rsz_whitney_triathlon

Whitney Larkin – Junior Team GB Athlete!

Meet our latest Featured triathlete, Whitney Larkin, who is only 16 years old but has already achieved a huge amount since starting triathlons in 2011 and is now a Junior GB Athlete.  Whitney had a competitive swimming background when she started triathlons but hadn’t cycled or ran which makes her success all the more impressive!

 

What makes a Junior GB Athlete?

Whitney mainly participates in sprint distance triathlons which include a 750m swim, 20km bike and 5km run.  She has recently finished her first year with the Triathlon England Yorkshire & Humberside Region Talent Academy and was placed onto the GB Academy in October 2012 (a year after she started triathlons!).  She has taken part in the British Triathlon Youth & Junior Super Series Events in 2013, including the Nottingham Triathlon where she qualified for the ITU World Sprint Triathlon Championships.

In June 2013 at the Alanya ETU Triathlon European Championships, Whitney ranked 5th in the Under 20’s category and 2nd in the Youth category. At the Brat Sprint Triathlon in August 2013 she placed 1st for Youth and 2nd as overall female.  These are only to name a few of her successes!

 

Pushing for even more impressive results!

Whitney has recently received sponsorship from Bulk Powders and now feels she has every area of her performance under control and can achieve even more impressive results.  “I wanted to improve my performance and increase my training sessions but was worried I wasn’t getting the proper nutrition for the amount of training I did.  By getting sponsorship from BULK POWDERS™ and the support and advice given to me by them, staying fit and well whilst training hard to achieve my goals is no longer a worry for me. I know I’m in good hands and I feel it as well.”

Competing at such a high level means Whitney requires her body to consistently perform so her sports nutrition needs to meet her requirements and she has to train for at least an hour every day; swimming, running and cycling as well as strength and conditioning sessions.  Although Whitney’s training regime is demanding, she has clear goals that focus towards her racing whilst finding the right balance of training.

 

Supplementation and nutrition

To take Whitney’s performance to the next level her diet has been analysed and then refined to maximise her training by performance nutritionist, Alison Hedley. “Whitney’s nutrition goals are created around her training, making her able to train and race at her best.  Above all, Whitney needs calories for her age and huge energy expenditure.”

All endurance athletes should aim to eat 3/5 meals a day, depending on training intensity.  Main focus should be on consuming a well-balanced meal of carbohydrates, protein and fat. In addition, endurance athletes like Whitney should consume fast absorbing carbohydrates such pre, during and post exercise.  This will rapidly fuel muscles as well as replenishing glycogen stores post exercise too.

She takes protein should post exercise to assist with recovery.  Hydration is the final big area for endurance athletes due to factors such as intensity, duration and weather conditions, which all affect our rate of sweating. Maintaining hydration all day is key whilst consuming a drink containing electrolytes.

At present Whitney supplements her diet with BULK POWDERS™ Maltodextrin, Complete Protein Blend™, Complete Hydration, Instant BCAA Powder, Complete Multivitamin Complex™, Omega-3 Fish Oil and Peanut Butter.  Since taking these supplements Whitney has noticed a difference in her performance, “I have increased my training recently and feel that by eating correctly and following the advice I’ve received from Bulk Powders on their nutritional supplements I have seen a big difference in a short space of time and feel better than ever!”

We’re sure that Whitney has a lot more success to achieve in her triathlon career having got off to such a great start and we wish her all the best on her triathlon journey.

If you’d like to look at what supplements Whitney uses then check out bulk powders here.

Have you got a triathlon story to share?  Want to give others triathlon inspiration, advice, tips etc then email us at info@couldtriharder.com, we’d love to feature you!

Del ST People

How to increase your running speed? More TriCoaching Tips

How do you train yourself to run faster?

When you first start out, just doing more running makes the biggest difference – longer runs, more consistent training, and higher totals per week. You get fitter; you get stronger…then what? No matter how hard you run, no matter how many sessions that you put in, how many weeks and months you’ve worked, you just can’t get faster.

 

What to incorporate into your running workout?

There are 3 big factors as far as I’m concerned: Interval running, strength work and technique/efficiency. All three are pretty simple to incorporate into your workouts, but here’s a little bit about interval running.

 

How to run fast over race distances…

To run fast over race distances, you have to teach your body to run faster and harder than it can currently. The major goal for here is to go sub 50 for 10km – so I’ll use that as a baseline. To go sub 50 minutes, that entails going under 5 minutes/1km, 10 times, i.e. under 25 minutes for 5km.

 

Interval training for running…

Sounds silly, maybe basic, but have you ever tried running at that pace, do you know what it feels like? Ultimately, the first thing we need to do is train the body to work faster and get used to running at higher pace. If you are used to running at one pace, this can be difficult to do, to switch your muscles on and wake them up! This is where doing intervals comes in. Intervals allow you to run at a faster pace than normal, rest, recover and go again.

Too many people spend all their runs one pace; a pace that is too hard to recover from (remember running is a high impact sport, even if you can’t feel it), but not hard enough to make physiological changes and improvements. Intervals can vary in length depending on what you are trying to do. If you have never really done them before, my suggestion would be to keep them short to start with to understand what they feel like. You can do them anywhere – though if you can use a local athletics track, or school athletics track where the distances are exact and measured out, it does make life a little easier! Alternatively, if you have a GPS watch, obviously you will know how far you’re going. You could mark out a distance on Googlemaps/mapmyrun etc.

Knowing how fast you’re going is relatively useful in terms of quantifying improvement – or working out if you’re going hard enough/too hard. Rest intervals should be around the same length of time as you run for – and could be stood still, or walking around to keep blood moving. Try not to just collapse, it’s not good on the body, even if it feels like the right thing to do! The final thing to be aware of is your rest intervals. Equal work and rest is fairly common – but the harder you are working, the more rest you will require.

Don’t go overboard with the recovery though, you don’t want your heart rate to drop too far… so, as a new runner to intervals, I’d suggest doing 8-10 400s to start with, trying to hold between 1.50 and 2 minutes, with between 1.30 and 2 mins rest: 2mins=5mins/k = 50min goal 10k pace. BINGO! This is something that you can build up as you get stronger to make it a longer session. You can do sets of 800s, trying to target 3.45-4 minutes with 3.30-4mins recovery – getting used to holding the pace for longer, or even work up to 1k repetitions. Remember, the point of running intervals is that you are running FAST. That doesn’t mean you have to kill yourself or wreck your body every time, but you want the idea that you are on target for something and you have the motivation. Of course just running repetitions of the same distance (or number of laps) can be boring, so you can mix up the distances – maybe run pyramids e.g. 200, 400, 800, 1200, 800, 400, 200, but whatever you do, remember why you are doing the set to keep the focus. I would incorporate this sort of session once a week into your training. Keep your long run – but make sure that it’s steady so you can easily go and do something in the following days. Then you could have a short, economy, recovery run as well.

For someone who is new/cramped for time, they would be my 3 important runs. If you can do a 4th, look at doing what is called a “TEMPO” run or “FARTLEK”. These are hard work sessions (harder than your long run) aimed to improve your strength.

 

TriCoaching

This is the third of three posts from tri-coaching who are a coaching team based around developing skills and fitness in Triathlon or any of the three individual sports, providing know how and enjoyment along the way!  Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/tricoachingbristol orwww.twitter.com/tri_coaching

 

Triathlon deals

If you’re looking for triathlon equipment then check out our triathlon deals and voucher codes for some great savings by clicking here

 

running

Running Technique – Tips from TriCoaching

Running technique

No one teaches you how to run.  It’s just something we all do, right?  So how come some people just float while others seem to get injured all the time?

Depending on how crunched for time you are, working on your technique and making subtle alterations could make changes to your speed. If time is your friend, and you have a good solid period before you think about racing, this could be something to look at.  Equally, if you find yourself chronically injury prone, then this might be something to work on to minimise the impact on your body.

This isn’t to say that there is one rule for everyone, and that we should all be identical of course – just watch the Olympics, any running event and compare all the runners.  Yes there are similarities but there are also differences between each individual – and potentially with one athlete running different length events!  All we are looking at here are little cues to focus on to move a little easier and a little faster!

Running ability and technique is potentially limited by various different factors – but they all interlink and have a combined effect on running as a whole.

Some runners for instance, might find that they can get a full range of movement through the hips, knees and ankles, but may be lacking in strength and control.  Whereas others might find plenty of strength in calves, quads, hamstrings and glutes – but are limited by minimal flexibility of the hip girdle and lower spine.  A good warm up for hard sessions is necessary to loosen up the body – the harder the session is going to be (for instance like the speed intervals mentioned last week!) the longer and more comprehensive the warm up should be.

Running speed is dictated by the following equation.

Speed (or economy) = Frequency (cadence) x Stride Length

 

How to Improve Your Running Speed

So to improve our running speed and economy (i.e. get faster or go easier) we need to work out how to preferably increase both in some way shape or form.

Stride length is governed by the distance between foot strike and toe off.  However a longer stride does not mean necessarily pushing out further in front of you – in fact quite the opposite. The further in front of your body that your foot hits the ground, the more shock will go back through your knee, hip and lower back. This also acts as a kind of braking force, slowing you down as well.  The closer you can land to under your hips, the less force you put your body under; also the more stable you are.  Obviously both of these factors will help minimise injury.  From here you can push out behind you to drive off.

 

How to Change Your Running Cadence

To change cadence, first of all find out what you normally run at. Count your steps for a minute.  The number bandied around as the ideal is 90 – but that’s a little too general – depending on pace, strength, mobility etc, a good number would be between 85-95 (or 170-190 for both feet together).  Before I started looking at my technique, I was around 72-74 strides per minute! The first thing to think about with cadence is standing up nice and tall.  Pull your core in and lift the hips up and forward.  Might sound odd but try it jogging for 20seconds – it should help shorten contact time on the floor and minimise the chance of your feet stretching out in front.  If you do any running on a treadmill, do spells where you count your strides for minutes at a time, looking to increase your cadence incrementally.

 

What Running Drills to Use?

You can do drills like fast feet and heel flick drills with high turnover – essentially working the front end or the back end of the running stride at speed, the heel flicks help activate a knee bend which is very useful in getting your foot forward nice and quickly. By using your hamstrings to bend your knee once you have pushed off the ground, you have a far shorter lever to lift forward (from the hip).

[youtube id="h1J5L-y1-78" width="620" height="360"]

Many runners don’t pay enough attention to the action of their upper body. They allow the upper body to remain passive and if anything overly rotate through the torso. We need upper body rotation, not only to counter the desired rotation of the pelvis and lower body as we run, but also to help engage the core properly. However many runners display excess rotation, making life harder for themselves. With the rotation should obviously come the arm drive from the elbows. The quicker you go, the bigger the movement of the arms should be – just compare Usain Bolt’s arm action to Mo Farah (and not just in their celebrations!).  The 2 similarities between them are that the elbow moves forward and back (not round the sides) and that it moves in time with their opposite foot – helping with that upper body rotation and spring loading.  This is something that you can use as a cue for when you tire; as you start to struggle, think about driving the elbows back with force.

 

Where your feet should land when running?

At no point have I mentioned how your feet should hit the ground (heel/midfoot/forefoot) – this is intentional!  It is far more important WHERE your foot lands rather than HOW.  One of the main issues we see in runners is the tendency to over stride, landing the foot (regardless of contact pattern) significantly ahead of the centre of gravity. This increases the braking forces experienced upon initial contact, as well as increasing contact time/soft tissue stress. Usually the over striding athlete will display a significant heel strike, loading the heel upon contact. By thinking about landing under the hips rather than out in front, by increasing cadence, and by lifting the hips up and forward, it doesn’t matter whether you land on your toes, on your midfoot or on your heel; either way, the landing should be relatively light, controlled and less shocking to your body.

As I mentioned at the top, there isn’t one perfect way to run – we’re all too unique as humans.  However there are some standard practises which are useful to work towards to make ourselves as efficient and stable as possible.

This is the second of three posts from tri-coaching who are a coaching team based around developing skills and fitness in Triathlon or any of the three individual sports, providing know how and enjoyment along the way!  Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/tricoachingbristol orwww.twitter.com/tri_coaching 

Faye - triathlon non-swimmer

UPDATE – You want to do a triathlon but you can’t swim…

Diary of a non-swimmer becoming a triathlete…

If you’re thinking about signing up for a triathlon in 2014 but you keep talking yourself out of it because you’re not a good swimmer, or perhaps you can’t even swim, then you should meet Faye.

We’re going to be posting regular updates from Faye as she’s signed up for a triathlon that takes place in 2014 but she can’t yet swim.  When we say can’t swim we don’t mean she can swim but not very well, we mean, she can’t swim! We’re going to follow her journey and document her progress all the way through her training to her nailing the triathlon!  Here’s her introduction

Follow us at www.facebook.com/couldtriharder to keep up to date on Faye’s progress!

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4. UPDATE – 4th April 2014

In February, I kinda lost my mojo with my swimming. Well, with everything actually. I hardly ran, only cycled a few times, and swam less than usual. The obligation of my weekly lessons kept me going there but I was getting seriously frustrated with myself. I have managed to learn front crawl but the problem I was hitting was trying to join up my lengths. I’d do one length and be completely exhausted so that I couldn’t do a second length straight away. I’d have to wait, catch my breath, and then go. And that second length would still be a struggle. What was annoying was that I knew perfectly well this wasn’t a fitness issue–if you’d asked me to get out the pool and run for half an hour, then I could have done that. So why couldn’t I do two lengths together?

Anyway, I guess as a diversion, I learned back stroke. This one has always been my most hated. My Mum tried to teach me it as a child but I always freaked out at having the water next to my face and going in my ears. I couldn’t handle it, I refused to learn it-it was too scary! Now that I’ve learned how to float on my back I felt ready to give it a proper go. And do you know what, it’s quite easy! Stretch those arms, make big long legs, pinkie in the water first–I can do it and, what’s more, I can do lengths of that easily!

So I’d go back to front crawl and be hit with the same problem as before. Talking to a tri trainer on twitter, they explained it’s a different kind of fitness and the resistance was probably my issue. They suggested doing a length of front crawl, then resting for 15-30 seconds, then doing another length. I should try to do that several times, repeat the sets and reduce the rest time between sets gradually. So I’ve done that and that did help, I managed to do more than one length in a row thinking of it in that way. The major breakthrough came on Thursday evening at my lesson and it reminded me that the majority of this is in the mind. I had taken a lane to myself and was doing lengths, alternating between two of front crawl and two of back stroke. I decided I was going to build on the back stroke and do four in a row. When I said this to my swim coach, she said “great, that’s 100 metres” and suddenly it clicked! I hadn’t been considering my swimming in terms of distance. I’d got so bogged down with the idea of consecutive lengths that I hadn’t stopped to consider the distance I was actually covering. My swim in the event will be 800m–I’d probably done most of that during the course of practicing that evening! What an idiot! That moment made me realise I can do it. I just need to think about it differently.

Another thing that helped was speaking with people who’ve done the race before. I am keen to find out more about the event, as I’m assuming that preparation is key and so the more I know about my event, the better I can prepare for it.  I contacted a Facebook group that I had found out was involved — a running group that also included triathletes who compete in my chosen triathlon each year. I posted a message to the group, asking if they could point me in the direction of some advice, explaining my position and my aims.  The response was phenomenal. Lots of them replied–they gave me the distances, they posted route maps for the run and cycle legs, they let me know that someone will count my laps in the pool, they told me that you can do any stroke you want for the swim and that I’ll be put in the pool with people of a similar speed. They had loads more tips and hints and various members of the group offered to come and cycle, run and swim with me to help me with my training. I was completely blown away by their offers of help and support and I can’t wait to go and meet them.

I guess what I’ve learned this last month or so is that it’s easy to get bogged down with things that aren’t pushing you forward and often, what will help you progress is changing your mindset rather than making any huge changes to the training schedule.

This last week I’ve swum more, I’ve swum better, I’ve swum further. I’ve also ridden longer than before and added in a brick session in biting cold rain and wind! I think I can say that this was my best week of training so far and it can definitely only get better as I build on what I’ve done so far. I’m not going to be fast, I won’t be breaking any records, but I *will* get this done!

Feeling inspired?  If so check out our events listings here and signed yourself up and then get some reduced triathlon gear here

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 3. UPDATE – 18th January 2014

 

So, the last few months of 2013 became the season in which I tried new things. I purchased a new bike (above) via the Ride to Work scheme before I had decided to do a triathlon. Had I bought it after my bright idea to complete a triathlon despite not being able to swim…(!) I would have purchased a road bike. Instead, I was thinking more about having a more comfortable position on the bike I planned to use to potter about on in my home town. It’s a hybrid bike so it’s got a lighter frame than a mountain bike and slimmer tyres. It’s supposed to be a bit leaner and faster than a mountain bike but my guess is that it’s not going to be as fast as a road bike would be. Certainly, my riding position isn’t particularly aerodynamic!

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However, this is what I’ve got so this is what I’ll use. I’ve invested in a turbo trainer – there was a special offer on this one and the reviews were particularly good, given that it’s an entry level model. The first few times that I tried riding with the turbo trainer, I just set everything at a medium level and pedalled for thirty to fortyfive minutes, so that I would get used to how it felt to ride the turbo. I had expected to find it similar to running on a treadmill – that is, I thought I’d be easier than riding on the road. I was wrong about that – it’s harder! A fair bit harder! The next step was to train in a more structured fashion. I did a quick search for turbo training sessions on youtube and came up with a 45 minute video that turned out to be intervals of varying intensity. Surprisingly, I made it to the end of the video on my first go! I had expected to slide of the saddle mideffort! I have since researched a bit more and have ordered a starter pack of videos from The Sufferfest. I am slightly concerned by anything with ‘suffer’ in the title but I will go with the ‘no pain, no gain’ mantra and see how I get on.

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Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my swimming. I had my final lesson of the block in the week before Christmas. I had been practicing between lessons and I’d had a little breakthrough the night before with my form, in that I’d managed to get myself into a good pattern of rocking my body as I make each stroke and, crucially, looking towards my shoulder as I take my next breath. That last part is something I’ve been struggling with and I am finding that success in swimming rests on my ability to master my breathing. At my last lesson, I was absolutely determined to swim a full length on my own, no stopping, no help.

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The first time I tried it, I got so excited that I could see the end of the pool was close that I screwed up my breathing and had to stop only a couple of strokes from the end! I was furious with myself but it made me even more certain that I wasn’t leaving the pool until I’d completed that length. I swam a few breadths to rest and compose myself and then said to my tutor it was time to try again. This time I made it and I was absolutely ecstatic! And so I carried on and swam back down to complete another length. As always with swimming, I left
high as a kite and keen to come back for more. I’ve since been back with my husband (he’s a very confident and capable swimmer so great to practice with) and we completed eight lengths, with breaks between them…I’ve still got work to do on that breathing!

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So, what’s next? Well, I’ve been taking a look at my diet as I figure it would be a good idea to get this in good shape in order to ensure I’m properly fuelled for my training sessions. I have an okay diet but it could certainly be much better – I’m pretty sure I could manage on a less chocolate, for example! I’ve had a good look around and my aim is to keep things as balanced as possible, so I’ve plumped for an approach based on the GI diet. My blood sugar can be quite tricky sometimes and it’s something I need to keep an eye on; I think the GI diet will be a good help with that. Now that we are into January, my husband and I have begun a good, healthy, balanced diet and we’re doing a ‘dry’ January too – we’re not big drinkers so we are not finding this a problem. I’m looking forward to a 2014 that is healthy, happy and full of activities and new challenges. Bring on the triathlon!

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Feeling inspired?  If so check out our events listings here and signed yourself up and then get some reduced triathlon gear here

 

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2. UPDATE – 8th December 2013

 

My first swimming lesson

 

Well, it’s been five weeks now since I started swimming lessons.  The first one was really strange.  I had to ask people to remind me what I should pack in my bag to go – it’s just as well I did ask, because I got many handy tips…a warm hat for afterwards to keep my head warm, a pound for the lockers, flip flops to wear in the changing rooms, a hairband to keep my hair tidy under my hat.  I’d have forgotten the lot!

 

I approached the sports centre with much trepidation – I hadn’t been near a swimming pool in many, many years and my abiding memories of them are not pleasant.  Don’t get me wrong, nothing terrible ever happened to me: I had no near drowning experiences or anything like that, I just hated swimming.  So when I walked down to the pool area, I’ve never felt as exposed in all my life.

 

Standing by the side of the pool, in just my brand new swimming costume, swimming hat and goggles, I waited for the swimming coach to finish with the children’s class.  The kids were splashing around, and concluded their class with a backstroke race.  Backstroke strikes fear into my heart and panic in my chest – it’s the proximity of the water to my face that I find so difficult and I watched as they laughed and played, quietly hoping that one day, I’d be as comfortable in the water.

 

The coach came over to see me and I explained my problem – I want to do a triathlon but I can’t yet swim.  She asked was I comfortable putting my face in the water or if I could float.  I’ve never really managed either! So we went to the kid’s pool and sat down in the water – it was warm and felt quite nice, just up to my waist.  We talked through how we’d create a plan to get me to the triathlon by August.  My first lesson was spent holding onto the side and practicing how to move my legs and then putting my face into the water and blowing bubbles.  After that, she gave me a noodle and I tried floating on my back – I could feel the panic take over as the water came up around me but then, slowly, I trusted the noodle and…do you know what?  Floating on your back is quite nice!

 

Week two of triathlon swimming lessons

 

In week two, the coach was off and another trainer took her place.  He had me straight into the ‘big’ pool and had me doing half breadths with the noodle and the kick board.  He asked if I wanted to try without the float – I snorted and said I’d give it a bash.  And off I went.  I did it. I was so surprised to find myself swimming that I was laughing as I went – the trainer must’ve thought I was quite mad!

 

I was doing breast stroke – I imagine it wasn’t pretty but I did it.  I was high as a kite driving home – it was my birthday and my husband was busily cooking me a beautiful roast dinner.  I bounced in the door and couldn’t wait to tell him the news – I swam! We celebrated with a bottle of fizz and a chocolate fondant!

 

Practice makes perfect!

 

Since then, I’ve pushed myself to keep going, keep doing things I don’t want to do.  I’ve managed to float on my back unaided (my coach stood behind me and I made her swear she’d not move as I was so afraid I’d sink).  She didn’t move and I floated on my own.  It’s hard because I still feel a bit panicky about it, so I don’t breathe well which is, as we all know, not good in the pool!  I’ve also started doing front crawl: my husband, having grown up in Australia with a strong culture of sport, is a strong swimmer and he took me along to practice.  We laughed as apparently when I’m swimming I have a strained look of desperation mixed with determination on my face!

 

I now prefer doing the front crawl to breast stroke and last week I did some lengths, which was amazing!  I’ve never done that either!  I love to come back from my swimming class being able to say I did something new again.  I’m finding the lengths quite hard because I tend to mess up my breathing – I do okay for the first few strokes and then I forget to breathe properly and have to grab at the edge of the pool to stop from sinking!  The first time I did that, I found myself with a new problem – I was half way down the pool and couldn’t reach the bottom to stand up.  How was I supposed to push off to start swimming again?!  My coach got me to tread water and then push myself forward and off I went.  I get such an incredible buzz from swimming and I never thought that’d happen.

 

I’ve made a pact with my coach.  She was asking about the details of the triathlon so she can help me train for the right distances.  When I told her about the run, she said there was no way she could manage it.  I laughed and pointed out that if I could manage the swim section, then she could of course manage the run!  There and then we agreed that if by February I am swimming lengths on my own, then she’ll do the triathlon with me.

 

Already I feel like I’m winning – all of the things I thought I’d never manage, I’m doing, and now I’ve got a potential partner-in-crime.  I just need to ensure I keep on stepping up my game.  I just need to fix my breathing.
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1.  INTRODUCTION – 13th November 2013

 

Signing up for a triathlon as a non-swimmer?
I’m Faye, 33 from the west coast of Scotland and I’ve decided I’m going to do my first triathlon next year.  I’ve recently returned to running after an unintentional five year break!  I’m no athlete, I just like to run and I get a buzz from trotting about in the fresh air.  I recently took part in the 10km Great Scottish Run which I ran in memory of my work friend Aubrey Smith who died tragically during last year’s race, aged just 28 years old.  A big team of us ran to raise money for Cardiac Risk in the Young and to date we’ve raised almost £9,000.

 

What made you decide to try a triathlon as non-swimmer?

 

The above was the motivation for me to get back into running but why have I chosen a triathlon as my next challenge?  Well, my friend Dave (who we featured here) got into triathlons when he was living in New Zealand.  His enthusiasm for the sport is infectious and I don’t think I’d ever have thought of it before he brought it to my attention.  Suddenly competing in a triathlon seems not only achievable but also fun!

 

I’ve signed up for a triathlon, but I can’t swim!

 

I feel I stand a fair chance in two of the three disciplines.  I enjoy running and this year I got back into cycling by buying a new bike via the Ride to Work scheme.  There’s one hitch with this triathlon idea though – I can’t swim, yet.  In truth, I’ve never managed more than a breadth, breast stroke, in the shallow end of the pool.  I refuse to go out of my depth as the fear of not being able to touch the ground is too great.  I can’t tread water.  In fact, I don’t even enjoy being in a pool, the pressure of the water on my chest makes me feel slightly claustrophobic.  This is my other great motivation, I want to get past this so that I can enjoy swimming and complete a triathlon.  I’m also a keen sailor and so I suspect being able to swim would come in handy there!

 

So, swimming lessons start asap! Bring on the triathlon!
Run better faster and stronger

How to run better/faster/stronger the Tri-Coaching Way!

What are the key elements to running better/faster/stronger?

There are three key elements to running better/faster/stronger. The first is how you train – including speed intervals. The second, more importantly, is technique and being more efficient. Finally – and possibly most important of all – is muscular and postural strength.

Endurance athletes (and women, sorry to stereotype) are scared of doing strength work, for what I see as two main reasons: Firstly, there is the worry that doing strength work builds muscle bulk, which is then seen as unattractive, or as an unnecessary hindrance to running. This is INCORRECT! Yes you can tone up a little more by doing strength exercises but you won’t automatically become like Jodie Marsh or Arnie just by doing some squats and sit ups! That takes a lot of time, effort, particular training and dietary requirements – and most probably some additional help. Secondly runners see running as the most effective way to train, which is understandable. However if you are busy trying to work on weak muscles and poor kinetic chains, you’re more at risk of injury.

Here are a handful of exercises that you can do – that don’t require extra kit or going to the gym – that will help your running. I’ll also explain how and why each exercise will help.

Plank:

Prop yourself up on your elbows with your feet slightly apart. Make sure your body is aligned, your abdominal muscles are tight, and shoulders are directly above the elbows and down and back, not hunched up. Hold this position for 30 seconds to one minute. Gradually add time as your core gets stronger.

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This will help you run tall, with your hips in alignment, without your back collapsing.

Extensions: – Lift a foot off the floor (without dropping the hips), or go to moving planks where you move up into a press up position and back down again.

Side Plank:

Similar to the plank, but on your side. Elbow under shoulder, hips vertical (not rocking backward), legs out straight.

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This will help give you the elastic strength around your sides so that you can drive your arms back and help get the lift from the opposite leg.

Extensions: – Lift your arm in the air vertically, potentially lift your top leg, or even moving side planks where you sink your hips down, then push back up through your side muscles. All the time your hips stay vertical.

Squats:

A simple favourite! Plant your feet. They should be flat on the ground, about shoulder-width apart. Get below the bar and bend your knees slightly. You’ll want equal weight distribution throughout each foot during the exercise. Feet should be forward or slightly turned out.

Feet should be about shoulder width apart to give you good balance but without putting sideways pressure on the knees.

Look straight ahead. Keeping your back straight, bend at your knees as if you were going to sit down and back in a chair. Keep your heels on the floor. Make sure that you get your quads parallel to the ground, for full range of motion.

Lower yourself. In a controlled manner slowly lower yourself down and back so that your upper legs are nearly parallel with the floor. Do not extend below parallel. Keep the weight distributed on your upper thighs and the heels or balls of your feet, not on your toes or your knees.

Keep the downward (eccentric) motion slow, then squeeze and drive upward – you gain more strength that way.

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The glutes (bum muscles) and quads are what give you your driving force, make you go forward faster!

Extensions: – Add weight for extra resistance. To make it extra difficult, go for jumping squats and really get your glutes and quads firing!

Lunges:

Keep your upper body straight, with your shoulders back and relaxed and chin up (pick a point to stare at in front of you so you don’t keep looking down). Always engage your core.

Step forward with one leg, lowering your hips until both knees are bent at about a 90-degree angle. Make sure your front knee is directly above your ankle, not pushed out too far, and make sure your other knee doesn’t touch the floor. Keep the weight in your heels as you push back up to the starting position.

To make it even more run specific, as you step forward on one leg, take the opposite arm forward. It’s good for balance, and for neuromuscular memory.

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This is (if you can picture it) a super extended running stride, working strength, power and balance.

Extensions: – Add weight – either across the shoulders or in the hands. You could put your back foot off a step and just dip down, increasing the stability element. Or to super charge, go for jumping split squats:

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Single leg balances:

Simple as it sounds. Stand on one leg. With the other, either lift your knee so your thigh is parallel with the ground, or stretch it out behind you (without leaning forward).

Running is a series of single leg balances – if we can’t balance on one leg, how can we expect to run efficiently?

Extension: – Close your eyes, it throws the body’s sense of balance! If that is easy enough, try these, making it slightly more mobile:

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Calf raises and contractions:

Standing on a step on your toes, slowly lower yourself down to the point where you feel a stretch in your calf. This should take 4-5 seconds. Then drive back up to the top.

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This will help with both absorbing the impact on your calves but also pushing off. You gain more strength from the slow lowering than you do from the explosive push (approximately 40%), so take your time and control the motion!

Extension: – Do it on one leg rather than two. If that is easy, minimise the amount of stability you take from a wall/step.

Shin strengthening:

Walk around on your heels with your toes pulled up off the floor for around 45s.

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Weakness in Tibialis Anterior can contribute to overuse injuries elsewhere in the ankle and shin region. This exercise helps again with that stabiliser.

Toe curls:

Standing on a towel with it flat beneath your feet, use your toes to grip and scrunch the towel back toward you. Use all 5 toes for this. Then push the towel back away from you.

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Strengthens the foot, protects agains shin splints and plantar fasciitis, and improves push-off power.

 

Doing all these exercises 2-3 times a week, maybe instead of that extra (4th/5th/6th) run will help make your running more stable and more strong. Remember form is important as is posture – so if you feel things start to fall apart, don’t push it, we don’t want to cause injury. Equally, if you can’t hold your form on the entry level exercises, don’t try and do the extended versions.

Happy running and Train Smart!

This is the first of three posts from tri-coaching who are a coaching team based around developing skills and fitness in Triathlon or any of the three individual sports, providing know how and enjoyment along the way!  Check them out at https://www.facebook.com/tricoachingbristol or www.twitter.com/tri_coaching 

sprint-triathlon-brick-workout

Brick Workouts for Sprint Triathlons

The terms bricks is used to describe the training of two disciplines in a singular workout. Introducing bricks as part of the training program for your sprint triathlon is imperative. It is not enough to train each portion separately as the transition between each discipline has an effect on your ongoing performance. Brick workouts can help with this and make sure your legs are more effective from the start of each section. Many competitors will focus on the bike/run transition but failing to prepare the swim/bike transition could be costly. By training the transition between swim/bike and bike/run the muscles will get used to exercise and adapt for a better performance.

The transition from swim to bike is tough on the legs and if it is not managed correctly it will have a negative impact on your overall performance. During the swim portion of a sprint triathlon the competitors legs get a minimal workout so their effectiveness on the bike is delayed. In the last 100 yards of the swim start to think about your legs. Get the blood flowing to them by giving a more powerful kick. Once on the bike select a lower gear to assist with the transition and give the muscles time to adapt. Below is a suggested swim/bike workout for sprint triathlon beginners.

3 x (500 yards swim + 5 mile bike). Repetitions are important as they ensure your are going through the transition period frequently and train the muscles accordingly. You could also practice any clothing changes for your transition so you have a fixed routine when it comes to the triathlon event.

The transition between bike and run is hard on the legs. Getting off your bike and into the run will make your legs feel heavy, a little like you are running through mud. This effect is largely due to the body switching over from the muscles used for biking to the muscles used for running. Unfortunately some discomfort is unavoidable and many people experience cramping during the run. This can be minimised by effective brick workouts. During the sprint triathlon event carbo gel and water can help to ease the cramps.

3 x ( 5 miles bike- 1 mile run). Again the repetitions are important to repeatedly get the body going through the transition period.

If you a complete novice when it comes to sprint triathlons then starting with a true brick workout could prove tricky. Take it slow. Consider biking in the morning followed by a run later in the day. For the next step perhaps consider biking followed by a brisk walk which is later replaced by a jog and then finally into the run.

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Mental preparation for your sprint triathlon

Since the day you signed up for your sprint triathlon event you will have been training very hard to ensure optimum performance. You will have carefully wrote a training plan, gone through the grueling sessions of brick workouts and no doubt suffered a few injuries along the way.

After all this blood,sweat and tears many participants of a sprint triathlon event are in a similar physical condition when it comes to race day. So what is the difference between the person leading the race and the person trailing at the back. Surprisingly it is not often down to a huge difference in physical capabilities but indeed the mental condition of each competitor.

Mental preparation for a sprint triathlon event is hugely under rated and often neglected by the competitors. An athlete who is able to get “in the zone” will feel confident, motivated, have a high level of concentration and most importantly feel relaxed. Mental power is key to success. Preparing the mind as much as preparing the body will help to encourage positive thoughts, deal with frustration and minimise the effect of pain.

In our guide below we give a few tip on how to prepare mentally for your upcoming sprint triathlon.

Track your progress- Tracking your progress as you train will enable positive thinking. Using heart monitors, pace meters and cycling computers will record your achievements as you strive to reach your goals. Overall the tracking will highlight the progress you are making and give you a great sense of achievements as your reach your goals. And should you feel like throwing in the towel take the time to look back at how far you have come, your past progress is bound to get you back in the saddle and spur you on.

Be realistic- If this is your first sprint triathlon event then don’t heap the pressure on and feel disheartened when you are not reaching your goals. It is good to be ambitious but being unrealistic will only create negativity. Take it slowly setting your goals just that bit higher each day and you will soon see the progress you need.

At the start of the race prepare your mind by thinking of each section individually. Thinking about the whole race may seem overwhelming but focussing on bite size pieces should ease the mind. Think about the race positively, see it as playtime and the pressure will automatically ease off.

Once your in the race it is important not to become distracted by fellow participants. This is your race and it will pay to stay focussed on your goals. Be motivated by others around you but don’t feel pressured to perform in the same way. It is possible they are well seasoned athletes and trying to keep up will only increase the pressure.

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Tips for the cycle leg of a sprint triathlon!

The biking portion of a sprint triathlon is the longest, therefore it is important to feel comfortable and be able to remain efficient. Optimising your cycling skills will mean you can conserve your energy for the 5k run at the end of the triathlon. Here are a few tips to help improve your cycling skills and make for a more comfortable ride!

The first goal is to improve your cadence. This is the number of the full rotations of your pedals in one minute. It is thought that by achieving a cadence of 90 rpm you will reduce leg fatigue which will then make it easier to run when you dismount the bike. To calculate your own personal cadence count how many times your right knee comes up in a 30 second period and double it. Maybe get a partner to help you count. Throughout the ride it is essential to keep the pedal pressure equal, don’t be tempted to push harder on the downward stroke. There are plenty of suggested workouts to improve your cadence, some particularly aimed at triathlon competitors. Below is a quick guide on how to start improving your cadence.

Start by cycling on a low gear at your normal cadence. Gradually increase your cadence until you start to bounce in the saddle. At the moment it is important to slightly reduce your cadence until your stop bouncing. Keep going at this cadence for about 2 minutes before coming down at a normal pace. Repeat until maximum cadence is achieved.

It is important to pay particular attention to your gear shifting as this plays a big part in your cadence. Staying in the right gear will help you maintain your cadence throughout the sprint triathlon event. Using them correctly should mean your are shifting the gears more often.

Try to keep the upper body relaxed. Get yourself into a good position and then concentrate on relaxing the neck, shoulders and arms. In a bid to reduce energy consumption don’t be tempted to move up and down whilst on the bike. It is not necessary and wastes energy which could be used in other parts of the triathlon.

The more time spent practicing, the more efficient you will become as a cyclist. Many sprint triathlon participants will simply practice the distance again and again. This is not enough to perform at your best. Focus on cadence, circular pedal strokes and remain relaxed. Preparing correctly will make sure you save energy leaving you in a better condition to complete the run.

Gearing up for a sprint triathlon

Gearing up for a sprint triathlon

You have signed up for a sprint triathlon and got your training program in place. You’re ready to go apart from buying the necessary equipment. Whilst buying top end bikes and high performance shoes will not guarantee a winning performance, they will ensure effective training and safe racing. Consequently we have put together a quick guide for the best buys for sprint triathlon beginners.

 

Getting in the swim. What you wear is obviously down to personal preference. Some participants may compete in swimming trunks or a simple swimsuit whilst many prefer the security and warmth of a high performance wet suit. Whatever you wear, swimming goggles are a must have item. Most sprint triathlon events take place in open water, protecting the eyes against dirt and debris is essential. They will also aid your vision underwater, particularly if you are swimming in a pool. For maximum protection some competitors prefer masks.

 

A bike is the most expensive piece of kit that you will need for your sprint triathlon. Consider the performance that you expect from your bike. The more expensive bikes are typically lighter but that is not always necessary for beginners. Whilst more money means better quality, if you objective is simply to complete the course then is might be advisable to stick to a lower budget.

 

Think on your feet and invest in some quality footwear. Sturdy running shoes will provide you with comfort, protection and minimise blisters ind injury. As you become more experienced it is advisable to invest in some high performance running shoes which will aid your performance. Socks are not necessary for a sprint triathlon. Whilst they are a must have for longer distances they will only slow down transition during a sprint triathlon. If your worried about friction simply add some talc to the inside of your running shoes.<P.

Attention to detail will pay off when it comes to feeling comfortable during your sprint triathlon. If your are competing in a British event then you should be concerned with keeping warm. A base layer, jersey, leggings, waterproofs and gloves are a must have. If your are lucky enough the be competing in sunnier climes then it is necessary to considering the effects of the heat. Warm weather may cause the feet to swell and so you want to consider purchasing running shoes which are slightly larger than normal.

 

If this is your very first sprint triathlon then perhaps you don’t want to splash the cash on the equipment before your first competition. Some companies will rent wetsuits and bikes which are the most expensive items to buy. However bear in mind that you will still need a bike to train on.

 

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Tips to Improve your transition time during a sprint triathlon!

Training for a sprint triathlon is hard work. Competitors put their bodies through grueling training sessions day after day, working hard to shave just a few minutes off their race time. However when it comes to the transition area, valuable minutes can be lost as participants forget that the clock is still ticking. Be careful not to waste time. Plan your transition carefully. Read below for my top ten tips for an easy and energy conserving transition.

Rehearse and rehearse. Plan exactly how you will go through the transition. Do a few dummy runs to eliminate any problems and be sure to do a dry run on race day. Having a good transition routine will save time and subsequently reserve your energy. A good transition will be done on autopilot with a focussed mind and body.

Transition to the bike can be made quicker by leaving your shoes on the pedals. Sitting on the ground whilst putting on your shoes wastes valuable time. Get into a cruising speed and then slip your feet into your shoes. This will take some practice and this should be well rehearsed before the day of your sprint triathlon competition. Remember that you should never try anything new on race day as it may well hinder your performance.

When it comes to clothing take a minimal approach. The less you have to worry about the easier it will be. Opt for a tri-suit or alternatively have your full biking gear under your wet suit. Don’t wear socks. For a short run socks are not necessary. To avoid friction simply add some talc to the insides of your shoes. Have this prepared at the transition area.

At larger triathlon events the distance between the bike racks and the mount line can be considerable. Therefore is is essential to train running with your bike. Run upright with your right hand holding the seat. Practice this before your triathlon event to eliminate any problems.

Don’t waste time putting things on your bike. Anything you need should already be in position so you can just get going. Attach sunglasses, water bottles on the bike and consider taping gels to the frame. This way you won’t waste time in transition and won’t have to go back for something your forgot.

Finally, it is essential to maintain focus. At larger triathlon events it can be easy to become disorientated. Remember where your bike has been left and take care to remember where the exit and entrances are. On the day of the sprint triathlon do a dry run, checking which is the fastest route through the transition area. It is also easy to become distracted by the cheering cards. Try to ignore the noise and focus on the finish.

The Home of the Sprint Triathlon