Calculating your Swim Pace Zones

Having an understanding of your correct Training Zones is vital to know you are training optimally and not compromising your technique or energy levels by swimming too fast, and consequently limiting your fitness progression by swimming too slow.

You can read the original article on the Foot Traffic Coaching Website

 

Why is it important to understand your Swim Pace Zones?

The discussion of swim pace zones doesn’t often come up in discussions with Age Group Triathletes, however it should.  Many athletes see swimming as the least important of the three Triathlon disciplines, and because they’re only swimming 2-3 times per week in some cases they figure as long as they’re swimming it’s all good.  This shouldn’t be the case, swimming deserves as much awareness to training intensity as cycling and running…..maximise your gains by swimming smarter.

The Time Crunched athlete, in particular, needs to know they are getting things right when it comes to training.

So why don’t we really consider Swim Pace Zones too often?  Well it’s a bit difficult to get a good understanding of how a given % of your Threshold Pace corresponds to your true effort, and the energy system you’re tapping into.  It’s not as easy as with running or cycling where GPS, Power Meters and Heart Rate monitors give us a clear understand of absolute effort.  With swimming all we really can rely on is a Pool Clock and an understanding of our own Rating of Perceived Effort.  But we can make do, so read on you will find out how.

Swim Threshold Pace

Some very experienced Swim Coaches have come up with what seems to be a pretty reliable way to measure one’s Threshold Pace and how to determine Training Zones around that.

Your Threshold Swim Pace can loosely be considered your Lactate Threshold, or the highest workload you can maintain without having an accumulation in blood lactate.  There’s a general consensus among Coaches and Athletes that a 1000m Time Trial (or 500m for less experienced swimmers) is sufficient for determining your Lactate Threshold.

To know you are measuring this correctly you should go into the TT rested and recovered from previous strenuous exercise.  So when you are ready to perform the TT head to the pool, have a decent warm up, psyche yourself up and rip into it.

Once you have timed yourself for the 1000m divide the time by 10 (or 5 if you swam 500m) to determine your T-Pace.  This is the pace you swam per 100m for the TT….a very useful number to keep in mind.  If you are at the lower range of experience spectrum, or not particularly consistent with your swimming, and did the 1000m TT, you may even want to add 1 second on to your T-Pace.  You should always be aware of your current T-Pace, especially throughout various stages of the season.  You can retest every 2-4 weeks if you are really wanting to make sure you are current with your T-Pace, otherwise twice each season should be sufficient (once at the start and another 4-6 weeks prior to your A race).

Swim Pace Zones

Think of these pace zones as a range, not as a firm target, so allow a couple of seconds either side of the pace time.  Some days you feel amazing, and going a second or two per 100m faster may not add any more strain.  Consequently, some days feel less lively, and you want to just stick to a second or two slower than the calculated pace.  You are still working in the vicinity of that pace, and will see the adaptations come from it.Zone 1 and Zone 5+ don’t have a pace as these should be based soley on feel.

 

 

Zone 1 is your easy relaxed warmup/recovery pace, whereas 5+ is flat out, as hard as you can swim, and this may not even be 100m long, so it’s hard to monitor pace at this effort.

Use out our own Pace Zone Calculator to determine your Pace Zones

 

Once you’ve determined your training zones you will be armed with an understanding of the pace you need to be swimming at to achieve certain training adaptations.  You will also be able to compare your T-Pace to other previous TT’s you’ve performed so you can track your progress.

 


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Run Time Trial with the Stryd Power Meter

A run Time Trial is a great way to measure your current state of performance.

With the information provided by the Stryd Run Power Meter it opens up new ways for Coaches and Athletes to perform and then to assess and validate their results from the test.

Read the original article on the Foot Traffic Coaching Website or watch the video on YouTube

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The Time Trial

A group of Foot Traffic athletes recently performed an individual run Time Trial (TT) session. This was a 50 minute session which comprised of an easy 10 minute warm-up, a 30 minute interval at your best effort, followed by a 10 minute warm down.

The athletes ran the TT as 15 minutes out followed by 15 minutes back, preferably on a flat course and ideally in low to no wind conditions.

The athletes had a target power to run the first 15 minutes in and then they had the freedom of running as fast as they wanted for the second 15 minutes.

 

Current Form

Looking at one of the athletes who performed this TT, we can dive into their Stryd Power Center data.

The day before their TT their best effort for 30 minutes was 212 watts.  This was performed about six weeks prior to the TT.

The Stryd Power Center creates a modelled Power Duration Curve, which is the white line in the graph, sitting just above the actual Power Duration Curve.

The modelled curve is based on the information that inputed every time a run is completed and the data is uploaded.

 

 

According to the Modelled Curve, this athlete should actually be running 220 watts for their peak 30 minute effort, but they had only run 212 watts to date.  The idea of the TT is to take this Modelled number and see how close the athlete actually get to it?  I hadn’t told the athlete what their modelled ability was, the purpose of the TT was to see what they could achieve.

The only bit of guidance I gave them in terms of pacing was a target of 216w for the first 15 minutes.  I selected this amount because it was halfway between their actual Power and Modelled Power Duration Curves.  I also knew this value wasn’t too high that it would put the athlete off.  I wanted this to be a close to 100% effort, but I certainly didn’t want it to be a slow death if they had started out too fast.

The Session

For the first 15 minutes they ran at 218w (4:30/km) just slightly over the target of 216w.
For the second 15 minutes they ran at 222w (4:24/km).  A clear negative split
For the 30 minute TT they averaged at 220w (4:27/km).

The Analysis

You will recall that the 30 minute Modelled Power was 220w.  This athlete has run exactly to the number the Stryd Software had calculated for them.  

You can see in the image to the right, with the filter opened out to the last 90 days, that the 30 Minute Peak Power now lines up perfectly with the Modelled Peak Power at 220w.

From this it’s clear that the athlete ran exactly to their best effort for the TT.  Consequently they also received an increase in their Critical Power value, so we know the Training Zones that are generated off number are accurate.

 

Summary

As you can see, with the Stryd Run Power Meter it’s possible to make an accurate assumption of your current form, and then perform a TT to validate.  It’s a great confidence boost to the Athlete and Coach when they can physically and graphically see improvements from all the training.

Interestingly enough, of the 15 Foot Traffic athletes who performed the TT on the same day we saw about an 80% level of accuracy in reaching their Modelled Power during the test.  This is a good hit rate, and we will continue to use the 30 minute TT in future as a method of assessment for our athletes.

 

 

Racing on Zwift

To read the original article on the Foot Traffic Coaching website you find it here and you can watch the video on YouTube

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Why race on Zwift?

Racing online with Zwift has become the new hot thing in the world of Cycling.  Right now you can login, join a race against people from all over the world, and not have to leave the comfort and convenience of your own home.

But racing on Zwift isn’t like racing on the Road.  There are a few similarities, but there are also some tricks to the game play.  Quite often we see very accomplished and powerful road cyclists try to race on Zwift and get beaten quite significantly by less proficient cyclists IRL (In Real Life).

Knowing how the game works is vital to having a successful and fun racing experience

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Which race should I choose?

There are literally dozens of races every day on Zwift, so choosing the right race for you can be quite daunting and confusing.  Firstly you should know which grade you will be in based on your w/kg at FTP.  The grades range from A through to D, and if you race in a grade too low for your FTP setting you will be disqualified.

Look for races on the styles of course that suits you.  Are you more suited to a short sharp Criterium race, or are you better on a longer hilly or rolling course?  From here you can then decide which race to do.

Look for race series to enter.  There are plenty of events or tours on which make it fun as you will be racing the same people over and again.  Often National Federations have a race series on, such as Triathlon New Zealand, British Cycling or British Triathlon; and anyone from around the world can enter these races.

Race enough and you may even find yourself being recruited into a team to make it even more exciting.

But there’s a twist…

I was disqualified from this race on the Zwift Power website!  Zwift Power is a website seperate to the Zwift game site, but it takes race results and performs deeper analytics on the results.  It’s also basically the regulatory body for Zwift racing, and will police and deal to people racing out of their grades.

Because I usually race in A Grade, and I was treating this race less seriously, I entered B Grade.  Basically just to make it a bit easier for me so I could comment and talk tactics throughout.  B Grade is from 3.0-3.9w/kg, so if you record a power output higher than that you will be removed from the official results.

I rode this one at 4.5w/kg, and there were a few other riders in the race that were out of category (the winner and 4th place) so we were all disqualified, and I even got the UPG mark, which tells me it’s time to upgrade permanently.

So that’s a good thing really.  A few months ago I was a B Grade rider, but now with all the racing I’ve been doing I’m an A Grade rider.

Shit’s just got a lot more real though.

RIDE ON!

 

Cycling in wind

Riding in wind used to really get me down.  On race morning if I heard the wind whistling through the trees I’d dread what was to come during the bike leg.  If a training ride was on the cards and I could see the trees in my front yard leaning over I’d begrudgingly turn to the indoor trainer.  Deep down I knew that surely it’s just a state of mind, and there’s a way to deal with the challenges of a solid breeze.

It wasn’t until 2007 when I was training for IRONMAN Hawaii that I figured I had better get used to riding in the wind.  The infamous Kohala winds along the Queen K Highway were going to be a force to be reckoned with and I had to know how to cope.

I’ve now turned things around and have found a way to use the wind to my advantage.  It the same for everyone, it’s just how each person copes with the conditions that defines how they will be impacted.  This is what I did…

Learn to love the wind

These days I don’t mind training and racing on a windy day but sure, I’d prefer a light breeze any day, but if the wind does pick up on race day or the course turns into a significant cross or tailwind I see that now as an advantage.  I’m not scared by it, or nervous of how I will cope, I just know how to handle it.  I also bank on the fact that most people are the opposite, so from a competitive perspective I feel I relish in a windy day.

Get out there in the wind and learn how your bike and body react to the wind from various directions and speeds.  Your Triathlon Bike may behave different to your Road Bike so you have to find that out before race day too.

Get aerodynamic

The smaller the surface area you present to the wind the better.  It’s not possible to reduce our physical size by a great deal, but we can position ourselves with a smaller frontal area through having a good bike fit.  Keep in mind you need to work at this position, get comfortable on it, and be aware that the most aerodynamic position may not be the most comfortable, especially if trying to hold it for hours and hours.  So there may have to be a small compromise here for comfort and efficiency over aerodynamics.

One big difference can be just to drop your head.  Be like a turtle and retract your head and lower it a bit.  This will affect your ability to see up the road clearly so be very careful when you do this.

It’s well worth finding ways to be more aerodynamically efficient with your bike position.  Small changes here can be worth a lot more than a flash new set of wheels on your bike.

Keep low on your bars

As mentioned above, the more aerodynamic you are the less you will be affected by the wind.  But it may be so strong that staying on your aerobars is too unstable and dangerous.  Therefore you should ride in your drops or on your bull horns.  Get low, widen your elbows a bit to create a wider stance, bend them every so slightly and soften your grip on the bars so your bike is still able to move a bit as the wind gusts on and off. Put a bit of a smile on your face, make people around you wonder how the heck you can be enjoying it so much….it might be enough to put them off their game.

Lean on a crosswind

Air is pretty dense, and air that moves swiftly can provide quite a solid medium to lean on…that’s why it’s harder to ride into the wind.  You can use this to your advantage when it’s coming at you from the side.  Learning how to lean on the wind has a similar affect as a yacht sailing across a breeze.  You’re getting blown from the side and being pushed forward a little bit.  Used properly a crosswind can be your friend, used incorrectly a crosswind can be a real hinderance to your forward advancement.

Let the wind move you

Being all tense and fighting every gust of wind is very stressful, uses a lot of energy, and can leave you feeling quite exhausted.  If you just relax and let the wind move you slightly as you regain your control and balance you will be much better off for it.

One thing you should never do when you get pushed by a crosswind is stop pedalling and sit up.  Suddenly you have lost all control of your bike.  One piece of advice I remember Chris Lieto saying (IRONMAN Super Biker from the mid 2000’s) was ‘Tension on the chain, point and shoot”. This really resonated with me, it makes perfect sense and it’s something I tell all my athletes to think of when they are dealing with a crosswind.

Think of your wheel selection

I could write a whole blog on this, and one day I probably should.  But the basic idea is that the deeper your front wheel is the more surface area is presented to a crosswind and the more your front wheel can be shifted, sometimes very dangerously with horrible outcomes.  The is less significant with a deep rear wheel, but a less powerful lightweight rider will still have to be careful.
The best piece of advice would be that if you think it’s going to be too deep it probably is, and it would be safer and more effective to go for the shallower rime depth, certainly on the front.
Don’t be that person sitting up out of their aerobars, white knuckled trying to deal with an 80mm deep front wheel and a 20koh crosswind. Instead be that person riding smoothly and comfortably in the aerobars with the nice 32mm deep front wheel, easily riding past.

Invest in a Power Meter

The moment I started using a Power Meter the head and crosswind stopped, not literally obviously but theoretically it did.  That’s because power is power, it’s absolute, it’s the output of your effort right then and there, regardless of the environment.  The environmental conditions (and a few other things) will dictate how fast you are going to move, but if you can’t push any harder on the pedals than you are at that time then you can’t do anything about it.  If you’re going slower then I guarantee the majority of the field will be going slower too.

A power meter will very quickly teach you how much harder you are having to work into a headwind to maintain a given speed.  And the converse to this applies to a tailwind, you will be surprised how little power you have to put out to maintain that same speed. You get a real appreciation of how important it is to be smooth and efficient in your pedaling, and remain at an effort you know you can handle for the duration of the ride.

That being said, you should actually push a little bit harder into a headwind than you would in a still day, and when it comes to the tailwind, ride a little bit easier and use that time to regain some energy.  A crosswind is similar to a headwind, so be prepared to push slightly harder here too.

This is stuff you wouldn’t be able to manage if you didn’t have a power number in front of you to refer to.

Watch the road ahead

Quite often a bike course may have long sections of trees lining the road intermittently broken up with gaps where there are no trees.  The wind will funnel through these points and create quite a gust, often taking you by surprise, especially if you aren’t familiar with the bike course.  If in a race watch the riders ahead of you, so if you see one suddenly shift to the side from a gust then you know what’s coming and you can prepare for the same gust.  If you are on your own just keep looking ahead and making little decisions about what may or may not happen at various stages.

And a small tip when passing other athletes in these sections, they can get blown into you if you are too close, so just give another meter of space just to be on the safe side.

Triathlon Race Swim Tips

Open Water swimming is a tough thing to grasp if you are new to the sport, in fact even some experienced athletes still struggle with it! Read on to find out what we recommend to work on your Open Water swim skills. Go away and practice these regularly so come race day you are ready to take on what ever the race gives you.

To check out the original article you can read it on the Foot Traffic website here

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Build Confidence

This is very important.  Being comfortable and confident in a variety of water conditions will make your Triathlon race experience much more enjoyable and you will perform better for that.

Following are a few key tips that will help you build your confidence

Practice

The more open water swimming you do the better.

Plan some open water training before the race.   If you aren’t able to get to the race venue to practice then do some sessions at a location with a similar sea state.  Grab some training partners so you can simulate swimming close to others, and learn the affect drafting has.  If you aren’t familiar with the location then check beforehand if there are any tricky currents or rips to be aware of.  If you are swimming on your own let someone know what you are doing and how long you expect to be, and use a Blue Seventy Tow Float so you can be easily seen from boats in the area.

Relax in the water and enjoy it

This may be difficult to do initially, but remember that you are wearing a wetsuit which is designed to keep you afloat.  Don’t fight the water, feel it, know how it behaves, where your floating point is when you are treading water and don’t forget to breath deep controlled breaths. Find out how enjoyable open water swimming actually is when you are in control.

Panic attacks do occur, but learn how to deal with them

Panic attacks happen, it may never happen to you, or it may happen regularly.  Panic attacks can even happen to the very best Professional Triathletes. I had my first panic attack a couple of years ago, after 25 years in the sport!  It was a horrible experience, but I got through it.  I actually wrote a Blog about it which you can read here.  The main thing is you have to stop moving, relax (yes it’s hard to do that), put your hand up for a rescue boat to come to you, and take a few minutes to gather yourself.  It will pass and you will be back swimming a few minutes later like nothing happened.

Ditch the bilateral breathing

Breathing bilaterally (breathing to both sides) in a pool is an important part of your swim training.  It teaches you to develop a smooth and even stroke, and is a great way to limit and control your breathing for aerobic benefit.  But in the open water, especially a race situation, it is restricting you from performing to your best. Forcing yourself to breath every 3rd or 5th stroke means that you are restricting the air getting into your lungs which carries the oxygen your muscles and brain needs to operate on. When you are in a race you are working at a higher work rate than training too, so the demand for air is even greater.

But don’t forget how to breath bilaterally in the open water, as you need to be able to breath both sides to see what’s going on around you, avoid waves and keep the sun out of your eyes. I actually find training to breath every stroke is even more useful as you aren’t waiting seconds before your next chance to grab some air or have a quick nosey at the person next to you to make sure you’re still right in their draft.

Practice in your wetsuit and fit it properly

Having a properly fitted wetsuit is so important to make your Open Water swim more enjoyable, and get the most out of your own performance.  A poorly fitted suit can be uncomfortable, restrict your movement and chafe your neck badly.  Check out this video on how to correctly fit your wetsuit.

Check out this video on how to fit your wetsuit properly

Spend some time swimming in it in the pool before the Open Water and feel how it affects your arm movement and buoyancy.  Altered buoyancy can actually change the way you kick so you have to know what to expect when in a race.

 

Race Start

Check the waves

Triathlons tend to take place at very safe beaches for swimming and not often at a Surf Beach so you won’t find massive rollers crashing in, but as with any beach there is a chance of an On Shore Wind and this may cause some chop to contend with.   Ocean or Lake swims can still get a decent chop.

Check your entry point

Most races are a Wave or a Rolling Start, which mean you run into the water to commence your swim.

Before the race wade into the water up to about thigh depth, where you know you will be running to shortly, and check for drop offs, rocks or other debris and what the surface is like.  You will also be able to feel if there is much of a current to contend with.  Return to the beach to run in as you would in the start and find out how many steps it takes you to get to mid-thigh depth.  At this point if you are training you may want to start swimming, or if you are racing you may want to practice again, and a bit faster, maybe add a Dolphin Dive if the depth allows for it (more on this later).

You should also swim around for 5 minutes or so to warm your muscles up and elevate your Heart Rate, even do a few faster strokes to simulate the race effort you will be doing shortly.  This will do a lot to help calm the nerves and ready you for the task you’re about to encounter.

Running into the water

Depending on the tide it may be a longish run to the water, 20-50m.  You don’t want to take your first arm stroke already anaerobic as this is a sure way to create panic.  Instead you want to run to the water at a comfortable pace.  The faster and more competitive you are the quicker you will have to run, but if you are just wanting to get through the swim and keep within yourself then don’t rush this.

Run into the shallow water lifting your feet out to each side over the smaller waves so you are clearing the water.  As it gets deeper this will also get harder to do, to the point you will be slowed down, and working too hard, if you keep running.  At this point it’s time to start Dolphin Diving.

In a Mass or Wave start  race, If you are a more nervous swimmer and don’t want to get clobbered from an over-zealous swimmer, then just wait a couple of seconds after the starting hooter and let the melee go off ahead of you. All of a sudden the water will be clearer, people will be friendlier, the vibe a bit more chilled.  That could make all the difference for a great experience.

Dolphin Diving

A dolphin dive is a shallow dive where you push forward off the ground with your legs and dive just under the surface of the water. When dolphin diving, keep your head tucked between your outstretched arms with your biceps squeezing your ears. Do not look up. This is important for both speed and safety, and you will probably lose or dislodge your goggles as soon as your face hits the water.

Start with shallow dolphin dives and push off the ground each time to propel yourself forward.

Dive under the waves breaking in front of you. As soon as the wave starts to form, dive deep enough to touch the sand with your fingertips. Find the calm spot under every wave and let the wave go over your head. Push forward off the ground so, rather than coming straight up, you continue to move forward the entire time.

Depending on the depth of the water you may have to do a few of these.  The Dolphin Dive is much faster than running, and done properly is faster than swimming too, so you should definitely do it if you get the chance to.  If you stop to think about it you will probably get knocked by a wave or another swimmer, so practice the Dolphin Dive a lot so you are comfortable with it.

As soon as you can’t Dolphin Dive again it’s time to start swimming.

Get swimming

As soon as you have to start swimming go for it and just keep going.  Keep in mind that there are probably dozens of people behind you, so stopping right now may result with an accidental bump in the back of the head.  Yes people will be knocking you and you will get bumped around a bit, but you trained for this.  The main thing is you are heading for the first Turning Can and hopefully getting a bit of a draft from a faster swimmer in front of you.

You will be surprised how quickly the Turning Can has come, and before you know if you have turned for home and having a great time.

Exiting the water

Some races are an M Shaped course, or Triangular, which requires you to exit the water at halfway, before reentering for the 2nd half of the swim. So having good exit technique can make for a much better performance.

Head for shore

As you round the Turning Can and start heading for shore you have to grab a sight of your exit point. You may still be a few hundred metres from shore, but the sooner you can sight it the better.  Hone in on this point and keep checking that you are online.  You don’t want to be in the middle of a great swim only to find a lapse in concentration means you’re heading off course in the final section.

As you get closer to shore you may even find there’s a small swell behind you to help push you in.  Don’t let up your effort as you near the beach, there may be a bit of flow back with the retreating waves, so that could stop you moving forward momentarily.

Terra Firma

As soon as you feel your fingers touch land take one more stroke and then stand up.  Try to avoid standing just because you see the sand beneath you, it may still be too deep.

Once standing your first instinct might be to run, but you should start to Dolphin Dive, and continue doing so until you are certain the water is about knee deep.  Now is the time to stand and start running.

Running out of the water

Keep in mind you have been horizontal for some time now, and probably working quite hard. So as soon as you stand up the blood may flow from your head, and you may feel dizzy, perhaps even stumble a bit.  Take your time regaining your balance here, slowly start jogging and bring yourself up to speed as you feel your legs again.

THE GO FASTER SECRETS YOU DON’T WANT YOUR COMPETITORS TO KNOW

We all want to go faster, whether it’s to win your Age Group in your next race, improve your PB, beat your mates or just nail a Strava segment to get that much desired Kudos, the drive to go faster is high.  Don’t just keep doing what you’re doing, sure it might get you faster eventually, but there are ways you can accelerate your improvement.  If you are smart about it your competition won’t even know….until race day when BAM, you hit them with this new level of performance.

So what are these secrets??

Train your weaknesses and race your strengths

I love this philosophy.  It’s the most effective way to create the complete athlete.  We all have strengths and weaknesses and we know that to improve something we have to work on it however it’s all too easy to resort to training those activities that we are good at.

Know your weaknesses

If you know swimming is a weakness and you know you don’t swim enough volume, or you have technique improvements to make, then substitute one of your preferred non-swim workouts for an additional swim session. Or perhaps stay for another 15 minutes at the pool and work on your technique drills.  If you know you need to improve your open water skills then join an Ocean Swim clinic, or enter an Open Water Swim race.

If you feel you aren’t able to maintain the same power in your aero position as you can riding sitting upright then spend more time aero.  You might even need to book an appointment for a bike fit where you can make fine adjustments to enable you to stay comfortable, strong and aerodynamic.

A lot of people struggle running hills.  If this is you then don’t head to your 400m track to hit out some Threshold 400’s, instead head to the hills and perform a similar Threshold intensity session on a hill that is of a similar duration to your 400m rep.

Gain confidence in your less favoured disciplines

Training this way means that on race day you will line up confident in your overall ability as what was once a weakness may now be almost as strong as your favoured discipline. You can now form a race plan, confident that your strength is where you will solidify your position in the field, but you certainly won’t be let down by what was once a weakness.

Visualise

This may feel a little bit airey fairey for some but visualisation can be a powerful tool to help you achieve positive outcomes.

Visualise the course, conditions & competition

In the months, weeks and days before the race you should be visualising what you might be doing in the race at certain points…How will you feel?  Who’s around you? What’s the weather? Visualise a successful race. Visualise race morning, transitions, the course. Visualise how you want your race to go but also visualise what you will do if something goes wrong, like dropping a drink bottle or getting a flat tyre.  We don’t know what’s going to happen in a race but if you have worked through dozens of race scenarios and formed an understanding of how you will cope should something happen, you will immediately switch into the mode you need to be in to deal with it.

Then it all clicks

Visualisation is a learned skill that you should practice regularly and one day something will click, the stars will align, the celestial powers will be focused on you, and that race plan you had been thinking through will take place… as you foresaw it.  Visualisation and positive affirmation is an important technique and one worth adding to your repertoire.

Adopt technology

How many times have you heard “Back in my day we didn’t have all these fancy gadgets…..” Triathlon has had a rapid growth and the competition has progressed.  Technology is a wonderful thing, adopt it, learn it, embrace it. Wetsuits, bikes, shoes, suits, googles, nutrition – everything has had a major makeover since the birth of triathlon. A lot of science has been invested into understanding how we can eek out a little extra from various parts of the race. An investment in technology can help you manage your racing and training better and give you the edge you were looking for.

Do your research

Find the technology that works for you. Do some research. Talk to others. Once you have invested make sure you are making the most of that investment by understanding all the features that are built in so you can use it to give you that extra edge.

Technology enhances not replaces

Technology doesn’t omit the need for athletes to understand what various paces feel like. Use technology to get a better understanding and improve your sense of feel.

If the budget allows, get into it and make the most of today’s technology…..just remember to charge your device batteries before the race, the future isn’t quite here yet with life long battery power.

Don’t change a winning formula

**ok, I realise this does contradict my opening statements to some degree, but for a few of you it’s relevant, so keep reading anyway.**

You may have had a couple of good races, maybe knocked over a few PB’s, finished strong, beaten your mates.  That’s all good then, why start looking around to make changes?

Why change?

Don’t fix what isn’t broke. If you are having some good results then it’s clear that your body is responding well to what you are doing. Changing training now can turn this all around and lead to injury, over training or backwards progress. The time to change is when you have become stagnant not while things are moving forward.

Do what the Pro’s do

Talk to some of the great Pro’s in the sport, they will perform the same session routine week in week out, year after year after year.  You could almost pinpoint on a given day of the week exactly where they are located, how far through the session they are and what time they will be due home.  These athletes know what works for them, and don’t see a need to shift off that path.

Train and race single sports

Triathletes are good at triathlon but most would not be considered experts at swimming, cycling or running. Racing the individual sports can provide great insight into what makes athletes successful in each discipline, much of which can improve your triathlon performance if applied correctly.

Learn from the experts

Racing in cycle races provides race situations that you will never come across in triathlon but the training stimulus will have a great effect on your overall performance. Watch how the front riders handle the changes in pace, climbing, drafting. Learn how to turn the pedals over more efficiently because cyclists are far more efficient at this than triathletes.

Immerse yourself

Get into some Open Water Swim races. The field is far more diverse, spreads out quicker and without the bike and run to worry about you can put yourself outside your comfort zone, practice holding onto feet and changing your stroke to meet the conditions.

Hone your race craft

Running races against pure runners exposes you to skilful pacers. Runners understand how to hold back at the beginning, and how to dig really deep so they can blaze past in the final kilometres making it look effortless in the process.

How much will it cost me to do an IRONMAN?

To read this article in the Foot Traffic Coaching website click here

How much will it cost you to do an Ironman?  … Well that’s a bit like asking “how long is a piece of string?”

Like any large scale project, training for and racing IRONMAN comes at a cost.  This cost can range between manageable to significant. Where you sit along the IRONMAN cost scale can depend on a number of factors …your motivation for racing …how well you manage your budget …the size of your wallet … the tolerance of your significant other…

Below is a list of items that you will definitely need and therefore can expect to have to purchase when training for your IRONMAN.  This is a “minimum items” list  (if you’re wanting to do IRONMAN on a tight budget this is the list of items your really can’t do without).

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For the Budget Conscious

Keep in mind that you don’t have to splash out and buy brand new gear, jump online, you will be surprised at what gems people are trying to sell.  Trademe, Ebay, Gumtree and Sale groups on Facebook are excellent resources and you can often pick up great deals on secondhand gear.  You’ll also be surprised how much stuff is just lying around peoples’ houses not being used, so there’s no harm in asking other athletes if they have any gear that they are willing to part with.

For the Not So Budget Conscious

If you’re in the position of being able to be extravagant, triathlon is an excellent sport to help you spend your money, it will not disappoint, so if you are planning to beef things up a bit there is a multitude of high tech flash gear, out there. In the list below we have included minimum amounts you can expect to pay for each item but also an indication of costs if you are shopping for top of the line items.

Be smart

Have a read through this list and use it as a gauge for your IRONMAN budget.  As mentioned you don’t have to purchase the top of the range equipment, but you do need to get things that are going to be suitable for the task at hand.  If buying secondhand items make sure you know how much it has been used.

Another thing is to really look after your equipment. Not caring for your gear is a sure way to wear it out quickly, and replacing it just adds more to your expenses.

Budget

A lot of athletes form a budget and plan to set aside a certain amount of money each week to add to their “Triathlon Fund”.  A Triathlon Fund is a great idea as it enables you to plan ahead for the expenses that will ensue over the coming training and racing season.

Share

It’s a good idea to share this list and budget with your significant other so as they know what to expect and there are no hidden surprises for them.  This way you’ll also have to explain yourself if you are tempted to ignore the budget and sneak in a new set of race wheels or the latest aero helmet.

It’s Worth It

As you will see there are a number of expenses you need to be aware of when you take on the challenge of an IRONMAN and sure they can mount up but think less about it as an expense and more about it as enabling you to fulfil your dream.  So one last thing to add to that list:

How much time does it take to train for an IRONMAN?

To read this article in the Foot Traffic Coaching website click here

40 years ago when IRONMAN first took place the people who did this sport were considered reckless, weirdos, lunatics, idiots, fools, and that they were risking their life….but these days, nearly every weekend there are many thousands of people lining up to replicate what those seemingly crazy folk back in the early days were doing.

So is it really crazy or is doing IRONMAN achievable and how much time do you really need to train for it?

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Make no mistake, IRONMAN is a serious event, it’s a massive achievement to cross the finish line, and you don’t just get there by chance.  But despite the required commitment, people who lead busy lives; work, family, other, can still train very well for IRONMAN. There are many busy people who perform to a very high-level year in, year out.

Training for an IRONMAN can take between 6 -18 months, depending on your current level of fitness, previous experience, ability or motivation.

Why are you doing it?

Regardless of whether you are planning for your first IRONMAN, or you have crossed that finish line many times before, you need to consider the amount of training you have done to this point, your experience and current level of fitness. Then consider your purpose for completing it – what is your motivation?  Do you want to ‘race it’ or just complete it without risking illness or injury? Do you want to better your performance from previous years or beat your training buddies? Do you want to head to the top of your Age Group and onward to the World Championships? Are you trying to impress a girl or guy you’ve been chasing for some time?  Whatever your reason, getting to the finish line requires a well thought out and structured training plan. But IRONMAN is certainly achievable and may not take as much time as you might think.

Do I have enough time in my week?

For the Beginner athlete, just getting through and completing the event can be done on an average of 11-12hrs per week with the biggest week of about 15hrs. Intermediate athletes will be 12-15hrs per week, with the biggest being about 18hrs.  Advanced athletes who are wanting to push themselves to their best will be looking to average 14-16hrs per week through the largest volume phases (and beyond for some, if time allows for it). Consider an advanced athlete someone who is fit, has some decent triathlon experience and with a couple of good Ironman races under their belt.

With our half and full IRONMAN Training Plans the process from start to finish will progress over a 30 week period.

Phases of training

The main phases of training include Preparation, Base, Build and Competition. The amount of training throughout these phases will remain largely consistent, with the difference lying in the structure of the workouts and the intensity you will focus on.

Training during the week doesn’t need to take up too much of your time, as much of the larger volume training is scheduled on the weekends.  You should set a weekday routine that certain workouts will be done and stick to it, this will help you plan around training to manage work, family and other life commitments.

Following are examples from our 30 week half and full IRONMAN Intermediate Plans to show the layout of the Preparation, Base and Build phases.  The Competition phase is less about volume and more about freshening up for the race.

Preparation Phase

Average weekly training time – 7hrs

This Preparation phase focuses on getting your body used to consistent activity and building fitness.  Its designed to be low stress but you might still feel a bit of stiffness in your body if you’re new to training or if you haven’t trained in a while.

Base Phase

Average weekly training time – 12hrs

This is where you will load an increasing amount of training.  The intensity is usually pretty low and relaxed, but there will be some harder workouts.

Build Phase

Average weekly time – 15:00

 

This key phase of the training plan focuses on race specific intensity.  In this phase you will reach your maximum volume week but the Preparation and Base phases ensure you will be fit enough to go week after week of this higher volume training …a long way from where you were 20 weeks or so prior.

The Competition phase lasts only a few weeks and your training volume will reduce by about 30% each week setting you up nicely for RACE DAY!!

It’s Achievable

As you can see, when it’s laid out in front of you, the weekly time required is quite achievable.  But in order to get through an event of this magnitude you need to have a plan, commit to the training and stick with it.

How do you eat an elephant? … one bite at a time.

Are you cramping during the swim leg of a Triathlon?

We’ve all had this at some stage in our Triathlon career…the unmistakable stabbing pain in your calf muscles or quads.  Often it comes on inexplicably and it can be severe enough to force you to stop completely and attempt to stretch the affected muscles out.  Stretching may provide some relief but the damage may have already been done and for the rest of the race it feels like you are right on the verge of having it happen again.

There are a number of possible causes for the cramping, and a quick google search will give seemingly infinite numbers of articles citing electrolyte imbalance, muscle fatigue, poor kicking technique, neurological dysfunction and so on.  Whilst all these aetiologies have their merit, and should be considered, there is one potential cause that I don’t often see discussed….

Your body position created by swimming in a wetsuit in fresh water 

Yes, it’s quite a long and very specific cause, but it’s something I have seen occur numerous times over my years of being a Triathlon Coach, and I feel there’s a fairly simple thing you can do to perhaps avoid it happening to you in the future.

I filmed a short video about this, which was shared on the Blue Seventy NZ Facebook Page.  I have also uploaded it to YouTube.

This year at Ironman New Zealand I had a good friend (George) suffer severe cramping in his quads and calves, so bad that unfortunately he was unable to complete the swim leg.  George travelled to race Ironman NZ from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  A few years prior another good friend of mine, who incidentally was also from Pennsylvania, had similar severe cramping in the swim, and pulled out only 1 KM into the bike leg.

The common factor in both these athletes was that they had travelled to the race after a long block of training in the pool through a brutal Northern Hemisphere winter.  No matter how many miles they logged in the pool they wouldn’t have performed many (if any) sessions in their wetsuits as it was the middle of winter.  A lot of people don’t want to wear their wetsuit in the pool as it can get very hot, and there’s a chance the chlorine may damage the material.

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Ironman New Zealand is swum in a fresh water lake, and is cool enough that wetsuits are compulsory.  I believe if the lake was warm enough that wetsuits weren’t allowed they probably wouldn’t have had issues with cramping.  A wetsuit places the swimmers hips and legs into a position that is quite different to that of a non-suited swimmer, and herein lies the problem.  Wearing a wetsuit in the sea isn’t too bad, as there’s a bit more buoyancy than in fresh, but it still can be a problem.  But your kick in fresh water may feel subtly different, forcing you to alter it slightly and possibly engaging your quads and hip flexors a bit more, and enough to place them under more stress than you’ve trained for.

One piece of equipment I find that does a great job of simulating the position created by a wetsuit is the bluseventy Core Short.  These are neoprene shorts that provide lift to the hips, so you are able to use them in specific sets where you are getting close to or even over race pace.  This allows the wearer to feel how their kick differs when held in the new position, and enable the necessary adaptations to get used to what race day will be like.

The shorts allow you to get a feel for your potential race pace, as most people will swim faster in them than not.  However, here’s a word of warning….don’t use them in all sessions, for the whole session.  You still need to perfect your body position unassisted, and the shorts will take away the necessary feedback of your hips sinking so you won’t recognise and correct.

So if you are planning a getaway race in a location where wetsuits are likely to be worn, and it’s not practical for you to wear your wetsuit in training I highly recommend having a pair of blueseventy Core Shorts in your swim bag.

Another cause of cramp could be a poorly fitted wetsuit.  For tips on fitting your wetsuit correctly check out this video

 

Be a Knowledgable and Responsible Athlete

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As we draw near to Ironman New Zealand (and other key events) it’s a good reminder of the important topic of Drugfree Sport.  A clean sport is a fair sport, so we encourage drug testing in sport.   As an athlete who has registered for an event (not just Ironman) you may be subject to drug testing, so it is important that you understand your responsibilities. 

Ingesting supplements such as protein shakes, pre-workout formulas, sports drink, energy drinks, herbal remedies, vitamins or any number of things could make you susceptible to contamination of a prohibited substance.  You need to know what you are taking and ensure it is not on the prohibited list.  In the past few years, athletes across a variety of sports have tested positive to prohibited substances, believed to have been ingested through nutritional supplements.  Each of those athletes faced a ban from all sport for up to four years.

Be aware that any supplement you are taking may be subject to contamination during the manufacturing process.  Many non-prohibited sports supplements that can be purchased ‘over the counter’ are manufactured in factories that also produce prohibited supplements and therefore can be accidentally cross contaminated by other substances made in this same factory. 

Also keep in mind that many supplements have inaccurate labelling. Ingredients can have more than 20 different names and not every version is listed on the label. Labels may also fail to list every ingredient or refer to “proprietary blends” where ingredients are not specified.

In addition to nutritional supplements, many prescription medications contain substances which are on the Prohibited List and are therefore banned in sport so you need to be vigilant about what you take.  If it is necessary for your Medical Practitioner to prescribe you something then make sure they are aware that you could be Drug Tested.  Check if the medication is prohibited in sport, and follow the Therapeutic Use Exemption process if need be. (More information on the Therapeutic Use Exemption process can be found on the Drugfree Sport website.)

As an athlete you are solely responsible for every substance that goes into your body. I stress to you to visit the Drugfree Sport website as there is great information on there about medications and supplements and how to check if anything you are taking is on the prohibited list. 

Visit www.drugfreesport.org.nz and don’t run the risk of ruining a great race through lack of knowledge.