Official Website of Sarah E. Rippel, BS, CPT, FMS

Posts tagged “triathlon

-Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake – Part I-

The bike course was hellaciously hilly...and a blast, of course!

The bike was hellaciously hilly…and a blast, of course!

I had a blast at Ironman 70.3 Buffalo Springs Lake, which was June 30, 2013 in Lubbock Texas!

Here’s the first part of my recap:


-The Importance of Single-Leg Stability for Runners & Triathletes-

Runners and triathletes, what does single-leg stability mean to you?

Not sure? It should mean a lot!

You’re being a smart endurance athlete by doing that “boring” strength and mobility work in the gym that’s gonna give you an edge on the competition. Major kudos to you for that, but if your exercises are along the lines of leg extensions, leg curls, and leg press, you need to step up your game.

First off, ditch the damn machines. If you know anything about my training philosophy, that should be a given.

Secondly, emphasize single-leg training.


Running isn’t performed on two legs! It is a single-leg activity!

It makes sense to train the body in a manner that transfers over to running, right?

I highly recommend the Functional Movement Screen (FMS) for every person I train. In a nutshell, the FMS is simply a tool that allows me to gain insight into a person’s ability to move. It is comprised of seven screens that cover the basic human movement patterns: deep squat, hurdle step, shoulder mobility, in-line lunge, active straight leg raise, trunk stability push-up, and rotary stability. Each screen is scored from 0-3. A score of zero is the result of pain being present during the screen and/or an inability to perform the screen. If pain is present, the screen is cancelled and the person is referred out to a doctor. On the flip side, a score of three indicates that the screen was performed in a manner that met the necessary requirements. A score of two is considered acceptable. A total score of 14 on the FMS is said to reflect a decreased risk of injury during exercise.

I video my clients’ screens in addition to viewing them at the same time. After the initial screen has been performed, I sit down and review the footage. This allows me to make notes regarding discrepancies in each movement in addition to scoring the screens. A client’s FMS score isn’t a diagnosis of anything, nor does it allow me to say “your left Psoas is tight and your right glute max is weak.” I am not a doctor and I’m not a physical therapist. I am, however, an aficionado of exercise prescription!

If a client scores a one on their trunk stability push-up, a one on their left hurdle step and a two on their right hurdle step, and a one on their right shoulder mobility and a two on the left, I make a priority of improving their ability on these screens. A screen that scores the left and right sides and results in a discrepancy between the two must be addressed. If there is a lack of mobility in a desired pattern, we work to increase it, and the same can be said for stability. You cannot build strength on top of dysfunction! 80% of people who exercise are most likely doing just that!

Promoting balance is the goal.

The initial FMS day is always eye-opening for people. Most people seek my expertise because they want to lose weight or train for a race. Most people do not give much thought to their movement abilities, but they definitely do after going through the FMS for the first time! Furthermore, it is always interesting to screen endurance athletes because more often than not, it allows them to grasp the importance of this strength and mobility schtuff. Yes, the “boring” schtuff…I mean, if its not swim/bike/run, why do it? Lol

I didn’t mean to get into an explanation of the FMS, but in true Sarah fashion it just came out. So, now that you know a little about movement screening, let’s get back to the importance of single-leg stability and that wonderful thang we call running!

If you’re a geek like me, then you cannot help but analyze the gaits of runners as you’re knocking out the miles. Yes, it’s a bit distracting, but I cannot imagine not being so aware of it! More often than not, I am witness to a plethora of funky gaits. I find myself cringing when someone doing the “Vibram shuffle” approaches me. You know, feet turned out and barely leaving the ground. So epic! There’s always gotta be a few of those who assume that the minimalist approach will magically make them a better runner. Instead, I have the feeling that most end up in pain. PROPER GAIT MECHANICS ARE MUY IMPORTANTE, PEOPLE! Yes, that important!

Sorry, I got on a roll there…

Single-leg stability. You need it. If you don’t have it, you must acquire it, or your running career will suffer.

Sounds serious…it is!

When we run, one foot is in contact with the ground while the other is not. Duh, right?! 😉 The ability to keep the pelvis in a relatively-level position during each phase of gait is what we want. If the hip musculature lacks the ability to stabilize the pelvis, the unsupported-side hip will drop below the level of the stance-side hip. A side-to-side “swaying” may result, and all of this means a huge waste of energy because of inefficient running mechanics. In addition, a lack of hip stability is a red flag for injury. If you want to enjoy a successful, long relationship with running/triathlon, it is issues like these that you MUST address.

Here is a simple, yet highly-involved exercise which challenges single-leg stability. I am using a Cook Band, but any resistance band will work. If your single-leg balance leaves much to be desired, you’ll want to use a band that offers more resistance. As you become more proficient, lighten the load.

The goal is to activate the core musculature and then perform the single-leg stance. Starting out, your body may not be able to get things firing properly, so that’s where the core activation via the band comes into play. Gradually work your way to using a light band as your ability to engage the muscles of your core/glutes improves.

Stand facing the band, which is anchored at a high point. Your feet should be in a neutral position. Assume proper postural positioning, perform shoulder extension and exhale (pull the band down so that your arms are towards the floor), then raise one leg, aiming for 90 degrees at the hip, knee, and ankle. Hold for a count of two, locking in your glutes and staying as still as possible. Sloppy reps are a waste of time! lower your leg and then release the band. Each rep is essentially a re-set. We don’t want protracted shoulders! if the exercise is too hard, use a band that offers more resistance. If your exercise execution looks like mine in the video, them you’re doing it right. 😉

Try two sets of ten 2-sec-holds per leg.

How can you go about finding out if your single-leg stability can be improved? Simple. Call me and schedule an FMS appointment. Your hurdle step performance (in addition to your proficiency in the other screens) will reveal all.

Yours in Health,
(225) 326-2317

-Progressing the “Dead Bug”-

The oh-so-dreaded Dead Bug…how my clients love/hate it so!

It is one of my favorite basic movements for teaching proper stabilization strategies, as well as the correction of faulty breathing patterns.

The “Wall Push” is an excellent variation that is excellent for beginners. Dr. Craig Liebenson has popularized the dead bug, combining the research and training of Pavel Kolar and Dr. Stuart McGill.  Craig’s article in the Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies on this exercise may be found at this link.

-Strength Training for Triathletes Pt. 1-

Check out my most recent article, which I’ve published on my triathlon training blog!


Eternally Evolving




I just wrote a post over on my newly-resurrected triathlon blog called “Eternally Evolving.”



-January Recap!-

It’s become quite obvious that when I’m busier, I don’t have time to write blog posts. Yes, I realize that it’s possible despite a lack of time, but my own training and my sleep takes precedence! Sometimes I wonder if many of the guys who update their blogs on a regular basis even train that many people and/or work out themselves. Oh well.


It’s been a whirlwind month!

I am on track with my own training for the 2012 triathlon season. I am happy to say that thanks to Nan Fontenot and Crawfish Aquatics, I am kicking butt in the pool and actually look forward to swimming 2-3 days a week! I joined the Master’s program and it’s been a challenge, but definitely a good one! On both Monday and Wednesday this week, I threw in a 30-mile ride post-swim. That’s the plan for today as well!

My schedule is near max-capacity with one-on-one clients (and a few couples)! I have three ladies who are getting ready for upcoming weddings. Two of them have gotten to experience trap-bar deadlifts this week for the first time…and I do believe they loved ’em! Another one of my rockstars finished her first marathon and PRed for the first half of the race! Yet another is prepping for an awesome 2012 triathlon season, and another is getting back in shape to play soccer. Lots of great goals and high energy in the Rippel Effect world!

Also, I have had most of my clients performing kipping pull-ups, overhead kettlebell swings, and max-hyperextension situps on the glute-ham developer.

Ok, so I’m kidding about that last part.

Yes, I’m totally kidding.

If you think I’m serious, then you don’t know me that well! 😉 I would NEVER have clients perform any of the above exercises. Remember, just because something can be done doesn’t mean you should do it. A lot of inexperienced trainers need to reflect upon that.

To find out more about becoming one of my personal training rockstars, drop me a line at Motivated people only! 🙂

We just wrapped up four weeks of intense ladies boot camp action last night. The group meets T/Th at 6:00PM at BR Fit, and current members have priority. Keeping the group size to roughly 12 ladies so that everyone gets sufficient attention, we aren’t crammed together like sardines, and workouts flow smoothly! There are all ages, fitness levels, and Rippel Effect experience levels (meaning brand-new to training with me as well as ladies who have been training with me for 1-2 years). It’s a super-fun and highly effective way to rock your bod!

Contact me at for more information and to find out if there’s room for you in the current group!

So, in closing, I will leave you with a few thoughts that sum up this past month for me:

My dad’s cancer surgery went well, and we are extremely thankful. He will be having to undergo radiation in a couple of months but he’s gonna be a-ok!

I am racing in honor of my dad as a part of Team Winter. I will be posting about this eventually. Until then, Google “team winter” and find out more about how you can help! I have a donation page set up and will be accepting donations that go towards prostate cancer research.

I am becoming known as a “Crossfit hater.” Obviously labeled as such by people who become very defensive if I even mention the word Crossfit. Oh well. I’ve discovered that its pretty much a waste of my time to try and have a rational conversation about this topic with those who are über-entrenched in it. No amount of discussion about sound exercise practices, risk vs reward, multiplanar/movement-based training, and quality instruction seems to matter when it falls on deaf ears. As they say, ignorance is bliss.

I am seriously hooked on swimming!

Very often, (runners especially) people assume because their hip flexors are tight that this means they don’t need to be strengthened. Wrong. I will be touching on this during my next lecture/workshop/workout demo at Fleet Feet Sports next month!

A fitness program that doesn’t incorporate an initial screening/assessment protocol is flat-out bogus.

The “injuries are gonna happen” mentality is ridiculous. If you are training SMART, you already know this. Unfortunately, lots of people right now are getting injured in popular workout programs and are encouraged to view these injuries as “badges of honor.” Dumb. The last time I checked, a SLAP-tear that was the result of an unsound workout “program” wasn’t a good thing. “But hey, I’m elite!” 😉

Last but not least, I do not waste my time responding to argumentative and/or emotion-driven comments if there is an apparent lack of sense behind them.

Ok, time for some oatmeal!

Have a great weekend!

-Mobility Drills For Triathletes-

Triathletes are quite possibly the most driven and hard-working of any athletes. They are willing to put in the time and work that is demanded by what is considered to be the World’s toughest sport.

A 50-mile ride? No problem.

A little 10-mile run? Piece of cake.

Swim for an hour? Okay.

Work on flexibility, mobility, stability, and tissue quality? Ummmmm…

So, triathletes are as guilty as most people in not putting a priority on the “other stuff”…activities that serve to facilitate improved movement and performance.

Heck, I’m as guilty as everyone else. It’s easy for me to go for a run or ride. It’s actually FUN for me. As fitness professional, I know the importance of the “other stuff,” yet I am prone to skipping it. I have to schedule it in with the rest of my training or else it gets pushed aside. Bogus!

The “other stuff” is just as important as the “real” workouts! In some cases, it may be more important!

Most triathletes would benefit from adding the following three mobility drills to their training arsenal. They can be done as part of a dynamic warm-up prior to swim, bike, and/or run workouts and/or as part of an “off day” workout. Check out my “Cross Training for Runners” post for ideas on how I recommend structuring an “off day” workout.

The first drill is the Spiderman Walk. In the video, you will see that I’ve jazzed-up the basic Spiderman Walk by adding some lateral crawl pushups and inchworms (aka hand walks) to it. This would be considered an advanced option, whereas an in-place Spiderman or the basic Spiderman Walk would be better for those just starting out. Perform 3-5 reps per side.

Spiderman Walk Combo Video

The second drill is the Squat to Stand. This is an excellent drill for improving hip mobility, and with the addition of shoulder extension and torso rotation, t-spine mobility may benefit as well. Start off with the basic Squat to Stand and progress to the variation I’ve shown. Perform 4-6 reps, making sure that you push knees outward in the bottom position and sit back on the heels.

Squat to Stand Video

The third and final drill is the Quadruped T-Spine Extension & Rotation. Make sure to sit back on your heels with knees set wider than hip-width to ensure that the movement comes from the thoracic spine and not the lumbar. Perform 8 reps per side.

Quadruped T-Spine Extension & Rotation

Until next time, train SMART!