Your race was cancelled? Stay Calm, stay positive -tips to keep your training going.

There is something at the moment on the news and around the world that we can’t escape – that of course is the Coronavirus. This virus has caused chaos around the world, with countries struggling to control this and some countries even going into a lockdown. Many events so far have been cancelled, clubs postponing training until further notice and so on. It is tough times and a situation none of us expected or have gone through in our lives. So I have written a blog on how to safely keep fit and motivated and what you can do if you’re in lockdown and can’t leave the house to maintain some sort of fitness.

As an athlete and Interim Head Coach for Canterbury Harriers I share your frustration with all your training and plans up in the air; please note that no training is a waste. Being part of clubs has changed my life and helped my health and wellbeing and mentally, I have made lots of friends too, so it will be hard for a lot of us through this difficult time.

Firstly we must listen to guidelines set by the government so that this can pass quickly. It’s important to stay calm, stay positive and keep moving forward – we can beat this together. If you are struggling for motivation just do something even if it’s just for 10 minutes – such as a short run. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes stop, but it’s likely you will stay out much longer whatever you do.

Like many of you my targets, goals and season plans are now all up in the air, training was going well getting ready for my first important race in May and then the virus struck. It’s ok to feel disappointment about races being cancelled and goals not achieved, but we are all in this together.

Safety is so important so I will do what I have to do to stay well and safe. So with races being cancelled, parkrun cancelled, clubs runs cancelled etc  I therefore had to change my training up as it would be too early to peak for the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in August and not knowing if that will go ahead. Don’t think your training has gone to waste because your race was cancelled. No training is a waste, firstly by training you’re looking after your health and wellbeing (both physical and mental) boosting your immune system and keeping fit. So it’s important to keep training if it’s safe outside alone or indoors.

The pools and leisure centres have now closed in the UK. So how can you maintain your swim fitness? Well the problem is unless you have your own pool, it will be a tough one, so you could work more on another area such as running and cycling and focusing more on that. I started swimming in 2012 and have really swam consistently since with only a few weeks off from it each year from my end of season break, so like many of you it looks like long periods of not swimming is on the cards. However a lot of swim training is also done in the gym where you can also do this at home. Swimmers call this land base training; you can do a lot at home, even if you don’t have any equipment. If you already go to the gym you will likely being doing some of these exercises below to make you stronger and keep injuries to the minimal.

So things like Press Ups, Sit Ups, V Sit Ups, Planks, Side Planks, Jumping Lunges, Dead Bug, Tread the Needle,  Alkeanas, Glute Bridge, Shoulder Wall Slides will help you for your core and swimming. If you have a resistance band you can do Dead Bugs with a band and that will help your core and give your arms some resistance. You could add Squats; now don’t overdo it but you can produce a circuit such as Press Ups, Sit Ups and Planks x10 reps of each and then do 3 sets and maybe add Squats, Sit Ups, Dead Bug in the same format. There is plenty of strength videos online that will keep you strong and with some small cardio workout. Just make sure when searching the internet you look at the right form and copy it as you don’t want to get injured and the workout must be what you think will help you. So not going to the gym isn’t bad at all, for runners and cyclists you could even add a few more things in like Squats, Clams and Scissors. You can Google these and find them on YouTube.

The above can be done without weights and if you have got weights you can use weights for some. So you can see there is a lot you can do without equipment. This will help with your strength and some fitness.

What about running? Well this very much depends if you are allowed out your home-  the UK government has put in restrictions that you can exercise once a day outside your home such as a run alone or with a family member from your household.  If you have a treadmill then you can pretty much do all your runs on the treadmill no problem. If you are allowed out the house then you can go running and you do your own session but maintaining a safe distance from the public.

If you only run with your club then you might need some sessions. Good sessions I like are mile reps 3×1 mile rep with 3 minutes recovery between the reps and a warm up and warm down either side, easy runs and long runs will get you through too, but I am sure you know what sessions you can do. If you don’t have a treadmill and not allowed out the house but can get into the garden perhaps you can run up and down your garden? If it’s to small what about doing drills and working on your running form? Good drills I like are high knees, A steps, heel flicks, strides; these will help your form a lot but of course your running fitness won’t be the same.

It’s important your training does not go stale so just because you’re not training with others or racing you can change your training up. If you want to do easy runs, time on feet is a good way to train. You could increase you runs by 6-9 minutes each week for three weeks and then hold for three weeks so for example if you start from 60 minutes then go 1 hour 6 minutes, 1 hour 12 minutes, 1 hour 18 minutes and hold that 1:18 for two weeks. Then have a recovery week cutting back to 60 minute runs or less. Easy runs should be easy and don’t worry about pace – the slower the better makes you more efficient and faster in the long run.

A rough guide on heart rate zones is around 60% of your heart rate max no higher – any higher you’re over training into different zones such as going in to threshold zone. Easy runs in theory should give you fresh legs not sore at all the following day and you can then run hard. If you don’t know your heart rate max, zone 2 is the right zone, it might feel slow but your body adapts and pace will come down my coach Mark Sheperd always stresses the importance of zone2 training. When you do have a recovery week keep the intensity the same but reps low. For example if you normally do 6x1k reps then cut that down to 3 to 4 reps. If you want to stay connected with people which is so important, you could have mini competitions with friends via Strava for example, that can help with motivation.

Lastly cycling – this can be done easily indoors with your bike/exercise bike. Your bike will need a turbo trainer or rollers – you can pick them up cheap now and you can do training just like you would outdoors, there are plenty of programs you can follow and even virtual rides will keep motivation and even hook up with friends and training buddies online for some friendly competition.

That’s how you can still train but you need to keep motivated.  There are a few things you can do.   A simple option is to have a recovery week, use this time to think about what you want to achieve and focus on in the coming months. There is nothing worse than pounding your body all year round and then only resting once you’re broken.

Remember that somebody believes in you. This somebody could be a coach, manager, trainer, fellow athlete or loved one. They will have the belief in your ability that you currently may not have. There is no harm in asking them for reassurances.

Think in positive ways at all times. Positivity can be developed by assessing training each day and competition sessions. Assess your own positivity through forms of achievement through technique, practice and movement. Thinking positively leads to better mind and body balance. Positive thinking enables the neural pathways within the mind to operate with clarity and purpose.

Understand that it can be done. Embark on each task as a champion by having a clear and defined plan. Achieve your task step by step. Do not take on a big task and expect to complete it quickly. Have patience and believe in yourself.

Stay in control of the controllable. Maintaining the controllable builds self-confidence because it provides you with a sense of focus and directive. Remember that you can never control what others are thinking/doing but you can control what you are achieving. There are a range of variables within running that can lead to performers losing sight of the controllable. External factors/influences will only hinder performance and must be beaten.

Recall previous success. A mantra that I use is related to distance travelled. Think about previous successes that you have had. What did that feel like? How were your emotions during this time? Further, how confident did that make you feel? Recall is a positive mechanism to enable one to re-build confidence as it associates with belief.

Set short-term goals. Most athletes suffer from low self-confidence because they allow the issue(s) to prolong and as a consequence fail to deal with problems head on. To overcome these issues, set short-term goals that will enable the flow of confidence (no matter how small) to start. Through constantly achieving your short-term goals you will build your levels of self-confidence like a snowball growing bigger. Short-term goals should be related to processes that can be achieved.

The world Situation is bad however, exercise wise it’s not all bad, you have lots of options with what you can do now that facilities are closed.  I believe it’s important to keep smiling, keep positive in order to move forward as we can beat this but most importantly stay safe. Motivation might be tough but I hope the tips help, setting small goals each week and taking each day as it comes in this climate is a good way to go. I will be posting videos to help with training on my YouTube Channel link HERE please check it out and subscribe.

Difference between swimming in a pool and open water!

There are many obvious differences between swimming in the pool and open water but I am going to discuss some differences between the two to help you with your swimming. You may be a strong pool swimmer but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will be strong at open water swimming.

Pool swimming is safer than open water purely because you are in a confined area and normally people and lifeguards are near you.  So the fear of being unsafe is mainly taken away and with many pools now you can touch the bottom at both ends. There are many benefits from training in the pool to stop you from being bored doing laps and to help you improve.

The first thing you can do is accurate reps which you can time/pace and see your improvement each week. Depending on the length of the pool you can have a set plan that will help you in your training. You can take equipment; most pools allow this. If you want to improve its important not to just get in the pool and swim endless lengths at the same speed as improvement won’t come. Doing reps using pull buoys and paddles can help you get stronger, faster and become more buoyant. Swimming equipment is harder to use in the sea .Drills can easily be done in the pool due to no waves or current. In open water it will be more difficult. These are three areas that are important in the pool. When it comes down to the race day such as a Triathlon/Aquathlon in the pool it’s pretty easy as there is no open water fear and it feels safer. The only problem with pool races is that you’re not really racing others as it is mainly a timed event and you go off one by one.

With open water swimming there is a lot to consider but also so many benefits. Safety wise – depending where you do the open water swimming you need to consider if it’s safe. For example I swim in the sea but if the tide is really rough there is no way I am going to swim. Even in the summer I will use my wetsuit swimming in the sea as I feel much safer and buoyant with it on. Now with open water you can’t really do drills because of the unpredictability of waves. Reps times might be different due to cross tides and weather etc. So one week you might be flying along and the next struggling to move. Also, using equipment such as pull buoy and kick board will be a lot harder. People are put off with open water with the fear of something happening to them. Most seafronts have designated areas to swim which have lifeguards and the same with lakes and rivers.

The benefits of open water swimming is that it can improve you a lot, help with breathing purely because of the random waves etc. You get stronger because you are swimming against current rather than a pool where there is not current. Sea swimming is good for the skin and is proven to also help with recovery due to the salt in the water. If you are swimming in the sea it’s always good to mix up the pace and have a plan, instead of just getting in and swimming at one pace. The temperature of the water, depending on the time of the year you swim, may not be higher than 19 degrees towards the end of summer. September is normally the warmest time to swim in the year, whereas pool temperatures are kept high to around 28 degrees all year round. Air temperature can play a factor such as it can be a cold day in September but the temperature of the sea water can be warmer than air temperature which can affect your breathing. The body works harder in open water due to it being colder than the pool. You cannot stand up in the middle of a lake or sea, whereas you can in the pool. The chances are if you swim in UK in open water you are likely not to see anything from a few cms away.

In open water, you will need to keep an eye out of where you are, whereas in a pool you won’t need to because once you get to the end of the pool you turn back. In race day in open water you normally all go off at the same time so my advice would be if it’s your first time racing in open water stay away from the middle and keep to the edge. Open water races scare people because they fear it for many reasons, but my advice would be to practice there before your race to get used to it.

These are some tips and differences which I hope helps.

National Aquathlon Championships

My last big race was approaching on September the 8th the National Aquathlon Championships. However leading up to this the weekend before I picked up a foot infection after competing at the triathlon sprint relays on the Sunday prior. My foot was hurting and inflamed straight after the race. I have had a problem near my toe with a lump for a while, unfortunately after being told to go to the MIU from the medical team at the race there was no doctor on duty at the MIU to give me antibiotics. The good news is I had a doctor’s appointment booked in for the Monday anyway a week before. I turned up in pain and hobbling at the doctors, the doctor confirmed it was an infection. I explained my health comes first and if he pulls me out of the Nationals that is fine. Well he said there was no reason for not to continue to train etc and gave me antibiotics and stated only train if it doesn’t hurt and keep an eye on it.

So I did, however on the Thursday I started feeling unwell and drained so I took Friday and Saturday off prior to the race. It worked a treat as Saturday morning I felt really good, all though still had pain in my foot; it was healing and didn’t affect my running or swimming. I didn’t know what my fitness was and Saturday night I had another problem with the fire alarm at the hotel went off just after midnight which woke me up and then I struggled with sleep after that and had roughly a few hours max sleep. So race day came and I was shattered and felt awful.

Feeling sorry for myself Sunday morning and not great at all I had to just give it my all and see what I can do. The race was in beautiful Arundel and I highly recommend visiting. The race started and we went off in waves, I tried to pushed hard in the swim however felt sluggish I didn’t give up but at the turn around point I started to feel awful and struggling to get keep pace or go faster. I came out the river and didn’t feel great, I proceeded to transition and realised I must have had a good swim as I was close to the top guys.

I was struggling to get my wetsuit off due to the air temperature and lake being a bit on the cold side. I came out of transition and onto the run and decided to run hard and see how long I could keep this pace up. I managed to catch the lead pack with around 2k to go and took the lead in my AG. 2nd placed stayed on the back of me and I knew he could get past me and at that point I had nothing left. However when on the final stretch of the race, I asked my body to go faster, gritted my teeth and tried to turn my legs over quicker still feeling awful but kept saying to myself in my head come on nearly there and my body reacted an moved.

I came storming to the finish line and started celebrating. It could well be my best race, I didn’t expect to get on the podium at the start of the week but I gave everything and didn’t give up. So very happy to defend and win the National Championships for a second time. I learnt something here today and that is never give up until it’s over. I kept wanting to stop and ease off but mentally I was in the right place. Lots of negative thoughts came into my head but I managed to keep positive and block the negative thoughts out and this is what made the difference. I had to dig very deep to defend this, of course if I was fully fit I know I could of been faster but I did just enough to retain my title.

This season has been amazing and becoming European and National Aquathlon Champion has made me achieve more than anything I could ever imagine. As mentioned before in blogs I won’t be taking up my GB spots for the Aquathlon team next year as I want to focus on triathlons. However I am yet to decide if I will come back to the nationals or not next year for Aquathlons. Since I started this journey in 2015 I have raced in 37 Aquathlons, podium 29 times and had 7 wins. I have won 2 National titles, Runner up and 3rd, European Champion and Bronze medal, represented GB 8 time and captained the team at Age Group. It’s been an amazing journey and I move on to new challenges now.

Vorgee Vortech & Stealth MKII Goggles review


It is important to get the right goggles to use and there are so many factors that you need to consider before purchasing a pair such as: are they suitable for outdoor swimming and races?  Vorgee kindly sent me some pairs to test and review. A little bit of background to the company, Vorgee is an Australian owned company which was established in 2005. By providing products from beginners to competitive swimmers. So being an Australian company and Australia having a track record of outstanding swimmers I was very interested in testing their products. I got to test the Vorgee Vortech and Stealth MkII swimming goggles so onto my review.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 2.jpg

Vorgee Vortech swimming goggles were the first up to test and below are some quick features:

• Soft frame unibody for added comfort and a softer fit
• Soft but firm gasket to hold correct position away from the face
• Ultra vision lens – a curved lens which offers greater clarity and wide high grade silicone dual band to ensure correct strap positioning and fit
• Anti fog injection
• UVA and UVB protection
• Exclusively endorsed by Swim Australia

First impressions were that they looked good but I thought the grey clips on the side looked a bit cheap. I think it was because the colour makes it look slightly cheap plastic. However I am not too worried about that but it could be something to change in the future. They don’t look flashy; I like goggles to have tinted lenses but that is my preference. However this type of goggle is bulky and this is what I like in goggles and are the type I use in races and outdoor swimming. I found it was a perfect fit and the grey levers are easy to do up and tighten up. I am also a big fan of this type of rubber strap and design. It is very light; this is due to the ultralight gasket and frame to provide less pressure around the face and for comfort.

I tested these in the pool and open water; no leaks whilst swimming so that’s a win win, they felt very comfortable and no problems of them feeling too tight or leaving marks on my face. What I was impressed by was that wherever I was swimming the goggles did not fog up. They were clear and did the job.

My conclusion is that although they look like normal swimming goggles, a few minor upgrades to the looks (so that the grey levers don’t look too cheap) and having tinted lenses would make the goggle stand out hugely. I think these are great goggles; they are comfy and do not fog up. They are at a good retail price with some retailers pricing them under £16. I would take “great goggles” anytime over “flashy goggles”.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 1.jpg

So on to Stealth MkII review; first impressions were that they looked very flashy. I liked the colour and design, they stand out and this is what I like. But did they do the job? Vorgee have designed this as ultralight low resistance racing goggles. I don’t race with these types of goggles as I like my race goggles bulky because most of my races are open water. But that is a personal preference. Below are the key features of the Stealth MKII:

• Race goggles
• Curved silver mirror lens for an increased wide angle vision of up to 140°
• 3D seal design
• High grade silicone, dual band strap with Quick Fit Strap Adjustment
• Anti-fog coating for enhanced visual clarity
• 4 interchangeable nose bridges
• UVA and UVB Protection

When using them they felt very comfy and light. However I had a problem with the dual band straps; I struggled to do them up and get them in the right place and Ii was not overly keen on them. I preferred the other type of goggle straps but these types of straps were very robust and a low chance of the straps snapping. They did not fog up and they were very clear. However when swimming open water I sometimes got a little leak but once I did them up they were fine; I don’t think I did them up right.

My conclusion is that they are not goggles for me purely for the strap reason; I can never get that right. Nevertheless they were comfy and looked flash. They are great pool goggles but not so sure about using them outside. I like the colour design and maybe a recommendation is that in the future they do a different strap design. So overall I really like the Vortech the best; they felt great and did the job.

European and Season Review

44816727984_4159785574_o

My season has come to an end and I am now having a rest period. Firstly It has been a great season – I have been on the podium 7 out of 9 Aquathlon races, 2 were race wins and a National Championships. I gained 3rd place in an sea 3k swim, 2nd in my first triathlon for nearly 6 years and in running races I broke a course record in a 5k, which I won. I also came runner up in another 5k. I was the Team Captain for both the European and World Aquathlon Championships for the GB team. I will be back at these races next year. I will be focusing more on multi-sport next year and will be racing in more triathlons too so its going to be exciting.

I want to thank everyone for all the support over the years and I have achieved so much since I started running and swimming in 2012. When I have a bad race I always look how far I have come, things like I couldn’t swim in 2012, being injured a lot, winning National and European medals since competing in Aquathlons in 2015, representing GB for my Age Group and being the team captain makes me very proud and hopefully my blogs and social media updates of my journey inspire others.

So onto the European Championships – a few days before I got the dreaded 5am flight over, so only having a few hours’ sleep and having to leave at 1.30am to get to the airport I was shattered but excited. We arrived in Ibiza at 9am and on the first day we did a lot of walking and looking at the sites with a couple of friends that came over the watch. I had to do a 40 min easy run that day, followed by a swim recce with a lot of the team as I organised it.

The following day I woke up feeling very ache, assuming because of the lack of sleep  from the previous day. However I had two rest days before the race. Race day approached and I was feeling very confident although still a bit sore and achy from a few days prior. The race was in the evening so I chilled out in the hotel room and relaxed and went through my race plan. I knew I was in the best shape I have ever been and couldn’t wait for the race. I met my friends and wife in the afternoon for lunch for 2pm. With a 6pm race start time I thought that was plenty of time. I then headed down to the race where I had to be out of transition at 4.30pm.

It was nice chatting to friends and after that I shut myself off from people and listened to music and prepared myself for the race. At 5.10pm I went for my warm-up which is very early but this was because we had to get onto a boat to the start of the swim. I did my warm-up and then the organisers were running late which meant by the time we got on the boat it was 6pm.

We headed off on the boat to the start line, everyone boarded the board and the boat started playing music very loudly which made it hard to chat to people. I liked the bit when we were getting on the boat and the Eye of the Tiger was playing.  We then jumped into the water one by one and waited for everyone to get in. The horn sounded and off we went. It was a non wet-suit swim and I pushed very hard at the start, I did get kicked in the face but hey that happens all the time in mass swims. I had a lot of space and when I came out of the sea I thought I had an ok swim but not my best as I didn’t feel tired.

I came out of transition and started to push hard on the run. The course was tight and tricky and on the zig zag bit just after transition I fell and slipped over. I felt my ankle go crack and a shooting pain, I then picked myself up quickly and carried on running with discomfort for a few minutes. I tried not to think about it and I carried on running. On lap two I was caught by a GB guy in my race and all of a sudden I picked up the pace and stuck with him until he went passed me at the last few meters. I finished 13th but later the result was changed to 14th – I assume someone had a penalty and appealed it. I didn’t think I had a great race as my time was well off and my run was not where I thought it would be. I wasn’t tired at the end of the race which was weird. But I came home in 35:46.

IMG_8798

So what everyone does is analyse their race and what went right or wrong. I am not going to be tough on myself or complain. It was just a long season where for me I didn’t perform to my best on the day and sometimes this is how it goes. Mentally when I fell I think that had a huge impact on my performance but these things happen. This is a learning curve and for next year I will be working on the mental aspect of my racing and the “what ifs something goes wrong”. A positive is that I finished strongly on the last mile. I will try to make sure a warm up is done closer to the race next time. I am going to maintain my running and swimming, will try to improve a little on those in the winter but the main focus will be on the bike.  I have started looking at my A races and B races so next year and it will be an even better season.

IMG_8932

Don’t be critical about your performances, take the positives and work with them. I will be back next year giving it my all. Now time for rest and easy training.

XK Swimzi review

 

IMG_6768I was able to try and review this product; first impressions is this looked similar to other products on the market but how wrong was I.

Firstly here is a background on how the product was developed from their site. “Back in May 2015, a team of five British swimmers plunged into 9°C shark-infested waters in an attempt to complete the treacherous 30-mile stretch from the Farallon Islands to the Bay of San Francisco, with only a swimming costume, pair of goggles and silicon hat to keep them warm. In a relay-style challenge, the swimmers were to spend a total of 30 hours on board the support craft, where their main concern was to remain warm, dry and protected from the harsh elements. Here at swimzi, it was our job to develop a high-quality product that would not only act as an impenetrable shield against the elements, but also enable the athletes to perform with maximum blood flow when it was their turn to take the plunge. By working closely with the Farallon Swimmers, and adapting key features used in sailing and mountaineering gear, swimzi have developed a piece of weatherproof kit like no other. The XK jacket has been carefully designed to protect against wind penetration whilst keeping essential body heat locked in: allowing you to perform at your best… whatever your sport, wherever you are in the world.”

On to the review, firstly the material on the outside is waterproof, therefor keeping you dry which is a no brainer. The inner lining is made from super soft-warm handle Sherpa fleece. Now this is an important feature, unlike its rivals this product is designed to keep you warm after your warm up and retain your body heat so that you are able to start your race still warm. I was able to compare it with others on the market and this did what the others didn’t do. So I put this to the test, I did my normal warm up before one of my aquathlon races and put the XK on straight after my warm up. I had to wait a bit and it kept me warm before the race. I found I was able to hit the swim better than not using the Swimzi.

The product comes with a 2 way zip system which is very useful which allows you to zip up the hood to stop wind chill. What I liked about the Swimzi was that it felt much lighter than its rivals and it was thinner so therefore not as bulky and easy to carry round.

Another feature is that you can easily get changed inside it, you might think that its too loose but the cords allow you to tighten the jacket.

My conclusion is that this is a great product and in my opinion the best on the market. It is designed for swimmers by swimmers purely to keep you warm after your warm up, unlike others. Its light and gives you the ease of movement. So I highly recommend this product. The photo is me using it at the National Championships and is now an essential part of my kit.

Check out more info on the XK Swimzi Here

IMG_6003

Very proud to competing for GB again this year!

Quite a few people in recent weeks have been asking me if I am competing for GB again this year so I thought its time to write a blog about this as it has been a while since my last. Firstly thank you for the support over the recent years and I am proud to announce that after a fantastic season last year and finishing 6th at the World Championships in my age group last summer in Penticton (Canada), I therefore have gained qualification to the World and European Aquathlon Championships and I will be competing in those races this year. Just in case you don’t know what an Aquathlon is, it is like a Triathlon but without the bike part. Normally consists of a 1000 metre swim, followed by a 5k run.

YIAN040

I am honoured and very privileged to be able to represent GB the past few years and again this year. I am very proud of my achievements in just a few years which as seen a European medal and two National medals. I am very much excited and looking forward to competing again. Working for NHS has allowed me to train well due to the flexi time, where I am able to train after work something I am very grateful of.

I started increasing my training since start of the year, it is hard work balancing training around work and trying to make sure I get some time to enjoy other things etc. A few of you have asked what kind of training I do, so here is a bit of an insight into my training. Straight after work I start my training around 4.45pm and I am normally home around 7.30pm most evenings, I prefer to have Saturday off training normally so I can do things with my wife and family. So my training for a typical week consists of the following 2 Strength training sessions in the gym, 4 runs a week, with around 30-40 miles per week. 4 swim sessions a week and a normal session consists of around 3500 metres and a bike session with at least one full days rest per week, sometimes two. Its pretty hard to maintain it and keep it up, cant wait for October as I will take a full month off.

PeoplePortrait009

I do believe that you don’t have to be talented but working hard and being determined will pay off. Listening to your body is vital so if you get any niggles I then I back off. I always like reading peoples backgrounds and how they have got into running etc. I know a few in the Trust have taken running up in recent months which is inspiring as we all have to start somewhere. I only started running in 2012 as I was inspired by the London Olympics with no real background to sport and took up swimming just over 6 years ago and looking back now I couldn’t swim so if you are taking up sport, keep at it as you will get the benefits in years to come. I took up running to keep fit but nowadays I think its more because I like food too much. If anyone is looking for advice with their training, just drop me an email. I am always happy to help.

Anyway the countdown begins and first stop is the World Championships.  The World Championships this year is in Denmark in a place called Middlefart in July. So my training prep is all tailored for this event at the moment. I am hoping to target the top 10 this year and if I can place higher even better, but most importantly I just do it as I enjoy it and love the experience. I then will be competing at the National Championships in Peterborough which is only 10 days later. This does not give me much time to recover and training wont be ideal as I will only be back in the country for a few days before. In regards on targets for this race, 2016 was a Bronze medal, 2017 was a Silver medal so maybe there is a trend….I will try and target the podium again. If I did get another medal I would be over the moon. After the Nationals I have the European Aquathlon Championships in Ibiza which is at the end of October. Which is quite late and means it’s a long season ahead, but I have decided after this to take some time off all exercise for a few weeks to a month and decide if I want to continue this journey.  Anyway my target for this race will be to try and get into the top 10 in this race.

What I have learnt over the years is that experience in any race/training session is so important. I do get very nervous when these races come up and I get phantom pains/niggles, but I have learnt to keep a positive mind and try to relax. I do get very excited when these races come up and I like meeting athletes and sharing stories from different places around the world. But remind myself that this is just a hobby.

 

_JDP7022 - Copy

 

Busy month of races

IMG_2931

The past month has been a busy month race wise.

First up was on the 25th of March which was the Tri Spirits Hole park 5k challenge. I had won the race last year and I wanted to analyse my progress from the previous year and try and beat my time and the course record I set.

It was a gloomy day and I felt so tired as we had been looking after my sister’s dog for the week which took its toll with a lack of sleep. I knew I was going to struggle that morning as my heart rate was quite high. Anyway the course is a challenging off road course and this year it was very muddy; last year it was sunny and dry.

I decided to run the first mile hard and see how it went. I had a few people sticking to me at the start but then they fell back. Being muddy favours me as I love cross country and I am a strong cross country runner.  I had no one near me but I decided to still push hard, falling over in the mud in the process. I finished the race is a comfortable 1st place, and with a new course record of 20:40 and therefore beating my last time of over 40 seconds on a muddier course.  I was really happy with it and it was a huge confidence boost.

IMG_2963

Less than a week later it was the Folkestone 10 mile road race on Good Friday. A race I have never done before, but is flat and a fast course. I was in great shape and with Fleet Half Marathon cancelled a few weeks prior I was sure I could get a PB and push near to the sub 1 hour mark. One target I am working towards.

I started my warm up and it started to rain and it appeared the wind was quite strong against me. Some 700 people had entered this race with many using this as marathon prep.  The race started and I wanted to hold back on pace and not overdo it. I was aiming for negative splits, my first mile was 6.05, but then after that it got slower and tough against the wind. Another 4 miles battling the wind and I was nowhere near a PB. I then turned around on the 5 mile part and headed back. By this point I was over a minute away from getting a PB and the rain had got worse, I was soaked.

I then decided to try going faster the second half and with the wind with me I started at 5:50 per mile and went quicker per mile. The last mile was tough but I kept going and managed to finish in 1:00:13. I was over the moon with the time and I managed to set 5 mile and 5k PB’s on the way back.

IMG_3041

The next race the following week was the Basildon Aquathlon. This was my first aquathlon for the year and my preparation for the world championships was under the way. I came down with a head cold that week and I was very nervous. On race day the weather was awful which made the off road course so muddy, it was also a 400m pool swim which I don’t like as I am slower in the pool as I do not tumble turn. However I have been practising. I entered transition and because it was muddy on the course I had to wear trails. This made me really nervous as I have never worn trails in an aquathlon. The race started and I entered the pool. I felt comfortable in the swim but the last 200 metres I was struggling to breath due to having this cold. I entered transition and it was hard to get my trails, but good job I practiced before the race.

IMG_3204

I got on the run and felt good, although the trails were making me slide around the paths. When I got onto the grass and hills, I made-up a lot of time and was very wise to wear them. The course was muddy and it was such a hard run. I kept pushing, overtaking people.

I raced home in 2nd place; although the time was slightly slower due to the run course being wet and muddy. I was very happy, my swim was a few seconds better and I had the fastest run split. My work towards a successful world championships race has now begun.

IMG_3310

Next up was the Asics Fleet Half Marathon that was postponed and rearrange due to the snow a month later. I didn’t really want to do it because of the timing. My wife was running it too. The weather was a bit cold and overcast. I just wanted to beat my current PB of 1:23:20, so I started off at a slow pace for the first 3 miles. I then built into it working on getting quicker and maintaining the speed. I was running with another guy for most of it and with the tail wind we decided to swap who took the lead along the course to try and keep the wind off us. I managed to get quicker and we raced home in 1:19:29. I was over the moon as this is a target I thought was unrealistic and therefore took just under 4 minutes off my last PB and 22nd place. This was a distance I have struggled in the past. I was also very proud to see my wife finish as she struggled with an ankle and calf problem.

 

Looking back at all these races, I am able now to push harder in training and work towards a great World Championships.

 

IMG_3668

Who Am I?

I am a skinny sluggish man who decides to run a 5k Charity run for Sport Relief in 2010 at the age of 25. With not much training I thought I would give it a go. The only exercise I did was playing 5 a side football once a week. No real background in sport since I left school. The day came and I was nervous, ran as fast as I could for around 400m and then I struggled and about a mile from the finish I started to walk. I was in too much pain and tired, I got close to the finish line and started to run again as I didn’t want to let people down. I was happy to finish it but I hated it and I was glad it was over. The following year I took up swimming, well tried to swim. It was tough; the first time I went swimming I managed 6 lengths in a 33m pool in an hour. I remember I would do a length and wait about ten minutes to do the next length. This was so difficult for me but I kept at it and slowly went further and further.

IMG_1988

 

Two years later (2012) I decided to do the same again and raise money for charity in the 2012 Sport relief 5k run. This time I trained a few weeks beforehand with no real experience the race came and I was nervous again but this time paced myself and got round. I was happy and I didn’t have to walk. This time I enjoyed it but that ended there.

IMG_1989

In the summer of 2012 I was watching the 2012 London Olympics on TV and this is what started my journey. I was inspired by watching the triathlon race and how good the Brownlee brothers were. So, inspired, I joined my local and current running club Canterbury Harriers in September that year.  As a novice in running I kept getting injured and nearly gave up the first year, I had on-going calf injuries.  However after setback after setback I decided I wanted to carry on running and was determined to get through this bad patch. I turned up to my local swimming pool that had a triathlon class on and I gave it ago.  The first thing the instructor asked was why I was wearing goggles if I didn’t put my head in the water. I listened and learnt the stroke; she had told me to practice and my swimming was getting easier and better.

I decided to train for a triathlon and my leg was healing. However it did not take long for it to go again and this time I had to do a triathlon. I turned up to the race with a bit of a limp and was fine on the swim and bike but a mile into the run my calf felt like someone had stabbed it with a knife. I had to carry on as I was raising money for charity and after I limped back I was unable to run for nearly two months. Unfortunately healing was a problem; I would come back to running and get stuck in a cycle that every time I ran every 6 weeks it would go again.

The summer of 2014 saw me compete in a few triathlons and I was getting better however it wasn’t long until I got injured again and this time I was out for a full 3 months with an Achilles injury. I stayed positive and managed to bounce back after a long lay-off. This time I had a goal of staying injury free for longer and it worked. I ended up getting around 15 PB’s in races in 2015, which is due to the fact of keeping injury free.

IMG_1973

After going a while injury free for a bit, I was in the process of buying a house and planning for my wedding with my future wife. I didn’t have the time to go out and train for all disciplines so therefore didn’t have time to train on the bike. Two days after we were back from our honeymoon, I entered a local aquathlon. I was very jet lagged and was advised by a friend who is a sports scientist not to do it but I still did. I ended up coming back in 5th place and was happy with that. I took many positives out of it and then decided to set my sites on qualifying for the Great Britain aquathlon squad.

By the time September came I had already taken well over 2 minutes off my aquathlon race time and it was time to submit my time for the GB aquathlon team. After being accepted in the GB team I was very nervous and excited at the same time.

I turned up to the National Aquathlon Championships in Leeds and didn’t really have any goals but to just enjoy it. I came out the water in 45th place and as soon as I came out, I started pushing the run as it’s my strong point. The course was very hilly but I kept targeting people one by one. So when I crossed the line, I had no idea I was in 3rd place in my age group. When I found out I was third I was very proud and shocked.

img_3687

The European came round quickly and I knew I was in a lot better shape because training had gone well. Although I had a nasty cold a few days before the Europeans I was relaxed and just didn’t want to come last. The time came to start the race and we were told prior no wetsuits allowed as the lake was 26 degrees. The swim was 1000 metres so a bit further than my normal races. We started with a large crowd watching and at the 500m point we had to get out and run back in; I noticed I had a large group in front of me so I pushed hard to get close to them.  Once I came out of transition I then started my run and just went for it. I was picking people off throughout the run and I then saw two guys in my Age Group in front of me at the last 400 metres. I somehow found something extra and sprinted passed them to take 3rd on the line. Another Bronze medal and another achievement I never thought would happen. I was over the moon and something to tell my children in the future; my wife shed some tears and she was very proud of me. She comes to every race with me and has been there from the start since I took up Aquathlons and has been very supportive. Words can’t describe how happy I was and it was an amazing day for me.

As a result of my European and National age group Bronze medals I was able to compete at the World Championships in Cozumel 2016 in tough heat. I struggled and came 28th in my age group. I was very disappointed.

After this I wanted to make sure I could improve and come back stronger for the summer. So the winter of 2016 came and I was determined to improve. I had high hopes as training went very well. However 6 weeks before the European Championships this year I strained my calf and I had around 10 days off from running. I was struggling with motivation as I knew I lost all my improvement. I turned up to the European Aquathlon race in Bratislava in 2017 fit but not fully fit. I had a great run and was 9th overall in the end. It was my swim that let me down. Ten days later it was the national Aquathlon Championships – 3 days prior my achilles flared up and I was struggling to walk. I kept positive and turned up on race day with a sore foot where I came home in 2nd place in my age group. I didn’t expect that.

125_m-100780107-DIGITAL_HIGHRES-2140_009095-10705718

August 2017 and the time came for the World Championships in Penticton and I was fully fit and in the best shape I have ever been and selected as the Team Captain. The race started and I struggled in the swim at the start but managed to improve towards the end. I struggled in the first part of the run but then got faster towards the end; I knew I had a bad swim when I came into transition behind a lot of guys I was normally in front of. I kept pushing on the run and came 6th in the World in my age group – something I was over the moon about.

IMG_1955

From my experience the GB races were never in my mind. If you train smart and hard you never know what path you will go down. Never give up and always enjoy your training and races.

A 10 mile road race in and around Canterbury organised by Invicta East Kent AC and sponsored by Ssangyong

Swim, Bike, Run with Yiannis… Blog which featured on the Dry Website

IMG_1958

We asked Dry Bag ambassador Yiannis Christodoulou to keep us up to date with his movements this winter in preparation for a busy 2018 season. Be sure to follow him on social media to keep up with his interesting antics @yiannis.christodoulou

I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2018 season has in store, winter training is in full swing I am starting to prepare for my first Aquathlon race of the year

It still seems quite a long way away until the 2018 World Aquathlon Championships in July, race specific build up starts in April and the season will come to a close with the ETU Ibiza European Aquathlon Championships in October, my main goals are to get near or on the podium for all my races this season. With a long season ahead, my winter schedule has focused on strength and conditioning as well a lot of technique training. As is inevitable, I was hit by a nasty winter cold and a minor injury which dented my training a little.

So, what have I been doing this winter? Firstly, I got back on my bike for the first time in nearly four years, I set up my indoor turbo trainer and started working a little on the bike in order to train and compete in triathlons this season. I will enjoy these races as part of my training schedule with no pressure and will use them to cover the gap between the World and European Championships – it will be a bit of fun and something new to help keep my training fresh.

Every training session is like a jigsaw puzzle, where you put the different parts together slowly to complete the puzzle. Triathlon specific drills I have been working on in the gym are squats for strength, jumping lunges for fast muscle twitches and pull ups for core / upper body strength. Strength and conditioning work will make you stronger and prevent injuries, it can also make you faster, which a lot of people don’t realise.

I have been dedicating a lot of time to strength and conditioning, working alongside my coach Craig Coggle, we’ve steadily been building up the weights and reps. My main focus is my running, as this was an area I knew I could make gains on over the winter. I focussed on the cross-country season, where I also got a chance to use my Dry Bag putting in my wet and muddy kit from the race (I’m not kidding – swimming was involved in some races!). I am chuffed with my cross-country season, finishing 11th overall in the league which is an improvement of 5 places from last year. Good vibes all round.

Realising the benefits of a strength coach, with the support of The Dry Bag I also started working with swim coach John Wood. I was buzzing to try something new and his coaching style is completely different to anything I have done before. I don’t come from a swimming background so have always struggled to pull together structured training programmes in this discipline. Since working with John I am really enjoying swimming, every session is different and I am starting to see good progress in my times. Swimming is an area I must improve so that I can achieve my goals and get near that podium this year. I swim four times a week and the intensity has increased, being part of a swimming club forms one of my sessions, they’re a great bunch of people and it makes training enjoyable and varied.

I cannot wait to see how the extra swim training and strength sessions improve my performances in 2018. Hard work pays off and keeping your training fresh is important. Follow me on Instagram to follow my progress this year: @yiannis.christodoulou

DryBag website

IMG_1773 - Copy