Tips to help recover faster from triathlon training

 

Things You Can Do To Help Speed Your Recovery

Your body will not be ready to do another workout if it hasn’t adequately recovered from the last one.  In between hard workouts, pro athletes will take some steps to speed up their recovery – like completing active recovery workouts – to make sure their body is loose and adequately rested to handle the stress of another hard session.  Training is a process of stringing together sessions that challenge the body.  In between the challenging sessions the athlete needs to do everything possible to get ready for another one.  Here are some common practices to improve the process of recovery.

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Functional triathlon training program

Functional triathlon training program

I am a big advocate of incorporating a functional triathlon training program, particularly for athletes older than 30.  The following workout is one I use to keep core muscles and the smaller muscles in the hips strong, while using plyometrics to build greater strength and power.  This workout has prehabilitation exercises which are beneficial for supporting muscles that are usually neglected in triathlon movement.  Here is an article adapted from one I wrote on functional training for Triathlon Magazine Canada you might enjoy.

FUNCTIONAL TRAINING

Functional training focuses on training movement in the body rather than training to strengthen individual muscles.  By using movement in the body through all planes of movement (serial, frontal, and transverse) with a foot or both feet planted on the ground, functional training incorporates stability, balance, coordination, agility and proprioception.  This is a better way to mimic the demands of sport and create better preparation.  These more complicated movements also incorporate more neurological stimulus which is crucial for muscle recruitment and performance.

The best approach to functional training is to mimic the demands of your sport or your weakness with the exercises.  Strong core, lower back, gluteus, and shoulder muscles are all key for triathlon, but having just the individual muscle strong is not enough, they must work well together.   Athletes need to be strong from the ground up, as each muscle has a role in the kinetic chain, from your feet to the top of your head.  One weak link in the chain can impair a muscle further up the chain.

When building your program, ensure your functional training involves coordination in a similar pattern to the demands of the sport.  Simply running in a perfectly straight line is not realistic.  You need resilience to turns, broken and uneven ground, and lateral movement. Doing exercises that prepare your body for that demand is functional training.

The exercises below incorporate complex movements that equate to a full body workout when you are finished.  Incorporating some weight resistance as you become more skilled at the moments is beneficial if it fits into your periodization.  These exercises should be performed with an awareness and engagement of your core and a neutral spine.

1.       Monster Walk

This is a great glute exercise.  With the resistance band around your ankles keeping your knees locked, walk sideways with locked knees maintaining resistance in the band.  Your posture is upright with your shoulders down and back.  After you take 10 steps in each direction, with the band in the same place, take a large step forward with your left leg planting at 45 degrees to the left of your body, then lift the right leg and lift it out at 45 degrees to the right, repeating 10 times per leg.  This will challenge your glutes and hips in all directions.

 

2.       One legged squat in four directions.

One leg squats challenge balance, proprioception, hip and glute strength.  These exercises are a cornerstone for injury prevention in running athletes.  Balancing on one leg with your arms at shoulder height pointed directly in front of you, hands together, bend your standing leg as far as you can while maintaining balance and your knee directly over mid foot (no dropping your knee inside) while stretching your other leg back behind you imagining you are rolling it on a tennis ball just 3 inches off the ground.  Return to upright position as one repetition.  Complete 10 on each side then stretch your leg out to the side, imagining the outstretched leg rolling on a tennis ball 3 inches from the ground and your bent leg maintaining knee position over your foot. 

3.       Burpees

Burpees are beneficial to a functional triathlon training program as the elements are specific to the demands of triathlon.

  • Vertical jump from the ground:  driving downwards quadriceps and glute moment mimics force onto pedals
  • Plank position:  specific strength for aero position
  • Pushup:  builds core and shoulder strength useful in all sports.
  • Jumping knees to standing:  hip flexor driving movement builds power for run stride and cycling.
functional triathlon training program includes burpees
Simple how to do a burpee

A bonus benefit of burpees in the offseason is this exercise helps maintain some speed and power without requiring a dedicated workout of cycling or running.

 

4.      Kettlebell Exercises 

Kettlebells fit into a functional triathlon training program in many ways, these exercises train the muscles of the upper back and torso, which are crucial to posture and

  • Waiter carry:  holding the kettle bell with a straight arm directly overhead, core tight and engaged, walk for one minute with the kb overhead.  Then switch arms.
  • Suitcase carry:  hold the kettle ball with a straight arm about 15 cms away from the hips.  Walk for one minute each side.
  • Walking halos:  holding the kettle bell with both hands, rotate the weight around your head as you walk with erect posture for one minute.
  • Heartbeat:  hold the kettlebell with both hands and walk while pushing the kettle bell away from your sternum and then pulling it back towards the body.  Walk for one minute while doing the exercise.

 

Coach Mel: 60 Minute Workout – Four Minute Hills

This session was originally posted online with Triathlon Magazine Canada September 16, 2014 at http://triathlonmagazine.ca/racing/profiles/sixty-minute-bike-workout-mels-max-hill-reps/

2013 Utah champs

 With the XTERRAWorld Championships coming up for some of us, this week’s 60 minute training session focuses on working your maximum climbing power.  You can do it on the trainer or use a short hill that allows you to climb for a minimum of four minutes at maximum effort.  Your heart rate should reach over 90 per cent of your maximum by the end so don’t be afraid to really go for it.

 

Warmup (10 minutes):

Start with a 10 minute warmup slowly increasing cadence as you ride.  In the last five minutes increase cadence by  five rpm per minute up to the maximum cadence you can hold (aim for 130 rpm or more) in a relatively easy gear or low wattage:  something like 39 x 17 or 100 watts on the Powerbeam.

 

Final warm up preparation (10 minutes):

You can do these accelerations uphill or use the trainer to increase watts.  For a continuous 10 minutes, complete 15 second accelerations uphill or at high watts on the trainer, recovering for 1:45 after each.  Repeat five times.

 

Main Set (28 minutes):

The workout is a simple 4 x 4 minutes set with 3 minutes of recovery after every interval.  Push the hardest gear you can maintain at 80-90 rpm.

Don’t let your cadence drop below 80 rpm and try to keep at least the same gear or harder for each successive effort. If you’re on the trainer, hold your best average watts and be sure the last set is not lower than the first. You may want to start a bit conservative then blow the doors off the last one.   If you’re using a powermeter, these are meant to be above threshold efforts.

 

Finish (12 minutes):

Warm down is 12 minutes.  Ride the first five minutes at 120 rpm in a very easy gear to spin the legs out then easy warm down as you choose.

Visualize crushing the steep, stair-step climbs on the Maui course if you are preparing for Xterra.  The steep sections of the climbs on that course are between two and four minutes long before it flattens out slightly, so finding your max four minute efforts will be useful for that race.

Finding Flow In Racing

As published in the August 2014 issue of Triathlon Magazine Canada

 

At the 1992 NBA Finals, Michael Jordan sank his sixth consecutive three pointer, looked at the announcer and described his dominant performance as: “It’s beyond me. It’s just happening by itself.” As a triathlete, it might be difficult to imagine that it’s possible to have complete dissociation with the discomfort of racing for hours at a time, but it can happen. Many athletes have felt themselves fall under a trance or experience a level of focus where nothing but the act of racing enters their mind while performing. In this state of flow, the body can actualize the training that’s been absorbed without interruption by distracting thoughts or extraneous actions.

Flow, a feeling of being carried by a current of water, of invincibility, of unshakeable focus and of effortless performance is a term coined by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi in his 1990 book, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Csikszentmihalyi was fascinated by artists who became so lost in their work that they would neglect sleep, food and water for hours or days at a time. In his research he developed this theory of flow and found it applied it to many facets of life including sports, work, education, music and spirituality.

An athlete with confidence in the preparation and training leading up to race day will have confidence on the start line. Remembering a key session or a race where you had a breakthrough performance, can do wonders for motivation.

Olympian gold and silver medallist Simon Whitfield knows much about the optimal mental state. He says:

“For me it was all preparation. If I felt I had done everything possible to prepare then my ideal mental state followed. I was able to relax. I arrived at the start line of my best races thinking it was simply time to express myself, to express my fitness and the result would follow.”

Smart goal setting and planning will also create small victories with which confidence is built. A good training plan and periodization will result in good workouts to build confidence in skills and preparation.

Simon Whitfield racing the 2006 Corner Brook BG Triathlon World Cup. Credit: Delly Carr/ ITU

Simon Whitfield racing the 2006 Corner Brook BG Triathlon World Cup. Credit: Delly Carr/ ITU

Whitfield explains he could tell when a good performance was imminent:

“I had indications, I used to call the feeling ‘I’m rolling,’ where my coach and I would get a sense from my training that I was on a roll and session after session was going well. Even the sessions that didn’t go as well I was able to ‘roll’ past. When I was able to carry this feeling into races I performed at my best. I remember in 2000 running a final workout before the Olympics with Jasper Blake at Bond University on the Gold Coast, in Australia. We rolled through a perfectly executed workout, hit the paces we were targeting, not faster or slower, but precisely and one week later I had the race of my career.”

Similarly, confidence can be immediately gained from feedback within the race. An emotional boost from a good performance will help narrow the focus on continuing that good performance. A good race strategy builds this feeling of control and keeps thoughts focused on the task at hand. A sense of control happens within the race if events are unfolding according to the race plan.

The second element in flow is distraction control. To be completely absorbed, block all but the most immediate and important stimulus, and to lose sense of time, thoughts must be trained on execution. Practicing distraction control is beneficial to achieve this level of focus. Pain, discomfort, other athlete’s performances and other factors that are uncontrollable must be eliminated from consciousness in order to lose oneself in the performance.

Minimizing thoughts to action items leaves no time for reflection and thus no distracting thoughts about the outcome. Thoughts that are poisonous to performance are thoughts that reflect on the race outcome before it’s over and poor management of the pain of maximal effort. Some athletes feel the most difficult situation to control is performing through pain or enduring “suffering.” Hillary Stellingwerff, a Canadian 1,500 m track runner and Olympian, offers her advice on achieving a better mindset while performing through pain:

“For me it’s about reframing the negative connotation around pain; I associate my ability to run through the pain as performing to my max ability and running as fast as I possibly can. I know if I’m running through pain

Csikszentmihalyi and his fellow researchers identified the nine factors necessary to experience flow:

1. Challenge-skills balance
Where there is confidence that skills meet the task at hand.

2. Action-awareness merging
The state of being completely absorbed in an activity, with tunnel vision that shuts out everything else.

3. Clear goals
When one knows exactly what is required and what one desires to accomplish.

4. Unambiguous feedback
Constant, real-time feedback that allows adjustment of tactics to adapt (for example, splits in a race or relative placing during the event).

5. Concentration
Completely blocking all distraction with laser-beam focus.

6. Sense of control
When one feels that actions can affect the outcome of the challenge.

7. Loss of self-consciousness
When one is not constantly self-aware of success during the event.

8. Transformation of time
One loses track of time due to total focus on the moment.

9. Autotelic experience
When one feels internally driven to succeed even without outside rewards (doing it “because you love it”).

I’m running as hard as I can and getting the most out of myself and that’s all I can expect on any given race day. ” Her husband, Trent Stellingwerff, a runner turned exercise physiologist, run coach and sports nutritionist, also understands how to work through pain. “For me, I try to not think about pain – pain is a feeling that is out of your control. Instead, I try to think about severe discomfort. Discomfort is something (at least for me) that I can manage and control. I also think about the limits of physiology. The body has evolved to protect itself by shutting down before critical status is met. In other words, it is very, very difficult to actually physically put yourself in the hospital. I use this reverse “logic” that I always have more to give when my brain says stop.”

Both of these perspectives are excellent for reframing the experience of pain. Thinking that pain of “suffering” is bad or dangerous might reduce performance due to perceived safety risk. Making the experience of feeling pain a positive part of racing, as Hillary Stellingwerff does, and imagining this reflects a good performance, will be a powerful tool on race day.

For Danelle Kabush,  mental performance consultant and pro triathlete with the Luna Women’s Professional team, knowing how to find flow in races to perform and to endure pain is essential to success. Kabush suggests using the following questions to help focus your mental preparation for racing.

Danelle Kabush Credit: Xterra

Danelle Kabush Credit: Xterra

• What will be the most challenging part of the training/race for you? What will you focus on to stay present?

• How will you break down the training/racing into manageable segments?

• Where can you take some mental recovery (just relax)? • Where will require 100 per cent mental focus?
• What are the things that could most challenge your

best mental focus such as unexpected success or an event not going well? What about the challenge of a technical, tactical or mechanical error? How will you refocus if this happens?

Achieving flow is possible for all athletes. The key to racing “in the zone” is to love racing and have fun while performing. Focusing on positive, constructive thoughts and immediate needs allows one to maintain distraction control for the duration of the race. To “suffer” well, turn all the sensations of pain into positive reinforcement that a great performance is underway.

In the end, attitude is a big determinant of outcome. The more an athlete loves competing the better that athlete will perform. There is a choice in attitude just as there is a choice in how one prepares for a race. Hearing that an athlete was having “the time of their life” or having “so much fun” often goes along with a performance that would be described as “in the zone.” The pleasure of competing can usurp all other feelings and distractions and instantly create flow. Chrissie Wellington was famous for smiling furiously while setting world records over the Ironman distance. Her supreme athletic talent aside – maybe her smile hints at her secret mental strength.

 

Home Remedy For Sinus Infection

(This article appeared in Triathlete Magazine 2011)

Those of us who suffer from allergies, cold symptoms, sinus infections suffer due to the increased congestion of mucus in the nasal passages.  Sinus rinsing can be an effective home remedy to reduce the length of time you have symptoms.  The yogis in India have been using neti pots to sinus rinse for centuries so this treatment has a long history of effectiveness.   Sinus rinsing is cheap, non-addictive and natural treatment for cold and allergy symptoms.

 When the sinuses are irritated or infected, a significant amount of mucus will accumulate in the nasal passages.  Since antibiotics are not effective in most viral illnesses, the only support you can offer your immune system during infection is to help clear mucus that collects in your nasal passages.  By using a saline solution to gently flush the nasal passages you can remove mucus blockage in your upper respiratory tract.  When mucus is cleared, your sinuses can flush properly and thus eliminate the infection that can become lodged in the cavities more quickly.  Those with allergies benefit from sinus irrigation by eliminating trapped allergens like pollen, dust or pet dander from the upper respiratory tract which cause the immune response.

There are a number of commercially available sinus rinse options including saline liquids in nasal spray bottles or atomizers as well as premixed powdered saline sachets which you mix with water at home in a neti pot or in a plastic bottle with a screw cap for nasal application.

You can make your own saline sinus rinse with common household ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon (5mL) of non-iodized salt (kosher salt)
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1mL) baking soda
  • 1 cup (250mL) of filtered warm water

Shake the ingredients until they dissolve in a sterile sinus rinse bottle or neti pot.  I find that using the sinus rinse is most sanitary in the shower since all the mess is washed away when you are finished.    Squirt the saline solution in one nostril at a time.  If you have done it correctly the solution will come out of your other nostril or your mouth.  You do not want to swallow the solution.  Blow your nose gently to remove any excess solution but not too hard, you don’t want to drain solution into your ears.  You can expect your sinuses to drain for up to an hour after rinsing which is annoying in the evening when you are trying to sleep so keep that in mind when you are timing your sinus rinse.  It can take a bit of practice to get the angle of your head right so give it a few tries before deciding how effective this remedy is for you.

Consulting with a doctor to see whether sinus rinsing is right for your symptoms is always a good idea.  If you have severely blocked sinuses it is not a good idea to try rinsing.  Also, waiting an hour after rinsing to apply any other nasal spray would avoid loss of the medication while the saline solution is draining. 

I have found that saline solutions have lessened the severity of the respiratory infections I have had over the last few years and prevented the inevitable chest infection I would contract as the infection spread.  Hopefully this home remedy can be of use for you.

Coach Mel: Improving Flexibility Through Strength

I wrote this article for Triathlete Magazine a while back.  I have been advocating a lot of strength work lately for my athletes so this article may be food for thought for a lot of you building your 2012 programs.  Enjoy!

In order to be a good triathlete, an athlete needs to have strength, speed and endurance.  When an athlete chooses to race off road, it would be beneficial for that athlete to have agility as well.  Agility is a combination of coordination, flexibility, power and speed that would allow a trail racer to pick their way through technical terrain quickly and efficiently.  What many athletes are missing when they move to off road racing is adequate flexibility to allow them to stay loose while reacting to terrain.  CLICK READ MORE FOR THE REST

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All I Want For Christmas Is To Train In Italy

Melanie McQuaid and Fawcett & Company Cycling Expeditions Offer First Mountain Bike Specific Training Camp to XTERRA racers and Multi Day Mountain Bike Racing Participants

 

The first ever OFF ROAD training camp has been dreamed up and tested just in time for the 2012 season.  Looking for a way to put some miles in but have it be SPECIFIC to off road racing?  We have the tour for you which will fulfill your training objectives while ticking a box in your bucket list of lifetime adventures.  Tuscany, Italy will be the location of this incredible adventure.

Tour Overview

Fawcett & Company Cycling Expeditions is excited to offer an amazing 9-day mountain bike training tour from Rome to Florence. 3-Time Xterra World Champion, Melanie McQuaid will be our guest guide. There will be swim and run options throughout the tour.

Learn the MelRad Racing philosophy of training with coach and pro athlete, Melanie McQuaid while experiencing Tuscany – one of the most beautiful and history-rich areas of the world.

The 2012 tour will begin 2 days after Xterra Italy (www.xterraitaly.it) which takes place in Olbia on Sardinia, May 27th.

Participants on our tour will meet on the evening of May 28th in Rome at the tour hotel. We will start riding on May 29th. The tour will end on June 6th in Florence. The tour will be fully-supported with guides and vehicles.

Meals and accommodations are included in the price of the tour. We will be supported by our partners, Progetto Avventura of Italy.

Ride Overview

Our ride starts next to the Colosseum in the heart of Rome and concludes in the Piazza della Signoria in Florence.

This ride will incorporate ancient trails including Via Francigena – the pilgrimage route from Canterbury to Rome, forest roads, mountain biking trails, low-traffic secondary and unpaved gravel roads including the Strada Bianca or White Road, which criss-crosses Tuscany and passes through the most breathtaking scenery in the region.

The accommodations are a mixture of local farm-stays and small hotels. Tuscany is home to the Slow Food Movement and all of the food and wine provided is produced and prepared locally. e most challenging aspect of this ride is the cumulative climbing with an average 1,500 meters of climbing per day.

Participant Profile

This ride is designed to be challenging. Riders should be comfortable cycling off-road on mountain bikes for between 4-7 hours per day. This has been designed for XTERRA athletes with running and/or swimming options at the end of each day’s ride. However, pure mountain bikers are encouraged to join as well.  There is also a Companion Program which will feature visits to local points of interest – please contact us for details.

 

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Price: $3,350 CAD$ per person Size: Between 7 – 16 riders

Includes:

  • 9 days of training
  • Meals, snacks and water during those 9 days
  • 10 nights of accommodation (starting May 28)
  • Vehicle support and luggage transportation
  • Professional bike guides and drivers
  • Training tips from 3-Time XTERRA World Champion Melanie McQuaid

Does Not Include:

  • Flights (and baggage fees)
  • Services, transportation, food or accommodation before May 29 and after June 6
  • Meals on May 28 (arrival day)
  • Additional drinks or services at accommodations (you are on your own if you are REALLY partying)
  • Gratuities
  • Everything not explicitly listed under “includes”

Registration Procedure:

Procure and return completed registration form: chris AT fawcettexpeditions DOT com

Make a transfer of CAD$ 500 to secure your spot. Places will be reserved in the order of deposits received.

Minimum of 7 riders, maximum of 16.

Receive confirmation of registration e-mail from Fawcett & Co.

Send remaining balance of the tour cost at least 45 days before the start of the tour

Receive final confirmation e-mail from Fawcett & Co.

 

 

 

 

Substitute Spin Teacher – Coach Mel

I was the substitute spin class teacher last night at Procity Cycles as Mike Neill is in California pedalling his little booty off in Los Angeles.  Since I have a strong bias towards triathlon, I decided to give the class a fun session that also challenged the triathletes with some specific skills.

I heard more feedback about the music than anything else but I did see a lot of red, sweaty faces!  Mission accomplished.

If you want to try the workout I have posted it here for you to give it a go.  Good luck!  Click on Read More for Workout Specifics 🙂

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Off Season Focus (or not….)

Winter for those of us in the Northern hemisphere is a time of year to reconnect with your non-racing friends, reflect on the past season, and build some enthusiasm for the next season while giving your body a break from the traveling and racing.  Your body will have absorbed a lot of training and racing by the end of the triathlon season, so it is important to take a break in order to regenerate not only your muscles, but also your nervous system.  You need a mental and a physical break in order to be at your peak training potential.

 

Since our XTERRA season does not end until the end of October and Ironman pushes on even further, I think it is beneficial to take at least two weeks completely off, meaning NO training and sometimes this needs to be even longer, depending on your level of burnout.  I usually go by feel.  If I really don’t FEEL like training, I don’t do it.  I wait until I really want to go to a workout or for a ride and until then I drink coffee, hang out and do yoga.   This period of time varies from year to year and will vary from one person to another.  I think that during this break is a good time to start thinking about what your goals are going to be for the next season.

 

During this training break, create two lists of goals.  The first list should be your Outcome Goals, i.e. what are the results you would like to get (what place in a certain race or what time for a 10km).  The second list should be your Process Goals, i.e. how you are going to achieve those goals (what skills do you need to develop, injuries to clear up, muscle imbalances to correct, techniques to improve).  For example, one of my goals for 2011 is to qualify for 70.3 Worlds.  In order to do this, I have three process goals.  The first is to lower my race weight, the second is to improve my swim technique and the third is to work on my power on my time trial bike.  I invite you guys to share your goals on the forum so that you can all inspire each other next season and help each other achieve that success!

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Q & A With Coach Mel

I submitted this article to be published in Her Sports magazine in January of 2007.  Might be useful for some of you starting to plan your own season in the coming weeks…

 

1. I’m a triathlete and want to become faster in the cycling leg. I have a sprint tri coming up in a month. How can I get fast, quick?

The first rule in all endurance training is that you must be patient.  It takes time to effect change in your fitness.  Becoming a better endurance athlete is not just about becoming technically skilled; it is about becoming a finely tuned endurance machine.  You will not achieve your best potential in one month, period.

That said, you can choose to focus on the cycling leg of your upcoming sprint triathlon and train to have your best possible performance on the bike.  By focusing on cycling for the next month you will have time to discover your strengths and weaknesses.  When you go back to a balanced triathlon program you will be better able to prioritize workouts to either exploit strengths or minimize weakness. 

The first thing that you must do when planning training for a specific event is that you plan backwards from the day of the event to the present when you lay out your training schedule. If you start from race day you need to realize that you cannot gain any training benefits in the last 10 days before an event.  This leaves about 20-21 days until the event that you can use for training.  The last 10 days you will plan a taper where you focus on active rest to help you get the most out of the fitness you have.  The exact training you are able to do in those 21 days will vary according to your ability level.  It would be prudent to break up the 21 days into three seven day cycles with rest built into each one.  More training will not equate to better cycling if you don’t recover from the training.  Planning recovery is as important as planning the training.

My advice would be to focus a bit more of your attention to cycling in order to improve.  You might want to focus on improving your cadence, getting a better aero position or practice riding at race pace to determine your limits.  You are still training for a triathlon so don’t ignore the swimming and running if you want to put together your best overall race. 

To cycle better, you might want to devote a few more speed sessions per week at the expense of some of your run speed sessions.  You will find that increased fitness on the bike translates to a stronger run without extra run training.  Cycling fitness increases with mileage and experience which takes time to develop.  So in the short term, have reasonable expectations and plan carefully for your best results.

2. I’m training for a half Ironman coming up in six months. Should I schedule some shorter races (sprints, Olympic-distance, even 5k or 10ks) before then as practice? If yes, how many and how should I space them out?

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