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How and Why to Train Through Races, Instead of Tapering

As we head full on into race season, tapering is the topic on everyone’s mind. Should we taper for every race, how do we recover from the race, and how do we get back to productive training as soon as possible. The process of tapering I have talked about in previous articles. What I want to talk about here is the process of training through smaller, less important races that we use as stepping stones to our BIG races.

We can only really go through a full taper process 2 or 3 times per season without losing fitness—these tapers should ideally be a month or more apart.

For smaller races we do not maintain our full training schedule right up to the race either. Instead we have a mini refresh before the race and train as normal immediately following the race, essentially treating the event as an important training session.


As we head through a training program at ironguides, we have our athletes training with a certain level of fatigue. This fatigue is an insurance policy against going too hard—it allows really good consistent training without the risk of going too hard as the body is too tired to do so!

When we have a small race coming up and we are in full training, the idea is to allow the body to freshen up without dropping all the fatigue and to not allow the body to change its hormonal state to one of deep recovery. With this, you are never going to be fully race sharp but you will be surprised at what you can do on a little fatigue.

I also use this to show athletes how hard they can push their bodies—tired body will not give you that top 5% speed but without that level you can’t blow up so you can really hammer away at your limit without fear of crawling home. This race suffering is a great lesson to take to your main races.

So how do we go about that freshening up?

I like to take the 3 days heading into the race as freshen-up time; any longer and we lose the training pattern and risk the body shutting down and going into deep recovery.

DAY 1: 3 days before the race

This is your day off, but I prefer it to be an active recovery day with just 1 training session, which is best done in a non-weight bearing sport so either swim or bike. The session should be all easy and 40 minutes is the maximum you should do. Listen to your body and just enjoy your training. I personally love to choose a route I know to be around 30 minutes and to not take a watch; BE FREE and feel your body. If you feel like a little more then go for it and if you feel terrible do not push through.


*   easy 40-minute swim or bike

DAY 2 – 2 days before the race

This is an easy aerobic day, training the same hours as normal but the intensity is lower. This maintains fuel burning as normal within the body. This day would normally include a short run and a longer bike. The run would include a short period or set of moderate-pace intervals, while the bike includes a few 10 second ALL OUT sprints to make sure all muscle fibres are activated and kept in motion for the race. During a period of heavy training these 10-second sprints can really refresh the muscles very quickly—at the end of 10 seconds you get a short but intense burn throughout the muscles and this is exactly what is needed to produce a short secretion of growth hormone into the body to accelerate recovery.


*    RUN – 30 minutes with 10 minutes of moderate pace intervals
*    BIKE – 60-90 minutes easy with some 10-second sprints

DAY 3 – 1 day before the race

This is a short training day where we touch on all systems, so a little strength, a little speed and a little tolerance work. It is always good to do a little swim on this day and I prefer the bike also as it’s non-weight bearing and allows for faster recovery than a run session.


*    SWIM – 20 minutes with some short accelerations to above race speed.
*    BIKE – 40 minutes ride with some short all-out intervals and some moderate-paced strength intervals on a climb if possible.


As we are still going to be a little fatigued heading into the race, a good warm-up is essential. This does not need to be fast but, just as in training, sometimes we need 20-30 minutes for the body to wake up, you should also be prepared to not feel great for the first part of the race, just keep positive and keep faith in the fact your body will come around.


This is the important part to maintain consistent training; it is essential you do not stop as soon as you cross the finish line. It’s always tempting, but think that you would never do this after a hard session. Keep mobile, walk around a little or a small bike/ jog as you would after any hard session—remember, you have to think of the race as just a hard training session.

The next day you are right back into your training plan as though you had done a hard session, not a race. This style of training is the reason pro athletes can maintain such good shape all year despite racing almost every weekend; they do not taper for each race and they are straight back into training following the events.

Most ITU athletes will race Sunday, wake up sometimes crazy early on Monday morning to run before traveling home or to the next race. Running at airports etc is all part of the lifestyle to not allow the body to go into rest mode and then on Tuesday it’s back to the hard work. Typically these athletes are back to track intervals on Tuesday, training through the fatigue!

Alun “Woody” Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach – Europe


* * * Your best is our business.™ * * *


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!

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching: Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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Nailing Race Day Nutrition

ironguides coach Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward looks into the importance, and ways, of getting your race day nutrition right.


Race performance is not only about the fitness you have gained through training but it is also about nutrition on the day. Nutrition plays a significant role—get it wrong and all the fitness in the world won’t result in a good race.

Nutrition seems to be a major stumbling block for many athletes come race day, yet is rarely a problem in training. Considering how much we train and how many of our sessions are race specific, it is crazy that nutritional problems are so common in races.

One of the major reasons is that athletes don’t have a plan or, the worst-case scenario, athletes read about some new super product in race week and decide to try it out on race day. There are so many claims and studies out there showing why certain products are better and how they will significantly enhance your performance that we all fall for it and make major changes leading into races.

We need to always take statements about the effectiveness of certain products with a pinch of salt. Looking back over the years, we can see some of the world’s leading nutritional experts claiming one product is the greatest and the result of 20 years of research, before they are working for a new company the following year and are promoting something completely different.

The same goes with following the examples of pro athletes; remember the athletes are sponsored and so are going to promote their sponsors as the greatest and most effective products available to enhance performance. It would be interesting to actually see what they are drinking and eating on race day compared to what they promote!

First steps to making nutrition a non-issue

If all is working well in training, then stick with it and DO NOT CHANGE. Stop reading about nutrition products and articles claiming to know how to get more sugar into your body—the end result of this experimenting is going to be you blowing your race and you’ll be throwing up by the side of the road.

If you always seem to get stomach problems on race day, it’s time to look for a new strategy. One of the big factors in stomach problems seems to be fructose content of sports nutrition products. While studies have shown that a combination of fructose and sucrose in drinks leads to greater quantities of carb absorption and improved results, remember that lab results do not always transfer to race day.

The sole fact that so many athletes are seen throwing up and in stomach distress during races shows quite clearly that manufacturers are not getting this right and there is a lot of bad information out there. We are all different and we all react differently to different products and foods—I believe this comes from genetics, general nutrition through life, and also race intensity.

If you always seem to suffer on race day then firstly consider looking for sports products that contain no fructose and see how you get on. It could be that all your problems are simply coming from the way your body reacts to fructose. Signs to look for include:

* bloating
* nausea
* hunger

There are now numerous products without fructose coming to market and athletes are getting on much better with them in races, so try them out and see how they work for you.


This is a big topic and one that I see as totally individual; some athletes can race well on liquid calories alone and others will blow up no matter how many liquid calories they consume. This is something you need to be practicing in training so that you will know how you are going to respond on race day. Personally I prefer to move from solid food to liquid food as the race progresses.


Protein content in drinks can make a big difference for some athletes. If you are an athlete who always seems to blow up in longer rides or has a large muscle mass, then having protein in your drinks might make a big difference. Experiment with levels up to a 50/50 split and see how you feel—you may not be getting the recommended sugar content but you may feel way better and performance will increase!

Meal replacement drinks

This is one product that I feel is underused in triathlon. Meal replacement drinks have been developed for people suffering nutritional deficiencies, dieters, and also for use in medical circumstances when solid food cannot be taken. A lot of research has gone into these products and the end result can be very useful for triathletes!

Ensure plus is one such drink; it is widely available in the USA and around the world, and I have used it extensively with my athletes. This is a calorie-dense drink but the amount of liquid is small so it’s easy to take on board—works great as a breakfast drink on race day when athletes tend to be too nervous to eat.

Also I have found that having this as the primary drink for the first hour in races makes a big difference to athletes’ performances. Looking at the nutritional information, the calories from sugar are way below that in normal sports drinks and what we would expect to see, but the simple fact is it works and works well!

We tend to forget that races can start out cold and while liquid is not important, calories are. A drink like Ensure will have you topped up with calories while not bloating your system with excess liquid. Later in the race as things heat up and your body has lost more liquid then a traditional sports drink may be more useful.


All the sports-specific food on the market is overwhelming and we tend to think it must be the best for us on race day but in reality real natural food can be the best! There seems to be a movement towards creating your own bars and race-day nutrition that is running down from nutrition used by pro teams in major bike races such as the Tour de France.

Examples of this are your own oat cakes or rice cakes, homemade brownies etc. This is especially going to be appealing for athletes who have certain food allergies or are sensitive to preservatives in pre-packaged products.


It’s an old saying but one that rings true in triathlon! Make sure you make a plan, spend some time to write down your plan and then practice it over some sessions to see how your body reacts—fine tune as you go and by the time you come to race day you will be set and have no nagging doubts in the back of your mind!

Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching: Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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Video: Triathlon’s most efficient running workout – 4 benefits in 1 quick session

A good training plan has the right mix of workouts, specific to the your race, while still developing your general weakness, race day strategy and technique.

Triathlon running can be very different to road racing, when you start your run you are already at a very fatigued level and with an increased heart rate. The technique and training intensity you do when training for a triathlon is different to stand alone training.

I’m typically against very intense run workouts for age groupers, the risks of injury are exponential the faster you go, while the benefits are limited especially for beginner athletes who are barely shuffling on race day.

The below workout, which we call leg speed intervals, is one of my favorites for all levels and what I recommend as still very safe yet intense workout for beginner athletes.

It’s best done on a fast treadmill at 0% grade (learn more about the benefits of a treadmill here) but can also be done at the track or on any flat road.

After a 10-20min build warm up, do

*30 seconds FAST
*30 seconds recovery

Repeat the above 10 to 30 times (depending on your ability and targeted race). Then finish off with a 5-10min cool down


* Build into it. Start with your 10k speed focusing on technique first, then increase it in 0.5kph increments until you reach a point where it becomes very challenging, stay there. Expect some soreness on your hip flexors 24 hours to 48 hours after you are done

*If doing on the road, do a similar approach, start with a conservative intensity, then eventually fatigue will kick in and you will find your rhytm.

*Count your steps, for the 30sec repeats aim for at least 50 steps cycles (one side). Stay as relaxed as you can, engage your core and let the legs do the work


* Time efficient: If done along it takes anywhere in between 30 to 50min. This is also one of our suggested workouts when traveling to stay in shape with limited time

* Improves technique: especially if done off the bike or day after the long bike: it doesnt let the fatigue from the bike slow your cadence down. The equation of triathlon is low cadence on the bike, high cadence on the run.

* Aerobic conditioning: This has a 1:1 work:rest ration which means intensity is near VO2max, the highest possible aerobic intensity you can handle.

* Hormonal balance: The high intensity nature of the session will help mitigate the catabolic effects of the long bike if this run is done off the bike or the day after a long bike ride. Running sprints have been used for decades in the fitness industry to increase the release of testosterone and growth hormone

All in all, other than endurance, it works all the important systems of your fitness and specific running technique: speed, technique, aerobic conditioning.

Enjoy your training.

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)


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7 Tips for a Better Iron-Distance Taper

When triathletes reach the taper period of their training plan, their eyes light up as finally, the days of long and hard workouts are behind them. But ask any triathlete about their plan, most of them will have that deer caught in the headlights look.
Am I resting enough? Or am I doing too much? That is the most common lingering question on taper weeks for most age-groupers. For many weeks of long workouts, coupled with high intensity work, it is truly an unfamiliar ground to break it off, especially when you feel you have peaked.
To keep it in perspective, the primary goal of a taper period is to shed and regain. Sounds ironic? It is to shed fatigue, and regain proper form. Fatigue and form usually doesn’t go along well. When your muscles are fatigued, they are tight and usually do not function in their full range of motion. That is why form suffers when you are in the tail-end of any endurance event.
But shedding fatigue and sharpening form has its strategy. You do not suddenly turn-off a tuned engine for three weeks then expect it to run perfectly on raceday.
Here are the tips for a better Iron-Distance Taper:

1. Reduce length and volume. This is a no-brainer, but the rule of thumb is a 25% training volume reduction in the 1st week of 3-week taper. Fifty percent in the next week, and a 75% reduction in race-week. Again, this is a template. A consistent, solid, fitter triathlete will need lesser training volume reduction as mentioned.

2. Do not catch-up on missed workouts! Any age-grouper will miss training, due to work, family time, or even sickness. Catching up with the hard and long workouts and ultimately lessening your taper period will not improve your fitness anymore. One pro triathlete said it best; “there is not a lot you can do inside three weeks to help your race, but there is a lot you can do to shipwreck it.”

3. Too much Easy/Recovery sessions. Reducing the training load does not mean you will ultimately forget high-intensity sessions. Inadequate high-intensity training in the last 3 weeks ultimately leads to a flat race, wherein you feel you cannot exert the power and intensity you gained in your peak period. Just remember to keep your sessions short and at ironman-specific pace…or just a tad-faster. This will keep your body in vroom-vroom mode until raceday, just making it remember you are one fine-tuned athlete.

4. Maintain the regular training schedule/number of sessions in a week. Again, if you mess up with a schedule that you have been regularly doing the past 16-20 weeks or so, this will again lead you to overdoing the “rest”part of the taper, leading again to a flat race. It is important to keep the routine but with less volume. Mentally, that will benefit you greatly as you stay focused on the plan.

5. Reward your body. The build and peak period has made your body one high-fitness machine. During this time, we bet that there was little time devoted to non-swim bike and run recovery sessions. With time and volume decreased in this taper period, you can accelerate healing your body with flexibility/stretching sessions, foam rolling and sports massage. This sessions will help regain proper form, improving your swim, bike and run economy. A repaired and rebuilt body will have maximum potential for power on raceday. Just a warning though, never do a hard, sports massage too close to the race. It will do more harm than good.

6. Not the time to reward yourself by overeating. The race isn’t over yet. The hard work is done, but this is not the time to celebrate by over-indulging with food..or even drinks (alcohol). Maintain your nutrition/meal plan you executed on your build and peak periods. This is also not the time to experiment on what type of nutrition you will need on race-day.

7. Stay sharp mentally. With more time on your hands, this is the perfect time to review and assess what have gone right and wrong on your iron-distance training. Remind yourself your strengths and implement them on your race strategy. This is also not the time to correct whatever weakness you discovered in your training. Instead, work around your weakness and hopefully hide it on your race plan. Review your travel plans, make your packing and gear checklist. Also, this is very important: review the race maps and information guide. An informed triathlete is always the faster triathlete.

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Iron-Distance Performance- ENDURANCE BLOCKS

Finally after months of preparation the big ironman events of the summer are looming and its time for that final event preparation. Assuming you have followed your plan and trained consistently over the last few months you will be ready for the final endurance boost to take you into your race.

While of course you will have been doing endurance training in your plan i like to plan for special endurance blocks in the final weeks leading into the race, normally 2 blocks of between 3 and 4 days depending on the athlete and positioned in the final 6 weeks leading into your race. The vast majority of athletes can’t commit to spending hours training every weekend as thats too much time away from family and other commitments but planning 2 long weekend in an ironman build when friends and family know you will be unavailable does work out much better than not being around for weeks on end leading up to your race.

The purpose of these endurance blocks is twofold – both to build confidence and show the athlete they have nothing to fear from ironman and the other is to get a big boost to your endurance capacity leading into the race.

Also knowing these blocks are coming allows the athlete more confidence to follow their plan which may appear light on endurance work in the lead up – most of us believe we need to be training a lot more than we really do.



A lot of athletes like to have covered the distance before the event, this is very understandable but from a training perspective we do not want to cover a whole ironman in training during a day as it is just too much to recover from and would have a serious impact on training consistency, even the individual events in a day can be too much for some athletes so i like the endurance blocks as it gives a concentrated time period when the athletes will go above and beyond normal training for a short period with planned recovery following.

With the 2 endurance blocks i would typically look for an athlete to cover their normal weekly training load plus a little extra in just 3-4 days – not really looking at intensity in this period just spending the duration training! For example if your normally  weekly training load is 12 hours then an endurance block may look to cover 12-16 hours over a 4 day period.

3-4 days works really well for most athletes, it is not long enough to overload the body to a point it will effect your regular training, it is a time frame that is acceptable to get away from work and family commitments, and also its a short enough period for most to tolerate the increased food lead that needs to accompany these blocks. Never forget its not always the training that is the struggle its fuelling enough to get through them and come through the other end in one piece – while almost everyone can get the work on very little calories the difference is if you do not load up enough you will take a lot longer to recover and return to normal – this is why a lot of athletes who go away for week long camps have great training but then take weeks before they return to normal training levels as their body is smoked from the volume of training one and the lack of calories consumed.

So in terms of confidence we want to address the main issues


* Cover the distance – 1 swim during the weekend should be at race distance or over.


  • Cover the distance at least one – aim for a long ride of 180-200km on day 1


  • Can you still run after a long TT effort – aim for a 120km ride with at least 80km of this at race pace and include some race pace run intervals off the bike – no more than 16km
  • I will not have athletes ever run 42km in training – rather look to complete 42km during the 4 days

My aim is always to have athletes finish their endurance weekend knowing that they are going to have no issues covering the distance on race day – this is very calming for the athlete and also allows the focus to be maintained on training over the final weeks rather than stressing over their ability to complete the course.


There are 2 sides to endurance training i like to look at, the physiological adaptions that occur with endurance training sessions such as ATP development – this is a long slow process and is why we have our weekly long swim, ride and run in our programs – to get these adaptions does not require epic endurance sessions more just a case of regular endurance work anywhere from 60min to 2 hours on the swim and run and 2-4 hours on the bike.

The other side of endurance adaption is how the body burns fuel – this is very interesting and one of the main reasons the endurance weekends work so well for ironman performance. In order to perform well in ironman we need to move fast but efficiently – by this i mean we need to go as fast as we can while using as little energy as possible – to do this we need to burn fat efficiently as fuel and this is what the endurance weekends teach the body to do very well.

A good way to look at this is if your not at all fit and decide to just go out and ride 4 hours hard – its not going to be pretty – you will more than likely end up in pieces after 2-2.5 hours if you even make it that far. Now following this ride if you were to repeat one week later you would find you could go much further at the same intensity without any problems experienced in your first attempt. In one week you have not gained any measurable fitness – its too short of a time frame but your body will have learned how to use its fuel more efficiently to allow you to cover the distance.

This neat trick of the body can be used to our advantage with ironman training and is why we get such a huge endurance boosting effect form the endurance weekends. This adaption or learning from the body starts to disappear after 2-3 weeks to its important that we have an endurance weekend or at least 2 days of good volume in the final 2 weeks before the race!

As you enter your final weeks of preparation now is the time for your final endurance boost leading into your race – make the most of all your hard work with these focussed weekends and make sure your confidence is soaring for race day.

Enjoy your training

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)

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Sick? Don’t panic – Here’s a cure

Training hard, your chances of getting sick are relatively high. ironguides Coach Alun “Woody” Woodward has the cure that will help get you back on your feet as fit and fast as possible.

Sickness seems to be hitting plenty of athletes right now with the very changeable weather this spring. Training hard in the final weeks before the main races of the season start, your chances of catching an illness are high.

If you’re unlucky enough to pick something up, what should be the protocol with training?

Firstly, maintaining your level of training as normal when you’re sick is not wise and can do a lot of damage to your body. It can also prolong, or increase the intensity of, the illness. As soon as you start to display any sign of illness, you need to move away from your planned training and into recovery mode.

How you approach the next days really depends on the symptoms and the intensity of the infection. The main workouts that need to be stopped are any that stress the cardio system, which means anything that raises the heart rate significantly and increases breathing rate above a comfortable level.


If you have a fever, then training is a no go—you need rest until the fever has passed. In this situation, normally your body is going to tell you quite clearly it does not want to train and all you have to do is listen, which is harder to do than to say, I know.

As with all our training at ironguides, we really want to teach athletes to better listen to their body.

Once the fever has gone, and you are feeling better and motivated to train again, then I like to set 2 easy aerobic days with some power work on the bike, before resuming your regular training.

Power training on the bike is going to activate muscle fibres helping to maintain fitness while ensuring your heart rate remains low and does not stress your cardio system.

Common cold

The illness to strike most frequently is the common cold. The intensity of the cold is always different and affects different people in different ways. The main point though is that it usually hits an individual with the same symptoms so you know how it is going to affect you. Again, the main thing is to listen to your body; if it says you shouldn’t train then rest.

If you still feel like training, then keep workouts lower-end aerobic and keep your heart rate from climbing above walking-pace level. I would advise that training be limited to cycling at this time as it is much easier to maintain heart rate in the lower levels on the bike.

The same power training I mentioned above can be used during these bike sessions in order to help maintain fitness. Once you feel good enough to resume training as normal then take 2 more easy aerobic days but this time in all 3 sports.

Chesty cough

The chesty cough can be your only symptom or it can follow after a cold. Regardless, as soon as that cough moves to the chest then it’s time to rest and go to see the doctor. I find a lot of confusion with this one in terms of where the cough is coming from.

Sometimes when you have had a blocked nose that starts releasing, it will drain downwards into your throat which will lead to coughing up mucus. This is not a chesty cough that would require rest.

A chesty cough tends to be dry and very deep in the chest, almost producing a rattle when you breathe.

When resuming training following this illness, I would always recommend one full easy week of aerobic work at normal training volume before you start to train with intensity.

Resuming full training

The time it takes to fall back into your full training plan depends on the period you have been sick. If the illness has lasted less than a week, then 2 days of easy aerobic training at normal daily training volume should see you able to resume your pre-sickness training schedule.

If the sickness has lasted 7-10 days, then I would set the easy training duration to 4 days, again at your normal daily training volume but keeping the intensity way down.

If the sickness has persisted for any longer than 10 days, then a full week of easy training is advisable before you jump back into full intensity.

Tricks to maintain fitness

As I mentioned above, power training on the bike helps maintain fitness while sick.

When I say power training I am talking about riding with a low cadence and pushing against a high resistance; you are going to feel more muscular fatigue building than cardio stress. This is a great way to train while sick as it helps maintain neuromuscular pathways, making it much easier and faster to get back to normal training speeds and feeling once healthy again.

On the run we can also use tricks to maintain fitness. One of the things we don’t want to lose with running is leg speed as this can take a long time to build up.

We can do a short treadmill session that is designed to maintain leg speed without placing stress on the cardio system. Warm up on a bike at a very low intensity and then head over to the treadmill and set it to your 5km speed; now perform 10 x 10-second runs at this speed and take 50 seconds complete recovery between the efforts. After this session, it will not feel like you have done anything, but when you come back to full training it will seem like you had no time away.


Nobody has the perfect solution for training when sick as we are all very different. The above are a good set of guidelines to follow but the most important thing is to listen to your body’s signals. We all panic when we get sick and imagine we will lose all our fitness. This is not really going to happen unless we are out for more than 10 days and even then we still only see a slow rate of decline. Follow the tricks I have outlined in this article and you will find yourself back to normal much faster than you believed possible.

Enjoy your training!

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching:  Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

Running Plans (10k, 21k and 42k – starting at USD40)

Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward, Certified ironguides Coach – UK/Hungary

* * * Your best is our business.™ * * *

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Performing on Race Day

By Alun Woodward, Online Triathlon Coach,

ironguides coach Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward looks at some crucial elements of triathlon preparation that will ensure you get to enjoy your fitness in a goal race.

At the very heart of race season, we are looking to be in the best shape possible for our goal races; the training has been done and now the key is getting to the start line healthy and mentally ready to tackle the day.

In 2005 I was watching ironman Austria and saw Marino Vanhoenacker before the start of the race – he was incredibly calm and seemed lazy in all his movements. During a pre-race interview Marino was asked if he was nervous, and he replied simply, No. The work had been done and he knew he was ready! This is exactly the mindset we need to be taking into race day in order to maximize performance.

We all head into the race differently, though rarely in a completely perfect scenario: we may be a kilogram heavier than we would like, have missed one long run or long bike, taken too little rest or did too much travel. There is always something but come race day we all need to realize there is nothing we can do to change our current circumstances.

On race day we have to be content with our preparations and realize we can only do what our body is capable of. I have a saying on race day that is simply: “Enjoy your fitness.”


Unfortunately in ironman, fitness is not the only element to a successful race but it is the area where we spend most time preparing. Other factors are present on race day, and those can very easily derail all your training and lead to a bad performance.

These factors are transitions, equipment, nutrition and weather. If we want to enjoy our fitness in our goal race, we must have prepared in all areas to get the most out of our day.

Practicing your race plan

One thing I find is lacking in most athletes’ preparations is practicing race plans. Most athletes have a race plan and know how many and what type of calories they will take during the event, what drinks and what concentrations of liquids they will have during the race, and so on.

But the main element to a successful plan is missing and that is practice: you need to practice your race plan in training.

We want everything to run smoothly on race day and to achieve this we must have practiced everything thoroughly including transitions, removing the wetsuit, eating on the bike and at high intensity – it’s amazing how different an energy bar can taste and how hard it is to eat at race pace, compared with the way does at easy training intensity.


When training for Ironman on The Method system, you are going to have some sessions that are very similar to race day in the final weeks leading up to your goal event, and it is during these sessions that you should be practicing everything for race day.

Let’s look at some things to consider for your race-day practice.


* If you have race wheels, then use them for this session. This will allow you to know how the wheel feels when riding, braking, descending and climbing.

* Mount your aero bottle on the tri bars. Use this set-up in training so you’re familiar with drinking from the aero bottle and with refilling it while moving.

* Practice aid stations. Get a friend to hand you water as you ride past so you know how it feels. Taking a bottle from a stationary person when you’re going at 30km/hour is not easy.

* Transitions bags: use these in training so you are familiar with the process. On your brick session, have a run bag ready at home, so that when you change from the bike to the run in training you go through the same procedure as you will on race day in T2.


Problems with nutrition on race day are among the biggest complaints of triathletes. This is typically due to not having practiced in training. If you usually drink 500ml of fluid every hour when training, then suddenly taking on 1 litre per hour during a race is going to be unfamiliar for your body and it will not react kindly.

Also, taking on nutrition at different intensities is important as it is harder to consume calories when going hard. For example, you might have a 30-minute hard bike effort in training. Most athletes would do the 30 minutes hard without fuel, and then drink or eat after, but in fact this hard 30-minute session is the perfect time to practice your race nutrition.

It’s amazing how easy it may be to eat a Powerbar during an easy ride, but becomes impossible to take in at high intensity. If you do not try in training, you cannot know what will happen on race day.

Weather also plays a part in choosing nutrition. Don’t count on chocolate bars for fuel if you’re going to be racing in extreme heat as everything will melt, making it impossible to eat them. At the same time planning something like a Powerbar in a cold race is not ideal either as these become almost impossible to chew in low temperatures.

So you can see that fitness is not the only element to performance on race day. There are several other factors at play and if we attend to these in training, it will make our race day experience more routine and we can expect to carry our fitness to the line successfully.

We have all heard the saying, ‘Practice makes perfect,’ and in Ironman it’s the practice of the little things that make a big, big difference on race day! Don’t be fooled by watching the pros race and see that everything looks so easy – you forget that the pros race 10 to 20 times per year, and every race is practice. If you only compete once or twice a year in major races, then you need to practice your routines in training!

Enjoy your training ,


Alun Woodward, ironguides Online Coach 

Alun Woodward

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