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Ironman Training – Spring Mistakes

By Alun Woodward, Online Triathlon Coach, ironguides.net

Spring is a time of growth in nature and a time of booming enthusiasm among athletes. After the cold dark winter months the nights are getting longer and the temperature is heading north, no longer are we waking up or finishing work with the prospect of training in the dark. This alone gives us a huge motivation boost but also the lighter days are signalling race season is right around the corner.

Having trained well all winter and in good shape we need to take a step back and make sure we do not get carried away with this boost in motivation. Your training plan may well have changed to coincide with the arrival of spring and the impending race season and with these changes there are some often ignored elements that need to be taken into consideration.

NUTRITION

One of the biggest mistakes being made at this time of year is with nutrition, a sudden rush among athletes to get to race weight usually means a reduction in calories. In general you are going to be training a little more and with more intensity in your spring program, if you add these 2 elements to your training program and then restrict calories you are going to be setting yourself up for a problem pretty quickly.

As you ramp up your training you need to also ramp up your calorie intake, the more intensity in your program the more the calories need to maintain the workload, the increase in training load will slowly take care of getting you to race weight without the need for restricting calories. Always have in the back of your mind you want to be at race weight for your main race not your first race unless they are one and the same! A slow progression to race weight is always the best.

Having said this judging how many calories you need is a hard one to judge so how do you know if your not getting enough? Look for the following symptoms and act upon them!

Feeling more cold than normal

If your feeling cold more than normal and others around you are not noticing this then its a sure sign your not getting enough calories by a long shot!

Have you become the GRUMP

Have you found yourself becoming grumpy at times when everything seems to be going se well for you, no idea why your feeling like this – its quite simple – you need to eat more. I see a lot of athletes who eat well and very healthy meals who very quickly get into this state and do not understand it – the problem is the meal size/ calorie load was just not enough for the demands being put on your body. Studies have shown that ab libitum feeding post intense exercise is not enough for replacing calories expended.

If you often find yourself in this state or maybe ask those close to you if your becoming like this then its time to make a big effort to up your calorie load and see your mood come back on track.

Lack of progress

If all the hard training your doing is not translating to improved fitness and speed then once again limiting calories could be your issue. We need to train hard to improve but if your not fuelling

the hard work your body will not be able to adapt, imagine building a wall of bricks without using cement – the wall will always have a limitation and keep falling down as there is nothing to hold the bricks together. If you want your body to adapt and improve you need to be providing not only the training stimulus but also the fuel for growth.

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ADDING VOLUME THROUGH SOCIAL TRAINING

Another issue athletes often fall guilty of is too much social training once the weather turns, not that training with others is a problem in itself the issue is more jumping into more training just because friends are heading out and thinking another couple of hours on the bike will make no difference as its easy! While this may seem like no issue the problem is more that the additional hours added to your training load can just be too much and too much training stimulus can also stop adaptions occurring. So if your getting lots of invitations to head out with others make sure that the sessions closely match your plan and your not adding too much volume to your overall plan.

Not only the added volume of social training needs to be considered but also the competitive side of the sessions, all too often that easy ride with friends turns into a race especially as everyone is desperate to prove their fitness after all the hard indoor sessions that have been done during the winter. Resist the urge to join in and be confident in the work you have done and remember the time to show your fitness is race day!

If you look back at last years you will generally find the friend who was sitting at the back of your group of seemed to be suffering during training sessions is the one who is up front on race day not the guy who is always charging away at the front of training sessions!

NEGLECTING RECOVERY

The arrival of spring makes us feel invincible with the added energy it seems to bring, the increase in vitamin D levels through expose to the sun is a boosting hormone and we just feel so much more alive than we did during the winter time.

This not only brings possible issues with everything above but this feeling of invincibility tends to lead us to forget the importance of recovery methods in our training program. On those cold dark winter nights it is easy to find a little time in the evening to jump on the foam roller or do any rehab strength exercises we may need to keep on top of to prevent injures but once spring rolls around we all too easily put these things away and do not think about them again until injuries hit.

Spring time with the change in training plan and intensity mentioned above is a time when we need to be even more diligent with out recovery, if your training harder the muscles are under more stress and you need to work harder to look after them in order to get the most out of yourself as an athlete.

This spring make sure you consider all we have talked about and implement them into your training plan accordingly and you will reap the rewards with improved fitness and accelerated adaptions to your training.

Eat well, eat more, recover hard and you will have the best summer race season ever.

Enjoy your training ,

***

Alun Woodward, ironguides Online Coach 

Alun Woodward

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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Triathlon Maintenance program to get you through the holidays

The Holiday season is fast approaching and for athletes this time of the year presents a significant challenge when it comes to finding the time to train and still enjoy all the festivities and family time.

As we head into December its a good time to plan for the month ahead, knowing ahead of time that a little curtailing of your training program will allow you to both maintain fitness and free up time for family and friends. Taking the stress away from trying to stick rigidly to your training program and relaxing more with family and friends while maintaining fitness will see you head into the New Year refreshed and highly motivated to get back to your plan.

Firstly we need to understand that maintenance of fitness is possible with significantly reduced training volume for a period of 3-4 weeks. We need to get away from the mentality of always chasing fitness and accept that for a short time the only focus is on maintenance. So if your regular week involves 12 hours of training then you can quite safely reduce this to 6-8 hours a week. Just think if you take into account all the commuting and preparation time for these training hours you may be freeing up 10 plus hours a week – at such a busy time of year this can be very welcome extra time.

When sitting down and looking at your training schedule the first sessions you can reduce or remove are the endurance sessions, losing your long ride and run at this time of year are not going to hurt your performance. Quality in your training does need to be maintained, your strength and speed sessions are important but these too can be reduced in volume and number, we just want to make sure in each week that we hit one of each session type. For example if your run speed session called for 30minutes of intervals then this can safely be reduced by 50%, the speed remains the same to ensure we keep hitting the muscles the same way – the focus is on keeping the muscles used to the motor patterns of the workout without stressing them for progress as we would in a regular week.

EXAMPLE CHANGE – RUN SET

ORIGINAL – 2x3k moderate + 3min easy between – 4x1km hard + 90s rest

NEW SESSION – 2x2km moderate + 2min easy between – 2x1km hard + 90s rest

Rest days are not something we normally plan into a training schedule at ironguides as we believe life will always get in the way at times and force rest days upon us but during the holidays planning a rest day or 2 can work well especially if it is following a special event or night out so you can indulge without guilt at it effecting training the following day.

Talking of special events such as a night out, meals with family and friends and drinks then this does tend to come with a certain amount of guilt for many athletes, that guilt tends to be in the form of the excess calories that will be consumed. The typical response from many is the need to train more before or after such events to compensate for this over indulgence but this can lead to problems in itself as the body is already tired and stressed and training more at this time of year can over stress your immune system and leave you more prone to infections and illness.

This guilt or fear of such events if we are honest is not focussed around losing fitness but more on gaining weight, it is typical for most to put weight on over the holiday period so this fear is very real. I think one of the best quotes and one of the only factual quotes in fitness is the “six pack abs are made in the kitchen not the gym”! No amount of abdominal work is going to give you six pack if they are covered in a layer of fat from excess eating!

The reason people experience significant weight gain during the holidays is because we make no change to our regular diet and just add to this during nights out and family events! We have to make some adjustments to what we are eating in order to enjoy the festivities guilt free. Embracing intermittent fasting is a great way to do this, a simple way to control calorie intake and avoid overdoing the calories without realising.

Intermittent fasting involves a daily period of fasting, a good starting point is 16 hours per day without any calories and consuming all your calories in an 8 hour window. For example your first meal may be around midday and last meal 8pm, this not only gives the body a longer period of fat burning daily it also allows bigger more satisfying meals to meat your daily calorie requirements. For example a typical male calorie requirement per day is around 2500 calories,

MEAL 1 – 12pm to 2pm – approx 500 calories

MEAL 2 – 5pm – 800 calories

MEAL 3 – 8pm – 1200 calories

For most of us eating 1200 calories at one meal is going to be a struggle but at a restaurant or holiday meal with all the high calorie foods and drinks available getting to this quantity will not be hard at all. If you know you have a tendency to go totally overboard at such events you can further curtail your days calories leading up to the event leaving you a larger calorie buffer for the event!

So rather than seeing the solution to overeating as quite literally training your ass off look at making some little changes to how you eat through the day in order to enjoy your big meals guilt free.

Finally have some fun over the holidays, maybe throw a challenge day into your training, you are on reduced volume and you may have have a few forced rest days so your body is going to be fresh and you can use this freshness for a challenging day, maybe a crazy session you have always wanted to try or an extra long run loop. Another option is there are always a lot of fun local events on over the holidays so jump in and enjoy your fitness, Christmas Pudding runs on the 26th December are very popular in the UK and so many other fun events are out there. Locally we have a Wheelbarrow race that takes place on the 1st of December, this is a 1 mile event involving teams of 2 people and a wheelbarrow, you have to get round the course as fast as you can with one runner pushing the other in the Wheelbarrow and changing positions as many times as needed on the way round.

Make sure you take a little time to plan how your training will look over the holidays, this will allow you to enjoy the period stress free and not only maintain your fitness but you will find you go into the New Year refreshed and ready to get back to your regular training routine with rented focus and determination!

Enjoy your training.
Alun Woodward

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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Ironman Performance – Overcoming a Frustrating Season

Triathlon can be very rewarding and when things are going well with training and racing all seems perfect but when we are chasing ironman performance this is not always the case. Its very easy to get stuck in a negative situation with injuries or sickness effecting plans and compromising both performance and the enjoyment we used to experience from training.

We all experience this at times as sickness is inevitable but if your not careful its easy to go through a roll coaster of sickness after sickness and before you know it a whole season has passed by in this state.

Lets start by looking at why this happens and then we will look at how to get back to full health and start enjoying and progressing once more with your training.

Firstly ironman training for performance is very stressful on the body, the simple fact of training to improve performance means we have to stress our bodies in order to force the body to adapt to that stress and progress our fitness.

The big issue that most athletes face here is balancing stress, yes we have to stress the body in order to improve but the level of stress required to bring about adaption is a lot less than most athletes think. Not only is the level of stress required less than we think but if we put our bodies under too much stress then adaption simply stops as the body cannot keep up/ adapt fast enough.

This state of being overstressed with too much training is where most athletes are, they train very hard yet see very little if any change in performance over time. Now factor into this that lifestyle stresses also play a role here. When i say lifestyle stresses i am talking about how much sleep we get, how demanding our job may be, hours spent driving or commuting for school or work, household chores and dietary stresses are all major influences on our stress levels. The body does not differentiate between training stress and lifestyle stress, so if you are overloaded with lifestyle stress and try to increase training stress then things are not going to work out well.

What happens when we do this is our bodies start to break down, our immune system is one of the first to suffer, our body is trying so hard to adapt to the stresses of training and life that our immune systems not longer have the resources available to fight off basic infections. We simply end up picking up infection after infection that normally our bodies would fight off with ease.

If this sounds familiar to you then its time to take action and make some changes. Stop looking at vitamin bottles and recovery drinks and assuming these are going to be the solution, that your simply lacking something in the diet, this is very unlikely to be the case and will not prevent this pattern of repeated infections.

Firstly we have to look at all the stresses going on and figure out which ones we can reduce in order to get our health back on track. If you work 8 hours a day with a 1 hour commute this is not generally something you can change whereas a 30min commute and 30minutes in the supermarket twice a week is something you could change by trying online shopping. If you use a gym twice a week that requires a 30min commute for strength training then maybe investing in some basic strength equipment at home would free up even more time and reduce stress.

We also have to look at training volume and intensity, this is the one area an athlete will look at last and find it hardest to change. If you generally train 10 hours a week maybe you need to reduce this to 6-8 hours a week and see if you experience better health and improved performance. I have seen time and time again with athletes that amazing performances can come from very little volume and its quite simply a result of everything being in balance and just ensuring that the body is receiving adequate stress from the training in order to force adaption.
Learning to go easy and really hard are also a lesson many athletes need to learn, so many train almost always at a moderate intensity that is very stressful on the body. For example the long run is a foundation to almost every training plan, this should be a very easy run, heart rate low and you should be able to maintain the effort for hours, you should not be finishing your long run if its 90min long feeling like your done in, you should be finishing feeling fresh and full of energy! On the other side of the equation you need to go very very hard for short periods, this is how our bodies are built, we adapt very quickly to this kind of stress so long as the intensity is short enough and hard enough, the issue most athletes have is they are so tired from going too hard on their easy workouts that when they try to go hard they are really not much above their moderate pace and so no real stimulus to adaption is going to take place.

So how do we make changes to stop this pattern reoccurring and wasting another year. Firstly you have to accept that a change is needed, and you need to accept that it is going to take some time, i like to set aside 8-12 weeks for this initial change before reevaluating.

With training we need to look at the most important sessions for health as a starter, that means we need very very easy aerobic sessions and some very very hard short duration interval sessions. What we need to take away from our training programs is all the moderate effort and long duration hard interval sessions as these are too stressful on our bodies while we are trying to recover optimal health.

Lets set 1 long run and 1 long ride per week into the schedule, on these sessions you need to keep intensity low, using a heart rate monitor would be wise here and keep volume to 90min run and 2hr30 bike – for the bike heart rate below 120 and for the run below 130 – if you need to walk to do this especially on any hills you may encounter then thats what you need to do.

Add into this program 2 short duration high intensity sessions, these are safely done on the bike or in the pool to avoid possible injury. For these to be effective the duration of interval needs to be between 30 and 45 seconds and the intensity is all out with long recovery between efforts, for example

6x40s all out effort with 3minutes very easy active recovery between

Keep the warm up and down relatively short for this session, the stimulus is coming from the all out efforts not the duration of the session, a session like this should typically take 40-60minutes no longer.

This basic program will already give you 6 hours of training in the week and add in a couple of additional easy sessions and your at the volume you should be sticking at for the 8-12 week recovery period.

So looking at your week you may now have a plan as follows

MON – ALL OUT INTERVALS IN POOL – 60min

TUE – ADDITIONAL EASY BIKE – 40min easy

WED – EASY ENDURANCE RUN – 90min

THUR – ALL OUT INTERVALS ON BIKE – 60min

FRI –

SAT – ADDITIONAL EASY RUN – 40-60min

SUN – EASY ENDURANCE BIKE – 2.5 hours
This plan may look very basic and volume low but there is plenty of training here to create stimulus and the lack off volume will allow you to push much harder on your all out intervals to help deliver the desired adaptions!

Be patient and ride out this program for the duration, do not be tempted to increase volume or intensity duration even if your feeling great and refreshed, that feeling is the desired effect and if your feeling this way then the plan is working – if you straight away increase then you will go straight back to where you were and start once more on your roller coaster of sickness.

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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Kona Performance Nutrition: Turning Theory on its Head

Alun WoodwardHaving discussed the training approach for performance athletes aiming to race competitively in Kona, I want to now take a look at possible nutritional strategies that could be used on race day.

Nutrition for race day is a very controversial issue—and for good reason, as there is simply no one formula that works for all athletes: we are all different and have a body adapted to eating and drinking a certain way.

At the very top of the field, intensity levels are right on the edge and the fuelling needed for this is very specific. Experts in nutrition are starting to believe more and more that in Ironman the very best maybe not the best athletes, but certainly the best at taking sugar onboard as fuel without any ill effect.

Past Ironman World Champions such as Normann Stadler have been quoted as taking on board 32 energy gels during the bike, something that would make most athletes throw up without question, yet Stadler was able to metabolise this at intensity and perform to his best as a result.

Chris McCormack had his breakthrough race in Kona after falling victim to throwing up early in the race unable to take on his planned NUTRITION; after being instructed to consume only Coke, his race turned around and he finally had a solid performance in Kona.

Taking these things into account and working with pro athletes racing at this level, I think it is clear that sugar is crucial to race well but the complexity and timing are also very important. We have heard for years that the race should see us move from complex carbs to simple carbs as the race goes on, as this is easier for our system to cope with and prevents sickness. However, we see far too many people using this system suffer so it is time to try something else.

If we look at the race and the relative intensity then we can see that the most intense parts of the race are likely to be the swim and first hour of the bike—especially at the front of the race there is very little pacing. Rather than taking on complex carbs at this point, I believe it would be better to take on board simple sugars such as Coke to fuel this intensity effectively. As the race moves on, the intensity declines and this is the time to start thinking about more complex carbs and fuelling for later in the race.

So looking at a fuel plan for the day, after the swim:

BIKE: 1st hour – Coke, no solid food at this point

BIKE: 2nd and 3rd hours – this is the time to move to more traditional sports drinks/bars for fuel.

BIKE: after 3 hours – at this point fatigue will be affecting intensity and we should be looking at caffeine and a meal replacement drink which will be absorbed more readily now at a lower intensity. A product like Ensure Plus works well here.

RUN: the run in Kona is always going to start out fast and the last hour of the bike should reflect this—move back to simple sugar and stay away from solid food.

The first 10 miles are going to be fast and high intensity, along with a sudden increase in heat now the wind resistance from riding is gone. The focus for the first 10 miles is on cooling and hydration along with getting in simple sugar from an energy drink or Coke.

After 10 miles, the athletes hit Palani Hill and move away from the crowds into the lonely lava fields, a very depressing time as this is when major fatigue is going to hit the body! Taking some caffeine 1 mile before this point is going to help maintain a positive attitude at a time when many athletes lose themselves. This caffeine can come from Coke, Red Bull, or simple caffeine tablets, but the drinks will also give a sugar kick which is a big help.

RUN: Second half

The final half of the run is all about who falls apart the least. Intensity is way down at this point so more comes carbs can be effectively taken on: some solid food, jelly babies or gels work well at this point. We tend to see athletes grabbing for Coke at this stage and running on fumes between aid stations—with more complex carbs at this point a more stable finish to the race may be achieved.

By Alun ‘Woody’ Woodward – ironguides.net

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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The Benefits of Training Efficiently

Most age group triathletes, can only afford to train within two training windows during the day. The typical routine of an amateur triathlete is a balance in between family, work and training, and the sessions are done mostly before or after office hours or quick workout on lunch break.

With this basic structure in mind, the age group triathlete don’t have many choices when it comes to training hours, this results in a basic week that consists of doing the same disciplines at the same hours of the week for several weeks in a row, just changing the main set of each session

While we’ve been bombarded with the ‘Carpe Diem’ way of living, that a routine is evil, and there is no replay in life, when it comes to triathlon training and we consider the physiology and psychology behind it, having a more loose and unstructured routine won’t make you a faster athlete, especially if you have several other commitments in your professional and social life.

The combination of a busy lifestyle and the aiming to improve at triathlon creates several benefits to following a base week, such as:

Better Anticipate training

For age group athletes especially, improvement comes from focusing on each workout and applying a few basic interpretations of how you are feeling to potentially modify the training. Since The Method focuses on optimizing training and recovery efficiency, athletes can follow their routines and focus on just giving their best in the moment – knowing improvement follows from this commitment.

Having a structured plan already removes doubt and anxiety from your preparations by giving you a road map to your goals. Knowing that your program is built upon highly successful principles builds confidence and allows you to approach your training with greater motivation and clarity of purpose.

Another great benefit of being able to anticipate your training is to understand the swings in energy levels during the week, the time available and motivation for other activities. Once you have your memorized your training (that should happen very often!), it becomes easier to schedule work or family activities and you can also time it with the time of the week that you find the most appropriate. For example if you know that certain day of the week makes you feel more energetic than others, that is a good day to schedule that meeting or presentation when you need to come out with your best professional side. Or if you know in advance that a few times a week you have a night off training, those are good days to schedule those late meetings that are often delayed to post office hours.

EFFICIENCY

Especially for age group athletes, a well-conceived training program is structured so that your periodization as the training year progresses does not interfere with carefully constructed routines and habits. For example, knowing that you will always run on a Wednesday evening, you can prepare yourself for your sessions well in advance. Only the type of run training will change over time as you transition into a different training phase – but you always have certainty about which sport you will be training that day. You don’t waste time or energy readjusting to new, haphazard sessions and reconfiguring weekly schedules.


PERFORMANCE TRACKING

Coupled with the other principles, The Method’s repetitive approach helps athletes quickly and accurately gauge improvements from one week to the next. With The Method, athletes avoid engaging in inappropriately long race-level exertions or continual lactate threshold or VO2max testing. Instead, they track improvement week after week using their training splits.

By looking forward to beating a previous best time in your next session, you focus concentration, increase motivation and bring your energies to bear on performing a training session to your best that day. What felt “hard” one month ago at a certain pace still feels “hard” – but at a faster pace, or for a longer sustained effort. This in turn builds confidence and turns the athlete’s attention to improvement with each and every session.

As well, repetition enables true comparisons of efforts and effects of environmental changes. Knowing that the training prior to a comparison session are very similar from one week to the next, an athlete can better judge the impact of technique work, different nutrition or a new piece of equipment. For example, in one striking case an athlete coach dropped their 200m swim times from 4:05 to 3:28 in four weeks after incorporating a new piece of equipment into their training.

 

GAUGING FATIGUE

Repetition also helps you learn to better gauge fatigue levels and how to respond to different types of fatigue in training. This in turn helps you better decide how to adapt your training, which in turn helps avoid inappropriate levels of exertion and increase training consistency. For example, over time you might come to differentiate the types of fatigue that stress, lack of sleep or poor nutrition might provoke and learn that the body might be capable of performing equally well on those days. This creates great confidence heading into a race because you know that you can push even if you feel less than ideal.

Perceiving the patterns and workings of the body is an iterative process. The more often you repeat a cycle, the more you will come to learn and understand the vague patterns at work and to better interpret the signals you receive. This frees you to better focus on each workout and to schedule your rest more appropriately, when needed.

BUILDING CONSISTENCY

Using a few simple guidelines, Method athletes learn to modify a training session based on the signals their body is giving them at the start of a session. This way rather than abandoning the training session, the athlete makes a slight compromise and alters the work to be done. Rather than missing a session entirely, the modified session reduces strain on the body, permitting recovery and maintaining consistency.

Only a repetitive training process enables you to gauge the effectiveness of such a response. Knowing that you compromised a training session a certain way based on specific feedback from your body, and witnessing the effects of this several times across sports and sessions, you gain more confidence not only in your ability to accurately read your body but also in your ability to respond to its signals. In a nutshell, you increase training consistency without putting recovery needs on the line.

MOTOR SKILL ACQUISITION

Acquiring motor skills takes many repetitions of a specific motion to become “natural”: Just like the Karate Kid needed to repeat many times the “wax on, wax off” motion to lay the groundwork for acquiring more specific karate skills, as a triathlete you need to repeat many times specific swim, cycle and run motions if you want to ingrain these motor patterns and teach yourself more efficient form. When your body automatically performs a certain motion rather than as a result of conscious effort, you will have become a triathlon black belt!

By repeating certain specific, pertinent training sessions, The Method enables you to better acquire new motor skills and improve existing, well-formed ones. Ever notice what happens to your swim technique if you don’t visit the pool regularly? Among other reasons, that quick loss of motor skills is precisely why The Method places a stronger emphasis on swimming than other training approaches. Particularly aging athletes need to train and especially swim consistently to maintain their hard-fought motor skills.

CONCENTRATION SKILLS

By having you repeat certain specific training sets over many weeks, The Method trains you to better focus on what you are doing. Less distractions means you can concentrate on your training, automatically teach yourself mental skills that will help on race day. Rather than encouraging athletes to plod or shuffle through unfocused sessions, The Method encourages every athlete to focus their effort on form development at an appropriately adapted level of effort – aerobic conditioning happens anyway.

INTUITIVE FEEDBACK SKILLS

Because The Method’s repetitive program removes uncertainty and random variables from your training, as an athlete you are better able to hone in on how you are performing a given training set compared to previous weeks. It sounded crazy at first, but to repeat the identical training set for a period of weeks meant that over time you come to better interpret the many signals your body sends out to tell you how it’s feeling.

Rather than wondering if you’re feeling tired because the coach has changed the training session, you can remove that variable from your list of considerations. In this way you come to recognize the little “tricks” the body plays that can keep you from training as consistently as you would like. For example, what feels like fatigue can simply be lactate accumulation that we need to flush out of our system with some easy training before tackling the meat of the scheduled workout. A The Method athlete learns to interpret these signals over time and adapt his training to them.

For example, once you’ve become accustomed to a certain treadmill running set and come to anticipate how it “should” feel on a good day, you can better respond to your performance on the days you feel “off.” Rather than worrying about what might be wrong, you learn over time that the body simply has “good days and bad days” and that sometimes you need to train through some of these less positive times.

Over time, athletes who train with The Method develop a keen ability to literally feel how they are doing on any given day. Remember – controlling the variables takes the guesswork out of training. Rather than relying on empirical data that conveys only one aspect of an athlete’s training performance, The Method encourages athletes to develop a broad feel for the workings of their own body. Like life, training by The Method is a qualitative experience!

That’s not to say that Method athletes do not use heart rate monitors or power meters to judge feedback. Rather, they place the information these tools provide them in context of a larger, more intuitive awareness of their training. Since most athletes don’t approach the state of fitness where these nuances come into play, The Method tends to come across as a simplified version of perceived exertion: Easy, moderate and very hard pretty much describes assigned effort levels.

How do I go about setting up my own basic week?

Now that you understand the benefits of a basic week that is efficient and fits in well with your professional and personal life, how do you go about creating the details of your week? Sit down with your coach and discuss the below:

Step 1: Set your maximum sustainable budget when it comes to daily and weekly training hours.

What are the hours on your week that are absolutely a no go for training?  Other than the basic office hours, are time times in your week that you need to set aside for work or family commitments?

Once these are ‘blocked’ from your training week, your coach will have all the other ‘available’ training opportunities and he will make the most out of them. This doesn’t necessarily means that you should be training all the time other than when you work or socialize, but it is important to provide a clear schedule on when is possible to train and when it isn’t.

Step 2: Structuring your training plan with the right order and structure

Once you have the ‘map’ of your base training week ready, it is time to add in the workouts to it. Your coach will build them in a way every training session should be complementing the training you have done the day before and what you will do the day after. Our typical example is making Monday or Tuesday training a strength or speed session that will mitigate the catabolic effect of a long training weekend.

Step 3–Getting you started in a routine and forming a habit

On the first two or three weeks of your training plan, make sure you pull back slightly on the intensity of your workouts, since this will help you to stay consistent to your training and being able to ‘learn’ what the week and each training session will feel like without the excessive fatigue that may hit you hard and disrupt your training.

By doing that you will also benefit of the 21 days habit forming theory. Science says that it takes 21 days to build a habit. In this case your goal is to make it to the training plan frequency, then volume, then intensity, 21 days you will be in total control of your training and it will feel something a lot more natural to do

Step 4- On being flexible

TRAINING ON TIRED DAYS: On days you are unsure of how you feel (ie. you wake up or head out the door to trainfeeling unduly tired) – head out anyway and just go through the motions of training VERYEASY for twenty minutes or so! Then make the decision to train or not using the following guidelines:

*If you feel better, try to do the scheduled session.

*If you feel the same (still tired, but not worse), do an easy session and adjust as

indicated below.

*If you feel worse, pack in the session and head home.

ADJUSTING A WORKOUT: If you are feeling tired and have gone out the door to “test drive” your body and you don’t feel better, but you don’t feel worse – aim to lightly stimulate the System you are meant to train that day.

If for example the session calls for multiple repetitions of a longer duration at a high intensity,instead of stressing your aerobic system keep the intensity somewhat lower, and very short. Youcould opt to run multiple 20-second repeats instead of a session of 3-minute repeats, for example.

This stimulates the fast twitch fibers and keeps that System engaged for the week, without undulystressing your aerobic system that may be indicating a bit of overload to you.

REST DAYS

Initially your training plan will have (or not!) scheduled rest days. As you progress into your program,however, you will notice that there are less and less scheduled Rest Days.

Unless otherwise indicated, your rest days are to be taken when you really need them, or if

circumstances demand it (such as a travel day, if you or family members are ill, and other life events as they occur).

In this way you ensure more consistency and you rest when your body is really telling you to

instead of when the plan says. No matter what anyone tells you, no training plan can predict themany factors in your life. If you really need a rest from training – take it!

Likewise, if the plan has a rest day scheduled and you feel good and want to head out for an easytraining session – by all means do so! You’re getting fitter – enjoy it!

IMPORTANT: In the final weeks of your program, however, make sure you follow the plan carefullyand take the suggested Rest Days. This ensures you are optimally rested for your Key Race.

Step 5- Kick start it ASAP!

One trend we see is that athletes often say they are too busy to start on a basic week or they are working on some project at work or at home and after so many weeks they will start with a structured plan, while this is understandable, dont be afraid to start with something very small, as there is no minimum training needed to already start to get the benefits from both learning how to train consistently and also the physical and mental benefits of following our training approach.

Enjoy your training.
Vinnie Santana – ironguides.net

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Preparation for a big race in a new place: Advice for new triathletes

When doing a regional race, aim to get to the destination at least 3 days in advance. This will give you a chance to build your bike up, do all the pre- race admin and shake off the fatigue from the travelling. If you are racing on the other side of the globe allow for 1 day per hour of time difference pre- race, especially if you need to acclimatize to different weather conditions.

Pack Early – Start putting your race kit away 5 – 7 days before you actually fly. That way you can take your time and run through your checklists thoroughly. It will also give you ample time to pick up any last minute items that you may require such as a new race belt or a few of your favourite gels. Run those important but neglected errands that you have been putting off.You want to be racing with a clear head. Take a day off work and give yourself the luxury of a full day before you travel to put it altogether.  Packing your bike can take anywhere between 45mins and 3 hours, depending on your box, your bike and your mechanical know how.

You’ll also want to check if with your carrier if there are extra charges associated with checking in a bike box to avoid any last minute surprises at the airport.

Send you bike for a full service at least 10 days before you start packing. That way, you get at least one or two rides on your bike to ensure that it’s been set up properly and everything is good to go. Look out for frayed cables/ cable housing, cracked tires, sticky brakes, worn brake pads, rusty/ seized/ loose bolts ( especially around the aero bars). Check your pedals and cleats. If you’ve just replaced tubulars, take them for a spin to make sure they are glued on properly.

Use a bike box. No matter how much bubble wrap you use on the frame, a cardboard box is not going to stand up well to the banging around from check in to baggage claim. Semi-rigid padded ‘soft’ cases are lighter but may be offer the same amount of protection as a hard case. Don’t forget to stuff your other gear into the bike box to save space and offer a little more protection to your bike.

Preparing to Race

Stay cool and low key. Don’t rush in and out of the athlete village every day to socialize and shop at the race expo. The nervous buzz surrounding a big race is a sure energy zapper. Keep it simple and plan to go in once to pick up the race kit and a second time to check the bike in and buy your souvenirs.

Spend the rest of the time resting, eating well, and chilling out with your family and/or close buddies. Sleep lots and stay off your feet. Studythe course maps and get well oriented. Familiarize yourself with the transition zone, If possible, drive the bike course slowly and get the feel for both the tougher sections (climbs/ descents/ poor road conditions) and the easier portions where you can get into a nice rhythm.All thesemental exercises are part of your pre- race visualisation process.

Pay attention to weather forecasts and make sure you have the appropriate gear. If you are racing in cooler conditions than you’re used to, make sure you have a lightweight spray jacket/ gilet in T1 for the start of the bike leg. It can be removed and stashed into a pocket once the sun has come up and you’ve warmed up. If you are cold and shivering, it is difficult to fire up the pistons.

Training wise, keep everything ticking along with short and easy daily sessions during race week. Take a full day off, 1 – 2 days before race day if you feel tired at all. Recce the swim course on the 2 days leading up to the race, just play in the waves and get a sense of any prevalent current and wind and chop. Practice some swim starts and sighting.

There’s no need to get carried away with carbo-loading for the whole of race week. Don’t let yourself go hungry or get dehydrated at any time, but don’t stuff yourself at every meal either. Remember that you do not need as much fuel during race week compared to your normal training week.

If you are racing in much colder conditions, note that sweat rate drops but losses are not negligible. You will need less fluid but still require a similar amount of calories so make sure that your calories are not ‘locked into’ the sports drink in your bottles You don’t want to be forced to drink just to get your calories in as this will soon lead to bloating and gastric discomfort. Nutritional needs mayfavour solid foods like gels and bars in colder climes so make sure you have a little extra with you.

So there you have it, some tips and tricks to make your life easier as you prepare for your big day. Good Luck and Godspeed!

Shem Leong 

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)

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

 

 

 

 

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Ironman Performance – Kona

IRONMAN PERFORMANCE – KONA

Preparing for an Ironman event requires a great deal of training and preparation just to get to the finish line, for some of us though our goals go way beyond finishing and more so looking for performance and being competitive.

Once we move away from finishing being a goal to being competitive we need to start looking more closely at the dynamic of the race itself – see what is happening and how to be successful. For the performance athlete Kona is always going to be the big goal and i want to look at how we can manipulate training in order to get the most from the event.

So first step always has to be to break down the race and look at what is happening.

SWIM

The swim in Kona is very, very important, athletes not coming out in the main group are at a significant disadvantage and rarely make it back into the race unless they are special riders, even in this instance the effort required to get back into the race can significantly affect the later part of the race. The race tends to have 1-2 great swimmers off the front and then 2 main lead packs that tend to come together early into the bike.

BIKE

The ride in Kona is intense for the first hour – looking at power data from previous years the athletes are riding close to Olympic distance intensity early on to get position in the leading group. The race then tends to settle down to a more conservative pace until the strong riders start to stamp their authority around the 80- 90km part of the course. Historically the strong riders have distanced themselves from the packs over the last 90km and big margins tend to open up at this point.

RUN

As with the bike the run starts fast and a little above typical Ironman pace – the combination of athletes willing to take risks for the big win and also having to chase down the leading cyclists coupled with the crowd support along the road for the first 10 miles make this part of the race exciting and easy to get carried away and go too fast. At 10 miles the athletes move inland and leave the crowds – around this time is when the effort hits the body and coupled with sudden isolation leads to many break downs – athletes need to have a mental plan in place for this point in the race – this is where the race really starts for the top athletes looking to win.

Tailoring the training program for the event

While there are fundamental sessions and structure that need to be in place for an Ironman race we can tweak the program and the build structure in order to be prepared for what is going to happen come race day. When doing this the last 6 weeks are always going to be the most important period. I have talked about taper in previous articles so not really looking at that aspect here more on the balance of training.

SWIM

Due to the fact the first hour of the bike is going to be so intense it is even more important than normal to have great swim fitness – we need to swim fast but also leave the water fresh and ready to go hard on the bike. I like to keep the swim program fairly consistent through the 6 weeks with 2 key sessions per week – a long interval session in the region of 60×100 – 40x @ Ironman effort followed by some above pace intervals and then a long open water swim ranging from 75min to 2 hours depending on the athlete. This long open water swim plays a critical role come race day.

BIKE

The bike is going to be intense and the training has to reflect this or else the athlete is going to blow up very early and be unable to recover. I will always be looking for the performance athlete to have great sprint distance bike speed before hitting the 6 weeks out from race day.

The bike program will change over the 6 weeks unlike the swimming which is very consistent – I will be looking to ramp up the endurance during the 6 weeks and move from threshold work and long rides at the start of the period to more race pace efforts and very intense short intervals coupled with long super easy rides in the final weeks. The reason I do this is we want bike to be peaking on race day as this is where the race is really decided – maybe not position off the bike but position off the bike for sure!! The structure of the bike is also looking closely at the run program.

06102011-_WAG7106

RUN

No question at all that Kona is decided on the run, I think a lot of athletes see this fact and the focus then comes to the run especially in the final weeks – a big mistake in my opinion and a lot of performances reflect this. We tend to see a lot of great athletes come into Kona too skinny – off their game on the swim and bike and then just looking too tired to

really run to their potential. We hear every year how different Kona is to any other race and how you need to learn how to race there – I think the problem is athletes simply look at the past results and see the run as too important and run too much and destroy their race before they even start.

 

BIKE / RUN balance

When planning the final 6 weeks I want the focus of the first 3 week to be the run – specific race pace sessions and the highest volume of the whole training year should be at this point. So much running will always lead to a slight loss of power on the bike and also effect swim times to a degree – this can cause a lot of mental stress to the athlete at a time they expect to be feeling in the best shape of their life – important to know this is going to happen and all part of the cycle.

As we head into the final 3 weeks the run volume starts to come down – we still maintain race pace sessions and add in a little short intensity session but the general volume of run comes way down to allow the body to recover and to bring back bike power and swim speed. In this final 3 weeks the bike volume will increase and this will become the focus of fitness leading into the race.

A big factor for Ironman is mental strength and this program takes this into account – some athletes feel smashed and believe they need rest when training hard and this rest from endurance work just reduces their fitness and effects performance – by reducing the run and getting fitness on the bike we maintain fitness and refresh brain so we are ready to go deep on race day.

Following this structure an athlete can go into the race knowing they will swim well and be fresh and ready to bike hard. With having a solid volume of training all the way through to the race the athlete is going to cope well with endurance and the run will take care of itself!!

 

Enjoy your training!

Coach Alun “Woody” Woodward

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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IRONMAN PERFORMANCE – BIKE SPECIFICITY IN TRIATHLONS

When coaching any sport for performance we need to be looking at the specific elements of fitness and any other specific factors that might effect performance. We then need to make sure we are building these specific factors into the training program.

When it comes to specificity timing is everything, we do not want to be looking at specific work all year round as the focus on this always sees a decline in general fitness. We also see that once specific work starts in any program that the body adapts very quickly to any change and within a short period of time we stop seeing any noticeable improvements.

For example if you are racing on a hilly bike course then we would need to be looking at incorporating hills and technical descent training into the program. Riding hills simply asks the muscles to contract in a different pattern to when we ride on the flat and also we will ride at a different cadence we need to make sure that we are used this on race day or else we will fatigue quickly and not perform to our best. If we watch events like the Tour de France we see the riders really suffer when they leave the flat riding of the opening week and head into the hills – they need a day or 2 to find their climbing legs – these riders will have prepared in the hills before the race but so many hours of flat riding in the opening week of the race sees the legs get used to this pattern of riding and its a shock to their legs when they suddenly face the demand of climbing.

Using the above example of a hilly bike course on race day, a lot of athletes will look to make they endurance ride hilly as this would seen to make sense in increasing bike fitness on the hills, if we look at the stats of this type of ride for sure we will get more hill riding but what goes up must come down and during a hilly ride there will be a lot of dead time in terms of fitness. A 3 hour ride in the mountains for example might see only 2 hours of real riding time due to all the descents and free wheeling, a 3 hour ride on flatter terrain would get more general fitness development and the hill specific work could be put into a shorter session during the week so we preserve the fitness development of our endurance rides.

Timing is everything and really when we are looking at specific work like this then the final 5-6 weeks into the race are when we need to start hitting the specific work that will allow us to race to full capacity on race day.

Putting specific work into the program not only needs to be carefully looked at in terms of its effect on general fitness but there is a safety aspect too. Specific work also brings extra demands to the body and increases injury risk. From a technical point of view crashes happen, there is a very true saying in cycling – “there are those cyclists who have crashed and those who are going to crash” – descending hills/ mountains is dangerous, we are travelling at much greater speeds and that brings with it risks – no matter how technically good you are as a rider there is still a risk – you can hit a stone, get a puncture or hit a wet section of road and crashes happen.

We need to factor this into rides, we need to develop technical skills but we want to minimise risk – if the day of your hill ride comes and its pouring rain then maybe you need to change plan and save that ride for a dryer day – yes we have to ride in the rain on race day but in training the risk is not worth it.

When we look at specific work it needs to be specific – its no use training in extremely steep hills if race day is going to see you riding long but shallow gradient hills. For example if we are training for the bike course at Ironman Nice which sees long but gradual hills then you need to simulate this in training – riding on the flat in a slightly bigger gear would actually work really well here competed to training in the hills if you only have access to short but steep hills.

When it comes to cycling the turbo trainer is a great tool that allows us to simulate hill riding, we can raise the front wheel slightly to get the bike into a climbing position – this does actually effect how you sit on the bike so is worth doing, resistance from the trainer is not the only thing we have to consider!! Have a go at riding a 30min hard effort on the trainer with the front wheel on flat ground and then try again with the wheel raised 3-5 inches – you will notice a big difference in how the muscles work and how you sit on the bike.

Specificity is not only about the course you will face on race day but also the weather conditions, an athlete training in the cold or dry climate who is travelling out to race in heat and humidity faces a big challenge on race day. Again though this is something we can work into our training program in the final weeks before the race.

If we are racing in humidity and cannot access that weather close to home then again the turbo trainer comes into play. We need to create a humid environment in which to train, this can be done on differing scales depending on resources. I have seen sports labs at universities use perspex boxes in which the athlete and bike is placed – the humidity within the box is high as the athletes is perspiring and working. We can recreate the same thing on a budget by simple erecting a tent at home and placing the bike inside for the session – very unpleasant but very similar to race day conditions.

As with the climbing example this sort of specific training comes with benefits but also risks. The demands of riding in such environments are extreme on the body, we are going to sweat more and loose more body salts – this is good for training as it allows us to get used to taking on more fluid and test race day nutrition but it also depletes the body a lot more than training in cooler dryer climates and if we do not factor this in then we will end up suffering not gaining from the specific work.

When we look to simulate race conditions like this we need to factor in that recovery time from such sessions is going to be longer than regular, that means we need to look at the structure of our plan around these sessions to make sure we are recovering fully and not compromising our bodies too much with the specific work and end up losing general fitness.

To race to your full ability you need to make sure you have great general fitness and that you have incorporated specific work into your plan in the final weeks leading to your race so you are ready to perform and enjoy your fitness!

Enjoy your training.
By Alun “Woody” Woodward

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Half Ironman (R$95 for 16-week plan)

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IRONMAN PERFORMANCE – SWIM TRAINING

When we look at the pro side of our sport over the last 10 years one point jumps out, you simply can’t afford to have a weakness anymore and that point plays particular focus to the swim. In the past there were iconic athletes who always struggled in the swim but were able to use their dominating bike or run performance to bring themselves back into the game, athletes such as Normal Stadler, Thomas Hellriegel and Peter Reid come to mind when thinking about such athletes.

In recent times we have seen the performance level of our pro’s rise and rise to the point we have huge packs coming out of the swim together and heading onto the bike together, so many athletes so close together is changing the dynamic of the race with these packs of riders driving a pace very different to what we have seen in the past with single riders, even if the athletes are legal distance apart the mental advantage of not being all alone on the road is a huge performance booster and is changing the race.

We saw the same thing happen with the ITU short course racing, yes its a different race as drafting is allowed but we see in those races that if you miss that front pack out of the swim the race is over, as a result all the athletes have raised their games and now we see a huge pack all leave the water together.

Every year watching the coverage of Kona we listen to Greg Welch say the very true words that the race can’t be won in the swim but it can certainly be lost.

This dynamic from ITU racing had filtered up to ironman and now it is very rare to find a pro who struggles in the swim and still manages to perform at the top level. When we start looking at the results of the top age group performers we can see the same trend occurring – the top performers are raising their game in the swim and if your not there in the mix out of the water you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.

So the hot question is how do we step up our swim performance? My answer is you need to learn to SPRINT!

A top pro swimmer once told me “stop focussing on endurance and learn to swim 200m in 2minutes, then you will never have a problem in the swim again”. These were the wisest words i ever heard and following them did exactly what he promised.

When we look at an ironman swim from a performance athlete we do not see a steady away 3800m swim – what we see is a very very fast 200-300m start and then the athletes settle to a steady pace.

While drafting is banned on the bike it is not banned in the swim and drafting in swimming plays a huge role performance. Just go along to any masters swim sessions and see the athletes frantically pushing off the wall at the start of the interval to get on the feet of the athlete in front even if told to wait the recommended 5seconds – if the athletes are actually waiting 5 seconds you will see a frantic sprint to get on feet of the swimmer in front then all calms down! We have all done this and we all know it makes a huge different, as much as 5seconds per 100m.

So if the athlete at the front of the race can swim an average of 80 seconds per 100m and you can swim 85 seconds per 100m then if you swim alone your coming out the water 3minutes and 10 seconds behind, but if you can get onto the fast swimmers feet then you will swim the 80 second pace with the same effort as the 85s pace you train at.

The next thing that happens is that the fast swimmer is very aware of this fact and does not want other swimmers taking a free ride so will swim a lot faster than their regular 80second at the start of the swim to make sure they take as few passengers as possible on their boat!

Physiology does come into play here though and there is only so far the fast swimmer can push this sprint speed at the start of the swim without sacrificing their performance over the whole race, the distance they will maintain this speed phase is generally going to be around 200m and from that point they will drift into regular race pace allowing the body to recover from the metabolic cost of their rapid start.

So knowing that this is what is going to happen in the swim we need to be building our training around this fact. We still need to be swimming strong, we need good swim endurance as i am sure has been the focus for most of your swims but we need to add a new element to your training and that is sprint speed, we need to be able to start FAST over the first 200m to make sure we can take a free ride on that lead boat for the last 3600m of the swim!

Sprint speed comes from 2 main area’s in our swim training.

Pure Speed – very short intervals with big rests to ensure full recovery – you may have a few or many intervals of this style in a session.

Speed Endurance – a short number of long intervals maintaining close to max effort for 150-300m intervals with long rests.

I am sure a lot of you are thinking we already do that but do you really do that and do you really know why and how to get the most out of these sessions.

As triathletes and especially ironman athletes we tend to think everything is about endurance and going to the pool, sprinting a few lengths and taking long long rests really does not follow our endurance training protocol. We may do our sprints and feel within a few seconds like we could go again but the energy system we are trying to change, the strength we are trying to develop is using a system that will take as much as 3minutes to recover fully and be ready for the next interval. I know many of you are reading this and will have had these sort of sessions in your plan and will have never ever stuck to the required rest interval or anywhere near the correct rest interval as you felt fine and were sure performance was the same on your sprints after you took a few seconds rest rather than your 3 minutes set – and after all less rest means more distance can be covered in the session which is just how we all think as endurance athletes!

The development of sprint strength and speed takes time, the visible gains in the training pool are going to be minute, you have to be patient and stick with the task at hand. Many of you will have been banging away at your swimming for years without seeing any real gains, continue to do that and you are not going to see anything different. Be patient, if you have long rests in your program they are there for a reason, if your program calls for you to swim ALL OUT then thats what you need to do and then take your rest so you can repeat ALL OUT INTERVALS – if you cut the rest short the effort will still be ALL OUT but you will be sacrificing speed and strength as the session progresses and you will not experience the development the session is designed to bring about.

This development of speed is not going to happen overnight, its such a gradual development especially for an endurance athlete but stick with the plan and over a period of a few months and come race day you will blow your old swim performance out of the water, not only will you be much further up the field out of the water but i guarantee you will find the swim both easier and more enjoyable as a result.

ENJOY YOUR TRAINING
Coach Alun “Woody”  Woodward

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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Increase your chances for a Kona slot

Every year a few weeks ahead of Kona all triathletes start to get excited about the big show, wondering if one day they could be a part of the Ironman World Championships as a competitor themselves.

Having done the race when I was a professional triathlete and having worked with many athletes who qualified for the race in the past few years, I have found there are some very clear rules on what it takes to qualify – apart from hard work.

The below article will cover both how you should pick a course profile that will provide you a better chance of qualifying as well as a run down on what to expect at most Ironman qualifiers from around the world

Race your strength:

When it comes to Hawaii, there is no easy way – you have to risk it at some stage. If you are fit enough to do a race with qualifying for a Kona slot as your goal, it is very likely that you have done an Ironman before so “simply” finishing is not a goal anymore. That makes it easier mentally to take more risk during an Ironman, even if it doesn’t work as planned and you bonk at some stage of the race.

If you are a first-timer then your goal is to finish. Of course there are secondary goals, with the most popular one to run the run, and your whole training and racing should be focused on that objective.

A very common profile of triathletes is the strong biker with a mediocre run. If you want to qualify for Kona we are talking about high-performance age group triathletes. If running fast isn’t for you, if for any reason you feel that running 3h30 or quicker isn’t possible, but you feel great on the bike, you might do better by riding close to 5h and then do your best to run 3h40-50. With those splits you will very likely break 10h, which puts you very close to a Hawaii for most age groups in several races apart from the super-fast races in Europe or those with a stacked field.

Of course your training will have to be tailored to that. You will need to develop an extremely efficient run technique and, of course, bike strength.

Swim faster:

The swim is roughly 10% of an Ironman. Why bother with the hard work necessary to go from an 80min swim split to 65min? In fact, it could take a year of swim focus to improve those 15 minutes – you might think that within that timeframe you could improve more in your bike or run splits.

Think again. Once you are fit and skilled enough to swim 65min, you are not only saving time, but starting the bike and run much fresher, with a lower heart rate and less muscle fatigue which will translate into faster bike and run splits.

Another benefit is that you are around much fitter athletes during races. There is no need to waste energy on overtaking hundreds of riders which can be physically and mentally stressful. Not to mention that you have more space in the water and experienced swimmers near you which usually makes the swim leg less stressful as everyone is confident and knows what they are doing.

Pacing is another benefit of being a front-of-the-pack swimmer. You save a significant amount of energy when you are “riding with” a group of steady athletes instead of playing catch-up.

ironguides high performance training has been qualifying athletes every year since 2007 for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Pic: Team in 2011 with 11 athletes

ironguides high performance training has been qualifying athletes every year since 2007 for the Ironman World Championships in Kona. Pic: Team in 2011 with 11 athletes

Attention to details:

When it comes to Kona, every second counts. I have seen a number of athletes who missed out on a slot by a couple of minutes. They may have gone faster by paying more attention to details before and during the race.

Equipment:

The old saying “Never try anything new on race day” is getting more and more important as the triathlon industry throws all those new technologies and gadgets at us. Walking around the Expo days before an Ironman and seeing all those items that you don’t own yet but are supposed to make you go faster can be very tempting. Don’t give in. An extreme example comes from one very fit athlete who was reduced to walking the marathon due to blisters caused by his brand-new compression socks.

First of all, you do NOT need the best and most expensive equipment to qualify. In fact, in many situations you might go faster if you choose the cheaper options, since that what is usually designed for the world-class professional athlete may be out of the age grouper’s range of fitness or skills to handle.

Diet:

You should have a very straightforward nutrition plan for race day. It has to be something you have tried and tweaked over many races and training sessions. Stick to it – the last thing you need is slowing down as a result of getting your nutrition wrong, which can cause stomach discomfort or lack of energy, which will in turn result in a slow day even when physically you were very fit.

Experience:

As I’ve written in one of my articles before, there is no perfect Ironman race. Something won’t go as planned, period. That said, the more experience you have in dealing with new situations, the easier it will be for you to pick the best choice for each surprise.

If you think you are still a few years away from qualifying, use this time to get to know yourself better, race different courses and conditions, see what suits you and what doesn’t – be aware of your weaknesses and work on them.

However if qualifying is something is a realistic possibility for your, do a tune-up race in preparation for the big day – ideally a half ironman event 8-10 weeks out on a similar course (consider wetsuits, ocean or lake swim, hills on the bike and run, and weather). Use the same equipment, strategy and nutrition that you plan to do in the qualifier race, even if by doing that you might go a bit slower than you could by racing according to the 70.3 distance.

Understanding Ironman races around the Globe:

Now that you have an idea on what to consider when picking a course that will suit your strengths and maximize your chances of qualifying, you also have to understand the specifics of racing on each course and part of the globe.

Things to consider:

Matching course profile & your profile

As we discussed early in this article, finding a course that suits your strengths and won’t make you lose too much ground on your weakness should be the priority number one. Once you have picked the races around the world that fits that, consider number of slots, level of competition and traveling time, in that order.

Number of Slots

Slots per race vary as little as 30 to as much as 80 – that makes a huge difference as depending on your age group and race you go, you have a chance even if you place 15th or so if you are at the M40-44 age group for example and you are lucky that some athletes ahead of you will turn away the slot. On the flipside, races with little number of slots make it much tighter, unless you are on the top 5 of your age group, chances gets smaller.

Level of your competition

Certain races tend to attract certain types of athletes. If you want to qualify at the fastest ironman on the planet, you may as well be ready to race very, very fast.  Ironmans in Europe, except a few races, are known to have a very high level of athletes, since the locals are in peak shape at that time of the year and they prefer to race their “home turf” due to logistical reasons. Showing up at Ironman Frankfurt which is the European Championships to qualify for Kona will require a perfect race regardless of your level. Prefer the races where historically finisher times are slower.

Location & Traveling requirements

Apart from the obvious fact that many athletes can’t afford too many days off work or away from home, time zones are also important when racing such a long event overseas. The general rule of thumb is a day of rest for each hour of difference, if you can’t afford that make sure you are a good traveler otherwise it may be a wasted opportunity.

Another detail to think about is the time of the race within the year and the qualifying season. Races later in the season are usually less competitive such as the ones late in August (Canada and Japan comes to mind), as most of the very fast athletes prefer to qualify earlier in the year so they can afford to take some time off, recover from their efforts, before building to Kona again. While the late races are in a way a race of “last resort” for people trying to qualify, as they need to back it up with Kona in about 5-6 weeks.

So, which race to pick? See the Pros and Cons of the most famous ones below:

Ironman races in the Americas:

Most Ironmans in North America offers a higher amount of Kona slots, which is already a very attractive feature. Another benefit is that the level of the competition isn’t as high, since there are several Ironman races within weeks of each other and the fast athletes tend to spread thin around the races from the country. Not many overseas athletes get to go to races in NA. Most races in NA also sell out very fast, another reason that may leave fast athletes outside of the race

Ironmans Brazil and Mexico do offer a moderate amount of Kona slots but the competition may be slighter faster than in North America and Canada. In Brazil for example, if you are a Man in between 30 and 40 years, you may have to break 9h30 to have a chance.

Oceania and Asia:

As of the time of this article, we only have an Ironman race in Japan when it comes to Asia. The local level of athletes isn’t as fast as Europe or Australia and the late time of the race will also make this slightly less competitive since most of the top athletes prefer to race earlier in the year so they can recover and train specifically for Kona.

On the flip side you have races in Australia that are very different than Japan. Busselton and Melbourne are probably one of the hardest races in the world to qualify, they are early in the season, fast courses with fast athletes. If you are on a competitive age group and depending on the year, you may go 9h15 and be out of Kona. They are great for PB’s but for a Kona slot only if you are a very experienced and fast triathlete. Ironman Cairns and Port Macquire on the other hand do offer a less competitive field and a slower race and course in general, increasing the chances of intermediate level triathletes.

Ironman Races in Europe:

In Europe you got everything. From the easier races to qualify such as UK and Wales, that are later in the year, slower course with slower competitors, but they can be very unique when it comes to course profile, you  better be ready for a lot of technical ups and downs and bike course, if you live on a flat area and aren’t used to technical rides, this may not fit you.

The traditional European races such as Frankfurt & Austria are also a mini version of the world championships, don’t be surprised to see several athletes breaking nine hours if you are from a competitive age group.

You may also find extreme conditions in Europe that may fit in like a glove for a very few number of athletes, which is the case of Ironman Nice for very technical and climbers bike riders, or Ironman Lanzarote for strong climbers that won’t need to be as technical but will need to handle the heat.

With the above information you have now a clear map for your “road to Kona” – unless you are a very experienced and fast ironman triathlete with several Kona starts already, picking the right race will increase your chances and make the dream a reality. And make sure you back that decision with specific, smart and hard training.

Good luck and hope to see you on the start line in Kona one day!

Vinnie Santana

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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