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What are your Goals this year?

KonaIt is all too easy to get into the habit of training and then looking for races that would be nice to do.

It is also easy to focus on training and forget about recovery, eating the right food, developing the right mindset. In many ways, training is the easy bit. When you're training you feel you're progressing but sleeping, eating, thinking?

Of course, it is those things that set the winners apart from the also-rans. and by winners, I am not referring to those on the podium but to those that consistently improve their PBs.

They have a clear goal for the year, they know their "A" race and they make a plan to get to the start in peak physical and psychological condition.

So if you haven't already done it, select your"A" race (or races) and enter them now.

Next, take stock of where you are now. Read the article below on working out your current state of fitness. You should identify your "limiting factors": which discipline you should focus on and which aspects of your fitness will make the most difference.

Once you have both your goals and your limiting factors clearly in mind you can start planning! And we will look at planning in more detail next month.

Tri or road bike?

TTvRoad

As we move towards the start of the new season we inevitably begin thinking about new kit and the single most expensive item of kit the triathlete has, is the bike!

Not only is it the most expensive item but choosing the right bike will also make a significant difference to your times. The bike section of the triathlon is invariably the longest in terms of duration – typically representing almost 50% of the total as opposed to about 30% on the run and 20% on the swim. Consequently, any improvement on the bike is more important than a similar gain on the other disciplines.

As you consider buying a new bike you will have to ask yourself the age old question; “Tri or Road?” I  hope this will clarify a few things and be of help in you make the right decision.

It really does depend on many factors so here are few to consider.

The course

Traffic volume

Busy roads of a stop / start nature aren’t ideal for Tri (or TT) bikes. The standard geometry road bike is much better suited to this environment due to the slightly more upright ride position (enabling the riders head to be held a little higher) and the location of the brake and gear unit, known as STI’s*, which allows for quicker and more convenient access to the gears, brakes.

*Shimano Total Integration.

Technicality

TT bikes come into their own for that ‘point and shoot’ style riding with minimal switchbacks by virtue of the tucked up wind defying position you’ll be in. However, cornering isn’t anywhere as easily done on a TT bike as it is on a road bike. A road bike offers an ideal position to lean into the corner by holding the drop bars, keeping a lower centre of gravity than is possible on a TT bike.

Undulation

Flat or mildly rolling courses have ‘TT Bike’ written all over it! Head down, bum up and hitting a flat course hard is most riders dream.

But throw in few hills that require instant access to your gears (as opposed to be at the end of tri-bars of a TT bike) and you’ll see that drop bar road bikes have the edge because of their greater range of gear configurations and position of bars/STI’s which aid climbing.

The budget

As you’ll know, neither genre of bike comes cheaply. Because of this, a comparison can’t directly be drawn.

However, if there was budget for one or the other, it would be wise to be of road bike persuasion due to their versatility. Remember it’s easier to near replicate the body position of a TT bike (primarily by adding aero wheels and tri bars to a road bike) than the other way round.

The type of racing

TT bikes are best used for ‘point and shoot’ style racing.

Time Trials are a great example of where there are good time saving advantages to be had, especially where time is of the essence on flat, not particularly technical courses.

They also come in to their own for longer distances where some serious time saving is to be had. An additional bonus for longer racing is that they tend to come with an integrated drinks system.

Your flexibility / condition of spine

Because of the ‘head down, bum up’ position a Tri bike will put you in, a good level of hamstring and back flexibility is extremely important.

Sitting upright will alleviate such tension but that’s not the idea of buying a TT bike!

Back extensions to strengthen lower back, yoga for suppleness and core strength and hamstring and glute stretching are all good ways to stay in that aero position for longer.

Differences: TT bike and a Road bike

TT bike:

  1. The geometry. A TT bike has a steeper seat tube angle which results in placing more of the riders’ body weight over the front wheel. Tri bars are added to compensate for this and keeps the rider low thus minimising torso wind resistance.
  2. The frame and forks. Designed to produce minimal drag whilst maintaining strength and are put through extensive testing. Designs such as bladed forks, integrated seat post, a ‘cut away’ seat tube to hug the leading edge of the rear wheel and tucked away brake callipers to name a few. The tubing cross section is often described as ‘teardrop’.
  3. The saddle. TT bikes tend to have wider but shorter (in length) saddles to allow comfort whilst being sat in an aggressive forward position.
  4. The wheels. Many TT bikes are sold as a frame set only. But those sold as a complete bike come with wheels to reflect what the bike is designed for; i.e. more aerodynamic wheels designed to cut through the air with efficiency. This is reflected by the ‘section’ (depth) of the wheel. Bike manufacturers often assume the rider will already have their own fancy deep section, wind defying expensive wheel sets. For this reason, you may often find the quality of the wheels isn’t on a par with that of the rest of the bike.
  5. The handlebars. They are flat and aerodynamic in design and often sold as one complete unit to include tri bars. The brakes are secured at the ends of the bars.
  6. The gearing. Standard gearing tends to place more emphasis on fractionally higher gear range; e.g. a larger front chainring (52 or 53) and more emphasis on lower gears on the cassette (10, 11, 12 sprockets). This is a generalisation synonymous to TT bikes.

The gear shifters will be mounted at the ends of the Tri bars.

Road bike:

  1. The geometry. Unlike its TT bike cousin, the road bike has a much more ‘relaxed’ geometry. Ie the seat tube is more angled back. This allows for a more comfortable position conducive for longer rides, hill climbs and those with notoriously tight hamstrings, glutes and lower back.
  2. The frame and forks. Modern day forks are generally much narrower than those on TT bikes but still ‘teardrop’ in cross section. There are many frame designs but the tubing is also often more narrow and cylindrical.
  3. The saddle. Generally slightly longer in length and more narrow at the front as they are designed for the rider who would sit slightly further back.
  4. The wheels. As standard, road bikes are sold with narrow rim depth to allow for versatility in ride style and weight saving. They can be sold with conventional round spokes or on the more performance orientated road bikes, bladed spokes.
  5. The handlebars. Drop bars. Great for comfort, cornering and climbing, making them much more universal than the bars on a TT bike. The bar is held in place by the ‘stem’ which bolts to the top of the front forks.
  6. The gearing. Road bikes tend to have a greater range of gearing options than a TT bike because they are designed for a more versatile range of riding. They come with either a double or treble chainset and 10 or 11 gears on the rear cassette.

Fastest?

Is a Tri bike faster than a road bike? Sometimes!

Is a road bike faster than a Tri bike? Sometimes!

Triathlon is an endurance sport! Everyone says it is, so it must be.

But what do we actually mean by this? We looked for a definition on the web and came up with a whole range of them but the one we found most useful was

“any event where you have to eat in order to finish”

The reason we liked this one was that, while it is not strictly accurate (as far as triathlon is concerned) it zeros in on the impact a race has on our metabolism. In even a sprint triathlon the body will use all the energy systems from the short term a-lactic anaerobic through to the fat consuming glycogenesis.

The trained body is able to store sufficient glycogen to sustain hard physical exercise for about 2 hours. Once that glycogen has been expended your body will start to rely on its fat stores. You can rest assured that you will not exhaust these even on an Ironman Triathlon (even the leanest athlete will have about 50,000 calories of fat available).

So, the purpose of endurance training is to develop our capacity to utilise the four energy producing systems:

Energy system

From - To

Anaerobic

ATP – PC System

Start - 10 secs

ATP - Lactic

10 secs – 3 mins

Aerobic

Aerobic utilising stored Glycogen

30 secs - 2 hrs +

Aerobic – involving Glycogenesis from fat

As glycogen becomes depleted – many days

And the cardio-vascular system to sustain us over the considerable periods of time

As such developing endurance is a complex process that demands a variety of different approaches.

Why develop the Anaerobic Systems?

The first question that may occur to you is why we must work on the anaerobic systems if they are not really “enduring” systems – they are capable of operating for short periods only.

During a race you will be reliant on the Aerobic systems for the bulk of the time but there are many times when the anaerobic systems are essential. At the start of the swim you will use both the Anaerobic systems simply because it takes about 30 seconds before the Aerobic system gets up to speed so even if your strategy is to keep clear of the “washing machine” at the start rather than aiming to be at the front you still need it.

As you exit the water new demands are placed on the legs and you need the ATP-Lactic system in them to get you into Transition 1.

As you start the bike you have to get up to speed fast. Cycling at a constant pace requires far less energy than accelerating – seconds lost in getting up to “cruising speed” can never be recovered, so you need those anaerobic systems again.

The same applies on hills. To maintain your speed requires using those Anaerobic systems. The ability to power up the hills is often the deciding factor in a race. Often you will find many competitors, with equal aerobic and cardio fitness happily keeping pace with one another but a few have the ability to “break-away” on the hills never to be caught.

And much the same is true on the run.

And then you have the finish.

Tapping into a refreshed ATP-Lactic system in the final 300 metres can see you past 5 or 6 competitors and beating of the challenge from your nearest rival.

Energy use during a Sprint Triathlon

Energy use

Training the different systems

Anaerobic Systems

When training the anaerobic systems the focus should be on the ATP-Lactic system. The benefits of the ATP-CP system are so short lived that even a significant improvement in them will make very little contribution to your energy output. Added to which is the fact that it really exists for two purposes – to provide fuel until the ATP-Lactic system kicks in and to provide fuel for explosive efforts at maximum force.  – such activities as weight lifting.

ATP- Lactic System

The limiting factor when relying on this energy system is the level of lactic acid and hydrogen ions (by-products of the process) in the blood stream – it appears that it is the hydrogen ions that actually produce the feeling of exhaustion. There are two factors that impact on the limiting effect:

  • The level that can be tolerated
  • The rate at which you can clear them once the drop the intensity

There are two approaches to influencing these:

  • High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
  • Lactate Threshold Training (LTT)

You are probably familiar with HIIT, it has been much in the news recently since it appears to confer the same benefits on non-athletes as longer gentle runs or cycles. Typically, it appears that 3 intervals of 20 seconds a few times a week are all that is necessary. The bad news is that this does not apply to competitive athletes.

You need to do a little more! It also appears that longer intervals of up to 5 minutes at a slightly lower intensity (about 90% of maximum heart rate) are probably better.

One of the reasons for this is that very high intensity bursts also result in the production of the “stress” hormone cortisol which encourages the body to use protein as a fuel source which tends to have an impact on muscle mass as well as other bodily functions.

Lactate Threshold Training aims to keep the muscles working at a level just below the rate at which the body can clear lactic acid for considerable periods. Typically a LTT session might consist of a warm-up followed by 3 x 10 mins at a speed sustainable for 30 minutes with active recovery of 2 to 3 minutes followed by a warm down.

Aerobic Training

This will make up the bulk of your endurance training. Typically it will be done at 70-80% of maximum heart rate.

A large volume of aerobic base training appears to be particularly important for the development of the lactate threshold, exercise economy, fatigue resistance, mitochondrial size and density, enhanced aerobic energy pathways.

This “base” training results in many vital physiological adaptations affecting the body generally and the heart in particular.

It will increase:

  • Total blood volume and red cell count
  • Number of capillaries in muscles
  • Intramuscular fuel storage
  • Free fatty acid utilisation

In addition it has a direct effect on the heart:

  • The heart will increase in size : particularly the left ventricle
  • Muscle wall will thicken
  • The number of capillaries will increase -all resulting in:
    • “Stroke” volume – the amount of blood pumped at each stroke - will increase
    • Resting pulse will reduce

These adaptations have several effects on you during a race; there is more oxygen reaching your muscles (blood volume, red cells, stroke volume), The time to exhaustion will increase (intramuscular fuel storage), and transition to fat burning when glycogen is expended is made easier (free fatty acid utilisation).

The Endurance Athlete’s Enduring Problem

If you race for more than about 2 hours you are pretty well guaranteed to exhaust your glycogen reserves. Lots of good long runs or rides will help to increase the glycogen stores, by “carb-loading” (properly) before a race you can make a further increase and by consuming carbs during the race you can delay it

However, ultimately, because you cannot metabolise the carbs as fast as you are expending them, you will become reliant on your body fat.

The problem with switching over to reliance on fat stores is that converting fat into energy (Your fat must first be converted to glucose - called gluconeogenesis - and then to glycogen) requires almost twice as much oxygen as burning glycogen and it also takes time to “kick-in” which can result in the symptoms of hypoglycaemia. Which is why, after about 2 hours you can experience the feeling of “hitting the wall” or “bonking”.

You can condition both body and mind for this process only by doing long runs or rides that expend the bodies supplies of glycogen. This means that if you are an “age grouper” doing standard distances you should consider brick sessions lasting 3 hours.

Brick sessions for the half ironman are also important but you can happily “hit the wall” on the bike with a 4 hour ride

Macro-nutrients - Carbohydrates

Over the next three editions we are going to look at Macro-nutrients. There are three of these:

  • Carbohydrate
  • Protein
  • Fat

Curiously the one we tend to consume most of, carbohydrate, is the one that is not strictly essential. Its primary use is to provide fuel for our cells – not just our muscles – but the body can create glycogen, which is the actual fuel used by the cells, from both protein and fat.

However, the body requires a range of different proteins and fats in order to work it is incapable of synthesising these and they must be obtained from outside the body.

Carbohydrates

While in theory we could survive without them carbohydrates are generally the main source of fuel for the body and they are also the most efficient source.

They are categorised as:

  • Simple
  • Complex
  • Fibre

The simple and complex carbohydrates provide 4 calories per gram. The number of calories from fibre is more complicated but it will generally be less than 2. We will take a brief look at it later.

Simple Carbohydrates

These are the sugars. There are two types of simple carbohydrate:

  • Monosaccharide : Glucose, Fructose, Galactose
  • Disaccharides: Lactose, Sucrose, Maltose

The monosaccharides are the smallest sugar molecules and glucose in particular is small enough to pass through cell membranes. However, they do not occur in any large quantities in nature, the body however is able to synthesise them. They are also the building blocks of the other carbohydrates.

Disaccharides are slightly more complex, are formed when two monosaccharides react and are the most common forms of sugar.

The most important point to take in is that they are very quick to digest and enter the blood stream very fast.

Complex Carbohydrates

The molecules of these are made up of long chains of simple carbohydrates often with many branches. Before the body can process these, it must break down the bonds between the various simple carbohydrates and this takes time, it happens gradually as the food passes through the gut with the result that the energy from them is released over a period of hours rather than minutes. The effect of the carbohydrate on your blood sugar is measured by the Glycaemic Index – Read more below.

The foods providing complex carbohydrates also tend to be rich in the vitamins, minerals and enzymes that are essential for health while the simple carbs do not offer the same nutritional benefits.

Fibre

Fibre is divided into two categories:

  • Soluble
  • Insoluble

Soluble fibre is dissolved in the gut and helps reduce cholesterol and modulates blood sugar levels. It also serves as food for the bacteria living in the gut.

Insoluble fibre simply passes through the gut and is excreted. However, it does fulfil important functions; it helps to modulate the speed of movement through the gut, reduces the risk of cancer, piles and constipation.

The soluble fibre is actually fermented by the bacteria as they use it and the by-products of fermentation produce about 2 calories of energy per gram as well as wind.

Do not underestimate the importance of keeping your bacteria fed. They are essential not only to your digestion but to many other bodily functions – they account for about 50% of the total number of cells in your body although they are much smaller than most of your “human” cells and probably only account for between 2lbs and 6lbs of your weight.

Glycaemic Index (GI)

The GI value of a food is determined by feeding 10 or more healthy people a portion of the food containing 50 grams of digestible (available) carbohydrate and then measuring the effect on their blood glucose levels over the next two hours.

Glycaemic IndexIt is important to be aware of the GI of the foods you are eating since variations in the GI will have significant impacts on the way your body responds to it.

To add a little more complexity, the GI of an individual food is not the same as its GI as part of a meal. What you eat it with affects how quickly the sugars are extracted.

An orange has a GI of 46 but the juice from the orange has a GI of about 50 because the body must break down the flesh to extract all of the fructose and if you eat the orange mixed into a bowl of porridge it would take even longer so the GI would be lower.

Is Low GI better than High GI?

If you read pretty well any dieting article on the subject you would get the impression that High GI foods are bad for you. If your aim is simply to lose weight this is probably true but if you are an athlete, you can take advantage of the different properties and effects.

Impact of eating carbohydrates

Whenever and whatever you eat causes changes in your hormones and neurotransmitters. Amongst these are insulin and serotonin.

All have a wide range of effects, but we will focus on just two. Insulin helps to regulate blood sugar level and serotonin impacts mood – makes you feel happy

When you eat your blood sugar level will start to rise. If you eat simple carbs only your blood sugar level will peak after about 20 minutes. This is fine if you are exercising hard because the body will utilise it. If you are not exercising the body will produce insulin which in order to convert it into fat to be stored for later use.

There are two problems with this. The body tends to overcompensate for the quantity of pure sugar – since it is not generally found naturally – and after dealing with the flood of sugar it continues to reduce the level below optimum, affecting both our physical ability to perform and our mood.

The production of serotonin also increases and makes you feel happy – and relaxed maybe even sleepy. If your body is experiencing the low caused by the excess insulin production produced by the hit of High GI sugar you can experience a craving for more of that sugar which can make sugar or other High GI foods addictive.

What to eat – and when

Now we understand how the body responds to taking on the different forms of carbs we can decide how to use them.

As we start to exercise we increase the amount of fuel we are utilising. We have three potential sources of fuel, Glycogen stored in the muscles and liver, fat spread around the body and protein – the muscles themselves. It may surprise you that all of these are used all of the time. At moderate intensity (65% – 75% HR Max) the bulk of our energy comes from our fat stores, glycogen supplies the bulk of the remainder and small amount comes from protein.

Above 75% HR Max Glycogen becomes more important; the same amount of energy per minute continues to come from fat and protein but the additional demand comes from your glycogen stores.

For example; if you cycled 20k in an hour you could expect to burn around 750 calories of which 450 would be from fat. Cover 30k in an hour and you would burn around 1300 calories but still burn around 450 (actually a little more) but glycogen would provide the bulk of the additional 550 calories.

When you cease exercising the body starts to replenish its glycogen stores. It will do this utilising any food you consume, the body’s own fat stores and protein. It is really trying to preserve the highest level of glycogen in order that it is always ready for hard exercise.

When you go long enough to exhaust your glycogen supplies the body will continue to use fat and protein as fuel. We do need a small amount of carbohydrate to process the fat but the body keeps glycogen stores topped up with enough to keep the process going.

In a Nutshell

In general, we should be eating a balanced diet with around:

Carbohydrate

50 - 60%

Protein

12 - 20%

Fat

15 - 25%

Before exercise

About 2 hours before it is worth eating a meal rich in complex carbohydrates as this will see your glycogen stores and blood sugar at their maximum.

Avoid eating simple carbs in the before exercise as these will drive up insulin levels which will continue to lower blood sugar levels for a considerable period as the body tries to convert the “excess” sugar to fat.

During exercise lasting more than an hour

Current research suggests that the consumption of between 30-80g/hour of simple carbohydrate (6-8% solution) can enhance endurance exercise in events of > 1 hour.

This seems likely to delay the onset of exhaustion by 15 – 30 minutes by helping to preserve glycogen stores.

It also appears to reduce the production of two hormones, cortisol and epinephrine which have adverse effects on the immune system and also contribute to the breakdown of muscle protein.

After exercise

High GI carbs are more effective at rapidly replenishing muscle glycogen levels and you should aim to start refuelling within 20 minutes.

The main advantages with high GI carbohydrate source are that they are more readily digested, enter the blood stream more quickly, and are therefore available more quickly for glycogen re-synthesis rates.

Following a prolonged aerobic activity (e.g. a 2-hour run or 3-hour cycle) you will need to continue to consume high levels of carbohydrate throughout the day – normally you would aim to consume additional carbohydrate every 2-3hours. 

In addition to replenishing muscle and liver glycogen levels, a large post exercise carbohydrate consumption can help to reduce the breakdown of muscle protein and may increase levels of protein synthesis (muscle building).

If you add about 20 grams of protein it will also enhance rates of muscle protein synthesis, increase rates of glycogen replenishment and enhance subsequent exercise performance.

Thinking about Winning

An Introduction to Sports Psychology

The origins of sports psychology are said to date back to the late 19th century when Norman Triplett produced a paper on the effect on cyclists of riding as a group. However, in his paper he remarks:

“It is still as true as in Virgil's time that the winners can because they think they can.”

Curiously – or perhaps not – even though we have been aware of the importance of the mind to sporting success for over 2000 years, professional athletes and their coaches were slow to adopt sports psychology a such. The first sports psychologist employed by a team, Coleman Griffith, was taken on by the owner of the Chicago Cubs Baseball team in 1937 but was ignored by both the managers who worked alongside him. He left the job in 1940.

It wasn’t until 1965 when a group of psychologists from the USA formed the International Society of Sports Psychologists and it was only in 1986 that a specialist journal, The Sports Psychologist was published.

There are now estimated to be around 3000 sports psychologists practicing around the world and over 100 training programmes available. Today, there is virtually no professional athlete who does not have access to a sports psychologist.

While using a sports psychologist is not cheap the good news is that many of the techniques are easy to use on you own providing you are prepared to take the time to understand them, learn how to use them and then employ them regularly.

Winners can, because they think they can!

Virgil’s comment was true but while “thinking you can” is necessary it is not sufficient! In other words, there is a great deal more to it than simply developing a belief in yourself.

Modern sports psychology

It is probably true to say that the popular conception of sports psychology is revolves around the idea of the sportsman visualising the winning of the competition and thereby gaining belief and confidence to “go for it”.

However, the real benefits of the techniques it makes available are based on the inter-relationship between mind and body and how you use the mind to setup the body during the months and years of training.

The right approaches can help you:

  • Build confidence and commitment
  • Develop Focus
  • Develop technique
  • Keep your body healthy
  • Deal with the problems you will encounter
  • Even - Change the way your genes operate

The key point to take on board is that it is not about how it can help you on the day of the competition, it is about how you can use it to make the most of your training.

Over the forthcoming months we will look in detail at the techniques you can use to achieve peak performance. These techniques include:

  • Enhanced Goal Setting
  • Confidence building
  • Developing focus
  • Living in the moment
  • Relaxation and meditation
  • Visualisation
  • Success Routines
  • Building Energy

Getting started

Now is a good time!

We are going to use a very simple technique to ensure you next group training session produces great results.

You are going to create a short film in your mind and you are going to play it as you go to sleep tonight. By playing it as you drop-off, when you are in a highly suggestable state it will have its greatest impact.

I want you to imagine yourself arriving at the training venue, let’s suppose it’s the running track. You are smiling, you get out of the car, stand tall, shoulders back, head up and start to walk to the track. You are looking forward to the training session, you know you will be bounding round the track, enjoying the way you are moving easily and with boundless energy.

Think about what you can see, hear, smell. Really see and feel the experience in full technicolour, complete with surround sound.

Continue to build this film through meeting with the rest of the team, warming up, stretching, training, warming down and leaving with a feeling that you had a really good training session and you are now ready to relax.

Now tonight when you turn out the bedside light close your eyes, take a deep breath hold it and then breath out. Focus on the breath. Repeat this four or five times. As you exhale feel your limbs getting heavier and the cares of the day dropping away. Then play the movie in your mind.

As you approach the running track tomorrow remind yourself of your film, smile and stand tall as you get out of the car.

This technique will work for about 80% of people at this most basic level. If it doesn’t work for you it will be a result of still being in an over alert state. However, we will be looking at ways to induce that relaxed state and you can then develop the technique for yourself.

Run - Where are you now?

With the turn of a new month, doesn’t race season suddenly feel a lot closer!

Many event organisers start their respective race calendars in April. With this in mind, our training needs to adopt a slight change (similar to bike and swim sessions) as we prepare our bodies.

This change sees the introduction to the development of muscular endurance whilst still maintaining the endurance and power built over the winter.

Sessions this month will include:

  • Working at two different intensity levels over (approx) target race distance
  • Controlling pace by using the ‘negative split’ method of training
  • Using gradient to gain muscular endurance
  • Running whilst maintaining a fairly high but even rate of intensity.

Run Sessions

Purpose of this session

To increase sustainable average speeds during an endurance run by incorporating periods at higher intensity.

Run 1

Kit checklist

Watch

Warm clothes

Fluids

Hand weights

Garmin / GPS watch

 Tick  Tick  Tick    

Coaching points

  • Important to distinguish the two different levels of intensity and stick with them
  • Don’t be tempted to incorporate big differences in intensity levels
  • Stay hydrated

Adaptations.

  • Can be done by running to a distance as opposed to by a time. A running track would be a good place to do this.
  • Increase or decrease time proportions according to current fitness levels.

Impact

Working at higher rates of intensity in training will result in a faster and stronger run split come race day.

In addition, you will have:

  • Increased ability to recognise fatigue and adjust the level of intensity accordingly
  • Increased level of muscular endurance will benefit overcoming force generated by resisting factors such as hills.

Purpose of this session

  1. To control pace by running ‘within yourself’ at all times across an increasing level of intensity
  2. To build momentum gradually and get stronger and faster as the run goes on (akin to racing)

Run 2

Kit checklist

Watch

Warm clothes

Fluids

Hand weights

Garmin / GPS watch

Tick Tick Tick    

 

Coaching points

  • Aim to be in control of your pace at all times.
  • Stick to the intensity levels
  • Aim to maintain good run form despite the increases in levels of intensity and subsequent fatigue
  • Perhaps set an alarm on your device to indicate when increases in intensity are needed
  • Either calculate intensity increments by feedback from device (such as mins per mile) or simply how you feel.

Adaptations

  • Start at a lower intensity if unsure of your own perception of pace (ie start cautiously)

Impact 

Having a better perception of pace and not taking your body to the edge during training will enable you to enjoy the run more and focus on technical aspects as opposed to wondering if you’ll make it back! You will:

  • Build into the run gradually knowing you’ll only get stronger and faster
  • Hold good technique for longer despite the onset of fatigue.

Purpose of this session

This session is designed to develop muscular endurance by using inclines as the resisting force.

Run 3Kit checklist

Watch

Warm clothes

Fluids

Hand weights

Garmin / GPS watch

 

 Tick  Tick  Tick      

Coaching points

  • Pace yourself according to duration of the session as opposed to per repetition
  • Ascents: knee lift, short stride length, cadence ~180 impacts per minute, use arm to create drive
  • Ascend @ intensity level #13
  • Descents: relaxed upper body, cadence ~160 impacts per minute, use arms to help balance, maximise oxygen retention
  • Descend @ intensity level #10
  • Use markers to identify turning points
  • Carry 0.5-1kg hand weights to increase force and upper body strength.

Adaptations

  • Can be done on a treadmill with incline facility by replicating the durations and levels of intensity
  • Increase / decrease duration per climb
  • Increase / decrease gradient of hill
  • Mix up levels of intensity during ascents and descents.

Impact 

You’ll be fantastically prepared to not just get round hilly run courses but attack them and put time into your fellow competitors.

By using repetitive overload principles such as weight bearing and gradient, you will developed the leg power and increased lung capacity to run the most challenging of hilly routes and recover quickly from doing so.

Purpose of this session

To develop sustainable speed endurance whilst maintaining an even rate of intensity.

Run 4

Kit checklist

Watch

Warm clothes

Fluids

Hand weights

Garmin / GPS watch

 Tick  Tick  Tick    

 

 

Coaching points

Main aim is to run at as even a pace as possible. Use feedback such as:

  1. Heart rate
  2. Mins per mile
  3. How you feel
  4. Or simply divide the course up into sections (eg quarters) and aim to run each section at the same time.
  • Maintain the specified rate of intensity throughout
  • Select flat course
  • Reduce the temptation to ‘negative split’ and a fast finish by starting off a little faster than would normally be comfortable
  • Maintain good upright posture and cadence of around 160-180rpm.

Adaptations

  • Suitable for treadmill as speed / intensity can be closely monitored and of course will be on the flat

Impact

By running ¾ of your race distance, you’ll be used to running at a quicker pace over a sustained distance This will put you in a great position to produce a fast run split whilst maximising efficiency.

You will also gain:

  • Improved self-awareness of pace and control
  • Increased mental strength creating confidence to work at fairly high intensity levels from the start of your training session

Where are you now?

Swim

By now you will have developed a good base of endurance and should be feeling good about the technical gains.

Practising drills must be done all year round simply because efficiency is at the heart of swimming, more so than any other sport, therefore is the origin of speed.

However, we also need to apply fitness to complete the formula. This month we start to do just that by introducing a few shorter distance swims done at a higher intensity than during December and January so we can build muscular endurance.

Sessions this month will include:

  • Short distance swims at high intensity to break up mono pace endurance
  • Swimming at progressively increasing levels of intensity as distances reduce
  • Pace perception
  • Performing a variety of drills whilst developing endurance.

Swim Sessions

Purpose of this session

Performing short swims at high intensity straight after swimming endurance sets will help to break up swimming ‘stagnation’ that often comes with distance swimming.

Swim 1

Kit checklist

Fins 

Paddles 

Pull Buoy 

Watch 

Ankle ties 

Wetsuit 

 

         

Coaching points

  • Swim the initial distance (200m, 300m or 400m) with relaxation and control
  • It’s important to employ the same good technique for the sets at higher intensity
  • Be strict with recoveries between the 50m or 100m sprints
  • Maintain relaxation during the dynamic recovery swims despite being fatigued

Adaptations

  • Increase / decrease distances and recovery times to suit current fitness level and target race distances. Eg for Standard distance 500m @ #11#12, 5 x 100m @ #16-17, 200m dynamic recovery.
  • Use swim aids such as pull buoy, fins if you feel in need of developing a particular area. Eg hand paddles for upper body strength.

Impact

You’ll have the ability to trim your intensity levels according to how you feel resulting in a more energy efficient therefore faster swim.

Cope better with the need to apply an increased level of force. Eg a change of tide will require more effort.

  • Recover faster
  • Hold good technique regardless of the intensity level of swim
  • Swim well at low levels of intensity

Purpose of this session

To hold good technique despite a reduction in recovery duration and an increase in intensity.

Swim 2

Kit checklist

Fins 

Paddles 

Pull Buoy 

Watch 

Ankle ties 

Wetsuit 

 

         

 

Coaching points

Your main aim is to remain disciplined by holding good technique regardless of how tired you may be feeling

  • Practise breathing drills and extremely slow swimming before you start
  • As the distances reduce make sure intensity increases
  • Handy tip - start slowly!!
  • Maintain breath control throughout and don’t hold your breath at any stage!
  • Be strict with recovery times

Adaptations

  • If you find gradually reducing the recovery time becomes too much, stick to the same recovery time throughout
  • Start at whatever distance best reflects your current levels of fitness, ability and chosen race distance

Impact

Produce a fast, efficient and well-paced swim that you recover quickly from before hitting transition.

  • Greatly improved rate of recovery
  • Increased ability to maintain technique regardless of the intensity level being applied and distance covered.

Purpose of this session

To recognise and apply small increases in swim intensity.Swim 3

Kit checklist

Fins 

Paddles 

Pull Buoy 

Watch 

Ankle ties 

Wetsuit 

 

         

 

 

Coaching points

  • Use the first repetition to pitch accurate levels of intensity
  • Be sure to only fractionally increase intensity per repetition

Adaptations

  • Increase or decrease distances and levels of intensity to suit
  • Use swim aids to target specific areas you believe are in need of developing
  • Can be done in open water by increasing intensity per arm cycles. Ie 40 arm cycles each at the increasing levels of intensity.

Impact

An increased understanding of pace and energy saving during the swim will put you in a great position to hit the bike and run.

Being ‘pace aware’ will enable you to trim your intensity level accordingly and apply only the minimum amount of force needed at any given time.  

Purpose of this session

To develop swim endurance and technique within the same session.

Swim 4

Kit checklist

Fins 

Paddles 

Pull Buoy 

Watch 

Ankle ties 

Wetsuit 

 

 Tick  Tick      

 

 

Coaching points

  • Drills are best done slowly
  • Be sure to keep even levels of intensity regardless of varying distances

Adaptations

  • Use swim aids to develop specific areas
  • Adjust recovery durations according to fitness levels and proficiency in executing the drills.

Impact

A fast swim in a pool or open water event is a direct result of hours spent working on technique. These drills will help to propel you through the water efficiently and therefore with greater speed if done correctly.

  • Increased efficiency
  • body position in the water
  • better aerobic and anaerobic capacity
  • improved open water skills
  • increased endurance
  • strengthened upper body to name a few!

Where are we now?

Bike

Typically, this month will include rides at slightly higher rates of exertion (up to level #14 on the Borg Scale of Rate of Exertion) and a minimal reduction in duration compared to those during December and Jan.

As we get nearer race season, this principle will continue.

Note – sessions 2, 3 and 4 will require you to have established your primary race distance for the race season.

Sessions this month will include:

  • Increasing the duration at which we can hold a set cadence
  • Riding our target race distance and including periods of increased intensity
  • Holding a steady and sustained high level of intensity throughout one ride
  • Increasing our cadence rate during a ride (‘negative splitting’)

Bike Sessions

Purpose of this session

To increase our tolerance to high rates of cadence.

Bike 1

Kit checklist

Turbo trainer / riser block

Helmet

Road or mountain bike

Cadence  & time feedback

Clipless pedals

Fluids

 Tick    Tick  Tick    Tick

  

Coaching points

  • Main set 1 & 2. There is no specific set intensity level/s or gear ratios as the aim is solely to achieve cadence figures. However, it's best to use the same low gear throughout.
  • Keep fingers, wrists, jaws and shoulders as relaxed as possible throughout and avoid ‘tightening up’ when things get tough
  • Maintain a relaxed breathing cycle and avoid holding breath. It won’t make you go faster!!

Adaptations

  • If the cadence values are too high, reduce to a rate which is sustainable despite the increase in duration
  • Why not try this session on flat and quiet roads
  • Increase/decrease durations of intensity and recovery accordingly but aim to maintain the overall structure

Impact

Racing at a higher cadence (therefore using the heart as the primary muscle) will prolong the onset of muscular fatigue meaning you’ll hold speed for longer. 

Recover quicker due to increased cardiovascular capacity and a faster rate of breaking down lactic acid build up.

Purpose of this session

To cover race distance and develop speed by including structured periods of increased intensity. 

Bike 2

Kit checklist

Turbo trainer / riser block

Helmet

Road or mountain bike

Cadence  & time feedback

Clipless pedals

Fluids

 

 Tick  Tick  Tick    Tick

  

Coaching points

  • The cadence figures are a guide, however it’s more important to work to the specified intensity levels.
  • Make sure recovery is done using low gearing. Ideally, aim to match the same cadence in the same gear for each recovery.

Adaptations

  • Increase the overall distance to place more emphasis on endurance
  • Decrease distance and increase intensity to develop more speed
  • Can be done on an indoor bike.

Impact 

Come race day, you’ll benefit psychologically from knowing you can not only cover race distance but also recover whilst still covering the ground. In addition you will have:

  • Increased power output and consequently, more speed.
  • Increased perception of intensity variation
  • Improved rate of recovery using the ‘dynamic recovery’ principle.

Purpose of this session

To evenly sustain a high level of intensity whilst maintaining good pace perception whilst working within your limits.

Bike 3

Turbo trainer / riser block

Helmet

Road or mountain bike

Cadence  & time feedback

Clipless pedals

Fluids

 

 Tick  Tick  Tick    Tick

 

 

 

Coaching points

Aim to ride consistently by maintaining the set intensity level and cadence by adjusting gearing accordingly.

  • Pace evenly avoiding ‘spikes’ in energy levels.
  • Thorough warm up
  • Keep upper body low and still.

Adaptations

  • Can easily be done on indoor bike
  • Decrease to 50% race distance if needs be
  • Can easily be done on indoor bike
  • Decrease to 50% race distance if needs be

Impact

Knowing your limits will enable you to produce a fast bike split without ‘hitting the wall’ because you paced the ride badly.

This session will also give you:

  • Increased level of speed endurance
  • Better awareness of pacing and personal limits / fitness levels
  • Increased pain threshold
  • Increased lactate tolerance

Purpose of this session

To develop and control sustainable cadence.

Bike 4

Kit checklist

Turbo trainer / riser block

Helmet

Road or mountain bike

Cadence  & time feedback

Clipless pedals

Fluids

 

 Tick Tick  Tick    Tick

  

Coaching points

  • Use a warm up to establish which gear you aim to use
  • Stay in the same gear throughout. The increases in intensity will come by virtue of increase in leg speed so avoid the inconsistency of changing gear.
  • Being pace aware is key
  • Select a flat course where possible

Adaptations

  • If you’re not ready to ride the race distance, use the formula above over the distance you are able to cover
  • Amend cadences accordingly but aim to nail the gradual increases during the ride

Impact

A ride that is well paced and efficient will leave your legs feeling like they have enough left to produce a run split to be proud of.

This session will also give you:

  • Improved perception of pace awareness and remaining patient!
  • Reduced rate of recovery
  • Better understanding of gear ratios

What’s in this month’s program.

The month of February marks a new one month phase within the annual training overview.

Training phases

(Click here to view the annual overview)

The training proportions per element reflect a slight shift compared to the December and January to coincide with race season being that little bit closer.

Endurance volume is slightly reduced compared to last month (70% down to 62%) and we see an introduction to muscular endurance (8%) and efforts across all three disciplines of a slightly higher rate of intensity.

The proportions of recovery and power remain the same making up 10% and 20% respectively.

  • 62% endurance
  • 20% power (force)
  • 10% recovery
  • 8% muscular endurance