An athlete’s taper is just as individual, personal, and varied as their training plan. How you taper depends on how you have trained in the months preceding your race as well as what you and your coach decide is appropriate for you. Although we all train differently, the rules to tapering remain consistent. All the months and months of proper training and nutrition is at risk of sabotage if your taper is executed improperly. Nothing you do during your taper will make you any faster for race day, but breaking the basic taper rules will prevent you from performing at your best.
1. Proper Volume Reduction The amount that you reduce your volume (amount of time spent weekly in training) depends on your current training volume and the distance you race. The key to effective tapering is to cut back on training volume significantly. The optimal amount of training reduction is still debatable. Some studies suggest reducing training volume as much as 85% in the weeks leading up to your race. Regardless, gradually reducing training volume should be based on distance. The longer your race, the longer your taper. Below is a basic guide, based on race distance, for decreasing training volume.
4 weeks to race
3 weeks to race
2 weeks to race
10% ↓in volume
30% ↓in volume
50%↓ in volume
80%↓ in volume
Four weeks of a reduction in training volume may seem drastic, but keep in mind the amount of damage you have done to your body over the previous months. You have walked a very fine line of increased training and recovery, training hard and recovering less than is really needed. A proper reduction in training volume will allow your body to fully recover, adapt, and heal so that, come race day, you are ready to push your physical limits knowing you are ready to go!
2. Maintain Proper Training Intensity A decrease in training volume has proven invaluable in getting a proper taper and being race ready. But decreasing your training intensity too soon or too drastically will cause you to lose some of the fitness you have worked so hard to gain. Training intensity is the key to preserving your overall fitness as well as helping you to have a good muscle tension on race day. The two important factors of speed interval training during your taper are: decrease the frequency of these sessions in the weeks leading up to your race, and increase the rest between the speed intervals during the workouts.
In the weeks of your taper incorporate at least one sprint session, per sport, per week. The week of your race do your sprint workout 3-4 days before your race to give you enough time to recover, without the benefits waning before your race. Too long between your speed intervals and your race and your muscles will feel sluggish and heavy. Too soon and you won’t be sufficiently recovered to perform at maximal ability on race day.
A good running speed interval workout, I like to have my athletes perform the week of their race, is Decreasing Sprint Sets. This should be done following a complete warm up. On a track (alternating directions ½ way through the set) perform the following:
2 X 400m all out efforts, followed by 2 minutes of active recovery (i.e. easy jogging)
4 X 200m all out efforts, followed by 1:30 of active recovery
6 X 100m all out efforts, followed by 1:00 of active recovery
Follow with a good cool down. This is a shorter workout with high intensity and longer recoveries between intervals. The benefits of this kind of workout, during a taper, extend beyond increasing blood volume and increasing glycolytic enzymes. It is a perfect way to keep the pre-race blues at bay and work off some of that anxious energy without harming your taper.
3. Stick to Your Normal Diet Proper nutrition is a discipline all on its own. As athletes, we over complicate the “carbo-loading” phase of tapering. The truth is that carbo-loading is out-dated and doesn’t need to be over analyzed; much less incorporated into our taper. If we follow our normal, healthy diet and decrease our training volume we will be storing what we need for race day. Our bodies can only store so much glycogen; whatever is left over is stored at fat. How we have eaten during our training and what race distance we are training for, doesn’t determine at which point we should start eating more carbohydrates. If you start to eat too much early in your taper you will gain weight, feel sluggish, and perform below your level of ability.
The most important part of taper nutrition is the 24 hours leading up to your race. Here are some Do’s and Don’ts to follow:
1. Drink plenty of fluids, especially if you are flying to your race. Keep hydrated and avoid alcohol as it messes with glycogen storage.
2. Stick to what you know. Now is not the time to try the new restaurant in town. Avoid adding anything unfamiliar to your diet as you don’t yet know how your body will react.
3.Avoid high risk foods. Rare steak and sushi are among the most obvious, duh…
4.Keep it boring. Spicy foods, raw foods, high-fiber foods, gas producing foods, high fat, and high sugar foods should all be avoided the night before your
5.Don’t over eat. Sticking to a dinner of 800-1,000 calories is sufficient.
6.Eat what you always eat before a race. If you wake up early to eat a bowl of oatmeal on long training days, wake up early and eat a bowl of oatmeal before your race. If you wake up and toast a bagel, slather natural peanut butter on it, top it with sliced bananas, lick your lips and dive in, well… then I would highly recommend doing this on race day too! Sticking to 500-800 calories a few hours before a race is ideal for energy and to avoid swimming with food in your belly.
4. Avoid Taper Tantrums If you aren’t feeling grumpy, frustrated, anxious, extra tired, and tempted to go for a long bike ride during your taper, then you are probably not tapering correctly. These emotions are the result of a sudden decrease in training volume, a decrease in the physical and emotional outlets we have structured so carefully into our days. Add this to the race anticipation and anxiety and it’s obvious why triathletes can be so overly edgy during a taper. One minute we feel like we have no energy at all and there is NO WAY we will have the stamina to endure our 70.3, the next minute we have crazy energy and want to go do a brick that very moment! We start to doubt our training, our fitness, our goals, and the benefit of our training. Some ways to battle the tantrums are:
1. Prepare the details. Get your gear laid out and ready to go. Check and double check it. I like to lay it all out days in advance. I always find something, at the last minute, that I have forgotten. Funny, it’s usually the same thing. Do you have your boarding pass? Do you have your fuel? Go through it again and again then walk away for a day and come back to it later. It might sound odd, but I also like to re-arrange it all so that I get a new perspective and not start to “see” things that aren’t really there.
2. Organize a night out with other athletes. Talk about your upcoming races, what you’re feeling and get some advice from people who understand what you’re going through. Maybe some of them have competed in the race you’re training for and have some good advice. Surround yourself with people that are positive, fun, and share your love of triathlon. It might improve your mood.
3. Forecast. This is a little known and underestimated tool to improve your mental focus during your race. I think it’s even more valuable during a taper to keep you focused and stay sane. Get with your coach and/or a very trusted friend and talk through your race like it has already happened. Go through every detail, every possible instance and circumstance as if you are re-telling the race. Not only does this help prepare you mentally for the race, it is a great emotional tool in getting you through your taper “blues”.
4. Put as much effort into your taper as you have into your training. Be diligent in resting and eating properly. Get a massage and focus on preventative care. Do whatever it takes to ensure that you are fully recovered and primed for race day.
A common taper tantrum is the phantom injury. As we get closer and closer to race day we start to feel little aches and pains that weren’t there before we started our taper. Don’t go try to run it out, avoid the need to test the nagging pain. If the pain increases with movement or exertion and doesn’t seem to be getting any better, go get it checked out. Sometimes it’s really there, sometimes it’s a little thing that we over exaggerate because we are in utter fear of getting hurt so close to our race. Be calm, ask your coach or trainer for advice and take it as it comes. More often than not it isn’t as bad as we imagine it is.
5. Program Recovery Workouts. Within the last few weeks of your taper there should be adequate use of recovery workouts. The purpose is to help maintain the aerobic fitness you have worked so hard for! As well as help with focus, mental race preparation, and aid in recovery. The length of these workouts will vary but the effort should be well below lactate threshold. A good swim recovery workout, for an Olympic, 70.3, or IM distance race is the following:
After a comprehensive warm up, add 20-30 seconds to your 100 yd. swim time and complete the following intervals. (I will use a base 100 yd. pace of 1:20 for an example). Whatever time is left in your interval is your recovery. Maintain a pace that doesn’t leave you too out of breath, you should have 15-20 seconds of recovery)
8 X 100 yd. on 1:50
4 X 200 yd. on 3:20
2 X 400 yd. on 6:40
1 X 800 yd. on 13:20
At any given point during a recovery workout, your heart rate should be 35-45 beats below LT or Zone 2-low Zone 3. You should never be out of breath and over exerting yourself. Remember, you are recovering and maintaining your fitness for your race. Nothing you do at this point will get you faster, but if you push these recovery workouts you won’t have time to recover before race day.
Tapering for a race can be the hardest part of an athlete’s training. When training volume drops and stress is elevated, it is tough to resist the urge to train more. Remember the science behind the taper, don’t forget the value of going into a race well rested, fully recovered, and mentally prepared to take it on. Put as much thought, planning, and effort into tapering as you did in your training. Avoid the common taper pitfalls and follow the taper rules so that when you get to your race you feel fresh and ready to do your best.
How and when do you feel good about yourself? Your workouts? Your goals? Defining what “feeling good” means to you is the first step in evaluating the ways in which you can feel good/better in various aspects of your life.
Feeling good can be a physical sensation, an emotional state, a mental state or a combination of all three. Any of these states can be triggered in a moment’s notice. Think about how you feel in different situations and what affects you in what ways. For example, reflect on how you feel when you wake, after a run, after working out, after sitting in traffic, etc. In any of these situations, how you feel comes from the act of doing, being, accomplishing, or a combination.
Ask yourself: Why is feeling good important? Feeling good is certainly better than feeling bad. How we feel can shape our day. It effects how we are able to cope with our life, being productive, focused, and or handling what tasks lie in front of us. Maintaining a healthy physical state, emotional state, and mental state provides an overall sense of wellbeing and happiness which makes life much more enjoyable.
Let’s begin by looking at the physical part of feeling good. How do you know when you physically feel good? Is it how you wake up in the morning or is it because you performed well during a workout? Is it because you feel strong, fast, light, powerful, awake, and/or energized? Notice there is a variety of ways in which each of us decides what “feeling good” means to us. First and foremost decide for YOU what “feeling good” is and how you physically get there.
One way to feel good is to workout. For me, working out can mean a run, a hike, a bike ride, training at the gym, a yoga class, a walk, swimming, downhill skiing, skate skiing, etc. Part of my prerequisite for a workout is exertion. I need to do an activity where I feel as though I am exerting myself. When my heart rate goes up, I sweat and I begin to feel alive. This brings about a good feeling inside of me. During these workouts, I feel strong, powerful, agile, and free. Soon after my workout I feel centered, calm, focused, pleased with myself, and accomplished. This is what “feeling physically good” is for me. It is very important for me to begin my day with a workout because it allows me to stay on top of my daily game.
There are many other physical ways we can create “feeling good.” For example, getting enough sleep, eating nutritiously, and hydrating all contribute to feeling good. These topics were covered in my previous article: Energy.
It is also worth examining what makes you feel bad physically. By knowing both sides of the coin you will feel more in control to create “feeling good” in your daily life. Train/workout in a way that makes you feel good about yourself, where you feel successful and accomplished. Refrain from evaluating yourself against others. Your evaluation should only be comparative to yourself, and no one else. Stay within to reap your rewards.
What about emotions? Let’s stay in the camp of relating to your workouts, training and competitions. Certainly we feel and have emotions connected to our physical self. So if we feel energized, most likely we’re feeling positive and happy within ourselves. There is a direct correlation between the physical and emotional world. However, it has occurred to me and I’ve seen many people develop a negative emotion despite their positive performance. This is often the case when we have set our personal standards to an outside standard, which will never be optimal. Avoid comparing yourself to anyone. It is the beginning of the end to not feel good about you!
Here are a few tips to help you stay positive: Find something in your workout or training everyday that makes you “feel good.” This will impact your training, goal setting, your ability to compete and most importantly, how your life goes. Next, have reasonable goals. I’m going to exercise today, get enough sleep tonight, have a day of rest because I’m over trained, or fuel my body with appropriate hydration and fuel. Setting goals that teeter on the impossible will set you up for failure. Your emotional state is delicate. Treat yourself and your emotions with care. Start your day off in the right direction with a physical good feeling to emotionally set the stage for a positive day for yourself.
Your state of mind is also key, and comes from the combination of your physical and emotional state. If you physically and emotionally feel good, most likely you will mentally feel strong. Mental strength truly is the key to your personal strength, endurance, success and happiness. It must be acquired through your physical and emotional states. It is virtuously impossible to be mentally strong when you’re down on your physical and emotional game. Your mental strength gives you the power to survive one’s daily life. I usually begin my day with the physical, building my emotional and mental state for strength for the rest of the day.
I’m sure many of you may go in a different order; maybe you start with your mental state, or emotional state. What is important is to find the state you can access the easiest to give you that “good feeling” to begin your day with. From there, I highly recommend playing around with the idea of developing the capacity to access your “good feeling” from any of our states. For example, let’s say you take a day off to rest to recover. On this day you may find that you are “feeling good” from your mental state by knowing a day off is going to benefit you tremendously. The more you are able to shift states to create your sense of well-being, the healthier and more functional of a person you will be in the world. Relying always on one state for “feeling good” can be very dangerous, and lacks flexibility. First, learn for yourself how you cultivate “feeling good.” Next begin to play around with “feeling good” physically, emotionally, or mentally.
Soon you will be happier, feel more satisfied with yourself and your life, so you can enjoy and live your life to the fullest.
We all know what it feels like to be full of energy and often times we think it is only available to the young. Each year we struggle to find the same level of energy we had the previous year. Where does our energy go? Is it really our age, or can we get it back?
Although age is a factor, I have found it to be a small factor. After just turning 49 I am running as fast as I was when I was 45 despite undergoing major knee surgery in March of 2011, and 13 previous surgeries after I was hit by a semi-truck while cycling at age 20.
I have found four factors that affect energy levels the most: diet, training, rest, and stress. This article focuses on two more areas where we tend to lose energy: rest and stress. (Read about the first two areas where we lose energy: Part I)
Rest & Sleep
Rest and sleep is the time when the body repairs and restores itself. I recommend 7-11 hours of sleep a night. If you do not get enough rest, your body doesn’t have enough time to restore and repair itself and is forced to use extra energy to push through the demands of your life. Lack of rest, like overtraining, is not a healthy way to treat your body or live your life. Sooner or later you will burn out and you may even damage your body.
A few signs that you are lacking rest, recovery, or time for your body to repair itself include the feeling of heaviness in your legs, arms, or throughout your body, feeling fatigued all of the time, feeling irritable, and feeling jittery throughout your body. If you notice any of these signs, it is critical to assess your rest habits and bring more sleep, rest, and recovery time back into your life.
Stress & Tension: Parasitic Effort
Stress and tension result from many things in our lives such as work, relationships, children, diet, lack of exercise, finances, etcetera. This list is ongoing and everyone has experienced some form of stress or tension. Oftentimes we are so caught up in our response to the stressors that we are not even aware of what is happening in our bodies.
Some of the most common places to hold stress and tension in our bodies are in our jaws, neck, shoulders, chest, fists, wrists, and in our breath. In the Feldenkrais Method, this is called parasitic effort. Parasitic effort is the unnecessary holding of tension or clenching of muscle groups. Runners for example, often clench their fists and jaws or grind their teeth while running. This clenching doesn’t help them run better; in fact it takes requires energy and effort to maintain, depleting the body of the energy it needs to run.
Here is an exercise to help you understand parasitic effort:
Make a fist with one of your hands. Continue to squeeze the fist as you read on. Notice the effects of squeezing and holding the fist. Is the clenching creating tightness in your arm or chest? What about your throat or neck area? Is this clenching necessary for you to read on, or does it make reading more difficult? All of us are exerting parasitic effort in some way or another all of the time because it is a very deep habit built into the nervous system.
(Keep clenching your fist…)
Why? As we are developing throughout our childhood, we hope to overcome this habit of tension through learning how to function in our world. However, many of us experience situations that stimulate this parasitic effort to kick in. If such situations continuously occur; the system continues to rely on the parasitic effort as a form of protection, hence a habit develops. The system believes the parasitic effort is actually helping the situation so it repeats the behavior.
Once parasitic effort develops into a habit that is continuously held, it is called a holding pattern. For some, holding patterns can become so habitual that they continue while one sleeps. Holding patterns consume a tremendous amount of energy to maintain and strip your body of freedom to move and of energy. About a decade ago, this form of parasitic effort became known as Fibromyalgia. Many people have suffered from this disease to the point of being unable to function on a daily basis due to pain, lack of sleep, and complete loss of energy.
(Are you still clenching your fist?)
Parasitic effort is, in most cases, the biggest leak in energy for people. The first step to combat it is to become aware of the stress and tension in your life. Let go and stop clenching your fist. What happened? Notice the sense of ease that begins to return to you. Which feels better? Clenching your fist or not clenching your fist? Notice where in your body you are holding or storing tension. Don’t worry about why, just notice it and begin to let go.
Here is an exercise to help you identify where you are holding tension in your body and maybe clenching, and most importantly where and how you can begin to let go: Lie down on your back, preferably on the floor. Close your eyes and notice how you are making contact with the floor, I call this a body scan. Start at the top of your head and then bring your awareness to your spine. Travel down your spine to the base of your skull to your tailbone and then pelvis. What kind of sense of your spine do you have? Which parts are touching the floor and which are not?
Now broaden your awareness to notice your shoulders. How does each shoulder rest on the floor? Continue to travel down your pelvis, moving your awareness at your own pace so you continue to develop a deep sense of yourself. What do you notice about yourself? What parts are making contact with the floor and which are held or suspended without touching? Notice how your arms are lying along your sides and how your legs are lying. Now, as you continue to maintain awareness, notice where you are holding tension. You may be holding somewhere if it feels like it is being suspended or if there is a sense of tension. Could you let go there? If you can let go, how does it feel now? Notice that just by becoming aware and wanting to let go, you let go. How do you feel? How is your breathing? How are you different? Notice that you are different and all it takes is awareness.
Download Sharon’s “Awareness Through Movement” audio lessons on her website, SharonStarika.com, under “Online Workshops.”
To read about the first two areas where we lose energy go to: Part I.
In a triathlon, the run is the last leg of the race standing between you and glory. Here's a few tips we've compiled to assist you on your path to eternal fame and fortune. You're welcome.
- Beginning runners should think in minutes, not miles.
- Take the time, and spend the money on a good pair of shoes from a knowledgeable, run-specific store.
- Try on shoes in the afternoon when your feet are bigger.
- "If you feel like eating, eat." - Joan Samuelson, 1984 Olympic marathon Champion
- Quick turnover will reduce impact and race times.
- Sign up for a race, no matter how small, to stay motivated.
- A bad run is better than no run.
- Cotton socks lead to blisters, invest in run-specific socks.
- Each lb. you lose, makes running easier and less painful.
- Increase your mileage no more 10% a week.
- Never, ever try anything new on race day (nutrition, shoes, clothes etc.)
- Ice aches and pains immediately- ice no longer than 20 min. at a time.
- "When running, let your jaw hang loose, don't bunch up your shoulders close to your ears, and occasionally shake out your hands and arms to stay relaxed." --Dave Martin, Ph.D., exercise physiologist
- Run against traffic.
- Don't stretch before a run. Warm up with a jog or brisk walk. Stretching should be done after or mid workout when the muscles are warm.
- Do not try a marathon as your first race.
- Doing speed work doesn't have to be scientific- sprint from one stop sign to another then jog to the next. Repeat.
- Begin your race comfortably and slowly increase your speed.
- Run trails to give your joints a rest. It will build strength and add variety.
- Always carry some form of I.D. even when training in groups.
- Stay well hydrated, and stay aware of your electrolyte level- even in cold weather.
- "So-called 'junk miles'--those slow miles done on easy days or during warm-ups--do count. They burn calories as effectively as fast miles; it just takes longer. Regardless of pace, each mile you run burns about 100 calories." --Hal Higdon, runner/writer/coach
- Fat slows digestion. During a race, shoot for nutrition that is 4g of fat or less per 230 calories.
- Prevent chaffing. Spandex under running shorts, lubricate upper arms, band-aides on nipples for men etc.- whatever it takes.
- Plateaus and bad days happen in training, they are temporary.
- On long runs, eat something every hour- even if you're not hungry.
- Run hills.
- Pre-planning workouts for the week makes them happen.
- Keep a training log. It's good for reference and motivation.
- Avoid trying new food for at least two days before your race.
- Do not get in a hot tub after a race. It increases swelling and slows healing.
- Form is vital. Do not let it break down when tired, even in training.
- Every now and then, leave your gps, HR monitor, ipod etc. at home and just run.
- Day to day consistency is more important than big mileage.
- "If you run 30 miles a week, then about 7 of those--or approximately one-quarter--should be quality miles. Quality miles will boost your aerobic capacity." --Owen Anderson, Ph.D., running writer
- Try to avoid running long distances on a decline; it's hard on joints and murder on IT bands.
- Make big goals, plan for small ones.
- Enjoy your easy days. Guilt for feeling good doesn't change the fact that they are necessary for progression.
- Mix workouts up with mile repeats, fartlek's etc. ("Fartlek" is Swedish for variable-paced, up-tempo running.)
- Strength train.
- Uncomfortable is OK, pain is not. Back off at the first sign of injury and evaluate.
- Think about improving one thing at a time.
This is going to be all about numbers. Many times we focus on more intangible aspects of our health and lifestyle based on how we feel or what we can overcome. That is nice and feels good, but sometimes, we really do just need to take a look at the numbers. Here are a few numbers you need to be aware of to ensure you are succeeding in your efforts to look good, feel great and reach your goals.
1) Get 7-8 hours of SLEEP- every night.
2) Drink 96+ ounces of WATER- every day.
3) Eat 7-9 servings of VEGETABLES- every day.
4) Intake 30+ grams of FIBER- every day. (Which won't be hard, by the way, if you eat your vegetables)
5) Eat 1 gram of (clean, lean) PROTEIN per every lean pound of muscle you have... every day. (so, if you have 100 pounds of lean muscle mass, eat 100 grams of lean protein)
6) Based on pure numbers, it takes 3500 calories to burn 1 pound of body fat. So, you need to control your caloric intake to match your metabolic needs by being aware of how MANY CALORIES you are eating every day and then ensure you don't overdo it. (If you don't know your base metabolic rate, you can go to a BMR calculator like: http://www.stevenscreek.com/goodies/calories.shtml and it can give you a basic idea).
7) 1 gram of protein is 4 calories. 1 gram of carbohydrate is 4 calories. 1 gram of fat is 9 calories. Those are some useful numbers to be aware of. Of course, you need the fat (especially the Essential Fatty Acids we have spoken of in past articles) just make sure you get the right fats in the right amounts. Same as your carbohydrate intake and quality proteins. It's not just quantity; the quality is of utmost importance!
8) Your WEIGHT is a number that can give you feedback on how well you are doing.
9) Your BODYFAT is (in my opinion) an even more important number to be watching and ensure it is in a healthy range. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) recommends men maintain a body fat under 25% and women keep their body fat under 31%. Those numbers are being quite generous- aim for mid to low 20's% for most people.
10) Your CIRCUMFERENCE measurements are also a very effective way to track how well you are managing your health. If you are carrying excess girth/fat around your midsection in particular, you are at a higher risk for increased cardiovascular/heart disease. So, watch
11) Finally, keep up your 90% on track nutrition with your 10% off track nutrition to ensure you keep your numbers where you want them!
Now that you've been given a few numbers that can help you regulate and monitor your health and fitness, it's up to you to determine which numbers are going to be the most beneficial in that quest. If you know that your lack of sleep is directly affecting your body's ability to release growth hormone and thus improve your weight loss or recovery, then that is THE number you should be working on improving. If you know that you are most definitely NOT getting in 7-9 servings of vegetables every day, or you are far below the 30 grams of fiber every day then you should spend this next week focusing on getting those numbers up to par.
How about your water intake? Think you are hitting that 96 ounces or more number? If not, you are not giving your body the help it needs to flush out toxins and aid in weight loss, recovery and becoming the best you can be. You need to know your body composition (particularly how much fat and muscle you are made of) because that is also going to help you determine how many grams of protein you are going to aim to consume every day. That is an extremely important number to know to ensure you are feeding your body the supremely important protein that is going to build and repair muscle and increase your body's metabolic rate.
If you really want to succeed at maintaining your goal weight, keeping your body fat and circumference measurements healthy and living a vibrant lifestyle, you need to RECORD what you are doing. Studies show that people that keep a nutrition journal lose more weight than people who don't. In fact, in a study of 1,685 dieters conducted by a health insurance company, the best predictor of weight loss throughout the first year was the number of food records kept per week. Another recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that dieters who tracked their food intake in a "food diary" lost twice as much weight as those who didn't track their food. Those should be some pretty convincing numbers! So, pick your numbers this week. Do your best to improve that number and make it a GREAT week!!
Coach Keena is a regular contributor at TriEdge and has 15 years experience coaching and training hundreds of individuals. She is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and holds additional certifications from the National association of Sports Medicine (NASM) and the American Council of Exercise (ACE) as a certified personal trainer. If you would like to contact Coach Keena go to: www.coachkeena.com.
There are many experts and articles that discuss ways to improve your endurance. In this article I will explore the relationship between strength and endurance; how to develop strength, hence developing greater endurance. Developing strength and endurance simultaneously will result in maximum power, the best combination to compete and do your best in swimming, biking and running.
Resistance is one of the best ways to develop and stimulate strength. The best way to achieve resistance in the water is by either using a kick board, placing all the demand on your legs/feet or to use a pull-buoy in between your legs, relying on your arms & your stroke, and or by using fins. By eliminating a body part, you create a form of resistance and a greater demand on one part of the body.
Once you’ve decided to include these as part of your workout and or training, you can begin to time yourself. By tracking your time and challenging yourself to go faster during each lap or length of the pool, you are developing your endurance and strength at the same time. You can use any of these techniques while using your whole self, just your arms, or just your legs.
See if you can do one length of the pool at 80% maximum effort, then 60% maximum the next lap. See if you can maintain alternating the two for 10-20 laps/lengths of the pool. Then see if you can do some sprints: ½ lap 90% ½ lap 75%. Can you repeat this for 6-10 laps? Next, see if you can challenge yourself to find your 80% maximum, and be able to maintain for an additional 6-10 laps/lengths of the pool. Then you can try being at 90% for 3 laps. Then perhaps 80% for 3 laps? By trying different lengths and levels of effort during your sprints you are developing your strength and endurance. Notice I have used different percentages to increase your strength. It is very important at this point in your training to learn to rely on yourself and knowing what percentage of effort you are putting out instead of relying on a watch. What you feel is a much more accurate way to measure yourself than time. Now is a great time to start practicing becoming aware of the feeling. Ask yourself: What is 80% maximum for me?
You can also add variety to your swim program by adding in different strokes. Take backstroke or butterfly for instance. By adding them into your training routine, your freestyle will become much stronger. Why? You’re stimulating as well as using muscles in a different way, which adds over-all strength to your traditional use of the muscles during freestyle.
I think the greatest way to begin developing a feeling for your strength and endurance on a bike is by spinning. A spin class gives you the opportunity to monitor your pace, and power. See if you can find a gym, or facility that provides spin classes, and has monitors attached to the bike. Certainly the instructor will have a program designed for the class; however, you can work within their program to suit your own needs and desires. Or, you can always do a spin class for yourself on your own. What is so useful about using monitors is that they show you your wattage (which is power) and your RPMS (which is speed and endurance). To begin with, I highly recommend keeping your RPMS up between 80-120. I know this may seem high, and many may disagree, but I will explain why.
Begin by getting onto your bike and setting your monitor. Once you begin to start spinning, get your RPMS up to at least 100 within the first 2-3 minutes. Then within six minutes take your level to 110 RPMS. Once you are feeling comfortable spinning your legs at 110 RPMS, start to add on watts by increasing the tension. You should already be at 110-120 watts. Go very slow adding just a fraction on at a time, and watch your watts come up. Continue to maintain the 110 RPMS while striving to reach 180-200 watts within your first 15 minutes of being on the bike. Now you can begin to settle in to this level of riding and your warm-up has begun. Now it is time to develop strength & power (which is also your watts), while maintaining a continuous level of training (RPMS). There are a few ways to develop strength and power. One is to bring in hill climbs; second is to add in sprints.
Hill climbs can be set for a minimum of five minutes up to a maximum of 8 to 10 minutes long. During a hill climb you add a much greater amount of tension to the bike, however, maintaining no less than 75 watts. I know many instructors who will say it is okay to drop down to 60 watts, but this allows for too much pressure to be placed on your knees. By keeping at 75 RPMS, you must add a little less tension, yet you are allowing for a smoother and more consistent cadence. This will build your strength and your endurance at the same time. Trust me, your knees will be happier, and this is closer to what you do outside on your road bike.
During the hill climb you can always challenge yourself to add small amounts of gear, but never allowing yourself to drop below 75 watts. This will truly develop both strength and power/endurance while climbing a hill. During a hill climb you can also add ½ turn & stand in the bike keeping your RPMS at 75. Again, watch your watts jump up. Try standing for 30 seconds then returning to sitting for 30 seconds (these are called intervals) while spinning. See if you can do 6 sets of interval training of 30 seconds each. Then try one minute intervals for 6 sets. You can either increase the time of the interval training or the number of sets to challenge yourself more.
Sprints are another way to develop strength and endurance. A perfect time to interject sprints is right after a hill climb. I’m not much into allowing for rests, because when do you rest when you are out on your road bike? Almost never. Maybe occasionally coming down a steep downhill hill, but that is about it. So allow for no more than 30-90 second rests before jumping into the next sprint. Prior to the sprint, remove some tension to get your RPMS back up to 100-110, yet maintaining close to 180- 200 watts at this point into your ride. Once you have found that sweet spot where you can maintain 100-110 RPMS and 200-260 watts, (or enough tension on to know your working), you are ready to begin sprints. What is nice about the monitors is the show you your time, and you can start and stop exactly on 30 seconds. Begin your first sprint, and bring up your RPMS to 120-125. Maintain your RPMS for the full 30 seconds and watch the watts go up.
Hopefully your watts will get close to 300. Repeat this for a minimum for 3-6 sets. In between each set give yourself a 20 to 30 second rest and then back off. Back off means returning to 110 RPMS (no lower). After completing about 6 sets of sprints return to the 100- 110 RPMS, and see if you can maintain this pace for 5-10 minutes again keeping your watts close to 200-260. During this period of time if you are feeling strong, you can add a small amount of tension. Again, watch the watts shoot up, keeping the RPMS at 100-110. You can repeat a hill climb, or add in more sprints to continue developing strength and endurance. I like to alternate hill climbs with sprints. Try 3 sets of hill climbs for 10 minutes, alternating with sprints. One set of 8 sprints at 30 seconds, another set of 5 sprints at 1 ½ minutes, another set of 4 sprints at 3 minutes. During each class or training time while on the spin bike you can challenge yourself to maintain your RPMS while adding small amounts of tension. To truly develop your endurance, you need to be able to go faster for a longer period of time. Usually 40 minutes into my ride after some hill climbs and sprints I find my rhythm, and the pace I can maintain. At this point I am usually between 80-90% of my maximum, this I know by my heart rate, my watts and maintaining my RPMS. I call this my “humming spot” - the sweet spot where I can stay for roughly another 30-60 minutes. This is like your long flat road. Being able to maintain at your 90% level for at least 30-45 minutes will tremendously develop your endurance. To even further develop your strength, you can add in surges during this period of your ride. Add a one-minute surge in for every 5 minutes. During the surge you amp up to 120-125 RPMS and maintain for the entire minute. If possible add a small amount of tension, most importantly keeping those RPMS up at 125. As you get stronger you can try 6 one-minute surges with 30 seconds rest in between. This is the type of power you will need to transition outside onto your road bike. Those of you who have been spinning and have your RPMS at 60-80 are not training hard enough.
By beginning your training inside on the spin bike you will develop a sensitivity and awareness for your RPMS and will develop a level of comfort being there. You must be able to feel where you are to maintain what you feel on your bike. To be the best, you must be able to maintain power for a long period of time, which becomes endurance. This is key when on your road bike. If you don’t have a monitor currently on your road bike, you may want to consider getting one. This will make your training much more efficient and useful to you.
RUNNING (my favorite)
How do you increase your power, strength and endurance in running? Similar to riding your bike, we can use hills to develop power. Many of you may not like the hills, but they truly are your best friend to develop greater power and strength. Embrace the hills and have them become your best friend. When first approaching a hill refer to the earlier articles on breathing, pacing and rhythm. Always slow down your pace to regulate your breathing and find a new rhythm. This should feel natural, and almost automatic to do. This is essential when beginning a hill climb. Trust me, you may need to go slower than you think to find a rhythm you can hold onto and maintain. Over time, by repeating hill climbs, you will gradually begin to increase your speed up the hill. This is why I like to repeat hills, because I develop a sense of the hill, my rhythm, my pace, and the ability to increase my speed knowing the hill.
You may need to start with just a 10-minute hill and gradually build up to 20, 30, 40, even 50 minutes of hill climbing. The longer the hill, the more opportunity you have to build your power and endurance. Being able to run 45 minutes to an hour up a hill takes tremendous endurance. Repetition, as I have mentioned before, is key here. While climbing a hill, you can look for moments where your experiencing ease. It is at these moments when you can increase your pace. Maybe start with 15-30 seconds and then back off to where you were before. By doing so, you are developing additional power and strength. Remember, there is no need to look at your watch for time. Develop a sense of awareness for yourself about time. Ask yourself: What does 15 seconds feel like? What does one minute feel like? What does a mile feel like? By developing a sense of time through awareness, you will be able to rely on yourself having a much clearer sense of timing and self-regulation which in itself will become a great strength and asset for you.
Running downhill will obviously feel like a breeze. Here too, it is critical to find a pace, and rhythm that you can hold onto. If you go too fast, you will run out of gas. You will find pacing essential to maintaining a comfortable rhythm, one that you can hold on to.
Lastly, are the flats. They can go on and on, this is why hills add in variety as well as an opportunity to improve your strength, power and endurance. First and foremost find your breath and your rhythm. Once again, it is best to go a little slower to begin with, finding a comfortable pace where you can maintain your breathing. From here, you have loads of time so use it wisely to add in more power and endurance. On the flats is another great place to insert surges. The easiest way to begin a surge on the flats is by moving your arms faster. I think of pulling my elbows backwards at a quicker pace. Automatically your legs will become quicker taking a larger stride to maintain balance. How cool is that? The power of your arms will increase your stride. Next, ask yourself it you can sustain this surge for one minute. In a run, this is a long time. After the surge, back off to your comfortable, rhythmic pace where you were before the surge. Remember you have loads of time on the flats to insert surges. Try to surge for 30 seconds to one minute every 5-7 minutes. See how that goes. You can even try to lengthen a surge up to two minutes every 7-8 minutes while running the flats. Maintaining a surge for two minutes takes a tremendous amount of strength and power. Then see if you can build up to surging for an entire mile and repeating a mile surge every 3-5 miles. Again, the longer the surge, the greater power and endurance you develop for yourself. Alternating and playing with different lengthens of surges while on the hills, downhills, and on the flats will develop your strength, power and especially your endurance. Remember, whenever you begin to loose your breath, back off, slow down, reset your pace, and in time you will be able to build back up to a stronger rhythm, a faster pace, and maintaining for a longer period of time.
You train your body to meet the physical demands of a race. You train your mind to handle the ups and downs you may experience on race-day. But how often do you practice the finer points of racing, like race pacing, nutritional planning and transition set-up? These forgotten elements can make the difference between a so-so race and a personal best.
Whether you are running a 5K or an Ironman, the goal of your training is to be physically prepared to handle the demands of racing. An athlete is only as good as their training. An athlete’s racing is only as good as the training when applied.
Once a beginner has accomplished a certain distance it is natural to begin to think about completing that distance faster and more efficiently. In order to race faster, you must train faster. Adding specific race-pace intervals and tempo workouts into your training plan will help to prepare your body for the expectations of a faster race pace. It is not likely that you will average an 8:45 split on your goal 10K if you haven’t practiced that 8:45 pace in training.
Prior to a race, an athlete should sit down with themselves or their coach to create a race plan. Having a plan in mind of how your goals of getting to the finished line will be accomplished can reduce race-day anxiety. A race-day plan is like any other workout plan. You break the race down into more manageable sections and since you are simple duplicating what you have done in training, you have a greater sense of confidence. You will maintain your focus and stay sharp for the entire race as you implement your plan.
When you bring up nutrition there are usually more questions than there are answers. Here, we will simply focus on the benefits and importance of nutritional planning. Athletes are encouraged to seek out specific nutritional advice for their unique situation from a qualified Professional or Coach. Having a plan for your nutrition will help you finish strong.
Most athletes would never toe the line of a race without training. It is no different when it comes to race-day nutrition. You must train with the nutrition you plan to use on race day. Ask any veteran distance athlete and they will tell you the horror stories of poor nutritional planning. Improper race-day nutrition and nutritional timing can sideline even the most fit and well-trained athlete.
In order to avoid nutritional race-day pitfalls, it is imperative that a nutrition plan be developed long before it is ever put to practice in a race. A balance of quick digesting carbohydrates, water and electrolytes are the basis of a good nutritional plan. Timing of each of these elements can change depending on the distance of the race, size of the athlete, intensity of racing, weather conditions, etc. There is no single answer. It takes experimentation and maybe a bit of research until an athlete can settle on what they need nutritional to have their best race. Once an athlete establishes what the best nutrition plan is, it should be practiced and tested over and over in training before being applied to racing (particularly an important race). This 'training' will pay dividends towards a personal best race.
The worst thing that can happen with your nutrition in transition is to leave something crucial behind. Planning will make certain this doesn’t happen. Nutrition for the bike leg and the run should be set up prior to the start. There are many different methods of attaching your nutrition to your bike from bags to flasks to electrical tape. Your solid food should be cut up into bite-size pieces and stored in Ziploc bags that you put in the pockets of your jersey, in a Fuel Belt (for the run) or store on the bike. Prepare everything you need and have it ready to go directly into your mouth. Water bottles should be filled and loaded on the bike and in Fuel Belts. Gels and supplements should be stored in easy containers for quick opening and use.
Triathlon and The Transition Area
If you are a triathlete you are aware that races can be won or lost in that abyss between sports we refer to as “transition”. Transition is the time when the athlete is moving from one sport to the other. This time includes a changing of physical demands on the body, as well as a change of gear and clothing. You practice to swim, bike and run. Don't forget to practice your transition!
Transition is the forgotten discipline in triathlon. While some athletes seamlessly move from one sport to another in a matter of seconds, others seems to fumble for minutes, losing precious time. I like to explain the purpose of transition to beginner athletes like this: The purpose of transition is to GET OUT of transition. Transition is not necessarily the best time to take a break, have a snack or sort through your gear.
As with everything else, proper planning goes a long way when it comes to transition. This planning begins with what an athlete intends to wear for the duration of the race. With most distances, even long distances, an athlete can chose an outfit that is suitable for all three sports. This completely eliminates the need to even worry about clothing. What goes in the water with you at the start, will cross the finish-line with you at the end. An investment in triathlon-specific clothing is an investment in time.
Getting to transition early on race-day is helpful in getting an ideal place to set up. Look for a spot that will reduce how far you will have to run with your bike. Face your bike toward the “bike out” exit. It is much easier to drop your bike off a rack and head in a straight line than trying to navigate around obstacles. The best and fastest transition places on the bike rack are closest to the aisle where you will run in and out. This limits traffic from other athletes as well as being easier to find. Again, the Purpose of Transition is to GET OUT of Transition! Where ever you rack-up, take a minute to walk in from the exits. Take a mental note of where you are and how you will locate your gear in the midst of the race. Some people like to mark their spots with a helium-filled balloon, or with chalk on the ground. In the least, count how many racks you will pass by from each exit until you come to your row.
Before the start of a race, an athlete should set up their gear in such a way to reduce the need to THINK. You want to be in and out of transition without having to think through what you need. A great example, is putting your sunglasses, lenses down and arms open, in your upside down helmet. When you get to transition all you have to do is slip on the glasses and stick the helmet on top of your head- no fumbling, no unbuckling, saving valuable seconds. Think in order of what gear you should put onto your body first. Make sure the first items to go on, are on the top and the last items needed are on the bottom. Make certain that any necessary Velcro is undone and helmets and hats are upside down. Use quick laces for running shoes and race belts for race numbers. In training, see if you can ride and run sockless as to avoid the need to put on socks.
Planning Will Buy You Seconds if Not Minutes
So what does transition look like? Here is a simple example of a swim to bike transition built for speed: After the wetsuit is stripped and while bending over, the athlete puts glasses on, helmet on, shoes on, bike off the rack and gone. Simple as that. All of the items are stacked one on top of another in order of how they go on the body with the shoes at the bottom.
One of the most helpful time-saving ideas when it comes to transition is to use visualization. Close your eyes and watch yourself coming out of the water, managing your goggles and cap, stripping your wetsuit and slipping into your bike shoes. Watch yourself hang your bike and switch to your running shoes. Go over it step-by-step and eliminate everything accept the things you need in your transition area.
Racing well can come down to simple strategies in preparing for and planning your race-day. Physical preparation is paramount, but don’t forget the finer points of racing. With planning and preparation you’ll reduce seconds or maybe even minutes from your already FAST times.
Train Hard! Race Harder!
Colleen C. Rue
PowerTri Elite Triathlete
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
That clock isn't getting any slower so we've gathered some simple tips to make you faster and keep the clock, and your opponents, running scared.