Strength and conditioning (S&C), is great for injury prevention, correcting muscle imbalances and posture. It will help you become a stronger, and therefore, faster triathlete.
A Year Round ‘Staple’
Regardless of the distance you are racing, S&C should be a staple of a triathlon-training program year round, despite this title suggesting that it is a ‘winter’ focus. Personally, this has been an aspect of my training that has been lacking, despite my regular core work. I have been planning to incorporate it into my training for a while, but timing is everything.
New To Strength & Conditioning?
If, like me, you haven’t been ‘lifting’ for some time, the delayed onset muscle soreness that comes hand in hand with S&C work can be rather hindering to the rest of your training. This isn’t particularly what you want during the race season. Consequently, I am only just starting to fully incorporate it into my schedule since completing my season on the Gold Coast this September.
I have mentioned several benefits above, and will delve into more detail on them in future posts. In the meantime I will introduce a couple of options that you can do to ensure you are reaping the benefits of S&C work.
Where To Start
A great place to start is calisthenics, or bodyweight training. It is (or rather can be!) a less stressful way to introduce your body to S&C work. I feel that it is a highly functional form of fitness. The second option is hitting the bar, no, not for drinks, but for free weights. Weightlifting is a great way to add additional load to your S&C program (literally!) and opens up a number of options to the exercises you can be performing. Therefore, combining weights with calisthenics should hopefully provide the most benefits to your training and racing.
More details of both of these training methods will soon follow in future posts.
To follow my progress as a Team GB Triathlete head over to my blog page!
It’s a simple line. A line you choose to cross, then a line you must cross, a line that marks the start and the line that marks the finish.The problem with a Line is that it can have so many meanings. It can also be the line attached to the hook that draws you in …. then where do you draw the line ? A line you, yourself, have drawn in the sand….
Hello. They call me Rapid, or Rapid Rich if you want to be formal. I’ve been asked to contribute to this Blog because of my exerts. Not because I am an athlete, or a talent, or physically fit. Or even that competitive in my chosen sport, but because I cross that line.
I cross that line most weekends during September and October because that is when Hill Climbing season starts !
Before I explain the incredible sense of achievement and amount of effort that contesting a Hill Climb brings, I would just like to explain my story and how I became transfixed (some say obsessed), by this purest of sports.
Virtually 6 years ago to the day, I was 51 years old and creeping up towards 15 and half stone ( 98 kgs). Being only 5’8”, not only was I NHS ‘obese’ but much, much worse. I had to ‘un-tuck’ my shirt ! The other tell tale sign was that I didn’t recognise myself in photos. Surely that swollen featured human was not the ‘Rapid Rich’ that I had known since he was a skinny kid !
Although I did play a little squash and even went Fencing, I had no real fitness. I turned to ‘The Bike’. Initially I spent about £800 with the theory it was enough to keep me at it, but not too cheap that it was poor equipment. I need not have worried. I did a 6 mile Ride and fell off on my cleats as soon as I got home. It mattered not. As I lay, slightly embarrassed with a bleeding knee on the floor, I was hooked. That was the first Line I crossed.
My riding went crazy. From struggling to do 35 miles on my first ‘big run’ within 9 months I rode 200 miles in one day solo from Doncaster to Anglesey. And that was the day after my biggest Club ride of 126 miles! I even started Racing! I was getting fit for the very first time in my life since I lost my natural youthful fitness, and I loved it.
I found myself walking tall, feeling (and looking) good in smaller size clothes. I could even ‘tuck in’ again. Knowing very little about Cycling, the Sport or its history, a friend of mine introduced me to something you probably all know about now – STRAVA!
This was the next line I crossed. It gave me segments which are only ‘virtual’ start and finish lines, and this gave me quantifiable results and self drawn targets. I just had to improve. I had to go faster, harder. I noticed the best segments where I could excel were hills – especially short sharp ones. I simply loved the feeling of giving everything I had and as soon as I got home I would ‘upload’ my Ride to see my PBs, Cups and KOMs.
( You do however need to also consider this was in 2012 /13 and there were far far less people on Strava than there are today, so it was much easier to get top 10 places).
Now, I’ve raced Motorcross (badly), motorcycles and cars on the track (with some success). I’ve driven a Rally Car including doing the RAC Rally for 5 years. I threw away a brilliant result in 1995 of 27th overall in a 2 wheel drive non works car. Me and my Co-Drivers desire to drive ‘flat out’ resulted in a last stage crash with less than 12 miles to go. This meant we dropped down to 47th (still not bad). – gutted.
It is this competitive element to be the best or fastest that has not left me. As I said before, I am no athlete. The years are clocking up, but my brain is still of the 17 year old motorbike Racer that believes I am competitive. I am Rapid Rich!
Is this my problem? My brain will simply not accept that I am not competitive? So when I (almost accidentally) came across Hill Climbing, it was my brain, my competitive spirit that got me up those Hills. My brain, my desire to succeed, was my biggest muscle by far.
I’ve just finished my specialised, bespoke Hill Climb bike. Less than 5kg of pure beauty. A machine made to do nothing but go up hills. Fast. Although I have a fair engineering background, I’ve had great support, help and advice from Cycles In Motion on this project and it continues to develop.
A full season on Hill Climbing in 2017 gave me some fair results for my age. But seeing the efforts by the other talented Riders simply inspired me.
This was a sport that had no prima donnas. Each competitor was equal. Not in time and ability but in effort. That was the attribute I had most of; effort. The determination and an inner drive to make me push my body far, FAR beyond its own real limits.
The beauty of Hill Climbing is that even the top Riders give you total respect for pinning on that number. As long as you give it 100 % .I don’t mean 99%, that just does not cut the mustard.
I ride for 3RT Cycling. On Hill Climb events I’m usually accompanied by a couple of close friends and great competitors, Rick Bailey and Calum Brown. They have simply inspired and driven me to push myself even further. As a trio we are called ‘The Northern Shandy’s’ with the ethos of the name being ‘undiluted effort’. … As a true northern shandy comes without the lemonade!! #nails
So what is Hill Climbing ?
Well it’s a Rider and a Bicycle. Its two Lines. One at the bottom of a Hill, and one at the top. Oh, and a stop watch.
Its been part of the British Cycling scene for well over 100 years and usually tagged onto the end of the Race Season. But now it is a hugely important discipline in its own right. It’s a Time Trial basically with Riders setting off generally at 1 minute intervals on a Hill (obviously). The nature of the Hills can be very short and steep, 500m up to 5 miles. The longer Climbs are generally less of a gradient.
The short ones can have ramps of up to 30%. Most average anywhere between 10 and 15 %. Regardless, as you are still going ‘balls out’ and Racing they are simply the hardest single effort to do in Cycling. Pacing is more important on the longer ones, but the short ones are just a sprint against gravity.
No Quarter Given
You will see from the photos, that Hill Climbs demand maximum effort There can be no quarter given and they aint for the feint hearted. That said, however, there is a fantastic camaraderie between the Riders as we all know we are going to give our best on the day.
So how do you get involved I hear you ask ? Sorry ? SO HOW DO YOU GET INVOLVED ? That’s better!
Well you need a Bike. You also need to be a member of a CTT (Cycling Time Trials) Club and that’s it. It will help if you are good at hills or sprinting or you are very light but its not prerequisite. Neither is the bike. Nowadays there are many with bespoke Hill Climb machines built specifically for the job. Mine comes in at about 4.9kg with 11 speed and pedals and it was as much fun engineering this machine as it is contesting the event.
A light bike helps but as I have found out does not turn you into a winning athlete. It does help a few seconds or even a 10th here and there. The general consensus is once you got rid of the easy weight saving modifications like chopping bars, removing bottle cages, bar tape etc it generally costs about £1.00 to save 1 gram ! But this budget can be smashed with the fun of making, converting, buying second hand or borrowing parts. Most beginners simply stick with their Road bike and take off the bottle cages on the day. You make it as cheap as you want and its much more fun.
The other thing is first find a Hill Climb that suits you, there is no point entering a short sharp steep Hill if you are more suited to the longer Time Trial type of ‘sit down’ hill. Personally I love anything up to 1 min 30 seconds and after that I’m so far into the pain cave, I’ve lost my torch and cant get out !
If you are genuinely interested, try the UK Hill Climbing page on FaceBook which is full of friendly, helpful posters and great information.
This weekend sees the culmination of the Hill Climb season with the National Hill Climb Championship which is being held at Pea Royd Lane, Stocksbridge on October Sunday 28th at 11.00. 300 Riders will contest to win their various categories and have the honour of wearing the National Stripes for the next year.
The top contenders are simply stunning to watch and if you have ever ridden Pea Royd Lane you will simply not believe the speed and power these lads can hold. If your Strava time matches them, then I suggest you get entered for next year NOW !
I have my thoughts on this weekend’s Winners, but I will leave those personal. What I can tell you is that they will be crossing their own lines, they will be putting it all out and their best effort on the line and just hoping that they have done enough !
Whatever, they will put themselves through a completely different level of pain than you can ever imagine, unless you pin on a number yourself.
As I said before, I’m 57, I’m not an athlete, but I like to push myself.
For you stats people, I’m 5’8, about 78kg and can push about 1450 watts peak, 277watts 20 min FTP and can hold about 600 + watts for a minute. Although those are fairly impressive, I have no lungs or stamina and suffer with heart rate going straight up to 195 bpm + !
I was asked by a ‘non-cyclist’ the other day “Why do you put yourself through this pain?” I thought about it carefully;
Because it is simply the best feeling in the world !!!
You enter an event on a Hill that you are more than capable of Riding up but because you’ve entered, you feel sick for a week before with worry and you question your ability. I’ve even questioned myself if I can even get up it !
As the week goes by you’ve talked about it, discussed lines, gearing, weather, wind, tyre pressures and then ensured your bike is simply in tiptop shape. Sometimes you even recce the Hill and usually a sorrowful time puts you further into the depths of despair and self doubt .
Turning up on the day is a joy, maybe after a Road Trip with fellow masochists. It’s great to see the familiar faces of friends. Unlike many sports the Top Riders not only talk to you but give you mutual respect.
You Versus The Hill
The next minute you are on the start line .. it’s You vs that Hill …vs the Clock vs Yourself . All you want to do is see those number fall, stop the seconds, stop the clock. You want to use every fiber in your body, every muscle every breath, every beat of your heart, use up every ounce of energy that you have.
Once you start, the Hill fights you at every pedal stroke, it rears up in front of you when you think you have nothing left, it litters it’s surface with obstacles like change of surface or gravel, or pot holes that might slow you or puncture your machine. It sometimes teases you with a short respite, but as you attack again it’s riposte will be of another ramp to put you in a place of deeper despair.
There is only you. You and your machine that you have created, engineered and developed to work with you. Like a trusted steed to help you slay the tarmac wall of the monster that will kill you if you show any weakness. You feel at one with your machine, as the pain increases the distance to go always decreases, but the hardest is yet to come.
But you can see and feel progress. You are on top of your game, you will not be beaten and then you suddenly have allies – spectators. They can’t give you any more power or the oxygen that you crave, but the crowd are your friend. The encouragement, the faceless wall of noise, the recognition of your name, knowing your friends and direct opponents are all rooting for you. They give you your final boost, the catalyst that somehow, miraculously, gives you inner strength, the will to go on. The final push to the line, where regardless of time, regardless of the other warriors fighting the same battle and regardless of your position you have Won. You are a Winner. You have achieved and you beat the Hill. You crossed the Line ….
Fight To Breathe
It’s over but now another fight starts. The fight to recover, to breathe. The finish line is like a tap, an adrenaline tap that slams shut, and without this incredible, self dealt ‘drug’ you are a simple mess going through a natural ‘cold turkey’. But as the body revives, the feeling of exhilaration kicks in. The euphoria caused by endorphins flooding through your veins giving you another massive natural high. You see your time. You smile….
That’s why !!
Oh, and I’m not really that busy on Sundays !
The Dave Rayner Fund
This year, I have embarked on an idea to raise money for the Dave Rayner Fund, a fund set up to support UK talent to become professional cyclists.
The idea is called the #PBChallenge and I pledged £10 to the Dave Rayner Fund if I beat my previous years’ PB and £20 if I didn’t ! …. The only thing is, this really took off and people started to Pledge for me, so there have been tremendous donations. Out of the 11 contested so far I have PB’d 8 … 2 to go. Send me a pledge if you want!
Great talking to you and I hope I’ve inspired you to pin on a number.
Aims, goals, dreams, ambitions, aspirations, objectives…… However you want to describe them, these are the building blocks that collaborate to build the purposeful life. The mediocre would have you believe that ‘opportunity'(or in their case, a consistent lack of opportunity) is also also a major factor. But that’s another discussion.
But what is, possibly the main determining factor behind success with these building blocks?
Short-term pain, long-term gain.
Yes, this may be the cliched quote straight from the wall of a 1980’s Bodybuilding Gym or possibly some regurgitated business management spiel. This doesn’t mean it should be overlooked or explored however.
TrueSapien’s understand the value of applying this universal rule, be it through instinct or through habit.
Pay the price
TrueSapien’s know that to create the aforementioned building blocks, a price has to be paid and the price has to be paid UPFRONT. By repeatedly paying this price (the pain) TrueSapien’s achieve their goals and ambitions, in turn enriching their lives. If their aim is high enough they will reach their true and inherent potential as Homo Sapiens.
Suffer only for the good choices
So what’s the difference in the suffering of the TrueSapien compared to that endured by the average or mediocre? The average and mediocre will indeed suffer and they’ll certainly let everybody know of their plight too. They’ll complain bitterly about their suffering as though it’s through no fault of their own, blaming every man and his dog for it.
In contrast, TrueSapien’s will likely talk about their suffering with a positive pride and relish.
Why? Because TrueSapien’s suffer for the GOOD CHOICES they make, the choices that are required for them to achieve their goals aligned to their overall success.
The Mediocre suffer for the BAD CHOICES they make. the choices born out of laziness, ill-discipline and desire for short term gratification.
Be better than you outwardly appear. Yes you read correctly. To non TrueSapiens this may seem odd advice, in a society where everyone around us seems to want to appear BETTER than they actually are.
People want to APPEAR more attractive, stronger, fitter, faster, richer, more successful. Desperate to prove themselves better than others. Social media unfortunately provides a convenient and accessible platform. It doesn’t matter whether they actually ARE any of the above, the shallowness and superficially biased society care more about what others think of them than what or who they actually are. This all results in inflated ego’s and a win at all costs mentality. It also results in a tendency and a temptation to take shortcuts in an attempt to desperately make rapid improvements.
TrueSapiens put their egos aside because they know inflated ego’s breed contempt and blockers to self improvement – ‘how can perfection be improved?’ Or ‘why should I improve when I am this good already?’ Seem to be the subliminal messages. TrueSapiens would rather BE better than they appear. TrueSapiens show humility and modesty in their achievements and speak of others fine performances and actions before their own. They accept praise and accolades with humility also.
There is no harm at all in showing how you’re challenging yourself. Be proud of how you’re challenging yourself but always do it with humility and WITHOUT ego. This is way more inspirational. This is TrueSapien.
James Hodgson is a Team GB Triathlete. This week he’s competing in the European Sprint Triathlon Championships in Dusseldorf.
He’s kindly shared with us one of his run element training sessions… Challenge yourself and give it a try!
This is a really good speed endurance session for 5K runners, whether you are competing in triathlons or pure running races. You need to be able to run for an hour or slightly more continuously and be physically able to work hard for the eight kilometres. However, if you are starting out or haven’t done a session like this before, don’t go diving into the eight reps. Start at three or four with extended rest periods and then build in the other reps before dropping the recovery time.
This is one of my ‘go to’ running sessions that I regularly perform to improve my triathlon running and to see where my running fitness is at. In most cases I perform it on grass to reduce the impact forces from the session and reduce the risk of injuries. It also means you normally end up running even faster when you transition over to tarmac as grass is naturally a slower surface, especially when it is damp (and often is here in the UK!).
WU – 10-15 minutes
Easy walking with full arm rotations, three/four reps of high knees, heel flicks, and hip abduction and adduction movements (opening and closing the gate exercises) for few minutes before building into an easy run. Build your effort gradually (through to heart rate zone 2 if you are using heart rate) and towards the end of 10-15 minutes of this easy aerobic running I like to put in 2-4 pickups or strides
MS – 8 x 1 kilometre (variable rest period)
Depending on where my fitness is at and where in the season I am my target pace for the one kilometre reps will vary, as will my recovery period. In most cases I am looking to hold at or quicker than my 5K race pace with easy jogging for anywhere between a minute and three minutes. I also aim to keep the pace between reps as similar as possible, with a bit of allowance for a slight upswing in speed once everything is fully functioning and switched on to the work rate (usually rep 3-4 for me) and then aim to hold that for the rest of the workout
CD – 5-10 minutes
Gradually slow the pace down to a walk before stretching, using a foam roller if you have one and replenishing the fluids and calories you have used during the session.
Being physically and mentally fresh as well as having adequate energy stores (i.e. eating 2-3 hours beforehand) is really important, as is a good warm up to reduce the chance of injuries. As mentioned, I like to run this session on grass and run a pretty flat course with only gentle and very short undulations (in most cases it’s only a few meters per kilometre) so that there is less external influence on my pace. However, if your upcoming race is undulating, you can perform this session on terrain that simulates that, as well as getting in specific hill reps.
We hope you find this insight into a training session of a Triathlete useful. As outlined above this is a useful training session either for Sprint Triathlons, pure 5k running speed or could be beneficial for short course OCR events. Give it a go and let us know what you think!
Why is it that people everywhere are systematically wasting their potential, seemingly happy living their lives completely within their comfort zones, never experiencing what life has to offer outside of them?
Just because modern lifestyles are made physically more comfortable to due technological advances, is it acceptable not attempting to use our remarkable bodies to the limits they are capable of? Acceptance Of Mediocrity is Like An Epidemic
How many people do you know that settle for mediocrity or even less when it comes to their health, lifestyle or physical functionality? Maybe you can even count yourself in this category or can remember the time you could.
It’s easy to see just by looking around you, whether at work, in the street or whilst out eating or drinking that it is the majority. They have turned their backs on their natural physical traits and lazily resigned themselves to never physically challenging themselves.
Maybe it’s symptomatic of a culture that no longer encourages healthy competition and a society that is conditioned to taking the ‘easy’ option at every opportunity and looks for excuses for underachievement.
Surely many of the negative health and social issues that are prevalent today exist primarily because society on the whole is nowhere near active enough and lacks the inclination to be so.
Buck The Trend And Reject Mediocrity
Because it’s how the majority choose to live their lives DOESN’T MAKE IT RIGHT.
It’s can’t be right to allow your body to fester in inactivity or without regular challenge. If this were so the human body would react positively to such environments and it clearly does not. The human body reacts positively to being pushed, to being tested, to being CHALLENGED! Not to mention the numerous positive psychological benefits too.
TrueSapiens reject mediocrity by repeatedly challenging themselves, pushing and striving to be the best version of them self. TrueSapiens respect and celebrate their physical abilities and seek opportunities to challenge it’s boundaries.
This is the TRUE spirit of the SAPIEN. Reject mediocrity, challenge life and BE TRUESAPIEN.
What is a Green Smoothie, how can they benefit me and how do I go about making them?
TrueSapien friends YemSmoothies give advice and answer some Frequently Asked Questions on the subject.
What is A Green Smoothie?
Green smoothie is a thick beverage made using whole fruits a liquid base and leafy greens. Dark leafy greens are nutritional powerhouses containing vital minerals and nutrients
Green Smoothies Are Bitter, Can I Add Sugar?
There’s no need to add sugar to your smoothies. Your solid green smoothie sweeteners are some fingers of banana, pineapple rings, mango chunks or dates.
What’s The Best Green Smoothie For A New Starter?
Lettuce leaves, Pineapple, Cucumber and Water. Lettuce leaves are quire subtle and will ease you in to the ‘green world’ quite gently. Hopefully you’ll graduate to using Kale and Spinach which are awesome green leaves!
How Do I Make A Green Smoothie?
Simple! All you need is a blender, come fruit, green leaves and a base (i.e. water).
Can Green Smoothies Be Used As A Meal Replacement?
Yes. If you are drinking a green smoothie as a meal replacement you should ensure that your smoothie does contain protein and some healthy fat. For example you could add some Chia Seed for Protein and a teaspoon of Coconut or Flax Oil for fat.
Remember any changes to your daily nutrition should be sustainable. Small, incremental changes that are long lasting are far more beneficial than drastic, short lived overhauls.
For further smoothie advice and a host of recipe ideas visit @YemSmoothies on Instagram and Facebook.
How can you prepare better for a Spartan Race or other OCR event? These challenges require specific preparation if you’re going to get the most from it and perform at your best! TrueSapien’s very own Spartan Race Guru and recent Spartan Elite Sprint podium finisher Ben Comery gives some secrets to his success.
General Preparation – Hills, Carries and Burpees!
For me preparation starts weeks before the Race. Spartan is know for a few things. Hills, Carries and Burpees.
Let’s start with hills. Make these your friends, go out and find as many hills as you can. I try and make all my Easy Pace runs have over 100m of elevation gain and my long runs are always hilly. Carries will try and kill you. They are diverse and plentiful in a Spartan race. Tyres, logs, sandbags, stones and buckets. You can’t just lift weights in a gym and expect to succeed. Lifting a weight is very different to moving through rough terrain with a weight. As with everything, practice makes perfect so grab something heavy and go for a walk, you’ll thank me on race day. Burpees are an Integral part of Spartan. If you fail an obstacle you will be rewarded with 30 burpees. The good news is you can train these at home and they will help with a lot of obstacles on the day. They train your whole body and help with getting over the walls that are littered around the course. A great work out to try is Death By Burpees, Start a timer and complete 1 burpee per minute until you cannot complete the number of burpees within the minute i.e 1st minute 1 burpee, 2nd minute 2 burpees, 10th minute 10 burpees etc.
Two Weeks Out
I usually perform a race or time trial of a similar distance just to get a feel for fitness. Spartan Sprint use a 5km race, for a Super use a 10km. For the Beast I would move it out to 4 weeks out at Half Marathon distance. From this point I start dropping weekly mileage by 20%, keep the intensity high but just shorter.
Drop mileage to 50%. Now is the time to rest, any training from this point will have little affect come race day. Use the time to practice your race pace and to really get a feel for how fast you want to go. I up my carbohydrates from this point aswell. 10g per lean kg of body mass is recommended but after a few days my hunger starts to disappear so I just make sure every meal has large amounts of carbohydrates in it. Hydrate. 1g of Carbohydrates can hold 4g of water! If you increase carbs but not water you will become dehydrated quickly and a 2% loss in hydration causes a 40% loss in performance.
Wake up early and eat. I usually eat a bowl of porridge and drink 500ml of water 3 hours before the Race. After this I usually sip electrolytes just to keep myself topped up. 10minutes before the Race I take caffeine (180MG of encapsulated caffeine) if you get anxiety before a race you should avoid this as caffeine increases nerves but if you can tolerate it caffeine is a great supplement.
Lastly have fun! I mean that’s why we do it, isn’t it?
As the title of this update from the one and only Neville Longbottom in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets says, ‘Why is it always me?‘.
I say this as for the fourth, yes, fourth, off/pre-season in a row I have had my triathlon training hindered by an injury of one kind or another. Since 2013 when I damaged my right rotator cuff that has caused on and off problems with my swimming. Back in 2014/15 I had a suspected stress fracture in my pelvis that stopped me from running. 2015/16 it was sinus tarsi syndrome in my ankle that put a “stopper on death” (just messing with you, that was Professor Severus Snape in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone, bonus points if you read that in his/Alan Rickman’s voice!)…. I digress, the sinus tarsi also hindered my triathlon training by stopping me running for a fair bit of time. So you can probably understand my frustration that after managing to be super consistent since my return from Worlds in October through to mid-January my right shoulder started to play up for a few weeks, and as soon as that righted itself, my right knee/ITB has decided that it is time to start complaining! I’m quickly becoming proficient at using RockTape to strap up my knee/ITB and hopefully everything clears up soonish and I can have a good run at March and April!
In other news I’ve also got applications in for a couple of PhD projects once I finish my masters (which is currently very hectic!), so fingers crossed I get one of those to keep doing research when the next academic year starts!
That’s it, a really quick one so until next time, a big thank you to TrueSapien (www.truesapien.com/) for their support and kit, Trion:Z (www.trionz.co.uk/) for their DuoLoop bands and new Zen Loop Solo/Duo which are keeping me focused and sleeping soundly (use code ‘JamesHFreePP’ on any order to receive free postage and packaging!), Sunwise (www.sunwise.co.uk/) for their Waterloo sunglasses which keep my eyes protected during training and racing, Aqua Sphere (www.aquasphereswim.com/uk/) for providing me with swim kit for the 2016 season, Pedal Potential for their support (www.pedalpotential.co.uk/) and Bulk Powders (www.bulkpowders.co.uk/) for their nutritional support! Also a shout out to my coach Jason Battle of PerformanceCoaching (www.performancecoaching.me/) for his training plans and guidance!
Hi, I am Alina, an open water marathon swimmer from West Wales. I started open water swimming in the summer of 2009, when I was 16. I am a PhD student at Aberystwyth University, and I can be found in the water when not in the office.
How I started open water marathon swimming
My journey to starting open water swimming was completely unplanned. I was on holiday with my parents, both keen canoeists. My father had taken me out into the lake to learn the basics and I of course fell out and had to swim to the edge. It was quite unpleasant and certainly not the moment I found a love for the open water.
The next day my dad challenged me to swim the width of the lake, a very short distance, but a challenge all the same. It was very cold and I struggled across, with a mixture of doggy paddle and backstroke. I have always been one for a challenge and my father knew it. The next day he challenged me to the length, a half mile and I succeeded. The subsequent weekends after we had returned from our holiday he continue to drive me to local lakes in Wales. After a few of these weekends I managed to master some basic front crawl and my swimming was quickly improving. My love for the open water was found when I swam my first mile, doing front crawl, without stopping. From then on challenges of greater distance, in less time were constantly being set.
I had never considered myself a swimmer
I try and explain to people that I was never a swimmer, nor did I ever plan to be a swimmer. It happened by accident really. I have always enjoyed sports, but had never realised I had an aptitude for endurance sport, as I had never really been exposed to it as a child.
From beginner to swimming across Scotland!
Three years after I started swimming in the open water we (my dad and I) decided to come up with a challenge. A challenge I could train for as our weekend trips were becoming a little monotonous. I gained a fantastic coach and started training in an endless pool multiple times per week as well as the open water on weekends. The challenge we came up with was to swim across Scotland, using the great Glen Way, a 117km channel from the east coast to the west coast. We gathered a team made up of 1 land support, Ady, a team Dr on the water, Simon, and my Dad and Gary, both experienced canoeists who led the expedition as well as sighted me whist swimming. We succeeded and gained a world record for being the first swimmer to ever complete this waterway. My love for swimming has only ever grown and it’s now a fundamental part of my day. Living on the coast gives me the opportunity to swim in the open water as much as the weather allows, and I also have a coach based here with an endless pool too.
Keep up to date with my swimming, training and trips away by following my Instagram (@alina_warren), and please feel free to get in contact!
Discover what makes runner and OCR Competitor Ben a TrueSapien. We’re following Ben’s training diary over the coming months to gain an insight into a TrueSapien’s daily training.
Read the first post in this series for a Background to Ben and the first week of his diary.
What follows is week 2 & 3 with Ben’s account of how he felt before, during and after and a description of the session.
During: Cold and wet
After: Sore ankles
21km/13miles – 2 hours
Went exploring the NDW again. Lots of frozen mud to smash my ankles and ice to catch me out. GREAT fun !! Nice time on my feet with some new shoes
Before: Sore ankles
After : ankles still sore
Easy miles to recover from sunday. New shoes feel fast even though they are heavier ! Ankles still sore fro the weekend
Before: ankles better
After: ready for the day
6am run just to wake me up. 20minutes out and back. Freezing!!
Before: Still sore but getting better
After: sore ankles but feeling good
Same run as yesterday but 8s/km quicker! At the exact same HR!! Still easy km for the moment. Back to back quality sessions coming soon.
Rest day + “cheat” meal
Before: Sore ankles
During: Heavy legs
Quick 20minutes in the A.M longer run planned for P.M but work went side ways
Before: Sore ankles still
During: heavy legs for the first half, settled in after
8x 3minutes Hard (5km race pace) with 2minutes reco very jog. Pushing vo2 to the max and reintroduction to the pain cave a vitally important place if you want to be competitive! Felt tough but first Hard session usually is! Estimated vo2 is now 59! Even with sore ankles and heavy legs
Before: Sore ankles still
During: feeling good
1mile threshold with 1minutes rest x 5
Building that lactic threshold while fasted! Hitting 4min/km putting me on target for 80-85minute half marathon !
Before: Sore ankles
After: Sore ankles again
Long slow run, 21km exploring the NDW struggled to keep the HR low due to the changes in elevation but averaged 146bpm (74%)
Decided to rest due to the ankle. It’s important not to make injuries worse when your body is telling you something is wrong .
Before: ankle feeling better
During: started to get sore towards the end
After: Sore but not as bad as before
Another rest day to try and get in front of this before it gets worse and i can’t run at all.
Before: Tired but ready
During: Strong ! Until i lost my footing on a pothole!
After: Swollen and sore ankle!
1000m Intervals at 3:30 pace, could quite manage to maintain pace as i was feeling tired from work and a nasty head wind on the up hills killed me but hitting around 3:40/km. Everything was great until i lost my foot in a pot hole! NSAID and rest and hope for the best now !
Rest. Swelling gone down but still uncomfortable
We’ll have more from Ben’s diary in the coming weeks to see how he responds to his injury on the build up to his first race of the season!
Starting anything can be daunting and overwhelming and that’s certainly the case with adding new and alternative training concepts to your plan.
One of the most popular additions to many functional training programs is Kettlebell Training. The advantages of Kettlebell Training are widely recognised and much lauded. One of the standout attributes to this form of training being that outlay is relatively minimal and training can be performed almost anywhere …… but to get optimal results it’s vital to get the right equipment for YOU.
Jamie Lloyd offers this advice. Jamie is ‘The Total Body Breakthrough Expert’, an award winning health and fitness coach committed to helping people achieve what they had believed to be impossible.
Buying A Kettlebell
It used to be relatively easy to choose a Kettlebell as there were few companies selling them. Now they are widely available and you can even purchase them at your local supermarket! But they are not all the same….
As you begin with this form of training it’s possible to get great results from just one Bell. But which one? There are so many different shapes, weights and sizes to choose from.
Now I’m going to be very generic here with these recommendations. You yourself will know whether your natural strength is above or below average so adjust by a couple of kilo’s either way accordingly.
When starting out, this is what I recommend:
Women – 8kg (18lb) kettlebell
Men – 16kg (35lb) kettlebell
If you do have the available funds to allow the purchase of more than one Kettlebell this is what I’d recommend for the average male and female:
Women – 8kg, 10kg, 12kg
Men – 16kg, 18kg, 20kg
When you’re performing repetitive swing, clean and snatches with the kettlebell and it has a rough handle or seam running down it, it will be extremely irritating. So have a good look at the handle and ensure it is really smooth and even. It’s usually the cheaper ones that have a poor finish to the handle so beware, don’t just take a quick look, run your hands over it to ensure it is free from blemishes.
The diameter of the handle is really important, especially if you have large hands. Decent kettlebells have a handle diameter of at least 31-33mm going up to even 38mm for the heavier ones. Cheap kettlebells come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Some have rubber or really thin handles which make them almost impossible to hold during swings and very awkward during snatches. Also, avoid plastic kettlebells at all costs!
As mentioned earlier, most handle diameters increase in size as the weight increases. My personalfavourites however are competition kettlebells which have a uniform diameter of 33mm which is great for consistency as you progress. These can be a little more pricey though.
So there you have it. An honest opinion of the key factors involved when deciding which kettlebell or kettlebells to choose when starting kettlebell training. If you’re still unsure and in need of further advice seek out and speak to a professional. not somebody who has taken a weekend course but one who preferably competes in kettlebells. Or alternatively contact myself Jamie Lloyd.
Thank you to Jamie Lloyd for this article. Jamie is available for Personal Training, Nutrition Coaching, Sports Massage and Group Fitness Training.
Discover what makes runner and OCR competitor Ben a TrueSapien. We’ll be following his and others training and challenges this year and in the process gain an insight into what drives them and why being a TrueSapien and not just an average Sapien, is so rewarding.
What follows is a brief introduction to Ben and a week in his training….
Ben Comery, 27, has been running since July 2015. Having dabbled with weight lifting and cycling for a few years he discovered a love for running through obstacle course racing (or OCR), completing his first Spartan race in October 2015. He was quickly hooked!
“I race because I love pushing my limits and being outside my comfort zone. If somebody says i can’t do something I have to prove them wrong ! I love being outside and what better way to explore the country than on my own two feet.
My goals for 2017 are to compete at an Elite level at Spartan Race UK and to continue to push my limits in road and trail race”.
So here’s a brief summary of my running training for last week with how I felt before, during and after (always a great idea to note this I think for evaluation of sessions):
During: Sick from eating 40mins before run
After: Sore ankles
Recovery run- Easy 8km kept hr low to allow the body to recover from Sunday. Feeling very tired but got it done!
Before: Sore ankles
12 x 200m repeats with 200m jog recovery
Building speed and strength. Helps with the “kick” and helps your body deal with huge amounts of lactic acid build up.
Rest day! The most important day of the week! Helps me recover and keeps me sane.
Recovery miles again just to keep the legs loose
Took another recovery day after 2 tough cold days at work . 7km in the bank.
1 mile Threshold Repeats. Aim for 86-88% HR with 1 minute rest after each repeat. Takes your body to it’s lactic limit and then holds it there for an uncomfortably long time. Builds mental strength and teaches your body to deal with huge amounts of lactic acid for long periods. The end goal is to take this threshold and use it as your Half marathon race pace so need to be able to maintain it for 90minutes.
We’ll regularly publish exerts from Ben’s running and OCR training and events as and when they arise!
Whatever the main objective, increasing your intake of fresh fruit and vegetables is arguably one of the biggest contributors to a healthier lifestyle. The excuse most people find for not incorporating more into their daily diet is usually around the matter of convenience.
A simple way is to introduce smoothies into your life!
TrueSapien friend Yemsmoothies offers these simple yet nutritious ideas to try. Let us know what you think!
3 Red Apple, Orange, Carrot, Ginger, Lettuce, Red Banana powder
Base used for all smoothies – Water
If you’re drinking smoothies for weight loss/detox as one of your meal replacements i.e breakfast or dinner then keep your smoothies as green as possible.
Note that you’ll still need to exercise, eat and drink clean to achieve your weight loss. A Green smoothie isn’t a magical weight loss drink!
Your healthy or weight loss smoothies aren’t meant to be extremely sweet like ” cold stone or Wall’s ice cream ” so don’t plough it with overly sweet fruits. Your solid sweeteners should be either pineapple, mango, banana or 1 -2 dates.
Drink and taste the colour of your smoothies.
Worried that your breakfast smoothie won’t fill you up ? – then add 2 tablespoons of oats. We can guarantee you that you’ll be full to the brim after drinking it!
Use coconut / almond/tigernut milk, water, coconut water or even cool green tea as your base.
Yemsmoothies will be back again soon with some more smoothie recipes or tips!
If you’re planning your first OCR adventure or looking to improve your skills, Clinton Slater, a Reebok Spartan Race SGX coach and co-owner of Outdoor Physical Training, reveals some of his top training tips and techniques to get you race ready.
Training tip: Defeating the Spartan walls is all about explosive power through the legs to firstly get you up onto the wall, then gain balance before using your upper body strength to pull your body weight up and over.
Work on your explosive leg power with squat jumps and use dips and pull ups to get you used to lifting your own bodyweight.
My best advice would be to get out there, to your local park or your back garden, to find something that resembles the walls. Practice jumping up and holding onto the top of the wall: this will build the arm strength you need to hold up your own bodyweight.
Best technique: Don’t hesitate! Run up to the wall in one movement and use momentum to lift you up as you jump and grab the top of the wall.Beware of your knees hitting the wall, it’s about timing.
Rotate your elbows forward as you’re jumping to the top, use the drive to lift your body up and over (taking a pause at the top to balance if you need).
The Monkey Bars
Training tip: The monkey bars are 70% back and shoulder strength, 20% biceps and 10% will power.
I always start training with some ‘hang time’ – just being able to hang and hold your own body weight. Once you have mastered this, move onto the back pull technique – using your back muscles (lats) to drive you from one bar to the next, rather than just relying on arms.
To do this don’t just hang with arms straight and locked, engage your back muscles to take most of the strain.
Best technique: Use the back pull to move across the bars: pull up first to the bar you’re on and the momentum generated from this move will drive you forwards to the next bar.
Once you have your rhythm you can either use the Orangutan-swing movement, or some people prefer to use their whole body to leap from one bar to another with both hands at the same time.
Always ensure you have a good grip on the one hand before releasing the other. Try to get into a rhythm and again, try not to hesitate too much as this will affect your momentum.
The Barbed Wire Crawl
Training tip: A great crawl comes down to technique. To train, get in your garden or down the park and simply practice crawling. The more you do, the quicker and fitter you’ll get.
Coordination is also key, as your alternate leg and arm should be driving forwards at the same time. Core work will play a big part in training for this so get familiar with the plank.
Best technique: Don’t stop.The arms should remain bent throughout and bring your driving knees all the way up to your waist as you push forwards. As you move forwards your hips will come up off the ground but keep them low to save energy and escape getting caught on the wire.
Clinton will be back soon with advice on tackling three other common OCR obstacles!
Well, it’s June 8th so 1 week to go until the end of my Gauntlet Pull Up challenge. I set a 6 week timescale as I considered this short enough to be challenging yet long enough to make the required progress. However, I think I may have underestimated the challenge…
I have encountered a couple of setbacks. Firstly the pull up bar I ordered was unsuitable so I have been limited to simulating the pull up using my TRX cables. Not great but I don’t think this has hindered me too much. The only limitation it has is that I’m not able to perform the exact form of the pull up with my entire bodyweight. I figured though that it’s muscular endurance that I’m seeking rather than strength with this challenge as I’m already capable of lifting my bodyweight as demonstrated when setting my baseline for the challenge.
The major difficulty I found was fitting in the training without effecting my triathlon and martial arts training. As those were my priority and I viewed the challenge as secondary, if I was in a situation whereby I had to choose between my triathlon swimming training or my pull up training (pull up training would adversely effect my swim performance) I chose the swimming. This is what I must change if I’m going to succeed at this or future challenges. I mentioned in my initial post on this challenge the importance of accepting challenges that align with current objectives and beliefs. I initially believed that this challenge would help my swimming and martial arts with the increased muscular endurance it would bring. I should have stuck to my original belief rather than worried it would have detrimental effects in terms of fatigue. Either that or given myself a longer period to achieve the challenge so I could have fitted training in to my current regime more easily without the worry of fatigue.
Don’t fall into the trap of over complicating your goals!
I recently read the results of a survey from a major British charity which focused on reasons why people didn’t exercise regularly even though they ‘wanted’ to achieve related health and fitness improvements.
The conclusion seemed to suggest that people considered visiting a gym or commencing a structured exercise routine as too daunting, resulting in resounding failure.
It’s tempting to discuss the ins and outs of the nations desire to actually recognise where their shortcomings are or where they could improve but that’s for another time. The point is that there is a common misconception that self improvement in the area of health, fitness, nutrition or lifestyle in general requires a huge and emphatic immediate change.
Is this because our culture is an all or nothing one where we believe in immersing ourselves, ‘binging’ or ‘fadding’? Whilst focus and commitment to goals is important in achieving success sometimes the perception that such a huge commitment is required is enough to end it before it’s even started.
As with everything ‘simple’ is the key. Small milestones and adjustments should be focused on rather than the desired end result. For instance, someone wanting to ‘eat healthily’ may be totally daunted by the prospect of a radical crash diet and total reconstruction of their weekly eating habits. Using the approach mentioned above, a more successful method would be to make small, regular and manageable changes to a diet. Instead of 2 tsp of sugar in tea, maybe 1 for a week and then 1/2. Substituting an evening snack for a piece of fruit. White bread to wholemeal. Or maybe consider adding daily healthy smoothies into your diet. Small changes that can be maintained built upon.
Same with fitness. If you want to ‘get fit’ firstly define what fit means to you? If it’s to have a six pack then firstly make similar changes to ones mentioned above with your diet. Then choose a basic core exercise and do just a few repetitions each night for a week. Then another or more difficult version for the next week. They are all building blocks and moving you closer to your goal whilst building your confidence to achieve. Some useful exercises which can be done at home can be found in this useful Men’s Health article: Use the principles discussed above on any aspect of your life and you can achieve anything!
I’ve always believed that spur of the moment lifestyle decisions are often the ones that are most reliable, in tune with our inner self and less likely influenced by someone else’s agenda or that of the masses (the sheep factor). So when, three weeks before Christmas, I decided to eliminate meat intake from my diet and become vegetarian, I wasn’t at all daunted by the annual turkey and pigs in blankets festive binge period looming large on the horizon.
Why the change?
I didn’t go into it feeling like I was going to be denying myself anything. I had recently watched a short video on global livestock farming practices which had set my mind to work. I won’t divulge any information from it as I don’t believe I am in a position to preach on the subject (I’ve spent over 40 years eating meat compared to 4 weeks not!) but it brought the subject from the area of my mind filed ‘taken for granted’ into an area more open for debate.
So how has it gone?
Someone asked me yesterday this very question and on reflection I have to say I have only missed eating meat on one occasion. Yes you’ve guessed it, Christmas dinner.
This fact alone suggests that it has been quite plain sailing. I do the majority of my own and my families cooking and have found it relatively straightforward to replace my meat with fish or extra vegetables rather than going down the route of meat substitutes like Quorn. I’m still cooking meat for my family.
How do I feel?
I was warned that I could feel weak or lethargic adopting a vegetarian diet. Far from it. I have stepped my sport training up over the period (swimming, cycling and running) and if anything have found myself more energised than ever. I also feel less bloated after meals.
There is a wealth of information now available to those looking at alternative diets, for the health benefits or ethical beliefs, whether that includes meat or not. It’s not necessary to go down the full Vegetarian or Vegan route either, as I still eat fish and eggs my diet is currently that termed Pescatarian.
This change to my diet has certainly pushed me to broaden my intake of a wider variety of fruit, vegetables, pulses and nuts which can only be a good thing even if I decide to start eating meat again (although I have no intention of this at this point in time!)
My advice is to try alternative nutrition programmes and see if they work for you. Listen to your body and your gut instinct, the only way you’ll know is by trying.
Professional Bike Fitter Dan, of Midland Bike Bit discusses the importance of setting a bike up correctly, injuries and ailments it can otherwise cause and tell tale signs that your current bike set-up may need adjustment.
“As a bike fitter, I see a slightly ‘skewed’ cross section of cyclists that come to visit the studio – at least 75% of the clients that visit are suffering to some degree when they ride their bikes. We hear about all kinds of aches, pains, niggles and quirks during our pre-fit interviews that are causing you to feel uncomfortable on your bike.”
If you are experiencing serious discomfort on the bike that seems to only occur when you ride, then chances are something is not right with your positioning. When talking about pain it may be acute discomfort in a specific area, or a chronic ache / niggle that builds over time. It is a common misconception that riding a road racing bike means putting up with a sore neck or numb hands – these are signs that that bike position isn’t right. Below are the most common issues we come across;
1. Back Pain
This is the number one bike fit related complaint we hear in the studio, and I would say as many as 1 in 3 riders suffer from it (although we do see a slightly ‘skewed’ cross-section of the cycling population). Anything from a slightly sore lower back after a longer ride, through to acute pains that force the rider off the bike – we have heard it all! The static nature of a road bike position is prone to cause problems if your bike is not set up correctly – being hunched over for long periods of time requires either a reasonable amount of flexibility and functionality to maintain, or some work off the bike in the form of stretching and core strengthening.
One-sided pain is also very common. This is usually the result of rider asymmetry, such as a leg length discrepancy or a difference in flexibility between the left and right sides of the body. If left uncorrected these issues will not usually disappear on their own (unless you do a lot of work off the bike) and must be dealt with so as not to cause problems in the future.
2. Knee Pain
This can be the most debilitating bike fit issue of all. If you have ever suffered from knee pain you will know what I am talking about, and when it does happen there is no getting away from it due to the repetitive nature of the pedal stroke. The causes of knee pain vary so much from one rider to the next, that it can be very hard to find the exact root cause of the problem. Usually the location of the pain in relation to the knee joint can give an indication as to possible solutions – for example a pain down the outside of the knee is often related to the iliotibial band (ITB) being stressed, and common causes for this are incorrect cleat rotation, too much saddle setback, a saddle that is too high etc etc….. But it is not always this simple to diagnose. There are more often lots of layers of compensation resulting from a problem somewhere else which finally result in knee pain. I read about a bike fitter who had a client that was suffering from knee pain, and after months of trial and error they found that the cause of the pain was misalignment of the lower jaw – the tiny compensations resulting from asymmetrical jaw alignment eventually caused the knee to hurt! Fair play to them for spotting that one….!
3. Numb Hands / Tired Arms
Numbness in the hands is usually the result of having too much weight on the front of the bike. Correct weight distribution is key to a good bike fit, and anyone that has been in for a session here will know that one of the things I focus on during the fit is ensuring that the upper body is largely un-weighted, and that there is not too much tension in the arms. Not only will this reduce pressure on the hands, it will also make you more efficient at higher intensities as you are not supporting your torso weight on the handlebars!
4. Saddle Soreness
Some riders will get lucky and find that their perfect saddle is the one that came on their bike. Other riders may not be so fortunate. The best way to find a saddle that is right for you is to try a few, and use the one that feels most comfortable and supportive. Some fit systems measure sitbone width to determine saddle selection – this does provide a good starting point but there is no guarantee that the saddle you then choose based on this will feel right. At our studio we stock a rang of Fizik and Prologo saddles which are available to test out and take away for a few rides to see whether it feels right after a few miles on the road.
5. Neck Ache
I tend to find that most riders suffer from a bit of upper back / neck ache especially on longer rides, however for a number of you this problem is more than just a bit of a pain in the neck (ahem..), it can get to the point where even on shorter rides the pain is causing you to stop riding and stretch out your neck muscles. The most common cause is the handlebar position – too low / too far away will cause you to crane your neck in an effort to look up the road, giving you that ‘chin forward’ posture that results in discomfort.
If you want further information or have specific questions you may need answering please use our forum.