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TRAINING ARTICLES, VIDEOS & ALL THINGS TRIATHLON

Hydration for Indoor Triathlon Training

Hopefully it goes without saying that staying hydrated, particularly while training on the treadmill or turbo trainer, is important.

But how exactly should you be hydrating yourself in these sessions?

Watch Coach Rob explain below…

In a nutshell, you need to be adding water and electrolytes back into your body at the same rate they’re leaving.

One of the big challenges with indoor training is how hot you get compared to outside. That’s not because it’s so much hotter inside, but because you don’t have the air flowing over your skin to keep you cool, as is the case outside.

When you do have the air flow over your skin, it is carrying water and sweat away from your skin, taking the heat away from your body. And of course you don’t have this effect indoors.

You can see the effect for yourself by doing a relatively easy turbo session and seeing just how great a build up of sweat there is on your skin. Then turn a fan on. You’ll find it’ll help the water evaporate off your skin and cool you down.

So – it’s the heat that’s the problem, not the sweat.

As your body sweats it takes sodium and other electrolytes with it. The amount of electrolytes lost varies person to person. If you find yourself often cramping up after a hard turbo session, the chances are you’re a heavy sweater that loses a lot of electrolytes in your sweat.

The heaviest sweaters, like Coach Rob, can lose up to 1500mg of sodium per hour. For context – most of the ‘standard’ electrolyte tablets available provide around 300mg of sodium per tablet- so a lot less than a heavy sweater would need to replenish what has been lost.

Team Oxygenaddict partners, Precision Hydration offer a free online sweat test to help you assess how much sodium you’re likely to be losing and also offer an in-person test for more accurate results. (Team Oxygenaddict athletes also get 15% off Precision Hydration’s products online).

So in summary: use a fan to keep cool while indoor training, and assess the quantity of electrolytes along with liquids you need to replenish based on the amount you’re losing.

Using Fat as Fuel in Long Distance Triathlon

Fat burning is a hugely important topic and area of consideration for people completing Iron distance, and even 70.3 distance triathlons.

Fat burning is going to take place naturally anyway – regardless of what you eat or how you fuel yourself. It’s how our bodies typically source fuel when exercising at low intensity.

Coach Rob explains below why this is important in long distance triathlon and how to make the most of it.

For most athletes, higher intensity means your body has a greater reliance on carbohydrate metabolism, and actually shuts off the fat burning metabolism as a source of fuel.

So – training hard and fast all the time means your body won’t make the adaptation to become more efficient at burning fat – i.e. learning to get more of its required energy from fat.

This is why it’s quite common to see very good age-group, and even pro triathletes over the Olympic distance, really struggle to step up to Ironman. Their bodies often simply can’t keep going long enough to perform well over longer distances.

With sustained training in improving your efficiency of fat burning your body can provide an increased amount of energy per minute from your natural fat stores to fuel you over an extended period of time.

This is incredibly important as our bodies can provide a seemingly endless supply (in the context of long distance triathlon) of natural fat. The amount of carbohydrates the human body can metabolise is limited – typically to around 300 calories per hour. An Ironman athlete will burn way more than that per hour, for many hours – so without fat as a fuel source there’d be a significant calorie deficit. It’s this deficit that leads to some of the struggles that we so often see people having in the latter stages of an Ironman race.

So it’s important to ‘train’ your body to burn fat.

If you’re a relative beginner long-distance triathlete and don’t have much of an endurance background, this is one of the biggest things to make sure you get right in the lead up to your race.

That’ll mean dedicating time to train at / below your aerobic threshold. That is – the level at which your body is still mainly using fat as it’s source of fuel. As you spend more time training at this level your body will adapt, providing a greater proportion of your fuel from this fat source. Over time therefore, you’ll gradually be able to go faster while still fulfilling your energy needs from your own natural fat supplies.

A great way to begin to train your body, as counter-intuitive as this may sound for triathlon, is to go for a hike! So – extended periods of time at a relatively low intensity, where you don’t need to rely on gels, sweets etc.

Likewise – long, slow bike rides are also great for this, as long as the pace is kept conversational (i.e. easy). As a general rule of thumb if you can hold a conversation your body is in it’s fat burning zone! The minute you switch to a heavier, more laboured breathing style that’s likely to be when your body is switching to burning carbohydrates rather than fat.

If you use a heart rate monitor the middle of Zone 2 is the perfect place to be. If you use a power meter on your bike, 68-70% of your FTP is around what you should be aiming for. The key though, is for the pace to remain conversational.

Over time your aerobic threshold – i.e. your fat burning threshold – will increase and improve. To give you an idea of what’s possible it’s not uncommon for pro-ironmen to complete their bike leg at ~80% of their FTP while remaining aerobic – i.e. getting most of their energy from fat, even though the intensity is relatively high.

So if you’re stepping up to long distance triathlon – please do make sure you factor this critical element into your preparation and training.

 

Team Oxygenaddict athlete: Matt Wackett

Sub-11 in his debut Ironman at IMUK this year!

Not bad to say the least, well done Matt!

Matt was kind enough to talk to us about everything involved in getting him to the start (and finish) line, and how Team Oxygenaddict has helped him along the way.

Team Oxygenaddict athlete: David Waugh

David has been with Team Oxygenaddict since the start of 2016 – the beginning of his journey to become an Ironman!

The first major challenge for him on that journey was Long Course Weekend – hear his thoughts on how  being part of Team Oxygenaddict has helped his ability and confidence on his triathlon journey so far

Team Oxygenaddict athlete: Chris Scott

Chris became a Team Oxygenaddict member in early 2016.

Previously he’d trained for and completed a 70.3 distance triathlon but was looking to make the step up to Ironman.

Listen to Chris explain how team Oxygenaddict helped him achieve his first Ironman finish, and how he’s found the journey along the way

The Importance of Rest & Recovery in Triathlon Training

Rest and recovery is an essential part of a training week yet it seems it’s often harder for triathletes to rest and recover properly than it is to train!

As highly motivated athletes who want to be the best you can be, it’s very easy to fall into the mindset that if you’re not training, you’re not improving.

Here’s Coach Rob explaining why that’s not the case…

In Team Oxygenaddict we really push the need to take your prescribed rest days / recovery sessions as just that. Otherwise your body will struggle to make the adaptations and improvements in fitness that you desire and deserve – because that’s what it requires for that.

Rest & recovery doesn’t necessarily mean doing nothing though. Our sessions might involve a shorter, and DEFINITELY easier swim / bike. Such sessions are designed to promote blood flow to your muscles to help with recovery. You’ll often feel much better at the end of these sessions than you did at the start.

Think of them as a free massage!

Related to this, and a topic that crops up a lot in Team Oxygenaddict is the mindset of missing sessions.

That is, the mindset that if you missed a session one day, the logical thing to do is to add it onto the following day’s training schedule. It most definitely isn’t the thing to do!

The majority of us are balancing work, family and life in general with training. Inevitably then, there will be days where sessions are missed. It’s not the end of the world.

Stacking multiple days worth of sessions into a single day typically means you don’t get the desired training benefit from each individual session. Typically athletes under perform in those sessions and often tire themselves out having a knock on effect on upcoming sessions.

Team Oxygenaddict athletes often post their situations in our Facebook group – with the assumption that their recovery day should be scrapped in favour of the missed session. Or that a hard session can be squeezed in somewhere to make up for missing a session.

The advice from me is usually always the same. That is, in terms of the bigger picture of your training goals and plan, there’s no benefit (and often a detriment) to foregoing recovery days or finding a way to fit extra hard sessions in in the short term.

So as well as providing you with a training plan relative to your goals, ability, experience and available time to train, we’re also there to help stop you making bad training decision that can lead to fatigue, overtraining, or injury.

If that sounds like you, why not see how we can help you get the most out your training for the coming season!

Team Oxygenaddict athlete: Shayne Wilson

We caught up with one of our Team Oxygenaddict athletes, Shayne Wilson to have a chat about his experiences this year of being part of the team.

Have a listen to what he has to say!

**UPDATE** since recording this video Shayne has had confirmation that he’s qualified to represent the GB Age Group triathlon team at the ETU championships in Dusseldorf in 2017. Congratulations Shayne!

Improve your Triathlon Run Split – AND Avoid Injury

Triathlon training, as we all know, is a delicate balance of swimming, biking and running.

A lot of triathletes have probably also found out to their cost, that injuries are most likely to occur from running – simply because of the greater pounding your joints and muscles take compared to swimming and biking.

In the video below, Coach Rob talks through the Team Oxygenaddict approach to avoiding injury while improving your running.

To start with, the most effective way to improve your running ability in triathlon is to not get injured.

Sounds obvious, right?

So it follows that you should be thinking really carefully about any run training sessions that risk you picking up a niggle or affecting your ability to train in ANY of swim, bike or run.

A lot of Team Oxygenaddict’s run training is centred around ‘easy’ and ‘steady’ runs.

This is almost always a new, and often questionable concept for our athletes who are all about improving times and racing as fast as possible.

“How is my running going to improve if there’s little speed work in training?”

It’s a sensible question, and one that we’ve answered, and later been able to show evidence of, many times!

So lets take a step back and look at triathlon training as a whole. in Team Oxygenaddict, over winter our athletes typically have a couple of hard bike sessions per week. These sessions are aimed at improving your bike power but also have the benefit of building your cardiovascular system.

If you are “just” a runner then yes – you likely need to push yourself hard while running, to improve. But we’re multi-disciplined. We’re already pushing ourselves hard through the winter bike and swim session(s) each week.

So our focus of running becomes more about conditioning, strengthening and improving the durability of your run-specific ligaments, tendons and muscles. But you don’t need to run hard to do that. Longer, slower runs are just as effective at achieving this and provide the benefit of significantly reducing the chance of injury and the ability to recover quicker compared to higher intensity running.

So you’ll have had a winter of building your cardio ability via hard bike sessions and conditioning your body for running. When winter passes and you transition to riding outdoors and focusing more on bike endurance, you’ll have a bullet-proof body. It’ll be injury protected and ready to absorb some harder, faster running sessions that we’ll then prescribe in your training plan.

We’ve seen a number of our Ironman and 70.3 athletes achieve 5km and 10km PBs this year by following this philosophy. Quite a few of these were already fast runners – well under 40 minutes for 10km – and still managed to knock more than a minute off their PB.

So, who fancies running faster by running slower 🙂

Team Oxygenaddict athlete: Sybille Schorm

Sybille Schorm has been a member of the Team since early 2016. We caught up with her to chat about Ironman Copenhagen, and how she’s found the transition to structured, coach-supported training in team Oxygenaddict.

 

So, Sybille –  your big race of the year was IM Copenhagen – let’s jump straight into that… How did it go?

Racing in Copenhagen was a great experience. Any triathlete will tell you the “perfect race” doesn’t really exist, but given I hoped to finish in under 12 hours and my finish time was 11:08, I think it was a pretty good day. I was also really pleased with 13th in my age group so I had plenty to celebrate!

 

You’ve worked hard on your bike and we’ve seen you progress into a really strong biker this year – did your hard work pay off on race day?

I have to admit, I’m actually very proud of my bike performance. Once I’d recovered from the very cold swim and got into a rhythm on the bike I felt strong. I went past loads of guys on their fancy tri bikes (I was on my road bike with clip-on aero bars) and really enjoyed the lovely Danish countryside.

I completed the bike in 5:36. In retrospect it might have been a little too hard as the run was tougher than expected but no regrets because I had a lot of fun!

 

When we were chatting afterwards in the team Facebook group you said the “run:walk” strategy helped get you through the marathon?

Yes, definitely – that and the great support of many of my club mates who were at the race.  An old hamstring injury flared up on the run so taking Coach Rob’s advice of walking through aid stations to get plenty of fuel and give my legs the chance of some recovery was a lifesaver!

I finished the marathon in 4:07 so all things considered I don’t think I can really complain.

 

So you joined Team Oxygenaddict in early 2016 – what was your background and experience in triathlon prior to that?

Before I came to Triathlon 3 years ago, I was into running and also rowing, on and off for about 11 years. Mostly, I enjoyed running half marathons and marathons, taking part in big city races like Berlin, Vienna, Paris etc. I Loved it, but pure running can be hard on your body, especially when you get older, so I decided to learn how to front crawl and eventually got a bike and started commuting to work.

 

It sounds like there probably wasn’t much structure to your training back then?

Exactly – it actually makes me giggle, thinking back two years ago, I had no idea what I was doing. I would just cycle to work and back. At the weekend I pedalled around the Surrey hills, without a GPS, heart rate monitor or watch. I’d often get lost and had to ask other random cyclists for the way back to London!

People always looked at me strangely but were all really helpful and friendly and I always made it back in one piece.

 

So how and when did you start to take your training a little more seriously?

Someone suggested I joined a Tri club and I finally joined my Ful-on Tri two years ago. It’s great to have the option of training in a club – there is so much knowledge that helped me actually form a vaguely structured training plan!

However, the club mainly catered for shorter races and I ended up doing some quite random sessions tailored towards club events (usually sprint / Olympic distances).

Triathletes tackling longer events usually had a coach, but I found this option very expensive. It seemed you could easily find yourself spending hundreds of pounds per month for a tri coach and I just didn’t want to spend that much money.

 

It sounds like the timing of Team Oxygenaddict was perfect for you then!

Yes – when I heard Rob was launching Team Oxygenaddict and saw the price relative to 1:1 coaching I wanted to give it a go. I’d never had structured training before and I so I was interested to see how much of a difference it would make.

 

And how have you found it being a member?

Well I have a structured training plan built around my goals and specific races and we’ve got the group aspect which I really like too. Having access to a coach (Rob) in the Facebook group for random questions, coaching tips and advice on tweaking my training plan when something unforeseen crops up is great.

But not just Rob – the ability to chat to and get motivation from other team members is brilliant. There have been a few times I’ve posted my turbo training woes, and straight away team mates jump on it and give me exactly the support and motivation I need to bounce back!

Comparing what we have in the team with friends who have private coaches, it gives me everything I need and more – it works very well for me.

 

Having not really had a structured training plan before, has the training been what you expected?

It’s so much better than I was expecting, It’s a structured training from a coach who not only gives you sessions, but also outlines the purpose and idea behind them. As I had never had a coach before it took a bit of time to put my full trust and faith in Rob and his training philosophy, but now I’m glad I did!

 

Ha ha, yes – we’ve had quite a few discussions about the 9:1 run/walk philosophy this year haven’t we!

Indeed! I never thought I’d hear myself saying “I plan to walk in the IM run”. It took me a long time to take it on board and commit to it in training, but I came to the conclusion that an IM run is something completely different to a marathon on its own.

I’m still amazed how quickly you can recover from a long run done with 9 minutes running and 1 minute steady walking. At the end you are not that much slower AND you can be ready for the next day’s sessions.

But yes, eventually you convinced me that the 9:1 approach is very helpful in IM training. I’m glad you did – otherwise my memories of IM Copenhagen could have been a very different 🙂

 

Well we love having you in the team and we’re really happy to see how you’ve progressed this year.

Thanks! Being part of the team makes a massive difference. It’s a big motivation when things get hard and it’s great to know there is a team behind you wanting you to do well. It’s nice to have gotten to know the other guys and girls in the team this year too, it actually feels like a community now.

 

And finally what’s in store for next season?

I have to say, I’m enjoying my off season, but I feel I’ve learnt so much about how to train and what I’m capable of, that I’d like to race another IM next year. There are just too many nice races to choose from though! That said, I’ve learnt that my strengths are better suited to hilly races so that’s what I’ll probably be on the lookout for.

Swimming: You probably don’t need to train as much as you think

Most triathletes love swimming.

Ok – that’s not true…

In fact it probably couldn’t be further from the truth!

For a lot of triathletes swimming is their weakest / most feared discipline – and so the temptation is to assume lots of time has to be put into swim training.

Coach Rob has a slightly different take on it though.

Watch below and see what he has to say on the matter…

 

Swimming, for triathletes who don’t come from a swimming background, can be incredibly frustrating – even daunting.

If you’re already a mid-pack swimmer, there’s a decision for you to make. So – assuming you have limited overall training time available, where is that best spent across swim / bike / run? How much training time in each discipline will bring you the biggest improvement in your overall triathlon race time?

For a lot of people – the ‘typical’ age grouper with 7-10 hours per week training time – spending 3 hours per week in the pool, plus time spent travelling, changing etc – may not be the best use of that time.

Spending 3 hours per week swimming might help you knock a handful of minutes off your overall swim time on race day. But if spending a chunk of that time biking and / or running, especially over winter, enables you to knock 10-15 minutes off of those disciplines on race day you should be questioning which is the best use of that available time.

We’ve worked with many such athletes who reduced their swimming down to 1 session from 3 (or often more) per week. They typically see very little, and sometimes no drop off in their swim times. But the gains they make in other disciplines with  the extra available time is significant.

There is (of course!) a caveat here.

That is –  if you’re new to swimming and / or a poor swimmer who is worried about making the swim cut-off in races then you need a different approach.

If that’s you, you’re likely a strong biker and / or runner. And you’ll be used to working hard in training and seeing improvements. Unfortunately with swimming, ‘working hard’ doesn’t necessarily translate to faster times.

If you’re working hard with poor technique, you’re essentially training your body to get used to swimming by reinforcing poor technique length after length, session after session and making yourself tired.

Your precious pool time should be spent improving your technique. Get your swim stroke and technique analysed. Ideally find a swim coach to video you under and over the water so that you can understand the flaws in your stroke. You can then get specific swim drills prescribed that will improve those elements of your stroke.

You will build swim fitness as you practice good technique, and only when you’ve properly addressed the major issues with your stroke should you think about increasing the volume. remember – “practice makes permanent” (not perfect in this case!) so only practice what you want to be reinforcing – i.e. good technique.

THAT is the most effective way to improve your swim.

Happy swimming 🙂