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Ankle bands – swimming best training tool

Pullbuoys feel great because they help you float nicely in the water. Paddles immediately let you know that you’re working harder and increase your distance per stroke. Everybody is happy to use these 2 tools because they enhance the feel for efficiency in the water.

But everybody hates swimming with an Ankle Band.
Just try getting a class to strap on ankle bands and many swimmers feign ignorance, “What’s that? What’s it for? What does it do? Where can I get one?” or conveniently ‘leave them at home’ – every single week.
 The humble ankle band is easily the most under-rated and unloved swimming tool out there because swimming with an ankle band is tough. Many athletes don’t even get to half way across the pool before deciding ‘That’s not for me.”  That’s because swimming with a band feels crap at first, and may continue to do so unless you take the time and put in the effort to appreciate how it’s supposed to help you swim better.  So read on… 
The first time you try one on you’ll feel as though you might drown because tying your legs together makes you drag your legs and bum around like this: 
But forcing you into a counter -intuitive position of poor body balance is good for you. Here’s why:
1) Increased awareness of body position –
When you start swimming with an band you will find your bum and legs trawling through the water. It feels TERRIBLE and INEFFICIENT and a total waste of energy. This is because by binding the feet together, you have effectively removed the propulsive and counter balancing effect of your kick. This causes your lower body to sink deeper into the water putting you in the worst possible position for swimming.
After struggling through the 1st few laps and realizing that you’re not going to drown, keep an open mind and start to experiment with ‘pressing the T’ into the water. The “T” is the the cross junction formed by the vertical mid-line of your torso and the horizontal line that runs across from shoulder to shoulder. To swim even a little efficiently in the water with an ankle band, you really need to exaggerate the pressing of your chest and shoulders into the water. It is an unnatural sensation that takes getting used to,  but once you get a feel for it, you’re well on your way to achieving a better position in the water.  Once you are able to apply pressure ‘into’ the water with your upper body, replicate this sensation when swimming without the band and you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much better balanced you will be in the water.
2) ‘Syncs’ the upper and lower body –
Secondly, using the band regularly engages the core muscles in the trunk to ‘connect ‘ the upper and lower halves of the body so that you learn ( out of necessity ) how to  rotate as one single and united vessel. If you pay attention to the feel of swimming with a band, you’ll start to understand what it means to drive the rotation ‘from the hips’. In order to rotate in even a slightly efficient manner with the band on, your trunk and hips, bum and legs all need to turn at the same time and at the same speed, kind of as if you were a chicken on a satay/ lamb on a spit.
The simple ankle band does a great job of making you more aware of your balance and rotational inadequacies. So unlike the other above-mentioned tools, that you just stick on and let them do the work for you, the  the ankle band requires more focus on the ‘feel’ of how you are moving through the water AND the willingness to experiment with the smaller details of your technique to get them just right.
I find that the band has helped significantly to sync the timing of my rotation with the pulling arm so that I am moving more as a single and powerful unit through the water and displacing more water with each pull as a result of that. This ‘connection’ between your upper and lower body will also reduce the amount of side to side ‘snaking’ from the rear end.  
3) Improves strength –
Finally, the increased resistance that a sinking bum and legs produce is a fantastic but totally crude way, of swim specific strength training. Try it!
So PLEASE, make an ankle band up from an old goggle strap or punctured inner tube and leave in your kit bag as a permanent resident. You will struggle and wrestle with it at the start but persevere and keep an open mind, pay attention to the ‘feel’ and you will be rewarded with an intuitive awareness of your body position in the water and the skill to fine tune your overall swimming technique. 

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Recovery 101 for Beginner Triathletes

This article is for the newer triathlete and runner who has got bitten by the bug and is starting to train every day. As your training volume increases to 8 – 10 hours or more a week, and you are getting familiar with mixing up your perceived effort levels, the issue of recovery becomes important.

Flushing the legs

A relatively hard bike or run session; for example speed-work at the track/ power intervals on the bike trainer/ tempo runs or long bike and run sessions, produces metabolic waste, that, if not cleared from the legs, will sit around and impede the body’s natural process of recovery and adaptation.

The principal behind “flushing the legs” is to move the deoxygenated, low nutrient, ‘stale’, blood back up through the venous system for filtration through the liver, where the waste products are removed, and through the lungs, to re-oxygenate the blood. ‘Fresh’ blood, full of oxygen and nutrients is returned to the legs, thereby setting up a good physiological environment for the muscular rest and repair.

The following practices are good ways to do this –

1)      Propping your legs up against the wall, preferably with your feet at a level above your heart.  Just lie back and let gravity pull the stale blood out of your legs. This technique works best if you leave them up for at least 20 minutes. Simple, effective and free.

2)      An ice bath is a great way to refresh the legs after a particularly long and/ or hard session. The cold water causes the blood vessels to constrict, squeezing the blood out of the limbs back up through the venous system.

3)      A good massage also has the same effect of flushing the legs. This can be as simple as a quick 5 min rub down in the shower post training or a 20 min session on the foam roller. The gold standard is of course an hour sports massage because on top of flushing the legs, a good massage therapist will also knead out all the tight knots and realign your muscles.

4)      If all else fails and you do not have the luxury of time then squeeze into a pair of tight, full leg compression garments and get on with your day!

7 mins to squeeze into these!

7 mins to squeeze into these!


Eating for Recovery

Most of you will know that 40 – 60 mins post training is the best time to top up the gas tank of your triathlete bodies. During this window, they are like a sponge that will soak up whatever you put into them. Pushing out a solid training session is not a good reason to stuff your face with your favourite decadent unhealthy treats – Save that for a weekend treat.

Your body is literally going to repair itself with whatever you put into it at this time. So if you want to keep putting out quality training sessions you owe it to your body to put in all the right stuff.  A clean and well- balanced meal of quality, fresh ingredients that are easily digested and absorbed is the way to go.

Emma demonstrates good recovery habits

Emma demonstrates good recovery habits

Carbohydrates are not the enemy. In fact they are an essential part of the recovery meal.  Carbohydrates are the raw ingredient for your body to produce and store glycogen which is the main source of fuel used, and used up in, endurance training.  The important thing with carbohydrate intake is to time it right. For the purpose of recovery, get it in right after training. A light carbohydrate snack is also useful to fuel up before a session and carbohydrate sports drinks are useful to get you through the long endurance sessions. *A poor time to have a large portion of carbs is a few hours after your training and/ or late at night before going to bed.

Make sure your post training meal also contains:

1)       A moderate amount of protein- The cleaner the preparation the better.

2)      Loads of colourful vegetables to replenish vitamins, antioxidants and trace minerals.

If a suitable recovery meal is not available then a recovery drink which includes both carbs and protein is a useful and easy fix. You can use any one of widely available endurance formula recovery drinks or simply get in a decent sized cup of Chocolate Milk in.

Pretty decent meal served up by the hospital after my 1st run after my second baby : )


Many athletes learn about the importance of adequate recovery the hard way- after getting injured or following a bout of feeling flat and over-trained. While it may not always be practical to factor all of the above into your busy multisport lives, all of the time, putting these principles into practice whenever you can will increase the quality of your training sessions and your ability to handle that extra little bit of training.

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Athlete Interview: Peter Tierney

First up – Tell us a bit about yourself. 
I’m Irish but long term settled in Singapore – arrived for 3 weeks in 1993 and still here! My wife is Singaporean and we have 2 great teenage boys rapidly approaching NS age. I have been dabbling in endurance sports since running SCM in 2006 and flailed my way through a few full mara’s and 70.3 tris. An Ironman has always been out there, quietly beckoning, and as I approached the magic 50th birthday – I decided I needed to do something about it.
How did you feel crossing the line of your 1st Ironman?   
Absolutely sensational! Overwhelmed by th

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Training Plan – Semester 1 : January – March

Semester 1 : January – March


This programme is designed to help provide structure to your running training week. You may post questions to me at

The programme below should be done at your ability level:
Beginners: 10km @ 65++ mins
Intermediate: 10km @ 50 – 65 mins
Advanced: 10km below 50 mins
If in doubt always do the easier level as your 1st priorty is to training consistently.

It is also important to learn how to gauge your perceived effort level instead of relying on the pace on your watch because-
1) You will eventually develop an intituive ability to pace yourself accroding to the distance required.
2) You will automatically ‘buffer’ your intensity levels for varying levels of backgroud fatigue
3) You will be more confident in managing the dynamics of raceday conditions.

In this programme, will refer to 5 distinct

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Track Attack Member Login


16 Sept – 2 Dec 2015

Phase One (6 wks)


This 12 week programme is desigend for runners of all abilities who wish to complete in a 10km or Half Marathon towards at the tail end of the year. The entire is programme is divided into 2 halves.

Part One (below) focuses on developing Strength, Speed and Stride Rate while clocking some easy mileage for a sound aerobic base. While Part Two, to be refreshed after 6 weeks,  is race- specific, where you piece together all the different elements for a successful race.

The programme below

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Athlete Profile: Paul McCalman



Meet Paul McCalman; loving father,  business owner and dedicated triathlete. Paul’s hard work had been paying off this season with AG Podium’s in Penang and Desaru recently.  Thanks for taking the time Paul…

First up – How did you feel crossing the line 2nd in your AG in Desaru 113 recently?  

I actually came third in the age group I entered myself in, which was incorrect as I had actually entered myself in the younger age group.  I should have been in the next age group up which I would’ve came second in based on my time.

Anyway, it was still a great feeling because that was my first podium finish in the longer distance event.  Previously I had come second in the 2015 Penang International Triathlon which is an Olympic distance event

Briefly talk us through the race. High/ low points during the race.  Standout thoughts at certain points in the race. 

There were no real low points as my preparation and training leading up to the event were good. Shem and I devised a race plan and a hydration/nutrition plan, which I followed accordingly.

Swim:  I had a good swim and after coming out of the water I realised I probably could’ve gone harder and faster as I didn’t feel too fatigued in my arms or body and I ran into T1 feeling very good.

Bike: I also had a good ride as I stuck to the race plan and also worked my nutrition and hydration plan properly which made all the difference as I was able to go hard and bring it home for the last 30kms which then helped set up my run.

Run:  My run was ok but I had to back it off a bit at the 8km mark as I felt an old calf injury coming on. I was able to continue on and keep a consistent run rate going and bring it home for the last few kilometres, which was good.

My nutrition and hydration plan worked well. Throughout the race I kept reminding myself to trust my training (which Shem told me to think about), to stay focused and to instigate and keep strong thoughts happening, which is not always easy when you are hurting or struggling. It gave me the confidence to stick to the race plan and to lift and hold the intensity when needed.

How did your physical training prepare you to stay strong mentally throughout the race?

Just knowing that I had been training to a plan which had been developed to suit my abilities and to also handle the distances of Desaru 113 (swim: 2km, bike: 97km & run: 22.5km) was very re-assuring. I had confidence going into the race because I had done the necessary work.

At which point did you realize you could well  and where/ what did you draw your strength/ resolve/ focus from to dig deep and go for it.



I felt comfortable coming out of the water for the swim and then during the first half of the bike leg I was pushing (but not overly hard) and still felt good, and then in the last part of the bike leg where I had been pushing hard, I didn’t feel as though I had over extended myself. That’s where I started to really go for it as I knew the training had paid off and I also knew that for the run, to an extent, that things would be okay with my legs and body.

I started out on the run and my legs and body felt good for the first 5km-10km and that also gave me the focus to continue to follow my race plan and to bring it home.

Let’s talk about your training. Can you briefly describe your weekly training schedule. How and why that’s working for you. 

My training plan had me training every day for Desaru 113 and that covered two swim, three bike and two main run sessions, with one or two short brick runs off the bike if time permitted.

The training works for me because it has been planned around my lifestyle schedule, especially for work and family commitments.  I also travel for work and I can still apply it accordingly with a bit of tweaking etc. and by staying in hotels with a gym and hopefully with an okay pool, otherwise I need to go searching for a decent public pool!

I find that the majority of training is not overly difficult and is sustainable as it doesn’t encompass long hours or high intensity sessions but strategic sessions to fit accordingly to my ability levels and lifestyle requirements.

Please share with us the  2 most important ‘take home’ messages that you have learnt about endurance training that everyone needs to hear.


The main one is definitely consistency of training is the key and the other is follow your training plan and trust the training your coach has devised for you.

I always stress the importance of communication in the coach -athlete relationship. Your thoughts on this please. 

Yes I agree totally.  A training plan is a plan, but plans can and should change or be revised accordingly to the athlete and their abilities, their level of fitness at different stages throughout the program and year, for the races that they are undertaking and their progression in the sport.

It takes time for a coach and an athlete to get to know each other and to develop the relationship and trust accordingly.  All of this can only be done by open, clear and continual communication between each other. I’m based in Malaysia and Shem is based in Singapore so the majority of our communications are undertaken remotely by email, and for me that works fine due to time constraints

Any ‘life lessons’ you’ve picked up along your journey towards your 1st Ironman?

Yes I have learnt a number of life lessons.  The main ones being, by undertaking consistent and correct types of training, having commitment, focus and discipline, you can achieve things that you thought were previously impossible.

I competed in my first triathlon in November 2013 and I will undertake my first Ironman in December 2015 at IMWA.  I have the confidence to know that I can complete my first Ironman by undertaking and following the same commitment and procedures based around the plan that Shem devises for me for IMWA.

What are the benefits of having a coach? What are the characteristics for a good coach to look out for? 

There are many benefits of having a coach.  The main ones are that a coach can tailor and devise a training plan that suits your lifestyle, your time levels and that those training plans evolve accordingly overtime as you do as an athlete.

The main characteristics to look out for in a good coach are, clear and precise communication, high technical abilities and having the right levels of experience to go with it.  The coach needs to be able to read their athletes accordingly based on the athlete’s skill, fitness levels, to be able to help and assist throughout the training and race phases, as well as during the off-season and if and when injuries occur.

Shem is my first triathlon coach and I have been engaging his services since June 2014. I look forward to continuing with him as he has helped improve my performance and abilities immensely.

Think you can go faster?

Yes I believe so as so the results so far have been the proof and I look forward to continuing on with my triathlon journey.




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