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Rest Days: Learn How to Read Your Body Before Taking One

Time for the next session—but you’re tired and unmotivated to head out of the door. You’re not sure if the fatigue comes from having had a stressful week at work, or if you went a bit too hard at those weekend sessions. You are a dedicated athlete who feels very guilty whenever you miss a session. At the same time, you know that training through fatigue or illness is bad for your health. So what to do?

For this scenario, The Method athletes are given a few simple guidelines to “test drive” their bodies to help decide if they ought to skip a training session on any given day.

The key? WHEN IN DOUBT …  try it out!

This does NOT mean that you train when you’re sick.

But on those days when you’re unsure whether your should train, or not, The Method encourage athletes to simply try out your body to see what it tells you. Start the session with a very, very easy 20 to 30 minutes before making that call.

If you feel better, continue your session as planned. If needed, back off and take it easy later in the set if you find that you’re deteriorating.

If after that initial 20-30mins you feel the same, i.e. neither much better nor much worse, modify the session so that it places less strain on your body. For example, if you’re to do a long endurance effort, cut the duration. See how you feel later in the session before deciding if you’ll carry on. If you’re to do a lactate-tolerance session, greatly moderate both the duration and the intensity of the efforts and give yourself a lot more rest between each effort. You still engage your high-end aerobic system and fast-twitch muscle fibres, helping to maintain your accumulated fitness gains until you feel strong again.

If you feel worse after testing your body for that very easy 20-30mins, pack it in and head home. Your body’s telling you that it’s not prepared to train today; you might be fighting an impending illness or simply need to recover. Heed the warning and take the day OFF.

A stitch in time saves nine—if you’re ill or fighting illness, having a few days of rest from training will prevent a prolonged forced break from training and racing.

Use these simple guidelines to judge the most appropriate response on days when you feel sluggish or off. Often, you’ll have a great training session on a day you might otherwise have written off.

And on days you feel great?! Go for it! Just remember, the goal is not to deliver hammer blows to the body, but to generate a long-term, consistent training stimulus.

Try as we might, there is simply no way to avoid getting sick once in awhile. For these times, The Method stipulates you take time off and recover. Remember: With The Method everything is relative. When you’re sick, the body is weakened and needs to recover from training. The goal is to achieve maximum, effective consistency.

With all that said, The Method doesn’t set in stone when you’re to take rest from training. Unfortunately, this heretical notion of The Method has led to more misinterpretation than any other of its principles.

Life has a funny way of throwing curve balls at us: work, family and community commitments often cause us to miss out on training. Rather than worrying about missed training when this happens, take comfort from the fact that you’ve been training consistently and diligently until then.  Your days off due to commitments elsewhere become your rest days from training, and are automatically suited to your life schedule since they come when you truly need the time elsewhere, rather than when a schedule hammers them out.

You can also look at it this way: No schedule can accurately predict what you’ll be doing each day for months down the road. Quite simply, what The Method tells an athlete is rest when you need it.
Many amateur athletes spend the better part of their day physically recovering from their training at a desk or otherwise in their daily work. The Method accepts that most amateur athletes do not have the luxury of a daily routine dedicated to sport alone.

For this reason, The Method distinguishes between mental rest and physical rest. For example, a stressful work-travel day on which you can’t train may cause you much mental fatigue while your physical training systems have been resting. Consequently, that stressful day counts as a rest day, even though you might be tired from it.

Keep in mind that everything is relative in The Method training. The hormonal context in which The Method places you determines how you ought to train subsequently. If the stressful travel day
comes on top of a lot of other stress in your life, it can create a significant catabolic experience for your body. In this situation, The Method’s approach advises you to avoid endurance work or excessive lactate-tolerance training immediately following or during this (or other) high-stress period.

After taking a day off, be smart when getting back into the training. If circumstances required you to rest, use these simple rules to get back on the plan:

* Add some volume to the start of the workout in order to kick start your body again before trying any intensity. You don’t want to go too hard while being too rested. Rather, add volume to tire yourself a little bit without pushing the intensity. Then do your intervals. For example, add 30 minutes of easy running before the main set.

* If you are a performance-oriented athlete, then take an easy day in each of the sports after your day off. The reason is that you probably needed the day off due to deep fatigue levels, and the extra bit of easy training will help you recover back to normal fatigue levels. Then you’re most likely good to go again!

Learn how to read your body and stay consistent to your plan!

Enjoy your training,
the ironguides team


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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Consistency is the Key to Improvement

Consistency and Repetition are the big secrets to all the top triathletes out there. If you were looking for a magic formula or a short cut to success I’m afraid to tell you there is none.

But that’s what I like about our sport – it embodies and rewards the good old fashioned values of hard work, dedication and sacrifice.


Train every day (and sometimes twice a day).

Don’t plan for 2 or 3 large ‘hard-core’ sessions in the week because these will leave you too wiped out to train the next day. The sudden shock to the system and muscle soreness from a killer session will convince you that you deserve a “Pat on the back” Day Off. Your body will indeed rest and recover and you will find yourself fresh again the next day to push (too) hard, again, through another mammoth session. This sets up a cycle of one day on/ one day off – which effectively halves your training time. .

Same goes for taking that mandatory rest day once a week (I blame runners). If you need this break to maintain balance in your life, that’s fine, but doing a little bit every day is the best way to build a sustainable level of ‘background fatigue’. The idea of building fatigue may sound counter-intuitive to some of you but the truth is that your body adapts (gets fitter) better when it is worked in an already pre-fatigued state. This is how to build endurance fitness – after all, isn’t out sport about becoming fatigue resistant?

Life will inadvertently throw you curve balls- an extra heavy day at work, a sick child, an urgent errand, – that will eat into your training time and prevent you from getting that day’s session in. Take that as your rest day instead!

Remember that convenience is KEY. As a time strapped age-grouper, work your sessions into your daily routine. This is your best chance of maintaining some form regularity.Train close to, or en route, to home or work. Map out a 2km running loop around the car park at work for those threshold intervals instead of making that special trip halfway across town to the track/ gym. As long as you have your running gear stashed away in a bag in your car/ drawer at work you can nip out and get it done.


Learn to love repetition.

My athletes stay on the same plan, doing the same sessions every week for at least 8 weeks. While this may seem like a long time, repetition is one of the cornerstones to a being successful at triathlon.

If you’re paying attention while training, it takes at least 3 – 4 weeks of repeating the same set to ‘get it’ – to understand how to execute the set well and what exactly the session is teaching your body to do. You also understand much better the recovery demands it makes on your body.

Before layering on the intensity and going balls out, your 1st task, when trying a new session is simply to complete it as best as you can, aiming for a ‘safe’ completion.  The 1st couple of times you do a new set it’s always trial and error anyway.

Only after you ‘get it’, when your body has started to adapt to the physical demands and your brain already knows what to expect, then can you start layering on the intensity So while completing the set has become second nature, executing the set better each time becomes the continual challenge- and this is when the real gains come!A repeatable 3 – 5 seconds off a 400m run interval/ 10 watt average power increase over a 15 min Time Trail on the bike- small but significant improvements and good indications that you are headed in the right direction.

Repetition allows you to control the variables in training and leads you to ask the important questions –

  1. How did I complete this set last week?
  2. How can I do it better this week?
  3. Do I need to adjust for how I am feeling today? Am I fatigued or stressed out?Do I need to dial down the intensity to complete the session?

Start by putting together a reasonable and balanced weekly training schedule that you have a realistic chance of completing. It should take into account your available training time, the facilities close to you,  your strengths and weaknesses, your history in the sport and of course your biggest and wildest triathlon dream goals.

For some triathletes these 2 principals may sound dry and monotonous but if you are looking to improve your triathlon performance, I encourage you to stay open-minded and curious about “The Method” and you’ll soon discover a whole new way of enjoying your training.


How to be Good at Triathlon

By Shem Leong

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)

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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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Triathlon Training Volume: Is More, Better?

Training volume is a hot topic at any event with endurance athletes, but none more so than with triathletes. You would think at times the level of success is based off how many hours an athlete can train instead of the performance level of the athlete on race day.

As with all sports, we take the lead from the pros in ours. Almost every athlete interview I have seen features the question of how much and what training do you do—and the answers are pretty much always extreme. Again, with pros it’s a justification of being pro by stating how much training they do over the race performance!

I truly believe that all such interviews need to be taken with a pinch of salt. For example, Specialized produced a series of training day videos from their top triathletes—amazing to watch and see what these guys are doing in training but for sure they all chose the hardest longest days they could for the video. Something that was picked up in the final video of Simon Whitfield who joked about the crazy training of the other athletes and how he had to do more to try and look like a real pro!

These videos are great to watch but we have to keep in mind that the athletes are never going to show an easy week. When interviewed they will not let you know what they did on an easy day or week. They will always give you the biggest week they have ever done and then probably inflate it a little for good measure.

So, should we be following the pros? Is it going to lead to better results or worse ones?

We need to look at what the pro is training for in terms or racing, and what are we aiming for as a performance age grouper. We may be training for ironman and have a yearly ironman race or, as a performance athlete, we might have two, one as a qualifying race and then Kona.

A pro in the current system, on the other hand, needs to be racing probably 3 good ironman events just to qualify, plus Kona, and also several other races to secure points and make a living.

The big thing to consider here is recovery. A pro needs to race and recover fast to race again the next weekend, whereas a performance age grouper may have a good 6 to 12 weeks, or more, between key events. This ability to recover comes from superior fitness which is derived from training volume—it’s not always speed that volume gives you, it is fitness and an accelerated rate of recovery.

For a performance age grouper looking at Kona qualification, racing fast on the day is key—not recovering fast after the event!

A training week will be composed pretty much the same for a pro and a performance age grouper:




Once these key sessions have formed the skeleton of a plan, easy volume can be built around this—but the easy volume must not impact the quality of the key sessions. This is the crucial difference in my opinion between a pro and a performance age grouper. As an age-group athlete with a 40-50+-hour-a-week job, it is going to be hard to add easy volume around key sessions, and doing so most likely will impact the quality of the key workouts.

A pro, who can use the time between sessions to sleep and recover rather than work, can fit in a lot of easy volume without it impacting on quality sessions.

So let’s have a look at volume in an ironman plan for a top performance age grouper:

* LONG BIKE – 5 hours

* LONG RUN – 2 hours

* BRICK SESSION – 3 hours

* LONG SWIM – 90min

* 1-hour speed workouts in each sport

The total training time for a week like this is 14.5 hours: I would expect a week in this range to produce some great ironman performances and a lot of Kona qualifiers fit into this volume on average weeks.

Many, many athletes train a lot more than this but we have to remember that that does not mean they are improving performance as a result. There are, I believe, many athletes out there who would see big improvements in performance by dropping volume and focusing on key workouts instead.

We have to remember at the end of the day it’s race performance that should define us, not training volume. Better to crawl a wreck to the breakfast buffet the day after the race with your Kona qualification, than to bounce around fresh with no qualification in your pocket!

Train to race, not to copy the training of the pros.

Alun “Woody” Woodward – ironguides online coach

Train with ironguides!

Personalized Online Coaching: Starting at USD190/month

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

Event based training plans:

Sprint Distance (USD45 for 8-week plan)

Olympic Distance (USD65 for 12 week plan)

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

Ironman (USD145 for 20-week plan)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

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

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5 Ways to become a Faster Triathlon Runner

Are you looking to improve on your triathlon run-splits?

It is widely-acknowledged that fast pure running capability does not necessarily translate to a fast run split in triathlon, several world class runners have tried it, only to post below average run splits on the bike. There are too many factors that goes on before the run part, that you have to be patient, and also learn them on training. There is the factor of nutrition, fitness and pacing on the bike and in the water, which ultimately will reflect on your ability to run.

And it is also a known fact in triathlon, that to be a good runner, you better have to be a strong cyclist and done plenty of training in the pool too. Let’s say for the sake of training article, you have done the job in your training in the pool and on the bike and have become an above-average swimmer and cyclist at the very least. Also, you have done your homework on nutrition and pacing.

So how do you improve as a Triathlon Runner?

1. Learn, Practice Proper Running Form
Run economy. From the sound of it, it will be too technical on the outset. But even if you do commit to the basic drills of run economy, you will earn the benefit, even before you start training hard on those run workouts. Working hard, and spending precious time on the road, with an improper form is not smart training. At ironguides, we always had advocated short strides, and faster cadence. This is the foundation, and when you become fitter and stronger, that stride will lengthen a bit, producing better run times, at the same fast cadence you had developed.

Additional benefit: Better run skills and technique also means you will be lesser-prone to injury.

2. Attack your Run PR.
Triathletes are a slave when it comes to going long. We don’t mean a marathon PR here, not even in half-mary. Brandishing that shiny new run form? Sign-up for a run-only race, and go short. I mean 5k-10k run races. These short races are good auditions for your new, updated run form. Try to focus on your form, and see where it takes you. These short run races will give a high-intensity work-out while not punishing your legs (unlike what a half-mary of marathon will do), requiring a longer recovery period. What more, if you ran it well, and hopefully, a new PR, is a good confidence-builder in the middle of your build period.

3. Smart Bricks
Your body, or your legs for the matter must know how to run on tired and beat up legs. The weird sensation you feel after hard biking, the faster you get over it in a race, the faster you can focus on just running. And there is no better way to train for it than having bricks incorporated on your weekly block of training. The more you insert Transition Runs (15-20 minute runs after a bike workout, focusing on proper cadence and form) in your schedule, the better you are at disposing the jello-legs feeling you experience after the bike.

If you’re up for a key weekend workout, Long Bricks are also essential if you want to transition to a better runner. Usually a long ride followed by a 5-10k run, this is more of race simulation workout, and a good confidence builder leading to a race. This demanding workout usually combine a long ride Saturday-long run Sunday into one, so make sure to allocate recovery for it appropriately.

Additional Tip: Race Duathlons! I know some triathletes just hate duathlons, for it usually take longer days for the legs to recover after a race. Joining a duathlon as a part of prep races for the A- race is usually a smart as long as done at the right schedule. The best runners in the business came from duathlon background, and it is a joy to watch when effortlessly outrun their competition in the run leg.

4. Run Trails and Hills

Running on a trail means dirt road, and is usually way forgiving than the usual asphalt or worst, cemented surfaces that we do on our usual runs. Moreover, running on a trail means every step will be different, and will require more muscle recruitment, and even engaging your core. If done carefully, trail running will improve your stability as a runner, way more than running in a repetitive straight road running.

Bored with mundane run intervals, go substitute a weekly workout with this and you will immediately feel they can be as punishing as those intervals, or more.. How can slow, uphill run be so damn hard? They require more muscle recruitment firing up calves, hams and core immediately with every step up. Think of unlimited lunges, and spiking your heart rate just like intervals do. It is like a leg strength workout plus anaerobic workout combine into one.

Caution: If you are an inexperienced trail runner, don’t go extreme at first. Find a suitable trail course apt for your experience. Also, it is wise to run with someone who is familiar with the trail course. And make sure the path is relatively clear of roots and large rocks as it is easy to twist an ankle off-road.

5. Tweak your Long Runs

• Easy Long Runs

There are times when age groupers get lazy and they treat their long runs one and the same. Easy runs that are at a moderate to high effort, makes them tired and sluggish the day after.

There is a run training adage that says make your easy days easier, and your hard days harder. Anything moderately paced is counterproductive.

Think of the easy long runs as time on your feet, especially when you are gunning for middle to longer distance triathlons. These are supposed to build your body’s capability to handle physical discomfort, increase the quantity and size of mitochondria, improving oxygen use and glycogen storage.

Easy doesn’t necessarily means slow. Always focus on a good form and fast leg turnover. Consider also breaking your long run down in shorter repeats of 5 to 10min long with 1-2 min rest in between, this will allow you to run at a faster pace and appropriate technique, with the same easy aerobic load.

• Long Run Simulation
Say you are training for a half-distance triathlon, and you are on your race-specific period of your program. This simulation will require you to run a little bit faster than your goal pace for the 21km run of your half-distance race. Also, say the hydration stations in the race are 2km apart, and you plan to brisk walk to grab drinks and sponges, this will be simulated to as walking breaks for the workout.
*2km at easy (20-30 seconds slower per km), 3x 2km at goal pace, and 3x 2km at 10-15 seconds faster per km than Goal pace) 2km easy cooldown. 20-30 seconds walking rest in between reps.
This is a good simulation of your triathlon run, and will gauge if you can hold your goal pace at your race. As with any simulation, best to workout with your preferred nutrition and apparel you will use on your race. Race simulations will let you know how ready you are, and at the same time, fine tuning your final preparations.

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5 Tips for Open Water Swim Newbies

Bang! The gunstart goes off and you rush to the open sea with hundred other triathletes in tow. You had practiced your stroke countless times in the pool. At least you knew you could swim. The technique is there. But 50 meters into the sea, you were swallowing water, you were gasping for air, and now, you are panicking! What have just happened? Next time you knew, you are hanging on to the swim line or buoy, or on your back…waving your arm to the nearest swim marshall.

You may have done the countless laps in the pool but you were not swimming with your fellow age-groupers who are lining up for the same position as you do. Someone is swimming over your left, the other side, and someone will also try to swim over you. And yes, where is the black line that keeps you straight?

And then there is the mental aspect of it, there is just the thought of swimming in an open sea that stress out beginners, and it can cause fear and anxiety. There are just the unknown aspect of openwater that is in sharp contrast to the calm and predictiveness of the lap pool.

However, with practice and a few tips and tricks you can boost your confidence in tackling open water swimming:

1. Practice in Open Water.
This is rather obvious. If you want to get comfortable swimming in open water, you must go out there and practice a lot in the open sea. Most open water swim failures happen when newbies sign up for the race, and their first experience in open water swim happens right there in the race. What usually happens, more often than not, is panic, and might ultimately lead to an early DNF.

Open water swim is a sensory experience. Sun in your eyes, waves and current, salty water, and the fish and seaweeds. The more you immerse yourself in that unpredictability, the more you become comfortable swimming in it. There is the sense that every time you hit the sea, you never know what it feels like, and that is the anxiety that comes before hand. Even veteran triathletes have this litte creep in their mind beforehand. But they are already familiar with the strangeness of that unpredictability that when they get their rhythm, they just swim through it.

It is also important to note never to swim alone in open water. Have that experienced swim buddy with you.

2. Mimic Washing Machine Starts in the Pool
While it is easy to get access to an open water and practice swimming, it will be very hard to tag along a group to simulate the frenzied, wrestling starts that happen in most triathlon races. You can simulate the starts in triathlon races by doing the drills with your swim group.

Share a lane with two other people and make them swim on your sides, with elbow contact and all. The more you do this often, the more you become comfortable being touched or hit while swimming.

While rolling starts are becoming the norm in most huge races, there is still the possibility of swimmers trying to get into a particular position at the same time (u-turns and corners). Be prepared for contact, practice it in the pool.

3. Position Yourself Appropriately
If you’re a strong swimmer, position yourself front and center. But you’re an open water newbie, so expect more contact with people who are aggressive and as fast as you. If swimming is not your strong suit, then seed yourself towards the back and off to the side.
If swimming in chaos is not your liking, you can go far off from the buoys and swim in clear water. You may lose some seconds, but you will get your rhythm faster. Finally, if you are a slower swimmer you can probably expect the faster athletes from the wave behind you to eventually catch up. Just continue with your stroke and expect some contact.
4. Start Slow
This is probably the same as run starts. The runners start off wildly, the faster runners’ pace brings along the crowd with them. After 200-300 meters into the road, your heart rate is beating fast and you are out of breath. You realize that you were running way beyond your regular pace. The only difference, is that you are on the road and walk to catch your breathe. Not in swimming though.

You are out of breathe, and you are swallowing water, and next time you know it, panic creeps in. So instead of starting like a madman, take it slow than your usual pace. When you get your rhythm in your stroke and you are rolling as you practiced, the pace will gradually increase.

5. Learn to Swim with Bilateral Breathing
While swimming in your most natural side is always the norm, there are advantages if you can breath in both sides. If you’ve become comfortable breathing to both sides, you can now choose a side to suit the direction of the swell or sun.
Breathing in both sides also lets you be prepared in whatever orientation the course maybe. Navigation and sighting will also be easier.

Another breathing technique that beginners must train in the pool is hypoxic swimming. It is not holding your breathe, rather it is controlling your exhale and becoming comfortable with not breathing every stroke. Learning this technique is another way to get more relaxed and more comfortable in swimming.

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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. 

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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Mastering the Long Ride

The long ride also known as the long bike, or endurance ride is a staple in triathlon training. Including the Long Run, these are integral sessions if you are planning to race a half-iron or an iron-distance event. And most likely, the long ride will also be your longest training session in any given week. So making it right, efficient and hassle-free is essential if you want to make the most out of it.
• Get a Proper Bike Fit
Assuming you are using a triathlon bike, it is a must that you stay on your aerobars tucked in, and producing good power for an extended period of time. If you cannot stay in your aero position, and oftentimes resort to your handle bars on long straight roads, then you must invest of having a professional bike fit. Staying comfortable in the aero position will make you and your bike a steady producer of good power. It may take a few rides to adapt and several adjustments on your positioning so communication and feedback is important with your bike fitter.

• Build Endurance Gradually
Here at ironguides, in the first weeks of a long distance program, we always start off with Easy Long Rides. The foundation to build endurance, fat burning and fatigue-resistance start with these 2-3 hour Easy Rides. If you are starting your race season, or coming back from a race, doing the long rides at easy effort will you build the endurance base without overloading your body, and will also hasten recovery. This is also a good time to fine-tune body position (see post above).

• Ride Early
The night before your ride, prepare your bike, your gear, and your planned nutrition. That way, you avoid delays in the morning that will dampen your mood when something isn’t right, say a flat tire when you are about to go out the door. Riding early on a weekend gives you less traffic, safer roads, and it gives you the opportunity to finish the session early, before family and social life activities gets in the way.

• Never Leave without Cash and Mobile Phone
This is essential especially if you ride alone. Any number of things can go wrong in a long ride. Cash will buy you food or drinks if you go bonk. It will also provide you transport if a mishap happens along the way. Last option in an emergency, call a spouse or a friend to pick you up. Even if you don’t have an emergency, it’s always great to have cash to buy you good coffee.
Make sure you also bring a set of basic tools to fix or tighten a loose bolt or to make small adjustment on your bike fit if you need. A couple spare inner tubes and a hand pump is also very handy, light, small and can be the difference of seeing you cutting the session short, to continue with the planned workout after a quick stop to fix a flat

• The staple of the ironguides long rides are starting out easy, maintaining a moderate pace and finishing with a hard effort. This training develops the discipline in bike pacing. It allows you to estimate and gauge one’s ability to put out a specific effort on the right time, given the remaining time and distance to be covered. There will be days when you will mess up and miscalculate your efforts. But with repetition, consistency and discipline, you will master proper bike pacing.

• Practice planned nutrition
While it is ok to have breakfast or coffee stops on your rides, you can get away with these on your first few long rides. Allocate your build and peak periods practicing your planned race-day nutrition. Nutrition is very personal, so what might work for you may not work for someone else. With practice, you can experiment on what type of nutrition works best for you.On the final block of training leading into your race, use your race day nutrition at least every second long session

• Simulation Rides
Near the end of the training plan, it is required you go through this simulation rides. It involves everything, from your planned bike set-up (placement of nutrition), race-day nutrition, your planned apparel, and your target pace for your ride. This is the ultimate test if you are ready for race day, and also this ride will give the most feedback.

Start with 30-45 minutes of easy spinning. Then spend the most of your ride in your planned pace on race day. Stay aero for most of the time and also avoid stops, save for that needed bottle refill. If you are racing an ironman, this could go on from 2-5 hours staying aero and nailing your goal pace.

Afterwards, a transition to a 20-30 minute run is a staple on this simulation days. The feedback you will get is essential: from learning where apparel gives you the chafes on your body, adjustments on your bike nutrition set-up so you stay low and aero while eating your nutrition and adjustments on your pace and the like. The training and information you get means less guessing on what will happen on race day.

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All About Ice

ALL ABOUT ICE – Why, When, and How??
The practice of applying ice to an area has its origins with the early Greek and Roman physicians. Cold applications of snow and natural ice were used to treat a variety of medical ailments hundreds of years ago, but it was not until 1835 medical physicians began to routinely use ice compresses for aiding in wound healing. During the 1940s, icing athletic injuries and other musculoskeletal injuries began to be common practice, and this has continued to the present day.

When muscles and connective tissue are first injured, there are a few physiological processes that begin to happen.  First, the area may bleed a small amount, depending on the severity of the injury. The bleeding and damage to the tissue set off a cascade of chemical reactions, with the end result of edema or swelling. As the area swells, the blood and oxygen supply to the surrounding tissues becomes compromised. At this point, the cells in the immediate vicinity (although not injured in the original accident) become vulnerable to a process called secondary hypoxic injury, whereby they begin to die from a lack of oxygen due to the compromised blood supply.

Of course, the body has its own mechanisms for dealing with these processes, but applying an ice pack to the injured area is one of the best ways to help your body deal with an acute injury. By cooling damaged tissue, ice causes several reactions that help to speed healing. The rapid decrease in temperature causes the local blood vessels to constrict, and this decreases swelling. Less swelling means less pressure, and that equates to a decrease in pain sensation. The sensation of cold also helps to override the sensation of pain, and gives relief.

As the temperature of the tissues drops, so too does the metabolic rate of the cells that make up that tissue, with the result being that the cells require less of the already limited blood and oxygen supply they are receiving to stay alive. This limits the amount of tissue damage due to secondary hypoxic injury, and creates a healing-friendly environment as soon as possible.

A variety of methods exist for icing an injury, but whether it’s crushed ice, shaved ice, a commercial gel pack or (Mom’s old stand-by) a bag of frozen peas, the most crucial element is that the area gets put on ice soon after the injury occurs. If ice is going to make a difference with respect to recovery time, it needs to be applied within the first 48-72 hours after the injury takes place. To do this, lay a tea towel, t-shirt, or sock (depending on the area) over the injury site, and then apply the ice. Using a wrap to secure the ice in place is helpful for applying compression to the area, but be sure the wrap is loose to avoid stopping blood flow altogether. Elevating the area is also helpful for limiting swelling. Leave the ice on for 15-20 minutes, and then allow the tissues to warm up to normal temperature over the next hour, making a total treatment time about

80 minutes in total.

Placing a barrier (such as the tea towel mentioned above) between the ice pack and the skin helps to decrease the chances of frost nip or frost bite. It is a good idea not to use a wrap with a commercial gel/ice pack, as the gel is capable of becoming much colder than ice, and frostbite could be an issue. Limiting the “ice time” to 15 minutes is the best way to prevent the area from becoming too cold.

For those who want an alternative to the traditional ice pack, an ice bath is always an option. This depends, of course, on the body part needing to be cooled! With walkers, it’s usually a lower leg, ankle, or foot, and in this case start by filling a bucket with cold water, then add in the ice. Next, take a deep breath and plunge the foot into the cold water. Using this method, ten minutes should suffice to bring the foot temperature down. If you finish your walk near a river or lake that you’re comfortable putting your tootsies in, then roll up your pants and head into the water barefoot for up to 10 minutes. This is usually very refreshing even if you’re not dealing with an injury at the time.

If finding time to ice an injury is a problem, plan ahead and have the ice and other supplies waiting in the car at the end of a workout. Stretch out for 10 minutes, and then apply the ice for the drive home. That way arriving home means the workout is finished, and the injury has also been addressed.

An easy way to remember all the details of icing is to keep the word RICE in mind. It acts as an acronym for Rest, Ice (for 15-20 minutes, followed by a full hour of no ice), Compress (with a wrap) and Elevate (above the heart). These are the four key components to remember for the next time your body needs a hand with healing an injury.

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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How to Incorporate a 2nd Workout in a Day

The Art of the Double Day

Many top age groupers train twice a day as this is a logical and practical way to increase their training load while still putting in a full day in the office. Adding double session days into your weekly schedule is a great way preparing for that special goal ’ A’ race coming up later in the season.

 If you are consistently putting in a 60 – 70 minute session per day on the weekdays with the requisite longer endurance sessions on the weekends, and your Family, Work and Life is well balanced, then you could consider using this strategy to get even fitter. But be warned; the uninitiated should handle double days with care because of its implications on increased recovery needs, dropping immunity and risk of injury. If you simply combine 2 days’ worth of training into one day, as and when, you will find yourself very quickly fatigued, flat and in the worst case, injured.


As with each session in a schedule of single session days, double days should be planned, thought out and completed consistently every week; not done as afterthought on a day that you have an extra hour free in the evening.


If you’re new to double days ease into them using the following guidelines.


  1. Aim to start with just 1 double day in the week for at least 8 weeks before even thinking of putting in a second double day into the weekly training schedule. This allows your body to adapt gradually to the increasing demands on its immunity and the recovery functions.
  2. Start with 2/3’s of a ‘full session’ training load in each of your double day sessions and gradually increase the training load each week.  Do not start with 2 ‘full’ one hour sessions twice a day. The more time you give your body a chance to adapt, the more you’ll be comfortable transitioning to the new load and able to maintain consistency
  1. Put the priority session 1st and then the ‘filler’ session as the second session of the day. While all sessions are important, and produce a specific training stimulus, the 1st session on the day, should work the system that you are currently developing (Eg – speed/ tolerance/ heart rate/ endurance). Training this system while you are fresh off a night’s sleep will increase the probability that the quality of this session is high. Practically, you also get the essential session done and out of the way.


  1. Leave at least 3 – 5 hours before the second session of the day. This will give you some recovery time in-between the 2, even if it’s just sitting at the desk/ walking around the office. The break is also important as it allows you to refuel. As a habit, make sure make sure you stay hydrated in between sessions and treat yourself to a healthy nutritious meal so that your body has enough quality raw material to repair and recover between sessions. If you sweat a lot, top up with simple effervescent electrolyte tablets in your water.


  1. While it is a luxury for many age-group athletes working regular office hours, a short nap of even 20 minutes will help to shift your body into recovery mode that sets up the process of rebuilding.


  1. When starting off with double days, think of the second session of the day as a ‘filler’ session but do not regard this as an ‘Optional’ one. In fact, while the 1st session of the day elicits a certain physiological response it is the second session that is often used to build fatigue resistance. Simply put – that is the ability to keep pushing when your arms and legs are already tired.  This characteristic is especially useful when training for the Ironman distance.


  1. The second session of the day should be of a lower intensity and volume; a 40 minute session is physically much less demanding than keeping it going for the full hour. It should also be loosely structured so that it is not mentally stressful to start, execute and complete. Furthermore, the more open these sets are to your own interpretation the better as this will give you the freedom to listen to your body as you ‘go by feel’. For example, a 40 mins run done as 10 mins easy/ 20 mins moderate/ 10 mins easy allows the athlete a wide range of intensity to play with.


  1. On double days that simply aren’t going to happen, do not try to squeeze both sessions in back to back. The accumulated load of 2 sessions done continuously is much higher than if they were done separately. Recovery needs are much higher and risk of injury or falling sick increase dramatically. Chances are that if your day is too busy for a double, then it is also too busy for a large combined single session. So just get the 1 session of the day done well, forget about the double and move on.


  1. There is no hard as fast rule whether it is better to work the same or different disciplines on the same day. It depends on a number of factors:
  1. The current area of weakness that you are trying to improve on,
  2. Your individual capacity to recover,
  3. The most convenient session for you to perform,
  4. The training session on the day before and on the day after the double day.For example, it you are working specifically on improving your overall bike fitness, you could plan 2 sessions on the bike trainer. The 1st one could be a Tolerance style, high cadence, short rest interval type of session while the 2nd one, to be performed in the evening after work, would be something that could safely build strength on your already fatigued legs without stressing the cardiovascular system too much – something like a steady big gear time trail comes to mind.  Of course you would want to make sure that the next day is easy on the legs – so a swim with paddles and pullbuoy or a very easy 40 min run is in order.


So the take home message is not to rush headlong into a heavy schedule of multiple double days in a week just because so and so is doing this that and the other.

Instead, ask yourself if you have been consistent enough on your daily tasks to deserve to a double day. Firstly, examine your current life situation and consider if you can manage training twice a day without negatively impacting the other areas of your life and secondly, do you currently need to be logging a high training load. Are you in a specific build phase towards a key race or just keeping fit in between races? Because when it comes to entering that dedicated training ‘tunnel’, as busy age groupers with the full spectrum of other important life demands, we can and should only do so a few times a year.



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)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

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


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Rest Days and Focus: Learning How to Read your Body and your Actions

Learn how to read your body and think about what you’re doing.

By Shem Leong, Certified ironguides Coach – Singapore

This article is written for the obsessive competitive streak in all triathletes and runners. Every athlete putting in dedicated training to a well-thought-out plan will eventually approach their physical limits for that season of their athletic career.

Getting this far along is very commendable, but having invested so much time into their pursuit of peak physical potential, many athletes begin to dream big about breaking through to their next level. It could be a sub-5:00 half ironman, a 4:30 marathon or a 2:30 Olympic distance triathlon—deep down, everyone has that time they would love to beat. In looking for that last 10% of performance improvement, many make the mistake of hammering away at harder and higher training loads. This would probably work if you had the luxury of ample training and recovery time, coupled with sound guidance from a good coach. However, for the majority of us, time-crunched athletes, the extra time required is simply not available and the “cherry on the cake” towards a truly satisfying race performance may feel so close, yet so far away.

Think back to the last race you did a PB. You’ll need to run that race again—and then some! Where could you have pulled back precious minutes and seconds? Chances are that you could have made significant gains from handling the low-energy patches of the race better; such as the moment you decided to ease up three-quarters into the run so it became a whole lot less painful, or when you couldn’t find it in your legs to keep up with that bunch you had been riding with. Regardless of your level of fitness, there comes a point in every race when we have to decide whether to bite the bullet and suffer more, or whether to ease up and cruise for a bit.

Between two identically trained and fit athletes, or two versions of yourself, the one who is able to stay focused and push through the body’s signals of suffering is the one that will cross the line first. That sounds obvious—because it is. Yet I often get this question from my athletes, “How do I tap into the mental edge.”

“Focus” is the uninterrupted connection between the athlete and their task; that trance-like state of deep concentration when you are aware only of the things relating to your performance; that sense of effortless control and a total absence of self-consciousness when the boundaries of self and task have melted away into one seamless activity. Some athletes refer to this as “flow” or being “in the zone”.

Focus should be practised by tuning into your body and body movements while training and competing. This will result in an awareness of key feelings when things are going well. Think back to the last time you were able to push hard, perform well, and really enjoyed yourself. You may have experienced this for a few seconds, a few repetitions or, if you have been practicing, for the whole training session. Yes, focus can and definitely should be practised whenever we are out there.

Practise controlling irrelevant and distracting thoughts (dissociative thinking) during training and competition. Replace them with task-oriented and positive thoughts. Consider your form, breathing pattern, stride rate, hydration/nutritional state, race strategy and redefine your perceived effort to perform more effortlessly. This is known as associative thinking and the tougher the going, the more it’s required to stay competitive.

Here are a few tips to help you stay focused:

  • Relax.

For the 10-15 minutes before training, as you’re making your way to the track or pool, or are setting up your bike on the trainer, clear your mind of the daily distractions. You only have this slot in the day to get it done so make it count and put aside thoughts about those last few items of your to- do list.

  • Meditate, on the coming task.

How did you perform it last week? How could it have been improved? Remind yourself of what it feels like to swim/bike/run with good form. How your arms feel in the water catching a good pull, how you ride better turning perfect circles, what it’s like to run tall and light. Don’t simply rush through the warm-up (or, worse still, skip it) and charge headlong into the set thinking, “I’m going to smash myself this set.” Remind yourself of the purpose of this set. Is the focus on strength building, leg turnover, spending time at threshold or just getting some volume / distance in. Taking a step out of the “training tunnel” and studying the big picture for a while will help you align your training efforts with the intended purpose of the task at hand.

  •  Have a mantra.

Repeating choice words will direct your mind away from negative or distractive thoughts towards a positive experience. An effective mantra addresses what you want to feel, not the adversity you want to overcome. Use short, positive and instructive words to transcend the suffering you’re feeling. Choose one word from each column to create your own verse. Have a few favourites to get you through different sections of your race.


Run Strong Think Power

Go Smooth Feel Speed

Stride Quick Pull Brave

Pedal Light Be Steady

Be Fierce Hold Courage

• Performance checklist. It is important that you are able to access how you’re doing in that moment, while on the go. Practise going through this list to make little adjustments to improve efficiency. While running, start from the top down:

o Is my face relaxed?

o Is my head bobbing around?

o Are my shoulders relaxed?

o Are my arms swinging smoothly?

o Breathing: Is it regular? Can I exhale a little deeper while still keeping a lid on it? Am I gasping for breath? Is it getting ragged? Am I breathing deep from my diaphragm?

o Form: Am I running tall?

o Stride rate: If you don’t have a foot-pod device, simply count. Is it up there at 90 strides per minute?

o Foot strike: Am I striking under the hip? Are my strikes light and powerful, so that I am spending minimal time in contact with the ground?

o Pacing: How far am into my race? How do I feel? How should I pace myself for the rest of the run? Does my perceived effort match my race strategy?

o Nutrition and hydration: How long ago did I last take in some fluids? Do I need electrolytes or gel? How does the stomach feel?

What about swimming or biking? Maybe you could share with me some thoughts that keep you focused while out there on the road and in the pool.

When the all the physical training is done, it’s the psychological factors that most affect our performance. Think about what you’re doing and how you’re doing it.

Enjoy your training!


Shem Leong, Certified ironguides Coach – Singapore

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)

X-Terra (USD65 for 12-week plan)

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



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