Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guide to Winter Injury-Proofing

With winter near and steadily on the way, tis the season for runners to lay a bit back causing their running game to suffer.  Instead of allowing this to happen, here is a guide to winter injury-proofing one’s self to get ready for faster racing and higher performance in the spring, summer, and fall.

There are four areas to be addressed for this winter routine:


An area of weakness that often gets injured or threatens injury for many is our Achilles heel. Most of us have a specific problem area that needs us to focus on strengthening while training. 

We must develop a focused injury-proofing plan for that area, without letting up. It is recommended to not only work on these areas when injured or hurting. These areas should be worked on year-round. For many of us, even just as little as two to four exercises as well as stretches and massage techniques can greatly help the areas that are susceptible to become more prone to injury.


Runners will often experience stiffness which can be a good and bad thing. As we run, the soft tissue in our legs stiffens, which is indeed a positive training effect. The stiffer tissues help with storing energy, then returning it to help propel us down the road with less effort. Don’t let this be misleading as stiffness can go too far, causing dysfunction that, if not corrected, may lead to injury. As a result, every runner can greatly benefit from a flexibility routine to help keep soft tissues from getting too tight.

Active isolated flexibility is one of the best practices for runners and can be used before and after running, although it is typical for runners to work on flexibility often after running. 

While there isn’t enough research on the value of flexibility correlating to the prevention of injury, certainly we have found that when consistently working on flexibility, it can help one feel better while training therefore helping to prevent injuries.


Have you ever seen yourself while running before? You should, we all should. We can all benefit from cleaning up our running form. Better form will not only help prevent injury, but may also help with fatigue in training and racing. Winter, after all, is the perfect time to work on running form. Running drills can easily be done in a small space (a hallway or garage); if you have an indoor workout location (track, gym, etc.), even better. 

If the weather does not permit or more so, is dangerous for a run, substitute some running from work. It is quite easy to do, all while working to improve on your performance. It is always surprising how much clean up you can obtain with your arm swing, body position and running motion with just a few weeks of form drills.


At its simplest, running is mainly about holding your core and hips stable while moving your arms and legs. The more stability one’s “trunk” (core and hips) has while your arms and legs are working, the more efficient your running will become.

This stability is important and easy to gain and requires just a few exercises. Find ones that are challenging and enjoyable for you and you’ll be more likely to stick to them. As you get into your injury-proofing routine, you can then advance the exercises with little notice.

Note: It is critically important for runners to strengthen their hips. The more injury prone one is, the more work is needed on hip strengthening and mobility.

If you use these concepts in your training as winter approaches, you'll be a better runner when spring arrives. Let’s get going!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Chris McDonald: Two Ironman wins in 28 days

Chris "Big Sexy" made the impossible possible. Just 4 weeks after his Ironman Louisville win in Kentucky did he finish first again at Ironman Lake Tahoe. He proved to him and the world that he can win hot and humid raced like Louisville and very cold ones like Lake Tahoe. Check out his race report here. He also knows for sure how to recover with compression socks.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

SLS3 Compression Socks Review from Jen at "Hello Fitness... We Meet Again"

You guys know that I love my compression socks – both during my runs as well as afterward for recovery.  So when I was contacted by SLS3 to review their compression socks, I happily accepted.

A little about the company and how they got started from their website -
With years of swimming and triathlon under our belts along with academic backgrounds in business, sports physiology, nutrition, and a passion to pass on what we learned and know how to do best we founded our business for triathlon race apparel and compression gear.  In the beginning we only made a suit, short, top and one kind of compression socks. The reasons were: that's what you need to do a triathlon, and we didn't have more money. Those 4 items though were made with great care, attention to detail, German precision and a hefty dose of passion for the sport. 
Now, they’ve expanded to include more accessories that can be used by triathletes, including swim caps, visors, and arm and leg sleeves.
They have some super cute items specifically for females.  I was sent a pair of their “hibiscus” butterfly compression socks (they also come in azure blue and violet). 

I couldn’t wait to try them out, so I wore them on my long run that weekend.  They felt nice and tight on my calves and I had minimal pain during my run!  They were also snug on my feet but not overly tight, and they kept my feet dry throughout my run.  I think I ordered a size too big because they were a little long, coming up into the crease of my knees.  Because of this, I don’t know that I would run in them again, but definitely wear them for recovery.  These will also be great to wear on long plane rides to keep the swelling down.  

If your new to compression, it has wonderful benefits to athletes.  They can help decrease soreness after a workout and increase blood circulation.  Diabetics often wear compression socks (although maybe not nearly as cute!) to help prevent blood clots and blood from pooling in their ankles.  This is another reason they are great for long plane rides.
Sebastian and Sylvie take pride in their products and listen to their customers to ensure you get the best of the best.  The majority of their products are made in the USA, and they strive to keep their carbon footprints as small as possible.
You can check out their products for yourself at SLS3.

Read the review here.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

How to run STRONG off the bike.

Running – especially in short course racing and on the ITU circuit – is without doubt the most critical component of triathlon. As the final leg of the race, the run is where it’s all decided, a test of every athlete’s mettle when it matters most.  

Plenty of triathletes can run a quick 5km or 10km with fresh legs, but add a swim and a bike leg into the equation and they crumble. The reason? While many triathletes have good run speed, they lack the running strength to see them over the finish line.
The main reason running feels so hard coming out of the water and off the bike is that your body is calling on different muscle groups to perform. Riding forces you to use your quads and glutes and is a non-weight bearing exercise. Running, on the other hand, is full weight-bearing and predominantly uses the hamstring and calf muscles to power you forward. Couple this with the demands on blood flow between the different muscle groups to keep our bodies moving and the result is that all-too-familiar feeling of heavy legs we dread when running off the bike. 

It is a common misconception that to improve your running for triathlon you just need to run more. But while volume helps to some extent, it also increases the risk of injury. The key to improvement is to be more specific with your training in order to replicate the heavy legs effect, to physically and mentally prepare the body for what you will experience on race day.
Incorporating a run off your harder bike session, even if it is just 1km or 2km, is one of the easiest – and most effective – ways to get race-fit, as well as run-fit. One of the most common training methods employed by triathlon coaches is a wind trainer session incorporating hard bike efforts, immediately followed by a series of 1km run repeats straight off the bike. Yes, ‘brick’ sessions hurt, but they’re one of the best ways to improve running strength.
Another key tip for race day is to increase your cadence for the final few kilometres on the bike to loosen up your legs and increase blood flow. In addition, your legs will get used to the higher cadence required for running and you should find it easier to hit your running stride out of T2.
Like anything, practice makes perfect and the more running you do off the bike the better. Top athletes all around the world use brick sessions to improve their running strength and, in turn, post a top result come race day.
Until next time, happy racing and training - recover fast with compression socks.

article courtesy of S. Betten

Monday, July 29, 2013

Race Preparation - The Final Phase

Early on in your training preparation you can be pretty laissez-faire and non-specific in what you do training-wise.Your swims can have a good component of body surfing in and out of the surf rather than lap after lap in a pool. There’s no reason you can’t get out on the mountain bike and go off road when cycling and there’s nothing wrong with hiking, cross country skiing, etc., thrown into the mix to supplement your run training.
However, at a certain point, the notion of ‘specificity’ (being highly specific in what you do) becomes more and more important. This was really hammered home to me 20 odd years ago in Hawaii. I remember being out on the bike course, about 35 miles out of town and catching initial race leader, Kiwi Rick Wells, on the bike.
Wells was a freak of a swimmer, a machine on the bike and a serviceable runner. He actually won the then Olympic Distance World Championships staged in Perth and prior to coming to Kona he’d just won the famous Nice Triathlon on the Cote d’Azur in France over 4km/120km/30km – so he had the miles in his legs and knew how to put it together over longer distances on race day.
Problem was he’d just had a full summer training and racing in France and while he was race-hardened and fit, the vast majority of the riding he’d done in training and racing had been completed on a standard road bike with a set of clip-on aero bars to accommodate some of the brutally hilly mountainous courses served up in France. Kona, on the other hand, which has a bit of up and down, is, in comparison, a relatively flat course where you sit for hours on end in a TT position and thump a big gear.
Wells simply wasn’t used to doing this. He’d tweaked his bike position just before arriving in Hawaii and wasn’t prepared for the rigours of sitting and grinding. After leading out of the water and setting off on the bike at breakneck speed, 30 miles into the race his back tightened and by the time I caught him he was going backwards at a rate of knots, and in a world of pain. He was finally forced to withdraw from the event.
A really worthy contender, in peak condition, at the top of his game, pretty much unbeatable anywhere else in the world, reduced to a blithering mess by a basic preparatory, rookie mistake.
So here’s my guide on taking some of the guesswork out of your final preparation – putting the icing on the cake if you like, which I hope helps those of you heading to an event in the next couple of months.

Practise what you intend to do during the race at race pace. Complete a full-blown race simulation five-to-seven weeks out from the competition. If you can, train over the course or at least find somewhere similar. If we use the Ironman as an example, select a distance of about two-thirds of that of the Ironman: swim 2.5 kilometres, bike 120 kilometres and run 28 kilometres. Go through about a half to two-thirds of a taper sequence, do a full carbo-load procedure, do the training session at your proposed Ironman race pace and feed yourself in the manner you intend to do on race day using the same foods/drinks.

Weigh yourself pre-session, record your nutritional intake throughout the session and weigh yourself again post-session. From this you can work out your sweat rate and do your best to match it on race day. If at the same level of effort you find your pace dropping off dramatically in the later stages of the session you know you need to up the CHO intake.
If once you’ve completed the session and you find you’ve lost a significant amount of weight from your ‘normal’ body weight (not your pre-session commencement weight as you’ll ideally be a few kilos over your normal weight), then you know you’re going to have to be even more aggressive with your fluid intake. By a significant amount, I mean one-to-two per cent lower than your normal body weight. Doing the above will give you some degree of certainty (or not) that you’re on the right path come race day.
Aside from using all of the equipment you intend to use on race day while doing the suggested simulation, start using your intended equipment in training.

1. Goggles
Do they fog, do they leak? Do they give you a headache after being worn for extended periods of time? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, get it sorted weeks out from competition. Don’t turn up to the expo the day before and see the latest pair of swish goggles Pete Jacobs is wearing and buy them there and then to be worn the next day.

2. Wetsuit
Is it the right size? Does it chafe? Is it easy to get on and off? Is it a long-sleeve suit that fatigues your arms after a long swim? Start doing some of your training in your wetsuit so that you can get used to the change in body position and turning over the rubber in the arms. Identify the chafing spots and apply a lubricant, and also practise getting the suit off – quickly.

3. Bike
Position is obvious, as mentioned in my ramblings about Rick Wells. Train with the course in mind. For example, as I write this article, I am in my preparation for Ironman Melbourne. The bike course is very flat and fast. Orbea were kind enough to provide me with an Ordu TT bike to use for the race. Up ‘til now I’ve been training on a road bike, but I’ve changed across exclusively to the TT bike and had the position set by former AIS cycling/triathlon biomechanist Brian McLean (PhD). Brian was a bit aggressive with his positioning (too low in the front) for my level of flexibility. I’ve backed this position off a tad, but over the coming couple of weeks I’ll slowly try to lower my handlebars to achieve a more aero-position, as initially set by Brian. As the course is largely non-technical, the vast amount of my training will be confined to the indoor trainers. Here we can download the course profile and ‘ride the course’ in indoor safety 1600 kilometres away from the actual location and still get some highly specific training from a position and gearing perspective done. In contrast, later in the year when I take a group across to Italy to race in Ironman Italy 70.3, the bike course is far more technical and bike handling skills will become more crucial so (a) the bike being used will change, and (b) a lot more time will be spent practising descents, cornering and the like.

4. Clothing
What are you going to wear? While for some this might be a fashion statement, for those serious about racing it is functionally very important. For an Ironman-distance event comfort is a consideration, so you want something you’re going to be comfortable in for eight-to-17 hours. The only way to ascertain this is to do some longer sessions in your chosen apparel. If you’re not comfortable after a three hour ride and 1.5 hour run, chances are you’ll be less comfortable after a six-hour ride and a four-hour run and you don’t want to be experiencing that for the first time on race day. Your body is an amazing system; back in the day I can remember a large portion of the men’s field (myself included) racing Ironman-distance events in little more than a pair of budgie smugglers (no padding) and a singlet – your butt does adapt to it over time but you’ve got to get used to it in training. Modern tri-suits often have provision for you to carry gels and the like just in case you miss a feed, but they have the downside of covering a lot of skin, making your sweating mechanism less effective which, in a really hot environment, could be a deal breaker if you’re not prepared for it.

5. Footwear Bike and Run
During the course of a long ride some athletes develop hot or numb feet and/or sore knees. There could be a number of reasons for this, but the most common are (i) velcro straps being fastened too tightly, which, when combined with swelling feet, creates havoc, and (ii) incorrect cleat positioning. The best way to ascertain this – you guessed it – is long rides at race pace beforehand. If it doesn’t feel right in training you can rest assured it is going to feel worse on race day. With running shoes, if you intend to race in racing flats be sure to do some of your faster, quality training sessions in this type of shoe. Racing flats are lighter, less stable and have less cushioning, opening the wearer up to a number of potential acute injuries on race day if the body isn’t accustomed to wearing such shoes. Also, remember you’re going to be coming off a 180-kilometre bike ride, blood is going to have been sent in bucket loads for five plus hours to your legs and feet. It ‘pools’ there, your feet will have swollen, so your racing flats should probably be half a size bigger than what you’d normally choose for a straight running race. Otherwise you run the increased risk of losing toenails, blistering, etc.

6. Odds and sods
Helmets, heart rate monitors/GPS systems, sunglasses – well, you get the idea. You don’t want to be fumbling around with them for the first time on race day, so be sure to have trained extensively with this equipment before toeing the starting line.

Remember to live, work, train and race by what famed Surf Iron Man Guy Leech calls his ‘Five Ps’: Prior Preparation Prevents Poor Performance. A mantra we can apply to various facets of our lives.

article courtesy of R.Cedaro

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Triathlon Racing Kits From The 2013 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide

Once again SLS3 has been reviewed by the editors of triathlete magazine. Check out the review here. This review is for the FX Tri Top and the Compression Tri shorts.

Monday, July 22, 2013

This Mommy Runs: SLS3 Compression Socks Review

It's no surprise that I love, I mean LOVE compression socks. I wear them on my long runs and then for recovery. I can often be found wearing them while I run errands. Always a trendsetter, ha ha.

I'm often asked why I wear compression socks. There are a few different reasons:
  • Helps reduce/delay the onset of muscle fatigue
  • Prevents post-exercise soreness
  • Evacuates lactic acid by increasing the flow rate of the blood in the venous system.

    Check out the entire review here

Transition training

These sessions help develop leg speed off the bike and are one of the most effective ways to simulate race transitions, writes G. Nugent.
In my last article I wrote about brick (or combo) sessions and I want to reiterate the importance of these sessions in your training routine. Incorporating brick sessions into your training program around eight weeks prior to a race is one of the best ways to maximise your fitness and prepare you for race day. Added to your base program, brick sessions and transition training will set you up for a big summer of racing.
To kick us off, I’ve started with a couple of simple combo sessions that involve all three disciplines – swimming, cycling and running – and included a few tips for smooth transition work. Remember, the more you put these tips into practice, and practise good technique, the better your results will be.
These sessions help develop leg speed off the bike and are one of the most effective ways to simulate race transitions. Depending on the race distance you’re training for, you can slowly build up the ride and run distances of your brick sessions.
If you haven’t yet started to include brick sessions in your training, make the effort ahead of your next big race. You will reap the rewards on race day.

The fourth leg: Transition
One of the most neglected areas of triathlon is the transition, be it swim-to-bike or bike-to-run. Most triathletes spend the bulk of their training time focused on the three race disciplines: swimming, cycling and running. But the transition between each leg also requires specific training.
If you’re new to the sport, you need to get familiar with the two transition phases of a race. Each triathlon has two transitions: a swim-to-bike (T1) and a bike-to-run (T2).  If you have never been shown what to do in a transition, it can be a very daunting element of race day. Knowing what to do in transition sets you up for a good race right from the gun, can improve your mid-race position in the field and can even save you minutes on your finishing time.
The following basic tips will help you perfect your race transitions:
Transition set-up
•    Your gear should be located on the right-hand side of your bike. Regardless of whether you rack your bike by its saddle or bars, always set your gear up to the right of your bike.
•    Line up your gear in the order you will be using it, with your bike shoes, runners and helmet on top.  Place your sunglasses inside your helmet, and always have your helmet unbuckled and with the straps out ready to wear.
•    If you haven’t already, invest in a pair of good quality elastic laces for your runners. Replace your normal laces with elastics and hey, presto – you’ll be in and out of transition in no time.
•    Dust the inside of your shoes with talcum powder. This will not only help you slide them on more easily, it will soak up any moisture on your feet.
Transition 1 (T1): Swim to bike
•    Coming out of the swim – stay calm! There’s nothing worse than not being able to get out of your wetsuit, fumbling around or dropping your helmet. You want a fast transition, but you also want it to go smoothly.
•    Don’t touch your bike until you have fastened your helmet.  It is illegal, and you could get disqualified.
•    Once your helmet is secured, pull on your bike shoes (if they aren’t already clipped onto your bike).
•    Un-rack your bike and run with it on your right-hand side, holding your seat with your right hand.
•    Your bike should be pre-set to an easy gear. Run your bike to the mount line and jump on. Remember, you can’t get on your bike until you pass the mount line. There are a number of ways to mount your bike and if you’re unsure of what to do, it’s worth joining a squad and having an experienced coach or athlete show you what to do. Once you master the fast transition mount, you need to practise.  
Transition 2 (T2): Bike to run
•    Slow down ready to dismount at the dismount line. Remember, you must have both feet on the ground before you reach the dismount line.
•    Keep your helmet fastened until your bike is racked back where you began the cycle leg.
•    Rack your bike and take off your helmet – do this first to avoid running out with it still on your head. Pull on your runners (if they’re not already on). If you don’t have elastic laces, get some ASAP!
•    If you’re wearing a hat on the run, don’t put it on in transition – just grab it and go. Put it on while you’re running and you’ll save yourself valuable time.
A good transition takes time to master, so use these tips and practise, practise, practise. You’ve trained hard and practised all the things you need for race day, so get out there and enjoy yourself – the swim, the ride, the run and most of all, the finish line.

article courtesy of  G. Nugent.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Five Mistakes Age-Groupers Make On Race Day

Learning from race-day blunders is key to removing the chance of repetition. Sam Hume is one of Australia's best age-group triathletes and he's highlighted the five commonest mistakes he sees and how to avoid them.
1. Incorrect pacing
Getting one’s pacing right on race day is probably the most important issue for the age-group athlete that will make or break their day. Far too many age-groupers, and for that matter many professional athletes, push too hard in the swim and bike and end up running well below their potential simply because they run out of gas. While pre-race and race-day nutrition will allow you to maximise the amount of energy available, in reality, spreading your effort (and hence energy expenditure) evenly across the three disciplines is the surest way to get across the line in the quickest possible time.
Why then do many athletes tear off the start line or out of T1 like a bull at a gate? A rush of adrenaline, a perceived need to maximise the gains in one’s strongest leg or minimise the losses in one’s weakest leg, or an over-estimation of one’s ability are all possible explanations. See the box for some logical pacing concepts to ensure the correct mindset for race day.

2. Carrying too much gear on the bike
Don’t buy a super-light bike and then load it up with multiple water bottles, fancy tyre inflation devices or other nice, but not essential gear. If Macca strips the handlebar tape off his IM bike, why do age-groupers think it is all right to carry 1.2-to-1.8kg of fluid at the start of the bike? In most longer distance events, the aid stations come up more frequently than you could drink 600-millitres. Why carry more than one bottle? I know occasionally bottles are dropped or athletes want special mixtures not available at aid stations, and therefore want extra capacity, but you need to consider the relative costs and benefits. Look up the details of your upcoming race and find out what is served and when well ahead of time.
3. Using unfamiliar equipment
We all do it and we know we shouldn’t. Wetsuits, goggles, bikes, wheels, race  nutritional, shoes and Triathlon suits used on race day without being adequately tried first. The consequences? Necks, armpits, groins and feet rubbed red raw. Coming off your bike out of T1 or a sharp corner. Gastric distress or a massive bonk. Try it before you race with it. Enough said!
4. Overdoing the nutrition
Think of your gut as a filter that absorbs less the faster you go. For example, say you drink a standard sports drink while running. You cannot move much of the carbohydrate out of your upper gastrointestinal tract (e.g. gut) and into your blood stream if you are running flat out because your body preferentially diverts blood flow away from your gut to your working muscles. So you derive little benefit from the ingested carbohydrate until you slow down enough that your body sends some blood back to your gut.
Also, the more carbohydrate you put in your gut (think both volume and concentration) the more blood flow to the gut you need to absorb it. So if you run at a moderately hard pace, you may be able to absorb a sports drink (with its moderate amount of carbohydrate) but not a soft drink (with a high amount). Of course you could dilute the soft drink by also drinking some water, which is why we drink water after taking a gel.
Use this filter concept to work out what you should do on race day. Too many age group athletes take a ‘more is better’ approach, however, more calories ingested does not equal more energy entering the bloodstream if you cannot absorb it. Ingest less when you are temporarily working hard (hills, out of transition, headwinds) moderate carbohydrates when you are working steadily (flats) and more concentrated carbohydrates when working less hard (long descent, tailwinds, walking).
5. Warm-up
A few arm swings and a short swim is not enough of a warm up for anything less than an Ironman. Age-groupers should understand what is an appropriate warm-up for the distance they are racing. I wrote about this topic two issues ago and think it is poorly done by many age-groupers. A short run, arm swings and gentle stretching, a swim with some efforts and a good look at the start line, first buoy and swim finish are all critical. Some effort but potentially a big payoff and therefore well worth it.

article courtesy of triathlonmag.com.au

Open Water Swimming

If swimming in the open water was a magic show, superfish and Surf Ironman Champion Guy Leech would have more tricks than David Copperfield. Leech pulls some out of his swimming cap here and treats us to the best.
A few years ago, I competed in a team at the Mooloolaba triathlon event. The days leading up to the race had pumping surf and I thought, “great, I’ll feel right at home out there and hopefully give our team a head start”. 
That hopeful head start was quickly reeled in when “too dangerous” was the call made by the team at USM Events. They pulled the pin on a surf swim, opting to line up competitors along one of the local canals, effectively making it a flat water swim. Fair enough, the majority of age group triathletes probably come from non-swimming backgrounds, let alone surf swimming. 
Here are some tips to make your next open water swim a little more proficient. After all, there’s a big difference between being capable in the swimming pool compared to carving up the ocean.  
Experience is invaluable
Before entering an event, build up your experience by doing some ocean swims. Having been in the open water beforehand, you’re less likely to freak out when there are 100 other sets of arms and legs being thrown around you in the heat of battle and argy-bargy of a race. 
Get together with a few friends, head down to the beach or local dam, pick a point in the distance and swim to it. Swimming in a group will give you a little extra confidence should you get into trouble. Once you’re out in the open water you can’t really swim to the side and hang onto a wall like you can in a pool. Simply knowing others are around can be reassuring for the novice open water swimmer.
Learn bilateral breathing
Bilateral breathing means you are able to breathe on either side of your body. Firstly, this helps to balance your stroke as you get a chance to watch what both arms are doing under the water in training. In a race situation, it helps if the chop is coming in from one side, which may be your usual breathing side and you’re able to turn to the other to get a breath. There’s nothing worse than repeatedly turning to one side for a breath and getting a mouthful of water rather than air. 
Particularly given most triathlons in Australia start bright and early in the morning, if you can only breathe to one side and the sun happens to be rising on that side, it’s a pain in the proverbial to be almost blinded every time you go to take a breath. So, breathing bilaterally is a great skill to develop for a variety of reasons. 
Take advantage of drafting
Unlike competitive open water swims such as those of the Olympic Games, drafting during the swim portion of a triathlon is legal. Simply put, you’re nuts if you’re not taking advantage of this. You can cut minutes off your swim time if you get this right. 
Aim to position yourself in a pack of swimmers of similar experience and speed. There are two ways you can draft off another swimmer – both can be very effective in an open water swim. One way is to swim directly behind a lead swimmer and the other is to swim in the wake of a lead swimmer – just like Duncan Armstrong did to win his Olympic gold medal. 
When you’re swimming directly behind a swimmer and close to their feet, the result is a ‘pulling’ effect similar to that created by an outboard motor on a speedboat. 
When you’re swimming on another swimmer’s hip and taking advantage of their wake, the effect is similar to body surfing – you just keep pulling yourself over the little wave the other swimmer’s wake creates. This is a much tougher skill to master, but the effects are considerable. My only word of caution with drafting is to not rely 100 per cent on the swimmer you’re drafting off. If they swim a little off course, any advantage you’re getting from their drag will be undone by the extra distance you’re swimming, so make sure you keep an eye on sighting for yourself. 

Check the conditions
Have you ever watched the start of a Surf Ironman race? All the competitors and their coaches are at the water’s edge looking at the water – they aren’t just enjoying the scenery! When the gun goes off, the competitors often run in different directions before entering the water. Any idea why? It is because the rips and bars, created by the movement of the waves coming into shore, can provide a huge advantage in races by sweeping you out much faster than swimming in still water or more importantly, against the rip in dead water. 
Before you start the race, always check the edge of the beach before running in for the swim. Potholes and uneven surfaces are fairly normal at beaches. A walk out from where you’re starting on the line could save your ankles and the embarrassment from falling over. 
Learning how to read water movement isn’t something I can give you in a couple of paragraphs here. My suggestion is to (i) be aware of the potential advantages by learning this skill, and (ii) spend some time talking to, and learning from, those who are experienced in ocean swimming. For example, a number of years ago, I went to Hawaii and watched the Ironman. All those in the know stuck close to the pier at the start of the swim. The flow of the ocean at the pier washed swimmers out to sea from the start line much faster than 100 metres to the left of the start line and away from the pier. Experience counts, so fast-track your own by learning from those who know. It will save you making avoidable and costly mistakes.
To wetty or not to wetty?
If the water is cold, a wetsuit will keep you warm and can improve your performance by 10-to-20 percent with it’s buoyancy effect. This is particularly the case for less accomplished swimmers. 
A couple of things to remember with wetsuits: (i) above all, make sure it fits you well, and (ii) practice in the suit if you intend to be wearing it on race day as it changes your position in the water. If it is a long sleeved suit, you need to condition your arms to turn over with rubber around your shoulders. 
You’ve probably already noticed you don’t have a thick black line running along the bottom of the ocean to help guide you. You have to learn to lift your head and sight in order to stay on track. If you are out for a training swim, look for various land markers. It may be a tall tree or the top of a building, something you can see each time you lift your head to look forward. This gives you the skill during races as you sight marker buoys. 
Remember, don’t put yourself in a dangerous situation if your skill level isn’t up to it. The ocean is something that deserves respect! All the best with your next race.

article courtesy of G. Leech

Monday, June 24, 2013

Technique is the Key To Your Running Form

We’re always hearing about the importance of technique when we swim and while this is extremely important, so too is having good form and technique when we run. Most triathletes are pretty conversant with swimming drills and how to hold themselves correctly in the water, even if they struggle to do so. On the other hand, ask a triathlete to do some running drills and what constitutes good running form and often you’ll be met by a blank stare. Here, we shed some light on the topic.

Inefficiencies can creep into your running stride for a number of reasons: (i) Fatigue and simply not concentrating on holding yourself correctly when you run over time, will make you a less efficient runner. (ii) Often, an injury can change the biomechanics of your running style. (iii) Maybe you’ve developed some subtle abnormalities in your gait that detracts from your efficiency (e.g. one leg has zsecome stronger than the other, or you’ve started swinging your arms across your chest rather than bringing them forward and back).
Running drills can help with all of these issues and improve your running form, helping you to run faster for the same amount of effort. In fact, most world class runners and triathletes use running drills as part of their daily workouts to hone this efficiency.
The simple exercises and drills outlined here can help optimise your running gait and make it second nature. Your running movement becomes more fluent and less costly from an energy perspective. In effect, you’ll run faster with the same energy expenditure.
Here’s four stride drills designed to help you out, followed by some key points to remember about your form when running.
It’s best to do these drills on a flat grassed area, ideally as part of your warm-up and/or cool down before or after a session. Aim to do two-to-four of each drill per session and cover at least 50 meters when you do each one.
Drive your knees skyward with each stride. Don’t worry about your forward speed. Simply lift your knees high. This drill strengthens your hip flexor muscles, improves your drive and increases your range of motion.

High heels

Almost the opposite of high knees in that you’re doing an exaggerated back kick. Literally, you should be kicking your butt with the heel with each stride. This drill stretches your quads and strengthens your hamstrings.


Use a slightly exaggerated arm motion to propel yourself upward and forward. Skipping improves your coordination and push-off power by using a form of plyometrics.


This is a progression of your skipping drill and again makes use of plyometric training. In this drill, simply exaggerate your normal running stride’s height and length. Run in slow motion and allow each foot to do all the work of absorbing impact, then pushing off. This drill improves coordination and strengthens glutes and calves.
Now that you’ve got some drills to work with. How about your running form? All too often I see triathletes running with really poor form. Some of this is due to being fatigued by running off the bike, some of it is due to pure postural laziness. Here are a few points to think about.
How you hold your head is key to overall posture. Look ahead naturally, not down at your feet, scan the horizon. This straightens your neck and back bringing them into alignment. Your should be able to drop a plumb line down through your ear, should and hip when you run. Think about running tall.
Shoulders play an important role in keeping your upper body relaxed while you run, which is critical to maintaining efficient running posture. Focus on keeping your shoulders low and loose, not high and tight. So many people I work with look like boxers when they run. Relax your upper body and make a conscious effort as you tire, to not let your shoulders creep up toward your ears. If they do, shake them out to release the tension.
Arm carriage – this is one of my personal favourites. Even though running is primarily a lower-body activity, your arms play an important roll. Your hands control the tension in your upper body, while your arm swing works in conjunction with your leg stride to drive you forward. Keep your hands in an unclenched fist, with your fingers lightly touching your palms. Imagine yourself trying to carry a potato chip in each hand without crushing it. Your arms swing forward and back, not across your body. Remember, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction so when you swing your arms across your body, your shoulders follow and your upper body starts to rotate from side to side, rather than the momentum being carried forward. Bend you elbows to about a 90-degree angle and relax your hands – don’t clench your hands into tight fists. If necessary, drop your arms to your sides and shake them out for a few seconds to release the tension.
Your torso and back naturally straighten to allow you to run in an efficient, upright position that promotes optimal lung capacity and stride length. Many coaches describe this as running tall and it means you need to stretch yourself up to your full height with your back comfortably straight. In short, don’t slouch during a run.
Your hips are your centre of gravity, so they are crucial to good running form. By keeping your torso running tall, your hips should automatically come into the right position. They should have a slight forward tilt. When thinking of your pelvic position, think of your pelvis as a bowl of dried rice, you don’t want to tilt it forward or back, or side to side as you’ll spill the rice. This is where functional or core stability becomes very important.
Finally, your legs. While sprinters need a high knee lift to generate power, distance runners and triathlete don’t. It costs too much energy and it is impossible to sustain. Efficient distance running requires just a slight knee lift, a quick leg turnover and a short stride. When running with the proper stride length, your feet should land directly underneath your body, not out in front. Landing under your body lowers ground force reaction and hence decreases the chance of overuse injury. When your foot strikes the ground, your knee should be slightly flexed so that it can help absorb the impact shock. If you’re extending your lower leg (below the knee) out in front of your body, you’re over-striding and this is a recipe for disaster from an injury perspective. To run well, you need to push off the ground with maximum force. With each step, your foot should hit the ground lightly landing on the outside portion of the heel then quickly pronate and roll forward. As you roll onto your toes, push forward from the toes. You should feel your calf muscles propelling you forward on each step. Make sure your feet aren’t ‘slapping’ the ground and landing heavy. A good running gait should be relatively quiet.

article courtesy of R. Cedaro

Monday, June 17, 2013

Keys to pace yourself during a Triathlon

Years ago I heard an interview with Mike Pigg. For those unfamiliar with the Piggman, let me just say he was one of the greats – an accomplished swimmer, a beast on the bike and a competent runner. In the late 80s and 90s, Pigg won more than his fair share of Olympic distance non-drafting races around the world. During an interview in relation to the Hawaii Ironman, Pigg said “this is completely different to racing an Olympic distance race. In an Olympic distance race you can just let it all out. Here [Ironman], you have to be a little smarter and pace yourself”.
Pacing over any distance is crucial, but the distance of the event will determine your pacing strategy. Horses for courses.
The keys to a successful race are appropriate:
  1. training
  2. pacing
  3. nutrition.

Pacing and nutrition are particularly important as the distances start to get longer and longer. The only similarity between a sprint distance triathlon and an Ironman distance race is the fact you swim, bike and run in both. Physiologically and nutritionally speaking, they are two completely different animals – Olympic and half IM distance events sit somewhere between the two. In fact, in relation to the demands they place on the body, half IM events are more akin to Olympic distance races than they are to the Ironman.
So, let’s begin with a look at some basic background information.
The human body uses two energy systems:
  • aerobic (in the presence of oxygen), which uses fat as a principal energy source; or
  • anaerobic (without oxygen), which uses carbohydrate as a principal energy source.
In the anaerobic system there are a further two sub-systems:
  • lactic (or glycolytic) – produces lactic acid as a by-product. For example, during an 800 metre track race; and
  • ATP-PC (or alactic energy). For example, sprinting 100 metres.
Energy to fuel activities in most sports, triathlon included, have contributions made from both energy systems. The onus varies and is based on the interplay of (a) the event distance and (b) speed of the athlete. As such, a sprint distance event has more reliance and use of the anaerobic system(s), whereas an Ironman is more reliant on aerobic metabolism. Therefore, the emphasis placed on developing these different systems in training needs to reflect the demands of the race distance.

How do you determine this?

For many athletes, trial and error is often the method employed. Train, go out and do the Ironman as hard as you can and blow up midway through. Sound familiar? There are smarter ways of attacking such events.
As a starting point – freshen up, then go out and do some time trials or lab testing (see: www.weshealth.com.au and follow the links to the Peak Performance Lab). Brad Beven and I work with athletes in and out of the lab. The athletes who don’t come through the lab do a series of simple field-based tests to ascertain their pacing strategies. We can use these to optimise their training programs for their specific distance event as well as their pacing on race day. To further validate these tests, if available a blood lactate reading can be taken during the efforts.
The testing includes:
Swimming – five sets of 200-to-300 metres at maximum effort. Only take a break between efforts to record you split times.
Cycling – maximum effort time trial on flat terrain for 40-to-60 minutes recording average heart rate, power output (if you have a power monitor) and cadence.
Running – maximum effort for five-to-six kilometres. Record each one kilometre split time, heart rate per kilometre, average heart rate for the effort and overall completion time.
All of these tests are designed to identify the anaerobic threshold – the point where the body shifts from producing energy predominately from aerobic metabolism to having a greater contribution from the anaerobic system(s). From a training/pacing perspective this is a crucial point to know as working at the anaerobic threshold burns carbohydrate quickly and our bodies only have a limited amount of carbohydrate stored as muscle glycogen. If you exhaust the glycogen store, you’ll hit the wall and have to slow down. This is because you become more reliant on the aerobic energy system, and fat, which requires exercise to be slowed.
Typically, Olympic distance athletes use a lot of muscle glycogen and struggle initially to step straight up to Ironman distance races – certainly at an elite level. They need time to refine their training to develop their aerobic metabolism, fat burning and glycogen sparing capacity, pacing and race day nutrition strategies.
Here, I’ll help you short circuit the trial and error merry-go-round with some helpful hints for training, racing and nutrition strategies to fast track your understanding of the energy system approach.
Once you have run through the tests and recorded all the info you need (i.e. split times, heart rates, etc.), here are some useful tips:

1 Slow down!

The vast number of athletes I see train too hard, too often and subsequently fail to develop their aerobic energy system. Even if you’re training for a sprint distance race, you need to develop an aerobic base. The best sprint distance athletes in the world take more than 50 minutes to finish an event. Try holding your breath for 50 minutes. If you can do that – train intensely all the time. If you can’t, then you need to develop your aerobic metabolism. Do this by training at least one-to-two sessions per week at 80-to-85 per cent of the heart rates/split times recorded during your tests. The longer the event you’re training for, the more sessions of this sort of training you do and the further distance you go. However, whatever triathlete you are or want to be, you need to train for an aerobic base.
When the working heart rates are set (for example on the run), many athletes initially find themselves walking. However, the walk quickly becomes a jog, which then becomes a run at the same heart rate. This is how you know the efficiency and aerobic system is responding, improving and developing. Also, you’ll very quickly start to become more lean as fat is used for fuel rather than muscle glycogen.

2 Periodise your training

At 12 weeks out from competition, training is completely different to the sessions you perform two weeks before the event.
Your training should progress through three active training phases:

  • Base where the onus is on developing the aerobic system and peripheral function (longer, slower miles).
  • Pre-competitive where you start to trade longer, slower miles for some shorter, more intensive work. However, you still need to do some of the longer, easier stuff to maintain your aerobic base.
  • Peaking where the onus of the training is on quality – higher intensity training with plenty of recovery between the sessions. This prepares you for the specific demands of racing.

3 How hard?

I remember posing this exact question to former Olympic cycling gold medal winner Kathy Watt in relation to the 40-kilometre time trial event and Kath’s response hit the nail on the head. To paraphrase, she suggested riding at a couple of beats per minute above and below your anaerobic threshold for a 40-kilometre time trial.
Many athletes make the mistake of going out too hard, beyond their anaerobic threshold, creating oxygen debt and are forced to slow down. They blow up two thirds of the way through the event and then limp home. It is far more effective to go out at your anaerobic threshold and then build beyond the threshold during the closing stages of the effort. Then the inevitable repayment of your oxygen debt occurs AFTER you cross the finish line rather than before.

4 Pacing guidelines

  • Sprint distance – Provided you are well-trained and have a sound aerobic base, you should be able to red-line it from wire-to-wire. In other words – flat out. All you’ll need nutritionally is water because your body should have stored adequate muscle glycogen to see you through the event. If you’re looking at this from a blood lactate perspective you’d be aiming to keep your lactate levels beyond your anaerobic threshold of 4mM. For the average, well-trained sprint distance athletes, operating lactate levels would be in the range of 6-to-8mM.
  • Olympic distance – As Kathy Watt suggested, start out at your anaerobic threshold (lactate reading 4-to-5mM) and build over the closing stages of each discipline (lactate readings more than 6mM by the end of the event). An Olympic distance event takes most people between two and three hours to complete. Aim at ingesting about 60-to-80 grams of carbohydrate per hour for the duration of the event. For example, this could be one litre of sports drink per hour or three gels per hour (20-to-25 grams of carbohydrate per serve).
  • Half Ironman – Aim at racing at 90-to-95 per cent of your anaerobic threshold (lactate readings of 3.4-to-3.6mM). Just as you would for Olympic distance, you need to replace about 60-to-80 grams of carbohydrate per hour. During the closing stages of a half Ironman you should be able to force the pace up close to your Olympic distance race pace (i.e. anaerobic threshold) with your lactate levels approaching 4mM.
  • Ironman – Back off the pace a little further with Ironman events. Aim at racing the first three quarters of the event at 85-to-90 per cent of your anaerobic threshold (lactate levels 2.8-to-3.2mM). This helps you spare valuable muscle glycogen. Remember, if you use it all up, you’ll be forced to slow down. Also, start eating early in an Ironman event, 60-to-80 grams per hour is optimal. Electrolyte balance is also important for Ironman distance athletes, specifically sodium. You should aim to consume about one gram per hour of competition to stave off the possibility of hyponatremia (low blood sodium levels). Low sodium can have devastating performance implications and worse still, health issues. Again, during the closing stages of each discipline in an Ironman you can crank it up a little if you have anything left. Aim to maintain your pace over the closing stages so you finish as quickly as you started.
From a pacing perspective, maintaining a higher average speed throughout the race is far more important than your pace for any one segment or individual discipline. The only way of ensuring this is to:
  • Train appropriately.
  • Focus your energy inwards on what YOU need to be doing and not getting sucked in to what the competition is doing.
  • Perfect your lead-up, race day and recovery nutrition, particularly for the longer events.
All the best for race day - go and smoke ‘em.

article courtesy of R. Cedaro