How can I cycle and run faster? Swim!

How can I cycle and run faster? Swim!

The majority of  European long distance races this season are now behind us, and I have asked many athletes how they went. The most common answer: ‘it was ok but I somehow have to be able to cycle and run a lot faster.’

Every athlete wants to finish a race faster than the one before, or faster than last year etc, but only few athletes succeed. People often start to analyse and wonder… my cycling and running should be a lot better;  I was faster in the shorter distances and during the marathon last fall; I was quicker during all of the long Sunday rides with my friends.

After thorough consideration some athletes decide to invest more money in a new bike and to train longer and harder. This can often be the wrong approach.

One reason why most triathletes competing in long distance races are dissatisfied with their cycling and running performances actually has to do with their swim.

What is apparent is that swimming is often underestimated in triathlon.
Do I have to swim more? Or, I already swim three or more times a week!! – are frequent reactions.
No, perhaps you don’t need to swim more however it might be a good idea to work on your swimming technique – adopt a style that fits you individually.


Kristin attributes her recent improvement to changes in her approach to swim training. Photo Credit: Jose Lois Hourcade

Kristin Lie from Norway is a great example of someone who invested time and effort into redefining her swim technique and has since seen the rewards. She recently detailed the changes in her approach in her Blog after her success at IM 70.3 Haugesund:

After the IM 70.3 in Haugesund I received numerous enquiries and comments or I was asked directly about my swimming performance. Here is my answer:

During the last past years I spent a lot of time in the water. I trained with many different swimming coaches and tried everything possible to increase my speed in the water.
The result: lots of frustration for all of the effort!!!! In May I took part in a Trisutto Camp in Mallorca. Brett Sutton and Dirk Neumann found a swimming style that was good for me.. We adjusted two small things. My breathing rhythm was changed and my swimming style was simplified considerably. Place Press Push makes my swim goes whoosh….

Result: I am out of the water faster, and more importantly I save energy. Before it felt like I needed 20 Calories and now only 1 Calorie. I immediately have power on the bike and can deliver my performance. I might offend some swim coaches now but pure swim training has nothing to do with swim training for a triathlon. This also applies to cycling and running. Which both also were changed during the camp.“

We cannot describe it better!

How can you simplify your swim; how can you get out of the water faster and more relaxed; how can you achieve faster splits on the bike and during the run, or how can you increase the overall fun and enjoyment of triathlon…, all of these these aspects are discussed and practiced at our Trisutto Camps and I invite you to join me in Mallorca in October or next Spring to learn more.

 Dirk Neumann is a Trisutto Coach based out of Frankfurt Germany. Earlier in 2017 he coached his first camps on the beautiful island of Mallorca. Dirk will be coaching the Trisutto philosophy and Total Body Force Methods at camps in Mallorca this coming October with more camps available in 2018. Check here for camp dates and details.

 

Don’t make the race a misery!

Don’t make the race a misery!

As we head to the business end of the season, I want to address a big problem for not only age group athletes, but also pros. Putting unbearable pressure on oneself to perform before the race even starts.

Many who join our squad are more than a little surprised that as we enter our race preparation for the big days, how laid back and not revved up they are. Our results on getting it right on the big day are formidable! Thus, athletes looking for the big motivational speeches are duly disappointed!

We keep it calm, controlled and clinical!

As mentioned in previous blogs, we shun the word ‘win’. It has no meaning in itself. It can’t positively effect the outcome where one person or a team can beat another. That outcome only manifests itself if the preparation has been carried out in the best possible way, and on race day the focus is on the process.

We at Trisutto have had huge success with many athletes who before joining us, did not get their job done to the best of their abilities on the day they wanted. As a coach just as an athlete, I do have my process. That is about diffusing expectations and honing the athletes thoughts on having a clear head, to be able to then execute a planned strategy.

Here is a taste of what I try to achieve:

1) I emphasize that thinking of winning is a detriment to performance. We must have the self discipline to concentrate in the ‘now’ and to be able to execute certain skills and actions.

2) The strategy or actions have been laid out, discussed, and agreed well before race week. So it is rehearsed and completely understood as second nature.

3) Have check lists. This is so important, to take any last minute error that can provide extra pressure.

  • Check list for travel
  • Check list for race gear
  • Check list for strategy
  • Check list of how to think on the day

Why lists?
How many times have I seen athletes been destabilized because they left something at home! That creates anxiety.
How many times has a piece of race kit been left at the race hotel! That creates anxiety.

Check lists for strategy – when the nerves come (and they do), having something to remind the athlete of their procedure that is physical makes an enormous difference.
Check lists or some written word about how you should view competition is very important.

Quite a bit was made about what I gave Chrissie to settle her down at races – a copy of the poem ‘IF‘ by Rudyard Kipling hit the spot. Nicola Spirig has a different type of list, but it all has the ability to do one thing. The similar job as the other lists. The most important thing you can do as an athlete or coach, is to plan to diffuse anxiety! This is easier said than done. But if you follow the blueprint above, you will be amazed how it can clear your mind to have a positive outcome to your big races.

I wish the best mechanical luck to all Trisutto followers, athletes and coaches. For those who aren’t, we are about the best person on the day winning – it doesn’t have to be us!  That is the honour of sport.

It still lives at Trisutto.

 

 Join Trisutto Head Coach Brett Sutton at one of his remaining training camps in 2017 in LanzaroteCyprus or Gran Canaria.

 

Play The Hand You’re Dealt

Play The Hand You’re Dealt

Of the many valuable lessons impressed upon me during my time working with Brett, the Doc, there is one that rings true time and time again from professional ranks to age groupers alike. It is to play the hand you’re dealt.

What does this mean? Playing the hand you’re dealt….It could for example mean any of the following:-

  • that you started swimming at 40, are 5’4, and not flexible so NO you will never swim like Michael Phelps
  • you are riding a TT bike before running a marathon so NO you will never cycle at 120 rpm like Chris Froome
  • your GI may not be able to absorb calories like Chrissie Wellington so NO you can’t ignore the vomiting instead slow down and play defense until you can start racing again
  • you’re in your 50’s dealing with a history of injuries and crashes that have left you with a body that isn’t able to bend and respond as it used so NO you can’t expect that to change with hoping.

The true lesson is that you accept your own limitations and maximize what you can do with the body you have on race day.

I was able to see this lesson truly and valiantly in action watching my athlete Claudia Kretschman race her way to a 3rd place finish in her age group at Ironman Mt. Tremblant last week.

Claudia has a long history in triathlon racing successfully in the 2000s in Kona as an age grouper and even racing back in the early 90s as a professional. But over her long career, she has faced many setbacks from injuries and crashes that have left her with body in her 50s that isn’t the same as the one she had in her 20s. An accident a few years ago resulted in severe damage to her cervical spine, her C1 vertebra was shattered in 7 places and the ligaments on both sides of her neck were shredded. This injury requiried Claudia to have a fusion from the base of her skull to her C4 and left her with very limited movement in her neck. During her comeback last year, she had another setback as a stress fracture in her heel left her once again on the sidelines. Yet despite these setbacks, Claudia was intent on not only completing her comeback Ironman in Mt. Tremblant but also on fighting to be at the top of her age group.

Claudia’s neck fusion has required her to adjust to a new style of swimming and biking. Rather than focus on what she can’t do, Claudia has improvised. She can no longer sight while swimming by lifting her head, so Claudia has adopted a stroke with a breaststroke stop every 40-50 cycles to check that she Is on course. Most athletes would use this as an excuse to accept slower swim times but not Claudia. She is pushing herself to match and surpass her previous swim times even with this new adjustment that costs her time and interrupts her momentum.

                                        

Before the neck fusion, and after, showing how Claudia has adjusted her bike position.

Likewise on the bike, Claudia is no longer able to achieve her old aero position but has had to make adjustments that allow her to maintain an aero position that suits her new limited mobility. While many would use this as an excuse for slower bike times, Claudia is continuing to push herself to get and stay as aero as she can within the severe limitations of her neck flexibility. Claudia accepts the body she has but does not use it as an excuse. She strives to continually challenge herself and raise the bar.

Finally, on the run, despite her heel injury last fall, Claudia has put in the miles and built up slowly accepting that she has to adjust her run training and style to be strong and fit to run off an Ironman bike. While it may not lead to her fastest half marathon splits it has paid off in Ironman where she is strong and efficient to the final steps of the marathon.

We can all learn from Claudia who truly exemplifies Doc’s lesson. Yes she has been dealt a raw hand by the accident and injuries that have left her with a body that is never going to be as flexible or resilient as it was in her 20s. But instead of dwelling on what she can’t do, Claudia focused on maximizing what she can do despite her limitations and triumphed racing her way to a top performance.

 

Mary Beth Ellis is one of the USA’s most decorated long distance triathletes with 11 Ironman Distance victories and a World ITU Long Course Title. Mary Beth has been a full time Trisutto coach since 2016 after she retired from Professional racing.

 

The Importance of Intensity Zones During Training

The Importance of Intensity Zones During Training

Very often we hear about athletes working in this grey zone, however this area doesn’t allow athletes to improve their performance.  The grey zone is where many athletes spend their training, because they believe that to race fast they must train fast and constantly push the pace.  It also feels nice, and is enjoyable to roll along with mates!

As a result, their ‘easy sessions’ are done at an intensity level that doesn’t properly develop their aerobic system, and their ‘hard sessions’ are done below the required intensity to fully develop their anaerobic system, as they are too tired from their ‘easy session’.

The middle or grey zone is always a bad choice

The mistake isn’t the intensity itself but maintaining this same pace in all training sessions. So, the training becomes counterproductive and a lot of of time and energy is wasted. Athletes who try to do too much speed work in a given week will either burnout or perform sub-optimally.

REMEMBER: If you push hard all the time, you will be tired and unable to push harder when you need to!!!

In all three disciplines it is important to respect the following progression:

Warm Up: Should last between 15 minutes and half an hour; this gives the body plenty of time to gradually get ready for physical activity and to prepare the athletes mentally for the work ahead. Warm-up can also be used to practice skills and drills.  The warm-up should gently prepare the body for exercises by gradually increasing the heart rate and circulation; this will loosen the joints and increase blood flow to the muscles

Main Set: Depending on which training cycle you are in, you will cover varying sessions on endurance / stamina work, and speed / power work.

Warm Down: The length of your warm-down depends on the length and intensity of your session. A tougher session requires a longer warm-down than a steady run. The objective is to return to a resting state over a period of 15 minutes to half an hour. The warm down can also take the form of other parts of the triathlon e.g. a loosen up short swim after a hard run.

Four training intensity zones: easy, moderate, medium, mad.

Training intensity refers to the exertion level put forth during training. Is your workout “easy” or “hard”? Were you able to talk while doing that run or were you gasping for air?  These are all factors that can help characterize the intensity at which you are working.

The Trisutto training methodology uses 4 intensities.

Easy: This can be for recovery – an easy run, easy bike ride or swim helps to clear the waste products out of the muscles and increase the blood flow after an hard session. The real benefit of recovery runs is that they increase your fitness, promotes muscle tissue repair, glycogen replenishment or any other physiological response.   EASY can also be the warm up, and warm down before and after then main set in a workout.

Moderate: to develop peripheral training adaptations:  increase fat metabolism, increase number of aerobic enzymes.

Medium: To increase lactate threshold and maximal aerobic capacity.  Improve efficiency (same speed, lower heart rate then a previous marker).  “Broken conversation’’

Mad: do this only if you really feel up to it. To increase stroke volume, increase maximal aerobic capacity, and lactate tolerance (buffering capacity).  “Broken conversation” ceases. Tingly or heavy muscles likely.

Indoor training for focusing the intensity zone

Turbo trainer
Turbo training allows you to do your workouts in a controlled environment that can be easily and accurately measured and reproduced. What’s more, it’ll probably be easier to train consistently as you won’t have the weather as an excuse to miss training.

Use indoor sessions to work on your ability to maintain a hard effort for an extended period of time by focusing on intensity.

There’s little to no point simply climbing on and pedalling randomly. To get the most from your stationary pedalling, you should start with a session plan. To be effective, this must be suited to your current level of fitness, and to your goals

Treadmill
Running indoors comes to mind with inclement weather, however running indoor is a great supplement to outdoor running and offers such advantages as: quicker workouts, speed and form improvement, safety, and it allows creativity in movement.

With tapis training it’s possible to reproduce different and increasingly intense zones / pace.

Summary

  • Don’t make all your workouts High-intensity training
  • Respect different intensity zones
  • Optimise Your Recovery For Optimal Performance
  • Hacking your body’s ability to bounce back from competitions, intense workouts or even just intense training or work periods is key to enhancing your performance.

 

Irene has been a multisport competitor for over 5 years. She is a 70.3 World Championship qualifier and recently dedicated herself to a full time coaching career, completing the Trisutto Coaching Certification Course and working as co-coach at 3 camps. She is based out of Padua, Italy and speaks Italian and English.

 

Trisutto.com online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

 

10 Tips to Better Triathlon Running

10 Tips to Better Triathlon Running

I often have athletes coming to me because they want to improve their run off the bike. Often times the first response is the athlete thinks they need to run more. Sometimes this is the case but often it’s not. Running for a 1500 m track event and running off of a 90 km or 180 km bike are two completely different things. I’ve seen athletes hiring a run coach to improve their running, then see their 400m times improve, but still fall short when it comes to having a good run off the bike. Here are my 10 tips to helping you have a better run off the bike in triathlon:

1. Get off your toes

I’m not sure when the forefoot running first came out but I’m almost certain it wasn’t discovered in triathlon! Teaching athletes to strike from the front of the foot leads to nothing but low leg injuries and for most is not sustainable, especially for a 42 km run off the bike. This style of running takes the key muscles out of the equation (glutes) and puts way too much pressure on the lower leg and calf. When an athlete is tired and completely depleted it makes no sense in my opinion to keep loading up the smaller muscle groups. Now there is still the odd runner out there who can sustain an Ironman marathon on their toes, but it’s more than likely that they’ve been running a high volume for most of their lives and can get away with it.  Even Haile Gebrselassie, a former marathon world record holder, when asked what he changed to improve his marathon times, said he needed to move to more of a heel strike.

2. Work on high run cadence 

In general, increasing run turnover will help an athlete run faster. In the second half of the run when the body is out of “spring”, a long stretched out stride just takes too much energy out of the athlete. We aim for a cadence of 90 strides per minute for most people. For people with shorter legs it is often higher at around 95-100.

3. Improve run efficiency

One of the most important factors for a good Ironman marathon is being as efficient as possible. The best ways I have found to improve run efficiency is to increase your turnover (as mentioned above), staying upright (not leaning forward), reducing your vertical oscillation (the amount you bounce up and down every step), keeping your arms up closer to your chest, and keeping your legs low (reducing the amount of hamstring kick at the back of your stride). It’s important to always focus on holding a good technique as you get more fatigued at the end of your sessions. We call this TUF (technique under fatigue). If you ever notice the best runners in the back half of a race, you will almost always notice a similar thing, they still look good even though they may be hurting because they are efficient!

4. Get on the treadmill

If your main problem is either needing to get your cadence up or you struggle from running injuries, then my suggestion is get on the treadmill. It’s helps with turnover as it’s almost impossible to over stride. The surface also helps lessen the impact on the body. Also, when athletes are trying to improve their bike, treadmill running works well as they are able to recover faster from a treadmill run so they can hit the bike hard enough on the non-running days.

5. Get your bike stronger

When I won my age group at Ironman Australia in 2015 with the fastest female run split, I did not do more running that year, in fact it was the opposite (it was 65 km/week max). I actually did less running and just worked on my bike strength with a tonne of big gear work on the bike. I recently had an athlete run a 2:57 marathon (a 12 min marathon PB) after a PB bike this year.  The main thing we worked on was proper fuelling and more big gear training on the bike, NOT more running.

6. Run more hills

This is fairly obvious, but long distance triathlon is very much a strength sport where strength endurance is the key component to a successful race. Running hills, just like pushing big gears on the bike, will help you run faster on the flat. It also helps prevent running injuries. At Trisutto we generally like to run hills every 3rd run or so.

7. Build mileage slowly

You can only get better if you’re not injured. One of the best ways to reduce the chances of injury is to build up the mileage slowly. I recommend increasing run volume by no more than 10% per week. At Trisutto we say “hurry slowly”. For most females it’s best to only run every second day, in order to rest the bones on the non-run days.

8. Double or triple run days

Double or triple run days is a great way to get mileage up instead of just a really long run on the weekend. This also helps keep the run quality up and generally less risk for injury as opposed to just going long and slow every weekend.

9. Make most of your runs progressive

There are a few reasons for doing this. The first is there is less chance of injury when you start your runs slower. If the muscles are tired from training load, they often need more time to warm up and get all the big muscles firing. If you step out the front door and go straight into a hard run (which needs the large muscle groups) you increase the risk of pulling something. Also, I’ve never seen it work in a race to start too fast. You will almost always finish a race/session better if you start easier and finish fast. It seems to work ok for the Kenyans.

10. Stay fuelled

Staying well fuelled in my opinion is the key factor for staying injury free. Any injuries I’ve seen have almost 100% of the time happened from under fueling or losing weight too quickly. It’s a tough subject because the main thought is “if I lose weight I will run faster”. Yes this can be true, but if you are injured from losing weight and can’t run, you obviously won’t improve. Do some athletes need to stay bigger to improve? Yes. Could some athletes lose weight to improve? Yes. It all depends on the size of the engine and frame of the athlete. If you are an athlete who may have a little bit too much extra weight, my advice is to try and lose it slowly and more in the off season when the training intensity/load isn’t too high.

 

Michelle Barnes is a 13 time Ironman Finisher and 7 time Kona Qualifier with over 30 AG podiums in all distances. She was recently the 35-39 AG Champion at Ironman Australia, where she had the fastest overall female marathon, including the pros. Michelle understands the challenge of training at a competitive level and need for balance while holding down a full time job.

Join Michelle in Vernon, British Columbia for two training camps in July.

Striking the Balance: Cadence & Power in Triathlon

Striking the Balance: Cadence & Power in Triathlon

A few weeks ago, one of my athletes came to town so that we could work on her swim and run technique. For her, the common thread to improvement in both disciplines lay in making adjustments to the balance of her distance per stroke (or stride length) and her strokes (or strides) per minute. Balancing these two elements across the disciplines is essential to optimizing performance in triathlon.

In The Boys in the Boat, about the University of Washington eight-man crew team and their journey to win gold in the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games, Daniel James Brown illustrates the same concept as it applies to rowing.

There are certain laws of physics by which all crew coaches live and die. The speed of a racing shell is determined primarily by two factors: the power produced by the combined strokes of the oars, and the stroke rate, the number of strokes the crew takes each minute. So if two boats carrying the same weight have the exact same stroke rate, the one producing more power per stroke will pull ahead. If those two boats have the exact same power per stroke but one has a higher stroke rate, the one with the higher rate will pull ahead… Every race is a balancing act, a series of delicate and deliberate adjustments of power on the one hand and stroke rate on the other.

This is an instructive passage from a rich and inspiring book. It helps to illustrate an important fundamental concept: speed is a function of distance per stroke and strokes per minute. This applies on the swim, the bike, and the run. What we’re after is striking that balance to optimize power, turnover, and efficiency.

In the interest of clarity, it is worth mentioning that in cycling the distance your foot travels around the bottom bracket is fixed, however, depending on your gear selection, the distance per pedal stroke, or gear inches, will vary. In cycling, gear selection and the corresponding gear inches determine your effective distance per stroke.

In all three disciplines, efficiency also has a direct impact on your effective distance per stroke. The better you can direct your energy in a straight line, the farther and faster you will go for every stroke and stride. Efficiency is both mechanical and metabolic. Mechanical efficiency has to do with technique, streamlining, aerodynamics, stability, the condition of your drivetrain, etc. Metabolic efficiency is a function of fitness. The fitter you are, the longer you can tolerate and sustain higher cardiovascular and muscular loads.

On the swim, bike, and run, accelerations and pace progressions are some of the best ways to improve power, distance per stroke, and efficiency. Accelerations and pace progressions improve turnover and also help to develop the body awareness necessary to manage and regulate physical and mental focus, relaxation, and technique under fatigue.

Hill training on the bike and the run, as well as low cadence, heavy gear work on the bike, are indispensable for developing the power and core strength necessary to increase distance per stroke and to hold that stroke/stride length over time.

In the water, my athletes use pull buoy, paddles, and ankle straps daily to build swim specific strength that will improve their distance per stroke, stability, and efficiency. Accelerations and pace progressions are standard-issue for the development of turnover, economy, body awareness, and power.

In swimming as well as the other disciplines, I have my athletes focus on three intensity levels: strong, very strong, and fast that correlate with Brett Sutton’s moderate, medium, and mad. Tuning into these three intensities help to work the balance between stroke length and stroke rate. It is easiest to conceptualise it for the swim. I explain that strong should feel long, strong, and balanced. There should be good purchase and hold of the water as well as strength and muscular engagement through the body. Very strong should have the same length of stroke, purchase, balance, and engagement as strong, with an increase in turnover. With fast the focus is on high-intensity, turnover, and just cracking it out.

Getting back to the athlete who was visiting to work on her swim and run technique. As we were wrapping up she expressed a concern that is shared by many athletes who attend training camps or don’t have regular contact with their coaches. She said that she felt more confident doing the new techniques while I was watching and was concerned that when training on her own she would just practice and reinforce poor technique. The key to improvement, I told her, is in two things: awareness and discipline. I know that she has both. It is her awareness that allowed her to make the adjustments while I was watching. Her discipline is what has her consistently nail her sessions, to the letter, regardless of circumstance. Tapping into those two resources – awareness and discipline – is what makes the difference for her. Likewise, awareness and discipline will make the difference for you of as you continue to work the balance between power and turnover, as well as so many other things in triathlon and beyond.

 

Mateo Mercur has been a professional triathlon coach for nearly 15 years. He has trained three Age Group World Champions, an Age Group WC Silver Medalist, and the Ironman Maryland Women’s Champion. Based in Bend, Oregon.