No races? Two key things to work on!

Its been such a strange year and it is still very much uncertainty across the world. COVID-19 has affected us all this year with lockdown and one by one races being cancelled. Travel plans, training, daily life all changed and we had to adapt in these uncertain times.

For me, everything was gearing up for the 2020 European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Malmo which was scheduled for August. Despite lockdown and being restricted to going out once a day for exercise and essentials I was very much on track for this race. With my coaches we decided that with the pools shut it was a good opportunity to work even more on the bike. Although I had been training more on the bike, coach Mark Shepard said this was a great time to work more on the bike to improve. So with no swimming I did more bike sessions and also Craig Coggle, my strength coach, focused on land base workouts to keep those swim muscles going.

Despite all of this, I had a gut feeling the whole year would be a write-off – I didn’t panic because it was out of my control and the main thing was to stay safe. The European Championships had been moved a year and in the same week British Triathlon cancelled all qualifiers and National championships. As soon as I heard this Mark told me to have two weeks off and do what I fancied with no plan and all easy training – I did and really enjoyed it.

This mentally helped me so much with not knowing what was going to happen in future months; it was also time not to over train and just enjoy my hobby more and tick along.

We then ramped the training up once we came out of lockdown and focused on races towards the end of the year. I managed to race 4 times with 2 wins and a 2nd place, I also managed a PB and a course record but this was off the back of consistent training and not over doing it. It was a short season for me and now I am having a break and time out for a few weeks from training. But the key is not to get carried away with more time on your hands.

Of course no training is a waste because it has so many heath benefits so it is important to keep going and not give up. The problem is though with another lockdown in force, people will have more time on their hands. This will have a negative effect on training, with more time on your hands and if you are like me, you will want to train more and more but that’s not the way to go. The great saying is too much of a good thing is a bad thing. As a result you risk burning out, getting long term injuries and giving up with no goals. So I have two key things that you should focus on while in lockdown/winter.

Make a long term goal – this is very important in keeping you motivated. It can be anything from wanting to start running to running a marathon in a certain time. Now the key is not to over train but be patient, work towards it slowly and that way your see the progress. Have structured recovery weeks, rest days (rest means total rest) and test yourself regularly to see where you are so that you can work towards your goal. I have written it many times before that easy running means easy and can improve you a lot so don’t think that you have to run fast all the time. A well balance program has more easy sessions than tough sessions.

The second is work on something over lockdown/winter. Something that you have not focused on before. This can be a weakness of yours and you can improve a lot from working on that weakness. I improved a lot on the bike this year by working on that area. You can work on things like technique in running and swimming – this can make you more efficient and you can improve from this. Maybe you have neglected strength work and again that can make you faster but also keep the injuries away. Something I like working on during the winter is my running technique – I start doing more drills and focus on something like my arm drive. During easy runs I do a check of how I am running and seeing if I have gone back to bad habits. This doesn’t have to be a major thing it can be a little thing, but working on a weakness will give you great gains in the long term.

My conclusion is that no training is a waste but you need to be smart in your training and don’t over do it. Base training and easy training is the way forward and once you have a race that is going ahead you can ramp up the intensity. Having a long term goal will keep you motivated and training – that works for me. Always work on a weakness to improve; something people ignore and just like to stay in their comfort zones. Stay safe over this winter and keep working on your goals and move forward as we will beat this.

Mistakes people make with their training.

At the start of a new year people set new goals and the common goals are things like achieving PB’s, first marathon/triathlon, get active, weight loss and so on. Which is no problem at all, however some of the common mistakes made are as follows.

Many people start off by not doing strength training or never do it. This is a common mistake as many people believe they will gain weight or bulk up from strength training which is not the case; not only does strength training keep injuries to a minimal it makes you stronger, improves your running form, economy and efficiently. Therefore with consistent training, it will make you faster. These are just some of the benefits.

Goals take time and one key problem is people do not allow enough time to achieve or work towards their goals. If I said in 2012 when I couldn’t swim and set a goal for that year to win the European Aquathlon Championships in my age group I would of just got injured and given up; so goals take years and good planning. Runners are the worst as they always tend to do too much too soon and cram all their training in a short time-frame. One of the common things I see with people is that they over train; many people believe they need to train every day because if they don’t they will lose their fitness. That’s not the case – rest is key in your training program and to improve your body needs to recover and rebuild to get stronger. I am not saying weekly rest periods, I am going along the lines of at least a day or two of full rest each week.

A good training program will have a recovery structure in place and this is also a common mistake people make. People training all year round don’t get enough recovery weeks in or even a rest from training to rebuild physically and mentally. In my training I have one day rest a week at least, that means no training at all. When I have a big race coming up I taper the weeks leading to the race. At the end of each season I have 2 weeks off training and slowly come back.

Injuries can be hard on you and they are mentally tough as you just want the injury to get better and carry on with what you love doing. Sometimes a few days rest does the trick and does nothing to your fitness, even a week off helps and again doesn’t really affect your fitness levels. I have had a week off in the past with injuries and gone on to PB in a race – the key is to listen to your body. After a week of no training your fitness starts to drops and if you have two weeks off you lose a lot of your fitness. However the common mistake is people get injured and they jump straight back into their training instead of building it back up.

Many people do not stretch. Stretching keeps muscles flexible. We need that flexibility to maintain a range of motion in the joints. Without it, the muscles shorten and become tight and will cause injuries. I stretch every morning when I wake up, after exercise and every evening before I go to sleep. This should be an important factor in your training and daily activities.

Deep in thought haha

Over training – most people over train and I did this in the past. People get fixed on times and having to run a certain pace and I see it all the time things like “ bad run aborted today” , “pace went well for the first few miles then struggled and dropped off” etc. Sound familiar? That’s a sign of over training – a bad run can’t keep happening every day. I always go by hard days hard and easy days easy. My hard days are hard and that’s only twice a week with the easy days taking up four days of my training. For example, people run their long easy runs too hard – long runs have a purpose to make you more efficient but you need to run slow. So I run nearly two minutes slower per mile then my 5k pace, legs should feel fresh the following day and in theory should be therefore able to train hard the following day. It does amaze me the amount of people I tell as a coach you are running to fast in your long runs and they don’t believe me and get injured. Doing the slow runs too fast is very common amongst runners as they believe that running faster will make you go faster. That is the case for speed sessions but if you are running fast all the time the body breaks down and even running at a moderate pace is wrong and hinders your progress. The problem is that running slow isn’t natural for people, I run slow a lot and you can read my old blog about running slow and heart rate running HERE

Doing training because it’s on the plan when you’re not feeling great or unwell is not a good sign. You need to listen to your body and be flexible with training and prepare to adjust, don’t feel like you have to do it. I have been out for runs where I haven’t felt great so I have stopped, cut short or even run at a slower pace. An unplanned run won’t make much difference to your fitness. Just be prepared to change things round as many things can get in the way with training in daily life.

Not looking at mistakes or changing training up is a common mistake. Lots of people do the same training they did the following year for and expect a PB. For example because you followed a marathon plan one year and done well with it, it doesn’t necessary mean you will improve this time round. The body gets used to your training and if you don’t change it around and push yourself you will plateau and perhaps even go backwards. Copying what others do and trying to do what they do will likely not work for you – what works for them may not necessary work work for you. So it’s important to change your training up so it suits you and build into it.

I hope this has helped, these are some common mistakes people make in training, I have done them in the past and it’s important to assess and change your training up regularly. Just because it worked before doesn’t mean it will work again.

Please check out my YouTube channel for training tips and product reviews HERE

Are you over training now during lockdown?

With countries around the world going into lockdown and some allowing you to go out for one form of exercise a day, this has also resulted in an increase of people over training because of having more time on their hands – could you be falling into this trap?

It is unlikely there will be any races until the end of the summer. Many people are not adjusting their training such as carrying on running high mileage for October marathons, too many runs etc. People are now thinking they can fit more training in and therefore will fall into this trap and will neglect training as a result.

My advice is don’t be tempted, it might seem like a good idea to do more during lockdown but you are going to risk an injury, and potentially get ill when this is the time when you need your immune system to not be suppressed because of what’s going on at the moment.  So I have come up with some tips that will help not to over train and how to stay strong and fit during this period. So here are some tips I am using in my training.

Firstly, scale back your training – for example, if you were running long periods of time, scale it back. A 60 minute easy run will help you a lot instead of a 2 hour run. Focus on something else so instead of doing a lot of hard session’s cut that down and replace it with easy zone 2 heart rate sessions. This way you can work on your efficiency and form. Zone 2 training has so many benefits and makes you faster. You won’t lose fitness, maybe a little speed but that will come back quickly when you train again for races when this is over. Do not use the excuse I was told I can do one exercise a day so I am going to run or cycle for a long period of time. For example, in my training I can’t swim as the pools as they are all shut now. So I have replaced my swim sessions with just one bike session & a strength session. For my running, I run four times a week with two easy and two hard sessions. I am now doing minimal speed work and running in zone 2 and therefore in total doing less training.

Rest is so important and I can’t stress how important this is and is neglected so much by people. Rest means rest, yes nothing at all. Recovery runs, rides, easy strength work etc is not rest. Rest is crucial in every plan and is when your body recovers, rebuilds and gets stronger. At least one rest day will help so much because it improves you and you make a lot of gains and keeps injuries away.

Eat healthy and try to stay out of the cupboards and fridge. If you’re like me and eat a lot it’s hard not to over eat when stuck in doors. So you need to discipline yourself so you don’t over eat. Stick to your normal eating routine and maybe add some extra fruit to boost your immune system. Eating the right nutrients and food is so important as your body absorbs these more than rubbish foods.

Focus on your weaknesses, so now is the time to work on your weaknesses and things you have neglected in the past. So for running it could be working on drills and form so it improves your running technique. In swimming, working on those swimming muscles doing land bases work that you never usually do. Cycling – if you’re like me and it’s my weakest, working more on that to improve. So there is a lot you can do.

Hope you find this helpful, it’s important we stay positive, stay safe and keep moving as we can beat this together. Don’t fall into the trap of over training, it’s fine to scale back to keep your immune system strong and healthy. Of course it’s important for our health and well being to get out, my training has been adapted and hopefully I will get to races later in the year. Now is the time to scale back and work on your weaknesses; you won’t go backwards you will get stronger.

Check out my YouTube Channel I have videos on there which will help you with you training HERE