Exercise and Training – A Difference?

Welcome to the blog this month everyone. So there is a topic I wanted to address – one that I often get asked and is worth looking at. In this blog, which is also a vlog episode over on my you tube channel, I am going to try and explore the difference between exercise and training. You can access the vlog episode here, and this goes through many of the points mentioned below.

Why? Well I wanted to address a common question/scenario that many newbies face. Although this blog (and now the vlog) are there to document my journey in this sport, I also create the content to help other age group athletes.

So, back to that question – is there a difference between exercise and training? If there is a difference, then what the hell is it? I’d like to think I have enough knowledge and experience to share with you my thoughts and opinions around this topic…so let’s get to it!

The Athlete

I think the first place to start is with you – the athlete. So I want you to analyse and ask yourself – What type of athlete are you and where are you in your athletic journey? What do we mean by this? Well, this can be someone either new to the sport and may have just signed up to a race, or it could be a someone who regularly races and does this kind of thing. Maybe you’re in your 3/4/5 year of doing it. So think firstly about where you are in your journey and what experience you have.

Goals / Challenges / Categories

This usually works in relation to the experience of athlete. First we have the newbie and in terms of a goal, this could be just completing an event. This could be a challenge in itself. Then we have the next level. An athlete that has possibly completed the event or distance before and know they can do it. Usually their goals change…like wanting to go quicker and possibly break a PB. 

We then go into the more advanced/knowledgeable athlete. These are those that understand performance and training a little more and use this to achieve particular goals. I would class myself in this category. We can go up again here into the Pro/Elite field which gets even more scientific and takes into consideration natural talent. Although for this post, we are not really going to consider them.

Again, back to those questions…Where in your athletic journey are you, and what are your goals?

Why? Well for example, If you fall in the middle here and are fairly seasoned but wonder why when you target a race you don’t break a PB or you just get close..the likely hood is you are more often exercising and not training. Now I’m not saying that we will PB in every race we do, that’s just inconceivable. But mostly these athletes will reach a performance ceiling where results plateau or don’t improve. And there is a good reason for that…basically the exercise (or supposed training) has reached it’s limit. You see… everyone will improve to a point, but it is what we do after that to push ourselves further.

My wife will often ask me if I’m exercising in the morning or evening. My reply – yes I have a ‘training session’ to complete. You see in my mind there is a huge difference between training and exercise and therefore it is often worth noting what the difference is. At least then – particularly when we are training for something, we actually know why we are doing a particular exercise or workout for a specific goal. 

Exercising for pleasure and for health benefits is great. I can’t knock anyone that wants to do that. The benefits speak for themselves. I can’t knock the athlete who just enjoys running for example and entering races. They may not care about times and goals, but for them the enjoyment is the most important aspect and there is noting wrong with that.

For me, general exercise is something I do in my off season. I couldn’t not do something active. But, and this is important – training for something in particular takes a little more than just exercising and building fitness. True – most newbies will benefit hugely from doing that and will mostly be what they need. But go a little further and plan and think a little more scientifically – and my friends you are going into the world of structured training. Unlike exercise workouts, training sessions are meaningful and have purpose. The key word….structure. 

You can prepare for an event no doubt by swimming, biking and running a lot. But add some real structure and planned reasoning into the particular workouts to do and when to do them – then my friends you have that more structured and scientific approach. What does it mean – well you will no doubt perform even better then just completing the event. 

It’s so difficult for newcomers or those who have been competing for a few years without any improvement to understand why, when actually it just comes down to doing the right things at the right time and stressing elements of your body and engine. 

You see there are all sorts of training plans out there…Triathlon sprint to ironman, 5k to marathon. You look for it, you will find something. Are they any good? Well I suppose they serve a purpose, but they would not be what I use as they are too generic! Meaning they take no account of the athlete, their abilities, their experience and current levels of fitness. There is no baselining. 

You see we now start getting into the realms of how to structure training so it isn’t just exercise. And that my friends is a whole other topic. Trust me…look it up…periodisation, base, build peak blocks…all elements of a good plan. I’ve discussed elements of these here on the blog through older posts. It’s probably why a lot of people resort to getting a coach and taking away all that planning and thinking. For me, this is something I really enjoy doing and have learnt so much about myself. 

So guys, there you have it, my thoughts into the difference between exercising and training. It’d be great to hear your thoughts so please do drop me a comment, thought or opinion in the comments box. Get over to view the youtube channel and get subscribed! Speak soon!

 

From Blogging to Vlogging – A Change of Direction?

If you have come here looking for the blog this month then all I can say is prepared to either be disappointed, amazed or surprised. I don’t know how you will all take this, but I decided to vlog this entry over at YouTube on my channel. Do head over to see this month’s instalment clicking the pic above or this link.

Many of you will remember that I have wanted to try and do something like this for sometime and planned an entry on the triathlon plans in France. Unfortunately, I’m not there on holiday at the moment what with this damn situation going on. I certainly have a little bit more time on my hands recently and decided to do this month’s update via a vlog effort. I’m no professional video buff and hopefully you will all enjoy it – go easy on me!

Is it the end of the blog?

Certainly not! I enjoy the writing aspect and will complete a mixture of both. I do think it will add some variety though and possibly increase the audience reach a little more. I will probably supplement some of the vlogs with a written piece. Why? Well it’s only since editing it, you think of other things you could have added in or included and therefore I think a supplementary commentary sometimes may be needed. Anyway…the more I do on this, the more of an opinion I will form I guess. I’m currently planning future posts – both blogs and vlogs.

Competition Update – Last Blog

Oh and the other thing – the naming of last month’s blog. Well I gave it to two winners – No Rocket Scientist – ‘Anything but 2020’ and Andrew Gowland with ‘The here, The there, The now’. Only one can be added of course and this will be ‘Anything but 2020’.

Guys do DM me on instagram or contact me here with your sizes and address and I will send them out to you. Many thanks for participating.

So all there is for me to do now is shamefully plug the vlog video and hope you get over there and watch, like and subscribe. By subscribing you will be notified of future posts.

What to call this? Now… ‘Anything but 2020’

When deciding to write this blog entry, I was very unsure as to what to call it. There are a variety of themes running through it, which probably had something to do with the lack of inspiration for a title. So if you do have any ideas, then do drop them in the comments below (Competition – read on). Anyway I thought I needed to get on with a monthly update of some kind so here goes…

The Virus…

No I haven’t got it, but I think people are now feeling the effect of it in various ways and us athletes are starting to see the hit on our events. So many events out there have either been postponed or cancelled. Frustrating for lots of us, particularly with all the hard work that goes into the training side of things. My planned guest blog from our Marathon Des Sables participant (Sarah) has been put back a little due to the postponement of it. A real shame, as I think that would have been a fantastic experience to share with you, although it will come…eventually. I for one, haven’t as such had any events cancelled – yet. Although I have had a few emails from a few event organisers about possibilities and what would happen. I’m hoping (and praying of which I never do) that none of them do get caught up in this madness. The only saving grace is triathlon is summer based so I’m hoping that by then, we’ve seen the back of it.

Progress and Training

After a new bathroom install I’ve been working on, and a great few days in Lisbon (highly recommended) with my family, I knew my condition and overall fitness were good. I ran a very decent 5K over at Victoria Dock ParkRun in 20:40 in some incredibly windy conditions. It was pleasing to hit that and I’m determined to go sub 20 within the next few months. I use the ParkRun as a way of testing progress every 6 weeks or so and make it part of a longer run. I managed two runs whilst in Lisbon – a nice 7 miler followed by an 8 miler the next day. If you are after a few days break somewhere, Lisbon should be on your list….post corona maybe though 🙂

How many pastel de natas can one eat?

First Race…and injury

The last time I posted, I was heading into the Big Half in London. It was a chance to put a marker down for me and see where my fitness really was. I had a fantastic race, although there was a slight downer. I PB’d over that distance by some 5 minutes coming in a 1:36:50. To be honest, I had a little more to give, although I had to deal with an injury issue from mile 7 onwards. My achilles started giving me some pain, and we all know occasionally things can hurt during a run but they usually wear off. Not this. And it became stronger as the race went on.

Being a sensible athlete as I am, not only did I not stop, I also tried not to slow down. And you would think I have learned my lesson from previous experience? ‘No Danny, keep going’ I told myself. ‘Worry about it after’. It was only when I finished, I realised how sore it was.

To be honest, the pain was bearable enough to continue and the real issue was going up any little bump. I’m two weeks on now post injury, and after some initial swelling and localised pain, I think (and hope) it’s on the mend. I didn’t run for two weeks (ok exactly 11 days) and I have been quite conservative with training. In-fact the enforced rest has me feeling pretty refreshed and my biking and swimming are unhampered. I have since also completed a very small walk/run of around 4km with no issue, and then followed that with a 5K non stop. My plan is to keep it at 5km for a week or so every few days and build the load through it.

Me, Cousin Hannah and Uncle Mike all completing the Big Half

Will this hamper my GB age group hopes?

Well it’s difficult to say at this point, but I can’t see it helping. It will depend on how quickly I can get back to running and carrying out the tempo sessions. These are the sessions that have really made a difference in my running improvement this year. Yes they’re hard, but so worth it. I really do think that with a few more good solid months of training behind me, I could push for that 1:30 half marathon at some point. Consistency with running has given me this form; it’s just a shame I’m slightly hampered now.

As such, I will have to see over the next few weeks what my achilles allows me to do. What’s frustrating is that I have never had any trouble with it, nor any issues in training. I can only put it down to the lack of warm up and then hitting out quite hard. I have 8 weeks left until the Outlaw half. If I can maintain my run form and not lose too much fitness, I may have a good chance of laying down a reasonable time that could get me in contention. So we will have to wait and see I suppose.

What’s on the horizon?

A trip to France during the Easter holiday is planned, although we will have to see what happens with that. We are driving, so that makes things a little easier in terms of travel plans, but you never know with this virus what the governments may do. The plan for me is to take the bike and get some quality miles in the bank whilst out there. Hopefully this happens. We have some work planned to the house and outside and the start of an installation of a small pool. This will also mean the beginnings to sorting out the gym area. Vlog post is coming on this…I PROMISE!

Competition Time

I think that more or less concludes this update. As always, I really appreciate the reading, likes, comments and shares etc. Do not forget, if you need some quality sports gear, do give my sponsors SUNDRIED a look. Use my code DANNY for a great 50% discount. And…one last thing…the competition. I have some great cycling jerseys up for grabs. It’s quite simple to enter with a few simple steps. Here’s how:

  1. If on instagram, do give me a follow @tri.to.be.iron or give the blog a like and share through any social platform
  2. Enter your idea for title to this blog entry in the comments below or on my instagram blog post.

Winners will be selected by the end of the month. Good luck all!

Hibernation Over!

So I feel it is now the time to resurrect the blog from its winter sleep! Just like our tortoise, Rodney, the hibernation period is over. The time has come to update on progress and performance, but also on future plans – of which there are a few!

Winter is not my favourite time of the year, which I have probably passed comment on numerous occasions in various blogs. I am a summer and warm weather person and that is for sure. The slog of the cold miles and dark nights are a drag, although there is one plus – it is certainly an easier time of year to train to intensity. Quite simply, there is no heat to contend with when doing the intense workouts, which certainly makes them more manageable. I’m glad now that the light is starting to return though.

So what’s been happening with training my end?

After a consistent winter base building programme, I am now 14 weeks out from my first A Race – the Outlaw Half. I do have two smaller events lined up prior to that, one being the Big Half (March) and a sprint triathlon the week before the Outlaw. These are going to be markers for me to allow me to see what my fitness is like and what kind of shape I am in.

Overall I’m very happy at how things are progressing. I started my training earlier this year to give me that extra performance gain. I also wanted to take a longer base period and I think I’m on target to meet my expected Training Peaks CTL – somewhere between 95 – 110. Below is the last two snapshots I took of it a few weeks apart.

If you are unsure of what these numbers mean, I have briefly explained them in a previous blog found here. I have just got to keep moving that middle number up, but manage the fatigue and form along the way. Training is going very well and I just need to make sure I build in enough rest and recovery. The Big Half in a couple of weeks will give me a real good indication of my run form and this is certainly an area I have tried to be even more consistent with this winter. I will do a small taper before this event as I want to feel fairly fresh for it. Training for all three sports is tough and requires some bleeding planning I’ll tell ya!

TrainerRoad has been fundamental in my bike training and to be honest the structure has been excellent. I’m seeing big improvements in my bike performance, even though my weekly mileage and long rides are not where they should be. You see, that’s the thing with winter, is it can scupper those long Sunday rides and I for one have lost out on a fair few. I’m certainly not motivated to go out in the wind, and if it is raining before I go out – no chance! For me the risk of accident is far too great. It has meant a fair few Sunday rides on the trainer, but that can’t beat those outdoor rides. Mentally nicer riding outside and a much more pleasurable way of clocking up the miles and distance.

Race Calendar

Sprint Distance Triathlon9th May 2020
Outlaw Half 70.3 17th May 2020
Ironman Staffs 70.37th June 2020
Windsor Olympic15th June 2020
Ironman Vichy 70.323rd August 2020

This is definitely the most challenging race schedule to date for me. This year I will take on three 70.3 distance events, the most in a season before was two. I said I would never return to Ironman Staffs, and low and behold, here I go again. Windsor follows this on the very next weekend. Why am I doing this then? Well I love this race, and this year I will be doing it purely for enjoyment as my recovery from the weekend before will not be complete. Who knows what state I will be in, but I just couldn’t miss it!

I certainly will take a week or so off after and some rest before heading out to France to take on Vichy again. My calendar this year nearly looked very different. I was very close to signing up to Ironman Luxembourg 70.3 and the new event in Holland. I was persuaded (and there was some compromising) by the wife to do Vichy instead, however there is no way I will be in the same kind of early season shape after my summer holidays. I learnt that the hard way last year. Do have a read back at those previous blogs to find out.

Vichy Build Up / Vichy Part 1 / Vichy Part 2

My race calendar next year will certainly look different. I have always said I want to experience as many races as possible. I am starting to feel that I’m exhausting my list a little here, hence my thoughts to racing in Europe a little more. I most certainly will take part in a different race in 2021 on the continent and who knows, that could be in a GB suit!

Age Group Qualifying Contention

I’m certainly going to use this year as a chance to get as close to the age group qualification as possible. To be honest, I haven’t planned out my chances very well and realistically the Outlaw will be my best shot. It will certainly tell me whether this dream is possible or it is all just pie in the sky. The Ironman events are so competitive and I will most likely be physical shot by Vichy. There are only two or three real times you can peak for top fitness in a season. The two half ironman races in May and June will be my top end. It’s too difficult to keep hold of that level of fitness for so long. You only risk burn out and fatigue. I will almost certainly try and add another race to my schedule in July, but that will be at the Olympic distance. I just need to work out what race that will be. There’s a fair long lay off from Windsor to Vichy and I would like to feel that gap with a race before my holidays.

The age group qualification dream has been a big driving force for me this season. It is a long shot and I will need some luck no doubt, but to be even considering it, I think is an achievement. And believe me, this is not just some idea dreamt up that I have no chance of actually getting. I’m not that unrealistic! If I don’t achieve my goal, yes it will be disappointing, but I know that I will have put everything on the table in trying. I may get close. How close? Who knows? But will I be prepared to do it all again the following year? Maybe. Maybe not. One thing I am learning is that I seem to race faster each year, and it may be that this year is another stepping stone before actually accomplishing my goal. Only the season ahead will tell us, so let’s find out in the coming year.

What else is lined up?

We will have a special blog this year from Sarah Wixey, who you may remember completing a few triathlons and has written some guest blogs on here for me. She is taking on a incredibly challenge this year in attempting the Marathon Des Sables. If you are unaware of what this is, it is a gruelling multi-stage footrace across the Sahara Desert. Sarah has agreed to blog her experience. I possess a James Cracknell DVD of when he did – check it out! Bloody hardcore and fair play to anyone doing it!

And I promise I will complete that Vlog/Blog type effort on the triathlon plans for France. I’m keen to do it to document the process as this is all part of the journey. I am also considering next Autumn in taking on my triathlon coaching badges. This will be another step towards the long term goal of the camps planned.

I also planned to do another marathon this year – I hoped for and entered Berlin, meaning if I got in then that would also be on the cards. I was unsuccessful – again, although there is the idea in my head of the Bordeaux marathon in October. We are in France anyway as it falls during my half term and it is just a case of whether I enter it. We will see on this one!

So there you have it! This year has finally been kicked off and I hope to increase my readership of the blog even further this year. It always amazes me at how many enjoy reading this and ask about the next instalment. Please continue to share, like and comment. It is much appreciated!

Autumn Update – What’s been happening?

Well I realise it has been since September since I last posted and there is good reason for that. Quite simply, there isn’t much to report on and it’s the time of year that my blog slows down. I like to think of it as its ‘off season’. I take one, so does the blog!

My training has certainly started – well the preparation period has anyway which has now come to an end. With the new goal as outlined in my previous post, I needed to start much earlier this year to try and reap the extra performance gains I thought I may need to try and achieve it. I have just finished an extended preparation period of almost 8 weeks and just about to undertake some testing and then begin the base period. My plan is 24 weeks in duration with a little give and take for some planned holidays I have. It’s a much longer than usual plan and one you would think I am doing a full ironman for. Hopefully, I should be in prime condition for the Outlaw half in May which will be my first stab at my goal.

If you wondering what my preparation period has consisted of, well it’s all about getting my body ready to train and carry out slightly harder workouts. My simple goals were:

  1. Follow the base training programme for the bike on Trainer Road
  2. Increase my run miles so that I’m running around 4 times a week
  3. Keep 80% of everything I do low in intensity
  4. Develop strength throughout my body through a dedicated strength programme

I’ve taken a break from swimming which has only just started up again. This is one discipline that doesn’t take very much for me to get back to where I was. It isn’t a limiter for me and therefore a break from the pool was needed. It feels good to be back now though and it is a case of me just swimming for a few weeks – no workouts, no plan, just swimming and drilling to build up some time in the pool before I put some structure back in.

On another note, I have been recently made an ambassador for Sundried sports apparel. It’s a great little company that provide some excellent gear. And I’m not just saying that! A Castelli slave no more! The good news is that all my readers can benefit too – 50% off all their gear by just visiting the website and putting in the code DANNY. Go over and check them out – you will be pleasantly surprised at the quality.

An Apology

I do have a slight confession, as in one of my previous posts I promised a different take on a blog through a vlog type effort, which to be honest I did not manage to get around to do. It’s still in the pipeline though and I will have a go at that when I get the chance to do it.

Changes to my Diet – meat or no meat? Well a few free meat days…

So I’m a meat eater. Always have been and meat of some kind every day is how I live. Most of that is white meat and some fish. I love meat – simple. So why have I changed my diet to include a few plant based days every week? Ok I’m not going into all the mumbo jumbo and vegan arguments of saving the world and why doing it is better for our planet. I get all that (and agree with most of it) but that is not my motivation. And plus – I’m not going vegan, or vegetarian for that matter.

I’ve been doing a bit of research into the various diets and seeing if there is anything I can tap into that would allow me to eek out more performance gains, but more importantly health benefits. Seeing some really high performing athletes also makes you wonder on the effect it is having. This, and the health benefits is my main motivation. So what conclusion have I come to? Diets are hard to stick to and being realistic is more achievable than trying to be rigid. One thing I have learnt is that I need to reduce my meat intake across the week which will surely have beneficial effects on my health. I’m not giving up meat, or fish or eggs for that matter. I will make a conscious effort in reducing the amount I eat and introduce new plant based meals. Notice how I haven’t said replacements there!

The other thing I have learned is that to try and replicate meals you do by substituting ingredients will lead to disappointment. ‘There not the same’ – well of course they’re not! My view is to look at new recipes and try to create new dishes, which on the whole I’ve been really impressed with. There have been some great meals coming out of my kitchen the last few weeks.

What has been really interesting is my performance and training. Since cutting meat I am training really well, have more energy and am less tired. Is it a mental thing? Who knows – yet! Time will tell but from the performance point of view I’m impressed so far. I thought I’d also be hungry and you know what? I’m not! I’m not even snacking as much (something my stomach needed to do particularly late afternoon before a workout). This is all very new for me and I don’t want my blog post to be dominated by this but feel that this is a significant thing to report on. I now have 3 or 4 meat free days a week in which I feel great about. That’s it.

Short Term Goals

So my aim now is to keep training consistently. Consistency is key and trumps everything else. There are days when I’m tired and not feeling it, but it’s these days that make or break a season. It’s a lot harder training during the winter months, but getting a few things right can make all the difference. Planning takes a lot of time with all the things to consider. Consideration into all the workouts and when to do them, family and personal life events, work, what I’m eating blah blah blah…. the list goes on. Although the more thought you put into this, the more successful the plan and season will be you put together. You know what they say about piss poor planning!

I have a few markers lined up along the way to my first triathlon. I’m hoping to achieve PBs in 10k and the half marathon distance. These will act as good indicators to my training and allow me to make adjustments to it if needed. I will of course try and update as I go through my season. So until then…happy training.

Oh and look out for an article I’m doing for Sundried on ‘Turbo Training Workouts’. In-fact, I’ll probably re-blog it here!

A Reflection Piece…

After a very successful season comes the time to reflect. Reflection on everything that has happened; things we have achieved; what we could have done differently or better; and what the future holds and the goals will be for next year. Reflection is an important tool in life in general and something many people do not do often enough. It’s something I bark on about in my professional duties, but also one that I like to think I do myself. Hence this blog. This is one huge reflection documenting a journey into a sport I love and that gives me so much.

I know triathlon, training and racing is not the be-all and end-all. I get that. It can be a selfish sport at times – and hard to manage with everything else that goes on in life. If I had to give it up tomorrow – for whatever reason that may be, it would sadden me and I would miss it. Could I give it up? Well if my family depended on it then hell yes. I love my family dearly and how they support me in what I do, even though sometimes it means an early start for them at some race in the country! They can be as dedicated me! So to reflect just on the training and racing would be wrong. I’m looking at everything that surrounds that. My family are a big part of me being able to carry out this crazy adventure! I’m grateful to them for that.

I look back on this year as a great achievement. By concentrating purely on triathlon this season and being more focused around the goals, it has made for a successful season.

I’ve been really pleased with how my body has held up. I hate to say it, or to tempt fate, but there were no major injuries throughout the season. Why? Well you may remember me speaking about adapting some of my training methods (training slower more often), which I think has had a major impact into me staying healthy. Yes I’ve had a few niggles, mainly older injuries just playing up, but these are managed and we move on. It meant a tweak to training or easing up a little. Nothing that couldn’t be dealt with, meaning I have had the healthiest season so far. Training slower has worked for me…and do you know what? It has made me a faster athlete. My times and performance prove that this year.

Proof I hear you say? Well check the previous blog posts! I often compare my race performances against my previous efforts. My A race this year was the Outlaw half. The middle distance is my preferred event and the one I believe I hold most potential at. I’ve hit personal records/bests at all my events this year. For those I didn’t, it was because of a change of distance or a new event making it difficult to compare. The one result that stands out for me is the Outlaw Half. Previously 6hr 10mins to 5hr 34mins this year. I’m certainly hitting consistent numbers in the olympic distance as well, although I haven’t had a race where the conditions helped this year. The longer the distance though, the stronger I am. I’m no longer scared of the distance, the pain you endure or mental side of it. I’ve also made real strides in managing my nutrition during these longer events. I still think I probably need to tweak a little more on this but everything is moving in the right direction.

So even though I have made leaps and bounds in my performance, the question that always hangs over my head…’How much more can I do?’ I’m not getting any younger.

So I’m going to make a statement now…a big statement. One that takes me out of my comfort zone and one that will challenge me. So here goes:

I AM GOING TO TRY AND QUALIFY FOR THE GB AGE GROUP TEAM FOR THE MIDDLE DISTANCE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS.

There we are…off the chest! That is the goal for next year. Life is too short to not take risks. I’ve made my commitment and shared it. If I don’t succeed, it’s not the end of the world. It will give me a good indication of how close I can get and whether it is a goal I can achieve. Maybe it is out of reach, but if I don’t try, I will never know. I’ve been completing in triathlon a fair few years now and it’s time to lay down my most challenging goal to date.

What will I need to do?

Well apart from going faster, there are a few things I need to consider. Making sure I train effectively and staying injury free will be a challenge in itself, I mean it always is. There are going to be a few tweaks to my training again and I will make an effort to up my run volume this year considerably. I’ll also have the help of this:

The treadmill (or dreadmill for some) is the new weapon in my training arsenal and one to take a little bit of the impact out of my running. I’ve already had a few sessions on Zwift run, which I must say I have enjoyed. It’s going to be great for the winter runs and my brick workouts.

The training plan is already being devised. It’s not knowing what to do in my training, that bit I believe I have covered. Extensive reading, use of Training Peaks and trialling approaches have meant me being my own guinea pig and learning lots over the last few years. I have a few milestones set that I will need to hit throughout. The length of training time will be increased and I have already started after my three week break. I’m taking a much longer preparation and base period this time out and getting my body ready to train will be key. There will be an element of being a little stricter with my diet also.

What are the qualifying rules?

Hopefully I can explain this a bit clearer than British Triathlon. The idea is that you need to be within a qualifying time of the winner of your age group. This is 115% or in other words within 15% of the winners time. On calculations from the Outlaw this year, the winners time for the 40-44 age group was 4hr 22mins. To get within that qualifying time I would need to be somewhere close to 5hrs. That’s 34mins quicker than I raced this year. You see, it’s tough. 34mins is a lot, although I do believe I can get at least 20mins off just by training consistently as I have done this year. I certainly held back on the bike during the event this year.

You can probably see now why my training has started earlier than previous seasons. It will need to if I am going to reap that extra performance gain. I could do with a slice of luck on the day also. By this I mean it does depend on who turns up. If I get someone racing who is quicker than the winning time this year, then it obviously makes the qualifying time harder as I would need to go even quicker.

You see some of this is out of my hands. The only thing I can do is train hard and consistently and race the best I can on the day. If that happens and I hit my target, I can’t ask for anything more. I can be sure that a 5hr half Ironman is more than respectable and a qualification spot will be a bonus.

The funny thing is, if I do get it then I’m not even sure I will go. The cost of everything age group related isn’t cheap and I think logistically it might be a challenge. I have decided to not worry about this part though and just concentrate on getting in. If I do get in, then we worry about that. So there you have it. My reflection and my main goal next year laid out in full. I could have kept all of this under wraps, although I feel that by sharing it, it gives me added impetus and healthy added pressure.

Only time will tell if I’m aiming for something well out of my reach! There’s only one way to find out so let’s see what this rollercoaster holds in the coming year!

Keeping the Fitness for Ironman Vichy 70.3…a short update

Well I said it would be a struggle…and it was! Temptation around every corner! Huge breakfast choice; cocktails on tap all day; three course lunches and dinners, all followed by more drinks in the evenings. All inclusive holidays are either hell or heaven eh depending on how you look at them! Well certainly not great for the waistline or the fitness!

Now I am not saying I had to consume this all, and there were days (ok 1 or 2) when I didn’t 🙂 On a more serious note, I was more concerned about having the motivation to train (if you can call it that). Trained I did – or exercise I would call it. You see training requires a certain structure to it with particular workouts at certain times. This was the bit my training, actually exercise (which I will call it) lacked. My exercise really consisted of me swimming a little each day (only around a 1000m) and using the gym to spin on the bike and run on the running machine. Everything for the maintenance of fitness and to not lose too much of it.

The only benefit I really got was through running. I was able to run quite well and work to heart rate and pace quite sufficiently. I had purchased a footpod before I left for holidays in order for me to use the treadmills accurately. Gym treadmills are usually so beat up and well out on recording distance and pace. To my surprise, these in my hotel were not too bad actually. The longer you run the less accurate they would become though. Over 5k they were probably about 0.5km out.

This has made me realise that treadmill running, although slightly boring, (but hey if you can cycle on a turbo, then mentally running on these isn’t too bad), shows that you can build up volume quite easily and complete intervals also. It has certainly allowed me to run more as it was easier on my joints, and considering I have suffered from run injuries all too often it was a real benefit to me. It has got me thinking though – how can I add one of these to my training arsenal? Not enough space in my training room so a bit of head scratching to do!

Training (sorry exercise) also involved me adding back in strength and conditioning work as the gym equipment was good in this respect. So here is a small video compilation I made of some of the ‘exercise’ I did.

This all meant that no fitness could really be built. My goal was simply to hang on to as much of it as I could and keep updating Training Peaks to keep a check on my numbers. I knew my bike numbers would diminish slightly but I also have two weeks of easy riding in France that I would do to help with that prior to Vichy to get the legs back into it.

So that’s it for this blog. As mentioned, only a short one to provide an update for the regular readers! My Jamaican holiday is about to come to an end unfortunately. It is a lovely place with great people. Do visit it if you ever get a chance. I do have some really good blog content coming over the next few posts. Look out for a two part special on Ironman Vichy 70.3 and also one on the potential for training camps in France. We will also be hearing from the coaching project Miia in regards to her season and her achievements and success this year. SO STAY TUNED!

Ya Man…No problem…Respect!

My daughter Isabel and her new friend ‘Phoenix’

Coaching Project Part 2 and Training

Swim Bike Run

Well it’s been a busy few weeks my end and great to be able to publish this blog post finally. I don’t just think and write these up on the day you know! They do take time and I aim to put good content into them that are worthy of a read. 

So as promised, here’s the update on the coaching project I explained I was undertaking with Miia. I have also given details of performance updates my end as well. Therefore you get 2 for the price of 1 this time! How lucky you all are!

Let me cast your mind back. If you didn’t read the last blog post on the coaching project, you can read it here. I introduced you all to Miia, who is a keen beginner, and has shown great determination and dedication to her training so far. I wanted to provide you with the updates of how she is getting on, but also to show how the training is working. I’m going to break this down into the relevant parts of each discipline. It will be easier taking it one by one and I will also add in my training data along the way. This should put some things explained into some sort of context for you. 

Swim Training

As I mentioned before, without benchmarking and testing in training at different points through the training cycle, we have no idea whether something works or is having impact into our fitness or performance. For the swim, I like to use either a 400m or 1000m time trail. Miia being a novice, we use the 400m time trail until she is at a level where she is swimming the 1000m comfortably and it is worth taking a time from. 

In the last post we documented Miia’s initial 400m time trail. She had a time of 10min 45 secs. This was back in December and she then repeated it again in mid January after carrying out the technique sessions I planned for her. She had improved to 9min 48secs meaning her pace went from 2:32min per 100m to 2:27.  So this improvement only came from working on her technique. Since then we have not only been working on technique, however we also added in fitness sets to her swim. We wanted to build some specific swim fitness and develop that engine in the pool. 

We retested on 26th March. What is her time now you are wondering? Well it stands at…drum roll please…8min 42secs! Amazing! Truly great progress.

Test 1:    10:45          Test 2:    9:48          Test 3:    8:42

Her new time is obviously showing that she is getting faster. She’s knocked over 2 mins off in a short amount of time.

How much faster will she get? Who knows. One thing I can’t do with Miia is regularly get to the pool. Swimming improvements take time and require patience. Some would argue that she would improve naturally anyway just from swimming more – and this I agree with. But the question is how much would she have improved on her own? When would she have hit a plateau? In-fact, you could argue this with all three disciplines. Would she know which sets to do also to improve the swim fitness? This is the advantage with coaching – someone to do the thinking for you!

You see, there is still a lot of work to do with her stroke. There are many aspects that still need to be improved and areas that were highlighted before are better, but could be improved further. This is where the one on one pool coaching is really beneficial. Unfortunately, in this part of the season, we need to balance fitness and technique. Although Miia will continue to improve this year, the question is how much more? Personally, I feel these will be small improvements through the season, however if she puts some work in over the next winter, then I think there will be massive developments again. We need to now continue developing her swim fitness and begin some open water sessions. We are happy at the level of swim so far though.

My training has been going very well in the pool and my 1000m time trail has shown I’m faster now then I ever was. This is what I mean when I say we improve over time. You never make massive jumps, and if you do, they are usually early on. Below is a collation of my times over the last few years for this distance. Whenever I swim it, I swim it as flat out as I can go. A combination of fitness, improved technique and bloody determination has led to this.

1000m Time Trails:

2015:     21mins 33s

2016:     20mins 35s

2017:     18mins 29s

2018:     17mins 45s

2019:     16mins 35s

Fitness, technique is developed over time. The longer we do something, the better we become. I certainly feel Miia will improve further and this year is it about getting a first year baseline. It’s also about ensuring we are carrying out the technique sessions well with good form and not instilling bad habits. The better we become, the smaller the gains we make also.

I know that to improve my swimming times, I would have to swim an extra day a week. I’ve certainly swam more this year, including the extra day,  although probably every other week. Has this helped? Possibly. I’m probably averaging at around a minute less a year over that distance a year, but I also know I am more in tune with my technique than others and know when it feels right!

BIKE

This is a discipline I feel Miia is more naturally gifted in. She is a strong rider and this was noticed early on. We have been riding together when we can on a Sunday to get in our longer ride. Weather has hampered us a fair few times and I gave Miia a particular workout to do on the turbo if that happens. Again she has really followed the plan well and allowed her bike engine to be developed. So let’s explore her results…

Her initial bike test results were as follows:

Starting Bike FTP Power: 141w Starting Bike HR Threshold: 155bpm

Current Bike FTP Power: 171w Current Bike HR Threshold: 162bpm

And there we see it! Training to specific zones and following the plan has led to a massive increase. I think it’s fair to say also that on the second test Miia knew what to expect and pushed a lot harder than the first. I was meant to take a video of it but completely forgot! The more you do this test the better you become at judging the effort, and I was worried she went off a little too hard at first the second time round, although she surprised me and maintained it for the majority of the test.

Many wonder what this actually means, but basically the FTP is the level she could ride and and sustain for the duration of her event. Now, Miia isn’t necessarily going to use all this information, but as a coach, the data is important to allow me to analyse the fitness and performance gains. It tells me whether the workouts prescribed are having the desired affect.

Miia meeting Chrissie Wellington at the Triathlon Show – Excel London

Our longer rides have let her develop the endurance and distance and the shorter workouts at home have pushed the HR up and got her into zones where it is a little uncomfortable. She has taxed her cardiovascular system and will continue to improve in this discipline now that the next part of her training makes FTP workouts more specific.

My performance has also improved here as I’ve pushed my FTP up to 177W at the last test a few weeks back. You may note that this isn’t much more than Miia. The trouble with the test is you need to be able to pace it well, something I don’t think I did well in the last test. A consistent effort required throughout and resisting the urge to go to hard too early on and fading towards the end. The problem – I don’t think I went quite hard enough. You see cycling is based around power to weight ratio. You want to be light, but strong. I always keep a check on my weight throughout training and I’m currently hovering around 62kg. If you are lighter but can produce the same power as a heavy rider, you are stronger. It also means climbing hills you will be quicker. It’s why we see so many skinny Tour de France riders that are incredibly strong on climbs!

I asked Miia to keep an eye on her weight throughout training and before I mention this, I will say she gave me permission to publish this! Her starting weight was 73.5kg and now she is 70.5kg. Probably due from training, but certainly helpful in her bike performance.

Muscular endurance has been a focus for me to build the strength in my legs, and I have only just started to build my ftp with specific workouts. It just shows, bike fitness can come from a variety of ways. Miia also will continue doing this workout in her build phase.

Run Training

I think it will be fair to say that Miia has found Z2 HR run training hard. Not in the sense of actually doing it, but actually sticking to the zone when it feels actually quite slow – even slower than her normal run pace. Patience was key here and initially she was using her watch strap to take the heart rate that actually didn’t help. It was over-calculating it and it was only when she starting using a chest strap she found this out. I think her run has massively improved. We have done very little on speed work but just focused on consistency and trying to develop the engine. Look at these incredible results:

PB Half Marathon Times:

Initial PB: 2h 28mins

16th Dec Half marathon: 2:17:22 10th March Big Half: 2:07:37

Remarkable or what eh? She’s also brought her 5K time down now too. Initially her PB was 29mins which then went down to 27:21 and then 26:54. Miia can certainly see her improvement now and still wants to go closer to 2hrs for the half marathon distance. She will get there with this no doubt. She set out to run 2hr at the Big Half but just run out of steam towards the end. Why? Well I have no doubt she run a lot of that race anaerobically which is fairly taxing on the system and just run out of energy. The positive though is that the more she trains specifically and we look at adding some tempo running, this time will eventually come as her body becomes even more efficient. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this particular aspect goes.

And for me?

Well if there is one aspect of my training that hasn’t gone to plan, then running is it. The foot issue has been on-going and having to manage it means my running is slightly inconsistent. I’ve run two half marathons since and my aim is to try and get that consistent. I’m not too bothered with speed work as my body (foot) is not holding up to additional stress. The important thing, which I’m pleased to add though, is that things are finally starting to look up and the all important brick sessions are now happening. I managed over 20 miles this week without any issues…finger crossed now.

What was apparent recently in my half marathon was how strong I felt at the end of the Big Half. I certainly have the endurance and strength there, I just need to build a little durability in my body for the rigours of running!

Is data everything?

No certainly not! I know many pros and elite athletes who swear by riding on feel and if that works then great. Everyone can have a bad day at a race and not perform or just feel like crap. But what we are wanting to do is not only build fitness, but also confidence in our ability to complete and race events. Going into something knowing you have done the hard work is a much less stressful feeling than turning up and slogging your way around. I certainly hate racing like this. In-fact, for me it isn’t racing. I have no problem with anyone doing this and for many completing an event is an achievement. So it should be. When I started working with Miia, this was her goal. I think if you ask her now, she already knows she will complete it. The question will probably lead down the path of what time?

So I hope you enjoyed the read and the next round of blog posts will be race reports as the season is upon us. I can’t wait! It will be great to update on Miia’s races also. We both take on the sprint triathlon at Dorney lake in 6 weeks time.

Until next time – train hard and train well!

My daughter and I who just did her first 7 miles ride!