Running Hill Reps ‘on feel’ at St. Moritz training camp earlier this season.

Following the response to my article Training by Feel last week and some of the comments I received on email and social media I would like to share with you my own experience to illustrate why training by feel and learning to listen to your body is so important not just in training – but for your racing. This is my own example but I’m sure it will be familiar to many racing.

In my last Ironman I had a very average swim which wasn’t a surprise, I was coming off a shoulder injury and so didn’t panic getting out of the water. I knew I can do much better on the bike with all the consistent training I did over last few months. I do race with the power meter, more for keeping my enthusiasm at the bay rather than anything else, as like many I tend to go to hard in the early stages of the bike. I have an alarm set at a certain level and every time I go to hard it goes on and I need to ease off. From time to time I look at my average power and the normalised power to confirm if I’m working at the ‘right’ intensity. I know what I can do over a distance and adjust it for the specific course profile and weather conditions and as long as I’m within 10-15W either way from what I did in training I’m happy. However, in this race the computer did not start, there was no power readings, no cadence, no heart rate!… I have no idea why, It never happened to me before, the equipment was tested in so many training sessions, batteries charged before the race, powermeter calibrated, I did everything the manuals required me to do, still no readings!!!

I have to admit that when I realised what is happening I have panicked for a moment, how I am going to pace myself now? No power reading is not so much an issue for me but I often pace myself using the heart rate monitor and I use cadence in races. Not this time!

Then I thought ‘I will not allow a piece of electronic equipment to ruin my race’, especially as it something that it cannot slow me down, it is not a broken wheel or a flat tyre. Living in England for years I’m often exposed to their dry sense of humour and one of the sayings that I’m very often exposed to is ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ and this is what I decided to do in the race. Control what you can control, stay focused, read what your body is telling you, race the way you feel at the moment. Basically, focus best you can on the process and accept the outcome whatever it is going to be.

MMM training explained.

Very often during our training sessions we work off our MMM (Moderate, Medium, Mad) sets. The intensities translate loosely to Ironman, Half Ironman and Olympic distance, most of the time we do them without measuring devices, we go as hard or as slow as our body allowed us to and how we feel on the day. This training helps us to learn how different intensities should feel so I knew what to do – go as in training, feel the pressure on the pedals, don’t spin, but when legs start hurting or I start breathing heavily, back off. This is how I rode the first lap and I felt in control. Around half way point out of nowhere I hear an annoying ‘beeeeeep’. This could mean only one thing – my computer decided to start cooperating and was telling me that on this hill you are going a bit to hard. I continued riding the same way as I started, and only occasionally backing off when I could hear the alarm. From time to time I looked at my HR which was almost exactly where I wanted it to be.

I finished the bike strong and still had legs for a decent run and it was one of my best Ironman rides out of 20- something I completed and overall a very nice experience. Back at home I downloaded the data and checked my bike splits on the Ironman website. I was pleasantly surprised to see very even numbers throughout, although this is what I secretly expected.

Our training philosophy follows ‘perceived exertion’ or ‘train by feel’ approach much more than any other. The main reason is that training be feel helps our athletes to avoid overtraining and eliminate the risk of disappointment which may negatively affect other sessions.

However, now I experienced another very good reason: It can save your race. It is always a liberating feeling to surprise yourself and let your body decide how hard should feel! online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

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