Category Archives: Triathlon

How hard do I need to train?

How do you know if you are training in the right zones? It may look confusing but it is actually quite simple. If you have done some testing then you should know roughly where your threshold is for all 3 disciplines.

If I was coaching you, I would give you sessions based on the paces shown in the chart below. You may not always be able to hold the effort level, but it is a goal for you to aim for.

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RPE chart, used as a rough guide to help you get to know how hard you need to be working.

When starting out it can be useful to have numbers to go on, and they give me, as a coach, some useful data to look at after you have done a session. As you improve, you will get to know roughly how hard you are working, and you can focus on executing the interval more on feel. This is particularly the case if you are using heart rate as a guide, as we know that many factors can cause it to fluctuate.

I often find athletes worrying about what their heart rate is doing in a session. If is was lower than last time, or higher than last time. As long as you are performing the session to the best of your ability then don’t stress about it. Check in with your breathing and don’t go chasing a higher heart rate if it feels right then it probably is!

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The most important thing is to know how your effort “feels” for each particular intensity, so, as you do the session, make sure that you check in with what your breathing is like, and how you are feeling.  You need to know that for racing, so you can focus and be present in the race. The other bonus of doing this is that if you don’t have power/heart rate on the day it doesn’t matter!

 

Do I “really” need to do an FTP test?

FTP testing, how do you feel about it? Do you dread it? Or is it an opportunity for you to show how you have progressed? However you feel about it you may find that you are asked to do some types of tests, or time trials during the season.

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There are a range of tests that I might ask athletes to do, and they each have their own value. As a triathlete I may ask you to do a cycling FTP (functional threshold power) test, or a swimming CSS test, or a running threshold test. Over the course of the season we can perform these tests at fairly regular intervals, and it can provide motivation, or affirmation that training is on target.

However it doesn’t always work this way, as we are humans, with lives outside of triathlon. There are so many variables, that need to be controlled, if you were to have a completely accurate result. So they are used as a guideline. Your threshold can change from day to day depending on, what happened at work, what you ate for dinner, how much sleep you had, how much training you did the day before, the list goes on.

Testing will also come in the form of racing, or time trials as it is easy to see progress, or any areas that need work on. It also provides race simulation which helps athletes to get used to the mental ability to compete, it’s no use being able to do a great CSS test, but then unable to transform that into swimming in a group of triathletes in an open water swim start!

These progress markers provide me, as a coach, something to work with, so that you have specific goals to aim for in training sessions. You may not hit those goals all of the time, and if you were, I would be wondering if your test results were up to date. Bear in mind that these goals are a moving target, and what you may have been able to to one day, may feel impossible or easy the next.

When you have done any testing, it is essential to give feedback, especially when athletes are being coached from a distance. If I don’t see you performing the test then it is vital for me to know how you feel it went. Many people get demoralised or upset if they do not see improved test results, (I’ve been there myself) But remember that the best test, is achieving your goal on race day, and that is the ultimate aim.

Reflections and moving forward

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How do you come to terms with a race that didn’t go as planned? Usually it’s fairly easy to put the race in the past, as you know there will be other races and opportunities to shine, but when the race is Kona it is a bit different, as I know I won’t be going back there any time soon. One way of dealing with a disappointing race is to go and do it again, and a lot of people will be doing just that, by getting fired up to race in Kona again, taking the lessons they have learned with them. As that is not an option for me, I have had to find a different approach.

So if you had a disappointing year this is what I recommend you do,

Be thankful

Now that I’ve unpacked my bike and seen some of the damage done to it, I am feeling grateful that I finished the race. That was the main goal, and I am lucky that I didn’t have a worse injury. After reading other peoples stories who DNF’d or had bad crashes. I feel that, although I was disappointed, I did the best I could on the day, mentally it was the toughest thing I have ever done.

Even if you DNF’d there is always something to take away, and being thankful for what you have achieved, or gained is a positive way of moving forward.

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Spend time doing other things

If there are things that you have been putting off doing, then do them. I have spent a bit of time working on my website, and I need to make decisions about our barn conversion which I can now think more about.

 

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Just need to hide the neighbours falling down shed!

Think about what you love doing. What has made you happy? What is it that you love about triathlon?

Thinking about what I love, I have realised that I love being outdoors, and being in new places. I enjoy different terrain which makes me feel close to nature.

Once you have spent a bit of time doing these things then you may have more of an idea about what it is that you want to focus on. Go into the season doing what you love, and you will be successful!

2016, what are you planning?

2016, what are you planning?

Recovery time

This is about the time of year when most people have finished their season. You may have big plans for next year, or you may not even want to think about it yet. If you have been racing up to this point then I believe it is important to give yourself a break from your routine. Make sure you have several weeks off from structured training. Have fun, and do the things that you have put off in favour of training.

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You may like riding and running off road, yoga, hitting the gym, gardening, climbing, walking, whatever floats your boat, get on and enjoy it, without any pressure to achieve anything. When you feel like you are itching to get back to structured training then your body and mind will thank you for this break.

Looking back

I like to look back over the year. This helps with planning for the next year as you will see what worked for you and what didn’t. Be honest with yourself. Celebrate your successes, and learn from your mistakes.

A cunning plan

Whatever you are thinking of doing next year, you are more likely to achieve it with a plan. But before  you enter a load of races, ask yourself why?

It is essential to have a good reason for competing in a race. This is what will drive you to complete workouts to the best of your ability, and be the best that you can be. Notice I say the best that YOU can be, not the best that your friend or training partner can be. Think about yourself before you hit the “enter now” button. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Will the race suit you? Is it something that gets you excited? Or, are you doing it just because if you don’t, it may sell out? or because everyone you know is doing it? Make sure the races fit in with your season and your lifestyle, and that you truly want to do them. Its tempting to get carried away when race organisers are putting on so many quality events now, but remember there is always another year. Focus on what is really important to you and you cannot fail.

Pre-race nerves

Pre-race nerves

The jitters

I wrote a post about tapering a few months ago, which addresses some of the things that may come up in the weeks leading up an event. If you want to take a look then it is here.

Its nearly Ironman Wales race day, and I know how a lot of you will be feeling… nervous, excited, and scared, to name a few emotions, and on top of that you need rest before the big day. The main thing you need to do is let go of these negative emotions. By this I mean acknowledge that you feel a certain way, try to work out why, and then let go.

Have a plan

I encourage my athletes to make a race plan, so that if any worry crops up before race day they know that they have planned for it and are prepared. A plan needs to be adaptable, as unexpected things happen. You can plan for these events to a certain extent but bear in mind that on race day something may happen that you haven’t planned for. Dealing with these events is what racing is all about as you learn about yourself and can develop as a person. So even if it goes wrong you will learn something!

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Uncontrollable’s

If its a fear about the weather, or conditions then there is nothing you can do about it. Everyone is facing the same thing, you will get through whatever the race throws at you, if you have prepared properly. There is little point in worrying about things that are beyond your control just let go and accept.

Never mind about the weather!

Never mind about the weather!

Use the force!

If you are excited, then channel that energy into positive thoughts about the race. Any time you feel a surge of adrenaline then think of a key phrase or song that motivates you. One of my favourites is “I am the best that I can be”, as it doesn’t rely on a result or time to be achieved. You will be the best that you can be on race day whatever happens.

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Relax

Before the race you may be very nervous and stressed, you may find a relaxation CD, or some relaxing stretching could help you in the days before, if you can’t sleep . On the day I found deep breathing was useful. Last year as I was standing in a group of nervous athletes I told a couple of my friends to try to breathe in slowly then breathe out longer that the breath in (similar to birthing and yoga breathing) A few people turned around when we did it together, but I found it really helped to calm my nerves before I got in the water.

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Smile

Enjoy the race. Remember how lucky you are to be able to race today, smiling relaxes your body and makes you feel good so I’m hoping to see some happy faces on Sunday!

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Nice to go away, but nice to be home, The Big Cheese.

February and March

We have been away twice in the last month, and it is beginning to take its toll! Much as I love visiting friends and family it can also be tiring, and my immune system has taken a battering. During half term we went to visit family in Sheffield, I was looking forward to visiting Ponds Forge, and having a swim in the 50m pool, but there was a gala on so I had to sneak out early in the morning and go to the nearest pool at Graves leisure centre. I enjoyed it anyway, I used to work in the school next to the centre, so it was good to be in familiar surroundings. The next morning I managed a run, and bagged a QOM.

My brother in law is KOM, he does lots of fell running.

My brother in law is KOM, he does lots of fell running.

 

I have discovered that its quite easy to get out first thing and do a workout if you are visiting people, they don’t even notice you are gone, especially if you have small children who wake up early! This is also who I blame for the run of colds that I’ve had, 2 days after returning from Sheffield I came down with a cold, and I am now suffering again after going away to visit friends in Cheddar at the weekend. I have come to the conclusion that disruptions to my sleeping, weaken my immune system, it could also be the 15 mile off road race that I did with Rachel on Sunday, called The Big Cheese, read more about it here.

 

Merry Christmas everyone, my early present, a new motivational toy.

Skipping

Theres nothing like a new toy to get you going again. I bought a skipping rope before I went to Sri Lanka, thinking it would help with running technique, I had a couple of skips with it humming the rocky theme tune to myself, and found it was pretty hard work. It really shows up your technique too.

I thought I would show what happens to your heart rate when doing high intensity exercise. It takes quite a while for your heart rate to increase even when you are working really hard, this is why I use power on my bike.

Sometimes when you are going uphill, by the time your heart rate has kicked in you have already burned a match, its also really useful for gauging your rate of perceived exertion as you can instantly see what your power is, (how hard you are riding) before you start getting out of breath. It is good to use several methods of determining how hard you are working, so that you stay in touch with your body.

Yoga, surfing and sun

Sri Lanka

160ft sitting buddha

160ft sitting buddha

I have been back home for just over a week now from a holiday in Sri Lanka, which we booked for a late 60th birthday present for my mum. I left Patrick with the boys and jetted off to sunny Hikkaduwa for 2 weeks of yoga, a bit of surfing and some sightseeing.

Hikkaduwa is a beach resort with lots of surf schools, I was looking forward to surfing in the warm water in board shorts and a rash vest! Arriving on a holiday like that is always a bit strange, wondering what we could possibly do all day, and because it was such a long way away I wanted to see a bit of the country too. The travelling was pretty tiring, I think I’m still recovering from flights, jet lag etc.

Hikkaduwa beach

Hikkaduwa beach

We soon settled in to a rhythm, yoga was in the morning from 7:30 till 9:30, starting with 10-25 minutes meditation, then breakfast took us until about 10:30. We then wandered down to the beach and went in the sea for a surf/swim, some days we walked, and did a bit of shopping, and most days we went to the supermarket to find exciting foods!

A bit of body boarding in small waves.

A bit of body boarding in small waves.

 

We managed to see a great market, and on the last day we got the train to Kandy to see The Temple of the Tooth, an amazing buddhist temple.

So I have come back with a few yoga sequences up my sleeve, a massive amount of rest and recovery, some food inspiration, and inspiring quotes. I also made a resolve to meditate at least once a week, I have managed 2 days this week, which has been positive! And doing something totally unrelated to Triathlon for 2 weeks was a great mental break.

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Turning into a film maker

Trip to Resolven

I have been busy at the computer again this week, after an epic ride with 4 of the Pembrokeshire Velos  to receive my plaque for winning the 100 mile time trial. I met them at Kilgetty at 6:30am and rode 71 miles up to Resolven. I managed to hold on to their wheels for most of the way, but during the last hour I kept getting dropped! Considering I hadn’t been out for longer than an hour and a half since Ironman on the bike, I was pretty pleased. They had cycled from Pembroke Dock and ridden 83 miles in total. I was a bit annoyed that my garmin wouldn’t download to Strava afterwards as I’m sure I would have had a few QOM’s!!

The full trip, I was there too honest!

Strength and Conditioning

I have been putting together some videos for my coached athletes, which has taken up quite a bit of my time, I am aiming to show exercises that can be done easily at home without equipment. Hopefully they will find them useful!

Planning for next season

Little by little.

I’m starting to get itchy feet and have started to plan for next season. However I’m still very busy allowing myself to get unfit! But have managed to get my plan for next year down on paper. Colour coded of course! I have entered The Titan, middle distance triathlon, and I am planning on entering The Wales Triathlon. I have also entered The Wiggle Dragon ride media fondo,  which is the weekend before The Titan, maybe not great planning, but got a little bit carried away with the wiggle fever on Facebook. At least its all local stuff, so not too much travelling involved.

The year ahead

The year ahead

A bit of social riding

I thought it was time I went out with the dynamos again, but had to be home by 10.20, as Devon had rugby. I left at 8.30am so I could get a bit of an extra ride in before meeting at the Bloomfield at 9am. Unfortunately I forgot to start my garmin when I started out with the club, had a good chat with Kim before I had to head back home, and thought I would give a good blast up Coxhill to try and beat my time up there on Strava, how frustrating when I got home and realised that I had forgotten to start my garmin!

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