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Complete guide (with Video) to swimming technique and training

By Alun Woodward, Online Triathlon Coach,

While the swim portion of the ironman may only represent 10 percent of the race, it does play a significant role in the outcome. The time taken to exit the water is just a fraction of the whole picture of performance— the state in which we exit the water and how much energy is expended during the swim is critical to the overall performance at the end of the day.

There are two key elements to the swim: technique and fitness. Different combinations of these elements can lead to very different results:

* technique plus fitness can equal a great swim and great race
* technique with no fitness can be a great swim but terrible race
* bad technique but great fitness can lead to a slower swim but great race.

I want to look at training for the swim by separating the topics of technique and fitness into two articles and then show how we can bring these together for your best race ever in a final article.


Swimming is a very technical sport and, as such, is hard for the brain to cope with. Professional swimmers spend hours per day in the pool developing their techniques and searching for the mystical feel for the water. They will perform endless drills to fine-tune small details such as hand position, finger position, timing of the kick, etc. Even with all this focus on technique for races lasting just 2-4 minutes, they are unable to hold perfect form in the latter stages.

As triathletes we simply do not have the training time available to do the above. On top of that, we are also racing in the water for at least 48 minutes in an ironman— there is no way we are going to maintain a perfect technique for this length of swim.

As triathletes we must look at the technique we need to cope with race conditions and then build a simple form that is easy to perform and maintain for the duration of the event — a technique that will not fall apart under duress.

Swimming in open water with lots of athletes around us requires a stroke that is stable and not easily disturbed by knocks and currents. To do this we need a slightly wider hand entry than we do in a pool stroke; the hands should enter the water slightly wide of the head,  shoulder width, and right in front of the head. Please check out the video below.

If we gently place our hands into the water and this water is moving sideways or back against us, our hand is going to be stopped or moved. We need to ensure that we hit the water hard and thrust the hand straight forward through the water with force to full extension. The hand should enter the water at an angle of about 30 degrees and push forward under the surface, always moving slightly down as it moves forward. The key here is thrusting the hand into the water—the more force used, the faster the hand reaches full extension and the less chance for thinking.

Once the hand reaches full extension, we need to get in position to pull. To do this, we keep the hand in position and kick the elbow outwards and slightly towards the surface – this brings the hand in position to powerfully pull straight back.

Following these key points it is possible to build a very stable and effective technique for triathlon swimming, summarized simply as:


This technique is easy to develop and given a week of practice most triathletes can master these skills to a reasonable level of efficiency. Have a friend take a video of you to check that you are doing everything correctly, don’t look for speed now but simply focus on the three points and learn how it feels when you are doing this accurately.


Swim tools can really help speed up this learning process. An extra-large set of paddles will help create stability in the water and they force better movement patterns because they make it hard to pull through the water. The TYR catalyst paddle was designed to enhance elbow bend and bring your hands/arms into a better position to pull.

Using a pull buoy aids flotation and removes the focus on kicking and body position, which in turn allows us to concentrate better on what the arms are doing!


This technique is easy to learn as it keeps things simple: focusing on doing the three points mentioned above correctly removes many problems and develops traits that other technique-training systems spend hours trying to establish but never really succeed in as the movement patterns are too complex.

Spend your time learning to feel when the technique is correct. Make some key points that are easy for you to remember and use those as a cue when your form starts fall apart to get back on track. These key points will always be individual so feel what is right for you — create a picture with each one and set these in your mind.

Personally I think of the sound the hand makes as it whooshes through the water to full extension. Then at full extension, the elbow twitches out and towards the surface to start the pull back. Simply repeating this during a swim ensures every stroke is a better stroke. As a bonus it’s a great distraction from the pain and effort in hard sets!

The process of learning this technique should not take longer than a week to 10 days. Once established it’s time to start work on building your fitness using your new technique!


In the first part of the article I talked about the process of developing a technique for optimal open-water swimming—here, I want to look at swim fitness and how we can build it.

Swim fitness for triathlon is not about getting out of the water as fast as possible—though of course this is a major part of swim fitness. Instead, we want to think about exiting the water both fast and fresh, a point many, many triathletes miss. The swim is a relatively short part of the race but it can have a huge impact on the rest of your race depending on the impact it has on your body.

Aside from all this, we should also look at the swim as one of the safest ways to gain aerobic endurance fitness; swimming is low impact and as such safe to train with volume without injury, especially when compared with running.

Pro racing offers many examples of triathletes who swim poorly but have great races. When we follow their blogs / twitter feeds, these athletes seem to swim incredible volume as part of their program, without improving much in terms of swim time. What I notice as a coach, though, is that these athletes always tend to produce the strongest bike and run performances. In races they get on the bike and they are on it from the start, whereas a lot of the front-pack athletes tend to be tired and need 20-30km to get into the ride.

With the dynamic of racing today, you cannot afford to lose time in that first 30km so those front-pack riders who left the water tired have to suffer and end up using way too much energy, which comes back to bite them later in the race.
The slower but fitter swimmers behind them, on the other hand, exit the swim and are racing the bike right away—riding fast and comfortably, as opposed to overextending themselves, and as a result they have a great ride and an even better run.

The above shows very clearly that triathlon is not just three individual sports but a sport all of its own; the impact of training mix and fitness in the three disciplines affects the final race result in a huge way!



When designing a swim program, we need to consider several factors: the distance we need to cover on race day, how the sessions fit into our overall program, while the elements we will face in our event are also important.


To start off, I like to plan a race-specific session. For ironman this is going to be a long endurance swim with some harder work in the back-end of the session. Many athletes seem to struggle over the final 1km in ironman and can lose a lot of time here, despite their effort increasing greatly. This is due to a lack of conditioning and the fact that most triathletes swim sessions in one-hour intervals, sets of about 3km for a good ironman swimmer.

For an endurance swim, I want to aim for 4-5km, or 90min, and make this a strength workout so I will use a pull buoy for a large part of the session and add paddles towards the second half to further increase the difficulty, just as on race day.
Paddles have another important role to play—they also improve technique. So as we get tired by adding the paddles, we ensure more good strokes while also boosting the difficulty of the swim, a win-win situation in this session.

In the final part of the swim we do some short ALL OUT sprints to get the body used to fully activating muscle fibres while fatigued. This will result in a higher level of endurance and an ability to maintain form and speed in the closing kilometre on race day.

The long swim tends to lead to a lot of fatigue in athletes, simply because we do not tend to do them. We think nothing of going for a 2-hour run or a 2-hour bike, but a 2-hour swim is a big ask!

Scheduling the long swim is then important; avoid doing this before another hard session as we can expect to feel very tired after.


This would be a shorter swim with a lot of hard work. Any specifics we need for race day I would like to include in this session. I like to use changes in pace within this workout to teach athletes how to control and check their stroke. An example would be swimming 300m intervals with an increase of pace every 100m—watching our times we can see if the effort is replicated on the clock.

Often an athlete will swim the same time for a moderate and hard interval as they are not able to hold technique under the duress of a hard effort. Through intervals as above we can learn to control effort and make sure technique is not falling apart.

I would use the reducing set at the start of the session, and then move into a set of hard short intervals in the back-end of the set to see if the athlete can hold times and form for effort.

Depending on placement of the workout in an athlete’s week, I may add paddles to the hard efforts to ensure better technique is maintained. Also, if an athlete is going to be aerobically tired or has a harder session to do later in the day, paddles will make the swim more about strength, and less about high heart rates and breathing. Remember what I said at the start, training mix is very important!

An example set:

* choice warmup
* 3×300 pull @ 100 easy – 100 moderate – 100 hard + 1min rest
* 9x100m hard pull/ paddles + 30s rest
* choice cooldown

We can further advance this set by making the hard intervals at the end specific to race conditions. For example, breathe every second interval with head up and looking forward for two full strokes. This would be appropriate if the goal/next race offers wavy conditions such as Hawaii. Lifting the head longer gives more opportunity for good navigation but uses different muscles, so these need to be trained.

If the technique is good, the times for the intervals will be the same—if not, the clock will let you know pretty quickly!


Depending on the availability of training time in the week, further swims will be added to the program. These swims would have a reason, always building fitness, but used for specific fitness gains or recovery around other sessions!

In conclusion, we need to stop looking at swimming as a means of getting to the bike and instead consider the whole race picture. We need to ensure we get fast and have the fitness to swim fast while leaving the water fresh; this means we need training that is different to that of a swimmer who has to swim very hard for a short duration and can give everything for this duration. Triathlon is triathlon and we need to start training that way if we want the best results!


In the first part of the article in this series about swim technique, I talked about the process of developing a technique for optimal open-water swimming. In the second part, I discussed swim fitness and ways to build it. Here, I consider the reasons we use drills and when to use them.

When we think about swim training/coaching, we always think drills, drills, drills. Many top-end swim coaching companies base their whole business around drills—their own special drills—to produce the best stroke. I want to look at why we use drills and when we should use drills as I think they are often overused.

Firstly, a drill is breaking down the stroke into its component parts and refining movement patterns to enhance the overall stroke and so improving performance. Blindly prescribing drills to every swimmer, though, is not the route to go in my opinion; we need to see each individual athlete to assess what they are doing wrong and what needs to be fixed. We can use video footage of the swim stroke to gauge any potential problems and, if there are any, then go about fixing faults—if something is already working then there is no need to try and fix it. In fact, trying to improve something that already works fine can be very detrimental to the athlete.

When we train in the pool or open water, the aim is to perform as many good strokes as possible. If our technique is solid and we can repeat it then we do not need to be doing drills to change anything—in essence every stroke is a drill! This, though, is rarely the case and as triathletes we have days when we are so tired that our technique can just be terrible and needs a little stimulus to get back to good pathways.

In essence, the body gets lazy and wants to switch on the least amount of muscle to perform any task in order for the fatigued muscles to recover.

This “laziness” causes us to swim very poorly compared with when we are fresh but we can override the brain by performing drills that force muscle activation. So if you get in the pool and feel bad, your stroke timing feels off and power is low, then you need to do something about it: stop your session and perform a drill to fix what’s wrong and then get back into your workout.

It may only take 2-4 x 50m to fix the issue and you can then have a great session.

As an example I like to use what I call the power drill on days when I just feel wrong in the water: this is a great drill that sets stroke timing and also activates all swim-related muscle fibres.


Push off the wall on your front, head down and using a light kick, arms are always under the water—elbows and upper arms at the surface and wide of the body. Now pull one arm forward and the other arm back, so you are fighting one arm against the other. It is important that you always lead with the elbow so when pulling the hand forward from the back, your hand is pointing to the bottom of the pool all the way with the elbow leading the hand until it passes the shoulder—from this point the hand comes forward to full extension out front. The hand pulling back does the opposite so the hand comes down while the elbow stays forward of the shoulder and then all back together.


When you master this drill, you should hardly be moving up the pool!

When we perform a drill in training it is important that we do the drill and then immediately swim after. This is helping the brain associate the drill to the full technique. So my advice: if you feel off, stop your session and perform 2-4 x50m, swimming 25m drill and then 25m moderate effort full stroke.

While the power drill is my go-to drill for most athletes right now (depending on the athlete and the issue), other drills can be used to fix specific problems.


I also recommend using drills when you are injured or notice a sudden pain. With swimming this is very common in the shoulder around the rotator cuff. When we swim with a technique that goes against our structure we can easily get inflammation in this area and it is very painful. The standard advice given to athletes is to stop using paddles or swimming until the problem goes away. This can take a very long time and not really addresses the issue so the pain is likely to return once back to normal swimming.

Shoulder problems occur easily in triathletes as we have stiff shoulders from all the riding we do. We need to swim with a style that takes this into account.

So if you develop shoulder pain, or if you already have, then a couple of drills will go a long way to solving the problem. The issue is normally bringing the recovery arm too close to the body and too high above the water—to remedy this we need to recover wider over the water while keeping the hand closer to the water.

DRILL ONE – hand drag

Simply swim as normal but the recovery hand must stay in the water all the way to the wrist—the only way to do this is by staying wide of the body and when you get this right you will instantly feel less stress on the shoulder.

DRILL TWO – finger trail

This is a follow-on drill from the first, so now the recovery hand is just above the water and the finger tips are still touching the water on the recovery.

If you have shoulder problems, these drills should be performed in your warm-up before every swim; if you suddenly develop pain during a session, you should stop and perform some drills before continuing. As above, I recommend just 3-4x50m of each drill, swimming 25m drill and then 25m moderate.

Drills have become an integral part of swimming and certainly have their place when learning to swim. After that, drills must be very specific to the athlete’s needs and performed only when needed. As triathletes we have limited swim-training time and we need to make the most of this for fitness gains. Swim fitness is very important when racing triathlon, as your condition (much more important than time) leaving the water affects the rest of the race. The focus of your swimming should be on taking as many good strokes as possible and using drills can aid this process at times.


Alun Woodward, ironguides Online Coach 


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The Secret Training Plan

Recently we had a new sign up for our monthly subscription training plan and on the same day, we received an email requesting a refund. The athlete said the reason was that he saw nothing special compared to previous training plans he had used before, the workouts were simple and therefore he was not satisfied.

It reminded me of another situation in which two of my athletes, who were friends, started training together but were having different results in terms of performance. The athlete who was not improving as much asked me if I had sent a special training plan to his buddy.

I often also get questioned about the type of training my high performance athletes are on. What’s so special about their training that makes them perform so well, win their age groups, qualify to the Ironman World Championships and so on.

What’s the secret training plan that these athletes are on?

This type of question or the attitude towards feeling that you are missing some secret recipe also means you are admitting that there are some special training sessions, a kind of secret training plan. Some athletes have the privilege to have access to that, making them faster.

But it is important to understand that if we want to improve our swimming, get stronger on the bike or have a more solid run, we need to pursue these improvements by increasing our training load, building a good consistency and getting the “right mix” of training. These are the best starting points and a balance of these things will guarantee your improvements. The truth is, there is no secret training plan, as they simply do not exist!

In 10 years of triathlon, I had the opportunity to meet many successful coaches and when I joined ironguides I came across a methodology somewhat controversial in our sport. Part of our training approach can be similar to some other coaches around the world, but certainly the most controversial is Australian Brett Sutton, coach of Olympic Champion Nicola Spirig, 4-time Ironman World Champion Chrissie Wellington among others. Brett is arguably the most successful trainer of triathlon in the history of this sport.

One of my colleagues and co-coach Vinnie Santana, was coached by Brett and says most of his strength is in the way he motivates his athletes. He makes them believe that what they are doing is the right thing and that there was no limit to what they could achieve. Brett has the skill to change how his athletes think. The training itself was certainly hard work, but it was very unsophisticated and repetitive based on some of the training plans Vinnie shared with me that included some of his own sub 9 hour Ironman performance and Team TBB Kona build (Chrissie’s first win). What I learned from this is that the belief in what you are doing is more important than what you are actually doing.


Behind a victory in a race there are no secrets, but YEARS of consistent practice-Photo Leo Moreira 2011 Ironman Brazil champion in 9h05min, Leo has been an athlete for almost three decades.

Before Ironman 2014 I had many conversations with some top coaches to gather information on how I could improve my own marathon since it was my main limiting factor in races. In one of those conversations, I was told that increasing run volume while pulling back on intensity could be an option since I was recovering from a foot injury. I also had the opportunity to quickly talk to Ironman World champion Chris McCormack and asked him about this, he told me to decrease the intensity and avoid running on very hard surfaces. With these two ideas in mind I designed my new ten week program for the race. During this period, I saw some athletes doing and talking about different things, but I never questioned what I was doing or was annoyed. I had chosen a path and moved on. Pick and stick as they say. The result was that I was able to do my best Ironman marathon, fifteen minutes faster than my previous best time and this led me to my personal best time.

Despite comparing different realities of an age grouper triathlete and professionals, the message remains the same, the secret is having the knowledge and the understanding of why you are doing what you are doing. That’s the secret! Belief is essential in triathlon. Workouts or sets are only the second piece of the puzzle. When you find these key sessions, place them in your training program, work with a coach to do this, and most of all, try to understand why these sessions are important to you. When I think of all the sessions that I or any athlete of mine is doing, none is more important than the other, but I understand why we do each. All sessions that I, my athletes or professional athletes do, can be adopted by each of you, but when, where and how, is what is really important. Get the “right mix” is the key to better results over time. But we must be patient and understand that these results do not appear from night to day, instead, are built over months or years with a lot of consistency, discipline and hard work.

We never knowfor sure when we are getting enough when it comes to triathlon training. Be open to change and be prepared to try new things in your journey to become a better athlete. In this sport, it is not as difficult to improve as it seems. Often the biggest problems is not worrying about the process, but the result.

Enjoy your training!

Rodrigo Tosta

ironguides is the leading Lifestyle Facilitation company for athletes of all abilities. We provide coaching and training services, plans and programs, as well training education, health and fitness products to help you learn and live a healthy lifestyle. Come get fit with one of our monthly training subscriptions, event-specific training plans, coaching services, or a triathlon training camp in an exotic location! ironguides also provides Corporate Health services including Corporate Triathlons, Healthy Living retreats and speaking engagements. At ironguides, your best is our business!

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Monthly Training plans (for all levels, or focused on one discipline): Only USD39/months

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Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

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Race Day – Planning for Success

By Alun Woodward – online coach

Finally race season has arrived and all your hard training over the winter months is going to be put to the test, we have all heard the saying winter miles equals summer smiles. While this saying does hold true to an extent in order to make all your effort over the winter come to fruition a little bit of focus on planning now will go a long way towards making your races successful.

So many times an athlete can do everything right in training and yet their race season can be summed up as consistent bad luck – how many times have you heard a fellow competitor complaining of bad luck? The bad luck always tends to be in the form or nutritional problems, mechanical problems, pacing problems and the list can go on. While there are of course going to be cases of bad luck most times its more an issue of bad planning and preparation for the race.

Racing triathlon is a lot more than simply swim bike and run, we need to make sure the fine details are looked after in order to enjoy our fitness to the max.

Equipment is one of the biggest issues i see time and time again and the problems present in many forms.

Heading to those early season races we never truly know what the weather is going to do on race day, do not trust the forecast as they can be wrong! Pack for all outcomes, don’t be that athlete running around the expo searching for cold weather gear as you have just packed for a warm race. Bad weather is not bad luck, not being dressed for the weather is your own fault.

Aside from weather issues punctures are the biggest mechanical issue that destroy peoples races, yes a puncture is bad luck to an extent but we can go a long way to reducing the issue, making sure you look at course and environment and weather leading up to the race can help you make sensible tire choices to reduce your risk of punctures. If your racing late spring early summer and the local area has just seen a lot of stormy wet weather then you can bet a lot of debris has been washed onto the roads – even if the roads are great quality this debris increases risk of puncture and suggests you should use a more puncture resistant tire over slick pure racing tires.

Other issues on the tire front could be the bike course passing farm land that is heavily in use at that time of year, hedgerows that have recently been cut placing thorns onto the roads.

When we put the time commitment into training and financial commitment into racing big events with potential qualification at stake then thinking about your tire choice for the race is very important. Andy Potts finished 4th at the Kona World Championships in 2015 riding ultra protective tires over the without question much faster slick racing tires he could have chosen. There has been a lot of talk over the fact this choice could have cost him the win but a puncture on faster tires is a lot more likely and that could have cost him a lot more time or even a DNF.

While there are many more mechanical examples something coming loose is the other major complaint – and once again this is not really bad luck more a case of the athlete did not check the bike over before putting into into transition. Travel and the vibrations involved will loosen screws, also the change in temperature and air pressure will have an effect on the tightness of screws so make sure you check everything over before placing your bike into transition – just because you have had no issue for months does not mean you will not have on race day, the extra tension and strain on the bike during a race will cause any loose screw to lead to a major problem.

For those using electric gears – travel with your charging cables and make sure to charge the battery before your race – amazing how many times recently i have read that peoples gears suddenly ran out of power on race day!

One you have done your best to ensure mechanical issues are minimised to the maximum effect you need to look at other areas that could effect your race. The next big issue is nutrition, how you fuel your body is very important and even without too much thought when your home you will have the bases covered with what your eating and when but when your suddenly put into a new environment away from home the same food choices are not always available. Packing your favourite or regular snacks and scouting out race location for restaurants that serve the food you like to eat pore race goes a long way to solving any potential issues. Don’t just rock up to your race location and expect top find what you want, not only then is finding a restaurant that serves what you want an issue also you have to remember there are going to be a lot of other athletes in town looking to eat the same thing so restaurants may well be booked or out of your typical athlete dishes by the time you get served!


Race nutrition is also important, if you have a favourite energy drink, gel, bar, salt tablet make sure you have plenty of these to travel with to the race, amazing again how often the jar is suddenly empty when you go to your first race and you only notice with one day to go – while your favourite tri shops will do their best to get your product delivered in time its better to have taken care of this a little while out from the race not 1-2 days before you travel. NEVER count on the race expo having that your looking for – always take your own, a different product on race day can make all the difference between a good race and a terrible race – also if your travelling to a foreign country to race you need to be aware that the same product can be made with different ingredients – a mars bar in the UK is very different to a Mars bar in the USA!

While mechanical and nutritional issues are the main things a lot of athletes overlook there are many more things we can think about in order to maximise race results. Sleep quality before the event is important, sleeping in a foreign environment is unsettling for the brain, most people do not sleep well the first night in a hotel, maybe travelling one or 2 days extra before the race will ensure your sleeping better and therefore fresher and more prepared to race come the big day. Making sure you have race kit and shoes ready weeks before the race too – don’t remember you need to print kit the week of the race as its unlikely you will be able to get this done at such short notice.

As we head into the race season spend a little time making sure you have everything ready to race, put effort into your planning to make sure your race day goes as smoothly as possible – booking flights and a hotel is not the start and end of your planning!

Enjoy your training.

Train with ironguides!

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Half Ironman (USD95 for 16-week plan)

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Does Speed Kill?


It’s that all important and exciting time of the year again for all of us, the race season is well and truly done now and hopefully you have all had a period of rest and chilling out letting the body recover from the stresses of training and racing. This time of year is exciting as we are looking forward to new goals and setting a training plan up to help achieve them.

I see a lot of athletes at this time and it amazes me still that they all talk about building a solid aerobic fitness base over the winter as the first step, it really frustrates me that this idea has become so set in peoples mindsets and I see it as the main hurdle people need to get over in order to progress their fitness and really step forward towards their goals.

I truly believe at this time of year starting a program that speed and strength are the main areas we should all be focusing on. In this article I want to look at speed and take away your fear and look at how we can use speed to accelerate progression and also prevent injuries in the long run.


Firstly when I say speed people immediately think sprinting and then injury, over stretching and pushing the boundaries with speed sure does bring a huge injury risk and this is the case whenever sprinting is put into a program.  When I say speed though I am not talking about sprinting I am simply talking about faster paced work.

When we are racing and training for Ironman, speed training is actually not going to be that fast at all as the race speed is so slow, I would then class anything above race pace as being speed work.

Humans really are creatures of habit and our muscles are part of that, if we always train just one speed we will get good at one speed and shock the body when we try to do something different which can easily lead to injury. Doing weeks of base training to prepare the body for faster work actually therefore is counterintuitive, all it is really doing is preparing the body to really not like speed! So if we follow the age old pattern of building base over the winter and then adding speed in the final weeks before the race season starts we are going to be in a situation where speed kills performance through injury.


I think the true sense would be to have elements of speed built into every week so the body is used to the movement patterns of going fast and the muscles have trained and adapted to speed so we are not putting an unknown stress on them suddenly as race season dawns.

Also when we train slow we only use a very small percentage of muscle fibres within a given muscle, if we are constantly training one speed we will continue to only train this small percentage of muscle fibres leaving the others untrained and unprepared. When we are racing, and especially in prolonged endurance events such as Ironman, we are going to fatigue our muscles and if we have only trained a small percentage of our muscle fibres then as soon as these get tired we have nowhere else to go. By training with speed we train a fuller spectrum of our muscle fibres and give the body something to fall back on when our endurance dominant fibres are too fatigued to take the workload.

Let’s look at some sessions that are still endurance based but have an element of speed built in that will pay back come race day.

Endurance ride with short sprints

So one way we can use speed to train more muscle fibre is to add in short all out sprints early on in an endurance ride, we can look at it this like flicking a light switch on. If we just go out and ride easy our body is lazy and will just use a small percentage of muscle fibre to perform the task. By adding in a small set of sprints we flick a switch and activate all fibres and then when we go back to easy endurance riding the load is shared over more fibres thus getting a much more productive training effect. I am sure you have all experienced this at some time when out training due to terrain, say you have a hard short hill that requires a big effort to get over – you may have been feeling tired and lethargic before the hill but suddenly once over and back on the flat you have a lot more power and energy – this is because you have switched on more muscle fibres to get over the hill and they will now continue to work to share the workload on the flat making you feel stronger and more energetic.

So if your endurance ride is 4 hours let’s look to ride 30minutes easy and then put in a short set of sprints, 10 second sprints are enough to get the muscles working without leading to any real fatigue. Ride 8×10 seconds all out allowing your cadence to accelerate during the 10s to maximum and then ride very easy for 1 minute 50 seconds before starting your next sprint. If you ride in a group or with a friend you can add a little fun to this by sprinting for landmarks, choose something close as it is all about that initial acceleration that activated the muscle fibres we want working!!

Run efficiency

While the above is an example of all out speed I also use a lot of speed work around race pace, by training slightly above race pace we can make our bodies more efficient at movement. Studies have shown that movement efficiency is the key to success in endurance performance. Let’s look at a run session that is focused on efficiency of movement. Let’s say you are looking to race at 12km per hour on the run for the full marathon distance, I would then put a set of short intervals into a weekly program that is based around a speed of 13km/hr. An example would be a treadmill session of 10×400 at 13km/hr with 60seconds easy between. This session will always feel relatively easy but resist the temptation to add speed, over time this is an invaluable session that you will appreciate come race day.

When it comes to using speed training in your program it does not always mean pushing the limits and risking injury, it can be done in a controlled way to really unlock some great advances in your fitness.

Do something different this year in your training and you will be amazed at the progress you can make over doing your regular winter of base miles!

Enjoy your training.

Coach Alun “Woody” Woodward

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