Training – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com The place to learn about triathlon. Thu, 10 May 2018 23:38:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 https://university.trisports.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/cropped-tsu-button-32x32.png Training – TriSports University https://university.trisports.com 32 32 How to Prepare for a Race, Like a Project Manager https://university.trisports.com/2018/04/19/how-to-prepare-for-a-race-like-a-project-manager/ https://university.trisports.com/2018/04/19/how-to-prepare-for-a-race-like-a-project-manager/#respond Thu, 19 Apr 2018 20:30:24 +0000 https://university.trisports.com/?p=8857   Approaching training and racing with a project manager’s mind, can help us stay organized, set the right priorities, and not overlook any important aspects. And, it makes training and racing more enjoyable as we feel more in control while having clear goals in mind. Every race is basically a project. It has a beginning […]]]>

 

Approaching training and racing with a project manager’s mind, can help us stay organized, set the right priorities, and not overlook any important aspects. And, it makes training and racing more enjoyable as we feel more in control while having clear goals in mind.

Every race is basically a project. It has a beginning (when we are pondering whether to sign up), a middle (everything between sign up and race day), and an end (race day). But there is more to this. Let’s apply the project management frame work to our project “Race X”. Here are the 5 general steps of managing any project:

  1. Setting a Goal
  2. Planning Phase
  3. Executing the Project
  4. Project Completion & Celebration
  5. Project Review and Lessons Learned

Step 1 – Setting a Goal and Pre-Assessment

This step defines whether the project will take off at all, and if so, what goal(s) it is aiming to accomplish. Just because we have a great idea or inspiration for a project (Race X), does not need to mean it is achievable or realistic. There two important questions to ask before embarking on any project (Race X):

1) What is the purpose of this project (Why am I doing this race)?

2) How does this project fit into the overall business objectives (What is my long term goal)?

There are many ways to answer these questions. For a triathlon race, potential answers to 1) could be: trying a new sport/challenge, having fun, competing with team mates, setting a new PR, qualifying for the next level, etc. And for 2) it could be an equally wide spectrum, such as lifetime fitness, supporting a specific cause/charity, obtaining a pro license, qualifying for Kona. Whatever our dream is.


Now, in order to assess whether the set goal for this specific race is realistic or not, other factors need to be considered before making the final decision, for instance:

  • Time left until race day
  • Gear and equipment, and funds needed to obtain them
  • Current fitness level, and injuries
  • Available training time
  • Conflicting obligations, business trips, or family events
  • People potentially affected or to be consulted
  • Overall costs (e.g. registration fees, flight/hotel, gear, coaching fees)
  • Overall benefits (e.g. various physical, mental and social benefits, donation to charity, learning, moving closer to reaching one’s dream)

Based on these factors and a quick cost-benefit comparison, we are likely in a good position to decide whether it is realistic to start the project (Race X). If the benefits outweigh the costs, we can go ahead and sign up for the race!

Step 2 – Planning Phase

Now that we have signed up for the race, the planning starts. The most obvious task that comes to mind is planning the training itself. But there are a number of other aspects that shouldn’t be overlooked. From a project management’s point of view, the planning phase is characterized by defining and specifying the project’s deliverables (tasks, schedule), the budget, the risks, the stakeholders and the communication.

 

Briefly, the deliverables are the specific outcomes that the project should achieve if it is successful, and are usually broken down into individual tasks and the tasks are arranged in a project schedule.

The budget is the available funds within which the expected project costs should lie.

The risks are factors that could negatively affect the outcome or completion of the project. This includes finding ways how to mitigate those risks.

The stakeholders are all those people who are accountable and responsible for the tasks’ fulfillment, are interested in the outcome of the project, or need to be consulted.

Communication is a very crucial in project management in order to keep all involved parties up to date. A communication plan details who needs to be informed when, about what, by whom, and by which means.

 

Here is an example how this can look like for our project “Race X”.

Once the individual tasks have been identified, they can be put into the format of a training plan and an overall schedule for non-training related tasks. This can take on various forms. A coach can also help with a training plan. Setting milestones (e.g. complete bike fit by end of April) will help to not overlook anything important and to get it done in time.

Know the set budget and consider alternative options or work-arounds to stay within its limits (e.g. renting a wetsuit vs. buying one).

There is always something that can go wrong along the way or comes up last minute to derail our plan. Anticipating potential risks can go a long way to be prepared and have a contingency plan. This includes estimating the likelihood and the impact of a risk (e.g. a race getting cancelled due to poor weather (low likelihood, high impact) vs. cancelling a training week due to an unexpected business trip (high/medium likelihood, low impact if training can be rescheduled/modified).

Although we are accountable and responsible for our own training, we are interconnected with many other triathletes and non-athletes on various levels. Anybody interested in or curious about our goals, our progress and our well-being as a person, can be considered a stakeholder. As their involvement and interest in our athletic pursuits vary, so varies the level and depth of our communication with them regarding our upcoming race. A communication plan might come in handy if we have deadlines by which we need to check-in with our coach, report back to sponsors, or need to request time off from work.

There are various project management tools that can be used depending on how complex and ambitious our race goal is and on how much structure we find helpful. Not every project needs a Gantt chart or a RACI matrix … but just to give an idea:

  • A RACI matrix defines who in the project is responsible and accountable for specific tasks, who needs to be consulted, and who needs to be informed. This helps as well with the scheduling and communication plan.
  • A Gantt chart shows the individual tasks and their completion date as well as milestones, and indicates who is responsible and/or accountable for the completion of the task. It also includes the dependency of a task from other tasks (e.g. research bike models and consider budget > purchase a bike > bike fit > bike training).

 

Step 3 – Execution of the Project

Once the project plan has been set, the project can take off. Project implementation in general is a cycle of doing the set tasks, making progress, checking against milestones, keeping track of changes to the plan, monitoring the risks, logging any progress as well as any issues, and communicating the progress, issues, and changes to stakeholders as necessary.

 

For our “Race X”, this means we begin with the training plus all the other tasks we have identified as being required, and in the same sequence as set out in the project schedule. But, a plan is just that – a plan. There will be changes that we need to adapt to, adjust our plan accordingly, and keep our stakeholders informed of (e.g. the running shoe model we love is not being made anymore and we need to find a new one (extra time and maybe more budget needed; consult with coach, physical therapist, family), or a training milestone is not achieved (a re-evaluation of the training plan or other life factors might be necessary; discuss with coach, family, team mates)).

 

Thus, amendments to our plan are to be expected. Keeping a training log to track any issues, to record which changes were implemented, and to remember which stakeholders were affected, consulted and informed, is an important part of this step.

 

Step 4 – Closing the Project

A project is successfully completed when its stated goal has been achieved within the set time frame and budget.

 

Race day can be seen as the day were we finish project “Race X”. The actual project completion happens when we cross the finish line – which is always an achievement in itself – regardless of whether we met our specific goal or not. But we need to keep in mind that even on race day there will be factors beyond our control that can mess up our plans and lead us to not meeting the goal we set out to achieve. However, with our project management approach, we took care of most aspects that were within our control prior to race day.


 

Completing a project should be celebrated, regardless of the exact outcome. This is also a good time to thank all those who made it possible in the first place – in case of “Race X” – our stakeholders and our bodies.

However, one last project management step remains.

Step 5 – Project Review and Lessons Learned

After a project is officially completed, the project should be reviewed, feedback collected and identified what was learned and can be improved, including communicating these insights to all necessary stakeholders.

For our Race X, it is thus time to review the race results, analyze what went well, what did not go well and why. This is an important last step so that we don’t repeat the same mistakes. It will help us understand what and where we can improve, and how. At this point, we can also revisit our goals and check if they are still achievable and align with our big dream.

 

Asking for external feedback from our coach, team mates, our family or other stakeholders is one option. Using our own training log and race data is another option. Sometimes we know exactly what we need to work on, and sometimes we need to dig for an answer until we understand the root cause of an issue.

 

Here is an example: The goal was to set a PR on this course, but it was not achieved because the bike split time was slower than anticipated.

Potential external factors could have been: wind, road conditions, hills, heat. These factors can only be controlled to a certain extent, but we can prepare ourselves better by training in the heat, on windy days, pre-ride the bike course, and train on hills.

Potential internal factors might have been: fatigue, GI issues, lack of strength. Maybe the fueling and hydration plan needs to be reviewed, paying close attention to what we eat and how much we rest prior to race day might be important for future races.

Outlook

These are the steps for just one project (race). It will get more complex as soon as we sign up for multiple races, with A and B races and training races mixed in. Add to that list open water swims, run events and Gran Fondos, and it truly gets complicated. To schedule an entire race season where we are dealing with overlapping projects and training schedules, a Gantt chart might eventually come in handy.

Author Bio

Sybille Rex is an age group triathlete who has been training, racing and competing since 2013. In 2017, she completed her first 70.3, and qualified for the ITU Sprint Draft-Legal World Championship in Rotterdam. She is also a proud mom of two girls, and a business professional with a strong passion for project management. In addition, she loves to write about anything triathlon-related, maintains a blog at https://teamusaquest.blogspot.com/, and a FB page https://www.facebook.com/Triathlete.SybilleRex/ where she can be followed.

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Recap: Jack Frost Time Trial 2018 https://university.trisports.com/2018/03/26/recap-jack-frost-time-trial-2018/ https://university.trisports.com/2018/03/26/recap-jack-frost-time-trial-2018/#respond Mon, 26 Mar 2018 21:23:28 +0000 https://university.trisports.com/?p=8778 Emmett Culp on the aero bars.The start of the road racing season means the culmination of months of hard work. For me, there’s no better test of form than a time trial. This type of race pits individual riders against the clock to complete a course in the fastest total duration of time. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association calendar kicks […]]]> Emmett Culp on the aero bars.
Emmett Culp on the aero bars.
Emmett Culp on the aero bars.

The start of the road racing season means the culmination of months of hard work. For me, there’s no better test of form than a time trial. This type of race pits individual riders against the clock to complete a course in the fastest total duration of time. The Oregon Bicycle Racing Association calendar kicks off the season with the popular Jack Frost Time Trial. Featuring a 20k (12.42 mile) flat out-and-back course, this race is an opportunity for riders to measure their early season fitness.

In addition to being a great test of fitness, this particular race also allowed me the opportunity to test out some new equipment. Over the winter, I built up an Argon 18 E-80 TT bike––a simple yet effective platform for achieving an aerodynamic position. With a few rides and a couple of minor changes, I felt strong and fast!

Emmett's Speed Weapon - Argon 18 E-80 TT Bike.
Emmett’s Speed Weapon – Argon 18 E-80 TT Bike.

On race day, I arrived early to ensure I had enough time to warm up before the effort. I set up my trainer next to some friends and tried to relax a bit. It wasn’t long until I secured my helmet and rolled over to the start gate. As the clock counted down my entrance onto the course, all the nervous sensations I felt disappeared and I focused on my final deep breaths. On the officials’ mark, I was out of the saddle and pedaling away.

A few hundred meters down the road, I was in the aero bars settling into my pace. After reviewing the winning times from last year’s race, I knew I had to set a minimum average speed of 27 miles per hour over the entire course to finish close to those results. To minimize any anxiety during the race, I created a new page on my Garmin computer with one data field––speed, and stayed on pace easily with minimal stress.

After reaching the turnaround halfway through the course, my legs began to feel the toll of sustained effort. My eyes darted back and forth from the road to my Garmin, and every time I saw my speed drop, I was able to dig deep and bounce back. With about 3 kilometers to the finish line, I felt the wind at my back and shifted down into the hardest gear I could push. At this point, I could only think about the relief I’d feel at the finish. Rounding the final sweeping turn, I kicked into the highest gear on my bike and smashed it all the way to the line.

All By Myself...
All By Myself…

With my ride complete and my legs ridden to full exhaustion, I limped back to the staging area to warm down and grab a recovery drink. I uploaded my ride, eager to see what data could be quantified from my race effort. I had ridden just shy of my target with an average of 26.9 miles per hour! Knowing your goal is in reach with a dedicated work ethic that shows results is a thrilling feeling. The pace I set wasn’t enough to take the win this time, but it landed me in 5th place for the Pro/1/2 field and showed that I had put in the work during the off-season. I felt ready for the next test and one of the biggest races on my calendar––Chico Stage Race in California!

Written By Emmett Culp (@emmettculp) – bike racer, marketer, and former bike mechanic. 

 

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Get to Know On: Q&A https://university.trisports.com/2018/03/19/get-to-know-on-qa/ https://university.trisports.com/2018/03/19/get-to-know-on-qa/#respond Mon, 19 Mar 2018 22:27:32 +0000 https://university.trisports.com/?p=8767 Where did the inspiration for the On name come from? Is there a story behind the name? The name On was inspired by the natural feeling and effects of the CloudTec technology which helps to “turn on’ and activate muscle power. You can really feel this technology when you experience the sensation of running on […]]]>

Where did the inspiration for the On name come from? Is there a story behind the name?

The name On was inspired by the natural feeling and effects of the CloudTec technology which helps to “turn on’ and activate muscle power. You can really feel this technology when you experience the sensation of running on clouds.

Tell us a bit about the research and design that goes into making On shoes.

There isn’t a single design element on an On shoe without a functional purpose. Legendary Swiss design precision means that every single element of the shoes are meticulously measured and tested to maximize performance on race day. On shoes are sleek and clean when they arrive in stores, but that comes from months and months of quick and dirty testing. On engineers and designs primarily through a fast prototyping process. The R&D team cuts, glues, rips and rebuilds shoes and materials to test even the smallest of elements. They create and test, create and test, until the final shoe is reduced to the max.

As a company founded by athletes, how important is it to On have real athletes test and use the product?

This is incredibly important. No footwear or apparel is ever produced without some key athletes offering input and testing the product tirelessly. On’s founder Olivier Bernhard is an ex-professional athlete and responsible for leading the innovation and development teams at On. He holds close relationships with a network of trusted athletes including runners, triathletes, ultra-runners, mountain climbers, and more. It’s important to have a versatile group of active athletes helping to shape the technology story of On.

Are there any exciting partnerships with On and other brands or pro athletes that we can learn more about?

On has a great roster of athletes from around the world. In the triathlon scene, our big focus at the moment is on the recovery of Tim Don, who broke the Ironman record last year and was favored to podium in KONA before he was struck by a car days before the race. He’s making incredible strides to get back to KONA this year.

What sets On apart from all the other running brands out there?

First and foremost, On shoes are unlike anything on the market. It’s the only running shoe that provides cushioning only when you need it. Our CloudTec technology gives runners the best of both worlds: cushioned landing, barefoot takeoff. In addition to being high-quality, premium running shoes, they’re beautifully and simply designed.

With so much new technology in footwear and materials evolving every year, what’s next for On?

Considering On only started in 2010 and is now available in more than 50 countries around the globe, we are innovating quickly! You’ll see some expansion and technology updates in stability, performance run and outdoor categories, so stay tuned!

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USAT Invites You to Try a Tri! https://university.trisports.com/2018/02/08/ironman-invites-you-to-try-a-tri/ https://university.trisports.com/2018/02/08/ironman-invites-you-to-try-a-tri/#respond Thu, 08 Feb 2018 19:09:59 +0000 https://university.trisports.com/?p=8759 ]]>

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Make it to the End of Your First or Next Ultra Endurance Race https://university.trisports.com/2017/08/09/make-it-to-the-end-of-your-first-or-next-ultra-endurance-race/ Thu, 10 Aug 2017 00:08:56 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8589 It’s dark, cold, and there are far less spectators than when you started this thing. Leaving the last aid station, you go over the mental checklist: Headlamp… check. Calories… check. Hydration… check. Make sure not to go backwards on the race course… check. Over the next few miles, you’ll settle back into your pace, flush […]]]>

It’s dark, cold, and there are far less spectators than when you started this thing. Leaving the last aid station, you go over the mental checklist:

Headlamp… check.

Calories… check.

Hydration… check.

Make sure not to go backwards on the race course… check.

Over the next few miles, you’ll settle back into your pace, flush the lactic acid, and just try to endure through the last chunk of time until the finish after many, many hours of racing, preparing, and training. But how did you get to this moment in this race and what will you do differently for the next one? Though you can’t imagine it now in the dark and cold of this moment, you’ll be back and more prepared for the next race and the next moment when you are truly questioning your sanity as an endurance athlete.

Find your Race Zen
As a lifelong endurance athlete myself- I have been there and will be there again… and again… willingly. Most times I have overcome the urge to quit, but frankly I have also thrown in the towel and owned that decision with great success. The longer you’re in this sport, the more races you will accumulate and work towards a certain level of zen with them. There will be a next race and you have totally crushed races in the past… today just wasn’t your day. How can my experience and what I have accumulated through 20 years of racing and sharing with endurance athletes far superior to me help you? This is what I hope to unpack in a 3 part series called Make it to the End of Your First or Next Ultra Endurance Race– because we all make it to the start, but some minor things typically keep us from getting to the end. Let’s change that!

Defining Ultra Endurance
So, what are we talking about with ultra endurance races, or maybe you’re asking yourself, “Am I an endurance athlete?”. The popularity of ultra racing over the 5 hour mark has grown exponentially over the past 10 years. In the cycling world you have the Tour Divide and its 2745 miles and 200,000 feet of climbing tackled by bikepackers annually, Race Across America (RAAM) with its inception in 1982 as one of the oldest of modern times covering 3000 miles of pavement, World Endurance Mountain Bike Organization (WEMBO) hosting 24hr MTB Races all over the world culminating in an annual World Champion, and countless national, state, and local races ranging from 100 miles to 6, 8, 12, and 24 hours in length.

Going the Distance
If you want to ditch the bike and lace up some running shoes, you can choose from races like the Western States Endurance Run dating back to 1974 and boasting 100 miles and 18,000 feet of climbing for the fleet-footed and tough-minded, the Leadville Trail 100 Run (also a MTB version for cyclists) taking runners through elevations from 9,200’ to 12,600’ over a 100 mile course since its beginning in 1983, or Marathon des Sables with its series of international races ranging up to 155 miles in the toughest conditions, these are of course in addition to the 50K trail race or 100 mile road race that is likely happening in your hometown.

There are also many other races ranging from ultra-style canoe/kayak, XC ski, fatbike, stand up paddleboard to less human-powered sailing and motorsports events. They all have one thing in common… whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it for much longer than most of your other athlete friends who stick to 5K runs, 40 mile bike, or 26.2 mile marathon races. If you are doing these endurance events, than yes, you sir/ma’am ARE an endurance athlete… so, read on.

Your Ultra Race Success Roadmap
I aim to breakdown your preparation for an ultra endurance race into 3 parts. We will start with plotting a roadmap to the physical training needed to prepare your body for the stresses of this level of race. Next, we will delve into the nutrition, fuel, and recovery needed to support the training you’ll be immersed in. Lastly, building up to your race, I want to give you some insight on recon, strategy, and a race plan to get you to the end of your first or next ultra endurance race.

Stay tuned to TriSports University and take a look at your local or national race calendar and maybe find an Ultra Endurance Race that looks like you may want to target. In the meantime, get some rest- you’re gonna need it you endurance athlete!

About the Author: Steven Terry completed his first mountain bike race in Michigan in 1994. Since then, he has been an endurance athlete competing in events including road races, ultra endurance events on bike and foot, trail running, bikepacking, and XC mountain bike races. As a sponsored athlete for Framed Bikes, Hammer Nutrition, ESI Grips, and Pro Gold Lubricants- Steven stays on the leading edge of the products and training techniques available to endurance athletes and is always happy to share any knowledge he has that might be helpful to others. He moved from Northern Michigan to Tucson, AZ for year-round training and access to some of the brightest minds and fastest athletes the endurance athlete world has to offer. Follow his adventures at: https://www.instagram.com/ivebeen_framed

 

 

 

 

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Preview of Omaha’s 2017 Triathlon Nationals Olympic Bike Course https://university.trisports.com/2017/08/04/preview-of-omahas-2017-triathlon-nationals-olympic-bike-course/ Fri, 04 Aug 2017 21:25:47 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8571 If this is your first time to Triathlon Nationals in Omaha, here’s what to expect on the bike course. It is a nice bike course, especially after you get out of town. It is mostly flat, not very technical, and the roads are in good shape. Be prepared for a long run out of T1 […]]]>
Omaha Triathlon Nationals: Bikes racked in transition, ready to roll out

If this is your first time to Triathlon Nationals in Omaha, here’s what to expect on the bike course.

It is a nice bike course, especially after you get out of town. It is mostly flat, not very technical, and the roads are in good shape.

Be prepared for a long run out of T1 to the bike mount line if the setup is the same as 2016. You may want to attach your bike shoes to your bike and run in bare feet/socks. The run was on carpet, which was nice.

Leaving the park, Storz Expressway has a nice wide bike lane.

Storz Expressway

The next big road is Pershing. If you go out for a practice ride, Pershing tends to be busy with traffic until you cross under interstate 680, about five miles out of transition.

Here’s the view at about five miles: You can see Interstate 680 crossing the Mormon Bridge over the Missouri River.

Mormon Bridge and the Missouri River

Now you are out of town, in the peaceful countryside.

You will pass Dodge Park, which was the site of one of Lewis and Clark‘s campgrounds on their expedition across the Louisiana Purchase in 1804.

In the Ponca Hills area when you merge onto River Road about seven miles out, you come to the steepest (but short) hill on the course. The ascent is approximately 150 feet in about .4 miles. A quarter mile of this is 8-11% grade, according to my Garmin.

This photo shows the steep hill, although it doesn’t look steep in this photo.

Get ready to climb

Then you are rewarded with a nice long downhill!  After that, to the turnaround at 20K it is basically flat…like a pancake.

Pancake flat roads for a bit

You will make a U-turn on the road at 20K.

Heading back into town you have a longer and shallower double hill. The first hill is .3 miles long and ascends 85 feet with up to 8% grade …followed by a flat section …then the second hill is .3 miles long and ascends 55 feet at mostly 4% grade.

Here’s the view from the top of this hill – on River Road overlooking downtown Omaha, which is not far from transition.

View from the top overlooking downtown Omaha

From the top you will have a short and fast descent, and on a blustery day I caught some squirrelly wind. This is one place you could gain some time if you are comfortable with the downhill, so you may want to try it before your race.

Returning on Storz Expressway, you’re almost done when you see this. 

Storz Expressway and Omaha Tower

Omaha Triathlon Nationals and race day are almost here. Good luck and have a great race!

About the Author: Sheri Schrock is a TriSports Elite Team member and USA Triathlon Level 1 Coach. She competes in the Women’s 60-64 age group and has been a long time competitor, training and racing in Minnesota.

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Training and Racing Effectively When the Heat Hits https://university.trisports.com/2017/07/14/training-and-racing-effectively-when-the-heat-hits/ Fri, 14 Jul 2017 23:34:32 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8489 Professional Triathlete Jesse Vondracek  shares his training and racing tips on how to acclimate to the heat and when to take it indoors. Given that my Facebook feed consists of posts lamenting 107 degree temps, it’s safe to say that summer is in full swing in Tucson and most of the United States. Heat is […]]]>

Professional Triathlete Jesse Vondracek  shares his training and racing tips on how to acclimate to the heat and when to take it indoors.

Given that my Facebook feed consists of posts lamenting 107 degree temps, it’s safe to say that summer is in full swing in Tucson and most of the United States. Heat is simply a form of stress on the body. If you are training in the heat, your body needs to spend energy to counteract that. Your blood must flow to your skin as well as your muscles. Your sweat helps cool you down, which works well in the short term. As time goes on, this leads to “fun” things like dehydration resulting in a huge decrease in performance. Even prior to becoming dehydrated, your perceived effort and heart rate go up compared to similar paces and power numbers on a cooler day. This is because your body is busy dealing with heat stress and your blood must be used for cooling. In a VO2 max test on elite athletes, athletes had approximately a 2% decrease in performance (Zhao). The important take away here is this is in a test lasting less than 15 minutes and even before dehydration has a chance to slow you down.

Stress is Stress
Before dehydration, we have heat stress. I am sure you’ve heard or read before stress is stress. In other words, your brain interprets all stressors similarly. Whether you had a hard day at work, are stuck in traffic, or are trying to do intervals in 110 degree heat, the same chemicals are released in your brain to deal with stress. The difference in these stresses is that the effect of heat increases over time. Since your boss is not riding with you that stress will likely lessen, while heat stress increases over time.

Creeping Dehydration
After life, heat, and physical stress from training, you’re now dealing with dehydration. If you are 2% dehydrated (e.g a loss of 3lbs in a 150 pound male) you will have a 5% decrease in performance in an event as short as a 5k (Jeukendrup). I challenge you to go for a run in the heat and see how much water weight you lose. This 2% dehydration causes decreased sweat rate, reduced skin blood flow, reduced blood volume, increased core temperature and rate of muscle glycogen use. All of these factors contribute to a higher perceived effort. Even just the increase in glycogen use forces you to slow down in order to conserve glycogen.

Perceived Effort
If you have to deal with multiple stressors at once or even just prolonged time in the heat, it’s important to remember that your pace or speed will be effected. It is in moments like this that perceived effort is so important to monitor. If you feel like you are putting out 300 watts, but only hitting 260, your actual effort is closer to that on a cool, less stressful day. Unless you are suffering from deep fatigue, you should still complete the workout, but understand that your times will be slower. Training in hot conditions taxes your body’s systems and takes a toll on overall performance, the training benefit is not exactly the same, but very similar.

Indoors vs. Outdoors
If you want the same benefit, or it is 110 out, you can train inside. This reduces the chance of heat-related injury and means you can nail the workout as it was written. There is a benefit to both training in less than ideal conditions and moving things indoors at times. For easy days and short workouts, I say get outside. Help train your body to deal with the heat. If you are preparing for a hot race this is crucial. There are many ways to acclimate to the heat. A good way to start about three weeks prior to your race is perform 3-5 low intensity workouts a week in the heat. You want to aim to be slightly dehydrated to train it to deal with similar race day conditions. As you adapt, your body will increase the relative temperate at which you begin to sweat, and lower your heart rate in the heat. You do not want to sacrifice your hard training sessions by making them all in the heat and losing quality. The heat sessions should be aerobic only, and I recommend moving key workouts indoors or doing them early in the morning to avoid the heat. Another way to aid heat adaptation is to jump in a sauna a few times a week for 20-30 minutes post workout. This has a similar effect to performing easy sessions in the heat.

Recovery After Heat Training
Keep in mind that heat training will increase recovery time and fatigue from a workout. You need to make sure you properly rehydrate and replenish electrolytes after these sessions. As you add heat sessions into your training, do so slowly. See how your body reacts first, then go from there. Keep in mind that the point is to be acclimated on race day, and be able to race faster. Keeping the goal in mind will help you balance quality sessions, heat acclimation, and recovery.

Racing in the Heat
If you are lucky enough to have a race day with high heat and humidity you need to be mentally ready for the challenging conditions. The number one way to do this is to plan your hydration strategy. I have heard a great deal of talk about relying on thirst to consumer liquids rather than drinking according to a plan. If you are going for a walk, I totally agree with this idea. If you are in the middle of a triathlon and have minimal energy to spend processing water/nutrition at any one time, I totally disagree.

Make Drinking a Priority
Prioritizing drinking might mean you slow down more at aid stations, or even stop to ensure you get a bottle. Your ride time might lose a minute or two, but as you run past people walking on the run course, you will thank yourself for the foresight. I set a timer on my watch to remind myself to eat and drink at various intervals throughout the ride. When I am riding hard, I need to focus on riding hard. If my mind drifts to water, heat, the scenery, I slow down. I need to keep as much as I can on autopilot. If it is hot, I make sure I am drinking about two bottles of water an hour and 300-400 liquid calories (water and gel mix). Your body cannot digest calories without water, so water is a must. The closer you can stay to hydrated at the end of the bike, the better off you will be starting the run.

Heat-Specific Pacing Strategy
In addition to a hydration strategy, it’s also good to have a heat-specific pacing strategy.  On both the bike and run your watts/pace might be a little slower to accommodate for the heat. You might be able to get away with your usual power on the bike if you are hydrating well, but the run will most likely be slower. Knowing your perceived effort levels will help you run as fast as you can without exploding. On the run, work the aid stations. They are all set up the same, and begin and end with water. Hit both. Drink water at every aid station. If you start peeing a ton, it’s okay to back off some. I also love throwing ice in my kit, which gives my body a few cold spots to focus my energy on. In addition to pacing and hydration, make sure you have a nutrition plan and try your best to stick to it on the run. I take a gel approximately every 30 minutes on the run, and supplement with gatorade and cola between cups of water.

Salt Up
The last thing to consider when preparing for a hot race is electrolytes or salts. I never thought these were an issue for me until I was running down the course at Ironman Arizona looking for chicken broth when it was 100 degrees and sunny. I then realized why I might be craving a hot beverage. If you are drinking bottles and bottles of water and sweating out more than just water, you need to help replace your electrolytes. This is a touchy subject because everyone sweats different ratios of electrolytes. It’s a good idea to try a few things well before race day, and find a plan that works for you. If things get funky on race day, don’t be afraid to deviate (and drink more cola), but start out with a calculated plan. I tend to add some electrolytes to my water and gel mix bottle and have a little salt ready in case I need it on the run. Most gels have a fair amount of sodium in them. Some do not, so know what you have, and know what is on the course in order to make good choices.

Have fun, stay cool, and stay hydrated!

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Bibliography:

Zhao, Jiexiu Effects of heat and different humidity levels on aerobic and aerobic exercise performance in athletes. May 24, 2013. http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1728869X13000087

Jeukendrup, Asker. Dehydration and its effects on performance. 2010. http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/dehydration-and-its-effects-on-performance

About the Author: Jesse Vondracek is a Professional Triathlete with an IRONMAN PR of 8:27. He has raced in hundreds of triathlons, 19 IRONMANs, and has 0 DNFs. Jesse is the Head Coach at Top Step Training. He lives and trains with his wife Amy Cole and their two mutts. He can be reached at www.topsteptraining.com or Jesse Vondracek on Facebook.

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The Essential Superfood Smoothie for Athletes https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/20/the-essential-superfood-smoothie-for-athletes/ Tue, 20 Jun 2017 17:02:31 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8398 Adding a daily smoothie to your diet is a great way to conveniently get additional quality nutrition just when you need it. It’s time to face the music, we all know we can stand to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet, particularly brightly colored berries and leafy greens. For the training triathlete, […]]]>

Adding a daily smoothie to your diet is a great way to conveniently get additional quality nutrition just when you need it.


It’s time to face the music, we all know we can stand to get more fresh fruits and vegetables in our diet, particularly brightly colored berries and leafy greens. For the training triathlete, an additional dose of 20 grams of clean, convenient protein between meals, or at meal time, goes a long way to help aid muscle recovery and maintain lean body mass, crucial when you are doing two, and sometimes more, workouts in a day.

One of the best ways to do this is with a high-protein smoothie. It’s quick to make, portable so you can take it with you on the go (we know you’re busy, and we feel your pain), and customizable, allowing you to boost up the flavors or ingredients you particularly like or need. As a busy triathlete training for more than one sport who’s body is in constant need of fueling and/or recovery, it’s hard to beat the convenience and nutritional value of a good smoothie with the right ingredients, not to mention portability.

When we make our smoothies, we tend to look at them as the “catch all” for everything healthy we know we need to eat in a given day. Did you have a particularly hard run session in the morning? Throw in a little extra protein. Do you feel like lately you’ve been missing getting enough green roughage in your diet? Toss in a handful of spinach or another leafy green. It really is what you make it, and gives you the certainty and peace of mind that later in the day if all else fails because your swim went long and you just aren’t going to have the time to throw together that well-balanced dinner you planned for, forcing you to compromise your food choices (let’s face it, we all do from time to time), at least you had your healthy smoothie before.

Let’s address the nutritional elephant in the room and the smoothie’s not-so-equal counterpart: juicing. It is an alternative way to get micro and phytonutrients in your diet, but frankly, it is far inferior compared to a well-balanced smoothie. Juicing omits almost all the fiber from whatever you are pressing to make your juice, which means you are leaving nutrition on the table. Don’t get us wrong, we do believe in juicing and some of the benefits it may bring, but only when treated as a supplement vs. a primary meal, which is required to give your body what it needs for performance and recovery.

A well-balanced smoothie on the other hand should have a blend of low-glycemic carbs, micronutrients and fiber from whatever fruits and/or veggies you add, protein, healthy fats, and a general profile of other vitamins and minerals that an athlete’s body needs. It is hard to beat the nutritional punch this packs for a body that is constantly looking for a little reprieve. Not only will those ingredients provide a balanced and steady insulin response, you get the added benefit of providing your gut with pre-biotic fiber from the blended fruits and veggies, which can help maintain healthy digestive system flora, better known as the beneficial bacteria that keep everything “running smoothly.” Just make sure you use a very good blender (we prefer the Magic Bullet) for an ideal texture!

If you are using a Field Work Nutrition Primo Smoothie as your base, you will be getting 20 grams of high quality protein with a full spectrum of essential amino acids, whole food based carbohydrates, healthy fats from sources like coconut and flax, including omega-3’s, berries, greens, turmeric and tart cherry to help reduce exercise induced inflammation, probiotics, prebiotics, a whole profile of vitamins and minerals that triathletes are regularly deficient it, plus a whole lot more.

Read 3 Ways to PR Your Recovery through Nutrition to learn more about nailing your triathlon recovery!

If you are looking for one simple way to add some additional nutrition to your diet in an extremely user-friendly way, consider a daily superfood smoothie.

Try one of our favorite recipes:

  • ½ cup strawberries
  • 1 small banana
  • 1 handful of spinach
  • 8 oz milk or almond milk
  • 2 scoops Primo Smoothie Meal mix

Blend and enjoy!

Buy This Product Now on TriSports.com

About Field Work Nutrition Co.: Field Work Nutrition Co. Develops products for a community of likeminded people that value living a healthy vibrant life by eating well and pursuing their athletic and active passions “in the field.” We believe that health is wealth and a life outdoors is a life well lived.  We value real food and clean ingredients, but know that our modern lifestyles leave us time crunched and seeking convenience.  This does not have to be at the expense of healthy nutrition.  Our Primo Smoothie Meal delivers superior nutrition specifically tailored to the needs of training athletes in a convenient format to fuel your everyday.  It contains 20 grams of high quality protein with a full spectrum of essential amino acids, whole food based carbohydrates, healthy fats from sources like coconut and flax, berries, greens, turmeric and tart cherry to help reduce exercise induced inflammation, probiotics, prebiotics, a whole profile of vitamins and minerals athletes are regularly deficient in, and a whole lot more.

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An Open Letter to All Coaches on What Really Matters- Questions You Should Ask as an Athlete https://university.trisports.com/2017/06/15/an-open-letter-to-all-coaches-on-what-really-matters-questions-you-should-ask-as-an-athlete/ Thu, 15 Jun 2017 19:43:24 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8381 Written by Matt Smith, MS, Training Peaks and USAT Level 2 Certified Triathlon Coach As coaches, we start our relationship with an athlete completely backwards. I know this is a bold statement, but one that has taken me almost ten years of coaching to feel comfortable making. I’ve known deep down that it’s right, and […]]]>

Written by Matt Smith, MS, Training Peaks and USAT Level 2 Certified Triathlon Coach

As coaches, we start our relationship with an athlete completely backwards. I know this is a bold statement, but one that has taken me almost ten years of coaching to feel comfortable making. I’ve known deep down that it’s right, and have practiced it after the fact, but continue to realize that during that first meeting with an athlete or even during the “honeymoon phase” as we get started working together, I revert to what’s comfortable. We need to challenge ourselves to think differently about how we interact with an athlete’s life.

What’s backwards?
In most cases, when an athlete begins working with a triathlon coach, the three common questions revolve around the athlete’s goals and coach’s track record of helping similar athletes accomplish these goals. What the workouts are going to be like or what the coaches training philosophy is or how many hours and how intense it will be. How the coach uses or doesn’t use data to drive the physiological progression for an athlete. Finally, what training technology will be required of the athlete.

The Athlete as a Whole
The one set of questions that never come to fruition revolve around the rest of the athlete’s life. Granted, we talk about communication with the coach usually and ask about what they do for work and how many hours a week they can train. Do we really take the time to understand the work and family life of that athlete and how training fits into the puzzle? I’m placing my bet on most of the time, not so much. I’ve also come to realize that if we leave the rest of the puzzle pieces on the table, the puzzle is incomplete and these are the pieces that most make up the complete picture vs. the border pieces that are training.

Stress is Stress
We need to remember that age old formula taught by one of the most successful coaches ever, Stephen Covey, “Stress is Stress.” Whether it be positive, endorphin-driven workout stress or the negative stress from an angry boss or managing the family schedule, it all goes in the same bucket. Stress comes from four main sources:

1. Psychological
-Work
-Family schedule management
-Money

2. Emotional
-Spouse/partner relationships
-Friends and co-workers
-Spiritual connection

3. Environmental
-Nutrition and nutrient density
-Toxic load
-Heat/Cold

4. Physical
-Workouts and training
-Sleep and recovery

What questions should we be asking as coaches? I recommend asking these 7 questions to shed light on the whole picture of what an athlete’s life looks like. These questions tell us where the stress comes from in an athlete’s life and how to help them manage stressors in order to maximize training. Athletes, these are also the most important topics you should be discussing with your coach.

Start with these Questions:

  1. What motivates you: How would you rank triathlon training as a priority in your life (1-5)? What brings you the most joy in life? Do you have a personal mantra or purpose for your life? Which motivates you more: accomplishing a goal or the act of training to get there?
  2. How do you manage your life: Do you keep a to-do list? Do you keep a calendar? What is the amount of detail you block your calendar in? Are you early or late?
  3. Tell me about your work life: How many hours a week do you work? Do you like your co-workers? Do you appreciate your boss? How do you feel at the end of a work day, invigorated or spent? Is your work a means to an end or do you find joy in it? On a scale of 1-10, how stressful is your work?
  4. Tell me about your family: Who manages the family schedule? Do other people in your household train? Do you have an open dialogue with your spouse/partner about training schedules? Do you involve your family in the sport with you?
  5. Tell me about your social life: How does training and racing fit into your social calendar? Are your friends supportive of training and racing? Do you have a close circle of friends that support you in life?
  6. Talk to me about your nutrition: What would (3) days of your normal diet look like? How often do you eat out vs. prepare food? Fresh or frozen? Do you eat to train or train to eat?
  7. Let’s talk about recovery: How much do you sleep per night? Do you wake rested or feel groggy and need coffee to kick start the day? Do you feel tired in the afternoon? Do you engage in spiritual disciplines or meditation? How often do you check your phone or device/do you unplug?

I know…this is more like 7 buckets of questions vs. 7 single and specific questions, but this list of questions paired with simply listening to the answers and reiterating what you hear to the athlete will help dig into the three-quarters or more of the athlete’s life that we don’t see in Training Peaks. If we ask these questions first, the training will fall into place behind. I can confidently say that the athletes I’ve worked with where we have an open and honest dialogue about their life and priorities up front are the most successful. Nine times out of ten, even when they nail the training plan, a bad race day experience is caused by neglecting one of these other stressors in life and not having enough room in the bucket for the physical stress of race day.

Sansego Experience at Canyon Ranch
Do you want to learn more about how endurance sports training fits into the whole picture for your life and how to balance these stressors? Join 3x Ironman World Champion, Kona course record holder, husband, and father of three, Craig Alexander and his global team of coaches at the famous Canyon Ranch health and wellness resort in Tucson, AZ this September for the most complete triathlon and life experience ever offered. You’ll receive the ultimate in one-on-one coaching from the Sansego team, plus personalized access to the comprehensive life management and exercise physiology resources at Canyon Ranch. TriSports is a proud supporter of the Sansego Experience at Canyon Ranch.


About the Author: Matt Smith has been actively involved in competitive endurance and multisport racing and training for almost 20 years. He is a 5 time Ironman World Championships qualifier and has raced the 70.3 World Championships 4 times with a top 10 age group finish. He holds a master’s degree in leadership and personal development. He has managed university and executive leadership development programs. He is also a USAT and Training Peaks Level 2 certified triathlon coach and is a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. His extensive background in leadership and personal development, coupled with a firm grounding in coaching practice lends a unique perspective in working with high performing athletes. Matt has an understanding of where stressors come from in life and how to maximize performance given multiple responsibilities and time constraints.

 

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3 Ways to PR Your Recovery through Nutrition https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/17/3-ways-to-pr-your-recovery-through-nutrition/ Wed, 17 May 2017 14:12:44 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8277 Written by Stevie Lyn Smith, Registered Dietitian An injury…something every athlete knows all too well, but no athlete expects or is prepared for when it happens to them. Coming off some well-deserved rest from last season, I was ready both physically and mentally heading into the New Year. I decided I needed to make changes. […]]]>

Written by Stevie Lyn Smith, Registered Dietitian

An injury…something every athlete knows all too well, but no athlete expects or is prepared for when it happens to them. Coming off some well-deserved rest from last season, I was ready both physically and mentally heading into the New Year. I decided I needed to make changes. With my new goals in mind, it was time to work on daily interventions in my training that would yield big results on race day performance.

That’s when I started researching tools for customized, science-based blood analytics. I had read about InsideTracker previously but being in my late 20’s, healthy, and a Registered Dietitian, I assumed this wasn’t for me. However, I took a chance and did initial testing and found out that my early assumptions were far from true.

The plan was set; I had a wealth of knowledge and a nutrition plan to boot that would help me reach my goals. Cut to my current state: now recipient of a bad sprain and avulsion fracture on my left ankle after a near miss with a car on a run.

You would think that I could kiss my big goals goodbye, but thanks to InsideTracker I can use the same information meant to help me destroy my workouts to provide a different value- PR my recovery! Armed with my physicians’ recommendations, fantastic coach’s guidance, and useful InsideTracker tools- I have a direct impact on speeding up my body’s healing so I can get back to swimming, biking, and running towards my goals sooner.

Step 1: Pay Attention to the Inflammation Biomarkers
One of those markers is CRP (C-reactive protein), a protein found in the blood and one of the best indicators of inflammation in the body. Beyond being a general indicator of inflammation and a response to injury in the body, it helps determine the extent of a soft tissue injury.

Tip: Add avocado, pistachios, and quinoa daily to help reduce inflammation.

Step 2: Pay Attention to the Antioxidant Biomarkers
In addition to focusing on foods to specifically reduce my CRP, I make sure my meals are balanced and rich in antioxidants (vitamin C and E). These nutrients play supporting roles to help lower inflammation in the body and promote healing.

Tip: Fiber and fish oils are your friend, especially because they stimulate healing since they are rich in antioxidants.

Step 3: Pay Attention to the Vitamin D Marker
Ensure continued adequate intake of vitamin D to encourage calcium absorption and support bone healing. Though both my calcium and vitamin D are optimized, I need to ensure I stay on top of it and don’t let my levels slip.

Tip: Try salmon, soymilk, pork, eggs, and spinach to ensure you get adequate vitamin D.

While I’m still not able to train, I have taken joy in putting together recipes for now. Whether it is trying recipes from the InsideTracker page or testing new recipes of my own, I’m discovering new ways to ensure I stay healthy and optimize my recovery.

There is eating healthy and then there is eating healthy for specific to what your body needs. How do you know what your body needs, if you don’t ask it? Through cycles of training, tapering, racing, and rest we all respond differently. Monitoring your blood biomarkers throughout the season can help you further personalize your nutrition, aid in injury prevention, and optimize your training.


About the Author: Stevie Lyn Smith is a Registered Dietitian residing in Washington, DC. She is practicing as a clinical dietitian at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs as well as in sports nutrition for The Core Diet. At 28 years of age, she is an age group athlete who is a 5-time Ironman,11-time half Ironman, and 17-time marathon finisher, including Ironman 70.3 World Championships. She has also completed a 50 mile ultra marathon among other endurance events. Read Stevie’s blog at http://gritgracegreens.com/.

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Proper Run Form and Mechanics https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/12/essentials-of-run-form-and-mechanics/ Fri, 12 May 2017 17:22:44 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8262 Written by Lisa Roberts, American Long Course Professional Triathlete and TriSports Elite Team Member Is there a perfect running style?  Unfortunately, the answer to that simple question isn’t all that simple or clearly defined. So I’ll say “sort of” for each individual. Particularly when it comes to triathletes, there are more efficient ways of running. […]]]>

Written by Lisa Roberts, American Long Course Professional Triathlete and TriSports Elite Team Member

Is there a perfect running style?  Unfortunately, the answer to that simple question isn’t all that simple or clearly defined. So I’ll say “sort of” for each individual. Particularly when it comes to triathletes, there are more efficient ways of running. Especially when it comes to triathletes, working towards a more efficient running form is far more beneficial than striving for a perfect running form.

Efficiency is better, here’s why:
Triathletes come from varied athletic backgrounds and do not have enough training time to develop running form like pure runners and the physical demands running off the bike are drastically different. Therefore, any work you do to improve your running mechanics should place primary importance on increasing your running efficiency. For example, I began my athletic career as a distance runner and my running gait has gone from being described as a “gazelle” and now is likened to a “bull.” I take it as a compliment.

So where do you start?
Begin with body alignment, posture and using gravity. This can be described as an “up tall and proud” chest, looking up the road, not down at your feet, with a slight forward lean originating from the ankles. This gets you using gravity to push forward, keeps your chest open, relaxed, and puts you in the correct position for a good foot strike and push off.

Leg drive and Push Off
Next, we look at leg drive and push off. Your running power comes from your hips, glutes, core, particularly when our legs are tired from riding the bike. Try this: from a standing position, lean forward slightly from the ankles. At a certain point of leaning you will need to pick up one leg and stick it out in front of you to stop you from falling on your face (see picture above). That combination of the ‘drive’ feeling coming from the hips along with the push off coming from the rear leg is what we’re after. Your arms will naturally follow in an alternating pattern. Don’t underestimate your arms; however, we’ll cover this later with cadence.

Foot Strike and Stride Length
Foot strike stride length and are next and conflicting opinions abound as to how this should happen. There is some debate between whether runners should avoid heel striking or forefoot striking at all costs. Some of these opinions are made in hopes of selling a particular type of running shoe and some are held based on biomechanics and other historical research. Let’s go with somewhere in between and settle on striking somewhere in the midfoot, which is what most of us do anyway. There is some advantage to being able to control and shift to various foot strike patterns. Most triathletes have a tendency toward a slight heel/midfoot strike, this helps the leg absorb the impact through the knee, ankle, and outside of the foot then spreads the weight across the foot as it makes full ground contact. With decent hip mobility and drive from the core, the knee, ankle, and foot are set up to achieve an optimal position.

As for stride length, here’s where I shifted from the “gazelle” to the “bull.” Many years of cycling (and sitting at desks) has tightened the hip flexors and shortened my stride. But what has resulted is a very efficient stride length and rate for long distance triathlon.

Is there an ideal cadence?
Stride rate (a.k.a turnover or cadence) is your rhythm. It holds the entire running motion together and is your flow.  According to USAT, numerous surveys indicate that the best runners and triathletes take 90+ steps per minute (per single leg). Some of this is a function of their speed, but even runners and triathletes with less ability and subsequently lower speeds who run well for their ability display similar cadences. We can also control our stride rate by swinging our arms. Often times I focus on my arm swing and connecting it with power emanating from my core – especially when I am starting to feel fatigued.

Read more about Running the Right Way from ITU Olympic Distance World Champion and 6-Time Hawaii IRONMAN World Champion Mark Allen.

Don’t forget your arms!
Finally, let’s discuss your arms and their importance in run form. Aside from helping you keep your balance and rhythm, they are also your first aspect to monitor in staying up tall, relaxed and symmetrical. Keeping a rhythmical swing, with hands and shoulders relaxed and not crossing them over our body’s center-line simply helps to keep all the other form metrics in place.

Running form mechanics can be a complex subject; my hope is you can take these basic points and start to drill down on each one in more depth. There are a variety of drills you can perform to really hone in on these mechanics. Happy running!

About the Author: Lisa Roberts is an American long course professional triathlete living in Tucson, Arizona. She has run competitively for 25 years, competing specifically in triathlon for 15 years, professionally for 8 years. As a professional she is a 3x Ironman World Championship finisher, has 17 pro Ironman podium finishes and 3 Ironman/70.3 run course records. She is a USAT Level 1 Coach, European cycling tour guide and Registered Landscape Architect.

 

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5 Essential Swimming Drills for Triathletes to Strengthen Your Core https://university.trisports.com/2017/05/02/5-essential-swimming-drills-for-triathletes-to-strengthen-your-core/ Tue, 02 May 2017 20:56:31 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8220 Written by Maciej Konczewski, Engineer, Swim Instructor, and TriSports Elite Team Member Having a strong core is extremely important not only for triathletes, but athletes in general. A strong core helps with stability, posture, and overall body control. Furthermore, having a strong core improves how your body functions as a whole. It will not only […]]]>

Written by Maciej Konczewski, Engineer, Swim Instructor, and TriSports Elite Team Member

Having a strong core is extremely important not only for triathletes, but athletes in general. A strong core helps with stability, posture, and overall body control. Furthermore, having a strong core improves how your body functions as a whole. It will not only positively affect your swimming performance, but also aid in your bike and run performance. So without further delay here are my ultimate, favorite swimming drills for building a strong core.

1. Butterfly/Dolphin Kicks
This is not necessarily a drill, but rather a fundamental skill for any swimmer. Any variation of butterfly kicking will take you on your way to building a stronger core. A great way to start with this drill is on your back with fins. It is much easier to keep a tighter core, and a fluid kick this way. Make sure to focus on thrusting your hips and using your body to engage the legs, not the other way around. Work on mastering the body movement and the undulation.

Once you have mastered this you can do various variations:

  1. Without fins on your stomach or back
  2. Kicking on your side
  3. Arms in front of you or on the side

2. Pull Buoy Progressions (thighs, knees, ankles)
This drill is rather simple, but very quickly gets difficult. It is essentially a progression of doing regular pulls with the pull bouy. You start off with the pull bouy between your thighs, and then move it down between your knees and eventually between your ankles. Here are key things to focus on:

  1. Keep your core tight. Do this by squeezing your thighs/legs together as if you were trying to pop a balloon. This will force you to flex your abs and core.
  2. Focus on reaching and stretching your stroke.
  3. Tip: the biggest give away you need to flex your core and squeeze your legs is if you are fish tailing (legs moving side to side).

Bonus: If the pull bouy is too easy, band your legs together with a resistance band.

3. Water Polo & Tarzan Drill
Water Polo swimming, also known as Tarzan Drill, is helpful in two regards. Not only does it help improve your sighting and swimming with your head out of the water, it also works your core and strengthens your neck muscles. This is an essential staple for open water swimmers and triathletes alike. Most of our time is spent training in indoor pools where not swimming in a straight line is extremely difficult, while swimming in the open water is a completely different story.

  1. For beginners, perform this drill in lengths of 25s. This prevents an overly sore neck.
  2. Swim with your head up and out of the water looking forward. Keep your head still.
  3. Arch your lower back to keep your lower half from sinking. This will engage your core. You will need to kick stronger than normal to keep your body balanced and feet from dragging.
  4. Shorten your stroke. It is choppier and quicker than normal.

For newbie tips on sighting in open water, read more here.

4. Extended Streamline off the Wall
This is a simple drill that simply requires you to hold your streamlines longer coming off the wall. It can even be incorporated in your regular sets.

  1. Each time you push off the wall focus on tucking your chin in and stretching your arms tight together behind you head.
  2. Keep your feet and legs flexed and tight throughout the streamline. Challenge yourself to go further each time.

5. Vertical Kicking
This is an extremely effective and simple drill. It requires a deep pool, preferably a diving well, but the deep end of most pools should suffice. This drill not only strengthens your core, but also helps to develop your kick. Start off in the deep end and begin your regular freestyle kick, however, perform it vertically. Try not to help yourself up by using your arms. If this is too difficult use fins.

This drill is good for swimmers of all levels and focuses on the following:

  1. Doing flutter kicks vertically engages your abdominals and allows you to get a feel for the proper motion. This isn’t as easy to achieve swimming horizontally because we often tend to relax our abdominals.
  2. It will smooth out your kick and force you to kick with even more power.
  3. Having a strong kick is what will separate you from the pack.

Bonus: To make this drill more difficult, you can take your hands out of the water. Advance your progressions to place hands on your head or even holding a weight.

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About the Author: Maciej is a swimmer/swim instructor turned triathlete/engineer. Driven by competition and desire to always get faster, and love for the sport. Team Trisports Elite Member who heavily enjoys destination races and seeing new places from the start and finish line, because you have to reward yourself somehow after staring at a wall on the trainer all winter.  Lover of sushi and connoisseur of mac and cheese. He can be found swimming, biking, and running around the suburbs of Chicago. Follow him on twitter/instagram @macheetri

 

 

 

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Open Water Swim Safety https://university.trisports.com/2017/04/21/open-water-swim-safety/ Fri, 21 Apr 2017 18:00:35 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8193 Written by Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague, Coaches at Tri Swim Coach Open water swimming can be scary. Cold. Jarring. Frustrating. And in some cases, dangerous. If you feel anxiety bubbling up as you stand on the lake or ocean shore, you are not alone. But this fear is completely rational and can be easily […]]]>

Written by Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague, Coaches at Tri Swim Coach

Open water swimming can be scary. Cold. Jarring. Frustrating.

And in some cases, dangerous.

If you feel anxiety bubbling up as you stand on the lake or ocean shore, you are not alone. But this fear is completely rational and can be easily combated with the proper preparation.

Most of the anxiety stems from the fear of unknown. While statistics show that open water swimming is actually quite safe, it is always good to be prepared for any situation.

The most common fear people have is unknown potential creatures below them. Even though the odds of getting bit or eaten by something are tiny, there is a logical reason to the fear.

Hollywood combined with real life incidents give way to this very common fear.

Start With The Controllables
1. Cardiovascular Condition.
Before you even step into the water for either a race or just practice, make sure that you get your heart checked for any abnormalities. In the past 10 years, a large sum of open water swimming fatalities have come from athletes who did not realize that had an underlying cardiovascular condition.

Combining a cardio issue like this with the shock of the cold water and the anticipation of a race can result in a disaster. If and when you are cleared, a good warm up that includes pushups, jumping jacks, arm swings and jogging can help your heart ease the transition into cold water.

If for some reason you can’t get in the water before your race, at minimum, splash cold water on your face, as this will trick your body into preparing for the cold submersion.

2. Preparation for the conditions.
If you know the water is going to be cold (sub 15 degrees Celsius/59 degrees Fahrenheit), then definitely wear a long-sleeved wetsuit, preferably in bright colors like this one, a bright fluorescent swim cap. For extra warmth, use two caps: a neoprene with a silicone one overtop and neoprene booties, which also help navigating rocky beaches. If you know your event will be in extremely frigid waters, Blueseventy makes a thermal wetsuit designed especially for coldwater.

Warm clothes for after the swim are also important. Most hypothermia cases are not from the water temperature but from the drop in temperature after you strip off your wetsuit. I (Kevin) know about this first-hand; after swimming in 50-degree Fahrenheit water in the Alcatraz swim in the San Francisco Bay once, I ended up with early stage hypothermia! It’s not fun, but preparing can help you avoid this.

3. Wetsuits.
With their extra buoyancy, wetsuits can be a huge help and an extra safety measure especially for beginner swimmers, but be sure that it is well-fitted and that you have practiced in it.

A wetsuit that is too small will restrict your breathing and can lead to hyperventilation, while a wetsuit that is too large will cause drag and weigh you down. Practicing in the wetsuit as much as you can will allow you to get used to the feeling of swimming in a wetsuit, which is quite different from your swimsuit in the pool.

In both cold and warm temperatures, remember bright colors are your friend. Without them, boats, kayakers, fellow swimmers and–if it comes to it–emergency rescue–can not see you, and rest assured that the bright colors will not attract sharks or killer whales–unless you plan to swim at Sea World.

4. Never train alone.
Grab some friends who are either swimmers themselves or who can kayak or SUP near by and keep an eye on you. An emergency contact should also know where you are and when you are expected to get out. Personally, I (Chris) always text my wife before I get in with how long I am swimming and then again when I get out to confirm that I am alright.

5. Be present!
This seems cliché and may be obvious, but there are so many factors in open water swimming that can throw you off, this is well worth mentioning. Staying present will allow you to deal with each distraction as it arises- even getting hit or pulled can be easily absorbed with a mindful approach to swimming. A couple of ideas here are to simply count your strokes, or think of a word, and repeat that word in your head as you swim.

The Non-Controllables
1. Sight.

There’s a lot you can do to practice sighting, and this is a big part of the challenge of open water swimming- staying on course. However, some of it may be out of your control. Sometimes the person you’re following doesn’t know where they’re going. Other times you just mistake where the finish line is. Practice can help here but it doesn’t eliminate every possible thing that could go wrong. Read more about sighting with these 8 Tips for Sighting.

2. Things that can bite and/or eat you.
Well this one is very rare, but its true- in the ocean, there is the element of the unknown. Let’s look at the stats: From the Washington Post: “According to the file’s analysis of 2000 data, beachgoers faced a 1-in-2-million chance of dying from drowning and other causes based on visits to East and West Coast beaches. By contrast, they faced a 1-in-11.5-million chance of being attacked by a shark, and less than a 1-in-264-million chance of dying from a shark bite, since just one person died that year in U.S. waters from an attack. Put another way, more Americans were killed by collapsing sinkholes (16) than sharks (11) between 1990 and 2006, and more by tornadoes (125) than sharks (6) in Florida between 1985 and 2010.”

In the rare case something does happen, be prepared for the worst. An open water safety device or an inflatable is an excellent idea- especially for beginners. While it might seem like a hassle, it can be a lifesaving measure if the weather or your body were to go awry.

Still nervous? Practicing is the best cure for fear and anxiety when it comes to open water. Start small and swim close to the shore with friends close by and on a course that allows you to see the bottom. As you become more comfortable gradually swim further and further out. No need to be a hero in the early stages.

Open water swimming does not have to be scary. With the proper preparations, you can swim with calm mind and be able to focus on what is important: your workout.

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About the Authors: Kevin Koskella and Chris Hague are coaches at Tri Swim Coach. Kevin is the Head Coach at Tri Swim Coach. He was an All-American swimmer in college and coaches masters swimmers and triathletes. Kevin contributes to Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine, Active.com, and many more.

Chris Hague is the Assistant Coach at Tri Swim Coach, and swam competitively at the collegiate level and has competed in triathlons since 2007. Chris is now juggling a full time triathlon career while pursuing a career in psychology and public health.

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Mountain Biking for Dummies: Suspension https://university.trisports.com/2017/04/13/mountain-biking-for-dummies-suspension/ Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:05:52 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8183 Written by James Haycraft Now that we’ve had ourselves a chance to explore the dipping-your-toe-into-the-mountain-bike-world level of research in our previous post (Mountain Biking for Dummies: The Frame), we can begin to delve into some of the more specific questions and functions of mountain bikes and what those mean for you, the rider, out on […]]]>

Written by James Haycraft

Now that we’ve had ourselves a chance to explore the dipping-your-toe-into-the-mountain-bike-world level of research in our previous post (Mountain Biking for Dummies: The Frame), we can begin to delve into some of the more specific questions and functions of mountain bikes and what those mean for you, the rider, out on the trail. Our first area of exploration will be one of the most critical and amazing components of a mountain bike: its suspension.

Suspension Defined
Suspension is truly a glorious thing; it can turn tragedy to triumph, it can make something out of nothing, it can absorb blows that would likely crush important parts of a rider’s body…in short: it’s amazing. First of all, let’s define suspension, shall we? Suspension is basically a thing on a bike (in our case anyway) by which vibrations are absorbed or dampened, whatever you want to call it. Road going bicycles actually do have a form of suspension that is most often overlooked: the tire and tube. But that’s a whole extra ball of wax that we’ll have to dig out of our ears at another time.

Suspension Varieties
Suspension on a mountain bike basically comes in two forms: fork suspension and rear triangle suspension. A bicycle that ONLY has a suspension fork is most commonly referred to as a “hardtail.” The nomenclature should seem relatively self-explanatory, as a hard rear end means no suspension. As an aside, some people choose to ride trails on mountain bikes that are “fully rigid,” meaning they have no suspension at all. Those brave souls deserve commendation, as they are surely tougher than I am. A bicycle frame that has a suspension fork AND a shock connecting the rear triangle to the main triangle is a full suspension bike, as both wheels are able to travel independently of the frame; although both travel on a pre-determined path, as defined by the suspension system itself. In general, you should also refer to the rear suspension as the shock, and the front suspension as the fork.

But within those two categories there are an absolute and overwhelming multitude of different types of mountain bikes including, but not limited to: rigid, hardtail, enduro, all mountain, trail, downhill, gravel, cyclocross, dirt jumper, fat bike, plus bikes, the list goes on.  Most of those are categorized by their frame, hardtail or full suspension and the frame’s geometry, and by the width of tire they can accommodate (fat bike, plus bike, also called fattie by some manufacturers).

With so many choices, which bike is right for me? 
How can you possibly know which bike is the best for you right away? Well, it’s almost impossible.  But if you’re TOTALLY new to mountain biking, the most likely answer is going to be something that’s relatively inexpensive. Most people when they’re getting involved in a new sport or hobby start low, in the sense that their investment is at least initially relatively small. If you fall into that category, you are most likely going to end up with a hardtail as your first mountain bike. It is intuitive that hardtailed bikes are the least expensive to produce, although you can buy some REALLY expensive hardtails, as there are less expenses in making those frames and equipping those complete bikes with parts. Suspension is very expensive. For reference, you can buy suspension forks ranging in price from a bit over a hundred bucks to forks that are about two thousand dollars. That’s JUST the fork, so keep that in mind.

Hardtail vs. Full Suspension 
So the tl;dr version of that paragraph was that entry level mountain bikes are generally hardtails, and that’s totally fine. It will be capable of doing most things you want a mountain bike to do and there are only certain areas in which the bike itself will feel out of depth, but I can guarantee you that as the rider you will feel far out of YOUR depth before the bike begins to play a role in that mental game. As you grow more confident, however, you may find yourself wanting to explore areas that you now feel are open to you, if you were on the right equipment. That’s where full suspension bikes come into play.  They can lower the “oh crap” factor as they frequently offer a little wiggle room, so to speak, when it comes to making errors out on the trail. Even a full suspension cross country bike, which is generally saved for courses that are designed to be fast and/or have lots of climbing, can be capable of many more trails and features than a hardtailed cross country bike.

Suspension and its travel
When you start getting higher up the mountain, however, you may find yourself wanting something that can absorb hits on which a puny little cross country bike’s suspension would bottom out.  Bottoming out is what happens when suspension runs the full course of its travel and reaches its mechanical limit. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s not something you want to do over and over to suspension, as the wear and tear on the pistons and seals will shorten its lifespan. As bike’s suspensions get bigger and bigger (as you travel from 90mm XC bikes to 150mm all mountain bikes) the geometry of the frame itself also changes.  A cross country bike is very “road-like” in its position, as the bike is kind of designed around the premise of traveling, well…traveling across country; up the mountain, down the mountain, across the ridge, along the flats, through the valley, and so it goes. It’s designed to go there and do it pretty quickly. As a consequence, the road-like geometry (it’s more upright than a road bike) is most apparent on these bikes. As you move up the travel range, the bikes get shorter horizontally and taller vertically.  Think of it as if you’re sitting in an office chair at a desk with your hands at a keyboard.  With cross country bikes, the chair is a bit higher than the keyboard and your “wheel” is closer to underneath the keyboard (in our hypothetical world). On an all mountain bike the keyboard is higher than the chair and is closer to you and the front wheel is sitting out in front of the keyboard a bit.  The position is far more upright, which aids the rider in managing the bike underneath them and consequently in attempting features that would be far more difficult on a XC bike, where your weight is more forward.

Working your suspension
Further complicating the matter is the way in which you can interact with your suspension. However, none of what I’m about to say would really dictate which TYPE of bike I would buy, so keep that in mind (most of these features are determined by the brand of suspension the bike manufacturer chooses to stock on their bike). Suspension forks and shocks can be regulated by the user in a few ways: you can change the amount of air pressure you pump INTO the fork/shock chambers (using a suspension pump), you can lock out the suspension completely either using a switch mounted on the unit itself (you have to reach down and turn the switch, which can be complicated while riding trails), or a remotely mounted switch (mounted on your handlebars and actuated via a hydraulic or mechanical system, but you basically just flip a switch), or you can adjust the “mode” the suspension is in via a multi-position switch.  For example, some shocks have climb/trail/descend selections, where climb has basically no travel, trail has most of the suspensions travel available to use, and descend has as much squish available as the bike allows. Many riders have their opinions and may say certain systems are better than others, but you are best off deciding for yourself once you have a better idea of how you ride the bike.

Let’s talk about rebound
Suspension also has one other very important way in which you can regulate its behavior beyond setting the pressure and squishiness of the suspension: its rebound. Rebound is how fast the suspension wants to travel back to its normal position. When I first started riding, I thought: “Why would I want to adjust that? I want it to rebound as quickly as possible, right?” No sir. Rebound can dramatically affect the feel of the suspension, and it depends (as I’ve been saying a lot, haven’t I?) on the type of riding you’re going to be doing. Almost inevitably though, no matter what bike I get on (be it my cross country bike or my all mountain bike), I generally slow down the rebound a bit. The bigger the hits my suspension will be absorbing, the slower I want the rebound to be. Think about it: if my 150mm (six inches) of travel is soaked up in one big hit all at once, I don’t want all six inches springing back to its original position as quickly as possible as that will tend to “buck” me off the bike. But, I don’t want the rebound set slow enough to where the hits bottom out the suspension if they come in relatively quick succession.

Don’t forget the seatpost
Phew, had enough?? Well, let’s talk about one more thing that’s sort of suspension related and then we can be done with this little infusion of knowledge. Everyone generally knows what a seatpost is, right? Pretty straightforward. Well, certain mountain bike types, usually all mountain and trail, may come with what is called a dropper seatpost.  Essentially, the seatpost is like a piece of suspension in that it can be manually “dropped” into itself (thereby lowering it temporarily) where it will stay until it is released (usually by a trigger on the handlebar, actuated mechanically by a cable or hydraulically like a brake) and pop back up to its original height. Dropper seatposts are incredibly useful in certain situations, as they get the saddle out of the way so you can move your body around much easier on the bike. If you’re going down a steep downhill it is nice to get behind the saddle and distribute your body’s weight much further back and this becomes significantly easier when you can move your saddle down quite a few inches.

All of these things add together to create a bike that is adaptable to the way you want to ride it. The bigger the suspension (i.e. more travel it has) the more forgiveness you get and the more capable your bike is of absorbing big hits and/or absorbing mistakes you make.

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About the Author: James is a recent transplant to the southwest who has spent more money during his time in triathlon than he’d care to admit. An adult onset triathlete, he has had the privilege to race in the professional field before realizing that they are simply too good for him and is now back to the age group ranks, where he has discovered a love for all things off-road and has (temporarily, most likely) forsaken his road-going ways in favor of getting dirty.

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Strength Training As Injury Prevention https://university.trisports.com/2017/03/10/strength-training-as-injury-prevention/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 20:13:17 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8067 Written by Jesse Vondracek, NSCA CSCS and Professional Triathlete We have all been there, diagnosed with some sort of “overuse” injury. We’re told the best thing to do is nothing in order to let it heal properly. I would like to argue that there is no such thing as overuse. Our cardiovascular system is not […]]]>

Written by Jesse Vondracek, NSCA CSCS and Professional Triathlete

We have all been there, diagnosed with some sort of “overuse” injury. We’re told the best thing to do is nothing in order to let it heal properly. I would like to argue that there is no such thing as overuse. Our cardiovascular system is not strong enough to overuse our bodies if we are moving with perfect mechanics. Therein lies the problem. We do not have perfect mechanics. We all have some form of imbalance. Imbalances stem from a variety of causes, one’s body is slightly asymmetric, having a dominant hand, driving a car, playing a one-sided sport (tennis, golf, etc.), or just living life.

The stronger all of our muscles are, the harder it is for us to bring out our poor mechanics. Or, if we strengthen our weaknesses, our mechanics will improve through proper training. This allows us to use our bodies more before we get near the overuse line. The key here is we need to strengthen our muscles in the correct way. If I go to the gym and do thirty squats every day with heavy weight and bad form, I will become more injury-prone because I am reinforcing poor mechanics. This makes it paramount to start off a lifting program gradually, with correct form being the only focus.

3 Core Lifts You Should Be Doing
Let’s focus on the lower body. The three main exercises that target all of the major muscle groups are squats, deadlifts, and lunges. If done correctly, all three of these lifts will activate the glutes and quads. However, each lift will activate the muscles differently, changing the dominant muscle group. This is important because when riding and running, we need to be able to engage both our quads and glutes as a source of power. Ideally, we become well-rounded enough that both are equally fatigued when we cross the finish line. Our sport can be very quad dominant. If you have ever gotten off the bike and felt like you had to march the run, this is because you relied solely on your quads. The glutes are our largest muscle, so it is in our best interest to learn how to engage them.

In order to reap the benefit of these exercises proper form is crucial. If you’re new to a strength program, I recommend working with a strength coach or physical therapist to help you establish proper form and muscle recruitment. One thing to remember for good form, it’s all in the knees. Well, not really, but the knees are a place where we can see movement. In most lifts, one thing to keep a close eye on is how your knee is tracking. Your knee should stay over your mid-foot, not creeping past your toes. Also, your knee should not cave in or dive out laterally…ever. This is true for our three most basic lifts, squats, deadlifts and lunges. Here are a few guidelines for proper lifting technique during these core exercises.


The Squat

Squats are the best opportunity for you to engage your glutes. Although squats may often be thought of as a quad exercise, as you stand back up you really need to drive up from your glutes. When doing squats, you want to have your feet shoulder-width apart, toes slightly pointed out. You then sit back and try to get your hips as low as you can (goal being femurs parallel to the floor) with your back straight, chest up, and your knees staying behind your toes or mid-foot. You can add in variations with weight or even progressing to one legged squats with your other leg straight out in front of you.

The Deadlift
Deadlifts are a skill. Unlike the squat where your hips go down, the deadlift is a hinge. This makes a proper deadlift the ultimate glute worker. Your hips hinge backward to reach down with a flat back. You lift up by hinging your hips forwards. As you do this focus on squeezing from the glutes to snap your hips forward.  It’s best to start out with low weight with just a single kettlebell in order to learn the movement.

The Lunge
The lunge is a very common lift. The key is to keep the knee over the ankle and like the rest of these lifts, do not let your knees cave in or dive out. These can be done walking or stepping backwards, with body weight, free weights, kettle bells, or a barbell.

Even though our legs are our primary focus, core work and some upper body work is important for total body health. I like to incorporate planks, side planks, the ab wheel (yes from the infomercials), reach outs with jungle gym bands, inchworms, and renegade rows. I also think pull ups, push ups, chin ups, inverted rows, and shoulder press are good all-around upper body exercises.

Lifting is as important as the swim, bike, and run. The hard part is fitting it in, right? Remember, a little goes a long way. Lifting two times a week is plenty for the multisport athlete. It helps to break the lifts up into an “A” day and a “B” day, that way you do each lift once a week. Three to four sets of 6 to 12 reps is a good volume range for the average triathlete. A progressive cycle for the weight range is a good starting point, which means first adding more reps for a few consecutive weeks, then start over with more weight and possibly less reps if needed. Just like with your normal training, make sure to have a down week once in awhile. Try to maintain a lifting program through your competition season, but back off on both reps and weight. The most important thing is to try to maintain your strength with a little to no cost to your total body stress. By maintaining a lifting program, you’re keeping your muscles engaged throughout the entire year, preventing injury and giving you a stronger engine during the season. It also makes the transition from one phase of training to another much easier than if you were to totally skip any strength program for any length of time. Remember, focus on perfect form, lift within yourself, and have fun!

About the Author: Jesse Vondracek is a Professional Triathlete with an IRONMAN PR of 8:27. He has raced in hundreds of triathlons, 19 IRONMANs, and has 0 DNFs. Jesse is the Head Coach at Top Step Training. He lives and trains with his wife Amy Cole and their two mutts. He can be reached at www.topsteptraining.com or Jesse Vondracek on Facebook.

 

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Get Fit https://university.trisports.com/2017/02/17/get-fit/ Fri, 17 Feb 2017 21:48:07 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=8012 Written by James Haycraft This title is a bit misleading, as the reader may think I mean something along the lines of “aerobic fitness” gainz made in training. Au contraire, mon frère. Today I am talking about getting fit in the context of getting a bike fit. My title missed that crucial middle word for […]]]>

Written by James Haycraft

This title is a bit misleading, as the reader may think I mean something along the lines of “aerobic fitness” gainz made in training. Au contraire, mon frère. Today I am talking about getting fit in the context of getting a bike fit. My title missed that crucial middle word for the sake of sucking you in and getting you interested.

Triathlon fitting is both hugely overrated and hugely underrated at the same time. Paradoxical, you say? I agree that triathlon fitting is a bit of a paradox. It’s overrated in the sense that there are too many bad fitters out there yelling about how important it is for you to come see them and pay for a multi-hundred dollar fit before choosing a bicycle without realizing that they are bad fitters. You’ll also see many athletes crowing about their amazing fit and suggesting that a fit with their guy or gal is imperative to your success as a bicycle rider.

Are all fits created equal?
No sir. 90% of fitters who partake of the triathlon business segment are bad. I am using hyberbole and exaggeration for the purpose of making a point, so stay with me for a bit. Too often fitters focus on hitting numbers and angles that they have read out of a book or been taught in a one-day class by someone who has been taught in a three-day class. They are fitting a system and not an athlete. Just like coaches who simply coach a program and not an individual, these types of fitters are to be avoided at all costs both for the sake of your wallet and your triathlon fit.

Getting the right fit
Now, on the other hand, good triathlon fits are incredibly underrated. A fit with someone that understands aero fitting in general and its related principles and goals who also understands you as an athlete – your injury and race history along with your short and long term goals – AND has an ability to understand bicycle fit as a system insofar as it relates to your bike is an invaluable tool in your success as an athlete.

Let’s be frank: I don’t see any point in buying a triathlon bike if you’re not going to use it for its intended purpose: moving efficiently in straight lines. The only reason people buy or upgrade triathlon bikes is to be more competitive or more efficient. You may say that you bought it to be more comfortable in your triathlon racing, but that really just means efficient. A tri bike is designed completely around the philosophy of making you as a rider more aerodynamic for long periods of time while remaining comfortable. Let’s not forget that there are several balls to juggle in a triathlon fit:

  • Sustainability: This is key and often forgotten in the days of wind tunnel testing and a market that has been inundated with marketing catch phrases like “saves 3 watts” or “uber aerodynamic sleeves” and so on ad nauseum.
  • Efficiency: This means a mix of being fast (aerodynamic) while also being powerful. A good fitter is playing with the different demands of being aero and powerful as it relates to the athlete’s race goals and history.
  • Adjustability: I’ve changed this third one quite a bit over the years, but currently I think this is a good third ball to juggle. Many bikes these days have a specific (and limited) range of adjustability that comes into play at times when a fitter is trying to optimize an athlete’s position to a bike; again, keeping in mind the context of that athlete’s dynamic. Or if the morphology of that athlete is such that they are an outlier (e.g. extremely long and low, very tall, very short, super long legs with super short arms, etc.) finding them a bike in general makes a fitter’s job more…ummm, dynamic and interesting.

So in recap, the whole point of a tri bike is to be more efficient. Long story short, it’s my guiding ethos in fitting someone to a tri bike. Take that for what it’s worth…

How do we do that, you might ask?
Well, a good triathlon bike fit that juggles those three balls successfully starts entirely at the saddle. If you ride with a traditional saddle (i.e. think: it has a single nose), I can tell you that you are likely not as comfortable or as efficient as you could be. The original triathlon saddles were basically just more padded versions of their road saddle brothers and sisters. You were supposed to scoot your hips forward, “roll” (I’ll use that word a lot from now on) your hips forward and basically perch on the nose of the saddle. Doing this correctly allowed you to have an aerodynamic position. It was not, however, particularly comfortable or sustainable. Most people that still use those types of saddles have what has been termed (I’m borrowing this from my coach, David Tilbury-Davis) a “pooping dog” position; you don’t have to try hard to imagine what that looks like. This can generally lead to lower back discomfort, SI joint issues, back/shoulder fatigue, among other issues.

Ideally, you sit correctly on a noseless saddle (think ISM Adamo, Cobb JOF, Fizik Tritone, Dash, Specialized Sitero, etc.) which supports your bony parts, your seat bones, and leaves your soft tissue be, allowing your pelvis to “roll” forward. Think perching your butt vs. sagging your butt, flattening out your lower back and relieving it of the weight of your entire upper body. You want a position that supports you at your seat bones, elbows, and feet all using mostly bony support. The less muscular tension you have to apply to relax in your aero bars, the more sustainable that position will be long-term, both in terms of years of racing and hours of racing.

Postural coaching cues
Postural guidance, as I’ve dabbled in above, may be ignored by many of the fitters I’ve encountered. Most athletes, including myself, need to be told what to do and ideally shown what to do. Some have good kinesthetic awareness, but some do not, so either video feedback post-fit or ideally some sort of immediate and direct feedback allows them to make the postural adjustments that the fitter is hopefully suggesting and guiding them through. Many athletes are often surprised when a position that is more aero is actually more comfortable. Allowing your body to breathe so to speak (i.e. making your fit longer horizontally and a bit lower vertically) can often be a complete game changer for athletes who don’t even really think about triathlon cycling as being about going fast or being aero. But it can be a very fortunate byproduct!

Optimized fit for increased performance
A good triathlon bike fit is often mentioned as a way to aid your run, which – I believe – is definitely true, although I believe it’s true for slightly counter-intuitive reasons. Let’s say, for example, that you have a position on the bike that is not particularly optimized (i.e. not efficient using our jargon from above) and you expect a roughly six hour bike split at IRONMAN Arizona.  Well, with a good bike fit that yields a more efficient and aerodynamic position while still being sustainable by you, the rider, could possibly take 20 minutes off your time on the bike using the same effort or watts as you were originally planning. So all of a sudden you get to the run having worked out less than you would have before. There is less stress on your body and you’ve endured one third of an hour’s less working out so you obviously get to the run fresher than you would have otherwise. I am not completely sold on the idea that a good bike fit changes certain muscle engagement (although typically there is more glute and quad usage in an optimized fit) such that it affects your run, but that could be argued as a positive as well.

What to expect from your fit
I think, at a minimum, you should expect a couple of things out of your bike fit and the fitter. The fitter should be able to explain his reasoning behind every single change he or she makes to your bike and posture. There should be purpose and confidence to their actions and guidance.  They should listen to you and understand your goals and have the ability to translate that into what you want out of your bike and your fit on that bike. As far as outputs go (as in, if you are not getting fit on an actual bicycle but are instead fit on a “fit bike” with the goal that you will buy a bike later using that fit), you should expect numbers that describe your saddle position (i.e. how high is it and how far ahead or behind is it as those numbers relate to the bottom bracket) and cockpit position (i.e. where the arm pads are in relation to the bottom bracket, called “x” and “y” or armpad stack and reach) as those will place those items (the most critical items of a bike fit) in “space” and any competent fitter should be easily able to translate those numbers onto a real bike or adjust your bike accordingly. Ideally, the fitter can also explain those numbers to you in such a way that you understand them and can appreciate their meaning as it relates to your fit now and in the future.

So in summary, a good triathlon bike fit starts at the saddle and contains postural and fit coordinate guidance that allows an athlete to better understand themselves on a bicycle and makes them more efficient on their bicycle as well, ideally leading to a better bicycling experience in triathlon!

About the Author: James is a recent transplant to the southwest who has spent more money during his time in triathlon than he’d care to admit. An adult onset triathlete, he has had the privilege to race in the professional field before realizing that they are simply too good for him and is now back to the age group ranks, where he has discovered a love for all things off-road and has (temporarily, most likely) forsaken his road-going ways in favor of getting dirty.

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Master the Climb: Cycling Tips to Climb Better, Easier, and Faster https://university.trisports.com/2017/02/05/master-the-climb-cycling-tips-to-climb-better-easier-and-faster/ Mon, 06 Feb 2017 03:56:06 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7967 Written by Dawn English, OutRival Racing Premier LII Coach When you climb on your bike you cannot escape! Walking your bike is certainly no fun, plus it is difficult to get going again. What can you do to climb your best? Know Thy Gears Go through all of your gears, feel comfortable using all of […]]]>

Written by Dawn English, OutRival Racing Premier LII Coach

When you climb on your bike you cannot escape! Walking your bike is certainly no fun, plus it is difficult to get going again. What can you do to climb your best?

Know Thy Gears
Go through all of your gears, feel comfortable using all of them on a flat road and a climb. Often, athletes get comfortable only using a few gears, but not being able to smoothly change gears. Only shift one gear at a time.

Anticipate
At the base of the climb change into a lower a gear one by one until you find a gear that you can pedal with some pressure and stay smooth.

Body Position
Shift your hips to the back of the saddle and make sure to drive your heels down on the downstroke. Doing this will engage your hamstrings and glutes, the biggest muscles in your body. Make sure to have your torso and upper body relaxed and open. Remember to also keep your hands relaxed. Tension in your upper body translates to tension in your pedal stroke that will decrease your efficiency, power and speed.

Don’t Completely Stop at the Top
Congratulations, you made it to the top of the climb! Do not stop pedaling. Just as you did at the base of the climb, gradually decrease your gears to one where you can pedal at a steady cadence with control.

Cadence
Cadence, or RPMs, refers to the revolutions per minute of your pedal stroke. Much debate has taken place regarding cadence for triathletes. Most research done on the subject has been taken from professional cyclists. But, even among professional cyclists the ones at the top seem to ride at a higher cadence than those in the middle of the field. This could be because faster riders have a more efficient pedal stroke and can ride in a bigger gear. But, pedaling around 80 rpms, even on a climb is often preferred and is a good place to start. In the study, Effect of Cycling Position on Oxygen Uptake and Preferred Cadence in Trained Cyclists During Hill Climbing at Various Power Outputs by Chris Harnish, Deborah King & Tom Swensen found: “Collectively, our data show that the trained cyclists preferred a relatively high cadence of 80 rpm during seated climbing on a moderate grade at power outputs greater than 65% of PPO (Peak Power Output).”

Gaining Power and Losing Some Extra Baggage
How much power you can produce relative to your weight makes a big difference in your ability to climb. Take your body weight and divide by 2.2 to convert your weight to kilograms. Then, take your 20 minute TT average power and divide the kg number into the wattage number. The bigger this number, the more power per kilogram you produce. To give you an idea, a 130 pound female that rides 180 watts for a 20 minute TT churns out 3.05 watts per kilogram. A 190 pound male that rides 220 watts for a 20 minute TT churns out 2.64 watts per kilogram. Guess who wins up the mountain? You got it…the 130 pound woman. Increasing your power output and/or losing a little weight can make the hills come and go faster.

Body Position
Shift your hips to the back of the saddle and make sure to drive your heels down on the downstroke. Doing this will engage your hamstrings and glutes, the biggest muscles in your body.  Your waist to the top of the your head should be relaxed and open. Keep your hands gently holding your handlebars. Tension in your upper body translates to tension in your pedal stroke that will decrease your efficiency, power and speed.

Don’t Stop at the Top
Congratulations, you made it to the top of the climb! Do not stop pedaling. Just as you did at the base of the climb, gradually decrease your gears to one where you can pedal at a steady cadence with control.

Training Tips
Make Hills

  • If you do not live where you have mountains, consider alternatives such as parking garage ramps, course simulation programs or even the occasional spin bike at the gym.
  • To make up for a lack of big climbs, take whatever small hills you have in a bigger gear that you would normally to simulate steeper climbs.

Get Hill-Ready Workout
Here’s a workout to get you hill-ready, perform this workout 1x a week and add additional sets as you get stronger.  Complete this on a trainer or find a climb on the road of similar length.

Warm up
15 minutes of steady …warm up with single leg drills and get a little sweat going

Main Set
Repeat this 2-3 times:

  • 5 minute hill climb, keeping effort at 70%-75%, up your gear at 2.5 minutes and then go all out, out of the saddle for the final 30 seconds
  • Recover for 4 minutes
  • 10 minutes increasing effort from 70%-80%, with 3 gear increases (change every three minutes), go hard for the final minute out of the saddle
  • Recover for 5 minutes

Cool down
Cool down well and stretch out

About the Author: Dawn English is a coach with OutRival Racing and has been a triathlete since 1999. Dawn is a regular podium visitor as an Ironman Age Group Athlete, a USAT All American, and juggler of family and life.

 

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“Prehab” Exercises for Staying Run Healthy https://university.trisports.com/2017/01/13/prehab-exercises-for-staying-run-healthy/ Sat, 14 Jan 2017 00:38:21 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7900 Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS Spending your time divided between three sports with three different postures and range of motion demands leads to different things for different people. For some, injury risk reduction is achieved because each sport provides a balance between muscles, such as swimming providing your legs with counter-balance and […]]]>

Written by Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS

shutterstock_127479152_winter-running-gear

Spending your time divided between three sports with three different postures and range of motion demands leads to different things for different people. For some, injury risk reduction is achieved because each sport provides a balance between muscles, such as swimming providing your legs with counter-balance and core strength – sort of like the old running mantra “strong arms carry tired legs.” However, each sport in triathlon occurs primarily in one plane, straight forward motion. This has the potential to be a problem if an athlete’s muscles become exceptionally powerful and efficient in straight forward motion, but lose balance in lateral control musculature and stabilizing musculature compared to the primary movers. Thus it is important to include some full body strength and balance. Most athletes know that core is an important addition to our training regimen as it can reduce the stress on the body and make us more efficient and stable in extremity movements. Additionally, balance and stability training as well as rotational and lateral control activities can be important additions to your training regimen. Including these activities in your strength program two to three times per week can help reduce the stress that can accumulate with the repetitive single plane motions of the sports in which we participate.

Running is the most jarring of the triathlon sports and the force from landing combined with the muscular fatigue of performing the swim and bike first require you to have a certain degree of strength and flexibility to avoid overstressing your musculoskeletal system and ending up in a physical therapy office. So let us try to prehab you away from a physical therapy office and into continued healthy running. Let’s test out and try the exercises below, which I divided into three different common problem areas, to determine what could be beneficial to keep you on the road and trails. If running isn’t your favorite of the three sports, maybe these could help out as well.

Some things to focus on and think about during these exercises:

Can you do the motions under control?
Do not advance the basic exercises and recruitment exercises until you can perform the baseline exercises with consistent muscular control.

Are you rocking or rolling and recruiting other movements to complete the exercise?
If so, you are not ready for that exercise and need to focus on the recruitment pattern with the preliminary exercises. When you undertake any new exercises, especially ones with multiple movements, the first thing you should focus on is if you are performing the range of motion properly while recruiting the correct muscle pattern. If you are not recruiting the muscles appropriately and cannot perform the basic single exercises properly, you will not be helping yourself by moving to more advanced exercises that require proper control to be performed in a healthy manner.

Are you having trouble with certain aspects of an exercise?
Break it down. For example, if you can’t do a single leg squat because you lose balance, perform that piece of the exercise separately. Start with single leg balance while you brush your teeth every morning and night. Then balance on a pillow with one leg, followed by balancing on a pillow with one leg while reaching left and right. This will in turn assist you to keep your balance during future high-level exercise. Do you find you can’t get up from a single leg squat? Try a wall sit and alternate kicking one leg out straight in front of you. There are many options to break down advanced exercises into pieces which will allow you to put it all together in the future. Creativity will be rewarded!

Area 1 :  Core and Gluteal Stability and Basic Strengthening

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Exercise 1:1 Gluteal Bridge
How it’s done:  Lay down on your back with your feet underneath bent knees. Drive through your heels by squeezing your buttocks to raise your buttocks off of the ground until your weight is shared between your shoulder blades and heels.

How to Advance it: Try it single legged!  Keep your pelvis level, kick one foot out straight and rep it out on the planted leg.  Then reverse.12

Exercise 1:2 Bird Dogs
How it’s Done: Start on all fours. To get your balance you may begin by extending one arm or one leg straight while maintaining a neutral spine. Pull your belly button into your spine and keep breathing. When ready, raise one arm and the opposite leg into the air. Keep a strong neutral spine and engage the shoulder blade and buttock muscles. Alternate this diagonal lift pattern back and forth 20 times.

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Exercise 1:3 Forearm Plank and Side Plank
How it’s Done: Form! Form! Form! Your butt belongs in line with your body and your belly button should be pulled inward towards your spine engaging your deep core muscles. Avoid dropping your pelvis or raising it up into the air. Engage all of your muscles from your chest through your abs down into your quads.  Keep breathing at a steady pace and count 10+ breaths. Give each angle a break by rotating between forward, sideways, and reverse planks as you try to increase your total time planking each week or two.13.2

How to Advance it: First off, you could add the other fantastic similar exercise of pushups. For the forearm plank, try tapping each foot out to the side in a slow controlled motion while maintaining your breath and rigid core and back. If that’s too easy, move to one arm raises in front. For the side plank, try using a weight in the free arm and performing arm raises, if that is too easy, try side leg raises with the upper leg or combine leg and arm raises.

Area 2:  Hip Rotation and Lateral Stability

Fire hydrants 21

Exercise 2:1 Fire Hydrants (Hip Abduction and External Rotation)
How it’s Done:  Start on hands and knees in quadruped. Raise one leg out directly to the side opening up the hips. Focus on squeezing the outer part of your buttocks. Start with 10 reps as long as you can keep good form and control. We want quality over quantity.

How to Advance it: Once into the finishing position, kick your leg out straight to the side in a slow controlled motion, bring it back to the original finishing position, then down towards the mat without letting your knee touch, kick straight backwards into a donkey kick, bring back under your belly, then back out the side completing the cycle. Stay controlled and roll through without resting that leg for 10 reps.
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Exercise 2:2 Clamshells to Monster Walks
How it’s Done: Clamshells (left picture) are another bread and butter activation exercise. The effort comes from the outer part of your buttocks or outer hip/pelvic region. Keep feet touching and open up from closed to open knees to perform the exercise. You should be able to perform this in a controlled and stable manner which will assure that you can recruit these muscles properly during dynamic standing exercise. Work up to two sets of 20 reps.

22.2

How to Advance it: Monster or Band Walks (right picture) are a functional way to advance clamshells and fire hydrants into standing. With a band around your ankles step outwards to create tension. Keep a wide stance and tension through the band. Walk forwards with a diagonal outward force trying to pull your feet inwards each step, do not let it pull you in! Go up and down a hallway 10 times.
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Exercise 2:3 Diagonal Reach – Single Leg Deadlift Balance
How it’s Done: Place two objects on the floor equidistance apart,  about 2 feet works well, and stand 2 feet behind the objects. In a slow controlled fashion, reach with the arm opposite the object you will touch down and forward towards the object while bending forward with a neutral spine and lifting the same side leg. Control your descent with your planted leg and strong core posture. Do not let your leg/hip fall out to the side. E.g. reach towards the object on your right with your left arm while lifting your left leg straight behind you. Repeat on each side back and forth 10 times in a controlled fashion.
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Area 3:  Ankle Stability and Balance

3.2

Exercise 3:1 Runner’s Single Leg Balance
How it’s Done: This exercise goes through the balance on the striking leg. Do not leg your balancing leg collapse inward nor planted leg’s knee bend in further forward than your toes. Choose a starting leg and attain upright posture. March the leg to 90 degrees in front, then slowly lean forward and extend the leg without touching it down to the ground. Focus on control and balance with a slow and smooth motion. Repeat 5 times on each leg and 2 times through.

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Exercise 3:2 Single Leg Balance on an Unsteady Surface
How it’s Done: Use a pillow, balance disc, or foam pad on the floor. Perform in a safe area of the home where you can prevent a fall if necessary. Step onto the surface, then lift one leg in order to balance on the other. Hold for 10 seconds to start and work upwards to a minute. Once you can perform for a minute on each leg, begin reaching up/down and left/right with your arms to increase dynamic ankle stability and balance.

33.1

Exercise 3:3 Single Leg Hops in Square and Diagonal Pattern
How it’s Done: Place a cross on the floor with tape or rope. Choose a leg to begin and perform controlled hops in clockwise, counter clockwise, and diagonals between the outer squares. Repeat each 10 times on each leg.

Nick PartonPicAbout the Author: Dr. Nicholas Parton, DPT, MTC, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy with Manual Therapy Certification and Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist in Colorado Springs.  He works with athletes in their homes and in the field through Parton Physical Therapy (www.partonpt.com), spends his free time triathlon training with the support of TriSports.com, and enjoys getting lost in the mountains with his wife, Jessica.

Disclaimer: Exercise is not without its risks and this or any other exercise program may result in injury and/or death. Any person who undertakes these exercises does so at their own risk. To reduce the risk of injury you should consult your doctor before beginning this or any other exercise program. As with any exercise program, if at any point during your workout you believe conditions to be unsafe or begin to feel faint or dizzy, have physical discomfort, or pain, you should stop immediately and consult a physician. It is important to perform exercises properly to avoid injury, it is recommended that you acquire help and teaching in order to undergo any new exercise program safely.  Exercise at your own risk.This is a Home Exercise Program that may be appropriate for most runners. Certain exercises may not be safe for you to perform based on health conditions. Home Exercise Program images utilized from Home Exercise Builder on Medbridge Education™

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The Most Common Strength Training Mistakes Endurance Athletes Make https://university.trisports.com/2017/01/02/the-most-common-strength-training-mistakes-endurance-athletes-make/ Mon, 02 Jan 2017 18:24:38 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7871 Written by Danny Sawaya, StrongFirst Team Leader and NSCA CSCS As a strength coach, I can’t tell you how many times I see strength programs that are anything but strength related. There is a tendency to believe that if you have weights in your hands and are in a gym, then you are involved in […]]]>

Written by Danny Sawaya, StrongFirst Team Leader and NSCA CSCS

triathlon-start

As a strength coach, I can’t tell you how many times I see strength programs that are anything but strength related. There is a tendency to believe that if you have weights in your hands and are in a gym, then you are involved in a strength program. If an athlete is going to take the time to improve their strength, they want to see results. It is important that strength training results in improved strength rather than just participating in random acts of exercise. It is important to define a few terms of what strength is before moving on.

Strength: The maximal force that a muscle can generate at a specific velocity. Either you can push down on the pedal going up that big hill or you can’t.

Power: Work/Time, or the rate of doing work. Driving down on that pedal powerfully numerous times while moving up that hill = a faster uphill ride. On the other hand, moving so slowly that you feel like you’re going to fall over while pedaling up that hill because you lack power = a long day.

Below are four concepts to improve the quality and outcome of your training.

Train Less Reps on Lower Body Exercises
This sounds counter-intuitive to some people. Strength training for endurance sports should train the muscles to be more endurance based, right? No. Strength training is at the opposite end of the spectrum of endurance training. As an endurance athlete, you shouldn’t feel the need to turn your strength training sessions into more endurance training. The purpose of strength training is to be able to develop more force and power. The actual training on your bike and runs and all of the intervals you do in your sport should take care of making your legs feel like they are about to fall off at different times in your training cycle. That is not the purpose of lifting weights unless you want to be a bodybuilder.

I have researched this topic extensively and reviewed numerous strength training articles and resources for endurance athletes. Puzzlingly, many of these programs prescribe training regimens that are very similar in nature to bodybuilding, which is a sport that focuses completely on increased muscular size and development. If you look at most bodybuilding magazines, many of the programs call for 12-15 repetitions and 3-4 sets. When it becomes easy, it is time to increase the weight for the next set or next time you lift. This type of volume will put the stress on the muscle to grow structurally in size. Though I believe this is fine to develop muscle, it usually is not the goal of many endurance athletes, yet many programs recommend this. I will contradict myself and say slightly higher rep schemes are recommended for upper body work, especially back work and the pulling exercises as it does help posture and won’t cause the fatigue in the lower extremities.

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Training for strength and power has more to do with training the nervous system to signal the muscle to contract explosively. This is best accomplished by training with moderate to heavier loads and lower repetitions focusing on accelerating through the lifts rather than grinding through high repetitions. This is especially important for in-season strength training. Going to the gym to hit numerous sets of 15-20 reps of squats, leg presses, and/or lunges doesn’t add to your longevity in the sport, it just creates more wear and tear on your joints and added stress to the system. Training high reps with lighter weights won’t improve your ability to create force and power. When smashing your pedals, you need improved power and force.

Rather than doing 3 sets of 12-20 reps with lighter weight, try doing 6 sets of 3-5 sets of 5 repetitions with heavier weight focusing on moving the weight fast and explosively. You can add weight the next session if your last set was close to as explosive as your first few sets. You’ll be amazed how you feel and your run or ride performances won’t suffer. Though many people don’t know their true one rep max, finding a weight you can do maximally for 10-12 reps and focusing on doing sets of 3-5 reps is a decent starting point. Interested in the best strength movements for triathletes, read more here.

Take More Time Between Sets
When strength training is done with the appropriate weight, sets, and reps, you are utilizing your Creatine Phosphate (CP) energy system. CP is used up very quickly, but depending on the amount of weight and volume lifted, it could take anywhere between one to three minutes to fully regenerate. It’s easy to know when you are fatigued during high-rep training because you get the feedback of burning muscles from lactic acid which is a byproduct of sugar being metabolized. When CP is being utilized there is no burning muscles or heavy breathing to offer feedback. Usually the muscle just fails to lift when it is depleted. When strength training with moderate to heavier weights, it’s recommended to rest 60-90 seconds between sets. When the weight increases significantly (above 85-90% of one rep max), 2+ minutes may be needed depending on the athlete. This is usually a tough pill to swallow for athletes that are used to killing it each training session with sweat and soreness. It is crucial to stick to the goal of each training session. This means if strength is your goal, don’t get distracted by shiny new exercises or the desire to sweat a lot in the gym. The goal of strength training is to lift more weight and develop more force, period. So take your time between sets. I will reiterate here that by training in this method, you will have fresher legs for your runs and rides and will be less likely to put on large amounts of mass.

deadlift

Stop Doing HIIT Workouts in the Gym
This is probably one of the biggest mistakes I see endurance athletes make. It happens with many athletes. We tend to gravitate towards what we are comfortable with, and most competitive athletes gravitate towards intensity. Many times triathletes come to me for strength training and get a little frustrated because the session doesn’t turn into a beat down. Gym-based High Intensity Interval Training is not strength training. It is conditioning and I never recommend it for endurance athletes if they are already working a solid training program of swimming, cycling, and running. More than likely HIIT will impede seeing improvement in the sport if the athlete is already training with a solid program.

If you’re struggling to create a solid triathlon training plan, check out the product review here for Joe Friel’s special edition triathlon bible and diary set.

Sure, HIIT may be done in the off-season for fun, but many athletes I know train consistently throughout the year. Furthermore, those that choose to do HIIT with heavier weights aren’t strength training OR improving cardio. Lifting weights can increase your heart rate, but it is a different physiological response than cardio training. Lifting weights with little break and higher reps causes more fatigue rather than improving the power output of the muscle. If your sole goal is to feel devastated after a workout, HIIT is fine, but realize there isn’t carryover to becoming a better endurance athlete. Leave the gym-based HIIT workouts for the exercisers in the world and focus on training as a focused athlete.

Looking to build a better base in the off-season ? Check out 5 ways to create a winning off-season or yoga for triathletes.

Train Only 4-5 Exercises Per Training Session
Many training programs have 8-12 exercises per training session; it is no wonder why people train at such a fast pace with light weights because they would never be able to get it all done otherwise. Instead, use movements that work the entire body in a smart way rather than packing in as many exercises as possible in each training session. Here is a basic template to follow choosing one from each category per session is sufficient.

Upper Body Push:  Push-up, dumbbell incline press, or shoulder press.
Upper Body Pull: Pull-up, cable row, or dumbbell row
Lower Body Hinge: Deadlift, kettlebell swing, or single leg deadlift
Lower Body Squat:  Front squat, goblet squat, or step-up
Core: Leg drops, renegade plank, get-ups, or pallof press

If you really want to go the extra mile, add a weighted carry such as farmers walk. As you can see this would be at most six exercises, but most of the time rotating 4-5 of the above movements throughout the week is a solid plan.

To recap, strength training should focus on improving your performance and power production in your sport. Keep it simple with 4-5 exercises per session that will work your entire body. For lower body exercises start with 6 sets of 3-5 reps of a weight you can lift maximally for 10-12 reps. Focus on lifting with acceleration and avoid grinding out slow, ugly, fatiguing reps. You’ll see improved strength which won’t interfere with your multisport training blocks. For upper body movements, especially those working the upper back, 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps is recommended. Taking enough time between each set is crucial for strength gains, especially when power development is the goal. HIIT workouts and metabolic conditioning workouts in the gym don’t have a role for those focused on being a better endurance athlete. Just as your triathlon training program is thought out and planned with a purpose, so should your strength training programs. Avoid random acts of exercise if improved performance is your goal!

img_6766About the Author: Danny Sawaya CSCS, FMS is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist with over 18 years of experience as trainer and strength coach. Danny owns Tucson Strength Home of Evolution Fitness, a strength and conditioning facility in Arizona. He specializes in corrective exercise, Russian Kettlebell Training, powerlifting, and strength and conditioning. Danny works with a full array of individuals, ranging from beginners to Olympians looking to improve movement and strength.

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5 Ways to Create a Winning Off-Season https://university.trisports.com/2016/12/01/5-ways-to-create-a-winning-off-season/ Thu, 01 Dec 2016 13:57:41 +0000 http://www.university.trisports.com/?p=7800 Written by Greg Billington, USA Olympic Triathlete The races are done. The sweat sweated. An exhausted satisfaction mixed with uncertain excitement about the upcoming season.  But a mandatory break from training and racing seems counter-intuitive. How could time away from your primary sport really make you better? The implication of an “off” season is incorrect; […]]]>

Written by Greg Billington, USA Olympic Triathlete

The races are done. The sweat sweated. An exhausted satisfaction mixed with uncertain excitement about the upcoming season.  But a mandatory break from training and racing seems counter-intuitive. How could time away from your primary sport really make you better?

The implication of an “off” season is incorrect; we never stop being athletes. I prefer to think of it as a transition season, a time when we absorb the past year and can organize and prepare for the season ahead. I mean, for this period we can replace training with the way more enjoyable activity of talking about training. Glorifying your threshold power, those 30-hour training weeks, and how close you came to race weight absolutely reinforces your connection to the process of becoming a phenomenal athlete.

Begin 2017 feeling re-energized for triathlon instead of just being fatter and lazier than you were a few months prior with these five tips!

1. Length
Every year, I will take a month without any structured training and 4-5 months without any racing. That can seem like an eternity. And it is. While not everyone needs that long, a few months away from the adrenal stress of racing improves the overall quality of your competitions. There is a similar effect for time away from structured training, so the following items detail how I use the first six weeks after my final race to prepare for the next season.

By month 5 without racing, there’s a certain amount of… tedium
By month 5 without racing, there’s a certain amount of… tedium. Joe Maloy left, Greg Billington right.

2. Mental Preparation
Nothing compares to hours of pedal mashing before redlining a run. Because what is best in life, but to crush your competition, see defeat in their eyes, and hear their lame excuses at the finish line?

But racing with that much gusto is unsustainable. We take down time partly for physical reasons, but more to mentally restructure and rekindle the competitive flame for the next season.

Take a week to write down the high points of the year: when you absolutely demolished the Group Ride World Championships, swam way faster than that doofus with the shaved chest, or flawlessly put on your race number. Think about how you approached those moments, when they occurred in the season, and what you can do to recreate them next year. If you find meaningful insights, these should be incorporated into your training program.

During my transition phase, I’ll also pick up a few lighter activities to maintain the all-important drive to destroy the will and general well-being of my competition. Ping pong is my usual favorite. Badminton, similarly. Also, Scottish shin-kicking. Regardless of what it is, it’s vital to keep that competitive edge throughout the year.

3. Training Preparation
The transition season can leave a great deal of free time which wreaks havoc with your normal routine, making it harder to restart training. Immediately replacing the usual shammy time with purposeful activities can help you prepare for a great season.

I start habits which I want to keep in the coming year. If you’ve wanted to add stretching, meditation, upside-down dumbbell sit-ups to your routine, now is the time to add it in during the time that you would normally be doing real training, like running.

My meditation habits started early.
My meditation habits started early.

It’s also a great opportunity to incorporate new training tools that can be critical for making improvements. This is when to make the biggest changes to your Bike Fit. That way you have the maximum amount of time to become comfortable in the new position and make any minor adjustments before you risk injury during long training blocks.

You should go for runs in new shoes, try out new wetsuits, and take a deliberate look at your training and whether or not you can deal with your coach for another season.

Ehhhhhhh, yeah he’ll do for another season. Coach Paulo Sousa
Ehhhhhhh, yeah he’ll do for another season. Billington’s Coach Paulo Sousa smiles for the camera.

4. Transition Training
You’ll end up training during those first 4-6 weeks of real down time. I mean, it’s fun. That’s why we’re here. As you do train, though, you’ll need to give your body a break from certain types of training. Specifically, there needs to be at least a good six-week period where you avoid threshold efforts. This is the type of training that can lead to high levels of fatigue and burnout. If you’re going to do any type of activity, it should be long and easy (like a hike) or very short and very intense. You’ll have time to recover from these activities and especially those short burns are a great way to remind you of the fun that awaits in the coming season.

The vast complexities of an off-season session:

  • 15 minute warm up
  • 4-6 x 30 second sprints (uphill if running or cycling)
  • 10 minute cool down

This is also the part of the season where you have the time to incorporate strength training. This helps prepare your musculoskeletal system for the demands of repetitive cardiovascular training and reduce the likelihood of overuse injuries.

The following are some of my favorite exercises. Obviously cater the duration to your individual fitness level and keep in mind that strength training should never be so taxing as to interfere with your real workouts. Before I start my routines, I’ll make sure to do at least eight minutes of easy cardio, anything from jumping rope to cycling.

Example strength training session:

Beyond this basic level of core fitness, strength training is difficult to incorporate into a program. Attempts to build power and speed through strength training need to be highly individualized.
Beyond this basic level of core fitness, strength training is difficult to incorporate into a program. Attempts to build power and speed through strength training need to be highly individualized.

5. Food
Like life, the off-season is really about food. It’s the time of year you are supposed to be way off-race weight and generally jollier. Literally (figuratively), everyone is about 10% nicer each pound they are further away from race weight. Sadly, a good rule of thumb is to weigh yourself each week and top out at about 5-6% over your race weight. You can pretend this happens because you started a strength program, but this will mainly be due to Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It is also helpful to take this time to experiment with new recipes and whatever health fad you feel will power you to that next performance breakthrough. it’s the cage free, gluten free, quinoa encrusted white veal diet this year! Maybe kombucha in my race bottles to aid gel digestion?

Here’s one of my favorite breakfast recipes. I put the concoction in a jar the night before and then additional ingredients in the morning if I feel like it.

Overnight Oats

  • 1:1:1 ratio of Old Fashioned Rolled oats, milk, and yogurt
  • Small banana
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • Pinch of salt (I sweat a lot)
  • Cinnamon
  • Palmful of almonds

There are many ways you can prepare for a season, but it is easier to find success by picking a few and doing them well. The above are simple ideas, but success is usually found by simplifying complex processes and mastering them.

So, good luck, enjoy the transition season, and prepare to smash 2017!

38872-medium_gregbillington1About the Author: Greg Billington is a 2016 triathlon Olympian. Billington began swimming, at age 8. He discovered track and cross country in high school, where he ran at Wake Forest University. Billington’s first international triathlon competition was in 2006 racing for the U.S. in the ITU Elite Junior Worlds. He is part of the USA Triathlon Project 2016 Squad and coached by the one and only, the USA Triathlon Certified Coach, Paulo Sousa.

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