Training Tips- General Overview- Stefan Timms

Training Tips- General

“Recovery is an around the clock process.  You may be one of the hardest trainers in the world, but if you don’t let your body recover you will never reap the rewards of your hard work.   It is crucial that the proper nutrients in the correct proportions are ingested before, during, and following a workout or race.  It is also important to ensure that you are getting enough rest, and to look after all those aches and pains through adequate stretching, icing, and massage.   It is in the interval between workouts that your adaptations for increased muscle strength and endurance occur and make that all training pay off.”

“In order to evaluate your fitness periodically, you should come up with some standard test workouts that you repeat every couple of months.  These workouts should be performed in similar conditions so that they only variable they test is your fitness.  Record your results, and use that information to determine whether or not your training is on track.”

“Speedwork is a great way to work your anaerobic energy system, recruit fast twitch muscle fibers, and simulate race conditions, but you should carefully monitor the amount you include in your training programs.  Training at your lactate threshold or above (i.e. hard repeats or extended efforts at race pace or above) is very hard on your body, and can take anywhere from 24 to 36 hours to fully recover from. This type of workout should not be attempted until you have done several months of training, and have a good base of strength and endurance.  Once you do start to incorporate speed work in your training, remember that it follows the law of diminishing returns, so use it sparingly.”

“Swimming, cycling and running are key elements of any triathlon training program, but there are several other important component that are often overlooked by athletes.  One of these overlooked components is flexibility training. You may not think of flexibility as important as the rest of the training associated with triathlon, but it can play a big role in your performance.  Not only will tight muscles limit your range of motion, but they can also lead to injuries that will stop your training altogether.  You should try to include a flexibility training session into every day.  The best time is immediately after a workout, while your muscles are still warm. You may not see immediate visible results such as increased range of motion, but you will feel it in the pool, on the bike, and on the run, plus you will avoid the visits to the doctor.”

“Remember that you probably didn’t get here alone. There are most likely several other people who made sacrifices to help you in your training and racing.  You must consider the impact of training on others in your life and work to ensure their long-term support of your goals.  Towards this end it is important to thank your support team and let them know how much you appreciate them; whether it be mum/dad, coach, teacher, partner, friend. They are all vital to you performing your best on race day.”

“Every athlete should keep a daily training log, as it can help you learn about yourself as an athlete.  Spending the 10-15 minutes a day on your log will allow you to evaluate your training over specific time periods and make adjustments if needed, evaluate your health to watch for signs of overtraining, compare results of similar workouts over time, and to analyze race results. The log should include details for the day’s workouts and information on your personal well-being.  The session details to record are: distance, time, intensity, heart rates, route/environment, etc.   Health information to be recorded is resting heart rate, weight, sickness, injury, fatigue level, stress level, and hours of sleep.  These can be ranked on a scale of 1-10, or be a yes/no answer.
Note: There are some good logs on the market, but it is easy to make your own on a spreadsheet program; then if you are really keen you can take all the information and graph it out (which will show certain trends).”

“The exit of the swim is one point where a lot of time can be made on those athletes around you.  Many people are tired from the swim and they relax and start to think about the upcoming cycle portion.  There are a few tricks you can use to leapfrog past them and into transition.  As soon as you reach a point in the swim that your hand can touch the bottom you should stand up.  It is probably too deep to run here, but you can do a few dolphin dives until it is shallow enough to run.  Once out of the water, start running and then either remove your goggles and cap (for a non-wetsuit swim), or just move your goggles up on your forehead and start to take off your wetsuit as you head towards transition.”

“Swimming is the triathlon discipline that requires the most effort technically.  A swimmer with good technique uses much less energy than a swimmer with poorer technique who swims with more strength.  The goal of a swimmer is to maximize the propulsion force generated by their limbs, while minimizing the resistance created by their body as it passes through the water.  There are five distinct parts to the mechanics of front crawl (otherwise known as freestyle) that must be mastered in order to be become a technically efficient swimmer: body position, head position, leg action, arm action, and breathing.  Each one of these can be broken into smaller components, and taking the time in the early season to work on them individually with specific drills will pay off with big dividends later on.”

“In any triathlon where the swim is in open water you will have to deal with swimming in a pack.  Unfortunately pack swimming doesn’t enjoy the same level of organization as cycling in a pack.  There can be people everywhere around you, and it can get messy.  The key is to remain calm, find a fast pair of feet to follow, and limit the amount of contact you have with others.  Swimming directly behind, or on the hip of another swimmer can decrease your work output by as much as 20%.  Stay as close as possible to the swimmer in front to maximize the benefit.  Contact of any type will slow you down and tire you out though, so if the action is getting too rough it may be better to get to the outside and swim in clear water even if it means going without a draft.”

Perhaps no training tool has been as revolutionary as the heart rate monitor.  Since their introduction over 15 years ago, heart rate monitors have given athletes huge advantages by providing an efficient tool for gauging the use of metabolic energy.   I recommend buying a heart rate monitor, and using it regularly.  With the influx of manufacturers into this market in recent years, it is easy to pick up a high quality monitor at a reasonable price. Whether you are training alone or with a big group of people a heart rate monitor can be an effective training tool.  Simon Whitfield uses his heart rate monitor to give him instant, and accurate feedback on his intensity during his workouts to ensure he is working at his prescribed intensity.  He also uses it as a way to monitor fatigue levels every morning, and to review training data he has downloaded into his computer from past workouts.  A monitor can also be particularly useful in a group setting where your competitive nature urges you to keep up with the others, as it will help you train at the intended intensity of the workout instead of your group’s pace.  A heart rate monitor could very well be the most valuable piece of training equipment you ever purchase.

You can get plenty of tips from coaches and training partners about technique, but it is sometime hard to understand what they are saying until you actually see yourself.  This is why I recommend getting some video analysis done if you are serious about improving your technique in any of the three sports of triathlon.  Your coach, an outside professional, a family member, or even yourself and a tripod can tape you while swimming in a pool, cycling on a trainer, or running on a treadmill/track.  Make sure to get footage from different angles (front, side, back) and optimally some underwater footage for swimming, so that there is lots of information to work with.  Go over the footage with a coach, as they will be able to point out any problems, and use the pictures to form a visual of your self.  This will help you see understand the comments better, and give you some ideas about what you need to work on.

Everyone responds differently to similar forms of training.  One athlete may need to focus on training speed and power, while another may need more endurance training.  Yet, on race day, the two may perform equally.  Your training must be specific to your physical needs and not to your training partners.  For example, Greg Bennett responds better to long workouts just below his threshold, while his training partner, Simon Whitfield, excels in short, speed sessions done above threshold.  Avoid comparing your training program and workouts to others, as your training progress is based on your individual requirements.  A group-training program that tries to train everyone in the same fashion will not give positive results to everyone, but on the other hand doing all your training alone may make it hard to push yourself.  Instead try to include a mixture of group and individual workouts in your program that will maximize the benefits and avoid the problems associated with each type of training.

So you are a triathlete and you think of yourself as a fit person.  When invited to play a game of squash/soccer/basketball/etc. you accept assuming it will be a breeze and you’ll run circles around everyone.  You may outlast them all in the game, but the next day you will pay for it.  This seemingly strange occurrence is the result of a principle called the specificity of training.  The specific training of endurance athletes is such that muscle fibers adapt to performing the same repetitive task and do not like to deviate from the normal patterns.  As a triathlete, your muscles work constantly at moving yourself forward at fairly even intensities.  Any intense activity that includes vertical, lateral, quick movements are going to tax your muscles in new ways, and soreness, or strains are inevitable.  Don’t forego alternate activities, but participate with moderate intensity or be prepared for some sore aching muscles.

If you are an avid multisport athlete, chances are that that you will be traveling by plane, train or automobile to at least one race per season.  As any experienced traveling triathlete will tell you, there are a number of obstacles that you may confront that could prevent a smooth trip.  Things like broken or lost bicycles, small rental cars, strange food, or unexpected weather are just some of the joys of travel.  These things can cause extra stress that you would rather not deal with on coming up to a big race, so be prepared for anything.  Make a checklist of all the equipment you can’t do without and consult an athlete with travel experience for travel tips and items to bring in case of emergencies.  If flying, bring everything you need to race in your carry-on, except your bike of course, that way if your luggage is lost or delayed, you will at least be able to swim and run.  If something does go wrong on your trip, stay positive by focusing on all of the training you have done. You will not lose or gain fitness in the few days leading up to a race, and almost nothing that happens can take away from the work you have done.  With a little preparation and a positive outlook you will be able to tackle anything thrown your way.

A triathlete must also deal with the challenge of swimming in the open water for most of their events.  This environment requires a whole new set of skills that should be developed for you to perform at your best.  We will be focusing on several skills in the tips over the next few weeks.
* Rounding Buoys:  Going around the buoys can be the roughest part of the swim and the best place to be is either on the far inside (shortest distance to the buoy) or the far outside (longer distance around the buoy but much less fighting.  Swim as close as possible to the buoy, and then as you come up next to it, use your outside arm to push out from the midline of your body as you stroke.  Kick hard and keep your head to keep a level body position, but curve your body while you’re on your side and your back is to the buoy to ensure a tight corner.  Take a few short sprint strokes, and continue to kick hard heading out of the turn and you will put some time on your competitors.

* Swim Starts:  In short course racing the first 30 seconds of the swim really make a difference.  It is very important to train your body to start quickly in a race so as to get ahead of the crowd, and hopefully onto some faster feet.  A slower swimmer can gain an advantage with a good start, by getting in the draft of group of faster swimmer or even find some calm water out front while everyone else is slugging it out behind you slowing each other down.  Practice the start you will be using coming up to your race.  Run-ins at a wave pool or beach, dive starts, waist level starts, deep-water starts, etc.

* Pack Swimming:  You could be a great swimmer but if you don’t master open water swimming skills, you’re swimming expertise could be sapped.  Practice swimming in groups in open water.  Do hard repeats in tight packs and learn to relax and stay composed.  Practice swimming on someone else’s hip or feet without slowing them down or pissing them off.  The more natural you can feel in these situations the more time you will save.  Get good at them and you could find yourself running to your bike with swimmers who are much faster than you in the pool.

* Exits: The exit of the swim is one point where a lot of time can be made on those athletes around you.  Many people are tired from the swim, and they relax and start to think about the upcoming cycle portion, and you can use a few tricks to leapfrog past them and into transition.  As soon as you reach a point in the swim that your hand can touch the bottom you should stand up.  It is probably too deep to run here, but you can do a few dolphin dives until it is shallow enough to run.  Run out of the water, and then either remove your goggles and cap (for a non-wetsuit swim), or just move your goggles up on your forehead and start to take off your wetsuit as you continue to run to transition.
Lactic acid tolerance training is particularly demanding and taxing on the human body. At the cellular level it can damage the muscle cell wall causing leakage of certain enzymes into the blood. The micro-trauma to the muscle cell walls can if insufficiently healed cause larger more serious injuries.  When it is used appropriately it can push the anaerobic threshold higher enabling a greater intensity of exercise to be maintained longer. It can also enhance the body’s tolerance to working hard with high levels of lactic acid present. Since this is something that is likely to happen in race situations it is a worthwhile pursuit.  On the other hand, when it is used inappropriately the risk of injury, illness, and training based apathy as a result of fatigue, rises greatly.  Many athletes will often do this type of training too frequently, but you should focus on the quality, not quantity in these sessions.

Transitions.
* When exiting the swim portion of the triathlon, have a list in your head for what you need to do for a fast transition.  Once you are on dry land, first put your goggles on your forehead.  Don’t take them off or you’ll have restricted use of one hand.  As you’re running, get your arms out of your wetsuit and pull it down to your waist.  Once you’ve reached your bike, pull your wetsuit past your knees and then stand with one leg while pulling the other leg off and vise versa.  Have your helmet on your handlebars, put it on, ATTATCH THE CHINSTRAP, grab your bike, and go.  If you need shades have them attached to your handlebars or water bottle and put them on once have started riding.  Keep transition as simple as possible because after a crazy gut-wrenching swim your body and mind may not be working at full capacity.  You should practice your transitions during any open water swim workout, so that on race day you will leave your disheartened competitors behind.

* Mounting the bike is probably the trickiest part of transition.  It is also the part where practice can make the most difference.  Learn how to mount barefoot with your shoes clipped in.  The Hi-Ho Silver is the fastest way to mount and I would encourage you to master it.  Some triathletes will have elastics attached from their pedal to their frame so that the pedals will stay stationary until they begin to pedal.  The Hi-Ho silver is performed by running along side your bike with your hands on the handlebars.  After crossing the mount line, lunge off of your outside leg, and swing the inside one over the saddle and land in riding position.  Place your feet on the pedals and hammer.  Don’t put your feet in your shoes until you have enough speed, or until you’ve established a good position.  When putting your feet in slide your foot in place, then reach down and pull on the heel tab of the shoe until your heel is in, then do the strap.  Pedal hard some more, then do the other foot.  You can practice this anytime, and may want to try it first on grass.  It may only save you 10 seconds, but why not go 10 sec faster without any increased effort?  Plus, it looks cool and you feel like a real pro when you ace it.

* The second transition is usually much less complicated than the first, but there are a few tips that will make it go even smoother.  Dismount coming into the line and run your bike to your spot.  Hook the handlebars, grab your run shoes, and pull them on.  Make sure you have glued down the insoles of your racing flats, so that you can put your bare, sweaty feet into them without pushing the insoles into the toe.  Also put elastic laces into your flats and leave them tied up.  Play with the tension to find the perfect fit that allows you to just grab them and pull them on, without being too tight or too loose.  Once your shoes are on, you should take off your helmet, grab your belt/hat, and hightail it out of transition; leaving everyone else in your dust.


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