Summer training in St. Moritz.

At we often remind our athletes about the importance of training by feel. We frequently take away all the gadgets from them before a session and ask them to exercise the judgement in terms of intensity or time of exercise, or both. Recently Head Coach Brett Sutton asked me to give him my stopwatch and the Garmin prior to a track running session. Why? I was supposed to run 200m intervals hard but was training at an altitude of 1825m in St Moritz. Believe me, it feels completely different than at the sea level. I often train on the track in London and try to hit certain splits, but no matter the conditions I try to run equally fast wherever I train. I know I shouldn’t, I know the reasons for running slower but still it’s in my nature (and probably the nature of most triathletes) to try to get the best time each time. But to keep pushing for the sea level splits, I’d be going deep into red and the cost of such a session to my body would be way too big. It may cost an extra 2-3 days of recovery before you could push hard again. Training without the stopwatch meant that I ran what felt ‘hard’ – I didn’t know the splits, I was happy with the session when I completed and I did not have to analyse if I was running at my ‘normal’ pace, or the reasons for running above it or below it. Job done, good session, happy athlete, happy coach.

These principles apply equally to training at the sea level as so many variables affect the way we feel and the intensity and speed we can generate. Chasing your PB in every session is not a good idea and the times or Watts may not be as an objective a measure of the session as many think. Our body responds to training and other external factors like work stress, family commitments, recovery, sleep amount in different ways. Comparing is only really possible if the impact of such stress factors is minimised. As an example one of my athletes a week before a key race during a busy time at work complained that she is unfit, swimming felt hard and slow, no power on the bike, lack of speed on the run. 10 days later after 4 or 5 nights of 7-8 hours sleep and reduced training volume during the taper she had a race of her life smashing PBs in all disciplines asking ‘where did this fitness come from?’

It came from the consistent training and her hard work over many months before the race. There are no mysteries in sport; conditioning, speed, strength and speed are built day after day, month after month and year after year. Comparing each session and measuring everything can be detrimental if taken out of context. I often see athletes stressing about their training sessions which did not go as they would like to, it upsets them causing additional stress that in turn further suppresses training performance. Don’t get me wrong, we are not against all the gadgets all the time. I love them as much as most of you do and if used correctly they do help with monitoring the training and long term performance, but we should not become slaves of the numbers in everything we do in training.

In my next blog I will share with you an example to illustrate the point. In the meantime happy training by feel and ‘perceived exertion’. online triathlon coaches are available to help improve your performance here.

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