A bit like Yin and Yang. Its really important to balance your training. As triathletes we are used to pushing ourselves and using yang (masculine energy) but we often overlook the other side of yin (feminine energy) recovering and nurturing ourselves. Recently I have read 2 articles explaining the benefits of stretching and prolonged stretching for injury prevention so I decided to make a video of relaxing stretches that you can do before bed. The first article is about fascia, which is connective tissue in your body. It covers all of our internal parts, and basically holds us together. If you do repetitive exercise/sit at a desk for prolonged periods, your fascia forms adhesions which can limit movement. It does this in order to prevent injury. To look after your fascia you need to stretch, keep hydrated, relax, and massage. (all yin energies). You can read more about fascinating fascia here! The other article I read, was about yin yoga. If you haven’t heard of it, its pretty fashionable right now, and is also used as a balance to those hard and strenuous yoga poses that some people do. Each pose is held for 3-5 mins. It is really interesting to do, as you relax into the pose lots of feelings come up, and part of the yoga is how you respond to those feelings, read more about yin yoga here. So my Yin and Yang videos are below, I hope you enjoy them, and a report from The Dragon ride is here
Why women don’t participate in sports
Forums and chat As a regular forum user, and competitive female athlete I am often frustrated and upset by comments that are made on forums regarding womens participation in the sports that I enjoy. As a minority in these sports I also feel intimidated to post a response, even when I am offended. This is why I decided to write this post. If you choose to read it hopefully some people will take the time to think about their words and choose them a bit more carefully. One of the reasons that I don’t challenge comments that frustrate me is that I don’t want to upset anyone, but obviously some of the men posting on these forums do not feel the same way as I do. My experience I would consider myself to be a reasonably confident woman, but when starting out at Triathlon I often felt that I was not “good enough” to participate in time trials and I waited until I was at a fairly high standard before I attended one. I know I am not the only one to worry about this, women that I have spoken to are often concerned about coming last or being too slow. I also participate in mountain bike events, which are very poorly attended by women. I am usually faster than men uphill but slower downhill, but instead of just riding in these events at my pace, I will let men go ahead, as I have been conditioned to believe that men are faster and better than me. I have discussed this with friends and they also react in a similar way. In the pool, I worry about getting in peoples way if they are faster, and I frequently see women giving way and jeopardising their session in order to let someone faster go ahead of them. I recently watched a poem being performed called take up space it is about being yourself and allowing yourself to take up space. If I sometimes feel like I can’t take up space, then imagine what women with lower self esteem must feel like. Facts Obesity and low self esteem are a growing problem, girls and boys are subjected to stereotypes and social pressures from an early age. I am going to look at this from the female angle, as I am female, and I feel that women are often overlooked and marginalised by sports, we have to fight to get recognition, and equal opportunities, as the world has been run by men for so long. There are systems in place that are unfair to women purely because men are the people who made the rules, and often they do not consider women, for example; the Time Trial scene. A look on their forum reveals some attitudes that, frankly, belong in the dark ages. Usually there are less prizes for women. The reason being that there are less women competing. How this encourages participation is beyond me, when you don’t even get recognised for your efforts, and believe me, the women that compete in these events DO put in the effort. Generally speaking the women who enter these events are highly committed, they have to be, to overcome gender stereotypes. However these women are a different group to the group of women who need to be encouraged in to sport. A Sport England Report identified areas in which women aged 15-19 are dissuaded from participating in sports, and found that what one group disliked about sport and physical activity were “feeling intimidated and self-conscious, and the competition associated with doing sport.” This would support what I have seen in a local time trial where results are not published from the event. I saw more women at this time trial than I have seen at any other time trial in the area. “This research also investigated the role of three main determinants upon participation in sport – the environment, lifestyle transitions, and psychosocial issues. Overall it was found that: Young women did not consider environmental issues, including the provision of facilities, as very important when explaining their current level of sports participation. Transitions, including lifestyle changes for example from school to college or from education to employment, had a negative impact upon sport participation, due to a decrease in levels of spare time, money, and energy. This finding was consistent regardless of current level of participation. Psychosocial issues were very important when explaining levels of sport participation. In particular, family and friends were considered to be the most important factors influencing participation in sport, regardless of participation level. Furthermore, complex psychosocial issues such as self-confidence, and perception of personal ability, were also found to play a significant role in the decision to participate in sport.” What to do There are a lot of good campaigns out there to empower women to participate in sport and break through stereotypes, for example This Girl Can, we just need to bring these attitudes and ideas into clubs at grass roots level and not just pay lip service to “there should be more women participating”. Women will not respond to bullying or male banter, they need acceptance and encouragement. If clubs really care about women participating then they would do well to read the report by Sports England and implement the recommendations. They could also consider the words used on public forums and think about how these may affect other people.
Wow what amazing weather we have been having. It makes it so easy to train and motivate yourself when there is sunshine, and it also makes it easy to get over enthusiastic and overtrain. Sometimes training gets tiring, and its difficult to know if you should take a break, or keep pushing on. I think most of us know when we need to take a break, but we can also sometimes get attached to our training plans (guilty) and feel that we need to tick off everything that we have set ourselves to do. It is useful to keep track of your training then you can see what you have been doing and there is evidence to show that you may have been overdoing it. I use training peaks which gives me a TSS (training stress score) which is explained here. This explains why I’m feeling tired at the moment, and had to abandon my turbo session! Training is stress that we put on our body, and it is good to do this, if we didn’t then we wouldn’t get faster or fitter, BUT if you don’t rest and recover then the body does not have time to repair itself and your performance either stagnates, declines, or in the worst case scenario you get to the stage when your life is negatively affected by your overtraining. If you need more recovery time your body will let you know, you just need to listen and be observant if you have any of these signs.
- You feel sluggish and tired for consecutive days
- You lack motivation to complete workouts
- You can’t sleep even though you are tired
- You get ill more often
There are a lot more symptoms of overtraining which can easily be found if you google them, remember though that everyone is unique. We all have different tolerances for training loads and recovery times, so what might work for your friend will not necessarily work for you. There are ways to monitor how recovered you are by checking your heart rate in the morning, amongst other things. I will leave it for the experts to explain here. Don’t underestimate the power of good quality sleep, and staying hydrated. Recovery is taking care of yourself. Sometimes we can be our own worst critics, if you catch yourself beating yourself up about missing a session or feeling tired then listen to what you are telling yourself and ask if you would talk to someone else in that way? It is important to nourish yourself with positive words and by allowing yourself recovery time. It is not a weakness, and can make you stronger in the long run.
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.
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.
The power of your mind, how to break through a negative mindset
Swimming Since I started triathlon my swimming has improved a lot, but I have always thought of it as my weakest discipline. I have worked on technique, have had coaching in a workshop situation to improve my stroke, and I have steadily improved. I have progressed from the slowest lane in the tri club swim sessions to the 2nd fastest lane. Recently the swim lanes have changed and a lot of swimmers have moved in to the 2nd fastest lane. I have been reluctant to move up to the fast lane, as I didn’t want to get dropped and hold people up, I tried going in the other week but was struggling to keep up on the warm up.
Life in the fast lane This Monday I went in the fast lane, I didn’t really want to and still in my head I think I am a poor swimmer but I thought I’d give it a go. We were doing fast 100’s and when I stopped my Garmin at the end of the first 100m I was shocked to see I’d swum the fastest time for 100m I think I’ve ever swum, now part of this is down to having faster swimmers to draft, and also stopping short of the end of the lane (there were so many of us in there!) But I started stopping my Garmin a second after I’d stopped to account for the last meter of the lane, and I still managed to hold on to a consistently faster pace than usual, about 8-10s faster than my usual 100m pace.
Mind power It is really important to see ourselves in a positive light. When negative thoughts come in to your head you need the skills to replace them with positive or affirming beliefs. This is not only important for training and racing, but also an essential life skill, it can improve the quality of your life dramatically (love the rain!) I am very aware that I still view myself as a poor swimmer, and there are many other areas in my life that I do this, BUT I am aware of it, and there are things that I can do to ensure I don’t fall into the trap of overly criticising myself. Next time that voice comes into my head telling me I am crap at swimming I now have the evidence to show that I am not, and that I can push myself more than I thought. As you train and race, make sure that you store these moments so that you can call on them when you need some positive energy in your life, remember you are unique and have many strengths that other people see and admire, be proud of yourself, and love the rain!
This video was posted on my clubs cycling forum, and it brings up some really good points
I think one of the points that it brings up, about knowing why you are doing a workout is really important. If you have a good reason to do a session then it will be beneficial, for your mind as well as your body. If you are just doing it just to get the miles in then it may be the wrong reason.
You need to know what your goal is and work towards that.
It is important to have a focus for each session, and when I plan workouts for my athletes I always describe the focus of the session. This works in 2 ways, firstly you go in to your session with a focussed plan, and you are also programming your mind to believe in what you are doing, so that when it comes to race day you will know that you have done what it takes to prepare your mind and body, remembering this will make you a better athlete.
It is a good idea to visualise your race whilst you are training too, think about how you will feel when you are racing. All of this will help prepare you for the big day.
There is no doubt that High intensity sessions will increase your fitness, but you must also do race appropriate workouts too, and in the study that is quoted the participants did high intensity (that means all out efforts) for 30 seconds until exhaustion, or worked at 80% until exhaustion.
I am believer in balance and variability. If you do the same sessions week in week out then you will not improve as much as you will if you progress, and work in different intensities, the more time you have to train, the more you can mix it up. You also need to know when to back off. Ask yourself, what benefit am I getting from this session? Sometimes its better to recover and try again another day.
Or, riding in Zone 2
An endurance ride or run means different things to different people, and it’s something that a lot of people get wrong, so I thought I’d try and clear up a few misunderstandings and misconceptions.
When I describe an endurance ride I ask someone to ride in Zone 2 for an extended period of time. The way that training works is that your body adapts to the training load that you place on it, so it is important to increase the distance that you ride, and make sure that you plan this well. If you increase your long rides/runs too early you will be at risk of burnout and reach your peak fitness too early. If you don’t increase your long rides/runs enough then your endurance will be compromised.
It is also important to make sure you pace the ride correctly, some mistakes that people make are:
- Riding too hard on hills, and then recovering on the flats and downs.
- Not riding consistently on the flats and downs.
If you are using a power meter it is easy to see if you are in the right zone, and I have found I ride more consistently when I use my power meter. If you are using heart rate then you can see from your heart rate graph how consistent you are. If your heart rate graph looks like the one below, then you may not be getting the benefit of an endurance ride.
Shown below is a more consistently paced ride where the heart rate remains fairly steady
People’s heart rates don’t tend to dip as much when they are running, but it is still important to be aware of your effort level and keep a constant pace. Don’t forget, triathlons are steady state events and you need to be able to swim, bike and run at a steady pace for an extended amount of time.
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Illness and injury can happen at any time, so it is useful to know what to do if you can’t train.
If you have an injury then you need to get professional help as soon as possible. Don’t think it will go away, admit to yourself that there is an issue and start managing it. If you don’t intervene early then it could turn into something worse. You may need to do rehabilitation, make sure that you listen to advice and act accordingly.
It is now the season for colds and flu, if you do succumb to “the lurgy” then make sure you hydrate well and eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, avoid dairy produce if you can, as dairy can increase mucous. This tweak of your diet will help your immune system get back on track.
As far as training goes:
“A neck check is a way to determine your level of activity during a respiratory illness,” says Neil Schachter, MD, medical director of respiratory care at Mount Sinai Medical Centre in New York. “If your symptoms are above the neck, including a sore throat, nasal congestion, sneezing, and tearing eyes, then it’s OK to exercise,” he says. “If your symptoms are below the neck, such as coughing, body aches, fever, and fatigue, then it’s time to hang up the running shoes until these symptoms subside.”
I would still be cautious about exercising when ill, your immune system is taking a battering, and you may find that exercising makes you feel worse. If in doubt go out, but take it easy. You really need to use your own judgment on this, sometimes going out when you are not recovered can set you back more than resting and allowing your body to balance itself.
If you do miss training due to illness then these guidelines (from Don Fink) will help you to work out what to do
1 day missed
Just skip your workout. Missing one workout will not matter in the long run.
2-3 days missed
Skip the lost days and rejoin your normal training, but on the first day back do half of your scheduled workout. Resume normal training on the second day back.
4-6 days missed
Rejoin programme skip the missed days. Do 1/3 of your scheduled training on first 2 days back, and 2/3rds on next 2 days back. Resume full training on the fifth day back.
7 or more days missed
You may need to reconsider your goals depending on when this happens. Speak to your coach, if you have one, and modify your training plan.
As I said these are guidelines, and I think that it is more important for you to decide what the best course of action is. Only you really know how well you are recovered.
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.