Tag Archives: triathlon

Early season racing, what should your aims be?

early season racing

Early season racing

With the early race season getting underway, what are your priorities for some of these races? Its been a while since you’ve worn your race kit, and used your race gear, so you may be a bit rusty going in to your first few races. Its a great idea to do a few low key events to get yourself back in to the practicalities of racing.

Race morningearly season racing

This will be a reminder of how it feels to get up early, and make sure you are adequately fuelled for the days event. Most early season events are on the shorter side, so its a gentle introduction, and there shouldn’t be dire consequences if you don’t get this right. However it is an opportunity to start practising your race morning routine. If there’s anything that didn’t go so well in the past, then now is a good time to change what you do. If you always leave certain jobs until the last minute, resolve to make time to get organised sooner. Remember what goes well and what doesn’t go so well so that you can learn and adapt next time.

Race environment

early season racing

It will probably have been a while since you have competed and felt those race morning nerves. Even if the race is not a priority for you, you will still produce adrenaline, and be in competition mode. You may think about your race tactics, and put these into practice. In my first race last year I realised that I backed off when it mattered, I took that in to my next race, and made sure that I pushed when I needed to.

Post Race

early season racing

Here is your opportunity to learn from the race. I ask my athletes to think about 3 things that went well, and 3 that they can improve on. Be thorough in your analysis, but don’t punish yourself, its your first race after all. Questions that I may ask are; did you feel fatigued going in to the race? How did you feel after? Did you push hard enough? Did you fuel properly? What were transitions like? How were your equipment choices? These are things that can be taken forward to the next event, and worked on in training. They all add up to better performance.

 

 

If you want to read what other coaches say there is a link to another article here

 

 

 

Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon.

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Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

We all have habits and routines in our lives. Some of them are helpful, and some of them, are not so helpful. Becoming more aware of your actions can help you to identify which habits are helping or harming you. As an athlete you will have habits to make sure that you get your training done.

If you need to get up early for a swim you may get your equipment ready the night before, and then set an alarm to wake you up. You then complete your swim session, and may reward yourself with a cup of coffee, or similar.

All habits follow this pattern. First of all there is a trigger, in this case your alarm going off, and seeing your swim kit prepared. then your routine, which is completing the swim session, then your reward which is a cup of coffee. If we take a closer look at the “habit loop” you can see how to implement good habits in your life.

TriggerCreating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

This is something that reminds you to do something. It may be something that you are not aware of, for example every time you open the fridge at a certain time of day you snack. Examples of triggers are; time, a visual reminder, an alarm, or it could be a feeling. Once you identify your trigger then you can change or add on to your habit. You can also create triggers to start a new habit, for example when you put your running kit on you do some core exercises before your run.

Routine

Creating helpful habits, for success in triathlon

This is what you do after the trigger. It could be going to the pool, having a second helping of dinner, drinking a glass of wine, doing strength exercises. This is the bit that you can change, once you identify your trigger.

If you know, that when you finish your dinner you always go for a second helping, even though you are not hungry then you could replace this routine with making a cup of tea. If you want to fit some strength exercise in to your day then you can add this on to an existing routine.

Reward

This is your way of giving yourself a pat on the back, and can vary depending on what your habit is. If its getting out training, then the reward can be knowing that you are one step closer to your goal. Sometimes you may need a bit more than that, and the reward may be a chat with friends and cup of coffee after a group training session. If you substitute your habit for a healthier alternative then you know that it is creating a healthier you, for example substituting your second helping of food for a hot drink.

Putting it all together

So to create helpful habits, first you need to actually want to create that habit. No amount of positive talk is going to help you if you don’t really want to change! Think about if there are any barriers to creating the habit. For example, when I wanted to add core work to my day, I realised that I sometimes wasn’t wearing the right clothing for it. By doing the core work before a workout then I was already dressed in comfortable clothing. Next identify your trigger. If you have a good habit in place already, then you can add on to it, as with the core work example above. It can be helpful to write down what you want to do and how you’re going to make sure that you do it!

If you want to find out more about habits then click here

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Scaling workouts to fit in with busy lives

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Scaling Workouts

It’s a busy and sometimes stressful time of year. Everyone wants something done before Christmas, you may have more family/social commitments, and it can be tricky to balance everything. Keeping consistent in your training can be hard work, but if you know how to scale a workout down, then things can become more manageable.

First you need to know if your workout is a key session or not. If you are only doing 2 sessions in each triathlon discipline, then its safe to say that both sessions are key sessions. If you have more sessions then it may be worth checking which ones are key.

If you can only fit in key sessions then you may need to scale them down. This is how I would recommend doing it.

Scaling workouts to fit in with busy lives

Scaling workouts

Warm up

Hopefully, you can keep the whole warm up in. It’s an important part of your session, which prepares your body and mind for training. If you are going to be working at threshold, then add some work building up to the level you will be working at. Don’t expect your body to just kick in to threshold work, you need to prepare a bit. If you need to do any activation work, to get your body used to the movement patterns, then now is the time. If you do have to shorten your warm up, then make sure it is still at least 10 minutes long, and if you skip the build work, then expect your first few intervals to be a bit off.

Main Set

Lets say the main part of your session is intervals and you didn’t build to the interval intensity in the warm up then use the first few intervals to build up to that level. If you did warm up thoroughly, then complete as much of the main session as you can. This is the key bit of your workout. When your session is an endurance session e.g. all at one pace, then you may just need to cut the session short.

Cool down

If you have time for a short 5 minute cool down, then great. If you don’t, then don’t worry about it, but avoid spending the rest of the day in one position. For example, seated at a desk. However if you do find yourself in this position then try to get up and move around every 20 minutes or so, and try to find time to stretch at some point in the day.

Below I have an example of how you could scale down the swim session shown, in order of priority.

Scaling workouts

  1. Remove cool down
  2. Shorten or remove build set
  3. Shorten warm up
  4. Shorten main set

This advice will help you to gain the most from your training sessions at this busy time. Enjoy the holiday season, and stay healthy!

4 things that you can practise in yoga, and training or racing endurance events.

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Mental Training to improve performance.

Yoga and an Ironman race may sound like 2 complete opposites, but there can be many similarities in the way we practice in both areas. As well as the physical benefits of practising yoga, there are many psychological benefits too.

Imagine you are getting ready to race an event, you feel nervous and scared. Practising yoga will help you to alleviate these fears, here are some examples in how you can transfer your skills.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the practice of being present. At the beginning of a yoga class you may sit and ground yourself, by closing your eyes and focussing on your breathing, then letting go of what happened to you during the rest of the day and becoming present focussed. You can use this skill at the beginning of a race to clear your mind, and also throughout racing, if something goes wrong, for example you get a puncture, accept it, and calmly do what you need to do, to get going again. More importantly, let go of the feelings of upset, that you may have about having a problem, then you can continue to race at the best of your ability.

Breathing

During a yoga practice the breath is often linked to movement, becoming aware of how you are breathing is an important part of yoga practice, and this can also be transferred to a triathlon. Before a race you may use breathing techniques to calm yourself down, and whilst racing you need to be aware of how you are breathing, as it is linked to how much effort you are making. Check in with your breathing every now and then, you could even visualise your blood being oxygenated by your breathing.

Mind over matter

Imagine you have been asked to hold a pose in yoga, your legs start to shake and you start wondering when you can release the pose. Your teacher tells you to breathe and relax into the posture, and you begin to feel better in that position. The same thing can happen in endurance racing/training. There will be times when you feel bad, and you don’t want to carry on, just relax into it and know that it will pass. You can’t fight against the feeling, just realise that it won’t last forever, make sure you are not holding tension anywhere in your body/face, and maybe use some positive affirmation.

Positive affirmation

One of the Yamas of Yoga is Ahimsa (non violence). This is the practice of compassion, and being kind to yourself. This may sound strange when you are asking your body to push itself beyond what it finds comfortable, but you can do it in a compassionate way. For example, you may be going through a bad time during a race. Instead of being unkind to yourself by telling yourself that you are not going fast enough or making enough effort, change the way you speak to yourself. You could have a phrase that you repeat for example “I am the best that I can be” “powerful and strong” This will override your negative thought patterns. Think about how you speak to yourself, are you being kind and compassionate? Would you say those things to someone else? Read more about the 5 Yamas of yoga here

Acceptance

Sometimes, if you are in a yoga class, the person next to you, or behind you, is able to do a pose with ease, and you are struggling. Sometimes what you did one week, feels impossible the next. It doesn’t matter, we are all different, instead of comparing yourself to others, accept yourself and your situation as it is. You may have had a bad training session/race, it happens, and in the grand scheme of things it isn’t that important. Learning to accept, and move on is a useful skill to develop.

 

Mental Training

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!

Pembrokeshire coast path October

Pembrokeshire coast path October

The Pembrokeshire coast path is stunning. I have really enjoyed running along parts of it this year, and I needed something to keep me a bit focussed during the off season. I didn’t want to be under pressure, but felt like I needed a goal, so I decided I would try and run sections of the coast path. I mentioned it to my mum and she offered to drop me off and pick me up along the route. I started to get excited about the idea, and checked out a few maps before I found this useful resource that breaks down the sections into distances. I got my notebook out and started planning!

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Day 1 Amroth to Tenby

7.7miles. Elevation gain 1132ft.

Strava data

We were meeting a friend in Tenby for a meal out, as it was her birthday, so I asked Patrick to drop me off in Amroth then I could run to Tenby and meet them. I took a picture of the starting point with its plaque, and started along the flat section of Amroth seafront. I chose to go South to North as I thought it would be easier to get to the Southern sections for me, and the terrain gets tougher as you get further North, and also prettier so I thought it would be nice to finish at the most dramatic point! The run was lovely, I had run it recently as an out and back in preparation for The Snowman, but its nice to run to a point and not have to retrace your route. There are some steep steps in the section from Saundersfoot but the view makes up for it! I arrived in Tenby quicker than I’d thought and had time for a shower at the leisure centre before enjoying pizza with the kids and my friends.

After dinner!

After dinner!

Day 2 Tenby to Manorbier

7.3miles. Elevation gain 719ft.

Strava data

I was not feeling great today, as my son has been off school with a cold. I woke up in the night a few times with a sore throat and headache but I was keen to run this section today as my mum will be away next week, she drove me to Tenby and then I said I’d meet her in about an hour and a quarter to an hour and a half in Manorbier. The weather was beautiful today and I loved the views again. When I was about a mile from Manorbier I spotted my mum having a chat with a couple who were out walking, they had been looking at some seals. I got the car keys and ran back for my stretch at the car.

Day 3 Manorbier to Broad Haven South

9.3miles. Elevation gain 1312ft.

Strava data

As it was the weekend I was dropped off in Manorbier by my husband, while he took the kids to Broad Haven South where they started walking towards Barafundle. It was a nice day again, but it was starting to get a bit chilly when I got to Broad haven, I spotted the boys and they wanted to run with me for a bit, so we ran up to a gate where Patrick took the boys, and I ran back to the car to get warm, and stretch.

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Day 4 Broad Haven South to Freshwater West

9.4 miles. Elevation gain 367ft.

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I had to delay the next section, as all of the off road section is closed when Castlemartin range is open for firing. I didn’t really fancy my chances so I waited until the weekend!

The mileage quoted online had been inaccurate so far, and this run was supposed to be 14 miles (it was 9!) Broad Haven South was wet and windy and I was running into the wind the whole way. This is not the most inspiring section as you run along a gravel track for part of the way along the coast and then turn off to run the rest of the route on the road to Fresh West.

I arrived at Fresh West after an hour and a quarter, so had plenty of time to get changed and stretch before the boys found me shivering in the car!

Day 5 Freshwater West to Pwllcrochan

14 miles. Elevation gain 1457ft.

Strava data

A long one today, and very windy, which was fine for the first hour as the wind was behind me, but when I got to Angle the wind blasted into me and it was hard work.

I haven’t run this far for a long time I was feeling it, and wishing that I’d gone with my original shorter route! I could also see where I had to go and it looked a long way, but it was all fine. I found my mum waiting at Pwllcrochan, she had been for a run too and we compared notes! Pwllcrochan was not the best spot to be picked up, as there is nothing much there, but I wanted to get the next section done in a couple of runs, as its though Pembroke, Neyland and Milford.

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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.

The season ends

The season ends

When life throws the unexpected at you.

Its been a tough year for myself and my family. At the beginning of the year my husband (Patrick) went to see a doctor about an ongoing medical problem, (which is probably due to BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia)). It has been a time of waiting to get appointments and the stress associated with this. When Patrick did get to see the doctor, he was fitted with a catheter, which caused a lot of discomfort, infections, and limited his mobility and lifestyle. As an active person its been really hard for him to adjust, but we carried on with our plans for the summer anyway, camping and going away to France. In fact we have probably done more this summer than we have for a long while, and ended up pretty tired by the end of the holidays. You can read about what he has been through here

Knock on effects

This has also had a knock on effect on everyone else. If you have followed my posts you will see that this year my racing has not worked out as I would have liked, and its no coincidence that this has happened at the same time as stressful events in our life. I didn’t expect this to happen to Patrick, and it has made me think about my priorities in life. I had planned to have a nice easy summer without training, so I could enjoy going away with the family, and I made sure that I didn’t try to cram in lots of training even though I had decided to enter one last event “The Snowman Triathlon” (click the link to go straight to the race report) I felt I really needed to complete one event this year, and continued to train a bit over the summer, but it wasn’t my priority, so I lost fitness, but it didn’t matter. I really enjoyed our breaks, and we seem to have been blessed with good weather every time we have been away. Patrick has had his ups and downs but we have managed to do a lot of fun things this year.

Expressing my frustration!

Expressing my frustration!

How we deal with setbacks

Before the race I stumbled upon a blog post about how to deal with setbacks called “pain and the second arrow”. I am really interested in how our mindset effects us, and this couldn’t have come at a better time. The original post is here, but I will summarise what happened to me, and how I used the advice. On race day my chain came off the front derailler, and got jammed up against the frame of my bike. The same thing had happened to me at Brecon and initially my thoughts were “I can’t believe this is happening again” “I won’t be able to finish” etc. The article describes the incident as the “first arrow”, and how you react to the incident as the “second arrow”. I quickly realised that I was starting to shoot second arrows, and was much faster at fixing my bike and getting back on the road than I was at Brecon, partly because it had happened before so I knew it was fixable, and also because I refused to shoot those second arrows. So when you find yourself in a difficult situation step back for a moment and listen to the voices in your head, you can choose which ones to listen to and this is how life changes are made. This can be applied across your whole life, and one of the reasons I love racing so much is that it provides us with opportunities to grow, and to learn to deal with whatever life throws at you in a better way.

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