When things don’t go to plan do you panic? Get stressed out? Sleepless nights? Loss or appetite?. This is not just for training but in normal life with many issues that can contribute to this. But a lot of these issues that may cause stress are actually out of our control so why do we worry about them?
In training/races it’s important you control what you can control but not just for your training, for life as well. This is a valuable life skill that you should try to master so that it can help you in life and of course in your training and races. If your able to learn this skill you will go a long way in your training and races.
My mindset coach Gobinder told me how to deal with things I can’t control and we have been working together since 2016 which has made me mentally a better athlete and this has helped me in day-to-day life as well.
What do I mean control what you can control? Well in simple terms you control what you can control and what you can’t control don’t worry about it as you can’t do anything about it. Just like COVID-19 – stressing about races getting cancelled – you can’t control this. Stressing what others are doing in their training – you are your own person so don’t copy others just because they are doing a certain training session doesn’t mean you have to do it.
What I have learnt over the years is to control the controllable which has allow me to be the best I can be. Gobinder taught me this valuable skill. In 2016 It was the day before the World Aquathlon Championships in Cozumel in Mexico. I was staying on the mainland and was told we could get a boat across to the island early morning in time for the race. Well this was not the case and I found this out the day before the race. I panicked big time and stressed so much, I ended up packing my bags with my wife and jumping on a boat to the island to look for an available room; this seemed like an impossible job with over 3000 athletes on a tiny island. We went looking for a room walking into hotels and asking around and I was getting tired being on my feet for long hours, not eating and drinking enough. I was stressing more and more as the time went on. We found a hotel in the end. But the damage was done as the following day at the race I struggled and was just shattered. I could have controlled diet and hydration. The only thing I needed to worry about was finding a hotel which we found but again I could of relaxed a bit, so learnt the hard way.
Staying calm and relaxed is key and yes you will have bad days in training but learn from your mistakes. Learning from your mistakes is very important because if you learn from them you will improve and these bad days won’t happen again. I find that if you take positives out of anything such as a bad runs, you can turn it into a positive next time.
More on this subject on my video on my YouTube channel HERE Please subscribe.
For most people they are under the impression that they should go hard in every session. They get fixed on certain paces all the time because they think they will not improve and therefore neglect the easy days and even go too hard on easy days as a result. The most common thought is “if I train hard and fast I will get faster” but that is not the case and you need to be clever in your training and like many of the pros they train in zone 2 to get faster. We all know that well known saying “go slow to get fast”. If you keep training hard you with keep having bad training days and likely spend a long time each year on the sidelines.
What is zone 2 training? Zone 2 is steady training just coming above the easy zone, It’s not moderate or anything above. The main benefit form zone 2 heart rate or zone 2 power is that it builds aerobic base and endurance. By Improving aerobic capacity this improves your ability to maintain a faster pace for a longer period of time. Of course you still need to do the higher intensity efforts but zone 2 is the basis and foundation from which to begin to build your faster pace. If you have a strong aerobic capacity it will also allow you to recover quicker between those higher intensity efforts. For example, with a better aerobic fitness, you will be able to perform intervals with a shorter rest in between and hit pace stronger.
Why is Zone 2 training important?
One of my coaches Mark Shepherd is very critical on me for my training and the majority of his training he gives me is all in zone 2. He stresses the importance of zone training every week. I also believe in this training; before Mark I went on studies on how to improve and the main finding was I was training too hard although I thought it was easy. I had my zones adjusted to my heart rate max and since that study in 2015, I have improved a lot from training in zone 2. So when Mark gave me my training I was no stranger to this. Of course lots of people think they are doing it right but I see it all the time on Strava and can tell it’s wrong. Zone 2 training should be a big bulk of your weekly training and for the benefits mentioned above it also leaves you feeling like you can go on for ever, fresh, recover and therefore really target your hard runs and not get fatigued, which of course will keep the injuries away. If the injuries stay away then to me that’s a major importance in any training, not only will you get consistent training which is the key, but if you get consistent training you are very likely to improve. If you keep over training and get injured you will just end up chasing your fitness and making excuses. With zone 2 training you should be able to maintain a conversation very easily; I always like to focus on form as it’s easy to do whilst at this heart rate. What is there not to like about it? It’s a well-known method and your body needs to repair – you just cannot keep breaking your body down with hard training. I always point out to people even the best marathon runners in the world run slow miles.
How to work it out?
Firstly you need a watch and a heart rate monitor. You need to know your heart rate max and once you have that you can put your heart rate in many calculators online HERE or watch my YouTube videos HERE and you will get your zones from there. You do need to make sure the HR max is right, you can do tests like: 5k Time Trial, FTP test, coopers test, VO2 Max lab test and so on etc or even use a recent race result. Do not use your watch automatic/present zones as 9/10 times they are wrong zones. Once you know your heart rate max you can get your zones. Don’t go by pace or mileage, I just go by time and follow the zone strictly. By sticking to lower heart rates, over time you will find that you are likely to increase your pace at the same heart rate output. This is due to increased aerobic efficiency – yes I had to walk up hills to start off with but that was a way my body was telling me I am pushing too hard. You may have to walk but in time it improves. When you become more efficient in time you will then be able to do more training hours at a lower heart rate. Check out old blog HERE about if Heart Rate training is worth it.
Why do people ignore this method?
People are simply not patient and they expect instant results and that won’t happen overnight. At least 2/4 of my runs a week are in zone 2. When I first did this training it was a few weeks before I saw my pace improve, but found I could train more and on the hard sessions go harder. Over the years the pace is sometimes at a pace which I was doing back in 2015 too hard. I have improved a lot from this but it takes times, it could be weeks or months to see improvement but you have to keep at it and your see the benefits. Stick with it and you will make improvements and of course with anything you will struggle to get quick results so why break your body and get injured when you can train smart?
My conclusion is it is a big topic and this is a quick simple blog about this; I have written many in depth blogs in the past and YouTube Videos so check them out. I train like this, my athletes do and I have many friends doing this training who have all gone to do well whether it’s a PB or a medal. I believe in this and when I look back over the years I have improved so much and continue to improve. The medals I have won are due to training smart and not over training. Thanks for reading and what do you think about zone 2 training?
Scheduling training around your daily life commitments can be hard for a number of reasons, such as family commitments, working hours and so on. For me, it is very difficult because not only do I have a full time job and therefore work 5 days a week, I have to do all my training after work and around spending time with my wife, family and friends which is very tough. So I decided to write a blog aiming to help you structure your training plan, combining my knowledge as a running coach and my experience from being coached.
I am very lucky to be coached by great coaches; Mark Sheperd not only coaches me in my running and cycling he also manages the structure of my other training as to when I should do each session and discipline. John Wood and Carolyn Bond work on my swimming and Craig Coggle sorts out my strength training.
After being given my training sessions from my coaches, I sit down and look at a three to six week plan with the addition of an easier 4th/7th week that incorporates more rest. My plan is also my diary, so before I schedule any training I first write down all my commitments for that 7 week period so I can work around those.
With any plan you don’t want to go straight into hard training, so all my training starts off at my baseline and increases weekly for three weeks. The following three weeks I just maintain my training. Then, for the 7th week it’s an easier week with less reps and duration of training etc. In peak season I may change my plan to a three to four week plan, working around my races and getting plenty of recovery. Could this work for you? My advice here is that it’s important you get the right balance for you.
This schedule can be adapted depending on your goals. For instance, I’m training for triathlons and need to train in 3 disciplines: running, cycling and swimming. I also put 2 strength sessions into a week to prevent injuries and make me stronger. For me I need to fit in the following each week:
4 Bike sessions
2 Strength sessions
If I am struggling to fit in a session as my day hasn’t gone to plan, then I will try and reschedule it. If one day you’re struggling to follow your plan, try going out with the time you have, a short session is still better than nothing – but remember rest and recovery is key. Numerous research papers show that having a week off from training doesn’t do too much to your fitness but after that your fitness declines quickly. So as you can see I spend a lot of time training. I am looking at decreasing my running and swimming over the course of the year to focus more on the bike and improve in this area.
So I take my key sessions from each area and plot them on my plan. My key running sessions include one speed session and one long run. This is very similar to swimming, focussing on an aerobic speed session and one drill session. Once I have worked out my key sessions, I make sure that my hard sessions are followed up by easy sessions. I never have hard sessions together. Once I have prioritised these, I’ll schedule in other sessions. I always make sure that I get one day full rest a week and two for my recovery week. So hard days are hard and easy days are very easy and rest days mean rest and no exercise.
Sounds easy right? Well, then you need to figure out what you actually want to achieve in each session. For example, no point me putting in four easy runs if I want to get faster. Once you have the basics of the plan you can then ask yourself what your end goal is. Just because it’s in the plan it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it because life happens. If you are planning for a marathon you will want to do longer speed reps than if you were running a 5k. For example at least two of my runs I run at 60% my heart rate max. The reason I run these is that it has been proven that running at a slower pace on your long runs increases your endurance and improves your efficiency which in time will make you faster. When running at this pace you’re also teaching your body to burn fat more than carbohydrates, which is a much better energy source to use. By doing these runs at this pace you also make your body recover quicker, so you can be ready to go again the next day for those hard sessions. For me, I used to find that I would go hard on my long runs and be very sore the next day, now with a slower pace my legs feel fresh the next day. Remember that the plan may always need to change, so be prepared to change things up regularly and just because it’s in the plan it doesn’t necessarily mean you need to do it because life does get in the way.
With any plan make sure it’s aimed for your ultimate goal, it’s like a jigsaw puzzle with small goals making the parts and once you put it altogether it should reach your ultimate goal. I like to set high targets and sometimes may not be able to achieve them. But having high targets makes you work towards them and train hard to get to them. So for example, some of my mini goals for this year included improve swimming, improve running times, PB in certain races etc. My main targets for 2019 was defending my National Aquathlon Championships, getting on the podium at the European Aquathlon Championships and focusing more on Triathlons. So it’s very important to think ahead for the year and not just short term. When putting together your plan make sure you have small targets, followed by one big goal. So if you are planning a marathon, for example, your training will build up to it including races leading up to it. That leads me on to the next part.
Whatever your goal is you need to build the plan for this. Most importantly, if it’s leading to one race I’d recommend that you find races that come in the lead up to it and use these as training runs. There can be a number of reasons why you chose races in your plan and these can be things like building up the race distance, experiencing the race atmosphere or maintaining your race pace within a competitive field.
Every session has a purpose, especially when your lifestyle leaves you with limited time. Make sure you know what you want to get out of every session. It might be as simple as running a mile and then next week increasing to two miles.
Finally, it is important to schedule a taper before your race so that you are fresh for your race. Tapering plays lots of mind games – phantom pains, questions such as “am I losing fitness?” etc. For a race such as the World Aquathlon Championships, personally, I will start bringing the following down over a course of weeks as it’s a big race for me. So for strength training the amount of sets I do gets reduced over a few weeks and on race week I don’t do a strength session. Running distance comes down but the intensity stays high. For example, if I normally do 6x1k reps I might do 4 with different paces. Long runs come down too, I do the similar thing for the bike and swimming. I don’t taper for every race but for my important races this is what I normally do. Again you have to find what works best for you.
Once you have done your plan you need to access it regularly and monitor if its working for you – whilst you’re testing things out, your plan will change a lot, so don’t feel like you have to stick to exactly what you’ve planned. You also need to assess yourself with tests during your plan – my plan will include a long run at the same heart rate and pace towards the end of my programme, so I can assess the data. I will do other assessments throughout too, this helps to gage if the plan is effective in improving areas where I want to improve.
Most of all if I can’t fit training in I just take my day off; rest is key and don’t worry about missed sessions, but having a plan helps you more than not having one. I have at least one day rest day in my weekly plan, this allows you to recover and get stronger and must not be neglected.
If you are interested in run coaching and planning, please check-out my coaching website HERE
Hope this blog is useful and please check my YOUTUBE channel HERE for more help and tips on training.
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
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.
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.
So I was approached while doing my speed reps on the track in Canterbury back in the summer by a guy called Antonis Kesisoglou who asked if I could be on his research project for his publication. I have been on a few tests before mentioned in previous blogs that have helped me to improve. So when he asked me if I wanted to help, I couldn’t say no. I was preparing for the European Aquathlon Championships so I had to wait until my season had ended to go on this test while I was still in great shape for it; we didn’t want to disturb training beforehand. Antonis said he wanted to test me as I had a world class engine, I am not sure I agree with that but I know I had good fitness levels and met the criteria of being able to run 1,500m sub 5 minutes. Antonis is from the University of Kent and is a Dr in Sports and Science, he comes from a strength and conditioning background and has coached Olympians.
So more about the study….
Antonis was conducting a study to examine how different exercise bouts result in different physiological and performance responses. Current models provide disproportional estimates of training stress especially when comparisons are made between very short and intensified bouts, to long and moderate effort activities. In this study, he wants to examine whether a running performance exercise bout (1,500 meters time-trial) is a valid model for assessing training stress imposed by different durations and intensities of exercise. It is his aim to improve existing methods for calculating training load, where the duration of the exercise bout is not overemphasized.
Visit 1 included a two-phases ramp incremental (Phase 1- Lactate thresholds determination, Phase 2- Determination of VO2max) test for assessment of the maximal aerobic power output on a treadmill ergometer. For phase 1, I was asked to perform 4 or 5 submaximal bouts lasting for 5 minutes, with 1 minute of rest in between. Measurements of blood lactate were collected during the 1 minute rest bouts, and Phase 1 was to terminate when my blood lactate concentration levels elevate above 4 mmol.L-1 (i.e my second lactate threshold- MLSS). With 15 minutes of rest in between, I was asked to re-start running at a speed -3 km.h-1 of my final speed in phase one. For example if my final speed at phase 1 was 16 km.h-1, I would be asked to start stage 2 at 13 km.h-1. Treadmill speed then increases by 1 km/h-1, till the point that I cannot run further (i.e cannot keep up with the speed increments). Once phase 2 is completed, I was asked to provide my last lactate sample. With 40 minutes of rest in between, I was then asked to perform a 1,500 meters time-trial for familiarization purposes. (e.g the speed was regulated by me, whilst I attempted to cover the given distance as fast as possible).
Visit 2 included a standardized warm-up (see details for warm-up protocol below), followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial. I was instructed to cover the given distance on an all-weather synthetic track surfacing in the shortest time possible. This exercise bout was used as my performance trial (e.g my best running performance).
At visit 3, I was asked to perform a 12-minutes time-trial running, followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial (with 5 minutes recovery in between).
In visit 4, I was asked to perform a 12 minutes maximum effort, self-paced, intermittent running bout. The work-to-rest ratio lasted for 60 seconds. Work ratio was fixed in terms of distance. In other words, I was asked to run a maximal effort of 150 meters and recover for the remaining part of the minute. After 5 minutes of recovery, I was asked to perform a 1,500 meters time-trial.
In visit 5, I was asked to perform a self-paced moderate, continuous running which lasted for 25 minutes, followed by a 1,500 meters time-trial (with 5 minutes recovery in between). The intensity that I ran was regulated via the 0-10 RPE scale. As such, my 25 minutes run had to reflect to a 7 out of 10 intensity (hard/heavy intensity).
Lastly, visit 6 consisted of a 25 minutes, moderate self-paced running, intermittent running bout. The work-to-rest lasted for 60 seconds, with the work distance fixed, similarly to visit 3. Again, a 5 minutes of recovery was provided, prior to a 1,500 meters time-trial. Similarly to visit 4, I had to regulate the intensity via the 0-10 RPE scale, so it reflects to a 7 out of 10 intensity (hard/heavy intensity).
For all visits, no verbal encouragement was provided or feedback regarding how I performed each trial (i.e how much time I had run or how much I had left). I was also asked to wear a chest strap transmitter interfaced via short range telemetry with a wrist unit (Polar V800, Polar Electro, Kempele, Finland), which displayed my heart rate responses in beats per minutes and helped to measure my running speed. Alongside real-time cardiac assessment, I was asked to answer some questionnaires prior, during and after the completion of the exercise. For example, in visits 2-5, I was asked to subjectively rate the workload I had perceived between the 1st and the 2nd bout of exercise (I.e immediately after the cessation of the 1st bout). I was asked to rate how I experienced the first exercise bout and provide a number from 0 to 20 for the six following categories: Mental Demand, Physical Demand, Temporal Demand, Performance, Effort and Frustration.
Alongside with NASA-TLX, I was asked to answer another scale for assessing training load (I.e how hard was my session). In particular, I was asked to subjectively rate the intensity of my 1st exercise bout via the usage of the RPE 0-10 scale (Borg et al., 1987). My potential motivation was assessed prior to all 1,500m time-trials, via the usage of a 0-9 analogue scale (0 =Not motivated at all, 9 = Very motivated to do well). Lastly, my perception of effort (I.e how hard do I feel the task?) was assessed via the 6–20 Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale (Borg, 1998) during exercise. I was asked to verbally answer how hard I perceived the task every minute for all 1,500m time-trials, while all the rest exercise bouts I was asked every 2 minutes.
In all visits, I was asked to wear a mask for analysing my ventilation, in other words how much oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) and total volume of air (VE) I breath in and out every second. This happened in the lab (visit 1) and at the field via the usage of a portable analyser (Visits 2-6). Antonis said that usually people feel the mask a bit tight in the beginning but this piece of equipment is designed for maximal tests in the laboratory and the field, so it would not limit your breathing rate or create feelings of anxiety. At the beginning of each visit, a standardized warm-up was provided for all visits. In particular, I was asked to perform the following self-paced routine, where intensity was regulated via the 6-20 RPE scale (Borg, 1982) in the following order: 800 meters of jog (RPE 9-11), 800 meters of run (RPE 13-15) and 400 meters of intermittent running (100 meters of RPE 18-20: 100 meters RPE 9-11). My total time commitment for this study was no longer than 7 hours.
Is there anything I needed to do before each visit?
Before each visit I was told I should:
• Avoid heavy sessions the day prior to the test. Easy/light sessions are okay.
• Not exercise on the morning of the test or warm-up prior to the test (warm-up will be included in testing sessions).
• Please make sure you bring appropriate sport clothing with you.
• Eat and drink the same food in the 24 hours before the test.
• Eat at least in the 3 hours immediately before the test.
• Abstain completely from caffeine and alcohol in the 24 hours before all visits.
• Tell Antonis if you currently have or you recently had an injury or illness of any kind.
Have you taken all this on board? It does seem a bit complex but it’s not too bad once you are doing the study. So what did we find for me…
We found my V02 max was higher than previous tests and therefore I saw an improvement here. My Lactate threshold took longer this time before I dropped the speed. Due to my aerobic training throughout the year I had developed an engine that made me more efficient and therefore able to sustain a faster pace longer. When sitting down and discussing how to improve this area there was a few suggestions to help. One I found interesting was that I could drop one easy long run in favour for a bike session to improve there, or if I want to improve my running speed I would need to hit my intervals at a harder pace than normal and to have shorter recoveries. So in the hindsight I need to improve my anaerobic system and running harder would help improve this. So this is something I will put in to place in my training.
What else did we find?
• Immediately after warm-up, use some exercises to activate gluteus min and max, as well as oblique’s activation. That will help you with posture and stability when bounding (I.e light form of a Plyometric activity).
With Antonis being a strength coach he found a weakness with my hip so I will be focusing on improving this.
• Guide you training by feeling (RPE scale). It is currently one of the best way to guide your training.
So to be purely guided by feel and not to be a slave on what my watch says, this is something I have been practising a lot and I know that feel is much better than going by what your watch says.
• A short, high intensity interval training session an it’s effects on how your body feeling the day after, cannot be accurately estimated via wearables.
• Use a training log, apart from wearables. Use the NASA-TLX scale for monitoring your sessions (as well as the SRPE). It’s a promising tool for exercise monitoring
• Keep an eye on your speed sessions, alongside your HR responses
• Remember that in 2 sessions resulting the same total work, the one which is performed in a intermittent way is always harder than in a constant way.
• When a session is performed in a maximum effort (I.e 10/10), the effects of exercise duration plays a minimum role. A 10 minutes all-out and a 20-minutes all-out session will result similar decrements in a subsequent performance.
As you can see we found a lot of things to work on and help to improve my running. I found the study tough in certain visits such as the 10 minute TT followed by the 1,500m TT but different and very enjoyable. However what we did find was that I was very good at pacing and going by feel. In conclusion every study I have been on I have learnt something new in order to make me improve. I think any study is beneficial and even if you only implement one suggestion into your training you can improve from it. I am looking forward to seeing how it plans out.
ASICS kindly sent me a pair of the new GEL-NOOSA Tri 12 to try and test out so here is my personal review.
So what is the GEL-NOOSA Tri 12?
ASICS claim that this shoe boasts both lightweight and breathable qualities, making it the perfect shoe for the everyday tri-runner. Designed for triathletes and triathletes Like Gwen Jorgensen who inspired me wore the older models so I was very interested to see if these where any good?
Some of the key features include:
GEL-NOOSA Tri 12 maintains its unique design which you see in previous models whilst incorporating humancentric science and advanced technology to provide runners with energised cushioning for the fastest ride.
The shoe is designed for a neutral runner and features the ASICS Flytefoam cushioning technology to provide a fast and energetic ride.
Fitted with Caterpy laces on the tongue and heel to provide an easy-on for the shoe and a no-tie option, which gives runners a superior fit for their run and a quick transition.
Quick to get on which includes stretchy knit and reinforcement in the underlay to provide an extremely comfortable fit.
Breathable & Lightweight
ASICS state these features have been upgraded from previous models:
● New russel mesh material allows the upper to maintain durability and provides ventilation and a softer feel.
● FLYTEFOAM™ technology midsole material is lighter and more durable than traditional mid-sole foams. This is ASICS’ lightweight mid-sole material giving you a soft, supportive feel.
● Super AHAR™ heel plug in areas of heavy wear to extend the life of the shoe by using higher-abrasion rubber.
So how does it compare to my much loved Gel-451s?
The Gel-451s have bought me success over the past year and even the old Hyper Tri’s that I love…. So I put the GEL-NOOSA TRI 12 through its paces. When unpacking them I liked the colour they stood out, I love the colours of the 451s they stood out too so this ticked a box here as ASICS seem to get this right on most of their shoes. They felt light but they didn’t feel as light as the 451s. What I noticed straight away is that it came with tri laces, well that’s what I like to call them, but unlike the 451 that had a Boa system these don’t. However these have the hole in the tongue to grab and put on easier. This was one of the things I loved with the Hyper Tris with the tongue hole. Although I have got used to the Boa system on the 451s I prefer this tongue set up, so this is a win for me as I believe its quicker to put on and less fiddly when wanting a quick transition.
So I did some transition tests with putting my shoes on. If I set up the laces up right my feet can slip on easy without having to tighten them. So I did three tests on the GEL-NOOSA and the same with the 451s. The Gel- Noosa was a second quicker twice so every second counts so this ticks the box again.
The mesh material is impressive, not only does it allow your feet to breath it is light weight, a good feature to drying your feet after coming out the swim, so it lets plenty of air in. A feature I found very useful is that the material at the end of the front of the shoe, is like a light swade material. Now if you’re like me and in previous tri shoes my feet get hammed with hard material there and therefore toes getting very sore. So when testing this out without socks as that’s what I would do in a triathlon, my feet and toes didn’t feel it at the front of the shoe, so it was much more comfortable.
I have been put off by the Noosa’s in the past as I was under the impression they were a stability shoe and bulky, however I am very much wrong as ASICS have designed this shoe for the neutral runner with cushioning. They are certainly more cushioned then the 451s.
When I put them on they felt very comfortable, I did a few runs in them, mainly speed training as I wanted to test while on my speed sessions as if I am going to race in them I need to know if they stand the test. I have to admit I thought they would be slow but they felt super light and fast.
Conclusion I am very impressed with these, I was first put off by these in the past as I thought they were a bit bulky and not for neutral runners. The question is do I prefer my discontinued 451s or these. Well the answer is this is the perfect shoe for me and for triathlons. Its comfy, feels like a fast show and quick for transition. So for me this will be my new race shoe in triathlons and your be seeing me with these at races. I am very impressed by this new model.
Keeping motivated and focused in your training is key if
you want to achieve your goals. If you are not motivated then you will struggle
with your training and therefore struggle to reach your targets. There is no
doubt that athletes thrive on high levels of confidence. Self-confidence can be
the difference between success and failure given the fine margins that exist.
Let’s face it; Christmas is a busy time of the year for people, even if you have time off work. Things like spending more time with the family, kids being off from school, visiting people and so on, do take its toll. It is hard in the cold dark winter months to get motivated and train especially if you come home from work and its dark. This blog identifies some tips in keeping focused during the busy Christmas period.
Have a break and a recovery week during the period, use
this time to think about what you want to achieve and focus on over the next
year. There is nothing worse than pounding your body all year round and then
only resting once you’re broken. Enjoy the food, I like to be bad and eat a lot
and relax a little, after all my important races aren’t until the summer.
Spending time with your loved ones give you some rest and down time.
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 each day (training) 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
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.
Even if it’s just for 10 minutes get out there and go for
a run for example. If you’re not feeling it after 10 minutes just go home but it’s
likely your stay out much longer. It doesn’t have to be masses of training in
the Christmas period.
These are some tips to keep you motivated through the festive period, hope they help?….
When I first started swimming and running back in 2012, I didn’t know about Aquathlon’s but I did of course know what Triathlon’s where. I wasn’t very good on the bike and kept getting injured because it wasn’t set up right. So If you’re like me and you like running and swimming you are probably thinking of doing an Aquathlon and perhaps use it as a stepping stone towards doing a triathlon, so here is my advice and tips.
What is an Aquathlon? An Aquathlon is a swim followed by run and the distances do vary depending if they are pool swims or outdoors. A standard outdoor Aquathlon is 750m lake sea swim followed by a 5k run, however you can get shorter swim from as little as 100m.
My first tip is decide what distance you want to do and whether it is an indoor/outdoor swim and then train for it. If its outdoor I would advise to train at least a couple times in open water before you do a race.
Next tip, what kit do you need? This depends again if the swim is outdoors or not. You will need the following kit:
• Swim Goggles
• Tri suit/swim wear
• Running trainers
• Race belt
Swim googles needed as you will be swimming front crawl in races. Tri suit/swim wear, it would be good to invest in a Tri suit that you can use in races and its much quicker as you won’t lose time in transition getting changed. However you can use swim wear like jammers, swim shorts etc. the only problem with these are that you will need to put a running top on once in transition. Which can be tricky with you being wet. If you want to race regularly and in open water a wetsuit is a must. I would recommend you start out with an entry level wetsuit. You will be quicker with a wetsuit on, but if you’re not a confident swimmer than a wetsuit is a must as it also provides you a bit of safety outdoors. Next you will need trainers, of course you need them to run with. Lastly a race belt, which is easy to use and saves you time in transition. These bits of kit will get you started for your first race. If you are doing a pool swim you will not need a wetsuit. I have a race check list because the more you get into it, the more items you take with you. A check list is important so that you don’t attend a race forgetting something, so I would recommend having a go to list and checking you have everything.
Pool races are different to open water swims, because most of the time the pool races you go one after the other and won’t get caught up in a mass start. If you are racing outdoors, keep calm and stay away from the main group if you’re scared of being hit. Remember it’s about you and nobody else, you are racing yourself and no one is judging you and if they are who cares. I would recommend to get an outdoor swim at least once before the race so you can finalise yourself with open water.
Next tip have a race check list because the more you get into it, the more items you take with you. A check list is important so that you don’t attend a race forgetting something, so I would recommend having a go to list and checking you have everything. Take spares of everything if you can. I take two of most things to races just in case something goes wrong. For example my goggles snapped at the start line.
Transition training, I think it’s important to go through in your head how you are going to come out of the water and what you will do once in transition to save time. It is important that before the race you lay your Items in transition in a way you can get to them easy and remember where about you are in transition too. If your racing open water you will need to learn to take your wetsuit off.
In a race staying calm is important, if you enter a race with a mass swim start then don’t go in the middle, it can be very hard. Stick to the sides and take you own time and pace yourself. Do not copy others and do not change anything up. Race your own race and take your time. When you come out the water you might feel a bit dizzy before the run, this is normal and your body goes back to normal quite quickly. Then you head off to transition, take your wetsuit off if you’re wearing one, swim hat and goggles. Put your trainers on and running belt on and then your off on the run. I normally put some baby powder in my shoes so my feet dry up quickly. Don’t try anything new on race day, just stick to how you trained leading up to the race. Stick to your own race plan and don’t copy others.
Put your goggles underneath your hat to prevent them being knocked off. The last thing you want in open water is to have your goggles knocked off, then having to find them.These are some of my tips to get you started in Aquathlons, enjoy.
In regards to what races to try here are some of my favourites:
Whitstable Surf N Turf
It’s a lovely race in a beautiful setting in Kent and consists of a 200m or 400m sea swim followed by a 5k run along the promenade.
A unique opportunity to swim 400m in the 2012 Olympic pool and 5k around the Olympic park. This race has a special feeling when competing in this.
Hever Castle Long distance Aquathlon
Swimming route around the moat, is truly a lovely swim and unique but to top that off you get to run a challenging but scenic run around the castle grounds.