Benefits of Recovery
Before you say that recovery methods have been covered time and time again and you know everything there is to know about having your recovery shake right after a tough session you will read some stuff here that is ‘street smart advice’ that you have never heard before. We will be going over every trick you can pull out the bag to aid recovery and tools to monitor your recovery.
There are multiple reasons why recovery is important:
- The main reason is that your adrenal glands are asked by your body during tough sessions to pump out adrenalins and make adrenal steroids which stress out your body in the ‘fight or flight’ state. You can’t ask your body to tear them out 24/7 and you need to refill your stores and give those glands a break. If you don’t recover you are going to deplete you body’s testosterone levels and produce a massive amount of cortisol which is inhibits your body in recovery and producing growth hormone decreasing the ability to recovery as quickly as you would like to.
- During intense training when muscle fibres tear you get calcium leakage and produce prostaglandins which makes your body send white blood cells and fluid to the damaged area to start the healing process. You can’t throw in another workout until the inflammatory process has taken place and gone away. A chronic injury is this process never going away (i.e. a lack of recovery). There may be underlying biomechanical issues that cause the issue but a lack of recovery makes it chronic.
- Your body has a finite storage of fuel (carbs for example) and you need to give it the opportunity to refill these or you are will be sub-par in training due to this lack of recovery. Also, there is a mental motivational component to consider. You need a break to allow yourself to come back and perform to the best of your ability in your sessions.
There are so many things that recovery gives you that a lot of people miss out on. Mark Allen said that “you are better to be 10% undertrained than 1% over trained”. It is discipline in itself.
Markers for Recovery
Use one, some or all of the below markers which provide you with indicators which will allow you to make an informed assessment of your state of recovery before undertaking your days training:
- Resting HR – elevated morning pulse is from an overworked nervous system which is a good indication that you are over trained. But, if your heart rate is over low you will have other symptoms if it is due to overtraining and it is probably being a result of becoming fitter. Many people find this difficult (especially after being woken up by an alarm clock), You can iPhone apps for tracking your heart rate or something like a fitbit.
- Body Mass – If you are losing weight (2% in one day) is usually a sign that you have a loss of hydration combined with a loss of body mass is a warning sign that you could not be recovered.
- Quality of sleep – when you are not recovered properly you testosterone is down and you’re not recovered. Waking up but not needing a big wee is a sign that you are not recovered. Waking up early or not falling to sleep early can be signs of not being recovered. You could be just hungry so have a banana dipped in peanut butter and if you are still struggling to sleep it will be probably due to lack of recovery
- Performance – Having dead legs often, noticing that you are not getting faster (if already doing interval training), performance in your sessions is down on the previous days performance (pace, speed, watts) are sure fire ways of your body telling you to take a rest and recover.
- Oxygen Saturation – 96-99% is the banding you are looking for. A Finger Pulse Oximeter & Heart Rate Monitor will allow you to determine this to assess your recovery.
- DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) – this is a normal reaction to training (especially following interval training) but if persistent it is a good indicator that you are not recovering properly.
- Hydration – the colour of your pee is a great and easy way of reviewing your hydration. If you are peeing yellow you are dehydrated and hydration is key to recovery
- Appetite – your appetite goes down if you are not fully recovered or not recovering properly.
- PAMS (Profile Of Mood States) – score you mood, when this is low and you are anxious etc. it can be indicative of lack of recovery or overreaching in training. Well-being and happiness is a good sign of decent job of recovering.
You want to give the body more of the tools it needs to naturally speed up the recovery process. When you take Ibuprofen, or the like, that can stop the body sending white blood cells to the area and shuts down the recovery process. If you treat the area with ice and little bit of heat to get better blood flow to the area gives the body what it needs to speed up the recovery rather than covering the issue up with drugs.
Supplements, Diet and Recovery Aids.
An anti-inflammatory diet includes foods that naturally contain flavonoids and polyphenols. Foods that have those compounds are dark fruits (e.g. pomegranate), dark leafy green (e.g. bok choy, kale) and cumin, turmeric’s and other Indian type spices. Thai and Indian food with curries in your diet help your body shut down inflammation naturally.
Night Shades; potatoes, tomatoes and peppers are high in alkaloids which can inhibit recovery. If you eat a ton of these they will hinder your recovery. However, the Night Shades pale into insignificance compared to sugars and starches (high carbs, fruit juice, scones, crackers, pizza, pasta, biscuits, and bagels based diets) is are one of the worse things you can do to stop your body being set up to repair and recover as it poses natural anti-inflammatory potential.
Sugar and Starchy foods should be replaced with less starchy foods and a high fat food diet (e.g. avocado, oily fish). Don’t be concerned about your energy levels as although pasta is energy, you could take the white pasta and replace with quinoa or rice pasta or substitute with squash, cauliflower, beans lentils, sweet potato etc. which will still give you fuel and energy and glycogen to burn but are not as inflammatory as wheat based starches.
Recovery Shake; It seems to be a general consensus that after training you need to have a protein and carb rich meal with 30 minutes! However, most of the studies that have been done to underpin this claim were done on athletes in a fasted state with low blood sugar levels. If you are training in this state (i.e. before breakfast) it is applicable to use the “30 minutes window”. Otherwise what you are eating during the day is enough to keep your body fuelled. You need to ask yourself whether you fuelled before your session, if so, there is no need to rush to find a banana and protein powder. If you are eating when you are hungry and eating healthily your body will restore its glycogen stores within 8 hours so if you plan on working out again within this time frame fill up your body stores within the 30 minutes window, if not just eat your normal diet.
Eating before you go to sleep; if you are trying to lose weight, you may be better served by going to bed hungry without pumped up insulin levels which will store the energy as fat. If weight loss is not an issue you will get a bit of a release of growth hormone to aide recovery if you eat before bed. If you do not want to eat but still want the increase growth hormone you can try gamma-Aminobutyric acid (GABA) before bed. Deep sleep also aides repair and recovery during sleep which can be aided by using magnesium.
Free radicals are produced during exercise which hold back the recovery process and your body needs help after training with anti-oxidants. You need different anti-oxidants to do this. You want to combine eating a healthy diet with taking anti-oxidant that is as full a spectrum of anti-oxidants you can find meal replacement from Living Fuel (Super Berry or Super Greens) assuming you are eating plenty of nuts and seeds and fruits and veg in your diet. Mt. Capra Solar Synergy Sports Drink or Synergy Natural Organic Super Greens Powder are also good alternatives.
Calcium leakage occurs during exercise. Magnesium displaces calcium which rapidly alleviates post workout soreness. Oral use of magnesium is good for sleep but spray on magnesium is far superior for post race / workouts. You can find a number of option at amazon but my favourite is Better You Magnesium Oil Original Spray.
Protolithic enzymes, which are a blend of extract from meat, pineapple and papayle, such as Quest Enzyme and Health Plus Digest Plus Digestive Enzyme Supplement. Also, taking amino acids before your workout can stave off the use of amino acids from your muscles during exercise. Eat steamed chicken, yoghurt or take an amino acid powder .
Protein – Protein powder should be considered as a real food which can be mixed with coconut milk, oatmeal or quinoa in the morning for example. Protein powders are very very good at giving your body what it needs for repair and recovery but it’s importance seems to have been blown out of proportion which is maybe crossover from body building to the world of endurance and triathlon. Most people eat more protein than they actually need which can cause problems for the liver and kidneys with the production of additional ammonia and toxic bi-products. Best way is to take on a bunch of protein is right after your workout as this is good way to send a big recovery message to your body. Eat just enough protein to give your body what it needs to repair and recover (about 0.8-1.0 grams/lb per day or 1.8-2.2 grams/kg per day) but no more … meat or protein powders during the day, amino acids before a workout and most of the rest of what you eat should come from high amounts of fat and a smart amount of carbs injected when appropriate. Total percentage of your daily calorie intake should be 25-30% protein.
During training sessions it is also a good option to choose gels / liquids that offer Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) in them (Gu Roctane). BCAA can decrease levels of post workout soreness, help you to recovery faster and go harder in the session.
Compression Gear – allows your body to milk fluid and inflammatory bi-products up out of an area much easier as it pulls blood from the area you have inflammation and shovels it up towards your heart. With 110 Compression Wear you can put ice packs in which compresses the blood vessels a little bit which dilates and increase blood flow and secretes post workout soreness and recovery. Good for increasing recovery but don’t get too excited as they won’t increase performance. However, if you wear them during an Ironman (for example) it will help with your muscles being constantly jarred especially towards the end of a marathon. You won’t go any faster but you’ll be less sore during and the next day.
Electro stimulation – a component you attach to the muscle with a pad that simulates massage and forces the muscles to contract and get the blood flowing and increase recovery and reduce soreness, especially if you are going to be sitting down pretty quickly after finishing.
Massage or foam roller or muscle stick – can be used to reduce muscular adhesion after exercising. This allows the muscle to move more freely and to increase blood flow. Compression wear and a foam roller are massive for recovery. If you are getting a massage don’t time it right before or right after a tough session or race.
A Bath – A cold bath after exercise can be used it no compression/ice is not available. Magnesium / Salt baths the day after exercise (but not right after) can really help absorb some of the calcium and soreness.
Ice baths – they can help with soreness after a long run or bike. Fill the bath with ice before you set off and jump in for 20 minutes (grit your teeth and stick with it). Most professional sports teams now use ice baths so that alone speaks for itself.
Swimming for recovery – is good the day after hard workout days and races and is really good as it is non weight bearing and increases blood flow (Just don’t over do it!). Active recovery is good if it isn’t weight bearing and increases blood flow; walking, riding bike, swimming etc.
How do you track your Recovery?
Of the markers for recovery above the favoured ones are morning resting heart rate / oxygen saturation, a comparison of how your legs feel against the previous days session and your pee colour. Also, make sure to pay close attention to sleep (8 hours a night optimal like a log). Pay attention to appetite (if not hungry you are not recovered). Additionally, pay attention to sex drive; if it is down in the hole you are probably be down on your recovery.
Restwise – is an online software programme were you answer questions online which will assess your recovery.
You do not want to be tracking recovery intensely so much so that you are not enjoying training. Just pick a couple of parameters above and monitor how you progress. It can’t be stressed enough how important recovery is and 90% of athletes are not recovered on the start line of any race and they are pretty much screwed before the race has begun.
You invest so much time on your training you also need to spend a huge amount of time on your recovery.
Well I started training on Monday, overslept on Tuesday so tried to move my morning planned morning run session to the evening then had to work late and skipped the session altogether. The second session of my masterplan to knock at least an hour off my IMUK time and I skipped it! This made me ask the question “Is it OK to skip training sessions?”.
This has had me playing catch-up for the rest of the week having to skip my Friday day off to fit in a Swim Threshold Test. This has got me to thinking how common of a scenario is this and what is the best thing to do in this situation? Double up? Continue on ignoring the past?
This led me to doing some investigation on Google in which I found a couple of articles with, not quite conflicting, but slightly differing views on how to react in this situation, especially around higher intensity sessions. There is a lot of great info here for you to make an informed choice in this situation.
First article that I came across is an article by Chris Carmichael titled Missing in Action in which he described how there is no one size fits all it answer to this issue it depends on your situation. I have summarised the key points from the article below:
Missed Endurance Workout – with endurance rarely being the limiting factor that prevents athletes from achieving their goals, missing the occasional endurance workout has only a minor impact on your progress. Let it be and move on with your training schedule
Missed Interval Workout – if you’re in a phase of training where you are working on intervals at aerobic or lactate threshold intensities, shifting the interval workout forward will usually result in a two-day block (Tuesday/Thursday becomes Wednesday/Thursday). Since you’re getting more rest by not training on Tuesday, the two-day block can be quite beneficial. Just monitor your fatigue levels afterward in case you need a little more rest following the block. Don’t try and squeeze in consecutive VO2max sessions as this will have a lingering negative effect on your next week of training.
Missed key interval session in training block – As training gets more focused, you start using more two- and three-day blocks to increase overall training stimulus. If you need to miss a session remember that in the long run, recovery trumps intensity and each block is dependent on the previous one and impacts the next one.
Recovery Times – you can’t achieve two days’ worth in just one day. It’s better to preserve your scheduled recovery periods than it is to sacrifice recovery for additional intensity.
The article gives a real-life example: An athlete had a schedule of hard interval workouts on Wednesday and Thursday (two-day block), easy recovery sessions on Friday/Saturday, and another block on Sunday/Monday. On Friday he learned he had a meeting on Monday that nixed his workout plans, so he moved the interval session to Saturday, making the two-day block Saturday/Sunday.
It didn’t work. By prioritising intensity over recovery and eliminating one of the two recovery days between his training blocks, he was too fatigued to complete a high-quality workout on Sunday (now the fourth day of intervals in five days). He would have been better off keeping Saturday a relatively easy day and moderately in- creasing the workload in Sunday’s workout.
When you’ve missed 3+ consecutive days – If you are more than two months out from your event repeat the week and adjust your plan accordingly.
If you are less than two months out from your event you need to have the confidence in the training that you have done to write off a less than perfect week and continue with you peak and taper programme.
Secondly, I stumbled across an article from the site Coach Gordo titled Golden Rules For Your First Ironman which, although aimed at first timers, is a good reminder to all abilities alike of what you need to consider when training for an Ironman Triathlon. I have summarised the main points below:
Rule One: You don’t have to kill yourself in training.
You’ve signed yourself up for an Ironman. You know it’s a grueling race, so you better toughen yourself up by signing up for two marathons, half a dozen Century rides and a three-mile rough water swim. Not recommended!
Endurance training is exactly like turning a Styrofoam cup inside out. So long as you take it slowly you’ll be able to do it. Try to rush things and – rip – you’ll tear the cup. You are the cup. [Interesting analysis but I think it gets the point across pretty well]
Rule Two: Build technique and endurance in your first year.
Laying out a sketch of the year is essential. The core of your week is your long slow distance session in each sport. Plan to build your swim up to 4K, your ride up to five hours and your run up to two and a half hours. Build up very slowly (no more than 5-10% in terms of duration in any week )three weeks forward, one week back, repeat.
A classic “Ironman Weekend” is a six-hour ride on Saturday followed by a three hour run on Sunday. These sessions are typically billed as “confidence builders”. However, these sessions are counterproductive leaving you destroyed until at least Wednesday. Spread your key sessions for best results.
Rule Three: Focus on your key sessions and make your key sessions focused.
With your key sessions laid out, the rest of the week is easy to plan. Add your other workouts so you get three sessions of each sport. You have one goal each week-hit your key sessions fresh and injury free. Everything else is filler. If you are whipped, take a rest day. The most important predictor of success is the quality of your key sessions rather than the overall volume of your sessions. So, if you are recovering well from your long sessions, don’t sweat the volume.
A word on your key sessions: If you are following these guidelines, make sure your long workouts are quality. Avoid long breaks and make sure that they are true endurance sessions that build your base. Know your HR training zones for endurance and stick with them. Long slow distance always starts at an easy pace, but after three hours on the bike, you are working no matter what the pace.
Rule Four: Sleep is more valuable than training.
Better to have a lie-in miss a short workout on Thursday, than a whole weekend with an unexpected illness. (Of course, going to bed an extra hour early every night is a better option than missing training). Weekend naps are also great for the working athlete. Keep them under an hour for best results.
Rule Five: Forget about speedwork.
Be honest with yourself. Are you expecting to run sub-four hours? Are you expecting to run the whole marathon? If the answer to either of these questions is “no”, then running speedwork is a complete waste of time. Some people disagree on this point but it is firmly believed. A track session can leave you worn-out for 12-36 hours. If you are going to beast yourself, then do it in a manner that most benefits your race (i.e. a four to five hour ride).
I am actually training in contrary to this when following the Tri-Ripped Training Programme in which some elements of speed work is done and a shedload of hills are incorporated. I suppose these are not speed sessions as such but are definitely high intensity. This personally for me in the preparation for my third Ironman season is imperative as speed / leg strength is something that I am seriously lacking in.
Rule Six: Recovery is your friend.
Make sure that you drop the volume WAY down every four weeks. Your recovery strategy is the most important part of your plan. Recovery is when you will make all your fitness gains.
You should end every recovery week feeling fresh and dying to get back on it. If you don’t feel like this after a week, then your total volume is likely too high. Note that it is called a recovery week rather than a rest week. Stay active in your recovery. Maintain frequency, but drop the volume and intensity way down.
Rule Seven: Check your ego at the door.
Any time you are in a group situation, there will always be someone who wants to go faster than you, in these situations, swallow your pride and get dropped. It is tough, but eventually you get used to it, kind of.
Know your session goals before you start and do everything you can to stick to your goals. Group rides are the most dangerous; the pace slowly creeps up and before you know it… hammer time! For that reason, either ride alone or with friends that accept your pace in advance.
Rule Eight: Keep your eyes on the prize.
Remember your goals when you decided to start this journey and keep the training fun. There is no point in putting all this time into the sport unless you are having a good time. When it all becomes a bit much (and it will eventually), back off and re-assess. The right answers will come to you.
The last article I am going to discuss in this post is entitled How To Sabotage Your Ironman By Coach Wendy on thesportfactory.com website runs through ways in which you can set yourself up for a world of pain on race day (assuming you make it to the start line). The article is pretty in-depth so check it out but I have a gain summarised this main points in the article.
Sabotage No 1: Finish Line Fever Decision Making – Jump in Boots and All
Based on the fact that people have been to, or seen on TV the excitement at the finish line of an Ironman event and decide to start training the day after and blindly sign up for the following years Ironman. I was even worse than this, I signed up because I thought a mate was also signing up, he wasn’t!!!
Objectively sitting back & planning whether the Ironman is a race for you. Ask yourself if you know what is really required? Are you healthy enough to begin to train to do an Ironman? How much of your time will this event take to train for? What is the best gear to buy? How do I know what I need to do for training? How do I train? Should I take one or two years to do this event?
Sabotage No 2: Show Some Respect
Many people have this view that it’s only a triathlon! It’s just a swim a ride and a run. Remember you start off with a 2.4 mile (3.8km) open water swim, then warm those legs up with a 112 miles (180km) cycle and then you need to run a marathon all 26.2 miles (42k) of it.
Remember this is an Ironman, and you’ve got be prepared to answer some big questions as it WILL hurt. If it was easy every man and his dog would be doing them every weekend. Respect this event, and be prepared to fight it. Be prepared to dig deep, really deep and then reap the rewards that last a lifetime.
Sabotage No 3: Tell EVERYONE your goal
Listen to all, but talk to one. Talk it through with your family first and then talk it through with someone who knows the demands required for the event. Find someone who can provide you with objective advice as to the best way to approach the event. An experienced Ironman coach or training program is the best place to start. Read how I plan on conquering IMUK 2014 in My Route to IMUK 2014 and My Ironman UK FAQ.
Sabotage No 4: No Plan! Just Training!
Consider that the Ironman is a swim, bike and run combination and it is this combination that creates an entirely new event. Add to this the distance of the Ironman and the consequences of this combination demand a different approach. A skilled coach will combine these requirements into a progressive personalized training program that is tailored to both your skills and those demanded by the Ironman. Join your local Tri-Club where there is a wealth of information. I use my Tri-Club for swimming sessions and group rides (when the weather is warmer) and have followed a training program each year (year 1 (2012) , year 2 (2013) and this year 3 (2014).
Sabotage No 5: Over Train, just do a bit more!
Many pass on the fresh fruit and veggies, eat minimal meat and go to bed really late, but still get up early for your 5am swims. Just get used to being tired and grumpy. If they get injured they just keep training, what doesn’t kill them will make them strong and after all the Ironman is about being tough!
Remember recovery, getting enough sleep, eating well and keeping a good eye on how your body is dealing with the progressive training load. Over training is poor training.
Sabotage No 6: Training Intensity: 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year
You have one year and the clock is ticking so make the most of everyday by training everyday, rest days are for softies. Remember to train really hard every session, if you miss a session then double it up on the next session.
Periodization is important. The progressive planning of training that enables your body to adapt to a training load. One day a week off training will probably be the least you need to keep your life a little more balanced and also consider having a week off at least every three months. Use your rest day to do some core conditioning work or go and get a massage. Should you miss a session, forget it and plan for a more effective use of your time so as to enable you to minimize those missed sessions. As for the bricks, like everything there is a time and a place, ask someone at your local tri-club for advice if not following a training plan.
Sabotage No 7: Pacing and Racing
Pace and train smart so you develop a solid aerobic base to which you then add some strength – that will provide a great foundation for your Ironman. Combining endurance and strength is one of the key components to the Ironman. Discovering an effective race pace takes time and practice so be patient. When deciding which races to do, go to your goal and ask yourself which races are going to provide you with the necessary skills needed to do the Ironman. Don’t jeopardize your Ironman for the sake of another race. The Ironman is to be your number one race so therefore turn up at the start line ready to race not having already raced and tired.
Sabotage No 8: Making Time the Main Measure of a Successful Ironman
In making time the measure of your Ironman success, three things normally occur. Firstly, the time you set is often quicker than is realistic so you end up going slower and getting frustrated. Secondly, you put huge pressure on yourself. Thirdly, the Ironman has so many more measurable criteria for success, so why limit it to time.
Sabotage No 9: Give the swimming the biff
The Swim may only be 10% but it takes up 90% of your emotion the morning of the ironman so give it the respect it deserves. A swim squad with a good coach will enable you to swim efficiently and bilaterally breathing is very important not only for your stroke, and your body posture but it will enable you to breath regardless of the wind condition on race day. Open water swimming will get you familiar with sighting and drafting others. Resist buying a wetsuit while you have your winter coat on! As you get closer to the ironman you will lean down and this is the fit that you want the suit to recognize as your suit needs to fit you like a glove not like a rain coat! Position yourself in the pace so as to allow yourself to get a smart swim, not one where you are likely to get a serious smacking!
Sabotage No 10: Bike Fits, Big Bike & ride off the back!
Your height will determine what size wheels you should be riding. Given that the bike is a time trial you really should be riding a triathlon specific designed bike. Try to convert a standard cycling bike into a tri bike and be very wary of the change in the bike handing and stability. Spin the bike course and enjoy the marathon with fresh legs. Helmets and shoes wear out so get these checked before assuming they are okay. Ironman bike fitting is a science, so make sure the person fitting you to your bike is experienced with the Ironman distance and has proven results with their techniques of bike fitting.
Sabotage No 11: Run Hard, Big Miles & Fast
Many run a couple of marathons before the Ironman, just to make sure they can do it. But consider doing long slow miles on off road terrain, keeping your pace slow enough to build up a huge aerobic capacity is the key to Ironman base training. Training pace and race pace are two separate levels of intensity and as such, have a time and a place in all effective programs.
Sabotage No 12: Eat What You Like
Nutrition is one of the four golden aspects of Ironman – other than Pacing, Heart Rate and Cadence, getting your Nutrition right will help to ensure a good race. Ensuring a good balance between the carbs and protein, along with sufficient electrolyte intake, is the constant nutrition juggle that will have a major impact on both your ability to train and more importantly your ability to recover and train again and again. “Practice, practice, practice” is the nutrition catch phrase.
Sabotage No 13: Race Day Aid Stations
Learn what fuel is going to be available on the race day aid stations and plan your use of this accordingly. Practice riding through aid stations, grabbing food and bottles whilst keeping your head up and holding a straight line. Stick to your race nutrition plan regardless!
Sabotage No 14: Race Everyone
Ironman is about you getting through 2.4m (3.8km) of swimming, riding 112m (180km) and running a marathon. It is about you and no one else. The ability to hold that mental focus for the entire day is a huge skill and often one of the most neglected. Focus on the smartest way to swim the next 10 strokes, the most efficient piece of road to ride on for the next 200 meters and the best posture for the next 20 steps on the run. You won’t have time to focus on anyone else and if you find your mind wandering – bring it back and zone it on YOU. It’s you out there, so let other competitors do what they like, your race isn’t over until you cross that finish line and the sooner you can get there the better.
There is some good advice here hopefully it will help you like it has helped me. Please comment and let me know how you find the article.
All the best
I am doing IMUK 2014 for Scope you can sponsor me here at uk.virginmoneygiving./ironcrab
As mentioned in my previous post that I have been looking to find a plan / programme / method of training that suit me and my busy work / life schedule.
As mentioned previously during the last two previous IMUK’s I have followed two different plans with varying success. In the build up to IMUK 2012 I followed my own plan which was based loosely on the article 13 Weeks to a 13-Hour Ironman which held me in good stead allowing me to complete my first Ironman Triathlon in a little under 14 hours.
In the build up to IMUK 2013 I wanted a lot more structure to my training sessions. Rather than going for a ‘2 bike in Zone 2’ I wanted to undertake a ‘2 hours Crisscross Threshold Bike’ which would include:
– W/up to Zone 4
– Build to Zone 5a within 2 mins
– Back off to Zone 4 within 2 mins
– Continue pattern
– Low cadence
– Flat Course
The above session was just one of many that I meticulously planned to undertake after reading The Triathlon Bible. However, what I did find by using this method was that I was constantly in the state of being de-motivated due to the structure of the sessions which I would feel disappointed with myself if I didn’t complete the sessions ‘to the letter’ in the time allocated on the particular day. I finished up abandoning the training plan about 8-10 weeks out from the Ironman and reverted back to the previous years methodology. I completed the IMUK 2013 also in a little under 14 hours, however I had the overwhelming feeling that I had under preformed due to my under preparation for the event.
Ironman UK 2014
For this season (building up to IMUK 2014 I am looking at making a number of changes. The first is to post updates to this site on regular occasions. I am doing this as I find that writing down my experiences, feelings and thoughs helps me to review my current progress and take action if something needs to change. I have done this throughput my sporting career and have primarily decided to upload my posts so I can find them on the go. If I want to find where I read up on healthy snacks for surfers I can go here. If anyone else finds the posts and the site in general useful posting comments and questions that is all the better by me.
The second action that I have been undertaking is the find a training plan that both motivates me to achieve the success I am looking for at IMUK 2014 whilst remaining flexible enough to allow me to work it around my busy work and social life. Anyway who has ready any of my previous posts will know that my usual way of undertaking such tasks is to enlist the help of google.
Upon geveral search for ironman triathlon plans I have found numerous training plans claiming to be for all abilities with cheesy videos of coaches endorseing their products. Most of these link you to trainingpeaks which lists hundreds upon hundreds of different plans ranging from $97 to $197 (£59 to £120) which in the scheme of how much I am willing to pay for a bike is not much at all. I left the search feeling over whelmed and which create more confused than ever.
I decided to take a different approach and googled for more specific training plans that involved minimalist, time constraint plans which are much more like what I am after. I came across a site called www.bengreenfieldfitness.com who is one of the top amateur triathletes in the world.
The Triathlon Dominator jumped out at me immediately due to the claim that you get everything that you need to suceed with time flexibility and only 8-12 weekly training hours. The plan is based upon 7 principles which I have copied below from their site:
Principle 1 – “HIT Training”: allowing you to simulate the endurance enhancing effect of a 3-4 hour training session with as little as 30-40 minutes
Principle 2 – “Periodization”: Periodization is the practice of splitting a training and an eating year (or in this case, a 9 month period of time) into specific blocks of training and eating, each with a specific purpose. The principle of Periodization means that your plan includes precise instructions for swim form drills, cycling skill workouts, running drills, how to calculate your heart rate zones…
Principle 3 – “Strategic Rest & Test”: Most training programs adhere to the ho-hum concept of simply laying off and resting every 4th week. Instead of utilizing this rigid method during your 9 months of training for Ironman, you’ll never go more than just a few weeks without getting to recover, re-test and discover exactly how quickly your body is transforming to dominate Ironman.
[This is much like the method used by Sami Inkinen in my previous post.]
Principle 4 – “Racing”: The fastest path to both physical and mental domination in Ironman triathlon is to race and compete in triathlons during your build-up to the big day.
Principle 5 – “No Guesswork”: You can’t afford to waste any time this is key for me as I spent most of my preparation for IMUK 2013 this year in this state instead of getting myself out there and training.
Principle 6 – “Holistic Fueling”: the solution involves focusing on promoting rapid recovery, fighting inflammation, reducing potential toxins, and powering the immune system.
Principle 7 – “Time Flexibility”: Let’s face it – life happens. A good plan should be incredibly flexible and can be re-arranged without disrupting the overall effectiveness of the program.
[As mentioned above the in-flexibility of my programme last year led to constant feeling of failure and de-motivation]
This without a shadow of a doubt ticks all of the boxes for me and would be my plan of choice for 2014 (it will be for 2015 if I re-enter). However, this plan is based upon a 9 month (or 36 weeks) training duration and as I have only 7 months or so to the IMUK 2014 I don’t feel that I would want to start the programme such a long time into it. I appeciate that the periodisation allows the ability to jump it at any point but it just doesn’f feel right to me to do so.
This leads me onto the next option, Tri-Ripped. This programme is based around training for a triathlon without getting the “skinny-fat” look stating that “You can swim, bike and run fast – and still have an amazing body”. Again much like the Triathlon Dominator there are 5 steps to get you there:
1. LIFT RIGHT: a style of lifting that is neglected among endurance athletes, but a long-kept tradition of the bodybuilding industry: “hypertrophy” style training. With hypertrophy training, you can add and define lean muscle very quickly choosing full body, functional exercises while scattering in just enough explosive and heavy weightlifting to keep your muscles extremely functional and fast.
2. EAT RIGHT: if you’re trying to be fast at triathlon and also have an amazing body, you should eat a diet comprised of a high amount of healthy fats, add in moderate helpings of natural protein to keep amino acids elevated for your muscles and brain, and top it off with strategically timed carbohydrate doses when they really matter, such as before or after your exercise sessions.
3. TRAIN RIGHT: Long, slow aerobic training completely nullify any attempts to add lean muscle or get a nice, defined body, but it also depletes hormones, causes overtraining syndrome, and takes away precious time from family, career and other hobbies. Instead, for the triathlete who wants to avoid the skinny-fat look and get an amazing, muscular body, the training plan should incorporate strategically targeted high-intensity bursts of energy, a moderate amount of slightly longer “tempo” work, and finally, a low amount of long aerobic training strategically saving long rides, runs or swims for times when they are completely necessary and crucial to the program.
4. SUPPLEMENT RIGHT: Extra help comes in the form of completely legal sports nutrition supplementation like digestive enzymes, fish oil, vitamin D, greens supplements, magnesium and Chinese adaptogenic herbs. If you are pushing your body beyond it’s natural tendencies, then even in a situation where your diet is perfect, supplementation is a must if you want to be fast and also have an amazing body.
5. LIVE RIGHT: These are just a few of the little lifestyle tweaks that you can make, but they’re incredibly important if you want to add muscle and athleticism while getting the body of your dreams and still being fast for triathlon.
Tri-Ripped is an 8 month programme which aligns very well with the timescales that I have to train for the IMUK 2014. I do not feel the same uncomfortable feeling that I got when thinking about starting the Triathlon Dominator part way through as Tri-Ripped is as much a lifestyle change as much as anything else. (Plus I am going to Las Vegas with the boys later in the year so a nice body will do me nicely around the pool at the MGM Grand!)
Both the Tri-Ripped and Triathlon Dominator are price at $97 (£59) for the digital version and $197 (£120) for the Hard Copy. As mentioned above I think that most of these are pretty reasonable given the amount of money that I am willing to spend on a new bike.
In conclusion, as I mentioned before if I had found the Triathlon Dominator plan a month ago that would have been the option that I personally would have gone for. However, due to the constraint of time until my Ironman event I have opted to purchase the Tri-Ripped Digital Package . I have gone for the digital package as that is my preferred way of working in every day life (hence using this site instead of a journal). However, if you prefer there is a Hard Copy version which include trainging logs etc.
I will be following the Tri-Ripped Package from now until the IMUK 2014 on the 20th July 2013. I’ll keep posting updates on my progress and providing feedback on my progress to knocking a bucket load of time off my previous Ironman PB.
All the best
I came across an article by an athlete called Suar on a website called shutupandrun.net and thought that a Q&A is a good basis for me to start summarising my experiences to date following the two IM events that I have completed. I hope that this will help me to better prepare myself for the Ironman UK 2014 than I did for Ironman UK 2013 this year.
I have said previously that the main reason that I am writing on this website is to collect my thoughts and improve my performances during next season and if anyone chooses to read and gains any kind of benefit at all from any of the posts that is all the better for me. If you are reading this please comment and ask any further questions that I have not covered. I am by no means an expert but I have completed two IMUK’s as a ‘self-taught’ triathlete and have done a stack of reading, watching and listening around the subject over the last couple of years and would like to share and continue to learn from others.
I’ll get to the questions.
How many months did you train and how many hours per week?
My first Ironman I trained for 13 weeks and tried to base it on the 13 in 13 model. My usual week was:
M: Rest Day / Active Recovery
T: 30 mins Bike to and from work
W: 60 mins Bike
T: 30 min AM Run, 60 mins PM Swim Drill Session
F: 60 mins Bike
S: Long Run building to 3 hours
S: Long Bike building to 6 hours
This year I tried to add a lot more structure to my training and training sessions using the advice gained from The Triathlete’s Training Bible. What resulted was the complete opposite. The training plan that I produced required a lot more time and was pretty inflexible which did not suit me due to the increase in time constraints I had due to working commitments and with each session that I missed I became increasingly de-motivated and frustrated. I planned on training for 36 weeks but ended up really only completing 8-10 weeks when I reverted back to the above type schedule which meant that I could fit my training in whenever and wherever it suited me.
What was your favourite fuelling/hydration during training and on race day?
I fuel during longer (above 1 hour) sessions using the products that will be provided at the aid stations of the IMUK. I make sure that I get in 60g or 240 calories of carbs per hour through one bar and one gel per hour on the bike and 3 gels per hour on the run. I find that if I top this up with liquids I can continue the day with too much issue in the stomach area.
I aim to eat every 20 minutes, ½ Bar – Gel – ½ Bar each hour on the bike and Gel – Gel – Gel every hour on the run. This may look silly but I find that this helps me to break down the day into manageable chunks. I’d much sooner be telling myself “Just 9 more minutes until you eat again” rather than “Just 76 miles before the marathon”!
Was it worth it to hire a coach?
I have never hired a coach. I am a member The Endurance Store triathlon club and do go to most of the group swimming sessions and some of the rides and runs. They also hold a couple of Ironman training days which are organised by Team True Spirit in which the day consists of a full Ironman distance open water swim followed by two out of the three laps of the Ironman UK Bike Course (the course is rumoured to be changing for IMUK 2014 so a single lap may be enough next year?).
What I find at these ‘ironman’ sessions is that there is a wealth of experience and a free flow of advice within the group and with such expertise in the club itself I have found that this has been adequate for me to be confident enough to get to the start line feeling that I can accomplish my goal of hearing the words “you are an Ironman!”
Would I have prepared a lot better last year with a coach? I say the answer would have to be, yes! This leads me to the question of why will I not be hiring a coach this year? I find this very difficult to answer but I think it is because I want to be a master of my own destiny, I don’t want to have to get up for run at 5:30 in the morning become I am being told to I want to choose to get up at 5:30 in the morning and go for a run because I want to. This involves a lot of self-discipline and will power and I find the best motivator is to make my goal as public as possible.
What was the hardest part about your training?
The hardest part of training, for me, is to not overthink it. I have spent hours upon hours reading, watching, planning, preparing, analysing and reviewing when what I should have been doing during that time is training, fuelling or resting.
During my first Ironman, probably due to naivety as much as anything else, I simply bought a pair of trainers, a £250 ($400) second-hand bike from someone at work and bought a wet suit when someone told me I wasn’t allow to swim in shorts. I found a training plan that seemed to fit (outlined above) and just got on with it. As I moved into my second year I read lots and lots on a number of training plans and methodologies, nutrition plans, fuelling plans, bikes and bike gear, running shoes, expensive wetsuits with ‘catch panels’ the list went on. All I did by doing this was to put myself in a state of ‘analysis paralysis’ and I never really got going until I reverted back to my old training structure (rather than a plan).
Did you think taking the X2 Performance supplement every day made a difference?
I have never used X2 Performance so cannot comment on it. I have used CNP Professional Pro Slams to some success at T1 and T2 and find that this gives me the reassurance that I have covered some of the protein requirements of the day. I have also used CNP Professional Pro-MR before bedtimes when my training really ramps up and have found this to be quite effective to relieve muscle soreness.
However, I feel that I need to undertake a little more research on this subject and will report back in future updates.
I have kept the original answer below from the shutupandrun.net website if you are interested in X2 Performance specifically. Please note that the author is sponsored by the product.
It is tough to gauge because I’ve never trained for an Ironman without it. What I will say is that I was shocked by how much energy I had throughout training and how after one day of rest I would come back rejuvenated and ready to go. I did not miss one workout in 18 weeks (okay, that’s a lie. When we had the huge flood and were stranded at home I, ironically, missed one swim). Most importantly, after the Ironman I had no fatigue, no soreness. These results are enough to have me hooked on the product. I will continue to use throughout all of my future training.
What books did you read while training? What else motivated you?
During my training so far I have only read one book which is the above mentioned The Triathlete’s Training Bible. I however I have had a couple of interesting finds on the internet recently. I have listed some of the ones that come to mind below:
http://www.theendurancecoach.com/ – especially their Research Articles
http://www.theendurancestore.com/blog/ – great regular articles on all things triathlon
http://www.samiinkinen.com/post/11347268687/hawaii-ironman-secrets – I recently mentioned this article on a previous post and the teachings in this will definitely be adopting in my training. I will get out there and train but make sure that I am constantly improving, if not I will rest up.
http://www.cluboceano.com/13.htm – This site is the basis of my success in my first Ironman. I did not follow the plan to the letter but adopted many of the structure that it puts in place.
http://www.ironman.com/ – The ironman site itself is a great source of information and advice on training, nutrition and all things Ironman Triathlon.
There are a lot more of these which will form the basis of most of my future posts.
Did your family, professional and social lives suffer during your training?
This question for me is easily split between Mon-Fri (professional time) and Sat-Sun (personal / social / family time).
My professional life has not had to suffer at all due to training for an Ironman. If anything I think that it has been enhanced due to the increased energy I have due to the feeling of being fit and healthy. Also, as I have been raising money for charity, the fact that I am training for an Ironman has been made public which in-directly improves moral and motivation to get out there and train. Also, I still love the look on people faces when you provide an answer to the question “So what does an Ironman entail?”
My personal time has not really suffered at all during my training for either Ironman also. I can’t think of a social or family event that I have had to miss as I make a big effort to fit my training in around my life rather than my life around my training. This tends to culminate in a ‘big’ weekend of training with the week used for recovery and skills of up to an hour per day.
I suppose not having any kids makes a big difference to the different strains on my time but I think if you make an effort to get out on the Bike at 6am you can be home, showered and re-fuelled before lunch-time at the latest with the rest of the day ahead to enjoy. Knowing I had to be up and out in the morning also helps with the temptation of having a couple of beers the night before!
However, if I knew that I had a big social event during the week-end, a Wedding for example, I would try and plan my working week so that I could have Friday afternoon off and use this time to get the long ride or run in that I would have otherwise missed.
Did you gain or lose weight while training?
I have starting training for both Ironman events at around 15 st 7 lbs (217lbs). For IMUK 2012 I competed at about 14 st (196lb) and at about 14 st 4 lbs (200lbs) in 2013. So I normally lose anywhere between a stone and a stone and a half (14-21lbs) which usually happens all at once within the last 2-4 weeks of training but even though my weight during the first 10 or so weeks training didn’t change very much the change in my body was quite dramatic (so much so that I have ‘season’ and ‘off-season’ sets of clothing in my wardrobe.
Did you strength train?
Yes, but only occasionally and during the very early stages of my training. One thing that I did pick up and continue to do so is to participate in a weekly Pilates lesson at my local gym. This all came about from advice of a Physio when I was having some trouble with my Sciatic Nerve in my back. I have had no such problems at all since I have been doing Pilates and I can definitely feel the benefits of the increased flexibility, core strength and stability. I have the intentions of doing a lot more strength work next season but with training time at a premium the swim / bike / run sessions will always take priority.
One thing new to this upcoming season that I will be implementing is substituting the endurance swim session that I plan each week with an indoor rowing session. I talk about this more in a previous post.
How did you change your regular eating/drinking habits while training?
I have never really changed very much of my diet. If I am training enough this is not a problem, however, if I am not I will put weight on quite quickly. This is something that I will be really trying to change as I enter training for the IMUK 2014. Not really the quantity of food that I am eating as my appetite is relentless when I am training but the types of foods I am eating (examples are whole grains, veggies, proteins, avocadoes, beans, cheese/eggs wrapped in a tortilla , spinach, peanut butter, oatmeal, and blueberries as quoted in the article on the website).
One thing that I have found to be useful is to have a glass (or two) or red wine the night before an event. I have found this to help me sleep soundly the night before and to have no effects the morning after. I suppose this is not for everyone and I would advocate trying it the night before a big training day on a trial basis, don’t wait until the morning of your Ironman!
What was the furthest distance you ever swam, biked or ran during training?
Swim: 2.4 miles (twice in open water), bike 100 miles (once, plus a few 80 mile rides), run: 18 miles (once, plus a few half marathons), Longest brick: HIM 6 weeks before IM.
What kind of bike do you have?
I completed IMUK 2012, 2013 on a Bianchi Reparto Corse with Ironman Stryke clip on aero bars as mentioned in a previous post. I am, however, as mentioned in the same post looking at purchasing a bike for this year’s IMUK 2014 and at the moment I think that I will be going down the tri bike options instead of the road bike this year.
Do you think you have to have a tri bike to do an Ironman?
I have to say no as I have completed two Ironman events using a road bike. However, as mentioned above I am probably going to go down the route of a tri-bike this year due to the much documented benefits associated with using a tri-bike such as; being comfortable, being in a position that maximizes efficiency and being in a position that saves your legs for the marathon. The only doubt I have at the moment is that the IMUK 2014 will include a much hillier bike course from what I have been told and this may mean a road bike is more suited.
How much did you spend total to do the Ironman?
Race entry: about £400 ($650)
Tri bike: £250 ($400) second-hand bike
Bike service: £250 ($400)
Pre-race bike tune up: £100 ($160)
Bike tyres, tubes etc.: £150 ($250)
Race clothes: £300 ($490)
Bikes shoes: £70 ($115)
Bike helmet: £70 ($115)
Swimsuit: £100 ($160)
Fuelling/hydration: £100 ($160)
Pool sessions: £150 ($250)
Physio/Massage: £150 ($250)
Entries to races during training: £200 ($320)
Total: £2,290 ($3,747) (I recommend that you don’t try this at home!!)
Did you wear a race helmet?
No, I wore a Giro helmet like the one here. They are pretty expensive so I think that I would have to try before I buy.
Did you set goals for the race? Did you meet them?
My main goal has been to finish in both completed Ironman events. However, I will answer this question by year. One consistent was that I used HRM on both occasions which I would say is a must. In 2012 I used a Polar FT1 and in 2013 I used a Forerunner 910 XT:
Swim: I knew I had the fitness to complete the swim within the cut-off time. Therefore, the goal was to stay out of trouble which in this instance meant staying to the right hand side of the bunch on an anti-clockwise course.
Bike: Keep HR around, but under, 145 BPM (simple). One energy bar, and one energy gel per hour eating and drinking every 20 minutes.
Run: 1st Half Marathon with HR around, but under, 156 BPM then just get through the last 12-13 miles. Three Gels per hour every eating and drinking every 20 mins.
Everything went to plan during the day. The last half marathon was my strongest part of the day. I had to stop eating at certain points when my stomach felt like it couldn’t take anymore. My private goal was to finish in 15 hours and I completed the event in under 14!
Swim: stay out of trouble as per the previous year.
Bike: HR under 141 BPM going for it on the long downhills.
Run: 10 min miles throughout with the same nutrition plan as the previous year.
Actual: The swim went to plan. Had a puncture and my chain came off twice during the bike leg. My run was strong for the first half then I struggled badly at the end. All in all I came in at just under 14 hours so was happy as the main issue with my day was my preparation in the preceding weeks.
One thing that I found interesting from the original article is that there is an equation to estimate your Ironman time based upon you Half-Ironman time. The equation is HIM time x 2.1 + 40 minutes. If I apply this to my two previous years HIM times 6:00 in 2012 and 5:45 in 2013 I would have had a projected IM time of 13:16 and 12:44 respectively. I finished both in a little under 14 hours…
What did you race in? Did you change clothes during the race?
I always race in a two-piece tri suit which I wear during the whole event changing my socks after the bike for the run in T2. This year I chose to wear a pair of Compressport Shorts under my tri shorts, I was very comfortable on my bike due to the extra padding and my legs off the run were the best I have ever felt. I will be trying this out again combined with my Compressport Calf Guards.
How did you carry all of your fuel/hydration on the bike?
I use a number belt with elastic loops to carry my gels. As mentioned previously, I train using the products that are provided at the aid stations of IMUK and I aim to consume one gel and one bar per hour (eating every 20 mins). The bars are provided every 15 miles or so on the bike course so this covers the bars (putting them into the pocket on the back of my tri-suit) and I have more than enough room to carry 8 gels which give me a bit of ‘bonk insurance’ if needed. On the run I aim to consume three gels every hour. I have enough waiting for me in T2 to get me to the first aid station and make sure I take enough to get me to the next then the next (usually every 3 miles at IMUK).
Did you pee on the bike?
No. I have tried this once in training but never again. I am never going to be a contender for a Kona spot so a couple of minutes spent during a comfort break is time well spent for me.
What was the toughest part of the race for you?
Two places for me. One when I had been out on the bike for about 3 hours and I realised that I had another 4 hours or so left to go before the marathon as my brain cannot comprehend how long and how far I have travelled against how long and far I have to go. I combat this trying to break the ride into 20 minutes chunks which aligns with how often I intend to fuel and hydrate.
The second is about 8 miles into the marathon when everything is aching and I still have 18 miles to go! I try to look around, engage with the crowd, sing songs and again chunk the marathon up into 20 minute sections. Whatever it takes to keep going! Another method I use is to challenge myself to quit, “go on, stop” I say to myself. I quickly come to the conclusion that I am not going to quit so I may as well stop whining and get on with it.
Did you crap your pants?
No! Does anyone?
Would you do another Ironman?
Yes! I plan to continue to do the IMUK (and maybe international ones) for as long as I can. I am by no means an endurance junkie and remain a pie-eater at heart. I do love the Ironman events and all that come with them.