Reality Bites – The Ten Week Ironman

Reality Bites

Last week you’ll recall was all about enthusiasm.  I felt great, I’d decided to do have a crack at this little race and it was generally pretty good for work/life balance.  This week past things haven’t been quite so rosy and truth be told if I didn’t know that I was going to be reporting back to you all at the end of the week some of my decisions may have changed.

Monday was a bit horrendous at work with a later than expected finish and some difficult situations to deal with then a club committee meeting at 6:30 meant that there was no way that I was getting to the pool for my swim.  Realistically though there was no way that swim was ever going to get done unless I’d woken at stupid o’clock to head to the pool, as my plans of lunch-time swims rarely come off.  Lesson for the day, be sensible with my planning and don’t make little failures out to be bigger than they are.  One missed swim isn’t going to make or break this venture.

A very stressful day

Tuesday I was coaching the club run session, and knowing that it would be difficult to do that and fit in my own running, I organised a session that would require me to run along with the group (and my trusty whistle) so that there could be no backing out.  I, like most people, are much better when other people are relying on me than when I’m doing something for myself.

Wednesday was my first double day of this build up.  As a coach I’m not a massive fan of double days (except for double runs) unless absolutely necessary because they pretty much guarantee a sleep debt, negatively impacting recovery and therefore training benefit.  In this instance though I’m in a situation where the benefits outweigh the risk and with Simone heading into a stint of night-shift my sleep hygiene for the rest of the week is completely in my control (turns out that leaving me in control is a bad idea.)  So, it was up early for an hour on the wind trainer then straight to work with the aim of leaving early to swim before coaching.  Mid-way through the day Emma, fresh from attending the ITU World Championships, put her hand up to take the swim session leaving me to my own devices.

When the going gets tough, it’s not always the tough who get going

Work was okay and I got away at around four (for a change) and headed reluctantly to the pool.  This was my biggest struggle of the week.  I got to the car park and found the perfect parking spot near the entrance but as I rounded the corner I realised by the noise from inside that the place was packed with kids on school holidays.  In a moment of weakness I decided to forget the session and head home rather than deal with them.  As I started to drive towards the exit though I asked myself some hard questions.  How much did I really want this?  Was I prepared to do what I knew I needed to do?  If I couldn’t answer these now, just ten days in, how was I going to go in another four or five weeks.  I steeled myself, did a lap of the car park to return to the vacant spot.  An hour later there was 3000m in the bank and I felt great, not just because of the swim but because I’d triumphed over the voice in my head and done the harder thing.

Thursday is long run day for me, primarily because it is the day when I am guaranteed no dad duties.  The plan was to get up early and hit the trails but when I woke the wind gusts were crazy, making the trails a dubious option.  I decided to grab an extra hour’s kip and get it done straight from work.  No issues getting out the door at the end of the day and I ran (from Maylands) down to East Perth, across to the stadium and return by the new bridge.  It was warm and I knew I had access to taps going that way.  It wasn’t fast and it wasn’t particularly pleasant but 12km in the bank, 20% longer than the last week.  I wouldn’t normally increase at this rate but the body is recovering well and remembering what to do so I’ll just keep an eye on things.

Friday was an early morning swim with Karen, Jenny and Kellie at the swamp (again having others there makes motivation much easier) and in the evening I jumped on the trainer again for a threshold session.  I started pretty late because I had to pick Leila (my daughter) from the airport after having flown solo for the first time to spend a week in South Australia with Granny and Grandad.  I probably didn’t get to sleep until midnight, so that wasn’t ideal, but it was important for my mindset to tick it off.

Ride four hours to get this view ten minutes from home

Saturday and Sunday were a trail run and ride respectively with the club planned session.  It was great to catch up with Ian who obliged by slowing himself down to keep me company on the run, though I think he got some sort of sadistic pleasure from taking me on that route through the Andes.  The ride was scheduled to depart at seven from Kelmscott and I intended to ride there to get my time in the saddle (aka T.I.T.S.) up to four hours for the day.  After an unexpected closed road I had to change my planned route to a shorter though more risky option and bust a gut to get there with 30 seconds to spare.  Sadly, it was only me and Oleg (A Group leader) who showed up and while I was initially going to turn and head for the flats and leave him to do his thing, I once again made my mind up to do the harder thing, and boy was it hard!  Oleg is a monster on the bike and with him looping back to me after finishing the climbs I swear he probably rode 10km further in the 2.5hrs we were together.  It was great though, we tackled some pretty tough ascents and I got a fantastic workout before leaving him at Kalamunda to head home.

Where to now?

So now it’s taking it easy for the rest of the day before a slightly easier week next week.  For us older folk (40 seems to be the marker) I like to have every third week as a week for training absorption rather than the more traditional four week cycle.  There will still be a number of good solid sessions but it’s important to remember that your body’s adaptation to training is actually a response to trauma, building it back up stronger for next time.  If you don’t give it good conditions to repair every now and then you just end up breaking down.  I see a lot of athletes train the house down but end up with much less than optimal results because they think the work is more important than the recovery.  It’s not, they’re both critical to achieving your best results from what you put in.

The cat has the right idea

So that’s it from me for this week.  Hopefully I’ll see a few more of you at the club sessions this week as tri season looms large and training for other events finishes up.  I need you to help keep me accountable in my weak moments.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

**If you missed week one you can catch up here.

The Ten Week Ironman

Coach Travis is the perfect example of how to be a serious triathlete without being too serious. In this special series of articles he chronicles his return to Ironman…in just 10 weeks

Last Sunday I showed up to the club ride with a course that I knew was going to challenge me, in fact if I’m honest I wasn’t entirely sure that I would be able to complete it having done pretty much zero training since early December last year.  For whatever reason only Shane showed up and with him having a session already set by his coach and being a much stronger rider than me I sent him on his way.  Truth be told in the recent past I probably would have turned around and ridden the ten kay home but for some reason I decided to set off on the planned route by myself, at least for a bit.  Maybe it was because I’d publicly posted the route on the club page and felt like showing everyone that the they should get back in the swing.  Hey if the lazy Prez can get off his arse and train then you should too…

Well something unexpected happened while I was out there.  I began to really enjoy myself.  Riding solo I had nobody pushing me yet I was working my backside off. The sun was shining, the hills were looking massive and the endorphins were kicking in.  With only about half the ride done and plenty of elevation in front of me before I headed homeward I went to replace my empty bidon with a full bottle and hit a bump at the wrong time.  BAM, down goes the bidon and I’m stuck in the middle of Death Valley on a warm day facing 30km home with no water.  That just made me smile and push on happy to face the challenge.  Luckily I saw Kellie and Carley on the way home and they provided me with some cool, fresh water so I didn’t melt.  Even the couple of swoops I received couldn’t darken my spirits.


Where I found my mojo

I guess what I learned last weekend was that I just love a challenge.  I live for pushing myself to see exactly how much I can hack when the going gets tough.  Last year at Ironman I thought I’d found that point but with hindsight my problem that day wasn’t that it was too hard, it was that I’d forgotten how to have fun with hurting.  Sunday I found my happy (hurty) place.  It was like flipping a light switch.

When I got home I guess Simone could see something had changed.  That evening we were sitting on the couch and she asked me whether I was training for something.  I made the mistake of smiling and she knew.  Ten weeks out and I was making a play at Ironman WA.

Now me deciding to Ironman at late notice isn’t anything new.  The first time I raced Cairns (2014) I signed up less than six weeks out. The third time I graced the course it was more like seven days, so what’s the big deal?  I guess what I want to show is that there is no big deal. Not that finishing an Ironman isn’t a major achievement because it is.  I mean that it isn’t beyond the reach of the average person (trust me I’m very average.)

So for the lead in to Ironman WA I am going to keep you all in the loop.  You’ll hear what’s gone well and what hasn’t in my week, a rough outline of my training, a few funny (or perhaps tragic) anecdotes and a lot of the weird things that go through my head.  I want to show you all that it doesn’t take a perfect life, incredible discipline or crazy hours to become an Ironman.

“Now, now” I hear you say, “you’ve got a long training history that must help” so let’s start by letting you know exactly where I was at when I made this decision.  In the prior 42 weeks (since IMWA 2017) I had done exactly 74 hours of training consisting of 36hrs of bike, 32 hours of run and a whopping 6 hours of swimming.  Of course that’s not spread evenly, almost half of those 42 weeks had no training at all. For those of you who know about such things my CTL was about 8.  So I guess we can say I’m kind of starting from scratch.

So what’s been going on this week?  Well in real Trav style my first day of “official” training was a rest day but otherwise every day has involved a swim, ride or run and getting some testing in to see exactly where I’m at, with some results way scarier than others.  It culminated in Sunday’s ride which was amazing. I got to kill myself riding up Great Eastern Highway to get to Mundaring in time to catch up with some great company for a steady aerobic ride for a couple of hours before taking the long way home throwing in some extra hills for good measure.


Some results were scarier than others

It’s important that I don’t ramp up too quickly because that’s a sure-fire way to injury or burnout. At the same time ten weeks isn’t a long time to go from bugger-all to Ironman fitness so every session is going to have to count.  I’m going to be attacking my fitness on three fronts to maximise my gains and beat the law of diminishing returns.

This coming week will be an effort fitting in three rides, three runs and three swims around a club meeting, coaching twice and trying to maintain the most important things like a relationship and remaining employed.  If you do manage to see me though, feel free to tell me what a dumb decision this is and how you could never do it.  I look forward to showing you that one of those statements is possibly right and the other undoubtedly wrong.

Trav (aka Stikman)

 

Hi Potential Triathlete,

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You’ll find Triathlon Australia accredited coaches at every PHTC session.  Lets face it –  they want YOU to feel the exhilaration of crossing that finish line.

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The Art and Purpose of Suffering

By Ian Hainsworth

Endurance Sport is something that we all love (after all that is why you took up this sport, right?).

Let’s face the reality – there is an element of suffering and struggle that goes with the territory.

Much has been written about suffering over the years, and I don’t want to bore you with a topic that others have covered in greater detail than I could hope to.

Instead I want to talk about that  poor cousin to suffering  – struggle.

Suffering is somehow heroic (chest burning, quads screaming at you, shoulders on fire in the pool) and we can talk about it as a physical element.

Struggle often doesn’t have a physical expression that can be observed and recognised by others, but is those times when your expectations of just how that race or even training session would turn out,  is just NOT what reality is right now.

It can be accumulated fatigue of training load, not keeping your body fuelled with the nutrition it needs, mental fatigue of long hours at work.  Who knows, just what is causing it on the day.

But what your race or training session should be looking like is not what your Garmin is saying right now.

I would like to suggest that instead you celebrate those times, because making it out the other side of struggle is what really makes for a great performance.   The timing chip or Garmin may not say this, but deep down you KNOW that you made it out the other side of struggle-town and you still put in the required effort.

You see, struggle is all about focussing on the things you CAN control.  Yes, our human minds swiftly move to the negative side of the coin and look at what isn’t working, what isn’t happening and it tends to fuel further negative thoughts.

Struggle time is the time of choice.  The choice of working with what you CAN do to your absolute best and most excellent effort, or just “make it through”.   Nobody will know that you haven’t put in your best effort – except that person that you look at in the mirror every morning. They know the truth.

Listening to other athletes experiences and reflecting on my own, I suspect there are some real truths that we can apply at the time of struggle.  Effort.  And Focus. And Technique.

By listening to our bodies and knowing just where we are at in our training, we know just what outcome (speed, pace, power) occurs with certain efforts.   Yes, we can say on our Strava comments that our run was an “easy run” but for many of us it was actually moderate to hard effort and we wanted the numbers to look a certain way.

Effort

Honestly, far better to only glance at your Garmin occasionally,  and go from true effort assessment on the inside.  Become the true expert in listening to your body and knowing just what easy feels like, what moderate feels like and what hard feels like.  Then on struggle time, you can apply a correct effort with confidence, knowing that this consistent effort will get you to the end of that race or session with the best outcome.

Focus

Focus is (at least in my head) the application of your resources – your senses, willpower, knowledge, your intellect, your thoughts – on a single matter.  There is no such thing as success when we multi task, and there is no room for negative thoughts when desiring success.

When struggling, that is the perfect time to develop the mental muscles to choose to think only what you can do and choose to block out that voice of the devil on your shoulder whispering seductively that you can’t do it.  To block out external sensory input that minimises the pain and struggle. Honestly, better to embrace and accept the pain and struggle and learn to not only cohabit with those bedfellows, but respect that whilst they have a significant impact on you they are NOT your master unless you allow them to.

Much practice is required to achieve this (more practice than you may first think is possible), which is why those days of struggle in training are a wonderful opportunity to practice focus and positivity at the very time when you feel like crap.

Technique

It is said that nature abhors a vacuum.  So, if you CANT rely on Garmin or external sensory input, what can you do?

The answer is rely on technique and in fact choose to develop and refine technique at those times when you are struggling.

I don’t mean “perfect” technique (because that is not at all practical and will add to your frustration) but rather a technique of excellence that fits what you CAN do.

For example, choose to push circles on those bike pedals, choose to run tall and land lightly on your feet, choose to focus on stroke rate or pull through length with your swim.   These are all choices that allow your mind to focus on a positive. Without the availability of positive focus, it is even easier to succumb to going slower in the face of struggle than otherwise may be achieved.

Is dealing with struggle easy?  No, of course not.  It is frustrating, often unexpected and frankly it sucks.

However, the gift of struggle is that the same mental muscles that you implement and practice in your training session and raceday are the very muscles you use when life itself is a struggle also.

Coach’s corner with Coach Yanti

Making the transition from breaststroke to freestyle

Breaststroke provides useful mental images and drills that’ve helped many beginning swimmers/triathletes who are more comfortable with breaststroke start make the transition to a solid freestyle pull. Most beginner swimmers who can manage the breaststroke are a lot closer to freestyle than they think. The pull in breaststroke and freestyle are nearly identical.

I’ve asked newer swimmers to try doing the breaststroke with the same pull they do in freestyle (usually a straight arm windmill pull). They can’t. Somewhere here, it clicks that doing freestyle with a breaststroke pull is the way to go.

Ignoring legs/kick for the moment, I have them glide, then pull breastroke with one arm only. (Similar to several sculling drills). At some point, I get them to rotate their bodies slightly to the pull side so they can breathe as they pull.

This is a start, and one of several likely helpful breast-to-free drills. There’s no one magic formula or trick, and different images and metaphors will help make things click for different swimmers. It’s just that this one has helped so many okay-breaststrokers struggling-freestylers to make that transition, so I wanted to share it.

In my own training I do breaststroke very mindfully in the pull, thinking about freestyle, and I don’t swim it competition style anymore, since some of the motion is used to pull the head and upper body up out of the water (instead of forward the way you want in freestyle). I pull back as much as possible and stay much flatter in the water than I would doing a competition breaststroke.

I also do breaststroke pulling (with or without pull buoy). Really helps isolate pull mechanics since you WILL NOT go anywhere if you aren’t doing it right!

One last point. Most swimmers steadily exhale while underwater doing breaststroke, but “hold” their breath during freestyle, only exhaling toward the end of the stroke and finishing the exhale while their head is out of water, then inhaling. In breast and in free, anytime your face is in the water, exhale!

Could breathing better make you faster?

The part of breathing we generally think about is all to do with enough oxygen getting to the right places fast enough for us to do what we want to. Our bodies are pretty good at this in the absence of any serious health issues.

But you probably don’t realise our breathing also has a major impact on our overall posture and movement and our nervous system, particularly that crucial balance we need between our ‘ready for action’ stress response versus rest, recover and repair.

Breathing in sport is becoming hot news! We put emphasis on strength training especially when it comes to legs, but does anyone really target the breathing muscles?

The case for breathing training

In the last couple of decades it was discovered that like any other muscles our breathing muscles fatigue, swimming being the biggest culprit here. When they fatigue, there then follows a literal blood steal reflex shifting blood from the leg/arms to the breathing muscles. This happens because the brain reckons it’s more important to keep breathing than run faster!

So what can you do? Specific inspiratory muscle training (weight lifting for the diaphragm) will:

  • delay the blood steal reflex;
  • reduce our sense of effort (our heads are a huge barrier to performance);
  • hasten the removal of lactic acid;
  • speed up your recovery.

Breathing in triathlon

If that’s not a good enough reason then consider all the challenges put on your breathing muscles during triathlon.

Swimming – Our breathing muscles have to overcome hydrostatic pressure and need to achieve rapid inhales to maintain buoyancy and propulsion.
Running – we are permanently unstable when we run and breathing muscles have to both pull air in, push it out and keep the pelvis stable.
Cycling – horrible position for breathing! The breathing muscles need all the help they can get to overcome the restrictions imposed by crouching and again stabilising the pelvis to maximise efficient pedalling.

Breathing in recovery

Recovery is not talked about nearly enough in coaching yet the ability to bring ourselves back to baseline calm (think heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure, relaxation, digestion, inflammation, immune response) is crucial to our ability to recover from our last race/training session and the success of our next one.

Outside of training/racing is another crucial area where sub-optimal breathing can play havoc. Recovery, otherwise known as all the hours we spend at work and home, awake and asleep is where breathing plays a crucial role.

You lot are by nature pretty busy and pretty driven! This is great for being out there on the run/swim etc but for adequate rest and recovery we need to bring our nervous system back to calm.

Breathing is a powerful regulator of our autonomic nervous system – that balance between emergency response (heart rate, breathing rate, blood pressure up, muscles tense) and our rest, digest, repair, immune boosting state. Nearly all the athletes I see have a few things in common…

  1. They over-breathe at rest. This lowers the level of carbon dioxide in the body resulting in poor oxygen delivery, muscle spasms/tension, and airway and blood flow restrictions.
  2. They breathe into the upper chest. This results in fatigue of the accessory muscles (neck/shoulders i.e. muscles we need for effort) and a whipping up of the stress response (see above – not great for recovery).
  3. They are ab suckers. Your diaphragm is your prime muscle for breathing and core strength to name just two of it’s functions. It cannot work effectively against an abdominal corset.
  4. They frequently feel the need for sighs and often mouth breathe – this is hyperventilating, (see point 1).

Have a look at your own breathing

  • Do you nose breathe 100% outside of hard effort?
  • Do you have exercise induced asthma/ chest tightness/wheeze/tightening in the throat?
  • Do you sigh/yawn a lot?
  • Does your chest or belly move as you inhale/exhale at rest?

If you would like to read more about this, check out the series of articles by Robin McNelis for Runners World UK. He talks about running but of course this is relevant for all sport and life in general. It really is worth a read.

Pip Windsor is a physiotherapist and specialises in Breathing Pattern Disorders (BPD) and Asthma Education. She runs Physio2breathe which has offices in Darlington and North Perth and can help athletes improve their breathing for peak performance. In her free time Pip is an ultra trail runner and level 2 recreational running coach. She has dipped her toe in the triathlon pool but decided she prefers running up steep hills. Pip can be contacted via email at physio2breathe@gmail.com

Garmins, Gadgets and Geeking out as a Triathlete

Don’t you think that triathletes are pretty fashion conscious bunch? They dress well, and are typically pretty aware of the newest and coolest gadgets out there that will help their chosen sport be more “fun”.

Even those who know me well and love me would collapse in hysterics of laughter if I claimed I was fashion conscious. But… I do LOVE some of the super cool gadgets out there.

Take this offering for example, a US company called Everysight are seeking pre purchase orders for their Raptor glasses. These bad boys display your cadence, power, speed, GPS route and pretty much anything you want within the lens of the glasses. No looking down at your Garmin anymore!

However, could it be that we are too conscious of our gadgets and Garmins? Are we a slave to our power meter? Are we out there to look cool or be Strava KOM? Or should we be focussing on training our bodies and minds for the next race?

You know your own training and racing goals better than I do.

What I have learned is that human performance is a matching of our body’s physical capacity with our mind’s ability to drive the body – often despite great physical discomfort and the desire to stop.

Personally, I use my Garmin for recording data that I can use later, but prefer the Garmin between my ears for sustainable training. If you are thinking that “there is no one right way to train” then I think your are correct.

We all have training sessions, based on a written training programme somebody (or ourself) provided, right?

When the session says easy, that means at a pace where easy conversation is possible (assuming you arent swimming of course!) and you perhaps feel almost embarrassed at how slow you are going (our head can say “this isnt training…….”). A Garmin easy paced run at 5am in the morning is likely not easy in reality when it is 35 celsius out there. But Garmin can’t distinguish the difference.

Moderate effort means – well a significant step up from that but sustainable for quite a long time.

Hard means REALLY hard and you have a significant desire to stop because things are hurting quite a bit.

A lot of reasssurance is to be gained from knowing that even in the event of your Garmin not being charged the night before a race and going flat halfway through (I am looking at you, Jordan) or the power meter deciding it hates performing in the rain (Travis) your internal Garmin is familiar at judging power, judging effort, judging speed because you have practiced using this internal Garmin every day.

It also gives a signifiant sense of confidence that you have found your own personal zone where your mind will control your body – at your current fitness, strength and skill level.

The Brutal Honesty of Ironman

Triathlon is one of those endurance sports that seems to attract those that either love the concept of inflicting pain on themselves, or striving to be the best they can possibly be.  Often both of those things at once.

Whether your love is red-lining in sprint distance, or the geriatric shuffle of an Ironman distance tri – the attraction is that only YOU know whether you have truly given it 100%.

For me – IM is my preferred poison/addiction over the last five years. After having not raced at all for two years, I was as nervous as any first time athlete as the big day got closer.  My confidence was low and I had no recent race results to comfort myself that I was well prepared.

You know, it is funny how no matter how meticulously we humans prepare, we tend to migrate towards the negatives. Those missed training sessions, the sessions where we really just “got through it” rather than focussed on achieving the purpose of the session.   It takes quite a bit of mental mastery to go back through the training diary and remind ourselves of all the sessions we consistently did,  those weeks of ticking off each session and each hour spent preparing.

Strength sessions, tolerance intervals, long slow runs, endurance rides, brick sessions – we seem to forget just how well we did prepare as we only seem to see the sleek, lean and well muscled OTHER athletes that sit drinking coffee in the streets of an IM city at race time.  WE imagine their training has been perfect (it hasn’t) and they are better prepared (they aren’t).

In any case, the idea of Ironman is to test yourself.  Just like that exam at school that is absolutely crucial that you pass well, it demands you prepare well in advance and don’t skip classes and do all the required work.  If you don’t prepare well, you may well finish but it will be a world of pain (ok, it is going to be painful anyway, regardless!).

Ironman doesn’t respect any of your other achievements in life.

You can say anything to your friends over coffee about what sort of time you will post on race-day,  but the honesty of Ironman is that you will very, very  likely get the result you deserve. Like that pebble in your shoe, any mistakes or poor preparation will be magnified on raceday.

Ian Hainsworth is the PHTC secretary and an Ironman veteran. When he isn’t planning his next IM strategy he is mending the pets of Mundaring with the same dedication he brings to his race preparation.

Expert Opinion with Neil Drouet

Overtraining – could we actually call it “under-recovering”?

For those of you training towards Busselton in December, your training will be approaching the hardest stages over the next few weeks. This means LONG rides, brick runs, open water swims, and usually a lot more intensity. For each athlete, the risk of overuse injuries is often higher at this stage of the season, and we commonly blame “overtraining”. But is this a misleading description?

Assuming you are following the plan your coach gave you, then you have been increasing both your intensity and distance consistently and in small increments to allow your body to gradually prepare for the rigours of race day. So either your coach has stuffed up, or you are actually “just-enough-training”… Certainly compared to an elite athlete putting in 30+ hours a week of training, you aren’t.

The unknown variable in the training equation for every athlete is recovery. I can’t stress how important this is, especially for triathlon, with its high training load. You are forcing your body to adapt to three sports at once, remember!

A lot of athletes give me a funny look when I ask them about this stuff, but it can be the thing that makes of breaks your race, and certainly the thing that may mean we see a lot more of each other if it isn’t done well!

What can we do to enhance recovery?

  • SLEEP – the #1. Get enough (you need more than someone who just sits at a desk and goes for a 30min walk each day), and make sure it is quality. Dark, cool bedroom. Stop reading triathlete.com until 11pm and put the bloody iPad away. And if you are training at 5.30am, you just have to go to bed early…..
  • Lots of fruit, veg and protein. And the big one, get enough calories. This may mean eating some junk food as well, especially after hard or long workouts. Just get the quality stuff too. (Additional – 6 weeks out from race day isn’t a good time to start the latest Instagram diet or keto-plan. Keep it simple and wholesome).
  • Self-care. Massage/roller/trigger ball/stretch/hydrotherapy/etc – basically show your body some love. Never to the point of pain – a mild discomfort (3/10 on the pain scale) is the most you want.
  • Take 5-10mins a day to meditate/deep breathe/read a book/lie down. The more we can stimulate the “Rest and Digest” system, the better your body will repair itself.

What prevents recovery?

  • NOT ENOUGH SLEEP. Worth mentioning twice!
  • Stress – work, family and general life stress can have a huge impact on your recovery, by keeping your body in “Flight or Fight” mode, and therefore dampening the rest and digest bit. Try to limit this as much as you can, and if you can’t (eg work), allow for more of the above points.
  • Not going easy enough in easy sessions. Yes, 130bpm heart rate still counts as training. Learn to back off when you need to.
  • Previous injuries/illness – these may mean that the area (eg an arthritic knee) or your immune system as a whole may need more time.
  • Age – sorry, but this is a big one. A 45year old athlete needs more time between key sessions than a 25year old athlete. Your coach will allow for this, but its one reason why comparing training to your teammates can be a bad idea, especially if you are competitive.

So ultimately, the take home message is simple:
Quality Training + Good recovery – Factors Impeding Recovery = Your Performance

Maximise the first two (notice I said quality training, not MORE training) and limit the last one, and you’ll avoid coming to see me, and have a great race day.

About Neil

Neil is a Physiotherapist and Triathlon Coach, as well as a multiple Ironman finisher. He specialises in blending Physio treatment with coaching advice to deliver optimal outcomes for his clients, and through his competitive background he understands the importance of the “big picture” in managing injuries effectively. He consults from Fieldwork Health in Inglewood and the Perth CBD, and is always happy to answer questions via email.

 

Coach’s Corner with Coach Peta

Heart rate and training zones

Athletes often ask how to use heart rates in training. I would like to write a simple article however I believe that heart rate zones are not always the best option and should be used in conjunction with other zone indicators.

Saying that, heart rates zones are not a bad guide to help you determine your pace for a training session designed to be in a certain “zone” for running and cycling. By maintaining your heart rate within certain parameters, you can target session goals and be reasonably confident you are on the mark.

For example an aerobic long run is normally at zone 2 or below. Maintaining your heart rate below the zone 2 limit indicates that you have met your goal for an aerobic session.

There are different methods for setting zones. Some people prefer the method of using % of maximum heart rate. Jack Daniels, running guru, suggests this as a method in his book The Running Formula.

Alternatively, Joe Friel’s method involves testing to obtain the lactate threshold heart rate then setting your heart rate zones based on percentage of HR lactate threshold.

Lactate threshold is the tipping point, where your body can still produce enough oxygen to use the lactate in your system, lactate being an alternative energy source for your body. At a higher heart rate you can no longer obtain enough oxygen to keep up with lactate production and in order to clear lactate from your body, you need to slow down or stop.

The limitation I find with using the heart rate zone method is that it can affect the quality of some training sessions. I’ll explain.

If you are running 4-5 threshold intervals at HR zone 4, then it is going to take some time to get your heart rate into the zone. You are likely to run extra hard in the first couple of intervals. The issue with this is that your first couple of intervals are going to be extra fast but the last 3 intervals are likely to suffer because you have spent all your energy going too hard, too early. Quality, therefore decreases as the session goes on.

My preferred approach is to use pace zones in conjunction with heart rate in running and rate of perceived effort (RPE) in conjunction with heart rate with cycling. Pace zones can also be calculated using the Joe Friel method, where FTP is the functional threshold pace.

You can read more about the Joe Friel Method on the training peaks site. More importantly, come and talk to one of your friendly club coaches!