Sunday, October 18, 2009

Get in Shape of Pay a Price $$$

Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have probably heard their is a debate on health care taking place in the US. I’ve reprinted an article from David S. Hilzenrath of the This could be very important information for you or perhaps a family member or friend. If you refer a friend or family member to Fit First Chicago, you will receive a $50 gift certificate to Fit First Chicago that you are able to apply to any Fit First Chicago training or nutrition service.


Ryan Riell

Get in Shape or Pay a Price

By David S. Hilzenrath

That's a message more Americans could hear if the health care reform bills passed by the Senate Finance and Health committees become law.

By more than doubling the maximum rewards and penalties that companies can apply to employees who flunk medical evaluations, the bills could put workers under intense financial pressure to lose weight, stop smoking or even lower their cholesterol.

The initiative, largely eclipsed in the health care debate, builds on a trend that is already in play among some corporations and that more workers will see in the packages they bring home during this month's open enrollment. Some employers offer lower premiums to people who complete personal health assessments; others offer only limited benefit packages to smokers.

The current legislative effort takes the trend a step further. It is backed by major employer groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of Manufacturers. It is opposed by labor unions and groups devoted to combating serious illnesses, such as the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society, and the American Diabetes Association.

A colossal loophole?
President Obama and members of Congress have declared that they are trying to create a system in which no one can be denied coverage or charged higher premiums based on their health status. The health insurance lobby has said it shares that goal. However, so-called wellness incentives could introduce a colossal loophole. In effect, they would permit insurers and employers to make coverage less affordable for people exhibiting risk factors for problems like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

"Everybody said that we're going to be ending discrimination based on preexisting conditions. But this is in effect discrimination again based on preexisting conditions," said Ann Kempski of the Service Employees International Union.

The legislation would make exceptions for people who have medical reasons for not meeting targets.

Supporters say economic incentives can prompt workers to make healthier choices, thereby reducing medical expenses. The aim is to "focus on wellness and prevention rather than just disease and treatment," said Business Roundtable president John J. Castellani.

BeniComp Group, an Indiana company that manages incentives for employers, says on its Web site that the programs can save employers money in a variety of ways. Medical screenings will catch problems early. Employers will shift costs to others. Some employees will "choose other health care options."

Douglas J. Short, BeniComp's chief executive, said the incentives he uses focus on outcomes, not conditions.

"I can't give you an incentive based on being a diabetic or not being a diabetic, but whether you're managing your blood glucose level — I can give you an incentive based on that," Short said.

National epidemic of obesity
The incentives could attack a national epidemic of obesity. They also cut to a philosophical core of the health care debate. Should health insurance be like auto insurance, in which good drivers earn discounts and reckless ones pay a price, thereby encouraging better habits? Or should it be a safety net in which the young and healthy support the old and sick with the understanding that youth and good health are transitory?

Under current regulation, incentives based on health factors can be no larger than 20 percent of the premium paid by employer and employee combined. The legislation passed by the Health and Finance committees would increase the limit to 30 percent, and it would give government officials the power to raise it to 50 percent.

A single employee whose annual premiums cost him and his employer the national average of $4,824 could have as much as $2,412 on the line. At least under the Health Committee bill, the stakes could be higher for people with family coverage. Families with premiums of $13,375 — the combined average for employer-sponsored coverage, according to a recent survey — could have $6,687.50 at risk.

An amendment passed unanimously by the Health Committee would allow insurers to use the same rewards and penalties in the market for individual insurance, though legislative language subsequently drafted by the committee's Democratic staff does not reflect that vote, Sen. Mike Enzi (Wyo.), for the committee's ranking Republican, has said. The bill drafted by the Senate Finance Committee would set up a trial program allowing insurers in 10 states to use wellness-based incentives for individuals.

America's Health Insurance Plans, an industry lobby, has argued that insurers should be allowed to consider participation in wellness programs when setting individual premiums.

Wellness incentives voluntary
Employers and other advocates of expanded wellness incentives say taking steps to get healthier would be voluntary. Sen. John Ensign, a Nevada Republican and lead sponsor of the Finance Committee's wellness provision, said his proposal "would guarantee that the incentive is strong enough for Americans to want to participate."

Wellness incentives have been spreading rapidly in the corporate world. Unlike the legislative proposals, which address incentives based on results, the corporate programs typically compensate employees based on effort alone — for example, enrolling in smoking cessation programs even if they fail to kick the habit, or undergoing detailed medical assessments regardless of the findings. But there are exceptions: The Safeway supermarket company allows certain employees to reduce their premiums by meeting standards for body mass and other measures. Safeway chief executive Steve Burd has framed it as an issue of personal responsibility.

You can find the full article here:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Road to Kona; Chicago Edition- RACE REPORT

Well, the race is over and I made it. To be honest, I am a little disappointed with some of my times, but who cares? I made it! Yes, I was last in my age group and only 28 people finished after me, but I made it. It is true that running up Alii Drive with the finish line in sight is amazing. The crowd cheered as if I was winning the race. The music was blaring and the lights made it seem closer to noon than midnight. Who cared what my time was? Not the crowd cheering me on. Not my wife who managed to talk and push her way to meet me just past the finish line. For that moment, I forgot how much I suffered the last 16 hours.

Swim - I really have no explanation for missing my goal time by over 30 minutes. I knew that I had a long day ahead and I was trying to pace myself on the swim, but I really felt I was swimming at the same pace that lead to a 42 minute swim at Steelhead and 1:20 swim at Ironman Arizona. I guess I was spending too much time looking at the fish and scuba divers and didn't focus on keeping a good pace. The good part was that it was easy to find my bike in T1 since I think it was the only one left.

Bike - This is really the tale of two bike legs. Going up the Queen K, I felt pretty good. It didn't seem too hot and the wind wasn't bad. As I started the climb to Hawi, the wind picked up a bit was blowing steadily in my face. As I made the turn, I felt I was right on my pace. Then the wind seemed to pick up right in my face again and it was strong. And the sun was beating down hard. I found myself having to pedal downhill just to keep from stopping. I was lightheaded and a total mess. I had to stop a few times and dowse myself in water (and one time in Coke since I grabbed the wrong bottle). The more I pedaled, the stronger the wind blew and the hotter it got. I kept myself sane my constantly doing the math to make sure I was safe to make the bike cutoff. By the time I pulled into T2, I was completely spent. I thought about going right to the medical tent since I knew I was dehydrated and close to becoming a heat casualty. In the changing tent, I felt confused and I guess didn't know any better than to put my running shoes on and start walking.

Run - As I left T2, I assumed (wrongly) that there would be a water stop close by. The course map said there were stops every mile. I assume that first mile was marked correctly and the water stop was placed exactly where it should be, but that first mile was brutal. I needed to cool down and drink some fluids. At the first stop, I drenched myself with cool sponges and drank as much as I could. And I kept going. I actually started to feel ok and even start running a decent pace, but then I would overheat and have to walk to the next stop and more cold sponges and ice. Jennifer even met me on the course and it took a few minutes for me to realize she was next to me. I was really suffering. Then slowly the sun started to set and I started a long journey through the dark Hawaii night. And I mean dark. No street lights on the Queen K, just some lights at the stops. Even the volunteers seemed tired, with some stops out of water. Not good when you are on the verge of heat stroke. I ran with a woman for a while who kept pointing out shooting stars but I couldn't look up without getting too dizzy almost passing out. I am sure the Energy Lab is a neat place to see on the TV race coverage, but for me it was just more dark miles of moving at my best pace. I kept trying to do the math. 8 miles left and 2 and 1/2 hours. 2 hours is 120 minutes, plus 30 minutes - so 8 divided by 150. Or is it 150 dived by 8? Either way it seemed like I had enough time. I reached the "Motivational Mile" where Jennifer left me a special message that was displayed on a screen. I knew she was waiting for me and I had to hurry and get back to her. My head was spinning, my feet were killing me but I had to keep going. In the dark, it is hard to tell uphill from downhill. As far as I remember, the entire course was uphill. With all the emphasis on reducing light pollution, thank God the local Target has a lighted parking lot. I saw the lights and knew I was close. The other athletes left were just shapes passing in the night. With all the money spent by the race organizers I have no idea why they couldn't spring the $50 or so to put glow lights on the mile markers (or why there were about 5 port-a-potties on the entire course). If you were lucky, a car might be passing at the moment you passed a marker. What did it say? 22 miles? 23? What if I trip over the marker? Then you can hear the finish line. It is still a ways off, but it is close. Finally, you get back into town for the last mile and a volunteer grabs my arm with a shocked look and asks if I am sweating. She is worried that I have heat stroke I guess. Then, Jennifer appears to cheer me on. She'll meet me at the finish. Just a few more traffic lights, then a couple of turns to that last stretch up Alii.

After spending so much time in the dark, the one thing I noticed the most about the finish line was the spotlight which seemed to be pointed right at my brain. I can't image the crowd at the Super Bowl cheering any louder as I crossed the finish line. It was a wild party that was waiting for me to show up. Jennifer gave me a big hug and kept me walking to get our picture taken and finally, sit down.

So yes, I suffered like I have never suffered before. So many times I didn't think I could make it another inch. And for what? Simple - to finish what I set out to do. I am not the leanest, fastest, or strongest. But I do have an incredible belief that I can make it. There is nothing that is impossible. There is no problem that cannot be solved. And my love of my wife is an unbreakable commitment that will guide us to many more adventures.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The Road to Kona; Chicago Edition #11

Well, I am in Kona. I flew in yesterday and if anyone is wondering, yes - it is a long flight. I was able to use my United miles to fly me and Jennifer out here, plus a rental car for nothing. Not bad since it will end up costing about $450 to ship my bike here and back home and about $1,000 for 6 nights at the hotel. Anyhow - right now I am feeling pretty good about Saturday. Yes, it is hot and humid, but I think I have a good plan to focus on hydration, nutrition and proper pacing. I am still shooting for around 13 and a 1/2 hours but anything under 17 is fine. Mostly I want to have an enjoyable day and not get injured.

This morning I went for a mile swim to get comfortable with the water and then a short run where I saw a flash go by me that a passerby said was Chris McCormack on his bike. Most likely that is the only time I'll see any of the pros... Tomorrow I will take a quick ride to check my bike setup as well. Speaking of which, if you ever find yourself wanting to bring your bike to Kona, I highly recommend FedEx it to Kona Bike Works. It turns out UPS only insures to $5,000 where FedEx has no limit (you pay $10 for every $1,000 above $2,000) and FedEx is cheaper (at least as of this race). Kona Bike Works received my bike, assembled it, tuned it, stored the bike box, will break down and re-pack my bike and ship it back to Chicago for $300. Not too bad.

I'll try to write daily updates as the week progresses here in Kona. I found out the the race will be covered live on Universal Sports but I assume they will cover the pros :-)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

USADA with New Policy

An interesting new policy by the USADA- all athletes, both professional and amateur are now subject to out-of-competition drug testing. Here's the link to the article on Cycling News:

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cycling Cadence and Running Off the Bike

Cycling Cadence and Running Off the Bike

By Ryan Riell

There as been a lot of debate about the appropriate cycling cadence for triathletes. In general, we recommend riding at a cadence between 80-90 RPM at a minimum, preferably over 90 RPM. A great piece of advice we give to our athletes is to increase their cadence up to 95+ RPM for the last 10-20’ without significantly increasing the tension (on the chain) or effort level being put forth by the athlete.

Increasing your cadence will usually reduce the force production and subsequent oxygen consumption while riding. We have our athletes increase their cadence to 95+ RPM or greater for the last 10-20 minutes in order to mimic the same cadence that is used while running, which is the most efficient when it is close to 90+ foot strikes per minute. Within a few minutes of the finish, we recommend that the riders stretch their calves and hamstrings by standing on the pedals and flexing the hips in an effort to simulate the muscle actions involved in running

Some coaches recommend that triathletes use a high-resistance, low cadence frequency in conjunction with stretching during the final moments of the cycling leg.

So what is the “right” answer? It has been shown that when an athlete pedals at a higher cadence (<100>

That being said, increasing your leg turnover, in a fashion that is equal to or above your desired running cadence should set you up for a better run. So what do you do if you are the triathlete that is a “masher” and loves grinding big gears at 70 RPM? The only way to generate a higher cadence on a regular basis is to develop/enhance the neuromechanical pathway through regular practice. It will take a minimum of 2-4 weeks of dedicated effort and some exploration with the gearing to find the right gear to maintain a cadence above 90 RPM without your power output dropping dramatically.

A couple really simple ways to increase your cadence are:

1. One-Leg Drills: Hop on your trainer and get warmed up. Find a gear that is comfortable to pedal at 90+ RPM and then unclip one foot, putting it on the cross bar of the trainer so it is out of the way. Start of with 10-15 revolutions per leg until you have eliminated the dead spot (11:00 to 1:00 on the clock). Once you have smoothed out your pedal stroke, then aim for 30 revolutions with each leg in 20 seconds, which is 90 RPM. This is going to be awkward and uncomfortable at first, but will become second nature after a couple weeks.

2. Spin Ups: This can be done on either a trainer or outside. After a good solid warm up, find a gear that allows you to pedal comfortably between 80-90 RPMS. From there, shift the rear cog set to one gear harder and increase your RPM until you start to bounce on the saddle. Once you’ve hit that point, back off the RPM just a hair so you are no longer bouncing and hold that cadence for 1 minute. After the minute, spin easy for 1 minute. This is a really good addition to a warm up, it will ensure your muscles are all loosened up and firing appropriately, especially before a tough interval session or time trial.

This is the perfect time of the year to make changes in your cycling cadence. If you spend the time now, you will reap the rewards later!

Gottschal JS and Palmer BM 2002. The Acute Effects of Prior Cycling Cadence on Running Performance and Kinematics. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 34, No. 9, pp. 1518-1522

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Road to Kona; Chicago Edition #10

Well, just a couple of weeks till Kona. It has been a while since my last blog update, so I thought I would provide a quick summary of where I stand:

Swim - I did the 2.5k course at the Big Shoulders race a few weeks ago. While I have a lot of room for improvement in my swim, I feel pretty confident that I will have no problems here. I read that one of the primary reasons for the dreaded 'DNF' is sea sickness during the swim, so I'll have to get a few practice swims in after I arrive and think about taking a Dramamine (non-drowsy, of course!). Predicted swim finish - 1 hour, 20 minutes.

Bike - This is the one area that I am concerned about. My training was going great until my accident that cost me a week of training, then my wedding and honeymoon kept me off my bike for another week. While I am confident that I will finish well before the bike cut-off, I will have to really focus on my power zones and not get smoked on the bike (literally, since the temperature on the bike course can reach 100+ due to heat radiating off the black asphalt and lava rocks. Predicted bike finish - 7 hours.

Run - While it is extremely unlikely that I will qualify for Boston before I am 70, I do feel that the run is my strong point. If my previous predictions hold true, I should be starting the run around 3:30 - 4 PM. That will give me two hours of running before the sun sets, so I will be enjoying a nice view of the ocean. Then after dark, I just have to reach the finish line. Luckily, Jennifer will be volunteering at a water stop on the run, so I'll get to see her a few times before the finish. Predicted run finish - anytime before midnight!

So, that is my plan... I can't wait to get to the start!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Break Through Athlete Rob Wurth is the Latest Chicago-land Triathlete to Have Qualified for the For Ironman World Championships in K

Rob Wurth, a Break Through Multisport triathlete qualified for the Ford Ironman World Championships in Kona Hawaii in 2010 by competing in the Ford Ironman Wisconsin and finishing in 10:02:47.

Ironman Wisconsin was Rob’s first race at the Ironman distance (swim 2.4 miles, ride 112 miles, run 26.2 miles). Rob said “I was fairly nervous, mainly just from not knowing what to expect out of the full Ironman distance. Coach Ryan (Head Coach of Break Through Multisport) spent two hours going every last detail of my race plan on Friday before the race. I can’t emphasize how much this helped.”

Rob completed the 2.4 mile swim in 1:07:02, the 112 mile bike ride in 5:26:57 averaging 20.6 miles per hour. He then ran the full marathon in 3:20, averaging 7:40 minutes per mile. Coach Riell said “Rob and I laid out a very detailed race plan and Rob executed it within 2 minutes over the full 140.6 miles. Riell, watched Wurth all day and said “He was amazing all day. When Rob made the last turn of the run heading down the finishing shoot, he looked really strong! He worked incredibly hard all summer and was simply awesome!”

Rob, the only male qualifier from Chicago said “I'm extremely excited and feel very honored to be able to go to the race where it all began, with the top triathletes in the world, and race along all those places like the Queen K highway that I've seen on TV. I have so much respect for all the people that do any Ironman race, it will be amazing to go to the "Super Bowl" of it all. It will be kind of nice when telling those who don't know much about this world that I'm doing an Ironman, and they say ‘Oh that race in Hawaii!’ to finally be able to say ‘Yes, that one.’"