “Dr. Kenzo Kase says he came up with the design because he found standard taping techniques, like conventional strapping, too restrictive for his patients. Although standard strapping provides muscle and joint support, it limits movement and, according to Dr. Kase, gets in the way of the healing process by restricting the flow of inflammatory fluids below the skin. Kinesio tape is different, he says, because it lifts the skin to assist this lymphatic flow, which, in turn, reduces pain and swelling.” (

Then, too, there’s the question of placebo effect. But, if it works, so what?

There was a time when athletes and those rehabilitating from muscular or skeletal injuries wore bandages or braces to help support the injured area while it was healing. They did this in an attempt to continue with their activities throughout the process. Some theories suggested that doing so was actually disadvantageous because it caused a false reliance on the support and therefore weakened the body instead of assisting recovery.

“All research says that wearing a brace to support an ankle or knee makes it stronger, not weaker,” Smyers said. It is incorrect to suggest that reliance on a properly designed and utilized brace, taping or other support causes further weakening to a muscle, ligament, tendon or joint. “The reasoning is primarily proprioceptive,” Smyers said. “If muscles and joints feel stable, they function in a more coordinated fashion. There is a perception of stability and the body functions accordingly.”

When the body tracks well and muscles respond to the stresses placed on them in a safe and strong way, the body’s strength, coordination, agility and power are improved. Or, in Smyers’ words, “If a brace keeps things safe, you get stronger and not weaker.” Braces, taping, lace-up boots and other means of support are particularly effective with ankle and knee injuries or weaknesses. Soccer players suffer ankle sprains and skiers stress their knees. Additional support helps and does not hurt.

But here we are talking about functional bracing. “An immobilizing brace is different,” Smyers said. When we consider the use of taping, we are not replacing a brace or cast that is necessary for the healing of, say, a broken bone.

It does make one wonder how a little piece of flexible tape can be of any use. Instead of wrapping long, thick Ace bandages around an injured area, a physical therapist or athletic trainer might reach into his or her bag and pull out a small roll of tape. They might cut the tape into lengths or strips, lay the tape gently on the skin while peeling off the paper backing and adjusting the tensile strength, and then rub the tape for a minute or two. Bingo. That’s it.

“I was a little slow to believe in it,” Smyers said. “It doesn’t look like much.” About 15 years ago, Smyers did an in-service training at her then-physical therapy group. A coworker had attended a class in taping and came back to share what she had learned. “I first used Kinesio tape on clients for hematomas (bruises) because the benefits to lymph drainage were proven and visible,” Smyers said. It wasn’t until recently — about the past five years or so ­— that Smyers has started using taping to support muscles and tendons. Using herself as a test, she now tapes with confidence. “It is more proprioceptive; it tells your body what to do and sooner. It is light support but speaks to the muscles based on the tension on the skin,” she said.

What about the tension? Just coming off the roll there is about 15 percent tension, which increases slightly when removing the backing. When more tension is needed and the tape is stretched taut, it is more like traditional taping. How do you know what tension to apply? Here’s where professional help comes in. A professional can evaluate the injury, determine the most appropriate taping method and then teach you how to apply the tape.

Tape can be worn for up to a week before replacing. “For most body parts, people can learn to tape themselves,” Smyers said. (Of course reaching around to your back is awkward and requires assistance). There are books that offer excellent guidance and, Smyers added, “Don’t forget YouTube where you can find almost every taping there is.”

There is so much use of Kinesio tape that one wonders if it is being used needlessly or perhaps preventively. “There is a fine line between prevention and management,” Smyers said. “If you have a susceptibility to something, then go ahead and tape. If you’re OK, don’t.”

The same might be said for other types of support. If you are one of those who repeatedly sprain or strain an ankle, by all means wear an ankle brace during sports. “Those with absolute ankle sprains should prophylactically wear ankle braces,” Smyers said. “Bracing can drastically decrease the number of sprains,” for example, in soccer or trail running. There are good lace-up braces as well as taping options depending on the condition of your ankle.

TAPING TIPS: There are a number of types of tape on the market: K-tape, KT, Rock Tape, TEX, Spider, Gold, waterproof and so on. “Some stick better than others,” Smyers said. “Self-test. Some come pre-cut and shaped. In general, they all work the same.”

Color choice is up to you. Kinesio tape is latex free.

Applying the tape is simple. Cut the necessary number and length of strips, round the corners, lay against the skin in the prescribed tension and pattern, remove the backing as you do so, and smooth it down by rubbing to generate enough heat to help adherence.

Prescribed tension and pattern? Again, you need an evaluation by a professional. But after that there are ways for you to help yourself.

As Smyers suggested, visit I found the following book helpful: “Kinesiology Taping, The Essential Step-by-Step Guide. Taping for Sports, Fitness & Daily Life, 160 Conditions & Ailments” by John Langendoen and Karin Sertel.

When the authors say 160 conditions and ailments, they mean it. Taping is recommended for, among other things, foot discomfort, bunions, weak ankles, sore shins, strained or cramping calf muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings that pull easily, shoulder pain experienced in raising the arm or rotating in the joint, headaches caused by tense muscles, abdominal strains, blocked sinuses, menstrual pain, first aid, bruising, swelling or edema, healing of a scar, carpel tunnel syndrome, thumb joint osteoarthritis, tennis elbow …

If the shoe fits, wear it. If the tape works, use it.

This story first appeared 3-13-2016 in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus, ACTIVE VERMONT section and was written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor.


Ryan Kerrigan speaks about the role of training and the outdoors for sports, performance and a healthy community.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Ryan Kerrigan works out at the Trapp Family Lodge touring center in Stowe.

Jeb Wallace-Brodeur / Staff Photo Ryan Kerrigan works out at the Trapp Family Lodge touring center in Stowe.

[This article was first published in the Rutland Herald & Times Argus ACTIVE VERMONT page of the Sunday Magazine on 3-6-2016.                                      Written by Linda Freeman, Field Editor.]

ACTIVE VERMONT. To live in Vermont is to live an active life. Think about it. Daily life mandates more muscle, agility, energy and balance than that employed by our city-dwelling friends (unless, of course, they take the stairs instead of the elevators or walk instead of hiring taxis).

Some of us choose to add regular exercise to our days as well. Possibly we are addicted to the outdoors. Perhaps we enjoy competition or adventure. Those who purposefully follow the lead of sports and recreation often do so in community with others. The smart ones learn to train well and prepare for their activity.

RYAN KERRIGAN. Ryan Kerrigan grew up in central Vermont where he ran and skied from a young age. His dad, John Kerrigan, a longtime running and skiing coach at Harwood Union High School, often took his son along to weekend track and field events and cross-country ski meets where “it was pretty much ski or die,” his son said.

Activity for Kerrigan was competitive. “Most of my friends played soccer,” he said. “My dad was all about endurance sports.” Kerrigan, therefore, was often on his own, a fact that sparked his current interest in training groups. “There wasn’t a great local training club,” he said. What he lacked in his central Vermont community was a group of peers who shared his passion. Furthermore, there were few if any opportunities to train prior to the season, something that hindered performance.

Kerrigan, however, diligently pursued his own Nordic skiing athletic career. At Green Mountain Valley School, Kerrigan raced in New England, nationally and in Europe. Later, after spending four years on the University of Vermont Nordic Ski Team, Kerrigan went on to podium numerous times in marathon ski events and was named overall champion in 2012 of the New England TD Bank Marathon Series.

Though Kerrigan has a competitive spirit, intellectually he knows the importance of balanced training and play. He also seems to have coaching in his DNA.

VTXC SKI. Today, his primary focus is VTXC, Vermont Cross-Country, where goal-oriented hopefuls will find “Professional coaching for athletes of all ages. Helping you achieve your fitness and racing goals. Building a community of fun-loving fitness freaks.” ( functions out of the Stowe and Montpelier areas, but attracts athletes from the state and beyond.

VTXC is a collection of training and racing opportunities. Coaches with solid experience and expertise lead by example. These are athletes who have been there, done that, and are still doing it; and having a lot of fun in the process. So are their students.

There are training programs for juniors and seniors, running camps and racing teams. Well-structured on- and off-season training provides guidance and motivation for some, cross training for others, and social contacts for still more. “It’s not just a training club,” Kerrigan said, “but there’s a social component to it. Training is fun.”

Kerrigan is committed to some form of training throughout the year. “Year-round contact is so much more beneficial than one intense week,” he said. “Running and skiing are a lifestyle, not just a week.”

To participate in one of the VTXC programs, does one need to qualify or be able to perform at a competitive level? “I see a lot of clubs that try to build a club out of good athletes,” Kerrigan said. “I like to put that on it’s head. First, you build a community. Strong athletes will come from that.”

Kerrigan said he also believes in the role of family. “I love the family component,” he said. “First the kids, then the parents.” Kids come to train, learn and improve and have plenty of laughs. Before long the parents are involved and want to join in. “I like to imagine the dinner table talk,” Kerrigan said.

Just what is this training that Kerrigan speaks of and how do the coaches handle the individual differences of each group? “It’s a delicate dance,” he said. “A coach needs to look at each population to provide the training necessary for success, but also for fun and relative to life.” Clearly the participant wants to learn sports specific skills, but there are also games and ways to practice balance and agility along with general strength and fitness.

There are many ways to measure success. Early testing provides a benchmark for measuring progress. Testing along the way for lactic acid or participation in time trials can give positive or negative feedback. To Kerrigan, however, “over-quantifying is negative. The data segment might be relative to the athlete’s sport, but is not necessarily predictive of competitive success.”

MIXING IT UP. At VTXC, community is number one: It is where a passion for training is nurtured. Mixing it up, keeping things different and fun might come in a close second.

Summer training serves a good purpose to kids who are on school break and adults who want to begin to lay a foundation for winter sports. “One thing I like about summer training like soccer, hockey and lacrosse, is that it’s hard training and will get the athletes fit for anything,” Kerrigan said.

Mountain bike groups provide recreational cross training for summer camps. Young Nordic athletes hit the roads on roller skis preparing for skinny skis on snow.

Kerrigan’s master skier dryland and later on-snow training groups have increased in popularity, a testament to their effectiveness. Kerrigan characterizes his masters as “mostly at or near retirement age, but recently with some 30s. They come from all walks of life, farmers to doctors and lawyers.” As participants use ski specific drills to increase endurance, strength, quickness and agility on dryland and skills on snow, they also build confidence and enjoy the camaraderie of group dynamics.

“The biggest compliment I get from adults,” Kerrigan said, “is that coming into ski season they feel more balanced and have a better understanding of their sport. They also have a built in peer group.”

Throughout the year Kerrigan might work with up to 50 skiers in his masters’ programs and 40 kids. “A lot of people, once they know my background, talk to me about their fitness goals,” he said. “People need to find the spirit of outdoor recreation and how it applies to them.” We begin to see a pattern here; a pattern of good, hard, effective conditioning and training, but also community, variety and fun.

Kerrigan said he feels strongly about over-specialization and its negative impact on the athlete. A narrow approach to competition in one sport can lead to overtraining, a syndrome that begins with decline of performance and fatigue, progress to injury and debilitation and can physically, mentally and emotionally lead to the end of one’s competitive or recreational career. It’s a serious matter not to be taken lightly.

TRAINING. So far, there’s been a lot of talk about training. By now you, the reader, might ask, “but can’t you just do it (run, ski, bike) for fun?”

Perhaps the best question to ask is: “What is fun?” Not all sports are an outgrowth of what is naturally available to each individual. For example, most people can walk. Some, however, find it more enjoyable to walk fast, or to walk on country roads or trails that include distance and elevation. To do that, they can’t just get up out of a chair and go. They need to be sure that their steps are anatomically aligned to prevent joint injury due to inappropriate repetitive use. They need to increase their distance and pace gradually as their bodies adapt to the increasing demands upon it; and their leg muscles need to build the strength necessary to climb and descend. Without the proper foundation, walking could be unpleasant at best or injurious at worst with little chance of continuing the sport if the experience was miserable.

What about other sports? Do you play golf or tennis? Without a few lessons and a few basic skills is your game likely to be fun or frustrating? You can apply this yardstick to any activity that would be enhanced by significant conditioning, appropriate equipment and at least a rudimentary skill set.

Training is not a dreary matter of self-disciplined, grit-your-teeth time spent in slavery to one’s goal. Training is enlightening, ripe with possibilities and chock full of surprises and self-confidence for those who engage regularly in dedicating effort and enthusiasm to their sport. Training in community is bonding, motivating and supportive. Training with an experienced coach fans the flames of hope and the eagerness to expend effort in the process. The exhilaration one feels at reaching even the smallest achievement makes it all worthwhile and much more fun.

GUIDED TOURS. To round out his business ventures, Kerrigan also offers outdoor guided tours. (For more information, go to Kerrigan notes that outdoors, they’re lucky to have his dad involved, as the senior Kerrigan, in addition to knowledge of sports performance and conditioning, is able to share information about the flora and fauna of the Vermont outdoors.

Participants come from within and outside of Vermont, residents and visitors alike, to enjoy guided tours of the landscape on mountain bikes, backcountry skis, snowshoes or casual hiking. “It’s a way to experience forests, mountains and lakes and take training out,” he said.

“Take training outside,” Kerrigan said. “It is the core of recreation.”

Linda Freeman is an athlete and trainer based in central Vermont, and Field Editor of “Active Vermont.” Reach her through her web site,



I met Sage Rountree at the Kripalu Center for Yoga and Health in Stockbridge, MA. Rountree was there to teach and I was there to study. I had seen a course advertised that I thought you, Active Vermont readers, would like to learn more about, so here goes.

Athlete's Guide to Yoga CoverYOGA FOR ATHLETES

The very thought of what is perceived to be yoga is abhorrent to many athletes. For some, the competitive fire is burning so brightly that the idea of taking time away from strenuous training is simply inadmissible. For others, those for whom hours to devote to training are hard to find, exchanging a personal nose-to-the grindstone workout, or better yet, a sufferfest, for sitting in a studio chanting ommmmmm (or whatever) is unthinkable.

But think again.

Athlete: “One who participates in physical exercise or sports, especially in competitive events. One possessing the requisite strength, agility, and endurance for success.” ( Consider the growing fitness industry, the number of individuals from all walks of life, shapes and sizes and the swelling number of entries in 5ks, half-marathons and century rides. Notice your neighbors hiking, playing ice hockey in the winter and softball in the summer, moving away from inactivity and taking on activity. All are athletes.

Yoga: the Sanskirt word means to yoke. Rountree defines yoga as connection. “When you are connected you can get things done. We need to connect body with breath, breathing with intention,” she said.

Athletes who counter strength, endurance and sports-specific skills training with the practice of yoga to address flexibility, core strength, physical and mental balance and breathing, are the ones who live most fully the promise of an active life.


Rountree, who lives in Chapel Hill, NC but is internationally recognized, is a young and vibrant 44-year old daughter, wife, mother, athlete, writer, speaker, business owner, teacher and oh did I mention competitive athlete?

She has written six books, travels widely and presents often, is a certified triathlon and running coach, a yoga teacher, on the faculty of Kripalu, and specializes in endurance sports. Rountree talks the talk and walks the walk.

Rountree admits that she hated her first yoga class. She struggled with the poses feeling unbalanced and inflexible and resented giving up her aerobics class or time in the weight room for the hour. Later, however, in marathon training with her husband, she tried again and to her surprise realized that her yoga classes supported her running, strengthening her both physically and mentally and making the pursuit of her sport less painful while avoiding injury.

This, she says, is the only way to convince a doubter that yoga is beneficial. If the athlete will just give it a try, improved performance will do the rest. Rountree’s goal is to “help people find the right balance between work and rest for peak performance in sports and in life.”


Yoga for athletes is not athletic yoga. Athletes are usually inflexible, driven, and not good candidates for some of the more gymnastic poses found in some forms of yoga. Athletes need to “leave your ego at the door,” Rountree said, “and be part of the journey from physical to mental and integration. It’s whatever it is that brings you to your mat.”

“Yoga should complement training, not be an extension of it. Our goal is balance for injury prevention and emotional/mental health. The physical intensity of yoga should be in inverse proportion to the physical intensity of training.”

Some use yoga for conditioning. That’s fine. But athletes need more. Athletes need to plan their yoga practice to coincide with their periodized sports training. When it is off-season for a sport, it is time to ramp up the intensity of yoga practice and, conversely, during the competitive season, yoga should be for rehabilitation and recovery.

Yoga at the track; triangle pose before running; photo by Wes Rountree

Yoga at the track; triangle pose before running; photo by Wes Rountree

“Yoga should help maintain flexibility as training gets more intense,” Rountree said. Learning mental and breathing skills helps competitive athletes remain calm even in the face of competitive or training intensity.

In other words, practicing yoga for the athlete is more than physical exercise yet the work results in the ability to use physical strengths more efficiently and effectively. “Avoid trying to win at yoga,” Rountree said. “To stay on the edge and keep pushing is not the way to go. Maintain presence in the face of intensity.”

Focus is important. If, in the midst of heavy training or difficult racing the athlete loses focus, he or she will become scattered and inefficient. Performance will suffer. The ability to maintain focus is one of the things one learns in the practice of yoga.

In my own experience I have found that when I walk, hike, run or ride I keep a good pace when I am focused. When I daydream, I find myself falling behind my companions or competitors. I learned that dharana, one of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga, is about focus. At one point in a TT (time trial) last summer, I thought I would have to back down, but then I kept my focus by repeating “ride through it” until I crossed the finish line. At that time I knew little of yoga but this concept rings true.

If you are a runner, you may have been taught to breathe in and out with every 2 or 3 or 4 steps. If you are a swimmer, your ability to coordinate breathing with strokes is imperative. Weight lifters are taught to exhale at the point of greatest exertion while all of us are encouraged to become adept breathing through the nose.

Yoga teaches forms of breathing that include short, explosive breaths as well as breaths with slow, deep inhalations and exhalations. Practicing holding the breath when fully inhaled or exhaled is also significant. Simple awareness is equally valid.

Recently I read of square breathing: inhale for a predetermined number of counts, say four, hold for same number (or four counts), exhale for same, and again hold for the same (or four counts).

Which reminds me of something that I’m sure you have also noted. In our ever-expanding world of teaching, training, learning and integrating disciplines, we find more and more a connection between orthopedics and cardiology in the health professions; physical therapy and personal training in the rehabilitative; and Pilates, core conditioning, functional training and yoga in the athletic. For example, a plank is a plank is a plank whether it comes from your physical therapist, personal trainer or yoga teacher.


Add yoga to your daily schedule. (well, almost daily) “When just beginning a sport,” Rountree said, “frequency is most important (enough to create change but not enough to break down). It is better to do yoga 3, 4, 5 days a week for as little as even 10 minutes, than to do one long session per week.”

“Learn to be comfortable with discomfort,” she said. Accept that stress is good for you. There is a fine line between beneficial, productive stress and needless suffering. Discern between a groove and a rut.

An athlete needs enough stress to create change, but not so much as to injure, “work to the edge but do not fall over it,” Rountree said.

Also practice being comfortable with comfort. “Play the bottom edge,” she said. “As an athlete who pushes the upper edge, this is important.”

Balance training helps prevent injury. It’s easy to understand that the body’s balance in space can help prevent acute injuries. Another kind of balance, balance within the body, helps prevent overuse injuries while the balance of stress and rest prevents burnout.

Balance helps prevent injury. Sage Rountree. Photo by Wes Rountree

Balance helps prevent injury. Sage Rountree. Photo by Wes Rountree

Yoga leads practice in all forms of balance: strength and flexibility; mobility and stability’ soft tissue and bones’ stress and rest.


In her book, “the Athlete’s Guide to Yoga, an integrated approach to strength, flexibility and focus,” Rountree writes: “… you must practice with the body you have in this moment, not the one you had ten years ago, ten weeks ago, ten days ago, or sometimes even ten minutes ago. At the same time, don’t be complacent. Stretch yourself, physically and mentally. Try challenging poses, but try them with respect and care.”

Set small goals. Begin with a dynamic warm up. Practice balance, core and static stretches after your workout. Practice reclining twists and restorative yoga at any point of your season. Visit the six positions of the spine and four lines of the hips regularly. Honor preemptive rest.

“Just as you plan a season, a training block, or a workout with a sense of its purpose, you’ll want to approach every yoga session with an intention.”

There’s much to be said and Rountree says it directly to us, the athletes, and says it well. I encourage you to explore Rountree’s writings, or go to or

“It’s tough,” Rountree says about taking that first step into the practice of yoga. “It takes faith and patience to get into the softer stuff. Try it and see.” 

And her final words of advice: “Relax.   Relax so you can go harder in the next race.”                                                                       

Athletes recover in child pose. Photo by Wes Rountree.

Athletes recover in child pose. Photo by Wes Rountree.

                                                                                                      Linda Freeman

Wearables v. Unplugged



Unplugged  Jeb Wallace-Brodeur;  Winter hikers from Vermont unplugged as they descend from the summit of Mount Flume in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Unplugged Jeb Wallace-Brodeur; Winter hikers from Vermont unplugged as they descend from the summit of Mount Flume in New Hampshire’s White Mountains.

Time to deliver the mail, to deliver you on target in this new year and make the most of your time. Before we do that let’s take one step back and ask a key question. Could you go one day a week unplugged? That means not plugged into a device of any sort, but plugged into the moment, plugged into reality, instead of virtual reality. If the answer is no, you could not go a day without your device, maybe that is your new year’s resolution. To plug back into you and those around you!

If the answer is no, then let’s figure out why. Or, as this is a fitness article, let’s figure out if your devices are serving you or are you serving them? We know from brain imaging that a ping, ring or vibration for most people activates a dopamine squirt in the brain. Simply put, dopamine is a chemical created in your brain that is generally released and is associated with a reward response. However, too much “reward”, like too much of any good thing, can quickly become not a good thing. That is why we’re now seeing more and more digital addiction as devices surround us every day. Hence, the pressing need to unplug on a regular basis.

But let’s go back to the first sentence. Mail delivery; how does that relate to what the fitness world and to what marketers are calling wearables? Before wearables, we relied on training by feeling, or what exercise physiologists called RPE, rate of perceived exertion. There are a variety of RPE scales, 1-10 and 6-20 tend to be the most common scales used. The scales correlate on the lower ends with exercising easily, and as the scale progresses, exercise increases from moderate to hard at the top end of an RPE scale. Training by feeling is like delivering the mail to the right street. It generally gets you close to the destination of exercise that is on target.

One of the first wearables, in a consumer sense, is now known as the ubiquitous heart rate monitor (HRM). A heart rate monitor simply does that, measure your response to exercise, which is generally associated with an increase in heart rate as exercises becomes more difficult. Training by heart rate will show several patterns over time, but I would argue that training by heart rate is like delivering the mail to the right block on a street. It gets you close to the intended address, but not to the exact house all the time. The house you’re trying to deliver your mail to is the house that has the right intensity of exercise at the right time. The danger with heart rate training is generally most people just play the high heart rate Olympics, seeing how high they can get their heart rate up each workout. This isn’t a system that will support sustainable fitness. Rather it is a system that will ensure that the mail will get farther and farther away from the intended address as time goes on, farther from becoming a fit, happy and healthy person.

Perception and heart rate are fickle responses to a variety of stressors. They are affected by many variables. The key ones are generally sleep, nutrition, stress, hormonal variation and hydration. Often those five are interconnected. Each (and other “stressors”, including positive stressors) has an impact on perception and on heart rate. For example, if you haven’t slept enough or ate a big meal the night before exercise you might feel sluggish the next day. That means, what was an easy workout yesterday might feel hard the next day and your heart rate might be higher or lower than usual. Again, your fitness mail won’t be delivered to the right address and you won’t be making the most of your time.

That is where wearables and measurement come into play. Many of you likely received Fitbits, Garmins, Misfits or Jawbones (or one from a host of other companies), power meters or another type of GPS devices or apps over the holidays. Or you’ve already been using one or many of them. The real question is, are you using them or are they using you? Do you know what that data overload means and why you’re doing what you’re doing?

The key functions of devices like Fitbits (the most common wrist wearable) are to measure steps, purported calories (which in most cases when compared to lab results are highly inaccurate), heart rate, and sleep. There is other data you can mine from these devices, but those are likely the key metrics. A power meter (usually associated with cycling or rowing) measures watts – just like the power a light bulb uses. A power meter measures the power one produces while exercising. Finally, a GPS usually is used for outdoor exercise and measures pace per mile. In the very near future we will be potentially wearing oxygen measuring devices and accelerometers are already being used in the commercial marketplace to measure speed of movements.

Whatever device you’re using, the key becomes the use of the information to create positive change. If you’re not using the information (inferring meaning) and tracking progress then you’re likely using the wearable as a toy, a digital distraction that is eliciting a digital dopamine response. Some are calling this digital cocaine.

However, if you are using a wearable to create a better sleep pattern for example, or to increase your pace per mile, set steps goals every week, or increase your wattage output with the same or lower heart rate, then you are on the right path. If you are doing these things (or other strategically tracked and utilized metric), using the data to create change, then you are delivering your fitness mail to the right address every time you use your wearable or device. You are using a feedback loop called assessment (data) to inform instruction to create change. That change will be a newer, stronger, fitter, and faster you in the year ahead. And a smarter you by unplugging from your devices once a week and plugging into your life. Wishing you miles of safe smiles in 2016 and a fitness quest that is dialed in. 

Joey Adams, M.S. Exercise Science, Intelligent Fitness, Metabolic Specialist, VO2 assessments and performance analysis.

WHAT ARE WEARABLES?  Fitness gadgets flood the market. Becoming more and more easily accessible, these gadgets run the gamut from Fitbits to power meters measuring everything from calories burned to oxygen processed.

You see them on your coworkers’ wrists. You wear them in your Spinning® class, on your cross country ski, even in the pool. You sleep in them at night to determine your resting heart rate and you check in with them to see how you’re feeling.

What we call wearables is high level technology that may even surpass that of computers and smart phones. Narrowing the topic to fitness, wearable tracking devices do just that, and more.

Of course there’s the element of GPS that can find your location, plot a course or record your travel. Fitness tracking devices can also give you immediate access to pace, speed, distance, time, altitude, heart rate, watts, calories and oh so much more.

Furthermore, this data can be uploaded to a computer program used to record and store workouts or compare with previous training sessions, assessment and sharing with others such as a coach or training partners or competitors.

Wearables, as opposed to hand-held or equipment mounted, come in a staggering variety of styles and models. The technology in each is similarly efficient and reliable. The difference is primarily one of individual needs and preferences.

For example, are you a runner, cyclist or swimmer? Do you want to record your effort during weight lifting of your heart rate in the pool? Do you want to know where you’ve been when snowshoe touring or where you need to go to find the next shelter on the Long Trail? Do you want alarms to notify you if you are leaving a training zone or reminders to get up out of your chair and move a bit? Are you fine-tuning your competitive performance or simply wanting the motivation to lead a more active daily life while you check to see how much you are sleeping? You could, after all, just be looking for a fitness watch as some new bling.

Yet wearables have stepped far outside the restrictions of watch design. Leading wearables include Jawbone, Garmin, Fitbit, Microsoft Band, Moov Now, Misfit and Polar. Wearables are found on wristbands, clip-ons, glasses, shoes, helmets and even socks that tell you when to buy new ones or headbands that interpret dreams.

For years runners have worn chips to clock their race time and other micro chips have been implanted in pets for identification.

Those uses are tame compared with some of the more weird devices such as Ping garments that allow social networking on Facebook, digital tattoos, pet pac collars that transmit bio data directly to the family veterinarian, and a tweeting bra that, yes, allows the wearer to use Twitter. (And we thought amazing the early tracking devices worn by seniors who tend to get lost.)

Mind you, I do not condemn the use of wearables. I confess that I am an athlete heavily reliant upon my heart rate monitor and power meter. Both have helped me train more effectively and given me confidence to push to the next level. Perspective, however, is an important tool in our training toolbox. Balance is, as always, imperative.                                 Linda Freeman

These articles first appeared on the Active Vermont page of the Rutland Herald & Times Argus on January 29, 2016.


Motivation is one of those words so broadly defined as to be almost useless. It is useless, that is, unless you find a definition that works for you.

Let’s consider a few of the synonyms of motivation found in the reliable world of the Thesaurus: catalyst, desire, encouragement, impetus, incentive, reason, wish.

Okay, motivation is what gets you started. We get that. It is the catalyst, the impetus, the incentive that begins feebly with a wish and more positively with desire and reason. Furthermore it is supported by encouragement.

Delving more deeply, we find that motivation is about action, drive and hunger. Now we’re talking. Motivation leads to passion and passion is what fuels our spirits as well as our actions. Of course, this is the piece of the motivation pie in which it is possible to overindulge.

Motivation is also referred to as get-up-and-go or the right-stuff.

Goodness knows we do not want to venture into the dark side of the word, the antonyms. Hatred, discouragement, depression and above all dullness are not where we want to live our days.

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.” 

Jim Ryun won a silver medal in the 1968 summer Olympics in track and field. Did you know that? Possibly not. However, you may well have read the above, one of his often quoted and pithy sayings. It’s quite true. Try it.

Find motivation and then seek ways to stay motivated until what you have begun, putting one foot in front of another, like it or not, becomes habit; and habit becomes what you like, and putting one foot in front of another becomes what you really want and choose to do.

Consider the word encouragement. It works both ways. You and I can encourage each other to be or do something, but we must be equally open to receive encouragement if it is to be useful. Encouragement offers support, helps to build confidence and bolsters an attitude of hope. Encouragement is far more than rah-rah cheering. On one hand, it is kind, while on the other promotes boldness and audacity. When we offer encouragement to another, we do so because we believe in him or her, we have faith that another individual is capable, strong, resilient and worthy. Again this works both ways in giving and receiving, offering and accepting.


By now we have settled into a new year. 2016 is official. The sprint to the finish of the old year is a thing of the past. We’ve had time to reboot and are now running smoothly into the winter months. Seasonal events, snow sports, winter carnivals, taxes and an onslaught of ads for spring and summer clothing and gear blur visions of the immediate future.

Whatever momentum was built or destroyed in the previous month must be reset as well. It is time to consider personal progress towards health and fitness. It is here that the concept of DAILY is significant.

Fitness is not something acquired by going to a class, maneuvering through a weight circuit, or hitting the treadmill once a week. Fitness is cumulative. It is something that needs to be addressed daily. By doing so, bit-by-bit you will enjoy progress and reap the rewards.

If you are a competitive athlete or already engaged in strenuous physical training, you know that you need to balance your hard days with easy days. You know that intensity must vary and you know that there are multiple elements to fitness.

For those seeking health, increased strength and well being as part of their everyday lives, exercise is a key component, but does not need to be overwhelming.

What is needed, however, is to exercise DAILY. Some days your workout, or training session, will be short and some days long. Some sessions will be intense and others easy. Sometimes you will emphasize flexibility or balance or endurance while at other times you will simply walk the dog or stroll with friends. What is important is to make the HABIT of exercise a DAILY habit. Soon you will look forward to your time even if you cannot imagine doing so right now.

Let me share some examples with you.

I am new to the practice of yoga. I have learned that to practice yoga at home, preferably at the start of the day, is a good habit to acquire. Since my days are full of professional training, I dismissed this concept, until recently. I have learned that as little as 20 minutes spent with my notes and yoga mat transform my day.

Four days a week I work with a group at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont. Our 45-minute, lunchtime sessions are a testament of what small group personal training can do in the corporate setting. Some dedicated employees are able to attend all four sessions per week and others do so as work permits. Over the years the energy, enthusiasm, education and training has reached a high level. What’s more, in addition to increased strength, fitness, flexibility and balance, these athletes (and, yes, each and everyone has become an athlete) have gained the confidence to try new things and have much fun while doing so.

While many find it best to address their exercise needs in the morning before the day begins, others find the evening the time most do-able. There is no right or wrong. There is no one form of exercise, one piece of equipment or one sport that is better than another. The bottom line is always that the training that you will do is the training that is best.

Above, I alluded to education. For most individuals, exercise science is interesting, enjoyable, and provides a sense of purpose to one’s efforts. While it is not necessary to be able to recite the names of all the muscles, bones, joints, tendons, ligaments and nerves in the human body, it is very helpful to understand the muscular-skeletal system and how it works.

It is easier to strength train, for example, in a balanced manner when you know that the biceps are the opposing muscle group to the triceps; that when you work the quadriceps, you should also train the hamstrings, when you stretch the shins you should also stretch the calf muscles, and so on.

Learning more about your cardiovascular system and aerobic exercise helps you to understand the value of active exercise and to assess intensity to appropriately enhance the strength of the most important muscle in your body, your heart.

Now I refer you back to the word DAILY. I hope you will consider taking the challenge and making exercise a deliberate and purposeful part of each day of your life. Of course you must do so in a way that accommodates family and work, a way that provides for sickness, injury, weather conditions and all the other obstacles to a smoothly executed daily plan.

I invite you to record your efforts in whatever way you choose. Perhaps what will support your plans is to join a class, buddy up with a friend or work with a fitness professional. Perhaps you have the time to explore the internet or browse through one of the many exercise books on the market. Hopefully you will take advantage of the many steps you can add to your day by choosing options to the elevator, remote, auto and chair.

Admittedly it takes a bit of gumption to get outdoors when the temperature is chilly and the air damp, but go ahead. Bundle up. Give a companion a nudge. Open the door and walk out. See what happens.

Energy creates energy. Rather than fatiguing, moving muscles stimulates more action. Activity promotes positive effects to body and mind. It’s a wonderful give and take, an excellent continuum.

Does it all go back to the hypothesis of motivation? Recently I read that one of the top ten resolutions for cyclists (also applying to athletes of any sport) is to be sure that each ride, each training session, has a purpose, structure. Don’t just exercise to get it over with. Think about why you are training and prepare to reach the eventuality you desire. No more junk miles.

On the cover of a magazine that arrived in my mailbox yesterday is the title of an article, “Harness the Power of Intention” steps to make lasting change. These steps have universal application and appeal. It all begins with finding out what you want. Learn more about what you need to do to achieve your goal; become an informed participant. Commit to your goals, your dreams and persevere. Be diligent and disciplined enough to give yourself the opportunity to achieve. Finally look ahead and envision yourself as you wish to be. (Yoga Journal, February 2016, Make this your year, by Elizabeth Marglin.)



Yes, intention, motivation, a new year. They are gifts to be used. May we all do so and do so daily.

Maintain Fitness and Weight during the Off Season

Holidays 2015

Holidays 2015

STAY ON WHEN YOU’RE OFF – Unfortunately most active people, at some time, are derailed by illness or injury. More painful than the condition is the fact that these folks, who love to be up and about and pursuing their sport or exercise, are forced to take a break. Sentencing an athlete to sedentary rest is not what anyone wants.

It happens; though with the enormous strides made in medicine, physical therapy and training, alternative exercise is more often available. But these are alternatives. Facing 4-6 weeks away from exercise routines or sports specific training is daunting. The challenge is to remain optimistic and logical when feeling overwhelmed. The trick is to maintain what is safe, fuel appropriately, snag some extra sleep and be positive.

What is referred to as the “off season” for sports or conditioning, is that period of time just following the final race or event of the season stretching all the way to the start of the equivalent of pre-season, usually 4-8 weeks. An injured athlete faces down time much the same as a competitive athlete in his or her off-season or a recreational athlete whose favorite sport is seasonal and done for the year. The smart individual will look at this mandated time off as a significant part of training. In fact, some suggest that it is the most important piece of the whole.

Off-season is not the time to reduce all conceivable levels of fitness to zero. Though an initial week of zoning out and doing not much of anything might be called for depending on the previous season’s stresses, the remainder of the time should be devoted to activity that first heals and then prepares the body for what is to come.

Off-season is an excellent time to assess one’s overall strength and flexibility. Are there any problem spots, any weaknesses, any imbalances? Correct these now and help prevent overuse injury later. As you resume exercise, pay particular attention to working opposing muscles groups and a balanced mix of moderate cardiovascular exercise.

Off-season means you DO have time to play. You want to maintain about 50-60% of your conditioning and active play will help you do so as you relax your mind and loosen your tight hold on discipline.

Off-season is a great time to take some classes, work with a personal trainer who understands your sports and conditioning needs, make friends with a Concept2 rowing machine, explore new areas on foot, snowshoes or skis, and buddy up with friends or family for active hours that will remind you why fitness is your personal choice.

A word about the holidays – Apply the same skills that you apply to your training. Pace yourself. Finish strong.

Holidays 2015

Holidays 2015

While you’re at it, remember to reach out to others. A helping hand offered to those running the race, so to speak, along with you means a boost to your own energy, capability and, yes, joy.


by Kimberly Evans, MS, RD

Many active people are challenged to figure out how to eat when training stops. And let’s face it at some point in time training does stop. There are many obstacles to training even under the best of circumstance. For one thing, seasons change. That is how things work in Vermont, and unless you are an athlete with a year round training program, sometimes this means a pause in training.

And then, even the best athletes get injured. So you see, for one reason or another despite best intentions sometimes training stops.

When a change in weather or an injury stops an athlete’s training program they often struggle to figure out how to eat in response. As a dietitian who works with a variety of athletes, I have seen things go one of two ways. Training stops but eating remains unchanged, or training stops and so does eating. The writing on the wall is pretty clear here; neither of these scenarios leads to good outcomes.

When training stops and eating remains unchanged this typically leaves behind a deconditioned athlete with unwanted pounds. This makes it difficult, emotionally and physically, to bounce back. And, on the flip side, when a change in training results in an overly drastic decrease in eating, this too leaves an athlete deconditioned, with little energy, and in less than prime shape to jump back into the game.

So, while it is true a decrease in activity means you need fewer calories, it may not be quite as few as you think. Many formulas used to calculate calorie expenditure during exercise, for example the standard 600 calories per hour, grossly overestimate calorie burn. As a result, this leaves many injured athletes needlessly cutting excess calories during down time.

This is one of the most common mistakes injured athletes make, not eating enough for fear of unwanted weight gain. An overly restricted diet can result in prolonging an injury by not giving your body what it needs to heal.

This means that when the ice melts or that injury heals you are more deconditioned than you expected to be because of muscle loss that comes with an excessive calorie deprivation.

Here is the word of caution to sidelined athletes, please be diligent in continuing to take in adequate calories, especially from nutrient dense foods. Some foods you will want to make sure to continue to include on your plate are sweet potatoes, kiwi, salmon, walnuts, eggs, and berries. Bottom line, athletes need to eat well when training, and when recovering.

Injury aside, when workouts become less demanding eating needs to be adjusted. Continuing to eat like you are training intensely, while your are actually at rest during the off season will only result in one thing, unwanted weight gain. But not so fast. Weight gain does not need to be an unwanted side effect of changes in a training plan if you plan correctly.

First of all assess the duration of your off time. If your training will be sidelined for a week or less, it is likely that no real changes need to be made to your eating. When it looks like things will be off track for a week or more a modest reduction of about 300 calories will likely keep things in check.

Secondly, now may be the time to reduce your carbohydrate intake slightly. It is true that most athletes can get away with, and need, more carbohydrates. During off season pull back a bit and create more space on your plate for protein rich foods such as tofu, chicken, eggs, salmon, Greek yogurt and high protein grains like quinoa. This will keep both your tummy and your body happy at the same time.

Another great strategy can be paying attention to the timing of your eating while in your down time. Keeping eating limited to nine to twelve hours of the day at three- to four-hour intervals, as opposed to the graze-all-day plan, has proven to have positive impacts on weight according to some recent research.

In addition to following this nutrition advice, regardless of why you are less active, this might be a great time to try something new. Weight training, yoga, and meditation all show great benefits for the active person.

Yes, injury, weather related hibernation, family commitments and holidays could be a little bit of a game changer for the active person. However, a sensible approach that is not too extreme will keep you on the right road to successfully getting back on track to being your awesome active self.


Kimberly Evans, MS, RD, co-owner Peak Physical Therapy Sports and Performance Center and Whole Health Nutrition, Williston. To contact Evans, go to

To view the newly published e-book, Breast Cancer Superfoods, coauthored by Evans, go to